I was lucky enough to review the original first edition  of Sariel’s instant-classic Unofficial Lego Technic Builders Guide when it first came out. So when NoStarch press contacted me again and said a second edition was coming out I jumped at the chance to get a review copy. Is the second edition worth investing in? Read on to find out!

You can see more images from the book and order your own copy on NoStarch press’s website: https://www.nostarch.com/technicbuilder2

What hasn’t changed

The good news is that the second edition maintains the high-quality printing and layout of the 1st edition. The text is easy to read, the graphics are clear and the binding allows the book to flat when you open it. This sounds like a small issue, but when you’re following a building instruction having it lay flat is a nice touch.

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High quality colour printing mean the building instructions are clear.

Sariel himself has published a ‘What’s new and changed’ guide on his website, so you can see what is new and updated in the chapters. Almost every chapter has been updated with additional text or improved tables and graphics. It’s been 4 years since the last edition of this book, and in that time Lego has released new parts so he’s updated the book to reflect this.

New Chapters

Let’s look at the most obvious new material in the second edition. There are four new chapters:

  1. Lego wheels. This chapter explores the often overlooked topic of choosing the right wheel for your vehicle, and the differences between balloon and flat tyres. It also talks about how to pair non-Lego wheels from hobby RC cars onto Lego rims (shock!) If you build Lego vehicles then this chapter is a must-read.
  2. The old Lego RC system. The RC components were a short-lived attempt by Lego to build easy to assemble yet fun to drive cars. They’re expensive, hard to find online and very battery hungry. If you’re keen to build high-speed racers then this chapter is for you, but you’ve got to be willing to pay big money to get a full working set of RC components.
  3. Printing 3D Lego pieces. I turned to this chapter first as I’ve had an interest in the possibility of 3D printing parts for some time. I’ve experimented with printing using a desktop 3D printer, but the quality and finish of the parts were far from ideal. This chapter pulls no punches in addressing both the pros and cons of printing 3D pieces. More importantly it points you towards independent printing houses who will use high-quality machines to print designs you can buy online. I was surprised at how much I learned from this chapter.
  4. Planetary gearing. This is a very technical subject and not something I think that most of the readers of the books will want to build. Still, if you need to know about planetary gears in Lego then you can read it here.

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A sample from the chapter on 3D printing

Additional Material

There is also additional material in some of the chapters. I haven’t gone through everything in detail comparing each book side-by-side, but these are the things I noticed that have been updated:

  • A section on steering with virtual pivots in the chapter on vehicle steering systems. If you build small scale models with steering then you’ll need to know this technique. Luckily Sariel includes building instructions for small and large scale virtual pivot steering designs.
  • The chapter on wheeled suspensions has some much needed content on the various Lego wheeled hubs and how to use them in different builds. Lego has produced 4 wheel hubs over the years, the most recent being the new portal hubs. This chapter includes extra building instructions for different types of wheeled hubs. This is a very welcome addition as knowing how to use wheel hubs correctly is essential when building any sort of vehicle. I’m very pleased to see a steered wheel hub design here; these are not easy to build!
  • The chapter on tracked vehicles has instructions on how to build a custom heavy-duty track. These are amazing when you see them in person, but are expensive to build!
  • Chapter 6 on gears has a handy table reference showing you the gear ratios between many of the popular gears. This is useful if you quickly need to find ratio and then work back to a pair of gears.

Conclusion

So is this book worth buying? If you haven’t yet purchased the first edition then don’t walk; run to your nearest bookshop and get yourself a copy!

If you already own the first edition I’d say that it is still worth getting this edition as the new and improved material makes it almost a whole new book. Of course it all depends on how much pocket money you can save!