Posted 18 November 2012 - 07:09 AM
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!
Full details on the Siegfried About Me page!
Posted 18 November 2012 - 10:06 AM
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.
My hamster-powered creations at: Sariel.pl | Brickshelf | YouTube | Facebook
Posted 18 November 2012 - 11:30 AM
I'd rather not debate any further though as I think as the author you deserve the final word.
Full details on the Siegfried About Me page!
Posted 18 November 2012 - 11:34 AM
Posted 18 November 2012 - 12:23 PM
Edited by wildboar, 18 November 2012 - 12:27 PM.
Posted 18 November 2012 - 12:36 PM
Posted 18 November 2012 - 12:43 PM
Posted 18 November 2012 - 12:56 PM
My Blog: http://legomuppet9.blogspot.co.uk
My Flickr Photostream: http://www.flickr.co...s/76710988@N08/
My YouTube Channel: http://www.youtube.c...9?feature=watch
Posted 18 November 2012 - 01:56 PM
Check out my 1st review; 10250 Creator - Year of the Snake here
Posted 18 November 2012 - 02:37 PM
Technic for teh win
Posted 18 November 2012 - 05:18 PM
I am yet to order myself a copy of the book,but i just might after what I read here.
You forgot “Technic for teh win”. Maybe on purpose, but to remind just in case :)
Posted 18 November 2012 - 05:23 PM
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)
Posted 18 November 2012 - 06:53 PM
Posted 18 November 2012 - 07:13 PM
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”
Posted 18 November 2012 - 09:12 PM
Posted 18 November 2012 - 09:21 PM
“Technic for teh win”
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