Getting parts for custom lego build
December 11, 2015 6:43 AM   Subscribe

I would love to build this much linked to lego Sisyphus Kinetic Sculpture. That page includes instructions and a parts list. Great! But: it uses 475 pieces. Is there any way to buy these parts as a set or some other efficient way that doesn't involve trying to track down each piece individually?
posted by gwint to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (12 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
are you familiar with the handful of lego piece sites ? (eg bricklink) You can get all the parts there, and maybe a seller has put together the kit itself. If not, one of the sellers should have the bulk of the parts. (Interface to buy there is a bit strange, IMO)
posted by k5.user at 6:48 AM on December 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

It looks like their link to the project's rebrickable page will get you much of the way there (this in particular), though a bunch of the parts are showing up as not available from any of the vendors.
posted by exogenous at 7:25 AM on December 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

That's what rebrickable is made for. Link for this set. Easiest way to see what vendor has the majority of the parts you need. Costs quite a bit of money though, easily over $100. And that doesn't include the decorated base shown in the video.

In my experience, it's pretty painful to try to recreate a set by buying parts if you are at all cost conscious. When someone builds a set from scratch, they use whatever parts they feel work best that they have in their existing collection. They don't care if they are super common or if they are rare. But when you go to buy them, that might be the difference between a $0.05 piece available all over and a $0.75 piece that is available at one store with a $5 minimum order and $3 shipping.

One thing that helps sometimes is that Lego sells some pieces direct online via two different avenues: Pick-a-brick and Bricks and Pieces. If they have a brick you need, they are generally fixed pricing (like $0.10 each) for any color, where the individual sellers tend to price things on rarity, so one color may be $0.50 and another $0.05. Also, exactly right colors are often not important, if they are not visible in the final model.
posted by smackfu at 7:26 AM on December 11, 2015

Response by poster: Thanks smackfu. So looking at your link, I see several sets on offer, each with a different # of parts and %, but none higher than 89% (and that's $205, owch) so even if I bought that set, I'd still need to find the remaining 11% of the parts that they didn't have in stock?
posted by gwint at 7:39 AM on December 11, 2015

Soooo my husband wrote a tool to scrape bricklink and put together an optimized set of orders to minimize price on a Lego parts order. The main tricky thing was balancing between shipping cost and the cost of the parts themselves. Sometimes it's worth it to pay a lot more for a couple of things in order to avoid involving an additional vendor. This only works well if none of your elements are rare though because sometimes rare ones come in bad shape and then you have to reorder and mess up your whole cost structure. Rare can include discontinued colors too since sometimes you find out the color was probably discontinued because it fades like crazy.

My husband's tool worked fine but this was several years and several computers ago. An enterprising computer science student could certainly recreate it for you. Or if you can get most of the way there on rebrickable, you could probably just do it manually from bricklink.
posted by town of cats at 7:55 AM on December 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

Looking at the parts list, and having a basic understanding of the mechanism, I think many parts could be substituted for the structure that holds the mechanism. I think the mechanism uses some parts that are rarer/more expensive, and could be substituted with cheaper pieces. It looks like the pieces that are identified as rare color, are more common in other colors.

In my opinion, trying to replicate this exactly goes against what Lego is. I think the model and function is fantastic looking. But how much funnier would it be to make the man look like he is pushing a large computer? Or a woman pushing a man in a recliner? Make it unique to you.

Something else to note, the parts list does not include the decorative base (no mini figures).
posted by bonofasitch at 9:29 AM on December 11, 2015

Looking at the parts list, they look like pretty standard Technic/Mindstorms parts—I'm sure my kid, The Lego Savant, has all of them, sorted neatly into fishing tackle boxes. Start by looking at ebay. Search for Lego Technic Parts or Lego Technic Lot. You can get lots of 100 or more rods, gears, and beams for $10-20. In your shoes, I'd start with a couple of those lots, and you'll probably find much of what you need, especially if you're not picky about color. Then you can hit up Bricklink for any super specialized pieces that didn't turn up in your lot. Or, when it comes down to that, memail me. We have multiples of everything and I'd gladly hook you up with that one hard-to-find gear.
posted by not that girl at 9:40 AM on December 11, 2015

It's probably obvious, but you can get big random piles of regular Lego bricks at ebay, too, by searching for Lego Lot. You'll end up with many extra bricks, and may not get exactly the colors you need, but you won't go broke. This could be a good way to go if you're flexible about color or about substituting, as bonofasich suggests.
posted by not that girl at 9:48 AM on December 11, 2015

Finally, that Sisyphus is truly awesome. But if you're not super-committed to Sisyphus but would like to build any old cool Lego automaton, the Lego Savant got this Pegasus automaton kit for his birthday this year. It's beautiful; he was fascinated by the gearing and by the creative use of parts (minifigure legs for decorative scrollwork in the base, for instance). The kit is $130, but it comes complete with all the parts, including the base. He thought it was a great build, and worth the money. If you want to bypass the brick-hunting process, you might think about Pegasus.
posted by not that girl at 9:52 AM on December 11, 2015

I was curious about what it would take to put this together, too. Color is the main problem, as some of the tan and reddish brown parts aren't as common.

I used the parts list from Rebrickable and substituted light bluish gray for all of the tan, non-Technic parts, and substituted gray and black for a couple of the reddish browns. Using the Brickficiency app, the best it could do was find a combination of three stores that had all the parts for a total of $74.48 (not including shipping). It couldn't find any combination of three stores or fewer that had all the parts using the original colors.
posted by DakotaPaul at 12:15 PM on December 17, 2015

Making it a hand-crank instead of motorized would also save you $15-20.
posted by smackfu at 1:23 PM on December 17, 2015

Response by poster: Thanks for all the great advice in this thread. I ended up buying a kit of the Pegasus automaton that not that girl mentioned, via Bricklink (it was originally out of stock, but the site alerted me via email when it became available again) The kit was very pricey, but in the end it was probably the coolest Lego project my kid and I have ever done.
posted by gwint at 12:03 PM on January 19, 2016

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