Always on the lookout for something new and nerdy for my office, I was immediately intrigued by these wooden blocks from Uncle Goose Toys. These hit the trifecta for me: 1) they are simple and elegant in design, 2) they exceed my geeky threshold, and 3) they are locally made (Grand Rapids is just down the road from us). The entire set consists of twenty basswood blocks. The sides of each block measure 4.4 cm and they weigh in at about 31.75 grams each (hey, it’s the twenty-first century now - time to stop measuring things with rocks and body parts). For those of you scoring at home, that gives a density of 0.37g/cm2 (they are very light, and kids are not likely to hurt themselves with them).
I will be the first to admit that my color vision is not the greatest. That said, each of the block faces have a different color; these include orange-red, light orange, lime green, aqua green, purple, and violet. The lettering on each block is unpainted (maple color). In most cases, this provides decent contrast with the block color. The lime green is the most difficult for me to make out (I would have picked a deeper color to provide a bit more contrast). I have attempted to illustrate the colors in the table included below. Each block face gives an element name, its atomic number, and atomic symbol. As much as I have tried, I have not been able to discern any patterns between block face colors and the elements displayed.
Adding to their geeky goodness, I can now spell out fun things with these blocks. This is, in fact, one of the main reasons that I got them. While it is possible to manually complete this process, I prefer to use the ChemSpeller website by Kevin Higgs. It is fun to type and words and see what can be spelled out using the periodic table. However, it is not easy to see if you can actually complete the words with these blocks. Each block has several elements on its faces and you might need more than one copy of a particular block to make your desired word. Therefore, I have created a table to show which elements are reprsented on each of the 20 blocks. You can order additional (replacement) blocks from Uncle Goose using a pdf form from their site if you discover that you need extras to spell your favorite word.
Since there is no particular order to the blocks themselves, I have arranged the 20 blocks alphabetically (based upon the orange-red face). The last block has only four elements (the other two faces have the company name and product title). In all, there are 118 elements represented (and they use the new names for 113, 115, 117, and 118). You can get a pdf copy of this table here. In conclusion, these blocks are of good quality and are a lot of fun for kids and adults alike. I highly recommend them. Happy spelling!