If you’re a speedcuber, there’s no way you haven’t encountered a pop before! I once popped my Shengshou 4x4 because of rough turning and I was absolutely terrified. I had never seen those little internal pieces that you have on a 4x4 and I had myself convinced that I had broken the puzzle! So, I’d say cube pops are a common problem for every speedcuber so this is a blog explaining what a cube pop is, why it happens, different types of cube pops, and how to fix and avoid each one of them. Let’s get started!
What Are Cube Pops?
If you’re turning your cube and all of a sudden, a piece falls out, or the whole cube crumbles in your hand, that is a cube pop. Cube pops are really frustrating especially if you were almost about to hit your personal best!
Why Do Cube Pops Happen?
Cube pops happen due to various reasons and can also be a mixture of different reasons. The main reasons for cube pops are:
- Your cube hardware is outdated - Cube pops are really frequent on older cubes. If you have a really old cube, chances are the design of the cube isn’t very stable compared to modern designs, especially if it’s a big cube (4x4 onwards).
- Your tensions are too loose - If you have a relatively new cube and still face the pop issue, it may be because the tension settings are too loose. The cube is held together very lightly and has a relatively high chance of falling apart.
- You - Yes, you might be the reason! Your turning style might be too aggressive and cause the pieces to pop. Slow down and focus on the accuracy of turning!
Different Types Of Cube Pops
Okay, so cube pops may range from a single piece popping out, which you can fix really easily without making a really significant impact on your times, to absolute disasters like the one Kevin Hays had in this video. Let’s see what kinds of cube pops exist!
- The first kind of cube pop is when a single edge piece falls out, this is really easy to fix if you can find where the edge piece has dropped! This is the easiest cube pop that you can encounter
- The second kind of cube pop is when a centerpiece or multiple centerpieces pop out. This category only applies to big cubes. These may be a bit of a headache to fix if you have a tightly tensioned cube.
- The third kind of cube pop is when one or more internal pieces pop out of your cube. The cube is still turnable to an extent even after the pop, but there’s a high chance of another internal piece popping out. This happens on cubes that have internal pieces like 4x4s and 6x6s.
- The fourth kind of cube pop is an absolute disaster. In your cubing days, if a cube has totally crumbled in your hands, then you’ve probably faced this kind of cube pop!
If you do encounter a cube pop, it may also be a mixture of two or more of the above cases. Let’s see how to fix them.
WCA Rules Regarding Cube Pops
In official competition, if you encounter a cube pop, you can either fix it or keep going with your attempt. If you do choose to fix it, here are some rules:-
- You are only allowed to fix the parts that have popped without using tools and parts from other puzzles.
- You fixing the cube pop must not give you an advantage in any way. So you cannot make a corner twist to solve your OLL! You fixing the cube pop must make the cube similar to how it was before popping.
- If you encounter a cube pop during a blindfolded solve, then you must fix it with your blindfold on.
If you have decided to continue your attempt even after a cube pop, then there are some rules too!
- If your cube pop affects pieces without colored faces, like internal pieces, then your puzzle is considered solved even if you don’t decide to fix it.
- If just one part with one colored face is affected, the puzzle is considered solved.
- If more than one part with one colored face is affected, the attempt is considered a DNF. So, if you have 2 popped centerpieces, for example, you’re better off just fixing it!
- If one or more parts with two or more colored faces are affected, the attempt is considered a DNF. If you have a popped edge or corner piece, you’ll have to fix it before stopping the timer!
I would recommend checking out WCA regulations for the entire rulebook regarding puzzle defects.
How To Actually Fix Cube Pops
We discussed the different types of cube pops, now let’s discuss how to fix them.
- If you have a popped edge piece, you can easily fix it by pressing it in its place. It’s a very intuitive process!
- If there’s a popped centerpiece, I’d recommend being a bit careful, because the centerpieces of some cubes tend to be brittle and may break under excess pressure. The process is still the same, however. Just press the popped center back in its place. There may be some cases in big cubes from 5x5, where you might need to remove other centerpieces in order to put one back in.
- If you have a popped internal piece, then you need to remove one or more edges and centers, depending on the cube, whether it’s a 4x4 or a 6x6. After doing so, just slide the internal piece back into its place. This is most likely going to be a tricky process, so I’d recommend just going through with your solve, especially if you’re nearing the end of your solve.
- If your cube has just crumbled under your hands, then it’s most likely a 4x4 or a 6x6. Even numbered cubes tend to be more unstable but this issue used to exist in older cubes. Newer cubes have a better mechanism and will most likely not crumble under your hands. If it’s a 3x3, you might try to solve it. But if it’s a 4x4 or higher, just stop the timer and accept the DNF haha!
How To Avoid Cube Pops
Cube pops are very frustrating, and I wouldn’t wish that even on my worst enemy! In modern cube hardware, cube pops can totally be avoided.
- Make sure your cube isn’t too old. Especially if it’s a big cube that we’re talking about. It isn’t very feasible to change your cube once every year or whenever a new cube is released. Just make sure that your cube isn’t more than 4-5 years old!
- Tighten your tensions. If you regularly face cube pops, tighten your tensions to the point where the cube feels stable but still fast. If you want faster and more free turning, then learn how to set up your cube using lube instead of loosening the tension.
- Slow your turning down. You might be turning too fast to be accurate. Focus on the accuracy of your turns. There is no point in turning fast if you are inaccurate. Magnetic cubes do help but they aren’t the solution. If you turn your cube aggressively, cube pops are bound to happen!
Well, that is all about cube pops. They CAN be frustrating, but I do hope that you have learned all that you can deal with them. If you’re looking for how to assemble your cube if it has been completely disassembled, then you can find videos on our Youtube Channel, or other channels as well, on how to assemble your cube.
Sarthak Masta is a speedcuber from Raipur. He started cubing in 2013 and now has 9 years of cubing experience. Apart from cubing, Sarthak enjoys making music and singing. He has attended a total of 7 competitions in Raipur and has gotten 10 podiums, with 2 gold medals, 4 silver medals and 4 bronze medals.