Tag Archives: Essay

Here at The Brothers Brick, we have some pretty strong opinions from time to time about news, trends, and events in the LEGO fan community. You can read our essays and editorials here.

The joy of leaving your LEGO model in someone else’s capable hands

I’ve seen some wonderful collaborations between talented LEGO builders and photo editors over the years, and though I certainly can’t claim to be either, I included a note in my description of the Aldrin Mars Cycler I posted yesterday saying that I wouldn’t mind if somebody felt like Photoshopping it onto a cool space photo. halfbeak left me a comment offering to help, and we were soon exchanging ideas in email.

I wouldn’t normally post one of my own LEGO models twice, but I’ve learned a few things along the way that I thought I’d share.

Earth-Mars Cycler "Aldrin" (1)

After nearly 10 years of posting my LEGO models online, I find myself pretty locked in to the “Dorling-Kindersley aesthetic” of LEGO photography and presentation — a three-quarters view of the LEGO model on a neutral (usually white) background. (I know Chris has strong opinions about this, too.) Even as I was envisioning something flashier than my unedited photo in my head, it was still basically the same thing, except with Mars in the background. Halfbeak combined views of Earth and Mars with the NASA logo and some text to create something that looks a lot like the publicity photos NASA releases for its missions. Way cool.

I also have a tendency to let the LEGO model take over the whole photo, but halfbeak scaled it down in several of his edits to really emphasize how tiny a human creation is on the cosmic stage.

Earth-Mars Cycler "Aldrin" (3)   Earth-Mars Cycler "Aldrin" (4)

In many of his edits, he changed the orientation of the spacecraft from my original photo, turning it on its side and even upside down — after all, there is no “up” or “down” in space.

One of my favorite edits is this vertically oriented photo, with Mars hanging above the minuscule ship. This one is now the wallpaper on my phone.

Earth-Mars Cycler "Aldrin" (5)

Ultimately, my Aldrin Mars Cycler isn’t necessarily the favorite among the things I’ve built, but these photos demonstrate how stellar presentation can take a fun but fairly middle-of-the-road model to a whole new level. These are now easily my favorite photos of something I’ve built. I’ve also learned to look beyond how I’ve photographed the model in thinking about how best to present it.

Huge thanks to halfbeak for truly awesome work! It’s amazing what variety he’s created from just one original photo.

See all twelve photos on Flickr.

Happy 7th birthday to The Brothers Brick! – the 2011/2012 LEGO year in review

Today is the seventh birthday of The Brothers Brick! Well, it was actually yesterday, but I was out having dinner with my wife — as I said last year, real life always comes before LEGO. ;-)

It’s been another year of growth and change in the LEGO fan community, and as I think back over the past twelve months, a couple themes emerge in my mind.

More ways to get your TBB fix

In the past year, we’ve enabled you, our readers, to access TBB posts far beyond just the website and its RSS feed. “Like” TBB on Facebook and follow @BrothersBrick on Twitter to get the latest TBB posts without leaving your other favorite websites.

As always, the Bricking Newsicon app created by Ace Kim from FBTB gives you a native iPhone experience for posts from TBB, FBTB, and other LEGO fan sites.

The Brothers Brick on FacebookI’m also working on making Brothers-Brick.com itself more mobile-friendly, but can’t quite get the plugin and mobile themes to cooperate to my liking. We’ll get it right before rolling it out.

Hey, TBB! Flog this on your blog!

The LEGO Group and the LEGO fan community have wholeheartedly embraced crowd-sourcing and crowd-funding.

Last October, TLG opened LEGO CUUSOO to Beta users outside Japan. In January, LEGO launched ReBrick, for sharing and highlighting LEGO models from around the web (a project I had the opportunity to work with LEGO on in its early stages and that I’ve wanted to see grow organically, without too much interference from us).

LEGO fans have also embraced KickStarter, Etsy, and other social-commercial hybrids to fund and sell LEGO-related projects outside “official” LEGO channels.

The last six months have seen a major increase in requests to highlight — and thereby throw the blog’s referral traffic behind — CUUSOO and Kickstarter projects, alongside Rebrick contests and Etsy stores.

I’m especially troubled by the patterns I see across CUUSOO projects. For example, we were spammed over several weeks by dozens of copy/paste messages from what I’m assuming are a bunch of children (based on a general lack of adherence to the norms of adult communication) supporting a project that would get them a hundred minifigs from a movie franchise for which LEGO already has a license, and for which LEGO has explained repeatedly that they are contractually barred from releasing minifig-only items. And yet the project had over 8,000 supporters at the time.

I wish nothing but success to many of the projects I see — many of them created by good friends or supported by other contributors here on the blog. But there’s an interesting contrast between the science-oriented models that generated the first two successful CUUSOO projects in Japan (the Shinkai submarine and Hayabusa satellite) and two of the first global/American CUUSOO projects to hit 10,000 supporters, which were inspired by popular video games.

Far too many projects propose sets or themes based on IP (intellectual property) that LEGO would never license in a million years — R-rated movies and M-rated video games, or licenses that LEGO’s competitors already have. All this noise certainly gives LEGO a whole lot of data about what the customer base really wants, but it all seems to go against the spirit of CUUSOO. In Japanese, cuusoo means “wish,” with nuances of “daydream” and “imagination.” I’m not seeing a lot of genuine creativity in most of the projects that TBB is asked to help promote.

The LEGO Group has spent quite a few blog posts recently improving and clarifying the approval process, age limits for participants, review timeline, and basic project guidelines for CUUSOO. All of this much-needed recent activity seems directed at fixing an underlying misperception about what LEGO CUUSOO can and should be.

While it’s not clear to me why so many people obviously don’t get LEGO CUUSOO, it’s nevertheless heartening to see rays of brilliance and true creativity like the LEGO Strandbeest and Modular Western Town (which did hit 10,000 supporters) among the dross and dreck.

LEGO is clearly working hard to fix the problem they’ve created by launching a site like this without the kind of unambiguous guidelines that have so obviously been needed. In the meantime, the rest of us can filter through CUUSOO ourselves and choose to support the truly worthy projects.

All about you, by the numbers

Each year, we highlight some interesting stats that say more about all of you out there, our readership community, than about The Brothers Brick itself. You’re a large, ever-growing community of LEGO fans from all over the world, with interests as varied as the posts here on the front page today.

  • 2,306 fans on our Facebook page
  • 659 followers on Twitter
  • 12,809 subscribers to the RSS feed
  • 6,309,877 visits
  • 10,834,539 page views
  • 1,978,936 unique visitors
  • 867 new posts

While Central Africa and North Korea continue to resist the LEGO temptations that we offer here every day, people in Central Asia have finally joined our readership, with visits from Kazakhstan, Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Tajikistan.

Annual TBB world-domination map

Once again, the top 30 countries from which people visit The Brothers Brick didn’t change at all, with very little movement among the countries.

  1. United States
  2. United Kingdom
  3. Canada
  4. Germany
  5. France
  6. Australia
  7. Netherlands
  8. Italy
  9. Poland
  10. Spain
  1. Sweden
  2. Belgium
  3. Denmark
  4. Japan
  5. Hungary
  6. New Zealand
  7. Hong Kong
  8. Switzerland
  9. Russia
  10. Brazil
  1. Singapore
  2. Norway
  3. Taiwan
  4. Finland
  5. Mexico
  6. Portugal
  7. Austria
  8. Czech Republic
  9. Ireland
  10. Croatia

In a shift from last year, search engine keywords are less about the major news that happened between July 2011 and July 2012 than about higher-level LEGO themes. Not surprisingly, inbound traffic is balanced among social media, fellow LEGO fan sites, and the “big blogs.”

Top Keywords* Top Categories Referring Sites
  1. LEGO news
  2. LEGO blog
  3. LEGO Lord of the Rings
  4. LEGO Castle
  5. Bionicle
  6. LEGO
  7. LEGO Pirates
  8. LEGO mecha
  9. custom LEGO
  1. Star Wars
  2. Military
  3. Space
  4. Mecha
  5. Building Techniques
  6. Castle
  7. Steampunk
  8. Superheroes
  9. ApocaLEGO
  10. Architecture
  1. Facebook
  2. Flickr
  3. Eurobricks
  4. reddit
  5. StumbleUpon
  6. Gizmodo
  7. Twitter
  8. Brickset
  9. Kotaku
  10. Bricklink

* Excluding variations on “The Brothers Brick”.

LEGO’s announcement that they’d be releasing sets based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit (the latter timed for release alongside the first part of Peter Jackson’s movie version) dominated the most popular posts, along with related LEGO LOTR posts featuring fan-built models. As always, pop culture creations tend to go viral and generate a lot of interest from beyond the AFOL community.

  1. LEGO Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit announcement
  2. LEGO Volkswagen T1 Camper announcement
  3. Lifesize LEGO Halo sniper rifle
  4. LEGO Gears of War Lancer rifle with firing action and chainsaw
  5. Dragonball Z Kame House and minifigs
  6. NinjaGo theme song “Weekend Whip” MP3 download
  7. Nannan’s purist LEGO guns
  8. LEGO Lord of the Rings Tower of Orthanc by the OneLug
  9. LEGO Shaun of the Dead a no-go on CUUSOO*
  10. 9 of the best LEGO Lord of the Rings models built by fans

* TBB post tweeted to 2 million people by Shaun of the Dead star Simon Pegg.

Finally, the usual ride in the wayback machine:

How-to: Confessions of a minifig customiser – Part I: Getting started

As we say in our AFOL jargon glossary, purism is “a form of religious fundamentalism.” LEGO fandom includes a broad range of preferences for what’s “legal” and what’s not. In the spirit of broadening our horizons, we’re very pleased to bring you the first in a series of posts about LEGO minifig customization by master customizer Jasbrick.

Light Tent TestContrary to popular belief customisation of minifigs is not a dark art and even established purists have tried their hand at slapping some paint around (albeit on the Friends Mini-dolls). Some will never stoop to the mutilation of their favourite brand of ABS plastic, however I do believe that if done properly it can at least be appreciated by all.

The Brothers Brick have given me the opportunity to introduce you to some of the tools and techniques of my trade to help those amongst you that have the desire to walk on the dark side for a while. In later posts I will go into specific techniques that I developed in my time as a customiser. Hopefully you can benefit from avoiding the pitfalls I fell into and get a few projects like these underway:

New Gears of War 3

These minifigs involve more advanced painting techniques and some third party accessories.

Monster Manual Player Power

This group utilises painting, combinations, third-party accessories and printed decals.

Establishing a strong concept design

One tool a customiser must have is a highly developed imagination (something pretty common in the Lego community); everything else is optional.

Off to Afghanistan!Those moments when putting a particular combination of parts together and a perfect fig pops out are wonderful, but about as rare as chicken dentures. The key to a good custom project is pre-planning and a well defined concept. This does not have to be something completely new, as for example computer game concept art offers a rich seam of material to be interpreted, or real life inspiration can be just as good. The minifig on the right was created for a Green Beret Major currently serving in Afghanistan who sent me a photograph of himself to copy.

But if you want to start from scratch then a sketchpad is your best friend. You don’t even need to be good at drawing to develop a decent concept due to the simplicity of the design of our little friend the minifig. As this series develops I hope to be able to share with you some of the concept designs that I have developed and how they become a reality. Alternatively you can sketch your concept over a template like this:

Collectable Minifig Design Interview

Once the concept is set (not in stone, but pretty solid) the next step for me is to determine how much of this can be achieved with standard parts or by utilising third party accessories. I will be delving deeper into how to get the best from suppliers such as BrickArms, BrickForge, Brick Warriors and Arealight later, but I highly recommend checking out these companies as they offer a great range of products that can serve as inspiration in themselves.

Parts Library

As an AFOL who has amassed quite a large collection of minifig parts and accessories I have a library that I can dip into that can make most custom projects a matter of tweaking to get the final effect rather than building everything from scratch.

The following image is a recent group of minifigs that I put together that are without any noticeable customisation. I managed to achieve a lot with just the combination of parts and a few third party accessories thrown in to tie the concept together:

Odysseus Crew need ship

I recommend that you take a close look at the Minifig and Minifig parts areas in the catalog on Bricklink and see which figs / parts speak to you of further opportunities. Developing an inventory of useful parts is essential to allowing you to get projects moving swiftly before your enthusiasm for the concept dies.

BrickCon 2011: A word from the Prize Goddess

Aaah, BrickCon. That magical time each fall when hundreds of LEGO fans descend upon the Exhibition Center in Seattle for a relaxing weekend of fun, friendship, and sleep.

Wait. I’m kidding. Sleep never enters the equation.

BrickCon has morphed quite a bit for me from my first event to now. I began attending BrickCon in 2005 (it was NorthWest BrickCon at that point). The ENTIRE event fit into the Rainier Room, which now is just the general assembly room. This year marked my seventh BrickCon and ninth overall event.

Time flies when you’re having fun, right?

What’s also changed quite a bit for me is how I experience BrickCon. In the beginning, I was simply an attendee. I registered, I went, I showed off my MOCs, and I went on my merry way. I’d help out coordinating the Castle display when I could. But in 2009, that changed. At one of the SEALUG meetings, it was mentioned that they needed someone to coordinate prizes. “I can do that,” I thought. So I stepped up.

So there’s the story of how I became Prize Coordinator for BrickCon. I can blame (thank?) Sean Forbes for the “Prize Goddess” moniker, and that’s the one that stuck.

Determining which prize goes what, where, and to who is an entirely scientific process, but not really. It’s taking a look once again at what I have to work with and spreading it across the four major ceremonies that have door prizes (Opening, Keynote, Awards, Closing). Making sure those are dividing properly and separate from what goes to the public is important, too. Part of my job ensures that any incoming prizes are dividing amongst the various pools, too, so that one event isn’t too overloaded. I try and keep Closing as short as possible, too, since by that time people typically are packing to head home.

This year we added a sort of “Santa Claus” prize pool for public and private hours. During the public hours, volunteers would wander around the crowds and hand small sets (provided by the con) and kid’s t-shirts (provided by the LEGO Store in Bellevue) to the kids. Watching their faces was amazing; the look of disbelief was typically first, followed by the giant smile. There was some suspicion that the gifts were completely free, but it was pretty easy to work around. Anyone who passed out those prizes had the same smile.

It’s incredibly busy working with the prizes. In terms of BrickCon, if it didn’t involve prizes, I typically had no information or clue about it. My focus was prizes; I needed to be available to receive incoming donations and prep for the next assembly. I had enough time in between assemblies to enjoy spending time with my friends and enjoying BrickCon for what it is.

Thanks to Joe Meno, Andrew Becraft, and Bill Ward for their photos!

Then and Now: comparing two hovertanks

I have only built two hovertanks: one 6 years ago and one today. This post will summarize some of the changes in the way I build and hopefully offer a few useful tips for builders in the process of developing their style (with a focus on sci-fi creations).

The Ladybird Hovertank (above) was one of my first MOCs when I joined the online community in late 2004. It was part of a series of bley sci-fi creations that introduced my works to the internet. Below it is my latest creation called The Chaos Machine; it is a good example of my current and changed building style.

The Chaos Machine

I chose to compare these two MOCs because of their shared subject matter, size, and build time of half a day. That aside, here are the differences:

  • Photography: to me this is the first impression that a MOC gives. In real life you can have a face that looks like it was sculpted, but if you dress like a bum, people will think you’re one. While the photography of the Ladybird was not a deal breaker, it could have benefitted from elimination of the shadows through diffused (rather than direct) lighting and perhaps a white background, which you can achieve through many ways of photoediting. For detailed directions, you can refer to instructions by nnenn and Fredoichi.
  • Color scheme and accents: when I stepped into the online scene during the introduction of bley, I decided to become the master of this new color that everyone seemed to loathe. I got as far as the Project Bley Mecha and Tripod Droid before I realized I needed color (which happened to be black). A few years later, my collection was almost exclusively bley and black, which was about as dry as pizza crusts and sandwich bread. From then on, I have been introducing color into my builds. I use neutral colors for the backbone bricks and add about two colors on top of that. A small bit of additional colors for accenting such as the pink eye and dark orange grill goes a long way to give character to a MOC.
  • Asymmetry: The Chaos Machine is my first truly asymmetrical sci-fi craft. It was originally planned to be a symmetrical hovertank, but the already repetitive and symmetrical hoverpads should not support another symmetrical body. Asymmetry can be used in subtle ways or in a full-blown manner. It doesn’t have to be in every ship or vehicle, but it should be used to draw the right amount of interest.
  • Color blocking: having interesting color combos without organization is the same as a rainbow warrior. I learned this through a gradual process of building with defined sections of the same color and using different colors to signify different components. This may not be intuitive, but it’s never too early to be aware.
  • NPU: the term “Nice Parts Usage” may be cliché, but the idea itself is always new. Although the term was originally coined to describe a part used cleverly in a different circumstance, many builders nowadays see it as the phrase suggests: a good use of a part. In the Ladybird, the only NPU was the dark red trash can on the main cannon, but The Chaos Machine features Ninjago spinners, purple spikes, and a few other pieces that don’t appear often in MOCs. Their purpose is to again draw interest to the MOC and reward those who examine it. However, keep in mind that it’s never a good idea to strive for NPU if the part will stick out like a sore thumb. Keep it integrated with the rest of the creation.
  • Patience: don’t rush the build and don’t despair for a lack of feedback. Place a Brinklink order for a part that could drastically improve the build, spend more time editing the photo (or just edit the photo), and view the MOC with a fresh pair of eyes in a day or two if you’re not entirely satisfied with the initial build. When you post your first MOC, don’t expect to be showered with praise unless your name is Mike Doyle. I received 3 comments to date when I posted the Ladybird on MOCpages (and one of them was spam). Build for the fun and challenge :)

That said, keep in mind that interpreting a MOC is always a subjective experience. Some may find the Ladybird more appealing while others may find both hovertanks equally enjoyable or repulsive (hopefully not simultaneously). Find what works for you and be open-minded to change.

Reflections on Creations for Charity 2010

Creations for Charity took place in the past two months where LEGO fans sold their creations to raise money to donate LEGO to children in need. Here are a few words on the organization and the results of this year’s fundraiser.


The beginning

Creations for Charity began with the idea of giving LEGO to underprivileged children for the holidays. It started with a proposal by Don Wilson to keep a record of LEGO donations made by a group of fans. This inspired me to create a fundraiser where fans use their talent with LEGO to raise money. Although it seemed ridiculous to ask people to give up their personal creations, we got an overwhelming response and raised over $2,000 in 2009. We used the money to purchase and donate almost $3,000 worth of LEGO.

One year later

Drawing on previous experiences, I aimed to raise $3,000 this year. To my amazement, we reached this goal in record time with still a month left before the deadline. We progressed at an average of $1,500 a week from late October to early December, ending on $9,035. We not only surpassed last year’s record, we more than quadrupled it. After buying more than $14,500 worth of LEGO, we still had money left for a $723 check to top off our donation to Toys for Tots.

Good will is contagious

We had the good fortune of having over 60 contributors donate over 150 creations ranging from large-scale creations to custom minifigures. Our highest contributor racked up over $900 through sales of his custom minifigs, and several others donated creations that brought in over $500. People helped in other ways such as by spreading the word about our event. We benefited from mentions by some prominent non-LEGO sites such as Slashgear, Gizmodo, and even Toys for Tots. Others like Sean Kenney invested his time in assembling 60 keychain gifts; Ansgar from Chromebricks donated the gold-plated bricks that adorned them; and Linus Bohman designed an effective splash page for the fundraiser. The Brothers Brick chipped in a lot of money cover the cost of the raffle prizes and the expensive keychains. We even had three builders who donated their contest prizes to the cause. We’re really grateful to have the help of many in making this event successful. You can see all our participants and records here.

Why we do it

Creations for Charity costs both time and money for its participants, so why are we doing it? Consider this: the builders feel good about raising money through their talents, the buyers can own an original creation while helping charity, and the kids receive tons of LEGO. While I can’t speak for everyone, for many of us it’s all too good to pass up.

The big donation

On the day of our donation drop-off, I drove a truckload of LEGO across the metroplex to the Dallas / Fort Worth Toys for Tots distribution warehouse. The marines and volunteers were at work processing toys like Santa’s elves. They wasted no time hauling in the 567 LEGO sets. I stood and watched as half a dozen marines lifted boxes and bags out of the truck. Before I knew it I was already on the highway going home, and that’s when it dawned on me that thousands of dollars worth of LEGO and the fruits of many people’s work had passed out of my hands in just minutes. (Indeed it’s hard for a LEGO fan to give up so much of what he loves). But at the same time, I thought about the countless hours of joy that we will have given the children, and that made everything worth it.

The future

We envision Creations for Charity to continue and grow as an annual event. Starting next year there will be a team of coordinators running the fundraiser. With more help, we plan to expand the distribution of our LEGO donations to cover more cities in the US and possibly other parts of the world. Our contributors reside in a dozen countries, and we want our future donations to reflect that diversity. Next year we look forward to welcoming more participants and to make Creations for Charity a tradition for many LEGO fans.

Last words

Thank you for making Creations for Charity an inspiring success. It reflects the generosity of LEGO fans and spreads our hobby among both children and adults. By now many people will have our creations on display in their homes, and many more children will have a cool LEGO set this Christmas. Happy holidays and we hope you’ll join us for Creations for Charity in 2011!

A story of synergistic collaboration (and how a tree was built)

Gum tree Attempt 2 - With Gamborts changes

Aaron Amatnieks (akama1_lego) and I were spending a productive day in a LEGO chatroom yesterday when he showed me a tree he’d been working on. I absolutely loved the concept and went off to build one for myself.

I’ve been thinking about gum trees a bit lately so had some ideas to try out showing Azz the pictures and getting his feedback at each stage. We then both went off building and not saying much until resurfacing with much improved gum trees. And gave ourselves a pat on the back.

Today I posted some more refinements and a breakdown and Azz just featured his latest in an amusing diorama (warning! may offend the easily offended). This sharing is one thing I love about the LEGO community. Bouncing ideas from one another to make it all better.

Thus ends my story.

Ghost Gum sketch V

The roles of research, critique, and community in improving LEGO models

WW2 Medic (1)Like many LEGO builders, I spent the first decades of my life building in isolation, lucky to get suggestions or critique from a sibling or rare friend who also played with LEGO. But in the last 10 years — particularly the last 5 — the LEGO fan community has grown to include a critical mass of people who build in just about every possible genre.

People with shared interests who spend time together online will inevitably run out of solely positive things to say, and as a result, a culture of constructive criticism has emerged among LEGO fans. Balanced against this impetus to critique everything are the planning and research that individual builders put into what they create. In contrast to the solo building those of us in our 30s did 20 years ago, builders today have a wealth of sources right at our fingertips.

What effects do research, critique, and discussion among community members ultimately have on the quality of the LEGO creations we build and share? Since I’ve been on a bit of a building spree lately (amazing what you can do when your LEGO collection is sorted), I thought I’d step back and share my experience.

Read on, and share your own thoughts in the comments…

Before I set out to create a Dodge WC54 ambulance from World War II, I spent a couple hours finding the best pictures and determining where and when they were actually used during the war. Given that many World War II photos were taken by service personnel and are therefore in the public domain, Wikimedia Commons is a great place to find historical photos.

Historical re-enactors and scale modelers also run dozens of sites that pull together vast amounts of careful research. For both my ambulance and later battalion aid station diorama, I turned frequently to the WW2 US Medical Research Centre.

Originally planning to broaden my D-Day beachhead diorama, I confirmed that WC54s were used at Normandy, and even found a photo of WC54s sitting on Omaha Beach. Good enough to start building.

Targeting 1/35 scale, I translating the real vehicle’s length, height, and width into studs and bricks. Remembering what I’d learned from my wildland fire engine, I built from the top down. I struggled with the front, since I had to combine half-stud offset for the three/five-wide hood with SNOT for the grill and bumper, plus tiles (with no studs to sturdy connections on top) for the fenders.

I figured it out, though, and pleased with my results posted pictures to Flickr:

Dodge WC54 Ambulance (1)

Checking back a while later, I saw a stream of notes from our very own Tim, whose windscreen I’d reverse-engineered for the original ambulance. I gritted my teeth and clicked through. (Honestly, I hate taking criticism, especially when it’s wrong. I’d vented a week earlier that too many of the suggestions to “improve” my M4 Sherman tank took it in more interesting but less historically accurate directions. That’s just plain annoying.)

Tim had seen the mini-rant I’d posted in a Flickr group we both frequent, and his critique was spot on. He made specific suggestions based on the source material I’d used myself, providing solutions where I hadn’t thought the model could be improved. The result is the version I included in my diorama, posted separately below:

Dodge WC54 Ambulance - V2 (1)

The story arc (if you will) started with research, moved through community discussion and critique of the creation itself, and ended with a substantially improved LEGO model. This same story plays out every day in the LEGO fan community today — something that would have been nearly impossible 20 years ago and highly unlikely 10 years ago.

Side note: Looking to future World War II vehicles I might build, I’ll be relying on a copy of World War II AFV Plans: American Armored Fighting Vehicles by George Bradford. I was pleased to discover that I ended up almost 100% to scale (1/35) for my M3 Half-track, even without the book.

American Armored Fighting Vehicles by George Bradford (1) American Armored Fighting Vehicles by George Bradford (2)

Nearly all of the book’s schematics are printed at 1/35 scale, which avoids eyestrain from the WIP-held-against-computer-screen method I’d been using before the book arrived in the mail.

So, what’s your experience with the balance between research or sources of inspiration and constructive criticism?

Sorting LEGO – how do you actually get it done?

Dunechaser's sigfigHaving a consistent system for sorting and storing your LEGO collection makes your pieces much more accessible while building. Most LEGO builders eventually figure out a system that works for them. In fact, it’s something we discuss at length among ourselves, both at conventions and on the web. Most people seem to sort by element rather than by color, for example.

What I don’t hear a lot of talk about is actually how to go about sorting one’s LEGO — other than sustained frustration about its necessity. At what point do you know you need to sort? When do you sort? How long do you spend sorting at one sitting? Where do you do it — in a dedicated LEGO space, sitting on the couch, at the dining room table? Do you have anybody to help you?

As I mentioned earlier this week, I’m going through a major sorting phase, largely because my collection had outgrown the system I’d been using, and any creation not based entirely on a pre-sorted Bricklink order became painfully time-consuming.

Well, I started by taking apart the LEGO sets (and any models I don’t want to keep) that I’d built but never disassembled over the past three or four years, and dumped it all in bins. Next, my wife and visiting mother-in-law kindly volunteered to pre-sort what I’d taken apart into bricks (“Aren’t they all bricks?”), plates (“flat bits”), slopes (“slopey bits”), and “everything else.” (World Cup soccer and Seattle Mariners baseball have been good background entertainment for all of us.) When we had enough of each of these, I then “sub-sorted” into finer categories, like regular, inverted, and curved slopes.

The two major lessons I’ve learned so far from my ongoing sorting are that every extra pair of hands helps, and that the pre-sort/sub-sort approach gets pretty much everything but the “fiddly bits” where they belong fairly quickly. It’s also clear that you can never have enough clear storage bins…

So, dear readers, how have you overcome that mountain of unsorted LEGO?