Lego Tower Bridge Photoblog: Days Zero and One

There was enough interest in a photoblog of my progress on the Lego Tower Bridge that I decided to go ahead with it.

Here’s something you have to understand: I love spatial stuff. Every Christmas, my mother, my brother, and I do a holiday jigsaw puzzle. I think they’re generally a thousand pieces — whatever fits on the kitchen counter, anyway — and we polish them off in a few days flat, in part because I will kind of just sit there and put pieces in until somebody makes me stop. A few years ago I suggested we try one of those 3D jigsaw puzzles, and ended up doing ninety percent of it myself, because I was the one who really wanted it; the puzzle was Neuschwanstein, and it still sits atop my desk at home. Last month my mother said I could have gone to work for Lego as one of their designers, and it’s probably true; spatial reasoning has always been one of my strong suits.

So this is a most excellent present for my husband to have gotten for me. And, like the Christmas jigsaw puzzles, I’m inclined to marathon on it unless somebody makes me stop. Since I have work to do, I’ve imposed a self-restriction, which is that I’m only allowed to play with the Legos while watching movies with friends. At the moment, we have plans to do movie double-headers every Sunday night for a while, so you’ll likely get Monday updates to the photoblog.

Behind the cut, for the sake of people’s flists, you’ll find the progress from Day Zero and Day One.

Four thousand two hundred eighty-seven pieces in twenty-eight sacks. Piled up, it looks like this:

Kind of unmanageable, ne? Fortunately, kniedzw still had the bins and ziploc bags from when he built the Lego Taj Mahal at work, so the Day Zero step was to open all those sacks and sort the pieces into something resembling order:

There, that’s better. (I did not, however, count all the damn pieces, unlike my deranged husband and his project. One of the few instances in which I am less obsessive-compulsive than him.) Part of the reason I refused to count is right here:

Five hundred fifty-six pieces — more than ten percent of the total — are these little 1×1 tan slope-y bits. (You’ll see why later on.) I was damned if I was going to count them all.

Oh, and these are the instruction books:

That doesn’t give you any sense of how many pages there are, but whatever. Like I said, they’re magazine-sized.

On to the actual building. The first thing you construct, going by the directions, is the central span of bridge, the moveable part:

I’m convinced they have you build that first so you can experience the satisfaction of completing a sizeable-looking chunk of the whole. Enjoy that satisfaction, because it’s going to be a while before you experience it again; next up are the towers.

As you can see, I chose to build them in parallel, rather than doing first one and then the other. This has nothing to do with plans to stage scenes from Sherlock Holmes atop the unfinished structure, no sirree.

I’ve never done one of these Lego projects before, the big ones that replicate a real-world structure, and I’m fascinated by the attention to detail. Because my lighting is crappy (I’ll try to do better in the future), you can’t see this, but there’s stuff in the foundation that is, when you get down to it, unnecessary. Those piles in the middle are three brown standard bricks each, the middle one offset by one space, to provide an attachment point for the grey bars. The offset space is filled by a semi-specialized dark grey piece, 1×2 but rounded into two semi-cylinders. Once the foundation is finished, those pieces are invisible. You cannot possibly see them. They could have been hot pink and spiky, for all anybody but the builder would know. But somebody went to the effort of choosing something appropriate; I can only presume it’s based on the actual structure. This happens again and again as I go along, and every time it does, I grin a little in pleasure.

Here’s the first story of the towers completed. (Dim lighting, I know; I’ll fix that for later shots.) Those rounded corners are where all those fiddly little tan bits are going: you stick them onto underlying pieces in long lines, then stick those pieces onto side-projecting bits. Very tedious work, but good for watching movies, as it doesn’t require a lot of attention.

I didn’t work constantly through both movies, but I spent a goodly portion of that time on Lego-building, and here’s where I got to in the end:

Not a bad start, I think. And here, since I used flash, you can see detail much better: the corners of the towers, and down in the light grey foundation some of the semi-rounded bits I mentioned before. The barrel-like bits marking the top of the first story and base of the second are a pain, quite physically; you have to stick four roundels onto pipe pieces, then force additional pipes into the stack so the horizontal pieces that attach the stacks to the rest of the structure have something to latch onto. My fingers hurt by the time I was done.

I haven’t yet attached the central bridge to the towers. You’re supposed to do that after the towers are done, but I think I’ll delay; the only thing connecting those bases are two little pipes on each side, and since I have to lift the entire mess up onto my office bookcases when I’m done, I’ll probably do the last stages of assembly up there. (This thing is going to be heavy, y’all. Not so much in the grand scheme of things, but more than I want to trust to a pair of little pipes.)

Anyway, it’s good progress. I’m maybe twenty percent of the way done, though it’s hard to judge for sure, since some pages are a lot more complicated than others. I haven’t yet finished the first booklet, though. That will have to wait for next Sunday, when I get to work on this again.

0 Responses to “Lego Tower Bridge Photoblog: Days Zero and One”

  1. starlady38

    Oh holy crap, do you seriously have to face most of the structure in those damn flat 1×1 pieces? Wow.

    Also, have you ever done an impossibles puzzle? 705 pieces, 5 pieces that don’t fit, repeating puzzle image and no borders. It took me three months and I still have the completed version rolled up in my dad’s house in New Jersey. Um, but it was fun.

    • Marie Brennan

      Haven’t done one of those, no. But years ago, friends of the family gave us a puzzle they had given up on: only 500 pieces, but the image was just a giant pile of multicolored golf tees, nothing you could really use to guide yourself. We finished it, but it wasn’t fun; we ended up reducing the thing to purely mechanical work, sorting the pieces by general shape, then trying everything that could theoretically work until you found the right one. I’d probably end up doing the kind of puzzle you describe the same way, and since I like to work off both shape and color, plus general spacing, I don’t think I’d enjoy it.

      • starlady38

        Iirc it was a gemstone pattern, and I wound up assembling all the pieces with amethysts on them and physically trying pieces until I got chunks of the pattern together that I could use as anchors and repeat the same thing with the other stones and pieces. It was very tedious, and I don’t think I’d do it again, but that was a real feeling of accomplishment, I have to say. The golf tees sound the same.

        • Marie Brennan

          Yeah, we enjoyed thumbing our noses at the people who gave it to us (“see, we are that badass”) — but on the whole, proving we could do it wasn’t an enjoyable process in its own right.

          BTW, no, I don’t have to face the entire structure in the flat slope-y bits. But the entirety of the tower corners, yes. I’ll take pictures to demonstrate, when I do the second story.

      • aulus_poliutos

        Try a 10K pieces world map.

        You’re goona hate oceans at some point. 😛

  2. swords_and_pens

    Man, I wish I had time for something like this. When I found out (too late in life) that there were periodic open try-outs to become a Lego designer, I was crushed to have missed out. Something like this would be a wonderful project (well, for me; my wife would kill me).

    • Marie Brennan

      !!! I had no idea there were open tryouts. I wouldn’t go for it — I don’t have the experience to do that kind of thing; just the knack for spatial reasoning — but that’s awesome to know.

  3. pameladean

    That really does look like Tower Bridge! I mean, it would, but the recognition factor, even at this stage, is extremely satisfactory. I could never put it together; I would kill myself first. But it’s very cool.

    I feel that much is explained by the revelation that your husband built the Taj Mahal out of Lego, at work.


    • Marie Brennan

      It was his present to himself for having survived a very difficult period there (where he was basically doing his job and that of another guy for six months).

  4. kateelliott

    So awesome. I’ll be following this.

    I also have the spatial thing. I think it’s why we’re world buildings, seriously.

    Holidays at my cousin’s always involve a 1000 piece puzzle with whoever wants dropping in and out (usually 2 puzzles, actually, not at the same time). We had an Edward Gorey one a year ago that was the best puzzle ever because the picture was so strangely odd and wonderful.

    Oh, here it is:

  5. green_knight

    Thanks for the photoblog. I’m sitting this one out – I love flat jigsaws, but I tend to be a bit of a snob about quality – I like the ones where the pieces fit and you can tell that they’re fitting either by the picture or by the shape. (I recently finished 2000 pieces where that wasn’t the case – it’s on my list of things to give away at the next car boot sale. Never thought I’d go that far.)

    • Marie Brennan

      Yeah, cheaply-cut puzzles are bloody annoying to put together. We did one recently where we seemed to be missing two sky pieces, and had two sky pieces that didn’t fit . . . because we’d put a piece in wrong elsewhere, and hadn’t noticed.

  6. beccastareyes

    … Now I want to go splurge on Legos.

  7. princess_allura

    Now if you and K are ever here for Boxing Day I know exactly what I can enlist your aid for. 🙂

  8. alecaustin

    Yeah, the booklets for the Eiffel Tower were pretty damn impressive too. Definitely magazine-sized, definitely not in any way kidding around.

    I am also deeply amused at the brown bits that serve no purpose other than to be accurate (damn it). Looking forward to future installments.

  9. stevie_carroll

    I’m impressed at your progress, and at the detail involved.

    How many hours is that so far?

    [ETA:] I’ve done 3D jigsaws, but sadly they got wrecked in various house moves.

  10. rosa_g

    Wow! That is some SERIOUS Lego-building! Now I really want to go find the boxes of legos in my parents’ basement and build something!

    My dad and I have an infatuation with those 3D puzzles. For a few years, we would buy them for Christmas, and it would occupy us for a few hours. We did the Neuschwanstein puzzle you did, as well as the Taj Mahal (and all it’s crazy white pieces), multiple cathedrals and other castles. Our crowning glory however was the New York skyline… a whopping 3141 piece 3D puzzle complete with coma-inducing difficulty. It was awesome, and one of the best Boxing Day projects EVER!

  11. shui_long

    If I remember correctly, down in the basement of the towers there should be the counterweights for the bascules, and the hydraulic engines which lift the bascules.

    It has always slightly surprised me that some people don’t have any spatial understanding, as it came naturally to me – but there were even students in my engineering class who really struggled to translate a three-dimensional object into two-dimensional drawings (and vice-versa).
    To some extent it may be a cultural issue. I believe the Japanese (for example) tend to think more happily in two dimensions; and some of the early Japanese car designs certainly support that, with shapes that are fine considered as flat views of one side, but which don’t flow naturally into the third dimension – they had to hire British designers to help create fully three-dimensional shapes.

    • Marie Brennan

      The scale of this model doesn’t allow for details on that level. The one at Legoland is much, much bigger, though; it might have that stuff.

  12. shveta_thakrar

    Oh, wow. That is all I have to say!

Comments are closed.