LEGO Skateboarding Vert Ramp and Street Skating MOC, and Exploring Connections Between Skateboarding and Making

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My Skateboarding Vert Ramp and Street Skating Model

I began this new LEGO MOC (my own creation) project while reading Michael Brooke’s The Concrete Wave: The History of Skateboarding (1999) and after assembling my Mike McGill re-issued skateboard.

Some ideas from skateboarding culture inspired this project. First, there’s the tension between Thrasher’s “Skate and Destroy” and Transworld Skateboarding’s “Skate and Create.” The former appearing in the December 1982 issue and the latter appearing in response in its first issue in May/June 1983. When I first skated, I didn’t know about this difference of ethos, but I can say that I was drawn to reading Transworld Skateboarding more so than ThrasherTransworld’s ethos of making something from the act of skateboarding fits well with my own attitude of doing good in the world through teaching and making (as opposed to wrapping the act of destruction into an aggressive skating attitude–understanding, of course, there is a certain amount of hyperbole in this motto and more back story worth investigating–see the interview by Adam Creagan with Craig Stecyk in Thrasher March 2010, pp. 80-81, and Konstatin Butz’s Grinding California, pp. 73).

Second, many skaters talk about riding as an act of self-expression, creativity, and doing. While the act of skating is ephemeral, skaters build analogies between the sport and other creative endeavors such as writing, playing, painting, expression, and language. For example: Rodney Mullen writes, “[Skateboarding] has been the arena where I could stake my claim, the play where I would contribute my verse, and even the pen with which I write” (qtd. in Brookle 11).  Chris Long writes, “‘How glad I am that I skateboard’ . . . finding my own lines and creating my own ways of playing” (qtd. in Brooke 173). Darrel Delgado writes, “Skateboarding in a pool is like being a painter, and every new pool is a blank canvas and you are the artist. Every artist has a different approach and every pool is different, which keeps the intrigue alive. You can go wherever your mind and the transitions will let you go” (qtd. in Brooke 135). Mike Valleley writes about finding skateboarding, “I got an identity and something productive. It was creative, physical activity and I used my entire being to do it” (qtd. in Brooke 137). Tony Alva writes, “Just do something that’s in tune with an individual type of expression. I think that’s what’s so important about skateboarding” (qtd. in Brooke 175). Dave Hackett writes, “Pure and simple, [skateboarding is] a healthy, radical art form. . . . Skateboarding utilizes the every-expanding environment of steel, concrete, plaster, or wood as its canvas. . . . The skater becomes one with his board, while the board in turn translates the language of the terrain” (qtd. in Brooke 176). On these points, I think skateboarding and LEGO building overlap–in both cases, skateboarding and making, the fulfilling goal is creative and imaginative expression through a given medium–the former being the assemblage of body, skateboard, and terrain, and the latter being the assemblage of builder and brick.

I wanted to combine different aspects of skateboarding into a single model. I grew up with street skating, because there weren’t any local skate parks (though, I have discovered in my research that there was a skate park in Brunswick in the late-1970s called Nova Skate Park–more on that in a future post). But, I always wanted to skate vert and pipes, so I thought about combining what I knew with what I wanted to learn.

I got the idea for the ramp’s vert and transition design from LEGO 60200 Capital City set, which has one component that is a combined skateboard ramp/wall climb/basketball court. It uses dark grey inverted arches for the transition, which I agreed was the best choice of brick–albeit in tan color to emulate the color of wood–for the ramp that I had in mind.

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Brainstorming and calculating dimensions in studs. 

The next consideration was how large a model to make. I knew that I would have to purchase the inverted arch bricks for the ramp, so I looked for a seller with a good price and selection of elements that would help me realize the idea crystalizing in my mind. Alphabrix, a seller with great feedback had 20 tan, inverted arch bricks, which would let me build a 10-stud wide ramp. I figured that its length should be at least double its width, if not more. Ultimately, I settled on a 10-stud wide ramp with a 28 stud length including both tables. This allowed two studs on either side of the ramp for stairs if I went with an overall length of 32 studs for the model. Since I opted for a 32 stud length, I figured that a 16 stud width for the overall model would be enough to add a street skating scene in the model’s foreground.

After receiving the Bricklink parts and sorting out some necessary elements from my collection, I built the vert ramp first. Even though this would occupy the rear part of the model, it would dominate the model and be its focus. I wanted to get it right. I thought about how I would build a real one. I wanted a steel foundation that would be elevated off the ground. The ramp and tables would be made out of wood. As a new ramp, I wanted to give it a little bit of style with alternating color–light and dark tan tiles emulating different sheets of plywood. On the right side, I wanted a sloping launch that divided two drops on the front and back–this was a ramp design that I saw many years ago that gave the skaters a divided coping for new trick opportunities.

With the vert ramp complete, I turned my attention to the base and its foregrounded street skating area comprising 6 studs by 32 studs. The bottom of the base are dark grey plates supporting a circumference of Technic bricks and filled in with 2 x 4 bricks. I covered the surface mostly with tan 4 x 6 plates. I built up a curb with 1 x 4 and 1 x 6 bright yellow plates covered with the same colored tiles. Within that area, I filled in with a single layer of light grey tiles–some with single studs and the rest without to allow placement of obstacles like barrels and trash cans, which can be skated around or ollied over. Finally, I put concrete cones down to support the ramp behind the street skate area.

Finally, I combined the vert ramp with the base and its street skate area. I used yellow, dark blue, and orange tiles to skirt the Technic bricks around the base. The vert ramp’s coping permits posing of skaters doing hand plants. In the foreground, I added a stereo (probably playing an eclectic mix of They Might Be Giants, The Beastie Boys, and Technotronic) and snacks including pizza and cookies (shredding fuel).

Usually, it takes me several days to weeks to complete a build like this, which I have chronicled on other blog posts. However, I built this model in a single evening. I think my mind had been working on the project while I waited for the needed bricks to arrive in the mail. Even though I wasn’t haptically manipulating the bricks in my hands, I was daydreaming and imagining how to put the model together at odd times between placing the brick order and receiving them in the mail.

While imagining myself shredding on my completed LEGO skateboarding model and thinking about picking up my McGill deck to hit the streets with, I’m reminded of the Kevin J. Thatcher’s first editorial in the January 1981 issue of Thrasher: “The average individual was never properly exposed to the unlimited possibilities of a platform with four wheels under it–a simple basic mechanical device which serves as an energy-efficient mode of transportation, a basis for a valid sporting activity, and as a vehicle for aggressive expression. . . . Thrashing is finding something and taking it to the ultimate limit–not dwelling on it, but using it to the fullest and moving on. Skateboarding has not yet reached its maximum potential, and who can say what the limits are? To find out–Grab that board!” (6). Grab that board, grab that LEGO brick, grab that camera, grab whatever it is that you can express yourself with, because that is the thing with which you can leave your mark on the world.

Works Cited

Brooke, Michael. The Concrete Wave: The History of Skateboarding. Warrick Publishing, 1999.

Butz, Konstatin. Grinding California: Culture and Corporeality in American Skate Punk. Transcript Verlag, 2012.

Creagan, Adam. “Skate and Destroy: The Stecyk Scrawl Lives On.” Thrasher, March 2010, pp. 80-81.

Lowboy. “Skate and Destroy, or Multiple Choices (Something to Offend Everyone).” Thrasher, December 1982, pp. 24-29.

Thatcher, Kevin J. “Talking Ed.” Thrasher, January 1981, pp. 6.

Tracker Peggy (Peggy Cozens). “Skate and Create.” Transworld Skateboarding, May/June 1983, pp. 13-15.

LEGO 76038 Attack on Avengers Tower Modified with Two Extra Floors: Arc Reactor, Hall of Armor, and More!

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Recently, I decided to rebuild LEGO set 76038 Attack on Avengers Tower from the Avengers 2: Age of Ultra line. The trouble was that the elements for the set were strewn throughout my boxes of bricks and sorted drawers. I used some of the bricks in an Iron Man Hall of Armor MOC, which had to be disassembled for this project. A 511 piece set like this might normally take me a couple of hours to complete. As I had to sort and find the bricks while looking at the downloaded PDF instructions on my computer screen, it took the better part of a day to complete the impressive playset. Then, I started thinking about how to make this good set even better. One aspect that bothered me about it is how short it is. While I understand that LEGO considers cost, playability, and profitability in designing their sets, I thought that Avengers Tower should stand above the Manhattan skyline, which according to the logic of minifigure playsets would put this two or three levels higher. I decided to add two floors, because where the bottom floor extends to–following the slope established in the original set–is about as far out as the edge of platform at the top of the tower. To my mind, this seemed to work out well for a taller and proportionate LEGO Avengers Tower.

LEGO 76038 Attack on Avengers Tower Unmodified

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Barring the additional minifigures (and four Iron Legion instead of the stock two), the photo above is of the unmodified LEGO 76038 Attack on Avengers Tower. On the lower level, it has the Iron Legion docking area and medical bay. The middle level has the Iron Legion repair bay/Ultron’s first embodiment and the diagnostic bay with scanner for studying Loki’s scepter. The top level features the platform, entertaining space, and computer station. The tower’s pinnacle is a drone deployment system.

I like the design work that went into the overall design of LEGO 76038. The angular front of the tower and the curve flowing down the side from the platform is spot-on with the design from the film. Of course, LEGO’s designers embellished the design for playability, but the thought that went into what elements should be included such as the Iron Legion bays and the scepter scanner reveal how dedicated their designers are to creating a model that balances play with realism.

Planning Additional Levels 

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To begin my modification to Avengers Tower, I had to plan out how to extend the slope of the front part of the tower. Following the slope provided in the original model, I saw that the next level–if it were the same height as the previous level–would need to extend two studs past the previous level. This allowed me to plan how much area in studs I would have to work with for the new first or bottom most level, and the new second level. The rear part of each level–with curved, translucent windows would remain the same for the new fourth and fifth levels. The new first level features an interactive Arc Reactor and Computer Server Room. The new second level features Tony Stark’s workshop and the Iron Man Hall of Armor.

Arc Reactor

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I started building my addition to Avengers Tower on the bottom most, or new first level. Thinking back to the first Avengers film, I wanted the tower to have its own Arc Reactor. The first challenge was to think about what that would look like as it is only seen in the film as a 3D schematic on Pepper Potts’ computer monitor, and the second challenge was to integrate some interactivity into this part of the model. While the Arc Reactor doesn’t spin (just the plasma within its torus moves within its magnetic confinement rings), I thought a geared spinning mechanism might be fun to engineer. Due to the placement of the window, I added a series of three gears to move the work where it was needed to spin the reactor. A small knob on the right side of the tower is used to spin the reactor. I added gauges, pipes, valves, and supports to frame the Arc Reactor within its space.

Computer Server Room

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Opposite the Arc Reactor on the first level is the computer server room. I built the 19″ computer racks four bricks high, but I might make these higher later. I staggered their placement to imply depth to the space. In the back corner, Ant-Man is hiding out to see what Stark might be up to.

Tony’s Workshop

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I focused the new second level on Iron Man. In the front, sloped space, I created Tony Stark’s workshop. It has a desk with computer, parts, coffee mug. Next to the desk is a set of drawers with tools, and on top are two containers and Stark’s Mark V or Suitcase Armor from 76007 Iron Man: Malibu Mansion Attack. In the foreground, Tony Stark has a wrench, and a set of Iron Man armor is on the rotating work platform. Below are some false starts that I made while trying out different designs for this space, including a movable robot arm, which looked very nice but overcrowded the small area available.

Hall of Armor

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On the rear side of the second level is Tony Stark’s Iron Man Hall of Armor. I was able to fit six different Iron Man armors in this tight space by building two tiers for the armor–one lower and in the foreground, and one higher and in the background.

New Avengers Tower Assembled!

After completing the new first and second levels, I connected them to the bottom of the original Avengers Tower model. This took some time and massaging to get full clutch without accidentally breaking the model. I’m happy with the new, taller version of Avengers Tower. I wonder what role, if any, it might play in the upcoming Avengers 4 film.

The Avengers are down, but not out.

Avengers Assemble!

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!