10K Club Interview: Meet David Low of SR-71A The Final Flight
We continue last week's aeronatautical theme as we present this week's 10K Club member, David Low a.k.a. JustOneMoreBrick, and his take on the iconic and supersonic SR-71A The Final Flight. Taking about 6 months to gather the necessary supporters there's no doubt fans were crazy about the stealthy lines of this jet!
Help us congratulate David in the comments on joining the exclusive LEGO Ideas 10K Club and for sharing his story with us!
- Where are you from?
I currently live in Ocean Grove, Victoria, Australia.
- How old are you?
52 by my last count though I’m becoming less inclined to keep counting these days as the number keeps going up.
^ David with his pride and joy - the SR-71A The Final Flight
- What do you study or do for a living?
I’m the IT Manager for Bush Heritage, a Not-For-Profit Conservation Organisation in Australia. I’m an Engineer by qualification so that probably explains my obsession with endlessly tinkering.
- What hobbies do you have?
Apart from the obvious brick related one, I do enjoy some computer gaming and fishing, with a fly or spin rod.
- How and when did your interest for LEGO come about?
Sometime in the last century when much much younger we had a bit of LEGO at home but it was when I was at a friends house, and he dumped this massive pile of LEGO out for us to play with, then I had to have more.
I went through my dark ages at about the normal time for most of us with school, uni, work etc but once we had our son, then LEGO came back into my life in my 30s.
- What is your favourite official LEGO set? Why?
Actually 2 sets have strong memories for me, 656 and 7140.
656 was my first set and it had those amazing wheels that could go under any any plate (3137)! I was always building with the old 4 stud wheels with the metal axle before then which limited the vehicles I could build. We also spent most of our holidays as a family in a caravan so it was always a set I had a connection to and still sits proudly on the shelf in my LEGO room.
7140 was the first 'real' set I purchased for my son after he stopped putting everything in his mouth. I was 11 when I saw Star Wars so that obsession is kind of obvious, but this was the set that got me back into building MOCs, as I thought (with no offence intended to the LEGO Designer) 'I can build a better X-Wing than this', and I’d like to think I did.
What is your favourite LEGO element? Why?
Apart from those wheels I mentioned, it would be the 1x2 curved slope at the moment. With my minor (?) obsession with building aircraft, the ability to reproduce curves on fuselages and almost functional wings is a dream when trying to make vaguely aerodynamic shapes out of bricks.
- Is there a LEGO designer (official LEGO designer or fan designer) who you are inspired by and look up to? Who and why?
I have a couple of builders who I follow and enjoy their work immensely, Sariel and Iain Heath. They both continue to astound and frustrate me in equal measures as I try and work out ‘just how in the world did he do that…’
Sariel is an amazing LEGO Technic builder and it’s something I struggle with. I’m more old school LEGO and as much as I love Technic, I’m just not very good at MOCing it.
Iain always has the perfect take on something real, and although I enjoy scale model building, Iain’s creations do that with real character.
^ David displayed his SR-71A The Final Flight at Brickvention 2018
- Is there one or more particular LEGO related websites (not official LEGO websites) that you visit often and/or are inspired by?
I keep tabs across a few of the popular ones but my main source comes from the LEGO community on Flickr which has several groups that feed my idea engines.
About Your Project
- Where did your interest in this particular model come from?
Back in that last century, my overriding obsession was building plastic kits of aircraft (Airfix, Revell) so I’ve always been a scale modeler and building aircraft in plastic for quite a while. I still design and build my own models in plastic, but now with LEGO which means a lot less glue and paint.
The SR-71 has always been my dream aircraft and was one of the many kits I built in my youth. The admiration for this magnificent aircraft has only but grown over the years as I've leant more about it. The engineer in me is still in awe at what was achieved in its time, with the limited technology at hand, and I'm not sure anything as majestic or as powerful will ever be built.
- What special challenges did you face creating the model? What was the most difficult part to recreate?
I have seen a number of SR-71 built over the years but my focus was always on the engine shape and until I had a solution I was happy with, then I wasn’t going to build one. Those curved slopes I mentioned helped with having a more rounded engine, which is the real key to my model. Now with the introduction of the 1x2 and 2x2 curved slopes, this allows for even more detail on the engines which were part of some of my latter updates.
The initial challenge was to create a round engine but still allow the wing to pass through it. Nothing a bit of SNOT can’t fix. It was also important to get the shape as accurate as possible (plan view) and there is an important consideration that some builders miss. The main wing delta that passes through the engines is a straight line going each way, and I recently improved that shape to be more accurate with the new 1x2 wedge plates on the leading edges.The trickiest section is the cockpit as I was still developing it as the model was gathering votes. In the end I achieved the look I wanted while being able to fit 2 minifig pilots in there. One of the biggest challenges on just about any vehicle is getting an accurate canopy/windscreen and this is no different. I wanted to keep smallish windows in the cockpit rather than a larger windshield/canopy, so if LEGO want to mould a new part for that, I’m all for it!
^ David used schematics from NASA to better understand the dimensions of the real plane before converting it to LEGO bricks
- How long did it take to complete the model?
Hard one to answer as I don’t think I’ve ever finished a model. My username was chosen long ago because I always think I can always improve a model and it might only take just one more brick and the SR-71 still undergoes updates and improvements for accuracy. Build time for the initial model was around 3 months elapsed time as I tinkered with ideas as I went.
Once it was accepted as an Ideas Project, then that was the push to refine some areas of the model I’ve always thought about. New cockpit, tail planes, wing angles and undercarriage were all being refined during the build and allowed for a number of updates to be posted to help keep interest.
- How did it feel when you reached the magic 10,000 votes and how long did it take?
I put the model up in August 2017 and achieved support in January 2018. I almost missed watching it achieve 10,000 votes as LEGO Ideas had tweeted and shared it which gave it a big boost and I was still in bed! My brother was watching it go up from the other side of the world and rang me at some unnatural hour so I could see it tick over. The feeling was a mix of real excitement, enjoyment, and some relief as it is hard work to get a project up these days.
It was also great to see the congratulatory messages from those who supported the project and were keen to see it get there, which was most humbling. A special thanks to my partner for supporting me through the whole process.
- Approximately how many LEGO bricks did you use to create your model?
My initial estimates were around 1000-1200 which is based on using a lot of the larger slopes and plates. The more detail you add, obviously the higher it goes and you can do some more accurate fuselage shapes with different components but I don’t think it would be as kit-friendly or sturdy.
I think after some tinkering with my updates it should sit at about 1500 parts.
^ One of the SR-71A's wings and engines under construction
About LEGO Ideas
- Do you have any useful advice about creating a successful LEGO Ideas project?
I think it helps if the idea is built around a story that gets people interested if it is not readily identifiable or generic. I could have done a generic SR-71 but once I found that the final flight for the SR-71 fleet was conducted by NASA, then I used that as the basis for my model.
There are a lot of pop-culture inspired ideas (which are cool) but I still think that a few of those would benefit from being built around a story concept!
- What is your favourite LEGO Ideas project (besides your own of course)?
Dr Who sits proudly on my shelf at home and it is a beautifully made TARDIS. I do have a soft spot for the Saturn V as it appeals to my scale-modelling interests and the SR-71 could be part of the awesome expanding NASA sets!
- What is it about the platform that attracts you? What tips would you give to anyone who is thinking about uploading an idea?
In doing many public displays over the last few years, it is ultimately about showing (the kids) that you can build anything in LEGO bricks. Your idea is the start and I love the challenge of finding and seeing different ways to use various parts that were designed with something else in mind.
Only upload the idea you have real passion for and use other forums (like Flickr) to get your other builds out there to gather a following. Getting to 10000 is really hard work and there is a lot more to it than just building a LEGO model and posting some pictures.
^ David's SR-71A in its final display before reaching support. Shown with Starter Cart, LASRE, and fuel truck.
- lego ideas
- 10k club
- david low