Retrospective 2021

Here is the retrospective of the 2021 year, with a critical look at my creations / Lego activities, including commissioned projects.

Context

2021 was the first year that I was at full time job on my Lego activities, it included creating Lego creations, including alternate model, but also for companies with commissioned job and developing the Buildamoc activities. I have also worked a lot on my branding with adding content / features on my website and on Rebrickable, and being more present on the social media. There is a lot to say, that is why I do no want to present the retrospective my talking only about stats, but more about achievements on each point of my activities in a chronological way. You can find below a condensed English spoken video of this article :

There were 9 creations this year, better than the 2021 (6), obviously because I have more time to build but also more time to create content on creations. I have created 20 videos for Youtube, 15 of them on 2021 creations (including model video and design secrets), 1 review, and 4 announcements. It gives about a video every two weeks which I am very satisfied with it. It was one of my goal in this year to produce more content on each creations, which I did with the new YouTube format : Design secrets.

This new design secrets was not easy to create at first, mainly because I have to speak in English with my French accent, but the reception was really good. You like this type of content, which explains how I designed a set and how I use certain building techniques. I need to write a script, record the voice over, use additional footage and make a long editing, but it worth’s the challenge ! It enables me to explain my conception choice, sometime better than I can do by writing and help to understand how the model works. It gives also longer videos, which help in terms of stats for YouTube with a better watchtime.

January : 42100 Model B – Vibroseis Truck + Commissioned project

The first design secrets was about my first alternate model of 2021 : the 42100 as a Vibroseis Truck. As written in the review, I wanted to make for a long time a alternate of this set, but Grohl and ErixTrax had a similar idea, that is why I needed to changed my plan and make something different. My model has a good reception in terms of comment and appreciation, surely because it is something different what we often see. But the sale of the instructions was not very good. It was better than any other classic creations (eg : not an alternate model) but was disappointed for an alternate, which is understandable by the fact Grohl and ErixTrax have made wonderful alternate, and before me.

 

In any case, it was the first design secrets I have done, and it brings a lot of experience to me on this format. Plus, that I have been contacted by Inova brand, who manufactures the original vibroseis truck, which leads to the first commissioned job of 2021 which was to produce wheeled versions of the vibroseis truck.

Wheeled version of my 42100 alternate for Inova

So I made the modifications by adding wheels and reworking the drivetrain because of the needed differential, make the building instructions and then Buildamoc provides a amazing support to find all the required parts.

February : Multi Model Steering Vehicle

This creation is interesting.  After a discussion with DyensCreations on the subject to create a multi mode steering at small scale, I wanted to try to figure out to create one. So I did and make a quick video to present it (it was shoted on my desk, not in my studio) and make free building instructions. Then, YouTube machine has becomes crazy and the video has become viral, with hundred of thousand views. So, sometimes the creations that take the most time are not the ones that get the most views ! It leads my YouTube channel to have thousand subscribers in some weeks, and make me passing the 50k subscribers !

 

March : Braiding Machine

Braiding / twisting machine is something I like a lot, that is why I have made several. But this one serve one purpose : make a affordable braiding machine in order to propose for sale on Buildamoc. I developed this version based on 3 twisting reels in order to be simple to set up and to operate. The sale of the instructions was mostly confidential because the model is so tiny that you can rebuild with the pictures if you are good at Lego, but the Buildamoc sale was good. It has a great success over the months, as it enables to build a nice and didactic machine with your kids for instance. It is something similar to STEM product and bring customers who are not necessary fan of Lego. The statistics on the design secrets was good, which comfort me in a way that people like this new format so I decided to make a design secrets for each creations after that. 

 

April : Berliet T100

The beast. The largest truck of the world at its time, replicated in 1/20 scale for 63cm long. It was one of the biggest construction I have ever done which lead to many problem regarding the weight and the drivetrain, but I succeeded (after hundreds of hours), and only for that, I am happy ! This truck has a very good reception, as it is a iconic French truck and that people love big truck in general. I expected a very confidential instructions sale as it requires a lot of yellow parts, and motor, but this is the exception. The sale was rather good for a classic creation (eg not an alternate model) and the reception of the Design Secrets was amazing. I have put several old footage of the real truck and talking about its history, that people liked. So I decided to add a historical parts when it is possible in the design secrets of my future creations.

 

This creation is also for sale on Buildamoc, but considering the price, it was not very well sold.

May : Commissioned project – Forge of Paimpont

In April, I have done a commissioned project for the Forge of Paimpont, a historical site in France where railway was forged in the 18th and 19th centuries. The owner of the site has started in 2020 to reproduce the main building at 1/30 scale where the water wheel, rolling mills and furnaces are. Then he contacted me in order I create the technical model inside this building. The first project was to build the water wheel which drive two rolling mill.

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Overall model of the Forge of Paimpont

So based on the existing Lego building, I have designed the water wheel with many blades which drive the inertia wheels and the two rolling mills with a chain on corner gears. The model is driven underneath using a hidden motor which drive a roller on the black inertia wheel. A tension mechanism enables clutching in case of problem. 

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Rolling Mills from the Forge of Paimpont

It is a simple model regarding the technical side but it has to be as reliable as possible and works smoothly, because the model is made for long running time. You can see in action  : 

Next projects are planned, by continuing creating model for the Lego building, 6 Pudler furnances with moving functions, two squeezers (sort of driven sledgehammer), and more, including 3D printed parts for important elements that I can not reproduce in Lego. The idea is to represent as closed as possible the functioning of the forge in a didactic way, thanks to the motion. I was really happy to work with The Forge of Paimpont, it is not something I do usually (more focused on vehicle) but working on such a building, which marked the regions and French industry, is an honor, as there are so many interesting things to tell about it.

June : 42115 Model B – Ford F150

The second beast of the year. My first 1/8 supercar, which is in fact a supertruck, based on the 42115 Lamborghini Sian set. I wanted at first to create a Aston Martin DBS but did not succeed with the parts, so I made a truck instead. It has classic functions for a supercar plus adjustable ridding height. The model has received a great reception with great sale too, being in the top selling moc on Rebrickable for weeks. It was for me a big challenge to make such a big vehicle, as the more the vehicle become big in Lego, the more you add to have a very nice design and details, because you do not have the excuse to be on small scale and make compromise. But I am really happy with the result with the powerful look and interesting color scheme.

 

It was the second instructions I made in 300dpi, which increase the size of the PDF but enable to zoom more in it. It is a lot to handle for my computer but worth the quality.

July : Fiat 500

The Fiat 500 was a vehicle I wanted to reproduce for a while, as I did for the Citroen 2Cv and Mehari and many other planed like the Renault 4L, Peugeot 205 etc. So I did in July by focusing me on the particular design, but with some function like suspensions and working fake engine, that the Citroen I did, do not have. It results in a model with a lot of parts for its size (964 !).  I was rather happy with the result  especially the front and back design, but the reception was very shy. I was thinking it will be as “famous” as the Citroen I did but the stats and the sale were mostly confidential. Even if it is for sale on Buildamoc, it did not sell very well. I think the model is maybe less iconic and that the release timing was not so good (just before the holiday).

 

Despite that, I was happy with the design secrets I made with a historical footage section and explaining some tricks and tips for the building. I have also added a new section to this format which was the default / limitations, things on the creation that I was not happy with, mostly due to compromise I needed to do.

August : Commissioned project – Vibroseis Truck for Sercel

The alternate model of the 42100 leads to an other commissioned project, this time for Sercel, a manufacturer of Vibroseis Truck too. After watching my tracked vibroseis truck based on Inova model, they asked me to build their version of a wheeled vibroseis truck. It was quite a challenge ! It was so different compare to the vibroseis truck I have done that I have started the project from scratch. 

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Vibroseis Truck from Sercel

The model is fully motorized with Bluetooth remoting using Control+ and Powered App on smartphone. There is one XL motor for each axle with differentials, where the rear is connected to the fake L6 engine. The steering is operated by a L motor which drives two linear actuator. The vibroseis platform is moved with a L motor which drives two linear actuators. The particularity of this platform is that the whole assembly moves including the top frame, when the Inova’s frame remains fixed which leads to a different design for the linear actuators. The vibrator functions is made is a same way with a motor which drives a crank mass. To finish, a front which is operated with a L motor. You can see the prototype I have done in action :

 

The model is about 70cm long for 3kg, a huge creation, which is bigger and longer than my 42100 alternate. But, as the central articulation remains, I have to carefully designed it to be sturdy enough and well balanced to handle the weight. At the final, I am really happy with the design and the functionalities, and the customer too ! With the help of Buildamoc, we build 6 units of them to be delivered to the customer. It is a great example that Lego Technic can make conclusive and didactic model compared to motionless scale model.

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Lego Technic Vibroseis Truck at Sercel’s office

September : 42083 Model B – Race Truck

The “Truckati”, or “Bugattruck”, an alternate model based on the 42083 Bugatti Chiron, as a Race Truck. Again, it should be my first 1/8 supercar but it was a (super) truck. I did not figure out to find a proper design for a car because of the color scheme so I have chosen to make something different. I have focused the development of the design but also on the functionalities, especially the fact you can see it by opening cover panel to understand how it works (lever inside the cabin, steeper, 8 speeds gearbox). The reception was good, and I am happy with the result and the sale, considering the age of this set.

 

I have also started to make reels and short (1min video for Instagram and YouTube) to test the format. I am not really convinced by these, it requires an additional amount of work and specific (and idiot) requirement (seriously, not possible to send a video on computer, only from smartphone ?). They had some success on instagram but they didn’t bring many new followers or interactions, people watch it in the feed, but that’s all. It is worst on YouTube with confidential views and not new subscribers, plus that it “pollutes” the regular feed of video. So for now, I am not really convinced by this format for my videos.

October : Halloween Spider Box

A small creation to celebrate Halloween. A box which contains a spider which is revealed by a lever and spring loader mechanism. The idea was to published this before Halloween and offer a free building instructions as a video tutorial, to build this before Halloween with their kids for instance. The tutorial and seasonal video is often popular on YouTube but this one was not. So maybe it is not that good, not so scary, not so “clickbait” and maybe the timing was too short but let’s say it is a try ! The creations was also for sale on Buildamoc and despite the delivery after Halloween, it saled pretty well.

 

November : Telescope

This was a small build that I wanted to build for a while : a tiny telescope with working axles. Of course it has no lens but it is a nice set for decorating or for astronomy fans. It has be designed to be as affordable as possible to propose it for sale on Buildamoc. And the result was here : the sale were very good, mostly due to Christmas, as a gift for space lover. So i am happy with the result, by the way, it’s the only creation that I kept mounted for now. I am currently working with some astronomical products retailers to propose it on their website so maybe you will see poping it in 2022.

 

Other announcements

Apart creations and commissioned project, I work on other Lego activities which included some commissioned project that I can not tell because under NDA, but I also focused in proposing more content based on my previous model. For instance, I added 5 instructions for old moc : 8×8 articulated truck (in a design secrets video), trial crawler, CVT truck, and yellow version for Citroen Mehari and 2Cv. I am also happy to announce that we have a partnership with the Mehari Club Of Cassis to propose the Citroen Mehari and 2Cv lineup to their customers.

Lego Technic Citroen lineup at Mehari Club of Cassis’s office

On the material field, I planed to make a video about my equipment as Sariel did, but I use moslty my Panasonic GH5 in a dedicated studio space which has a very good quality and stabilization. I have recently upgraded my studio lights for Quadralite Thea 480 which are smaller than those I have before for years, which help a lot in the filming. I have also renewed my Lightroom license to get the GH5 support, so since the 42100 Model B, all pictures have been taken with the Panasonic GH5 and Leica lens. As nobody complains, I have sold my Canon to keep only one camera.

My studio configuration (2022)

On the Lego collection and sorting, I have to extend the capacities of storage because of the 42100 and 42115 to be stored. So I have optimized my storage by purchasing new plastic case drawer for small parts, from Stanley brand (ref : 1-93-980 and 1-93-981), which has the advantage to be compatible with Lego dimensions and can be stacked for a nice result. Plus a large tower of drawer to store big parts and metapiece. With that configuration, all parts are accessible and the plastic case are not mismatched. I will make a complete video about it, as I have now a strong experience in sorting Lego parts for creating moc. 

My Lego parts collection (2022)

 

On the website side, I have changed the hosting for a dedicated server as I wanted to connect new modules like an emailing solutions and solve security issue. On the emailing solution, I send a newsletter when I issue a new creation, so each 1-2 months. It includes details about it, but also some sneak information of what I working on and sometimes a discount code to use on my website. For now, the emails are only for customers.

I have started collecting the VAT at the end of 2021 in order to comply with EU regulation changes, which means that basically my price have been increasing by 20% and then I redistribute it to the country of the buyer. I know that a price increase is not very good (you pay more for the same product) but I wanted to comply with the regulation for the sustainability of my business. I had not too much complain about it, as I had issued a special discount for customer to limit the increase. I know that my price is now less competitive, as it had been, but when you buy my products, you buy also the Nico71’s quality, in terms of design and instructions, quality that I always improve (you can compare with old instructions, the difference is massive). Putting into perspective the price of my instructions and the price of a Lego set, make the instructions not so expensive when you think of the time of build and play. Nevertheless, I do not plan to change my price for now, which is 5€ for small creation, 7.5€ for medium, 10€ for big, and 15€ for very big (price excluding tax).

To finish with the review side. I have made a review about the new Sbrick light that I helped to develop, especially the small plastic parts to fix the light. It was quite fun to test product and will surely use in a next creation. I was contacting also by a clone bricks seller to make a review of their product. So, if the product is good, I will make a objective review on it, let’s get a chance to this clone brick as the mentality start to change with Cada’s work.

Upcoming projects

I work for some years now in collaboration with Lionel Lucas, the author of “Voyage en zone rouge 1” (Road to the red zone), a book about the history of Honda, focused on the Type R Honda. He contacted me when writing the second volume (VZR2) to propose an exclusive package of the book with Lego replica of iconic Honda Formula one. He had already proposing a special edition package for the first volume with a watch and die cast Honda Civic Type R, but, he wanted a different exclusive edition package for the upcoming second volume. With the blessing of Honda brand, here is the result.

Lego Technic Replica of the Honda RA300 and McLaren MP4/4 for the VZR2 project

This special edition will be composed of the book, a coated metal stand with screen printing and laser engraving, and a Lego replica of the Honda R300 or McLaren MP4/4 to be chosen. The package will include printed instructions, custom stickers and book cover depending of the chosen Lego Formula one. The special edition will be limited and numerated, it will be not possible to buy it again after the first production.  I do not know the launch date for now, but as soon as I have more details, I will let you know. In any case, it is a very exciting project to create such a exclusive set for a brand that I like a lot.

 

On the Lego creations, I plan several creations for this year, which includes some alternate model but also classic one, here is a work in progress list :

  • 42100 Alternate – Tracked Carrier with Operating Crane (Powerbully 18t)
  • 42114 Alternate – 6×6 Truck
  • 42131 Alternate – To be Decided
  • Nissan R390 GT1
  • Kenworth 953 or Berliet GPO (with new geared hub)
  • McLaren MP4/4 in big scale (to match my Honda RA300)
  • 1/15 scale vehicle : Peugeot 205, Renault 4L, Citroen DS
  • Honda E or EV concept in medium scale
  • Western Star 6900 TwinSteer in big scale

I have also some commissioned project already started but I think I will talk about during the year instead of in the end retrospective.

Conclusion

So, what remember of this year ? I was thinking I have not made so many things, despite the fact I was at full time job on it. But, after writing this article, I noticed that I have made several things  (and I have cut some content). So I am happy with the result, by improving my website / features, make new creations and works for some companies in commissioned job. I hope that the coming year will be even better than the previous one ! If you are a company and wants to contact me for a commissioned job, see the contact form.

Of course, I have made mistakes, in some creations, in some commissioned projects, but as in Lego creation, a fail is always a way to improve thing for the next time. For now everybody is happy with my work, so I wish it continues !

Thanks to my amazing partners, Buildamoc and Forwart sticker who made great job and helps me a lot to proposing better creations. Thanks to the companies who trust me and all my fans and supporting customers. As I write every year, without you, it will not be possible 🙂

(2) Comments

  1. Avatar photo

    You are welcome ! If the chain slip on the gear rack corner, you can mix the chain link 3711a and 14696 because they have not the same elasticity, in order to find the proper tension for best grip.

    Good day,
    I love the way you used the chain for gearing on the outside of 24121 for the Forge of Paimpont. I have wanted to be able to drive gears from the outside of another MOC and never would have thought of this. Thank you so much for this brilliant idea.

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