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REVIEW: The Unofficial LEGO Technic Builders Guide by Sariel

Technic Review Sariel

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#1 Sinner

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 07:09 AM

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No Starch Press have been publishing LEGO related books from their early days, with “Getting Started with LEGO Trains” in 2003 and the essential “The Unofficial LEGO builders Guide” in 2005 (which I just noticed has a recently released new edition!), but Technic has been needing a general reference for some time. Indeed, the chapter on Technic in “The Unofficial LEGO builders Guide” says that “Technic is a system within a system”. Enter stage left our new champion; “The Unofficial LEGO Technic Builders Guide”!

To me a good reference on a topic need to cover not just “what” and “how”, but also “why”, “why not” and “how else”, and I’m really impressed with how well it achieves those. In fact my first main disappointment with the book, and I’ll get it out of the way right now, is how it doesn’t cover the historical aspects of Technic. It’s mentioned in the preface that he omits this but I do think that some older elements/aspects, such as the Flex system and the 4.5/12 volt system, would have been worth at least a mention. Also for much the same reason it can’t be seen as a complete reference to Technic parts as some parts, such as the differentials, have all historical aspects covered, but others, such as motors and chains, have gaps. (It also doesn’t cover Mindstorms/NXT but I do agree in this case that the topic is already well covered.) Thus I don’t recommend this book as the ultimate reference to Technic in general (the closest is probably still Technicopedia ) but in all fairness it is called a “builders guide” so it can be argued to cover everything would be off topic.

With that nit picking out of the way, I’m going to focus on the good parts! The book starts in Part I with the basics; pins, beams, alignment and a big discussion on studs vs studless models (referred to in the book as “studfull vs studless”; a new name for me!), an overview of axels and joints, then in Part II it covers power transmission using LEGO gears. Ratios, direction, efficiency… it’s all covered in a clear but not condescending way so it’s useful as a starting point or a refresher on the topic. Clear digital examples are shown throughout and it finishes with a breakdown of all (to my knowledge) of the basic gears. Chains, pulleys and levers are covered in much the same way. But its Chapter 8 where the book gets to the good part; “custom mechanical solutions”.

For most I think this will be a major motivation for the purchase; the desire to tap into the experience of someone as skilled as Sariel. In this it won’t disappoint. Improvements to basic Technic parts such as differentials are covered, as are lesser known mechanics such as Oldham couplings. Similarly pneumatics is well covered, including details on compressor and valve designs, and pneumatic engines, and a section on model strength (while Technic focused) is applicable to all LEGO builders.

Part III is dedicated to motors and the power functions system and has very good information and analysis of the current system (I learnt that there’s a new receiver module… that I didn’t get when I bought one recently), and Part IV (advanced mechanics) has 5 detailed chapters covering steering, suspension, tracked vehicles, transmissions followed by adders and subtractors… which brings me to the other major gripe I have with the book; its focus on wheeled/tracked (<---clarification added) vehicles. The steering topic is very detailed and I learnt a few new things, the suspension topic is just stunning with ten very good examples of how to build the most useful types, the tracked vehicles topic gave me loads of ideas which I want to try out ASAP, 9 varied examples of transmissions are given in that topic (I love the CVT!) and three subtractors examples are given…. But where’s the topic on linear actuator applications? Where’s that examples of transfer of power that was lightly touched on in Part 1? Where’s the section discussing extending booms, stabilisers and other stuff that crane obsessed people like me want? Nor is there any detailed example for motorcycles, aircraft or functions such as winches. Also in transmissions, distribution transmissions are given a page, but not a full example, even though this is how they are used in most Technic models. But I’ll return to this point later in the summary.

The last part, Part V has three chapters on the more aesthetic of models, covering scale, proportions and details, and is full of good advice for all builders. (There is a useful index at the back as well as an afterword. A hamster as well.)

Summary and Conclusion

It’s a good book, a very good book, and it’s one which I think most Technic builders (and many non-Technic ones too!) would find useful. But, I did find the omissions disappointing. Perhaps I expected too much, but I do think that as a “Technic Builder’s Guide” it’s not complete. If this was called “The Unofficial LEGO Guide to building Technic Vehicles” then it would be a perfect book in my mind, but as it is it leaves me wanting more. Some of the omissions such as train motors, the engine blocks, crane design (I love cranes), as well as the previously mentioned flex and older parts... etc, just make it seem incomplete. Sure some of these are fringe interests, but so are pneumatic engines and three examples are given for those. Thus your personal satisfaction of this book will depend on what you want to make.

The ultimate question I suppose is “Would I buy this book”? Sure I would. There is no comparable publication and this is an impressive resource that I’ll be finding useful for years to come. So run, don’t walk to No Starch Press and get yours now!
For a second opinion and more photos be sure to read this review by DLuders.

You’re still reading? OK well for your devotion I’m going to randomly offer a SINGLE copy of this book to anyone that No Starch can ship to (I'm assuming most of the world) that who posts in this topic more than 10 words and includes the phrase “Technic for teh win”. (That is one winner, one book.) Thanks for reading!





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#2 Kronos

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 07:49 AM

I have difficulty getting started on MOC's and I think this will give me the motivation needed. Oh yeah, "Technic for teh win"

Mike

#3 BachAddict

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 08:18 AM

I'm waiting for a friend to order two at the moment, looking forward to the pneumatic engines! Gearboxes and transmissions are also interesting for offroad vehicles. Technic for teh win!

#4 Sariel

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 10:06 AM

Thank you for this exhaustive review. Let me say that I like it and I respect your opinion, but I think a little clarification is due.

View PostSinner, on 18 November 2012 - 07:09 AM, said:

Perhaps I expected too much, but I do think that as a “Technic Builder’s Guide” it’s not complete. If this was called “The Unofficial LEGO Guide to building Technic Vehicles” then it would be a perfect book in my mind, but as it is it leaves me wanting more. Some of the omissions such as train motors, the engine blocks, crane design (I love cranes), as well as the previously mentioned flex and older parts... etc, just make it seem incomplete.

I'm sorry you were disappointed, but it appears to me that a book you expected would be twice as thick, cost $100 and take another 2 years to be finished. Or, with all due respect, you are expecting a Technicopedia turned into a book. This isn't it - this is a building guide that aims at today's builders, who don't really care much for discontinued motors from 20 years ago and parts that are so antique that they are nearly impossible to buy. You miss train motors and crane designs (by the way, there are at least two examples of crane outriggers in the book, a whole chapter on pulleys and a separate part on tower cranes), while younger builders will be surprised to find anything that predates studless parts and PF motors. I too grew up with sets from 80's and 90's, but it's 2012 now and there is a whole generation of Technic builders who rarely had a studfull piece in hand. This is 2012 book, and it comes as a guide, not as an encyclopedia.

It occurs to me that perhaps you're under the impression that I could create a book as thick as I liked - no, I could't. The book was initially planned to run 250 pages, and it was quite a battle to make it 100 pages longer. I had to make cuts wherever possible, and to omit some topics entirely - which the book clearly states.

As for the "vehicular argument", well, Technic is 99% about vehicles. The last time a proper Technic set did not feature a vehicle was 12 years ago, with the exotic 1237 set.

Having said this, I once more thank you for your work. Yours in indeed a valuable opinion.

Edited by Sariel, 18 November 2012 - 12:51 PM.

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#5 Sinner

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 11:30 AM

View PostSariel, on 18 November 2012 - 10:06 AM, said:

I'm sorry you were disappointed, but it appears to me that a book you expected would be twice as thick, cost $100 and take another 2 years to be finished.
Thanks for the reply. I wasn't disappointed, I just wanted more... or perhaps less of some and more of others. That's all.

View PostSariel, on 18 November 2012 - 10:06 AM, said:

As for the "vehicular argument", well, Technic is 99% about vehicles. The last time a proper Technic set did not feature a vehicle was 12 years ago, with the exotic 1237 set.
My apologies for being unclear. I meant wheeled/tracked vehicles when I said "vehicles". I have clarified the point.

I'd rather not debate any further though as I think as the author you deserve the final word.





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#6 DLuders

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 11:32 AM

Nice review, Sinner!  I love The Unofficial LEGO Technic Builders Guide! :sweet:  To anyone who does not yet have one, you're missing out!  "Technic for teh win".

#7 AndyC

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 11:34 AM

Nice review, it's nice to get a fair and balanced viewpoint. I can certainly understand some of the omissions in terms of older technic info, it just makes more sense in a modern book to focus on what is current. Definitely sounds like there will be some worthwhile stuff to read within those covers. Oh and Technic for the win! :wink:
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#8 GuiliuG

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 12:21 PM

Thanks for your review. It's always interessting to see the different point of view :) And Technic for teh win !
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#9 wildboar

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 12:23 PM

Have bought only digital copy and am already sorry that haven't used great opportunity to get also physical version. Great book, great review. I have been gathering advices from the net, but this book is much more comprehensive that anything else I could find for tehnic. Just hoping that sales will go great and that we will see more books on this topic. As first technic-only book, it fulfilled my expectations. Normally, it could be bigger, with more advices etc. but the question is- how much pages the it would have? I hope that more detailed instructions we will see in the next book from author. But for first book, this is much more than I have hoped for. And off course, Technic for teh win.

Edited by wildboar, 18 November 2012 - 12:27 PM.


#10 Ape Fight

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 12:36 PM

Great to get a proper review from a Technic fan : ) I do wonder whether all of it would be useful to builders who already build suspension, steering, gearboxes and the rest though? Sariel's work is way better than mine, but there is some joy in figuring it out yourself. Except the CVT, that I can't figure out, as it's at Sheepo levels of complexity. Still, Technic for teh win, and anything that allows more Technic to be squeezed into each MOC must mean more win : ) Awesome job Sariel

#11 Richie

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 12:43 PM

Thanks for the review! I haven't read the book myself, but I was hoping for some crane stuff as well. Sure, there are some crane instructions/MLCad files online where I can find working booms and outriggers, but it would be nice if it was featured in this book as well. That being said, the example pages look promising and I'm curious about the CVT. :thumbup: Technic for teh win!

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#12 legomuppet9

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 12:56 PM

Awesome review, looks like a great book Sariel :thumbup:  Technic for teh win!!

#13 Hey Joe

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 01:56 PM

"Technic for teh win" Huh? What does that mean?  You're really bending my brain here!  Thanks for the review, I'd like a free book.
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#14 Toadtorrent

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 02:37 PM

What a great idea for a book and a great overview of the contents.  To somebody who is recently out of their dark ages there is a huge learning curve for me to learn how to use all the new basic Lego elements that have been produced in the last 30 years...exponentially more effort for technic elements.  This reference is a huge timesaving tool.

Technic for teh win

#15 Alasdair Ryan

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 04:25 PM

Nice review sinner,does this mean that you might start building more technic moc's now? :laugh:
I am yet to order myself a copy of the book,but i just might after what I read here. :classic:
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#16 minicoop4

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 04:48 PM

Thank you for the review. I appreciate the objective review, saying some parts are better than others, but well worth buying. I'll definitely add it to my Christmas wish list. Technic for teh win.

#17 wildboar

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 05:18 PM

View PostAlasdair Ryan, on 18 November 2012 - 04:25 PM, said:

Nice review sinner,does this mean that you might start building more technic moc's now? :laugh:
I am yet to order myself a copy of the book,but i just might after what I read here. :classic:

You forgot “Technic for teh win”. Maybe on purpose, but to remind just in case :)

#18 Legoism

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 05:23 PM

I understand the point, but tend to agree with Sariel. This great book (which rests under my elbow stuffed with bookmarks as I'm writing this), can attract many more new fans and readers by focusing on the state of Technic today, here, now. Anyway, I find that many of the concepts Sariel introduces are just as applicable within classic Technic.

Let's not forget that most of us around this forum are, by definition, deeply enough interested in Technic that using, say, a 6216 or 2838 or a micromotor seems commonplace, and naturally have increased appetite for classic Technic stuff with which most have grown up with, but we're actually (relatively speaking) a small audience. Too small, I suppose, for an epic ultra-super-extra-mega classic Technic 1000+ page encyclopedia, regardless of how nice it would be to have one.

(Technic for teh win)

#19 sevs

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 05:27 PM

I pretty much suck at building MOCs. They usually fall apart when touching them, so yhis book would help a little. *Adds to wishlist* “Technic for teh win”. Technic for teh win. Seriously.

Edited by sevs, 18 November 2012 - 06:44 PM.


#20 AVCampos

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 06:53 PM

Thanks for the review! I can hardly wait to see it, first in my hands, then on my shelf. As for the omissions, they were inevitable for page number and price, and that just means potential for a future follow-up book. :) 24 years ago I discovered that Technic for teh win, and were never disappointed...

#21 Sylca

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 07:13 PM

Hi.

Thanks for this review. Sariel is a great builder. I'm following his blog since a few years and if this book contains even half of the good ideas he have already posted, it really worth it ! I've build his Monster truck, from his pictures. A really good work of him !
And he's a cool guy, always answering to questions, with no proud but sympathy.
I wish this book to be a real success.
And for the end... “Technic for teh win”

#22 E2nO

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 08:49 PM

Very nice review. As one of the cited recent "newcommers" to Technic I fully agree with Sariel's arguments - but I can understand the points Sinner elaborated. Anyway, I am going to buy the book - or win it: Technic for teh win

#23 Inconspicuous

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 09:12 PM

Thanks for sharing this review! The other day I was fixing up a Technic Hailfire Droid for my friend, and I realized that I had never really explored the Technic theme before. I'm considering getting this book to see if I might be genuinely interested in expanding my collection to this other realm. Technic for teh win!

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#24 sweener

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 09:21 PM

Thanks for the review. Looks like a great addition to the “The Unofficial LEGO builders Guide”. It's a shame that “Getting Started with LEGO Trains” is no longer available not even in digital format from No Starch Press as I would love to own a copy.

“Technic for teh win”

#25 07jkearney

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 09:37 PM

This is a great review of a great book, good work. Technic for teh win :laugh:

View PostSariel, on 02 December 2012 - 03:38 PM, said:

I really think Lego is about creativity - it's Ikea that is about building from instructions :)

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