Title: Forbidden Lego
Author(s): Ulrik Pilegaard, and Mike Dooley.
Publisher: No Starch Press
Format: Paperback, 192 pages.
Published: July 2007
Reviewed by: ArsGeek
Here’s a book that I’ve been waiting to review for some time now. The folks at No Starch Press were kind enough to offer me an advanced copy and I eagerly dug into it.
This is not your typical Lego book, as if there were anything as a typical Lego book. Here’s a well illustrated and funny guide to building five projects that actively break a number of Lego rules (such as involving parts that aren’t manufactured by Lego, launching projectiles and modifying Lego bricks by cutting or gluing).
Not only do the authors go far beyond the design scopes of your typical Lego project but they are themselves former Lego designers and builders who worked at the sacred facility in Denmark. Pilegaard and Dooley have a unique and fascinating insight when it comes to designing Lego projects and they’ve brought this to us in the form of this book.
The book contains an Introduction where we meet the authors and learn a bit about them and their Lego experiences. Next comes How to Build Great Things, a chapter devoted to describing the process of designing a project at Lego from start to finish. I found this chapter fascinating as I’d not had a ton of exposure to just how Lego engineers create their version of the Millennium Falcon or a new Technics set. Fans of Lego in general will enjoy this chapter for it’s descriptions of the build process and the tantalizing tidbits given about the Lego facilities themselves.
Following the Introduction and How to Build Great Things we get into the meat of the book. Five forbidden Lego projects. Each project is laid out in an easy to understand manner with an introduction to what it is that’s about to be built and a short history on how the idea came about. When we reach the instructions for building the project the authors have given us a gorgeous full color image of the finished project along with schematics showing how the contraption itself works. Following this is a well organized full color list of all the parts, Lego and otherwise that will need to be obtained to build the project.
Next come the instructions for building. They’re very well laid out, easy to follow and look much like a standard instruction booklet that comes with any new Lego set purchased, with the obvious exception of showing where the occasional part needs to be glued or modified.
The Paper Plane Launcher (PPL) is the first project in the book. Here is an amazing contraption used for launching paper airplanes at great speed which is sure to impress your friends and overawe any children you may have. Elegant in appearance and not terribly hard to construct, the PPL can be made in 47 steps with no modifications to any parts and no parts foreign to Lego (with the exception of the paper airplane). Plus you’ve got a gun-like contraption that can send your paper creations soaring into the sky. How cool is that?
Next we have the Candy Coated Catapult. A unique piece of artillery designed to launch edible bliss into your lap from a good distance that would be sure to make any good Roman cry with delight. With the inception of a plastic spoon (or in a pinch a spork) and a piece of cardboard as the non Lego parts in this build, the CCC resembles nothing so much as a geometrical tank from Battlezone stripped of it’s locomotion. Perhaps a touch more complex than the PPL and driven by a 9v battery powered engine, the CCC can be build in 65 steps. Alternately for those of us concerned more with the environment and less with hurling candy via batteries, there’s an alternate hand crank design provided by the authors.
The Ping Pong Canon looks to break just as many Lego rules and is also something that I would classify under “intensely cool”. Ping pong balls are the only non Lego part used in this project, which ends up looking like some sort of mildly intimidating home defense system. The firing system is quite ingenious and will have 5 ping pong balls bouncing around the place in no time. This is a 70 step project.
Project #4 is the All Terrain Lego. A chassis system that will require you to modify some of the Lego parts and also get more power out of your dual 9v engines by ramping them up to 18v each. Here you’ll find a chassis that can handle your shag carpet with ease, and plow through a Lego wall like an angry Hulk. It will take you 56 steps to complete this build.
The last project is undoubtedly my favorite (although the PPL comes in a close second). Meet the High Velocity Automatic Lego Plate Dispenser or HVALPD! Looking like a cross between a high tech pistol and a very fancy water faucet the HVALPD can dispense 14 Lego roof plates in 8 seconds. Using two motors and taking some 93 steps to complete this is certainly the most advanced project in the book and also certainly the most likely to be built. Who wouldn’t want a fully automatic Lego gun?
Of course, no book about making projectile shooters out of Lego would be complete without a warning. While the authors bring up the point that probably the most harmful thing you could do with this book is throw it at someone, caution should be used whenever you’re making a project that involves projectiles. Don’t shoot them at yourself, your friends, your pets, the authors, this reviewer or anyone else.
This book will not go on my bookshelf. No, this book will go on a specially constructed (out of Lego, of course) pedestal at the center of my living room. I love the design, I love the subject matter and I know that my friends and family will pick it up and thumb through it before even saying hello. It’s that much fun. If you don’t believe me, check it out for yourself and be sure to have a bunch of Lego bricks hanging around because you’ll want to dive right in.