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How to build a SHIP -- chapter 6: Greebles!
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How to build a SHIP – chapter 6: Greebles!

I think this is the most requested chapter pertaining to building tips, and perhaps the hardest to talk about. I am sure we have all read the word “greebles” somewhere on the internet pertaining to Lego building, and most commonly with Sci-fi builds. I can not find out who first coined this word, but I suspect that it comes from the Scottish word “gree”, which means 'superiority'. It seems to match; adding details to your ship helps to make it superior. Greebles are those details that make your plain old starship something worth talking about.

I have broken greebles, or details, into two categories:

-- Large details: these could also be called 'features' (I borrow this term from archeology).
large details are things like communication dishes, sensor dishes, particle emitters, navigational deflector dishes, etc. This needs to be addressed because far too many times I have seen starships on all the Lego related pages that are just seriously lacking. When you are building a starship, does it need a communications dish? A serial number? A shield generator/shield emitter? Solar panels? The list goes on, but it is a list that you need to stop and think about, and then figure out how to represent that with your ship.

-- Fine details: these are the little cool things scattered across the hull, or all lined up nice and neat in an equatorial trench of greeble (more often than not, a lot of builders seem to be using dark bley for these details). We don't really know what these things are or their purpose; some we can guess at, others we got no clue. But, they sure are interesting. The whole purpose of these fine details is just to make a part of your ship snazzy.

Far too often we see MOCs where the builder went crazy with the little fine details, but forgot to put larger details. We can only assume that the technology has gotten so advanced that the stellar communications device is now shrunk down to being very small. Which is somewhat ironic, because neither Star Wars nor Star Trek have very small technology when it comes to their spaceships. Just look at the hyperspace communications dish on the Falcon, or the navigational deflector on the Enterprise or their warp field coils; all of that stuff is huge! So it is hard to believe that a related MOC has smaller technology. And yes, I am well aware of the discrepancy of how the technology in prequel movies is more advanced than in later timeline movies. That's called de-evolution and happens often with strong military regimes.

Some other things to keep in mind about details: don't let them get out of control and take over. Much like Yin-Yang, there needs to be a fine balance between rather plain sections of hull, and exposed ship equipment. Too much bare hull denies the 'wow' factor, and too much greeble makes us think the ship got assimilated. If that is your intention, then work with it until it is believable, give us some back story. As always, there are some exceptions to these rules. I have seen some MOCs of Borg cubes that were just nothing but greebles, and it was well done, and I have seen ships with bare hulls inspired by the Terran Trade Authority books by Stewart Cowley where the genius-ness lies in the coloration of the hull and bare minimum of protruding thingies. It almost becomes artistic in how details are used, and whether or not they make sense. Herein lies the debate on the sublime and “what is art?” For more on this separate topic, go check out Nathan Sawaya, and Nannan Z., both of whom are here on MOCpages. Both of these guys are good examples of details, large and small, and lack thereof. But let's get back to greebles.

Greebles are so omni-present that it is very hard to pick out just any builder who has mastered it. And, there are many builders who have demonstrated an ability to seamlessly integrate large details, or features, with fine details. My best advice on greebles, would be just to start surfing the ol' net and enjoy the ride. I would like to give a shout out to one builder who has a great talent for large and small greebles, and for making greebles with a purpose. You look at his details, and you say, “oh yah, I can guess what that is for.” And this would be the creator of Pre Classic Space, Chris Giddens, otherwise known as Admiral Giddens. Go to, and learn how you can sign up for the next academy semester to fight against the 3vil Skulls or the Eastern Block or the Jade Empire or Space Hippies or RaSTARfarians. My personal favorite is the Doulus Medical Frigate – a brilliant combo of ingenious hull pieces and purposeful greebles.

So, BE CREATIVE, is the best advice with greebles. This is art, you are the artist, show us that those seven years you spent in art school were not wasted.

By the way, if we use the word greeble often enough on the internet, it might make it into an upcoming edition of Webster's Dictionary. We'll show Matt Greoning who has 'meh'!

| June 1, 2009, 5:11 pm
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