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10K Club Interview: Clockwork Solar System by Chris Orchard and Brent Waller

Congratulations to Chris Orchard and Brent Waller on their fantastic Clockwork Solar System design! This awe-inspiring creation features an accurate, functioning orrery; a truly remarkable design! Let us know how you much you love Chris and Brent's project in the comments!

 

ABOUT YOURSELF

  1. Who are you?

    Chris:
    Chris Orchard.



    Brent: Brent Waller.



     
  2. Where are you from?

    Chris: Brisbane, Australia

    Brent: Brisbane, Australia

     
  3. How old are you?

    Chris:
    50

    Brent: 42

     
  4. What do you do for a living?

    Chris: I used to work in IT, but I have been lucky enough to retire early.

    Brent: I am a 3D Artist specialising in Environments or 'levels' for video games.

     
  5. What hobbies do you have?

    Chris: Woodworking, programming, electronics and, of course, LEGO projects.

    Brent: Lately it’s pretty much been exclusively LEGO building. 

     
  6. Do you have a personal LEGO portfolio website that you can share with us?

    Chris: Some of my older MOCs can be found at Brickshelf. However, I normally only display at my LUG (LEGO User Group expos. 

    Brent: My Flickr Account or on Instagram is probably the best place to see what I’m up to LEGO-wise.
     

  7. Have you created any LEGO MOCs (my own creations) that you’re particularly proud of? What is it, why are you proud it and do you have a photo of it?

    Chris: There are two particular MOCs that I am very proud of: a 4.2m tall, fully R/C Liebherr 1600 Crawler Crane, and fully R/C “Pick and Carry” crane.  Not only are they both accurate (I had an owner of a “Pick and Carry” crane study my MOC for about 45 minutes before stating that I'd got it “spot on”), but they are completely functional as well. Configured for maximum lift, the Liebherr model has lifted 10kg.  I'm also pretty proud of the black “Mech”, which is fully articulated and yet free-standing.

    Brent: I’ve done a few I’m proud of but my most recent one, a Mosaic of Baby Yoda for my son’s birthday is probably my favourite. I wasn’t sure if the idea of a greebled mosaic would work but I’m really happy with how it turned out.  



     
  8. How and when did your interest in LEGO products come about?

    Chris: I started very early with LEGO building, maybe when I was 3-4 years old? I quickly became fascinated with Technic models by age 7. 

    Brent: I was obsessed with it as a child, up until the age of about 14. As an adult I got back into it at about 28 and was equally obsessed after being reintroduced to it via the LEGO Star Wars video games. 

     
  9. What is LEGO for you? What does it mean for you? How does it fit in your life? E.g. build, display, meetups, play the games.. or 'just' watch the cartoons. 

    Chris: 
    For me LEGO bricks are a way of releasing both inquisitive curiosity and pure sculptural creativity. I also like interacting with the public at our LUG expos. You get a great feeling when someone else “connects” with your model in a way that seems a little lacking online. I also like to help others in my LUG on all-things-Technic and have made a few beginners guides

    Brent: LEGO bricks for me are an outlet for my creativity. Working in a creative industry, I found that I wanted to still make things when I got home from work, but I didn’t want to sit in front of a computer. LEGO buidlign was perfect for that as there’s no need for special equipment or cleaning up a bunch of sawdust or paint like with other creative hobbies.

     
  10. What is your favourite LEGO theme (current or past)? Why? And has any theme inspired your building style or preference in any particular way?

    Chris: 
    Technic would be my favourite theme. I love mechanisms and how they work. Technic really allows you to explore that in depth.  Creator Expert has probably influenced how I build MOCs now. I guess for me the perfect model is a blend of both form and function. 

    Brent: Lately it’s been Ideas and the 18+ range, it’s great to see sets come out targeted specifically for my tastes, and while not all of them are things I’m interested in, there’s enough continually coming out that I can’t even keep up.

     
  11. What is your favourite official LEGO set? Why?

    Chris: The 8860 Car Chassis blew my 9 year old mind, but as an adult 8275 PF Bulldozer was awesome, because you know, “Trucks!”. That said I don't really have a single favourite set. I like sets that push my building skills and teach me new techniques, so a lot of the sets I buy aren't even Technic ones. 

    Brent: I saw a picture of the original Monster Fighters Haunted House recently and it brought back fond memories and makes me want to rebuild it again, it was such a great set.

     
  12. What is your favourite LEGO element? Why?

    Chris: Oh boy. My take is that each element is like a tool that lets you build in a particular way. Like you need a saw, chisel, hammer and screwdriver (and many more tools) to build a house. It's only when you use them in combination with other elements that you can build something special.

    Brent: The one I’ve been looking for the last 3 minutes and finally find!

     
  13. Is there a LEGO designer (official LEGO designer or fan designer) who you are inspired by and look up to? Who and why?

    Chris: Sariel from Poland is one of my favourite builders. His creations are really great. He mixes form and function beautifully. Not only that but he also shares his knowledge which resonates with me.

    Brent: I’ve been enjoying the work of “Brick Experiment Channel” on YouTube lately, I don’t know the name of the builder. But they concentrate on pushing the limits and showing the capabilities of Technic. I’m not particularly good with Technic but I like to see what it’s capable of and hopefully take some of it on board. 

     
  14. Is there one or more particular LEGO-related websites (not official LEGO websites) that you visit often and/or are inspired by?

    Chris: Bricklink as I think almost every serious MOC builder also likes to visit. For LEGO news and reviews I often visit Brothers Brick and bricknerd. For Australian specific things brickingaround.

    Brent: Apart from Bricklink and Brothers Brick like Chris said, I hang around a bunch of local and global Facebook LEGO Groups and Discord servers, for fans, builders and just groups that share cool creations. 
     

ABOUT YOUR PROJECT

  1. Where did your interest in this particular model come from?

    Chris: In an online social night put on by our LUG (Brisbricks) Brent was talking about a project he would like to have done but lacked the Technic skill to pull off, so I offered to help him on it. I've looked at orreries (solar system models) before, but all the previous attempts that I had seen online looked a little flimsy. I had an “A-Ha” moment to use the ring gear for the planets, and at that moment I was hooked on the idea

    Brent: The original idea came to me back when I was making another LEGO Ideas project for the film “The Dark Crystal” in 2019. In that film there’s a crazy weird Orrery of a fantasy solar system of their planet “Thra”. I built a minifig version of that Orrery for the Ideas project. It didn’t move or anything, but it planted the seed in my head of “wouldn’t it be amazing if you could make a real working orrery of our Solar System out of LEGO and Technic?”



     
  2. How long was the process of making the project did, and what did you have to research as well. What kind of prep, research and design phases did you go through to produce your creation?

    Chris: Overall the project took 15 months to complete. We both thought that accuracy was one of the key design features. I searched for the most accurate planet timings available, and double checked them against NASA and other official pages. From that I made a gearing spreadsheet to help work out which ratios I would need. After that I went into prototyping mode to get the ring gear to turn reliably and smoothly, and then designed the arms. Meanwhile Brent designed the look and colour scheme of the base and planets. We created both computer models and physical models to access tolerances and fit. I think we had gone through 8 major revisions and 3 complete redesigns before we were satisfied. The final process involved reducing the part-count to get it under our target of 3000. 

    Brent: Yeah, it was about 15-16 months in total. Before I mentioned the project to Chris and brought him on board, I worked out the math of the gearing on paper, nowhere near as accurate as we ended up getting, and spent at least a week attempting various ways of actually making it work. But my limited knowledge and experience with Technic and power functions meant I didn’t get very far. I’d effectively given up on the project before I mentioned it during our LUGs social night.

     
  3. What special challenges did you face creating the model? What was the most difficult part to recreate?

    Chris: I'm not sure you really want to know this, but the most challenging (and rewarding) part was getting the ring gear to move smoothly. You see the ring gear isn't a perfect quarter circle – the ends are pinched in a tiny amount. This in-and-out difference in friction made the mechanism speed up and down, meaning that the standard LEGO spacing wasn't going to work. It took around 90 hours of prototyping to get the fractional millimetre clearance I needed.   

    The gearing between planets also was quite challenging. To help with that I wrote a program that would search all possible ratios looking for the closest one, but it still needed ordering and the insertion of idler gears to make it buildable. 

    Brent: Well obviously for me it was the challenge of even completing such a complex project myself, which is why Chris and I decided to collaborate. After that though we went through a lot of iterations, with myself mainly focusing on the aesthetics of the Orrery, concentrating on the base design and the planets themselves. We went through multiple iterations of the base to improve stability and reduce the part count. That was a challenge for me to try and retain the same original look I had in mind with less parts, but still be sturdy.

     
  4. If you could talk to yourself before you started on this project, what would you tell him/her? What do you know now that you wish you knew then?

    Chris: Don't get too emotionally committed to a design – it will probably get thrown out. I think Brent's job and previous experience helped him a lot more in this regard. Designing and polishing a set that comes close to a “real” LEGO set is a lot of hard work. It takes a lot of time and effort to see it through.

    Brent: There’s not a lot I would change, in fact if I were to go back to all my previous Ideas project submissions, I’d use this one as a guide of what to do. Namely take your time, don’t rush it and get the concept, design and presentation perfect the first time. Although you can update your projects later, it’s really first impressions that matter.

     
  5. How long did it take to complete the model? Did you finish it fairly quickly, or did it take a long time? And how did the build time compare to the time you spent promoting your Product Idea to reach 10,000 supporters?

    Chris: Overall it took 15 months. Research and prototyping took about 9 months to complete. The last month was just polishing and reducing parts. Promoting the model was part of Brent's contribution. I am clueless when it comes to social media. Promotion was done low-key to start with, just to see how it went.  

    Brent: It started for me back in 2019 so it was nearly 2 years for me, but it’s not like I spent all that time working on it, it was little bursts of work, with most of it not really starting until Chris came on board. Even then the majority of my work came in the last month or so, where I was bringing it all together, refining the visual design and creating the pictures and video for the project. During that time, I was working on it pretty much every day.

     
  6. How did it feel when you reached the magic 10,000 votes and how long did it take?

    Chris: It was great! We achieved support in one month, which is pretty incredible really. I think people responded well to our fusion of Creator Expert and Technic in a unique and interesting looking model.

    Brent: I still can’t believe how fast it got to 10,000 votes; I keep loading up the page to check the vote count. I’m always excited when a project reaches 10k, especially when it’s an original project idea. 

     
  7. Approximately how many LEGO bricks did you use to create your model?

    Chris: Just under 3000.  I believe the studio model came in at 2996 parts. There's 153 gears and over 1000 stud length worth of axles and liftarms.

    Brent: Yeah we had to refine and iterate a few times to keep the part limit down. That’s one of the reasons we ended up going with the sphere pieces for the planets rather than brick building spheres, The other reason was to keep the weight of the planets and armatures down.


     
  8. What is your favourite building technique or part/section that you’ve incorporated into your Product Idea?

    Chris: I would say I'm most proud of design for the sides of the support tower, which combines SNOT, system, studded Technic and studless Technic in a way that is both strong and elegant.

    Brent: I love the dials which show each planet’s “year”. It was something that didn’t come until later. I noticed that the base I’d made has 8 sides and there were 8 planets. It seems like it was designed that way, but it was just a happy accident. I wasn’t sure if we were going to be able to make that work as well as the planets and keep it strong and functional. But Chris managed to make it all work.



     
  9. If you built your model digitally, what software did you use to build and render your model?

    Chris: We used Studio to build the digital version. I think Brent used Mecabricks(?) to import the model into Blender, but Brent would have the full details. 

    Brent: Yeah, I used Mecabricks from which I then exported out into Blender where the model was rendered and animated. Chris does have a working physical prototype too, something this complex we couldn’t just build digitally and expect it to just work with real bricks. We really wanted to prove the concept could work in reality and not just pitch the “idea” on its own.

     
  10. If you used custom stickers or prints for your design, how did you create them or where did you get them?

    Chris: Brent would be the one to ask that one, sorry.

    Brent: I used photoshop for the design of the planet prints and dials. Applied in Blender as textures on each piece. 
     

ABOUT LEGO IDEAS

  1. Do you have any useful advice about creating a successful LEGO Ideas project?

    Chris: Research your idea and spend a lot of effort working out your vision of it exactly. Realise that you only have one chance to impress someone to support your project – if you lose interest in the first 10 seconds, your project will struggle. Your presentation also needs to be as sharp as The LEGO Group’s is. Finally, if you don't have the skills, reach out to others. This project never would have happened if Brent had not asked for help.

    Brent: Yeah, as Chris said, I really believed in the idea of this project and thought it would make an amazing LEGO set. I tried my hardest to make it happen but just couldn’t figure out how to make it work. Rather than just giving up and throwing it all away we worked together to realise the idea we both truly believed in.  
     
    I’ve had other projects reach 10,000 before, but none this quickly and none without so little continued promotion from me. The initial presentation and video pitched the idea so well, it had its own momentum that carried it to 10,000 quicker than I could have ever have thought.

     
  2. What (if any) methods did you use to advertise and attract support to your Product Idea? 

    Chris: Brent would be able to answer this one better than me. I think we used Facebook, Instagram, Imagur and Twitter. Brent did an interview and I put a post in Eurobricks.

    Brent: Presentation is everything. If you have a great idea, a great build and great presentation, people will share your project for you without even having to ask. I did post it in the usual websites like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. But I only had to do it once in this case. 

     
  3. What is your favourite LEGO Ideas Product Idea (besides your own of course)? Are there any Product Ideas you think have been overlooked?

    Chris: 
    I thought the Saturn V was the best with the Curiosity Rover coming in a close second, but I am a space fan…

    Brent: I’m a sucker for licenses so I still love the Winnie the Pooh and Sesame Street sets. Saturn V and Curiosity Rover were great too, but I’m really looking forward to seeing the Home Alone and Earth Globe sets when they come out.
     
  4. What is it about the platform that attracts you? What tips would you give to anyone who is thinking about uploading an idea?

    Chris: 
    There are some really good ideas out there that don't really fit in with The LEGO Group’s core themes. LEGO Ideas provides a rewarding way of making those ideas become a real set. I mean, who doesn't want that to happen? If you are thinking of posting an idea, take your time and get it right.

    Brent: What other company allows their fans and customers to submit ideas that they think will actually have a chance of them taking on board? Not only that, the fans get to have a say in the process too, if it’s selected. It’s such a great opportunity as a fan to be involved like that in something you love. And as Chris said, take your time and get it right. That doesn’t just include the design and build, take some time to think about the idea itself to see if it’s something you could picture sitting on a shelf in a LEGO store.

     
  5. Do you have plans to submit any other Product Ideas in the future? If yes, can you give us a hint of what that might be?

    Chris: 
    I'm hoping so. I can tell you it's made out of LEGO bricks!

    Brent: I have lots of ideas but I’m not sure if some of them are the right fit for LEGO Ideas. So, I’m going to take some time to think about them some more and keep working on my MOCs in the meantime.
  • 10k club
  • clockwork solar system
  • chris orchard
  • brent waller
  • 10k club interview
  • product idea
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