There are a lot of valuable ressources around Lego on the internet and today I want to talk about getting supplemental parts for specific creations. For quite some time now, I am building other peoples creations. Mostly because the models are great and also to learn how it is done and to get some inspiration for my own soon-to-come MOCs. Last weekend, Crowkillers released the instructions for his Phantasm Twin Turbo Supercar and this has initiated the MOC building cycle for me again. This consists of several steps for me.
- Evaluating the parts lists and check what is missing
- Compile a list of missing parts
- Brief check of prices for missing pieces
- Thinking about substitutions for parts with high price or very low to no availability
- Update list of missing parts
- Order missing parts
This is quite a list of steps to do. I do not know how others do it, but this basically sums up how I get the parts I need for certain MOCs.
When I first started getting supplemental parts for MOCs, this was a very lengthy process. I was aiming to get the best deal for parts, but also the amounts of needed pieces were higher and more differentiated. After doing all this several times now, I have developed quite a routine for this process and I can complete this in a few hours versus several days as I have before.
How do I know, which parts I have and which I need?
When I was a child, I knew exactly what parts were in my Technic collection and even if I had specific parts in my general collection at all. Today, this is not possible anymore for me. I know approximately which parts I have and I can give brief estimates if I can build something or need new parts, but I cannot give precise numbers. And that is for my relatively “small” collection of nearly 36000 parts. But, in modern times like this you don’t have to keep all that in your mind. There are powerful online tools that help you with that. And the one particular tool is Rebrickable. I like thinking of it as a tool instead of a website, because it is very powerful. And the best part is, that it is free to use. But Rebrickable does not only help you keep track of your sets and single parts, it is also contains a huge database of sets and MOCs with the respective parts lists and has a very useful parts database.
Long story short: I have all my sets and single parts listed on Rebrickable and I can use its search function to see, which sets and MOCs I can build and it shows me a percentage of how many parts I have to build a certain model. Now I can go to the page of a model, in the current case the Phantasm Twin Turbo in either red or white (I did it for both). I get a detail view and description, parts list and a link to the instructions or shop page. When you click on the “Build” button you will be directed to a page that gives you a new parts list. This list contains all missing parts for the build.
So, what do I do with this missing parts list?
This list of missing parts can now be exported as XML for importing into Bricklink as a Wanted List. Click on “Add to your Bricklink Wanted List”. A window will pop up and you can either copy the XML or in addition add a Wanted List ID from Bricklink and copy the XML after that. If you have already created a Wanted List for your project I suggest the latter, so you have the parts directly on the separate list.
When I have added the parts to the Wanted List, I usually check the list once more. Sometimes I need a higher or lower amount for a certain part (usually higher) or I want to delete a specific piece from the list, because I know I have a perfect supplemental part for it. In this specific case, I do not need the 15038 wheels with 6 pinholes, simply because I have several 44772 wheels and other than rim design they are the same.
Quick check for prices
Before going for purchasing, I usually take a look at the common prices for the parts that I need. By doing this, I want to prepare myself for how much I have to pay and also to see if there will be problems with availability or if specific parts are extraordinary expensive. On Bricklink you can use the “Show all” button on the Wanted List to display a list of the pieces and several prices from different shops. This is not yet helpful to decide for shops, but it shows what the average price ranges are and also it shows you if some parts are rare and/or expensive.
A good example is the White Hose, Soft Axle 19L. This part was released in a single set only (which contained 4) and if you want to stay true to the instructions you need 5 of it. Also, not many sellers have it and the price for it currently averages somewhere between 12€ and 15€ per piece. Too expensive if you ask me. Therefore, this was one of the elements that I decided to substitute with something else and deleted it from my Wanted List.
Note: This is currently quite a problem with flex axles in certain colors and lenghts. Low availability and high prices. So it is good to check these first.
What can I do when important pieces have low availability or are super expensive?
Here, you will need your grey matter a little. For this, it is often good to know where the pieces you will not or cannot purchase are used in the model. In the case of this flex axle, they are mostly used to shape the wheel housing of the car and the lower rim of the windshield. In this case, you can use the same part in a different color. But that often does not look good. Or you could use a somewhat similar part in the same color, which is usually the best idea. Or you come up with a totally different idea. Sometimes it is possible to use pneumatic tubing or you could build the wheel housing with angled connectors.
Sometimes the missing parts are connectors. This is somewhat easier, because you can use other connectors in the same color with different parts combinations to achieve a similar construction. But here we already reach the case of modifying a model. If this is the case, it might really become necessary to have the instructions at hand so you can think of a proper replacement.
Sometimes, parts can be just used in a slightly different color without problems. If the part you cannot obtain is used somewhere deep in the model, you usually won’t see it anyway, thus it is easi to substitute.
Update the Wanted List once more
Now that you know about the hard to find and/or expensive pieces and have thought about how to build the model without these pieces, you can update the Wanted List once more. Delete what you decide to substitute and add what you need for the substitution.
Time to go shopping
With the updated Wanted List we can now go shopping. On the Wanted menu in Bricklink, go to “By Shop”. There, select your Wanted List and sort by “Lots unique”. You should now get a list of shops. I usually go for shops with a rather low or none “Minimum Buy” value. I usually open like 10 shops in separate tabs now. You get a list with the available items from your Wanted List. I now add all available items in the desired amounts to the shopping cart. If multiple lots are available I usually take the cheapest. If the prices for new items are only marginally higher than for used, I take them new, but if new items have quite higher prices I take them as used.
Now I have several shopping carts. Of course these often contain the same items. I compare the prices now and try to reduce the shopping carts so I can get as many pieces with as little orders as possible. Usually the shop with the most available items gets the biggest order from me. But often price differences for certain items are so big that it is worth to place the order for some parts at a different shop and the price difference still outweighs the extra shipping cost.
This is usually the longest step. It involves a lot of going back and forth, creating new shopping carts at shops and adding and deleting items and some calculating. For this case, I ended up with 5 different orders to get everything except the 19L flex axles in white (they will be substituted). I learned very soon, that I cannot simply create a Wanted List and then order everything from a single shop. You usually won’t get around placing multiple orders. In the case of Sheepo’s GT500 I even had to order the same parts from several shops because of available quantities.
Also, sometimes a shop has some items the other shops you order from don’t have. And against all odds the shop has a minimum buy value that is higher than the cost for the pieces you need. In cases like this, you should think about if you could need something else from the shop. I always have some backup items in mind that I can fill a shopping cart with. Please keep that in mind.
So these are the basic steps I go through when completing my collection towards a MOC. I know some information, specifically about Bricklink, is a little sparse, but I wanted to give an idea about this process. Also, this doesn’t take into account if you have other built MOCs or sets and want to keep them built. I have several things built as well and I keep the built things on separate lists in Rebrickable which do not get used for the build calculations. Further, I will disassemble Sheepo’s GT500, else I would have needed to order a lot more parts.
When I first went through all this to get parts for a MOC (which was Crowkillers Supercar Deluxe 2) the process was lengthy and my collection a lot smaller than it is now. Back then I basically had the 8070 Supercar as base and this whole process of obtaining additional parts took quite some time. In the end I could build the car, but I had to make some compromises on the looks. It was still ok, but not true to the original MOC, nor having a true “modded” look. And to get all the pieces I wanted really took some time. I believe, in the end, I was busy for 3 weeks until I had everything I needed. When I compare it to now, there is a huge difference. Last weekend I probably spent 1 hour to compile all the parts lists and then another 2 hours ordering parts. This is still time, but not too much and I think I was really quick this time.
If you really have read until here, please let me know in the comments below if you found this article to be useful, if you do purchase parts in a similar way or if you have useful additions.