(Written by William)
Let’s face it, the large LEGO Creator Expert Builder sets are expensive, and many LEGO fans may feel like they can’t afford them, or it’s not worth spending so much on just one set. Of course it is important to have your finances in order before taking up any hobby, but once your priorities are taken care of, these more advanced LEGO Creator sets are definitely something to consider. 🙂
For me the #10253 LEGO Creator Big Ben was the first time I experienced building one of these very large and detailed LEGO Creator sets based on real world buildings. So I was really excited and didn’t really know what to expect, but couldn’t wait to see what’s inside the box. In this article I will be mostly focusing on the interesting building techniques I found it the set, but I also wanted to share some of my overall thoughts on it.
Firstly, the LEGO Creator Big Ben is definitely worth it. The sheer amount of useful pieces is staggering. Sure, you can see the piece-count on the box (4163 pieces), but that information doesn’t really sink in until you see the mountain of pieces in front of you. If you plan to build anything like a castle, cathedral, skyscraper, or any other large decorative buildings with earthy tones, the LEGO Creator Big Ben is great for both basic and decorative elements. Another surprise for me was the actual size of the final model. On the pictures it definitely looks big, but the clock-tower seem to shrink the rest of the building. But make no mistake, the entire thing is huge! Below I have included a traditional review by JANGBRiCKS who will show you the set in detail. And below the video, we will discuss the interesting building techniques found in the set.
➡ WORKING WITH LEGO PART GEOMETRY
If you look at models built by LEGO fans, you will notice that they often use LEGO elements in interesting ways, based on their shape. In fact, sometimes all that pulls a model together into a cohesive form is the shape of the parts. This is often referred to by LEGO fans as using a part’s geometry. In official LEGO sets pieces are often used creatively, but the part’s geometry is rarely emphasized. So it was surprising to see a couple of techniques used in the LEGO Creator Big Ben that heavily relied on part geometry.
The most obvious of these is the turned pillars in the front wall of the building. For the most part, the pillars are nothing more than a stack of 1×1 bricks and plates, with a couple of other elements in between to connect the 1×1 pieces into the walls. However this arrangement would still make the construction weak. But by turning the stacks slightly, they get locked into the space behind them. So taking advantage of the geometry of the 1×1 elements makes the model more secure, and also provide an interesting pattern.
Another spot where this technique shines is in the section of the building that hangs over the water. There are studs on the corners to allow sideways building, but the bottom most of these bricks with sideway studs have a slight issue; because of the studs are on all four sides, no regular bricks could be placed next to them. The solution to this was to use small corner panels to accommodate the studs, while still creating a smooth wall on the outside. In addition, the walls of the corner panels rest against the studs, which prevents the panels from moving around. So once again, the structure is held secure by the geometry of the part rather than just the standard connection points.
However the best example of part geometry is in the clock-faces. Each face is free-floating, and then fit into a frame. A couple of rails are added in as resistance, and it is done. Not a single stud, bar, or any other connection holds them in place. It is all part geometry.
➡ FRAMING & DECORATING WITH LEGO
At one point I considered writing a book about advanced LEGO building techniques, and this was one of the techniques that would have had a prominent place in one of the chapters. The concept is remarkably simple: create a box by only building up the edges (essentially making a frame). This way the sides of the box are available for heavy amounts of detailing.
This is exactly what is being used in the tall clock-tower where you see the vertical lines. All of those lines are panels you build and then install sideways connected by only two studs. The real structure of the tower is simply the frame. This technique is highly versatile because it allows you to be very creative about what you place on the sides of the box, as they don’t have to support the overall structure, and thus allowing you to create a sturdy model, while also experimenting with delicate decorations.
➡ MAGNITUDE OF LEGO ELEMENTS
One of the major differences you will find in these large and very detailed LEGO Creator sets is the number of parts you will need to assemble. Walls that may have been built with a handful of larger bricks and a couple of panels in a normal LEGO set, now consist of hundreds of small parts. When you build such a parts-heavy model, there are some additional factors you need to consider while building.
First among these factors is stability. With so many smaller pieces, interlocking elements have never been more important. If possible, try to have any wall interlock in three directions. In the LEGO Creator Big Ben this is done by using struts that appear inside the model. Each wall interlocks left and right along its length, plus a third direction for added stability.
Next is to find as many connection points as possible. With particularly delicate sections like windows, it can be hard to keep everything securely lined up. The LEGO Creator Big Ben uses clips and bars to attach the large windows that look out over the water, as well as axle and bush connections to keep a pillar of statues from falling over. These small additions make it possible to move the model around without crumbling the decorative parts.
Finally, when building a large and detailed structure, you will need lots of the same pieces. Models like the LEGO Creator Big Ben rarely include an extensive variety of elements. Rather, they use hundreds of the same pieces – especially structures with a limited color-scheme. If you plan to build something large, it makes more sense financially to just buy a large set like the LEGO Creator Big Ben and use the parts, because otherwise it would be very expensive to get the same amount of pieces individually. (The price-per-piece ratio for the LEGO Creator Big Ben is 6 cents, which is really good.)
➡ BASIC ROTARY FUNCTIONS WITH LEGO
Probably one of the coolest features of the LEGO Creator Big Ben is that all four clock-faces can be controlled at once. And this also gives us an opportunity to examine what can be achieved with rotating gears. Let’s start with the most basic principle; opposite rotation. When two gears are side by side they will act inversely toward one another – so if one spins clockwise the other must go counterclockwise. This is great for reversing direction. In the LEGO Creator Big Ben, you see this action where the axle that the knob is attached to meets the second gear. It was necessary to have the clocks turn the right way.
Then, we have perpendicular gears. This is useful when you need to make a 90 degree turn in direction. You see this in the base of the tower. Finally, we get a second aspect of perpendicular gear placement up by the clock-faces. If you have one large gear that operates multiple smaller gears, it will matter if you connect the gears above or below the larger gear. Putting the gears in one of these two places will change the direction the smaller gears rotate. In the LEGO Creator Big Ben, all the clocks need to rotate in the same direction, therefore they all needed to be on one side of the larger gear. The end result is that no matter which way the large gear moves, all the others will move in the same direction.
➡ APPLYING WHAT YOU LEARN
As you learn more advanced building techniques, you should become aware of the special benefits the shape of parts provides. Even the simples 1×1 brick possess a little versatility, as it is demonstrated in the LEGO Creator Big Ben. Keep in mind that it may be up to you to build an opportunity for a part to take advantage of its shape.
When it comes to graduating a LEGO builder from the most basic house to something with a little more style, I will always advise they try framing and decorating. Sure, the overall design may still be blocky but it gives a level of freedom to someone trying to do a novel design. As you become more proficient, you may not need the full box frame, and could get away with just a framed wall section. In the end, practice will let you grow.
When we build or own LEGO models, we typically don’t think large scale tonnage. Rather we are trying to replicate something the best we can, which sometimes means using a lot of smaller parts to match our idea. This can result in our model not holding up as well as smaller designs, because we didn’t upgrade our techniques to match the different building style. As long as you can recognize the problem areas that can come up, you will be better prepared to face these challenges.
A well-designed gear structure can really add a lot to a LEGO model. Familiarizing yourself with their potential is the best way to see how they might fit in your own LEGO creation. Many LEGO builders who are more familiar with the standard LEGO system shy away from using LEGO Technic elements. But the two systems are fully compatible, and you can add a lot of interesting features to your LEGO model by integrating Technic.
So what do you think? How do you like the LEGO Creator Big Ben set? And what do you think of the building techniques used here? Did you learn something new that you can incorporate in your own creations? Feel free to share your own tips, or ask questions in the comment section below! 😉
For other reviews in the Brick Breakdown series focusing on interesting building techniques in official LEGO sets, see my author’s page. And you might also like to check out the following related posts: