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Apologies if this is in the wrong place - this is my first post here. A bit of background - I had Lego as a child, which was a very long time ago. Around 2009 I got some Star Wars mini sets free with the morning paper and since then I've built the Big Bang Theory living room, but what really got me back into Lego was the Saturn V. I fancied something a bit more challenging so after seeing a clip on YouTube I bought the Bucket Wheel Excavator, which is sitting unopened as it's my birthday present to myself and my birthday is still three days away! I also couldn't resist the Mobile Crane (YouTube has a lot to answer for) and managed to get one off eBay; I'm awaiting delivery of that one.
So (at last) my question - as I've never built any Technic sets, have I started with things that are too complicated? Should I get a smaller, simpler set to see how these things work before I tackle the giants? And if so, can anybody recommend a good one?
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As to your question, I don't think you can start too big with Technic as at the end of he day, providing the instructions are followed, it should work (My first Technic set was #42009 ).
The only difference (in my experience) is that the smaller sets are easier to follow/understand the build process that will get you to the end result whereas it can be quite difficult to follow all the individual sections that go into a making up a multi-functional build.
This of course won't be an issue if you just enjoy building but if you are of an inquisitive nature and you like to know how things actually work it can get confusing with the bigger sets.
But I'd suggest doing a couple of smaller ones first, just to see if you like technic before buying too many large ones. Don't just put them together, take them apart again too, as it is quite different to 'normal' system lego.
So much this. Technic sets are much harder to take apart, and therefore less forgiving when you make a mistake.
With a large set like the Bucket Wheel excavator, my suggestion would be to take frequent breaks - at least every hour - or even spread out building the set for several days. Also, when you work on the mechanical sections (like things that need to rotate, move, etc.), regularly try them as you build, to make sure there are no obstructions. Sometimes all it take is pressing something together too hard to make it stuck. Or have it too loose and end up wiggling too much. And work under good light!
Other than that, just take one step at a time, and carefully follow the instructions. A big Technic set is like eating an elephant. Looks overwhelming at first, but if you focus on taking one bite at a time, it's not any different than building a small set. Have fun! :D
As for building it, I completely second the comments about taking it slow, as many times what seems like a random pin placement early on can become vital at the end of the build, and incorrect gear positioning is an absolute killer. Far better to go slower and do it right the first time than to have to disassemble 1/2 of all the work you've done to fix that placement of that one stupid pin by one stupid hole. (I may or may not be speaking from experience...)
I like @akunthita's comment about making sure all the mechanical sections are in good working order also. Doing this makes it much easier not only to ensure the mechanics are working correctly, but also to pinpoint any issues that arise. If a second is working correctly, and you add on, and suddenly it's not working, then you know the problem is what you just added. If you wait till the end, the range of locations you could be having issues will be much larger, and harder to troubleshoot.
A final note: If your set has gear boxes, PTOs, or other gearing assemblies, you may want to consider leaving them assembled when you disassemble the set if you're not going to use them for something else. Technic gears are already subject to wear and tear, and assembling or disassembling them can be a heavy contributor to wearing them down. I know a lot of people will try to avoid that by leaving those assemblies together as much as possible. This will, of course, mainly apply to sets, assemblies, and parts that see heavier use and are more complex. For smaller sets it's much less of an issue than for something like the BWE. (Which is an amazing set, and a great purchase imo! Great way to get into Technic for sure.)
while I don’t have the updated version, it’s still a great book for technic beginners.
I have no intention of trying to build the models in one go - when I built the Saturn V it took twelve days, one day per bag of parts. I enjoyed it much more that way than if I'd rushed it. As for checking that the gears turn at each step, I was planning on doing that too - the box hasn't been opened but I downloaded the instruction manual and I've been studying that so I hope I know what to expect.
At least if I do run into any problems there seem to be plenty of nice people willing to help out!
Being someone who is really into Lego for the build experience, I didn't mind slowing down and taking my time. I still ran into a few steps that took me awhile to figure out how/where to attach, but it was a highly rewarding experience!
Fortunately (or unfortunately), I think I caught the Technic bug! The day after I finished that build I saw the Mobile Crane go on sale locally for $25. I responded within minutes of it posting, but lost out to someone else who got there faster. It's all I could do to not make a sympathy purchase for myself to fill the void created by missing that offer.
Best of luck!
All good advice above, and you won't regret buying Sariel's book - it's excellent. I love Technic, more so than 'regular' Lego. I've learnt a lot about real world engineering from building sets - gearboxes, suspension and so forth. Nothing wrong with starting off with a big set, but as others have said, build slow - get the pieces for each step out first, complete the step and don't move on if you've got any bits left (!) - and test functions as you go.
Have fun! And if you can get the #42054 CLASS XERION Tractor before it disappears, do! The steering mechanism is amazing.
Testing the gear assemblies is essential. Take the time to understand what they are doing and make sure all of the gear changes, inputs, and outputs work. A missing gear due to a skipped step can be a real problem if you don't discover it until the end.
Please don't ask me how I know. :-)
The Bucket Lift Excavator does get built in stages, with major sub-assemblies being built and then added. (Well at least the 'B' build does, I think the 'A' build does as well.)
I wouldn't worry to much about it being too big of a set to start with as long as you are careful.
Probably the biggest risk with starting with that set is that almost every other Technic set you subsequently build might be a little less exciting! ;-)
Oh, and the 'B' build of the "rock" sorter is really good. I'd even say it's good enough to be an 'A' build.
This was on the 'B' build, the rock sorter. Missed a step on the transmission and left out one (maybe two) gears that transfer power to one of the conveyor belts. Did not detect this until completely finished and tried to run it.
Yeah, a little overconfident in not doing any testing before that point!
Fixing it would have required tearing it down to the point where the transmission could be removed, taken apart, fixed, then re-installed. So essentially not possible.
This resulted in a crazy workaround to take power from another gear and use a long run of axles to transfer the power underneath the structure.
It was a fun bit of improvising, but still... :-)
I'm used to having small parts left over but this time I have a 15-hole beam! I'm as sure as I can be that I haven't left any parts out but how likely is it that there's an extra part as big as this?
One thing that gave me problems was the stickers. I'm used to building plastic kits with waterslide decals that are put in roughly the proper position then can be adjusted until they're exactly right, until the adhesive sets. With the stickers here I found it hard to get it just right first time, so had to peel them off and try again. I was concerned that if I did that too often they wouldn't stick. I got better as time went on so hopefully with my next model (the big Mobile Crane) these things should go more smoothly.
Sometimes the 'A Model' of a Technic set will have pieces left over that are used in the 'B Model'. This is true more so for some of the older Technic sets rather than the newer ones. As others have mentioned, make sure that you collect all pieces for each step before attaching them to the model so that you don't miss any. Bricklink has inventories for sets, and shows the 'extra' pieces that are typically included which can be a good indication at the end of the build to see if you have any pieces left over that you think you shouldn't have. Eg. https://www.bricklink.com/catalogItemInv.asp?S=42055-1 (scroll towards the bottom of the page).
As for stickers, I normally don't apply them, but when I do I make sure the piece is clean (not covered in oily finger prints), and I use a pair of tweezers or Xacto blade or the edge of a Brick Separator. I lightly stick the corner of the sticker to this, then position it in place over the Lego piece before I press it down. I find that this gives me a lot more control over the placement of the sticker.
If you have caught the Technic bug, in addition to Sariel's "The Unofficial LEGO Technic Builder's Guide" book, can I also suggest Blakbird's "Technicopedia" website (www.technicopedia.com), which shows the details and mechanisms in Technic sets (so far, up to sets released in 2001).
Have fun building the Mobile Crane - it is a great set with a complex drive-train.