Micro Scale English Village

Kristal actually started building this micro scale English village as a backdrop for another project. It quickly took on a life of its own and now stands alone as a fantastic LEGO model in its own right.

English Village

We were discussing potential video ideas around the same time she was finishing it. She suggested it might be interesting to try to make a video fly through like you often see with drones these days. This was the result…

 

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LEGO Mosaic Printer

Over the last couple of months I’ve been working on an ambitious project – to build a LEGO Mindstorms EV3 machine that can scan an image and then print out a LEGO mosaic of it. Here’s a video of the final model printing out the LEGO logo.

It is built entirely using LEGO parts. It first uses the EV3 colour sensor to scan the source image and save the data on the Mindstorms unit.  It can then print multiple copies from the saved image data. The 1×1 plates used for ‘printing’ the mosaic are supplied using a gravity feed system and the printing head is simply a 1×1 round plate that can pick up and place the 1×1 plates.

I created a series of videos documenting my progress as I built it, so if you are interested in seeing how this project evolved be sure to check them out here. I also explain and demonstrate in more detail how many of the components of it work in these videos.

I had originally hoped to be able to scan any type of image and have the program pixelate it based on the colours of the plates in the supply. Unfortunately the EV3 colour sensor is no where near precise enough to be able to do this. I resigned myself to require pre-pixelated images to be scanned.

LEGO Mosaic Printer

 

Perhaps in the future I will expand this project into the realm of 3D LEGO printing. Stay tuned!

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Walking Animals

Deep in a YouTube session one night, I stumbled across some  traditional wooden walking toys and immediately added them to my list of potential LEGO projects. After several prototypes and many tweaks I finally finished these cute little guys.  A duck and kangaroo that waddle/hop down an incline.  The mechanics are extremely simple, and to me they are reminiscent of the escapement on a gravity powered clock, controlling the power of gravity by channeling it into discrete steps.

Instructions are provided below. If they don’t seem to be walking very well there are some hints below for getting them to behave.

Hopping Kangaroo Instructions

Building Guide

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Digital Model Files

LDraw FileLDD File

Additional Resources

Parts List

Rebrickable

Waddling Duck Instructions

Building Guide

PDF File

Digital Model Files

LDraw FileLDD File

Additional Resources

Parts List

Rebrickable

They only work on an incline of a specific angle.  Too steep and they will get stuck on their front feet, not steep enough and they will get stuck on their back feet.  Adjust the incline until you find the sweet spot (note the optimal angle for the duck and kangaroo are slightly different).

There is very little friction between LEGO and cardboard, which is why I’m using felt ramps in the video. I’ve found you can also put a bit of masking tape on the feet give their surface a bit more friction. I’ve tried them on wooden ramps as well with some success. Note that the friction is very important. If the feet slip at all, even a tiny amount, they will lose a lot of energy and not walk as effectively.

For the duck, make sure that the sides of the body aren’t pushed too tightly together. The rear leg needs to be able to swing freely, and if the gap is even a little too tight this won’t be the case. You can just pull the sides apart a bit to make sure the gap is a little wider than the leg. The kangaroo doesn’t have this problem since the legs are on the outside of the body.

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Red Viper

I was away traveling for most of the last month, trying to escape the winter.  Unfortunately that also meant I was away from my LEGO collection.  Of course the awesome thing about LEGO is that you don’t really need that much to have fun with it.  I picked up one of the new small creator sets (31032 Red Creatures) to see what I could build with it.  I find these creator sets are a really great value – they have instructions for 3 different models and usually come with a great selection of parts for designing something cool yourself.

I decided to build a space ship and ended up with a cool little Vic Viper style fighter, although after playing with it a bit I decided it could also be used as a utility vehicle.  The front prongs kind of remind me of a fork lift and I can definitely see using them haul around cargo.

Video, photos and building instructions can all be found below.  Enjoy!

Instructions

Building Guide

PDF File

Digital Model Files

LDraw FileLDD File

Additional Resources

Parts List

Rebrickable

 

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Ballista

Since posting my LEGO trebuchet, I received several requests to try and build a working LEGO ballista. For those unfamiliar with ballistas, they were ancient weapons used for probably well over 1000 years, from the time of the ancient Greeks all the way up to the middle ages. They used the energy stored in torsion springs, created by twisting loops of rope, to fire a projectile.

I finally took some time a few weeks ago to tackle the project, and here is the result.  It is quite a bit smaller than my trebuchet, but still packs a punch.  It can launch a 2×4 brick up to 15 feet!  Check out the video to see how it works.

If you are interested in building one yourself you can find the instructions below.  The frame itself is very simple to build, but threading and tensioning the strings is a bit more complicated.  Hopefully the instructions are clear enough in this regard.  I also briefly show how to thread and tighten the springs in the video.

Instructions

Building Guide

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Digital Model Files

LDraw File

Additional Resources

Parts List

Rebrickable

It’s important that both strings be twisted to have about the same amount of tension.  If they are too unbalanced, then one arm will be much ‘stronger’ than the other and it will not operate properly.  If you encounter this case, just unwind the ‘weaker’ spring and re-insert the piece at the base of the arm from a different direction (front/side/back) so that you can twist the string another 1/4 or 1/2 a revolution to match the other one.

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LEGO Ballista Teaser Video

Here is a short video teaser for my upcoming LEGO ballista.  The flying elephant was built by Kristal for a different project, but I couldn’t resist using it here.  I’ll be posting instructions and a showcase video for the ballista in a couple of weeks.  In the meantime enjoy the action!

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Construction Site

A few months ago I was challenged to build an alternate model of the latest LEGO Fire Station, set number 60004.  The goal was to design an alternate model that would fit within the LEGO City theme, and target the same age range as the original set (ages 8-12).  I don’t build a lot of LEGO City themed models, or even minifig scale models for that matter, so the biggest challenge for me was coming up with an idea of what to build.  It was hard to imagine re-purposing all those large wall bricks and windows into something other than a building!

Upon seeing all the windows, Kristal suggested I build a glass factory.  That got me thinking about building construction, and I eventually decided to tackle a tower crane and construction site.  I tried to incorporate a lot of play features into this model, making do with the limited number of Technic parts from the original set.  The tower crane is quite functional, with a really quick and easy mechanism for raising and lower it’s payload.

I built several baskets for the crane, each designed to carry a different part.  Each basket also has a simple inset frame on the bottom, which allows them to securely fit onto the truck bed or trailer.

You can find building instructions for this model below, along with a video showing all of the play features in action and some photos of the details.

Instructions

Building Guide

PDF File

Digital Model Files

LDraw File

Additional Resources

Parts List

Rebrickable

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Particle Accelerator Instructions, LEGO Ideas

Since I posted our fun little particle accelerator video a few weeks ago (you can see it here), I have received many requests to submit it to LEGO Ideas and create building instructions for it. You can find info on both below. I have also put together another video to answer some questions and show you how it works.

LEGO Ideas Project

For those unfamiliar with Ideas, it gives fans of LEGO an opportunity to suggest potential set ideas to the company. If a project receives enough fan support it is reviewed by LEGO and an official set is potentially made based on the idea. I think it would be great to have another science based set come out of Ideas.

Adding your support is easy. Simply head on over to the project page (https://ideas.lego.com/projects/86253) and click the Support button. You will have to create a LEGO account if you don’t already have one.

Instructions

I have put together instructions for the basic ring and accelerator module. It can be set up on any flat surface and be decorated and styled to suit your tastes. Some notes on the construction can be found below.

Instructions

Building Guide

PDF File

Digital Model Files

LDraw File

Additional Resources

Parts List

Rebrickable

Curved Train RailsTrain Rails

The ring itself is constructed using these old train rail pieces,which unfortunately haven’t been produced by LEGO in many years. There are actually two versions of this rail piece, one for the inside curve of a track and one for the outside curve. In the instructions I’m referencing the outside rail, but you can also use the inner rail piece instead. It will just slightly decrease the diameter of the ring. Both versions of the rail are still available on the second hand markets (part numbers 3229b and 3230b on bricklink.com and brickowl.com).

Power

The simplest way to power the accelerator is to use a Power Functions M-Motor and one of the Power Functions battery boxes (AAA or AA).  Note that with either of these battery boxes alone the accelerator will only run at full speed.

If you want to control the speed of the accelerator there are a few options:

  • Add a Power Functions IR Receiver and IR Speed Remote to the basic setup above.
  • Instead of one of the basic battery boxes, use the Power Functions Rechargeable Battery Box, which has an on board speed controller.
  • If you have an old 9V LEGO Train Regulator you can connect the M-Motor directly to that using one of the Power Functions Extension Wires

All of the Power Functions components can be ordered directly from LEGO via their online store (shop.lego.com). You can find them under the Power Functions Category. Links to each of them can also be found below.

 

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LEGO Particle Accelerator

Edit: I have posted basic building instructions and a follow up video here: Particle Accelerator Instructions

The idea to build this started out as a joke. I was going to make a gag video where I start describing how I built some completely ridiculous and unbelievable thing (ie, a working particle accelerator) out of LEGO bricks. At some point the video would be interrupted by something completely inane, and hilarity would ensue. Clearly that video hasn’t happened yet, and the more I thought about it the more I figured that, you know what, I’m actually going to build a particle accelerator.

In the end it turned out to be not completely ridiculous or unbelievable. In fact the propulsion system is quite simple. More info and pics after the cheesy video my 10 year old self would be proud of.

I did round the speeds stated in the video up or down to make them more narrative friendly, but they are pretty accurate. By stepping through video frames I was able to determine how long it took the ball to travel around the ring at each power level. The ring has a circumference of around 264 studs and at maximum speed the ball travels around it approximately once every 0.6 seconds. That works out to about 440 studs per second, which is the equivalent of just over 12.5 km/hr.

The particle is a LEGO soccer ball, recently re-introduced in a few of the LEGO Friends sets. To accelerate it I’m just using a pair of LEGO wheels, one of which rotates at high speed, powered by a Power Functions M motor through a simple set of gears (see image below). The other wheel is left to spin freely. As the ball passes between them it is accelerated out into the ring.

I have tried powering both wheels, and it does make the ball go faster, but the additional gearing introduces more vibration into the system. Not to mention the ball is already a bit unpredictable at its current high speed. It will occasionally start bouncing around and come flying out. It only runs completely reliably at about half of the maximum speed.

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Inside the Mind of a LEGO Artist

This is Kristal’s latest LEGO model, entitled ‘The Artist’. It is a kinetic sculpture of a human head that opens up to reveal a wonderful world of pure imagination.

She’s had this idea for almost a year now, and has been working on it off and on since the spring. During that time there has been much discussion about what exactly should go inside. In the end she decided to borrow parts of her yellow Dr. Suess castle  to use as the centerpiece, and surround it with an assortment of fantastical scenes.

Watch the video to see it in action and how it works. Pictures can be found below.

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