Holiday Gift for Teens: Homemade Acrylic Checkerboard Cube and Checkers

Make the Cube

If you want something a little different for a teen, make an acrylic checkerboard cube. You will need to purchase sheets of acrylic. Have the dealer cut 4-15 3/4″ square sheets of plastic that are 1/4″ thick and a 16″ square of the same thickness. Leave the protective plastic, usually blue, on the 16″ piece.

You are going to draw on the protective plastic with a pencil. Measure 3/4″ from the edge and draw a straight vertical line, from top to bottom, parallel with the edge. Do this on each edge. This will be the border. Draw a second line on the plastic from top to bottom, 1 3/4″ from the first line. Measure over another 1 3/4″, and draw another line from top to bottom. Repeat this all the way across. The border at the other end should be right where the last 1 3/4″ line would be. Draw lines the same way, going from side to side, making horizontal lines. You will now have a 3/4″ border all the way around and 8 rows and 8 columns of squares. Cover the 3/4″ border and side edges with masking tape. You will be spraying later and this will protect them from over-spray.

Use a utility knife or razor to cut the protective plastic on the outline of the first square in the first row. Carefully lift it out. Skip the next square, and cut the third and lift it out taking care not to cut the acrylic or disturbing the previous square’s plastic coating. Cut every other square and remove. On the second row, skip the first square and cut the second. Alternate again. You will start to see the checkerboard emerge as you cut every other square out of the protective plastic. When you have finished, every other square going up and down, and across will have been removed.

Move the acrylic with the protective plastic side up, and lay it on newspapers in an open area. Spray the exposed acrylic lightly with black acrylic spray paint. Allow this to dry according to manufacturer’s directions (usually at least 30 minutes) and spray again. Allow this to dry overnight. The paint should not be tacky, but hard to the touch. If you don’t feel there is enough coverage then spray one more time. Let this dry at least 48 hours before proceeding.

Remove the masking tape and the protective plastic. You now have a clear acrylic top with a black checkerboard. This will be on the underside of the acrylic checkerboard cube.

Joining these pieces is the most difficult part of the project. I’m going to assign each side a number, only because it makes giving the directions easier. Butt the edge of side 2 against the inside face of side 1 so that side 1’s edge is flush with the outside face of side 2. Tape this with masking tape in several places across the seam. Butt the edge of side 3 up against the inside face of side 2, again so that the edge of side 2 is flush with the outside face of 3 and tape. Do the same for the last piece. Make certain that they are taped several places, across the seam. Put the top on with the painted side down and tape it in place flush with the edges. Put at least two strips of masking tape across each seam.

Carefully turn the cube upside down making certain that the top has a large flat hard surface under it. You need adequate ventilation in the area. Brace the sides with wood blocks or even books for extra stability. You are going to glue the inside seams that connect the sides to the top. Use a plastic bottle applicator with a metal needle to apply acrylic solvent cement. Most craft shops will recommend Weld-On #3, but this is not available or legal in all areas. Check with your local craft shop.

Apply the acrylic cement in one smooth movement along the inside edge of one side and the top. Allow the cement to set for 10 minutes before doing the next, it allows the bond to be formed. Gluing the sides to the base will take 45 to 50 minutes. I like to wait another half hour before proceeding to the next step, but that’s just my own preference.

In order to glue the inside seams of the sides, you will need to move the cube. Lay the cube with the face of side 2 on the flat surface and put a little extra support against the top that now forms the back, as you will do with the other sides that are upright. Glue the inside seam of side 1 to side 2 moving your hand in a smooth single movement from back to front. Allow this to dry 10 minutes and glue the seam between side 2 and 3. Again wait 10 minutes. Flip the cube so that side 4 is on the bottom and glue the inside seam between side 1 and 4. Wait 10 minutes and glue the seam between side 3 and 4. Let the project set and dry for 3 to 4 hours before removing the tape.

Use a terry cloth towel and alcohol to clean the table. Clean it with short strokes. Never use detergent and water on the acrylic. When the cube has dried, spray with a plastic cleaner, dry, and polish smooth with clean towel.

Make the Checkers:

Buy a 12″ X 1″ dowel and slice it into 1/2″ pieces. Sand each piece. There will be 24. Prime them and then paint 12 red and 12 white. Put these in a decorator box and include it with the acrylic checkerboard.

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