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Showing posts with label tricks. Show all posts
Showing posts with label tricks. Show all posts

LEGO Tips and Techniques - Builder Storage

Last week I discussed my storage techniques for my Bricklink store.  But having a store and being a builder are two very different things.  I certainly pull parts from my store from time to time to add to my personal building stash.  But there are some things I do quite differently.

For starters my store is organized to match the Bricklink catalog.  This makes it easier to go down the line and pull orders.  My personal parts are organized mostly by color.  I have 6 storage cases from Harbor Freight Tools that are lightweight, convenient, and adaptable.  These cases are usually $6.99 a piece but go on sale for $2.99 or $3.99 often.  They come with all the dividers which gives you 24 compartments.  Each compartment is a touch larger than a 6x6 plate.  Dividers can be removed for 8L pieces or larger lots.  For instance, I keep all 1x2 tiles regardless of color in two combined compartments.
Storehouse 94458 24 Compartment Large Storage Container
I like the adaptable part of these.  I recently added two more to the collection and expanded my neutral colors into their own case away from the earth tones.  I also added another one as a specific project case to do away with parts that were in baggies and being stored in a used bubble mailer.  I may add a couple more soon to break out primary colors into their own case away from trans.

I reserve one compartment or double compartment for plates of a particular color.  The next double compartment below it I put all other parts in that color.  This is most easily seen in my earth tone case and somewhat in my neutrals case.  My primary colors are lower in quantity so plates and others are sometimes in one compartment each or just one compartment period!

My primary colors case includes several one compartment colors, a load of green and a load of transparent pieces.  Blue and yellow are currently overflowing due to one project.  Those pieces will get used up fairly quickly.  On the far right are double compartments of trans clear 1x2 plates and trans clear 1x1 plates.  All the other trans clear pieces need to spread out a little.  This case may soon be divided into greens + landscaping and primaries + trans

My other general cases are divided into neutrals, earth tones, and other pieces.  The other pieces case takes into account pieces that are used more often for function instead of color.  It also contains many smaller pieces that otherwise get lost in the other compartments.  There's space for hinges, travis bricks, brackets, 1x1 round, 2x2 round, bars, technic bits, and 12 compartments of tiles.  Those are broken up into 1x1, 1x2, 1x4, 2x2, 2x4, 1x6, 1x8 + 1x4 overflow, grill tiles, and cheese slopes.

How do I determine whether a part has more merit for its color or function?  The general rule of thumb is to consider how commonly I use the piece.  If I have very few of a color in general then all pieces of that color go in the same compartment (i.e. pearl gold).  If the function of the part comes in a myriad of colors then I generally store them together.

In order to save space, the pieces themselves are stacked where appropriate.  All plates are stagger stacked and tetrised into their compartments.  Stacking makes certain sizes easier to find.  Since 1x1 plates always filter to the bottom, it is easier to look for a long stack of them.  1x2 plates are built into 2x2 towers.  Bricks are straight stacked or built into cubes.  Round plates are straight stacked since they are easy to get apart.   Brackets and travis bricks are clipped together into as tight a formation as I can get with as many pieces as possible.  The 1x2-2x2 brackets are 5 to a group.  Most others are 4.

I also use some of the larger game board boxes.  These are for larger parts, temporary bulk overflow and WIPs.  If you carefully undo the glue that holds the flaps down, you can turn them inside out for a nice clean brown cardboard look.  It also looks less appealing than clickable ABS if it's sitting on your front seat at the grocery store.

I've seen many photos of build rooms where endless plastic parts drawer cases are used.  These are great too and likely expandable.  I'm happy to stick with my cases.  I can take a couple with me to work on part of a project or have something to do in an otherwise boring situation (doctor's office?)  As I end up with more, it is also no big deal to build slender shelves to hold these library style.  If I do it right it could end up looking like a rainbow Craftsman tool cart with one case per color.

I'm sure you've got some better ideas.  Let us know.

LEGO Tips and Techniques - Store Organization

As a seller and a builder I have two methods for sorting my parts.  The reasons are obvious.  As a seller I want to be able to pick pieces for my orders in the same order as I see on the screen.  As a builder I want to be able to access some parts by color and others by type.

Let's start with my store.  When I first started I had only a handful of parts that I kept in a shoebox.  As my inventory grew I purchased a 40 some drawer parts organizer that you might use for bolts and washers or other bits and bobs.  This worked for a while until the brick bin got full.  I'd shuffle pieces for a while using 2 bins for the bricks until I finally outgrew the whole thing.  I still use the organizer for small pieces such as bars and minifig parts.

However I have expanded certain categories into shoeboxes.  In my store bricks, plates, and slopes were the first categories to go to this new system.  Let's take bricks for examples.  All 1x1 bricks go into some small 3x4 baggies by color.  These baggies then go into a larger ziploc bag.  The same goes for 1x2, 1x3 and so on.  For larger bricks I skip the smaller baggies altogether and just use the ziploc.  At no point are new elements EVER clicked together.  I have very few used elements in my store but I may partially click those together for quick visual recognition.

Slopes have a ziploc bag for each angle, that is 18, 30, 33, 65, 75°, etc.  Parts are organized by color and size into the smaller baggies.  There are larger baggies for inverted slopes, curved slopes, etc.  This system is used for Brackets, Bricks, Modified Bricks, Plates, Large Plates (4x and bigger), Modified Plates, Slopes, Technic + Wedges, Hinges + Tiles, Vehicle, complete Minifigs.  Other large lots tend to be scattered here and there such as plants.  I'm getting very close to converting the entire system to a couple dozen 5x10" clear bins from the dollar store.  I plan to install some wall cabinets first.

Some folks organize their stores by strict part number.  This means that Bionicle parts might be next to a slope which is then next to a minifigure accessory.  You can organize your Bricklink orders to see them by part name, part number, or category.  My only problem with this method is that if you are looking for a particular part you'll have to cross reference Bricklink.  I personally do not know every part number by heart.

Boxes are a pain to ship but I have a hard time throwing away anything with a LEGO logo.  Larger boxes get flattened after carefully cutting the seals.  Then they are all stacked on edge in a larger box based on size.  Boxes for 4204 The Mine are in the back.  Smaller boxes that can't easily be broken down are stuffed into a shipping box from LEGO.  Sometimes these smaller boxes are used for protection in shipping orders.  I'm getting close to getting rid of all the boxes and may do so once the new cabinets are installed if there's no room.

Instructions, posters, and catalogs are kept in an accordion file organizer based on set number.    I currently have one for 4 digit numbers and one for 5 digit numbers.  Now that TLG is using 5 digit set numbers heavily, I may have to get a few more of those organizers.

Finally I keep sets in a clear bin.  I don't have very many sets available so one clear bin is sufficient.  There's usually enough room to keep shipping supply overflow in there as well.  The clear bins allow me to find what I want at a glance while keeping the sets protected from little hands.

Any other suggestions for how I could make my store better?

LEGO Tips and Techniques - Technic(olor) SNOT

Sometimes the most elegant solutions are not the sexiest.  Which is fine if you're hiding your SNOT.  Brackets, headlight bricks and travis bricks are very useful for 90° and 180° solutions.  I've previously highlighted what is probably the tightest 180° solution even if it doesn't have grip as good as a typical connection.  I am personally guilty of using the aforementioned pieces to do some blocky kludges.  I grew up with a lot of basic parts and the headlight brick and old 2x2-2x2 bracket were my only solutions.  Even the technic sets I got were simple but we did have those irreplaceable 1x technic plates.  How I miss those.

"Why did he make that clunky segue into Technic?" you may ask.  I'll tell you why.  With only 5 technic(y) parts I'm going to introduce a host of 180° SNOT solutions that are compact and effective.  First, the 2L axle.  Next, the full bush.  There's also the 1x4 technic plate and the 2x4 technic plate.  Finally the 2x2 round plate which isn't technically technic but has an axle hole in the middle.  Other minor players may make a cameo appearance.  Let's begin, shall we?

Solution 1, the 4H stack, studs out.  (Stolen from Inspired by Courtesy of ricolego)  Even though the 4H plates are a touch shy of the 2L axle, the nubs will nestle into the bottom of a tube just fine.

Solution 2, the 2H axle grab, studs out.  This is an extension of the above solution with 2 2x4 technic plates sticking out for a lower profile 180° SNOT.

Solution 3, the 2H slim jim, studs out.  No AFOL should be without a few of the old school 1x technic plates.  The plates fit perfectly within both collars of the half pin.  Be aware that the stud on the pin sticks up 1/4 plate higher than the studs on the technic plate.  A flick-fire missile would also work here for extra bar goodness.

Solution 4, the 1H slim jim light, studs in or out.  Those holes on the ends hold a wealth of uses.  Here they snugly hold a stud from either side.  However don't rely on being able to insert a stud into both ends with perfect results.

Solution 5, the 2L "dumbbell", studs in.  I was too lazy to dig up my technic bushes so I used a technic axle connector instead.  The same results are achieved.  This is the simplest version but there are several flavors that can achieve other angles and layouts.  For bonus points the technic pin connector can be used over studs.

 Of course there are as many solutions as there are AFOLs out there.  This is a sampling of some of the better ones that I have used.  Think you got a better one?  Describe or link to it below.

Lego Tips and Techniques - Whip Antenna

Despite the Devo tunes that rattle around in my head whenever I see this part name, there are some fun times to be had.  Or maybe because of.  I have been collecting the wavy flags in all colors but have been looking for a way to display them.  They don't stack very well.  I had considered several of the longer bar elements but none of them seemed suitable.  I stumbled upon the whip (-it, whip it good) antenna as an alternative.  After discovering that the ball at the tip will allow holey elements to pass through, I purchased several in black.  Upon receiving them I made a further discovery.  Not only does the ball at the tip allow elements to pass over, it is also perfectly 3.2mm in diameter, the same as a bar.  The flags (and 1x1 round bricks, etc.) pass over the ball with just the right amount of friction to keep them in place.

But that's not all.  Being a sphere instead of a cylinder, there is some allowance for rotation.  The stem itself appears to be only 1.6mm, another typical LEGO dimension.  What fun can be had?  Let's meet Spaceman Bill.  Whaddya got there Bill?

"My whippin' Devo hat.  And some space probes.  Don't get too excited."

 Fabulous, fabulous.  Er, what do you intend to do with those?

"First, a forensics study on my space engine.  Multiple attackers."

 I'm sorry to hear that.  Did your forensics research lead you to any solid results?

"Yes, the assailants must look very funny.  And I don't feel so good.  Got any Anicin?"

Gah!  What happened!?

"What, nothing, are you crazy?  Check me out, I've got the force and I know how to use it!"

 Wow, that's impressive.  Will that help you with your research?

"Yes, my research is complete.  All I can say is that art ROCKS!  And space rocks."

 Spaceman Bill, I sense a deep disturbance in the force.

"Probably not.  Everything's pretty hunky-dory."

Well, there you have it.  Apparently Spaceman Bill has enjoyed a little too much time in deep space orbit with his spacial probes.

There are so many more cool things to do with theses pieces.  I could and have spent hours playing with them ever since I got them.  As to their original intended purpose for my uses:

The flags fit marvelously over the top, snap down right to the base, and can stack seven per antenna.  There appear to be about seven more colors that I'm missing which means I'm glad I ended up with four antennae.  Besides, as Spaceman Bill's photolog goes, 3 would have been way boring.

LEGO Tips and Techniques - Fence vs. Panel

At first glance, fences may appear to be nothing more than a perforated panel.  You may even be tempted to use them in line to create a certain look.  Besides, the fence is only made in 4L, not 2L or a 1x1 corner like the panel.  It can certainly work fine but be aware of the differences.

The panel is essentially a tile with a half plate wide 2 plate tall wall on it.  The thickness of the wall is 1/5th the width of the lower part (1.6mm vs. 8.0mm).  This is a common ratio as can also be seen on the grill tiles.  If used cleverly in SNOT, this panel can be added to the height of 2 plates to achieve a brick's width.  Or added to a brick's width to achieve a brick's height.  Place 2 panels back to back and you have a 3.2mm thick portion, the same as a plate width.  You can even use it like a pony-ear.

Since a panel wall is a small fraction of a plate width, you can do some cool staggering with it.  This idea is not my own but I'll take credit for being able to replicate it.  The panels rest on each other and are locked in place at the top by a plate or two.  Add an arched window and you have a nice castle wall detail.

The fence on the other hand has a very tricky 2.4mm thickness.  My first thought is that this was made this way to add strength to the perforated wall.  This wall is 3/10th the width of the tile portion or 1/10th of a plate width wider than the panel.  This 0.8mm discrepancy may not seem like much but the eye is not fooled.  At least my eye is not.

You might think it odd to use 2.4mm since that doesn't fall into LEGO's 1.6mm grid very well.  It sort of fits.  I mean, it's 1.5x that grid number.  So maybe you can't get to 8.0mm in brick width very well but if you place two fences back to back you get 4.8mm which is half a brick height.  Tyco anyone?  4.8mm also represents the diameter of a stud for whatever that one's worth.

That lattice is also the perfect size for studs.  This piece can be used for 90° inverted (studs in) SNOT.  Beware that you will be dealing with a plate height on one side (3.2mm) and a fence lattice width of 2.4mm on the other side.  Adding plate widths to the 2.4mm doesn't get you much of anywhere until you add a brick.  The 9.6mm plus the 2.4mm lattice is 12.0mm which is a brick and a half in width.

What ways have you used the fence or panel?

LEGO Tips and Techniques - Slopes Part 2

A few weeks ago I made my slopes chart available which gives various angles of slopes depending on how you use them.  Very closely related to the slopes are the wedges.  Sideways slopes, if you will.  Though I'm sure many of you have figured out how to use these two together I thought it would be beneficial to have a chart of wedge angles as well.  There are fewer wedge instances than slopes so this chart is a bit smaller.  At the bottom are three compound angle wedge plates.  In the notes section are listed the slopes that this angle is closest to.

There are several compound angle brick wedges which I chose not to include.  These are listed on Bricklink with their inherent angles and in many cases they are just complicated slopes that got listed otherwise.

As with the slopes, if you would like a particular part included here, let me know in the comments.

See the wedge slopes chart here.

LEGO Micropolis Finish Edges - Outside Corners

A couple of weeks ago I introduced a concept for a finish edge for the Micropolis modules.  Today I would like to introduce my solution for an outside corner.  The outside corner is fairly easy.  A standard finish module snaps on to one side.  The other side can take a similar finish module but we need to fill in the 3x3 gap.  So outside corners are solved with a standard module and a secondary outside module that has an extra 3 studs of length.  The extra street module needs to snap into the Micropolis module as well as the straight street module.  There are a few extra pieces involved but otherwise it is the same as the straight street.

Parts you will need:

1   1x1 plate
1   1x3 plate
2   1x8 plate
9   2x3 plate
2   2x2 inverted slope 45
4   3x2 inverted slope 33
1   1x1 technic brick with hole
1   1x2 technic brick with hole
1   1x2 technic brick with 2 holes
tiles as needed for street and sidewalk (staggering recommended for strength).

Connect with pins to the quarter block module and straight edge module.

LEGO Tips and Techniques - Slopes Part 1

One of the more prominent family parts in the LEGO catalog are the Slopes.  There's single and compound slopes, double slopes, squared cones, and inverted slopes.  Then there're cousins to the slopes such as windscreens.  There are even a few black sheep in other families who have slope qualities.  Slopes have a name and a degree of slope but there are really two different numbers.  Almost all slopes have a half plate lip at the end.  Therefore the slope when stacked is actually a few points off.  There's even one slope who must be undercover since it's name is not the same as it's inherent or stacked slope.

I've seen many resources on the web where families of LEGO parts are treated and explored.  I've not seen one for slopes.  Below is a link you can use to explore a chart that shows each type of slope, it's Bricklink name, assumed slope, actual slope, stacked slope (where applicable) and SNOT slope.  There is a link to each part as well.  The SNOT slope is what happens when the part is attached sideways.  This technique allows for a few more slope angle options.

Since this resource is a dynamic spreadsheet you are more than welcome to request other related parts, another data column, or whatever fancies you.  As it changes I hope this resource will become more and more useful.  You may have also noticed that this is Slopes Part 1.  What could possibly be in store for part 2?

The link:

LEGO Tips and Techniques - Micropolis Finish Edges

I recently became interested in Micropolis scale after seeing some of it in person at Bricks Cascade 2013.  As a primarily micro builder anyway it was not that hard to grasp.  I just had to learn to build my buildings three times bigger.  I've been using my junky old LEGO pieces to build the baseplates but didn't like seeing the dirty yellowed technicolor edges of a Micropolis.  The other thing that bothered me a little was having edge roads only 2 studs wide.  That's one way, right?  Or at least a 25 mph two way.  It occurred to me that a finishing edge would be a nice touch.

For starters it should hold the rest of the road and another sidewalk, so at least 3-wide.  Second, it needs to have the technic hole in the middle for connection to the system.  For that matter it should also consider connecting to another finish edge on the side.  It would be easy enough to make this square but for a really nice look, why not a taper or cantilever look?  For best look, black is recommended though dark or light bley would look professional as well.  Dark bley is used in this tutorial to see the steps easier.

Parts you will need:

2   1x8 plate
8   2x3 plate
2   2x2 inverted slope 45
4   3x2 inverted slope 33
2   1x1 technic brick with hole
1   1x2 technic brick with hole
tiles as needed for street and sidewalk (staggering recommended for strength).

For increased strength two 4x8 plates could be used instead of the row of 2x3 plates.  However you will have 1 extra stud to cover.  Perhaps a decorative fence to keep your microfigs from falling off the edge of Micropolis?  Your improvements are welcome in the comments.

LEGO Tips and Techniques - Holiday Pick A Brick, My Haul

Back at the end of February I discussed the size and LEGO capacity of the Holiday Pick A Brick box.  I finally got around to filling the box.  Unfortunately my local store did not have the best selection of what I needed but I did what I could to fill the box.

By way of reminder, the box is 11x11x9 1x1 bricks in size.  This is precisely 3267 1x1 plates.  The pyramid lid brings this total up to about 3500 1x1 plates.  I'll be judging my performance based on the amount of 1x1 plate equivalent I was able to fit into the box.

The first thing I did was build a fat 4x8x9 block out of 1x4 tan bricks.  In retrospect I should have built it at 4x7x9 or 4x11x9.  Oh well.  I built the same size block out of 1x2 and 1x4 reddish brown as well as some 1x4 green.  Each of these blocks would be 864 units (4x8x9x3) for a total of 1728.

I then made 5 stacks of black 1x4 bricks, 9 high.  These total to 540 units.  Eleven yellow 1x6 bricks add 198 units.  Between 45 blue and yellow 1x4 plates I added another 180 units.  Blue and yellow aren't really my colors but by the time I got to those I was a bit desperate to fill space.  I also stagger stacked them for ease of use later.  I lost 1 unit for each one.

Fourteen 1x2 45° slopes count for 4.5 units each for a total of 63.  Some 1x2 single finger click hinges (for micropolis detailing) would be about 2.5 units each though you'd be hard pressed to pack them in to that density.  Nonetheless the 13 of them add 33 units.

One of the best grabs was a slew of black, white, and blue 1x8 tiles.  I made little effort to line them up perfectly but they did fit into a smaller area so I feel like I got a fairly good use of space.  There were 57 in all for a total of 456 units.

By this time it was 12:30p and I was getting shaky from too much coffee and too little food.  I threw 6 dark bley 4x4 plates in the top staggered a bit to fill the pyramid.  These gave me another 96 units.  Finally I chucked a small handful of flower sprues in just before closing the lid.  How do you quantify the relative size of these?  At first glance they seem like about 5 each but I'm going to bump that to 7.  The flowers are a bit bigger in diameter than a 1x1 plate.  Nine sprues add a final count of 63 to the total.

In all there are 1728 + 540 + 198 + 180 + 63 + 33 + 456 + 96 + 63 = 3357 units.  Out of 3500 available I got 3357 / 3500 = 96%.  Some of you will be amazed while others of you will say, "That's all?"  Like I said, caffeine shakes as well as poor variety of parts I really needed kept me from optimizing the box.  Nonetheless it was a free LEGO pieces so I can't complain.

How well did you do on your box?

LEGO Tips and Techniques - Roller Skates

When the Roller Derby Girl came out I saw some great micro MOCage done with the roller skates.  Mainly tiny trains.  I'm really surprised I haven't seen more done with it yet though.  I've got 4 of the little wheel pieces and I spent some time playing around with them to see what they were capable of.

For starters there is a stud on top and an anti-stud on the bottom.  Great planning already as these can be stacked in a variety of ways.  The wheels stay within the height of a plate so there is no conflict in stacking them.  Since they are plate height of 3.2mm that means the wheels must be bar sized.  Indeed this is the case as you can pop it into clips.  The coolest thing about the wheels is the spacing.  It's just perfect to fit on minifig binoculars.

This spacing would tell me that the roller skates should also fit into the underside of a 2x2 Modulex brick.  It will with a bit of force but it stresses out the Modulex brick and the wheels get all scuffed up.  Best to avoid it.

There is a nice touch of an open space between the front and rear wheels through the skate.  This helps visually but also gives a half plate gap that will clip with decent clutch over the lip of a plate or brick.  Older brick, not the newer ones with skinnier walls and clutch buttresses.

Due to the geometry of the anti-studs under a 2x plate, the wheels will slip in with a bit of clutch, more depending on exactly where you place them.  This can of course be used for stud reversal as another plate will do the same action right on top.  Once connected, the plates are exactly 1.5 plates apart.  Considering that the stud is what limits the plates, this makes sense.  A stud is 4.8 mm which is 1.5x the 3.2mm plate thickness.

 This can be proved with a Travis brick which is 2.5 plates thick when used sideways.  Skate stud + 1 plate = 2.5 plates.  If those skate studs were actually usable in this position, you could do some fine tune half-plate studs-up offsets.  What's that?  If a jumper stud gives you a half stud offset of 4mm, the half-plate offset would be 1.6mm giving 2.5x more fine tuning.

Of course my favorite aspect of the skates is the size themselves.  I am primarily a micro-builder and have recently discovered the joys of the micropolis standard.  These skates represent the perfect size for a set of wheels under a semi-trailer.  The wheels end up being about 36" tall at scale.  Given that the micropolis standard is fairly loose, all else looks very nice.

What else can you do with these skates?

LEGO Tips and Techniques - Mini Pin

Blogger has a habit of truncating post titles in the URL which is slightly annoying.  Part of it is my fault for having such a long lead-in.  So this feature's name will be shortened to allow for parts of the actual tip or technique to show up in the URL.

On with the show.

As far as LEGO male parts go there are a few different sizes.  The biggest would be the technic pin and axle at 4.8mm in diameter.  It's use is widely known in technic applications as well as those builders who like to jam studs (which are also 4.8mm diameter) into technic pin holes.

Then there is the bar.  A bar could be considered anything that will fit in a clip such as a minifig hand.  The bar is 3.2mm in diameter and can be inserted into hollow studs.  There is a wheels holder pin which is also 3.2mm but whose end is flanged and slotted for wheels to be able to pop on and off.  This doesn't always have the same effect but can be used to some extent.

Finally there is the mini-pin which Bricklink also refers to as a pin in order to confuse us.  This mini-pin is primarily used for minifig headgear accessories.  Therefore you would expect that it would only fit into minifig headgear.  But the case is not so.  Some of the more enlightened individuals out there will also remember the older taps which actually had holes in the end of them.  Clever folks would put a trans-blue plume in them to make it look like water was gushing out.  Or other colors for things that you might not expect coming out of taps.  Yellow for custard?

The mini-pin is approximately 1.6mm in diameter.  This is the same thickness as baseplates or the half-plate element of brackets.  But where else can we find a 1.6mm hole?  Look no further than your local 1x plate.  Extend your hand.  Now grab the plate.  Flip it over.  Is it a boy or girl?  Depends.  What does the bar underneath look like?  Is there a hole in the middle?  That hole is an ingenious idea by LEGO to maintain structural integrity of the part while also saving a fraction of a gram of ABS.  Multiply that fraction of a gram over millions of parts and you get a few truckloads of savings per year.

Even more ingeniouser is the fact that this mini-pin hole is not just some random size.  No, it is highly refined by it's creator to be something exquisite that works with the system in which it was intended to be used.  That hole is the perfect size to fit the mini-pin.  Try it.  Go ahead, I'll wait.  Isn't that amazing?

What'd I miss?  Where else can the mini-pin fit?  Flaming apple bomb anyone?

LEGO Tips, Tricks, and Techniques - Lightsaber Hilt

The lightsaber hilt.  Ubiquitous weapon of Jedi and Sith alike.  Made in LEGO form.  Chromed even.  What a cool little utensil.  Maybe I don't prowl Flickr enough but I just haven't seen it used very much as a stud reversal tool.  There could be a reason for this.  It's a rather odd piece with a rather odd measurement.

For starters, one can always stack plates and see how tall something is.  It's a good basic measurement.  The problem with this piece is that it's longer than 3 plates wide and it doesn't quite fit within 4 plates.

At least we have it narrowed down to between 3 and 4 plates.  Let's throw a travis brick into the mix.  The travis brick sideways is 2.5 plates.  With another plate for thickness we get to 3.5 plates which isn't quite enough.  How odd!  So it must be between 3.5 and 4 plates.  Should we try for 3.75?

But why that number?  And how do we achieve 3.75 plates?  Let's look at it from a different measurement.  If you've read my other blog posts, you'll know that I prefer millimeter for LEGO dimensions.  Since 1 plate height = 3.2mm, we can deduce that the lightsaber hilt is 12mm between the two end studs (3.2 x 3.75 = 12).  Since a 1x1 brick or plate is 8mm x 8mm, we could rightly conclude that a brick and a half in width would meet this size.

Still odd.  But at least we can do something with it now.  So travis bricks, staggered on jumper plates ought to equal the length of the lightsaber hilt.  Whaddya know, voila!  So there's one application for whatever reason or usage.

But why stop there since we're on a roll?  One more odd half brick width piece comes to mind and that's the thin liftarm.  Thick liftarms have a square cross section of 8mm x 8mm much like looking down on the top of a 1x1 brick.  Thin liftarms are half of that in one direction, 8mm x 4mm.  Since a brick is 2.5 plates x 2.5 plates wide, the thin liftarm would be 2.5 plates x 1.25 plates wide.  Wait, wait, how's that math?  Three thin liftarms at 1.25 plates wide... carry the 16... factorial... equals... 3.75 plates.  Well yee-haw, another application.

But in either case, what do you do with it?  I can see using the hilt inline to create a point for a clip to attach.  This probably isn't the only way but this offers a nice tight connection.  Personally, I'm flummoxed.  Unfortunately those who figure out the math often don't make any money, it's those who find an application for the math that do.  So use your money maker and give us your best ideas in the comments.

LEGO Tips, Tricks, and Techniques - Equilateral Triangles

LEGO is great for building square shapes.  There are a plentiful amount of slopes and angled wedge plates to get out of the grid.  But everything still works off of a square grid.  Therefore it is sometimes difficult to get away from that and make any angle you want.  After my less than satisfactory review of the TIE fighter I felt it was appropriate to share some tips on how to make equilateral triangles.  For the non-nerds, an equilateral triangle is perfect in that all sides are the same length and all the angles are the same pitch.  Think of a hazard symbol:

LEGO asplode!  Part number 892, one of the few equilateral triangle LEGO pieces

Working with triangles in general means using the Pythagorean Theorem.  This states that:

a² + b² = c²

This means that if line a and b are drawn in an 'L' shape, the angled line or, hypotenuse, must be length c.  The most common set of lengths is 3, 4, and 5.  Plugging them into the formula results in:

3² + 4² = 5²
9 + 16 = 25

Hey, it works!

This formula can be used for all sorts of numbers, not just round numbers.  You could do something completely nerdy and useless such as:

π² + φ² = 3.533785... blah blah blah ²

Back to the application with LEGO bricks.  Let's say you wanted to build a TIE fighter with true hexagonal wings.  A hexagon is nothing more than 6 equilateral triangles nestled together.  And an equilateral triangle is two mirror image right triangles with their backs to each other.  We're going to tackle this from the perspective of studs out.

So your modest TIE fighter will have wings that are 10 studs across each side.  Your triangles will therefore have sides of ten studs each.  We need to use the formula in reverse because in this case we know the distance of the angled side but not the vertical side.  So:

5² + x² = 10²  or:

x² = 10² - 5²

x² = 100 - 25

x² = 75

x = 8.66

Your triangle needs to be 8 and 2/3 studs high.  Good luck champ.  First start by creating your triangle:
Actually, this is pretty strong on it's own or would be with another layer of plates.  However you'll want to probably fill in the middle.  That 8.66 studs distance between the peak and the middle of the bottom translates into 8.66 x 8mm = 69.3mm.  Can we fill this with plates?
Nope.  As projected it's off by 2/3 of a stud, about 5.25mm.  Maybe we could come up with a SNOT solution.
This appears to be a lot closer.  The distance between the SNOT studs on this column works out to 68.8mm.  We need 69.3mm.  Turns out it's pretty close.  This stack of bricks might have some tiny gaps in it (like 0.5mm) but that can be acceptable when shape is the priority.

If we consider that 1.6mm is the lowest common denominator we can easily create, then how many units is 69.3mm?  69.3mm / 1.6mm = 43.3 units of 1.6mm each.  44 units would be 44 x 1.6mm = 70.4mm which would be about 1.1mm of difference.  Personally I would settle for this solution shown above.  Your job is to figure out how to connect 6 of these together.  I only promised the triangles.  Maybe something like this for your hub?  Yes, they come in black.

What other solutions have you used for a perfect equilateral triangle?