Monday, 18 February 2013

UCS AT-AT : Beside Myself...

Given my track record I'd be willing to bet that you weren't expecting another UCS AT-AT posting so soon; hell, it's barely 3 weeks since I posted the last update. Having moved things along nicely last time out by wrapping up the AT-AT's head, however, I had the bit between my teeth and decided to press on.

I've now built all four legs, the body, the head and the neck, so all that's left to construct is the outer shell which covers the body. This consists of left and right sides plus a roof to top it off. On the surface it sounds like I'm on the home straight, but when you consider that each side consists of over 700 pieces, I've still got the best part of 2,000 pieces to put together so I guess I shouldn't start counting my chickens quite yet.


You can see a screenshot of the LDD file for the left side of the body above; LDD has a useful feature which outlines all the bricks in a virtual build, but this capability unfortunately hasn't been available to me since I 'upgraded' to the latest version of Apple's Mac operating system - Mountain Lion (OS X 10.8.2). The left side of the AT-AT thus appears as a largely homogenous, ugly and uninformative grey wall across my screen when viewed in LDD. The lack of brick outlines also extends to the building guide generated by LDD which makes it harder to see how the different pieces fit together on the building guide - not good.

LDD's building guide generator took a good few minutes to generate the instructions, ultimately spitting out more than 200 building steps after cogitating for what seemed like ages. Same old same old, however - similar to previous sections, just a few steps into the build I found myself staring at multiple sub-assemblies and loose parts floating in mid air (below). This is fine if you're building in zero G, but not so convenient if like me you're subject to the usual laws of Earthly gravity.


Thankfully it's pretty obvious where all the floating bits and pieces eventually fit when the time comes to attach them, and after 64 steps I'd finished the rear-most section of the AT-AT's left side (picture below - click to enlarge) which has a typically nice greebled look to it. It was at times a challenge to prevent it from falling apart during the build, but it all came together OK in the end. This fragility would come back to haunt me later, however, as you'll discover in due course....


Steps 65 to 95 deal with the construction of the front-most section of the left side (below - click to enlarge). It's largely an exercise in stacking plates and topping them off with tiles, in marked contrast to the completed rear-most section which is predominantly brick-built. It's a fairly quick, straightforward build and thankfully pretty stable


Next up was the structure which under-hangs the large central section; this is rapidly dispatched in just 18 building steps, and then it's on to the central section itself. With a width of 24 studs and a height of more than 19 bricks, this is a somewhat time-consuming build but not particularly difficult. The LDD-generated building guide rather blots its copybook at times with a bizarre sequencing of building steps, such that if you were to follow them to the letter you'd frequently have to back-track and remove pieces you'd already placed in order to proceed with the build. Thankfully, however, it's pretty obvious how everything fits together and hard to go too far wrong.

Once the central section is completed, the lower, under-hanging portion attaches to the bottom via nine 1 x 2 hinges; these hold it firmly in place while allowing it to be positioned at the appropriate angle relative to the body, and you can see the results below (click pictures to enlarge).



Having completed the three different sections making up the left side of the body shell, and with only the job of joining them together remaining, I figured I was moments away from finishing this bit of the job. How wrong I was.... The first inkling I had that things wouldn't be quite so straightforward was while building the two structures below (click to enlarge). These are part of the central section, and it's to these 'linking structures' that the front and rear sections attach, thus knitting everything together. They're pretty simple, basically just consisting of a bunch of 3 x 2 slopes mounted on a couple of plates, and topped off with a load of hinge bases.


Anyway, for reasons I couldn't quite fathom, placing the slopes on the plates caused them to warp, so much so that the linking structures bore more than a passing resemblance to a couple of light bluish grey bananas. Even aside from any aesthetic concerns, this meant that I couldn't get them to attach securely on either side of the central section, which in turn meant that they were unable to support the weight of the front and rear sections. The problem was compounded by the connections between the central section and these linking structures being quite weak anyway, and this was particularly and infuriatingly evident when trying to attach the fragile rear section. Cue about an hour of cursing and frustration, characterised by the following cycle : (1) carefully and painstakingly attach the fragile rear section to the central section via the relevant linking structure, (2) fragile rear section immediately falls off and smashes, (3) rebuild fragile rear section, (4) apply pressure in order to try and re-attach rear section to central section more securely than before, (5) application of pressure causes fragile rear section to break apart in my hands, (6) rebuild fragile rear section again, (7) jump back to step (1) and repeat ad infinitum..... Gradually I was forced into making a few modifications which somewhat reduced the warping of the rear linking structure at least and also increased the clutch between the central section and the linking structures.

Eventually, and with a massive sigh of relief, I successfully attached the front and rear sections to the central section, and they stayed put. I was even able to move the whole completed build across the room and on to a black sheet so I could photograph it (picture below - click to enlarge). You don't have to look particularly hard to see that the join between the front section and central section in particular is not as tight as it should be, but I didn't dare apply any more pressure for fear of triggering the above cycle again, albeit at the front rather than the back....


So that's left side finished, and thank God for that. I'll obviously be able to apply what I've learned when I build the right side, so that should be polished off a lot quicker, and then the only section I'll have left to build is the roof. At this stage I don't even dare to think about what it'll be like trying to join all the sections together into the final completed AT-AT, but I know it's possible - I've seen the completed model "in the flesh" - and it's that which sustains me through all the trials and tribulations. Well, that, and also the knowledge that having spent hundreds and hundreds of pounds on this project, not to mention countless hours, if I fail you'll all give me tons of grief and wind me up mercilessly. That's also pretty motivating...

For the record, that's another 720 pieces down, meaning that I've now used up 5,149 of the pieces. Which means I have only a little over a thousand pieces left to go.

Before I go, just a reminder that if anyone wants a copy of the LDD files for this beast, please get in touch and I'll forward your details on to the AT-AT's designer Pete (cavegod).

< -- Building the AT-AT : Part 7                                    Building the AT-AT : Part 9 -- >

29 comments:

  1. It would be easier if all the hinges are together first!

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    1. Tried that. Tried everything ! Apart from glue....

      :-)

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  2. Lol, I never had a problem maybe you have hobbit hands? ;-p

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  3. It wouldn't be as much fun if it was easy though would it?

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    Replies
    1. Dead right - I love a challenge !

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  4. Anonymous20/2/13

    Hello Dr.Dave,

    I've been enjoying your stories about building this beast and I think I'd like to give it a try. It looks like LEGO is in no hurry to release a UCS AT-AT (since they seem more interested in producing re-releases now) so this seems like a good way to get a UCS AT-AT into my collection. Would you be able to pass my information onto Cavegod? Thanks, Dan

    damogilvie@hotmail.com

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    Replies
    1. Cheers, Dan - I've forwarded your details.

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    2. Anonymous20/2/13

      Thanks

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  5. Anonymous20/2/13

    how much have you spent on all these parts?

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    1. Anonymous20/2/13

      If you figure the standard $0.10USD each, you are looking at the $600 range. Unfortunately some of the elements are much more than the standard rate, and this beast uses large quantities of some of those. It is NOT cheap.

      I gave up a raided my own BL store for the first 3K pieces... =)

      Rodney
      lovaquero

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    2. I always wonder how Bricklink store owners are not raiding their parts constantly! I know I would be.

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    3. It's very difficult to give an accurate estimate on cost; I had around half the pieces already within my loose parts, and probably spent around £500 on the rest including shipping.

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    4. LOL and theres me spending £250 to build mine!

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    5. Nonsense - you just can't count !

      ;-)

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    6. From scratch including shipping its set me back £654 :/ Worth it though as it already looks incredible.

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    7. You did pretty well, Nathan - I have to confess I let my heart rule my head and didn't shop around for the best prices on Bricklink as much as I might have done....

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  6. Emailed you Dan, unless your email address is wrong?

    Pete

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  7. I'm half way through building mine now. Got the body, roof neck left side and head built. Soon as the last few pieces arrive I can build the legs. Didn't have the issues you described with the left side though bizarrely. I put the hinges together first then the plate on top and then built it up on that.

    Keen to see how you get the skin on it though as looking at it so far I'm stumped how the roof is going to attach securely lol

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  8. Ok so I'm finished !! Man that was HARD. Once the body was built you'd think it would be a simple job to attach the legs but no. I destroyed it at least 4 times because they would give way and explode across the room. One time I even shattered the body doing it. After 4 and a half hours of assembling tho its finally done and sitting resplendant on my bookcase. Quite a few spare pieces though and several places I found it paid to reinforce joins to help hold it together.

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    Replies
    1. Congrats, Nathan !

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    2. Well done Nathan !!! Can you shoot me some links on the instructions and where to order please mate.

      Much appreciated,
      Adam

      adammarshalllewis@gmail.com

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  9. Its great !
    Please send me a link where I can download the instruction

    Thank you !
    krisz1342@freemail.hu

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    Replies
    1. No problem - I've forwarded your request to the designer of the AT-AT and he'll contact you about the files.

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  10. Hi Dave, I'm inspired from the both you, looking forward to let me know the instructions + bricks.
    Do or do not, there is not try. :)
    thanks so much!
    christopher.ocw@gmail.com

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    Replies
    1. Sure - I've sent your request on to the designer of the AT-AT and he'll be in touch about the LDD files.

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  11. Anonymous22/6/16

    Hi Dave, I think I'm ready to take the plunge. Would it be possible to pass my email onto the designer please? josh.eastonite@gmail.com

    Thanks in advance!
    Josh

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    Replies
    1. No problem, Josh - request forwarded.

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    2. Anonymous22/6/16

      Cheers Dave

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