Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The Toa of Rock... Raiders

Name of Model: The Toa of Rock... Raiders
Created by: Unijob Lindo
Found at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/102085494@N02/22502726842/in/dateposted/
Details: Why yes, I'm actually using the name of a model as a post title. This hits the perfect sweet spot for me - it uses great techniques and rare colors to combine two now-classic official LEGO themes. Perhaps you have to had been young in the 1990's to appreciate this; people much older than that tend to think of both Bionicle and Rock Raiders as childish and overly-juniorized themes (on a related note, we really need to have a better summary of what "juniorization" is). A quick check of Ryan's color chart shows that most of the important colors in the Rock Raiders theme's color scheme have been discontinued - teal (Bright Bluish Green [TLG]/Dark Turquoise [BL]) was last in a new set in 2005, and the "great color change" means that we haven't seen old brown (Earth Orange [TLG]/Brown [BL]), old dark grey (Dark Grey [TLG]/Dark Gray [BL]), or old light grey (Grey [TLG]/Light Gray [BL]) in a new set since 2006. Metalized Silver [TLG]/Chrome silver [BL] hasn't exactly been a common color over the years, either, even if it hasn't been discontinued yet.

The colors aren't the only thing to love here - there are also some clever joints and details. Bionicle ball joints are used on the knees to allow two sockets to form a joint together. The same joints are also used in a more traditional (although non-geared) way on the standard Toa torso element (which I'm just now realizing hasn't actually been in a set since 2004) and with a rare black Technic axle towball connected to a Mixel socket to create a very flexible wrist on one hand. Some extra color and body is given to areas that otherwise might look spindly, thanks to the Transparent Fluorescent Green [TLG]/Trans-Neon Green [BL] 1 x 1 round plates pushed into Technic pinholes. The best detail, though, may just be the chainsaw blades coming out of the feet.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

A Clever Dragon

Name of Model: Dragon
Created by: takamichi irie (legomichiiiiii)
Found at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/legomichiiiiii/24578934281/
Details: takamichi irie (legomichiiiiii) recently built this awesome little dragon - it's short enough for a minifig to pet, but definitely fearsome enough to terrorize a microscale kingdom. The head may look a little familiar - it seems to take after an awesome build of Nessie that Sean and Steph Mayo built last year (which I probably should have blogged at the time), but that horns and binoculars technique still works very well. The torso really speaks to me - it's a brilliant use of the thick-pin skeleton torso, with a lightsaber hilt for the neck, four skeleton legs for the legs, and the gargoyle collectible minifigure wings as the dragon's wings. The wings don't look to be swooshable to me (minifig neck accessories tend to have looser connections), but that'd be easy enough to fix with a 1x1 round brick (that's how I'd do it, anyway, but it probably looks better the way it is).

The head and tail demonstrate another technique - using clips in askew connections that are sturdy, but wouldn't be considered "legal" in an official set or LEGO Digital Designer. I think I spy a minifig hand holding that tail in place, with the end that normally connects to a minifig's arm crammed into the skeleton torso (another "illegal" but very useful connection).

The builder recently started a blog in English and Japanese: http://blog.livedoor.jp/legomichiiiiii/

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Motorized Super Mario Bros. Piranha Plant

Name of Model: Super Mario Bros. Piranha Plant
Created by: Daniel Pikora (yours truly)
Found at: https://youtu.be/oJrjyQKZ1Y0 for now
Details: While I (Dan) continue to be largely absent due to personal issues (I'm now moving to a new state again), I have still kept building and kept attending events. At one such recent event (this year's BrickFair Alabama), I was interviewed by our friends at Beyond the Brick about my Super Mario Bros. Piranha Plant. While the mechanism still doesn't run smoothly enough for me to be completely happy with it, it's worked well enough to take to shows - but I've been avoiding documenting it online until I've had a chance to make it work better (in this clip, it's already lurching along at a slower speed and sticking a little). I'd like to revise it further to fix the motion problems and to try to capture more of a world from Super Mario Bros. - perhaps with a few more moving characters.

This model debuted at last year's Maker Faire Orlando, which coincided with the 30th anniversary of the original release of Super Mario Bros. It also works out nicely that Piranha Plants were actually green back then (as compared to the red that's currently more common). Not that colors showed up on my classic Game Boy, anyway...

I had originally planned on building this for BZPower's "Lights and Action"-themed convention circuit last year, but this took too long to get together and then still didn't work reliably enough to send off with someone else. You may still have seen it at last year's Maker Faire Orlando, Brickworld Tampa, BrickCon, BrickFair New Jersey, BrickUniverse Dallas, and/or the Orange County Public Library System LEGO Contest (in addition to this year's BrickFair Alabama, seen in the featured clip). Later this year, I plan on displaying it (at least) at BrickUniverse Raleigh, BrickNation West Friendship, Scouting For Bricks, BrickFair New England, and BrickFair Virginia.

Monday, June 29, 2015

LEGO Starburst Vending Machine

Name of Model: LEGO Starburst Vending Machine
Created by: Stuart "iceleftd" Roll
Found at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n2RRsMwc3Ho
Details:

Making things out of LEGO that "move" is a wonderful thing. Creating something out of LEGO that can do something in response to human input is pretty awesome. There are a few LEGO vending machines out there that can be easily found with a Google search. In fact, in the description of the LEGO Starburst vending machine video the builder acknowledges the "LEGO vending machines" of another YouTube user by the name of ElectryDragonite. While ElectryDragonite's LEGO vending machines are numerous and very interesting, what makes iceleftd's Starburst vending machine wonderful is the sleekness of the design coupled with the very well thought out mechanical components and functionalities. This LEGO Starburst vending machine is a truly impressive build that really shows off the talent of this amazing builder.


In addition to an impeccably well produced video, iceleftd has also created a very sleek rendering of the vending machine which can be found on the builder's Flickr.



 

Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Secret World of LEGO Documentary

Channel 4 over in the UK has recently put out a brilliant documentary that chronicles some great behind the scenes action at LEGO. Many topics near and dear to the LEGO community's heart are touched upon and lots of notable LEGO fans are featured prominently.

Fortunately for those of us not in the UK, a kind YouTube user by the name of "Legoboy" has taken the time to post the documentary in its entirety for your viewing pleasure.


(Please note that the video embedded above was viewable at the time of this posting. If at some point in the future this video is no longer viewable please alert us as such and we will attempt to update this post with a working video.)
 

EDIT 3/5/2016: Channel 4 now has this documentary available on demand online.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Cat Burglar Sculpture

Name of Model: Up to no good.
Created by: Ryan McNaught (The BrickMan)
Found at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ryanmcnaught/17403430781/
Details: Minifig sculptures are an interesting genre - you can build them at so many different scales, and with so many different techniques, but it still seems like most people just copy set 3723. Increasingly, the official sculptures that LEGO uses for promotional purposes seem to be getting increasingly cartoony, with dimensions and angles that look less like actual LEGO pieces and more like something out of a LEGO-branded video game. It's an interesting aesthetic that I suspect we'll see leaking into fan-created builds over time, but so far seems to be used primarily by professionals.

One advantage of Ryan McNaught's status as a LEGO Certified Professional in Australia is that his model shop is LEGO's preferred method of making official promotional sculptures in Australia (this doesn't happen in most of the world, but it's an advantage of being on a continent without other model shops or certified professionals). Because of this, official designs for sculpted large minifigures have been trickling out on Ryan's Flickr photostream for some time now. They're not all necessarily built or designed by Ryan, but they're all built in his studio. You can see a few more characters under his legominifig tag and legocity tag, or, say, in any of these photos. There aren't too many photos of any particular model, but the models themselves are nice, with appropriate details and sculptural technique. It's worth taking a look and browsing through his photostream.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Oversized Rubber Band Holder

Name of Model: Nnenn: Never to be forgotten
Created by: jamesuniverse
Found at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jamesuniverse/17013314661/
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: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1853707494/pancakebot-the-worlds-first-pancake-printer
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: https://www.flickr.com/photos/96739476@N04/16220294503/
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: https://www.flickr.com/photos/66636161@N00/sets/72157646874722554
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).