Great Debates! LEGO vs Hobby Modeling

The Manifesto is proud to present the first installment of what will hopefully develop into a regular column by noted TFOL, Achintya Prasad.  If you dwell exclusively in the lands of Flickr you may not be aware of him (he’s on Flickr but not as popular as he should be), but Mr. Prasad has amassed quite a following of admirers on MOCpages, where he is well known as a builder of outstanding military models.  What makes him unique though is his dedication to the power of debate and détente between community members, running groups devoted to the topic.  As it turns out, Achintya is also an aspiring scribe and unlike so many of you who have expressed an interest in writing for this venerable blog….he actually came through.  Bested by a teenager, the shame of it all.  If you are not familiar with his work and you’re too lazy to take the links, here is a sampling of Prasad Heavy Industries most popular offerings.

So move aside you rubes, and let the man come through. Writers live and die on feedback, so don’t hesitate to engage in the comment section with your usual vigor.  Take it away Achyntia!

Hello everyone, and welcome to the first ever out-of-left-field discussion of the intricacies an existential analysis of the hobby we all love, LEGO. In this first installment, we are going to delve deep into perhaps the biggest rivalry you have never heard about: LEGO versus Hobby Modeling. To give some perspective on my position, I have been involved in both LEGO and Hobby Modeling projects, and have seen the methods and processes of both interest areas. So, with that cleared, let the analysis begin!
To be clear, when I talk about Hobby Modeling, I’m talking about all forms of plastic building kits, from the likes of Revel to Hasegawa. While many associate Hobby Modeling (hither forth referred to as HM) with model aircraft, the truth is that the community has expanded into numerous fields, from warships to classic cars. While this comparison is still quite apples to oranges, we shall still pick apart the two fields and see what each area is actually made of.
LEGO’s cornerstone is the LEGO brick. The quintessential element, the humble 2×4 red brick is a staple in the minds of millions across the world. Of course, if you’re reading this, then you know LEGO is far more than that, crossing into the complex world of mechanical and structural engineering via the Technic system and other LEGO branches. Finer details, sometimes known in the trade as “greebling” is accomplished by miscellaneous pieces, from tiles to minifigure utensils.

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HM, on the other hand, doesn’t quite have such an internationally recognized standard. Unlike branches such as Technic and Power Functions, HM primarily focuses on static display, coupled with skills in painting. Detail work of models is also done via water or oil based decals, designed to offer fine, natural looking detail without the thickness of stickers. For the most part, a HW box will contain anywhere from a dozen to hundreds of tiny plastic elements, attached to sprues.
Both branches, in the material sense, do share a common component: plastic, though to varying degrees. LEGO is world-renowned for its military grade precision in its factories, from the injection molding machines to the robotic transporters. HM, on the other hand, prefers to handle the challenge of assembly of even base elements to its enthusiasts; “flash” (or extra plastic left over from the molding process) cleaning is a vital step before the assembly of any model.

 

Now, examining LEGO and HM in a much wider aspect, we get into something known colloquially as “Kit-bashing.” It’s the bane of any child or parent attempting to ensure a LEGO kit is completed correctly, and the downright insanity that plagues the first HM projects, where the amateur rips the pieces off the sprue before even consulting the instructions. Both, however, tell an interesting tale of the fundamental difference at the heart of LEGO and HM: focus. Put it simply, LEGO is accuracy, and HM is precision. When you’re putting together a 1/72 scale model of an SR-71 Blackbird, you know the final product will look like a Mach 3 spy plane, unless you saw off the tails. What really counts HM are the details; making sure each individual dial in the cockpit is painted and labeled, and each landing gear strut might as well have come from SkunkWork’s planning division themselves. LEGO is far different. It’s simply impossible to recreate that same Blackbird with that level of detail at that scale. Instead, a LEGO builder must attempt to find accuracy in the final looks of the aircraft. Preserve the dark exterior and basic shape, and forget about any realistic attempts of finer detailing (unless you paint your pieces, in which case, shame on you!) Examining Kit-bashing, you see a similar technique. Kitbashing for HM is a very precise game, where elements from other kits are often filed down or otherwise modded to fit another kit, via putty or other techniques. LEGO, using its own universal dimensions, completely does away with any compatibility issues, again because the focus of the LEGO brick is on accuracy. The turbine inside that SR-71 is built with a similar, compatible piece as the third gear in a transmission of a power functions tractor-trailer. The same can’t be said for the detailed components of an HM kit.

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Before moving on, I’d like to bring special attention to a comparison that really drives home the accuracy vs precision argument. Below you will see two images, one of a 1/36 scale F-14 Tomcat built by the world’s premier LEGO aircraft builder, Ralph Savelsberg, and the other being a 1/32 scale Tomcat from Tamiya, an HM model company. Excusing the slight differences in scale and image quality, the point is seen clearly. The use of LEGO curved slope elements lent a fuselage shaping almost precisely to what we see in Top Gun. Tamiya, however, simply molded the shape to the exact specifications of the plane. Ralph nailed the paint job of the aircraft as a whole, but the Tamiya model managed to incorporate every panel gap, every warning label, and every bolt. Both are outstanding models, but each play to a completely different strength. Working inside the confines of the square LEGO universe, Ralph recreated the rippling, muscular body of the Tomcat, while Tamiya model managed to take Tom Cruise’s aircraft and throw it into a shrink ray. To the casual observer, these differences are hardly noticeable. To us enthusiasts, however, the differences draw the definitive line between LEGO and HM (unless you aren’t a purist, which is a discussion for another time).


From aircraft builders to even the most dedicated train builders, the differences are stark and apparent. I remember the day the Emerald Night Train kit was released. I watched the LEGO interview of the designer behind the project, and distinctly remember his pride in announcing several new train wheels. For years LEGO hadn’t done much for the train community, with few new elements for train enthusiasts to choose from. For HM, however, that has never been an issue. Think the train wheel included in your S2 class Baldwin locomotive is too small? That’s fine, just purchase a Soviet IS class steam locomotive and switch the wheels (actually, I have no idea how trains work, so apologies to the facepalming train fans, though the point still stands). The Kit-bashing of HM, while tricky in terms of compatibility, offers something LEGO fans today dream about: a larger, more specialized component pool.

 

Of course, those are the stories of the materials at hand. But the true test of these hobbies are found in the hobbyist. Both clubs are known to have different presences in communities, both locally and online. In terms of local clubs, the LEGO group is by far the more active in communities, with LEGO events scheduled via both LEGO official stores and LUGs. HM’s, meanwhile, are more fragmented, with no real support from concrete stores from the makers of model kits. While this can be attributed to the decline of sales for these companies since the early 2000’s, it shows a clear difference. While hobby shops still keep entire aisles for hundreds of different pots of paint for models, none of that compares to LEGO Land, not to mention the massive site Bricklink and LUGs, officially sanctioned by the LEGO group themselves.
But what does all this mean? How do these two similar yet different hobbies compare? In the end, I think the advantage of expanded areas and development must fall to LEGO. The humble brick is far more than a model builder; it’s a story-teller, one that reflects the ideas and personality of many different builders. HMs, meanwhile, have the advantage in realism. Building a LEGO F-22 Raptor would never end up in a completely accurate scale model, at least compared to the sharp lines and intricate detailing a HM can afford. My personal experience has always been the same: LEGO’s handicaps are its strengths, that is, its universal compatibility system. Quite simply, the blasted system makes it impossible to recreate the small details on a battleship or train. HM, however, allows me to include each individual air vent on a Bofors 40mm, but leaves me high and dry when I want to build something on my own. Really, it’s up to the viewer, which do you prefer? Story telling imagination, or realistic detailing? Is your hobby a sanctuary for your own ideas and thoughts, or is a projection of your skills onto the real world? Let us know in the comments below.

38 thoughts on “Great Debates! LEGO vs Hobby Modeling

  1. Wow, another great article on this site. Also, nice to see someone I was completely unaware of…good to see a new face.

    I used to build model kits a lot in my earlier years. Much more precision, absolutely…but much less creative. With Lego I can build what I want. Sure, it’s not as precise for recreating replicas of real life structures or vehicles; that’s probably why I don’t fully understand the train crowd. If I wanted to recreate something so exact, personally, I’d choose a different medium. Don’t get me wrong, some of the technical wizardry that the trainheads in the Lego hobby come up with is mind blowing. For me though, I’d rather build something of my own design…probably why I stick mostly to sci-fi / space.

    What does interest me is Gundam…I have built one small one and currently have a perfect grade in flight…but I like them because I’m terrible at Lego mecha and love their aesthetics. Kit-bashing is what I’d likely be doing if Lego didn’t exist. There are some truly spectacular custom creations out there.

    Again, great article. Please move to Flickr. =)

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    1. Achintya is actually on Flickr, if you follow the first link in the article it will take you to his photostream. It was poor wording on my part, I meant to say that he’s not as popular there (yet), and that he cut his teeth at MOCpages. I’ll jump back in there and edit the intro for clarity, but you should definitely add him as a contact.

      I agree with you, I’ve always wondered why people who go for hyper-realistic representations of real-world vehicles opt for Lego. I supposed it’s the challenge of getting as close as you possibly can within a restrictive set of rules/pieces, but if slavish devotion to accuracy is the end-goal then I’m not sure why you’d opt for such an unfriendly medium.

      I was into scale modeling when I was a youngster, but it was mostly as a delivery mechanism for firecrackers. I was terribly inept with Testors paint and brushes and my parents (rightfully) didn’t trust me with an airbrush. I can also remember alot of glue-trapped fingerprints all over my models. Kit-bashing never even occurred to me back then but it does sound like a bit of fun.

      Thanks for jumping in Zach, way to make the new guy feel welcome!

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      1. Speaking for myself, I built my Swordfish II because I don’t have the time or the patience to learn how to build and paint plastic models well, so I went with something more familiar. I’ve since made one of the giants from The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask and that was more because there actually aren’t any figurines of that thing anywhere and I wanted one for my desk. But generally I get far more satisfaction out of building original stuff and like Zach I figure I would have gotten into kitbashing if it wasn’t for Lego. Some of the stuff out there is amazing, like this number from Konjoo:

        Marlin

        I’d love to hear his thoughts on this since he does Lego as well.

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    2. Hey Zachmoe, thanks for the warm welcome! Yeah I agree, I’m not too familiar with the Gundam area of LEGO, but I can definitely see a lot of Kitbashing there as well. But when it comes to Sci-Fi and other more imaginative, less constrained builds (like scale models of real life objects), I think LEGO is the best way to go.

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  2. Well done Mr. Prasad, you’re a welcome breath of fresh air with all the gas-bagging provided by Rutherford and myself. Even Simon has wandered off without finishing his series. It’s also good to have a more youthful perspective around here, I’m actually over the moon that anyone under 21 would even read this blog, much less comment on it. I look forward to your subsequent offerings, and thanks again for coming through with the article!

    I’m obviously on the side of Lego building as opposed to scale modelling, as Zach pointed out it seems to be the medium that allows for the greatest spectrum of creativity. The only part of your argument I’m not completely convinced about is the LUG vs. Model club comparison. I just don’t know enough about the Model clubs to make an informed decision. I know there are rather large model conventions, but again it’s not clear if they enjoy the same popularity and involvement. Even though it seems like the Lego convention scene is huge, and new ones crop up every year, scale modelling has such a huge head-start it’s hard to believe that it wouldn’t be competitive. Food for though, great article!

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    1. Hey Keith, thanks for the incredible support! I really love the opportunity to engage with everyone here, and hopefully my writing can bring some younger fans into the fold as well.

      I agree with your assessment of model conventions. There are train model conventions all the time, and quite a few miniature train displays all over the country, which are quite impressive. I think my point is more in the volume and scale, however. From the photos I’ve seen, events like Brickfair are huge, sprawling events, that bring in thousands of outside guests. I’m not really sure if HM has something comparable, though it is definitely possible.

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    2. “and unlike so many of you who have expressed an interest in writing for this venerable blog….he actually came through. ”

      Your such a bitter man…

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      1. Your? Don’t tell me I have to start editing your comments? It’s too much. Your statement does recall the great Pearl Jam song. Can’t find a bitterman.

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  3. Achintya, good to see another younger-FOL on the site. I know we’ve crossed paths a few times on MP, so it is pretty awesome to see you pop up here. I totally dig your perspective as a hobby modellist, as well as a Lego builder. Kits have been in my family for a while, so I am pretty familiar with their construction, even though I never got past the earliest levels of difficulty.

    I find your accuracy vs precision argument spot-on. That’s an interesting way to look at the hobbies, and it really does describe the strengths of Lego building vs traditional modelling. Lego has that awesome ability to put you in the pilot’s seat. Want to make a change, it’s as easily done as said, and just as reversible. Hobby Modelling seems to be a bit more serious, since every major change will probably be held in by glue and not get moved again. The interesting thing about both, as I’m sure Matt would corroborate, is their use as an art medium. I think Lego excels at that task, but kit models certainly seem to have a less malleable parts pallate and thus would be harder to make any sort of art out of. Of course, I think Lego builders like me sometimes look through too narrow of a lens at the idea of art. After all, that precision of a model does represent the skill of the builder. It isn’t programmed into everybody’s fingers to put the decal on JUST RIGHT, so I could argue that kit modelling too has an element of art to it.

    Now I wonder something interesting, and I really want to try it. You mentioned having to sand off the excess material after pulling parts off their sprues. This, of course, isn’t a part of the Lego hobby… But ABS can still be sanded (I think). This is going to sound terrifically non-purist, but hey, it’s plastic. Would it be possible to build a very realistic Lego model of a real-world object (let’s say an F-14 for the sake of argument) and then take sandpaper to it, sanding down the rough, offending edges until a perfect replica is left? Of course that would require an insane amount of precision, but it would take a physical chunk of plastic matter and just condense it a bit to the desired shape. I’m really intrigued by this idea… Maybe I’ll try it, even though it’s about as far from the regular domain of our beloved hobby as anything else I can imagine. But it would combine the accuracy and precision to great effect, I think.

    Awesome article, Achintya! Please write again, your style is refreshing and definitely belongs on this blog. Maybe I’ll follow your example, get off my virtual butt, and actually send something Keith’s way for evaluation.

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    1. Sanding? Blasphemy! If this is the kind of influence Mr. Prasad wields with his mighty pen, then I might have to snuff out his candle before he takes the joint over.

      Thanks for the warm welcome to Achintaya, I’m sure he’ll be around soon to continue the conversation.

      Sanding….what the hell is wrong with you?

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    2. The sanding idea is interesting, but here’s why it wouldn’t work: Legos have a lot of empty space so they can connect to each other. Even sanding a stud off would leave a hole. At best you might be able to soften the edges on some curved areas, but nothing drastic. It would be useless on something like Savelsberg’s planes.

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    3. Hey Vakkron, nice to know I still have a few people remember me from the MOCpages days! I really appreciate the welcome! I do think the finality of HM via glue is another great point. HM kits are used once, and you’re done. Really the only comparable situation is in the large LEGOland models, which are often glued together, to ensure rigidity among other things. LEGO’s whole recyclable system is another attribute that a lot of people might consider. As for the sanding, I think Christopher really hit the nail on the head. Because LEGO elements use the whole clutch power system, and since every brick is effectively hollow, you’d be cutting into that hollow shape without any way of really filling the gaps. Also I’m thinking of the nose area especially, since practically all wedge-shaped LEGO elements have cutouts on the edge, it would be quite difficult to work in a curve. Personally, as purist, I would be mortified of trying such an endeavor, but I’m sure the stronger stomached builders out there could explore it more…

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      1. I actually build models professionally (currently for Robot Chicken, and I know I can’t seem to comment here lately without mentioning some job I’ve had). I don’t do straight up HM too often at work, but we have huge bins of kit bash, toy bash and yes, Lego bash (mostly Technic and Bionicle/HF stuff).

        I don’t yet have a comment to make about the larger questions here, but for now I wanted to chime in on this theoretical sanding project — not only would it not work because of the gaps, I think it’d be a total clusterfuck. Hobby kit plastic and Lego aren’t the same animal, Lego can get bitchy really fast. The sanded material does not go gently into the night, it hangs on to the piece in a hot melty glob. Were you to take a finished MOC to a sander for smoothing, your task would likely be quickly obscured and you’d be in danger of taking off too much before you knew it. And the glossy finish on Lego parts goes away even with Brasso print removal, so even if you could knock down the corners perfectly the difference in the finish would be glaring.

        So there’s my professional opinion. That said, I haven’t actually attempted this, so I don’t know. Vakk, if you go for it, I suggest you start with a sphere or something else simple as a proof/disproof of concept. Or maybe I’ll just go for it in the name of SCIENCE.

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      2. This idea has some merit though. I’d almost like to see a rough build of an object, something recognizable but maybe organic. Build it out of 2x4s, glued together. Then use a CNC or any lathe or milling machine to cut it into a closer rendition of the form. There would still be some heat issues but nothing on the lines of sanding. The gloss finish would likely be lost but I know a quick flame to acrylic returns the shine, not sure if ABS would work the same at that chemical level. And cutting would create swarf instead of boogers. ABS is tough, but the only issue I see is if it’s brittle and would detonate. I’d love to see the gaps and holes created by the cutting, I think it would be more interesting in the case of Sawaya’s work in that seeing the human form is ACTUALLY sculpted but we still recognize it as Lego. It would be an added level of abstraction to an already abstract notion. In the case of a specific model like a plane or car, precision then trumps accuracy and it becomes a waste of time and Lego. Plus, the added bonus of watching purists shit their shorts for gluing and cutting would be so totally worth the price of admission.

        The fuck? Robot Chicken?! You are my hero. Please tell me you are the guy that did the sound for the robot constantly humping appliances, I cannot stop laughing at that to this day.

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      3. Thanks all ya’ guys for chiming in. I agree, the hollow nature of most Lego bricks would present issue in texture and surfacing that I failed to consider. I’m still interested to pursue it… And true, any heavy machining operating at melting temperatures would just make a mess. I can’t even imagine what a belt sander would do to a Lego brick… Too bad I want to try it out now.

        If it works, or doesn’t, maybe I’ll write a goofy article exploring the chemical side of the plastic we all know and love!

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    4. Well… yea… it would be possible/has been done… but you should totally try it!

      There was a group of guys who did models from the table top game “Battletec” . They did a lot of Lego and modeling putty stuff. These guys were coming at it not as AFOLS who wanted to build Battletec models. They were Battletec guys looking for ways to build larger models of there favorite weapons systems. They did lots of cutting, painting, sanding… you name it. They treated the Lego just the way you would treat any raw building material. They were purists… but not Lego purists. They were Battletec purists. And… some of there stuff was pretty cool. There tecniques were a little rough, but that all resided in their skill levels. Painting, sanding, and shaping were rough… but the models were certainly good enough to serve as proof of concept.

      I just spent about 10 minutes trying to find pictures of their stuff and I couldn’t. But its got to be out there someplace. Were talking 15 years ago… or longer…

      Point is that yes, in answer to your question, I think you could do that. Build a Lego frame, and sand it into exact shapes. You would have to fill exposed voids with putty and then sand that down. But once painted… it looks fine.

      I’m a Lego purist… but I think it would totally kick ass if you experimented with the notion and then wrote about it (yes… with PICs… duh!).

      The whole topic really does call into bold relief how arbitrary the mod vs purist dichotomy is. Arbitrary, but not meaningless. Now you got me wondering about the final appearance of a sanded Lego/putty nose cone.

      Dam you sir!

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  4. Excellent article and I feel it’s worth bringing up the fundamental difference in design philosophy between Lego and Mega Bloks. Lego tries (usually) to make all its elements mesh together both in terms of raw compatibility and aesthetics, whereas Mega Bloks focuses way more on precision and has more “specialized” pieces and colors that you aren’t likely to see show up again in another set. Mega Bloks seems to design their stuff set-by-set rather than in the context of a larger system. And their relatively lax review process for new parts leads them to create a lot of really useful pieces years ahead of Lego, but the downside is there’s a lot of parts that look cool within context of the original set, but don’t lend themselves well to MOCs. The utility of Lego is a balancing act of making enough unique pieces to open up new possibilities while making sure it doesn’t get out of hand and leave us with a bunch of useless crap (the late 90’s and early 2000’s say hello).

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    1. Well I agree for the most part. Mega Bloks vs LEGO is a really one sided debate; I don’t know of any serious FOLs who actually believe Mega Bloks is the higher quality, better product. I suppose there is some merit in making hidden support systems (out of sight to observers) out of Mega Bloks, though I wouldn’t recommend it. As for specialized pieces, you’re definitely right, though as you mentioned, for a little while there LEGO went off the deep end with the extra-large-elements-for-one-set mentality. All that said, LEGO City still follows that large element idea, with many of its aircraft and larger sets using single molded nose sections and wings. Thanks for comment!

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      1. I don’t think the Mega Blocks vs Lego debate is one sided at all. Remember, our narrow AFOLs perspective is almost entirely irrelevant next to the dynamic that drives the entire toy industry: Sales.

        While most would agree, Lego takes the field in quality, durability, and maybe “systematic design” its important to recognize that Mega Scholck takes the field in economy, and often in kid appeal. Kids don’t have any interest in Legos inconsistant efforts to avoid overtly violent themes. Kids want what they want… Call of Duty, The Walking Dead… HALO… kill kill kill… and Mega Block pushes those advantages like a crack dealer on a playground. They stride boldly where Lego fears to tread. That is a strength. It doesn’t sway my personal consumption habits (Death before Mega Block!) but leaving those strengths unrecognized is not objective. Legos arch rival is less expensive, more violent in theme, and (due to those highly specialized parts) far less demanding in terms of imagination/innovation.

        Look how much shelf space Mega Block holds year after year. Why? Because the product is strong. Like it or not… the enemy is strong.

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  5. LEGO only takes imagination instead of steady hands, which hobby modeling requires.That alone opens up the door to everyone.

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    1. Absolutely. And the skills for HM are very diverse, from the near surgical levels of moving elements, to painting. It’s a tough hobby, no doubt about it, but LEGO really simplifies it down to the engineering aspect. Great thought!

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  6. First of all, thanks for the great post, Achintya, and for including my Tomcat model. Humans aren’t great at figuring out why we do the things we do, but I can take a stab at it. I have been an aircraft buff for years and I did some HM in my teens, but I sucked at it. I simply don’t have the patience for all the painting and sanding. Furthermore, glue is nasty and I always messed up the decals. Combining my interest in aircraft and my love of building with LEGO seems kind of obvious. The limitations of the material are a big part of the fun. Taking (mostly) angular parts and recreating a complicated shape like an aircraft is a challenge. The end result will never be perfect and I quite like visible studs, but it’s certainly possible to be good enough to be recognisable to any aircraft fan.

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    1. “The limitations of the material are a big part of the fun.”

      This nails it for me.

      Working through the limitations of the inventory to capture that one elusive shape or angle. I have often noticed that your aircraft are all recognizable at once. In the thumbnails, they are often indistinguishable from a more detailed model.

      You have trained your eye to “see” in a way that I still feel blind in. You can see past this or that awkward connection, past a small gap in the surface of the machine… and see the whole shape. It’s totality. Your Tomcat looks like a Tomcat. At a glance. In a moment. With no doubt. And… you are able to achieve this effect consistently.

      I am often left agonizing over “flaws” in the flow of the lines in a MOC… trapped in the macro, obsessing over unfixable flaws. I am allergic to studs, but you convince the viewer to look right past them… and see the aircraft.

      Right past the limitations.
      Attack!

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  7. Great to see a representative of PHI here selling his wares!

    Interesting take that really is a fundamental shift for all of us. I think most AFOLs have dabbled in the past with model kits; and like Keith, my experience was also strictly used for the purposes of delivering gratuitous incendiary fun. Hence, the nonexistent survival rate. And charred, slightly curled up sneakers reeking of arson. Good times, but don’t ask.

    The thing that amazes me the most about Lego is that it is a universal language and likely the reason most of us picked up the brick over the static, uncompromising, regimen that was model building. The model kits only have THAT single word, just in bite size form. Accuracy is FAR more malleable and encompassing than precision. And I think that is how this language has its freedom to be universal and continually evolving. The models that are unique and explore that freedom are venturing away from precision. Konjoo’s Marlin is precise ONLY to the accuracy in his imagination, the realism gained by the model is what all us AFOLs strive for with Lego. But given the limitations of the language, we are more than happy to compromise to a point (how many awsum halo warthogs are on Mocpages?)

    Maybe we’re just lazy. Maybe we just don’t have the patience. Maybe mom keeps taking the glue away from us when we keep walking into the wall. Maybe we got tired of being grounded for weeks on end because we gouged the dining room table with the X-acto while trying to build a 1955 Mercedes Benz 300 SL gullwing. Good times, but don’t ask.

    Thank you, Achintya! Takes some brass cajones to throw down like this. Looking forward to your next installment. Cheers!

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    1. Thanks for the comment and the welcome Matt! Glad to see you still around. I think you make a good point on accuracy. I’m also going to throw in, the kinda overdone, always built creation in military circles is the Abrams main battle tank. Macaset did a brilliant job on a few different iterations, and really, at this stage, the room for innovation for that model is quite small. As a community, we’ve nailed the shaping over every aspect of the model, and we’ve motorized it. There is very little left that could really improve the design and bring something new. In some ways, building an Abrams is like building a model kit. You know you can be extremely accurate, and some of those technical skills from HM are just necessary.

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  8. Welcome Achintya. I had a stroll through your flickr stream, so you have a new follower. Cool stuff you do!
    It’s nice to have some young thoughts here in the reservation of the old geezers. And your writing stile is easy to read even if English is not your mothers tongue.

    On topic:
    For the last three years my LUG has been to an HM convention run by a local HM store. I participated twice. In the first year we were the object of virtu, but still won the trophy for best group exhibition space. It is a fantastic event. I love to see and admire the craftsmanship, skill and patience these guys show with their models. Some of them are into paper models and are doing them from scratch without any kit. Some use any kind of plastic junk to create fantastic scifi models.
    What I took from them for my personal work is how they present the main model within a dio or scene supporting the effect of the main model but not distracting from it.
    What the HM crowd seems to admire most on the LEGOISTS is how we overcome the restrictions of that rectangular bricks to create smooth and organic looking shapes. Most of the had experience with LEGO some even own kits like the Unimog or Porsche. But they all state to be unable to adopt to the restrictions of the brick.
    So my conclusion is if you do not have the steady hand and mechanical skills needed for HM, but are patient and able to imagine organic shapes in rectangular bricks you might end up where we all are. If you miss all of the previously mentioned skills you maybe become a sports superstar…

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  9. Achintya,

    Good stuff! It should be obvious from the rich comments on this thread, that your writing has stimulated some serious thought. I hope Keith gets more articles from you (yeah, because your writing is good… but mostly to get Keith to shut up about why nobody writes anything!).

    What are you thoughts on a follow up topic?

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    1. Hey Michael, thanks for the welcome! I forgot to check this thread over the weekend…so responding to everything is gonna take a while @everybody.

      Well it’s funny you mention that. I recently had a visit to the LEGO store. Coupled with one of your above comments, I think I found something…worrying…about LEGO as a whole. Can’t say too much to give it away, but I think it’ll be a contentious discussion.

      Apart from that, there is the classic purist vs non purist discussion. I also think I can make an interesting article on MOCpages, but we’ll just have to see.

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  10. Ha! And here I thought Achintya was staple of the Flickr diet … apparently he’s unknown? WTF?

    Anyways incredibly interesting article – coming as a WH40K kid I thought this was really interesting. and all the kitbashing comments reminded my of my beloved scratched build landraider …

    But an interesting side though on something I’ve noticed – yes the HM folk strive for perfect replicas, where as us LEGO folks are limited with what we have … But to most people – they can’t remember what the original actually looks like ….

    I stumbled upon this accidentally when I was building my Starwars Trench:
    Death Star Trench

    When I was first building I researched what the trench actually looked liked, got stills and stuff and all that jazz, but the more if you actually freeze frame it – the trench is boring as shit. It’s not very greebled has massive slabs of just flat surfaces and was super boring.

    So I threw that all away and took ‘inspiration’ from the build – and built what I thought looked good in LEGO.

    At the first big show I had it at, the 501st came up, and one of the guys was all nerd glasses and pointing out how he had the technical manual memorized and my model was perfect in every detail and must have spent hours pouring over images….

    I didn’t have the heart to tell him I made most of it up.
    But then I realized that as a builder you don’t need to recreate exactly – huge props to Mad Ralph and you who do try, but a lot wouldn’t know the difference if you fudge things here and there as the for most people the fuzzy memory of the item you’re building is the target audience. So I’ve kinda taken that where when I build something – It has to look good in LEGO and try to keep the same aesthetical clues so that people find the recreation familiar enough and the human brain paints in the rest of the gaps.

    Unless it’s beside a picture. Then you’re screwed.

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    1. “Unless it’s beside a picture. Then you’re screwed.”

      Or unless you’re building a LEGO steam train too. Train guys need no dang pictures. They know their trains by heart, and damn those guys are sticklers. They know every curve, pipe bend, driver configurations… you name it.

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    2. I didn’t mean to suggest that Prasad is an obscure builder, but I do associate him more with MOCpages where he seems to be more active and well known. That might be an outdated or inaccurate perception though, I’m not sure. I tend to write the intro paragraphs for guest-speakers pretty fast and loose, and sometimes that results in some sloppy action. Like so many things with this shabby blog, I should probably tighten that up. I do seem to have misplaced the wrench though….ah….there it is, sticking out of Rutherford’s left eye socket.

      That was a great anecdote about the trench, complete with awkward convention encounter, I think you made the right call, you might have crushed the dude’s ego. To play devil’s advocate, maybe a simpler trench design would have made the micro-ships pop a little more with a cleaner background? The result is rad so it doesn’t matter and I fell pray to the same effect. I looked at the photo before I read your comment and the trench looked more or less the way I remembered it from the movie that I must have seen 50 times by now. Very interesting.

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      1. You left a wrench in my eye socket? It must have been a SOCKET wrench! Ha ha…

        I took my precious VTOL ambulance that was on the cover of the first Brick Journal to the DC fest, and some pizza faced oxygen thief with a genetic helix made out of spare parts told me it was an inaccurate rendition! He looked at my model and sort of smirked, telling me that I should “consult the on-line imagery” I wanted to punch him in the neck, but I was afraid of cutting my knuckles on his vertebrae.

        Didn’t Charlie Chaplain take 5th place in a Charlie Chaplain look alike contest?

        Details are ok, but in the end, it’s all about the “Rule of Cool”.

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    3. Thanks Simon! As Keith said, I liked the story of the nerd and details. That’s another area (perhaps another article) I’ve considered: Lego’s ultimate goal of emphasizing and exaggerating different elements. Speaking as a microscale military builder, getting shaping and accurate details is really hard, and sometime downright impossible with the size of LEGO elements. Adding all that extra detailing is sometime important just to make something look interesting and engaging. Just food for thought. Thanks for the comment!

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      1. The brain is the greatest filter. In art there is a tendency to “fudge” this, that, or the other for the sake of getting the product to market. It then gets called “style” and is perfectly accepted. That right there is fine. When it gets to be dishonest is when the artist takes that style and continues to recreate it or embellish it further to accentuate IT. They are then relying on the viewer to “buy the signature” instead of engage the art. We always said that they aren’t making art at that point but rather are just making a living. It’s valid, but insincere. It also matches the couch in most cases.

        Same can be said about the trench build, and to an extent any boilerplate coming down the pike. Greebles for greeble’s sake is as equally boring as the actual trench stills from the movie. It’s entirely backdrop and filler. What makes this “accurate”, even in the mind of that 501st nerd, is that it is a trench. THAT’S IT. His “technical manual memorization” is complete bombast. Our brains filter it down to the bare essentials: Trench, X-wing, Ties, Done. After that, our brains start thinking (by the way, this is that Art with a capital “A” I continually mention) and adding details either from memory, logic, and imagination. The conversation inside has already started and we remember, see, and add the specifics as they matter to our grey matter.

        And to be on topic here, the models are representative of that conversation. The precision, the accuracy, the kit-bashing are all saying the same thing: My skills translate my working knowledge; and, the extent and intent are to be expressed and interpreted after that fact. Once we’ve exhausted that particular conversation AND sparked a new direction, we can then get to what’s NEXT for the art AND the artist to expand rather than regurgitate.

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      2. Haha yeah. The trench is a good story. But there was one addition tidbit I had cut for brevity….

        Even though I did my research and looked at production stills my very first build I put the vent against the wall. At the end of the trench. Which was pointed out by people the vent is in the ground. Which made zero sense to me, as as a kid why the heck would you fly through the trench and not down towards the big vent hole?!?!

        So! Not only did I completely fudge the whole trench my first attempt I couldn’t even find the hole right!

        Ted brings a good point. That for the average or most audiences you can’t really remember the details much. But given anyone that has looked at a subject in depth. Or built it, the flaws and fudging becomes super obvious.

        As Matt points out a greeble trench with an X wing will fool most people.

        Except anyone that has built it.
        Oh Matty boy, I wish you could have been at BW. There was not one, but two Greeble Trenches. And much like the aforementioned Train builders I saw right through their greebleness, as I do exactly remember what the trench looks like.

        I have a constant reference of my own build, where if you know my usual style, it already is /less/ greebled than you’d expect from me and I know the real thing was even less greebled than mine…. so to see an even larger scale. and even more greeble barfed trench makes me cringe.

        Also fun fact. One of the two builders made the same hole mistake as me.

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