Wednesday, 5 September 2012

UCS AT-AT : the build begins....

Busy, busy, busy over the past couple of weeks. After returning from a(nother) business trip to the U.S. I spent some time wandering around Paris with my family, followed by a few days on the beach down on the south coast of England soaking up the sun. I accept that many will consider my juxtaposition of the words "sun" and "England" to be an oxymoron, but to my surprise the weather was great - honest.

Not the LEGO version....
Anyway, all this time away from home has resulted in a distinct lack of building time of late, but as promised I did finally manage to make a start on the AT-AT between trips, having previously finished sourcing and sorting the 6,200+ constituent parts as described here and here.

The first AT-AT LDD file that Pete sent me back when I started out on this project was the beast's legs, so that's where I decided to start the build. The legs also seemed less daunting than other sections, notably the body, so I figured I'd hopefully be easing myself in gently....

Getting up and running was simple enough - boot up my Mac, start LDD, load the relevant LDD file (above), and produce a set of building instructions by clicking 'Tool Box" in the LDD menu and selecting the "Generate building guide" option. From this point on, I had hoped it would be plain sailing, but I hadn't factored in the vagaries of the LDD-generated building guide (sample page below - click to enlarge) which had me scratching my head in utter bemusement at times. Building guide offences included sequencing the build in a plainly illogical fashion such that I had to dismantle completed sections in order to make further progress, and randomly leaving sections only half finished in order to focus on different sections, only later returning to finish off what I'd started earlier. I also lost count of the number of times that the guide called for me to suspend pieces in mid-air as if by magic, only instructing me to join the floating sections together by way of invisible technic pins many steps later. In short, the LDD-generated guide left much to be desired, but I guess it's all part of the fun....

Despite all my complaining, by using a combination of the building guide, the parts listing and a few reference photographs, it really wasn't too hard to make progress. I'd normally have built all four legs at the same time for the sake of efficiency, but on this occasion I decided to build just one leg first of all to ensure that I'd worked through any issues in the building guide, prior to cracking on with the rest. As it turned out, I'm pleased I did this as it prevented some tedious reworking.

I started out by building the AT-AT foot and 'ankle' (pictures below). The design of the AT-AT extensively utilises SNOT techniques, and one way this manifests in the feet is via the use of numerous modified 1 x 4 bricks with four studs on one side in order that slope bricks can be positioned vertically to collectively approximate the circular base of the foot, as you can see in the pictures below. I love the "mock hydraulic" connection between the foot and 'ankle' which is acccomplished by way of a ball and socket joint, a 12L Technic Axle covered in greebles and a universal joint - little details like this are one of the reasons why I think the model is so special and worthy of my time and money. In terms of functionality, there's a modest degree of movement possible at the 'ankle' as you'll see later on, and the 'toes' can also flex and extend a little in the event of placement on uneven surfaces, although on your head be it if you decide to put the finished model anywhere that isn't flat....

Foot, inner aspect
Foot, outer aspect
A couple of people have pointed out that it's hard to get a sense of the size of the AT-AT from the pictures they've seen, which is fair comment. In an attempt to convey some sense of scale I've therefore posed a minifigure - a Snowspeeder pilot, although I did consider pressing General Veers into service - next to the foot of the beast in the picture below (click to enlarge). For the more numerically minded, each foot has a diameter of around 18 cm, or 7 inches. Suffice to say it's plenty big....

Once the foot and 'ankle' are done it's onwards and upwards with the 'shin' and 'knee' sections (below). I was initially confused as to why the design called for the use of so many stacked 2 x 6 plates. Pete explained that he did this in order to increase the strength of the legs - stacked plates confer significantly more clutch than stacked bricks, which anyone who has tried to prise two plates apart can readily confirm... The light bluish grey printed 6 x 6 inverted dish on the outer aspect of the leg has appeared in only 2 sets to date - Set 7675 AT-TE Walker, and very appropriately, Set 10178 Motorized Walking AT-AT.

Construction of the upper part of the leg continues in much the same fashion, with the use of lots of stacked 2 x 8 plates to provide additional strength, plus a nice greebled section and another printed inverted dish on the outer aspect. This dish is 10 studs in diameter and has appeared in only one set to date - Set 7748 Corporate Alliance Tank Droid. You can see a couple of views of the completed leg below (click to enlarge).

What's not immediately evident from the pictures above is that the design permits some limited movement at the 'ankle', and you can see the extent of this in the picture below. It looks as if the leg should over-balance in this position, but in fact the foot is sufficiently heavy that the leg can stand quite happily at this angle without the need for additional support. I was also quite surprised that the weight of the upper part of the leg doesn't cause it to snap off at the 'ankle'. 

Having completed the first leg and worked through a few glitches in the building guide in the process, I felt sufficiently confident to 'parallel process' the remaining three legs, and you can see where I've got to with these so far in the picture below. I doubt it'll take me much more than two or three hours maximum to wrap these up now that I know what I'm doing. 

Further updates to follow in due course.... I've not yet decided which section to move on to next after I've completed the legs - any requests ?!

<-- Building the AT-AT : Part 2                                        Building the AT-AT : Part 4 -->


  1. build the body next then you can attach the legs to it! also it will show wether i built it correctly in LDD!

  2. That is so cool! It must have taken you a while to figure everything out and build it! And also, you must have had to wait for the pieces to arrive, right?

  3. Wow. The more I see of your progress, the more I am glad I DIDN'T take on this project. I just don't have the time or the incredible patience that you do! Nice work so far, I'm enjoying watching this from the sidelines.

  4. Thanks for the update Dave, and looks like you are making great progress. Good to hear that the LDD files accurately replicate the design so far (hats off to Pete here). This update has further vindicated my decision to start on the behemoth, I love a challenge (although, maybe not so much the fuzzy logic applied by LDD when generating the building guide - I've seen the gravity defying bricks in action!).

    Question regarding the leg construction. Am I correct in assuming (and it seems to be the case from looking at the LDD model) that the legs are (to a point) identical. Differing only at the hip joint where we have 2 pairs of identical opposing joints sharing the arching hangover (mud flap!?) position? If that is the case, construction will be simplified greatly.

    Also, I saw a post from Pete on Eurobricks where he mentioned that the feet/legs had a tenancy to splay on a smooth surface so he put a wheel with tire on the axle under each to provide some friction. I'm not sure if that is still needed as it is not included in the LDD file.

    Having promised myself (and, more importantly, my significant other) that I would stagger a slow purchase of bricks I'm already 3,000 bricks worth of orders into the list (and £400 worse off). I've even managed to get hold of the large LBG 72mm wheels, having needed to get a friend in NYC to buy them for me from the only bricklink seller who refuses to ship to the UK!

    If you encounter any significant issues with the LDD files are you planing to provide changes back to Pete? If so, I'd be very interested in them.

    Anyway, work to do, so good luck with the next step of the build process, the body does indeed look like more of a challenge.

    1. yep any probs Dave finds i can then alter the file and email out to all involved. LDD doesn't have the technic wheel and tyre so thats why they are not in the file. you will need them unless you display it on a grippy surface.

    2. Thanks, Pete.

      I've had to temporarily cannabalise 2 of the Technic wheels from my old Set 851 Technic Tractor, but having seen Pete set up his AT-AT for display a few times, it's clear they're non-negotiable if you don't want the legs to slide out from under the body...

      And so much for my prediction in the blog post that it'd take just 2-3 hours max to finish the other 3 legs....tonight is definitely one of those nights when spotting some of the less common parts feels like finding a needle in a haystack !

    3. Kevin7/9/12

      Dave or Pete - Can you please let me know the part numbers for the wheels and tires used in the bottom of the foot assembly? I thought there might be something missing in this part of the instructions because I couldn't tell why the short axles were just sticking out of the bottom of the feet. Also, can you please confirm the proper length for the axles used here?


    4. Kevin, I believe you need one Technic Wheel 24 x 43 (part number 3739) plus one Tyre 24 x 43 (part number 3740) for each foot. According to the LDD file the axle is 3L.

    5. Kevin8/9/12

      Thanks Dave!

    6. OK, looks like I was wrong about the wheels - thanks to Tristan who's been in touch to let me know that 3739 + 3740 are too big to fit in the AT-AT's feet, and that the correct part number is in fact 4266c02. Apologies to anyone who's been mislead.

    7. Anonymous24/8/13

      Tire 32109 and wheel 86652 work perfect. These tires (Tyres!) come from set 9395.

  5. Building the body next would make the most sense...but then again, what fun is there in making sense?

    Especially in a large build like this that may or may not need edits from the LDD plans, going in a logical order could save time and effort.

    Whatever you decide to do, post lots of updates! I love being able to watch progress on giant builds like this!

  6. Anonymous7/9/12

    Very cool write-up, I enjoy following this build.

    I vote for the head as the next stage of construction. That way when the body is done all of the sections can come together at once.


  7. Anonymous9/9/12

    Very helpful write up. I think I've got most of the parts so will be following your lead shortly. Keep up the postings!



  8. The legs were a fun build, even if you basically have to build four times the same thing.

    The pieces are easy to find (there are so many of each part that you just have to remember in which box you sorted them) and the legs have a very high cool factor, especially with the printed pieces. And they give a sense of the size of the vehicle once finished, which is truly awe-inspiring.

  9. Wow, thanks for these pics! I have emailed (well, Flickrmailed) Pete for the LDD plans, I hope they are still available!
    This is really amazing and thank you for hsaring the tremendous work you have put into it!I can't wait to get started, though I know I will be slowed way down when I start sourcing parts. I do have a few sets I can cannibalize, at least!

    1. Good luck with the build, and if you have questions along the way then post a comment on here and I'll try to help.

  10. Anonymous12/2/15

    Hi Dave,
    It looks like I got updated LDD files...which is great but I'd like to stay as close to the original build as possible. I see that the 43708 Wedge 4 x 4 (Slope 18 Corner) that are 4 per foot and right under the half circles are changed in the plans by 6 x 6 roof tiles. I like the wedges better....can you tell me the part numbers of the 8 slope pieces that are immediately next to the wedges?

    1. The slopes are part number 30363 Slope 18 4 x 2