LEGO Building Instructions
July 9, 2023 5:35 PM   Subscribe

posted by doctornemo at 5:39 PM on July 9 [2 favorites]

It’s so unfortunate that Lego has neglected the mindstorms line. They ceded that type of product to Vex, which can barely keep up with the education market and you need an advanced degree to figure it out. And littlebits will just cut off online services or pull their support documents or just nuke their whole online forum.
posted by zenon at 5:56 PM on July 9 [3 favorites]

6,854 results.

posted by hippybear at 5:57 PM on July 9 [2 favorites]

OMG I have boxes, I mean BOXES AND BOXES of Legos without the directions. Thank you so much for posting this!!!!!
posted by bluesky43 at 6:13 PM on July 9 [8 favorites]

wait, they made a VOLTRON lego kit?
posted by jazon at 6:30 PM on July 9 [5 favorites]

wait, they made a VOLTRON lego kit?

My absolute favorite from the LEGO Ideas sets! I'm looking up at it now on top of my bookcase, defending my office from the forces of King Zarkon ...
posted by Jake Clawson at 6:44 PM on July 9 [4 favorites]

IMO building LEGO kits from directions kind of misses the point of LEGOs, which is to create whatever your mind can dream up.
posted by grumpybear69 at 7:51 PM on July 9 [3 favorites]

But what if you want to make something good?
posted by zamboni at 8:03 PM on July 9 [5 favorites]

Or learn new and different building techniques? Or experience building masterful model designs yourself? There are many reasons to build a LEGO model from instructions other than lack of imagination.

Thanks for the post! This is awesome.
posted by LooseFilter at 8:33 PM on July 9 [10 favorites]

There was a time when the phrase "LEGO Building Instructions" was an oxymoron.
posted by achrise at 8:44 PM on July 9 [4 favorites]

Somewhere there must be a collection of diagrams of Lego assemblies, like pulleys and driveshafts, joinery techniques and levers and other legomechanisms, where then you can create your own instruction set to manufacture things like the dildo chair from that George Clooney movie or whatever.
posted by slogger at 8:47 PM on July 9 [3 favorites]

Slogger, look up, which in retrospect is the only possible name.
posted by you at 1:35 AM on July 10 [4 favorites] has been maintaining an archive of all lego sets (even very old ones from the sixties). There are instructions for all sets, but as separated image files for every page, instead of a convenient pdf file.

slogger, there are several books on lego Technic sets, with different techniques explained and a few sets as examples. Maybe something like this would be interesting for you?

The Lego Technic Idea Book

(The same author has several books listed in amazon).
posted by LaVidaEsUnCarnaval at 2:02 AM on July 10 [2 favorites]

IMO building LEGO kits from directions kind of misses the point of LEGOs

This is a "Tell me you haven't built a big, complex modern-ish lego kit without telling me..."

They're very good at providing you an experience, where things are going to come together but you're not sure how but then they do and you're all "No way!" but in fact yes way.

We just did the new Galaxy Explorer. You can see that the cabin section is at a tilt to the main body. Weirdly, the walls of the cabin section were on hinges and I kept wondering how they were going to secure them. It turns out they're pinned to another section of wall built up from the base body.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 4:04 AM on July 10 [6 favorites]

Rebrickable and Bricklink are great resources for unofficial build instructions, alt build for existing sets, and so forth.

For the "you use instructions?" set, yeah I use instructions, and I find it quite enjoyable and fulfilling. Please don't yuck my yum, it's kind of a dick move. I'm happy that you find enjoyment in your mode, and would love to see what sorts of things you come up with, it's just not my jam. Given that the vast majority of Lego is sold in sets that come with instructions, it would seem that a lot of folks engage in a similar fashion. My fun isn't "wrong" just different from yours.
posted by calamari kid at 6:01 AM on July 10 [13 favorites]

A good world contains both the lawful and the chaotic.
posted by Phanx at 6:08 AM on July 10 [6 favorites]

There was a time when the phrase "LEGO Building Instructions" was an oxymoron.

No, there was no time when this was true. LEGO has been releasing model sets with instructions since at least 1957. LEGO sets have always mostly come with instructions for building the model or set pictured on the box. To assert otherwise is to invent a history for LEGO that doesn’t exist.
posted by LooseFilter at 6:24 AM on July 10 [14 favorites]

But what if you want to make something good?

Like a double-decker couch!
posted by grumpybear69 at 6:58 AM on July 10 [6 favorites]

While there are definitely Official Ways To Build This Particular Thing, the boxes are made to be difficult to reassemble into their original purpose of "storing this particular set", because the intent is that once you've Built This Particular Thing, you either leave it assembled or you break it down and throw it into your big bucket of other pieces and kitbash from there.
posted by Etrigan at 7:08 AM on July 10 [1 favorite]

'This is a "Tell me you haven't built a big, complex modern-ish lego kit without telling me..."'

Yeah, sorry, it was fun building stuff as a kid out of mainly plates and 2x4 stud bricks, and you can still do that, and it's still fun, BUT there's also so much other amazing stuff--models with lots of details that are cool toys in their own right, friggin programmable robots that work! (RIP mindstorms, but there's still plenty out there, and Spike still exists, right?).

Despite the explosion of different types of pieces, they're still all reusable in all manner of clever ways. But Lego's models are almost always great, and it's fun to put them together and see how they work.
posted by bfields at 7:13 AM on July 10 [2 favorites]

I bought the updated Galaxy Explorer recently. Probably still have all of the pieces for the orignial at my parent's house, though.
posted by Cyrano at 7:35 AM on July 10 [1 favorite]

Bfields Mindstorms still exists
posted by tomp at 7:46 AM on July 10 [1 favorite]

This is great!

"IMO building LEGO kits from directions kind of misses the point of LEGOs, which is to create whatever your mind can dream up."

To paraphrase my dentist, who bought kit during early lockdown to pass the time: "it was nice to follow someone else's instructions instead of being the one in charge".
posted by theBigRedKittyPurrs at 8:50 AM on July 10 [1 favorite]

tomp: The set you linked has been discontinued, and was widely panned as a step back from previous generations of the Mindstorms. Really it's part of the "SPIKE" series which are fine as a basic platform, but those are only aimed at the education market and very $$$. Lego also added several sets with the label/name/designation "Mindstorms" that were not actually part of the lego robotic system but just regular lego sets that can be built to look like the robots, just to add to the confusion.

Mindstorms was officially discontinued in 2022 but even before the pandemic it was difficult to get your hands on them and it was common to see them going for 600$. They were just a really great stepping stone into robotics for kids. The community was great.

I have several windstorm kits and will continue using them but picked up a Vex kit as those are what the school switched to.

Anyway - having all the pdfs in a single offsite repository is absolutely great.
posted by zenon at 9:21 AM on July 10 [1 favorite]

I have a friend who writes and tests LEGO instruction books at the HQ in Denmark. Apparently there's a lot more goes into the design of the instructions than you might think.

The old (pre-Spike) Mindstorms were based on CPUs and microcontrollers that went unobtainable during the pandemic chip shortage, and some of them (like the old application ARM CPU in the main Mindstorms unit) were not put back into production. So they had to change. I like the new MicroPython-based designs, but it was kind of a dick move to redesign the connectors so that new stuff won't talk to old stuff. Of course there are third party adapters, but that's hassle.
posted by scruss at 2:08 PM on July 10 [2 favorites]

I belatedly saw this thread via kottke, and to scruss, I'm always interested in whatever I can learn about the Lego manual design process. I think some of my love of minimal design comes from Lego instructions - the almost complete lack of text, the clean lines, the isometric (or is it axonometric? my formal design study was never great) layout.

Oh, and the text those circa 1980 instructions did have? Either Helvetica or, for the then-new Space line, Eurostyle (or is it Microgramma), The Space Font. So nice.

Although there are those in the Lego fan community who complain, the modern, detailed instructions are so much more usable than those I grew up with, and they're an essential part of the style of building that's more relaxing and meditative, following a guideline, rather than puzzling over how exactly to manage that half plate offset. Even though I'm asking for more on the design process, it's clear that it's deeply considered, both from that experience point of view, but less obviously, the compromises that are presumably made for part selection and bagging constraints. I think I'm mainly curious about all the other things I haven't thought of - in so far as they can be revealed, of course.

Finally, the fact that third party instructions for a build using the same number of pieces as an official $100 set often cost $10 or more shows just how much value there is in them.
posted by blech at 2:18 PM on July 14

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