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

The workhorses of the Commonwealth Navies

Julie Vandermeulen has recently completed a 1/38 scale model of HMCS Haida, the world’s last surviving Tribal class destroyer, which is currently a museum ship in Ontario. Its beautifully sculpted hull is an impressive 377 studs long and the model took 9 months to complete.

HMCS Haida (DDE 215)

Between 1936 and the end of WW2 a grand total of 27 Tribal class ships were built for the Royal Australian Navy, Royal Canadian Navy and (British) Royal Navy. Many of these ships fought with distinction. In British service, in particular, they were used in a number of high-risk operations and consequently sustained heavy losses, with 12 out of 16 ships sunk. Most Canadian and Australian ships survived the war and continued to serve into the fifties and sixties. The model represents Haida as she appeared in the Korean War. Her sister ship, HMCS Iroquois, was even deployed in the Cuban Missile Crisis. Tribal class destroyers may not be as well-known as the larger and more glamorous cruisers and battleships that served during WW2, but they were true workhorses. I very much appreciate seeing one of these fine ships in LEGO.

If the zombie apocalypse happens, you’ll want one of these

Skid-steer loaders are very versatile pieces of construction equipment, by virtue of their many different attachments such as blades, cutters, trenchers and snow blowers.

Skid Steer by sinan bitişik

This brilliant little model by Sinan Bitişik does not include any zombies, but looking at the gnarly attachment to its front, evidently intended for cutting asphalt, I could not help but think of an alternative use.

Polly needs a cracker

Perhaps I am using the word character a bit too frequently to describe models lately, but the parrot built by Dicky Laban has it in spades. It doesn’t just want a cracker; it needs one. It looks so sad and yet adorable.

Parrot

This is also yet another nice example of how you don’t need to build something ridiculously large for it to be cool and interesting, as long as it has mixels eyes.

Dining in style

Spring has only just started (on the Northern hemisphere), but the restaurant built by Snaillad already makes me long for summer.

The Ocean Restaurant

This must be because it was inspired by the wonderful art deco buildings along Ocean Drive / South Beach in famously sunny Miami Beach. It looks very nice on the outside and also comes with a detailed interior. Normally I am partial to visible studs on a LEGO model, but I have to admit that this would not look nearly as good if it wouldn’t have such a clean and studless construction.

Six-stud wide trucks from the sixties

It isn’t all that long ago that we blogged the muppets by Andreas Weissenburg (grubaluk), but his talent is not limited to building wacky characters. When I was a child, my cousin, who is at least ten years older than I am, had a fantastic series of LEGO trucks from the late sixties. They were six studs wide and had steering mechanism which worked by pivoting the whole front axle, by turning a brick mounted on the roof. This was a fun feature and the trucks had a more realistic size than the four-stud wide minifig scale ones that I had, so I remember being a bit envious.

6w steering vehicles

Like the updated classic sets by Are Heiseldal, Andreas’ six-wide trucks have a similar character as these older sets, but with new parts and clever details. Despite its somewhat primitive nature, I love how he has recreated the original steering mechanism. These look like a lot of fun.

Bricktrix will make you jump, jump

The history of aviation is littered with failed attempts at building an aircraft that can fly like a jet but take-off and land like a helicopter. One of the few successful exceptions is the British Harrier ‘jump jet’, recreated by Carl Greatrix (Bricktrix)

GR9 Harrier ii

Key to the jet’s ability to take-off vertically is that its thrust can be vectored by rotating the four engine exhaust nozzles vertically down. These are present on the model, of course, and it is finished in Carl’s typical style, with finely crafted lines, a few custom working lighting elements and expert sticker work to recreate the camouflage pattern. The only thing missing, really, is that it can’t actually fly.

Updating the classics

In recent years, LEGO set design has been going from strength to strength. However, as far as I am concerned, some of the sets I had as a child are really hard to beat. Build techniques have obviously moved on and new parts have been introduced, but particularly city sets from the late seventies and early eighties were design marvels. They may have been fairly simple and built using primary colours, but they also had lots of character.

We haven’t featured models by Are Heiseldal (L@go) very often, but in recent years he has been steadily building his own updated interpretations of some of these classic sets from his (and my) childhood, of which I am going to share a few favourites. LEGO set 675 “Snack bar” was released in 1979.

Snack Bar 1

I never actually owned the oddly-named set 6694 “Car with Camper”, but remember poring over the 1984 catalogue to work out how to build the caravan. Are’s updated version seems to offer somewhat more privacy to the occupants.

Modern 6694 13

Finally, the latest model that he has uploaded is a modern reinterpretation of set 6689 “Post Station”.

Post Office 1

These models may not be spectacular in terms of build techniques, but I love them. There is enough of the original in them to ensure that a single glance is enough to trigger nostalgia. Furthermore, like the originals, if you look closely you’ll see that they are chock full of clever features. If you too get a warm and fuzzy feeling about these, I suggest you check out Are’s flickr album with more of his updated classics.

Lego research institute, but in real life

Most of the scientists I know love LEGO and, as shown by LEGO’s own research institute set, scientist can actually be a suitable subject for a nice set. Steen Dupont, Benjamin Price and Vladimir Blagoderov are not paleontologists, astronomers or chemists (nor are they female), but they are scientists, who work for the Natural History Museum in London, and who actually use LEGO in their research. In their latest paper, titled The customizable LEGO® Pinned Insect Manipulator, they present an unusual and innovative solution to the problem of how to study insect specimens without damaging the delicate wings and other appendages.

Insect Manipulator

Among their advantages are that they are modular, cheap and easy to construct. The article contains one of the funniest sentences that I’ve ever read in a research paper: “The authors welcome correspondence on ideas for the next generation of IMps, and although the current models are easy to assemble the authors are happy to assist if no children can be sourced locally.

Via Science. Thanks to Tim Gould for bringing it to our attention.

What were they shmoking? Tires, most likely.

No, there is no spelling error; it’s the deliberate result of me, a Dutchman, trying to mimic Jeremy Clarkson impersonating a Dutch person speaking English. I know that this is perhaps confusing, but bear with me. It was prompted by the great Donkervoort built by Vinny Turbo.

Donkervoort S8A

Donkervoort is a small Dutch manufacturer of sport cars inspired by the classic Lotus Seven, and I’m pretty sure that if Top Gear were to review one, there would be lots of tire smoke and Clarkson would try to speak in a mock Dutch accent. The overall look of the model is somewhat reminiscent of the great Caterhams built by Carl Greatrix, but at a smaller scale.