I’ve been busy building for the last couple weeks. Bricks Cascade is right around the corner, and I had a number of models partially built that I have been finishing up. Amidst that, I was really wanting to build some new mecha to display. I recently purchased Lu Sim‘s Mech Wars, a primer for building LEGO mechs so I decided to give his reFrames a try.
The basic idea behind reFrames is to build a versatile ‘skeleton’ for the mecha and then wrap that in a skin of armor and other details. Lu Sim’s designs score on a number of points: relatively common elements and a very poseable result. The main problem is that his book only has pictures of finished reFrames and no instructions. Reverse engineering the complex snot techniques was a bit frustrating (though he has provided a breakdown of the torso structure on his flickr).
A generic frame like this is a great way to get started. This allows me to skip past all of the fussing with proportions and articulation and get to the meaty part of the building. A good design has studs in multiple directions so that the skin can be attached from every side.
With the reFrames built, I began to add detail and bulk from the bottom up. I had slept on the design and decided that I wanted to use a white and orange halfing pattern. I had a lot of useful elements in both colors, so I wouldn’t have too much trouble mirroring the design. The lower legs are mostly dark gray, giving a nice ‘booted’ look. The thighs are built up to conceal the heavy ball and socket joints of the hips.
The next step was harder. The torso and shoulders are important to overall look of the mecha, and so hard to get just right. I definitely built parts of these and then immediately took them apart and tried something different. Since the torso is an odd number of studs, I split the middle with a stripe of light gray and decided that the heads would match when I got to them.
I rolled the design so far around in my head as I went to sleep that night, and in the morning I made some adjustments to the chest and shoulders. The socket that I was using in the shoulders has a couple of mold variations, one of which allows a stud to be pressed in from the side. After some parts juggling, I used this technique to conceal more of the joint and give a more solid look to the shoulders.
For the heads I opted for a less humanoid, more drone-like, style. I like the final effect of stacked ‘eyes’ in a nice flat gray. I finished up with simple hands and a colored plate on the back of each to extend the color scheme. It took a while to get the guns dialed in, keeping them simple, yet identifiably gun-like. I prototyped a number of guns before I settled on the stripped down look that I used.
Each model has minor variations based on its role in the squad.
For the commander, I added a stripe of color to the head, but otherwise left it as the baseline.
Around the back, we can see the pack, which is mostly a cluster of cylindrical tanks. Clipped on to that is a support drone. I tried to keep the back interesting, with lots of details.
I made one of them a marksman, equipped with a more powerful rifle. I love using textured bricks and anti-studs to add detail.
The last variant is the drone specialist. I added an electronic warfare pod to one shoulder to represent its expanded capabilities for coordinating the squad’s drones.
I took extra care in getting photos to show them off. Good photography makes all the difference in how your creations are received in the wider audience of the internet.
I think these are the best mecha that I’ve built so far. The best way to improve your skills is to build more and keep trying new things. I’d like to think that my work paid off with these guys.
Keep building and enjoy!