LEGO Challenge 2014

My personal LEGO challenge for 2014: Build all the UCS sets!

Share/Bookmark
I’ve set a challenge for myself this new year: build all twenty of the LEGO sets in the Star Wars Ultimate Collector Series (UCS) within the calendar year. Immediately, some problems present themselves. For example, I’m not going to pay $783.74 for the stickers for the 18 sets that have them. That’s the current going rate for all the new stickers. I don’t like stickers on LEGO sets anyway, and I’m not going to bankrupt myself buying them. So the stickers are out. And because a lot of the stickers for UCS sets were on special plaques apart from the model itself (see the Millennium Falcon sticker, for example), I’m not going to buy the pieces to build the plaques, either. That won’t save me as much money as not buying the stickers, but it will still help.

And I’m also not going to pay extremely high prices for parts with special, one-of-a-kind decorations, either. For example, the decorated dish for the Millennium Falcon is currently running over $68, while the undecorated version is a buck and a quarter. The “windscreens” for the TIE Interceptor and Vader’s TIE Advanced are also dozens of dollars each, but currently unavailable. The Blockade Runner only had red stripes around two of its engines, not all eleven like LEGO has it (the red pieces are almost seven bucks more than white). The chrome parts on the Naboo Starfighter are also very expensive, so I’ve decided to go with black, and I’ve redesigned the nose to try to replicate the color pattern without the stickers, too.

Also, minifigs: won’t be buying any minifigs or purely-minifig accessories, either. I have tons of minifigs. Tons of Star Wars minifigs. I can see Han Solo in carbonite from where I sit.

I will only be building one model at a time, in order from least parts to most. Re-using pieces will be the biggest money-saver of all, since it drops the total parts required from over 36,000 down to 24,122. At an average of ten cents a brick, new, tearing apart one model to build the next is going to save about twelve hundred bucks. The money for this is coming from collected pocket change and leftover personal budget cash, and is probably going to be the limiting factor for me in this endeavor.

Years ago, I purchased the Darth Maul and Y-Wing sets used, so I know I have all the parts for them. I have over 15,000 other bricks, also, and I’ll start the whole project by going through the bricks I own to find bricks I need.

Note: If anyone has any suggestions or comments you’d like to send me (or bricks you’d like to lend me), please send email to lego at psorsite.com.

January 1, 2014: Brick picking begins. The master parts list for the entire challenge begins with 1,988 unique part/color combinations and 24,122 parts needed. At the end of the day, the master parts list is down to 1,824 sets and 21,862 parts. (Note that the master parts list pages are very large, and may take some time to load.)

January 3, 2014 @21:00: Brick picking continues. I won’t be updating the master list until the end of the weekend, because I want to see a nice, big chunk of pieces gone.

While picking tonight, I started to get really annoyed by the old grays/new grays differences. The difference between light gray and light bluish gray is really slight, and will probably be missed in any photos I take of the models I build. However, dark gray and dark blusih gray are obviously different. At least to me. The dark gray looks like a really dark yellow/brown.

At any rate, I managed to “upgrade” some of the sets from old grays to new grays because the old parts are all available in the new grays. However, for those sets where that isn’t possible, some of the old-gray parts are much more expensive. Also, I encountered tonight a few cases where I have, say, six of the correct shade where one set calls for sixty, and sixty of the wrong shade where another set calls for six. Really annoying, so I’m about ready to just select whatever parts I can and hide the mismatched shades as best I’m able during construction and/or buy whatever colors are cheaper.

January 4, 2014 @15:00: After thinking about it more and talking it over with my wife, I’ve decided to go ahead and mix old and new grays when necessary to lower my budget. (Of course, some parts simply aren’t available in new grays, so I’ve had to change my parts list software to include a way to mark individual parts as needing to be the old gray instead of automatically changing old to new). But this means I have to start over at the beginning of the list, looking for gray parts I didn’t include because they were the wrong shade of gray.

January 5, 2014 @1:30: Disassembling our three Lego Advent calendars has netted me at least two dozen parts I needed from among the pieces I had already picked. I don’t know how many parts those sets got me from pieces I hadn’t yet picked, like plates and tiles.

And due to the fact that I keep running into $50-plus parts, some of the models are going to have some strange colors. If I could afford to build the models precisely as intended, I’d just get them all from eBay or Brickset and the challenge would be all over in a few months. But I can’t afford that, so I’m picking bricks out of my collection, piecing together sets and trying to figure out the optimal buying strategy for used parts, and all that takes a lot more time and effort than just building the models.

So, low price is my highest priority, then color. At last resort, I’ll try to use differently shaped pieces to get whatever effect Lego intended. We will see how things go…

January 5, 2014 @21:30: Whew. Went back through all the parts I’d already picked, fixing the grays, and managed to get all the way through to the modified plates (where I’ll start picking tomorrow night). The master parts list has been trimmed down to 1,365 sets and 15,862 indiviual pieces. A productive weekend!

January 6, 2014: I got through the modified plates to the round plates. I cut some of my part needs by ignoring clip/hole types. If assembly of any model is made impossible by this choice (which I very much doubt), I’ll fix it when I encounter a problem, but the difference between a U clip and an O clip seems superficial, so I selected the type that appears to be the cheapest. I only got a few hours of part-picking in tonight, and it looks like it’s going to be that way all week, so I won’t re-post the master list until Friday night.

Note: If anyone has any suggestions or comments you’d like to send me (or bricks you’d like to lend me), please send email to lego at psorsite.com.

January 7, 2014: Got through all the slopes tonight. I’m sure I’ll be counting bazillions of Technic pins tomorrow night.

January 8, 2014 @1:40: Just added some code to check to see which of the 20 sets could be built at the same time with the parts in the master list. The Naboo Starfighter (the smallest set) could be built with Obi-Wan’s Jedi Starfighter or the Imperial AT-ST or Yoda or the Rebel Blockade Runner, but that’s it. I can’t even build Obi-Wan’s Jedi Starfighter and the TIE Interceptor (the next two smallest sets) at the same time, because they share too many parts in common (I’d need at least two more dark bluish gray 2×2 plates to be able to build them at the same time, for example). Of course, I already know I”d need over 36,000 pieces to build all 20 models simultaneously and correctly, but only 24,000 to build them one at a time (and slightly wrongly). Given the changes I’ve been making on the fly (clip types, for example), I think I’ll re-run the parts count for all models at the same time once I’m done picking parts…

January 8, 2014 @23:50: I skipped around a bunch to get all the pins and pin connectors done tonight. Got the axles done, too. It occurred to me that someone could make a lot of people like me very happy by going through the parts lists for various Lego sets and annotate the lists with notes about which parts have colors that are irrelevant because the parts will never be seen once the model is completed. For example, the Star Destroyer asks for eight red axles of length three, but those axles will never be seen by anyone after the thing is built. I have no red three-length axles, so I changed my parts list so that they should be light bluish gray. Having those parts marked as “don’t care” color would have saved me some time, because I had to look through the instructions to find out that the color didn’t matter. (Turns out the color of the magnet holders for the same set doesn’t have to be tan, either.) Similarly for the part types. If the particular type of clip on a plate doesn’t matter, it’d be nice to know beforehand.

I also realized that from the beginning of my part-picking venture, I should have been sorting parts that appear in only one set to a bag/box just for that set, instead of comingling all parts of the same type. I’m going to make the one-set-only bags anyway, I should have been doing it right from the start. I’m going to add a function to my software that spits out lists of parts unique to each set, so that the “common” bags — bags required to hold parts for multiple sets — will become much smaller.

Anyway, the major sections I still need to get through are Technic bricks, liftarms and plates, as well as the wedge bricks and plates, the wheels and windshields. I see light at the end of this tunnel. I may be ready to place some parts orders this weekend.

January 9, 2014 @23:20: I just realized I’ve written my software all wrong. It should have been inventory-centric, instead of set-centric. I’ll fix that when I’ve got down-time while waiting either for orders or for me to save up cash to put orders together. (Speaking of which, I only managed to save five bucks towards Lego this week.)

I got through the Technic bricks and regular gears tonight. I’ll probably get through the other gears and Technic plates tomorrow night, at least.

January 11, 2014 @0:30: Got through the normal tiles. All that’s left are the tiles with studs, the vehicle parts, wedges and windshields! The master list stands at 995 sets comprised of 10,657 indiviual pieces. I’m pretty sure I’ll be done with the picking tomorrow!

January 11, 2014 @2:15: Done picking! The master list is down to 10,124 parts in 912 sets. Now to start ordering. I have $213 and change to start with.

January 11, 2014 @4:30: My first order has been placed with Abby’s Spare Parts, because she sent me a coupon after my first order (for pieces for my wife to build some of the Winter Village sets). After the coupon, the order was $80.04, but I’ll have to wait for the invoice to find out how much shipping is going to be. Now I need to add a feature to my software to take the parts that are on order out of the master list…

January 11, 2014 @9:30: I just got done placing four more orders, and I’ve probably already blown my current budget. I’m trying to buy in the largets lots I can, in order to save on handling fees, but obviously I can’t just buy them all at once. The orders I’ve placed include enough parts to build the first set, the Naboo Starfighter, so I’m done ordering for right now. I’ll be saving up cash and changing my software around (and perhaps doing a full inventory of the Lego I have).

January 12, 2014 @14:10: I’ve made a bunch of changes to part colors and/or styles, and even deleted one entirely after looking at my Wanted List in Bricklink and finding lots of availability problems (General Grievous’ lightsabers will not be reinforced with super-expensive, hard-to-find white tubes). And after realizing that I’m going to absolutely need to buy some parts in lots smaller than what I need, I went back and added to my order from Abby’s Spare Parts, since that coupon is still in effect (she hadn’t invoiced me yet). Definitely going to have to find some extra money to add to my Lego fund, though, since now I’m positive I’ve already spent more than I have. I should be able to find it this week, though, since my wife has decided to quit stealing my peanut butter.

January 14, 2014 @21:20: I just got the last invoice for the orders I made. Even though Abby’s Spare Parts did me a solid by splitting the shipping with me (to compensate for making me wait a few days because she was working on a huge order), but I still went $21 and change over the money I’d set aside. So I made an “emergency” transfer from my wallet of $22 to cover the shortfall. So I haven’t yet had to “credit” myself any money — if I ever do that, I think I’d have to consider the challenge a failure.

January 15, 2014 @18:30: Received my tiny order of black tiles from Little Brick Lane tonight.

January 16, 2014 @19:00: Received my orders from Bricks2You and Pavimentum tonight. And I think I’ve figured out a decent system for bagging (or boxing) the parts for the different sets, and which bricks need to be “paid forward” to future sets once one has been built. We’ll see how it works…

January 19, 2014 @0:00: Received my last two orders, from Toy Brick Brigade and Abby’s Spare Parts yesterday at about two in the afternoon, and spent almost the entire afternoon and evening verifying the orders. I managed to get through all of the TBB order and halfway through my order with Pam (who runs Abby’s). All because I’m trying to correct the organizational mistakes I made earlier and change over to the new system (see the Jan 16 entry, above) while doing the counting. It’s taking a long time to do these things simultaneously, but it would take even longer if I did both things separately, because I’d have to touch all the parts in the orders twice. So a couple hours after I wake up later, I should be done with counting this last order, and then I’ll get all the rest of the Naboo Starfighter parts together, and then build it. Look for photos later on!

January 19, 2014 @22:00: Wow. I finished verifying my order with Pam at around 6:00 PM, and then it took me another 3.5 hours to get the rest of the parts needed for the Naboo Starfighter together. But I am now really to build.

January 19, 2014 @23:00: Total build time: 39 minutes, 27 seconds. I had a moment of panic in the middle when I realized that I’d forgotten to actually pick out the yellow Technic wheels. Luckily, the wheels bag was right on top of the pile, so I was able to grab them in under a minute. And one of those danged whip antennae got bent. Sigh. No photos tonight. I have to clean up a table to get nice shots of the model. That will happen tomorrow.

January 20, 2014 @0:05: While winding down tonight, I counted my change and came up with another $6.77, and I’m taking a gamble that I won’t need to buy many more necessities for the rest of this week, and tossed another $20 into the Lego fund. I did this so that I could place another order to get closer to being able to build Obi-Wan’s Jedi Starfighter. One part, the dark red 6×14 plate, was ten bucks at one BrickLink shop, and nearly twice that at other shops, so I decided I needed to pounce on it. Fortunately (or unfortunately), that one shop only had three other parts on the master parts list. That kept the total cost low, but it also makes the shipping higher, proportionally. (And I’ve just found a bug in the software that generates the master list for display here, and can’t fix it tonight.)

January 20, 2014 @17:30: Here are the photos of the Naboo Starfighter I built:

Naboo Starfighter


Naboo Starfighter

Basically, almost all the non-black parts got replaced with black. As-built, it was 177 pieces. I had to count them as I took it apart, because I made a couple design decisions midway through assembly.

January 22, 2014 @22:30: Disaster! I discovered the reason I’d forgotten to pick the yellow Technic wheels for the Naboo Starfighter (see Jan 19, @23:00 update) was that somewhere during the development of my software and inventory files, the last part in each of the 20 BrickLink parts lists got left out. Usually, they were yellow parts, and usually, they were critical. And while trying to fix that, I noticed a couple other discrepancies, so I wrote some code to verify my existing working parts lists against the originals. There were more differences found than I remember changing on purpose. I verified a lot of the corrections by hand. The upshot is that almost all of the organizing I’ve done has to be taken apart and re-organized, and parts need to be re-inventoried. I need to re-count everything I counted in the first 11 days of this project. But my software is working, now, and the master parts list has been updated.

January 23, 2014 @14:00: Luck! I made an order for $14.85 for a few lots of tiles at great prices, and PayPal offered me a one-day promotional $15 credit for signing up with Bill-Me-Later, so I did and the purchase was effectively free for me! Good thing I kept ignoring the $10 sign-up offers.

January 24, 2014 @18:00: I’ve been agnoizing over how long it’s going to take me to save up enough money to make effective purchases and also buy the parts to build Obi-Wan’s Jedi Starfighter quickly, when it dawned on me that I haven’t been paying anywhere close to enough attention to the possibilities of substituting different-colored pieces for the ones specified in the official inventory lists. Yes, I’ve done some of that already, but it was mostly for super-expensive single-use bricks.

But then I was looking at making some orders, and saw I needed a few dozen tan “headlight” bricks, just for this next model. So I looked at the instruction manual for it, and all of those bricks will be hidden from sight when the model is done. I already own 92 black headlight bricks. The choice was easy.

Similarly, all of the large Technic bricks-with-holes are used structurally in the big models (like the Star Destroyer or the Millennium Falcon). They’ll never be seen, so what does it matter if they’re Dark Bluish Gray or even all the same color? It doesn’t. So that’s pretty much what I’m going to be doing this weekend: finding as many hidden parts as I can, and make extensive notes about the substitutions, and thus try to remove large chunks from my Wanted List.

Oh, also: I’ve just decided that Yoda will be trying out the Dark Side fashions this season, and will be sporting a black cloak (amusingly built from pieces of Darth Maul’s head). I just can’t tolerate the idea of spending all that cash for tan bricks (funnily enough, Darth Maul included some tan bricks, just not near enough).

January 24, 2014 @18:40: Just making the change for Yoda (and fixing yet another bug in my software) dropped my parts requirment by 608 pieces and 32 lots. Onward!

January 25, 2014 @13:45: All the tan, dark tan, blue, white and red parts in the Super Star Destroyer can be swapped for other colors as needed. After doing so, my needed parts dropped another six sets and 141 parts. I know I’m nowhere close to building this particular set, but I happened to notice the dark tan parts and just decided to do the whole thing at once. Now, to do the rest of the sets…

January 31, 2014 @1:00: Whew! I just finished paring down the parts lists. Along with discovering that I’ve ordered $4.30 in parts that I won’t use for this project, I’ve dropped the wanted parts list by another 2,062 pieces (in 166 lots) since I last posted it.

And I promise to quit calling it the “master parts list.” What I’ve been posting here is the wanted list. The master list has all the parts I already own on it, along with all the parts I need. The master list doesn’t change much, although after all the substituting I’ve done, it has dropped from 24,122 parts to 20,570.

Oh, and the most-recent orders I made (and received) were from Alex’s College Fund, Brick Chick and George’s Brick Shop.

So now I can start ordering again. Thanks to the subbing I did and the recent orders, I only need four different types of parts to get everything together to build Obi-Wan’s Jedi Starfighter. Off to BrickLink! Although considering I only have $8.23 in my LEGO fund, it may be a short trip.

February 2, 2014 @2:00: Spent much of yesterday re-sorting the parts into boxes and bags for the individual models. It’s been going faster than I thought it would, and I’ve been segregating the parts that I now think I don’t need (thanks to substitutions) just in case I’m wrong. I did find one part that I thought I had which I really didn’t: a wedge without stud notches that needed to be a wedge with stud notches, so that’s one more part I need to buy (had it been the other way ’round, it would have been no problem, except maybe aesthetically). After I wake up later today, I will re-sort the tiles, then the parts starting with A or B (like the bricks), and if there’s enough time, the plates and I’ll be done until I can afford to buy more parts. During that down-time, I will be doing inventory on all the rest of my LEGO.

February 3, 2014 @1:00: Placed a small order.

February 6, 2014 @23:50: Managed to save another $46 this week! Maybe I’ll place a larger order…

February 8, 2014 @13:15: Got my small order from 2 Many Bricks. And last night, I found another $12 or so, and so placed two moderate orders which will, combined, cover the last of the bricks I needed to build Obi Wan’s Jedi Starfighter. While I wait, it’s back to inventory.

February 14, 2014 @20:45: Got my order from Minifigs Galore two days ago, and my order from Dallas Bricks today, so I’ll be able to build Obi Wan’s Jedi Starfighter tomorrow if I don’t spend too much time shovelling snow.

February 14, 2014 @23:55: Okay, I couldn’t wait, and started. Next time, I’m going to separate the bricks by color before I start. I got to step 42 after nearly two hours. The model is a lot larger than it seemed on paper. More tomorrow.

February 15, 2014 @16:50: Disaster! I got to step 25 of the left wing and discovered that my little black-and-dark-red droid dome is notCylinder Hemisphere 4 x 4 with R4-P17 Astromech Droid Pattern,” which twice as big in each dimension. But I didn’t look closely enough while picking parts. So after a total of 3:57 of build time, I’m left one piece short of completion, no parts that could possibly substitute for it, and I don’t have nearly enough cash on hand to place an order today. So no photos today, or anytime soon.

February 15, 2014 @20:30: Okay, I do have some pieces that fit where the astromech should be, but I’d have to rename the model “Obi-Wan’s Disco Starfighter”:

Obi-Wan's Disco Starfighter

So no, I am not considering this model finished. The correct part isn’t very expensive, but my LEGO fund has less than a dollar in it right now.

February 17, 2014 @10:30: I added some more cash to the fund, and placed an order including the astromech dome.

February 17, 2014 @22:00: After looking at some of the orange slope and windscreen prices, I have decided that the Rebel Snowspeeder will be plain white. I am genuinely surprised that orange slopes don’t appear in more sets.

February 18, 2014 @17:30: So annoyed right now. Those $20-plus octagonal windscreens on the Blockade Runner that have had me worried? The version of that part without the axle holes is a twentieth the cost. The axle holes that the Blockade Runner doesn’t even make use of. Why didn’t LEGO use the older part that’s so much more common?

Oh, and I re-watched the Battle of Hoth earlier. I’m going to make the stripes on the Snowspeeder red, because that looks closer to the original than LEGO orange to me (although it looks like Luke’s Snowspeeder is a uniform gray), and making it all white like I had decided is too cheesy an end-run around the cost problem.

February 21, 2014 @18:00: So I received my order from Gary’s Toys (amazingly fast!) and was thus able to finish Obi-Wan’s Jedi Starfighter:

Obi-Wan's Jedi Starfighter


Obi-Wan's Jedi Starfighter

The only visible difference is the bubble canopy. It comes from the B-Wing Starfighter model (which will be built later in this challenge).

As-built, Obi-Wan’s Jedi Starfighter was 672 pieces, and it took me three hours, 57 minutes and five seconds to build. So to date, I’ve put together 849 parts in 4:36:32, or about one piece every 20 seconds.

On another note, last night I realized I could easily sacrifice my old ARC-170 Starfighter model, some half-built ideas of my own, and a few of the LEGO games that we don’t play any longer to this challenge. Having looked at them, I know already that those parts are going to take care of some of my needs. I know what I’ll be doing this weekend…

February 23, 2014 @22:30: Yup, I finished ten lots of needed parts by taking the games and models apart. Now would be a good time to update the master needed list, which stands at 403 lots comprising 5,527 indiviual pieces.

February 24, 2014 @19:00: Whoops. I finished eleven lots this weekend. And now I’m taking the Starfighter apart to redistribute the parts.

February 27, 2014 @00:20: I went ahead and grabbed my weekly budget money a few hours early this week (it’s going to be a light week, anyway), and placed another order which will allow me to build the TIE Interceptor. I only needed two more parts for that model, but the whole order covered another 14 lots, so I’m now down to only 388 lots still needing to be fulfilled.

February 27, 2014 @23:20: And earlier today, I remembered another source for money I can put towards this project. Hyundai’s MPG Reimbursement program will take a couple/few weeks to pay out, but for my last 12,000 miles I’ll get at least an extra week’s cash.

February 28, 2014 @20:00: Received an order from 2nd Life Bricks.

March 1, 2014 @21:30: Received an order from All items at Great Prices, which included the two blue dishes I needed to have all the parts for the TIE Interceptor. Building will start tomorrow. I’m thinking that because most of the parts are gray, I’ll pre-sort by piece type instead of color, this time.

March 2, 2014 @18:20: Built, photographed, disassembled and re-distributed the pieces of the TIE Interceptor all in one day. Building it took just 44 seconds shy of three hours, but I went through three versions because (again) I don’t own the $40-plus windscreen. So for the first attempt, I used just the solid tan version of the same part:

TIE Interceptor with tan windscreen

That looked horrible (nevermind that the light gray and light bluish gray pieces really conflict when close together, and the back half cockpit if light bluish gray — I should have swapped all the dark ones for light), so I thought that maybe it would look better with a web dish stuck on the front:

TIE Interceptor with tan windscreen and web

No, really no better, even though the movie stills don’t show very much detail. So I scrounged through my parts, and built my own version:

TIE Interceptor with hand-built forward cockpit

It ain’t perfect, but I like it. I’m saving it for set G, Vader’s TIE Advanced. And it added 34 pieces to the total part count, as built. Adding even more pieces, I also outlined the solar panels with blue tiles, instead of the blue plates and rigid hoses of the original model:

TIE Interceptor from starboard

I see why they built it with hoses (but standing on the clips like they did gave them an obvious and ugly altitude off the panels that I really didn’t like), because the corners of the tiles go slightly off the edges of the underlying black wing plates. But the “pixelated” look really appeals to me.

TIE Interceptor from port

As-built, the final version of the TIE Interceptor was 757 pieces, and it took me two hours, 59 minutes and 16 seconds to build. So to date, I’ve put together 1,606 parts in 7:35:48, or about one piece every 17 seconds.

Now, I’ll wait for my Hyundai refund and continue to inventory parts.

April 6, 2014 @23:30: Wow, I completely forgot to upload my update, and I’ve neglected so much more!

On March 9th, my family and I saw The LEGO Movie (everything was awesome). The theater was in the same mall as my favorite LEGO Store. I didn’t have my needed list with me, but I did manage to snag up one part from memory for about six cents, when pro-rated against all the other parts I jammed into the Pick-a-Brick cup.

So I went back the next day with my needed list, and discovered they only had one other part I required, which I picked up that time for about two cents, again pro-rated against the hundreds of other pieces I stuffed into my large Pick-a-Brick cup (parts mostly that I thought my wife would like for her LEGO projects, including lots and lots of pink tiles). I need to find out when and how often the Pick-a-Brick wall experiences major changes, and whether the wall at my other local LEGO Store has different stock.

I also received and spent the $90 of my Hyundai refund, and decided that the $200 in my personal rainy-day fund couldn’t be better spent than on this challenge.

But I’m still running inventory, and in the last week or so I came across two parts I need (and two parts I discovered I didn’t need to buy but already have). And I decided I needed to re-design my LEGO software, which has not yet been re-implemented back up to where it was a month ago, so I cannot yet re-run my master needed list. So until I finish my inventory and my software, I’ll be saving up money for this project.

April 13, 2014 @17:45: Inventory continues. I have a few Bionicle minifig weapons left to count, then motors and other electrical parts, and then whatever regular bricks, slopes and wedges I haven’t yet counted. Then I get to inventory the sets that my wife and I are keeping built, and my counting will be done.

Meanwhile, my LEGO fund is growing slowly.

April 20, 2014 @11:45: Found this little guy in my Easter basket this morning:

Millennium Falcon Microfighter

A tiny foreshadowing of things to come. It’s the Millennium Flacon Microfighter (set 75030). The Han Solo minifig has a grumpy face side, and it really makes him look like he’s being forced to ride a tiny Falcon like an adult riding a mechanical airplane outside a grocery store.

May 4, 2014 @18:15: Curse you, LEGO! I get everything planned out, and you go and release a new UCS set. The new Sandcrawler is a big one, too, and will be inserted into the build list between the Super Star Destroyer and the Death Star II. So many reddish brown pieces that weren’t in the smaller Sandcrawler I already own…

May 23, 2014 @21:55: Big Pick-a-Brick score tonight! Grabbed the 52 white 1x2x5 bricks I needed, and by filling the cup with a boatload of small things for other projects, the average price was about 1.2 cents each!

May 27, 2014 @00:30: I’d intended to spend most of this long weekend working on my software, but instead got wrapped up in my wife’s LEGO project: expanding her Hello Kitty town. I built a couple of modular display/storage tables, and Liz will be covering them in LEGO plates once she decides on what colors she wants. Pictures will follow. Anyway, I did get a bunch of work done on my software, just not as much as I had intended. It’s coming along very well.

June 2, 2014 @23:00: So my wife made me stop by our local LEGO store tonight and buy the new Sandcrawler so she could give it to me for my own birthday eleven days from now. I told her it would be cheating on my challenge, but she said it wouldn’t be cheating because it’s a gift from her, not me buying it for myself. Thoughts?

And I’ve been busy the last two days placing over a dozen orders. I’m trying to focus on the next set and also buy the plates my wife wants for covering the new tables (pics coming, honest), but I got a little sidetracked with just “BUY BUY BUY” with the first three orders. It’s been tough without having my software done, because I have to keep track of all the parts totals by hand, but I don’t think I’m over-buying. I’m keeping close track of the parts for Set D, so I know I’m not under-buying. When I get the software done, I’ll know for sure if I messed up at all…

June 4, 2014 @18:45: Whew. I have 22 orders in process right now. Only one of them is solely for the LEGO tables the wife and I are building.

Speaking of the tables, here are the photos I promised:

LEGO Tables, Step 1

The first couple of tables. Each one is built so that the table top is four baseplates by two. The shelf in the middle provides plenty of storage.

LEGO Tables, Step 2

Another pair of tables built, and all of them painted a neutral gray so that where there will be cracks between the LEGO that will be covering them, they won’t be so obvious.

LEGO Tables, Step 3

And here the tables have been clamped together to keep them stable, and we’re in the process of taping down many blue and green baseplates. Along the edges and down the legs, we’ll be gluing lots and lots of smaller plates (with a non-permanent silicon adhesive, natch). The middle shelves will eventually be lined with contact paper. We’re also going to build another three or four tables so that these tables go all the way around the game room in a big U.

June 8, 2014 @22:50: So I’ve received 15 of the 22 orders I recently placed, and parted them out to the various sets in this challenge. When I get the other seven orders, I’ll be sure to have enough to build set D, the Imperial AT-ST. I also built another two of my LEGO tables, put on the baseplates and started building a beach:

LEGO Tables, Step 4

I have also decided to go ahead and build the new Sandcrawler on my birthday, instead of waiting until almost the end of the challenge. Or at least starting on my birthday, since it’s a large set. We’ll see how it goes.

June 15, 2014 @20:30: After seven hours, 28 minutes and eight seconds of putting together 3,200+ parts, plus a litte more time and a few more pieces, I present Jawas and Friends go to the Beach:

Jawas and Friends go to the Beach

Unfortunately, they did a little damage on the way in. C3-P0 is trying to clean up a little.

Jawas and Friends go to the Beach II

Maybe that green R2 unit got a bad motivator due to an infiltration of seawater.

Jawas and Friends go to the Beach III

Nice sand castle, R2-D2.

By the way, our LEGO tables are coming along well:

LEGO Tables, Step 5

All the carpentry is done. My wife is sticking plates all over the faces of the tables (with a non-permanent silicone adhesive).

June 17, 2014 @20:00: Okay, BrickLink stores I’ve ordered from recently, alphabetically:


Some are faster/cheaper/bigger than others, but it’s impossible to predict ahead of time. Most of these people are very professional, and none of them are intolerably slow or expensive. I’m happy with every store I’ve done business with so far.

June 21, 2014 @01:00: Deals too good to pass up arrived in my inbox over the past couple of days, and I have gone into the red by about $65. Technically: challenge failed. But the problem was that a week ago, I took the average used-part prices of everything still on my needed list, and came up with a cost-to-finish amount that was significantly larger than everything I’d managed to scrape together so far this year. I found three invisible pieces in Yoda, but that only saved me a few pennies. However, set H, X-wing Fighter (7191) had a ton of light gray pieces which, if you look at the movies, really should be white. White parts are a ton cheaper than light gray. So that will save a bunch. But not enough, so I need to buy parts well below the average prices, which is why my project is now $65 in debt. When I can get a huge 10x10 dish for $5 instead of $11, I need to jump on it. When I can get Yoda’ rare sand green parts for 60% of the average, I can’t delay the purchase.

But $65 could be up to four or five weeks worth of savings, so I’m going to try to stop buying anything until this debt is paid off, at least.

And later today (after sleep and some errands), I’ll build set D, the Imperial AT-ST. I’m stunned that the year is almost half over but I haven’t even built the first five sets yet…

June 22, 2014 @20:30: After five hours, 16 minutes and 48 seconds of build time, Set D, the Imperial AT-ST, is finished, making the challenge 20% complete:

Imperial AT-ST

Front side.


Imperial AT-ST

Backside.


Imperial AT-ST with Sandcrawler

Obviously, the UCS sets aren’t all to scale with each other.

August 9, 2014 @00:30: Well, starting to read the BrickLink forums has been my downfall, budget-wise. So many people offering so many sales. Impossible to resist when trying to minimize costs. I’ve done a ton of buying since my last update. Mostly on credit.

I’ve had the parts for Yoda for quite a few weeks (after deciding at the last minute to swap all his brown parts for reddish brown, due to the scarcity of one brown piece, not to mention the discovery of an earth orange part that should have been dark orange), but have been finishing up the LEGO tables (another reason to buy and split shipping costs across projects) and building an awesome set of (non-LEGO) shelves for my son’s room. Here’s the list of sellers I’ve dealt with to complete Yoda (and later sets):


Oh, we went to BrickFair VA last weekend. We saw lots of neat stuff which sparked lots of ideas, but I only managed to walk out with three parts (of one type) needed for this challenge.

August 9, 2014 @21:30: Disaster! I was building Yoda, trying to recall which of the sand green parts I had decided to color swap because they are invisible (and goofed up a couple) when I got to his ears and discovered I had ordered ten fewer quite-visible parts than I actually needed (that’s what I get for not fixing my software and trying to manage my wanted list by hand). Prices have come down on the ones I wanted to color-swap, too, so I just ordered thirteen more sand green LEGO, along with a boatload of other stuff. The only pieces I think I still need for the whole challenge are the two most-expensive parts. Well, three most-expensive, but I have little hope that the X-Wing windscreen will ever show up for an amount that I’d be willing to pay, so I’ll have to come up with a work-around. Oh, also, the stripes on the Snowspeeder are going to be black, now, because even changing them from orange to red did not make enough pieces available on the secondary markets.

Anyway, I have six total parts left to buy. Three (3) Slope 75 2 x 2 x 3 Double Convex (part 3685) in White for the Imperial Shuttle, and three (3) Magnet Holder Plate 2 x 2 Bottom (part 30159) in any color (they’re all invisible) for the Star Destroyer. I’ve got some time before I’ll build those sets, so I suppose I’ll try to find good deals on those parts.

After the rest of my current orders come in, I’ll post all of the rest of the places I’ve bought from.

August 15, 2014 @20:50: Got the parts I was missing from Set E, Yoda, and so I finished him:

Yoda

Wow, he’s ugly.

So that’s another 1,075 parts put together, in three hours, 52 minutes and 29 seconds. I forgot to update my totals after Set D, but now, to date (including Set E), I’ve put together 3,729 parts in 16 hours, 45 minutes and five seconds, or about one piece every 16 seconds.

Oh, I believe I have enough parts to build everything through Set S, R2-D2, now. So expect updates perhaps once every week or two.

August 24, 2014 @15:20: So I had to buy a used Lamborghini:

Lamborghini

To get this one single part that nobody was selling by itself:

Lamborghini Fender

In order to build Set F, General Grievous:

General Grievous

This was the most frustrating non-MOC build I’ve ever done. Getting the hoses through the neck ring was a trial, with other, already-built parts popping off and flying all over. Incredibly annoying, and added tons of time.

As built (without the shoulders for the two-armed version), Grievous was 1,241 parts, and took four hours, 20 minutes and 36 seconds. So the running totals are now 4,970 parts in 21 hours, five minutes and 41 seconds, or about one piece every 15 seconds.

September 8, 2014 @21:25: Yesterday I finished Vader’s TIE Advanced, but didn’t get to snap a photo until tonight. Here it is:

Vader's TIE Advanced

As built (with the MOCed-up front window), this set was 1,489 parts, and took four hours, 48 minutes and 53 seconds.

So the running totals are now 6,459 parts in 24 hours, 54 minutes and 34 seconds, or about one piece every 14 seconds. It greatly concerns me that I may not actually have enough time in what’s left of this year to finish this challenge. There’s a lot left to build…

September 14, 2014 @21:45: Well, today I learned that when you do color-swapping on a large scale it’s best if you both buy the parts needed and put them in the right bin. I failed to buy some of the parts I needed to whiten the wings of the X-Wing fighter (set 7191, not 10240, the Red Five X-Wing Fighter, which will come later), and some of the white parts I did buy I forgot to put into the bin for this build. Some I spent a lot of time searching for parts I didn’t have, or having to run to pull them from my main inventory. At any rate, this set had two windscreens which were really expensive in their original colors, so I MOCed up replacements:

X-Wing Fighter (7191)

As built, this model had 1,707 parts, and took seven hours, 18 minutes and 30 seconds. So the running totals are now 6,677 parts in 28 hours, 24 minutes and 11 seconds, or about one piece every 15 seconds.

September 14, 2014 @23:00: Oh, and I got the last parts I needed (I hope — see last entry for forgetting to buy parts), so here’s the last of the places I bought from (some names may look familiar):


And there was the nice lady at BrickFair Virginia whose business name I have completely forgotten (sorry).

And I had my first bad transaction on BrickLink. Seller meg38 (selling from Meags store — real name Meagan White of Oklahoma City, OK, and current PayPal name “Wicked repo”) had a bunch of stuff I needed for slightly under six-month-average prices. But, she was a brand-new seller. I figured that everyone starts out with zero feedback, but most sellers are fair and honest, so I took a chance. It didn’t pay off. The Monday five days after I paid, she told me that she still needed to find the parts I ordered, and she would probably be shipping my order the next weekend. The following Monday I inquired again, and she told me she was still sorting and finding my parts, and she’d be shipping the next Satuday or Monday. She told me she hadn’t sorted the parts before listing them for sale because it “would take a ton of time” and would waste much of that time because “there is very low chance of ALL parts being sold.” I gave her another week, then gave her another 24 hours to ship, but never heard from her again. Shortly after I filed my Non-Shipping-Seller complaint with BrickLink, the site closed her store for getting three such complaints. Meg38 now has, as of this writing, 13 feedback, all negative. And apparently I was one of the lucky ones, because she actually communicated with me a couple times. Most of her buyers never got responses at all.

September 26, 2014 @23:40: I was planning on building the Snowspeeder this weekend, but my dishwasher sprung a leak and the water found its way down to the basement room in which I was going to build the set. So now that the ServPro crew has come and cleaned up and exposed everything that needs to be dried, that room has a huge section of ceiling missing and because they had to pull up half the carpet, all our stuff is piled up on the other half of the room.

Big hole in my ceiling

I don’t have a good alternate space in which to build, so in the meantime, I’ll be working on my LEGO software with an eye towards finalizing my personal inventory, parting up the Winter village sets my wife wants and getting ready for LEGO Challenge 2015.

October 26, 2014 @3:00: Wow, it’s been a month. My basement spent a lot of time being out of order from that dishwasher leak. But I finally got everything sorted out and rebuilt, and then today I built the Snowspeeder:

Rebel Snowspeeder


Rebel Snowspeeder

Of course, as I’ve discussed, I changed the stripes from orange to red then to black then back to red after a suggestion from qwertyboy on BrickLink, and then another suggestion from silverado4x saved me another $100 on the windscreens. Here’s a close-up of the result:

Rebel Snowspeeder Cockpit Close-up

As built, this model had 1,963 parts, and took six hours, 33 minutes and 15 seconds. So the running totals are now 8,640 parts built in 34 hours, 57 minutes and 26 seconds, or about one piece every 15 seconds, but it almost rounds down to 14 seconds. Maybe next model…

November 5, 2014 @17:30: I would have built the B-Wing Fight in record time, but I discovered that BrickLink’s inventory isn’t accurate. At least, I couldn’t find anyone who knows how to build the B-Wing with a Viking Wagon wheel instead of the “alternate” part, the wheel with small cleats. So I had to order one of the latter, and it took a week to get here. So here’s the model:

B-Wing Fighter


B-Wing Fighter

As built, this model had 2,054 parts, and took six hours, 38 minutes and 40 seconds, raising the running totals to 10,694 parts built in 41 hours, 36 minutes and six seconds, or about one piece every 14 seconds.

This model also marks the halfway point of the challenge. I’ve built ten, and have ten more to go (with hardly any time left… thankyouverymuch, real life).

November 9, 2014 @01:30: The Y-Wing Fighter is a fast build. 1,464 parts in just four hours, 18 minutes and 49 seconds. Lots of symmetry makes it easy to pull lots of pieces at once. So I had plenty of time to dig through my memento boxes and find the display plate (thought not the pieces to actually mount it):

Y-Wing Fighter


Y-Wing Fighter

Unfortunately, I’ve just discovered that my part counts in my working files for the sets are wrong, so I won’t be updating my running total just now. Tomorrow, after sleep…

November 9, 2014 @11:00: Yup, my parts counts were off. My running total was over 400 parts too high because I was using the wrong set totals from my old software and obviously had some bad math along the way, too. For example, the B-Wing Fighter doesn’t have 2,054 parts, it was 1,472 as built. After fixing my totals and my math, the running total is now 11,694 parts in 50 hours, 43 minutes and 38 seconds, or one part built every 15.6 seconds.

Eleven sets down, nine to go. Onwards, to the Red Five X-wing Starfighter!

November 14, 2014 @23:30: Another X-Wing built. I’ve gotta say, this is the ugliest X-Wing I’ve built. Even the smaller, “blockier” models look better to me. Go figure.

Red Five X-Wing Starfighter


Red Five X-Wing Starfighter

As built, this model had 1,484 parts and took five hours, 59 minutes and nine seconds (it would have been shorter had I pulled the right number of parts from inventory months ago). The running totals are now 13,178 parts put together in 55 hours, 42 minutes and 47 seconds, or one part every 15 seconds.

November 15, 2014 @22:00: On a whim, I timed the non-building portions of work on this challenge. There are basically four steps I go through between each build: disassembly, rebagging, transferring and splitting.

Disassembly is straightforward. I have 16 bins for broad categories of parts (like “Bricks, Modified” or “4x Plates”), and as I take a model apart, I drop the loose parts into each bin, where there are bags with any leftover parts of the same type from the build process. For the X-Wing, this took about an hour and a half.

Rebagging is where I take each of the 16 bins and put the loose parts back into bags by part type and color. So I take (for example), the 1x Plates, and put all the Tan 1x2s into one little bag, and all the LBG 1x2s into another little bag, etc. Basically, this restores everything to the state it was just before the build began. For the X-Wing, this took a little over 2.5 hours (with 42 minutes spent on the Technic parts alone).

Transferring is where I refer to a transfer list for a model which has all the parts that need to be used in the next models in the challenge. I have (as of this point in the process) eight boxes for models Q through Y. So I take all the little bags from the bins for the X-Wing, and refer to the transfer list, and put all the parts from the set P build that are needed for set Q into Box Q, and all the parts needed for set R into Box R, etc. The parts left over I double-check against the Master List, and if they’re not needed, I put them in another set of 16 bins for putting back in my personal inventory. At the end of this step, the build bins are all emtpy. For the X-Wing, this took about an hour.

And splitting is where I take the next box (in this case Q, the Blockade Runner), take all the little bags out of the box and separate them out into the 16 build boxes. This tends to be quick, and for the X-Wing took only about 15 minutes.

All four steps together took four hours, sixteen minutes and 59 seconds for the X-Wing. If this is average (and I don’t know that it is), then the between build work takes about 72% of the actual build time. And it still doesn’t include the time I spend updating this page, or doing things like writing inventory software, ordering parts, parting out the orders to the Build Boxes, or moving my entire operation from the bedroom to the basement. I may just need to double the build time to get the real level-of-effort on this challenge, and that’d probably be low.

November 17, 2014 @23:00: I finished the Blockade Runner last night, but didn’t get a chance to take photos until tonight:

Rebel Blockade Runner


Rebel Blockade Runner

As built, this model had 1,736 parts and took five hours, 21 minutes and 12 seconds, which would have been shorter had I not shorted some part orders and been forced to color-swap mid-build.

I was really looking forward to this one, as it’s my favorite Star Wars ship, but was somewhat disappointed. The bottom row of engines sag down a little, and it looks like LEGO could have done a better job of supporting them. Originally, I was thinking about rebuilding the Blockade Runner when I was done with the whole challenge and keeping it on display. If I decide to do that, I’ll have to look into beefing up the engine mounts a bit.

Oh, the running totals are now 14,914 parts built in 62 hours, three minutes and 59 seconds, or (still) one part every 15 seconds. Darth Maul, I’m coming for you, next…

November 23, 2014 @01:45: The 1,868 pieces of Darth Maul were built in six hours, 18 minutes, 34 seconds:

Darth Maul

Only one photo, because I don’t want the guy uglying up this page too much.

The running totals are now 16,782 parts built in 68 hours, 22 minutes and 23 seconds, or one part every 15 seconds, getting closer to 14.

November 27, 2014 @2:15: R2-D2 is finished. I included Steele’s modification for getting R2’s angle correct, so I wound up not using two of the parts I’d picked originally. R2-D2 is my wife’s favorite so far.

R2-D2

As built, this model had 2,091 parts, and took six hours, 53 minutes and 57 seconds to put together. So the running totals are now 18,873 parts built in 75 hours, 16 minutes and 20 seconds, or one part every 14 seconds and change.

By the way, if you’ve been following along, I thought you might want to see my build set-up halfway through a model, so here it is:

A Typical Build

The boxes for sets T through Y are over there on the couch to the right. All the small plastic bins are for particular types of parts. The laptop is for the build instructions and my files detailing color swaps and the like. It looks a mess, but it functions fine.

November 30, 2014 @3:00: And now I have an Imperial Shuttle. These things are getting big:

Imperial Shuttle


Imperial Shuttle

As built, this model had 2,487 parts, and took seven hours, 42 minutes and four seconds, which makes the running totals now 21,360 parts in 82 hours, 58 minutes and 24 seconds, so each piece built took just a hair under 14 seconds.

So that leaves me with the four big guys still to build. And I have 32 days left to do it.

December 5, 2014 @21:00: I’ve just paid off the last $17 of my LEGO debt for this challenge! That means if I hadn’t used credit, I would just now be placing the last four orders for 37 parts, which would also mean I would now just be finishing the B-Wing fighter that I finished a month ago, and there’d be no chance whatsoever that I’d finish all the models this year. As it is, I think I will be finishing the Star Destroyer tonight, and then I’ll have about 26 more days with which to build the three biggest UCS sets. Credit was needed to give me a chance at building success. But at least I paid off the credit within the challenge period.

December 6, 2014 @00:30: Imperial Star Destroyer finished:

Imperial Star Destroyer


Imperial Star Destroyer

Obviously, with the engines burning green, primer peeking out in various places and the main engine thrust chambers covered in soot, the Empire needs to invest more in support personnel (and less in clones who can’t shoot straight). This is no way to run a fleet!

My stopwatch only goes up to 9:59:59, so I timed this model in chunks. The main body took six hours, 44 minutes and 17 seconds. The rest of the ship took another three hours, 56 minutes and 33 seconds. And the micro Blockade Runner took 13 minutes and 40 seconds more time, for a total of ten hours, 54 minutes and 30 seconds. Since the whole model, as built, had 3,078 parts, the running totals are now 24,438 pieces put together in 93 hours, 52 minutes and 54 seconds, or one part every 13.8 seconds.

December 11, 2014 @21:00: The Super Star Destroyer is done:

Super Star Destroyer


Super Star Destroyer

I love all the engines on back. I brought this one in with nearly an hour to spare on the stopwatch: nine hours, eight minutes and 14 seconds to build 3,110 parts, which makes the running totals now 27,548 parts built in 103 hours, one minute and eight seconds, or one piece every 13.5 seconds. On to the Death Star II.

December 14, 2014 @16:15: Death Star II was a surprisingly quick build. So many similar (and identical) modules, like symmetry, make it easy to pull and put together tons of pieces fast.

Death Star II

I didn’t have enough dark bluish gray 1×2 bricks and was worried about how it would look with other colors, so I put what I had in a box with a bunch more black and light bluish gray, mixed them all up, and every time the instructions called for the brick in the unfinished parts of the Death Star, I pulled randomly from the box, thinking the mix of colors would make it look even more unfinished. But it turned out that it’s hard to see the bricks past all the zillions light bluish gray plates, so I wasted my worries.

As built, the Death Star II comprised 3,426 pieces, and took seven hours, 49 minutes and 36 seconds to put together. The running totals are now 30,974 parts built in 110 hours, 50 minutes and 44 seconds, or one part every 12.9 seconds.

And now begins the biggest one of all, the Millennium Falcon…

December 15, 2014 @23:00: So I have all the Falcon’s parts sorted (I needed to split the Technic pieces into two bins, one for bricks and one for everything else), and have the instructions waiting to go on the laptop, but rather than start tonight and get less than an hour in, I thought I’d take a very short break and play a little Minecraft and then get a big jump on the model tomorrow, but the Minecraft server is down. I guess I’ll just do some hard-drive maintenance, instead.

December 25, 2014 @18:30: Challenge paused for a few hours, because for Xmas, I got the King’s Castle and the Mine:

King's Castle and Mine

I”d never been shorted a piece before, but I need to go bug LEGO to give me the 2×2 Brick they shorted me in the Mine set.

And then, back to building the Falcon.

December 29, 2014 @01:40: ALL FINISHED! And it’s not as big as I thought it would be (I think the Star Destroyer is bigger by volume):

Millennium Falcon


Millennium Falcon


Millennium Falcon

I had a lot of interruptions due to family and holidays (which made it tough to get into a groove), and there isn’t a lot of symmetry one can count on in this model (there are a bunch of modules that are close, but not quite matching), so building this model seemed to take forever, but really took 17 hours and 20 seconds. As built, it had 5,139 parts.

So that’s that. Fascimilies of 18 of the Star Wars UCS models, and exact builds of two of them. 36,113 pieces put together in a total of 127 hours, 51 minutes and four seconds, or one part every 12.7 seconds.

If we include the new UCS Sandcrawler (which wasn’t on my radar when this challenge began), I put together 39,307 pieces in a total of 135 hours, 19 minutes and 12 seconds, or one part every 12.4 seconds.

Now I have to re-inventory all the parts I used for the challenge (I was surprised by some of the missing/extra pieces I had), and prepare for Lego Challenge 2015.

By the way, while taking pics of the Falcon, my cat decided to act really cute, so here she is:

The Cat

Happy New Year, everyone!