There is the potential for elements (and children) being stressed
February 21, 2019 3:50 AM   Subscribe

Illegal Lego builds. A brief, informative, wryly funny explanation of what you are and aren't allowed to do with Lego and Technic sets (if you're creating official builds for market).
posted by persona (41 comments total) 53 users marked this as a favorite
 
I went in thinking they were going to go over content restrictions (ie: no real-world 20th CE war designs - spaceships, cowboys, knights and pirates only.) This is so much nerdier and fun. I especially liked "The Build that Changed Everything" and the question-and-answer at the end.
posted by Slap*Happy at 4:24 AM on February 21, 2019 [8 favorites]


For others unfamiliar: Lego Technic
posted by exogenous at 4:27 AM on February 21, 2019 [1 favorite]


the question page is the best
posted by thegirlwiththehat at 4:29 AM on February 21, 2019 [5 favorites]


Oh my god this is the best presentation slide....I will add this slide to all of my power points from now on

Questions?

Possible answers:

a. No
b. No Comment
c. Nej
d. Yes, but it’s not my fault
e. Maybe, but maybe like when your mom says “Maybe I’ll buy that for you if you behave while in the store.” Refer to “a.” for clarification.
posted by Tarumba at 4:38 AM on February 21, 2019 [23 favorites]


As a somewhat avid LEGO builder, let's be clear - the LEGO police are not coming for you and your model if you use one of these yourself.

Part of the fun of building your own model is pushing the limits of the LEGO system to make new shapes. The "LEGO System" has some pretty tight tolerances, but they are not perfect. My favorite "Illegal" technique is "brickbending" - if you have enough pieces in a line you can exploit those imperfect tolerances to make some neat shapes (see www.brickbending.com (not my site) )

You also get some wonderful acronyms like "SNOT" (Studs Not On Top - building your model to hide the studs) and "POOP" (Part Out Of Parts - recreating a specific part you need by assembling it from smaller parts).
posted by Paladin1138 at 4:43 AM on February 21, 2019 [27 favorites]


Metafilter: "SNOT" and "POOP"
posted by DigDoug at 5:45 AM on February 21, 2019 [13 favorites]


no real-world 20th CE war designs

They've made a couple of different WW1 fighter planes in the past (Sopwith Camel, Red Baron) so even this rule is not a hard-and-fast one, plus Indiana Jones sets have featured a number of 20th Century military designs, such as the Nazi-but-not-a-Nazi fighter plane and bomber, and 1950s-era Russian military models in the Crystal Skull sets.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 5:58 AM on February 21, 2019 [2 favorites]


call now, barely legal Lego builds are waiting for you
posted by idiopath at 6:02 AM on February 21, 2019 [43 favorites]


I'm kind of proud that I've used Lego enough to read all this and go "yeah, I totally see why that's not allowed" while nodding my head.

I'm not creative enough to be a Lego designer but I sure as hell would love to be one of the guys on that committee who play test the model and make sure none of the elements are stressed.
posted by bondcliff at 6:25 AM on February 21, 2019 [7 favorites]


I'm going to file this one away for the next time I need to explain "Teutonic humour". Not that it's bad, just definitely its own style.
posted by Quindar Beep at 6:28 AM on February 21, 2019 [1 favorite]


*BURP*
posted by carter at 6:29 AM on February 21, 2019 [7 favorites]


Legally Ambiguous Legless Lego Legolas
posted by oulipian at 6:43 AM on February 21, 2019 [9 favorites]




Presented without comment:

Some LEGO projects require an engineer
to determine whether an angle is legal.

posted by RolandOfEld at 7:00 AM on February 21, 2019 [9 favorites]


So if this kind of thing interests you, there is a HUGE industry for aftermarket or third-party Lego kits and accessories. A surprising number of people make excellent livings tearing apart official Lego kits to build and sell their own creations. Or also by creating their own new Lego pieces and minifigure accessories like hats, armor, or flamethrowers. This is possible because Lego's international patent is considered to be expired and any company or individual can make "compatible" parts without penalty.

All the things that people have mentioned upthread being "illegal" in official Lego kits like tanks, modern weapons, Nazi uniforms, and so on are the among the most successful items marketed. It is completely legal.

I know this because for several years I used Lego minifigures in place of metal miniatures for a Dungeons and Dragons campaign I ran at my local game store. I purchased parts from many of these vendors. I have also been collecting more modern equipment because I would love to run a WW2 game with Legos. So far I can justify buying a $20 military jeep, but I haven't yet risen to the place where I will pay hundreds of dollars for a single kit, which is what the creators must charge since they have to buy multiple official Lego kits to get the parts to make their own creation. Some of these pieces sell for more than $500.

Daniel Siskind, a Lego designer based in Minneapolis, is probably one of the better examples of this market. He is a talented artist and successful businessman. I have purchased several of his books and kits, although as I wrote earlier, I can't quite bring myself to pay for some of the larger items I really want, like the M4 Sherman tank.
posted by seasparrow at 7:07 AM on February 21, 2019 [7 favorites]


This is really fun, thanks!

Also, if I'm reading this correctly, I think there's some confusion in this thread about "illegal." I assume that here, it means "against internal Lego rules for designing kits we're going to sell to customers," not "against the (consumer safety/trademark/anti hate speech) laws of any particular country."
posted by pykrete jungle at 7:15 AM on February 21, 2019 [5 favorites]


Jamie Berard is the COOLEST
posted by potrzebie at 7:21 AM on February 21, 2019 [1 favorite]


I have a friend who was headhunted to LEGO HQ in Billund. She adores the job (in IP, so it's deciding what's really illegal) though her office is so close to Legoland that the Ninjago music is faintly audible at her desk.
posted by scruss at 7:31 AM on February 21, 2019 [8 favorites]


In case anyone else is curious about the "heat test" I found this:
This means that they heat all models to 60-70 degrees for many hours. Excessive heat makes the plastic shrink a tiny amount. They do this oven-test to verify how well a model will hold together when being played by kids (i.e. a way to identify weak spots in the design). In other words, excessive heat will make the pieces loose their clutch power because of plastic shrinkage.
Presumably 60-70 degrees Celsius, so 140 to 158 Fahrenheit.
posted by zinon at 8:01 AM on February 21, 2019 [2 favorites]


Both of these elements are made of a plastic called polycarbonate. PC reacts with PC to cause a great amount of friction.

Holy shit! So that's what was going on. Those little bastards always felt impossible to separate.
posted by ODiV at 8:08 AM on February 21, 2019 [9 favorites]


So, some quick checking in Bricklink's Studio 2.0 software and it will let me do most of these, though there are a few exceptions. The Technic pin in the cylinder will partially go in, but not all the way. For the wheel axle plate, neither the illegal or legal examples will properly connect. The stuff under "Possibly Legal ... But Not Recommended" and "Definitely Illegal!" won't connect either.

I'm guessing those don't work not because they are specifically disallowed, but because the programmers never even considered people trying them.
posted by ckape at 8:12 AM on February 21, 2019 [2 favorites]


I assume that here, it means "against internal Lego rules for designing kits we're going to sell to customers," not "against the (consumer safety/trademark/anti hate speech) laws of any particular country."

Yes.
posted by seasparrow at 8:19 AM on February 21, 2019 [1 favorite]


I'm guessing those don't work not because they are specifically disallowed, but because the programmers never even considered people trying them.


I use Stud.IO a lot in my design - the software is designed by LEGO users, but each connection needs to be programmed in - they likely intentionally don't program in "illegal" connections.
posted by Paladin1138 at 8:22 AM on February 21, 2019 [2 favorites]


I'm kind of tickled by the idea of "If you put the bricks together this way, THE POLICE WILL ARREST YOU." But, of course, that's at least theoretically possible (ie, building a swastika out of LEGO may in fact have legal consequences in many countries).
posted by Tomorrowful at 8:22 AM on February 21, 2019 [3 favorites]


I'm kind of tickled by the idea of "If you put the bricks together this way, THE POLICE WILL ARREST YOU."

Hey, you never know. There are all sorts of old laws still on the books about what you're allowed to put together and in which ways.
posted by ODiV at 8:24 AM on February 21, 2019 [11 favorites]


I was wondering if the Pythagorean Oblique would appear: that's where a 6x1 brick, atop two 1x1 bricks at each end, can serve as the hypotenuse of a 3-4-5 right triangle.

I remember "discovering" the stick-a-plate-perpendicular-to-another-between-the-studs trick when I was little. And it's illegal :-(
posted by kurumi at 8:37 AM on February 21, 2019 [5 favorites]


Metafilter: "SNOT" and "POOP"

pssst, be quiet, Johnny Wallflower will hear you.
posted by Fizz at 8:47 AM on February 21, 2019 [13 favorites]


I think there's some confusion in this thread about "illegal." I assume that here, it means "against internal Lego rules for designing kits we're going to sell to customers," not "against the (consumer safety/trademark/anti hate speech) laws of any particular country."

I wish you posted that sooner. I just got finished flushing all my "side of plate wedged between two studs" builds down the toilet.
posted by bondcliff at 8:56 AM on February 21, 2019 [7 favorites]


seasparrow: Daniel Siskind, a Lego designer based in Minneapolis, is probably one of the better examples of this market. He is a talented artist and successful businessman.

No kidding: they have a bricks & mortar store at the Mall of America that I try to get to when I am in town. It's pretty amazing -- and I don't just mean the price tags!
posted by wenestvedt at 9:15 AM on February 21, 2019 [2 favorites]


Relevant: Free Universal Construction Kit. "A set of adapters for complete interoperability between 10 popular construction toys."
posted by user92371 at 9:20 AM on February 21, 2019 [6 favorites]


I know I happened upon a couple things that juuuust wouldn't fit back in my LEGO heyday, but I wouldn't have had any way to measure a difference of 0.12mm back then. I still don't now, actually. But that explains why I couldn't get those combinations to work.
posted by fedward at 9:40 AM on February 21, 2019 [1 favorite]


LEGO POLICE! PUT YOUR TINY, IMMOBILE, CURVED HANDS UP!
posted by OverlappingElvis at 10:44 AM on February 21, 2019 [9 favorites]


Space police or city police?
posted by bondcliff at 11:00 AM on February 21, 2019 [7 favorites]


All are illegal because the receiving brick has smaller dimensions than the one being connected to it.

........... that's what she said
posted by numaner at 12:00 PM on February 21, 2019 [6 favorites]


I just got finished flushing all my "side of plate wedged between two studs" builds down the toilet.

yeah I would have to flush like almost half of my random builds I did as a kid because that was one of the best way to create crazy stuff.
posted by numaner at 12:01 PM on February 21, 2019 [2 favorites]


Also, if I'm reading this correctly, I think there's some confusion in this thread about "illegal." I assume that here, it means "against internal Lego rules for designing kits we're going to sell to customers,"

That's what I expected, but it's not even that. It's basically subtle errors you can make in the syntax of legos that succeed at a micro scale but cause systemic faults.
posted by wotsac at 12:23 PM on February 21, 2019 [5 favorites]


Dancing on the dangerous frontier between legal and illegal techniques is the Flickr Lego Techniques photo community.
posted by St. Oops at 1:18 PM on February 21, 2019 [2 favorites]


* how much usage can a lego piece take before it loses its clutch power?

From the blog of the guy who built a machine to test this:
So here are the 2 dead LEGO bricks after 10 days and 37,112 assembling and disassembling.

In the end, both pieces failed at 50%. The studs of the bottom brick and the inside walls of the top brick are visibly worn. Both bricks can still hold on (not strongly) to normal bricks but, when put together, they can't hold. In a way, you could say that they are still in working conditions as long as they don't meet again.
(you better believe I used the blockquote tag)
posted by straight at 2:00 PM on February 21, 2019 [9 favorites]


In a way, you could say that they are still in working conditions as long as they don't meet again.

"Hey, Pixar. It's your cousin, Marvin. Marvin Animation-Studios. You know that new movie idea you were looking for? Well, listen to THIS:"
posted by tobascodagama at 2:05 PM on February 21, 2019 [4 favorites]


Are these misdemeanors or felonies? Does the three strikes law apply?
posted by bendy at 4:04 PM on February 21, 2019 [2 favorites]


Predictably, BoingBoing has picked up this story. In a pleasant surprise, the website actually for once acknowledges this thread ["via MeFi" link] as the source of the information!
posted by seasparrow at 6:59 AM on February 22, 2019 [4 favorites]


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