The Key to Better Building?

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The Key to Better Building?

Postby mdilthey » Sun Aug 29, 2010 2:27 pm

I've been a little frustrated lately, Builder's Block hardcore :) i'm DYING to reach the next level of space model building.

I look at old favorites like the Porphyrion ( and marvel at the technique, structure, and complexity. I'd love to build similarly, but I can't seem to get my models over the threshold of the truly fantastic.

Here's some stuff i'm afraid to break into without guidance:

1) The use of technic frames inside larger ships without sacrificing an interior.

2) The ability to know exactly what to buy plenty of on Bricklink to expand my model building ability, without wasting money on stuff I don't need.

3) A sorted collection. I'm still on Big Bins.

4) LDraw, if it's even necessary to be a good builder. I haven't explored it at all.

Is it just a matter of more time spent? At 20, i'm a much better builder than I was at 16. should I expect results if I just keep working?
Or should I be doing work studies and communicating with better builders to actively expand my horizons?

It's a long, irrelevant post, but stories on how some of you older community members went from casual builders or kids to serious model makers would be righteous!

Thanks, Gang :D -mdilthey

P.S. If someone knows the model builder who did Porphyrion, let me know. It's my #1 favorite, and I'd love to give him/her credit.
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Re: The Key to Better Building?

Postby Blackicep8ntball » Sun Aug 29, 2010 5:37 pm

Nice post bro - I think we all struggle with how to improve, and I'm interested to hear what people say too. While I'm FAR from an advanced builder, I can at least confidently say I've improved since I started, so here's what made the biggest difference to me:

First, sorting your collection. It took me (and my very gracious wife) several many-hour long sessions over several days to sort out my collection, just by color. However, it was the best investment of my Lego career, and is INFINITELY helpful when building: you have a much better idea of what pieces you have, you can find them MUCH faster (thus making the building process MUCH quicker and easier) and you have a better idea what parts to buy on bricklink (you don't order a piece you already have because you just can't find it).

Second - spend LOTS of time looking at the builders you admire, and try to emulate their builds. You'll learn new techniques, and then you can add your own twists and give it your signature. In my opinion, this is the BEST way to learn. Study, study, study.

Third, spend lots and lots of time building. Work on a project until you feel its perfect - don't just stop because you have a semi-complete model. If you don't like something, tear it apart and build again - no one gets perfect builds the first time.

As for LDD - I've never used it, and I certainly don't think it's necessary to become a good builder. But it seems like it would be a good tool to use before you buy parts, to see what something might look like before you build it. I'll let others share their experience on that :)

Anyway, like I said, I'm a beginner, but that's what has helped me so far :-) Good luck!
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Re: The Key to Better Building?

Postby mdilthey » Sun Aug 29, 2010 7:10 pm

Glad you posted, not only because you're my first go-to guy on the community, but also because your review of the ease sorting the collection gave you is perhaps the best advice anyone could have given. I wonder sometimes exactly how much it helps: that little comment might just push me to go for it. So thanks!

I'm hoping this post gets some action over the next week so I can get more inspiration like that :D
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Re: The Key to Better Building?

Postby aotus » Sun Aug 29, 2010 7:30 pm

mdilthey wrote:The ability to know exactly what to buy plenty of on Bricklink to expand my model building ability, without wasting money on stuff I don't need.

Oh well, if I'm any example, you can forget that! I've studied several structural ideas over the years, spent LOTS and LOTS on Bricklink -- and I'm only now seeing clearly how I'm going to build a large spaceship which has been in my mind's eye for about five years. Granted, I don't build much. But you should see the number of abandoned experiments in my project box.

LDraw is nice, but I think that there's simply no substitute for hands-on in Lego. LDraw will never be able to tell you anything about structural strain and flexing of parts. If you build big, heavy, or at quirky angles, you need to know these things.

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Re: The Key to Better Building?

Postby mdilthey » Sun Aug 29, 2010 9:14 pm

This summer I did a little experimenting. I knew I didn't have the parts to build 100 studs long with any sort of effectiveness, but I did have the parts to go boxy that large, so I did. Just to experiment with parts strain. It's pretty significant, leading me to believe i'll have to be a skeleton builder first. Anyone have any good laws to the skeleton process, or tips on making a photographable interior without sacrificing structure integrity?
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Re: The Key to Better Building?

Postby DavidP » Mon Aug 30, 2010 4:31 am

I think your on your way.
To use Ldraw effectively you need to know your brick physics first. But it is limited in the fact that
some of the parts made have never been added to the library. It is very useful for what I have to
order lists. The best way for a newbie in Ldraw to learn is to build a multi-coloured prototype in real
bricks. (start small) Then draw it. You can experiment with different colours and once you've settled
you can print out a parts list. It's than a matter of going through your parts first then ordering the
ones you need.

As for Technic frames they are your friends. Try building box frames first. I would suggest studded
beams for horizontal parts of the frame and studless for vertical parts of the frame.

Remember you can have studs facing in all directions if you want.

Hope this helps.
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Re: The Key to Better Building?

Postby bothanrodian » Mon Aug 30, 2010 10:48 am

Hi Max,

It seems to me that you're trying to force yourself to build and that's not always the best thing to do. Don't try to force the pieces together because it won't come out right if you're just trying to build something for the sake of building it. Spending time away from the brick is a good thing too and it leads to future inspiration. In my case, for example, I'm away from my collection most of the time since I go to boarding school and only bring a few lego tubs with me. However, I draw a lot of concepts at school and keep up on the forums/flickr so that I have some ideas when I get home.
I can tell you want to build a SHIP. I've built two SHIPs that are around 90% complete. On my first SHIP, I didn't really have the whole thing in mind and I just started working. I built it without a technic frame at first, but I soon realized that created the SNOT and other things I wanted to add required one for structural purposes. I integrated the frame underneath the main deck of the SHIP and I still have a nice interior in it. I can understand your interest in building a SHIP, there's something romantic about the whole idea. If your current colelction can't support it though it's probably better to just buy sets and slowly build your collection until its sizeable enough. Buy one of the UCS star wars sets, they have a lot of good, valuable pieces. Also, size isn't everything, nnenn and Peter, for example, almost always stick to the smaller scale and have made incredible things.
On the subject of sorting your collection, it's not always a good thing. Depending on what kind of builder you are, it might work better for you if you have a organized, sorted collection or a random bunch of brick in front of you. My collection is sorted, but when I'm building I tend to pull a lot of pieces in the color I'm working with out of boxes and just create a jumble of bricks in front of me.
If you really have something in mind you should go to bricklink and select the pieces you need. Ldraw could help with this since you can tinker with pretty much anything on there.

Gully Foyle is my name
And Terra is my nation
Deep space is my dwelling place
The stars my destination
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Re: The Key to Better Building?

Postby mdilthey » Mon Aug 30, 2010 3:19 pm

Thanks for the good advice, nate. After 15 years of jumbled boxes, i've begun sorting. It took me about an hour to pull all the white out of my largest box, so I suspect i'll be done sorting everything this week.

Some bonuses I hadn't thought of:

1) After avoiding the Bleys for years, I have amassed an awful lot of them. I think after sorting, I can switch from normal greys to Bleys permanently, and I didn't know I could support that.

2) I have no idea how much Black I have, so now I'll have a pool to pull from

I think buying a UCS model sounds like a pretty awesome idea, I may invest in one this fall. I find since most of the models I buy were/are white, I should go for a UCS that has a lot of white. Maybe the newest Space Shuttle would do the trick as well.

Building in rainbow actually sounds appealing.... One thing that i'm not sure separates me from other builders; I never keep stuff. Build, photograph, break. 100% of the time. Not sure I want to stop that trend :D it leads to a lot of productivity/creativity!

Thanks for the responses, gang! Keep em' coming, experiences or ideas or advice, anything!
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Re: The Key to Better Building?

Postby mdilthey » Tue Aug 31, 2010 3:18 am

Update: not that i'm important!

I sifted every single white and grey brick out of the 15 year old collection boxes, without carpet lint or broken rubber bands, into brand new Roughneck clear bins. Wonderful!

Turns out i have TWICE as much dark and light grey than I do white! Go figure! Tapping into those colors for the long overdue Unfaithful V2

Version 1: ( ... 109184399/)

After going through this process, and continuing with Black as my next target, I highly recommend to any builders who haven't organized by color to try it out. If you put on some good music, the tediousness is held at bay by the "I have FOUR of those?!" factor.
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Re: The Key to Better Building?

Postby pasukaru76 » Tue Aug 31, 2010 4:42 pm

It's often said that you sort by color first, then later by part type when your collection gets larger. I sorted my collection by color a few months back, and now it has mostly turned back into an unsorted mess because that sorting method wasn't really practical for me.

As you've noticed, sorting by color gives you a good overview of how many pieces you have in one particular color. As a collection grows larger, you have enough of each color for almost any purpose, and then it becomes more important to locate those pesky black 1x1 plates that get lost in the big pile of black pieces.

Next time I sort, I plan to sort the pieces I use most often by type, and the rest by color.
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