The structure was simple, just a basic box scaled to the size of a typical alphabet block. Figuring out how to present the characters was something else! (I guess that 'something' would be Graphic Design.) I wanted 2 characters per block, so the set would be compact. Each character has an upper and lower case version, and a name (you know, like Alpha or Omega.) I struggled to find a simple way to show which characters went with which name, eventually using color to differentiate the characters, and the location of the name to orient them.
See how kappa is a different color from iota, and how if iota is the topmost face of the block, the iota characters are right side up and the kappa characters are upside down? That took a really long time to figure out, and even longer to implement. So I'm rather pleased with myself for pulling it off.
1. You can purchase the full-size templates for $5 in my etsy shop (click on a photo and it will take you there), and you can print as many copies as you like from them for personal use. I think you can print from this blog, too, although the quality may not be very good.
2. I used HP matte Color Laser Photo Paper which is nice and thick (but hard to find. I got mine from Amazon.) Any lightweight white cardstock should work, though. You can even use regular printer paper, but the blocks will be delicate.
3. Print at the highest resolution setting you have, and make sure your page setup is on landscape or you'll get teeny weeny blocks.
The more obsessive you are about assembly the better the blocks look, so here are some tips:
1. Use a fresh, sharp x-acto blade, a metal-edged ruler, and a cutting mat.
2. Cut right on the line, not on one side of it.
3. Score the folds so you'll get nice sharp edges. [If you've never scored paper: You want something with a fairly small head, pointy but not sharp, and strong enough to press hard on. (I used a tiny metal crochet hook, which was kind of painful. A dried-out ballpoint pen might work. Let me know what you use.) Set your metal ruler along the fold line and run your thingumy along it, pressing hard to make an indented line.]
4. Crease along each fold line once before starting to glue. It is much harder to get a nice crisp fold later.
5. I use a dab of Elmers on each tab and level it with an old credit card, but if you are a sophisticated modern sort, double-stick tape might work great. (Again, I'd love to know what you use.)
6. Don't build anything with them until the glue dries!
It is amazing how sturdy they are. I mean if you stepped on one you'd crush it, but I've got hordes of 3rd- and 6th-graders rampaging through my house regularly, and these are none the worse for being used as Nerf targets, bunny-maze walls (real live bunny, folks), and attempts to write names and rude words in Greek.
In fact, we had so much fun once the painfully tedious parts were over I'm thinking about doing another set in Cyrillic. Or Hindi. Or Klingon! What do you think?
Post pics, please: I want to see what you make! (If you want to use this as a template to make your own set, no problem, just give me credit for the design and a link to this post, OK? Oh, and don't sell it. Please.)
10/2/10: I have finally changed the template to 'alpha' instead of 'aleph.' Sorry about that. Doesn't everyone get their Phoenician and Greek mixed up sometimes? The photo of the completed blocks still shows 'aleph' because I haven't gotten around to building the new block and re-photographing.
*I don't know what he thought of them. I have a peculiar sense of humor and can't help sending really odd gifts sometimes, so I assume if no one mentions a present that it caused general bewilderment on the receiving end, is now on the shelf at Goodwill, and it is best for everyone if we just don't mention it. Everyone needs a crazy aunt, right?
**On the other hand, my own kids wouldn't leave the prototypes alone, and when Percy Jackson mania hit this spring all my son's friends started messing around with them.