Sunday, January 17, 2016

How (not) to get your dose of bricks

I do not intend to restart this blog, in the sense that there will not be any regular new posts. But every if I find something interesting then I may publish it for the benefit of other builders.

If you are like me and like to put your next idea into the form of tangible bricks, then you need to get those bricks from somewhere. Unfortunately the LEGO company considers the sets their primary product, and while they do sell bricks online, it is not always the best option. Bricklink (and BrickOwl) is usually the way to go, but if you intend to buy a lot of bricks, even that is going to be expensive.

Just recently I have been to Legoland California and I was curious to see how its pick-a-brick wall compares to other options. Before I get there, let me show the other options I knew from before:

1. LEGO Stores typically have a pick-a-brick wall:
  • On the pro side, this can be quite a good deal. In the US, you can fill a large cup (about a pint) for $15.99 + sales tax. My unscientific guess is that it holds at least 400g worth of bricks. There is also a small cup for $7.99 + tax but it holds less than the half of the large one.
  • On the con side, the selection of bricks is still quite limited. Typically you have 6 rows and around 26 columns which gives you around 150 color-part combinations. What is available is usually a good deal, but you can clearly not expect everything.
This is how the Pick-a-Brick wall looks like in the LEGO Store Disneyland in Anaheim, CA.

There is even a website dedicated to keeping you up to date with the latest selection. A word of warning: this may or may not be updated regularly.

2. Legoland Germany. This is clearly only an option if you live near the city of Ulm or you have a chance to go there. Legoland Germany has by far the best pick-a-brick selection from any store officially affiliated by LEGO. I have to admit that I have not been to Legoland Windsor or Billund recently - if you have info on that, that is appreciated. Pricing is different, last time I checked it was by weight and it was EUR 8.99 per 100g.
  • Pro: The best selection amongst offline shops. Probably around 1000 part-color combinations if not more. You still cannot expect all.
  • Con: slightly more pricey than the LEGO store walls.
So my question during my California visit today was - how does the brick selection of Legoland California hold up? Since this is a big trip for me I did some online research before. There were some indications that it will not meet my expectations, but still was curious about the truth.

Well, to summarize: it does not hold up at all. The park itself is pretty similar to Legoland Germany, with one minor difference: the pick-a-brick wall is basically unusable. You can find some bricks and buy them by the weight, but if your goal is to buy bricks, go to the closest LEGO store. You may be able to find some bricks, that are not in a Lego store, but the selection is the same or worse. 

Here is a shot to prove my point:

Lesson learned: if you have seen other Legoland parks, this will be the same. And definitely do not go there for bricks.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Interrupting all transmissions

I have decided to stop posting new entries for a while, possibly forever.

Starting this year I have tried to keep it running with weekly material about building, cars, planes. There are many things to write about, but it has been increasingly difficult to find the time for it. On the time that I still have is better spent with trying to build something.

So there will be no new material. But it is worth following the stuff that I build.

If you are a registered user on Flickr then please make me a contact, I tend not to reject anyone:

If you are still using a feed reader after Google Reader has gone out of business, you can subscribe here:

Happy playing and building!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Evening News

We don't have a charming commentator, but plenty of videos about upcoming evening products. Let's start with Technic, there are already a number of reviews of the 2H sets:

42008 Service Truck (via

42009 Mobile Crane Mk2 (via

42004 Mini Backhoe (via TechnicBRICKs):

For the fans of the Architecture series there is a largish set. After the small version the considerably larger version of the Sydney Opera House is coming (via Eurobricks):

Last but not least LEGO has announced that the fifth official Cuusoo set is going to be the Curiosity rover:

Friday, June 14, 2013

Not for the average builder

I was hesitating a lot if I should write this post, but at the end I have decided to go with it. It is all about existing builds, but I am mostly interested what can be still considered LEGO and what unconventional techniques exist to stretch this definition.

When someone builds from bricks, the goal is usually to create something that looks good. Most builds never end up in the hands of many other people. There are exhibitions, but even there people are not allowed to touch the models. And there are many which are only shared via photos over the net. The competition is strong, so builders sometimes end up with unexpected solutions. Let us go after some of them.

One general expectation is that a LEGO model should be built from LEGO bricks. So far so good. But how strong does it have to be? From photos it is impossible to tell if a connection is so weak that it falls apart from the first touch. Most builders try to make the model massive, but since shape is much more apparent on a photo than strength, shape wins in many cases. If someone tries to grab a model at a random point, it may very easily end up like this:

According to the unwritten and sometimes written rules the builder is not allowed to physically cut bricks, except a very limited number of special ones like flexible tubes. One is typically also allowed to use stickers though, since this is common practice in many factory models. But stickers sometimes end up in places where not everyone expects them to be. Have you seen a brick like this, for example?

Or how about this:

I am pretty sure I would have never thought about putting a sticker there. Some models go much further than this though. This Spitfire has its entire camouflage made of stickers:

Painting bricks is less common, but you can still find a couple of examples. like this other Spitfire from our recent post:

An in an extreme case even the bricks get modified like the windscreen on this truck from INDOMITUS (via kockagyár):

The possibilities are endless when the model is built a computer only. CAD programs are sophisticated, but even so they rarely contain crash simulation. LEGO Digital Designer is able to test if all parts of the model are connected, which is more than nothing, but it is still no guarantee that the model is able to support its own weight in reality. But this is more than what is offered by other LEGO software: most LDraw editors do not have anything, it is up to the builder to ensure that the model can be actually built.

Even more, CAD tools typically do not know which parts exist in which colors. Or maybe they exist, but it costs a small fortune because supply is far smaller than demand (via Eurobricks).

And if someone has POV-Ray in his hands, can do even more. Do you notice that the yellow color used on this bus has been tweaked a bit to be more similar to the yellow used on the original buses?

And how about some Photoshop? Who recognizes what is wrong with this Spitfire photo?

LEGO is always LEGO. But as you can see, there are gray areas.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

A new owner for Bricklink

A single news item has for the week: Bricklink has been sold by the former owner Daniel Jezek's family to Jung-Ju “Jay” Kim. You can read the full announcement on The Brothers Brick.

If you consider yourself a LEGO builder, you most likely know what Bricklink is. Otherwise, your first question is: what is it, and why should I care?

Bricklink is an unofficial marketplace for anything related to LEGO including sets and bricks. If you look at any creation on the net, chances are that it contains a significant amount of bricks purchased via Bricklink.

Just a two for this week:

(via Dieterr89)

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Super cars

Super cars have always occupied a prime spot in the Technic lineup (see our history coverage: part I, part II, part III) No wonder there are many custom creations on the web in this category.

Francisco Hartley has built this excellent Lamborghini Aventador. I was not able to find a video about it but the images speak for themselves. In my opinion it is one of the best LEGO Lamborghini builds yet. There are many functions too: 12 cylinders, gearbox, and suspension and others. I am sure we are going to hear more from Francisco in the future. (via The Lego Car blog)

Nico71 has build a classic rallye car. This one does not follow the classic super car recipe very strictly: it is slightly smaller and does not contain any cylinders or gearbox. It does contain a suspension and a full drivetrain though, driven by PF motors. Everything can be controlled from the remote, making it one of the smallest remote-controllable Technic cars. (via SETechnic)

Last but not least a very unique creation from Egor Karshiev: The BOSS. As it can be seen on the video this is a trial track with serious climbing capabilities. Like the rallye car above it can be fully remote controlled too. 

But the real special thing about it is that you will be able to buy one too: this is the winning contestant of the LEGO Design Challenge. As TechnicBRICKs posted, production has already begun! There is no word on the price yet, but we are looking forward to it.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

The air force of DIetterr89

It does not happen very often that there is a post about a single person's creations, but it is worth making an exception today.

As I started to build war planes a while ago, my goal was to find a scale that is the smallest possible,  but still gives me enough room to incorporate many interesting details. I have settled at 1:48. This is the scale at which the MiG-15 and the Bf-109 has been built, and this will be the scale for the next few too. I have never dreamt that it would be worth going smaller.

But the planes of Dieterr89 prove that it is more than worth it. He built an entire air force at 1:70. This is a Messerschmitt 109. It represents the shape and colors of the original aircraft as truly as possible:

Its opponent from the Eastern front is a Lavochkin La-5. This is a truely unique build, you cannot find many Soviet WWII planes built from LEGO. To make it more special, it has a radial engine:

In the case of the desert Ju-87 Stuka it was an extra challenge to build the fixed landing gear and the angled wing:

Its "attacker" is a Spitfire, also in desert camouflage:

As the war progressed, Mustangs started to fly their long range escort missions with jettisonable external tanks:

Its opponent is one of the first jet fighters, a Messerschmitt Me-262. I think this looks even better than the other ones:

We left two modern planes to the end. This is an F-16 Fighting Falcon:
Its pair is a Soviet-build Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-29. Notice the nose bending down a bit:

Excellent collection, let's hope there will be more soon!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

News Saturday

There was so much going on in the past few weeks that for today we transform ourselves into a news portal and give you an update about recent happenings.

  • As in recent years, the Lego Military Build Competition has started. This years categories do not favor aircraft so much as during the past years, but for sure we will see lots of excellent creations. The first submissions are on the way, the deadline is July 10th.
LEGO products:


Saturday, May 11, 2013

Developments in the air force: Supermarine Spitfire

Building awesome models is cool, but I think it is even cooler to build several awesome models that match each other in scale, let it be about train engines by depi, cars, aircraft or something else. As I rebuilt the MiG-15 and finished the Messerschmitts I knew there will be more.

The new member is a Supermarine Spitfire Mark Vb. This was the last version with characteristic three-blade propeller of the early versions.

This is my first plane that uses a camouflage scheme. I think the dark green-dark bluish gray combination fits it quite nicely. It required more thinking than the previous planes as not every brick I needed was available in all the colors. I decided to build the markings from bricks as long as I can, I am quite happy with this one. With a USAF or Soviet plane I would have been in more trouble.

I was not happy with the existing Bf-109s either. As Dieterr89 pointed out, the wings were too narrow, especially when compared to the Spitfire. The Spitfire has a larger wing, but not by that much. The other problem was that the front section of the body was too wide. As I built the original version I was already thinking about how else can it be done, but the real inspiration came only while building the Spitfire.

So I rebuild the Swiss and the Hungarian Bf-109 as well. This was a serious rebuild, only the tail, the nosecone and the landing gear stayed intact. The wing is a bit longer now and the fuselage has been rebuilt completely together with the canopy.

I am much more content with it now. It looks like recently I need several iterations with all my models. With the Spitfire I am happy as it is, I hope it's going to stay like that.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Behind the Iron Curtain

After the many tanks and fighters let's see something more peaceful. There is no Iron Curtain for a while, but many of us still remember it. April's heme of the month on LUGNuts was "Behing the Iron Curtain". As my old Trabant proves this theme was one of my favorites.

Mad Physicist has built a quite recent police car from Moscow. As one of the commenters says "Ugly car in reality, and yours is true replica :)". Well, there is quite a bit of truth in that.

This fantasctic Ural motorcycle by Lino M was featured on Brothers Brick too. I have not seen this in real life a lot. The Soviet flag gives it an extra charm.

This ZISZ 110 from rabidnovaracer is pretty cool too. To me this car model represents one of the darkest ages of communism as it was used during the 50s during the most avid terror by the the highest ranked people in the party in several countries.

This is a somewhat friendlier piece, the luxury car from Chechoslovakia with a V8 engine: the Tatra 603 from lego911:

Rolic has built this Latvia RAF-2203 (yes, RAF stands for Riga Autobus Factory in this case). I have seen plenty of these as a kid.

Of course I could not stand not to build something. The Trabi has existed for a while, but the LUGNuts challenge made me realize that I did not take any photos yet. Yet another problem to solve was proportions: the old model was simply too flat. Luckily I have found a way to inject two layers of plates to make it taller without a major rebuilt. I am much happier with the result now:

I wanted to build something truly new too. As during last month I used up most of my Bricklink budget already, this Ikarus 260 was built on the computer only:

The front is quite similar to some existing Ikarus builds, not too different from the solution of ainex. I tried to build the doors, windows and the rear lights a bit more special. Hope you like it!

Clicking any of the images above will bring you to more photos.