Category Archives: Building Techniques

Not sure what SNOT is? Want to learn innovative new ways to create awesome LEGO models of your own? Peruse our posts about LEGO building techniques to pick up tricks & tips from the best.

The roof, the roof, the roof is afire...

Following on from Jennifer’s recent post on waterfalls, here are some more creations with brick-built “special effects”. This ramshackle Laketown house by David Hensel features a convincing fireball rolling up from the roof…

Fire and Water

It’s difficult to depict fire with bricks without it looking like a pixellated explosion from the 8-bit era of gaming. I think David has pulled it off here, with the outer layer of transparent bricks and the darker colors at the edges simulating an expanding ball of flame.

I recently spotted another brick-built explosion which used very different techniques but created a similar sense of energy and motion. This fantastic tower explosion was part of Marc Gelaberto‘s pirate display at a show in Barcelona…

[MegaMOC] Fortaleza de Santa Catalina

It’s like a still from an action movie – the fireball blossoming, shattering the tower’s masonry as soldiers are flung into the air. Check out the priceless expression on this unfortunate soldier’s face!

[MegaMOC] Fortaleza de Santa Catalina

I’ve always shied away from building scenes like these, worried they wouldn’t live up to the image in my head. Seeing these great examples of fiery disaster, I feel some explosive action coming on in my building!

Tiny tanks advance to victory!

I’ve been following the recent builds of Thomas of Tortuga with interest and expressing little yelps of delight whenever a new creation pops up. He’s embroiled in a Flickr-based LEGO wargame called Divide And Conquer which I’m not even going to pretend to understand. However, the creations he’s putting together to represent his fictional nation’s military are fantastic. I particularly liked these armored tractor tank things…


I must admit to a certain ambivalence about rendered LEGO creations – I generally like to see builders put bits of plastic together in the real world. And I’m a firm believer that restrictions on quantity and color drive creativity, pushing builders to develop new techniques. However, these vehicles are absolute class, and I figured I’d let the handful of “impossibly colored” parts slide this time. (Those are pieces which LEGO has never produced in that particular color. But digital parts, of course, can be any color.)

The rest of Thomas’ photostream is stuffed with similarly cool and slightly steampunk military creations – well worth checking out. I’m loving his series of naval vessels (especially this dreadnought), although again some of the “impossible part” use does make me twitchy.

I know some people say rendering isn’t “LEGO building” at all. I’m not sure I’d go that far, and builders like Thomas are making me pay more attention to rendered works. I reckon LEGO creativity shines through, regardless of medium. What do you think?

Working combination safe built from LEGO

Jason Allemann has used nothing but LEGO to build a fully functional combination safe. Not only does the safe lock with a three-number combination, Jason has designed the safe so that the safe itself cannot be removed from its outer case and opened without either knowing the combination or physically breaking LEGO pieces!

Working LEGO Combination Safe

A picture doesn’t really prove it, so here’s Jason’s amazing video.

If you want to build you own LEGO safe, you can download instructions from Jason’s website.

The defense of Port Royal

TheBrickAvenger has posted his most ambitious LEGO diorama yet, with this scene inspired by the heyday of piracy in the 17th-century Caribbean. While one’s eye is certainly drawn to the steeply slanted roof, clock tower, and minifig action, the standout detail for me is the studs-out half timber construction. The builder also uses three completely different techniques for windows, including an ingenious but incredibly complicated bay window shared back in March by Sheo. Spend some time poring over the picture — I’m sure you’ll find something I’ve missed that’s even cooler.

Port Royal is Attacked! by TheBrickAvenger on Flickr

The Atomic Age in a new age: Construction with Nick Trotta

Builder extraordinaire Nick Trotta is famous for building highly complex spacecraft and polishing them to perfection, and that reputation is well-deserved as evidenced by the Atomium. Not only has Nick built a stunning model, but he’s rebuilt and redesigned it enough times that he can build it completely from scratch in one sitting, as if he were following (his own) instructions. This works out great for us, though, as we get to see exactly how everything fits together, thanks to a nifty time-lapse video of Nick building the model start to finish.

Atomium: Duality

Atomium: Construction Video

And if one isn’t enough, his previous model, which is also lovely but has a more industrial workhorse feel, also features a complete construction video so we can learn a few pointers.

CIRCorp Falchion: Perspectives

Homeworld-inspired Vaygr battlecruiser by Dorian Glacet

Even though I’ve mainly been building military models over the last couple of years, I appreciate a good spaceship. And I’ve always been disappointed that I haven’t been able to play the iconic and influential Homeworld games. French builder Dorian Glacet has been playing Homeworld 2 lately, and built this great ship (actually a true SHIP at 105 studs long) with classic colors and stripes.


Dorian’s SHIP may look a lot like many of the other Homeworld-inspired spaceships we’ve featured over the years, but when I looked at his photostream, I was struck by the rather innovative approach to the ship’s core, which is entirely “studs-out”:

Cayman class battlecruiser WIP 02

Dorian then attached greebles and the ship’s skin to this core:

Cayman class battlecruiser 06

Check out Dorian’s photostream on Flickr for more, including preliminary digital designs and work-in-progress shots.

Reverse Engineering Contest (REC IV)

Got builders block and need a break? Want a challenge? Or just want to test your building know how? Then I suggest you check out the fun little Reverse Engineering Contest. Unlike a lot of LEGO contest that ask you to create something, this one asks you to copy a build. They’re all small and deceptively simple, but once you actually sit down and start playing with it, it’s not always as easy as it seems.

This marks the first, of nine, weekly challenges:
REC Week 1

It starts off simple and gets progressively harder. So why not join in on the action? Stretch your building brain a bit with these building exercises – oh and don’t forget to read up on the rules on how you could win some prizes. Though this contest is one where the best reward is figuring out all the puzzles.

Oh who am I kidding, a Birds set, and most importantly: rare and useful pieces from contest runner Ryan H. (LDM) is a pretty great prize.

Playable Go board built from LEGO

As a small child back in Japan, I used Go pieces to create serpentine roads across tatami floors for my little Tomica cars, but my family left Japan before I ever played a proper game. I still get nostalgic whenever I see Go games. Joe Miller built this fully functional 9×9 Go set completely from LEGO, using some rather complicated techniques to place the black lines on the board.

9x9 Go Board

The lines themselves are the tops of 1×2 half-panels wedged into full (3-brick high) panels, combined with some serious sideways and upside-down (SNOT) construction.

9x9 Go Board Construction