The Unofficial LEGO Builder’s Guide, Second Edition (2012)

Got some leftover Christmas gift cards that you’re looking to put to good use? Then might I recommend the recently-released second edition of the Unofficial LEGO Builders’ Guide, written by Allan Bedford and published by No Starch Press.

I’ve had the first edition as an indispensable part of my library for years now. Without it, there might not have ever been a “Little Guys!” film, and who knows if I would be here talking to you guys right now! It was with this book that I first learned how to consider the different scales of my LEGO creations, to build curves, and to organize my collection in an efficient manner.

The sample sphere from the ULBG was used as a basis for the character designs in "Little Guys!"

The sample sphere from the ULBG was used as a basis for the character designs in “Little Guys!”


What’s in the Book

The Unofficial LEGO Builder’s Guide is written as both an introduction to the hobby for new LEGO fans and as a reference guide for expert builders and AFOLs. The ten chapters of the book cover the various scales of building, different artistic media (sculptures, mosaics, etc.), and the planning, setup, and execution of whatever MOCs you decide to build.

Skull Island design grid

The Skull Island design, from Red Brick Saga Pirates of the Caribbean — design grid and final version

There’s also the “Brickopedia”, an abridged listing of some of the more common LEGO parts and elements, sorted by category. This can be useful if you need a quick reference for a part name or number, or if you’re just looking for some inspiration for your own brick sorting approach. Granted, a lot of this information is also online, but there’s something to be said for the condensed economy of having a book in front of you.

Finally, the latter part of the book also showcases LEGO-scaled design grids, with an explanation of how they work as well as links to download and print them yourself. These can be extremely helpful if you’re trying to design something to fit within a certain space, or if you just want to sketch out an idea before committing it to brick. (We use these all the time over at Paganomation.)



Differences in the Second Edition

Having poured over the original book back when it first came out, I was curious to see what changes would be in the new edition. The most obvious one is plastered right on the cover: the second edition does have color photos and instructions. But I was a bit surprised when physically comparing both books…  the second edition is way thinner!

First edition: approx. 7/8". Second edition: approx. 1/2"

First edition: approx. 7/8″. Second edition: approx. 1/2″

The new book has 10 chapters, down from 13 in the original. Gone are the sections on sorting and storage, tools for building (a bit on brick separation has been rolled into chapter 2), and Technic building (probably because there’s a whole other new book devoted to it now).

The other differences are a bit more subtle:

  • The Brickopedia has been whittled down, from 55 pages in edition 1 to 41 pages in edition 2.
  • Some brief, potentially redundant bits on scale have been removed from the Microscale chapter.
  • A section on writing reviews in the “Beyond Just Bricks” chapter is gone.
  • Other assorted edits and minor rearrangements.

Overall, I wouldn’t say these changes hurt the book in any way. The ULBG has just become a more streamlined version of itself… which is the whole point of putting out a new edition of a book!


How this relates to Brick Animation

I came to the ULBG from the perspective of both a LEGO fan and an animator. Just like with any form of artistry, there are many tips, tricks and lessons that crossover from one medium to another. Here are a few that I took note of…

  • Page 70 talks about Miniland scale facades, and how it can be advantageous to only concentrate on perfecting the parts of your model that will be seen by your audience. Hmm… sounds familiar.
  • A section of the Jumbo Elements chapter (p. 78) mentions the importance of testing, tinkering, and trial-and-error to get the results you want.
  • The chapter on Sculpture talks about using reference material when designing and planning your work (p. 109).
  • Page 82 has probably the most helpful, universal advice any artist can use: “Make things only as complicated as they need to be and no more.” The bottom line? Simple is good.


The number of LEGO reference books has been steadily increasing in recent years, which makes sense given the flourishing LEGO fan community. Despite being one of the earlier entries in this catalog, I recommend The Unofficial LEGO Builder’s guide as essential reference material for any brick animator or LEGO fan; young or old, novice or veteran.

(Plus, it’s now also available as an ebook… hello, iPad.)

The Unofficial LEGO Builder’s Guide, 2nd Edition by Allan Bedford