An Introduction To Microscale Building

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Microscale is a concept that’s been around the LEGO community forever. In some way, almost every LEGO build is a microscale build in that it’s smaller than life-sized. Sure, we’ve had full sized Bugattis and X-Wings, even a full house made of LEGO, but those are the exceptions.

Microscale, conventionally, is pretty much anything smaller than that. A microscale apartment building is recognizable as an apartment building, but wouldn’t be big enough for families of minifigures to live it.

Most of the current mainstream offerings from LEGO come in minifig scale, meaning they are sized approximately to accommodate the standard minifigure. Doors are the right size for them, cars, animals, buildings, spaceships, etc. Everything in their world is sized for them. Every kid with a Space set or a City set or who built something for their minifigures is generally using the minifigure scale.

According to calculations by Tom Alphin and others, minifigure scale is between 1:25 and 1:42 depending on whether you base it on width or height. It’s not a perfect scale as obviously minifigures aren’t shaped quite like people, but the consistency gives us a basis for building in relation to them.

There’s no official LEGO microscale guideline or set of rules to what scale to build in. For example, you could use 1:20 scale meaning it’s 20 times smaller than it’s full-sized counterpart. This is the scale used by LEGOLAND in California for buildings in the Miniland USA attraction. 

LEGO Deep Space Nine by Adrian Drake

You could also use something like 1:600 scale as was used on the recent model of the Star Trek Deep Space 9 station. These huge (or small?) scales are required when recreating geography or massive spaceships. The UCS Super Star Destroyer (Executor) set uses a crazy 1:15,000 scale going from 19 kilometers to 50 inches according to Star Wars canon. Obviously without using this type of scale an accurate brick-built replica would be enormous to the point of absurdity. Not that that can’t be just amazing too.

The most important thing is to be consistent within a MOC. You probably shouldn’t have a mountain at 1:10000 scale beside a building that’s 1:20 scale most of the time. Using some forced perspective you might be able to make it work, but that’s another topic.

Microscale is simply a way of taking something large and familiar and shrinking it in a way that keeps the familiarity and recognizable shape and some details, while sacrificing other lesser details. This doesn’t make the final product any less. On the contrary, sometimes reducing something to it’s essential parts is harder and takes more creativity than just building it large.

If you want to learn how to make a LEGO micro building or scene, keep reading as we post more articles about this fascinating way to build. We also recommend this book as a great introduction to how parts are used in microscale building.

Cover photo ‘Cerulean City’ by BrickinNick on Flickr.

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