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(Written by William)

The #10252 LEGO Creator Volkswagen Beetle has been out for a while, but my wife kept it as a Christmas gift for the end of 2017, so I just had a chance to build it recently. I have built several of the LEGO Creator Expert Builder vehicles through they years, and I would say that this one seems to have the most challenging design because of all the unique shapes and curves. Given LEGO elements’ natural inclination to be box shaped, it was a tall order for LEGO designers to make a car with such a rounded body. So, let’s take a look at some of the interesting building techniques found in the set! 🙂

HORIZONTAL AXLE ASSEMBLY WITH LEGO

Right from the start of building the Beetle, you can tell that space is going to be an issue. The vehicle curves in dramatic ways and comes really close to where the tires are. To deal with this problem, LEGO designers attached the axles in a very smart way. The axles are attached horizontally into the frame, rather than being part of the main structure.

You will typically see this technique in brick-built motorcycles. This allows the wheel itself to have a more dramatic appearance, since it doesn’t need to be hidden within the body of the vehicle. Another nice feature of this technique is that it doesn’t give up too much stability. However, when using this technique, you may want to avoid building up really tall vehicles without doing some major reinforcing.

The most important feature of this technique is that it has the ability to be secured later. This is done by either choosing connections that are open-ended, or by adding LEGO Technic bricks later down the line that slide onto the axles. Just keep in mind; the more connections you add this way, the axle may rub more, causing unwanted friction.

LEANING ELEMENTS WITH LEGO

When you are building fine details into a LEGO model, at a certain point you will have to give up stability. This doesn’t mean you have to completely get rid of stability, but you may need to use some unconventional ways to make it happen. Examples are found in many larger and more detailed LEGO sets, where elements are placed to lean against each other for stability.

The image I chose to demonstrate this shows a small constructed section attached by only one stud. However, in an earlier step, we put in an inverted slope behind this newly constructed section. That inverted slope provides just enough surface for the new section to not fall in on itself.

The essence of this technique is to figure out where your model will most likely be pressed against or held when picking it up. Then, check if there is any way to add a back support against that direction. It is important to note that LEGO often uses the barest minimum of edges to lean against. This can be as simple as a protrusion of a tile, part of a slope, or even a thin section of paneling. It’s a very clever way of adding stability while remaining inconspicuous.

SNOT BUILDING WITH LEGO HEADLIGHT BRICKS

A very popular technique with all LEGO builders is Studs-Not-On-Top (SNOT). Just by changing the direction of how pieces attach enables the creation of the most astounding LEGO creations. Of course, in order to build with this technique, it helps to use parts that really give a lot of variety. One of the best elements for this purpose is the LEGO headlight brick.

The LEGO headlight brick is a 1×1 stud piece with an additional stud slightly indented on one side, with a square hole on the opposite side. Whether connecting from or into studs, this little piece definitely gives a lot of options. In the #10252 LEGO Creator Volkswagen Beetle, you can see an excellent example of using the headlight brick for building the center of the back seat.

When you build sideways with LEGO, you will usually need to keep in mind the two/five rule. This means that for every two studs of space in one direction, you can fit five plates of thickness in the other. However, if you off-center a few pieces, you may find instances where you aren’t building things that measure exactly two studs.

This is the case with the back seat in the #10252 LEGO Creator Volkswagen Beetle. The seat is made up of three sections; a center column using four headlight bricks, and two sides, which are built separately, and then attached to the column. Given the amount of space available for the seat, this required that LEGO designers change up the thickness of the sideways builds in the central column while still making them symmetrical. So the headlight bricks are used by placing two on their backs and the other two upright. The upright bricks have their side-stud face the foot of the bricks that are on their backs, and then 1×1 plates are added to the side-studs to make the construction symmetrical. The end result is a small column that has studs on two sides and is three plates thick rather than the normal five. This makes the back seat fit and function in the given space just right.

ADDING SHAPES WITH LEGO

Now comes what I consider one of the coolest techniques in the #10252 LEGO Creator Volkswagen Beetle. Remember how I mentioned this set had a lot of interesting shapes and curves? Well that’s hard to do even with the wide array of slope pieces LEGO makes. Therefore, a little creativity is thrown in, and in such a way that is mind bogglingly simple.

In some places in the #10252 LEGO Creator Volkswagen Beetle, LEGO designers needed to do some unusual shaping, where the pieces have no other function but to create a particular shape. They don’t need to help secure anything else down, nor do they have to provide any useful functional component. They are just there to aid in the shaping of the model. We can see this very clearly with the curved sections being attached on to pin connectors, as demonstrated on the picture above. The pin is securely attached to the body of the car, and the pin connector holds the curved 1×3 curved brick in just the right angle to shape the front wheel wells.

This is a fantastic way to create an interesting model with unusual curves and angles. The downside of this technique is that it tends to eat up a lot of space, so it may not be great if you don’t have much room/thickness to work with. The technique could also be used when you are just trying to figure out what kind of shapes you want to create before fully locking them in using other techniques. This allows useful compartmentalization of a large project, so you don’t have to tackle every aspect of it all at once.

The only thing to look out for with this technique is to make sure that the connection points are solid. Aside from providing a certain shape, this technique only has one other function, and that is to stay attached. So make that attachment point the right one. If you are the type of person who tend to use firm connections already, this is a great technique to expand on and maybe even add some SNOT elements and graduate into more advanced shape building.

APPLYING WHAT YOU LEARN

It is important to note that adult-oriented LEGO display models can differ significantly from more play-based sets. Models like the #10252 LEGO Creator Volkswagen Beetle emphasize style over durability and playability. However, many of the techniques mentioned here are attempts to give builders the most stylish options without sacrificing stability.

Horizontal axles are a perfect way to elongate low-profile vehicles with tight spaces around the wheels. The trouble is that many LEGO fans aren’t familiar with the variety of LEGO Technic options that could be used for such situations. Even if you are not attracted to LEGO Technic, it is worth picking up at least some of the small to medium size sets to get yourself familiar with LEGO Technic parts and building techniques. LEGO Technic is excellent for making the strongest connections in the least amount of space. The #10252 LEGO Creator Volkswagen Beetle uses the bare minimum of LEGO Technic elements for some of the trickier techniques, so it shouldn’t be too overwhelming to study them.

Leaning LEGO pieces can not just provide interesting shaping, but it can also make your LEGO model less dense and heavy due to the less use of connecting pieces. And, if you use the technique right, your model should still be stable enough to hold together well.

As for the last two techniques discussed here, they are great ways to explore the most accessible levels of advanced building with LEGO. Counting plates for creating clever connections might get tiresome, but they can really improve the shaping of your LEGO models. Adding shapes on flexible connections is used for the same purpose, but on a larger scale. The two techniques together can also create some very interesting possibilities.

What do you think? How do you like the #10252 LEGO Creator Volkswagen Beetle, and the techniques discussed here? Are there any other interesting building techniques in the set that you really like? Which of these techniques have you used in your own LEGO models? Feel free to share your thoughts and discuss in the comment section below! 😉

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First LEGO Ideas contest winners!

by admin on January 18, 2018

in Community News

Back in November of last year, LEGO Ideas introduced building contests as a new feature to their platform. The very first contest challenged LEGO fans to design their own version of the LEGO Ideas logo for a chance to win some very generous prizes (you can read more about the contest here: LEGO Ideas Build Your Own Logo Contest). The contest attracted a large number of very creative submissions (631 entries in total!), so even though the feature is still in beta testing, it is off to a great start! 🙂

I have been monitoring the contest closely as I liked the topic of the challenge, and because I knew a number of our readers participated with their own submissions. (If you would like to check out all the entries, you can see them here.) The contest was closed mid-December of last year, and after much anticipation, the LEGO Ideas team finally announced the winners (and they also awarded a few bonus prizes because of the large number of entries)! You can read the announcement at the LEGO Ideas blog, and I also thought to talk about them here, because I’m so impressed by the winners!

The grand prize was awarded to Switch on the Ideas by LEGO fan couple Luthy 87 and Rumens 85, (together going by the LEGO Ideas user id L87R85). They share that they were inspired by the light bulb symbol representing both a brilliant idea and an electrical current turning on a light. The font used for the lettering is shaped like an electrical wire with a plug at the end, indicating that successful LEGO Ideas submissions are like turning on the light. The design is simple, clean, and very cleverly executed. Definitely a deserving winner!

There were also two runner-up winners in this contest. One of them is titled A Journey with LEGO Ideas by Totomio. He shares: “Creation is a journey with a purpose, and the shortest path to get there is not always the best. Fortunately, the ways to reach a goal are many – just try to find yours. Do not worry too much about the goal. The most important thing is the journey!” There are so many intricate details here! And the colors are great!

Speaking of colors, the other runner-up winner is Creativity! by ExeSandbox. This gorgeously colorful and creative LEGO artwork is set atop a wooden board made out of LEGO tiles, and surrounded by stationary and desk decorations also made of LEGO bricks. in other words, everything you see on the picture is made of LEGO – 38,082 pieces to be exact! The creator shares that the abstract design does not imply a distinct message, but designed to invoke the flow of thoughts, ideas, concepts, and imaginations that run through our minds everyday. I love this design!

Due to the large number of entries, the LEGO Ideas team decided to pick two bonus prize winners as well. (I assume they will get the same prizes as the runner-up winners, although I’m not entirely sure.) The two bonus prize winners are Fantastic Ideas by Swan Dutchman (who’s wonderful holiday train we featured previously) and The Designer’s Journey by Micro_Mini. Fantastic Ideas represents creativity, imagination and fantasy in this fantasy themed built by a fairy castle, a bow and arrow, a turret with flag, a rainbow, and a beanstalk. And 17-year-old Micro_Mini really put a lot of thought into their creation: “For this logo, I aimed to capture the true essence of what it means to be a LEGO designer, and wanted it to represent the creative process that goes on behind the scenes of every model. The letters also represent the growth of the designer. At the start, their builds may be a little basic and rough around the edges, but as they build more they learn and their building talents grow to eventually become something truly brilliant.”

  • (I) Inspiration – that lightbulb moment and the start of the journey!
  • (D) Designing – where you let your inspiration, imagination and cogs of consideration run wild with ideas on how to make a successful set.
  • (E) Early construction – where you engineer the structure that your model will be based around.
  • (A) Adding the finishing touches to your model, and knowing that all the time and effort you invested in building it was worth it.
  • (S) Submitting your model to LEGO Ideas, and eagerly awaiting the response of the LEGO community!

Besides the winners receiving awesome prizes, selected submissions to the Build Your LEGO Ideas Logo Contest (including those that didn’t win) will be used later in the year to help celebrate 10 years of crowdsourcing LEGO sets. I also hope that the LEGO Ideas team will continue running other challenges and engagements through the LEGO Ideas platform, as it is clear LEGO fans love it! And of course, LEGO Ideas main feature continues to be submitting ideas for future LEGO sets. You can check out the current selection of sets that came out of the LEGO Ideas platform at the the LEGO Ideas section of the Online LEGO Shop.

What do you think? How did you like this LEGO Ideas contest? Did you participate? And what do you think of the winning entries? Which one is your favorite? Feel free to share and discuss in the comment section below! 😉

And you might also like to check out the following related posts:

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2018 LEGO Super Heroes Mighty Micros review

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