Custom LEGO Jabba’s Sail Barge (Using BaronSat’s Instructions)
Recently, I’ve gotten quite interested in LEGO. I’ve had some of the sets in the past for my collection and my son has been getting them for years, but I was never a huge fan, partially because they seemed so fragile. I didn’t like the idea of spending hours building something only to have it fall apart after a few minutes of play. I guess that’s still true, but I’ve recently started to appreciate LEGO as an art form, and to learn more about the surprisingly large community of adult LEGO enthusiasts (sometimes called AFOLs — “Adult Fans of LEGO”).
One thing I found out about was Bricklink, which is a site that has hundreds of sellers who have inventories of individual LEGO bricks available for purchase. This, combined with Bricklink’s excellent catalog showing the parts used in just about every LEGO set ever made, allows you to get the parts for your own creations relatively easily, or even recreate hard-to-find sets brick-by-brick. Some people have even used it to recreate the Ultimate Collector Series Millennium Falcon, which has more than 5,000 pieces. It originally sold for $500 but can now top $2000 on the secondary market, so it can actually be cheaper to piece it out this way — especially if you don’t mind making some minor parts substitutions.
It was just when I was learning about Bricklink that I discovered the MOC (My Own Creation) designs made by French LEGO enthusiast BaronSat. He sells PDF instructions for a variety of sets on his site. Some are a little pricey, but the instructions for the Sail Barge (aka “Desert Ship”) are only $5. It looked very cool, so I decided to make it my first large Bricklink project. Impressively, BaronSat came up with these instructions close to 10 years ago, before the first official Sail Barge set was even released. It consists of roughly 1,400 pieces and is over 2.5″ feet long.
That’s considerably bigger than the official LEGO Sail barge, as you can see below. You’ll notice that the official set is brown, while BaronSat’s is gray. That’s partially just due to the fact that there are many more kinds of parts available in light and dark gray, but it should also be pointed out that the actual Sail Barge wasn’t really brown per se. It was sort of a dark gray with a lot of dirt on it, giving it a brown tinge. I would say both brown and gray can be considered correct color choices.
The thing about Bricklink is that it can kind of difficult to use because no one seller has everything you need and prices can vary a fair amount from seller to seller. You have to figure out the best strategy for ordering your parts. Is it better to pay more for some parts if it allows you to get them from a smaller number of sellers, thereby saving on shipping? Or should you try to make lots of smaller orders, which let you get the cheapest price per part but can be hard to keep track of and increase your shipping costs? In my case, I ended up ordering from 10 different sellers (actually 9 at first and then 1 more to get some parts I missed). You really need to keep good records of what you need and what you have ordered, and actually check the parts you receive to make sure they’re correct. (I didn’t do this very well enough and it caused me a few minor problems.) All together, it cost me around $225 with shipping, which is actually pretty decent. I’m sure LEGO would charge more than double for a set this size.
Once all of the pieces had arrived (and I must say that most of the Bricklink sellers were very good about shipping quickly and efficiently) I got to work building. I found BaronSat’s instructions to be a little hard to follow in places. Unlike LEGO instructions, they don’t always tell you what bricks are required for a particular step, so you have to play “spot the differences.” In some cases when lots of same-color bricks were being added in a step, it was impossible to tell which exact bricks went where. I had to do a lot of counting of studs and then just try and figure out what worked. And in the end I still ended up having to raid my and my son’s spare parts boxes looking for pieces that I was missing for some reason.
The sails were also a bit of challenge. There is a template in the instructions that would allow you to print the sails on paper and cut them out, but they need to be printed on much larger paper than my printer supports. But as luck would have it, I found some old painting canvases I had bought and never used, and they were the perfect size and shape for this. I just freehanded the sail design onto the canvases, cut them out and then painted them.
It’s amazing that BaronSat was able to create something like this all on his own out of existing LEGO pieces. He didn’t have the luxury of molding specific parts, which LEGO often seems to resort to these days. Perhaps because he needed to get the parts to sit at certain angles, many of the side pieces are not securely attached and have a tendency to fall off. The entire thing is rather fragile in that sense, although the actual frame that the pieces attach to is pretty sturdy. There are two large side panels that just sort of sit there, making them easy to lift off so you can access the interior.
Inside is Jabba’s throne room. I’m using figures from the older Jabba’s Palace sets since that is what this was designed for. The new Jabba in particular won’t fit on the throne without redesigning it completely. I may do that later, but for now this is good enough.
Connected to the throne room is a sort of lounge area with tables and chairs.
On top of the throne room is another small room, perhaps for hooka smoking?
And finally, there is a large cannon on deck.
This was a fun and challenging project, if sometimes a little frustrating. I’m not sure I want to tackle putting together a 5,000-piece set like the UCS Falcon, but I’ll certainly be using Bricklink more in the future.