Lego Work in Progress

For entirely too long now, I’ve been working on a big Lego project—school and other things keep getting in the way. For me, Lego creation is an iterative process: have an inspiration, build it, look at the result, make it better. Sometimes “make it better” involves entirely too much disassembly—it seems like the part I need to change is almost inevitably deep in the heart of the structure. Since the whole project isn’t done, I thought I’d share a piece of it that is almost done.

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This little ship is still a work in progress, about 90% of the way through the iterative process, so it’s a good example of how things happen. The gross asymmetries are experiments—both sides will match once I’m done. (The small asymmetries are intentional.) It started out with the following parameters/inspirations:

  • Use the yellow cockpit canopy
  • Make it as small as possible. It needs to fit on the science crawler’s landing platform with enough space that the pilot can at least get in and out.
  • I want a more “stubby” than “sleek” look.
  • It should “transform” so that it can carry the remote lab, without being particularly big when not carrying it.
  • Modern building techniques, but clearly Classic Space heritage.

For the longest time, what stymied me was the rear engines. I knew what I wanted them to do, but couldn’t come up with linkages that would move them in the way I wanted without bulk where I didn’t want it. Finally, I settled on a basic parallelogram linkage, and just accepted that the anchor points would have to be towards the outside, rather than the center, of the ship. Once I’d settled on that, the rest came together very quickly—just a couple afternoons to work through several minor variations.

The basic design cues are meant to echo the original 3 Classic Space ships: 497487, and 918. In particular, my goal was something smaller than the Space Cruiser, but not quite so small as set 918. With that huge canopy, I figured it should sit 2 or even 3.

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Other than the engine mechanism, the biggest challenge was the body shaping. I started out with an even narrower version of the classic delta-wing design, using the 12×3 wings, but that didn’t really give me the look I wanted (and never made it far enough for even a WIP picture). Going with the classic 8×4 wing was perfect, except that I had to do something else for the nose. As is usual in my experience, it’s all about choosing the compromises you want. I’d’ve preferred to use the classic 4×4 wings for the nose so there wouldn’t be a notch in the transition, but that would’ve made the ship either longer or wider or both—or required I not use the Classic Space-logoed slope at the front.

Anyway, without going into too much detail on part choices, the fundamental problem I often run into is the tension between something “clever” and something that better fits my vision for the end result. I want to push myself, and to show off—but I also want something that I like the look and function of. For example, the back end of this is currently multiple options at once, as I try out every idea to see which one I like.

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In the end, while I’m really proud of figuring out the geometry that makes the little winglet float with the engine while still lining up with the general wingline, I think it makes it look too much like a Star Wars A-wing when collapsed, rather than a Lego Classic Space ship. But I’ll take feedback and suggestions on what it should look like. (Click on any image to go to my Flickr gallery for more pics. I tend to over-document because this is also my personal record so that I can remember or even reconstruct something in the future.)

Other than that, I’m happy with having lived up to my goals pretty well, I think. And it lands reasonably on the intended landing platform, though not with much room to spare.

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