We’ve featured custom LEGO kits by Brickmania many occasions through the years, however Dan Siskind‘s small business has grown considerably since the last time we reviewed one of the company’s kits. Most notably, Dan himself is not the only and even main designer — nice LEGO builders like Cody Osell now contribute most of the custom designs to the corporate’s merchandise. Whereas Dan is greatest recognized for tanks, Cody has designed most of Brickmania’s airplane fashions, together with the F-4C Phantom II we’ll be reviewing at the moment.
The packaging, directions, and sticker sheet
Small-batch custom LEGO kits don’t, in fact, are available the identical type of mass-produced packaging as official LEGO kits. Most Brickmania kits are available folded cardboard packing containers with the custom kit’s particulars printed on the back and front, and unnumbered luggage with the elements.
This custom kit follows the usual Brickmania sample, with unnumbered luggage on prime of the spiral-bound instruction booklet.
The instruction booklet is comparatively skinny for a mannequin constructed from over a thousand items, however the pages are giant and most steps add many extra items than the handful of items you add on any given step in an official LEGO set.
Like “premium” LEGO units from the LEGO Star Wars Final Collectors Collection, LEGO Concepts, or LEGO Structure, the booklet consists of particulars concerning the real-life supply materials, with a web page devoted to the historical past and repair of the F-Four Phantom.
Brickmania prints their decal sheets in-house, with all the markings to mirror the real-life plane precisely.
You apply all stickers on the finish of the construct course of, so there’s a single unfold with callouts indicating the place to put the numbered stickers.
As a result of not one of the luggage are numbered, I positioned all of the elements in a big tray with compartments, which made discovering the elements a lot simpler than merely dumping all of them out. However as a result of the steps can use dozens of elements, creating the primary two layers of the delta-wing took me a very good half an hour. I additionally advocate working in a well-lit room, because the distinction between olive inexperienced, darkish tan, and darkish grey might be surprisingly deceiving underneath poor lighting circumstances (this isn’t a problem with Brickmania’s printed directions, that are usually simpler to comply with than some LEGO units). The wings are pretty simple, merely layering tiles in a camouflage sample on prime of white plates.
Regardless of the good strides that LEGO has made in hiring fan designers and enhancing the methods demonstrated in official LEGO units over the previous 10 years, designers at LEGO headquarters in Billund are nonetheless restricted to “legal” methods that permit the completed mannequin to face up to vigorous play by the typical 9-year-old. Custom kits from corporations like Brickmania haven’t any such restrictions, and that is mirrored within the methods used to assemble the jet’s nostril and fuselage.
Sub-assemblies with complicated geometries slot into one another and fasten to brackets, leading to a clean floor with beautiful curves. Methods you’d by no means see in an official LEGO set embrace the two×eight part behind the jet intakes, which is just hooked up to the fuselage with two studs on the rear of the phase, whereas the entrance part merely “floats,” enabling a really delicate angle out towards the entrance.
The cockpit and nostril are not any much less complicated, with a two-wide part with studs dealing with out serving as the bottom for the edges. Wanting on the inside with out the edges hooked up, this would seem extremely fragile, however as soon as it’s sandwiched by the pores and skin, it’s very sturdy.
Though the jet’s exterior markings are all added utilizing stickers, Brickmania did produce two distinctive printed items for the backs of the ejector seats.
My sluggish begin however, I accomplished the Phantom in just some hours, experiencing some mind-bending LEGO geometry and superior methods alongside the best way. Official LEGO units many years in the past have been typically criticized for making use of stickers throughout a number of elements — we even have an entry in our LEGO glossary for STAMP calling the method “dreaded.” In fact, this mind-set assumes that you simply’re going to disassemble your LEGO set and construct your personal creations with the items. We doubt that in case you’ve simply spent a number of hundred dollars on a custom kit, you need to half it out once more into your assortment, and Brickmania appears to acknowledge this by making use of stickers in a means that’s extra just like plastic fashions than LEGO units.
Brickmania’s stickers are fairly a bit extra “forgiving” than LEGO’s sticker’s and decals, permitting you to right errors in placement with out damaging the stickers. Given this, it didn’t take us extra time to use all of the stickers to the Phantom than we’d spend including all of the stickers to a $10 Velocity Champions automotive. One draw back of the sticker materials is that this “give” may end up in some stickers utilized to curves (just like the Gatling gun pod’s shark face on the underside) having a bent to twist off should you don’t press the stickers on slightly exhausting.
The completed mannequin
The F-Four Phantom is definitely my favourite jet fighter, and we’ve featured quite a lot of stellar LEGO F-Four Phantom II fashions right here on The Brothers Brick through the years. McDonnell Douglas produced over 5,00zero Phantom II jets all through the 1960s and 1970s, and a few even stay in service at present with militaries as diversified as Japan and Iran. This Brickmania kit options the F-4C variant utilized by the US Air Pressure in the course of the Vietnam Conflict, in disruptive “jungle” camouflage for its floor assault position.
The camo sample in darkish inexperienced, darkish tan, and olive inexperienced seems to be beautiful, with pops of shade from the stickers, notably across the cockpit.
The angled wingtips and tailplane of the Phantom II are certainly one of its most distinctive design parts, with dihedral (angled up) wingtips and anhedral (angled down) tailplanes. 1×2 plates with rails maintain the wingtips up, whereas the tailplanes are hooked up by way of click on hinges.
The Brickmania Phantom additionally includes a full loadout, with an enormous number of weaponry slung from the jet’s all-white underside, starting from a number of sorts of missiles to a Gatling gun pod.
Army LEGO builders love to point out off their loadouts, so right here’s a photograph of all of the weapons carried by the plane.
The two-seat cockpit canopies open, revealing the pilot and radar intercept officer (RIO).
The instruction booklet has you construct the crew into the cockpit, although you possibly can definitely take away them and place them inside once more with out disassembling the cockpit.
The Phantom II was utilized by the US Navy and US Marine Corps as a carrier-based plane, along with its service with the Air Pressure, and the standardized jet options an arrester hook for plane service landings, despite the fact that this specific model is the USAF model.
Touchdown gear are essential in the event you don’t need to show your Phantom on a stand (although there are Technic slots for an plane stand Brickmania sells individually), since all of the weaponry hangs down, typically hooked up by only one or two studs. The touchdown gear are hooked up by way of click on hinges, so popping them up and down is usually a little bit of a problem typically.
General, the kit feels such as you’re constructing a fellow LEGO fan’s design, not an official LEGO kit. The completed design will get precedence over full stability and sturdiness — for instance, LEGO would by no means connect click on hinges for the touchdown gear with out including layers of further plates over them to make sure they by no means pop off. Equally, the two-stud attachment with the angled, floating aspect panels means it’s a must to watch out about the place you decide up the aircraft by its fuselage (although the panel is straightforward to exchange for those who by chance pop it off).
The Brickmania kit consists of two custom-printed crew members for the plane — a Wing Commander and Wing Vice Commander with distinctive heads and helmets. Brickmania prints their very own minifigs in-house, utilizing a way that produces a barely raised texture on some printed parts. I personally choose pad-printed parts, since pad printing leads to prints that lays “flat” like official LEGO designs. However, the printing could be very nicely executed and the designs themselves look each correct and applicable to the size of the minifigs. One benefit of this system is that the designs are utilized to each angle, together with the edges of the minifigs’ torsos and even the backs of their legs.
The helmet and respiration masks are each non-LEGO parts produced by Taiwanese custom accent maker Minifig Cat. A visor piece matches into the helmet and might be flipped up with a small lever on the left aspect of the helmet, and the face masks matches over the minifig’s face beneath the helmet.
Conclusions & suggestion
We’ve addressed the price of custom LEGO kits in previous critiques, however it’s value revisiting the subject once more for brand spanking new readers. The elements for custom kits are sourced by buying LEGO units in addition to items individually on the secondary market. On the similar time, custom kits are produced in small batches usually numbering no various hundred at a time, in distinction to the tens of hundreds of copies that LEGO produces utilizing parts from their very own factories. Consequently, official LEGO units take benefit monumental economies of scale in the price of design, printing, packaging, and different points of manufacturing past the essential expense of the plastic that “artisanal” or boutique kit makers can by no means obtain. It must be no shock, then, that Brickmania’s F-4C Phantom II custom kit prices $625.00 for a set with 1,290 items and two custom-printed minifigs.
If you will get previous the worth, you’ll have the ability to expertise a stellar construct course of which will train even skilled hobbyists some new LEGO methods, and also you’ll find yourself with an completely beautiful mannequin that might look unbelievable on any desk or shelf. That is the type of custom kit you purchase for your self together with your annual bonus or that you simply purchase for a liked one who’d by no means splurge on such a luxurious.
And we will’t recover from simply how implausible the Brickmania Phantom seems, from its all-white underside with detailed loadout to the camouflage sample and curvy fuselage. If you wish to construct one thing splendidly totally different that you simply’ll by no means see from LEGO themselves, we will’t advocate this custom kit extremely sufficient.
Brickmania is a Premier Sponsor of The Brothers Brick and despatched The Brothers Brick an early copy of this set for assessment. Nevertheless, offering TBB with merchandise for evaluation ensures neither protection nor constructive evaluations.
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