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

Dining in style on the Orient Express

Henrik Hoexbroe tends to build highly detailed minifig scale models. His latest model is a dining coach as used in 1919 as part of the famous Orient Express, which used to connect Paris with Istanbul.

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A single train coach may not sound like a particularly interesting subject, but this one is a bit special. For understandable reasons, most train builders build to minifig scale and guys such as Carl Greatrix and Andrew Harvey (to name just two examples) manage to pack a surprising amount of exterior detail into fairly small train models.

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Henrik has built his coach to a much larger scale, however, and this allowed him to go a step further. This is visible in the detail on the outside, but it really shows in the interior.

Good planes come in small packages

I think there are definite advantages to building aircraft models on a larger scale, certainly when it comes to details of the shape. However, It’s always a joy to see what Peter Dornbach (dornbi) can do with LEGO on a smaller scale.

Lockheed P-38J Lightning (2)

Mitsubishi A6M2 "Zero" (2)
Both his P-38J Lightning and his Mitsubishi A6M2 are instantly recognisable and most of the important bits are there. The latter even has folding wingtips.

I feel the need...the need for speed

“How’s it feel to be on the front page of every newspaper in the English-speaking world, even though the other side denies the incident?” Top Gun is so cheesy, it’s like mature cheddar wrapped in a slice of Emmental with some Parmesan sprinkled on top. Yet, when I first saw the movie as a teenager, I loved it. Not for the actors and certainly not for the scenes of sweaty fighter pilots playing volleyball, mind you, but because of the true star of the movie: the wonderful Grumman F-14 Tomcat. I have been a Tomcat fan ever since and have had at least one LEGO model of a Tomcat for at least 20 years.

I have been thinking about building a larger scale aircraft for about two years now. Seeing the excellent 1/18 F-16 by Everblack a few weeks ago, in combination with my ongoing movie vehicle project prompted me to finally have a go. If I was going to bite the bullet, it would have to be a Tomcat and it would have to be the one from Top Gun, cheesy or not.

Top Gun F-14A Tomcat (1)

The process was relatively painless. Building an aircraft at a different scale was interesting. Some of the solutions that I’m used to didn’t really work, so I had to be a bit more inventive. However, the larger scale does have advantages. I had a lot more room to work with, which meant I could incorporate a lot of techniques that I normally don’t have room for. It is 108 studs long, excluding the nose probe, and with the wings in their most forward position has a wingspan of 110 studs. This isn’t small by any means, but it’s also not quite so large that I had to worry too much about structural issues.

I know that there are some readers out there who are of the opinion that I do blog rather many of my own models and, admittedly, I have blogged a fair few. I build a lot more than the ones I blog though and, be honest, do you think the other guys wouldn’t have blogged this if I weren’t one of the contributors?

The Boeing Triple Seven is ready for take-off.

We have previously featured large airliners, but few (if any) of them built to minifig scale (Ryan McNaught’s A-380 is technically only half an airliner). Calum Tsang started designing his minifig scale Boeing 777 back in 2006, shortly after one of the real aircraft set a new long-distance record for commercial airliners. He started building in 2011 and has recently fitted new wings and engines. This dedication has paid of, because it is big and it is beautiful.

Boeing 777 Overview

The model is a whopping 200 studs long and has a similar wing span. With that size, Calum has had to use wood to strengthen the fuselage spine, as well as a few metal struts to support it, but it’s a very nicely sculpted model. One of my favourite bits is the tail fin, with a brick-built version of the logo that LEGO use for the aircraft in recent City sets.

Building prehistoric creatures with Bright Bricks

Building with LEGO professionally may sound like a dream job to many of us. Recently, whilst I was in the UK for Brighton Modelworld I caught up with Ed Diment (Lego Monster), who gave up his job as a management consultant more than two years ago to partner up with Duncan Titchmarsh, who is the UK’s sole Lego Certified Professional. Together they run Bright Bricks.

We talked about being a professional LEGO-builder and discussed their latest event. From the 26th of February to the 27th of April, the Milestones Museum in Basingstoke (UK) hosts the Lost World Zoo. Bright Bricks and various members of the UK’s LEGO community that were drawn in for this, built dozens of models of prehistoric creatures and plants, that are now on display in the museum. They were finishing the models for this during my visit and I lent a hand working on a 4 meter tall model of a Moa, which is an extinct New Zealand walking bird. They also built a massive sabre tooth tiger, which I photographed in the company workshop.

Bright Bricks workshop

Two more smaller examples are the ammonite by Tim Goddard (Rogue Bantha and a sabre toothed squirrel, built by Joe Perez (Mortalswordsman).

Ammonite

Ammonite

Visitors to the museum can also take part in activities, such as building a life-size woolly mammoth out of LEGO bricks. Yes, you did read that right: life-size. These guys like to do things big.

The company has been steadily growing. It currently employs about a dozen people working full-time, as well as several more on a temporary basis. The growth has meant having to move several times, because space in the workshop kept running out. They’re now based in a large unit on an industrial estate in Hampshire. Even though this is probably larger than all their previous workshops combined, the number of people, the large builds and the vast numbers of parts that they have in stock means that it can still be pretty difficult to move around in. The growth has also come with an increased amount of red tape. For instance, UK law requires a company of a given size to have an environmental policy and a health and safety policy, that includes having to find out how much heat is produced by a vast quantity of LEGO going up in flames. Ed probably spends more time on this and on dealing with clients and the media than he does on building. He still builds a lot, though, and with a seemingly endless supply of bricks. According to Ed, his current job is not as much fun as building AFOL models all day, but it is still definitely more fun than a regular job. Having spent a day putting more bricks together than I normally do in about a month, I can believe him (although I was still happy to go back to my day job).

If you’re in the South of the UK, I highly recommend that go check out the Lost World Zoo.

Digging deep

Many of you may know Arjan Oudekotte (Konajra) as a LEGO shipbuilder. However, when he started posting his models on-line a few years ago, he mainly built large diggers. I know he is working on several new ships, but he has now gone back to his roots and built this impressive Caterpillar 7495 rope shovel. These machines are used for open-pit mining

Cat 7495

It is power functions remote controlled, like most of his diggers, and while the size of this thing may suggest otherwise, it’s actually minifig scale.

The lightweight fighter just entered the big league

Most of the older models by Everblack are essentially his own refined versions of models that were already out there. They are very nice and I’ve blogged a few, but with his new F-16 he has moved into completely new territory.

F-16 Fighting Falcon (3)

The F-16 was developed in the seventies as a lighter and cheaper alternative to the F-15 Eagle. As such, it’s relatively small for a modern jet. Everblack’s model isn’t small, however. Its scale is a whopping 1/18, which is about twice as large as his previous models. This large scale has allowed him to do some beautiful sculpting on the jet, skillfully using curved slopes. Judging from the way the undercarriage and the wings bend, the large size does come with a few penalties, but my word, it looks stunning.

Toyota’s retro cruiser

Pēteris Sproģis generally builds excellent small vehicles, but lately he has been building larger ones and they do not disappoint either. His Shelby Mustang recently won the 75th LUGNuts challenge and he has now built a superb rendition of Toyota’s FJ Cruiser.

Toyota FJ Cruiser

Toyota’s orginal FJ Land Cruiser set a new standard of reliability for off-road vehicles, practically replacing the traditional Land Rover in Africa, whilst in the US it gained a bit of a cult-following. The FJ Cruiser is a modern interpretation of this classic, with similar off-road performance and with retro styling. I don’t think it’s a particularly pretty car, but compared to other Toyotas, which are about as interesting as wet spaghetti, it is distinctive. When building a model of a car with distinctive looks, like the FJ Cruiser or a Hummer or VW Beetle, you can mess up the proportions pretty badly before it will no longer be recognizable. However, Pēteris’ model is just about perfect.

My howitzer is bigger than yours

In the fifties, the United States experimented with artillery that could launch nuclear weapons. Not to be outdone, the Soviet Union developed the 2A3 Kondensator 2P self-propelled howitzer. Andy Baumgart (D-Town Cracka) has built a highly detailed 1/30 scale model of this unusual piece of Cold War history.

Soviet 2A3 'Kondensator' 2P

Early nuclear weapons tended to be on the bulky side. Consequently, whilst many modern self-propelled artillery pieces have a caliber of 155 mm (6.10 inches), the caliber of the Kondensator was a whopping 406 mm (16 inches), which is more in line with a battleship main battery. It was one of the largest self-propelled artillery pieces ever built. It was unwieldy, had a low rate of fire and never entered service, but it makes for an impressive model.