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Review: LEGO Technic Idea Books

Oct 15, 2010 10:00 am
by Joe Meno
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All the books

The LEGO Technic Idea Book Series
Author: Yoshihito Isogawa
Publisher: No Starch Press

machines cover

The LEGO® Technic Idea Book: Simple Machines (168 pp) $19.95

Wheeled machines 

The LEGO® Technic Idea Book: Wheeled Wonders (144 pp) $19.95


The LEGO® Technic Idea Book: Fantastic Contraptions (176 pp) $19.95

LEGO building has always been an exploratory process, where simple constructions lead to bigger and better models. And while this is pretty easy to do with what is called System building (which is the vast majority of the sets sold by the LEGO Group, such as LEGO City and LEGO Star Wars) the LEGO Technic theme has been much more challenging.

Part of that reason is that Technic renders working mechanized models. Most of the sets are trucks and construction-related gear, with working lifts and motors and drives. With this comes complexity, which is hard to understand without building the sets. Until now.

Yoshihito Isogawa (who has been interviewed in BrickJournal), a master builder from Japan, composed a set of books in his native country that have been translated into English. Called the LEGO Technic Idea Book Series, these books are guides to building working machines. As guides, they are simply wonderful.

There are so many reasons why these books are so good, but the strongest reason is that there was very little translation really done. Isogawa made the books graphic-based, so the only real translation to English was in the beginning of each book. He used photos to show building examples, using different colored parts and angles to diagram construction. In this manner, these photos are different from the usual LEGO instructions, as only completed models are shown and they are multi-colored. But they invite the reader to mentally dissect the models, and for a LEGO builder, it's a fun challenge with a great payoff. Without words, the builder is encouraged to build.

The simplicity of builds also open up possibilities for other building - the mechanisms are shown in their raw form, so adapting to another model can easily be done. As a result, these are *truly* idea books.

The books are done in a series based on complexity. The first book, Simple Machines, shows how the various Technic parts, including gears(!), treads, shafts and connectors work together to make movement. The second book, Wheeled Wonders, shows how to build all types of cars, including cars that steer and have suspension and even transmissions! The last book, Fantastic Contraptions, adds new ideas into the mix, including walkers, fans, and pneumatic models.

There are a couple of flaws - some of the motors that are used in the book are no longer available. However, adapting the currently available motors is an easy thing to do with the models shown and could serve as another challenge for the reader. Overall, this is a minor distraction in the books.

For the casual or beginning builder, these are great learning tools and inspirations for building models that can interact or move. For the Technic builder, these are an invaluable set of books to have as a reference to build mechanisms.

As a builder, I cannot recommend these highly enough as a practical guide to building Technic models. I would also recommend this book for FIRST LEGO League teams for a building reference for their competition models.

Sample pages:

Simple Machines:

Page sample

Simple Machine Sample 2

Wheeled Wonders

Wheel sample

Wheeled sample 2

Fantastic Contraptions

Contraption sample 1

Sample 2

You can order these books directly from No Starch Press here:

Simple Machines for $19.95
Wheeled Wonders for $19.95
Fantastic Contraptions for $19.95

LEGO Technic Idea Books Set for $49.95