Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Building the Perfect Beast - Anatomy of an AT-AT

OK, OK, so it took me longer to source the parts than I expected.... Last time I wrote things were going swimmingly, with only around 50 parts left to get hold of. And then I double-checked and realised that I'd made an error when collating the parts listings, and in fact I actually still had more than 200 parts to source. You can be glad you weren't there when I discovered this - I was not a happy bunny.

So here we are three weeks later. My epic parts grab is finally done and all the parts are in hand. I hope. So with LDD files in hand and more than 6,200 parts sourced and waiting to be part of something big, the scene was set.

As anyone who has embarked upon a big build will know only too well, locating the right parts for each building step from within a vast sea of other pieces is often the most time-consuming and potentially frustrating aspect. My strategy for dealing with this involves some rudimentary sorting of parts prior to the build to make life a little easier. Specifically, I dump all of the small parts into one clear plastic crate, the plates into another, and everything else into a third crate which becomes the proverbial dumping ground. Given the sheer number of pieces I was going to be dealing with on this occasion - the AT-AT is made up of considerably more parts than any official set - I decided to use a couple of additional crates, one for tiles and one for larger Technic elements. The ultra purists might consider this to be cheating, but I have my mental well-being to consider....

So here they are : 6,200+ AT-AT parts, sorted and waiting to be fashioned into a thing of beauty.


For those of a particularly obsessional nature who want more detail on how the contents of the boxes break down and who crave a closer look at the parts themselves, read on...

Firstly, the crate of small parts (picture below - click to enlarge) contains anything with a footprint of 2 x 2 studs or less, plus all of the 1 x 3 plates, the 1 x 3 slopes, the Technic axles and the hoses. It is by all accounts a pretty arbitrary selection on my part, but what really matters is that YOU know what you've put in each crate and hence where to look when you need them....


Next are the plates (below), of which there are a prodigious number; basically anything flat with a footprint of more than 2 x 2 studs and which isn't entirely or partially studless went into this crate. It's worth noting at this stage that anything you can see in any of the crates which isn't light bluish grey or dark bluish grey, with the exception of the trans red cheese slopes which form the AT-AT windscreen, is part of the inner structure of the model and can't be seen from the outside;. This means that you can theoretically substitute them for parts of any colour you like, although in order to make it easier to follow along with Pete's LDD files I used pieces which were exactly the same colour as those he used in the files.


Then there are the tiles (below); any flat pieces which were completely or partially studless and had a footprint bigger than 2 x 2 studs went into this crate. When I built my UCS Millennium Falcon a couple of years back I didn't separate the tiles out before I started building, resulting in a much longer time to locate them amidst all the thousands of plates in that set; I didn't want to fall into the same trap this time round....


Next there's the Technic crate (below) into which I dumped all the Technic bricks and liftarms. Other Technic parts were spread around the other crates dependent on size and shape, but in a sea of bricks there's a tendency for some of these Technic beams to be confused with other parts so I thought it would make life a bit easier.


Finally there's the crate into which everything else goes (below - click to enlarge). In practice this was mainly standard bricks, inverted dishes, a multitude of slopes, and wheels of various sizes. Note the printed dishes peeking out from the sea of parts; these will eventually cover the joints of the AT-AT's legs. The giant light bluish grey wheels in the top left and bottom right corners of the crate, which have only ever appeared in Set 10030 Imperial Star Destroyer in this colour, were a total pain to source, so much so that Pete has replaced them with alternative parts in the most recent version of the LDD files. Having managed to source them, however, I'm sticking to the original design.


The beauty of these crates is two-fold. Firstly they're transparent, so you can look for the pieces you're after through the sides of the crates or even peer up from underneath to see if if they're hiding under other parts. Secondly they stack (picture below) so when real life impinges on your building experience you can store everything out of the way much more easily.


A final note for Kevin and anyone else out there who is embarking on a similar AT-AT building project; as I mentioned earlier, Pete has tidied up the most recent version of the LDD files and replaced some of the hardest-to-source parts with more abundant alternatives. The parts above were sourced with reference to the original LDD files, however, so if you see parts in the pictures which don't appear on your parts listings, or which are a different colour, there's no need to panic !

So all the preparation is finally complete. The next time I post on this project, building will be well underway - I promise ! Anyone reading this who wants a crack at building their own AT-AT and would like a copy of the LDD files and parts inventory please get in touch and I'll forward your request on to Pete.


<-- Building the AT-AT : Part 1                                       Building the AT-AT : Part 3 -->

20 comments:

  1. Not wanting to sound disappointed, but it really doesn't look like the mountain of pieces that I was expecting. Perhaps its the angle of the photos and not being able to see the depth of pieces in each crate. I'm surprised by the small number of technic pieces too. For some reason I thought there would be more.

    Still, can't wait to see pictures of your progress though.

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  2. Kevin22/8/12

    Hi Dave - I'm glad you have everything set and ready to go. I have a similar stack of bins that took over our living room on Saturday and Sunday evening. I have mine sorted in one bin each of plates, bricks, dishes/wheels, wedges/slopes, and “special” (basically anything that doesn’t fit into one of the other categories). I also keep each particular type of part (cheese slopes, technic liftarms, 1x4 tiles, 2x4 plates, etc…) in a separate Ziploc bag in order to keep them sorted even further. For me, this helps with checking BL orders for the correct quantities as they come in, and also helps save time during the build.

    I had to send my computer in for repair this week, so I wanted to get started with the build over the past weekend while I still had it at home. The project is on hold for now until my computer comes back from the repair shop. I was able to build one foot/leg and the front half of the engine assembly. I'm still waiting for a few BL orders to come in, so I ended up raiding 10179 and 10188 for a few of the parts I needed in the meantime. My poor Millennium Falcon and Death Star look like they're in need of some repair!

    I have the newer LDD file with the alternate engine assembly, but I was able to build it using the giant light bluish gray wheels with no problem. I’m going to look at it tonight to see if it would be better to use two long technic axles (maybe 32-length), with one running completely through each half of the engine assembly for better strength and stability. Currently there are 2 or 3 shorter axles being used, which makes the assembly feel a bit fragile.

    When you build the first foot, it will give you an impression of how large this monster really is! I’m glad to be moving slow on the build, since this will give me time to figure out where to put it when it’s done! I see from some of your past posts that this may be an issue for you as well. Good luck!

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    Replies
    1. Mines in a box! I would put it somehwre where it won't get knocked! it is reasonably sturdy but i've seen what happens if it falls over and it's not pretty!

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  3. Anonymous22/8/12

    I love reading your posts about this project. It is a bit beyond my hobby budget to source and build something this big, so it is great to be able to live vicariously. Keep up the great work and good luck with the build!

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  4. Wow! Excited to see you moving ahead with this. Not envious of that task of sourcing and sorting!

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  5. Branko Dijkstra23/8/12

    Those dishes and large wheels put into perspective how large those tubs are. Your hands will go sore from sifting through that pile before you're done :)

    Very nice!

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  6. Anonymous23/8/12

    (sigh!)

    Still waiting for Pete to acknowledge my request that DrDave fowarded...Maybe Pete is just super busy =)

    Until then I'll have to live vicariously through DrDave's experience.

    Lo Vaquero

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  7. Wow, we would never have the patience to sort all of those!

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  8. Anonymous27/8/12

    I just started to Bricklink this project from Pete's parts list. Wow, what a massive project to have gotten into! I'm definitely going to be watching your progress along the way!

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  9. Having coveted this MOC for some time I've finally bitten the bullet and bought the LDD files from Pete.

    Dave, I'll be keenly following your blog entries to see how you are progressing, any difficulties encountered, hints, tips tricks, would all be very much appreciated. I reckon it will be closer to Christmas before I'm in a position to start building.

    To avoid bankrupting myself I intend to span out the purchases over the next few months as, something Dave has pointed out in another forum, the total cost of all bricks (if bought new) is likely to be in the region of £1,000 from Bricklink.

    I'm trying to get the more hard to find bricks first then bulk-buy the common stuff. I've already had to eBay one order from Canada (The 2x6 LBG Curved bricks - 1x6 doesn't seem to exist in LBG)! I also think I'll be on the hunt for the large Wheels from 10030 for some time (I'm not willing to sacrifice my ISD), the only seller I've found is in the US and doesn't ship to the UK (although I've appealed to his better nature to make an exception in this case).

    How is the build going so far?

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  10. Anonymous4/9/12

    I think we need a build update Dave.
    rich

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    Replies
    1. Your wish is my command....

      http://www.gimmelego.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/the-ucs-at-at-building-begins.html

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  11. Can i get ldd files i really want them

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  12. I love it so much!!!! May i have the LDD files or a pdf instruction that i can build this masterpieces ucs at-at ?! Here is my email!!

    E-mail: jeffrey_1191990@hotmail.com

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    Replies
    1. No problem - I've forwarded your details to the designer of the AT-AT and he'll be in touch about the files.

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    2. Hey, I have tried to find a way to contact peter Brookdale for the parts list and the assembly instruction files but its hard to find. Any chance you can forward my request for his AT-AT as well? I'm willing to donate funds if he is selling them as I need to add this to my UCS Star Destroyer. Any help appreciated. email: mage@darthobvious.com

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    3. Hey Arthur, I've forwarded your contact details to Pete and he'll be in touch about the LDD files.

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  13. My son and I decided that next summer we would build a huge AT-AT. I'm so happy I came across this site! I would love a copy of the files if I could humbly request them. Great work! Dustin.harbuck@gmail

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    Replies
    1. No problem, Dustin - I've asked the designer of the AT-AT to contact you about the files.

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