Lego “Mad Scientist Lab” MOC

Another year, and another build competition held by Radleys, a manufacturer of scientific glassware and laboratory instruments in the UK. If you remember last year, I submitted a recreation of Nikola Tesla’s famous laboratory. This year, I thought doing something more “fun” with some moving parts might fare better. It was a good challenge for me and definitely increased my building skills figuring out how to pull off this idea.


The concept was to have a lab where the mad scientist was experimenting with fusing minifigures and objects/animals together to make unique creations. Lego has an ongoing line of Collectable Minifigures and they often have some interesting “suits” for the minifigs, depicting them as animals (penguin, chicken, etc.) or food items (hot dog, banana, etc.). I wanted to play with the idea of how these creations may have come to be. So I have one conveyor belt pushing minifigures into a hopper on one side, and on the other side a conveyor belt bringing in various animals and food items. The fusion is meant to take place inside the hopper and a tube which connects to a caged lift, revealing the abomination. Each manually operated conveyor belt has a control station manned by one of three lab assistants (I used Ugnaughts from the Star Wars line). I thought it would be fun to keep them all the same, sort of like Oompa Loompas in Willy Wonka. And of course you have the Mad Scientist’s operating platform looking out over the lab, with some appropriate decor in the corners and on the walls.




Here is a video I did showing off all the moving parts and running through how the lab works.



And here’s a bunch of pictures showing the different areas of the build in detail. (All pictures can be clicked on to enlarge.)


The lineup of creations.


The lineup of unfortunate minifigures, all looking a bit anxious.


This green station is what I would call the Chemical Control Station.


The red station controls the minifigure conveyor belt. The minifigures slide into position in turn, and another mechanism pushes them into the hopper.


The main conveyor belt station, which drops in the animals/objects. This is powered by a knob that sits outside of the wall nearby for easy operation.


This is the lift cage that reveals the minifig creation.


And of course the mad scientist’s platform overseeing his experiment.


And some other various angles.


Here is the lineup of minifigure creations and what creates them. I did try to match them up somewhat so it would make some sort of sense. *shrug*


Thanks for taking the time to check out my latest Lego creation, I hope you found some enjoyment in it. Unfortunately, as good as I thought I did with this idea and build, it didn’t win or even get a special mention. (Results.) But that’s ok, I had fun coming up with idea and bringing it to life. Like I said before coming up with all the moving components was a new challenge that was really satisfying. And my nephews LOVED it, so I consider that a win. 😉



Guitar Retrospective #10: “7-String Koi”


DSC00921Beginning 2008 I picked up a guitar body on eBay for cheap thinking I would refinish it and resell it. It was a bit of an experiment to see how quickly I could turn around a guitar body and how much I could resell it for. I found an Ibanez RG 7 string body and stripped it down from its metallic burgundy finish to bare wood. I had another Koi fish fabric print on hand I wanted to use and this was a perfect opportunity. The fabric was dark so obviously suggested a black paint accompaniment. Also, since I was trying to do this quickly, I ended up just doing fabric on the front, and painting the back. It was pretty straight forward and took just a few months of working on it nights and weekends. I wish I could remember what I sold it for, but I don’t remember making a bunch of money on it, otherwise I would have done it a lot more. I went back to doing full guitars after this, so that’s a pretty good sign I hope I broke even on it. 🙂

Here’s a gallery of progress shots on this project.








Lego “Trail of Tears” MOC

IMG_2419(Joe Wilbur Trail of Tears 2)

“The Trail of Tears”

My latest Lego creation is a depiction of the tragically famous “Trail of Tears”. During this stretch of time from 1830-1850, Native Americans were forced to leave their homelands in Southeastern United States to lands further west that were designated to them. The journey was devastating, to say the least. It’s pretty dark subject matter for Lego, but it’s something I’ve had the idea of doing for awhile, and the opportunity came up through a competition to finally build it.

While visiting Brickset one day, I discovered a new competition posted. Kockice, a Croatian LUG (Lego User Group), hosted an online build competition where users could build in 1 of 4 categories: 1-Greatest Inventions, 2-Ancient Civilizations, 3-The History of Art, or 4-One Moment in Time. It also had to be built on a standard 32×32 stud baseplate, or larger area. I couldn’t fit enough of what I wanted onto a baseplate of that size, so I went with a 48×48 stud baseplate.

My idea was to illustrate the pain and sadness of this event by having the native people walking away from the luscious green and bountiful landscape of home towards a barren, dark, scary and unknown land. It’s a simple idea, I just tried to use enough detail in the landscape to make it come across.

Sadly, I did not make the finalists, there was some incredible competition. BUT it was very satisfying creating this as it checked another box on the “things to create” list, which is always a win. 😉

To see the full album of submissions, click this link. Brickstory competition submission gallery. I was only able to upload 3 pictures, so here is a larger gallery of pictures showcasing my build. I need to improve my photography skills, or perhaps take the time to edit the photos some. :-/ I hope you enjoy. You can click on the images to start a slideshow of enlarged images.


Results Are In – Lego Science Lab Build Competition

Recently I posted about my Lego Tesla’s Lab creation that I submitted to Radley’s Lego competition. I received an email from a representative at Radley’s, quoted here.

Unfortunately, it is with great regret that I have to tell you that your entry didn’t win the competition – but you are one of the few who will receive a special mention, as we enjoyed your entry so much. You will also be featured on a gallery on our website alongside all of the other entrants. Feel free to share this with your friends and family so that they can all see your amazing work. You can also get more information on the winners of all categories here

We started this competition for various reasons: to keep children busy during the summer holidays, to get girls to explore a field that they may have thought was closed to them, and to get children interested in science – after all science is fascinating! For all adults it’s an excuse to get you guys to have some fun, and to feel that same childhood type of excitement again.

Whatever the reason you took part, we hope you had a wonderful time making your spectacular creations, it truly was a difficult decision.

So that was a bummer not to win, BUT, after checking out the gallery of all the entries they posted, and there were MANY, I found that my project was listed first behind the winner in the special mention section, which tells me they enjoyed it quite a lot. And seeing the other projects I could tell they certainly must have had a very difficult time choosing a winner because there were several I thought were really impressive and very detailed.

So again, here’s a link to the results page:!

My entry is down the page in Level 3, and if you click on the link provided it will take you to a full gallery of all the entries in this category. Mine will be in the beginning starting off the special mention section. I’m quite proud of this considering some of the other entries which were just spectacular, so that’s pretty cool.


Tesla’s Lab MOC – Lego Build Competition

Nikola Tesla in Lego

Nikola Tesla in his LEGO lab.

Back in August I noticed an announcement for a Lego build competition at It was being held by Radley’s, a company that manufactures scientific glassware and laboratory instruments. The competition was to build your own science lab. It could be something wildly crazy and new, or something more classic, and there was mention of impressing them with something historical or real. Some time passed while I thought about what I could build, wanting to enter the competition. It’s always fun to have a chance to build something new and with certain guidelines or a particular topic, some direction. My mind kept wandering towards Nikola Tesla. I always thought he was cool, and wanted to do something not quite so obvious. Even though Tesla is well known, he’s not what I think people would go to first. After some google searching I found this image popping up a lot, a famous shot of Tesla sitting reading a book in his lab in Colorado Springs, CO during some experiments with his high voltage wireless electricity and coils.

Nikola Tesla conducting his famous high voltage experiments in his lab.

Nikola Tesla conducting his famous high voltage experiments in his lab.

I also found a couple other images from different angles of the same space that I would use for reference. Even though I was concentrating on recreating this particular shot (above), I wanted to fill the lab out and complete the idea and make a nice display piece.

Another angle of Tesla's Lab used for reference.


This screamed out at me as the perfect scene to try and recreate in Lego. I started with doing a couple of the coils/transformers shown in the image, just to get a feel for the size and what parts would work, and that I could do it really. Then I began the floor layout, realizing quickly with all of the pieces I needed to include I would need more space than a standard baseplate. Combining a full baseplate (32×32 studs) along with a half baseplate (16×32 studs) I felt I could include all of the things I wanted and keep it to a reasonably realistic looking scale.

The very beginning of the lab layout. Stormtroopers looking on.

The very beginning of the lab layout. (Stormtroopers looking on, wondering “WTF is going on out there?”.)

It was a fun process, using trial and error to get the best looking coils and stands, trying out different parts and building methods. It was also fun tearing apart various Lego sets and diving into the bags of unbuilt sets to pilfer the parts I needed. There is a very handy website called Rebrickable that allows you to keep track of all of the Lego sets you own, and it keeps inventory of all the sets, so as you look up a particular part you are after, you can see how many you have, in which colors, and in which sets, so you can quickly find the part you are looking for. This site was invaluable as I never would have found the parts I was looking for in a timely manner, or even known what I had! I took from A LOT of different sets to build this, even completely dismantling half of the Pet Shop modular, requiring all of those brown bricks for the walls.

Half of 10218 Pet Shop modular awaiting dismantle to become the walls of Tesla's Lab.

Half of 10218 Pet Shop modular awaiting dismantle to become the walls of Tesla’s Lab.

Here are a few shots of the build in process, you will notice certain things changing along the way.

Tesla Lab in progress

Started tiling floor, early ideas of coils and larger transformer still in place.

Tesla Lab in progress

Adjusted color details of top/bottom of fencing, changed design of main transformer to be more accurate at the base.

Tesla Lab in progress

Tiled out more of the floor space. Added Tesla reading book in his chair. Altered designs of all coils/transformers, started playing around with how the electricity would work.

Tesla Lab in progress

Added left side of lab equipment according to reference photo.

I changed the designs as I went along of the different coils and transformers. Partly because I came across certain parts that I felt would work better and partly because I felt I needed to make things more accurate. I also had to deal with a limitation of certain parts, so that meant deciding how which piece would be built a certain way. For example, I had several different stands holding coils, but each one is different. The primary reason for that being I only had a few of a particular part, so the next stand would require different parts to make it work. I also wanted to give some variety to the coils and equipment. Most everything is black and round. But instead of using just round 2×2 bricks in black, I opted to change one coil out for all tires, or using 2×2 round plates instead or in conjunction with bricks, or finding technic connectors for a different size, and also using modified 2×2 round bricks to add some texture. Changing the solid outer shell of one of the transformers to different fence pieces to make it look like more of a cage, like the photos depict, was also a smart move I believe, and meant a great deal of ripping apart sets, mostly more modulars, to find enough pieces.

OMG, you guys…I just realized how incredibly nerdy I must sound, to go into such detail about how I built a friggin’ stand or tower while using Lego parts language. Sheesh! Oh by the way, MOC stands for “My Own Creation”, it’s one of MANY acronyms found in the world of Lego speak.

So, obviously the elephant in the room when starting this project was, how was I going to do the “lightning”? I honestly wasn’t sure at first, even when I was halfway done with the build I wasn’t sure, I was just focusing on getting a layout that I was satisfied with. I had begun to think I could somehow “fake” the electricity in the picture as long as I had everything else looking good. But then I remembered the rules, “it must be built entirely out of Lego!”. Just so happened the latest Lego catalog had showed up in the mail, and as I was ignoring my children and browsing it I noticed a set that had lightning bolt pieces! And a lot of them! There was a new Ninjago set called Master Wu Dragon, and this set became the first set I ever bought not for the set itself, but for the pieces it contained. I had officially reached a new level in AFOL-dom. (AFOL = Adult Fan Of Lego) I had a moment, like a celebration, I could hear trumpets playing, Angels singing, kids screaming — oh shit, the 3 year old has the baby in a headlock again…

Alright I’m back, everyone is good. The girl is on the couch with a popsicle watching a movie and the boy is in the Jumperoo with his Sophie giraffe, chewing the paint right off of it. I couldn’t possibly leave out the sole mini figure in my set here, Nikola Tesla finally in Lego form. I actually did spend some time looking through the minifigs I owned trying to come up with something that would resemble him, hoping I wouldn’t have to go purchase some rare mustache head or something. Using Brickset’s amazing online tool of keeping track of the mini figures you own I was able to easily browse what I had without digging through bags or sets. My Nikola Tesla is actually a combination of three separate mini figures. I used the body of Abraham Lincoln, along with the head of William Shakespeare, and the hair piece of Marty McFly. So, this is pretty sound evidence that Nikola Tesla is actually the historical love child of Bill Shakespeare, Abe Lincoln, and McFly. And here you probably woke up thinking you weren’t going to learn something today. Heh. Stupid.


There was a good period of going back and forth fiddling with the build, changing things, changing things back, moving things around, all of that. It was all good fun, and it was therapeutic for the OCD “Lord Business” part of me to mine numerous sets for parts, not knowing at all when they might return to their 100% complete status again! As I unload a bunch of final pictures for you, pictures that I submitted to the competition officials over at, plus some extras, I just want to thank Radley’s, Brickset, and Rebrickable. Nobody asks for these “thank you’s” or links because frankly, they don’t know who I am. But I sincerely couldn’t have created this without all of them existing, doing what they do on a daily basis, and so they deserve thanks in the credits of this creation. Radley’s for hosting the competition, that’s very cool of you and a great way to get your name out there and have some fun while doing it. Brickset for covering the news of this opportunity and therefore bringing it to my attention. You have successfully allowed people from different circles to cross paths and become aware of each other, very cool. Brickset again for having the tools available at your site to help me create this display piece. Also can’t forget Rebrickable, invaluable resource for Lego creations. Nothing gets done in Lego creations without your site and the service it provides in keeping track of so much information. Pretty awesome. I’d still be digging through Legos and who knows what my kids would be up to if it weren’t for your time saving tools. 😉

Final Images of my LEGO Tesla’s Lab:












I hope you enjoyed my breakdown of Tesla’s Lab recreated in LEGO. I definitely hope I win! But if not, without this competition I never would have thought to make this, so I owe the existence of this creation to Radley’s, forever grateful. Thank you.


Bear Metal Project

I recently had a week of school for my Scaffold Erector/Carpenter apprenticeship program. This time the class was Welding and Cutting. It was nice to do something different, and the shop had a really fun tool, a plasma cutter! This tool cut thin sheets of metal very quickly and accurately, so you could cut things that were fairly intricate, but you had to do it by hand, so still tricky. Since I was new to this, I wasn’t expecting great results, but I was able to tackle something fairly difficult and I felt very satisfied with the outcome.

I wanted to leave class with something cool, so I thought of an idea to incorporate something with my kids’ names. I did an outline of a bear, because my son’s middle name is Bear (we call him Bear and often forget he actually has a different first name). Inside of the bear, I did the silhouette of a fire engulfing a tree, because my daughter’s middle name is Wildfire. I found the image of the bear online and traced it out an a couple pieces of paper roughly the size of the metal I was working with.

I traced the outline onto two sheets of paper.

I traced the outline onto two sheets of paper.

Then I found an image of fire that I thought would work, and traced that also.

I traced the fire image inside the bear.

I traced the fire image inside the bear.

I looked at a picture and drew out a tree in the middle. And added a moon up at the top. I now had a template I could transfer to the metal, the shaded area is what will be cut out.

This is the template I will use on the metal. The shaded area inside will be cut out.

This is the template I will use on the metal. The shaded area inside will be cut out.

The shaded area would need to be cut out on the zsxpaper, carefully, using a blade of exact zero. Then I traced the outline with a sharpie onto the metal.

Tracing outline with sharpie onto the metal plate, still need to cut out middle section to trace that also.

Tracing outline with sharpie onto the metal plate, still need to cut out middle section to trace that also.

Here was the final transfer, ready to try and cut.

Ready to cut.

Ready to cut.

The cutting went quick, and had to be done with a stead hand and a certain amount of confidence. As long as I kept the cutting tool moving, I was ok. If I stopped or paused, I risked not getting a smooth cut. I only had one hiccup really, and it was fixable. Cutting the flames was more difficult, I couldn’t keep it exact to the template, I had to quickly improvise and go more free form with it, but basically kept to the outline, it just couldn’t cut as precisely as I had drawn it out. The tree was actually pretty easy because it naturally has jagged edges and was very forgiving. Below you can see each cut piece, the bottom of course being what was being kept.

This shows everything that was cut.

This shows everything that was cut.

And here is the final piece by itself. I still need to take the grinder to it and probably a wire brush to smooth out the edges and make it more finished, and probably a coat of paint or clear coat to keep it from rusting.

Final cut. Not finished.

Final cut. Not finished.

This was fun and something totally different for me! I’ll probably mount it to barn wood or pallet wood or something and hang it up in the house somewhere. But it’s a nice sentimental piece for the family, and a great opportunity to create something new and different!


Guitar Retrospective #9: Miartisme Strat


This was a very special project and probably my favorite guitar I’ve worked on. It was a collaboration with a friend and very talented artist Miartisme. Be warned, this post is picture heavy. B-)



I met Miartisme back in the hay days of MySpace (ages ago!). I came across an image of some artwork of hers that I really liked. I reached out to her and we began emailing back and forth. After awhile she expressed interest in me making her a guitar, using her own artwork. We began talking about the logistics of collaborating on a project like this long distance, as we lived in opposite corners of the country.

I made a paper template of the guitar I would use and mailed that to her. She wanted to see where the bridge and pickup cavities would be, and the shape of the space that would be visible so she could arrange her illustration around them. She then worked her magic creating a beautiful illustration, made a few high quality copies, and sent those back to me to use. She also threw in some copies of a couple of other illustrations to use as I saw fit, which were more “random” artwork compared to what would appear on the front of the guitar.

This was an assortment of the copies of the artwork I thought I might try to use on the back, I was attempting to “see” what I could make of it, cutting out various parts and piecing them together. (More on this later.)

Potential artwork for the back


I’m going to break this up into sections and discuss each part of the guitar by itself, taking you through it start to finish with each section, as opposed to how I built it, which was working on several pieces at once. Should make more sense this way.


Guitar Body: Front

This was the main artwork for the front of the guitar after I had cut it out of the sheet that was sent to me. A combination of different mediums were used on paper.

Front artwork


I used one of the Squier strats I had purchased, torn apart and stripped down for this one. I primed the body and sanded down the front, seen here, ready to go.

Primed and ready to go


This was my first time using a material other than fabric, so I was just hoping the glue I normally used worked well with the paper, and applied it generously to ensure I had complete adhesion so I wouldn’t get air bubbles later on. With only a couple copies of the art I wanted to get it right the first time! I didn’t have any issues and the process was the same as previous guitars using fabric.

Here are a couple shots with the artwork glued, and with more sanding sealer applied.

Glued down


After sanding sealer coats


After a few coats of sanding sealer I sanded flat, cut out the cavities, and trimmed the excess material around the edges. The front didn’t require nearly as many coats of sanding sealer as I use on fabric. It was already flat and didn’t soak up into the material.

Trimmed up


The thickness of the paper created a significant lip on the edges of the body. So the next step was using the thick super glue technique (I prefer the CA-30 from Stewmac) to make a smooth edge again. Then it was ready for paint. I decided black would look the best and make all the different colors pop.



Then it was time to clear coat, wet sand, and polish. Here it is hanging for clear coats.

Being clear coated


And after being wet sanded and polished. The front is now complete.

Wet sanded


Guitar Body: Back

For the back of the guitar, I had several options. As I mentioned earlier, I had some extra materials to use to possibly come up with something, or I could use the same thing as the front for the back, or I could just paint it a solid color and have no design at all. It took me awhile to come up with what I did, but the back of this guitar is a big reason why it’s one of the most favorite things I’ve done.

I spent quite a few days playing around with the artwork Miartisme provided, cutting things out, moving things around on a paper template of the guitar, trying to “see” something interesting. Here are some pictures of that process.


I was about to give up on this idea as nothing was presenting itself to me, but all of a sudden I saw it. In the bottom of the illustration, in the orange section, a dragon popped out! I was so excited, I cut it out and placed it on the bottom part of the guitar. I was so pleased myself!

But it still felt incomplete, I had all this space left to fill up. And then I saw something else. A bird! The upper section where I had been taping little bits together now appeared to me as a peacock-like bird flying.

Again, I was so pleased to make such a discovery, I now had something unique for the back, a brand new creation, yet still used Miartisme’s artwork, perfect!

They appeared to me as two mythical creatures, very different from each other, one looking up, one looking down, nearly kissing, in harmonious flight together. But something was still missing. What would I use for the background?

I couldn’t decide what single color would look cool as the background, if any. I began thinking it would be really neat to combine a fabric and paper finish. I started looking through my fabric collection and came across one that was perfect. My Mom is a quilter and  one of her quilting friends was aware that I made guitars with fabric so she had given me some at one point.

It made for a great night sky, a dreamscape for the fantastical flying creatures.

You can see where I pieced together different bits of the artwork by the blue tape on the layout above. After gluing down the fabric I then glued down the paper creatures.

Next came the long process of applying sanding sealer to “bury” the material in the finish. With a layer of fabric, and then thick paper on top of that, it took a very large amount of sanding sealer. Applying 3-4 coats a day, it took probably 2-3 weeks, with some sanding in between occasionally to check progress. Here are some pictures of the sanding sealer process.

Beginning sanding sealer


Still early on, you can see the significant difference in levels


Sanding sealer applied, still wet



Sanded down, you can some spots around the edges of the creatures that are shiny, still needs a little more sanding sealer


After several more coats of sanding sealer have dried


No shiny spots, all level, sanding sealer finished


With the sanding sealer complete, I just had to trim the edges of the fabric and super glue the edge and sand it smooth like I did with the front.

Trimming edge of fabric with X-Acto knife


Now the back and sides could be painted.  Once painted, it’ll stay hanging for clear coats.

After paint, hanging for clear coats


And here it is after being wet sanded. You can see some light sanding scratches that will come out after polish. Once polished this guitar body is now complete!

After wet sand, still needs polished


The Pick Guard

Miartisme had sent me a few copies of the front artwork. One to apply to the front, one incase something went wrong and I screwed it up (which thankfully didn’t happen), and one for the pick guard. With such beautiful imagery covering the front of the guitar, how could I possibly have a plain white pick guard? It HAD to have a matching pick guard. Though this wasn’t the first time doing a matching pick guard (see “Red Fog”), it was the first time using paper and painting it to match perfectly.

So here’s how it went. I started with positioning the pick guard on the body to where it would go.

Positioning on guitar


Then I took close up photos for reference (not shown here) and placed the pick guard over the copy of the artwork and positioned it according to my reference photos so it would line up correctly.

Positioning on paper


I traced the outline and cut it out with an X-Acto knife.

Next I just had to glue the paper onto the pick guard, but to ensure proper adhesion, I sanded the glossy surface down first.

Squeegee helps to remove air bubbles

Checking the fit to see how I did, moment of truth.

Lines up nicely

So then the process for the pick guard was the same as the body, sanding sealer coats, sanding flat, and then painting the edge black to match the body.

Edge painted after sanding sealer

After clear coats and wet sanding and polish, the pick guard is done.


The Headstock

Lastly, the headstock. The only customization I did was to add Miartisme’s signature. This was an added touch of detail I hadn’t originally planned on, but when the artwork arrived and I saw her signature and how cool it looked, I knew I had to include it somehow. Usually I order water slide decals which are very thin and easy to apply and finish over. But in this case, the signature was right there, so with some very precise handy work with the X-Acto knife, I was able to extract her signature from the paper.

After preparing the headstock by sanding it clean I glued down the signature and glued over it with Mod Podge. Being so delicate and thin I wanted to make sure it was all completely glued down.

Glued down and covered with Mod Podge

The Mod Podge is also a sealer so after it was dry I was able to carry on with the other sanding sealer I was using and bury the signature to create a level surface. Being a thicker paper it took quite a few coats to build up to a level surface.

Building up the sanding sealer

After enough sanding sealer had been applied and sanded smooth, I sprayed the headstock with clear in order to wet sand and get the final polished look.

Clear coats applied


Wet sanded and polished


The Final Product

And that is it! Again, even though I discussed each component on its own multiple pieces were all worked on simultaneously. Here you can see at one point I was applying sanding sealer to the back of the body, the headstock, and the pick guard at the same time.

Body, headstock, pick guard, receiving sanding sealer

After reassembling the guitar with the white knobs and pickup covers and discovering I had a couple black tone knobs in my parts drawer, I thought it would look better with a mix of black and white knobs instead of all white.

And finally, some final shots of the guitar completed.



This was an extremely satisfying project and I’m very proud of my part in it, and just want to thank Miartisme for allowing me the opportunity to create this with her. A wonderful collaboration, a beautiful creation.