Eventually you reach a critical mass of LEGO pieces where you can build most things from what you already have

My kids are fascinated by camper vans and recreational vehicles. (They keep asking to go camping, but not for the purpose of experiencing nature. It's because they want to travel in a camper.) They wanted a camper van LEGO set, but instead of buying one, we went online and found the instructions for an existing camper van set and built it from the pieces we already have.

And then, of course, the kids modified the result to suit their needs. The resulting camper van looks like a lot of fun, but driving it around may be a bit difficult seeing as it has a height clearance of 30 feet.

Useful sites:

  • BrickInstructions.com has instructions for LEGO sets, in case you lost yours, or you want to see instructions for other sets.
  • Rebrickable contains user-contributed instructions. You can tell it what LEGO sets you own, and it will tell you what you can build from them.
  • BrickSet has among other things a part finder. One thing I use it for is recovering the name of the set by searching for pieces that appear to be unique to that set.
Comments (13)
  1. MV says:

    Maybe I’m just getting old, but back in my day legos didn’t come in specific “sets” with “instructions” on how to make exactly one thing. You had a big bucket of parts and you made whatever your dreamed up that day. Much more creative than merely following instructions, but I guess they didn’t sell enough legos that way.

    1. morlamweb says:

      Back in my day, I had several sets of generic Lego pieces, and several themed sets: pirate bases in tropical locales, space age-y stuff, and the like. Buying the themed sets didn’t limit my creativity with them. Sure, I built them up at least once from the instructions, but the beauty of Legos is that you don’t build them up just once (particularly if your siblings knock them over). I built up many variants on the themed sets, often supplementing them with bricks from other sets.

      Nowadays, though, it takes work to find a set of generic Legos in the toy aisle. They’re still available, but buried under a mountain of movie tie-ins. I went looking for a set of generic bricks last December to donate to Toys for Tots: it took me several minutes to find them in the Lego aisle.

      1. ErikF says:

        I too had a mishmash of Lego sets. My crowning achievement (at least in my eyes) was when I built a flying pirate ship that also could be a train! I miss the magic that Lego had when I was little; I’m sure my parents don’t miss the magic of stepping on the sharp edges of Legos embedded in the carpet, though!

    2. zboot says:

      Back in my day we didn’t have brick shaped toys with interlocking surfaces that made it easy to combine into rigid specific shapes. We shaped and formed our own bricks, cut and polished our own wood, and built free standing structures from raw materials. Much more creative than merely following along pre-engineered mating surfaces. But, I guess they didn’t sell enough hatchets, saws, files, sand, or cement that way for children, so they went to building legos.

      1. Ivan K says:

        Luxury. Back in my day we had to rip out our molars to use as bricks. And if we didn’t jam them back in our mouths at the end of the day our father would sell them to the tooth fairy.

    3. smf says:

      Lego have been making sets for a long time.
      There was a major change in 1978 when they introduced the mini figures & they started making bricks specially for certain sets.


  2. Jonathan Wilson says:

    As an adult fan of LEGO, its always good when I see parents who buy their kids LEGO instead of other lesser-quality toys :)
    As an adult fan of LEGO who owns so much LEGO that I need to list it separately (for AU$20,000) on my house insurance as a collection/hobby, I can tell you there is no such thing as “too much LEGO” (I have thousands of different parts on my list of “parts I wish I owned but don’t” list :)

  3. Richard Hsu says:

    My son has a decent collection and I would say he has reached critical mass given what he has been able to build with the pieces but I don’t think he can build a Millennium Falcon yet. Will ask him to try the websites you linked to and see if he can get close enough that I don’t have to refinance my house to get the Millennium Falcon set :)

    Side note: He also likes Minecraft (duh!) and it seems to me that you start with critical mass in Minecraft.

    1. Sir_Derlin says:

      Someone made a guide on building a UCS Millennium Falcon on the cheap. https://www.reddit.com/r/lego/comments/2wksds/the_cheapskates_guide_to_bricklinking_a_10179_ucs/

  4. Can’t wait for my son to open the remaining 5 x lego sets on his birthday, just to build, destroy and rebuild HIS new version of what he envisaged in the first place. It really is hard to keep up…. However,.. importantly.. his happiness and more importantly his ideas continue to expand. Lego evolves and evolves again (smartly) if you know their YoY profits you’d agree. Smart owner who does not need to go to market…… regardless of encouragement…. This is a brand way beyond average,……… and the best thing is……. it’s NOT for sale! and it thar remains the case,…. I’ll encourange my son and continue to pay the fees…

  5. B.M.Deeal says:

    As a kid, I’d get a ton of themed sets, but I never actually built the things on the box. Loved the older sets where the themed bits were more Lego-y and let you attach all kind of other bits and pieces to them instead of smooth, plain shapes that went together in the intended configurations and pretty much nothing else.

    It’s been years since I’ve even touched a Lego, though.

    1. Josh says:

      Fortunately, for all but the cheapest sets the era of “this smooth part fits one way in one set” is pretty much over, and (especially in the sets for older children) advanced brick attachment techniques are in vogue in the official instructions over the single-use parts.

      You still get ostensibly single-use parts, but for example the last set I got used minifigure skis attached cleverly to form a good bit of the transom on a house.

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