One of my first memories of a helicopter was watching a Phoenix Police MD520 land in Roadrunner Park, a block away from my house. The high pitch whine of the main prop was incredible, but another sound was missing. I gathered all my seven year old courage, and asked the pilot, “where is the tail rotor.” I got a lesson in aerodynamics that day, and to this day I can still identify an MD520 by sound. It still remains my favorite helicopter, so I figured it was high time for me to honor this aircraft in LEGO.

Full gallery can be found here.

MD600N Front

What excites me about building with LEGO Technic is creating functions that allow motor, movement, and control. Helicopters are mechanically complex, so I find myself drawn to recreating them. I learned about how they work when I built my first helicopter. With this new helicopter I started with the rotor head. I first built Effermans great swashplate design, and figured out what should stay and go. A four blade rotor head seemed not quite right, so after a little work, I managed to get a six blade head. It was with this decision, and discovering in the chosen scale there would be very little internal room, that I decided to switch to making an MD 600N.

MD600N Starboard

I then got to work setting dimensions, and getting the scale of the airframe correct. The length of the rotor blades dictated the scale, and the interior was going to be tight. The major challenge was getting the control functions connect to the cockpit. This is not a new challenge, as it seems to be the case with every large plane I do. I have a lot of experience with it, and so I came up with some solutions. The challenge with a helicopter is the collective. Every movement that is transmitted, must be able to retail its movement while also being effected by the collective. This works well with the swashplate, but at the controls is where this gets difficult. Using the basis of Effermans design allowed for a simple setup where the collective moves an axle on which the the left/right and fore/aft controls mount.

MD600N Cockpit


Moving the collective moves the other two controls in a way that is independent from joystick inputs, and allows for complete swashplace articulation at any collective pitch. The controls connect to the swashplate above the main cabin and move forward. From there all three fuctions move down to the floor of the cockpit in between the pilot/copilot seats, and the second row seats. The collective is connected here to a lever on only the pilot’s side. The left/right controls connect via an axle to the joystick, and the fore/aft controls connect via a 9L link to the joystick. Both joysticks are linked together.


MD600N Chassis

The final control adjusts the yaw of the aircraft. The MD600N uses three methods to give anti-torque to the main rotor. In forward flight the 1)  tail planes give directional stability. The tailboom also has 2) two slits that provide a “Coanda Effect” from the main rotor downwash. Finally, at the end of the boom is a 3) movable jet direct thruster (all are nicely discussed here). This thruster rotates to force more or less thrust against the torque of the main rotor, much like the more common tail rotor. In this MOC, the thurster rotates on a small turntable, and has an axle running through the boom the controls the rotation. The axle connects to the floor petals by way of a flex cable, and a liftarm running below the cockpit. Both pedals are linked together.

Once all the controls were set, I could work on the body. I wanted the helicopter to be blue as I see it in my memory (almost). This presented some parts challenges, but not as many as I expected. The two suicide doors open to the main cabin, though I did not add any to the cockpit. Many liftarms and connectors were used for the rest of the cabin. I wish current Technic parts could facilitate the rather bubbly lines of the MD600N, but I was pleased with how it looked in the end.

As with many of my large aircraft, this helicopter suffered from gummy controls. The range of motion of the controls reflect the scale for the model, but do not allow for great playability or demonstration of features. For something like a helicopter, I am interested in powering the controls surfaces and inputs controls via Power Functions much like this. Next time I guess. But the Helicopter looks great on my shelf, and it brings me back to a great time in my childhood. I hope you enjoy.

Happy building.


OCTAN Air Racer

OCTAN is one of my favorite longitudinal themes of LEGO. It gives a little color and identity to many of the racing vehicles that have been produced by LEGO since 1994. I don’t know why it took me so long to start making MOCs with an OCTAN theme, but after last summer’s OCTAN F1, I figured I should do another one.

The full gallery including instructions may be seen here.

OCTAN Air Racer

It was time for me to build another airplane, and I figured a0 small air racer would work well in the OCTAN colors. Right from the beginning, I was sure I wanted to make a biplane, and I wanted a radial engine (all real airplanes have propellers). From there everything was on the table. Off to designing.

I started with the radial. It’s not quite a radial, but rather two perpendicular boxer 4 cylinder engines. Each bank of two cylinders are mounted in a different direction; up, down, port, and starboard, and are connect by one common crankshaft. The side banks are one stud forward, and the up and down banks rear, so all eight connecting rods can fit on a common 5l axle. Two engine crankshafts are mounted at each end. The motor spins well, and quite quickly, but the connection is not exactly “legal,” as the pins on the cylinders are a little stressed.

8 Cylinder Radial

Working backwards, I attached the leading edges of the wings, and the worked on the landing gear. Being an air racer (even a biplane), it had to have retractable landing gear. I connected the two wide spaced legs with a simple axle and bevel joint, and added a worm gear to articulate the action. It is a simply solution, and it functions well.

Air Racer Bottom

Just behind and above the worm gear is the joystick. The roll functions are connected to the bottom wing by gears, and the pitch function is connected by liftarms to the rear elevator. The rudder is fixed. The lower ailerons are connected to the upper ailerons by a simple 9L link. When you move the joystick, all four ailerons move. The cockpit is a little cramped, but when you are racing space is not a concern, only speed.

Air Racer Drive


Air Racer Cockpit

After the radial, the bodywork was the priority for the MOC. I have been slowly acquiring white and green parts over the last year. The airplane was designed as primarily white, with red and green accents. The red stripe worked well, as did the red tail, but I could not find a great way to incorporate the green. I added a little to the tips of the wings, and to the wing control surfaces. I used a couple more stickers that I had left over from set 60025, and the MOC was finished.

I was pleased with how the MOC turned out. The airplane looks strong, and the red and green make the white vibrant. I wish I could have found a better place to incorporate the green. The places it was added seems a little haphazard. The radial turned out great, but I feel a little bad about the illegal build. The landing gear works well, as do the control surfaces. I was pleased with how it turned out. Next up, maybe an OCTAN speedboat. Other ideas?

Happy building.


CAT 586C

My favorite constructions vehicles are feller bunchers. The wheeled ones. So I am naturally inclined to make them. I built a small one; I built a large one. I wanted to build a medium one, but I figured I should get out of the box. At least this time.

The full gallery may be seen here.

CAT 586C

The CAT 586C is a site prep tractor. Forgive me for simplifying the work done by the engineers, but the tractor is basically a 573C with a new implement for site preparation, rather than felling. As always, I stared with scaling the full tractor from CAT’s website, and finding a size that would work well with tires, features, and aesthetics. Then I started building.

CAT 586C Rear

I started with the chassis, to get a sense of the size and the layout. I had a good idea of all the features I would want, and I knew some planning would be required. I then finished the mulcher (implement), which is basically a rotating drum with lots of teeth on it. I used a bunch of 24 tooth gears, and connected them to a rotating driveshaft. The chassis was built with four wheel drive, and was connected to the mulcher driveshaft through a series of gears to increase the speed of the drum.

CAT 586C Underside

Then on to the back of the tractor. Feller bunchers and site prep tractors all have their engines in the back; pretty normal for large tractors with large front implements. But to get the weight as far back as possible, the engine is mounted transversely. This presented a couple of challenges for me. I mounted a I-3 engine on the left in the rear with simple gearbox geared up to connect it to the drivetrain. Just in front of the motor are the two cooling fans, which are also driven by the drivetrain. These are also geared up. For those of you keeping score at home, the drivetrain gears up three separate functions, so rolling the MOC on the floor causes a nice whizzing sound.

CAT 586C Driveline

I added some additional features that mirror the real tractor. First, over the mulcher there is a guide bar that allows the tractor to push trees and shrubs down toward the mulcher. In my MOC this is accomplished by a simple worm gear mechanism. Second, I added a small winch on the rear to get the tractor out of sticky situations. Finally, a small mulching door was installed to allow for more or less entry to the mulcher, again just like the real tractor.

CAT 586C Mulcher

The tractor worked well. Functions were smooth, and required no maintenance during play. The many controls on the front were a little dense, and this caused some finger congestion. The number of rotational features connected to the drivetrain made rolling on the floor a little strained. Thought, this kept the MOC from rolling off the table into a lot of pieces. Everything worked well enough, so maybe it is time to make another feller in this scale. Not today, I still have a lot of other projects to complete first.

Happy Building.


At any given time I have about 4-6 projects going on at a time. This is partly the result of the Queue, which is partly the result of my lack of focus. In the midst of all this planning, I find it therapeutic to sit down, and start something small, simple, and without a plan. Two weeks ago, right after finishing the ATS, I sat down, and in a couple of hours, completed a small windrower.

The full gallery including instructions may be found here.


Some of my favorite MOCs are the smaller non-motorized ones I have done over the years, like my Feller, my Octan F1, my 4×4 8081, and my Sod Harvester. I built the Windrower to fit in this theme. A Windrower, or Swather, is basically a large lawnmower. The blades on the front cut down hay, and pull all the cuttings to the center to make a row of cuttings, or windrow, to be picked up later.

My version is rather simple. The two main wheels are connected to a center differental through two 8z portal axles. The differential drives a small I3 motor in the rear, and a PTO driveshaft comes out the front. The PTO drives a simple harvesting head made of four z24 gears which are connected with a number of z12 gears. The harvesting head can be raised and lowered by a simple worm gear setup. A simple steering system was created for the rear wheels, and it was connected by a liftarm to the smoke stack so you could control the steering.

The body work took a couple of orders. After recently making a couple of MOCs in red, I felt the Case IH coloring would be a little redundant, so John Deere Green it was. My collection of green is growing, but there were still some parts needed. After everything arrived, I replaced all the red, and added some yellow wheels, and everything was set. A simple MOC, with some fun features, and an infrequent color.

Happy Building.



Cadillac ATS

A while ago I decided I was going to do a proper new school supercar. Something with all the features that are to be expected in the LEGO Technic Community. You know what they are; suspension, a gearbox, opening doors, a working engine, steering, and something fast looking. Probably red. It was time to test my chops and throw my hat into the ring.

The full gallery can be viewed here, and instructions may be purchased for $9 USD. Partlist

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Cadillac ATS

It has been a long time since I have built a supercar. While I enjoy many of the cars others make, I long for exceptional creativity in suspension design, gearboxes, and body style. It was time for me to build another one and contribute to these areas. About two years ago I set out to create a six speed gearbox that would have a more realistic gear change movement. I tried linkages, springs, and so many gears. In a bit of a breakthrough, I offset the two outside changeovers vertically by 1/2 stud. This allowed for the changeover lever to connect all three changeovers as it rotated from a single center pivot point. Once this design was completed, it needed a home.

ATS Transmissions

I have a preference for sedans rather than coupes. Plus too many two-door supercars have been created. Forgive the slight nationalism, but I thought it would be fun to do an American sports sedan, so a Cadillac was the best choice since the demise of my beloved Lincoln LS. The ATS was new, and at the scale would be a little more manageable than the CTS. I worked a little on the scale of the car. Some parts would be a challenge to convey the look, but I was ready to start building.

I started with the front suspension. The new suspension arms allowed for a short/long arm setup. The two different arm designs allowed for a increasing negative camber as the suspension moved through its travel. Additionally, the pivot points on the steering hub allowed for a kingpin inclination to provide an improved caster angle. Finally, I added Ackerman geometry to the steering link. After some work mounting the suspension, and the rack and pinon steering, I had the front suspension done.

ATS Front Sus

The rear suspension was more simple, but still had some unique features. While the real ATS uses a 5 link setup in the rear, I was not too impressed with the results I came up with as too much flex was found at the wheel. I started with a transversely mounted limited slip differential that I have used before. This connected directly to the two half-shafts for the rear wheels. I applied a short/long arm setup for the rear suspension so the tires would keep their contact patch as the body would roll through a corner. Like the front, this created increasing negative camber as the suspension moved through its travel. Normal in real cars, not often replicated in LEGO.

ATS Chassis

Tying all of these parts together was a little bit of a challenge. I wanted the steering wheel to be connected to the steering as well as a HOG knob on the dashboard. In addition, the doors, trunk, and hood should all open. Naturally, the car had to have a spare tire, and various engine options which could be easily removed. The chassis had to be stiff enough for the suspension to function well. Packing this all together took some time. About 9 months, but who is counting?

ATS Left Front

But what took the most time was the body work. This is the part for which I have little motivation, and the important part that would identify the car as an ATS. I had a lot of work to do. And my palmares have not trained me well for this task. After major parts were placed, and the dimension were set (37 stud Wheelbase, 60 stud Length, 25 stud Width), I worked on one section at a time. As the front bumper was part of the chassis, this part was developed early. As did the rear bumper. The headlights are unique for the ATS, so this was done early as well. After the roof was placed I worked on the trunk, which came together rather easily. I worked on the hood of the car, and after two designs I was happy with the result. I then worked on the grill, and after tinkering with a couple of SNOT techniques, I was able to get most of the distinctive Cadillac grill in my design.

Cadillac Grillz

Then off to the doors. I made seven designs. Most sedans these days have various creases that identify their sedan as different than any other sedan. You will notice the ATS has two, one on the bottom that rises slowly to the rear, and one midway up to the windows that moves along the length of the car from the hood to the trunk. The top line was accomplished by having the angle for the windows start a little lower on the front door and higher by a 1/2 stud on the rear door. The bottom crease was added by attaching some angled plates to the bottom of both doors, which cant slightly inward. Finally, both doors have an upper pivot point that is 1/2 stud inboard to bring the upper part of the doors toward the center of the car. Once I got a design I liked, I had to bring it all together to make sure everything fit well. I adjusted the roof, modified the hood, tightened up the dashboard connection to the doors, and made some changes to the rear quarter panels. There were still some areas where improvement could be made, but I was running out of ideas. I was pleased with the result. Pleased enough to say I was done.

All in all, I was pleased with the result of the car. As this is my first studless supercar, I was happy with how it turned out. The functions were up to my standards, and nothing was compromised as the car came together. While I was overwhelmed with the bodywork, I was pleased with how it turned out. Because it took me a long time to get it to work, it may be a long time before I do another one. I was happy I did a sedan, and hopefully a new moniker can begin in the LEGO community. #supersedan.

Happy Building.

Kenworth T47

The Kenworth T55 is my favorite Trial Truck I have built. It’s not the best looking, or the most capable, or the most reliable, or even the most popular but it’s the one I keep coming back to. My latest truck is a continuation of the Kenworth series of trial trucks. The T55 would pull a stump, the T47 is quicker, has better steering, and more compliant suspension.


Right from the beginning I knew the truck would have a similar cabin at the T55. It would continue with the four wheel steering, and I added an independent suspension. The dimensions would stay close to the same. From there anything else was fair game. I started with the axles. The new suspensions arms made it a little bit easier to make a good independent design. A CV joint was used at the steering knuckle, which allowed for the steering pivot to be near the wheel. Each wheel had about three studs of travel.

The XL motor was placed on the left of the center line and the rechargeable battery box was placed on the right. A newly acquired Servo Motor was placed rear on the centerline directly in front of the rear axle. I had a little more space left, so I added a simple two speed gearbox. A little more space remained so I added a flat six engine.

T47 Engine

Part of my attraction of the T55 has been it’s coloring, and it’s shape. I wanted to keep the attraction similar, but in a way that would differentiate the trucks. I have been acquiring some green lately, so I thought would be a great color. The cab is basically the same, but now it can tilt so you can work on the engine.

The off road performance was not great on the T55, and the T47 was similar. The independent suspension had too much play at the wheels to be great at steering, and the articulation was not very supple. The truck was great to drive around my house, but when I took it outside it did poorly. The suspension design is better than my last independent set up. There was no slipping of the gears. I think my next design will use the same knuckle, but design a different steering connection. This truck again proves the use of knob wheels rather than a differential for a trial truck. Feel free to make your own, and let me know what improvements you developed.

Happy Building.


In a bought of inspiration (or distraction) at work, I noted my old 6546 sitting on my desk. After years of looking at this small car I thought, I could make this bigger, and in Technic. Done.

The full gallery including instructions can be found here.

Octan F1 Front

I decided the car should have a simple engine, four wheel suspension, and working steering. Recently, there was a good design that gave me an idea about how to do a smaller scale driveline for the car. I worked on the rear first, and once I had the suspension setup, I added a small flat four engine place directly on the bottom of the car. This would be the basis for the rear of the chassis.

I then started the front suspension design which would utilize the new suspension components from 42021. I first tried adding shock absorbers. Then I added rubber connectors. The first was too big, the second did not work to well. After monkeying with it for a while, I developed a simple torsion bar setup. The torsion axle is a 10l and provides the pivot point to the bottom control arms. They connect to the chassis behind the suspension to a fixed point under the steering wheel. The set up works well. Frankly, it works a little better than the rear as the rear could benefit from stiffer arms and suspension mounts.

Next came the body work. As I wanted to keep things similar to the 6546, the coloring would have to be white, green, and red. And it would need some stickers. I used the stickers from set 60025, so the car number would have to be changed from the original #4 to #5. The coloring and markings turned out well. I tried to make sure it was not too busy. Easy enough, and everything is easily acquired so you may build your own.

Fitting with my yearly planning I have now completed the two small builds I wanted to complete. It was quick, fun, and a MOC that is accessible for other builders. Feel free to build your own (make some new colors, and we can then have a race).

Happy Building.

JCB 531

Astute readers will note the heading of has changed to read “LEGO Technic from Grand Rapids.” A slight heading change notes a rather large life change for myself, Mrs. Thirdwigg, and Jr. Thirdwigg. This has caused a slight hiccup to production and the timeline of The Queue, but we are back in business.

A working telehandler has been on my list of machines to build for a long time. I finally acquired a 32l axle, and it was the impetus I needed to start the project.

The full gallery is here.

Ready to take on any project.

Ready to take on any project.

Right from the beginning I decided the MOC would have steering, boom lift, boom tilt, and boom extension. All the functions would be manual as is my current trent (do not fear, it will be over soon), and would be housed within the boom itself. I based the scale for the MOC on the length of the boom being 32 studs so I could use the full 32l axle.

The 32l axle was placed on the top of the boom, and would allow the sliding 8z gear to transmit rotation to the fork tilt throughout the full extension of the boom. At the end of the boom I added a mLA to adjust the tilt of the fork. It took a little working, but I eventually figured out how to adjust the tilt for every position in the lift. I then worked on the boom and the extension so it would be as stiff as possible through all points of the lift.

I then worked on the chassis and the cab. The chassis was rather basic, and after a couple of rebuilds to get the steering right, it was done. I did have to do some revisions to have the boom/chassis interface more rigid. It turns out that when the boom was fully extended, the lift would sway a little too much. I then added a cab and the engine box on the right side. Here you can see the final project working.

The MOC worked well, and other than a slight sagging of the boom at full extension, I would not change a thing.

Happy Building.

Hawker Typhoon MkIb

Two years ago I built the Spitfire MkIIa. It remains one of my more popular builds, and one of which I am still quite proud. It was not my first large plane, though when I completed it, I said it would be my last.

As my father would say, “never say never.”


The full gallery may be seen here.

I learned a lot of great things from the Spitfire. Large scale building is exciting, and challenging in that you have to think about significant structural considerations, placement, and shaping before and while your build.

With this in mind, I wanted to develop what I have learned, but allow myself the ability to take a large scale aircraft to the next level. I wanted to improve the function of the control surfaces, design my own propellor, use four Power Function channels, and use the boatload of Dark Green parts that I had recently acquired. I considered a number of airplanes, including doing the FW-190 again, but I finally settled on the Typhoon. Time to get building.

After some planning, I had my scale. 1/13 was an appropriate size for me to replicate the plane and its functions, while still keeping the plane from getting too large. This scale would also allow for LEGO wheels for the landing gear, and a worker able propellor spinner design. As I learned from the Spitfire, placement of large components needed to be done early, and placed in the MOC to its exact final location. As the structure of the fuselage and wings would be stressed heavily, large components could not get in the way. Once I placed the engine block, the landing gear, the power functions, and the control surfaces, I was able to start putting together the robust structures that would support the final plane. One of the major challenges of this plane was the outset landing gear on the wings. Because they were located 42 studs apart, the wings needed to be strong. But due the the space taken for the control surfaces, and the massive 24 cylinder power pack, the wings still sag a little under load.

The control surfaces were activated with strings with studs on each end. I found this to be a better system than the axle controls for the Spitfire. It kept the controls more smooth, and reduced the amount of play in the controls. The elevator and ailerons were controlled with the joystick, and the rudder was controlled by two foot pedals in the cockpit. The remaining functions were controlled via Power Functions. An XL motor powered the massive 38 stud diameter propellor, as well at the 24 cylinder Napier Sabre engine. A M motor controlled the pitch of the propellor. Another M motor powered the landing gear, and still another  adjusted the flaps. All four motor were mounted in the chin of the aircraft; I had to use that huge chin for something. The two IR receivers were mounted in under the windscreen, and the rechargeable battery was mounted behind the cockpit.

Finally, I had to make sure all the markings were accurate. Again, due the limits of dark green parts, it was not an easy task. I started with wings, and made sure to add invasion stripes, and work my way out to the tips. The roundels were a little different than the Spitfire, but were a little larger. The fuselage took a little work to make sure the panels could be easily removed, but I eventually got there. The fuselage roundel should have a yellow ring around the outside, but the strip is so small, I could not figure out a good way to do it.

The plane worked almost perfectly. The ailerons were a little sticky, but other wise everything else managed to work for an 8 hour shift at Brickworld. The plane was liked enough to be nominated for Best Air Ship. While it did not win, it was validation that the the model was a success.

Happy Building.

JCB 714

My repertoire has become quite diverse over the years. I have made large cars, large planes, MODs, and many other types of builds. I enjoy those builds, and I get an immense amount of satisfaction completed them. Recently I have enjoyed making smaller, non-powered, Technic MOCs. I can generate more small build ideas, I can stay motivated better, and I enjoy the playing with final result more. So I made another small MOC, the JCB 714.

The full gallery may be found here. Instructions may be purchased for $5 USD.

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JCB 714

This MOC started when I was browsing the JCB UK website. I thought the 714 would be a fun little project that would have some nice features, and would utilize some of my collection that is not currently being used. I started working on the frame. The MOC would have a four wheel drive system, suspension, steering, and a dumping back. I designed two suspension/steering designs, and while the first one was awesome, it was not as stable as I would have preferred. So I reverted back to the design utilized on the real JCB. It was not as flashy, but it worked well. A turntable is planted behind the steering pivot, with the drive axle moving through the center of both. A liftarm was placed on the left to operate the steering function. The drive axle would connect to both axles through a 12/20 gear reduction which connected them to two differentials. The I3 motor was placed in front of the forward axle.

The rear was more challenging than I expected. First, I had to plant the mLA’s in such a way that they could be connected by a single axle that would not impede the driveline. Second, the mLA’s had to operate in such a way that the bucket could do the full range of motion; nearly 90 degrees. Third, the shape of the bucket did not work well in LEGO, as there were limited flat surfaces. Thankfully the sides were flat, and some of the bottom. The bottom was connect to the dump pivot, and the sides would hold the angled panels. Finally, it had to make sure the rear wheels could still move freely. While there are still some holes in the dump, it works well enough to transport a bunch of bricks.

The cab built up fairly quickly, and allowed me some space to add the rear window grate, and a exhaust pipe. The hood can open, and there are steps to get into the cabin. Safe egress is important.

As I am finding with MOCs that do not utilize Power Functions, the MOC functioned well, every time. No maintenance is needed, gears do not skip, and the MOC works as it is designed. This is part of the reason I am building these kind of MOCs more often. The MOC worked as it was designed, just like a MOC should.

Thanks for reading and happy building.




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