Now that the world is opening up, and live fan events are starting to sporadically appear around the world, we are starting to turn our attention to building models for exhibition. There is no doubt that a little bit of movement can help add life to a model – whether it’s an automatic door, a radar dish, or a slowly rotating turntable. These are not so challenging if you have grown up with a bit of basic mechanical knowledge. However, sometimes the right way to achieve such mechanisms using LEGO Bricks can be just a little bit obscure.
But help is readily available, if you know where to look.
I was recently sent pre release samples from the latest books from Yoshihito Isogawa, and I realise that they are now available from the No Starch Press website. Isogawa has been producing simple to read Ideas books for LEGO Technic for a number of years, and these books build on the previous ones, with emphasis in new areas. His latests Books, LEGO Technic Non-Electric Models: Simple Machines and LEGO Technic Non-Electric Models: Clever Contraptions build on his previous books, looking at Technic Ideas, as well as Power function and Boost Ideas (all available from No Starch).
These books serve as companion books to each other. Volume 1: Simple Machines starts by providing examples of gearing up and down, using worm gears and turntables, rubberbands and chain links; then moving onto reciprocating mechanisms and rack and pinion gears. From here, it moves onto a collection of moving vehicles.
Volume 2:Clever Contraptions looks at a variety of more sophisticated mechanisms: – Doors, lifting mechanisms, winches, shooters and more, before moving onto measuring devices and other ideas.
Isogawa presents his information very clearly, in an almost wordless fashion.
The use of clear parts lists, simple photos and basic iconography makes his ideas easy to follow, and example mechanism easy to build. Elements used in the examples are all different colours, to make the picture clearer for the reader.
This includes the more sophisticated ones. Mechanisms and ideas are presented on their own, so you can apply the inspiration into your own models, whether they be technic models, or simply System builds that you are looking to get moving. Some of these mechanisms can be readily adapted for use with a motor as well, but it is certainly not necessary.
The second part of Volume 1 is dedicated to more complex models, such as cars, and incorporating non motorised mechanisms.
Volume 2 goes into a much greater level of detail for models you might look to build: techniques for making lifting platforms, shooting devices and gripping hands; also drawing devices, including a pantograph and a car, which moves a pen to create geometic patterns as it rolls along as well as ‘spirograph’ type constructions.
Even if you have the most basic of Technic collections, these books demonstrate how you can add some action to your own models.
I have accumulated a variety of Technic elements over the years through a variety of sources, and sat down to construct a couple of the mechanisms included in Volume One: a worm gear mechanism, and an oscillating mechanism, adapted to lift a small platform up and down.
Now, I have a working knowledge of most of the elements involved, but I’ve not really been great at producing my own moving features in models without provoking a degree of personal headache.
I found the absence of specific instructions was not a deterrent, as the clear parts list, and colour coded photos made it easy to reconstruct the mechanisms using my own parts.
I may have had the occasional error in my constructions, however, this helped me to work out how I might be able to scale the mechanism for my own models, and how modifying it might affect final function. Learning through play. Perhaps not practical if you are running late to complete your model for an expo, or competing in a LEGO Masters final, but a key fundamental in the day to day use of LEGO Bricks.
I cannot recommend these books highly enough for somebody looking to include mechanisms in their own models. They won’t hold you by the hand, step by step. However but there is plenty of clearly presented information to help a reluctant beginner to start experimenting and for the seasoned builder to expand their repertoire.
Both Technic Non Electric Models – Volume 1 Simple Machines and Volume 2 Clever Contraptions are now available as physical book, and digital download from No Starch Press. All purchases of the physical book from No Starch also include an eBook, so you can start referring to it straight away.
Thanks for reading! I’d love to know the sorts of mechanisms you like to incorporate in your models. Why not leave your comments bleow, and until next time,
I was sent prerelease partial copies of these books for review purposes. All opinions are my own.