Thursday, December 31, 2009

Cathedral St Macario

Name of Model: Cathedral St Macario
Created by: Romas
Found at:
This large gothic cathedral - built entirely in the rare shade of light grey discontinued in 2003 - is simply stunning. The imposing size of the whole thing (it's quite large even though it's built to roughly "minifig scale") is impressive, but the architectural details are just as spectacular. The techniques here aren't generally too difficult to grasp, but if you're interested in a good look at how this was done, you can look at some of the other folders Romas has uploaded to Brickshelf - he uploaded many work-in-progress photos during the 3 years it took to build this. A brief interview (in Portuguese) with the builder recently found its way online - here is an English translation (courtesy of Google).

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Name of Model: Colosseum
Created by: rack911
Found at:
The Colosseum is one of the most recognizable landmarks from ancient Rome. It's also one of the most famous round buildings in the world, making it a bit of a challenge to build in LEGO form (which is why you don't see as many Colosseum models as you do, say, Parthenon models). A large collection of plate hinges does the trick here - the angles used are a bit small so the building maintains a fairly solid appearance from a distance. This model captures the present-day ruins of the Colosseum fairly well, using colors and lighting to majestic effect.

EDIT 12/31: In spite of actually linking to accurate information about the original, I still managed to get the location wrong here. Serves me right for rushing this post up and not preparing it further in advance. It's now been corrected, thanks to eagle-eyed readers who notified me right away.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Dutch Fire Engine

Name of Model: Dutch Fire Engine
Created by: Mad physicist
Found at:
Ralph "Mad physicist" Savelsberg is still building fantastic miniland-scale vehicles. This time around, he expanded his set of Dutch Emergency Vehicles (I've linked to the full collection above) with a Fire Engine. A neat mix of studs-not-on-top (SNOT) trickery and mosaic-style siding, it ends up being immediately recognizable. Of course, that's not enough for a detail expert like Savelsberg - he's also made working doors, including rolling doors, so that every hatch on the vehicle operates realistically (and of course, every one actually contains miniature equipment for the miniland firemen to use). Don't miss the clever tricks used for the front wheel-well, which boths looks great and actually splits so that the tilt cab can be raised for maintenance. More details (and information you'd probably be interested in that I'd rather not blatantly cut-and-paste here) can be found in the gallery above - each photo's flickr page has more information about the model and/or the source material.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Robotics Monday: Exceptional NXT 2.0 Ball Color Sorter

Name of Model: A FAST NXT2.0 ball sorter
Created by: Philo
Found at:
Details: Color sorters aren't exactly new, but I think we all knew that the newer version of the NXT kit (the 2.0 kits include a color sensor) would lead to more designs, some of which would inevitably improve on what we've seen before. This one, with it's zany (but somehow perfect) angles and fast linkages, may be the fastest NXT-based color sorter possible. There are some clever mechanisms here for splitting the stationary set of balls into a stream of individual balls and for changing the ways that the balls fall. The video here is pretty exceptional at really capturing the details (I'm sure we've all had enough of Technic-related videos that don't show you enough to see all of what's going on). Building instructions and code (both NXC and NXT-G) are available from the link above.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Official LEGO Displays from the late 1990's

Various models
Created by various employees of the LEGO Company
Found at:
I felt a need to share these older photos taken by the late great Eric Brok. These photos showcase some older LEGO window displays and the way some parts of LEGOLAND Billund looked at the time. He's already highlighted some details for you - I'll keep this post short since there are so many photos to see there.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Bionicle Lobster

Name of Model: Bionicle Lobster
Created by: The Lego Obsessionist
Found at:
Bionicle might not be the most natural looking thing to most people, but this lobster looks surprisingly realistic. When building animals like this, there's always a certain trade-off between realistically adding movable limbs and trying to squeeze in the most accurate appearance possible. This lobster looks like a good balance to me.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Modulex Christmas Trees

Name of Model: Seasonal greetings
Created by: maxx361
Found at:
Modulex bricks are really little bricks LEGO manufactured for architects. They're now something of a rare collectors item - LEGO long ago outsourced their production, and has since given up on the Modulex brand entirely. They also come in strange colors that don't match normal LEGO colors. Another interesting feature is that they're reasonably scaled to be bricks that minifigures can build with. Oh, and did I mention that they make nice Christmas trees? The same builder has also built a larger tree and provided instructions on how to make this simple tree design.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Santa at his Workshop

Name of Model: Oh no, they be stealing me sleigh!
Created by: I Scream Clone
Found at:
While the sleigh isn't visible in this model (based on the title, I think we're supposed to assume it has been stolen), this is an interesting new twist on the traditional "Santa's workshop" theme. The "elves" here are a fairly clever mix of parts - those torsos are from 1980's Forestman sets, the legs have only started showing up in sets these past few years, and the little hats are from the 2009 Venice Canal Chase kit (which, by the way, appears to be on a promotional offer at Amazon at the moment - that set has a generous amount of parts for $40, so at $34 it's a pretty great deal). While the elves and gifts make the scene, the interior lighting is what makes this piece a winner - check out the photos of this workshop in the dark. Another detail with looking out for is the door behind the elves - notice how it has been built out of bricks. That rounded section at the top is actually made from this curved arch brick, which has some space underneath. The space was filled with plates and tiles to get this effect - which is a tight enough fit to hold the other plates and tiles in straight.

EDIT 9:17 PM: Word from the builder is that the door technique was borrowed from a similar door built by Noddy.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Petronas Towers

Name of Model: Petronas Towers
Created by: Arthur Gugick
Found at:
Landmark builder Arthur Gugick decided to take on the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia some time ago. Like most of his landmarks, they stand as a masterpiece. When this model's inspiration was originally constructed in Malaysia, the Petronas Towers were the tallest skyscraper in the world. They've since been overtaken by Taipei 101, which longtime readers will recall has also been rendered in LEGO form. While I doubt that these LEGO towers are breaking any records, I'd say that the look of the 88-stories-tall Petronas Towers was captured well here. Even without many of the clever techniques we've seen in other buildings (particular in this small scale), this is still instantly recognizable.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Classic Boardgame Boards

Name of Model: Classic Boardgames
Created by: Eric Harshbarger
Found at:
Eric Harshbarger hasn't been building too much lately (although he was the first to make a living entirely doing LEGO sculptures and mosaics on commission, he decided to leave the field a few years ago) - but he did make these mosaics of popular board games. He's posted four game boards here (the two visible in this post are for Scrabble and Monopoly, the other two on his website are for Clue and Chess or Checkers), and all of them perfectly capture the essence of the original game board's design.
We here at LMOTD would like to apologize for the slightly off-kilter ad-heaviness of this post. Amazon and Blogger unveiled a new feature together recently with the goal of making links much easier for bloggers like ourselves, and we're trying to experiment with it without adding off-topic posts to the blog (I do genuinely love the game board mosaics featured above and mean no offense by discussing them in this manner - I just wish there was more to be said about how perfect they are).

Monday, December 21, 2009

Robotics Monday: NXT Warehouse

Name of Model unknown
Created by various NXT fans
Found at:
Details: When I wrote about LEGOWORLD 2009 previously, I briefly mentioned the large NXT-based recreation of the machines in the LEGO company's warehouse. After nearly two months of waiting, we finally have found video of this phenomenal Mindstorms NXT set-up. While we still can't see quite everything, we can see a substantial amount of the layout in action, and we even get a decent close-up of a few sections of layout (specifically the carrier robots on the road).

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Combining Space Police 3 and the Nemeses of the Original Space Police - the Blacktron!

Name of Model: Blacktron Falcon
Created by: Mark Stafford
Found at:
I've previously mentioned my feelings about the changing Space Police saga, and many longtime LEGO fans have similar complaints about the lack of Blacktron in the current line. Longtime-fan-turned-company-set-designer Mark Stafford has been occasionally sharing with the public some of his designs recast to fit better with more traditional (and in some cases, more realistic) designs and themes that are less kid-oriented. Not that there's anything wrong with LEGO making kits that are aimed towards kids, but it always helps a set to look attractive if it has great parts and a clever design in addition to play value. Personally, I was thrilled to see that the set designers behind the current Space Police line incorporated graffiti in a way that brought continuity with other LEGO lines (Look closely at some of the ships for stickers that say "Blacktron!" and "I love Insectoids"). This particular model takes the vehicle driven by the "Skull twins" in the current series and replaces them with a Blacktron operative (and enhances the colors and look of the ship appropriately).

Some of my complaints about Blacktron being swapped out for aliens have been rectified in the 2010 line - one new set that's finding its way into stores now features an alien with a torso that cleverly combines classic Blacktron torso designs in the sort of print quality we've gotten used to seeing in kits in recent years (double-sided torsos and slightly heavier printing than when I was little).

Mark Stafford was interviewed not too long ago on The Brothers Brick.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Sliding House

Name of Model: 2009 - sliding house
Created by: d-higdon
Found at:
The Russell House is an unusual house in Suffolk, England. What makes it so unusual is that it is a sliding house - a large exterior roof with walls literally slides along the house, allowing for parts of the house to be "open" or "closed", and for a large chunk of the house to appear to be made almost entirely of windows. I'm not sure how the real house was dreamed up or brought into reality, but the LEGO version makes much more sense - I mean, who hasn't tried to build a transforming house before? Right? Or maybe it's just me...

For those of you unfamiliar with this LEGO builder (I don't believe I've blogged about her before), she's actually fairly well-known in the LEGO fan community for her clever parts use "studies", which have led to very exciting furniture, staircases, and other extremely realistic interior details. As you might expect, that high level of quality is also shown on the interior of the LEGO version of this house.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Clone "Shock Trooper" Maxifig with Surprising Features

Name of Model: Maxifig LEGO Clone SW091 "Shock Trooper"
Created by: legomaniac
Found at:
If you've been reading for a while, then you know I'm a huge fan of large sculptures of minifigs (increasingly, the term "maxifig" is being used to describe these). Here's one that should appeal to the Star Wars fans out there - an Episode 3 "Shock Trooper" (this is in comparison to the last "maxifig" I blogged, which was decidedly for fans of classic Space themes instead). Sure, it was already an impressive feat that the helmet was rendered here in perfect detail - but in order to be truly spectacular, other surprise features had to be added - glowing lights in the eyes, a removable chest panel (unlocked by a clever lock mechanism), and a hatch which dispenses stormtrooper minifigures (starting the dispenser feature requires sticking the "key" into a spot on the side of the maxifig, conveniently hidden by an arm most of the time).

Lisboa Tram 28 Prazeres

Name of Model: Lisboa Tram 28 Prazeres
Created by: Marwede
Found at:
Although there are a few decent tram models in the Brickshelf gallery linked above, I'd like to call your attention to the one that is roughly miniland scale ("miniland scale" is the scale used by LEGOLAND Master Builders for the various "Miniland" displays at LEGOLAND parks). The sculpted curves are brilliant, and the brick-built windows are also spot-on.
This is Tuesday's model of the day

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

"Living LEGO-cy" 2009-2010

Name of Model: BayLUG Museum Show Open through January 17
Created by the Bay Area LEGO Users Group
Found at:
The Bay Area LEGO Users Group in San Francisco, California, USA opened their annual LEGO show this past weekend. The exhibit, entitled "Living LEGO-cy", is at the Museum of American Heritage in Palo Alto, California, USA every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (except holidays) through January 17, 2010. More photos and information about the event can be found at the links above.
This is Sunday's model of the day

Robotics Monday: Stewart Platform

Name of Model: Lego Stewart Platform
Created by: Shep (Tinkernology)
Found at:
6 Power Functions motors (controlled through IR by an NXT) control 6 of the Linear Actuator element. Properly connected, they can work this "magic" - a sturdy platform that can be easily tilted or rotated from underneath. This is a clever bit of engineering, and visiting the website listed above will bring you to videos of both Shep's LEGO version and a non-LEGO version.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Emerald Night in Monorail form

Name of Model: Emerald Night on monorail.
Created by: .eti
Found at:
Seeing that we covered a rendition of the Metroliner set in monorail form, we would be remiss if we did not mention a similar rendition of the Emerald Night. There are few real flagships in the Trains series, with the high raw costs of the sets (if you think in terms of price-per-part and factor in comparable other trains, they're usually inexpensive, but that's not immediately apparent) frequently scaring off even most people who are impressed by the designs, but both the Metroliner and the Emerald Night stand out as important classics. The Metroliner was in the first round of 9V system kits, and looked snazzy with its Amtrak color scheme (slightly more European stylings elsewhere made it a tough sell to some serious train fans, but it was decidedly more realistic than other 1990's LEGO train kits). The Emerald Night is the first train kit to feature the new steam locomotive wheels, and the options for motorizing it introduce the new Power Functions system.

Which is why the both warrant microscale tributes, but doesn't say too much about this little version (I'd like to see you try writing this many words about other people's LEGO creations every day and not getting a little off-topic). This is a simple and elegant build that mimics the features of the original set fairly closely.
This is Saturday's model of the day

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Modular-Style Christmas House

Name of Model: Lego Christmas House
Created by: zaberca
Found at:
I like to focus on some pretty clever techniques here, but sometimes you can build a very detailed and pleasing little model without getting too fancy. This one still features some nice tricks ("headlight" bricks to use tiles as a realistic brick texture, pairs of round 1x1 plates stuck with string in the middle to make lights, rows of parts used to get architectural details, wheel well elements as window arches, etc.) but is largely built with standard bricks, standing up straight in a simple and elegant pattern. The scale is perfect, too - the house is the right dimensions to fit with "modular buildings" like Cafe Corner and Green Grocer, but the dark red section only goes up to a more classic town height of 7 bricks tall. The remaining three bricks' height before the roofline is done with various architectural details.
This is Thursday's model of the day

Friday, December 11, 2009


Name of Model: Helios the Flammable
Created by: fallentomato
Found at:
It's very difficult to make humanoid Bionicle creations that don't come off as childish, spindly, or action-figurish. This anthropomorphized sun works surprisingly well, considering how many Bionicle joints, bizarre Throwbot and Bionicle elements, and unusual angles are used. A full 17 photos are up for this one, showing some interesting details and poses - and, of course (this still being related to a world filled with comic books) a storyline.
This is Wednesday's model of the day

Micro Gingerbread House

Name of Model: Micro Gingerbread House
Created by: Mariann Asanuma
Found at: and
Here's another seasonal gift of building instructions - a gingerbread house (presented by BrickJournal magazine). Designed by former LEGOLAND Master Builder Mariann Asanuma, this is another masterpiece - and (assuming you can locate the parts in your own collection - a challenge, but in this case it is actually possible that a fairly small collection could contain all the right parts) you can even build your own! Alternatively, you could build your own similar house (a worthwhile challenge that has already been attempted by at least one builder).

Since I live in the US and we have insane consumer protection laws, I'm pretty sure I'm required by law to remind you not to eat any LEGO parts used for building gingerbread houses (please tell me you already knew not to eat plastic parts before the goofy law went into place to remind you about that...please!)
This is Friday's model of the day - and yes, we intend to catch up for Wednesday and Thursday yet...

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Complex Unimog

Name of Model: Feuerwehr Unimog
Created by: nolnet
Found at:
At first glance, this looks like your standard armored truck. More specifically, it is a unimog and is built 6 studs wide with a 5-stud wide cab. Perhaps some of the details caught your eye as well. What you probably didn't catch, though, was just how precise the details were - check out this partially-built image for a variety of interesting techniques, including using tools with pins for exhaust, building the wheelbase upside-down to improve ground clearance, and using clips with 1x1 tiles to make custom mudguards. The texture on the sides of the truck are achieved in a surprisingly complicated way (sideways) as well.
This is Tuesday's model of the day

The Smallest Pneumatic Walker?

Name of Model: Micro Pneumatic Walker
Created by: Alexander "aeh" Holroyd
Found at: and in true pneumatic walker tradition, also in a LUGNET thread
Every once in a while, you hear me mention that something has become a "fad" of sorts among LEGO fans. About a decade or so back, a rash of pneumatic walkers flooded LUGNET (the LEGO Users Group network) and RTL (Rec.Toys.LEGO, a USENET newsgroup from back when "USENET" and "newsgroup" were things people actually used) as Technic and Mindstorms fans tried to push the limits of what could be done mechanically without having to use expensive motors and sensors to automate creations. Pneumatic walkers are an incredibly fun application of pneumatic logic gates. Simple logic gates (of the same sort used in electronics) have long been considered a "classic project" for LEGO pneumatic elements, but the relative scarcity of those parts generally prevents people from experimenting with the field too much. The basic idea of pneumatic walkers is to have all motion control handled purely by pneumatics - no motors, gears, or sensors are needed on the machine itself. The only source of power is a pneumatic tube supplying air pressure. Each piston-forced movement is mechanically attached to another pneumatic valve, which in turn will force another pneumatic piston to trigger its linkages. Since LEGO pneumatic parts aren't quite instantaneous, they can be used in a variety of synchronized machines, including walkers. Today's featured model is a recent creation that claims to be the smallest pneumatic walker. The machine has a small footprint and only uses the smallest size of pneumatic piston. The newer studless valves are used here to great effect - I can't imagine trying to build a similar structure while needing to brace the older valve elements with bricks. Don't miss the video on Brickshelf alongside the photos.
This is Monday's model of the day

Sunday, December 6, 2009

LEGO Kidsfest 2009

Name of Show: Kidfest 2009
Created by various
Found at:
Although no one informed me far enough in advance to announce it here or add info about it to the BrickJournal Shared Calendars (the main webpage for them appears to be down currently), there was a new show called LEGO Kidsfest two weeks ago. How an official show run by the company can go under the radar, I don't know, but we have photos from the event now.

Alfred jr's flickr photos
Kreativ Snail's flickr photos
Cale Leiphart's flickr photos
LEGO KidsFest 2009 Group Pool on flickr
cjedwards47's flickr photos
SMB Shutterbug's flickr photos

Seasonal Model Instructions

Recently, the LEGO company posted instructions for a series of holiday models on their website. There's a good variety of models - life-size sculptures, minifig-scale characters, and even a few minifig-scale ideas. You can find those instructions (PDF format only, sorry) at

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Slippery Eel

Name of Model: The Slippery Eel
Created by: -infomaniac-
Found at:
The whole "Pillage the Village" concept (which has been the basis for a few contests now) is to force Pirate builders back onto land to show us how the non-seafarers of the time lived - and what the Pirates could do to them. This village is a delightful mix of soldiers' fortifications and more civilian buildings, and also features plenty of Pirate action. Don't miss the rounded towers or the rocky landscaping. The pirate leaping into the water shows an interesting technique for the newer style of "fiber optic" cables LEGO has been using to allow the smaller lights to light up a larger area.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Bricksboro Beach

Name of Layout: Bricksboro Beach at Steam '09
Created by the Brickish Association
Found at:
It's a giant art-deco layout, completely in minifig-scale, put on by a group in Britain. Since there are more photos here than there usually are (and we're desperately trying to get back up to speed here at LMOTD), I'll just leave it at that.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Bionicle Triceratops

Name of Model: Triceratops
Created by: retinence
Found at:
It can be difficult to achieve just the right shape using only Bionicle parts. It's even harder if you start off with a very limited palette of Bionicle elements. Yes, I know I should nitpick the lack of a third horn (even though there's clearly space for it) on this model, but when you consider that this was built in 2 hours by someone on vacation - without access to most of their collection - it's an impressive little model. If you don't consider those limitations, it's actually still not a bad little dinosaur - it's certainly more realistic texture-wise in some spots than most brick-built ones are.
This is Wednesday's model of the day

2009 MisaQa Advent Calendar - Microscale City

Name of Model: Advent Calendar (2009)
Created by MisaQa, a Japanese builder whose work can be found on BrickShelf, Flickr, and her own website.
Found at:
I've previously blogged about one of MisaQa's famous annual LEGO-based Advent Calendars, but I believe this one warrants fresh attention (and for once, I'm actually mentioning it early enough for people unfamiliar with her creations to follow along each day until Christmas). Last time we discussed her calendars at LMOTD, she was building a microscale town - this year, she's building a microscale city. Last year, we didn't blog her fantastic fantasy creatures calendar; in 2006, I was impressed by her miniland-scale "Dolls dressed up" calendar; in 2005 she delivered a series of delicately poised birds. MisaQa's Advent Calendars never disappoint and often expose a deep well of engaging new ideas and techniques.
This is Tuesday's model of the day

Monday, November 30, 2009

Sariel's Scania Dump Truck

Name of Model: Scania Dump Truck
Created by: Sariel
Found at:
Every once in a while, I find out about someone in the AFOL (Adult Fan of LEGO) online community that I should have been aware of sooner but somehow have managed to overlook. Today's featured builder, Sariel is one such person. Not only have several fantastic vehicles by Sariel (Paul Ian Kmiec) been shown to me before, but Sariel actually has been brought on as a guest blogger for the official LEGO Technic blog. It's no wonder why - his website is a treasure trove of spectacular vehicles and clever building ideas. Many of the models on there (such as the one pictured here) feature both functional Technic-style innards and a classy brick-built exterior. The mix of realistic looks and realistic mechanisms is refreshing and masterful.
This is Monday's model of the day

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Festival of Trees Winter Town Layout

Name of Event: 2009 Festival of Trees
Created by: MichLUG
Found at:
The Michigan LEGO Users Group has gone all-out for this spectacular town layout. The season is clearly winter, and you can see snow in most of the layout. Note the expanded version of the Winter Toy Shop kit and the clever "aluminum tree" lot that uses Rock Raider drill parts as trees.
This is Sunday's model of the day

Bright Light Orange Vic Viper

Name of Model: Vic Viper 2009
Created by: cjedwards47
Found at:
In the LEGO Space fan community, there is an annual trend known as "NoVVember". During NoVVember, LEGO fans are challenged to build Vic Vipers and add them to the Vic Viper Flickr pool. Since I try to avoid blogging too many similar items, we've pretty much ignored the Vic Viper craze here at LMOTD. However, this beauty - built with bright light orange as a main color, with a generous amount of clever techniques and Bionicle tricks - was too spectacular to not blog. This very distinctive masterpiece shows some great ways of combining fairly disparate elements (note how well the Bionicle screen element from a Keetongu set fits above one of the windshields introduced for the Speed Racer line (the exact color is from a Space Police kit)).
This is Saturday's model of the day

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Black Friday (and Other Offers) at LEGO Shop at Home

LEGO Shop At Home will be announcing their final round of black Friday deals shortly. In the interest of being out at midnight to fight for some deals from competing toy stores that shall not be named, I'm going to go ahead and post what I know for you now:

First, there's this special offer:
LEGO Brand Retail
The deal here is a crude 10% off discount for large orders: $10 off orders $100 or more, $20 off of orders $200 or more, and $30 off of orders $300 or more. This deal is technically a Black Friday offer, but will be available through November 30th.

Another pretty great deal is free shipping for orders over $99 placed before December 6th (this can be combined with the above deals):

For those of you not finishing off your shopping this weekend, the final shipping days for ordering from Shop at Home in the United States (with guaranteed pre-Christmas delivery):
Ground – 12/14/2009 by 12am EST
2nd Day – 12/21/2009 by 2pm EST
Overnight – 12/22/2009 by 2pm EST

Finally, we have been informed that LEGO Shop at Home will be announcing 33 new additions to the Sales and Deals section of their website for Black Friday. These items will be available while supplies last. If this is anything like last year, the sets may appear before the stroke of midnight Eastern Standard Time, and they may be available at the low prices for quite some time after Black Friday. The exact sets and prices have not been announced this year, but that may be due to that info being leaked to the public early by bloggers last year.


Created by: JON
Found at:
Today is Thanksgiving day in the United States. Lacking the strong symbolism of other civic and cultural American holidays, Thanksgiving often gets ignored by LEGO builders. To make matters worse, the official kits that LEGO has made to commemorate Thanksgiving have often included exclusive parts - it's not like Christmas or Halloween, where you can try building things from the parts in your collection or easily buy the parts you need to build the official kits that look like something seasonally appropriate. This year, we're all thankful for the newly-rereleased minifig-scale whole turkey (picture at right), but even that was a rare part not so long ago. Of course, that whole turkey is clearly one that is largely cooked. What if you're looking for a live minifig-scale turkey for your farm or holiday festivities? Well, today's featured model has a solution. While I suspect that a better beak solution (perhaps involving a cheese slope?) could be discovered in the future, this one looks pretty nice for now - assuming you have that back panel that represents plumage here. Since that panel seems to have been designed for use with thick "hologram" stickers, I suspect many of us don't have many plain ones in our collections. It's also hard not to think of good ways to make custom stickers to "ruin" another panel like that by making fancy turkeys for minifigs.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Bionicle Coming to an End

You'd think that, thanks to the announcement that LEGO Atlantis 2010 kits were actually coming out November 24th, new sets would have been the biggest news in the LEGO world yesterday. You'd be wrong. There was Bionicle news big enough to outweigh the line of 6 new canisters on the shelves ("Stars" of the line being reissued in a different new form). Yesterday, the LEGO company announced the end of Bionicle.

Bionicle originally came out in 2001. 9 years is a pretty decent run - long enough to compete with many of the "classic" themes we keep saying LEGO should make more of instead of Bionicle (think about it this way - factions in "Space" only lasted from 12 years, 1987-1998. Pirates only came out in 1989 and was pretty much phased out by the late 1990's. No Wild West or underwater themes lasted more then a few years. For this generation, Bionicle and Town - er, "City", are the only two themes that have reliably been released year after year). Although much of the line was devoted to the all-original storyline and ways to build related action figures, there was a decent share of classic kits in the theme over the years. New, rare, and often exclusive parts and colors frequently popped up in Bionicle kits, and we'll continue finding new uses for those elements in the future. For now, though, I've decided to highlight some of my favorite Bionicle kits from these past 9 years.

8534 Tahu (2001)
: When the Bionicle line originally came out, there were just the 6 "good guys" - the Toa. At this point, they were expected to be yet another flash-in-the-pan action figure line. This wasn't the first time LEGO had tried to make Technic more appealing to kids by adding an action-figure style concept - the late 90's had brought "Tech Play" and "Cyberslam" (that's "Competition" for those of you in Europe), and we had also seen the "Robo-Riders" and "Throwbot"/"Slizer" lines come and go. The simple gearbox torso elements brought into the Bionicle line made these a bit more enjoyable as action figures (OK, fine, the storyline helped too), and also gave additional gearing and simple animation possibilities for those of us more technically inclined. The unusual characters - controversial back then for their use of Malaysian Māori words as names - turned out to be surprisingly popular, but in the end Tahu was everyone's favorite (the fire sword remains one of the "coolest" weapons we've seen, although I'm sure I could make a separate list of interesting weapons we've seen over the years). Pohatu also deserves a few points for being the only one in the original line to use the torso element upside-down (thus showing us how to control leg motion with gears instead of arm motion).

8557 Exo-Toa (2002): In the earlier years of the Bionicle range, the various accessories and factions were all Technic contraptions, usually capable of one or two simple actions - which, frankly, is reasonably respectable for a $10+ toy. Larger, more technically advanced baddies meant that the good guys had to grow in scale to match the threats against the Island of Mata Nui. In later years, we settled for simpler action figures that happened to be taller than the original line of Toa, but in 2002, this beautiful mecha/armor was the way that the smaller heroes could fight the bad guys. Rare and exclusive parts added to the cachet of the kit, but the play features are what made many of us who bought this for parts actually keep this one assembled. Strangely, though, only Tahu seems to completely fit inside this exosuit even though the Bionicle storyline claimed that all 6 Toa had similar armor.

8759 Battle of Metru Nui (2005)
: We all doubted the LEGO company's sanity when they announced that they'd be releasing "System" Bionicle kits. Sure, they'll be "juniorized", they'll have obnoxious fake "minifigs", etc. All those complaints turned out to be fair. These kits also included a number of rare or even exclusive elements, generous amounts of parts in rare colors, and some interesting features. Those of us who like dark red slopes for our town layouts tend to think of Cafe Corner as the first great LEGO kit in the world of dark red parts, but this kit came first and gave you a better variety of dark red parts for considerably less money.

8755 Keetongu (2005): After many of us had given up on Bionicle due to too many straight action-figure kits (gears became increasingly rare in the sets as the years wore on), LEGO gave us this delightful surprise. An incredible parts pack in the rare color of bright light orange, this set gave us an unusual physics lesson as a weapon. Yes, even without gears, Bionicle can still bring serious educational value! Spinning the axle in the middle of the weapon doesn't just engage the knob wheels, it also brings in conservation of angular momentum, which makes the entire weapon spin as a whole even while the knob wheels move the outer parts of the weapon. A review that shows the weapon can be seen on YouTube.

8941 Rockoh T3 (2008)
: I decided to try this set out on a whim, thinking that the dark green round Technic panels could come in handy sometime. I was incredibly surprised by how advanced a construction this wound up being - I still haven't finished figuring out how the unusual geometry lines up (to add to the fun, there's one place where things actually don't quite line up but a beam is "locked" into place by other beams nearby). We also got to see some great uses for knob wheels (I believe this is the only kit to feature them at an obtuse angle), and did I mention that this thing doubles as a giant handgun for Bionicle zamor spheres? Yes, a set can be interesting as a Technic kit, a geometric wonder, and still have play features most kids will love (oh, and this came with some sort of action figure character too).

The Rockoh T3 kit is still available from LEGO Shop at Home - I'm afraid the other sets here are no longer available. One of them (Tahu) will be available in a decidedly less interesting form in 2010, or at a LEGO Brand Retail store location near you in the United States, United Kingdom, or Germany.

An error in this article regarding the language controversy was corrected on September 18th, 2016. We regret the error.


Name of Model: W.S.L.F
Created by: LegoLyons
Found at:
There's something to be said for making a decent small spaceship once in a while. This one fits the bill and ups the ante with a clever cockpit, a cutaway of a hangar, and a generous amount of ingenious uses of rare colors. Purple and metallic silver are both very difficult to build coherent models in, but both are well used here. Mixing older shades of grey with newer ones is generally frowned upon, but here it gives the hangar a worn and repaired look. The use of various wheels for barrels and greebling is pretty spectacular here.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Robotics Monday: NeXTSTORM's "Space Molecules"

Name of Model: Space Molecules
Created by: NeXTSTORM
Found at: and
Here's one for the "there's nothing else like this out there" category - using a system of gears, motors, knob wheels, and a compass sensor, NeXTSTORM has created this utterly bizarre contraption. It looks like something you'd see under a microscope, with swirling patterns of different colors. It can be "lured" into travelling in different directions by a pad of magnets (detected by the compass sensor). While this is a definite departure from the animated minifig contraptions we've seen NeXTSTORM build in recent months, I think it's safe to say that this is another masterpiece. This may also be the best use we ever see for the "knob wheel" element - so far it's been largely ignored in favor of traditional gears, but the set designers keep including them in more and more kits, so we will have to come up with more clever uses for them.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Brief Break

This is proving to be an unusually busy week for a number of reasons - this blog will be on a short hiatus through Sunday. That is all.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Cadillac 1959 Series 62 Convertible

Name of Model: Cadillac 1959 Series 62 Convertible
Created by: lego911
Found at:
Coming in just a little bit below miniland scale, this Cadillac (apparently a 1959 Series 62 Convertible Cadillac) looks nearly perfect (I will nitpick the different side window color compared to the windshield, but that's about it). The windshield makes excellent use of a large amount of cheese slopes to get just the right angle. Curved slopes add realism to the body of the vehicle. Other nice details include the taps as mirrors, Technic gears as hubcaps, minifig levers as windshield wipers, working doors, and perfect brick-built accents. It's really all you can ask for at this scale - in spite of all the details, this car is just 14 studs wide!