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LEGO SNOT Building Tips

March 27th, 2008

Many of the LEGO building projects I’ve written about over the past several months include the use of SNOT.  For those of you not familiar with the term, SNOT is an acronym for Studs-Not-On-Top, which is a common building technique in LEGO brick sculpting.

In the simplest form of brick sculpting, the studs on all bricks face the same direction (usually up).  However, at times it is desirable to face bricks in multiple directions.  Fortunately, LEGO has provided many different building elements to accomplish this.  In addition, LEGO geometry also allows elements to fill brick voids left in one direction, with bricks facing another direction, with some careful planning.


I used SNOT building technique above to create a 10X Minifig Sunglasses Face design.  Detailed construction pictures follow with more information and additional examples of SNOT.

There are several reasons to use SNOT.  One reason is that LEGO plates afford the ability to create gradual changes in height or color because they are one-third the height of normal brick.  Sometimes a model needs this level of detail in more than one direction (geometric plane).  In the example above, the sunglass face design needs plate-level detail in one direction for the sides of the frames, and in another direction for the bridge over the nose.  Using SNOT, I was able to achieve a good final result in both areas.


Shown above is a close up of the face containing a void for a sub-model turned sideways with respect to the main model.  The five plates on edge on the sub-model (inset picture) exactly fill the void which is two bricks wide.  I built the sub-model with ‘wings’ (yellow 1X2 bricks) which lock it in place on the main model.


Above is a picture of the head taken apart to expose the position where the sub-model will be inserted.

The next SNOT example is from my New LEGO Chess Board.


On this model, I built 64 sub-models (one for each of the chess board squares).  Each sub-model is a 5 bricks high (4 bricks + 2 plates + 1 tile = 5 Bricks) and form a perfect square that completely fill a 6×6 brick opening in the board.  The smooth sides of the bricks form a stud-free surface for each square without requiring a large quantity of tiles.

The next SNOT example is from my Elmo Sculpture.


Above is Elmo’s face (eyes removed) demonstrating how SNOT was used to form his rounded nose.  The left box highlights the special LEGO element used to face plates in different directions for the nose (1X1 brick with studs on the sides).  The right box shows how I used sideways facing red plates and tiles to completely fill the space around Elmo’s nose to help it blend into his head.


Above is the same area with the top of the nose attached and only the front exposed.  The same technique used on the nose is also used on Elmo’s eyes.

The next SNOT example is from my 3X Motorcycle Sculpture.


For this model I used plates to get the detail I wanted for the forks on the sides of the wheels.  However, the orientation of these plates was different from the rest of the model.  My solution was to build the wheels (with the forks integrated) as sub-models and attach them using the headlight brick element to change the orientation.  The tops of the tires are hidden, so it wasn’t important to build them black.

The last SNOT examples are from my SpongeBob LEGO Pants Sculpture.


For this model I used SNOT to orient special building elements different from the rest of the model.  For SpongeBob’s eyes and nose I wanted to have element project studs-outward from the side of the model.  For the eyes, I used headlight bricks to position radar plates studs out.  For the nose I used a technic brick with an axle to attach the round 2X2 bricks.


To construct SpongeBob’s clenched fist around his spatula I used plates wedged tightly between the studs on other plates to change the orientation 3 times (twice for the wrapping hand, once for the handle of the spatula).  Using SNOT I was also able to take advantage of the flatness of plates to create a better spatula than I could have with studs up bricks.

As I’ve shown, there are many different ways to use SNOT to improve the accuracy of LEGO brick sculptures.  There are also many other LEGO elements with studs facing multiple directions that can be used for this technique.

Links to LEGO Models Referenced as Examples Above

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3 Responses

  1. March Builder of the Month — Brian Wygand | I LUG NY Says:

    [...] whose work I enjoy looking at, or from whom I’ve learned a lot about architectural detailing, SNOT building and presentation: Chris McVeigh, Mark Stafford, Jameson Gagnepain, Mike Psiaki, Arthur Gugick, [...]

  2. Cupola Caboose | Beyond the Brick Says:

    [...] building techniques to achive a “complex looking” effect.  In an age dominated by SNOT construction we could all strive for [...]

  3. Cupola Caboose | Beyond the Brick Says:

    [...] building techniques to achive a “complex looking” effect.  In an age dominated by SNOT construction we could all strive for [...]


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