Sunday, April 28, 2013

Beyond the hobby

LEGO is very popular all over the net: if you would like to build, you will find a lot of help: you can get bricks from Bricklink, older sets from Ebay, instructions and inspiration from one of the many community sites.

But for most of us, this is a hobby to spend our time and money. Well-known builders sometimes create instructions for their creations but frequently they don't. This is no surprise: many of the models gathering fame are complicated, fragile or contain special pieces.

An interesting exception is Daniel Siskind, the man behind Brickmania. He built his own business to create and sell sets without any official ties to the LEGO Company. Wars that happened for real are a taboo for LEGO's own designers (for understandable reasons) and this is the gap Brickmania tries to fill: the website offers more than 50, mostly military themed sets starting from World War II until armies in recent history.

The models are built from real LEGO bricks. Since these models are much more special than the ones you can buy in LEGO stores, they are noticeably pricier. For example this Jeep at $35 is one of the cheapest models. It is part of the 'Durabuilder' series, which in my interpretation means that it will not immediately fall apart if kids take it into their hands.

For this the buyer gets an individually packaged set in similar quality, but much more rare, including minifigs and other extras depending on the set.

Tanks form the bulk of the selection: there are German, American and Soviet vehicles as well, for example the T-34 below. This set is a lot more complex than the Jeep: it includes a fully rotating turret, a driver and the tracking mechanism. It contains 724 bricks and at $345 is noticeably pricier.

Besides tanks there are other types of vehicles. The CCKW truck below was widely used by US armed forces during WWII. This is a medium set at $100.

There are a few aircraft too, like this P-51 Mustang. Similarly to the Jeep it is also a part of the Durabuilder line. The number of pieces and price at $100 are similar to the CCKW.

There are probably quite a few of readers at this point who think these sets are way too expensive. On one hand this is understandable since LEGO is not the cheapest toy and these models are clearly above the price level of the official ones.

On the other hand it is also clear that the founder has invested a lot of his time and energy into Brickmania. These models were be designed, instructions printed and individually packaged. They are likely sold in much smaller quantities than official LEGO sets. The most difficult problem is probably to acquire the required bricks in sufficient quantities at a good price. For comparison, buying all bricks for my somewhat smaller sized MiG-15 already cost more than $80 and quite a bit of time.

Overall, I think that if you are into military LEGO sets but would not like to spend time designing and buying parts for your own model, Brickmania is a good alternative.

( is not affiliated with Brickmania in any way.)

Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Spitfire story, part II

In the second part of our Spitfire coverage (part I) we look at models that stand out from the rest.

In terms of scale, the plane of legoleo is quite similar to others. At first glance the color scheme seems a bit unconventional: instead of using dark green and dark gray seen on many other LEGO Spitfires this aircraft uses a mix of light gray and normal green. It is not the color scheme that puts it above the field though, rather the motor built into the the nose that drives the propeller. We have seen similar things amongst the Messerschmitt builds too, but this model takes it one step further: instead of hiding the engine inside the body, the builder chose to integrate it in the shape of the body and expose it. Clever.

Next on our list is Brian Fitzsimmons. This plane has been built virtually only but still looks good. The fuselage and the wings are a bit narrower than on most other builds. The invasion stripes make the details more interesting. The three-bladed propeller looks a bit out of style though: the Spitfire versions used during the Normandy campaign had four-bladed propellers.

We have already covered Lego Monster in the previous part. As one would expect from a British gentleman he did not stop at building a single Spitfire. This is his second model, built a couple of years later at 1:20 scale. The larger size lead to more details and nicer shapes: in my opinion the wing, the body and the tail all look more nicely shaped and closer to the real Spitfire.

We saved the non plus ultra for last. thirdwigg has been already covered on the blog too, but I think his model is well worth another look. This plane is the largest of all, built at a grandiose 1:12 scale. As one would expect, the larger body makes it possible to have a really nice shape all across the board. But not only the shape is perfect, it is full of working details too, like the adjustable propeller (see video). If you are interested in how one decides to build something like this, it is all covered on his blog. It is also interesting to look at the two work-in-progress photos (1, 2) that show the plane in half-ready state.

And what comes next? As you could expect, I am preparing my own version. Not sure exactly when yet, but stay tuned!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Spitfire story, part I

We have covered Messerschmitts on the blog earlier (part I, part II), let's take a look at the other side, more precisely Britain.

The Supermarine Spitfire is probably the most well known British fighter from World War II. It was a protagonist of the Battle of Britain when the Royal Air Force defended British airspace in spite of being in numeric minority. According to statistics there were more aerial victories by Hurricane pilots, but still somehow the Spitfire emerged as the symbol of victory. It could have been be due to its slightly better performance, or simply because it is somehow more aesthetically pleasing to look at.

Hence it is no wonder that numerous LEGO versions have been built over the years. Let's start with the model of Exploded LEGO. This is one of the smallest one I have found on the net. It is less colorful than the others, but still has plenty of interesting details. For example the yellow leading edge of the wings, or the small "flag" on the tail. In spite of its size it even has a retractable retractable landing gear!

We have introduced Mattias Martenssonnal (alias eremms) already during the Messerschmitt coverage. His model is a bit more colorful, light gray and dark gray gives you the characteristic camouflage pattern of  Spitfires. Unlike most others, the insignia are built from bricks rather thank stickers. I think it looks really good.

Stefan Johansson has been missing from with his Messerschmitt, but he will not be missing from this one. He also uses a dark / light gray combination. (Maybe this is a Scandinavian thing?) The plane is graceful but still has the typical Spitfire contour:

Scott Peterson has chosen the more typical dark green - dark gray combination. Somewhat unusually though he chose to use the airbrush to reach the perfect color combination. This is a later Spitfire version with four-bladed propeller:

Today's last creation is from Lego Monster who should be familiar to our readers already. He took his fair share of Spitfire building too. Today we look at the 1:36 scale version that was built a couple of years ago. The plane is built from real dark green and dark gray, which looks pretty nice, just like other details: the yellow part of the wing and the flag.

To be continued next week!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Cars, Cars

This week's post is more peaceful than the last couple of ones. Peter Blackert alias lego911 is probably the most productive car builder on the net, or at least in LUGNuts, the best car builder community.

A while ago he started to build the friends of Lightning McQueen. Although the LEGO Company has an official product line around the movie Cars, I like these ones built from real bricks a lot more. Take a look at Flo:

These are not real photos, but they look good nevertheless. The realistic lighting and the POV-Ray treatment makes them quite professional in my opinion. David Hobbscapp is a Jaguar E-Type, built from bricks:

And this is Finn McMissile in action:

At last, one of the most recognized characters, the Sheriff:

It is worth taking a look at lego911's other photos as well, there are many good ones from Cars and unrelated too.