Instructables

DIY AlUMINUM LEGO BLOCKS

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Hello world!
Ever since I was very very small I love Lego. Those sweet memories of me and my mom sitting together on the floor surrounded by Lego's, following instructions and building our Lego city together. I have been playing with Lego since my first memories.
As I grew older I promised myself, like any other tinker person would. That one day I would make my own Lego's.

So now it is time to cash in on that promise.

I noticed that a lot of people like to cut up a.k.a. mess up Lego's for all sorts of USB projects and then some.
Like every other Lego enthousiast I consider this one of the largest sins ever. So "YOU PEOPLE" no need any more to destroy perfectly good Lego's, MAKE YOUR OWN. Of course when making our own Lego's you can make them out of all sorts of cool materials too; wood, steel, plastics, aluminum etc. etc.
The only thing we can not do is put the Lego trademark on our blocks, well you can but I do not want to infringe up on the Lego trademark.

Here is a time lapse of the build



 
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Step 1: Aids, tools and materials

Aids;
A bunch of new Lego blocks

Tools:
Calliper
Trusted CNC mill
Clamping tools
Swivel gauge (if any body knows the correct English name for this tool)
40mm face mill
2mm flat end mill
1mm flat end mill (optional)
Cleaning wheel and cleaning paste
Polishing rag and some polishing paste.

Materials:
A block of something
(well I don't want to limit your mind here)
I will be using some aluminium scraps, or maybe some wood scraps, I'll decide later in this Instructable.
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sfelipesan7774 months ago

How do I buy some?

Dr Qui1 year ago
Fantastic piece of CNC work. Do you think you would have the patience to do it old school? even a large scale brick would be an insane job. I like CNC stuff, but I just feel cheated by not getting to wind the handles. lol
cold_steel (author)  Dr Qui1 year ago
Yes I agree, CNC is a horrible cheat. But doing things like this by hand would simply take too long I think. With the CNC making lego's like this is something you do on a lazy sunday, a sunday afternoon in fact. Doing it by hand in my opinion would bring a project like this to a whole new level. If I had to do this by hand I'd probably spend a whole day on a single block.
So if I had to do these things by hand, I probably would not do small fun projects like this.
I don't knock CNC, a friend is working on a CNC mill and when finished i will be keeping it busy for things that i know i would have difficulty duplicating precision pieces. I have a busted up Compact 5 that was returned to manual, its enough to make bespoke components for one of jobs, a friend gave me a vertical slide that should allow me to do basic milling, I just missed out on CNC when I trained as an engineer guys who trained 3-4 years after me all got training on CNC machines. My engineering tutor had a perfect 4" cube milled on a lathe that had a 3" perfect sphere free floating on the inside, it took almost 2 years to complete as all the tools to cut the sphere on the inside where hand made and was a previous instructors university masters piece.
cold_steel (author)  Dr Qui1 year ago
Ha ha neither do I, CNC machining is the best thing ever. It is a major cheat, but the best thing ever. We used to have craftsmen. People that studied most of their lives to be able to do what they do. I learned all I know in machining from google. And I learned all in about three years. Giving me the ability to knock out workpieces in hours with a precision better than I can measure, that would take a craftsman years to finish. All in all I am loving the time I live in. We, in this time, can do anything. I could knock out a turbine engine, new golf club, Lego's or what ever right in my home workshop.
For me we live in the technological golden age and I am very great full to be here with all of you.
cold_steel (author)  Dr Qui1 year ago
Ha ha neither do I, CNC machining is the best thing ever. It is a major cheat, but the best thing ever. We used to have craftsmen. People that studied most of their lives to be able to do what they do. I learned all I know in machining from google. And I learned all in about three years. Giving me the ability to knock out workpieces in hours with a precision better than I can measure, that would take a craftsman years to finish. All in all I am loving the time I live in. We, in this time, can do anything. I could knock out a turbine engine, new golf club, Lego's or what ever right in my home workshop.
For me we live in the technological golden age and I am very great full to be here with all of you.
I think legos are dimensioned in inches rather than mm. I have translated your measurements here just because I think the inch versions are more accurate, and they turn into nice common numbers which I think are more "right".

body height: 3/8

stud spacing: 5/16 this is also the same as a 1x1 brick width

stud height: 1/16 (I measured slightly smaller than your 2.1 mm)

stud diameter: 3/16

Some other dimensions may be of interest:

stud middle distance from edge: 5/32

wall thickness: 1/16

rod diameter: 1/8

1x1 round plate small diameter: 1/4
this is also the diameter of all the round pieces that fit in the middle of a 2x2 plate.

The Lego Group is a Danish company and all diensions are in mm not inches. The design of the brick was based on a British block but modified and defined and went on sale in 1949 I believe. All manufacturing in Denmark would have been metric then.
how do you explain the fact that you get nice common fractional numbers when you express the dimensions in inches, as opposed to 8.014 mm, 9.6 mm etc. Wouldn't they use round numbers of millimeters if the blocks were in fact dimensioned in millimeters?
The answer is due to old people mainly and a metric changeover that is still going on 40 years after the UK went decimal in 1971, we went metric in 1965 and we are still not quite there yet.  

I worked in a UK hardware store and although almost all items where metric the old guys would ask for 4" x 3/8" bolts come in and a drill bit to suit them and they where given 100 x 10mm metric equivalent.  Builders would as for nails in pounds as the older builders they learned from would have used imperial.

All builders will use metric when building but the items are almost always refereed to as by there imperial equivalent.  metric is easier to count in your head as base 10, most shop tills are base operated on metric as most money is metric, Imperial is hard to calculate when you are under pressure 

Old guys and poetics is the true answer,  example if said " that guy needs smacked with a 4 x 2" it rolls of the tongue easier than saying "that guy needs smacked with a 50 x 100"   Timber sales was the  place where people will often ask for 2.5 meters of 4 x 2  or 3 foot 6 of 40mm planed lathe it just gets rounded out to the nearest 6" or half 500mm

Weights and mass are easier worked out in grams, KG and Ltrs  the conversions are a pain if you don't know the calculations, for most stuff a gallon is just 4.5ltrs and 1KG is 2.2 lbs, you start to know both values after a while.  

Speed and distance are a great example of the poetics of metric v's Imperial.  I clocked 49.5mph on my bike once running a large hill, when you say 79.6kmph it sounds exaggeratedly high, but 20 meters per second sounds slow, and 75 feet per second which sounds as terrifying as I was going down the hill.  Also depends on the age of the person you are talking to.

Time just don't work in decimal, where as 24 can be divided by 1,2,3,4,6,8 and 12. and seems to work in fractions so time must be imperial then.

Generally its a good thing to be familiar and able to work with both, In most places people will use both and round up or down and use both measurements depending on how much tolerance they are working with.
I have to agree with destroyer's insight. Although a bottle of liquor says 750ml it is still a fifth (one-fifth of a gallon). The mills and lathes I have used are built with feeds and lead screws that were designed in threads per inch. A 3/16" drill bit is readily available but the man at the hardware store is going to look at you cross-eyed if you ask him for a 4.90 mm drill bit.
cold_steel (author)  CobaltBlue1 year ago
Not really, if you need a 4.90mm drill bit, you simply need it. Although the assortment of the local hardware store falls short quite quickly. You can try Harbour Freight.
For lego, just got lost in the wiki. Hmm Lego is old and patented by a Brit and used by the Danish Lego. So yes I believe now that perhaps it was designed imperical. But still that system makes no sense to me, Ill stick to my metrics
Great idea...use what you are comfortable with!
Some of the dimensions of the bricks have changed a tiny amount over the years to make them fit better and still be easier to remove. I think the studs were altered in height by 0.1mm or something like that for example. Besides the molds for these bricks are custom made by Lego so they don't tend to nip down to the hardware store for "drill bits" and cutters. I'm sure they custom build it all in house somewhere. I have drill bits that differ by 0.1mm because sometimes you just need a 0.9mm hole or a 1.7mm hole.

However the author has measured them, this is a really nice project and the metal bricks look great.
I work at Legoland California. I am not sure about the original design, but I know that the dimensions and tolerances are all metric. The tolerances of a Lego brick are in the thousands of a millimeter range.
Oh, snap!
I think Msaggese would be the expert in this case. If, using the metric system, the measurements are not "nice common fractional numbers", maybe that means the measurements are VERY specific, and the people that design the cubes use metric. And the measurements could have changes like legless suggests....I got your back jack ;)

Also, I don't think this argument even matters...so what if the instructable is presented in metric or imperial. Just measure with the system you are most comfortable with. If you like nice, round numbers, use imperial, if you like to stay original, use metric. I hope this helps all of you come to some conclusion :)
True, good point. It really doesn't matter what system you use to measure, as long as your custom bricks work as they should.
He,he,he. You have no idea how wrong it feels to somebody used to the metric system to see the way the Imperial system is used.

Something one has to keep in mind is that the original poster is taking his own measurements, they may be slightly off the actual true specifications, which may very well be nice round numbers in metric system (which doesn't have to be the case, the metric system was created for ease of use, not for aesthetic reasons).
ehudwill1 year ago
This is a great idea. Thanks for sharing.
bioboy7251 year ago
I made a USB but instead of cutting a Lego I used a few plates and sealed the thing with epoxy. The top plate was one of the ones with holes which looked really cool because the flash drive had a light. I would never purposefully break a Lego piece. Megabloks is a completely different story.
you didnt put the lego name on top of each little nubs?
Other than that good job. ;-)
darman121 year ago
Ahhhhh...that is a cool memory with your mom. I too love Legos! My dad and brother were the ones I played Legos with, though.

I have also considered using some Legos to do the USB idea, a great blend of Lego and electronics, but I could never destroy my Legos.

Just curious, when I build something of my own creation with my Legos (I rarely buy kits...i've been using the same bucket of Lego blocks since I was little) I find it hard to take it apart to build something new. I find this a big problem. I have several vehicles and such that I have built that are still sitting on shelves or in my Lego bucket because I just can't take them apart. Do you find this challenging as well?
I used to have the same issue with my Lego's/Duplo's, but then I got an awesome idea. I came up with a way to record my great ideas so that I could safely take them apart, and then easily re-assemble them later. I took some paper, a ruler, and a pencil and I began making myself sets of plans, or blueprints for those awesome or complex creations This way, I didn't have to worry about possibly forgetting how they went back together after dissembling them because with a record or "backup", I could rebuild my sculptures any time I wanted. It was quite an ingenious idea.

See, I was one of 4 siblings, and I often found myself having to share the Legos with my brother, and if one of my projects had been built with a piece that he needed for a project during his "turn", I had to take my "gun" or "spaceship" or "race car" or whatever apart so he could have the part he needed. I guess you could say I was forced to adapt. So I did.
That is a great idea! There is a program called Lego Digital Designer (free download, just look it up). You can build a virtual lego model and then you can have it generate instructions on how to build it! I have never thought of using it to get instructions for my own model, but your comment gave me the idea!

Thanks :)
cold_steel (author)  darman121 year ago
So cool I used to have the same problem. Now with the working life it has been quite resent that I am rediscovering the joy of Lego.
I'm glad it isn't just me then, haha!

Holy Moly! G codes in an Instructable!

What the hell is G21? Sorry, I've never had to use anything other than G20. (G21 commands metric, G20 english for you non CNC-types)

I was reading a book on fanuc macros and the safety line read G21 G40 G80 G90 and my head exploded (the author lives in India). Safety Gcodes all end in zeros in my world.

Actually, I'm the one that argues that if we did all of the machining in metric, we would be making our commands/corrections in finer detail. Falls on deaf ears, unfortunately.

Making Lego pieces out of exotic woods would be beautiful to see. I hope you do so.

Fin
Interesting comment "Making Lego pieces out of exotic woods would be beautiful to see". I think I read on Wikipedia that the first Legos were made out of wood.
cold_steel (author)  fin saunders1 year ago
Yes metric, as I am dutch. I never got the logic behind your emperial system any way hehehe.
But I agree with you, forking from an inch is rather big and bulky.

Wood is a nice I idea, lets see where the weekend lands me
Aluminum and Rosewood go together so well.

Lego-Porn!
darman121 year ago
Ahhhhh...that is a cool memory with your mom. I too love Legos! My dad and brother were the ones I played Legos with, though.

I have also considered using some Legos to do the USB idea, a great blend of Lego and electronics, but I could never destroy my Legos.

Just curious, when I build something of my own creation with my Legos (I rarely buy kits...i've been using the same bucket of Lego blocks since I was little) I find it hard to take it apart to build something new. I find this a big problem. I have several vehicles and such that I have built that are still sitting on shelves or in my Lego bucket because I just can't take them apart. Do you find this challenging as well?
picman1231 year ago
those are bad ass i just modeled up a few in solidworks and will mill them after work tomorrow maybe out of some scrap Ti i got laying around
Hey since you're using solidworks if you don't know of this program, look them up. Its a company called HSMworks and they make a free product that would be perfect for this(and really you only need the free version for basic products). PM me and I can teach u how to use it if u dont know. its super simple.
P.s. im not a seller or anything, just recommending them for Milling.
saw HSM works at a trade show never used it might try it out just to use something different i usually use a solidworks plug in to surfcam

i looked through some scrap and found a few pcs. so i may try for a more complex lego seeing how adventurous i feel
cold_steel (author)  picman1231 year ago
epic, make an instructable out of it please
sparten111 year ago
if you place a small pocket at one end or the other or both you can insert a small screwdriver unlike plastic legos to get the apart easy. also would like to think of very long lego pieces very flat to use as wire or contacts to build circut board out of legos for quick and easy assembly add a few led holes in lego block form as well as motor mounts etc and keep them hard to separate just as they are and you have a strong stable assemble. I will build a few out of copper and makes some out of alum of different types I work at a foundry so i can make molds for mass production of these baby's once i have a few basic part we can sell them as easy prototype project parts. that can easily work with existing lego pieces. we can use standard lego plastic parts as insulators now you have a way to wire or run power or other I/O's to your arundo etc.

keep up the good work.
Warren
Very Cool. Nice work.
cold_steel (author)  foreverdisturbed1 year ago
thanks
tmorsch1 year ago
I have been thinking for a long time about making Lego like bricks out of plain pieces of 2x4 lumber, cut to the right length with dowels as connectors. Finely sanded and organically finished they might make wonderful homemade building blocks for my grand daughter.
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