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

Mecha plus Countach equals coolness

A long time ago, not long after I joined the online community, I upset a number of people by openly declaring that I don’t care much for mecha. While I can appreciate quality when I see it, mecha still aren’t my cup of tea. However, make one that can transform into a cool car, like Andrew Lee‘s Lamborghini Countach, and you’ve definitely caught my attention.


This is Andrew’s first working Transformer and he describes it as total pain in the ass and quite the learning experience. I can sympathise. He is no stranger to building mecha, though, as many of you will know, and his experience shows, because the articulation on his model is truly exceptional.

Do the shooty dance!

He talks about this and about LEGO transformers in general in the latest episode of his video podcast, aptly titled Bricks and Beers. Cheers man!

Armies on the march at Waterloo

A few weeks ago, Nannan posted The Defense of La Haye Sainte Farm at the Battle of Waterloo. While impressive, this was only a small part of a much larger diorama that was unveiled at Brickfair Va., to commemorate the 200th anniversary of this historic battle.

Battle of Waterloo Diorama

This impressive display was a collaborative effort by Joshua Brooks, his father Gary Brooks (Gary^the^procrastinator) and Casey Mungle, Ken Rice and John Rudy, with further contributions by several more members of Wamalug. It was not only large, but also tremendously well-researched. The formations of figures and their uniforms were chosen to be period-accurate, for instance. The size of the diorama had the consequence that, when sitting at one end and looking at the other, it was impossible to focus your eyes on the whole thing at once. This made the hundreds of sometimes fairly rare minifigures really look like armies on the march. In fact, there were so many figures on this display, that this may be the very reason why some of them have become so rare!

Edit: The guys from Beyond the Brick have posted an interview with Gary at Brickfair, which is well worth checking out.

His Cadillac is vulgar, but that’s how he likes it

There are many similarities between Europe and the United States, but yet I never feel quite as European as when I’m on the other side of the Atlantic. US car culture, for instance, is completely different from what I’m used to. Even a fairly standard American tow truck, full of little lights and chrome, can look pretty garish to me. Fellow Dutchman Dennis Glaasker (bricksonwheels), however, is totally down with US car culture. His latest creation, a pimped-out lowrider Cadillac, is downright vulgar.

Cadillac Fleetwood Le Cabriolet 1/10 in Lego

I mean, just look at it! The are chromed parts all over it, it has custom printed parts, horrible gold-coloured rims and a totally chintzy white interior. The ride height is completely messed up too. Even the name is cheesy: the Fleetwood Le Cabriolet, as though using some French can save it from being tacky as hell. In other words: it’s perfect!

If scale models of real-world vehicles (from gaudy to utilitarian) interest you, the upcoming book Dennis has written for No Starch Press, together with Dennis Bosman (Legotrucks), may be just your thing. It is titled The Art of LEGO Scale Modeling and highlights models built by some of the best LEGO scale modellers from all over the world. It will be released in September and we will be reviewing it then, but you can pre-order it now.

Military aircraft builders at Brickfair Virginia

Most of my fellow Brothers are already getting geared-up for BrickCon in October, but at that time of year, sadly, I can get away from work only barely long enough to attend Steam in the UK; a trip to the US is not in the cards. However, in the last few weeks I was in the US for a holiday which included attending Brickfair Virginia. I haven’t yet been home long enough to find the time to go over all the pictures that I’ve taken, let alone to find the owners of the models in them on-line, but will hopefully get around to that in the next few weeks. For now I want to share some of my experiences and to give a shout-out to the military builders I have been hanging out with, specifically Aleksander Stein, Evan Melick, Matt Hacker and Corvin Stichert. This year they displayed a collaborative airfield layout full of excellent minifig scale (near-future) military aircraft, helicopters and ground support equipment.

Brickton Air Force Base Collaborative Display - BrickFair VA 2015

The event consisted of three set-up days, which were for registered attendees only. There were a lot of organised activities, including games and talks about build techniques, as well as two talks by the guys from Beyond The Brick about their youtube podcasts. I was too busy chatting to other builders while all of this went on, but I did catch an excellent talk by Gary Brooks (whose Battle of Waterloo was featured here a few weeks ago) about building landscapes, that taught me a few new tricks. The set-up days were followed by two public days, during which we all got to display our models to an appreciative audience. I know some exhibitors dread these, and they can get very busy, but I enjoyed talking to the audience and demonstrating the folding wings and undercarriage of my Wildcat fighter.

Brickton Air Force Base Collaborative Display - BrickFair VA 2015

The fun didn’t end at Brickfair. Since all of us share an interest in military history and technology, the next day we hit the road (and thanks to the satnav, DC rush hour traffic on the way back) to visit the USMC Museum in Quantico. This had a little LEGO twist: its shop features an impressive model of the USMC Memorial by Nathan Sawaya, which was the perfect backdrop for a group photograph.

BrickFair 2015 - Lego Military Models Goes On A Road Trip

I know that there must be a fair few people among you who have never actually been to any sort of LEGO convention or event. I was like you for a long time. Building with LEGO was something I did on my own. Later I started sharing models online, which added a welcome social component. However, as I found out when I joined Brickish in the UK and started attending events, nothing beats face-to-face meetings with fellow enthusiasts and being able to see their builds in real life. I’d like to thank Magnus Lauglo for inviting me to brickfair several years ago and for offering me a place to crash this year too. Congratulations to our very own Simon for winning four (!) Brickee awards, including best aircraft. Thanks guys, I had a ball.

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.