Reconstruction Blues

LEGO SDF-1 in progress. Rebuild of 3 sections, still need to finish rebuilding the white tip of the Main Gun.

I have spent the past couple of days reconstructing much of the SDF-1 I thought I had completed. This is the prime reason to only build one side at a time! When I decided to build the white center section 10x across I wasn’t careful enough with considering the width of the other sections I was working on at the time. As it turned out the scale was way off, the other (blue) sections were way too thin making the center section look fat and way out of proportion. Since I wish for this to be largest most massive LEGO SDF-1 I have ever built I decided that instead of decreasing the size of the white middle section I should instead increase the width and length of the sections I had completed so far.

The reconstruction has forced me to rebuild 4 parts (I have rebuilt 3 so far – I still need to rebuild the white section of the Main Guns):

The 4 sections I had to rebuild, it was no fun.

Since the building techniques were essentially the same the rebuild wasn’t too complex, just time consuming. The only major discovery is in cruiser mode my male/female assembly I designed to connect the Main Gun (Section 2 to Section 3) doesn’t work as well as I predicted. The Main Guns are really relatively ‘heavy’ and the axle and pin still doesn’t provide enough support, an external plate is still needed for extra support. Also, with the rebuild the Main Gun section is longer and wider too. I’ll have to revisit how to better connect the Main Gun to the ship later on, but at least now with the Main Guns being wider I have more real estate to work with at the point of connection.

I’m also using the male/female assembly for the arm joints (the white section protruding out), but for now what I have built for them is more so just a place holder. What you see now in regards to the white center section is another place holder (mostly). I only started building it to help me with the building of the legs, I need the section to help build to the correct proportions. I know I’ll have to tear it apart and rebuild it at least 2 or 3 times. I’ll need to find numerous connection points, decide what to with the inside, figure out how to build and connect the bridge section, etc. – all of which will require extensive trial and error. However, with this at least I’ll have the basic length, width and height confirmed and proportional.

I still need tons of new pieces, so I’ll be back on Bricklink soon. Tomorrow I want to get started on the SDF-1 Legs…I already know it will be a difficult beast. This project so far is far, far more challenging then I originally thought it would be. Hopefully I won’t have another reconstruction mistake like this one, it’s more fun building new sections then rebuilding old ones.

Minmay worried about building the SDF-1 Legs...

Work in Progress: Section 5

Section 5 Work in Progress. Still missing a lot of pieces so Sections 3 and 4 are also incomplete.

Above is snapshot of my progress to date. I could have been further along if I didn’t underestimate the quantity of blue bricks and plates I would need. At this point I have run out of or running short of numerous types of pieces, so much so that I believe I am on my eighth Bricklink order.

The new section, Section 5, I am building is just like Sections 1 through 4, much more complicated than I expected. Some of the challenges I have with building this section are:

1)      building the overlap from section 4

2)      how to firmly attach section 4 to section 5 in cruiser mode

3)      how to firmly attach section 4 section 5 after transformation

4)      making a space for the arm joints (which I haven’t figured out yet how I’ll build)

5)      what slopes to use for the top

6)      insuring the length and width are proportional

7)      figuring out what method to use to attach the legs (for transformation)

In short, there is a lot going on in this section, and much of it is features I have never included before in previous (smaller) LEGO SDF-1 models. For example: The connection method I plan to use to connect sections 4 and 5 together (tile pins) should work both for cruiser mode and after transformation, but for now it is just a blueprint in my head until I can test it when my pieces arrive. Until then I won’t know if what I have planned will provide enough support in both modes.  Also, I have never included the overlap between Sections 4 and 5. I am also going to attempt to build a version of the male/female joint discussed in the previous post for the white arm joint, again something I never attempted before.

Section 5 in Crusier Mode

During transformation the legs disconnect and slide out from this section. I have built that functionality before and I am thinking about using the same technique (pins, tiles, etc.), but I have to see if it will work on a larger scale. Most importantly I have to build it so that it can support the weight of the top of ship after transformation with my goal of improved sturdiness.

The legs slide down revealing this midsection connection point.

Also, no matter how perfect I build Section 5 I WILL have to take some of it apart (perhaps multiple times) once I complete the building of the main center section. I will need to locate where exactly to place the pin or axle that will connect the center section to Section 5. I remember on previous models there was a great deal of trial and error to pinpoint the correct position…I know that part won’t be any fun.

I don’t want to miss mentioning a small detail, this section has yellow border going around it at the bottom and I ordered pieces so that I include that feature. I’m not sure yet what I’ll do to replicate the interior (the bottom), but I think that will be relatively easy. Last, the only other feature is the gun turrets; there are 3 just on this section alone and unfortunately I have no idea what those will look like at this time.

Zentradi/Meltrandi Connection Joint

Yesterday I received one of the Bricklink orders I placed on Friday and that allowed me to put some finishing touches on the Main Gun section, see below:

I am happy I was able to figure out a method to reverse the plates on the bottom. I want the bottom of the SDF-1 to be just as detailed as the top, especially since the bottom is visible when the ship transforms.

The previous post about rotation points is important because the connection between Section 2 and 3 is very complicated. Sections 1 and 2 together so far weigh in at 13 oz., which as I explained in the last post is too heavy for one pin to securely connect to Section 3. To connect Sections 2 & 3 I have built a new assembly that tries something I have never tried before: a Zentradi/Meltrandi (male/female) connection using a pin and axle, below is a mockup of the potential connection built from old spare pieces:

I used two pins in the mockup because that is all I had in my spare pieces; I’ll use an axle instead for one of the pins when my next Bricklink order arrives.

Understand that this connection is critically important: not only does it have to securely connect and support the Main Gun to the ship in cruiser mode but it must also support the Main Guns vertically after transformation – and after transformation Section 2 and 3 are still connected but in a different position (the rotation).

Let’s call the cruiser mode connection a 0 degree connection. For transformation, that connection changes to a 90 degree connection. Both the axle and pin connections don’t match up when you rotate it from 0 to 90 degrees – or if they can I wasn’t able to figure out how. If it was simply 180 degree rotation, like it is between Sections 1 & 2, I wouldn’t have this issue because it would just be a mirror and the pins and axles would still exactly matchup after rotation. So to resolve this predicament the Zentradi/Meltrandi assembly connection I have designed with the a pin and axle only the axle connector will connect Sections 2 and 3 after transformation.

Highlighted in yellow is the Main Gun's 90 degree pivot between Sections 2 and 3.

In the past, building this section has always been extremely tricky; there is not a lot of real estate to build the connection between (in this model only 3x). On prior models I used only pins to connect the sections and cheated with external reinforcements. This worked well enough in cruiser mode but after transformation the Main Guns were always a very unstable. I’m hoping that the extra support this new Zentradi/Meltrandi assembly provides will drastically increase the stability and sturdiness of the Main Gun’s connection in both modes. I hope this design works, I won’t know for sure until after I build the entire SDF-1 and attempt to transform it.

Connecting the Rotating Sections

The connections between Sections 1 & 2 and Sections 2 & 3 all rotate, you can see it the very first episode of Macross (Boobytrap) when the Main Guns prepare to fire. This is very complex to do with LEGO because of the weight of these sections – especially between Sections 2 and 3. I could simply use a pin assembly to create the rotation:

But this method is far too weak. With the weight of the Sections (so far Sections 1 & 2 together weigh 13 oz) one pin assembly would not provide enough support. This construction method would produce a weak and fragile SDF-1; I know this from previous smaller versions of the SDF-1 I have built from LEGO. In those versions to remedy the weak connection internally I used external plates to reinforce the connection between rotating sections. This method took away from the external hull detail of the SDF-1, and for this version that is not a sacrifice I wish to make.

However, if I do not use pins how will the Main Guns rotate during transformation? Unfortunately they won’t. I have to sacrifice the rotation for the sake of sturdiness. My plan is to use multiple pin assemblies and/or technic axle assemblies to form tight and sturdy connections between these Main Gun sections. I anticipate the multiple internal connections will be able to handle the weight.

Maybe during the building process I may come across a new technique or a new set or pieces that will allow me to have the strength and rotation, but if not I am comfortable with my decision of strength over rotation.

Building Techniques

For all my past LEGO SDF-1 models I have used the same building technique. I always start from the main guns and work my way back to the legs and then out to the arms and carriers, see below:

Sections 1 and 2 should be the easiest sections by far.  They are pretty straight forward except for a few color scheme issues. For each of these sections I plan to use different techniques and pieces to achieve a more detailed and accurate model, nonetheless Sections 1 & 2 should be still relatively easy.  Section 3 will be a bit difficult because this section overlaps section 5 and I need to figure out a way to have to be able to transform. I have never built this section before with the overlap so this will be a new challenge.

Section 4 will be somewhat difficult because this is the center of the ship and integral to the transformation, I will need to find the optimal point for rotation. Plus at this stage I haven’t decided yet if this will be the place for Macross City (I know in DYRL the city is located in the leg but I haven’t found any images of where the city resides within the SDF-1 in the original Macross series). Plus the bridge section is another part that will be extremely challenging to build because of the slopes, the moving parts required for transformation as well as the scale of the bridge and radar.

Section 5 has traditionally been the most difficult part to build, one of the most challenging features is that during transformation the legs slide down (and out) to give the SDF-1 additional height. For LEGO this could be an issue, especially impacting the sturdiness of the model. The model will need to stand and be able to support the weight of the top and middle sections as well as the main guns…I don’t think I have it quite figured out how I will achieve that. Also in the past I have had issues with the long slope of the legs as well as getting the length and height of the legs correct as far proportion to the rest of the ship.

As if Section 5 wasn’t hard enough, Section 6 is the section I am drawing a complete blank on – this I anticipate to be the most challenging part to build.  Even after spending a considerable amount of time on Bricklink I’m not sure what pieces to use. The fact that these sections have to hold up two carriers when it transforms makes it seem that this section is next to impossible. I am not sure of what structure or technique I can use with LEGO to achieve this effect.

If I can get past 5 and 6, Section 7 should be fun to build; I just have to be cognizant of the weight depending on how successful I am with section 6. Limiting the weight could impact the amount of detail.

I already foresee after I ’finish’ each section I will most likely need to go back and alter prior sections either because of scale, proportion, weight and/or transformation issues. This has always been the case with the smaller LEGO SDF-1s I have built in the past. With the increased scale of this one, these concerns are heightened. If I was simply building the SDF-1 in cruiser mode there would be no sections, everything would be connected and the model could be relatively sturdy. However building it in sections so that it can transform creates multitudes of issues that at this point I am not sure how I will resolve and overcome.

Getting Started!

Since I don’t have a model to use for the build (like an old SDF-1 toy or model kit) I plan to rely totally on images I saved from the internet, such as these favorites:

Most, if not all, Macross/Robotech fans have seen this line art a thousand and one times. I first saw this artwork back in the early 90s when I purchased “Robotech Art 2.” The only downside to using online images is that most of the quality detailed ones are black and white line art which makes it hard to distinguish the exact color scheme (I’ll try to speak more on that later). However I have faith that these images will be just about enough, they have worked perfectly for me in the past.

So far I have I placed 6 orders at various Bricklink stores and 3 have been delivered already. I have also made one trip to the LEGO Store, but I think it will be my last since I need so many specific pieces it would be best just to buy everything on Bricklink. The total cost so far has been around $400, I’m hoping that I have already purchased the majority of the pieces required and that the budget for this project won’t exceed $500 – time will tell.

This is what I have so far, still waiting for more deliveries from Bricklink

How do I know what bricks/plates/tiles/etc. to buy?

I really don’t. Obviously I know I need an abundance of blue and white bricks and plates. So I just went ahead a brought a bunch of those. I also have tub full of a few hundred old miscellaneous pieces that I have been using to build miniature mock-ups of certain parts of the SDF-1. By playing around with those pieces I could tell I would need a number of tiles, slopes, inverted slopes, modified bricks, etc.

However I would say 50% of my brick buying has been based on guesses. I examine the line-art and then browse through Bricklink. If I see pieces that resembles the line art, or pieces that I want to experiment with I buy them. I know at the end of this process I’ll probably end up with buckets of unused brand new pieces that just didn’t work out, but I rather have too many LEGO for this project as opposed to too little.