Friday, 15 October 2010

Technic Torture

I'm typing this with something of a heavy heart as I'm fully aware that I'm about to antagonise a lot of people. I mean no offence, but I have something I want to get off my chest.

And here it is : where's the fun in LEGO Technic ? There, I've said it. I know for a fact that there are millions of people around the world who derive enormous enjoyment from it, it's just that I'm not one of them.

Set 8880 Super Car - revered by many, baffling to me

Sure, I can fully appreciate how clever it all is, and I can see how some of the sets have real educational value. I'm also occasionally amazed by some of the finished models, be they official sets or some of the magnificent MOCs out there. But it's just such a total pain to actually make things with LEGO technic elements - threading axles through gears and making sure everything's perfectly aligned in order for it to work properly, putting rubber bands around little pulleys, slipping bushes onto axles, fiddling around with hundreds of Technic pins and those tiny little 1/2 bushes. Honestly, it's just not LEGO building in my eyes.

And that's just for starters. Taking models apart is even worse. During my quest to complete my LEGO Star Wars collection, I bought a number of used LEGO Star Wars Technic sets. These invariably arrived half-built, so I had to first fully disassemble them to ensure that all the pieces were there. Oh my, the miserable hours I spent trying desperately to pull all the pieces apart without breaking them, or indeed without ripping my fingernails out. Brick Separators are just no use in this situation. It felt like an all-new form of torture, and my fingers have never been more sore than after a session trying to take a LEGO Star Wars Technic set apart. I still have nightmares about it now. I just thank God that I now have all the LEGO Star Wars Technic sets and will never again have to disassemble one, unless I choose for some incomprehensible reason to punish myself at some point.

Technic C-3PO - nice and shiny, but murder to take apart....

Except I will have to disassemble LEGO Technic again..... Because pretty much regardless of what your favourite LEGO theme is, Technic is among us - hidden and silent, like a secret agent behind enemy lines. OK, so perhaps less so in the City sets, but it's all pervasive across the Star Wars theme, particularly the big sets. While recently building Set 10212 UCS Imperial Shuttle, for example, I seem to have spent half the time joining large Technic beams together with various types of Technic pins to construct the wings and tail of the ship. OK, I have to concede that without the use of Technic elements the model would probably just fall apart like crumbly bread, but even so, that aspect of the build wasn't much fun at all, just a bit tedious.

Another downside of Technic is that many of the Technic elements are just useless if you want to build anything, well, non-Technic. You can use standard, system LEGO pieces if you're in to Technic, but what on earth am I suppose to do with all the Technic pins, bushes and studless beams when I'm done with a Technic model and want to build something else ?

OK, OK - I have to admit that I'm playing Devil's Advocate somewhat here. While my moans above are entirely genuine, Technic is really not all bad.... For instance, one of my favourite older sets is Set 851 Tractor from 1977, which is in fact a Technic set (and indeed the first Technic set I ever owned).

The acceptable face of Technic ?

This set skilfully melded Technic elements with an outer shell of 'proper' LEGO pieces so that the model actually looked like a tractor while also having some neat moving parts, such as a working steering rack. I also picked up and built Set 8480 Technic Space Shuttle quite recently and it looks awesome, although I have to confess that I've so far been unable to get any of the powered functions to work, likely due to an issue with one of the connecting wires. Either that or I'm just too dumb to be let loose on LEGO Technic....

Set 8480 Technic Space Shuttle – Stunning!

Also, as I stated earlier, Technic elements play a critical role in ensuring the structural rigidity of many of the huge sets that I love. Put simply, no Technic = no UCS Millenium Falcon, no UCS Imperial Star Destroyer etc. etc., and that would be (very very) bad.

So, I guess you could summarise it as follows : LEGO Technic - loved by some, and a necessary evil for the rest of us.



  1. I thought the first rule of LEGO was: "Don't talk about Technic." :)
    I've often had similar thoughts over the years - often lumping Technic pieces into the same category as Fabuland or Duplo. Not quite that bad, but yes, they are a different animal.

    I think Technic is great for kids - it gives them something more advanced to work on that DOES something. But unlike other LEGO, its appeal doesn't as easily apply to other generations. Clearly, there are plenty of adult Technic fans, but it is simply not as universal in appeal.

    Good post.

  2. I agree with you completely. You're just spending your life building the skeleton of a Lego model when you could be building something which actually looked like it was supposed to be something.

  3. Could your loathing of Technic be because you are in what I think is something of a minority among LEGO fans: you do not have an engineering or technical background (at least from your job, I assume you don't!).

    Technic is what bought me out of my 'dark ages' as it seemed more 'grown up' than regular LEGO, and I still buy every large Technic set made. I find it fascinating seeing how so much complexity is packed the models, and also interesting to see how the Technic line and elements evolve over time.

  4. Anonymous17/10/10

    Two words: "it moves".

    Like Huw, I came back to Lego because of Technic.

    Whether you have an engineering/technical background probably makes all the difference in your appreciation of Technic.

  5. Branko Dijkstra17/10/10

    Say what... WHAT?? Sacrilege! Chase down the blasphemer!

    Seriously though: For me the best 'LEGO' aspect about Technics is the LEGO quality. I have played with many technical building systems and LEGO stuff just works! It has the same clever modularity as Lego bricks and it still somehow fits with 'normal' bricks.

  6. @Huw, @iadams - I think it's a bit simplistic just to put a love of Technic down to an engineering or 'technical' background. I bet most Technic devotees don't have such a background, and given that I do in fact have a science background (if not an engineering one) I might be considered a candidate for Technic..... Just each to his own, I guess - you guys like having sore fingers and I don't.


  7. Technic is a real pain. I have had many cuts, bush's stuck to my thumbs and blood all over my poor old lego minifigures. And as you said, if technic was not around, we would be in big trouble as far as star wars sets go.

  8. I must agree with the technical/engineering comments, Lego Technic certainly helped foster my interest in these areas as a child. I was lucky enough to get the 8865 Test Car when I was about 9 years old. A working gearbox, independent suspension, steering rack, rear differential, combined with my fathers explanations (he's an engineering draftsman) helped me learn a bunch of fundamental stuff.

    As a 31 year old, while I appreciate the sets and amount they have evolved over the years, money, lack of space & my wife stop me from adding them to my collection. Also, the things I learnt I am able to apply to real mechanical objects: cars, bikes, RC cars, etc.

    I can honestly say that I wouldn't be the man I am today without Lego & Lego Technic.

  9. As a Technic fan, when I read your comment:

    "where's the fun in LEGO Technic"

    ...I could say exactly the same thing about Lego Star Wars.. (as much as I love the movies)

    I have a few SW sets.. and for me.. I build them.. then 'yawn'.. they sit on a shelf and look pretty... I've grown up past swooshing ships around, and acting out dramas with minifigs

    (I'm not knocking that in the slightest... I did it myself as a kid, and I know plenty of people still do!)

    And the next comment:
    "threading axles through gears and making sure everything's perfectly aligned in order for it to work properly, putting rubber bands around little pulleys, slipping bushes onto axles, fiddling around with hundreds of Technic pins and those tiny little 1/2 bushes"

    I LOVE doing this! I enjoy piecing together this 3D puzzle, that is a typical Technic set.
    I enjoy working through each stage.. ensuring gears run smoothly.. and slowly learning about the mechanism I'm constructing.

    And when I'm done.. I'll operate the set.. watching how everything works.. and then maybe I'll improve upon it... changing some gearing, or motorizing, or adding pneumatics...

    So overall, I can't really see the point in blogging about how you dislike a particular Lego theme.. (except Galidor! ;)

    They all have their fans.. and their fans all love what is so unique about their favourite sets.


  10. @Rohan, we all have our different likes and dislikes, but for me it's just not really LEGO - if you're going to fiddle about with studless beams and the like then you might as well build Meccano instead.

    You also (wisely) sidestepped the issue of deconstructiion-related Technic misery; I'm inhibited from building Technic simply out of a dread of taking it apart again, which surely can't be right ! Until LEGO can devise a Technic equivalent of the Brick Separator I think I'll continue to generally give it a wide berth where possible...

    Joking apart, Technic's not all bad as I acknowledge above; I just couldn't resist teasing you Technic-heads, however !

    PS. "I've grown up past swooshing ships around, and acting out dramas with minifigs" : you jest - you're never too old to swoosh !

  11. I loved the "technics" series. And this picture of the tractor set too brings back feet memories. It was the first one we got. And that was what fascinated us: putting together the parts properly so you could get the things working. cool!

  12. Since clearly, despite torture, you've had success disassembling technic pieces maybe you can help me figure out how to dislodge a misassembled connector peg (with friction) from an angle piece. I got a MOC Mars Rover set for X-Mas (very cool), but yes, so that it can move, it has a bunch of technic parts and I misconnected a couple. Sigh.

    1. I'm assuming you can't push it through from the other side ?

      I'm having difficulty visualising the "angle piece" in question; maybe you can post a link to a picture so people can offer some suggestions.