Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Picking up the pieces...

Despite the fact that the raison d’etre of Lego is that it’s a pile of pieces that you can combine in any way you see fit, I think it’s safe to say that it was the models themselves that drew me back to Lego, and specifically Technic.

If that video review I saw 18 months ago had been “Hey!  Lego have released a new cardboard box that’s full of over 2000 Lego parts.  Woo hoo!”, then I probably wouldn’t have taken much notice. (1)

But when it said “It’s a freakin’ huge Mercedes Unimog truck with working this, fuctioning that and powered the other.  That’s awesometastic!” (2), I took notice. (3)

So that, combined with some mild OCD, means that when I buy a set, I build it, but it’s really quite important (4) that all the parts are kept separate from any other parts.  And that they all go back into the original box once it’s stripped down (5).

Thus, when it comes to MOC’ing (6), I have something of a problem.  Because unless I could make something out of the parts of one set and one set only, then I was going to have to mix the parts from multiple sets. And that ain’t going to happen.(7)

Up until recently, it wasn’t really an issue, as I had (have) more than enough sets to keep me busy.  Plus, some Technic creations can be quite staggeringly complex, and I figured that the best way to learn the basics was to build things that professionals had designed. And on top of that, I didn’t really know what I wanted to make.

Then two things happened to change this.

Firstly, I found a book.  

And that book was ‘The Unofficial Lego Technic Builder’s Guide’ by Pawel ‘Sariel’ Kmieć.

Buy this book!

(Image from Sariel's excellent website, Sariel.pl)

Secondly, on the Eurobricks forum, I saw a MOC by a Dutch forumite who posts as Luc2000.  He’d built a working rollercoaster, made mainly of Technic, but also controlled by the Lego computer system, Mindstorms.  But more on that shortly.  For now, back to the book.

Pawel Kmieć, or Sariel, as he’s known, is something of a superstar in the Lego Technic community.  Born in the early 80’s and hailing from Warsaw, he was educated as a linguist and works as a webdesigner.  But it’s what he does in his spare time that makes him a legend in the brick world.  Largely self-taught, he has designed and built some of the most extraordinary Technic creations ever seen.
Fortunately for the rest of us rather less talented mortals, he decided to write a book, passing on some of the knowledge that he’s accumulated over 20 odd years of building, and it’s illustrated by another major name from the Technic world, Eric ‘Blakbird’ Albrecht (8)

I had a birthday approaching, and so the book went on my wishlist, which some kind souls (thank you, Tracey & Terry!) bought for me.  At the time of writing, I’m only part way through the book, but quite frankly it’s worth the purchase price for the first chapter alone.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve always been baffled by the concept of torque.  I’m probably not alone, as Jeremy Clarkson, well known buffoon and motoring journalist, who has earned approximately 47 bazillion pounds from the worldwide success that is Top Gear, admits freely to not having a clue what torque is. (9)

The thing is, I know what torque is.  It’s… you know… torque.  There’s definitely some twisting and turning involved, and slow things always seems to have more torque than fast things, and…

However, I can’t actually put it into words.

But Sariel can.

The opening chapter is like a mechanical engineering 101.  Written in plain, understandable terms he covers torque.  Gears.  Traction.  Friction.  Power.  Things that I’ve always had an idea about.  That I kind of understood.  

I sort of knew roughly what they were, but I couldn’t define them.  But Sariel explains them all.  I found it, if not quite a road to Damascus moment, then definitely some sort of happening on a road to somewhere fairly exotic.

And it probably doesn’t need pointing out, but much of what Sariel covers doesn’t just apply to Lego, but is equally valid in the real world.

Truly, Lego is an educational toy!

Anyway - after seeing any number of pictures of gearboxes, differentials and the like, I knew that I wanted to make some of those for myself, just to see how they worked.

At about the same time, I was browsing the Technic section of the Eurobricks forum, where I came upon the aforementioned Rollercoaster.

That was an eyeopener. 

As well as Technic, I’ve had one eye firmly on the Lego Mindstorms set.  Computer controlled Lego robots?  That’s Geektopia right there!

In fact the only reason I haven’t picked one up already is that Mindstorms NXT, which is the second iteration of the Mindstorms set, has been available for about 5 years, and is due for replacement by Mindstorms EV3 this Autumn.
I can wait a little bit longer.

Well Luc2000 had incorporated his Mindstorms set into the Technic Rollercoaster, and as I said in the thread at the time,Up until now though, the adult in me has been thinking, 'Yes, (Mindstorms) is undoubtedly cool, but after you've built some robots, what can you actually do with it?'

(This is) a perfect example of the sort of thing you can use it for when combining it with other Lego.  It's not a 'Mindstorms' project. It's a project that utilises Mindstorms.”

The net result of all that meant (apart from the fact that I’m going to be first in the queue when Mindstorms EV3 gets released) that I needed some Technic parts, purely for MOC’ing purposes.

As I think I’ve mentioned previously, there are three obvious ways of going about this.

i. Buy bags of assorted, second-hand Technic parts from Ebay or similar.

ii) Buy parts (new or secondhand) from specialist Lego resellers, which to all intents and purposes, means using Bricklink. 

iii) Buy new sets, specifically to break up for parts.

Looking at these in turn…

i) The Ebay option is ok, if you don’t mind the fact that you don’t know what you’re going to get.  For me though, the fact that sellers always feel the need to put ‘this Lego has been washed’ makes me think ‘I don’t want to touch it with a bargepole’. 

ii) Bricklink is a homebrew website that allows small-scale traders to reach buyers who want to buy specific parts, as opposed to the ‘1 kilo of random bits’ that you get on Ebay.  I understand that there are many, many people out there who use Brinklink quite happily.
Me - I took one look at it and thought ‘Life’s too short to wade through that.’  It’s a homebrew website, and boy does it look like it.
Just my $0.02, and not knocking those who run it or those who use it.
It’s just not for me.

iii)  It’s not a cheap option by any means, but in order to start building a parts collection, I decided to go down the ‘buy a few sets’ route.  I had some John Lewis vouchers for my birthday, and those, combined with staff discount brought the cost of a (second) mighty Unimog down to something approaching £75, or half price.

That’s 2048 parts to start me off.

And some posts back, you may remember that I might have bought a second 8043 Excavator while my wife wasn’t looking…

I was thinking I’d resell it in a year or so, but decided ‘what the heck’, and it became the second contributor to my parts box.

Another 1123 parts to add to the collection.

And last Saturday I happened to be in the Watford Lego store.  I didn’t need anything, as such, but..  I can’t get the 42000 Grand Prix Racer in John Lewis, and it’s got some interesting parts in it.

And another 1141 parts go into the box...

That’s a pretty good starter set as far as I’m concerned.  A good mix of liftarms, gears, cogs, axles, wheels, tracks and all those other bits who’s names escape me.  Chances are that if I see any more bargains, I may well add to the parts box, but that’ll certainly keep me going for now.

So back to Sariel’s book.  

Now where was I...

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

(1)  As will become clear, now if I found that Lego were releasing a set of 2000 Technic parts, I’d probably be biting their arm off for it.

(2) Ok, given that it was the Daily Telegraph motoring section doing the review, that probably wasn’t their exact turn of phrase.

(3) Hence my current, impoverished state. 

(4) And when I say ‘really quite important’ I mean ‘REALLY VERY IMPORTANT INDEED!’
I realise this sounds a bit nuts.
But I don’t care.

(5)  Remember, kids.  Whether it’s Lego, hi-fi, games consoles or indeed anything else.  Always keep the box.

(6)  MOC, as I’m sure you’re aware stands for ‘My Own Creation’ in the Lego vernacular.  MOC’ing, therefore, is the term giving to ‘making stuff out of Lego that isn’t a Lego set’.

(7) If it did, terrible, terrible things would happen.  Obviously.

(8) ‘Blakbird’ is famed for a number of things.  But the two main ones being, he has a complete collection of every Technic set ever released, and he is in the progress of creating the definitive Lego Technic website, Technicopedia.

(9)  Much to James May’s annoyance.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Supermarket sweeping

If you want a pint of milk, then (unless you live on a dairy farm), you go and buy a pint of milk.  Most of us have any number of supermarkets, convenience stores, all-night petrol stations etc nearby, so if the only thing between you and a nice cup of tea (1) is a squirt of cow juice, then you nip out to the nearest one and buy a pint.  Most of the time we wouldn’t trawl round each of the outlets available to us, doing price comparisons. (2)

But when it comes to the good old plastic brick, that’s a whole different matter.

There are a couple of reasons for this : price and availability.

Firstly, price.  It’s been a long time since the manufacturer set the price of goods.  That’s what one of the R’s in RRP stands for.

Recommended. (3)

And so the price of any given set can vary wildly from place to place, depending on whether there’s a sale on, whether there’s a money-off voucher available, maybe there’s a ‘buy one get one free deal going on’.  

There’s a generally held truth within the Lego community : 

‘You never pay full price for anything.’  

There’s always some way to get a bargain.

Secondly, availability.  For the most part, if a set is still in production, then you can buy it from somewhere (4).  But an interesting situation arises when a set goes EOL.  Eventually the only place you’ll find EOL sets is ebay, private resellers, maybe if you’re lucky, a charity shop.
But in the few months after a set is withdrawn, it’s possible to still find stock on the shelves.

Now by this time, the Lego community has usually made a decision on whether a set is a good investment or not.

All of this - sales, offers, last chances to get stock before they’re gone - leads to Supermarket sweeping. (5)  People will regularly go and check all the Lego stockists in their area, the Tesco’s, the Toys R Us, the department stores and so on, looking for bargains.  And if they find a bargain, they’ll usually go online and let the rest of their fellow collectors know the good news.  But often not until after they’ve made it through the checkout with their own haul! (6)

The forum on Brickset.com is the one I’m most familiar with, and each retailer has it’s own dedicated thread, where bargains are updated on a daily, sometimes even hourly basis.  This can lead to frustration.  A while back, Tesco’s, for reasons best known to themselves, dumped a large quantity of Lego on the shelves at crazy prices.  There was a Lego Technic Helicopter (9396) that I was after at the time, which had an RRP of £69.99, and Tesco’s were selling them for £30.00!!!

But that wasn’t strictly true.  Some Tesco’s were selling it at £30.00, and from what I could tell, none of the participating stores were anywhere near me, in North London.  So I watched the thread, seeing people rubbing their hands with glee (at least I assume that’s what they were doing - it’s a web forum, not CCTV), as they reported coming home with two, three… ten of these helicopters at bargain prices.  And not long afterwards, I’d see them appearing on ebay for around £45.  Ok, so in comparison to £69.99, £45.00 (plus the obligatory p&p) was still a bargain, but knowing that someone had managed to pick it up for £30.00 and was then immediately making a 50% markup stuck in my throat and I didn’t buy any. (7)

To be fair though, when something like this happens, Brickset is pretty good at helping out fellow forum members. Time and again, you read a ‘thank you’ from one member to another, for picking up a set at a bargain price, and then posting it on - often to someone they’ve never met - at cost plus postage.

The kindness of strangers endures.

Now while I was working my way through the current range of Technic, picking up bargains where I could, I was also checking out the recently deceased, as it were, and looking at the sets that had gone out of production lately.  Some I wasn’t fussed about, but there were a couple that really caught my eye.  Foremost among these was the 8109 Flatbed Truck.  Some internet trawling revealed what was to become an all too familiar story.  If I’d bought it when it was on sale, then I could have had it for an RRP of £71.99, and as we have seen, possibly even a little cheaper than that.

But now?  Well, there’s some kindly soul on Amazon who’ll sell me a ‘new-in-sealed-box’ set for… £129.99.  Just  a modest £58.00 markup on a £72.00 set.

And Ebay?  Well…  At the time I was looking, if I wanted a NISB one, then I was looking at anything between £119 and £160, none of which I was prepared to pay. (8)

The Lego Technic 8109 Flatbed Truck - available at outrageous prices.

(Image courtesy of Brickset.com)

But I had, when I could, started doing a bit of Supermarket sweeping of my own.  Trouble is, I could only really do it when I was out by myself.  If Mrs Boo and I were out shopping or somesuch, and I mentioned that I just wanted to stop off in a toyshop or what have you, at best I’d get the ‘roll-of-the-eyes / not again’ look, and at worst I’d get the ‘that’s another couple of bricks in our new house’ talk.

So discretion was (is…?) the order of the day.

All of which led me to being in our local Toys R Us über-barn.  I think it was fair to say that when it comes to pricing, then ‘competitive’ wasn’t really in TRU’s vocabulary, but they did have a tendency to carry a fair bit of stock, and their pricing strategy did mean that they didn’t sell out as fast as some of the more keenly priced places.  I’d had a quick skim once or twice before, under the watchful eye of my dear wife, and noticed that they did have a few of the smaller EOL sets, but had never had a chance to look properly.

So finding myself in the Technic section… unguarded (me, not the Technic), I had a good rummage around.

And Lo!  What do I find tucked away at the back, behind some rather knackered looking other sets?  A pristine 8109 Flatbed Truck!  At the RRP of £71.99!

Just call me Indiana Jones…

Having recently blown quite a lot of money at the Grand Opening event, when the Demon appeared on one shoulder, and the Angel on the other, both with compelling reasons why I should / shouldn’t just buy the truck there and then, I’m afraid that good won out, and I carefully stashed the Truck as far back on the shelf as I could, behind plenty of other boxes. 

What I needed now, was justification!

A week later, and there it was.  I’d been having some trouble with one of my teeth for some months.  It had been drilled, root canalled and crowned over the past few years, but for the last three months or more, it had been giving me considerable grief, and in the expert opinion of the dentist, there was nothing for it but to take the offending tooth out.  (Which opened up the way for a very expensive implant to replace it, but I’m sure that was far from his mind.) (9)

Now because my diet has been less than ideal - for the last 30 years - I am rather better acquainted with dental procedures than I’d like, and so this wouldn’t be the first time that I’d had a tooth removed.  It’s not pleasant by any means - let’s face it, basically, someone’s taking a pair of fancy pliers and pulling a piece of your head out - but having had it done a couple of times previously, I knew what to expect.

My wife, on the other hand, who’s oral hygiene is clearly superior to mine, has only ever had to have had one extraction, and that was fairly recently.  And it came as a bit of a shock to her.

Hence I could count on a lot of sympathy in a few days time, when I came back, suffering and in pain, from the brutal treatment at the hands of the mean old dentist.

You’d have to be pretty heartless to get cross with someone when they’ve just had a tooth out.

I have to go past Toys R Us to get to the dentist.

Just sayin’…

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

(1)  I say nice cup of tea.  In truth I can’t stand the stuff.  Insipid brown liquid that tastes of nothing.  
Still - plenty of other people seem to like it.

(2)  This is just for illustrative purposes.  Sadly, for far too many people, hunting down the cheapest pint of milk is something they do have to do to balance the budget - I don’t mean to offend anyone.

(3) I’m guessing it’s the first one?  Recommended Retail Price?  Maybe it’s Roughly Recommended Price.  Or Really Ridiculous Price.  Maybe that last one’s just for petrol…

(4) The obvious place that should be able to guarantee availability is Lego themselves, either via their bricks and mortar stores, or Lego online.  However, this is likely to contravene the golden rule, as 95% of the time, when you buy from Lego, you pay full price.

(5) The community probably has a proper term for this, but I’m not sure what it is, so I’m just going to call it Supermarket sweeping.

(6) Understandably.

(7) As it ended up, some time later John Lewis started matching a competitors price, the Helicopter came down to under £55.00, we get discount on top of that, and Mrs Boo bought it for me for my birthday.  You don’t get much better than 100% discount!

(8) As I write this, some weeks on, I’ve just trawled Ebay again, out of interest.  There are six new sets available - those with a Buy It Now price are all £119 and above, but there are two being auctioned.  One’s currently at just over £60.00, while the other still has a week to run, but it’s at the princely sum of £2.19!  Might keep an eye on that one.  You never know!

(9)  I’ve got a great dentist actually.  If something doesn’t need doing, then he won’t hassle you about it, unlike some that I’ve had in the past.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Amateurs 1, professionals 0

For the most part, I’m really impressed with the Technic sets that Lego produce.  There have been a few sets where I maybe didn’t like the colour scheme much (9394 Jet Plane, I’m looking at you.  Too much red!),  or just wasn’t fussed on the model itself (42002 Hovercraft).

One that gave me pause for thought was the 9398 4x4 Crawler.  It’s a truck type vehicle, with a sort of ‘off-roader’ body on a monster truck chassis, thus raising the body ridiculously high and allowing for crazy suspension and huge wheels.

It looks like this.

The Lego Technic 9398 4x4 Crawler.  Not the prettiest set ever created.

(Image courtesy of Brickset.com)

My thoughts echoed that of a lot of other people.  We liked the mechanicals of the chassis, but weren’t all that fussed on the body kit.  Maybe this got back to the head honchos at Lego, or maybe it was just coincidence, but in October 2012, Lego announced a competition (1) to design a new body for the Crawler.  There were any number of entries, but finally this was chosen.

The winning competition entry.

(Image taken from LEGO.com)

Now I don’t know about you, but as far as I’m concerned, that’s already a vast improvement over the original.  But Lego weren’t finished yet.  They invited the designer, Egor Karshiev to work with Lego Technic designer Markus Kossmann, and between them they tweaked the model a little.  

And this is what they finished up with.

Lego Technic 41999

(Image from the Brickset database)

Now that is the cat’s pyjamas!

The good news is that it’s going to be released in Summer 2013.  The bad news is that it’s going to be limited to 20,000 sets worldwide.  I definitely want to get my hands on one, so I’m going to have to be quick off the mark when they go on sale.

A future classic, I reckon.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

(1) I get the impression they run these periodically - it wasn’t just a one-off thing for the Crawler.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more…

As previously mentioned, the Lego Watford store were having a three-day, Grand Opening Event back in February, with exclusive freebies each day.  I’d skipped the Thursday, partly through having to work, and partly through not being that fussed about a Lego T-Shirt.  But I’d gone along on the Friday and been quite stunned at the size of the crowd.  Purchases under my arm, I’d made my way home with the Friday free gift, a much coveted ‘Lego Store model’.

So on day three, the Saturday, I made a point of getting up a bit earlier.  I had the M25 to myself for the most part, and the emptiness of the Watford shopping centre car park signified that most right minded people were still in bed.

I still wasn’t the first though.  Sitting on the ground outside the store was Jo from the day before, with another girl I hadn’t met.  And a few minutes later, Drew arrived.

We sat on the floor and had a chat, the conversation turning to the fact that a number of the Lego store models from the Friday had hit Ebay by late afternoon, with going prices in the region of £60!  I guess if you don’t really want it, then it’ll pay for something you do...

Time passed, the queue grew and some bleary-eyed staff turned up for what was presumably going to be another busy day!

As the doors opened, we ambled into the shop in an vaguely orderly fashion, and each headed for the shelves that called to them most.  Me, I was back to the Technic again.  I’d studied the LEGO website and various review sites overnight, to decide what to pick up today, on the assumption that they wouldn’t have managed to get any helicopters in overnight.

Which they hadn’t.

So I picked up one of the only-recently-released 42000 Grand Prix Racer sets.  While I’m not much of a Formula 1 fan (1) (it all seems like one long procession round the track, and the result tends to be fixed by team orders anyway), the set itself was supposed to be pretty good, with new, hitherto-unseen, suspension parts among other things.

Lego 42000 Grand Prix Racer

(Image courtesy of Brickset.com)

At this stage, I was still (laughably) deciding which of the current Technic range I was going to get, and which ‘I didn’t really want’.

Poor, deluded fool! (2)

I had a wander round the (now crowded) shop, just to have a another look at some of the things that had caught my eye the previous day.  Several times I picked up the Creator series VW Camper Van.  I’ve always loved the actual Camper Vans, although I can’t really justify owning one.  (Having said that, if I win the lottery, I’ll be joining the VW Owners club like a shot), and the Lego replica was a cracking model.  However, I was still clinging (mostly) to my ‘Technic only’ rule (3), so put it down again.

The other thing I had a good long look at was the Architecture series.  Some of these sets are fantastic.  I particularly like Fallingwater, the Frank Lloyd Wright designed house, and the Solomon Guggenheim Museum, which was also designed by Lloyd Wright (it was his last major work, and he sadly died 6 months before it was completed).  However, I do struggle with the prices.  The Guggenheim isn’t too bad, at £34.99 but Fallingwater, at £74.99 was only £5.00 less than the considerably larger and more complex Grand Prix Racer that I currently had under my arm.

I put the buildings back on the shelf.

With one last idle look at the Star Wars Ultimate Collector Series B-Wing, I joined the queue to pay.

As I’d spent over £25.00, I got my third (count ‘em!) Lego City Police Helicopter polybag, and also the Grand Opening Day 3 freebie, which was a set of Watford specific minifigs.

Now I wasn’t quite sure what to expect with these, so after I’d paid, I went outside the shop, pulled them out of the bag and had a look.

I think I was expecting the figures themselves to be Watford specific, but other than Elton John, who had been chairman of Watford FC for a time, I was struggling to think of any Watford related celebrities.

Clearly Lego had struggled too, as figures turned out to be a Stationmaster, what appeared to be a Lumberjack, and a boy with a skateboard.  The packaging, on the other hand, was printed up with a Lego train arriving at Watford Junction, ‘The LEGO Store Watford Grand Opening’ printed along the bottom, and a limited edition number on the packaging.  

In my case ‘178 of 300’.

Watford Grand Opening Minifig Pack

I headed home and added my new bag of Lego to the bags that were still sitting there from yesterday.  I now had 15 sets, not including all the little polybags.

And the minifigs.

Ah yes, the minifigs…  I think I mentioned picking up ‘a couple’ a while back, ‘to see what they were like’.

I may have picked up a few more since…

~ ~ ~ ~ ~~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

(1)  If you want to watch interesting racing, where the lead can change several times in the course of a single lap, then you need two wheels, not four.  Watch the Moto GP series.  We’ve just (early April) had the first race in Quatar, and it was a doozy! 

(2) Let’s just say that in the end, there wasn’t much that I decided I didn’t want.  
And I’m still eyeing them up on occasion...  

(3) Whoever said ‘R2-D2 isn’t Technic’ can just shut up.

Friday, 5 April 2013

Review : Lego Technic 8065 Container Truck

We’ll return to see what happened on the third day of the Watford Grand Opening soon (1), but in the meantime, we take a break from our usual programming to actually look at some Lego!





Having started on my Technic journey with the 9390 Mini Tow-Truck, I had read several comparisons with an another, similarly sized set, the 8065 Mini Container Truck.  It had got favourable comments, so when I saw it on the shelf in one of our shops (2) I picked it up.

And recently, I actually got round to building it.

o o o o o

Review : Lego Technic 8065 Mini Container Truck

The 8065 set is another pocket-money priced (3), sit-in-the-palm-of-your-hand sized set, like the aforementioned Mini Tow-Truck.  It’s priced at £8.99, and looks like this…

Lego Technic 8065 Container Truck

Emptying out the box reveals 119 pieces, mostly in a couple of plastic bags, plus the actual container itself and a couple of loose beams. 

The contents of the box

In addition are the three manuals.  For some reason, which I am unable to fathom, Lego seem to do two smaller manuals for the ‘A’  model on these sets, and yet do one large manual for the ‘B’ design.  Neither one seems to be significantly more complex than the other, or involve a lot more steps, so why not two large, single manuals?

Who knows?

Anyway.  On with the build.

It was fairly straightforward, and a mistake-free build this time (4), so didn’t take long at all.  

The build starts of, understandably, with the chassis, and I was interested to see that there was a worm gear involved in what was to become the mechanism that moves the container off the back of the truck.  I’m something of a novice when it comes to engineering, which is one of the things that attracted me to Lego Technic in the first place.  It may be a toy, but it uses sound engineering principles as a basis for making things work.

I’d been given a copy of Pawel ‘Sariel’ Kmiec’s book ‘The Unofficial Lego Technic Builders Guide’ as a birthday present (5), and he starts off with some basics, things like explanations of torque, gearing up and down and so on.
So as it was, when I was installing the worm gear, I knew that it had to be a driver gear (i.e. the shaft that it was on would be powered, either by hand or a motor), and that the gear it was connected to would be the follower gear, i.e. driven by the worm gear.

How did I know this?

Because as Sariel points out, the unique thing about a worm gear is that it can only be a driver.  If you have two regular gear wheels together and they’re both free to spin, then turning axle A will spin gear wheel B, and conversely, spinning axle B will turn gear wheel A.

However, while turning the axle that a worm gear sits on will move the gear that’s connected to it, if you try and move the axle with the gear wheel , it won’t be able to turn the worm gear.

Maybe a picture would demonstrate it better…

I made this, partly to demonstrate this example and partly to justify the money I'd spent on sets for spares.

Turning wheel B rotates the axle that the worm gear is on.  This in turn drives the grey gearwheel, and so wheel A rotates.  However, wheel A cannot be turned by hand, as the wormgear effectively locks the grey gearwheel.

I explained all this to my wife, who was watching me build the set, and she was immediately impressed with the level of practical knowledge I was gaining through the use of Lego Technic, and gave me carte blanche to spend what I liked on it in future. (6)

But I digress.  
As you may have noticed, I do this a lot.

On with the build!  Again!

The chassis itself was fairly basic, because, I was rather disappointed to note, the front wheels don’t steer. All four are simply fixed.  After being impressed with the elegant steering solution of the Tow Truck, I guess I was expecting them all to be the same.  However, while 9390 had the cool steering and a simple ‘hook on a piece of string’ as it’s technical party trick, 8065 relied on its very neat container lifting mechanism.

A few pieces more and the arms of the lifting mechanism were in place, and the chassis was finished.

Once the chassis was built, the cabin of the truck was done as a completely seperate unit.  This solid little cab had an axle running down the back of it, with a gearwheel at each end.  The top was the HOG (Hand of God) wheel for turning, to activate the container mechanism, and the one at the bottom connected, at 90°, to the axle with the worm gear.

Once complete, the cabin sat, in an apparently quite wobbly fashion, on the front of the truck body, until I realised that the two pins sticking out of the sides at the front of the chassis weren’t in fact there for decoration, but now popped in, securing the cab.

Drop the container into place on the back of the truck, and the job is done!

The finished model

As mentioned, there’s no steering, the only ‘technical’ bit of this model is the mechanism to raise and lower the container, and it’s extremely neat!

Lowering the container

Overall, I’d have to say it’s as interesting to build as 9390, and about the same from a mechanical point of view, but from a ‘driving it round the dining room table’ point of view, 9390 edges it.

Having half an hour spare the next day, I decided to strip it down and try the ‘B’ model, which is described as a Pick Up Truck, but is better descibed as a Tow Truck.

The chassis is a distinctly simple affair, as is the cab.  With a tilted bonnet it has the look of a 1950’s American Pick up, although instead of having a flat bed on the back, 8065 has a (I have to say) rather ungainly mechanism which fits under the wheels of the vehicle that’s being towed.  To my eye it just looks like it sticks out a bit too far.

The completed 'B' model

Again it utilises the worm gear to elevate the tow arm, which is neat, but then I think the model’s rather spoiled by sticking some unnecessary pieces on.  I guess it’s to utilise some of the remaining parts - one piece is presumably supposed to be an exhaust pipe, but the two gear wheels stuck on the other side… really not sure what they’re there for.

Raising the towbar

Overall though, a very nice little set indeed.  I’d be tempted to dig some parts out of the spares box and try and incorporate a steering rack at the front, although that might make for a rather elongated chassis.  

Still - it’s what’s Lego’s for, after all!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

(1) It’s not giving too much away to suggest that some Lego may have been purchased.
(2) Any time Mrs Boo and I want to buy something, our first thought is ‘Can we get it from John Lewis?’  
Love that discount!

(3) I say pocket money.  Not having any children, I have no idea what the going rate is these days.  When I first started receiving pocket money from my parents, it was the princely sum of 12½p.  As time went on, this got doubled to 25p, then 50p and so on.  I think by the time I was 16 I was raking in £2.00 a week, at which point I got a paper round.  For a while I was living the sort of wild, hedonistic life that £8.00 a week brings, but then I reached 17, started having driving lessons, which cost £7.50 per week, and went back to a life of abject poverty, scraping by on 50p a week.  Not long after that I got my first Saturday job and never looked back.

(4)  I’ve figured out why I’ve occasionally gone wrong in the past.  Each page has a large diagram showing where you’re putting the new parts in that step of the build.  At the top of the page, there’s a smaller diagram, listing which parts you need for that step (1 of these, 2 of those etc).
Having ‘bloke dna’, I obviously just look at the big picture, grab the bits and get on with it, which has previously resulted in having to disassemble bits of a model to fit a part I’d missed.  But if you look at the smaller diagram, and get the parts out first, then you know, when you’ve got no more parts left, that you’ve completed that step.


Don’t know why nobody’s thought of it before...

(5)  Excellent book.  Reveiw later.

(6) Actually, this last bit may not have happened.  She was interested in the gear explanation though.