Mystery Box: LEGO Creation of the Day

I don’t think we could have picked a better project for our first ever LEGO Creation of the Day post. Called the Mystery Box, it was built by Todd Wilder, a dude who LEGO should be employing.

Here’s what Todd had to say about the project, coupled with some choice shots of the final product:

My biggest ever LEGO project is complete!! This box has 8 compartments. The drawers must be opened in the order shown. The bottom of the box shows my initials: TCW.

How did I come up with this? The short answer is: Divine Inspiration! The long answer is that I came up with it a little bit at a time. I had the first idea (for how the 4 drawers fit together) a couple of months after my nephew asked me to build a box for him. After that, I started work on a prototype box, which was changed a few times to include the large tray and the center removable part (which in the prototype is solid, not a compartment). A later development for the prototype was the idea that the drawers have to be opened in a particular order–this was easier than it may sound to accomplish, using the 1×2 brick with pin and 1×2 technic brick with a hole.

With the prototype complete (random colored bricks) I had the idea to somehow use question marks for the actual design of the box. I happened to be reading a book called “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime” (highly recommended!) which is written from the perspective of a boy with autism. This book has a lot of illustrations to help show how people with autism think in pictures. Near the end of the book the main character says that he was trying to think of a way to tessellate crosses (plus signs). He thinks of a way, and there is an illustration to go with it which looks like a simple version of an M.C. Escher painting–the crosses are fit together into a pattern that could continue indefinitely.

I wasn’t familiar with the word “tessellate” (the method of tiling used in many of Escher’s works) but quickly decided that I wanted to figure out a way to tessellate question marks and use this as the design for my most elaborate Lego creation. So, I used the PC Paint program to create a black & white graph. Using trial and error, I found my pattern by filling and unfilling the white squares with different colors. I think it was my 17th try that did it. I then had the basic construction as well as the design idea, and it was time to get to work on Lego Digital Designer. Needless to say, it took many many hours, and I kept getting new ideas here and there for different parts of the box (such as the inside of the drawers, the design for the center section, my initials, etc.) LDD did not have all of the parts I needed to build the box, but only about 3 kinds were missing.

After completing the virtual box as much as I could, I got to work de-constructing it so I could get a parts count (there was no way I was going to spend over $1,800 to buy the specialized set from Lego–I would have had to turn over all rights to them as well). After I had the parts counted (almost 8,000 total), it was time to order the parts from About 35 separate orders, including some frustratingly long waits, and one order that I waited about 2 months for but it never arrived. After receiving about half the orders, I started putting the box together by taking the virtual box apart 1 piece at a time (the LDD virtual instruction book for the box was about 2,000 pages long and had to be re-generated every time I opened the program). The end result is what you’re looking at here.  I have learned a lot from this experience, the most important thing being: if you want to accomplish something great, it must be something you believe in and something you are willing to stick with no matter how difficult it gets!!


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