We’ve occasionally reviewed non-LEGO products on The Brothers Brick, by BrickArms, BrickForge or Citizen Brick for instance; companies that provide accessories for LEGO builds. A new kid on the block is Circuit Cubes. Instead of (accessories for) minifigures they make LEGO-compatible building sets and components, such as electric motors, aimed at teaching STEM subjects to children. They got in touch with me after reading my article on building a remote-controlled vehicle with LEGO Power Functions. They sent me several of their products in return for providing them with feedback. The sets themselves don’t interest me all that much. However, I would like to know how the Circuit Cubes components can be used to enhance my LEGO models. And this may interest those of you who want to motorize your own models too. So, this is not a traditional set review. Instead, I’m going to tell you about Circuit Cubes and how I used them in my own custom LEGO model: an XV-15 tiltrotor aircraft.
A tiltrotor is an unusual flying machine, but the basic idea is simple: with its rotors facing up it can take off and land like a helicopter; with them rotated facing forward they serve as propellers, with the aircraft’s wings providing lift. So, unlike a normal fixed-wing aircraft, a tiltrotor can land in tight spots or on small ships, but in forward flight, it is faster and more efficient than a helicopter. In practice getting this concept to work was difficult, but the Bell XV-15 TiltRotor Research Aircraft first flew in the late seventies and demonstrated that a practical and controllable tiltrotor was viable.
The challenge when building my RC vehicle was hiding the LEGO motors, battery box, Power Functions IR receiver, and what seemed like 2 meters of wiring. I could only fit them inside by building a van with quite a lot of space inside. Because of this experience, two of the Circuit Cubes immediately caught my attention: the Bluetooth Cube and the Cubit. The former is a rechargeable battery pack and Bluetooth controller in one. It has three outputs, remotely controlled via an app (available for Apple and Android). It is rechargeable using a USB cable. The Cubit is an electric motor. What makes these parts interesting is their small size. The Bluetooth Cube has a 4 x 4 stud top and is only two bricks tall. The Cubit has a 2 x 4 stud top and is also two bricks tall. This is much smaller than anything similar made by LEGO, with the exception of old 9V Micromotors. Continue reading →
We get a look at 3 new City police sets that are slated to be available in August as revealed by retailer Brickshop.nl. All three sets have pieces that range from 160-189 pieces. All three sets feature chase scenes, including a helicopter, a police car, and a boat. Each set comes with two minifigures, each featuring a single police officer and three cleverly named criminals. The prices are only listed in Eurodollars at the moment, and we’ll update them as soon as we get more information.
Last week we had a first look at the June-December German consumer catalogue images of the upcoming Summer 2020 LEGO Technic sets. Today we get to have a look at the actual box art as revealed by the retailer Meinspielzeug. While we still do not have the regional pricing, part counts are now available for all three sets. These will be available August 1st 2020. We will update the US, UK and Canadian retail prices as we get more information.
Way back in 2008, I built a LEGO US Army Chinook helicopter. It was one of my first models to be featured on The Brothers Brick, long before I became a contributor. While I do take older models apart every now and then, I kept this one around. It has been sitting on one of my shelves almost unchanged for years. It still looks decent, but LEGO has moved on and so have I. A lot of new parts offer possibilities that I simply didn’t have more than a decade ago. In 2018 I completely rebuilt my Pave Low helicopter, also originally from 2008, using new parts and techniques. Now I have turned my attention to the Chinook.
There was a bit of snag, though. I built the original using old dark grey, a color that LEGO stopped making in 2004 because it looked unattractively dirty or muddy. Muddy is great for a military model, and old dark grey was a nice match for the olive drab color of most US Army helicopters. Unfortunately, since LEGO stopped making this color, none of the new parts, such as curved slopes, cheese slopes, and brackets, that are so useful when building aircraft and helicopter models exist in old dark grey. So, I had to pick a Chinook variant in a color in which these are available.
Fortunately, the US Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), nicknamed the “Night Stalkers,” has been flying special operations versions of the Chinook, called the MH-47, for decades. Most of these are black, which is perfect in terms of parts. They also have a lot of features that regular Chinooks usually lack, such as much larger extended-range fuel tanks alongside the cabin, an air-to-air refueling probe and radar and laser warning receivers and various other antennae dotted around on the outside. Adding all of those details made this a more challenging and interesting build. The end result looks like an angry beast.
Sometimes the inspiration for a LEGO build comes from the builder’s head, or from some media franchise, or from some particular piece that suggests a creation just by its shape. Sometimes it is all of those, as this build by Andreas Lenander demonstrates. The build was begun by thinking about the rim from the Harley Davidson Fat Boy, which led to thinking about the airships from Avatar, which led to a very cool, very capable-looking heavy gunship. A couple of these bad boys cresting the ridge, launching missiles from the under-wing batteries, spraying lead from the nose mounted gatling gun, would be sure to send the enemy running in fright. It is like a combination of the A-10 Warthog and the AH-64 Apache, and I love it.
Besides the rims, the build uses some of the grenade tips that I associate with newer Batman sets as its missiles, stuck into Technic pins and then stuck into the underside of bricks. It is a simple connection, though slightly “illegal“, but it is a great one to remember when trying to reverse stud direction. The Technic axle connector on the nose looks great, too, with the four notches giving the impression of multiple barrels on the machine gun. It is a bit light on greebling, despite what one might expect from a sci-fi build, but I think it is more appropriate to make it look smooth and professionally engineered, rather than cobbled together. After all, if you want to take down some Na’vi with your military-industrial complex, you have to look sharp and pack a big punch.
It’s done! Building my Transforming Bumblebee distracted me for a bit. However, I actually completed my Pave Low helicopter before the Beetle. In parts one and two of this series I explained how this sort of model has gotten a lot more complicated. Thanks to newer parts and techniques, the simple solutions I would have been happy with ten years ago just don’t hack it anymore. In this third and final part, I finally unveil the finished article.
Progress on my Pave Low helicopter has been slow. In Part 1 of this series, I explained how I am using new parts and techniques to build an up-to-date version of the model I built ten years ago. In this second part of a short series, I’ll explain one of the difficulties I ran into. I plan my models such that actually building them is usually a fairly straightforward process. I used my old model as a template and had an idea of how to do most of the other things in my head. As a result much of the model so far indeed came together quite easily.
Note the words “usually”, “most” and “much” in those last three sentences. The tail on my old model was quite narrow and I wanted the new one to be wider, using curved slopes and bricks. However, the fin is tilted aft at a roughly 45 degree angle, with a horizontal fin on top of it. I only had a loose idea of how to this. Actually building it took about eight frustrating hours of tinkering and trial-and-error. The diagonal part is attached to the tail boom using clips and plates with bars. The horizontal fin uses a similar attachment. A major problem was positioning all of this at the proper angle. I wanted as few visible gaps as possible and the tail should also be reasonably sturdy. This was asking rather a lot. The result is an improvement over the old one, but I’m still not completely happy.
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.
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.
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. Continue reading →
When you need to get somewhere fast in Metal Gear Solid V, you can always count on Pequod, the callsign for the Solid Snake’s chopper transport. Seen here in its sea-grey color-scheme, the fictional UTH-66 Blackfoot is a huge helicopter that draws heavily on real-world inspiration, and nowhere have we seen a better LEGO version than this one byMarius Herrmann. He’s has made sculpting the compound curves of the accurate minifigure-scale cockpit look easy.
Outfitted with multiple weapons and a long refueling probe, this LEGO chopper is one of the best pieces of realistic military machinery we’ve seen recently.
The war in Vietnam was the first in which helicopters weren’t mainly used for resupply missions or as flying ambulances, but were a central element in newly developed tactics. In ‘Search & Destroy’ missions, helicopters flew troops into countryside controlled by Communist insurgents in order to, well, seek them out and destroy them. The troops would then be helicoptered to another location to repeat the procedure. I will spare you the details, but the insurgents had their own ideas about this and things often didn’t work out all that well.
My latest model represents a US Marine Corps Sikorsky UH-34D Seahorse helicopter on just such a mission, picking up troops from a rice paddy somewhere in South Vietnam. The helicopter most people will associate with the war in Vietnam is the UH-1 Huey. Consequently, there already are really nice LEGO Hueys out there. I wanted something different, so I built the Seahorse instead. Because this will be part of a larger collaboration, the model represents something of a departure from my normal style. It is minifig scale, I built the helicopter with only a few visible studs and I’ve used some third-party accessories in the form of BrickArms weapons and helmets.
Rotary-winged aircraft are probably not the first thing to come to mind when contemplating the excitement of naval aviation (who remembers seeing a helicopter in Top Gun?). But these whirlybirds are the unsung heros of navies across the globe. The UH-2 Seasprite is a perfect example, painstakingly detailed here in LEGO form by TBB’s own Ralph Savelsberg.
The Seasprite entered service with the United States Navy in the early 1960s and played a vital role rescuing downed pilots during the Vietnam War. This particular model, Ralph explains, is an early model UH-2A which served aboard the USS Forrestal in 1965. After a complete rebuild, this helicopter was delivered 50 years later to the Royal New Zealand Navy.
Ralph is no stranger to building military aircraft, particularly naval models — check out how he does it and his recent LEGO Sikorsky HH–60G Pave Hawk. His newest creation is no less accurate or well-built than his others. Every angle and shape of the Seasprite has been captured. The coloration and markings also help bring this beauty to life. In fact, it’s so realistic it looks late for an important mission. After all, naval planes may get the glory, but its naval helicopters which get the work orders.
The Sikorsky HH–60G Pave Hawk is a twin-turboshaft engine helicopter in service with the United States Air Force, and TBB’s own Ralph Savelsberg has chosen to depict this versatile helicopter in ‘European One’ camouflage colours. The amazingly accurate shaping of Ralph’s model was the first reason this model caught my eye. I have flown in Blackhawks and seen them close up in my previous line of work, and I instantly recognised the Hawk family resemblance. There are a few details that I particular like, for example Ralph’s clever solutions to using a limited palate of dark bluish grey, dark green, and olive green means the hubs on the wheels are actually dark green minifigure heads!