This post is a small deviation that you have to expand to read. It’s about a small LEGO project, my very first (and probably last) LEGO creation.

It already has been a few years since I decided I am no longer old enough to not play with Lego and I just couldn’t resist buying a large Ultimate Collector Series (UCS) R2-D2 in the Lego store in Copenhagen that my wife and I assembled. Since then we built the UCS Super Star Destroyer, Wall-E, a Saturn-V rocket, a Tardis, BB-8, and recently the enormous UCS Millenium Falcon. We spent many weekends having fun building this gigantic set and the result is great, even though we didn’t really remember Spock being so hairy and the tribbles weren’t very accurate either. In August 2018 a small Star Wars drop ship was released and I though it would be nice to build a series of Lego shuttles, starting with the brilliant build of “Director Krennics shuttle” (set 75156) from the instaforget episode Rogue one.

I thought it would be a good idea to modify the shuttle a bit so I recreated it digitally in the Lego Digital Designer. This (comparatively) small set fits together so well and is designed so carefully that most modifications will lead to parts no longer fitting, compromising structural integrity or breaking off when being handled. I realized that from a construction point of view the design of the small sets with far fewer parts to work with are much more interesting than the larger UCS sets and they are typically more playful. These large sets are more ‘wasteful’ with open spaces, often do not have much of an interior, and can be more fragile. The shuttle was modified for longer wingtips (without discarding any of the pieces in the old wing) and lengthening the interior by 1 stud so that more minifigs could be stored in the design (the two seats in the back).

For my second exercise I bought the now retired shuttle model (set 75094) from the third Star Wars movie (there are only three) and this model, otherwise again of great design, suffers from a risk of tipping backwards and the boarding ramp is in the wrong position. I modified the model to address these points by completely redesigning the interior structure using several perpendicular pin double collectors (A), that also introduces a half-stud offset that you need to tackle. In the front of the model a 3×5 L-shaped lift arm (B) connects to a series of 1×1 and 2×2 bricks with 1 and 2 holes respectively (C). With this oddly spaced setup the access from the main hold to the cockpit is now open (D). At the roof the three 1×2 bricks are joined by more lift arms (E) closing the force chain that makes this model really sturdy. Having a 1×6 technic brick with 6 holes would have been most helpful here, but you have to make due with what’s available until you can make it fit. At the lower end of the cockpit access those 2 white parts needed to be supported and the lower cockpit had to be supported at well (F); I had to shift the entire cockpit one plate thickness down. Getting to this solution was a bit of a puzzle.

Maintaining structural integrity was really difficult but in the end I found a build that met my demands; the model looks the same basic structure of the shuttle is very different. This time I exported to model to Stud.io that has a great interface with the bricklink website so that ordering parts becomes so very easy. After having modified the model I did find out that the newly detailed sides of the model can be dislodged if you do pick it up carefully so that would mean another round of modifications. So as a play-thing it’s not as good as the original.

Meanwhile the modified Sentinel-class shuttle  was released by Lego (set 75221) but it was oh-so-very small but expensive, and nearly a play-mobile model with some very large parts. I decided to make my own. This vehicle is “canon” as a smudge that resembled it was smeared into the digitally ruined version of A New Hope, but if you look for “references” you’ll find all kinds of drawings that do not match, with most of its appearances in the cartoon series “Star Wars Rebels” (that I didn’t watch). There is also a cargo-loader variant of this shuttle that appears in a game Rogue Squadron (that I didn’t play) that has four cargo arms to carry containers. So with no references that needed to be followed I though; why not combined the two variants into the same design and work from there? That means that the belly of the Sentinel would turn into some detachable mobile field base for instant deployment and somesuch and that would actually make sense. Except, of course, nothing in the SW universe makes any sense. I tried to avoid making an excessively large model but needed to be in the same style as other shuttle. I also wanted to avoid making the module look like a solid chunk of Lego using a few SNOT building techniques that are so prominently present in the magnificent Saturn V model.

The early version of the module was a bit too small with the vertical faces 2 studs high; the figures could barely stand inside and the four internal link arms that tie the roof to the floor were just a stud too long protruding through the ceiling. Of course, you’ll never notice on a real build how certain problems with parts not existing in the Lego inventory were solved, but not having an 1×8 lift arm more or less determined the module size (could have been made by overlapping 1×3 and 1×5 thin lift arms, soit). This shows some of the many variations the module walls went through before eventually ending up rather solid with lots of brackets on both the in- and outside of the module. This is quite ‘wasteful’ in terms of space and the part counts skyrocketed. In the original design I used a lot of boat studs (2×2 studded parts with an arced bottom) to add some strength to the back of all the panels (A), but during building I found out these parts do not hold 1×1 parts (B) at all. The final version as a few vertical studs where stickered tiles could be added to (C).

The main reason the module is as fat as it is is this little guy; I want to have the rear of the module contain ‘something else’, preferably some vehicle. This is the Lego version of the AT-DT (?) from the game Star Wars Commander (?), matching the pictures I found of it rather nicely . It was a real challenge to get it to stay under 10 studs wide, being able to fold its legs and fit in the module. That it did really well, with the module ceiling clamping it in perfectly, but the actual model was far too wobbly to be used. The toes snap off too easily, the side armor is easily removed during handling, and the legs cannot be put in a good posture either. So I edited it out of the model and put in some silly speeder, you know, that vehicle that has been designed to fly at breakneck speeds through dense forests rather than just flying over them. I should have edited out one stud in height direction for the entire module but I simply went ahead and ordered all the parts.

Ordering parts via Studio 2.0 in Bricklink is a breeze. The price of a single part can differ greatly between shops so it’s best to let the site select shops and not do so manually, because the total can easily be five times more expensive. This goes a bit against my intent of placing orders at shops I have good experience with and some shops end up with a single-Euro order, but I suppose all shops that participate know that and have accepted this way or selling their wares. Once all the 3400 parts had arrived I are left with the most impressive task or ordering all the parts into bins; Lego sets typically have the parts carefully packaged per step so sorting is relatively easy while building… not so here! Sorting on part type (not colour) worked out well for me. Not all used parts were of good quality, some actually pretty poor, but most of these are somewhere out of sight.

The main vehicle as a backbone that’s only 3 studs wide with technical lift arms the keep the structure strong; one the things you see often in official kits. I used a few L-shaped arms too. The entire rear part of the model (“engine compartment”) is also an off number of studs wide; the cockpit is an even number of studs wide. Naturally, designing, ordering and building are only the first step. Some modifications were expected and required, although the number of errors was small and the model was quite easy to build. The so-called locking hinge plates were removed; they require too much force to use. The aforementioned boat-stud parts proved useless to add any structural solution. The top wing of the shuttle was initially not well designed and did not transfer the forces of carrying the model well at all. Plus, some parts were missing in the design (accidentally deleted I suppose).

So this is the module, showing the inner structure, with the outer panels, the ramp deploying a speeder and with the main room taken out. I tried to make the sides non-boring, adding detail and colour (such as the red stripe). Of course you can make more modules with various tasks, such as a medical unit, a shield generator, an anti-fighter platform, a nail salon, a repair shop, and so on. I could have added many more minifigs in there, but the ramp with the speeder and command unit in front of the module take up a bit of space. Plus, having 40 Storm troopers just standing there would be a bit repetitive.

The module as built without thedetachable roof. The black tiles have been stickered using some additionally ordered stickers from set 75156. I really abhor the use of stickers and I can image children will have trouble applying them neatly, but here they look really great. In the front of the module there is a gunner  to operate the “stay away” device on the roof and next to him commander Gorman  who directs the troops, as we have seen in the Weyland-Yutani documentary on the successful extraction of all colonists from Hadley’s Hope following a serious food contamination incident.

The carry-all is almost more interesting without the module and this is how I remember it recovering harvesters from the surface of Arrakis. The vehicle has its own landing gear and has the same wings as the (modified) shuttle but backwards. A stay-away device is added on the engine module to scare off following fighters, which is of course unable to hit any fighter that is piloted by a named character in the script.

So this is the end product after many happy hours pushing both digital and real bricks around. Fortunately I had to spend a few days in a hotel room to learn working with the two digital design tools when my wife was enjoying her conference . The final model is fine, though the load from the carry-all on the module is still not carried very well (center of gravity of the carry-all should be a bit more forward). But all in all, a nice in-between project consisting of 2 kgs of bricks.