for two years. -less often, now

What? Yes. I’m still alive. Look! A new LEGO book!

So, a brief update. I’ve fallen out of photography for a little while mostly because I have not been able to afford a new camera, and I’ve been spending my time doing other things. My wife and I have recently gotten very much back into biking, so recreational rides are taking up a lot of our time. She is just about to finish her masters thesis, and then we are moving to Texas. That’s coming up at the end of the month. Life’s been busy, and LEGO photography hasn’t been at the top of my list.

I’ve still been collecting the new minifigs, and have been still buying new sets every once in a while. My lovely mother got me the new movie theater modular building for my birthday, but I haven’t assembled it because I knew I was moving and transporting LEGO buildings 900 miles in a U-Haul has its drawbacks, obviously. I also received about 7 giant garbage bags full of random pieces, sets, and various other LEGO things. I had to go buy a whole new drawer set, and 2 very large plastic bins to accommodate them all. The mega-awesome thing? In those bags were 4 more of the large modular buildings: fire station, pet store/townhouse, grand emporium, and, wait for it…the green grocer. Whoa. Now, they weren’t assembled, but I think the majority of the pieces are all there. The green grocer is going to be the hardest one to reconstruct as all I was able to find assembled was its baseplate – which is how I identified it. Other pieces are there, but it could be a struggle to find them and reconstruct it. We’ll see.

Now, a new book you say?
I do.
Well actually, it came out last month, but I just got it delivered to me last week.

Click to buy

A while ago I reviewed a few other books from No Starch Press boasting a number of new, fun builds to enjoy from your existing LEGO bricks.  They were pretty rad. I’m happy to report the trend appears to be continuing here with this first volume in a two-volume (or probably more!) series: The LEGO Build-It Book Volume 1: Amazing Vehicles, by Nathanael Kuipers & Mattia Zamboni.

There is a laundry list of things to like about this book. Let me start right at the beginning.

Each of the 10 different vehicle models contained in the book are made with the same set of bricks. Genius. No more digging through your buckets to find that one elusive piece because you decided to make the one build out of the book that used that one infernal brick. But wait, it gets better. If you own LEGO set #5867, the Creator Super Speedster – you already have all the bricks you need. That set is retired, however – otherwise I’d go buy three right now. Just kidding, I couldn’t afford that. The fact the models all come from a discontinued set is unfortunate as it will make buildings these to exact specifications much harder for many.

Let us presume, like me, you do not own the Super Speedster and have no clue what the pieces are you’ll need. Problem solved on page…uh, well there is no page number. But right there in the front of the book is the “bill of materials,” that classic picture list of pieces you find on every official LEGO instruction book. It tells you which bricks, colors, and how many.

Past that, the books gives a little insight into some of the more creative building with parts. Many of the techniques are used often within the builds – such as using simple cylinders for exhaust pipes, or shock absorbers. The next page goes on to explain how certain pieces can substitute for other normal pieces, making the same size and shape but allowing for more color or detail. This is a helpful utility especially when you need bricks to point a certain way to create the correct shape for a car or truck – or anything for that matter. It’s not an encyclopedic dive into various alternate building techniques, but over the course of a few pages it does point out a few creative choices that fit perfectly with these models.

Ok, so, the models:

As you can see, there is a lot to choose from. I haven’t built any yet, obviously, but just from the book and pictures alone I can safely say I will be building the Jeep (#1 Off-roader), #3 the muscle car, and #9 the street rod. I can’t say I have much love for the #4 the stroller, but it’s gimmicky so I’ll let it slide. Overall, I’m happy with the selection of vehicle choices, especially given Volume 2 is coming soon with 10 more builds. These 10 will fit nicely into any City themed play area, and easily compliment the regular LEGO City sets.

One thing concerns me: none of the pictures show a minifigure in the build. I was also not able to find any info from the authors saying these builds are useable with minifigs. The reason I mention this is as we all know there were some really cool LEGO Technic sets and even some of the new 3-in-1 Creator sets that were built just for show, basically. They don’t fit minifigs and apparently aren’t designed to by used with them. However, based on what I see in the building instructions it looks like the seats are designed to fit a minifig. So let’s hope. Those of you who own the Super Speedster set all of these can be made from might be able to shed a little light on that.

Bottom line: if these cars and trucks (stroller not withstanding) don’t fit a minifigure for use with it, the entire book becomes worthless – at least to me. If I wanted to display models I’d go to a hobby store and buy real models. I want my LEGO sets to be useable; dare I say play-with-able.

Clearly, that small tirade bears little slight to the book itself. I will say No Starch has once again put together an excellent book, and the authors/builders have created some fabulous sets to build. The inside reads and looks just like official LEGO building instructions. Each new step clearly shows the added pieces, and thankfully, in case your eyesight is as bad as mine sometimes – has a key to the side of each step showing which pieces you are using and adding. Here’s a look inside at a few random pages:

As you can see the pages are very well laid out with easy directions to follow, and above all – the colors are clear and brilliant. Another fine addition is the key at the front of each different model giving technical specs such as the complexity of the build, how many extra functions it has, and how many pieces are required. Also included are special features and some design notes from the authors. Half way through the builds, the models graduate from “regular building” to “advanced building” based on the techniques used to construct the models. There is a three-page spread helping to explain some of the more advanced building techniques and how they work in these models, and can be applied to building almost anything else.

Once again, No Starch Press has offered LEGO enthusiasts a great book full of extra fun for both kids and adults. The beauty of LEGO is even though you buy a set – you can still break it down and do whatever you want to it in the end. It’s the creativity of the toy that makes it so wondrous. I’ve been impressed with most of No Starch’s LEGO offerings in the past, and this certainly continues that impression. I’m looking forward to the Volume 2, and more vehicles to add to my LEGO city.

The LEGO Built-It Book Volume 1: Amazing Vehicles is available direct from No Starch Press’ website for $19.95.

9 responses

  1. My kids were asking about you just the other day! Very happy to hear you are still alive and that you are moving to TX. Any chance it will be the DFW area? We’d love to welcome you in person.

    August 7, 2013 at 9:28 pm

    • That’s mighty nice of y’all! (see i’m practicing my southern speak).
      We’ll be in Houston, though. Looking forward to it – I think. Happy we’ll be near the Gulf. I miss being close to water. Going to enjoy biking and golfing year round. And with finally having two incomes – I can probably afford a new camera soon, and with new surroundings there is the possibility of new photos. I still want to, just, need the ambition :)

      August 7, 2013 at 11:00 pm

  2. Re: rebuilding the green grocer set…have you checked at for the instructions? We’ve managed to find what we need for thrifted sets.

    August 8, 2013 at 10:32 am

  3. Aye, once I found some of the sets that were in these bags the first thing I did was google them for the names/set #, then went to the LEGO site and searched for the instructions. There were some fantastic older City theme sets that I am pumped to have! I downloaded and saved the PDFs of some of the sets, like the Green Grocer. :-)

    August 8, 2013 at 10:59 am

  4. As a photographer I must say your images are always a charm. Bright sharp and well composed. Thanks for blogging about an old hobby of mine. The book looks great to me.

    Massage Amsterdam

    August 11, 2013 at 6:17 am

  5. Margy

    Glad to hear you;re still with us! Congratulate your wife on completing her Master’s. That is huge! I hope you enjoy Texas and get settled in soon. We have missed you!

    August 21, 2013 at 12:20 am

  6. Kyle

    Sounds like a great book! I will have to check it out. Thanks for the info.

    September 11, 2013 at 3:14 pm

  7. Awesome blog!

    On another note, our Play-Well staff are AFOL’s obsessed w/ LEGO. So, we created this ridiculous video to address their LEGO addiction. We thought the readers of a LEGO a day would appreciate this.

    Feel free to share this video with all the LEGO addicts you know:


    Jeff Harry

    October 10, 2013 at 11:04 am

  8. Pingback: Two more LEGO titles from No Starch Press | a LEGO a day

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