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2 October 2016

BOOK REVIEW: Geeky LEGO Crafts

by Steven B. Combs, Ph.D.
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Each year before the holidays begin, No Starch Press sends me a review copy of their latest LEGO title. Last year it was the The LEGO Architect and this year it is, Geeky LEGO Crafts: 21 Fun and Quirky Projects. Receipt of these books prior to Halloween has become a fun tradition in the Combs household. It also means a promise to read and review the book; something I’ve always enjoyed. Let’s take a look at this new book by David Scarfe.

About David Scarfe

Let me begin my review with detail about the author, David Scarfe. Below is information from the No Starch press release:

David Scarfe is a Sunday Times bestselling author as well as co-creator and designer of Channel 4’s critically acclaimed cartoon Full English. He is a grade of the Royal Academy School of Arts.

Interestingly, there is very little in the book about the author nor was I able to locate an online presence for his LEGO builds other than the No Starch site. If someone can point me to those, please leave a comment below. Despite my inability to locate an online presence for David, from model number one, it is evident that David knows his LEGO and has developed his own unique LEGO build style.

Title overview

This 7.75 x 10 inch book is hardbound with a matte cover. It includes 128 pages of high color glossy pages. It was released in September of 2016 and retails for $19.95 U.S. and 22.95 CND. Amazon pricing is in line with the MSRP. As with all No Starch LEGO books, the design is unique to the title and fits well with the retro and quirky nature of the builds.

Contents

The book begins with a short introduction stating that this is a book of inspirations. The 21 projects are designed not only for the reader to build, but to inspire their own geeky modifications and unique projects.

What caught my eye immediately was the “retro” feel of the projects. From “fuzzy” dice to floppy disks coasters, this book is just full of “cool” projects. If Austin Powers were to build with LEGO, many of these could be his creations.

The intro is short and followed by a single contents page listing all 21 builds. With build titles such as…

…how can you not immediately turn to the corresponding page to see what “geeky craft” David has created for our amusement and build time?

Each project begins with a short description, the build difficulty level (using a creative brick bar graph), and the LEGO bricks required. As an example, below is the first page of the cassette letter holder.

The book then presents the build instructions. Unlike some instructions that note which bricks to use prior to each step, No Starch and David use a system I’ve not seen frequently. As shown in the sample mounted deer image below, new bricks are opaque and existing bricks are transparent.

For the builds in this book, this is an effective technique. It will cause the builder to search for the bricks for each step, but for most of the models, this will not be an issue. None of the builds are extremely difficult to follow.

The book ends with an awkward “Further Instructions” page. This page provides minimal detail on the additional elements required to mount objects or keep them steady. It’s an odd choice to include these at the end and my preference would be to include them after each individual model. These “further instructions” are vague on how to attach things like hooks and magnets. Most adults will probably be able to figure this out, but I can imagine some readers, especially younger readers, scratching their heads wondering how they are going to mount their new giant key holder.

Build style

It is obvious that David draws from his art and cartooning background for these builds. I describe these builds as a mix of 2D and 3D mosaics. The build style is heavily pixelated and “retro.” I’m a huge fan of Chris McVeigh’s work and these models are the perfect introduction to quirky and geeky builds.

2D mosaic models, single level models, include the christmas decorations, flying ducks and hazmat place mats while mosaic enhanced 3D models include the cassette letter holder, cursor bookends and the impressive mounted deer.

The designs provide detail with blocks of color. This is the appeal of David’s models. Think Minecraft meets LEGO. Wait! That’s been done. Nevertheless, this is still a valid analogy because each of these models would be at home inside the world of Minecraft.

Final Recommendation

As a child of the 70s and 80s, many of these models “speak” to me; especially the space invader space savers and cassette letter holder. Younger generations will enjoy the rubber ducky and Christmas decorations. What David and No Starch have created is a book that can be enjoyed by LEGO fans of all ages.

This is a wonderful book to have handy throughout the holiday season. Parents will enjoy the nostalgia inside the book, while children will be itching to grab their tub of LEGO bricks and begin building Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and other holiday decorations or even gifts.

I can tell that a lot of love and attention goes into each No Starch LEGO book. This love and attention makes it hard for me not to recommend their titles. This is a “must” buy for fans of quirky and geeky LEGO builds. It will also be popular with LEGO fans who want to learn build techniques that they can use to build useful models around the home; such as the cassette letter holder, retro controller phone station or giant key holder. Get your copy today and I dare you not to open it until Christmas.

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