I discovered a couple months ago on the speedsolving.com forum that Dayan made a small run of Zhanchis in clear plastic around April 2011. They were prototypes, and only about 100 were made. A few vending sites, such as 51morefun.com and lightake.com list them, but as sold-out at this point. Given the rarity, they’ve been hawked on Ebay for over $800!?!
I’ve always dug clear products. Getting to see the inner-workings of intricate machines is fascinating. So, the chance of getting my favorite puzzle in a translucent model was intriguing. The rarity of it made it that much more so. But I wasn’t going to drop 8 Franklins for what is otherwise a $12 puzzle!?!
I eventually found someone on the speedsolving.com forum who was willing to part with a new DIY kit at a reasonable price. I received it a couple weeks ago and finally got a chance to assemble it. Here’s a video:
The performance is good and, well, Zhanchi like. But the plastic is different. It feels like a harder and “crispier” acrylic, rather than the more forgiving white, black, and colored plastics, which I think that accounts for some of the minor lock-ups that usually do no not plague Zhanchis. The corners wound up not aligning totally perfectly, resulting in sharp edges and slight gaps where the three thirds come together. No doubt this was the result of early prototyping, before the tooling was finalized. Normally, I’d lightly sand any sharpness where the pieces join, but I didn’t want to do that on something (somewhat) collectible.
I wound up ordering translucent stickers, since I thought that the included standard (opaque) stickers really took away from the whole idea of having a transparent cube. I did not sticker the top face yellow in order to preserve its transparency; as you can see from my solve, that lead to surprising color recognition challenges. Not the best solve by any stretch....
Here’s a gallery with some close-ups of the transparent pieces.
Purists dismiss the cube out of hand, since it’s not competition legal. And collectors likely will balk at my decision to assemble the cube rather than leave it in mint condition. Being neither a competitor nor true collector, I’m really happy to have it as an interesting novelty.