The Elves have been busy quietly sharpening pencils lately, and here’s why! We’re delighted to announce that the incredible Ralph Savelsberg aka Mad Physicist ‘agreed’ (thanks to our stationary-wielding friends) to join us as the latest builder in The Lego Car Blog’s Master MOCers Series, in which we’re interviewing the most recognised and talented vehicle builders on the world wide web.
Ralph has appeared on TLCB more times than almost any other builder, thanks to his superb cars, trucks and aircraft. His Flickr photostream contains a huge range of unbelievably realistic Lego creations and he’s also now a writer for the world-famous Brothers Brick blog. Make sure you see him in action via the links above, and now – on with the interview!
When did you first get into Lego and what was your first set?
This is too long ago to remember, but luckily there are pictures of me as a toddler with Duplo. I’m sure I had the Duplo Police Station from 1977. The first system set that I remember was the Police Launch. This was originally released in 1976, which oddly enough is older than the Duplo set, but I’m pretty sure I got it when I was a few years older. It still had the original ‘hands in pocket’ minifigs.
How did you get started in the AFOL Community?
I found MOCpages and Eurobricks during an internet search sometime in 2004/2005. I bought a digital camera a year later and started posting models on MOCpages and Brickshelf soon after. All of this was only on-line, but in 2007, whilst I was living in the UK, I joined the Brickish Association. I’ve been an active member and publically displaying models at shows ever since, even though I’m not in the UK anymore. Since returning from the UK I’m also active in Lowlug, which is a Dutch LEGO users group.
What’s your favourite LEGO set or theme?
Easy. It’s the only set I know the number of: 5580 Highway Rig. This was among the first Model Team sets released in 1986 and is so cool that, if LEGO were to re-release it now, the sets would sell like hot-cakes. I’d but one in a heartbeat.
Who is your favourite MOCer?
That is a very difficult question, because there are so many people out there who do immensely cool stuff in various themes. I could easily pick about a dozen people who build the sort of stuff that I wouldn’t mind having built myself. However, since I’m getting shady looks from the Elves, I’m going to have to go with Ed Diment (aka Lego Monster). Not only is he the first Brickish member I ever met and a fantastic builder, but we used to live fairly close to each other and collaborated on a few builds that are still among the coolest things I’ve ever built. He has now taken his LEGO building to a whole other level by doing it professionally with Bright Bricks and they do some amazing models.
What is your favourite MOC?
If you would have asked me this a few weeks ago, I’d have been hard-pressed to come up with an answer. However, since then I finished my 1/22 scale Tomcat from Top Gun and that wins hands down. Tomcats are cool and the model turned out better than I could have hoped for.
What’s your favourite brick?
The jumper plate (1×2 plate with one stud), because it allows you to go off the regular grid and make smaller steps than you normally would. It’s rare for me to put in a Bricklink order and not see whether the seller has any of these in colours that I am running out of (and I’m always running out of them).
How do you start a build?
Usually I collect lots of images, either from on-line sources or from books. For a car I calculate the width, the wheelbase and the length. Based on those I make a general arrangement drawing, with the sizes of various things (in studs) on it and some of the details, as I am going to build them, filled in and I build using that as a guide. The process for building an aircraft is similar, but the planning is more detailed, since they tend to have far more complicated shapes and difficult things such as retractable undercarriages. When I finally start building, I start with the difficult bits, because I know that if I can nail those, I will reach the finish line. I rarely start something that I don’t finish.
What makes your designs unique to you?
Superficially, the stand-out feature is that my models still show studs, at a time when most of the ‘cool people’ tend to hide them. However, this is not unique to my models. I am often told that most of my models are immediately recognisable as mine, but it’s hard to pin down why. A lot of different elements come together when building (pun intended, such as build techniques, the choice of scale, whether you show studs, what details you capture, use of colour etcetera. I don’t think that any of those individual elements are unique to my models, but I’d like to think that what makes my models recognizably mine is the way I combine them.
Who do you think will be a talent for the future?
I know several people who nowadays build very nice models, but whose first models to appear on-line were a bit ropey, whereas other people, who did produce promising models, have basically dropped off the map. So making predictions isn’t easy. However, the Elves look as though they want to twist my arm, so I’d better answer. Kenneth Vaessen. He is a Dutch builder with whom I’ve had the occasional contact over the years. He is an aircraft fan, like myself, but until recently mainly built with LDD and didn’t post anything on-line. The first model he posted is a Tu-22M Backfire Bomber that is just fantastic. I’m already looking forward to what he comes up with next.
I always have a long list of things in mind. There’ll be more vehicles from movies and TV-shows (such as the Pussy Wagon from Kill Bill) and more aircraft. Building the Tomcat has made me think about building a WW2 aircraft on a larger scale; most likely a Grumman Wildcat.
A huge thank you to Ralph for visiting us here at TLCB Towers. You can see all of his models on Flickr via the link at the top of this page, and you can find all of his works that have appeared here on The Lego Car Blog via the search function at the bottom. Join us soon for the final interview in the Master MOCers Series!