I’m head-down-bum-up over my display for the upcoming Bricktober 2021 exhibition these school holidays. So while I’m spending countless hours away from my loved ones, locked in a neon-lit room with the curtains closed, chipping my nails and growing the callouses on my fingertips as I spend hours debating over exactly which face is the best one to put atop that minifig people will glance at for less than a half-second on the way to fangasming at the bloke who just shoved Star Wars minifigs into a bunch of straight-out-of-the-carton City sets (I’m not bitter), I thought I’d have a look at which five bricks I come back to again and again every time I want to achieve an effect.
Here, then, out of the several hundred different styles of Lego brick, are the five I can currently call my favourites. Until next time I’m asked.
5 for Friday: It’s Brickalicken!
Daleks and Erlings
Dalek, Erlings (after designer Erling Dideriksen, who created them), Headlight bricks, Washing machine bricks… there are as many names as there are variants of this brilliant, direction-changing staple of the SNOT* world. Half of everything I attempt to do would not be possible without this little wonder. It’s a must for attaching greebling* to the sides of buildings, sending cliffs and rock features in interesting new directions, building sideways instead of the traditional vertical builds, and generally changing direction as often as possible so you can get away from the same old 90o stuff everyone else is doing.
An angle, inset, direction, or method of attachment to suit all requirements…
The Dalek is an absolute staple of my MOC*-building. It’s indispensable, and probably the brick I rely on most for creating the architecture upon which I hang all my little stupidities. Here’s an example from the current Bricktober 2021 build:
Lots of greebling, signage, and general dangly bits hanging of the side of this building, the result of no less than 12 Dalek bricks scattered throughout the blue section to give it some texture.
And for those who are new to the jargon, a bit of a glossary as we go:
MOC: My Own Creation. The stuff you make up yourself, rather than just building whatever the box tells you to.
GREEBLING: Adding detail to the surface of a larger object to make it more visually interesting. Usually a stupidly-complex assemblage of pipes, cogs, fiddly bits, and well, greebles that don’t stand up to a moment’s inspection but are basically half the fun of the thing.
SNOT: Studs not on top. Sideways building, basically, so that everything is smooth and shiny, and at angles away from the strict 90o configuration enforced by Lego’s traditional stud pattern.
So named because of their resemblance to, well, a wedge of cheese, I use these little buggers by the hundreds. They’re brilliant for topping off rock formations, adding points and edges to buildings and architecture, greebling structures on spaceships… they’re a simple but effective decorative tool that add serious effect for very little investment.
From the current build: cheese slopes used to add texture to a little rock feature: also a double cheese wedge and a pyramid wedge, just to show the whole ‘family’.
Because of their size, they’re also brilliant for enabling a range of illegal builds*. Here’s a quick guide to one I use regularly– turning two two-dimensional pieces into a three-dimensional, back-to-back brick so I can build outwards in opposite directions and create a symmetrical horizontal structure:
Using cheese slopes to create an illegal build: a plate and a block standing back-to-back to reverse the direction of your structure.
ILLEGAL BUILD: a technique for fitting bricks together in a way Lego never intended, either because it stresses the plates or bricks involved, is considered ‘cheating’, or just isn’t as structurally sound as it should be. But hey, to quote the immortal Jesse ‘The Body’ Ventura: Win if you can, lose if you must, but always, always cheat.
A man to be believed.
(Sings to the tune of the Spam song): Wings wings wings wings, lots of wings, luvverly wiiiings……)…… Just some of the wing shapes I end up using Every. Single. Build.
Yeah, yeah. The official name is something stupid along the lines of ‘wedge plate, something something angle, something something studs something blah’.
They’re wings. Everybody knows they’re wings, they’ve been wings since they started appearing in Classic Space sets in 1978 and I started to become obsessed with them in around 1978 and a day, they’re wings, and shut up you’re not my Mum, they’re wings. Wings.
They’re also bloody handy for creating plateaux in terrain, and for adding angles to landscape features, which is why I have an absolute fucktonne of them in different shapes, because I always need some after I’ve created enough Neo-CS* sets to populate my display so that I can do exactly that… and I always have Neo-CS and I always have plateaux.
It’s called style, actually….
Layers of wings add an element of terrain at the foot of a ginormous volcano section. (Also note: cheese slopes). And yes, there will be a ship flying overhead when it’s on display at the exhibition. It’s called style.
NEO-CS: Neo-Classic Space. Spaceships, bases, and vehicles that use the classic space colour scheme of blue, light grey (or light blue-grey… it’s a long argument, we’ll discuss it later), and transparent yellow; mimic or reflect the Classic Space ‘wedge’ shape; and otherwise bring back memories of The Greatest Lego Theme Ever but with updated parts and styles that speak to the creator’s own particular brand of lunacy. It’s an entire subculture, and it’s bloody great.
The Lego brick you can stick your tongue through.
Don’t do that. Firstly, you actually can’t, and secondly, don’t do it just because a decades old marketing slogan for Polo Mints — which is where the nickname comes from — that only I and the Goodies remember tells you to. You’re a grown-ass independent human being. Think for yourself.
Sorry, where were we?
One-by-one round studs are the Fremantle Dockers of the Lego world: everybody knows they exist, nobody ever gets excited about them, and they only exist to make up he numbers and sell sets for more than they actually look like they’re worth.
Stick a hole in them, on the other hand, and suddenly they become almost ludicrously useful. (The studs, not the Dockers. We’re not talking about them anymore. That moment has passed. Please, God, don’t think about sticking holes in them.) They can anchor thin pole pieces, provide a common locking point for pieces that otherwise have no shared surface, and — my constant obsession, as must be becoming obvious by now — help change the orientation and direction of a structure in the smallest possible space. They’re a relatively new piece, only having been around for ten years or so, and I don’t have a huge amount in my collection. But you can bet I exhaust them every display I build. They’re infinitely adaptable, infinitely useable, and I’m nowhere near the limits of the connections and detailing I can create with them.
A weird space worm-thingy breaks through the surface of the planet… and a dark-red polo provides the link between body and tongue, which otherwise would not fit together, all the while looking like a lamprey’s too-wet lips.
Three types of what I — and, probably I alone — call griprings.
As far as I know, they don’t have a cool, jargonish nickname. I call them griprings. Who knows? Maybe you’ll all call them that too, and it’ll go viral, and become canon, and then I can die feeling like I’ve contributed something to the Universe. Yeah, I’m down to that now.
What they are is a central plate surrounded by a grid of thin poles, just the right width to accept a clip. And they are unbelievably useful for creating symmetry in spaceship engines, tubular bodies such as snakes and sandworms, towers… anything that, once again, can take a build out of the 90o tyranny of Lego stud fascism and into the glories of offset building. (I may be getting a bit overworked on the subject…)
I use them a lot. They’re a plate with the greebling built in, an instant decorative effect combined with a way to provide both symmetry and cross-directional building. I’m not saying they’re the perfect part, I’m just saying they’re in the top echelon of perfect parts for me. They don’t come in a wide range of colours, and there are only the styles you see above, but by God, they’re handy.
A tubular sandworm bursts through the surface of my display… and at the bottom, everything — body, tongue, the offset from the 90o stud pattern, the whole lot — is anchored by a single, just-barely-visible-if-you-look-past-the-bottom-row-of-teeth gripring.