Friday, November 28, 2008

Shop At Home Brick Friday Offer


Sorry for the lack of real posts this week, but this offer is so good, I'm sure you really want to hear about it first: LEGO Shop at Home is running Black Friday sales (and the free shipping when you spend over $99 offer still applies)!

Here's the dirt, straight from my "LEGO Affiliate Newsletter":

Feast Your Eyes on These Savings with the LEGO 'Black Friday' Offer! Save $10 on your order over $100, Save $20 on your order over $200, or save $30 on your order over $300! This promotion is valid 11-28-08 through 12-01-08.


In ADDITION to that already great deal, they will also be running 50% off the UCS General Grievous kit and 50% off the spectacular Custom Car Garage factory set (designed by Joe Meno, Joe Evangelista, and Stephen Sanders).

I don't talk too often on here about the LEGO sets I'm planning on buying, but I'm definitely grabbing the Custom Car Garage at that price. That's the deal of the day.

If you want other US Black Friday deals (that I'm not paid to promote), here's the list of things that may be available in your area (updating this as I find out more, feel free to send me your sale tips):

  • Target has 6211 Imperial Star Destroyer 40% off ($59.99) and select other deals (30% off basic brick buckets has been running all week and I'm told they have unadvertised deals as well).

  • Toys 'R' Us is continuing their Aquaraiders II clearance (50% off), putting several Bionicle sets on sale (50% off) and putting select other sets (specifically 7699 MT-101 Armored Drilling Unit and 7662 Star Wars MTT) 40% off.

  • K-Mart is running buy-2-get-1 free.

  • Walmart has the King's Castle Siege kit for $50.00

You should check your local flyers as well - even if you don't live in the states - because many smaller stores and international chains are running other sales.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Turkey Sculpture

Name of Model: LEGO Turkeys!
Created by: Kevin Whitney (anybody have a link to his other creations?)
Found at:
Here's a turkey. We all knew there'd be a turkey sometime this week. This cute little turkey would work well as a centerpiece, and only uses common colors and parts. If you can't figure out how to do the eyes - they're 1x2 Technic bricks with 1x1 plates stuck in the middle (yes - you really can stick other bricks and plates directly into the side of Technic bricks and beams).

Apologies for the lack of posts this week - I unexpected had more "real work" to do then I expected. Regular posts will be back starting next week, but I might try to get a few more posts in this week as well. I hope all of my readers have a happy Thanksgiving and a bargain-filled Black Friday.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Comparison Shots of New Pirates Parts

For those of you interested in knowing more about the new Pirates parts, I put together a few comparison photos of the new Pirates parts this past weekend:

First, the flags, new parts on top, original ones on bottom:

It's not that clear from the box art, but the new alligators/crocodiles are dark green instead of regular green (also, the new tails fit more snugly and move less once assembled):

The other photos aren't really good enough to bother posting, but here are the details:

The oars and cannon-holders are technically new, but the changes to the mold are extremely minor and not worth mentioning. The oars and boats are in new colors (white oars, dark blue boats, as compared to red and brown oars with brown and black boats). My sources tell me that the "new" shooting cannons are actually the same as the older shooting cannons, but obviously these ones are in a new color (pearl dark grey instead of old dark grey). I was always told that the shooting cannons weren't available to me because of toy safety laws - I have no idea why they're available now, but I'd recommend not pointing these spring-loaded cannons at anybody.

Is there demand for a side-by-side comparison of the new minifigs and old minifigs? The differences on those are easy to spot (printed hats, dark green legs and hats, printed backs on torsos, new fronts on torsos, new faces...)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Robotics Monday: NXT-Based Safe

Name of Model: SAFE
Created by: LEGO EXAMPLES (anyone find a more precise name for this builder?)
Found at:
I like to think that building a safe (or some other sort of security system) is a "classic project" for Mindstorms fans. I know it was one of the first things I tried building. Of course, it's a bit easy to just start taking the LEGO bits apart, so it's a project that usually gets abandoned before too much is done with it.

This builder, though, decided to order some special HiTechnic sensors and make the safe impossible to mess with. Sensitive to motion, it will trigger an alarm when tilted or pushed. The video above is essential viewing, and the website link includes an impressive amount of documentation, including code and LDRAW instructions.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Brickish Association Event Coverage.

Various shows
Created by Brickish Association Members (and other LEGO fans)
Found at:
The Brickish Association Events page features links to videos, photos, and other recap material from members of the Brick Association. It's a well-organized way to round-up events they've already had - and hey, they have a list of upcoming events on there too (I'm in the process of adding these to the BrickJournal Calendar). Many of the models shown in these photos have been featured here before, but there's something special about seeing many excellent models in the same layout (and of course, there are plenty of great models out there that don't get individually featured here). Warning: there are enough pictures here to make sure you don't get anything else done all day.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Prepare to Have Your Mind Blown

Name of Model: V&A Steamworks
Created by: V&A Steamworks (famed effects whiz Guy Himber)
Found at:
Occasionally, someone will introduce himself (or herself) to the LEGO fan community with such a bold, original, how-did-he-do-that-with-LEGO-parts style that it just takes everyone by surprise. This is one of those builders. I don't care what you think of Steampunk, minifig-scale, or Bionicle - these are truly works of art. There are technically 5 models here, but only 15 photos. I found myself going to the "All Sizes" link on every one to decipher what was going on. So many of these parts are the sort of thing people tend to write off as useless - it's truly shocking to see some of them put to such great use. To see so many of them used so well in this context is mind-blowing. Just to top that off, there are a few more common pieces - but they're all used in unusual ways (note the boat sections that turn into jaws on the HMS Vern).

Free Shipping Offer from LEGO Shop-at-Home

For those of you who can order from the LEGO Shop-at-Home but don't receive the catalog, they are currently running a "Free Shipping when you spend $99 or more" offer. I intend to put together some sort of "gift guide" in the near future, but in the meantime, you can use the link below to get to the official LEGO Shop-at-Home website and take advantage of this free shipping offer:


2009 Sets Leaking Out, TRU Coupon

It's become something of a tradition for the LEGO company to let toy megastore Toys 'R' Us sell a variety of items from the next year's line immediately after Thanksgiving (no one seems to know quite when this started, but my records prove it goes back as far as 1991). This year, new sets have leaked out at TRU even sooner than usual - exciting new kits that revive the Pirates theme are already available. I don't have time to review the whole line, so I'll let my friend Brickapolis at the LEGO Set News Worldwide flickr Group pick up the slack.

Of course, you're frugal like me, so you don't want to pay the 10%-20% markup that Toys 'R' Us often charges on LEGO sets. TRU is one of the most expensive retailers in the USA (and I'm told that their prices are worse in most other countries). Fortunately, there is a a new printable "15% off any one toy item" coupon good through November 20th. Sorry for the short notice, but I hope that some of you can enjoy the savings while checking out the new sets.
No, you're not imagining things - posts are a bit lean this week. Sorry for the inconvenience.


Name of Model: Turtle Power!
Created by: Mariann Asanuma, a former Master Model Designer from LEGOLAND California
Found at:
Sometimes you can do something beautiful just by re-imagining a few parts at a different scale. It only took one extra part to turn these starfishes into turtles, for example. The egg shells and beach make it adorable, but it was already darn clever to start with. If the starfish part doesn't look familiar to you, that may be because it's a Scala part - Scala is one of those "girly" lines that people tend to skip over without realizing how many great exclusive parts are there.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

"Life's Little Annoyances"

Name of Model: Life's Little Annoyances
Created by: Bladewood
Found at:
Here's an interesting find: a series of vignettes about annoying things that happen when people plan thoughtlessly. It's a very effective set of vignettes. I'm having a hard time putting words to them well - there are only a few photos here, but they do a surprisingly good job of speaking for themselves.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Barack Obama Mosaics

Name of Models: Barack Obama Mosaics
Created by various (see below)
Found at: and
Shepherd Fairey's iconic imagery depicting America's new President-Elect has been rendered in LEGO® form a surprising amount of times. It's kind of hard to pick one to feature - although it's even harder to try to find a good minifig-scale version of him (the LEGO company infamously took way too long to start making minifigs with non-yellow skin colors).

Since all manner of these seem to be turning up on eBay, I think it's time to talk about how "real" mosaics ought to be done. For one thing, the dithering used by most software-based approaches to mosaic planning doesn't usually look that good, and it should be avoided any time that the correct color is available from LEGO. Note how the mosaic shown above uses all 6 common colors (red, yellow, blue, white, black, and green) for the medium-blue section, instead of solid medium blue. The next thing many people try is just adding another color to the software's palette, such as this other mosaic, which makes use of medium-blue but still has some dithering.

Surprisingly, even with a primitive web-based program (LUGNET Mosaic Maker), you can still come up with some amazing designs that are as good as the ones on eBay. Using plates stacked up instead of spreading bricks (or plates, or tiles) on a baseplate allows for higher photo resolution, such as this design I just made virtually. If you do stick with a studs-out mosaic making on a baseplate (and that large 96-stud, 30-inch size), you can still get some great effects without resorting to dithering:

Of course, you'll probably need to spend a good amount of change we can build with...

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

New Microscale White House

Name of Model: Mini White House
Created by: kenobiwanx (this builder also has a LEGO Factory page where you can download instructions and buy models)
Found at:
The White House is one of those classic landmarks that's been done very well many times. It's tempting to say that this one only attracted attention because it was published so close to election day. That would be wrong, though - at just 12 studs wide, this is the one of the smallest White House models out there (as you can see at the links above, the same builder has also made a 6-wide version). If that wasn't enough, the entire thing was built out of parts currently in the LEGO Factory palette and designed with LEGO Digital Designer (free download from software. There is some pretty clever parts usage too - columns are made from 1x1 bricks with bars, and windows are made from sideways 1x1 studs-not-on-top "headlight" bricks. The 1x1 cheese slopes make a perfect roof on one side, while the other side uses 2x2 macaroni bricks to emphasize the rounded section. Using tiles for the sides works surprisingly well, and you have to love the landscaping - it's just well places lime 1x1 round plates and a variety of tiles.

Instructions can be downloaded from the LEGO website at . We're not sure why it's not immediately available from the LEGO Shop, but if you have LDD2.0 on your computer, you can download the instructions and buy the parts from there (total should be $13.52 in the USA).

Monday, November 10, 2008

2008 FIRST LEGO League Challenge

Name of Model: FIRST LEGO League
Created by: various (I'm not sure who's in charge of designing the challenges)
Found at:
Details: It's that time of year again - time for a new season of FIRST LEGO League challenges. You can find more details about this year's events at the link above. I featured last year's challenge as well, and this year we're already seeing a fresh overview of the parts of this year's mission (Climate Connections) over at The NXT Step.

If you missed the "double 400" video from last year's challenge, check out this post from earlier this year.
Oops! Looks like this posted early. This is Monday's model of the day.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

No posts next week

Just a quick note - there will be no posts here next week because of unusually heavy workload on me. Sorry for the inconvenience, and I hope to be back at full speed on November 10th.

I hope everyone had a happy Halloween, and for those of you registered to vote in the United States - don't forget to vote!