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Showing posts with label techniques. Show all posts
Showing posts with label techniques. Show all posts

LEGO Techniques - Putting it All Together

What would you do with 8400 tiny technic liftarms and about 5000 technic pins? Back in November I ran a contest to guess how many of those liftarms were in a bag I had received. I implied there would be a creation forthcoming. Well lady luck (or lord LEGO?) was on my side. The project is near complete and will be making a public debut at the Bricks Cascade 2016 convention in Portland, OR this weekend. Come see this amazing build between 10a-4p on Saturday and Sunday the 27th and 28th.



Oh, what is it? Here's a photo of one part of it. Give up?

LEGO Techniques - 20482 Round Tile with Pin

Seen this yet? Imagine a 1x1 round tile. Then put a tiny 0.4L (3.2mm) bar on top. Finally, drill a 1.6mm hole through the bar. The result? Possibilities! This little part contains at least 4 ways to connect pieces together, let's see how many uses it has.



LEGO Techniques - Rhotuka!

Yeah I know. What? Not a clue. But I found one of these little parts in a bulk bin and grabbed it because it was new to me. Plus it takes no space or weight to speak of. Finally figured out that it is used in conjunction with a rip-cord. This was WAAAY back in 2004 before Chima Speedorz and Airjitzu. So nothing new. In fact I thought it was a friction fit gear from the old 80's motors.

Unfortunately the gear teeth don't really mesh with anything else except the rip-cord. But like everything else, it fits with the System! Yeah, can you believe it? The first thing that grabbed my attention was that little nub. When I was a kid I was disappointed that the little void under a stud wasn't sized to match anything. Now we know of course that LEGO sometimes uses that void to place tracking devices to understand more about how LEGO is played with. If you find a tracker, smash it!


How? Use this little piece. The nub fits that void and the teeth are sized at 4.8mm diameter which (as we all know by now) matches a stud. Fits great into a 1x1 plate, albeit a little loose. The fit into a round 1x1 plate is much tighter. If your fingers aren't very grippy, you might need some pliers.


Since the diameter is a stud, it should fit into a tube under a brick, right? With ease!


Hey wait, is this the missing double male stud SNOT piece we've been seeking?



Oh. Yes. With exactly a plate of width in the middle. (I really did need pliers to extract the hex end as it was quite tight).

LEGO Techniques - Znap

Wut? Yeah, Znap. I didn't know either until I was browsing through the Bricklink catalog a few years ago. Turns out it's sort of Technic compatible and an attempt to compete with K'nex. But it failed because that was like 20 years ago. The pieces are still available for a few pennies on the secondary market.

And why would you buy the pieces? I got my hands on a few of them and gave them some Dag style tests.

LEGO Techniques - Clip it Good

So we all know that clips can clip to bars. And we all know that the pegs on the underside of 1x plates and tiles are essentially bars right? So we know that we can attach a clip to that bar at a 90° angle. But it's not very sturdy. That gap is 4.8mm and the clip is 3.2mm.
So ideally we'd have a bottom side that was 6.4mm but how's that gonna happen? We'd need a piece that was 8.0mm wide plus another 1.6mm to accommodate it.

Oh, wow...



LEGO Techniques - Bipolar Fez

Got back into doing some MOCing last night and this shows up. Did we know this already? I sure didn't. Apparently the set of nubs to hold the stud is replicated by a second set of tighter nubs further up and further in. Double row of teeth?



LEGO Techniques - Stud Height

At the end of the Reverse Engineering Challenge 4 I posted a picture on Flickr with a rather impassioned description. There had been some discussion as to what the height of studs are and whether or not they cause conflict in builds. The myth traveling around is that stud height is half of a plate, or, 1.6mm. As my picture shows, this is incorrect.

But there are times when it seems like the only explanation for stud height is that it MUST be 1.6mm.



Take for example the above picture. This little tablescrap attempts to show stud conflict. Notable is the top of the 1x2 technic brick with axle hole against the 1x2 technic brick with 2 pin holes. You would look at this and immediately think, "Duh, you just disproved your point. Studs are half a plate high, done."

Au contraire, my AFOL. Remember how I discussed the true dimensions of a LEGO brick? You would think at first blush that the white brick is 16mm across right? But it's not, it's 15.8mm. The height of the stud from the yellow brick would be the half plate difference from the white to black brick PLUS the tolerance factor of the white brick; 1.6mm + 0.1mm = 1.7mm. Some say the stud is 1.8mm but this shows it to be impossible. As for the logo? Negligible.

LEGO Techniques - Headlight Conflict

Finally getting back on track with the study on headlight bricks. A while ago I showed how headlight bricks are an odd construction. They maintain normal brick tolerance on 3 sides, but the fourth side actually reverses this and cancels out the tolerance on the opposite side. The effect is that of creating a true 2 plate high piece. But how does this affect SNOT construction?



Using my little tablescrap I've created two cases where the headlight brick creates error. The first is in the lower right corner under the yellow technic brick. You can see that the headlight brick is actually pushing against the sideways grey travis brick such that it doesn't want to rest easy. What's the deal?

First, a quiz: How wide is the yellow technic brick?

If you said 16.0mm, you're wrong. While it is that size nominally, the actual size is 15.8mm. Remember the 0.1mm tolerance on each side?

Using math, it's easy to see how the conflict can occur. The headlight brick is EXACTLY 6.4mm wide due to it's intended cohesion with a double high plate. The travis brick is exactly 9.6mm high. Added up, the total becomes 16.0mm which is obviously a little too much for our poor technic brick. You can certainly build up around such cases and get the bricks to be compliant but they will be stressed a little.

The second case is on the left where the headlight bricks interact with a blue and grey headlight brick. Using the same concept it should be easy to see what is happening. The red headlight brick atop the blue travis brick is in system... except for the stud face which is 0.2mm beyond. The width of the headlight/grey travis brick combo is again a true 16.0mm. The stuck out face of the headlight brick is pushing the grey travis brick (along with any connections) an extra 0.2mm further east. Therefore, even though the upside down headlight brick is attached to the blue travis brick, it's connection with the grey travis brick keeps it from pushing up against the brick.

Headlight brick, you are a wily one.

LEGO Techniques - Headlight Bricks

Excuse my summer burnout. I might be a bit sporadic over the next couple of months. That will just make you look forward to my posts all the more, right?  Riiight.

Headlight Bricks appear to have more nicknames than other pieces. Some call them headlight bricks after their original use, some call them Erling bricks. This is obvious since Wikipedia tells us that Erling is a Nordic male name, meaning "Heir of clanchief". OB-viously! But it really tells us more about the origin of the brick. It was nicknamed for the LEGO Designer Erling Dideriksen, who invented this element in 1979. And despite that, the model shop still calls it a washing machine brick, even though the Pick a Brick calls it an "Angular Brick 1x1". Angular? Like 90° maybe. What if we acronymize this name to HEWA (headlight/erling/washing machine/angular)?

Current study block, my piece de whatthehell...
Now that that's settled, let's look at the geometry of the brick. After the last Reverse Engineering Challenge, I got into a discussion with Sheo, another amazing builder and brick thinker. Whereas I had been looking at bricks with their nominal width of 8.0mm, he has been looking at them for their ACTUAL width of 7.8mm. All bricks have a 0.1mm tolerance on each side to reduce binding when placed next to each other. When bricks start getting used sideways, interesting results can happen.

The HEWA brick is often turned sideways and used for a SNOT approach. This means that the direction of tolerance is getting stuck into another dimension. Usually. This whole thing came about because I made a bold attempt to show that studs are NOT 1.6mm tall as is commonly thought. They're a mite taller and I don't mean because of the logo. Even hollow studs have collisions. Sometimes. But why not always?

Let's study the HEWA brick. Nominally it's 8.0mm across. Actually, it's 7.8mm across. At the base. For the brick portion, it's actually 6.4mm. You expected it to be 6.3mm? I did too. But the block is actually 6.4mm to allow it to be the exact same height as two plates. That was some forward thinking back in the good old days. So it has tolerance reductions in the upright position, and corrections in the prone position. Assuming the stud is truly 1.6mm tall, that would explain why the side stud sticks out a scoche. But it's not 1.6mm tall and we'll address that another time.

So what if we turn the brick sideways? The geometry is similar to another newer piece, 99207. I've drawn the studs to line up, but do they actually? We'll take a deeper look into the HEWA brick's relationship with other pieces in the next few installments of this blog series.

Reverse Engineering Challenge is OVER!

After 11 weeks, the contest is over! From a pool of 155 starters, 13 of us came out on top. As the moderator wasn't too keen on continuing to throw challenges at us, he declared it a 13 way tie. Rather than the customary first, second, and third place prizes, he made a few suggestions. A very clear majority choice was for all 13 of us to receive a special engraved brick for our convention badges as well as a small handful of special pieces. The grand prize, Birds would have been a nice set to win but it was decided to give it to the moderator as thanks for organizing, and also to offset the cost of engraving and shipping.
Now that my building life is a little more sane (and in order to not risk giving any solutions away to other participants) I'll be featuring some of the more interesting techniques that were used. Next week headlight bricks! You thought you knew them, but do you really?


LEGO Techniques - Reverse Engineering Challenge

Maybe you've noticed that Wednesdays have been silent lately. For good reason! The competition is hot and heavy over at the Reverse Engineering Challenge IV (REC4). I've been fighting and scratching to stay in the lead with about 34 other contenders, and that's just first place. Needless to say, my brain capacity for showing off new techniques has been limited. Want to see some incredible stuff that pushes the limits of the brick? Head over to the Flickr Group and see what's happening.




LEGO Techniques - Reverse Engineering Challenge

The contest is hot and heavy over on Flickr. We're in the third week of challenges and while the first two weeks have been a piece of cake, this third week is giving me fits. Every week the host posts a finished picture of a tricky build. The players then have 1 week in which to figure out the build and upload their solution. If they can solve it before the week is out, they get a chance at a bonus puzzle for extra points.

This contest is held every year or so. This is the fourth one. This year it got some media buzz and there are way more contestants than usual. Also some nice prizes. Wish me luck!

LEGO Techniques - Minecrafty

I picked up a copy of 21113 The Cave for myself as a parts pack. I don't often have enough bricks and I got a good deal on this set. I'm flipping the Zombie and TNT bricks but keeping Steve, the spider head, and the pickaxe. I almost flipped the pickaxe as well until something caught my eye (ba-dum bum). After test fitting a piece I kept it too.

Tim J. over at the New Elementary already played around with the heads a bit. I plan to keep doing so and see what can happen. Steve (and the zombie and skeleton's) heads are all about 12mm cubes. This is a bizarre but not unheard of dimension. It's the same as a brick and a half in width. Or 3.75 plates tall.

The animal heads are 12.8mm cubes. This is the equivalent of 4 plate thicknesses in every direction. Or a brick with a bracket and plate to one side.


It's the pickaxe that got me. The end had a very familiar shape and the nub was almost a tell. "By Jove!" I thought. "That looks like the invert of the bottom of a 1x1 plate!" Sure enough our block headed friend demonstrates. Even cooler is that the pickaxe appears to be thin enough that three could fit inside a 1x1 brick. That tells me that it's 1.6mm thick, or, a half plate.

Note that even the notch near the handle can accept the wall of the brick. It's a snug fit making it 1.6mm as well. For even more amazement, hold a 1x1 brick up to the tool and see how many other dimensions match. It's almost like finding a Fibonacci spiral in everyday objects.

Yeah, I'm pimping this article. You should go spelunking.

LEGO Techniques - Minifig Tools

Missed my Wednesday deadline again, no LEGO Finds or Seller Reviews this week, so this oughta sneak nicely into Thursday.

After playing around with the City Park Garbage Golf Cart from a couple of weeks ago, I found some fascinating dimensional attributes. Working with little more than the minifigs implements I discovered some neat new connections. It's obvious that the handles are bars that can fit into clips (and minifig "claws"). But did you know:

The broom end is perfectly sized to fit inside a 1x2 plate? The actual bristles are the same height as a plate so when you cap it there's still a little bit of bristle showing. It'll fit all the way into a brick.



The shovel end is just wide enough to accept a 1x almost anything? And the sides are just long enough that whatever you fit in has a nice snap and is secure. The actual dimensions of the inside of the shovel are about 7.8mm x 8.2mm. The thickness of the shovel is about 1.6mm, just enough to slide wherever you would expect panel walls to fit.




Spaceship greeblies! Go!

LEGO Techniques - Commission #3

This last week (and a few prior) had me scrambling while my priorities were shifted. Not only was I getting a lot of real work but I took on this commission as well. This one was different than my other two in that the deadline was strict. The commission was to be done for an auction event that was going to benefit their youth group. I was to deliver the model on the afternoon of the event. I had to rely on pictures and the power of Google since the church itself is in Longview, WA, a good hour north of me. The subject? The church building.





Longview Community Church is on the National Register of Historic Places. It is a beautiful old building in the shape of a cross with several newer additions. Most of the original building is intact. I chose to focus on the original building only and pretend the additions never happened. There were a lot of beautiful features to choose from. Given the scale, I had to focus on a few and let the others be implied.


The first and biggest feature is the stained glass windows. There are two very large and prominent ones on each of the wings of the sanctuary. Both are approximately 18'x30' and arched at the top. Gothic arch mind you. I had to settle for a continuous curve. My opening was 6 studs wide which matched each section. I broke it into 14 plates and began stacking. It was a very abstract interpretation but I tried to make it as true as possible. Most of the outer portion was stacked transparent light blue plates. I used a couple of red round ones for the lozenges. In the Nativity, Mary's robe was represented by 2 transparent dark blue plates. The sheep's heads were transparent yellow and orange round plates. I was pleased with the overall result.



A third large stained glass window is in one end of the building. The youth pastor had never seen the whole thing since it is partially obscured. He tried taking a cell phone photo but it was not the greatest. I found a plastic waterfall piece from a Lone Ranger set in my store inventory. Since I knew it would never sell and it was the right size, it was a perfect match for that window!

(Unfortunately in my rush I never got any good photos of my stained glass windows).

Next was the bell tower and smaller turrets. I ordered a bunch of the older 2x2x3-1/3 octagonal bricks. Unfortunately I was short by three but one of my fellow PortLUGgers was able to loan me a few with only hours until the event! The bell tower was easy. It looked about 8x8 to me. That scale worked out perfectly with the rest of the building as well.


Finally, the bell tower is home to some gargoyle water spouts. Some droid arms sufficed for this though I think the skeleton arms would have been better.


For the roof I had what I thought was a genius idea. On the front and rear gables are some very faint crosses embossed (or raised!) from the side of the brick with more brick. I used a 1x2 technic brick with cross hole and pushed a dark tan 3L axle with stud into it. The remainder of the axle stuck to the inside of the church and was used to hang the roof on. In order to save on pieces (and budget) I chose to do the roof in plates instead of hundreds of slope pieces.


I finished up the model with a little landscaping and some lettering to note the scale and the artist. Final scale came out to about 1:125.

I was invited to join the auction night and say a few words. It was a very amazing evening of fundraising with some very generous folks participating. An older couple at my table bid on the candy filled centerpiece for my kids to take home. Thanks Rich and Roberta!





(All photos with the actual church and photo of the church model on the red tablecloth courtesy the Longview Church Community. )

LEGO Techniques - Spin Doctor

A few weeks ago you may remember I picked up both a generation I AND generation II Ninjago spinner in my LEGO Finds. The seemingly divine intervention was a good chance to crack open some ratty spinners and see what made them tick.

The generation I spinner is an easy start. There are three tiny screws on the bottom. This allows the top piece to come off as well as reveals a chunky drop-forged metal piece. It even has a part number on it. I'm not a scrapper and only a fair tinkerer so I'm not sure what kind of metal it is. It isn't magnetic but it's much heavier than I would expect for aluminum. The surface is somewhat dull, but then again it's for weight, not show. The interwebs suggest it could be zinc. At under $1/lb, this 1oz weight would be worth about 6c. No point buying out the entire world stock of Ninjago Spinners for scrapping. It doesn't really taste like a zinc tablet though. Stainless?


The central fig stand was a little harder to figure out. It has a compression clip that goes through a hole in the bottom portion. I chewed the tabs up a little bit before I tried pulling from the top side. A good solid pliers grip on the upright portion, a little twist, and *BAM* my elbow hits the wall. The stand has no part number on it but the ring does.


Piece of cake, let's tackle the second spinner. The design of this one is different. Where the gen. I has a tapered bottom, this is flat with a protrusion only at the pivot point. The attachment method is also different. Instead of mechanical fastening, it's designed to rely on snaps. Ugh, how to pry that apart?

The fig stand can come out first thing. That gives a little more of a sturdy central portion to leverage against. Oh look, this one has a part number on it! Same design and everything. I'll assume it's the same part as the first one.

At first I tried pushing through the bottom holes to release the pressure on the snaps. This didn't work very well. After that I gently pried a flathead jeweler's screwdriver between the two shells and s-l-o-w-l-y used some leverage. There was some plastic cracking but the snap released soon enough. The other two were no easier.


Once these are apart, you can get the metal weight out. This one is a different design but has no part number in it, just a mold position stamp. The ring is a slightly different design from gen. I but still noticeable. The little nubs on the ends are too small to fit in a minifig arm, but too big to be used in any of the expected mini-pin places.


Since Bricklink has not been interested in these types of pieces for their catalog, look for these in the BrickOwl catalog soon!

LEGO Techniques - The Dag's Bricks Tell All

Hello readers.  I am considering releasing a guide to how I became a successful Bricklink store and am on my way towards making $15,000 from part time work.  I've got several snippets in my blog posts on how I run my store, but this would be a nitty-gritty guide, no info withheld.  Obviously I don't want just anybody grabbing it.  I think if somebody is serious about running a parts store, they should be willing to commit to it and not quit in 3 months time.  I've seen quite a few of those on Bricklink.  They buy stock, use the part out feature, and then realize they don't have the time, or they can't grasp shipping.  Then they get on the forum and offer to sell all of their inventory to the highest bidder (but still at a loss to them).

I want to help you succeed.  I would show you all my tips and tricks, down to actual keystrokes in some cases.  I would show formulas I use, where I source my products (both supplies and LEGO pieces), why I pass on good deals, and what key things bring repeat customers.  And since this is premium info, I would be charging a nominal fee.  The last ebook I wrote, I thought I would have 30 pages and I ended up having about 100.

If I don't get much interest, there obviously is no sense in writing the guide.  I'd love to have your input in the form below.

(Form not showing? Try here)

LEGO Techniques - Pretty Ballsy

The beauty of LEGO is that there is a little bit of tolerance and flex in pieces.  The other beauty is that everything works with everything.  EVERYTHING!  So it should be no surprise that a Hero Factory torso can be the basis for an otherwise completely system build.  Sure, you could pull in pieces like modified bricks with balls or cups.  But then there would be no blog post for me to write.

The balls on the Hero Factory joints are listed by LEGO as being 10.2mm in diameter.  There's not much going on here for being within system.  You can subtract either 3.2mm, 4mm, 6.4mm, 8mm or 9.6mm and never get a result that is within our 0.8mm expectations.  The closest dimension is 10.4 and maybe that's where they intended to land, then cut the tolerance by the 1mm on each side.  This would be two plates of height (6.4mm) plus half a brick width (4mm).  Or a brick height (9.6mm) plus a quarter plate height (0.8mm) Whatever.

But the thing about spheres is that a ring can be placed over it at some point.  Place two rings on opposing sides and the distance between the rings will be less than the sphere diameter.  Lost yet?  Perhaps an example:

Imagine the bottom of two plates.  The 4.85mm anti-studs will slip over the ball joint and reduce the total distance.  What is the distance between these plates (assuming they are parallel)?  A little SketchUp render tells me it is just under 9.0mm which is a little more than a brick width (8.0mm).  But remember the tolerance and flex that I opened up with?


And since the spacer is a typical brick width, it works for other parts with holey relief too, like technic liftarms and bricks.

By the way, these are all the Hero Factory type pieces that I own.  See why the need for more system connections?



LEGO Techniques - Fencing Your Goods

Been a while, what say we have a proper techniques post?  'Tis Christmas after all.  And what better gift from me to you than fresh material?  Right-o, off we go then!

What's the best gift that TLG can give to us?  A redesigned part?  A new part?  How about a completely redone part such that the cleverness and usefulness of the old part is done away with completely in the name of "child safety".  You see the quotations I'm making with my claw hands?






My particular woeful rant today is over the old Duplo fence, part number 3967.  (Wot, no picture?  On it, chief!).  I have a handful of these and I used to think they were junk.  But the more I explored and caressed them, the more I realized how brilliant they were as a crossover piece in connecting Duplo and System.

For starters is the clip system to interlock them together.  On one side is a clip, the other side is a bar, very similar to a handle on a 1x2 plate.  It didn't take very much time or finagling to make a connection from one side of the fence to the other.  The fact that I couldn't locate a 1x2 plate with closed end handle was a little annoying.  Nonetheless it was quite easy to discern that there are exactly 25 plates of height between the two grippy ends of the fence.  That's 80mm which is also exactly 10 studs in width.  Oooh, can we double check that somehow?

Sure enough, the feet of the fence are also System friendly.  In the bottom is a little hole somewhere along the lines of 4.85mm in diameter, the exact size needed for a System stud.  It fits nice and snug too.  By placing jumpers on either end of a 1x10 plate, we can check the distance of the fence.  Those little feet fit nicely in between Duplo studs, and are about 6.4mm wide by 12.8mm long.

Some other stats:
  • Fence posts are 6.4mm square (two plate thicknesses) and 28.8mm tall (3 bricks tall);
  • Rails are about 3.3mm thick, a little more than a plate;
  • Gap between rails is about 6.3mm, a little less than two plates thick;
  • Void in the back of rails is right about 1.6mm, or a half plate thick; same as the lip on a headlight brick.
  • Void behind the posts is a bit over 3.3mm.  A tile slides in fine, but does not clutch.


In short, this is an amazing crossover piece, even more useful as a scaffold for System alone.  They are anywhere from 2 to 20 for a buck on the marketplaces.  On your next BrickBird order, pick up a few.  And may your stocking be filled with a complete S13 set.