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A Catablog of Tools, Tips, and Techniques for building with LEGO®


Category: Tips

WIP: Hut Wall Experiment, originally uploaded by mhuffman.

No one goes from a pile of bricks to hitting all the popular LEGO MOC blogs in just a few short minutes. The best creations require planning and practice.

Sketch it out

In this image we see examples of both planning and practice. Mhuffman has some sketches that are part of the planning stage. He is experimenting with creating a hut wall, so he has drawn out the basic idea first to help figure out what the end result will be before he’s bricked together a whole pile of LEGO in a miserable failure. :)

Practice the technique

After some advance planning, he has now started experimenting with the idea for his technique with the physical bricks.

Coming up with something new — even if it’s just a technique that is new to you — can be tricky. It helps to practice the idea before you implement it on your MOC. Better to figure out all the kinks and problems separately before having to take your 75,000 piece MOC apart halfway through!

Hell’s Kitchen, originally uploaded by Fanboy30.

One thing I’ve found extremely helpful for building inspiration is to type some keywords into Flickr and see if there is an existing group for what I’m wanting to build.

In my Lego-built web comic, The Brick Side, I have an upcoming series that will start out in a medieval kitchen. I haven’t done a lot of building interiors, and never a kitchen, so I went in search for Lego kitchen stuff. I found lots of entries, but no groups, so I went ahead and started one and then invited a lot of the photos I’d found helpful. Check out my kitchen group, and add something if you’ve got it.

On the other side of this, don’t be quick to start a group. I put in the search term “lego minifig scale furniture” and didn’t find a group, so I started one, invited a bunch of images, and then found out there were some other groups called “lego furniture” and such that I might have been satisfied with.

I’m not completely dissatisfied, though, because the group I started was particularly for minifig scale, whereas the other groups weren’t quite that niched.

KLR-20 Luxury combat vehicle, originally uploaded by Legohaulic.

Technique: This creation is absolutely beautiful! I love how Legohaulic has built the smooth, sloping surface of the vehicle, how it feels bulky, yet comfy. He’s made a great use of the various slope pieces (yeah cheese!) to get there.


One thing that is a key element here that separates the “boys” from the “men,” as it were, is Tyler’s use of a unified color scheme. Note that he doesn’t have a smattering of color (i.e. a little blue, a little red, some yellow, some green) — he’s using light bley metallic silver as the prominent color, black as his secondary color, and the lights fit in as nice tertiary colors for balance. (I’d count the translucent black in there as a nice mix between the primary and secondary colors).

Oh, and be sure to check out the commercial.

Maybe they disappeared in a move. Or your baby sister tore them to shreds. Or the dog ate them. For whatever reason, most of us have, at some time, lost building instructions. Apart from trying to put the thing back together from memory, stealing your best friend’s instructions, or just plain never building the set again, there are a number of sources online for you to recover instructions.

The first and best source is the LEGO website itself. Down at the bottom of each page in their standard footer, there is a link for Customer Service. That page has a couple links on it that say “Building Instructions.” There you can enter the set number, a key word, or search by a set brand (i.e. castle, harry potter, etc.) While they don’t have all the sets ever made, they do have all the recent ones. Once you’ve entered a set or a keyword you’ll get a list of all the applicable sets in their database. Click on one to see a thumbnail image of the set. Then, once you’ve found your set, you can download the instructions as a pretty good quality PDF.

Another place to find scanned images of most of the sets ever made is at The Brickfactory. Keep in mind that these won’t be nifty PDFs you can download. Each scan is a big JPG file sitting on a web-page. If you’re concerned about the legality of saving and/or printing these scans, The Brickfactory has respectfully posted a disclaimer that links to LEGO’s official “fair play” standards. There is a paragraph at the bottom of the page entitled, “Scanning Of Copyrighted Materials Into A Web Site” where the LEGO company specifically addresses this sort of site and essentially says, “hey, we own the copyrights, but at present we are not going to make a stink about people posting old building instructions on the internet if they’re not trying to make money off it, or make us look bad.” (That was my paraphrase, but please do go ahead and read the page for yourself.)

Finally, If you want a real, live set of paper instructions, Bricklink is a good place to go to find people selling building instructions. From the Reference page, use the Item Types drop-down menu to select “Instructions.”

Hope that helps. If you have found other helpful ways to track down building instructions, feel free to post a comment, and I may incorporate it back into the article at some point.