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.

How to build a Pave Low helicopter with LEGO: Part 1 [Feature]

A few months ago, I wrote three articles on how I built the E-1 Tracer aircraft model. I haven’t built much in the intervening months, but recently I have started on a new project: an MH-53M Pave Low helicopter. This is a somewhat different cup of tea. It’s not a fixed-wing aircraft and I am not starting from scratch. Instead, I am starting with an old model that I built ten years ago.

MH-53M Pave Low WIP (december 4th)

This means that there is a lot less planning involved. The proportions of the old model were pretty much spot-on, but there are many parts and techniques that didn’t exist or weren’t possible ten years ago. As a result, the old model looked, well, old.

MH-53M Pave Low (20)

In this and subsequent articles, I’ll go into how I am building this new version and how newer parts and techniques change how I approach the design.
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Build your own mini LEGO Aston Martin DB5 with working features [Instructions]

No, not the 10262 James Bond Aston Martin DB5 LEGO set from earlier this year. As remarkable as the working features on the official LEGO set are, hachiroku24 has scaled the iconic vehicle down while — rather miraculously — retaining many of the car’s functions.

Lego 007's Aston Martin DB5 with working gadgets

Learn how to build your own LEGO Aston Martin DB5

Thinking outside the element

One of the joys of writing for the Brothers Brick is seeing how LEGO builders make clever use of the parts in their collection. Emil Lidé has been experimenting with parts in unconventional ways, including using dark green minifig plumes for grass. The plumes are affixed to the 1×1 round tile with bar and pin holder, which allows them to be tilted in multiple directions. This in turn gives the grass a random but natural-looking pattern. As someone who loves LEGO landscaping, it would be exciting to see this technique used on a larger scale!

Element Experimentation: Grass

How to build a Grumman E-1 Tracer early warning aircraft from LEGO: Part 3 [Feature]

This article is the third and final installment in a series. Read about the LEGO Grumman E-1 Tracer Part 1 and Part 2 here.

In the last four weeks, I have been building a LEGO scale model of a Grumman E-1 Tracer aircraft. Part 1 described how I planned the build, and part 2 dealt with how I built some of the difficult bits; in this, the third and final part, I explain how I built the last bits, and present the finished model.

E-1B Tracer of VAW-12 "Bats"

For weeks this build seemed to progress really slowly. I know that for some builders September means building huge spaceships. It took me most of this month to build just the radome, the nose, the wings and the engine nacelles. When I started building the fuselage, however, it felt like I had reached the home stretch. All of a sudden things went really quickly. Building the final parts wasn’t necessarily easy, but certainly easier. It was great to see the collection of separate sections come together into something that looked like an aircraft. The anticipation of seeing the end result motivated me. So, here it is.
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The perfect recipe for a delicious LEGO bakery

Markus Rollbühler whipped up some wholesome LEGO goodness in the form of this fabulous classic bakery. Markus put a lot of thought into the ingredients that went into his build, with an excellent use of parts throughout the model. Both parts of the LEGO treasure chest are used to form portions of wooden beams, book binding elements are used to form windowsills, and the sprue from the new minifig wand accessory is cleverly used to form the body of a candelabra. Keeping up with the bakery theme, Markus even managed to use pretzels for windows and the honey-laced beehive to form the top of the conical shaped roof. There are plenty of other awesome details to spot. What are some of your favorite techniques on display here?

Filia's Bakery

How to build a Grumman E-1 Tracer early warning aircraft from LEGO: Part 2 [Feature]

This article is Part 2 of an ongoing series. Read about the LEGO Grumman E-1 Tracer Part 1 here.

About two weeks ago, I started building a new aircraft model: a Grumman E-1 Tracer. Because some of you might like to know how one might build such a LEGO scale model, I am documenting my process in a short series. In the first part I described why I decided to build such an oddball aircraft in the first place and how I plan a build like this. I also explained that I usually start by building the difficult bits. A few of those are the subject of this article.

E-1 Tracer WIP (9th of September)

The Tracer’s wings are not quite perpendicular to the fuselage. This wouldn’t be much of an issue if the engine pods and the main undercarriage weren’t attached to them. I have built angled wings before, including some rather large ones. In practice, however, it is almost impossible to mount the wings using hinges and also have them carry much of the model’s weight. Furthermore, if I were to build the wings at some weird angle, I would then have to figure out how to align the engines attached to still be parallel with the fuselage. My solution is to attach both engines directly to each other and also to the fuselage using a bridge structure. I built this bridge perpendicular to the fuselage using plates. I then put the actual wings on top of it. By combining 2×3 and 2×4 wedge plates I filled in the gaps where the tops of the engines join the wing. Getting everything to fit nicely involved a lot of trial-and-error, but it works.

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How to build a Grumman E-1 Tracer early warning aircraft from LEGO: Part 1 [Feature]

Question: “How did you build this?” Answer: “By making a plan and sticking to it.” The question is one that many LEGO builders will have had. The answer, in my case, is completely true, but also wholly inadequate. So, in an attempt to give a more fulfilling answer, in the next few weeks I’ll occasionally write a piece detailing the progress on my latest project: a scale model of a Grumman E-1 Tracer aircaft.

E-1B VAW-121 CVW-6 CVA-42

Some builders start by experimenting with a few pieces until they find a combination they like. They then build the rest of the model from there. I’m not one of those people. I plan my builds. “Doesn’t that kill spontaneity?”, you may wonder. Well yes, it does, but if I wanted to build a scale model of a complex object such as an aircraft spontaneously, it simply wouldn’t happen. My brain doesn’t work like that. Furthermore, I enjoy looking at pictures of aircraft, reading about them and thinking about which to build and how to build it. To me this is half the fun. If If I am spontaneous, I’ll build car.

E-1B Tracer WIP (26th of August)

Read more about how Ralph plans and design his LEGO aircraft

How to build a LEGO Batmobile from Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman Movie [Instructions]

There have been dozens of Batmobile designs over the years — one for each generation and iteration of the Dark Knight. If you grew up in the late 80’s and caught the 1989 Batman movie directed by Tim Burton, you probably love and remember that version well. Jerry Builds Bricks shares with us a version of the 1989 Batmobile in an instructional video format. The best part is you can actually fit a Batman Minifigure in the vehicle quite snugly!

If you like this, check out this amazing build of a  “UCS”-scaled 1989 Batmobile too!

A mystical treasure awaits those who can find the shrine

You might imagine that the golden crystal in the centre of this scene is the treasure of the shrine, but I believe the true treasures are all the crazy building techniques that Grant Davis has used in his Mountaintop Shrine. From a distance it may look like nothing special and the foliage on the periphery is nothing new, but a closer look will have you looking for your jaw somewhere under your desk (or under a bus seat if you are reading this on a mobile device).

Mountaintop Shrine

The very composition and colour choices are great for setting up a bright, positive and somewhat cartoony atmosphere, but that is only the first thing to draw your attention. This attention is retained by amazing building techniques I have hinted at in the previous paragraph. Starting with the obvious, the cobblestone wall behind the shrine uses all sorts of round pieces from ends of bars through small ball joints to 2×2 tiles and more to achieve a highly realistic effect. But there are more subtle details too. For instance, you can see that the path leading towards the shrine is not just tiles connected flatly to the base, but is in fact irregular, as if damaged by centuries of disuse. Another subtly irregular thing is the left pillar (built out of frying pans stacked on one another!), which is standing at an angle. One more unique thing and the last I noticed myself is the tree, using the new leaf pieces set in such a way that they make a coherent treetop.

Click if you want to see a behind the scenes video

Building Ninjago City: The Brothers Brick open collaboration [Feature]

Summer is here, and that means there are only about three months left until BrickCon 2018. As we announced in May, The Brothers Brick will be hosting a public collaborative display of Ninjago City open to any full convention attendees. Check out that announcement for detailed instructions on the guidelines and how to participate. In the meantime, we here at TBB have been busy little builders, and have over a dozen city blocks underway, not to mention a massive volcano lair for Garmadon. Today we want to share some tips and tricks to help get you started, as well as some of the building techniques that we have used so far in the construction of the lower levels of Ninjago City. Let us know in the comments below if you would be interested in more detailed guides or additional techniques shown in our city blocks.

Ninjago City is a layered city, with the oldest buildings on the bottom stories, rising to modern, nearly sci-fi architecture at the top. As such, we’re approaching the building of our modules from the bottom up, starting with the oldest, lowest level. Nearly all of the buildings shown here will have additional structures placed on top to complete the upper levels–in many cases several more stories. Look for additional articles as we continue building the upper levels. Each of these modules conforms to our standard to ensure the whole layout will fit together well (except in the few special modules we’ve noted).

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The A-3B Skywarrior is a whale of a plane

In the last year or so, I have been steadily building a collection of classic US Navy aircraft. The latest addition is the A-3B Skywarrior, a twin-engined carrier-based jet bomber.

A-3B Skywarrior of VAH-6 Fleurs

Back in the late forties nuclear weapons were large and heavy. According to the US Navy, a jet built to deliver one over a meaningful distance would have to weigh about 45 tons and be the size of a small airliner. Given that they wanted to operate their nuclear bombers from aircraft carriers, where space is at a premium, this posed an obvious problem. To add insult to injury, the first of a new generation of super-large aircraft carriers intended to operate these bombers was cancelled within a week after its keel had been laid. So, when the brilliant designer Ed Heinemann, also known for the A-1 Skyraider, proposed that Douglas Aviation build a bomber of about 30 tons that could fly from existing aircraft carriers, he definitely caught the Navy’s interest.

A-3B Skywarrior of VAH-6 Fleurs

The resulting aircraft entered service in the mid fifties as the A-3 Skywarrior. It was still a big beast. It was the heaviest aircraft to routinely fly from aircraft carriers, which earned it the nickname “Whale”. The LEGO model is a pretty big beast too. At my usual scale of 1/36, it is about 78 studs long.

Read more about Ralph’s latest airplane, including the design process

Get on your bikes and ride

Here’s a fun vignette from Elspeth De Montes of a Technic figure bike mechanic working on his bicycles. Open drawers and containers full of tools and parts make the scene lively, but the bicycle model is the highlight here, showing off the excellent use of various bars, clips, and even a ray gun for the frame.

LEGO bike mechanic's workshop

Perhaps the most notable parts usage on Elspeth’s bicycle is the clear pulleys as wheels, which she says was inspired by a fellow builder. Elspeth’s bicycle model is fantastic, and you can build your own with this step-by-step breakdown.

LEGO bicycle breakdown