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.

Bedford MWD

I have said it before, but my favorite things to build are Trial Trucks.  The combination of the driveline construction, forces on the truck, diversity of body style, and various propulsion systems offered by LEGO combine for a great building experience.  Because of this, I usually am building a Trial Truck, or have one built at all times.  But for some reason, this truck seemed to sit for a long time unfinished.  I struggle with deciding if a truck will be a model of something, or something fictional.  This decision is often made too late in the construction process.  After toying with a Daimler Scout body, I decided I needed to finish this project and the Bedford MWD body was chosen.

The full gallery may be seen here.


After some some experience with various designs, I decided to construct a truck around a simple locking differential idea I had recently designed.  Because I would need an extra IR Receiver for the locking function, I decided a simple two speed gearbox (1:6 and 1:10) could use the other IR channel.  I placed all the controls in the middle of the chassis.  The driveline and the steering axle would run through the middle.  On the left side was the Battery Box and the motor for the gear change, and on the right side was the XL drive motor, the gear box, and the motor for the locking differential mechanism.  The steering motor would hang out the back of the chassis over the rear pendular suspension unit.  Both axle were connected by my favorite linked suspension system.


Each axle took a little bit of work.  I selected a simple design for the locking differential.  Basically, it is a 24 tooth differential placed directly next to a 24 tooth gear.  A pair of sliding 12 tooth double bevel gears slide back and forth one stud to connect only with the differential, or with both the differential and the neighboring gear locking out the differential.  After toying with some old flex cable, and some pneumatics, I figured I was making it too complicated.  I added a small pivot with a Small Technic Steering Arm, and connected it to a 9L link.  This way both axles could be connected, the suspension and lock could keep operating unaffected by each other, and it all could be controlled by a mini Linear Actuator.

Initial tests were positive, so I then decided to figure out a body for the design.  I worked for too long on a Daimler Scout body.  I had the structure made, but the paneling was just not happening.  After sitting on the project for 5 months, I decided it was time to make something new.  The Bedford design worked well, and helped my get excited again in the project.

Now, once I got outside to drive the truck a glaring problem occurred.  The bevel connection in each axle that transmits the longitudinal drive forces to transversal drive forces kept slipping.  You can hear it in the video.  Because of this, it did not matter if it had locking differentials, or if it had a two speed gearbox, or if it had working suspension.  Anything could stop it.  I though about reworking the axles, but then, I have been working on this for 11 months, it was time to be done.  I’ll use the locking mechanism again.  That worked great.

Thanks for reading.

Spitfire Mk IIa

I am not a very ambitious person.  Sure I made it through college and graduate school, and have managed to work well in job for a while now, but for me to do something challenging, takes a lot of convincing.  It doesn’t happen often.  This project was a little bigger than it should have been, and I got in over my head.  This is not the first time this has happened (1, 2).  The project was interesting enough for me to keep moving forward, even after six months.  I present my 1:12 scale Spitfire Mk IIa.  I hope you enjoy the work.

View the full gallery here, and the work in progress gallery here.  Flickr set is here.

Spitfire 3/4

First, the whole reason I did this project was because of the excellent Baby Twin Otter of Cpt. Postma completed two years ago.  If you have not yet seen this creation, take a look at the above link.  When I first saw this model, I went home a made his variable pitch propeller   This was the first step to my Spitfire, though at the time I did not know it.

I chose to do the Mk IIa version Spitfire for a couple of reasons.  First, the model had to have a three blade prop, because I wanted to use Cpt. Postma’s design.  Spitfires stopped using a three blade prop somewhere in the middle of the MkV series.  Second, I wanted to model a eight gun variant, rather than the cannon variant because I think it has a cleaner look, and I love the red and yellow leading edges on the eight gun variants.  Finally, while it would have been great to do a early model Spitfire with the dark tan camouflage  adding both the dark green and dark tan would have been too expensive, and even more ambitious.  I found a number of pictures of a certain MkIIa with all the features I wanted.  I chose a Spitfire flown by Lt. Tomas Vybiral, who was a Czech pilot with the French Air Force.  The plane was Spitfire P8081 when he flew for the British in Squadron No. 312.  It had simple markings for me to recreate, a camouflage pattern I would be able to do (read afford), and I found some good documents to help my modeling.

Next came the internal planning.  The Spitfire would have working ailerons  flaps, rudder, and elevators (with correlating pilot controls), prop, prop pitch, V-12 engine, and retracting landing gear, all within the 1:12 scale.  Once I had the dimensions calculated, I started placing things in a simple “placeholder” model on my floor.  I constructed the engine, the propeller spinner, pedal/joystick assembly and placed them in the placeholder.  Then I made the placeholder 3D.

It took two months to get the rest of the internals all set.  The required moving various parts of the 3D placeholder, and adding additional parts.  The joystick is connected through various liftarms to the rear elevator, and by axles to the ailerons   The pedals connected though a shaft to the rear rudder.  You can see the gears on the rudder.  The flaps have a simple lever in bottom left side of the cockpit.

The rest of the functions are controlled via Power Functions.  The small 8878 battery box is placed behind the cockpit, as is the IR receiver.  A PF M is housed under the V-12 and drives four mini linear actuators for the landing gear.  It is strong and simple, and works well.  It does not have the correct Spitfire landing gear geometry, but if someone can figure out a way to do it at this scale…well, I can’t figure it out.  A second PF M is used to power the propeller   It is placed directly behind the V-12.  Finally, a third PF M is placed behind the V-12, and works through a system of gears to power two mini linear actuators to move the pitch of the prop.  It’s messy inside, but it has everything I wanted.

After the internals, I had no idea how hard the rest of the Spitfire would be.  LEGO, you need to make more parts in Dark Green.  I know how selfish that sounds, but it would have been more helpful.  Thank to some newer sets, like the 10226 Sopwith Camel, and the  21016 Sungnyemun, it made it much more possible, but still limited me in many places.  I spent the next four months acquiring parts, and placing small plates over the rest of the plane.  With some help on the roundels from Dieterr89, it eventually came together.   The bodywork took a long time.  Too long.  And the lack of some parts in Dark Green forced me to make some concessions.  The canopy frame should be all Dark Green, but it was not going to happen with what is available.  The camouflage is not as clean as I would have liked, and there are some abrupt steps where some plate limitations made the transition for one part to another not smooth enough, such as on the rear fuselage.  Also, try as I might, I could not get the leading edge of the wing to be perfect.  The dihedral did not help either, nor did the yellow leading edge.  Also, the gaps between the control surfaces and the fixed part of the wing and stabilizer was more than I would have liked.  But this has happened before.

I am please with how it turned out, but there are some parts that I wish would be better.  I never seem to remember this when I start a project in this scale, but free moving functions just do not operate well as you hope when you keep adding parts.  The control surfaces work, but they could be smoother and lighter.  The powered functions worked flawlessly. I was very please with the way the markings turned out.  They are not as flush with the plane as painting would cause you to believe, but they make the Spitfire clearly identifiable.

My father would always tell me “never say never,” but it may be a long time before I do another large plane.  But I guess I said that back in 2008.

I hope you enjoy.  Thanks for reading.

Sd. Kfz. 173 Jagdpanther Late Version

For some of you, this may come as no surprise, but I like to build with more than only Technic.  I find a lot of enjoyment building with Technic, but as a child I had more fun with the bricks.  My resources (and bricklink.com) now allow me to build some of the things I never could at that time.  To this day I still like making tanks, so I present to you a model of the Sd. Kfz. 173 Jagdpanther.  This is still one of my favorite tanks: simple lines, great stance, decent performance, and for my purposes, able to be made in LEGO.

Building instructions may be found here.

While I love building tanks, I don’t build them often.  Posting a tank to the LEGO community online is asking for trouble.  There are a lot of builders like me who like to build tanks, so it is hard to make a tank that doesn’t take some influence from someone else.  While the design is mine, there are a lot of ideas from others that have influenced this design.  Feel free to take a look as some of the ideas in this gallery.  Thanks to the various builders.

I have some more Technic models in the queue, so until then, enjoy this break from normal.

The full gallery may be viewed here.  Thanks for reading.

FW-190a3 Instructions

I have a love hate relationship with LEGO instructions.  On one hand, I think they provide a great service to other builders.  This has become clear with my 8081 4×4, which has been much more popular than I could have imagined, in part because I have published instructions.  Builders like to know how other builders come up with ideas to solve problems.  But on the other hand, instructions are a lot of work to produce.  Especially if they require some rendering program.  I guess I could charge people for access to my instructions, but that seems to take away from the access to ideas that I like to support in the LEGO community.

With that I present instructions for my FW-190a3.  The FW-190 needs no introduction.  It it still one of my more favorite airplanes, so I thought I would make a minifig version, and publish instructions for it.  As with all of my instructions, links can be found on my Building Instruction page.

Instructions can be found here.

Happy Building.

Focke-Wulf FW-190 a5

I start most of my projects because I see something brilliant by another builder, and then I decided to develop this idea, or give the idea little more substance.  After discovering a great two row radial, I wanted to give the engine a body.  It had also been a long time since I had done a large project.

I chose to make the FW-190 for a couple of reasons.  First, it had a radial.  OK, 14 cylinders in the plane, and mine would only have 12, but it was close enough.  Second, it was one of my favorire plane of WWII.  Third, the body work would not present too many challenges.  I set to work.  I had to get the scale right, and start placing some of the plane’s extremities, so I would have a good idea where to place all the parts that I would build.

Once everything was placed, I had to figure out how I was going to do all the control surfaces.  This started with figuring out the joystick, and the rudders.  The joystick was a simple design driving side to side movements out the front by an axle to gears for the ailerons.  When the joystick was moved front to back, a link all the way to the rear elevator was activated.  I mounted the foot pedals on a simple pivot connected by gears to the rear rudder.  Flaps, with a simple activating lever, were also installed.  The cockpit was pretty full.

With a project this size, it took a great deal of work to get the shaping of the plane to work right.  I used half stud offsets to get the fuselage correct, and spent a lot of time on the wings.   Because the cockpit had a lot of activating levers, a lot of work went into the area around here.  Adding the opening canopy did not help things.  I added brick built markings, worked on the coloring, and spent some time adding guns and other details.  The model was done.

Brickshelf.com gallery is here.

It’s been three years since I have built this plane, but I needed a little motivation to help me with another similar project.  It was good for me to remember how much I enjoyed this project, even though it took a lot of time and energy.  Stay tuned for the next big plane.


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