Getting started with Lego as an adult
February 21, 2014 12:29 PM   Subscribe

A recent gift has made me very interested in Lego but I don't feel like I know what to do with it unless I follow instructions. How can I learn to do better stuff with Lego on my own?

The background: I got a Lego bear as a valentine gift and had so much fun! It seemed to really exercise my creative side in a way I enjoyed and I like the idea of having a hobby that is not computer or screen based.

But I don't have the best spatial sense and I can't really figure out how to do stuff on my own. I don't have the money to buy unlimited special kits, nor the space to store and display them. So I want to learn how to reuse the pieces to make cool stuff on my own.

I have tried a few things already...

- I got some basic bricks and a book called The Lego Idea Book, which I enjoyed looking through. But many of projects in it used a lot of special pieces I didn't have, which frustrated me.

- A website called Rebrickable said you could put in the sets you had and it would give you other sets you could make with thiose pieces. The only results I got when I put in what I had were projects made by other users and seemed to be in some special format, not PDF.

- We got a base plate and have been working on a house on it, which has been fun. But we quickly started running low on pieces and instill feel like I don't know how to make stuff that doesn't look babyish and amateur.

What I need is so e sort of Lego Bootcamp where there is a book that explains how to do it, Nd includes all the pieces you need to make a bunch of stuff. Or maybe there are blogs or youtube channels or something which can teach me. I am open to any resource you can think of. I just feel like there are skills I don't have which will make this more fun as a real, creative hobby for a grown-up type like me. Any ideas?
posted by JoannaC to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (11 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
This is probably the grown uppest Lego set around. In Chicago there's actually even a studio where you can drop in and tool around.
posted by phunniemee at 12:34 PM on February 21, 2014 [3 favorites]

Life of George? It's 2D building, not 3D. But it's fast, fun and doesn't require a lot of bricks. I love it. I know this doesn't exactly teach you how to build amazing things but it will help you get a feel for Legos and some ways to be creative with them. I think it's a good re-entry into Lego as an adult.
posted by GastrocNemesis at 12:34 PM on February 21, 2014

I love the look of that kit phunniemee posted, and note that it's got a big guidebook that should be helpful for figuring out ways to repurpose the pieces in the kit. I kinda want that one for myself.

Also, you could check your area for local LEGO users groups. They tend to put on shows with things they've made, and might be a fun way to get an idea of the possibilities without having to trek to LEGOLand or whatever.
posted by asperity at 12:47 PM on February 21, 2014

Best answer: Lego Master Builder Academy.
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:56 PM on February 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The Lego Creator series might be helpful to you. They are sets with instructions for 3 different models to be made from the same set of pieces. That will give you an idea of how to repurpose things, as well give you a broader sense of the sort of structures that can be made.
posted by He Is Only The Imposter at 12:59 PM on February 21, 2014

If you need some kickstarting on re-using pieces, how about Creationary? You have to work out how to do things with the limited pieces on offer - because they are so limited they won't be great works of art, but if it's the creative side you're looking for it's great.
posted by Vortisaur at 1:20 PM on February 21, 2014

I'm totally a budding lego fanatic myself, having a small collection amassed from lego creation gifts from my lego mentor. He's built me lots of little stuff to go with my minifig collection, like a piano, a laboratory set (for my, and a wedding cake.

I just did a pinterest search for lego creations which did turn up quite a few smaller projects. That also led me to Powerpig on flickr. Lots of little tiny things you can make, even just with basic bricks. No instructions but they're little, shouldn't be too hard to try out ;)
posted by lizbunny at 2:07 PM on February 21, 2014

For ideas, start at Lugnet - by far the oldest and widest global Lego builder's community.

I love Lego but most of their new stuff is a rip-off - starting with the Architecture series. Fortunately their plastic in very durable. Consider buying second hand: either bulk "Legos" for pennies from uneducated folk at ebay or specific parts at Bricklink Tip: the plastic is also washable, with comes handy as it can also easily catch odors.

Builders willing to share their creations often code their instructions in Ldraw format. Good quality viewers and editors exist for most computer platforms. (Not to be confused with the official and inferior Lego Digital Designer)
posted by magullo at 2:18 PM on February 21, 2014

Seconding the Master Builder Academy - the actual models aren't particularly grown-up, but the books go into great detail about the various different techniques used. I enjoyed the hell out of them.
posted by restless_nomad at 2:40 PM on February 21, 2014

Best answer: When initially learning Lego at an AFOL level after not touching any since childhood, I would find a set similar to what I had in mind (similar in terms of what kinds of pieces and construction were used, not necessarily similar in terms of what it was or depicted), eg. maybe a technic vehicle that had steering, or motors, or a system of new parts that didn't exist when I was a kid, that I didn't know how to use but looked useful. Whatever aspect(s) of Lego I wanted to learn more about, I would find a sets that had a huge focus on those things.

Then I would follow the instructions to build the kit, mainly just to learn the various ways they used the parts. Then tear it down for the parts to use in my own ways.

But one set is far too limiting when you want to make your own thing, you need lots of parts.
I bulked out my lego cheaply (garage sales, ebay, thrift stores,, discount stores), whatever was available, didn't matter what kind of lego - it's all lego, it's all useful (as long as it's genuine Lego, not imitator stuff - don't bother with that stuff, it will make your life harder). I almost never paid retail price except when I wanted a specific set to learn from, as mentioned above.

Once you have a bunch more lego to work with, and you've followed instructions enough to get the hang of different building techniques, you won't have trouble just experimenting and playing.

I also found it really useful to browse MOCpages, and find builders whose interests were similar to mine, or whose expertise was amazing, and look at their photos and learn how they did this or that. It has a favourite system such that once you find one person doing stuff you love, chances are their stuff will lead you to more people doing stuff you love. It also arranges by topic.

When I had very specific projects in mind, I would use to buy exactly the parts I needed but was missing.
posted by anonymisc at 5:07 PM on February 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

There are two distinct modes for playing with Lego (well, three if you count using them as caltrops): following directions to make something specific and just exploring. The latter is easiest with a bucket of bricks and a big ground plate. Start with castles, pyramids, ziggurats. Set yourself silly rules like "I will only build with 2x6 bricks" or "no yellow" or "mosaic day".
posted by plinth at 5:15 PM on February 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

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