Review: Tiny LEGO Wonders

Micro scale building and mini models have always been a favorite of mine. Getting the detail needed and shapes required to convey something recognizable with a minimal number of pieces at a tiny scale is a skill many builders take for granted, or simply don't appreciate. I love scrolling through my Flickr feed and finding something appealing, only to discover upon closer inspection it is an order of magnitude smaller than I had first thought. That moment of "wait, that's only three studs wide?" always makes me smile. Well now No Starch Press and author Mattia Zamboni have assembled an entire volume of such tiny builds, and there's pleasant surprises on every page.

The book itself is the quality I've come to expect from No Starch, heavy cover, good binding, excellent print quality on heavy paper stock. The choices of paper weight and binding a perfect for a reason way to often overlooked in this type of book, the ability to lay open and flat without holding. Since this is effectively an instruction book, it's critical that the reader be able to do this, leaving their hands free for building.

The book is organized into chapters based on locations rather than vehicle type, which is an interesting and nice idea. Rather than gather all the wheeled vehicles in one chapter (as is way too often the case) you can find vehicles pertinent to a construction site, airport or racetrack in those corresponding chapters. Since most builders tend to build by theme or genre, this makes perfect sense.

You also won't find a whole lot of those pesky words to get in the way of building, besides an introduction and a little setup, there aren't any. I am totally ok with this notion. Rather than clutter the pages with a bunch of unnecessary prose or flowery descriptions, the book just gets on with the business at hand, presenting images and instructions on how to build 40 models. Besides the chapter introduction image, that's all there is too, just model after glorious model.

The image and rendering quality is very nice too, a lot of care and attention went into these instructions. After making my own instructions now for a few years I have a new-found appreciation for this craft. And make no mistake, it is a craft unto itself. Breaking a model down into it's logical steps can be a very painstaking, agonizing task, but when it's done well, it seems effortless. I personally would have preferred actual models and photographs for the chapter introductory images, rather than renders. But that's just a personal preference.

Anyone who's ever built a LEGO model (and even if you haven't for that matter) will instantly understand the instructions, they're essentially identical to instruction produced by TLG. There's a bill of materials and a render of the final model at the start of every one, and classic step by step instructions to build it after. Anyone with a decent selection of bricks can be building within seconds of opening the book. There's also a difficulty rating for each model, so you can judge if you're ready for it.

The quality of the models is really a stand out feature of this book. There's tons of instruction books on the market, and just because you have the directions to build something, doesn't mean when it's done it will be a great model, that's not the case here. Author Zamboni and the other contributors to this book are top-notch builders, and that's the key to a great book, starting with awesome models. Breaking them down into steps is just a formality really. There's a huge range of models too, something for everyone. Everything from trains, planes and automobiles to my personal favorite, the crawler-transporter and shuttle.

In closing, I recommend this book. For newcomers, you'll find easy to build models with great design and manageable part count. To experienced builders and those that already build on a small scale, you'll find excellent reference and inspiration. I give it five out of five Nerdlys


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