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

Beaufort bomber from down under

It’s not very often that I come across an aircraft that I know very little about, but
Nikos Andronikos (dodgeyhack) has managed to befuddle me, by building a Australian Beaufort bomber. I know the Beaufort as a British WW2 aircraft that served with the Royal Air Force. What I did not know, however, is that Beauforts also served with the Royal Australian Air Force and were actually license-built down under in significant numbers.

RAAF Beaufort

Beaufort break down

So, the subject of the model is interesting in my book. Beyond that, the model is very nicely done. I like how the wings are angled back, to give their leading edges the proper angle. The camouflage works, which is no mean feat using dark green, and it has goodies such as a retractable undercarriage and an opening weapons bay. To add the proverbial cherry on top of his cake, Nikos has also made a render of the model that shows how some of the major bits go together.

Pancakes can fly

In the thirties, before WW2, many aircraft were biplanes, powered by propellers and built using wood and canvas seemingly held together with bits of string. Not long after the war, all-metal jet- and rocket-powered planes were flying near the speed of sound. These rapid developments did not happen without a lot of experimentation. Some of those experiments produced decidedly odd-looking aircraft. Lino Martins (Lino M) is mostly known for building slightly wacky cars, but he has now built one of those wacky experimental aircraft instead.

Vought V-173 "Flying Pancake"

The aircraft in question is the Vought V-173, popularly known as the Flying Pancake. It was built to test the viability of building a fighter aircraft using a low-aspect wing. This was expected to deliver relatively low aerodynamic drag, but with good low-speed handling. The concept worked, but the fighter that it was to lead to, known as the XF5U-1 Flying Flapjack (I kid you not), was overtaken (literally) by more modern jet aircraft. The idea may not have been a success, but as far as I am concerned, Lino’s model is.

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s 007 with Little Nellie

James Bond is well known for his often slightly wacky gadgets. The gyrocopter used in You only Live Twice, recreated in minifig scale by Brian Williams (BMW_Indy), is a prime example. This odd little contraption was nicknamed Little Nellie and in the flying scenes in the movie, it was piloted by its designer, Ken Wallis, who was a former RAF WW2 bomber pilot turned inventor. He died last year, aged 97, and was tinkering with and flying gyrocopters until shortly before his death.

Little Nellie - Overview

Brian’s model uses a fair few BrickArms parts, which may upset LEGO purists, but in my opinion they are a great addition to the model. It just wouldn’t look complete without its rocket pods. The model is also complemented by some really nice custom stickers.

Classic Ferrari Formula One

Carl Greatrix (Brictrix) is mostly and rightfully known for his excellent minifig scale train models. However, the train layouts he brings to shows also often feature beautifully constructed buildings and classic cars. It is no surprise to me then that, now he has turned his attention to building a scale model of a car, the end result is superb. The car in question is a seventies motorsport icon: the Ferrari 312T4 Formula One racer. The model was inspired by the highly detailed plastic scale models in old catalogues by the Japanese Tamiya brand. I used to have one of those too, as a teenager, and spent many hours pouring over it looking for inspiration for my models.

Ferrari 312T4 1979 F1 Car

I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with Ferrari Formula One cars. Some of them are beautiful. Others, not so much, although I suppose that on a race car, “form follows function” has a certain attractiveness on its own. As far as I am concerned, the 312T4 isn’t particularly pretty either, but Carl’s rendition is definitely spot-on.

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.

DSC06337_r_1024

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.

DSC06351_r

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?