(Written by William)
Ever since LEGO committed to creating a highly detailed working fairground series, I’ve been a fan. So, when the #10273 LEGO Creator Haunted House was announced, I was jumping all over myself to get it. And now that I had the chance to build it, I can say that although it’s not a perfect set (I will talk about this later), I still love it and would recommend it to any advanced LEGO builder.
Notice that I said builder, and not just LEGO fan. And not just builder, but advanced builder. Unlike most LEGO sets, the #10273 LEGO Creator Haunted House requires a bit of skill to put together. This is especially true if – heaven forbid – you need to troubleshoot any problems that might arise. Based on my experience with the set, as well as the reviews of others, expect that you will likely need to make adjustments to the mechanism of the ride to make it work reliably. An old hand at building will not panic, but a less experienced builder could get frustrated with this set, and not knowing what to do, just give up.
I also want to stress that if your expectation is that this will be a nice haunted house, then you may be disappointed. The #10273 LEGO Creator Haunted House is more of a faux haunted house that is meant to highlight a ride. You are meant to have the impressions of a haunted house from an aesthetic point of view. If you really want a large haunted house, you may have to search for the #10228 LEGO Monster Fighters Haunted House from 2012. That was meant to be a house that was haunted. This is a ride that happens to have an indoor element.
With all of that said, this is probably one of the most ambitious rides LEGO has created from a decorative perspective. Having a ride that is essentially indoors presents a lot of challenges. But LEGO designers did a great job balancing the ride itself, the aesthetics of a haunted house, references to classic LEGO sets, and additional fun features like the light-up painting and the opening doors that has nothing to do with the ride. In the video below, I will talk a bit more about my overall impressions of the set, then we will dive into discussing the unique building techniques.
WORKING WITH LEGO FLYWHEELS
When the lead designer for this set mentioned that flywheels are used in this set, I knew we will need to study them. The concept of a fly wheel is pretty simple. When activated, it reduces the speed of whatever it comes in contact with by siphoning off some of the momentum. In practice, I had no idea went into building something like this. So, let’s rip away the mystique and examine the construction.
Let’s start by examining what’s involved with the two fly wheels in this set. Each is comprised of one large wheel, three gears (two of the same size and smaller), and two rollers. Each roller is made up of four thin wheels, so the two rollers have eight individual wheels in total. In addition, there are the various axles and bricks that make up the framework that houses each fly wheel. Each side is built pretty much the same so from now on we’ll just focus on one fly wheel in action.
For starters, the two rollers are set one on top of the other and then linked with the three gears. The gears directly attached to the rollers are the same size, so it doesn’t really matter what size the third gear is that links them since they’ll turn at the same speed. This feature, by itself, has an interesting effect. Since the rollers have to move at the same speed, the effect is a bit of a restraint on how fast an object can move past them. To put it simply, the speed of what the rollers are interacting with is regulated, so it needs increased force to go waster past the flywheel. Since the weight of the ride doesn’t change, this means the force is constant and the ride slows down. However, this slowdown is fairly minor.
Now, let’s bring in the large tire. This is connected to the tiny gear that connects the two rollers. Its purpose is to provide a counterweight. You see, moving the tire takes energy because it’s fairly heavy and large. Additionally, using a small gear to move it means it demands a lot of energy quickly. In short, this wheel is introducing drag or friction to the flywheel. The end result is a transfer of energy. The downward force of the elevator has to slow down because it is forced to move the big tire in back. This means that part of its speed is stolen, thereby slowing it down. All in all, this is a lot of basic physics done in a very simple way.
For a prolonged drop, you have a couple of options. You can add more rollers to the flywheel, thus requiring a more consistent drain of energy. Or you can add more weight by adding more tires. It will really depend on how much you’re trying to slow down an object with a flywheel.
WORKING WITH A LEGO TOGGLE RELEASE SYSTEM
Moving on to something a bit more complex is the toggle release system that is built into the #10273 LEGO Creator Haunted House. This is what allows you to raise the elevator to any point and then have it drop. Granted, you could just keep turning the crank, and the tread link that holds the elevator will slip out from under it when it reaches the top, but the toggle switch gives you a higher degree of control.
Let’s start by pointing out the important parts. The first part of the mechanism is the main axle, which holds the gears. It is made up of three parts; left axle, an axle sleeve, and right axle. On the right side is a very large gear that will operate the chain. This gear is connected directly into the axle so when the axle turns, so does the gear. On the left axle there are four more parts. There is a gear that has a pinhole for its center support, two extension pieces that are made to connect in with this gear and turn it (they also have pinhole centers), and a large barrel-shaped part that slides over the axle sleeve. This barrel piece is very important with several features. First, it can slide freely along the sleeve, however, if the sleeve turns it will also turn, so it is connected to the main axle. Second, it can fit into the extension pieces due to how its ends are shaped. Third, it also has a groove in the center which will be how we’re going to interact with it later.
So, that’s the initial set up; three parts with pinholes that will spin freely on the axle on the left that can interact with the axle only if the barrel element is pressed into them. You can probably imagine from here that the only trick is to move the barrel left and right to either secure or release the mechanism. In order to do this, you will build a toggle switch. This is a part I’m not familiar with so it may be new, but it is a LEGO Technic connector that tapers down to a bar. This bar then fits inside the groove of the barrel. You will also build a switch to operate the toggle piece. Given its shape, it will either hold the barrel firmly connected to the extensions and gears or be moved away, thus causing an instant release of tension.
WORKING WITH LEGO SINGLE DIRECTION TURNING
I have covered a technique like this in the past, I believe when we discussed the #10261 LEGO Creator Roller Coaster. In that model we used a gear bridge to either engage or disconnect, depending on how you turned a gear. Well, there are other ways to accomplish this and they may be more useful depending on what you’re trying to do. For instance, the gear bridge won’t hold any tension. So, say you’re lifting an elevator, as soon as you let go, it will drop. Let’s look at another method that can hold weight and still prevent turning the crank in the wrong direction.
If you look at the back of the #10273 LEGO Creator Haunted House, you’ll see on the left side a crank that controls the ride, and to the right of it is a gear that it turns. Behind this gear towards the building is a LEGO Technic connector piece. Typically, this piece helps you angle two axles perpendicularly to one another. In this case, it is just resting on the gear. When the gear is turning the correct way it simply pushes this piece out of the way and rotates as normal. However, when you attempt to move the gear the other way, the connector jams itself into the teeth of the gear, preventing any movement. And that’s it!
To implement this in your own designs just figure out which way your stopper needs to be. Make sure it rests on the gear and can get into the gear’s teeth, and that the stopper can move freely. I do want to point out that LEGO designers did reinforce the stopper into the main structure as they knew it would need to hold up to some significant pressure. But this may not be necessary for smaller creations.
WORKING WITH LEGO LIGHT MASKS
It’s not too often that LEGO does much with lights. Mostly, when we see any type of light used in a set, it simply lights up something specific and that’s it. The two most common variations are either the light is directly shining on an object or it’s backlighting an object. So, it was a complete surprise to me when LEGO designers actually did something different in this model.
Up on one of the walls is a painting of the Baron holding a ruby. Backlighting this is pretty neat to show the magic of the gem, however there is more. Behind the painting is another panel with a printed pharaoh’s head. The result is that when looking at the painting without the light, it looks one way, and when looking at it with the light on, the pharaoh’s previously hidden image appears. It’s a rather striking effect.
Ultimately, the idea is that you are creating masks for the light. The interesting thing is that you actually don’t need to have pre-printed panels to make this happen. It’s possible to use LEGO bricks and other pieces in front of a light source to direct what’s seen. In fact, some builders take this to the next level and make their entire piece based on this concept. This is often referred to as shadow art.
However, the focus here is that this concept can be implemented in small ways inside your own LEGO creations. Whether you use custom printed stickers or actual building elements, these tricks of the light can be breathtaking. The trick is finding the right part with just enough transparency to make a good screen. Many of the solid colored window panels LEGO makes have a decent amount of transparency that can be used for this purpose. Or, if you don’t have those, applying your own custom stickers on clear panels should do a decent job, provided your sticker paper isn’t super thick.
Also consider that you may need to use a non-LEGO light source to get the job done. This is partly why it is so rare to have optical illusions built into official LEGO sets. The light parts they currently have aren’t quite built for the purpose. But I highly recommend experimenting with this technique and see what you can create with light and two surfaces.
APPLYING WHAT YOU LEARN
There’s nothing quite like a LEGO fairground set. Not only are they made to look fantastic, but they often tackle some rather interesting challenges. Each of these solutions should be added to your own toolbox of tricks to help with mechanical problems you might run across in your own creations.
Minimizing speed with weight and friction is something I knew was possible. But seeing it built in an official set gives me a new level of reality to what is possible. Also consider that your ability to control speed doesn’t need to be limited to vertical applications. Additionally, you may not need flywheels that are as large as in this set. Instead, take this as a blueprint in its most general form and experiment. Perhaps using a rubber band instead of a weight might give you the extreme braking system you’re looking for.
Answer may come in the form of parts you never knew existed. Toggle release mechanisms seemed like impossibilities until I built this set. That’s because I was unaware of the existence of certain parts. Exposing yourself to as many official LEGO sets as possible aids you in discovering new parts and techniques.
Likewise, never count on a solution you’ve discovered or used as the only way to get something done. Single direction turning that can hold weight has a wide range of uses. Drawbridges on a castle or controls for a hoist are just a couple of possible situations this style of single direction turning could be used for. Plus, never under estimate just how simple a technique can be.
Speaking of simple, sometimes a creation has a whole new appearance in a different light. Keep in mind that your creative options don’t need to be limited by the purely physical. Using visual tricks is a great way to stretch yourself creatively. And if you still have problems finding a perfect piece, remember you can always use paper or cloth to create your screen. Hopefully, these points will give you some inspirations for your future masterpieces! If you haven’t checked it out already the #10273 LEGO Creator Haunted House is available at the Online LEGO Shop.
What do you think? How do you like the LEGO Creator Haunted House? What do you think of the techniques we discussed here? If you have the set already, what other interesting building techniques did you notice? Feel free to share your thoughts and own reviews in the comment section below!
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