Archive for August, 2008

Professor Maple

August 31, 2008

Professor Maple is my second entry in Resonably Clever’s Brick Science Contest. This model is for Class 2 – Evil Scientist Impulse Build. You can only build with a limit of 50 pieces. This is a great challenge, to get your point across without going over the piece limit. Chris Doyle, creator of Reasonably Clever, allowed for the use of Mega Blocks or non-LEGO elements, since the scientist is evil.

I figured that this would be perfect excuse to use my Pokemon Mega Blocks bricks. I got these in Japan about 7 or 8 years ago, and I just never found a use for them. As a general rule I don’t buy Mega Blocks, they are far inferior to LEGO in quality, but the Pokemon were just so cute I couldn’t resist.

As for what Professor Maple — rival to Professor Oak — is doing, he is creating “Poke-cubes” just to upset the balance of things. ;)

Dr. L. Ego’s Lab

August 30, 2008

When I saw Reasonably Clever’s I just had to try and enter. Now, I know, it might be considered a little unfair since I am a professional LEGO Model Designer, but I just wanted to get in on the fun. The whole time that I worked at LEGOLAND I couldn’t really enter any of the contests — conflict of interest. But now that I’m freelance, its my choice. If I am considered ineligible, well that’s fine too, I had a lot of fun just building the model.

I haven’t designed in Minifig scale in a really, really long time. While I was working at the Park, I didn’t do much freetime LEGO building. Also, since I started building in Miniland Scale, minifig scale is more limiting. You can do a lot with a Minilander, that you can’t do with a Minifig. But at the same time, building in Minifig scale makes you have to be more creative. So both styles have their place.

I used a lot of different techniques and theme elements. The power generator’s central feature is the Bionicle light up sword. I’m not really that into Bionicle, but they come up with some pretty cool pieces. I even have one Clikit element. You can check out my Flickr site for more detailed pictures.

Model Building Tips – Navigating Bricklink

August 29, 2008

Bricklink is a valuable resource for getting LEGO elements, both common and rare. Just in case someone doesn’t know, Bricklink is kind of an Ebay for LEGO buying. Anything and almost everything LEGO has ever made can be found there – if you know where to look. But that’s just the problem. There are literally thousands and thousands of different types of LEGO elements in different colors, etc. How do you go about looking for just one thing?

I have found that it can be a bit of a challenge finding exactly what it is you are looking for. Even with all the LEGO knowledge I have (about 25 years worth!), I still find it tricky to find what I want. So here are some tips on how to navigate Bricklink:

1) When looking for a particular element, narrow down your search by specifying the exact color you want.

2) If you don’t know the name of the element that you are looking for, do you remember a particular set it comes in? I have found many times that I don’t have the exact name of an element I look on Peeron to find a set that I know that piece is in. For those of you who don’t know, Peeron is a online resource that inventories almost every set that LEGO has ever produced. It helps if you know the theme and name of the set. Sometimes the name on Peeron is different from that of Bricklink, but not often.

3) Use the Browse feature on Bricklink. This is a really helpful. The more that you can narrow down your search – color, type, brick or plate, etc – the easier it is to find.

4) Check out the stores. Look inside them and just browse through them that way. You might not find the element you want in the color you want, but if you find it in a different color you can copy the name of the element in the search area and then look for it that way.

I hope these tips help. If you have any additional tips, let me know. :)

Online Store is now Open

August 27, 2008
My New Book

My New Book

My Online Store is now open. At the moment I am selling my book and an American Flag keychain on there. I will be adding more, including Volume 2 in my “Building Secrets from the Masters” series soon.

Ever wanted to build a LEGO ball? “How to Build a Round Ball with Square Bricks” shows you how. The book is 30 pages long, with full color photos and easy to understand instructions. It teaches you the theory behind building a LEGO sphere. It also includes step-by-step instructions for an 18-stud ball and is designed for ages 10 and up. You can see sample pages of the book at my Website.

Guitar Hero

August 27, 2008

Although I posted this a couple of months ago on Lugnet and MOCpages I thought you might like to take a gander at my Guitar Hero model.

Here it is with the actual controller.

Here it is with the actual controller.

It took me about three days and most of my Technic white 1×1 and 1×2 bricks to build. When I first decided to build this model I thought that it would be an easy build. But as I started to make it, I realized that if I wanted to get all the curves and points of this model just right it was going to be a lot more complicated. I turned a lot of bricks side ways, and even upside down (check the close up), just to get it all the way that I wanted it.

Here's a close up.

Here's a close up.

I also used a lot of jumpers or 1×2′s with one knob, so that the red face plate could be half a brick higher than the white. FYI, in the LEGOLAND Model Shop we called them jumpers because the knob “jumps” half a brick over.

Back to School

August 26, 2008

Since yesterday was the start of the school year, at least around here, I thought I’d share my Apple model with you.

OK so maybe Teacher doesn't want this one.

OK so maybe Teacher doesn't want this one.

This is an old MOC (My Own Creation). And I mean old! I actually made this model before I worked in the Model Shop but I have never posted it anywhere, till now. I made this model along with several others to use in my portfolio when I interviewed for my job in the Model Shop at LEGOLAND California.

The Minifig turns 30!

August 25, 2008

On Lugnet yesterday it was announced that the LEGO Minifigure turns 30 today. Being just a little bit older, I can’t remember a time before Minifigures. In fact one of the first sets that I remember having is the LEGO Homemaker Kitchen which had one of the very first Minifigs, a girl with black pigtails.

Minifigs, in all their countless varieties, are one of the best things that LEGO ever invented. They make a model or scene that much better. And maybe its just that they are so darn cute! (Even the “bad guys”) Who doesn’t love to have a Minifig version of Han Solo or Batman? Spiderman and Sponge Bob are forever immortalized in LEGO. Heck, you can even make yourself!

Who knew that they have been around for three decades!

Who knew that they have been around for three decades!

So thank you LEGO for creating Minifigures. ;)

Model Building Tips – Building A Hollow Model

August 24, 2008

Writing about my Jing Jing model breaking made me think of how top-heavy the model was. When I worked for LEGOLAND California people always asked me if the models were solid or hollow. As I said in the last entry, Master Model Designers make models as light as possible. It doesn’t matter so much on a small figure like Jing Jing — and yes, for me Jing Jing is a small model considering that I helped build the tallest Miniland Skyscraper the Freedom Tower , which ended up being twenty eight feet tall.

When you have something like the Freedom Tower, the weight matters a lot. LEGO models at the park could weigh hundreds of pounds. Even when we made models as light as possible, something like a section of the Freedom Tower took at least six people to get it out the double doors of the Model Shop and then a forklift and a crane to get it into place.

Photo taken by William Webb.

Photo taken by William Webb.

So, as you can see, building a hollow model becomes more and more important the larger the model is. Another benefit of building hollow is that it saves on bricks, and even with the amount of bricks that LEGOLAND California had, the less you have to build something like that, the better.

Photos of the Freedom Tower on this blog and on brickshelf were taken by my good friend William Webb, also a former Master Model Designer of LEGOLAND California.

Building Tragedy!

August 23, 2008

Tragedy happened the morning after I posted the Jing Jing Olympic Model. When I walked into my LEGO room I did not see my Jing Jing model on the desk as I expected. It looked like this instead.

A Builder's Worst Nightmare!

A Builder's Worst Nightmare!

After the initial shock, I sat down and got to work. I hadn’t just spent six days on this model for it to last for only one day! Now granted, the model’s head is top heavy. But if you do notice, since the model is broken, that the model is hollow. As a Master Model Designer, we always have to make a model as light as possible. That is part of the reason it broke so easily, the other reason was that since it was a prototype the bricks were not as interlocked as they could have been, especially on the head of the model. If I was going to display the model any where, I would probably make a copy with the bricks better interlocked. That’s how we did it in the Model Shop. Prototypes are intentionally fragile (in other words easy to take apart) , that way if you don’t like how the model is going, you can change it easily.

So as I said, I got to work. Although it looked terrible, the model wasn’t all that hard to put back together. It actually only took me about ten minutes to put all the parts back where they were. And no, there were not extra pieces when I was done. I think the main reason that it only took me a few minutes is that I had just built the model. If say the model broke six months from now, it would probably take more time to figure out how it all goes back together. But then again, if the model broke in six months I probably wouldn’t put it back together at all, since the Olympics would be over. ;)

Model Building Tips – LEGO Storage

August 21, 2008

I’m sure many people are wondering how I store my LEGO pieces. When I was young I kept all my LEGO together in a “big” box (at least it seemed big when I was a kid). But as I got older, I realized that digging around inside a big box looking for a particular piece (especially a tiny piece) although fun, takes too long. So, I started sorting my LEGO. At first it was just the small pieces that were most likely to fall all the way to the bottom. But as I got older and my collection grew, I started to sort more and more.

When I got to the Model Shop at LEGOLAND California, I found out that I had the right idea. Virtually every piece has its own place or box. They have shelves and shelves with thousands upon thousands of LEGO pieces. And for those that are wondering — Yes, it was like LEGO Heaven. At the Model Shop we actually didn’t have to sort our bricks, we ordered them by the tens, hundreds, or thousands depending on what piece it was (hundreds for something like a decorated element, thousands for 2×4 bricks). So when we received an order, all the bricks and elements were presorted and all we had to do was fill the bins.

But back to storing my personal LEGO elements. As you can see in this picture there are lots of acrylic drawers sorted with different LEGO elements.

These small drawers hold all my smaller elements: flower stems, windows, clips, etc. Sorting, although it takes time to do initially, it saves a lot of time later when you want to build. And although the drawers are great for smaller items, they are a little too small for all the bricks and plates that I have. Now in brick sorting I have to admit that I am a little obsessive in how I sort my bricks. I actually have all of them sorted by brick and color! Yes, it takes time, but for each project that I make like my Jing Jing Olympic Model or my Guitar Hero Model (see


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