Regular readers know of my boyish love for LEGO sets of any kind, and that I’ve been building more and more of them over the past year. Those same readers will know of my dog, Murphy, an eight-year old female bull terrier that I adopted last summer from The Bull Terrier Rescue Mission.
Apparently, there exists a bull terrier building set from Balody, an Asian (probably Chinese) company that makes a LEGO knock-off, with a twist: the pieces are extremely tiny. Indeed, they’re called “micro building blocks” on Amazon.
That’s where the inscrutable East gets that much more inscrutable: on Amazon, the company selling this set is called “Larcele.” I can only assume it’s a classy French rebranding to make the toy sound more European (LEGO is Danish). There’s also a site called mylozblocks.com that sells the sets.
I can’t find anything about Balody or Larcele online, other than the latter’s Amazon page. If any toy enthusiasts are reading this blog and can weight in, I’d appreciate it. Granted, I spent a grand total of maybe seven minutes searching the web, so who knows what I missed.
Regardless, a new lady friend gifted me this Balody/Larcelle bull terrier set for Easter, an incredibly thoughtful gift. It was also incredibly difficult to build, despite the box boasting a difficulty level of three out of five blocks (whatever that means).
Two factors contributed to the difficulty: the very small pieces (I’ve heard that tweezers are recommended for construction; I did not follow that advice), and the insane instructions.
LEGO users are used to glossy instruction manuals that might have, at most, twenty pieces to assemble in a single step—and that’s really stretching it. Some steps just have one piece. The result can be thick instruction manuals, but it’s very clear what to do on each step. Typically, mistakes are easy to catch, and easy to fix.
This bad boy featured steps that required dozens of pieces to be assembled, and not always in ways that fit together. The earliest steps—those early on in the construction process—required two or even three layers of building at once, with extremely precise fitting together of blocks.
Needless to say, it took me awhile to get this set completed. I think the first eight steps took me a couple of hours—and that’s out of sixty-three steps total! Fortunately, at that point the multilayers calmed down a bit, and I began figuring out the logic of the builds.
That’s something that’s huge: understanding the mind of the instruction manual, and how to build these kits. Longtime LEGO builders will understand what I’m getting at here: there is a certain “mindset” to how LEGO kits are built. For example, LEGO will rarely allow a block to go without reinforcement, especially if the block is flimsy without it. There is almost always some support work that will be done, and there are rarely gaps left in a LEGO set without some purpose.
With this Balody set, it was a totally different logic/”mindset.” Pieces might be floating free in the ether, waiting for a layer to descend upon them, bringing the connection to fruition. Gaps were routine. The interior of the model is mostly hollow—something that would unusual in a LEGO set. It was a blessing here, though, because it meant fewer steps.
There’s also a deeper degree of concentration involved with these sets. I can churn out a LEGO set super quickly (my older nephew commented on how fast I was when building an Easter bunny set for us the other week). There are times it almost becomes thoughtless, in a good way—a blissful sort of union with building Nirvana.
This set rarely felt like I could go into autopilot. It required lots of focus, squinting, and frequent backpedaling to fix earlier mistakes. I often had to shift my perspective to understand how pieces were intended to fit together, especially on the multilayered steps.
That said, once I got the swing of it—as best as I ever did—I had a lot of fun—and a great deal of frustration—building this puppy. Completing it was deeply satisfying, as I felt that I’d put my mind through the paces, and had really accomplished something.
To get a sense for the build, I’ve included extensive photographs below. Note that the table on which I built the set changed, as I boxed the whole thing up when visiting my parents over Spring Break, and finished it at their dining room table.
Again, it was a very fun, very difficult build, but the difficulty made it fun, and contributed to the supreme sense of satisfaction at having built it. I don’t know that I’d do these Balody sets regularly, but I’m more open to them now.
…there’s also a Dachshund.