Middle Layer Print E-mail
This page gives you instructions for the third step of solving a rubik's cube - the middle layer. The key is to learn a special sequence of twists - a move, that neatly drops an edge piece from the top layer into its home! You can then use this "move" to fix up as much of the middle layer as you like.

When I'm solving the cube, I only fix up three of the edge pieces on this layer. So, if you follow my strategy, your rubik's cube will change...

From This --> just the bottom layer solved...
the middle layer solved too! <-- To This!

Solve the first layer first!

The instructions on this page show how to get the middle layer right, and not mess up the bottom layer. If you haven't solved the first layer yet, you should start here. Or does the word layer make sense to you in this context? If you thought I meant a productive chicken, please don't hesitate to read what I do mean before moving on.

One Special Move!

In the diagrams that follow, I'll teach you a special sequence of twists, or a move, that helps immensely in solving the middle layer. It's also a great help when you get to the top layer! Basically, a move is a sequence of twists, long or short, that only has a small effect on the cube. For example, there are moves that
  • Just flip two edge pieces, and leave the rest of the cube ok.
  • Just twist two edge pieces, leaving everything else untouched
  • Make just three edge pieces exchange places, and nothing else.
The move I'll teach you on this page has the following effect.
  • One piece from the middle layer moves to the top,
  • One piece from the top moves to the middle,
  • And that's all!
  • Ok, ok, that's not all. It actually makes a complete mess of the top layer. But at this stage, the top layer is already a mess, so that doesn't matter.
So, to fix up the middle layer, you do this :
  • Choose one edge piece that belongs on the middle layer - your "target piece".
  • Apply the "Move", so that it falls from the top layer into its home.
  • Repeat three times, and then...
  • Ta-daaah!! You are ready to tackle the third and final layer!
The move comes in two forms, which I call the right handed and the left handed versions. They are mirror-image twins of each other. You'll probably need both. It's surprisingly easy to memorise a move - just do it several times a day for a few days!

Sometimes you'll find that the edge pieces you want to fix are already in the middle layer, but in the wrong places. Don't worry, there are steps for solving this problem too.

The Right Handed Version

Below I explain the steps of the "right handed" version of the move. There are two things that need to be done.
  • Make sure the target edge piece is in the correct place for the move to work, then
  • The actual steps of the move.
Any good move has a kind of rhythm to it that makes it easy to remember. But first, some pretty pictures!
ready to move an edge piece to the right place Here, I'm trying to move the green and yellow edge piece into the middle layer.

Its home is just a quick twist away, but doing this twist would mess up the bottom layer.

I've lined up the yellow stickers. Since its home is to the right, I know I need the right-handed version of the move.
To prepare for the move, I'll first twist the top face, moving the target piece away from its home.

Note the green sticker, on top, opposite the green face.
partway to getting an edge piece in place
Now the move begins!

First, twist the right hand face away from you, one quarter turn.
getting the edge into place
Second, twist the top face clockwise.

solving an edge piece
Third, undo your first twist - that is, turn the right hand face back towards you again.

solving an edge piece
Then, twist the top face back again.

Notice that one of the corner piece from the bottom face is now in the wrong place.

This will be fixed in the next three twists.
solving an edge piece
This time, twist the front face counterclockwise, as shown.
solving an edge piece
A twist of the top face puts the corner back with its friends.
solving an edge piece
Last of all, twist the front face back again, so the red stickers stay on the bottom.

Notice that the green and yellow piece - almost like magic - is now safely home!
the edge piece is now in place!

As I mentioned, the move has a kind of rhythm to it...
  • Right face up, then top face left!
  • Right face back, then top face back!
  • Front face over and top face back!
  • Front face down and the move is done!
  • Tum-tum-te-ta ta-tum-tum-ta-te-tum-te-tum-te... oh sorry! Got a bit carried away there... he he! Err... where were we? That's right... Ahem!

Try it a few times, until you can do the move "fluently". Here's a short video clip to help you get there :

 


  • If you repeat the move 5 times in the same place, all the edge pieces will be back to where they were when you started.
  • If you repeat it 6 times, all teh corner pieces will be back.
  • If you repeat it 30 times, all the pieces will be back where they were when you started. More importantly, you'll know the move pretty well by then! Be sure to learn the left-handed version too!
If you haven't yet fixed up three edge pieces, then choose another, and follow the steps on this page to get it back to where it belongs!

The Left Handed Version

The left-handed version of this move is explained below. Here, I'm trying to fix up the blue and purple edge piece.

getting an edge piece in place Well, its home is on its right, but the blue stickers line up. I'll give the top face a twist to the right.

Also, I'll turn the whole cube so the purple face comes to the front.
There! Now the purple stickers line up!

The blue and purple edge piece's home is on its left, so I need the left handed version of the move.
getting an edge piece in place
Giving the top face another twist, shifting the target piece away from me, gets it ready for the move!
getting an edge piece in place
The first step is to twist the left face away from me.
getting an edge piece in place
Then, the top face is twisted towards the right, or anticlockwise.
getting an edge piece in place
Next, twist the left face back towards you again.
getting an edge piece in place
Fourth, twist the top face back again too!

Now one red corner piece is out of place. Time to put it back!
getting an edge piece in place
Give thefront face a twist clockwise...
getting an edge piece in place
Turning the top face brings the lost corner piece back to its friends, and then...
getting an edge piece in place
Give the front face one more twist.

Then the bottom layer is as good as new, and what's more, the target edge piece is home!
the edge piece is now in place!

Just as for the right-handed version, the left handed version has a kind of rhythm.
  • Leftt face up, then top face right!
  • Left face back, then top face back!
  • Front face over and top face back!
  • Front face down and the move is done!
  • (...Waits for audience applause... Not a sausage!)
Be sure to practice this left handed version enough times so that you are familiar with it! If the steps above are not so clear, check out the following movie clip...

If you haven't yet solved three edge pieces, then choose another, and follow the steps on this page to get it back to where it belongs!

There's No More Suitable Pieces On The Top Layer!

Sometimes, all the middle layer pieces will already be in the middle layer, but muddled up! This section shows how to solve that problem.

The solution is simple.

  • Line up one of the edge pieces you need to move, as if it were the empty slot
  • Do the move
  • Then, the piece will be on the top layer, ready to be put in the right place!

The pictures below show an example of this.

No edge piece available to solve! Notice here, there are two edge pieces swapped in the middle layer!

The yellow and purple piece is where the green and blue piece should be, and vice-versa!

Now, I've turned the cube so that one of these stubborn recalcitrant pieces is in the front face, at the right.

I'm going to do the right handed version of the move.

partway to getting an corner piece in place
So, let's start!

First, right face up, then top face left!

 

partway to getting an corner piece in place
Then, right face back, then top face back!
partway to getting an corner piece in place
Front face over and top face back! the first corner piece in place
Front face down and the move is done!

As you can see, nothing very useful has happened to the yellow and purple piece. It's certainly not home yet.

However, the green and blue piece is now on the top layer!

 

the first corner piece in place
If I turn the cube around, I can see that the green and blue piece is almost ready to be shifted home. Hmm.. It looks like I'll need the left handed version of the move this time! the first corner piece in place


Here's an animated version of the above steps :

 


If you haven't yet solved three edge pieces on the middle layer, then choose another, and follow the steps on this page to get it back to where it belongs!

What If The Target Piece Is In The Correct Place Already?

Ain't this just your lucky day! Choose another piece, and move on!
 

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When someone gives you a rubik's cube to solve, you reach for...
 
What is the biggest cube you have ever actually solved?
 

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