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

I want to introduce you to my friend, Optimus Prime

At The Brothers Brick we aim to present some of the best fan-built LEGO models. We’re not necessarily used to our own models exploding all over the internet or on the occasions when they do, it is usually because we ourselves have posted them here first. In the last few days, this normal order of things was turned upside down. I went on a little trip visiting family for a few days, but before leaving I posted a few pictures of my latest model, Optimus Prime, on flickr. These were picked up by a number of other LEGO blogs (the LEGO Car Blog and Bricknerd among others) and subsequently pretty much went viral. I was going to write something here eventually, but hadn’t gotten around to making the video that I wanted to include and, because of this, I got scooped.

Optimus Prime

I have finally completed the video and I will use this post to add more info about the build, that I know people have been wondering about, such as why I built a so-called Bayformer rather than a G1 Optimus Prime or whether this model will make its way to LEGO Ideas, so that other fans may eventually buy one. I’ll start with the biggest question, though: is it actually fully transformable or am I a big cheater, who has built two different models to separately represent the robot and the truck mode?

As you can see, the model can indeed go from truck to robot by sliding and rotating various parts. The only exception is that the fuel tanks are separate parts that are pinned to the truck. This is similar to how the toy that I used as the basis for the transformation sequence works. The sequence is complicated and some stuff usually breaks in the process, but having seen videos of people transforming their toy versions, I get the impression that this is normal.

Optimus Prime

I’m hardly the first person to build a working Transformer in LEGO. We’ve blogged Transformers on many different occasions and, as a child, I myself used to build the original G1 models from the cartoon. The designs from the recent movies by Michael Bay, also known as Bayformers, are rather more complicated than the older models, though, and this is exactly what makes them more interesting to me. I also think that a long-nose Peterbilt looks more attractive than the red and blue cab-over-engine truck used for the G1 Optimus Prime and happen to like building flame patterns. To my surprise, some die-hard Transformers fans hate Bayformers with an almost scary passion and consequently they hate mine. I recommend they go look at Alex Jones’ version from a few years ago or perhaps at some kittens instead.

My Optimus Prime will not be making it onto LEGO Ideas. Even if I could drum up enough support for the project by plastering it all over social media, LEGO wouldn’t touch this with a stick. The Transformers toy line is owned by their competitor Hasbro, who produce rather poor-looking Transformers sets in their own Kre-O range of LEGO compatible construction toys. If you want your own LEGO Optimus Prime, you’ll probably have to build it yourself. This should be easy enough. After all, to quote one commenter on my model, “my nine-year-old can do better”. You have got to love the internet.

LEGO Ideas The Big Bang Theory 21302 [Review]

In November last year, LEGO announced two new ideas sets. By now the birds setby Tom Polsoun has already been in shops for months, but although we’ve previously seen pictures of The Big Bang Theory set, it is taking a bit longer to hit the shelves. It has finally been officially launched at the San Diego Comic Con earlier today.

The Big Bang Theory - Lounge

Several of us at The Brothers Brick are fans of the show, but being a physicist, I was the lucky guy granted the opportunity to review this. Having worked in both a physics and an engineering department of two universities, the characters from The Big Bang Theory are very recognisable. There may even be a bit of Sheldon, Leonard, Raj and Howard in me. This is not my life story or a review of the TV show, however, so I will cut straight to the chase: the price is pretty steep for only 479 parts, so if minifigures aren’t your thing or you don’t like the show, this set is not for you.

The minifigures are the highlight of the set and probably the main reason why anybody would want this. All seven characters are instantly recognisable and come with new printed parts for the faces and clothing. The prints are highly detailed and look crisp, with Amy’s knitted vest and the tiny flowers on Bernadette’s skirt standing out in particular. The backs of the torsos are also printed. The upper and lower parts of the legs on Amy and Bernadette are molded in different colours, to represent skirts, with the obvious advantage that the figures look decent when seen from the back (in more ways than one).

The Big Bang Theory - Figs

As a bonus all the figures have reversible heads, with happy faces on one side and an alternate expression on the other. Bernadette’s is a particularly menacing angry look and Penny’s will also be instantly recognisable to any fan.
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Aerodynamics are for people who can’t build engines

When, back in 1960, race car driver Paul Frère asked Enzo Ferrari what limited the top speed of his Ferrari 250TR at Le Mans, probably wondering whether the rather large and ungainly windscreen on said car had anything to do with this, Enzo replied that aerodynamics are for people who can’t build engines.

Enzo Ferrari (16)

More than 40 years later, the company Ferrari built the Enzo, named after its founder. This car’s shape was undoubtedly designed to be reminiscent of a Formula 1 car, with its V-shaped hood and front air intakes resembling a front wing, but I’m sure the designers spent a lot of time fiddling to get the aerodynamics right. A lot of things have changed since the sixties. Getting the shape of his car right has taken Nathanael L. a fair bit of fiddling too. This is his fourth attempt at building an Enzo and it just keeps getting better. I’m glad he stuck with it. I also think it’s particularly neat that, despite the complexity of its shape, just about everything on the model opens and the engine looks good too.

British Petrolheads

Joe Perez (mortalswordsman) works for Bright Bricks in the UK, where he builds LEGO models for a living. He is also a bit of a petrolhead; a British term for people who are crazy about internal combustion engines.

Gold rush by Joe Perez

This made him the perfect choice for a recent Bright Bricks project that involved building miniland scale (1/20) vehicles, including a fair few motorcycles. Despite building with LEGO for a living, he still finds the time and interest to build just for fun. He has obviously caught the bug of building motorcycles, as shown by his groovy chopper.

We can make this happen

Talking of petrolheads from the UK who are also professional LEGO builders, Carl Greatrix (bricktrix) launched a Lego Ideas project for a Caterham Seven model several months ago, which has now passed 10,000 votes. Let’s keep our fingers crossed for the design review.

Digging in the dirt

Until now, all of the pictures Davy Linden (Davekuhh) posted of his awesome Volvo excavator were of it sitting either on his building table or on display at LowLUG events in the Netherlands, with lots of clutter and legs in the background. I’ve been following his progress and have been waiting for decent pictures to appear for months, which makes it all the more frustrating that, now that they have and I finally get around to writing about it, other blogs have already beaten me to it.

Volvo EW205D

In any case, this is just the sort of model I like and that I know many of you will appreciate too. I had the pleasure of being able to take in all the model’s details at one of the events a few months ago and I also got to see Davy use a dustbuster to vacuum up the ‘LEGO dirt’ from the base on which he displayed it. This is undoubtedly an effective method, but it makes a sound that fans of LEGO normally do not like to hear!

Piazza Maria makes me long for Italy and ice cream

I don’t know whether it’s the scene, the yellow background or the combination of the two, but Piazza Maria by Andrew Tate has a distinctly Southern-European flair.

Piazza Maria

In fact, I’ll be a bit more specific. The model wasn’t specifically intended to be Italian, despite the name, but the colours on the buildings are spot-on and the gelateria really do remind me of a square in Udine, where, on a work trip to Italy, I had some wonderful ice cream a fair few years ago. I don’t remember a living statue there, but I don’t mind. It could easily have been there.

In this robbery, your money is safe

Admittedly most of my knowledge about the Toy Story movies is from the LEGO sets, but you don’t have to be a fan to recognise the Train Chase, by Jared Chan, as a neat little model.

Toy Story - Money Train Chase Coin Bank (2015)

The train is simply adorable and it hides a neat feature: it also serves as a piggy bank. I do have some doubts whether it can actually keep your money safe, however, no matter how strong the clutch between LEGO elements may be.

The cars are the stars -the sequel

Somewhat to my shame, in my time as a contributor to this blog, I have not been a particularly prolific writer. This was particularly true at times when I was also busy writing things for work or dealing with a lot of deadlines, as I have been for a while now. I think all of us at TBB have been struggling with similar issues lately, as you may have gathered from the reduced frequency of posts. Even our lemur isn’t safe, although, to his credit, the kitchen tiles in the compound are now shinier than ever. Since for me stress-relief is a big reason for building, perhaps surprisingly, the upshot of being busy at work is that I do build lots of new models. This is far easier and also more relaxing than writing.

Movie/ TV vehicles May 2015

I’ve been working on a collection of famous vehicles from movies and TV series for about two years now, but by October last year I felt I was about done. However, enthusiastic reactions and suggestions for new ones that I got when I displayed them at the Great Western LEGO show in Swindon (UK) made me decide to continue and to diversify a bit more, by including helicopters. The vehicles in the picture are most of the ones I built since. I already wrote about Blue Thunder and Airwolf, in the back row, but you may not have seen any of the others. The third helicopter is the UH-1H “Huey” that serves as the personal transport for the surf-obsessed and completely insane Lt.Col. Kilgore, from Apocalypse Now. The other vehicles are Korben Dallas’ flying taxy from The 5th Element, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Capt. Nemo’s car from The League of extraordinary gentlemen, the Munster Koach from The Munsters, the GM Ultralite police car from Demolition Man, the AMC Pacer from Wayne’s world and, last but not least, the motorcycle with sidecar from Indiana Jones: the last crusade, all built to the same scale.

To be continued…

Larry’s hot rod is a perfect combo of old and new

One of the many wonderful things about LEGO is how almost all of the parts produced over multiple decades are compatible. Several years ago, when building a fish & chips shop, I was able to use a parasol, 25 years after I got it as a part of a set that was a gift for my 8th birthday. Another great example is visible on the hot rod built by Larry Lars.

Red Hot Lego Vehicle

Builders of real-world hot rods often combine an old body with a shiny new engine. Similarly, Larry uses mudguards and brand new wheels from the speed champions sets and recently introduced curved parts with a part that is even older than my parasol: the roof from a Fabuland car. It is a perfect combination.

Rugged as granite

Most truck builders I know either aim for looks, with relatively little functionality, or they go for the full Technic treatment, with lots of working functions, but often at the expense of the looks or details. With his Mack Granite heavy-duty truck, Ingmar Spijkhoven (2LegoOrNot2Lego) has combined the best of both worlds.

PICT01c by 2legoornot2lego

It has Power Functions remote control for the drive and steering, working lights and working suspension, and can be fitted with a flatbed trailer than can be raised and lowered via remote control. It also looks brilliant, with a beautifully sculpted hood, a detailed interior and a carefully modelled representation of the engine.

PICT05c by 2legoornot2lego

Following fellow Dutch truck builder Dennis Glaasker the presentation of the all the goodies is top notch too, with a clever photo-edit that shows some of the inner workings and details. It wouldn’t look out of place in the manufacturer’s brochure.