Thursday, April 2, 2015

Oversized Rubber Band Holder

Name of Model: Nnenn: Never to be forgotten
Created by: jamesuniverse
Found at:
Details: The latest addition to the exciting world of scaled-up LEGO elements made out of standard LEGO elements is this incredible rendition of the classic rubber band holder, a much-derided "useless part" that was seemingly inescapable in sets for about a decade. This particular build is about 8 times the regular size of the part, and makes great use of the 4x4 macaroni element to portray the Technic pin holes in the part. I'm also enjoying the use of curved-top arches and 1x3 curved slopes to capture the curvature at the edges of the part.

What elevated this part to a more beloved status was a joke by one LEGO fan about how "cool" LEGO pieces don't get named after builders who use them frequently anymore. Surely the LEGO fan community has been around too long and we'll never name a great piece after someone who used it well again. Nate "nnenn" Nielson figured that if a piece were named after him, it would be something like this rubber band holder (unfortunately, variations on this story have been told so many times in tribute to the man that it seems to no longer be possible to find his original quote in a quick search of the web). After Nnenn passed away, the decision to refer to this part as a "nnenn" was unanimous.

The title and description offered on Flickr for this model make it clear that this was intended as a tribute to nnenn (the man, not the part). The definitive (and most detailed) current tribute can be found at The Brothers Brick.

Friday, March 27, 2015

PancakeBot Now For Sale in Non-LEGO Form

Name of Model: PancakeBot
Created by: Miguel Valenzuela
Found at:
Details: Those of you who have supported a Kickstarter project in the past may have recognized a project that showed up in yesterday's "Projects We Love" e-mail. "This Week in Kickstarter" featured PancakeBot, which I wrote about here in 2011 and spotlighted in advance of World Maker Faire 2012. For those of you just tuning in, this is a machine that can print pancakes with custom designs. The non-LEGO Kickstarter project is already well beyond the original funding goal, and will eventually be available for sale at $299 USD (you can still support the project on Kickstarter to get it at a lower price). Oddly, much of what's been written about the current Kickstarter project refers to 2013 as when the idea became the "working LEGO version" and 2014 as when the "First working prototype" was made. I was pretty impressed with the video from 2011, but perhaps a later LEGO version (that I can't seem to find with a quick search) was more reliable and is what they're now considering the "working" version.

There's been a considerable amount of hype around the Mindstorms line as a source of tomorrow's great inventions. This 'bot might be the first to actually go all the way from LEGO-based rapid prototyping to being a mass-produced product that people buy. If you can think of another one, let us know!

You might find the 3D Printing Industry interview with the builder of interest as well.

I also previously missed the builder's blog post on creating a peristaltic pump (out of LEGO pieces) for dispensing syrup.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Minifig-Scale Chandelier

Name of Model: Chain Challenge 11: Swashbuckling!
Created by: Joe "joeseidon" Miller
Found at:
Details: In the past few years, there's been a proliferation of seed-part based challenges in the wake of the popular "Iron Builder" contest. I (Dan) did my part by finding a way to make such a game fit in at BrickFair, but most of these challenges revolve around Flickr. Sometimes, like in this case, it's just a couple of builders taking up the challenge for the fun of it. This particular challenge is based around the current small, 5-link chain element. Surely a silly piece, it's much too short to be useful and was originally used for Ninjago weaponry when it first came out. They've found plenty of clever uses for it, although some of them make use of the classic "everything is more useful in quantity" trick.

Joe's entries so far have included this great chandelier, a microscale scene with a great truck, chairs and curtains, an octopus, and even a house. His competitor, Leopold "Legopold" Mao's entries so far include a roller coaster, a server room, a Micropolis prison complex, and a goblin family with a pet human. In a just world, I'd have blogged more of these models separately, but I've given up on that.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Tux, the Linux Penguin, in Studs-Out Sculpture Form

Name of Model: Tux
Created by: Steffen "Asperka" Rau
Found at:
Details: I've recently written about the increasing popularity of building sculptures with studs facing out in all directions. It allows for a stunning level of precision in a model, making it pop with realism. This one's a bit different than most of the others I've blogged in the past, though: most of the shape of this model was generated by a computer. LSculpt has been around for a while, but for us LEGO Open Source junkies (I know I'm not the only one), it's exciting to see it used to make RepRap's version of the iconic Linux mascot, Tux the penguin, exist in the brick. Sure, sure, it's not that difficult to build a model from computer-generated instructions, but it's no mean feat to track down all the right pieces for a model on this scale (50 cm/63 studs/20 inches tall), and most of standing out in the LEGO community is more about having good ideas for what to build than about how clever you are with LEGO techniques anyway. It's hard to overstate the cleverness of the complete Free Open Source Software chain here - a Linux penguin, colored in GIMP, modeled in Blender, run through LSculpt.

There's also that nose - zoom in on the photos and you can see that care was put in to use tiles to round things out just a little more than LSculpt suggested. You'd be surprised how often small details like that end up being what separates a builder who really knows what he/she is doing from someone who is building directly from a program.

Also adorable: this comparison shot with other versions of Tux, and this close-up of a version of Tux scaled to Mixel eyes.

It's also noteworthy for historical reasons (and comparison's sake) that Eric Harshbarger (in many ways the first big freelance LEGO sculptor) has built Tux in a more traditional studs-up style, without the aid of modern programs or techniques. Newer tools and tricks have a way of making awesome models seem less exciting in retrospect (as they say, nostalgia isn't what it used to be).

Saturday, January 3, 2015

A Formula One Racer from the MINI Cooper set

Name of Model: Classic F1 (Mini Cooper Alt Build)
Created by: Rifflestein
Found at:
(this sort of thing is why you should put your photos in sets)
Details: This gorgeous Formula One racer is actually an alternate model of the MINI Cooper set. The set itself is a great model, of the sort we would have blogged here if we were on top of things, but never mind that now. This retro Formula One racer kicks it up a notch, taking the snazzy color scheme and adding some wicked curves and angles to coax a far more difficult shape out of the same parts. The aft section is all built at an angle, but attached so well that it feels seamless. The front involves a bit of artistic license (or perhaps is a good reason for the builder to say this isn't modeled on any particular life-sized vehicle), but is a pretty stunning look nonetheless. The Speed Racer windshields in dark green looked pretty clever as wheel wells in the set, here they look even better as the rounded area around the front grille.

The details are classy too, although it's a little hard to highlight them with just 5 photos. You'll have to look closely and take my word for it that they're in there and look good. There's a hood ornament, dashboard instruments, an exhaust pipe, and even an adjustable headrest. I'm pretty sure I even see gas and brake pedals in one of the photos. I'm not sure if the doors really open, and I'm not sure I mind much either way - it's hard to make an alternate build look this good.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Got Milk?

Name of Model: A Box of Milk
Created by: Kosmas Santosa
Found at:
Details: As part of the FOODcember 2014 building challenge, Kosmas Santosa built this very realistic bottle of milk...and mini chocolate cake, a chocolate cake with cherry and cream on top, a martini, fried chicken and french fries, and a kitchen to establish the theme for the month. That's not even all of his builds for this challenge, and it's only small taste of the delicious models in the FOODcember Flickr pool.

This model isn't terribly complex from a technical standpoint, but it features great uses of lettering, hinges, and studs-not-on-top building (check out the boxes shown on the side). Then, of course, there's the use of a 1 x 1 round tile and 2 x 2 round tile to represent some milk that has spilled.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Cafe Corner-style Gingerbread House

Name of Model: Gingerbread House
Created by: Parks and Wrecked Creations
Found at: , , and
Details: This beautiful gingerbread house is chock-full of an overwhelming amount of candy-coated details. It looks like the house is dark orange underneath the thick coat of candy, but that almost doesn't matter with all the other goodies packed in here. There's only three photos here, but they're clear enough to zoom in and get a good look. Some of the highlights: a mix of 1 x 1 and 1 x 2 plates with teeth to create icing-style cornice work, 2 x 2 tiles as Necco wafer-style roofing (I suppose they could be intended as a different candy, but it's definitely a great roof), swirl signal paddles on 1 x 1 round bricks and 1 x 1 round plates with open studs to decorate the railing posts, stacked 1 x 1 round bricks to make candy-cane lesenes, curved slopes for the icing snowbank, the standard 1 x 1 round plates as small candy trick, various reddish brown and dark brown tiles to make the chocolate bar door, and hypno disks and another printed 4 x 4 dish to represent swirl candies. Perhaps the best technique, though, is using trans-yellow bricks behind the windows to give the glass a sugary look when the building is lit up from the inside (visible in the second photo).

There are even a few details here that are not immediately obvious in how they were built. Note how several flowers are sunken into the model so their stems don't pop out at you - these must be attached to something deeper inside the model. Then there are the 2 x 2 plates seemingly attached to fences - presumably there's a Technic axle behind those 1 x 1 plates connecting the 2 x 2 plates to something behind the fence.

Also perfect: the inclusion of Gingerbread Man collectible minifigures and Mrs. Claus from the Santa's Workshop set.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Green Gables Stadium - a Giant, Gorgeous, Minifig-Scale Stadium

Name of Model: Green Gables Stadium
Created by: Pete Strege
Found at:
Details: Pete Strege recently uploaded new photos of his spectacular Green Gables Stadium. Sure, you've seen this before in our Brickworld 2014 coverage, and it also was a highlight of Brickworld 2013 - but it's enough of a stunner to deserve a post of its own. There are many details to love here - the 24-sided architecture covering a 30-inch square (4 of the big grey baseplates) steals your eye at first, but there's also the removable (and well-angled) dome roof, the large minifig heads wearing hats, the dark green lettering in the front, the stunning use of color (sand green, dark green, medium dark flesh, and dark orange cover most of the model), and even a full interior (customizable for a few different sports, although the hat outside makes me think of this as a baseball stadium).

Don't take my word for it - check out all 56 photos in the Flickr album, including pictures of the interior, work-in-progress pictures, and LEGO Digital Designer screenshots showing how the model was designed. The whole thing is beautiful, but I suspect we'll be studying that dome for years.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Microscale Pirate Ship

Name of Model: IMG_9532
Created by: Dan (yours truly)
Found at:
Details: Here's a quick look at one of my own recent builds - a microscale Pirate ship (or more accurately, an imperial galleon for the pirates to attack). The original idea was to create a ship that looked good, but was small enough to animate for Mini LEGO Con. That didn't work out so well, but the finished model was nice enough to add a stand (with water). At 8 x 16 studs, it fits into a Mini Con display, but is slightly larger than one of the BrickFair-styled tables.

This was actually a very humbling model, since I ended up using quite a few pieces that I dismissed as unnecessary when they first came out. The base of the ship is a Bionicle Visorak foot - an "action figure part" you'll never use in-system, right? Two of the sails use a 1 x 2 plate with 2 clips (you'd think 2 1 x 1 plates with clips would do the trick, but this is actually sturdier). One of the sails uses a 2 x 2 tile with one stud in the center, which I remember saying was the equivalent of 3 jumper plates, but a plate shorter. Finally, a 1 x 1 round plate with hole (a part once exclusive to LEGOLAND for metal bracing and wiring) connects the tallest mast to the 1 x 1 round brick below it.

Kids, don't try this at home. You would not believe how difficult it is to connect a plate clip into the bottom of a 2 x 3 plate that already has two 1 x 2 tiles wedged into it. At least it looks good, but LEGO rightly considers that to be an illegal connection.

Baymax from Big Hero 6

Name of Model: Baymax
Created by: lisqr
Found at:
Details: lisqr recently built Baymax as he appears in Disney's adaptation of Big Hero 6. The studs-out technique for building sculptures has gotten more popular lately - I still usually associate it with Schfio, one of the best builders currently working in that style, but it seems like everyone is trying their hand at it now that you can get travis bricks on the Pick-A-Brick wall at LEGO stores (and LEGO seems to be putting out more exciting studs-not-on-top elements in sets as well). Bruce Lowell is also rather famous for this style of building, and the head on this model is an obvious riff on his classic Lowell sphere (have I really not written about any of Bruce's models since 2007? Time flies).

The arms here are actually made from a great use of a different sculpture technique - loosely matching up various sizes of slopes and wedges. I believe I spy (please correct me if you think I'm wrong) a 2 x 1 curved slope, a 1 x 2 tile, and a 10 x 1 curved slope on each front edge, with a pair of 12 x 3 wedge slopes making the top and bottom of each arm. Even with all those slopes, it looks like the front and back edges are angled in further to get it to look just right.

...and I didn't even mention the great use of string on the robot's face yet.