Monthly Archives: January 2018

Prometheus

Prometheus Base

Prometheus Astrovolcanic Research Base – a scientific research outpost located deep in the lava-floored canyons of planet Pyros-III.

Built into the rock of the canyon side, Prometheus Base has all the necessary facilities of a proper Galactic Federation outpost, including a landing pad, living quarters, laboratory facilities and vehicular maintenance facilities. The base is a centre for seismological, volcanic and mineralogical research; Pyros-III is home to a number of unique and near-unique mineral formations. The facility is important enough, however, that seismology and mineralogy are not the sole foci of the base; Prometheus Base also plays host to materials research, applied forcefield technology and planetary science departments of considrable acumen.

Astronomy is one of the few major research areas not represented on Prometheus Base: the geologically unstable surface and noxious volcanic fumes make for a poor environment for stargazing.

~~~

Loosely based on all those brilliantly impressive canyon-base builds, but on a much smaller scale, I’m mostly pleased with how this turned out, though I’ve got a lot less in the way of dark grey slope elements than I thought I had. I suppose I could have used moulded rock elements, but I had my doubts as to how they’d look.

One of the problems of this build is that the scale actually works against it. It’s so compact and microscale that it’s difficult to see in. The cantilevered landing pad doesn’t help any, either, but I had to put it somewhere and that seemed the best place to put it.

I think that in a build of this nature, bigger really is better. At least you can see everything more or less properly. Scrunching it down to tiny microscale runs into issues. But I didn’t really tumble to that until afterwards. Maybe I should have opened up the front of the build more, but I wanted that narrow canyon effect.

Still, I like this enough that I might do something similar again. Maybe with ice colours instead, or tan…

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Old Man Willow

If January is anything to go by, this year seems to be the year in which I develop my weakest building areas.

I’ve built a couple of minifig-scale building interiors, and I consider that an area of weakness. Last week at the Grand Opening of the Rogue Brick building lounge I built a piece of architecture for the adults competition, and I’ve historically considered that a relatively weak area even though previous architectural microbuilds have been well-received. (I didn’t win, even though I may have invented a new technique to make the columns around the dome. Oh well).

And now, trees.

Old Man Willow

I’ve been getting more confident at trees, but I still don’t feel like I’m really good at it. But I was re-reading The Lord of the Rings the other day for the umpteenth time and I had an idea that I should attempt an Old Man Willow build.

Old Man Willow is, obviously, part of the Tom Bombadil sequence; one of the first challenges the hobbits face on their journey to Rivendell, and one they face with the aid of neither Gandalf nor Strider. A black-hearted tree spirit dwelling on the banks of the Withywindle and holding large swaths of the Old Forest under his grim sway, he proves a greater challenge than the hobbits’ meager strength, and they have to be rescued from his clutches by the mysterious and fan-beloved Tom Bombadil.

As the film version of The Fellowship of the Ring completely skipped over the whole of the Tom Bombadil sequence, I’m free to do pretty much whatever I like without fear of anyone complaining that it doesn’t look like it did in the movie.

When done well, film adaptations of well-loved books are great. You finally get the excitement of seeing what before could only exist in your mind’s eye.

But even the best film adaptations conform to someone else’s vision, and I have to say I think we often tend to forget that.

I personally think the film got the look and feel of Rivendell wrong, but such is the power of visual media that if I were to build my imagination’s Rivendell I’d undoubtedly get comments about it being “inaccurate”.

Maybe I’m not trying to build Peter Jackson’s version of the Last Homely House, nitwit! Did you think of that, eh?

Anyway, I don’t have to be concerned with that in an Old Man Willow build, because none of that whole sequence made it into the films. Though if I’d tried to include any of the hobbits I’d undoubtedly get told off for getting them “wrong”. Don’t have any official LotR minifigs yet.

I borrowed the pendulous willow branch technique from this build by Cyndi Bourne, who has a lot more leaf elements than I do and can really do it justice. Yet another thing to add to the endless Bricklink wishlist…

Still, I have enough to at least give a decent impression of the look of a willow tree.

I would have liked to make more of a face in the trunk, but that made the trunk so tall that you lost the effect of overhanging branches. Thus, a pair of eyes only.

I initially went for green eyes as most appropriate to a vegetative spirit, but they didn’t look quite right t so I swapped them out for orange, which is subtler but looks much better.

And then I had to try and make Tom Bombadil.

“Bright blue his jacket is, and his boots are yellow”, we’re told, but while we can do a bright blue jacket courtesy of either Jay or my Classic blue astronaut or my son’s Minecraft Steve, yellow boots are beyond my current inventory’s capability.

Anyway, there it is. I think my first Lord of the Rings-related build, and it’s a tree.

The Steam Laboratory

Professor Studleigh’s Steam Laboratory

Just a small, relatively inconsequential build this time, and I don’t have a huge amount to say about it.

My last Ice Planet build brought it home to me that if I make the floor black and don’t try to make it too big, I actually have enough 1xEverything bricks to build proper SNOTwork flooring. This is something I’ve wanted to achieve for a while, but getting enough bricks in the same colour has always stymied me from carrying through on the desire. Isn’t it funny how it’s a lack of one of the most basic elements that strangles some of my more advanced building?

Building up from the black floorplate, I decided to have a go at one of those flashy room corners I’ve seen other people do. Interior scenes (well, buildings in general, outside and in) are one of my weakest building areas, so this isn’t nearly as cool and flashy as, for example, these Cluedo-inspired builds, but I was actually surprised that I have as many brick-wall-pattern bricks as I do.

The build is pretty simplistic, all things considered. Just a hopefully steampunky-looking engineer (who I’m calling Professor Studleigh) experimenting with some kind of small contraption on his table. I’ve got to get hold of some more realistically steampunkable torsos.

Anyway, there it is. Sometimes there isn’t much to say, and this is one of those times.

Space Auk

LL3607 “Huffin’ Ruffin” being loaded on a specialised cargo-handling pad

The trading vessel Huffin’ Puffin (Federation Spacers’ Guild registry no. LL3607) is a small freighter operated as an independent trader under the ownership of its crew. Trader-class vessels such as this are common among independents, fitting in between the small single- and twin-seat Courier-class vessels and the larger Mercantile-class ships which are the smallest class operated by large transstellars like OctanCorp. Though dwarfed by the massive Bulk-class freighters that serve as the mainstays of such interstellar freight giants as Octan Haulage and M:Tron MineFreight, the 3-to-12-crew Traders are able to make planetary landings and for the most part can set down at any landing pad without needing the oversized pads and special facilities of large commercial ports.

The Huffin’ Puffin is a modified 36-class Trader, like most independents. Unlike most independently-operated 36s, however, the Huffin’ Puffin retains the smaller belly doors of the original class, a feature which limits its ability to handle large-size commercial container cylinders without a landing pad that featured drop-down access, but which provides for less structural weakness and allows room for the reinforced power couplings of an upgraded weapons system: the forward-mounted twin X-Ray lasers replace the default single pulse cannon.

As Huffin’ Puffin frequently operates along the highly profitable but less than salubrious Blacktron border, the joint-owner crew feel the tradeoff is worthwhile.

Forward aspect of the Huffin’ Puffin, showing twin laser cannon mount

~~~

I’m not certain, but I think this might be my first Neoclassic Space ship that’s designed as a freighter. I’ve built a number of starfighters and frigates and battlecruisers, and I’ve built updates of old Classic Space sets like the Starfleet Voyager, but not a freighter. How odd.

I started building this at the back with that engine-shrouding cowling; quite an unusual place to start for me, as I’m more likely to begin at the front and build back or the keel and build up. However, that was where my inspiration was going.

The idea to use the microfigures from the Minotaurus game as astronauts was suggested by the Classic Space colours of the game pieces, and allows me to use some of my trans yellow windscreen elements to build an effectively much larger canopy than I could otherwise. Indeed, even after acquiring a lot of blue and grey in my Rogue Brick pick-a-brick box, I couldn’t have built this at minifig scale. One day…

Bridge section canopy

I’m rather pleased with the squat, dumpy shape of this, with its belly doors and canopied bridge section. Okay, the windscreen is arranged completely wrong for forward vision, but the idea of trying to do interstellar transit by Visual Flight References is sort of ludicrous. The convention of windows remains in our space fighters and other ships, but it’s technically a little silly. Radar and lidar and other sensors are going to be what you fly by; why do you need to see out?

I built the belly doors figuring that it would be a nice touch to have it actually be able to carry something, then decided to build a microloader mech to help with the heavy cargo handling. However, then I realised that neither the cargo mech nor the container cylinder would fit under the ship for loading, so I had to build a dropped loading area.

Dropped loading bay area. Some quite nice rockwork there, but you can barely see it 😛

I’d have liked a larger landing pad area around it, but what I built stretches my inventory of grey 1xwhatever bricks almost to breaking point as-is. And given the fractional tolerances in where you can actually land before dropping your ship in a hole, apparently there’s some really good precision-guidance landing radar available in the future.

The ship was nearly the Skylark of Space, after the old E. E. ‘Doc’ Smith space opera, but Skylark sounds way too speedy and elegant for something shaped like this, so I searched around for another name. The auks are a family of small, fat, dumpy seabirds with a similar kind of heavy shape, and this seemed perfect for a freighter. So the ship became the Huffin’ Puffin, the jaunty name seeming to me just right for an independent trading outfit.

This uses a number of my newly-acquired elements, but because most of the ones I used here were 1×6 and 1×8 blue bricks you can’t really tell. The 6×6 dishes on the sides are the most visible new-to-me bricks.

LL3607 and microfig-scale loader mech

Side view of the Huffin’ Puffin. Technically I guess I should have put the bumblebee stripes on that engine cowling, but I didn’t think of it until right now. When I built the cowling I was intending to add fins.

Rogue Squadron

So, I went to the DFWLUG meetup.

For my first ever in-person meeting with other AFOLs I was understandably a little nervous, but it turns out I needn’t have been. Everyone was perfectly friendly, of course, and it was delightfully informal, even to the point of a bit anarchic if you want the truth. The DFW LEGO Users Group doesn’t really seem to have much in the way of a formal leadership or structure, so I fit right in.

This month’s meeting took place in a new “building lounge” in south Fort Worth called Rogue Brick, and it was the first time I’d been in one of those that wasn’t at the local LEGO Discovery Centre. The proprietor seems like a great guy, and to my surprise (and earning him my abiding respect) I got to see one of his builds in person that I know I’ve pinned on Pinterest and I think I’ve seen on Flickr as well – part of a large modular Jedha City display model.

I don’t know how typical Rogue Brick is – it’s my first time seeing one of these “building lounges” – but it’s a really cool place, and their “pick-n-mix” boxes may have just become my favourite ways to buy bricks. Just $10 got me the chance to pick through the 3’x30′ LEGO building table and fill a housebrick-sized box – a steal if ever there was one in terms of value for money.

The DFWLUG group said on their website that “participants are encouraged to bring something they are working on, or have built”, and I faffed around for most of last week trying to decide what to bring. As it happened I needn’t have worried as I was the only one who brought anything, but that gave me another worry as I had no-one else’s models there to compare myself with. No-one’s saying very much; are they impressed or just being polite?

Much of the meeting time was taken up with a building contest organised by Rogue Brick’s proprietor. Given an assembled LEGO Star Wars set, our task was to build a display background for it.

From an AT-ST, a Clone Turbo Tank, a Landspeeder, a Yoda’s Jedi Starfighter, a Y-Wing (one of the regulars is a big fan of Y-Wings and got to this before I could), the Ghost, a Wookiee Gunship microfighter and some sort of diminutive Stormtroopers’ walker (maybe one of the Imperial battlepacks?) I picked the Landspeeder, because it’s not that big, and proceeded to build some of my best ever rockwork to make a snippet of the Jundland Wastes on Tatooine.

Y-Wing attack run. I like the guy that did this’ taste in space fighters!

Clone Turbo Tank on desert terrain.

Kashyyyk beach scene. This guy’s a relatively new builder and he can already do trees at least as well as I can.

Desert terrain; presumably Tatooine or Jedha. I love the Stormtrooper falling off the edge into the sinkhole.

AT-ST attacking a village. Yoda defending. I don’t think the woman who built this is much of a Star Wars fan, so this is pretty good.

Indiana Jones tank chase. One guy didn’t arrive until we were all building, and I guess there weren’t any more built Star Wars sets to do a backdrop for.

The Ghost refuelling/service station. Apologies for the blurred image; I was on my phone and didn’t realise it was blurry until later.

Jakku. I love the nearly-dead foliage and the way it looks like dust being kicked up at the back.

And it turns out I might be one of the better builders there, at least when it comes to timed contests, and I won!

My winning entry. Really quite proud of that rockwork.

I totally wasn’t expecting this when I decided to go; I thought I’d be dealing with all and only elite builders of the sort who exhibit at conventions and I’d be some sort of near-noob who’s only just tumbled to SNOTwork baseplates.

The Clayface Splat Attack set that I won is now built, and makes a highly MOCworthy addition to the household brick inventory. We didn’t have more than a handful of bricks in the dark flesh that’s the set’s primary visible colour, and now we have a load of interesting elements in that colour and several in brown. Plus all the fun stuff I picked up in my goodie box.

There was perhaps not quite as much getting-to-know-you talk as I might have liked, but it was a really fun time building together. And winning is always nice.

I look forward to the next meetup, and to Rogue Brick’s Grand Opening next Saturday, with another AFOL contest after the time I get off work, which I shall try to win again, though the flyer says it’s architecture-themed which isn’t my usual thing. Maybe I’ll build a stone circle on Mars or something…

Would You Like To Connect To This Network?

Thus far in my building as an AFOL, a lot of the time it’s seemed like I’m over here doing my thing more or less independently, while somewhere over there there’s a network or actual community of other AFOLs with whom I have little to no contact.

You know. The recognised names. The ones that all seem to know (or at least, know of) each other. And I’m over here, in a box virtually by myself. This blog has a following, but it’s a very limited one, and I’m too recently on Flickr and Pinterest to have acquired anything like a following or the connections I’ve found I crave.

This separation isn’t really by design, but if it’s anyone’s fault it’s mine. Natural introversion and a whole string of personal hangups mean that I’ve never felt any good at the whole meeting people and making friends thing, and it doesn’t seem to make much difference if that’s online or in person. And long job hours and limited online time mean I don’t have that much time to devote to it anyway. I don’t get to practice much.

Needing more in the way of connections, though, this seems to be the year I go in search of community. Yes, I would like to connect to the network.

Yesterday I discovered a Neoclassic Space Group on Flickr. “Yay! Cool!” I thought. “This is exactly the group for me!” And I clicked on the link.

And quickly became dismayed by the snobby, snooty tone of the group intro and all of their elitist building guidelines: Like the grudging “Bley is acceptable if you really can’t do old grey” – I mean, who can do old grey in any reasonable amount these days, unless you inherited a load of bricks from the ’80s? And no-one calls it “bley” unless they are being dismissive of the newer LEGO colour.

That and the fact that the last group message seems to have been more than a month ago put me off. Not exactly the wellspring of community I’m looking for.

Now, I’m prepared to believe that I’m reading more into their rules and building guidelines than is warranted, but any time anyone starts laying down the law in microscopic detail about what does or does not constitute NCS, I start to get a bit hostile.

I know what Classic and Neoclassic Space creations are supposed to look like. I cut my teeth as a builder on the originals; they were what taught me to build and made me love LEGO. And yes, I know that old grey and what gets dismissively referred to as “bley” look absolute crap when mixed. I know that if it has too much dark grey (old or new) or a wrong-coloured (like trans clear or smoke) windscreen element it’s not going to look fully authentic.

But I’m not into snobbery. If you’re going to tell me that because I use new grey throughout rather than old grey that I’m some kind of second-class builder, then “this is not the community you are looking for”, to paraphrase Obi-Wan.

LEGO fandom is supposed to be about having fun and spurring one another on to new heights of building, not farking snobbery over which type of grey you use in your NCS builds. Loosen up, people!

Now, I’m new to the Flickr LEGO community. They may legitimately need to institute guidelines over what does and doesn’t constitute Neoclassic Space so that they don’t get swamped by people who truly don’t have a clue and don’t care to get one. They may be nice, friendly people who have had to word their guidelines like that to stop random posts of not-NCS Star Wars ships. But I’m not interested in joining a snobby, elitist group just so half of them can look down their noses at me because I use the new version of one of the primary theme colours, and that’s what’s coming across in the Group introduction.

The Neoclassic Space group on Flickr isn’t my only iron in the fire on this new quest for network, though.

At the start of this past week I discovered DFWLUG.

For the uninitiate, this is my local LEGO User Group, or LUG; apparently a community of other AFOLs in my local area. Their webpage is little more than just a vague introduction and a calendar of events, but they say that anyone is welcome to join so long as they do so in person at one of their regular meetups.

The first one of these this year is on Saturday. And I’m going.

I’m very excited at the prospect of meeting other adult builders, but I’m quite nervous at the same time. They say you’re encouraged to bring something you’ve made or are working on, so I’ve been thinking all this week about what to take.

I might have taken Toothless if I hadn’t broken up the house part of the build to make my black neo-Ice Planet interior flooring.

I thought about taking my rocket, Rocket, ROCKET!!!, but my wife’s comment was that “it’s cool, but it’s not your best spaceship. Why don’t you build something new? Something like that spacewhale, or a really good dragon?”

Normally that’s a good idea. I’m always happy to build something new. But of course, it was at that point that all building inspiration left.

So the first model I’m taking to show other builders is my slightly edgy, very mildly risqué Ice Babe 2.0 “Baby, It’s Cold Outside“.

To a builders’ meet in Texas, spiritual home of religiously-motivated prudery. And topless bars.

The Ice Babe model is neither of those, so I hope it goes over well! I also hope it’s not embarrassingly small or simplistic, and that I can make a decent enough showing not to feel completely intimidated by everyone.

I hope these are the communities I’m looking for, because it’s what I miss most about the LEGO Message Boards even though it was mostly a load of kids on them.

We shall see.

Since making the decision to take “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” I’ve got inspired for a new large-ish NCS space freighter, but I’ve made too little progress so far for it to be worth bringing along, and I know already that I’m going to need at least some of the blue slopes from the outer wall of “Baby” in building it. And now I can’t break up the model yet to get at them.

I will report back on how it goes, my friends. Hopefully with pictures, but I’m not sure of the etiquette of these things. I’m coming in nearly clueless as well as being a complete unknown to them, whoever they are, but I can’t even find any way on the site to say “I’ll be there!”

I may be going in blind, but I am going in. We’ll just have to see how it goes…

Baby, It’s Cold Outside

Baby, It’s Cold Outside – completed build

Did someone say “Ice Babe boudoir”?

No?

Well, baby, it’s really cold outside on Planet Krysto, home of the Ice Planeteers.

Though it’s normally only heard in the run-up to Christmas (the radio stations around here seemed to really like it this past year), the song Baby It’s Cold Outside didn’t manage to inspire me then. Probably because the temperature around here at that point was being typically Texan – in other words, unreasonably warm.

Plummeting in the last couple of weeks into the teens Fahrenheit, it’s now that it’s cold outside in real life that I get inspired.

“It’s cold outside” is a perfect, if somewhat understated, tagline for the old Ice Planet theme, and it struck me that it might be fun to make the original LEGO ice princess a boudoir.

The Ice Babe boudoir

I hemmed and hawed quite a bit over this creation, because “LEGO” and “boudoir” don’t normally belong in the same sentence. The LEGO Group make children’s toys, after all, and the other way around (LEGO in a boudoir) sounds like a recipe for pain.

There’s nothing here that I’d be embarrassed about my kids seeing (I don’t think even third-party custom LEGO makers are crass enough to make minifig prints that are actually risqué), but conceptually, this is definite AFOL territory, and I hesitated before plunging across that particular boundary.

Building the legendary Ice Babe a boudoir is complicated by the fact that I don’t technically own her, but I can certainly reference the original well enough to make it clear. Minifigure head printing has evolved considerably since those early days (she may well have been the first ever specifically female minifigure in a theme) and those first steps beyond the original smiley look a bit crude now, especially the female ones. I think an update is not out of order.

An Ice Planet living space (especially one with the word “boudoir” attached to it) begs the question of what sleeping quarters will look like in the future depicted by old LEGO themes. How exactly do you make a bedroom that looks Ice Planet-y and recogniseably a bedroom, let alone warm and cosy?

Obviously the Ice Planet theme’s colours are all wrong for warm and cosy. Even the trans neon orange, while warm, is aggressive rather than comfortable, recalling anti-glare goggles and suchlike. But if we can’t use Ice Planet colours, how do we make it clear that this is an Ice Planet creation?

Cue the double-sided approach.

Ice Planet exterior

From the outside this is classic Ice Planet, with mostly blue construction, deep-frozen white landscape, icicles at the window and trans neon orange highlights. From the inside, it’s a warm, stylish bedroom with just a few Ice Planet touches to unify the model. The window is clear rather than traditional Ice Planet neon, but that’s the way I planned it because the window was one of the first conceptual parts of this creation and you have to be able to see through it properly. After all, calling your creation “Baby It’s Cold Outside” is rather futile if you can’t see the outside.

This creation also marks the first usage of some of my Christmas-acquired new-to-me elements. And the first new element to make it into a MOC is… Sensei Wu’s muumuu.

Rockin’ the Sensei-style nightdress

Honestly, if you’d told me on Christmas Day to rank my new elements according to how likely I would be to MOC with them, that’s the absolute last element I’d have picked. I’d have selected the 1×1 round tile with vertical bar, or the 1×1 round plate with handle from the Darth Vader Transformation set. Even Garmadon’s jungle pauldron would have ranked higher.

However, Sensei Wu’s fabric robe is exactly what I need to be my Ice Babe Mark 2’s nightdress. Together with the arms and legs from the Warrior Goddess (never thought I’d use those either), real-Nya’s face and a vivid red hair element possibly from one or other variants of Poison Ivy – perfect neo-Ice Babe in a nightgown!

I did experiment with Cavegirl’s hair, but while it looks nicely sleep-fuzzled and untidy I decided that the vivid scarlet was a better referent to the original Ice Babe.

Ice Planet VX spacesuit storage

I particularly wanted the Master Falls set for Christmas because I always feel like I lack pieces for making scenery, and now here I am building my most sophisticated scenery-type build yet (ie not a vehicle) and due to the nature of the scene nearly all its elements are the wrong ones to use. Go me.

Including my first interior SNOTwork baseplate, this has been skill-stretching on many fronts. I almost never build LEGO interiors or furniture; my element inventory is fairly geared to vehicles and creatures. So I had to work out how I was going to build the bed, the table, that carafe (LEGO bottles just look too dinky next to the glasses)…

And on top of that I had to work out how I was going to communicate it visually that this is an Ice Planeteer’s bedroom without making it look chilled and sterile. And hopefully keeping the coordinated look of a stylish lady’s quarters. You could, for example, leave a neon orange ice saw standing in the corner, but it would totally destroy the effect. In the end I decided that I had to have the Ice Planet spacesuit in a closet to unify the interior with the exterior, but even that looks just a little out of place.

Of course, then I got into trying to parodise the song for LEGO. “I’ll take your hat; your hair as well…”?

And that led to this modification of my original build:

“Baby, it’s Cole outside”

I’m calling it, obviously, “Baby, it’s Cole outside”. That duet has to be sung by Nya and Jay, but a Ninjago bedroom scene seems like a step too far, so I built them a couch to sit on.

It’s less unified and intentional than the original build, because it still has all of the Ice Planet touches all over the place.

Amusing, though.