Building instructions and buying my models

A while back I posted that I was considering how best to share building instructions for my creations. There were several comments on that post and also a few email exchanges I had with people over this topic, and I’ve also had a chance to discuss it in person with a few people at BrickCon in Seattle this past October. And what I’ve decided on is this:

  • I won’t give it away for free. Sorry if that’s disappointing, but although I am a big fan of open source software, the reason that works well is because the users can contribute back to the development of the software by adding features and fixing bugs, and submitting patches to the author. LEGO creations are fundamentally different from that, in that once I’ve created a design I’m really not interested in collaborating with other builders to change it. I might take some feedback and revise it based on that, but I’m not going to accept patches for my models. So the open source model doesn’t really suit my LEGO creations.
  • Similarly I am a fan of Creative Commons, but again the main benefit of that is the ability for people to incorporate my work (such as my photos, which are licensed with Creative Commons) into other works without having to jump through a lot of hoops to get approval. Some of my photos have been used by Web sites and even mainstream news sources because of this. But I don’t think that would translate into LEGO model designs.
  • I won’t use LEGO Digital Designer (LDD) because you give up too many of your rights when uploading the designs to LEGO’s site. It would be convenient to use Design By Me to create kits from my models, but then it would be LEGO profiting from it instead of me. Is that too selfish? I think if I’m going to go through the effort of creating instructions for a model, as opposed to just photographing it or even creating an LDraw file of it, I’d like to receive something for my efforts. (LDraw is the easy part, it’s making the instructions that’s harder – even though LPub does a lot of the work, there’s still a great deal of manual adjustment of the layout to get it to where I want it).
  • Selling kits of my models is something I’ve thought about a lot, and I may do it for one or two models, but the problem is obtaining the parts. It’s rare to find one BrickLink store that has all the parts for a model, so I’d have to order them from several stores – or deplete the parts in my collection, which again means going to BrickLink to replace them.
  • What I know I can do is sell PDF or printed copies of the instructions. To that end, I’m planning on setting up a store on and listing the instructions there in both ebook and printed format, and some kits for small and popular models I’ve designed.

So, watch this space for an announcement when I get my Etsy store up, and in the meantime let me know if there are any particular models of mine you’d like to get the instructions for. Prices for smaller models will be around $20. I’m not generally interested in doing custom work, but if the idea grabs my interest I may do it. But in general I would refer you to someone who does that for a living.

How best to share building instructions for my creations?

Every once in a while I get a request to share building instructions for my models. I am willing to do so, but haven’t quite figured out the best way. I was wondering if people might want to comment and make some suggestions?

Some possibilities for formats are are:

  • LDraw files
  • PDF of instructions generated using LDraw and LDpub
  • Printed instructions in black & white or color

The ugly side of the equation comes when I contemplate compensation.  Do I sell them or just give them away?  I think it depends on how much work I have to put into them.  I won’t go through the trouble of creating printed instructions for free, but I might be willing to share the LDraw files for free (Creative Commons licensed).  The question is, how much would people be willing to pay, and is that enough to justify the work it would take me to prepare nice looking instructions?

Desert Road Trip

Flickr user jedimasterwagner has made a great little desert diorama, featuring my Shasta Teardrop travel trailer, a Jeep by Mike Psiaki, and a cactus based on an idea that Flickr user brickpoor brought back from BrickWorld.

Desert Road Trip

Found via Lego Diem. Looks like the diorama was created using LDraw and rendered in 3D. I think it came out quite good – and great work on the mosaic billboard!

Gondola LDraw file now available

I like to make LDraw virtual models of all my MOCs, for a number of reasons: so I can re-create the model if it is ever taken apart, and so I can share the design with others.

Gondola LDraw render

However, I’m a little stuck as to what to do with these files. Should I post them online? If so where?

As an experiment I’m posting this one on Flickr. I posted the GIF file rendered by MLCAD for my recent Gondola train car, and as a comment under that GIF I put the entire LDraw .MPD file.

I’ve also uploaded it as an attachment to this post: gondola.mpd

What do you think is the best way to make the LDraw files available?

Wheeled School Bus

Hot on the heels of my fantastical Lunar School Bus, here’s a much more mundane version.

Wheeled School Bus

This is the first time I’ve ever encountered a need to specify “wheeled” with reference to a school bus – how about you? :-)

Anyway, it wasn’t that hard. I was thinking of doing it anyway, but when Flickr user Mad physicist asked about it I decided to give it a whirl. I pulled off the antigravity bottom and rocket engines, and otherwise left it intact. The hardest part was the nose, because it contains SNOT sub-units facing in several different directions (up, forward, down, and to both sides), plus half-stud offsets here and there to keep things interesting. However I found a way to reuse as much of the original as possible.

I was also asked if I could make instructions for it. Well, I have done that too. I made a CAD version of the lunar school bus first before I started tearing anything apart (just in case!) and then later adapted it so that you could build either school bus from the same set of sub-units. I have a master MPD file containing everything needed to build both versions, and thanks to the MPD Wizard from Orion Pobursky (see the LUGNET thread where I heard about it for details), I also have separate MPD files containing just what you need to build one or the other. I’m not sure yet how I’m going to publish it – should I charge money or just give it freely? Would people be happy with the MPD file or would they want proper directions?

Anyway, click the pic for the rest of the photos, or view a slideshow. I included some interior shots from the lunar bus in the photoset because the interior is identical.

Little House Instructions

Recently I posted about some little houses that I had built for the BayLTC train shows. The photos for that are on Flickr, but I wanted to also publish them on Brickshelf which I now have done.

In addition, you can find LDraw instructions for each of the three houses should you be interested in building them yourself. Here are direct links to the building instructions:

Each one is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License so you are basically free to do whatever you want with it as long as you give me credit. Enjoy!