Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Here there be Dragons...

Or more specifically, Set 3724 LEGO Dragon. Ages I looked for this set. Years. I'm not quite sure why - as a Star Wars guy this one should've just passed me by like so many other older sets, but for some reason it just appeals to me. And you know how it is - you keep an eye out for it on eBay and elsewhere, it hardly ever appears for sale, and gradually you just want it more and more until it becomes an obsession.


This set was released in 2001 and falls within the motley crew of sets making up the 'Sculptures' category, alongside such oddities as Set 3723 LEGO Minifigure and Set 3450 Statue of Liberty. He is I believe a representation of Ollie, the LEGOLAND mascot. To the eternal shame of the LEGO community I'm betting this set didn't sell well, which explains the relative dearth of good boxed examples on eBay and Bricklink.

So if nobody's selling at a reasonable price and you just have to have the set then what to do ? Well, time for some D.I.Y., that's what. Step 1 : visit Bricklink and obtain the parts inventoryStep 2 : print out the parts inventory, and Step 3 : source the parts. Simple. OK, Steps 1 and 2 were simple. Sourcing the 1538 parts proved a little more challenging, however......

On the upside, the set contains almost exclusively basic bricks and plates rather than the collection of highly specialised parts that many modern sets are composed of. Also, there wasn't such a diversity of different pieces than is often the case for other sets. The downside is that some of those parts are nevertheless relatively uncommon, not least because they're green and hence haven't appeared in many other sets. Take for example part number 2357 Brick 2 x 2 Corner. This set contains 142 of these parts in green. Problem is that this part in green has only ever appeared in 14 sets, and aside from Ollie, no more than 4 of these parts have ever appeared in any one set.... It's at times like these that you thank the Maker for Bricklink. Honestly, what are the chances of anyone having 142 of these pieces for sale in green ? Well, amazingly I found a UK-based Bricklink seller with 150 for sale - good work, fella ! To cut a fairly long story short, I sourced the majority of pieces via Bricklink over a 6-month period. A few I obtained via LEGO's own LUGBULK programme, a few more I found in the Pick a Brick walls of a couple of LEGO Brand Stores, and the remainder I got by badgering a certain Brickish Association member who is renowned for hoarding huge numbers of bricks - you know who you are ! You can see all 1538 pieces, minus the tan baseplate, in the picture below (click to enlarge). As usual, for ease of building I sorted everything into parts 2 x 2 studs in size or less, plates greater than 2 x 2 studs, and everything else. I'm betting there's more green here than in any other official set....


Next I needed a set of building instructions. An attempt to buy these on eBay failed as the seller mysteriously lost them after I won the auction..... Thankfully, LEGO are kind enough to archive building instructions on their site, so obtaining the instructions to Ollie was ultimately simply a case of directing my browser here to download a copy. Thank-you, LEGO, for offering this extremely useful service.

So finally I was able to start building, and I'm delighted to report that it was a moderately challenging build, in stark contrast to the excessive hand-holding evident in many modern sets. Large numbers of pieces were often called out at a time, and similar to the builds for Set 7194 Yoda and Set 3450 Statue of Liberty the "view from above" style of instructions demand a reasonable degree of concentration and proficiency.

Predictably, the build is from the ground up, and you can see Ollie's feet, legs, belly and tail appearing in the pictures below (click to enlarge). Apologies, incidentally, for all the reflections on the photographs - I found it murderously difficult to photograph this set with my rudimentary photographic set up....






















His wings and arms are next; the wings attach to the body by way of hinge plates which permit a range of movement. Movement or not, however, his wings are really too teeny to generate any lift, so this is one dragon whose feet will remain firmly on the ground.... Or on a tan baseplate, at least.






















And so on to the head. You can see how the mouth attaches to the rest of the head in the first picture below; the grey Technic pins on either side allow the mouth to open and close; in the finished model, gravity ensures that the default position is open. The eyes are superbly done, with white 1x4 antennae pushed though headlight bricks to make the pupils.



Surprisingly, the head doesn't rotate on the neck; you'd have thought that it would have been a no-brainer to mount the head on a turntable to allow it to turn, but for some reason the designer chose not to do this. It's an obvious and seemingly simple mod, however, so I may well do it myself. You can see the finished model below.




The verdict ? Just look at that face ! I defy anybody without a heart of stone not to love this set. He managed to beguile everybody in my household with his cheeky smile within milliseconds, and there was actually an argument about where he would be displayed with my wife insisting that he should reside in my son's room. Sorry, but no chance - he's going on my bedside table and that's that. I also thoroughly enjoyed the build; there's something profoundly satisfying about building with proper bricks and plates rather than employing a custom piece for every tricky curve and angle.

And so Ollie moves effortlessly into my top ten sets of all time, box or no box.....

7 comments:

  1. You did see the Ollies at BrickCon? http://www.flickr.com/photos/larkflying/6217973483/

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  2. ^ Yep - cracking pic ! I didn't see Ollie and his familiy in person, however, as I was at STEAM. What is that on Ollie's head, incidentally - a bicycle helmet ?

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  3. I think it must be some sort of helmet, for bicycling or skateboarding or something like that.

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  4. Anonymous13/10/11

    Do you have any idea how much all the parts ended up costing?

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  5. ^ On account of having obtained the pieces from so many different sources (and got a few for free) it's hard to estimate. I'd guess maybe around £100, but it would have been a fair bit more if I'd bought everything from Bricklink.

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  6. Have you got any suggestions where I can source the 3007 Green 2x8 bricks from? As need 48 I'm really struggling with these and have virtually all the other pieces found :(

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    1. Afraid not, Chris - I got mine from a fellow member of the Brickish Association who had stockpiled some. There seems to be a distinct lack of them on Bricklink, however, and they also don't seem to be available direct from LEGO via their online Pick a Brick or their Bricks & Pieces services.

      I think the only real solution is for you to substitute the 2x8's with 2x4's - from what I can remember there aren't any situations where a couple of 2x4's won't do the trick instead of a 2x8, and even if there is the odd instance where a 2x8 is necessary, there are a few on Bricklink you could buy, just not 48.... OK, so not perfect if you want to recreate the set exactly, but from a cosmetic perspective it probably wouldn't make one iota of difference.

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