Sorting LEGO from a Stoop Sale

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Y and I were surprised when our regular postman Henry rang the doorbell today, because we weren’t expecting to sign for anything today. When I got downstairs, he told me, “Jason, just the man I wanted to see! Mr. M a few blocks away is selling LEGO bricks by the pound. He’s closing at 3:00pm, so you better go if you’re interested.” After thanking him for the heads-up and taking our mail back upstairs, I walked through the sweltering heat to find Mr. M’s place. After finding the right stoop sale, I learned that Mr. M’s son was selling the LEGO to finance a new gaming computer. While talking with them about LEGO, I sorted through the large storage container of LEGO, which was full of bricks on offer by the pound. I was picking bricks while thinking about my Millennium Falcon build that I’m planning. As the sweat rolled down my forehead into my eyes, I thought it might be better to make an offer for the whole container. Happily, Mr. M’s son accepted my offer after pulling some of favorites out that he didn’t want to part with (pun intended). Now that I’m back home, Y and I have been sorting through the container. Mose helped, too.

LEGO Playset MOC of Temple Island on Ahch-To in Star Wars: The Last Jedi

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Inspired by LEGO’s Death Star playset, which is both enormous and scene-focused, I built a 64 x 32 stud MOC of Temple Island on Ahch-To from Star Wars: The Last Jedi. First glimpsed at the end of The Force Awakens and explored in the latest installment, Temple Island is the home of the first Jedi Temple, and it is where Luke Skywalker has been hiding away during the rise of the First Order under the leadership of Snoke and supported by Luke’s former pupil, Ben Solo or Kylo Ren.

As a LEGO playset, it has to balance accuracy, playability, and scale. For accuracy, I based the island’s shoreline on Ireland’s Skellig Michael, which is the location where these scenes were shot for the film. Also, the island’s topography were adhered to as closely as possible by having the north peak slightly lower than the higher south peak, and designing a middle valley between the two peaks, known as Christ’s Saddle on Skellig Michael. Each major scene involving Temple Island has been placed approximately where it would be on the island according to The Art of The Last Jedi and my observations of the film. And, each scene is scaled for play with LEGO minifigures, except where the Millennium Falcon lands along the shoreline, which would otherwise dwarf the island or require building a much larger model! For this element of the MOC, I used the Falcon included in last year’s LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar (75184).

Including all prep time, this build took me about 40 hours. In addition to studying books and magazines that showed glimpses of Temple Island and its topography, I watched YouTube videos such as these: one, two, and three. I leveraged Gimp’s grid rendering to plan the overall design based on a Google Maps’ satellite image of Michael Skellig. Also, I purchased additional LEGO to supplement what I already had on-hand: two 32 x 32 stud blue base plates to construct the MOC on, one green Creative set (10708), and two LEGO Ahch-To Island Training sets (75200).

Below, I am including highlights from the construction process and the completed model. At the end, there are links to these albums with more photos of the MOC: Google Photos and Imgur.

Designing the Shoreline Using Google Maps, Gimp, and Generated Grid

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Top and Side Views of Temple Island

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Rey’s First Encounter with Master Skywalker

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Luke Skywalker’s Hut and Village

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Rey’s Lightsaber Practice (at the Wailing Woman Rock)

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The Sacred Jedi Texts Within the Uneti Tree

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The Jedi Temple and Meditation Rock

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Rey’s Visit to the Mirror Cave

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Portability of the Model 

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View more photos of the model and its development on Google Photos or Imgur.

New LEGO Millennium Falcon 75105 Customization with The Last Jedi Update

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Over the years, I’ve built several customized LEGO Millennium Falcons (including here and here). I like taking the stock models and making them more screen accurate combined with imaginative embellishment. With this customization of a stock 75105 Millennium Falcon, I initially tried working this model that I had built about a year ago. However, I got really frustrated trying to work out how to implement some of the customizations that I had in mind. So, I disassembled the model and rebuilt it. Doing this helped me remember the logic of its design and construction, and it enabled me to rebuild some of its foundational features more easily than the piecemeal way I first attempted to do. The way that I did this rebuild also jumped around the instruction booklet, because the LEGO process of building is generally height-by-height across the whole model. I needed to focus on the modular aspects of the model, which is helped by building each module (circumferential ring, cockpit, docking ports, etc.). Due to rebuilding it from the ground up, this project took several days. Scroll through this blog post to view detailed photos and descriptions of this customization.

Cockpit and Mandible Details

Taking inspiration from Flail’s Millennium Falcon mods on Brickshelf, I rebuilt the cockpit with chairs and control sticks. This looks really nice, especially with the windows affixed. However, the chairs don’t work with Chewbacca’s minifigure. 75105 includes a Brick 1X4 W. 4 Knobs on either side of the fore mandibles. The side studs invite customization, so I added extra detail to these.

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Gun Turrets, Dorsal Vents, and Ventral Covering

Inspired by Flail’s mods on Brickshelf again, I built these lower profile top and bottom guns. I beefed up the dorsal venting system by putting Plate Round 4X4 With Ø16Mm Hole with a Plate 2X2 Round in its center. The Disk Ø24 with vent sticker connects to the round plate in the center. The bottom of the falcon is buttoned up with plates covering the Technic support system–some of which I modified to remove the arm underneath the cockpit support system and added a staggered rounding to the four corners.

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Main Hold Entrance, Nav Computer, and Dejarik Table

Using 1×1 roof tiles and an upside-down technique that I developed for a diorama of the Falcon’s main hold, I built this entrance into the main hold leading from the passage way from the entry ramp. The Dejarik Table and seating is borrowed from 75192. The Nav Computer area is very tight in the size of this model, so I couldn’t fit as large tubes adjacent to it as in the diorama linked above. Instead, I used two short tubes and moved the Nav Computer one stud to the left to accommodate the Falcon’s machinery. The main hold’s med bay is raised to accommodate a drawer, which I detail further at the end of this post to avoid The Last Jedi spoilers for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet.

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Port and Starboard Docking Ports

One disappointing aspect of the 75105 model is the docking ports. It sandwiches 1×2 plates between two Plate 6X6 Round With Tube Snap and covers that with two Plate 2X4X18°. The trouble with this design is that it doesn’t really show the cone-like taper of the docking ports. Earlier Millennium Falcon sets 4504 and 7965 did a better job with the docking ports. I decided to keep 75105’s sandwich to give the ports height, and then built up a capped tube circled by 1×2 plates each topped with a Roof Tile 1 X 2 X 2/3, Abs.

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Wall Tile Extensions Around Circumference

The Millennium Falcon dorsal and ventral domed covering extends over the circumferential edge. The 75105 model comes with 1×6 flat plates to demarcate this edge overhang, but it doesn’t really look right. I picked up a lot of Wall Element 1X2X1 on Bricklink to replace these 1×6 flat plates. In addition to showing this circumferential trench around the edge of the Falcon, it gives the model an overall flatter look, which emphasizes the Falcon’s on-screen appearance.

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Engine Compartment

Instead of the Falcon having a monolithic motor, it seems more likely that it would have a segmented, modular aerospike engine. With this in mind, I designed the engine compartment to have a ring of engine modules with supporting hardware, cabling, and pipes. I created a larger, ringed passage way with an entrance way leading into the engine compartment.

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Entrance Ramp and Other Compartments

I stole the hydraulics from 75103: First Order Transporter and added to the Falcon’s entrance ramp (which makes the ramp look like the Kenner Millennium Falcon vehicle from the original Star Wars action figure line). Also, I shifted the entrance ramp one stud out from the central gunner turret assembly. There are two side compartments–one for storage with weapons in a crate, and one for another bunk (with a copy of the Death Star plans).

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New Engine Exhaust and a Little Joke

Instead of using the ribbed, transparent blue tube that comes with 75105, I opted for white tile backgrounds covered by transparent blue flat tiles (1×2 and 1×4). As a hidden joke, I included a trailer hitch under the engines (isn’t the Millennium Falcon is a big rig in the stars?).

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The Last Jedi Update

At the end of The Last Jedi, Finn puts Rose in the Millennium Falcon’s med bay in the main hold. The camera focuses on the drawer under the bed when Finn looks for a blanket. The audience realizes that the drawer also contains the Jedi books on Ahch-To. To represent this, I raised the med bay, added a drawer beneath, and included a book (from The Hobbit set #79003: An Unexpected Gathering).

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Desktop Shelving Epic Continues: Notched Shelf Added in the Middle

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What began as a simple shelf to raise some of my LEGO sets off the workspace of my desk and rose to incorporate a higher shelf to accommodate more sets that I brought back from my parents’ home is now a three tier Franken-shelf.

It quickly became evident that I needed more shelf space for a few more sets that I had assembled. Also, I noticed that the 16″ space between the lower and upper shelves of the second phase construction was more than necessary. It seemed that 8″ headspace was required for most of my LEGO sets. So, I set about adding a third shelf between the lower and top shelves.

I decided to notch this 1″ x 10″ x 4′ shelf and install it only with deck screws through the upper shelf supports. I measured 46 1/2″ between the two supports and the 1″ x 4″ supports are 3/4″ thick. This is where I made a mistake with my initial cut. My measurements were correct, but during the 5 seconds that it takes for me to talk from my closet (where the desk is) to the living room where I had left my handsaw, my mind misremembered the measurement as 46″ between the supports. This meant that I cut 1/4″ more than needed on each side of the shelf! Luckily, I had a scrap piece of 1″ x 4″ board that I cut 1/4″ fillers from and glued into the notch to fill the missing material.

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The shelf is centered on a line at 8″ between the top of the bottom shelf and the bottom of the top shelf, which is a distance of 16″.

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My deck screws extend through the supports and filler, and enter the shelf securely. They are spaced 1″ inside from either end and the third being in the middle (3/4″ from either end screw).

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The new shelf easily accommodates a number of sets from Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and Doctor Who.

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If I had planned out the shelves better than I had, I would have built the entire thing using only wood and deck screws (my previous blog posts explain how I used metal brackets and braces). This would have lowered the cost and it would have had a better craft appearance than horribly kludge-like. Nevertheless, it gets the job done–I can see my sets above and continue building on my clearer workspace below.

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More LEGO, Another Shelf

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In my previous blog post, I documented a shelf that I built for my low-cost Ikea desk.

Since then, I brought back two checked bags full of LEGO from my parents’ home in Georgia where I had been storing it. I have not put all of these sets together or sorted the loose bricks into bins, but became quite clear after assembling 2/3 of the sets and two additional sets from eBay that I would need at least one more shelf.

To add another shelf, I needed to shore up the existing shelf and build up from it.

Two constraints to the height between the two shelves were the enormity of the Tower of Orthanc (10237) and the height of the room’s ceiling. I settled on a height of 16″ between the two shelves to allow enough room for medium- and small-sized sets on the lower shelf and larger sets (including Saruman’s lair) on the upper shelf.

To add the new shelf, I needed to purchase one 1″x10″x4′ pine board (the shelf), two 1″x4″x4′ pine boards (one of these was cut in half to support the lower, existing shelf and the other was cut into two 16″ long lengths to support the upper, new shelf), two packs of 1 1/2″ braces, and two packs of 2″ brackets (the smaller brackets that I used for the original shelf were sold out at the local Lowes).

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To shore up the lower shelf, I added a 24″ support to the front of the shelf. Originally, there was only one 24″ support at the back of the shelf, which was plenty for the needs of accommodating the few LEGO models originally put there. With the additional weight higher up from the new, upper shelf, I wanted to ensure that the lower shelf on which the upper shelf is built can sustain the weight and any torsion. I affixed each of these new, forward supports with two deck screws (pre-drilled) from the top of the shelf into the stop of the support. At the bottom, they are held in place with braces on the outside against the edge of the desk top.

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The upper shelf has two 16″ supports that affix to the back of the lower shelf. The upper shelf is attached to the supports first with two deck screws (pre-drilled) from the top through the shelf and into the supports. On the outside, they are connected to the lower shelf by a brace on either side. The shelf is strengthened with a brace at the top, too.

On the inside, brackets are used where the support meets the lower shelf’s top and the upper shelf’s bottom. Instead of using the metal braces, I could have used wood braces–such as another 1″x4″x4′ board running underneath the shelf and cut 3/4″ on either end to accommodate the supports. A few deck screws from top and sides would have made the shelves even stronger. I wanted to avoid the shelves catching more light in my dark office than they could, so I opted to use the metal brackets, which should be strong enough for this installation.

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Now that the new shelf is installed, I realize that I need another shelf! Maybe I can fit one in between the lower and upper shelf. As you can see above, I can’t go any higher on the upper shelf or Saruman will go through the roof!

Updated and Expanded LEGO Iron Man’s Hall of Armor

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While continuing to sort my LEGO brick collection, I discovered four more Plate (A) 4M 45° pieces. With these special elements in-hand, I updated and expanded my LEGO Iron Man’s Hall of Armor, which I wrote about previously here.

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I used a similar repetition for each armor suit pod, but I added one stud roof tiles (Roof Tile 1X1X2/3, Abs) at the base of each vertical transparent blue wall on either side of an armor suit.

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Armors from left to right: Mark III (Iron Man film), Mark VI (Avengers), and Mark XVII “Heartbreaker” (Iron Man 3)

To complete the model, I needed Iron Man’s armor with the triangular arc reactor window from the first Avengers movie (Mark VI armor). I ordered the 30167 polybag on ebay from a seller in Brooklyn (interestingly, it takes longer for mail to arrive from within my city borough than it does from California or even Germany at standard postal rates!).

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Armors from left to right: Mark XVII “Heartbreaker” (Iron Man 3), Mark XLII (Iron Man 3), and Mark XLIII (Avengers: Age of Ultron).
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Armors from left to right: Mark XLIII (Avengers: Age of Ultron), Mark XLV (Avengers: Age of Ultron), and Mark XLVI (Captain America: Civil War).

I needed to redesign the base, so I opted to give it a symmetrical support underneath and and a stairway entrance in the southward position. It connects to the circular armor pod assembly with Technics connector pegs and bricks under the northward armor pod. While the center platform makes a tight and neat fit to the upper three pods, its plate studs do not line up with the side or bottom pods (there is a slight gap of about 1/16 to 1/8 of an inch).

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It is a sturdy model that can be lifted from any point. Due to its limited interior space and the size of my adult hands, it is difficult to remove and replace the Iron Man armor in each pod.

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My next idea for the set is to elevate it by about its current height and create a crank-driven lift in the central platform for Tony Stark’s grand entrance. This will take some more planning and time. I’m sure that Ant Man will be watching my progress.

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Everyday Carry (EDC) LEGO with Tiny Sets, Minifigures, and Muji’s Portable Case

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Usually when folks talk about Everyday Carry (EDC), they are referring to preparedness, emergency readiness, and SHTF. It can also mean the kit that one carries on his or her person everyday for whatever reason. I would like to expand EDC to include LEGO.

For me, and I suspect many others, LEGO is a source of imagination, thought, expression, and stress relief. Why not carry a selection of LEGO bricks, pieces, and minifigures with you for any eventuality–thinking through a problem, filling spare time, demonstrating an idea to others, or sharing fun with a friend.

Muji’s Portable Case (64 x 52 x 20 mm) is a very good size for an essentials-only LEGO kit that can fit in a shirt pocket, pouch, or bag (shown above). The Portable Case easily holds two LEGO minifigures, a minifigure with bricks, or bricks alone. I have included photos of sample kits that I built to use with the Portable Case as a LEGO EDC: an off-road vehicle with obstacles, an aeronautics set, an Iron Man set, and a The Last Starfighter set with a Gunstar and Kodan Deck Fighter.

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Aeronautics Set (with control tower, two rockets, and airplane)

Iron Man Set (with attacking robot and blasted wall)

The Last Starfighter Set (with Gunstar, Kodan Deck Fighter, and asteroids)

Of course, these are only a few of the infinite possibilities for building your own LEGO EDC. An Altoids tin would serve a similarly good purpose to hold a small selection of LEGO bricks, elements, and minifigures for building on the go. I imagine that children (and not just AFOLs) would dig something like this, too.

I picked the Muju Portable Case due to its size and sturdy construction, but Muji has other size cases that would work well if you need to carry additional LEGO in your daily kit.

EDC LEGO kits should be something that bring joy to the work of imagination and building. Carry what you need, and keep your kit fresh for the cognitive and imaginative work at hand. Also, we can spread the joy that comes from this mind-work with our hands to others with customized kits tailored to friends or coworkers’ needs.

If you build your own LEGO EDC, let me know on Twitter!