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Desktop Shelving Epic Continues: Notched Shelf Added in the Middle July 26, 2017

Posted by Jason W Ellis in Lego, Personal, Technology.
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shelf-progression

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 July 9, 2017

Posted by Jason W Ellis in Lego, making, Personal.
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before-after-shelves

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 April 24, 2017

Posted by Jason W Ellis in Lego, Personal, Science Fiction.
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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 April 17, 2017

Posted by Jason W Ellis in Lego, Personal, Science Fiction.
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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.

Off-Road Vehicle

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!

 

Building City Tech’s New Academic Building at 285 Jay Street With LEGO April 12, 2017

Posted by Jason W Ellis in City Tech, Lego, making, Personal.
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Over the past few days, I build a small scale model of the new City Tech academic building at 285 Jay Street. Still under construction, this model highlights its eventual glass-covered transparency (see this PDF for additional renderings of the building’s completed construction) with the model’s approximately 160 clear 1×2 bricks:

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My Serious Change Through Play collaborator Patrick Corbett original gave me the idea to build a model of the new building after we made our first grant-funded LEGO brick purchase. Here is what that first, simple model looked like:

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With only a few LEGO and Duplo bricks, I was able to capture the glass structure, upper floors overhang, and intersecting curve of the auditorium. Eventually, we incorporated this model into the Serious Change Through Play branding logo. While I like this smaller model, I wanted to build one that was larger and captured more detail without breaking the bank.

To begin my larger design and assess what extra LEGO pieces that I would need beyond those that I already own, I copied LEGO brick/plate design grids (see Duckingham Design’s grids, which are terrific) into Microsoft Windows’ Paint and drew in a rough sketch of each side’s elevation:

After these initial designs, I knew that I had most of what I would need to build the base and solid-color aspects. However, I didn’t have any of the clear bricks. Luckily, I saw a bin full of clear 1×2 bricks at the Flatiron LEGO store a week ago, so I returned there to purchase those and spare bricks that I thought might be useful during the build:

After disassembling all of the bricks in the pick-a-brick container (NB: if you purchase a pick-a-brick container from the LEGO store, you should assemble all of the bricks in order to maximize how many bricks can fit and minimize wasted empty space), I used plates and bricks to construct a 20×20 stud base with a height of 1 brick and two plates (one plate level on top and one plate level on bottom):

Next, I began the fun part of the build, which I like to think about as similar to the writing process–brainstorm, draft, and revise. While I had my elevations to work from, I thought of specific ways to put the bricks together that represented the building better and served to make a stronger model. For example, using overlapping joints and interlocking corners in the upper stories look good and make the model sturdier.

The intersecting auditorium provided some of the best challenges during this build, because it has an interesting curve that is like the forward leading edge of an airplane wing. This required a lot of digging through my boxes of bricks to find pieces that conveyed this as best as possible at this scale and appear close to the colors in the building design documents:

You might have noticed a white, silver, and blue structure in the rear of the building. I felt that I would be remiss if I neglected to include the spirit of the building that used to be at 285 Jay Street–City Tech’s previous auditorium with its Klitgord mosaic (see page 8 of City Tech Connections vol. 6 no. 2 here for more information, or speak to Dr. Mary Nilles, who taught me about the history of the mosaics). The original Klitgord mosaics, crafted by Nathiel Choate and Joseph von Tury in 1962 for the auditorium building, look like this (photo by William Avery Hudson):

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Photo by William Avery Hudson.

Using the microscale of my model, I wanted to capture the color scheme and figures despite the extremely low resolution of the medium at this scale. Nevertheless, I figured that I could convey that there are six human figures and a color scheme of white, silver, and blue. Therefore, I built this model of the mosaic–perhaps the preserved mosaic will have a home in the new building?

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Customized LEGO Star Wars Millennium Falcon 75105 from The Force Awakens February 16, 2016

Posted by Jason W Ellis in Lego, Science Fiction.
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Introduction

After watching Star Wars Episode VII The Force Awakens for the first of four times (so far), I purchased the new LEGO Millennium Falcon 75105 (LEGO website page and Brickset model page). It is a wonderfully designed model that balances play with detail. This latest Falcon model from LEGO captures how the passage of time and change of hands has affected this storied ship’s appearance in the film. Despite the interior and exterior greebling, the layout of the Falcon is spacious and accommodating for customization by the LEGO builder. It was my intention to customize the Falcon to be more screen accurate in the main hold and cockpit, and more detailed in the engine compartment and rear storage/bunk spaces. Through the process of customization, I worked on the exterior dorsal and ventral sides (including an improvement to the boarding platform. Below, I offer some explanation and photos for each before and after stage of my customization, including the cockpit, exterior dorsal, exterior ventral, interior fore, and interior aft.

Cockpit, Before Customization

The original cockpit accommodates two minifigures–one sitting forward on the right (pilot) and one sitting one row behind on the left (copilot). It comes with a single lever for control and a printed wedge brick with cockpit controls. Due to the conical elements used for the cockpit, space is extremely limited. However, the rear of the cockpit has a strange design that is not evocative of the rear of the cockpit, which would have controls, lights, and a door. I targeted these issues in my customization seen below.

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Cockpit, After Customization

In my customization of the cockpit interior, I raised the control panel by one plate and gave the pilot and co-pilot handle-bar controls like in the films. Above the directional control bars, there are three adjustable levels sitting on top of the printed control panel wedge brick for controlling the engines.

 

Exterior Dorsal, Before Customization

These images are of the Falcon’s exterior before any customization. Of note, the Millennium Falcon’s fore running lights are red instead of clear (a change depicted in The Force Awakens), and a less clean exterior to illustrate its aging and modifications.

Exterior Dorsal, After Customization

The one external element that I wanted to accentuate as much as possible was the slightly raised panels above the rear quarter over the engines. This was easily accomplished by adding a single plate above the hinge for each sectional panel, and adding a single plate height to half of the bordering panels. The latter, however, also required finding 1×3 flat plates for the segmented panels as seen below.

Exterior Ventral, After Customization (no Before photos taken)

Originally, the boarding platform does not have hydraulic lifters and the bottom of the Falcon is largely exposed to the Technic beams that form the support skeleton for the model. I added the lifters and covered much of the bottom (more can be done when I have the bricks available to accomplish a better approximation of the Falcon’s bottom exterior (angled forward pods and rear hold pod beneath the engines).

Interior Fore, Before Customization

The 75105 Millennium Falcon model continues the innovative “petal” design forming the dorsal fuselage of the spacecraft, which first appeared in the 4504 set and was improved in the 7965 set. The best change from the earlier designs is for the forward bisecting panel leading from the mandibles to the gun turret. Instead of opening up toward the turret (4504) or opening forward toward the mandibles (7965), the panel now swings forward and down between the mandibles thus giving easier access to the builder for play inside the Falcon. The navigational computer is more accurately captured with a sticker applied to a flat plate than printed wedge bricks in 7965, and the Dejarik table is printed on a round shield element. My complaints with the interior design have to do with the inaccuracy of the placement of the Dejarik table/benches and bunks. I focused on this in my customization.

Interior Fore, After Customization

In my customization, I moved the Dejarik table and benches across from the navigation computer, which required rebuilding part of the mandible supports and the swing components for the center panel (to clear the center bench back). I relocated one of the bunks to the end of the hold to create the medibay where Finn bandages Chewbacca’s arm. In the main hold, I constructed a forward wall with panel details taken from the First Order Snowspeeder 75100 set.

Interior Aft, Before Customization

The engine compartment in the rear of the model is similar to the one in 7965. This part of the Falcon captures the junked essence of the Falcon in general and the effects of the passage of time and unkind handling of the Falcon depicted in The Force Awakens. I wanted to keep its garbage appearance while giving the engine compartment greater substantiality.

Interior Aft, After Customization

In the rear hold/engine compartment, I constructed two storage rooms/bunks with swinging doors (I would have preferred to have sliding doors but I don’t have the elements to do this while conserving the limited space available), and I designed additional mirrored engine modules that go on either end of the original engine included with the set, which I hope makes the engine look more substantial for a spacecraft capable of completing the Kessel Run in 14, er, 12 parsecs!

Conclusion

I hope to further customize the 75105 Millennium Falcon. As I acquire new bricks and elements, I would like to think about how to better integrate the engines into the design and aesthetic of the YT transport. Other goals include, integrate a mechanism for lowering and raising the boarding platform, similar to the 4504 set, design screen accurate landing gear that raise the Falcon by at least one plate higher while on display, and further integrate my customization into the model so that it attains a unity of design instead of a piecemeal added-on quality.

If you have customized the 75105 or other Millennium Falcon sets, please sound off in the comments. Thanks for stopping by!

With Grading Done, I’m Preparing for a Hot Summer with a New Attic Fan May 7, 2014

Posted by Jason W Ellis in Personal, Technology.
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One afternoon. One attic fan installed.

One afternoon. One attic fan installed.

I am trying to get a jump on a hot-hot summer, because last summer was a scorcher. While there are a lot of things that I would like to do to our house, some things are more affordable than others. My attic fan installation project today was one that had potential to help out without costing too much.

Last year, Y and I sealed up every seam and joint that we could find inside the house, and we cut R-Matte Plus-3 insulating boards–covering the edges with metal tape–to cover the south and west facing windows (the east windows get a good amount of shade from trees across the street).

This year, I kicked off our preparations by installing an attic fan. I had thought about installing one a long time ago before graduate school, but I never got around to it. I had experimented with an industrial fan pointed at the gable, but the blown air couldn’t adequately escape.

I picked up a Master Flow 1600 cfm attic fan with thermostat, wire, and wing nuts from Home Depot. To cover the gable opening and mount the fan, I pulled up old 1″ x 4″ boards from the attic floor and cut them to the needed sizes (these are old boards left over from shelving the previous owners had built–I disassembled them years ago and used them for flooring). I began by framing the opening for the fan. Then, I installed the fan in the frame before filling in the rest of the gable’s triangular opening with shorter boards (everything was put together with Deckmate screws). I wired the fan into an existing circuit and set the thermostat to 70 degrees. It ran a couple of hours and shut off automatically this evening. Now, the attic is cooler than the upstairs rooms. I am hopeful that tomorrow, the fan will help the upstairs area remain cooler (it isn’t a whole house fan so it won’t suck air through open downstairs windows and fill the house–another option that I considered but decided against due to high humidity later in the summer–which can make it feel warmer than it is and can support book lice).

Besides caulking windows and openings and installing the attic fan, we use fans to wick away moisture and cool us naturally. Outside the house, we’ve removed most bushes that were adjacent to the house and blocking the crawlspace vents. Unfortunately, we have a long house facing north to south (the south side is where I installed the attic fan–the north side is bricked up with no gable opening), but there is no space between our house and our neighbor’s house to the south to plant shade trees (a tremendously good investment for natural cooling).

Soon, we will reinstall a window air conditioning unit upstairs to lower the temperature upstairs. What tips do you have for cooling a house without increasing humidity? Please leave your thoughts in the comments to share with others.