About Ralph

Ralph Savelsberg, also known as Mad physicist, is an actual physicist, but he's not all that mad. He has been building with LEGO ever since he could first put two bricks together. He primarily builds scale models of cars and aircraft. You can find most of Ralph's stuff on his flickr pages.

Posts by Ralph

If a Porsche is just a bit too ordinary

If you are millionaire and think a Porsche is just a bit too ordinary for you, perhaps the Ruf CTR3 is just the thing you are looking for. Ruf is a German car manufacturer that specialises in building supercars using mostly Porsche parts. Supercar builder/super car builder Firas Abu-Jaber used to be featured on this blog on a regular basis, until real life took over for a bit. However, he has recently resurfaced and, judging from his spectacular version of Ruf’s current model, is back to his old form.

RUF CTR3 CLUBSPORT

One of the outstanding features of Firas’ models is how every LEGO element seems to fit in place as though it was designed with just that use in mind. On this one, I particularly like the angled door and flared side panel just behind it, to give the car a bit of a coke-bottle shape. It looks completely natural and comparable to a die-cast model.

Wacky birds

For about four years I have been living next to a canal inhabited by crested grebes, gulls, coots and ducks and visited regularly by swans, herons and cormorants. The coots, in particular, are immensely funny. They are reluctant flyers that tend to run across the surface of the water, whilst flapping their seemingly too small wings, instead of actually taking to the air. They are also fiercely territorial and are constantly chasing ducks and other coots away. Their shenanigans put a smile to my face every time.

Pelican

It will come as no surprise then that I also had to smile at the wonderful pelican built by vir-a-cocha. It was built using only twenty pieces, which goes to show that you don’t need an awful lot of parts to build something that has character, as long as two of them are tiles with eyes printed on them.

Penguin Time!

The penguins from Madagascar, built by Peter Dornbach (dornbi), also make good use of said tiles and, inevitably, also made me smile. You can support these on Lego Ideas. Penguins may all seem indistinguishable, but one of the neat things about this wacky foursome is how Peter managed to make each unique and recognisable.

UCS Red Five X-Wing improved

Released in 2013, LEGO’s Ultimate Collector Series (UCS) Red Five X-Wing was much better than the original from about fifteen years ago. It is a fantastic set, but a set nonetheless, with all the limitations in terms of construction and parts usage that this entails. The engine nacelles are too small, the fuselage sides aren’t angled properly and while the nose on the model gets narrower towards the front, it should also be tapered when seen from the sides.

XWing 3

As a fan, James Cherry (crash_cramer) does not suffer from the same constrains as the set designers. His UCS X-Wing took him two years of intermittent tinkering, but the result is a massive improvement. “— Red Five standing by.”

He is out there... Blue Thunder

Our resident Lemur recently got asked how contributors to this blog are selected. Of course, much of the process is top-secret, but I’m pretty sure a contributor should add something new and distinctive to the team, even if that something new and distinctive is a cute bushy tail and a willingness to take care of the paperwork. However, most of us share that we got into this because we like building our own models. Fan-built models are the bread and butter of this blog and knowing a thing or two about building definitely helps.

In the last two years, I have been working on a large collection of movie and TV vehicles. I have close to fifty of them now, but there are still plenty of cool and interesting examples left that I haven’t built yet. I already had a jet, but I did not yet have a helicopter, for instance. With Blue Thunder, that has now been rectified.

Blue Thunder

Blue Thunder was a fictional high-tech police helicopter that starred in the eponymous 1983 movie. Its pilot was played by Roy Scheider, who is probably better known for his role as the police-chief in Jaws. The movie lead to a short-lived TV series, which I used to watch religiously as a child. Although the plots of the episodes and the dialogue were undoubtedly cheesy, the helicopter was one of the coolest things ever. It didn’t talk or have a red light scanner bar, but it had a tail-mounted fan instead of a conventional tail rotor and a Gatling gun that was slaved to the pilot’s helmet. Two flyable helicopters were used in the filming: Aerospatiale Gazelles, painted in a largely dark blue colour scheme and modified with a nose-mounted pod housing sensors and the Gatling gun, an ‘armoured’ cockpit canopy consisting of flat panels and a few other gadgets.

Blue Thunder

The cockpit canopy was the trickiest bit of the build. Building a rectangular structure is fairly easy. Building something that is rounded is also doable, by stepping plates or by using combinations of slopes. Building a faceted structure, however, is just plain awkward and getting it more-or-less right took a lot of trail-and-error.

Cruising in style with the Auburn Speedster

By his own admission, in terms of LEGO builds Vibor Cavor didn’t have a very productive 2014, building just one model. As far as I am concerned, however, quality trumps quantity and his new year is off to a good start. His latest model, the 1935 Auburn Boattail Speedster from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, has quality in spades.

Auburn views

The Boattail Speedster is a prime example of thirties American luxury cars, with sleek Art Deco styling and high performance to match. I is also rare, with only a few hundred built before Auburn went bust in the Great Depression. Arguably, the original car looks even sleeker and more curvaceous than the model does, but to me it is not at all obvious how one could actually achieve that. With its beautifully sculpted mudguards, angled panels and working steering, this is one stylish build.

Two generations of Dutch DAF trucks

Apart from a few manufacturers of exotic sports cars and an assembly plant for Minis, the Netherlands don’t have much of a car-building industry. Things are different when it comes to trucks, however, with the Eindhoven-based truck builder DAF being market leader in several European countries. Dutchman Nanko Klein Paste has built several DAFs in the last few years. His latest is a classic T 2400 DO, which represents an early attempt by DAF at building a truck for the international market.

DAF trucks by Nanko Klein Paste on flickr

Versions of this truck were in production until 1975 and when I was a child they were still a fairly common sight on Dutch roads. The characteristic sloped front of the cab is particularly well captured. This classic model is flanked by a modern XF105, in the livery of the heavy lifting company Mammoet (Mammoth), which makes for a particularly nice comparison between the two generations.

Top 10 LEGO reviews of 2014 from The Brothers Brick

At the Brothers Brick, we regularly review the latest and most interesting LEGO sets and, this year, a movie too! With the already having started in some parts of the world, it is time for me to present the Top Ten LEGO reviews of 2014.

  1. Lego 21116 Minecraft Crafting Box 8-in-1 [Review]
    LEGO Minecraft 21116 Crafting Box
    Our very own Chris was involved in the design of the first Minecraft set, which made him the obvious choice for reviewing the first new minifig scale Minecraft set. He wasn’t overly impressed, but that has not stopped the review from being our most popular of the year. The world loves Minecraft.
  2. Lego Ideas Exo Suit out today [Review & Giveaway]
    LEGO Ideas sets are featured pretty heavily in our Top Ten and the Exo Suit is one of the more original ideas to come out of it and one very much anticipated by adult fans of LEGO (as opposed to mere fans of pop culture). Peter Reid’s design looked a bit too flimsy to work as a set, but somehow the set designers pulled it off, whilst maintaining the overall greebly look. As an added bonus, we had a copy of the set to give away to one of our readers.
  3. The Tumbler LEGO Set Review (76023)
    What can I say? Batman gets the coolest gadgets!
  4. LEGO Ideas Ghostbusters Ecto-1 Review
    The pleasure of reviewing this was all mine. It’s another Ideas set, based on one of the funniest movies from the eighties. The end result is a cool car with some very useful parts.
  5. Lego Simpsons House 71006 [Review]
    Opinions on this set are divided among fans (does LEGO really want to be associated with this dysfunctional family?), but Nannan liked it; lots of neat details, parts and play features at a decent price per part.
  6. 70816 Benny’s Spaceship, Spaceship, SPACESHIP! [Review]
    Most of us at the Brothers Brick are old enough to have fond memories of Classic Space sets. Benny’s spaceship, from the LEGO Movie, ticked all the right boxes for Dan.
    The LEGO Movie: Blue Spaceman
  7. Full of sly humor, the LEGO movie is a must-watch for all Lego fans -especially adults [Review]
    I know that many of us were apprehensive about a movie about LEGO, expecting it to be a bit rubbish. However, Andrew liked it and I have yet to meet a LEGO fan who didn’t.
  8. Lego Star Wars 75060 Slave-I [Review]
    Depending on your view, the Slave I is either one of the coolest or one of the weirdest spaceships from the Star Wars franchise. Previous LEGO sets of this ship were relatively small, but even though the new version is also intended for minifigs, it is much bigger and far more detailed.
  9. Lego Ideas 21110 research institute [Review]
    LEGO sets have been criticised for enforcing gender stereotypes. I’m not sure whether the Research Institute is a successful LEGO Ideas set because of this, but Caylin certainly enjoyed seeing female minifigs in “real” life jobs that are fascinating, engaging, and fun.
  10. 10242: Mini Cooper [Review]
    Last, but certainly not least in my book, is the Mini Cooper. In the last few years, car fans have been spoiled with excellent sets of classic cars and the Mini Cooper is no exception. It’s also full of very useful (dark green) parts

All in all, I think these are pretty neat sets. Of course, we do tend to pick those that we think you’ll like. In fact, we are already poring over lists and images of sets that will be released next year, so that we can keep the reviews coming. Happy New Year, everyone.

Lego Ideas announces two new sets: Birds and The Big Bang Theory

Although I do like the Ecto-1 set and am happy for fellow Brickish member Peter Reid, whose exo-suit got turned into a set, I never cared much about Lego Ideas. However, today LEGO announced the next two ideas that are to be turned into sets and I like both of them.

The first idea is the brainchild of Thomas Poulsom, who by coincidence is also a Brickish member. It is the fantastic Lego birds project.

Lego Bird project

The set will undoubtedly be a bit different from the submission, but I’m sure the birds will be cute and I can imagine a lot of people finding inspiration in the set to build their own birds. What is not to love?

The second is The Big Bang Theory, by Alatariel and GlenBricker.

Lego Big Bang theory

As some of you may know, I have a PhD in physics and when this show first aired the then-girlfriend/ current wife of one of my friends remarked how much Sheldon, Leonard, Rajesh and Howard reminded her of her boyfriend and his circle of friends, including yours truly. We never had the same superhero fetish as the characters in the show and, of course, she is far smarter than Penny, but I cannot deny the similarities. Somewhat worryingly, though, in The Big Bang theory it’s Sheldon who builds with LEGO, referring to his Lego Death Star in a number of episodes. In any case, the submitted model has all the characters and lots of details of Sheldon and Leonard’s apartment and I’d be surprised if the final set won’t include all of the characters as minifigs. Somehow I picture Sheldon’s as wearing a green T-shirt with a classic space logo.

Postcards from the Great Western Brick Show

Four weeks ago, while most of my fellow Brothers were at BrickCon in Seattle, I made my annual journey to Steam, the Museum of the Great Western Railway in Swindon (UK), for The Great Western Brick Show. I was going to write a report on this shortly after returning home, but have had some health issues lately. Luckily fellow Dutchman Red Spacecat also attended the show and has made my job a lot easier by making two very nice postcard views with his highlights of the show.

Steam 2014 (1)

Although a few non-British builders travelled to Swindon, most exhibitors are members of The Brickish Association, which is the main Lego Users Group for the UK, and, as I wrote in my announcement several weeks ago, the show is practically a who-is-who of British builders. Andrew already highlighted the fantastic display of Victorian London, but the quality of almost all of the displays was very high, as you can see in the walk-through video shot by Silent Mode and the detail pictures of the displays made by BrickMick.

Steam 2014 (2)

Unlike US conventions such as BrickCon, the show was centred on a two-day long public display. There were some activities for the exhibitors, though. We had a very nice dinner in the museum on the Saturday evening, followed by a hilarious auction (and a long night drinking pints in the hotel bar for some of us). The atmosphere during public hours was also sufficiently relaxed to allow plenty of opportunity to talk to other builders and to look at their models. It was a great weekend.

Exclusive Hobbit Game launch brick is being auctioned for charity

Whenever TT Games releases a new computer game, people who made significant contributions to the game in question are presented with launch bricks. We had two of these to give away several years ago, but they are normally not available to people outside the company. However, through the help of TT games designer Carl Greatrix, a launch brick from the latest Hobbit Game, with a Bard The Bowman minifigure, has been given to Fairy Bricks, which is a UK charity that donates LEGO sets to hospitals and hospices.

TT-Games / game brick

Fairy Bricks is now auctioning this brick via eBay; an extremely rare opportunity to get your hands on this exclusive item. I’m sometimes shocked by the amounts of money that are being paid for LEGO collectables, but with the proceeds going to a good cause in this case, I’ll say start your bidding!