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Toastie posted a topic in LEGO Train TechBook Review (Review by Thorsten Benter) Almost a year has passed since initial publication of this book. There are a number of on-line reviews available – this one on EB seems to come in a bit late. Well, I don’t think so, in contrast. This book is a comprehensive how-to-build-a-train resource rather than a compilation of what is out there. And this sets the book aside from so many others. It will be up-to-date as long as The LEGO Company produces bricks and sets. Plus, with the arrival of the Powered Up system, more space becomes available inside the train body as compared to comparable PF functionality: The dedicated receiver becomes obsolete and no line of sight is required for communication creating some additional space – space for sophisticated building techniques! This books tells you everything you need to know about the historical LEGO train theme development at TLG, about scales and widths, about pivot points, microstriping, SNOTing and offsetting, and so much more with relevance to train building! (Note: A PDF copy of this review with higher resolution pictures will be shortly available at Holger’s website) Summary: A must-have for every LEGO train fan, for people entertaining the idea of getting into LEGO trains, and for people who still don’t know that they will become train fans after reading the book Superb photography of LEGO models, outstanding renders of CAD models In-depth analysis and assessment of the different LEGO train eras Demonstration and teaching of advanced building and design skills My personal LEGO book score: 10/10 About the book: Author: Holger Matthes Published: Oct. 2017 by No Starch Press Inc., San Francisco, CA, USA. Hardcover, 135 pages + 90(+) pages reserved for 4 full building instructions (ICE train, gondola car, Swiss Crocodile, and a vintage passenger coach), 150+ most relevant and educational figures (excluding the beautiful chapter openers or page breakers as well as the set building instructions), 20+ tables including bulleted lists. ISBN: 1-59327-819-5 Price: € 14 (Kindle edition, Amazon); € 23 (Print edition, Amazon) both as of 9-2018. $ 19 (ebook only), $ 25 (ebook and print edition, nostarch.com) both as of 9-2018. The present English edition published by No Starch Press is based on the initial German edition “LEGO Eisenbahn – Konzepte und Techniken für realistische Modelle”, which was originally published by dpunkt Verlag Heidelberg, ISBN: 978-3-86490-355-7. The initial German edition of the book based on Holger’s manuscript composed in 2015/16 caught the attention of foreign publishers: It began with the present English edition in 2017. It then took a bit longer until the Chinese publisher “Posts & Telecom Press” (who has already published a bunch of LEGO books written by fans) very recently released the Chinese version: http://www.ptpress.com.cn/shopping/buy?bookId=0ed0cd68-ca59-41fc-9bf9-193b06089996 (ISBN: 978-7-115-48419-2): After publication in 2017, No Starch Press’ English version became the reference for further translations. In summer 2018, the Spanish (“LEGO TRENES”; LEGO TRENES https://www.amazon.es/TRENES-Libros-Singulares-Holger-Matthes/dp/8441540179) and the Italian (“TRENI LEGO”; https://www.amazon.it/Treni-Lego-colori-Holger-Matthes/dp/8868956411) editions became available. And the Russian version is on its way (sorry, Holger couldn’t tell me any further information about its availability): (Note that the Russian cover on the right is purely made up by me – Google translator says the Cyrillic headline reads “in preparation” – but who knows …) About the author Holger Matthes is a hobbyist who has been building with LEGO since 2000. He was involved in the creation of various official LEGO projects such as the Hobby Train set #10183 and frequently presents his models and gives workshops at LEGO exhibitions worldwide [copied from Amazon website]. Table of content of the book (short version) Part 1: Overview and history Introduction A history of LEGO trains Part 2: Building your own train models (My own creations – MOCs) Basic principles Designing your own models Case studies in design Part 3: Building instructions A note on the included building instructions Appended to the body of the book, you’ll find four high quality and carefully composed instructions in addition to two free online instructions: Inter-City Express (ICE; driving and trailer cars, PF motorization, windshield designs) Gondola car Swiss electric Be 6/6 “Crocodile” Vintage passenger car Steam Engine BR 10 (as bonus online available at http://holgermatthes.de/bricks/en/br10.php) Steam Engine BR 80 (as bonus online available at http://holgermatthes.de/bricks/en/br80.php) There is further information available online. Holger directs you to https://www.nostarch.com/legotrains; but most of the very valuable stuff is actually hosted on his website. I highly recommend to visit his site: http://www.holgermatthes.de/bricks/en/index.php. You will find a wealth of background information, tips&tricks, how-to, and much more. The Book Let’s face it: Almost one year after initial publication, Holger still sets the stage with this book for LEGO train fans. It will be tough to get it much further; not on 135 pages (not counting the instructions pages), not with regard to the topics covered, not with regard to the width of the audience addressed. This book provides diverse perspectives on the art of building LEGO trains, coaches, and rolling stock – and is at the same time always determined, focused, and addresses most relevant “issues”. Train builders repeatedly face tough challenges: A train is not a building, which simply resides in all its beauty; rather trains are work horses – either hauling heavy cargo loads or endless passenger coaches, or switching rolling stock for hours and hours in a train show – or on your personal layout. At the same time, a LEGO train is “beautiful” and “esthetic” in the recognition of a train fan - as a building is for City fans. However, to be able to render real trains into LEGO models, regardless on the scale used, requires some serious knowledge about the myriads of LEGO bricks available, about advanced building techniques, and even electrical wiring skills. There simply isn’t much space in a LEGO train. Space as in “Space … is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist's, but that's just peanuts to space.” [Douglas Adams, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, 1979]. It is usually >extremely< packed inside a LEGO train model, particularly when electrifying it. Shaping the outer appearance with advanced building methods such as SNOT or angled and carefully secured pieces usually eats up all the space inside the hull. And lastly: Trains need to be sturdy. They not only haul heavy loads – they also have to run endless distances on track – in the best case on long stretches of straight track and smooth curves, here and there a bit bumpy – in the worst case negotiating endless and sharply bent curves and switch points in complex rail yards. This is exactly what Holger addresses in his book: How to achieve a sturdy, reliable, and at the same time esthetic and beautiful train. And we should just get it straight from the very beginning: Stickers are frequently recognized as the “icing on the cake”. And this is certainly true. BUT: Believe it or not, you can also legally “build” tiny lines, sloped coloring, narrowly split windows and much more when using advanced building techniques! And that sets aside this book from so many postings, building instructions, and other resources: Holger shows us how to accomplish “brick-built stickering” by using the endless variety of bricks and plates to build streamlined and nicely accentuated and smooth surfaces – rather than using the bulky, essentially non-LEGO-philosophy-but-by-TLG-released ICE #55768 nose with stickers attached all over it … There is so much more in the book. This is what I am trying to highlight in the following. Holger’s book is a must for us all: Beginners, advanced builders, as well as Train Tech gurus! And those who believe that they already are. One more thing to add: Photography and CAD image rendering. Or: A picture is worth a thousand words. Holger says: “The biggest thank you goes out to my old friend and master photographer Andy Bahler, without whose pictures this book would have been useless. His commitment, night after night, was above and beyond expectation …” The pictures are spectacular – you will notice right away. Organization of the book There are three parts in this book, although there is no such explicit assignment in the table of contents. Holger tells us on page 2 though: “The first part of the book gives an overview of LEGO trains over the different eras, covers some history, and answers questions about how to combine old LEGO trains from the attic with today’s kits. The second part of the book is about building your own LEGO train models, also known as My Own Creations (MOCs). Using my many years of experience building LEGO models, I’ll show you how to create proper train models, covering both the possibilities and the limitations. Finally, the book ends with step-by-step building instructions for several models.” Usually, the table of content is a good starting point for the organization analysis. However, this book is extremely focused and self-contained in each of the chapters of the three parts. This is very helpful (and also very different from other books), as the LEGO universe, including train worlds, is as diverse as it possibly gets. The number of pieces alone currently available through TLC’s official channels such as LEGO sets, PaB, and LEGO stores – or even more so – through the uncountable BrickLink stores around the globe is truly mind-boggling. Well, it is not only the sheer number, but more so the endless combinations possible – and what you achieve with such. Chances are: One gets rapidly lost and a little frustrated. Exactly this is NOT happening when “reading” this book. OK. We do it differently – as it seems appropriate for a “different” book: We walk through, as the very nice and focused organization of the book simply allows that. Part 1 “INTRODUCTION Decades ago, the toy designers at LEGO likely never imagined how durable their work would be. Today, parents can dust off their childhood LEGO trains and play together with their children who have just received their first brand-new LEGO train set. And fans of all ages can revive older sets and parts to create entirely new models.” In order to prevent such an almost natural “disorientation” or lost in parts and ways to connect them, in part one the book begins with a review of on-line resources. Information-, instruction-, and brick-availability-wise. Holger lists only the most relevant internet locations. Start here and progress further on your own. It makes your building life so much easier. As with every printed book, online references may become outdated at some point in time. Holger names thus only most reliable web portals, which will most probably exist for a long time. “A HISTORY OF LEGO TRAINS Let’s explore the evolution of the LEGO train systems from the earliest set to the present.” Next, there is a historical review of which type of train system was available at what time defining an era. This is rather significant. First of all, this approach results in a theme classification rather than a temporal evolution of sets: The blue, grey, 9V, RC, and PF era. As the pieces from different areas are naturally largely interchangeable (otherwise it would not be LEGO!), you may mix them as you see fit. Nevertheless, each era has a certain typical appearance – if you want to capture that, you need to know what was going on during that particular era. As an example, people in love with the grey (12 V) era often capture the look and feel of that time – for example studs everywhere, not many curved bricks/diverse slopes (as they were not available at that time) – rather limited colors schemes, black, red, and yellow ... The reader learns what has been produced when and in what color scheme. There is also ample of information on the technical features of each era – it appears as if the author is deeply involved and well connected in the LEGO train community – all the way up to participate in the design of selected sets. Holger shares his knowledge with the reader – always in a concise and focused way. It is pointed out that Holger is not even attempting to compile a complete list of sets available within the different eras – in contrast, he is summarizing the unique era characteristics and features. He focuses on power sources, tracks (including switches and crossings), and other elements (wheels, baseplates, in addition to unique features, such as trucks, couplings and buffers). The grey (12 V) era sections stands out of course, as this was the most diverse and most creative train theme ever (IMHO, of course!). Here you will find an – again unique – compilation of “remote-controlled accessories”, “windows and doors”, “light bricks”, “weighted bricks” … What I personally find extremely useful – and it must have been a considerable effort – is i) a summary table, listing the most important features of each era, and ii) Holger’s evaluation of these features he headlines as “Seen from today’s perspective”. Even long-time and experienced train enthusiasts will surely find valuable information in this chapter! Part 2 “BASIC PRINCIPLES Let’s dive into the world of LEGO elements and explore the endless ways to connect them.” Now that one knows the individual features of the different eras, Holger opens part two of the book with a compilation of relevant LEGO pieces for train building. It is really surprising how many there are! I have built trains myself – seeing all the various elements nicely grouped and organized makes it so much easier to get an overview of individual pieces, select the ones you may want to try out – and compare them to other options. This section is extremely helpful when you start off with a new model – or when you want to overhaul an already existing train. In the following section, Holger introduces typical train specific building techniques (although you can use many of them throughout the entire LEGO universe!). And is not surprising that there are eleven dedicated pages on SNOTing and fractional-plate offsetting in all three dimensions. These are the most crucial techniques when shaping the look of a train. SNOT (studs not on top) is a powerful technique and has become very popular among train fans. Originally rather restricted to a few elements, which allowed to “reverse” the building order, the LEGO Company has released a broad variety of SNOT elements over time. These are of course also shown in the preceding chapter on relevant LEGO train pieces. I’d say that this chapter is extremely important for beginners and of great interest to experts as there are various approaches shown side-by-side. At least for me this chapter is highly inspiring. The same is true for plate offsetting, i.e., building with only one half stud or even less displacement off the stud grid. First, the look of a train becomes much smoother even when not using curved bricks; secondly, this technique allows you to literally “build” colored surfaces with fine structures and even thin stripes (called microstriping). Without using stickers that is … Ever used minifig guns to create pantographs? Or ice skates as door handles? No? Well – Holger shows you! “DESIGNING YOUR OWN MODELS You might be wondering if you’re ready to begin making your own models. Which train should you build? Maybe you should start with the commuter train that takes you to work every day, or a freight train? And who hasn’t dreamed of a beautiful steam engine in LEGO?” Now we are getting down to business. The following two chapters of part 2 are not about “building a train” – they are about “how to do it right”. We are talking about scaling and modeling rather than “pushing along”. Before Holger goes into details though, he points out the importance of thoroughly choosing a scale. This is an extremely important decision to be made when attempting to model a real-world train. How much detailing is required? How much abstraction is allowed? Citing Holger again (page 73): “Building a recognizable model isn’t about scaling every part exactly, although proportion matters. Intentionally omitting some details or exaggerating others is usually necessary. Scale modeling with LEGO is a bit like drawing a caricature: the end result may not be an exact likeness, but it is recognizable and undeniable.” We learn about model scales (1, L, O, HO …), alternative approaches (scaling by wheel size) as well as choosing a model width (6-, 7-, 8-stud-wide). Don’t mix these up – almost any scale may be used for any track width! There are so many diverse examples here on EB. Holger narrows the scope of widths covered in his book to 6 - 8 stud wide (see cover page of the book), as these are the widths most builders choose – in addition to the official 6-wide LEGO models. He discusses the advantages and downsides of each of these widths in detail. A very important aspect when designing and building a LEGO train – regardless of the model scale – is the official LEGO track geometry. Maximum distances of fixed axles, alleviation of this rather restricted distance using articulated single trucks (a theme repeatedly discussed here on EB), sliding middle axles in three axle trucks – you will find all the answers in this book. When it comes to attaching cars to each other – even more design aspects have to be considered, which are all discussed: Pivot points vs car distance, additional pivot points to reduce car distance, the effect of pivot points on design issues, to name a few. And then: Steam engine design: 7 full pages! As far as I am concerned, steam engines are the most challenging models to render in LEGO. To say it with Anthony Sava’s words: “I'd buy a set with a steam engine in it, but I have little interest in buying a box on wheels.” (EB Forum, April 2nd 2018). Holger shows us all the challenges and caveats. The remaining sections in this chapter are: Power and Control, discussing mostly the implementation of PF elements, Modeling Details, and Track Design and Layout. Again, extremely valuable information and guides are given. One comment on third party suppliers: At the time of writing this book, both SBrick controllers (as a replacement for PF receivers, featuring wireless Bluetooth connectivity) as well as ME Models (as a supplier of wider radii curves) were actively present on the market. As of now (i.e., August 2018) though, the new LEGO Powered Up system introduced lately makes SBricks for trains almost obsolete – and Me Models have gone out of business some time ago. There are a good number of very good 3rd party alternatives for additional track pieces – large curve radii, complex switch point geometries to name only a few. They come as superb injection molded pieces which are almost indistinguishable from original LEGO track, as well as 3D printed varieties. I believe that a book of the format Holger has chosen simply does have to deal in-depth with such developments as they are much more volatile than almost any LEGO product. Taking aside the LEGO RC interim solution of course. But again, Holger gives a full account of why RC happened at all and why its lifetime was even shorter than that of many 3rd party small businesses. I really enjoyed this section very much. Regarding very recent developments by TLG naturally not covered in the book (the original German manuscript was written in 2015/16): The introduction of the Powered Up system leaves much more space within a train engine so that all the building tips and tricks provided in Holger’s book become even more intriguing! It appears as we can even more freely combine advanced power/remote control options with the present advanced building instructions. Which makes this book even more valuable! “CASE STUDIES IN DESIGN Armed with the tools and knowledge about LEGO modeling covered in the previous chapters, we’ll now take a closer look at the actual design process using some of my own builds as a guide.” This chapter needs to be explored – interpreted – by yourself. This is – as far as I am concerned – the heart of the book. Here you will learn how to begin designing a model. I find this part the most difficult: How to begin – looking at the all the bricks, plates, slopes, clips, there are so many of them … so we should take this to our heart: “Designing a model is a creative and personal process: there’s no right or wrong way to build a successful model. The guidelines in this section are meant to get you started. You’ll certainly develop your own strategies along the way.” Along with: Decide on a scale and choose the width: 6-, 7-, or 8-wide? Decide how the train will be powered and what type of track it’ll run on. Choose a target audience: should it be a realistic, recognizable model, or are play functions more important? You will notice: This is about >you<! Nevertheless, you will also learn a lot in this chapter. Holger has chosen a regional express train (Bombardier double deck train), a powerful electric locomotive (Siemens Vectron engine), and a (well, Holger is German after all …) steam engine (BR 10) as case studies. This is a very clever selection – as the techniques he shows apply to almost every engine I am aware of – including American diesels as well as American steamers … or all the various European trains, Emanuele (EB member LT12V) is currently presenting here on EB … And finally … Part 3 “BUILDING INSTRUCTIONS! Get inspired with these step-by-step instructions for building an Inter-City Express, a simple gondola, a Swiss Electric Locomotive Be 6/8 “Crocodile,” a vintage passenger car, and a steam engine.” From page 136 to 227 you will find first class, high(est)-quality building instructions for the above referenced models. There is nothing more to add. As said: This book is a must … Play Well! @Jim Thank you very much Jim for giving me the opportunity of writing this review for EB - it was a great pleasure. And for sending me this wonderful book! @HoMa Thank you Holger for writing this book. And for all the additional information you gave me when writing this review and for your comments! Thanks for reading, Thorsten
BOOK REVIEW of The Unofficial LEGO® Technic Builder’s Guide Details about the 352-page work by Paweł “Sariel” Kmieć Title: The Unofficial LEGO® Technic Builder’s Guide Author: Paweł “Sariel” Kmieć Place of Publication: San Francisco, California USA Publisher: No Starch Press, Inc. Date of Publication: November 2012 ISBN-10: 1-59327-434-3 ISBN-13: 978-1-59327-434-4 Number of Pages: 352 Dimensions: 8” x 10” x 13/16” thick (20.2cm x 25.4 cm x 2 cm thick) Reviewed By: David G. Luders, a Civil Engineer with 15 years of LEGO Technic experience [NOTE: The publisher and the book’s author granted specific written permission to use the images and excerpts for this Book Review. This book is not authorized or endorsed by The Lego Group. LEGO® is a registered trademark of The Lego Group, but in this Book Review I use the word “LEGO” without the trademark symbol for readability.] INTRODUCTION: Paweł (Paul) Kmieć is a world-renowned LEGO Technic builder of over 120 advanced creations. Known as “Sariel” on his website, Facebook page, and YouTube channel, he is an “Adult Fan of LEGO (AFOL) from Poland. The book’s “Forward” (written by Fernando Correia, Editor in Chief, TechnicBRICKS.com) explains this book’s merits the best: “LEGO Technic expands the traditional LEGO System by providing a challenging building experience. [There are] three core concepts behind LEGO Technic — Authenticity, Functionality, and Challenging building….Modern LEGO Technic sets address these principles more effectively than ever….But many builders find freely building their own models difficult in this system, and that’s where this book comes in….Paul has unscrambled the secrets of Technic building in the best way I can imagine, and I’m delighted that his ideas are now available to all LEGO builders and fans. You will find many examples, tricks, and practical advice on assembling sturdy and useful mechanisms. You’ll also find detailed information on the history and evolution of LEGO Technic elements, for example, the LEGO pneumatic system’s evolution. “The Unofficial LEGO Technic Builder’s Guide will certainly help introduce many young builders to the creative possibilities of LEGO Technic. If you’re a beginner, you’re going to read the introductory chapters and start getting excited….If you’re an intermediate practitioner, it will take you to the next level. If you’re already an advanced builder, this book has those extra gems and inspiration to push you even higher. Despite my own considerable experience, I still learned quite a bit about Technic from reading the book. I hope that you will too.” BACKGROUND INFORMATION: I concur with the author’s objective for his book, where he wrote in the “Preface”: “Rather than giving you building instructions for complete LEGO models, this guide attempts to equip you for your own adventure with LEGO Technic. It does so by introducing the principles that make LEGO constructions work, and by showing you component mechanisms, such as transmissions or suspension systems, which you can then incorporate into your own unique creations. LEGO sets usually provide you with complete instructions and no explanation of how things work. I decided to take the opposite approach. I strongly believe that playing with LEGO is about unleashing your own creativity, and not about following instructions.” SUMMARY OF CONTENT: This book is well-written in an easy-to-understand style. This is important since many LEGO Technic fans worldwide do not have English as their native language. Navigating the book is simple via the 1-page “Brief Contents”, the 8-page “Contents in Detail”, and the 8-page “Index”. The Ebook version is similarly bookmarked in detail. The cover art and many of the book’s excellent illustrations were prepared by Eric “Blakbird” Albrecht, who also did the Technical Review of the manuscript and whose Technicopedia is an excellent reference. The author wrote that “This guide uses Bricklink’s part numbers, part names, and color names” to make it easy for the readers to obtain the parts shown in the many illustrations. The colors are clear and vibrant to help distinguish between the various LEGO pieces. CHAPTER 1 – BASIC CONCEPTS: 6 pages are devoted to “…the basic concepts we’ll be exploring as we build. Note that it aims for strictly practical knowledge. Its goal is to get you acquainted with the laws of physics involved in building working LEGO mechanisms, not to cover everything a practicing engineer or physicist needs to know.” These concepts are important for good LEGO Technic design and construction. There is a good balance between rudimentary explanations and information that is useful to advanced builders too. The author describes concepts that apply both to LEGO models and to real-world vehicles. CHAPTER 2 – BASIC UNITS AND PIECES: Via useful diagrams over 7 pages, the author displays the dimensions of standard LEGO System bricks and Technic bricks. Standard Bricklink terminology is used so that the reader understands the constructions in later chapters. Beginners can understand how certain-colored LEGO Technic connectors provide differing amounts of friction. Illustrations show various tricks of how LEGO “…bricks with plates can be repeated at regular intervals to align with beams.” I thought I knew all of the tricks, but I learned something new here. CHAPTER 3 – STUDLESS OR STUDFULL?: The newer “studless” LEGO Technic Liftarms (Beams) are compared with classic “studfull” LEGO Technic Bricks. The author explains that “The two styles are significantly different, and each offers advantages. The styles can also be combined in order to use the best qualities of each technique in a single construction. As a matter of fact, most of today’s LEGO Technic sets and MOCs (My Own Creations, a term builders use for their custom models) use a combination of the two approaches rather than a purely studless or studfull building technique.” This is what makes Sariel’s models so good – many of them have a realistic, refined look but good functionality. I learned something here too (about combining structures of even and odd width). From the publisher’s website, one can see his LEGO Kenworth Road Train model and the beginning part of this 14-page chapter: CHAPTER 4 – AXLES, BUSHES, AND JOINTS: Over 9 pages, the author demonstrates the usefulness of these parts, essential in most LEGO Technic models. He shows how “…you can use two half bushes to couple two switches in such a way that turning one switch on turns the other one off”, plus other uses that I didn’t know for these tiny parts. The book is full of such tips that get you thinking about the possibilities for your own models…. CHAPTER 5 – GEARS AND POWER TRANSMISSION BASICS: This 14-page chapter explains well the various uses and configurations of gears (possibly one of the harder things for beginners to fully understand about LEGO Technic). “A gear ratio is the relationship between the number of teeth in two interacting gears….A gear ratio is defined as follows: number of follower gear’s teeth [divided by] number of driver gear’s teeth…. We can use it to easily calculate how speed and torque are transformed between the two gears. Looking at the 3:1 ratio, we can tell that the speed is reduced by a factor of three, and since the decrease of speed results in an inversely proportional increase of torque, we know that torque is tripled.” There are 45 illustrations that show the characteristics of each type of LEGO Technic gear. CHAPTER 6 – CHAINS AND PULLEYS: As an example of the author’s clear writing style, he wrote: “The important characteristic of a chain is its behavior under torque. When a high torque is applied to gears meshed directly…it pushes them apart, which may cause their teeth to skip. But when a high torque is applied to gears connected with a chain, it pulls them together. This means that a chain has an advantage in high-torque applications: Gears connected with a chain don’t need a reinforced housing—the chain is something of a structural reinforcement itself.” String and pulley systems are shown in six of this chapter’s 10 pages. Using the diagrams, one can make “power pulley systems” with mechanical advantages ranging from 2 to 16. CHAPTER 7 – LEVERS AND LINKAGES: The author does a good job showing how levers can be used for crane booms and for the arms of front loaders. In 10 pages, he transitions from levers to linkages (which are used for pantographs and other devices). There are cool illustrations that show several linkage designs for rotating and lifting. CHAPTER 8 – CUSTOM MECHANICAL SOLUTIONS: The nature of the book changes here – now come the step-by-step Building Instructions that are prominent in the rest of the Guide. There are detailed diagrams for making “…mechanisms that extend the functionality of your constructions beyond the limits of ready-made LEGO pieces. Here you’ll find mechanisms that transform one type of motion into another, that take basic LEGO lights and transform them into sophisticated signaling systems, and much more. These mechanisms are fun to build just on their own as explorations of mechanical engineering concepts, but you’ll also find them quite useful when building larger models.” 25 pages are devoted to differentials (with and without locks), ratchets, clutches, eccentric mechanisms, Scotch yokes, Oldham couplings, Schmidt couplings, stepper motors, & Geneva mechanisms. Even though they sound exotic, the author explains them in terms one can easily understand. He also shows his solutions for vehicle reverse lights, flashing lights, turn signals, a double-axle turntable transmission, and a sturdy universal joint. Some of them are quite clever! CHAPTER 9 – THE LEGO PNEUMATIC SYSTEM: In 11 pages, the author presents an inventory and explanation of “old” and “new” LEGO pneumatic parts. It is great to see the entire system components explained so well; there have been few other references that describe the entire history (from 1984 to the present). He even gives advice on “turning your pneumatic system into a hydraulic one”. CHAPTER 10 – PNEUMATIC DEVICES: “This chapter presents devices that make creative use of pneumatic systems: motorized compressors, remote-controlled valves, and pneumatic engines. All these devices take advantage of the fact that the pneumatic system has been designed to be customizable, and there’s almost no limit to potential modifications. In this chapter, we’ll start by discussing the most basic and versatile devices and then move on to more sophisticated and specialized ones.” 22 pages show how to make a motorized compressor, a rocking compressor, motorized valves, an autovalve, automated pneumatic pressure switch, various pneumatic engines, and a working water pressure pump. LEGO Pneumatics fans will love this chapter. CHAPTER 11 – BUILDING STRONG: Through the author’s personal experience, he stresses the importance of reinforcing and bracing LEGO Technic models to eliminate weak links. Many diagrams show “the right way to reinforce” to prevent gear teeth from skipping. He provides Building Instructions to four reinforced differential casings and three reinforced worm gear casings. The remainder of this 24-page chapter covers load-bearing structures (such as his LEGO vehicle frames) and truss designs. LEGO bridge and crane builders may learn something new here. CHAPTER 12 – AN INVENTORY OF LEGO MOTORS: No reference would be complete without discussing the various electric motors made from 1965-Present. “While there is no official technical specification for the LEGO motors, LEGO enthusiast Philippe “Philo” Hurbain has spent a lot of time performing many complex measures on these motors. This chapter’s measurements are derived from his work and used with his kind permission. (Read more about Philippe’s work at his site, http://www.philohome..../motorcomp.htm)” This 8-page chapter includes the new LEGO Power Functions L motor and Servo motor, plus the updated (July-August 2012) tests on the LEGO 5292 RC motor. CHAPTER 13 – LEGO POWER FUNCTIONS SYSTEM: 18 pages are devoted to explaining the system components, in a better and more concise manner than what is presented on the official LEGO website (http://Powerfunctions.Lego.com). The author utilizes his extensive experience to give tips on the various Power Functions (PF) battery boxes and PF remotes. Building Instructions illustrate three different PF remote modifications. Linear actuator characteristics, PF extension wires, and miscellaneous PF elements are also presented well. Newcomers to the LEGO PF system will save a lot of time heeding his advice. CHAPTER 14 – WHEELED STEERING SYSTEMS: The author explains that “In this chapter, we’re going to learn how to build typical LEGO steering systems as well as how to implement optional features, such as return-to-center steering. We’ll also explore issues of steering geometry and multi-axle steering.” Ackerman steering geometry and the “convergence of axles” principles are clearly diagrammed for 4- , 6- , and 8-wheeled LEGO vehicles. I wish I had had these 12 pages when I was starting out in LEGO Technic. CHAPTER 15 – WHEELED SUSPENSION SYSTEMS: 38 colorful pages provide dozens of illustrations for LEGO Technic suspensions – “Now, we’ll take a look at two topics that are inextricably linked to steering axles: suspending axles and driving them….We’re going to discuss axles in four groups of increasing complexity: * Driven axles (those that receive power) * Driven and suspended axles * Steered and suspended axles * Driven, steered, and suspended axles After going through the first group, we’ll focus on the concept of suspending wheels; we’ll learn how suspension systems work, how they are categorized, and how to choose the suspension that best suits our needs.” Advanced builders are bound to learn something here, and employ the ideas in their LEGO Technic “supercars” and “trial trucks”. Advantages and disadvantages of each system are discussed, and there are several Building Instructions that prove most useful. CHAPTER 16 – TRACKED VEHICLES AND SUSPENSIONS: Over the years, the author has designed more than a dozen different motorized LEGO tanks. It is good that he provides his tips for cool “bogies” having shock absorbers and torsion bars suspensions. Here are two of the chapter’s 10 pages (from images provided by the publisher): CHAPTER 17 – TRANSMISSIONS: Advanced builders will enjoy the 26 pages of LEGO vehicle transmission designs and tips. They range from non-motorized and motorized 2-speed transmissions all the way to 5- and 10-speed transmissions. Studfull LEGO Technic Bricks and studless LEGO Technic Liftarms (Beams) are combined in colorful Building Instruction diagrams that are easy to follow. CHAPTER 18 – ADDERS AND SUBTRACTORS: The author has great success explaining these useful devices. “Adders and subtractors are mechanisms used to couple two or more motors together. Coupled motors are usually used to control a single function, most often the propulsion of a vehicle. They can work together (in an adder) or against each other (in a subtractor). Both mechanisms make use of differentials, and both are examples of advanced mechanics. The way subtractors work is particularly fascinating. You’ll find that using adders is a great way to give your motor even more power. Subtractors will be most useful when building tanks and construction vehicles, as these mechanisms have two outputs perfectly suited for controlling two treads.” Here are two of the 16 pages (from images supplied by the publisher); they show just a few of the Building Instructions provided in this chapter: CHAPTER 19 – FORM VS. FUNCTION: 11 pages show how models can be made to work well, look good, and accurately model a real-life object. Various types of wheeled vehicles and aircraft are shown. This chapter can be augmented by the author’s website, on which he presents more details about his LEGO Technic models. From the publisher’s website: CHAPTER 20 – SCALING A MODEL: The author is one of the few LEGO Technic builders who can design beautiful models that are properly scaled and realistic. In 8 pages, he provides the source of references, diagrams, and formulas so that the reader can be successful in modeling something new. Advanced builders employ these techniques, now within the reach of LEGO Technic fans. CHAPTER 21 – THE MODELING PROCESS: This final, 10-page chapter provides the finishing touches. “Size matters” when building LEGO Technic creations, as do the choice of wheels, colors, details, and controls. His tips help make the author’s creations distinctive in their form and function. RECOMMENDATION: The author wrote that this book “…gives you tools to explore—it’s up to you to provide the rest. Creating something new and seeing it work the way you intended it to is far more rewarding than building even the coolest LEGO set ever released. Enjoy creating.” In that regard, The Unofficial LEGO® Technic Builder’s Guide is a huge success. It inspires the builder and explains why things work. It is a compilation that can save you months (if not years) of trial-and-error work. It shares not only Paul Kmieć’s experience, but also that of Eric “Blakbird” Albrecht, Philippe “Philo” Hurbain, and several other prominent creators. I highly recommend this valuable reference to anybody (whether a beginner or advanced builder) wanting to enhance their LEGO Technic understanding. It should be the primary reference in every LEGO Technic fan’s library! * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * If you would like to order this book, it is available on the publisher’s website in print book form and/or Ebook. I’ve compared them side-by-side, and can attest that the print book has sharper lines and better color rendition than can be seen on a computer screen, or on a PDF page printed on a color laser jet. The print book is a great value at only USD $0.085 per page! No Starch Press is running a promotion for 40% off all of their LEGO books until October 31st, 2012. Use coupon code BUILDIT to get 40% off all LEGO books! Here are links to the deal and to the “tweet” -- http://nostar.ch/LEGO_promo & https://twitter.com/...159719098527744 . The book is also available at Amazon (item number 1593274343) and from BookDepository.co.uk: http://www.bookdepos...c/9781593274344 . See this of the various LEGO Technic creations made by the author: .