Building Techniques: Basic Bipedal Frame Shapes

Ahoy there!

Mondays are tough, they follow weekends. Weekends are the only time I have to see my wife, since we work on opposite schedules. I realized that I don’t have the time to write an article to be released on Monday over the weekend, so I will be tentatively changing release dates to Tue-Thu-Sat. Makes it a lot easier for me to have time to write the darn things. So, aside from that, let’s take a look at frame building techniques today.

There are three main types of bipedal frames I’ve come across, the humanoid, the industrial (or hunchback) and the hi-leg. The humanoid frames have a very human figure: two arms connected to the torso, generally a head that sits on the torso, two legs connected to the hips which are under or at the bottom of the torso; a machine that resembles a powered exoskeleton with armour. The industrial frames have a distinctly industrial look to them: legs connected to a torso, arms connected to a torso. No separate head, no separate hips; kind of looks like a forklift. The third, the hi-leg, is a take on the AT-ST walker from Star Wars fame: two legs and a torso. I’m not really sure what kind of industrial uses a hi-leg type frame would have on the colony worlds, though, so if someone could enlighten me I’d appreciate it.

In order:
XRM-18 Halchan, by XGundam05,
VT-22 ‘Minx’ Grunt type, by A. YATES,
TTT Hi-Leg Pikeman, by milt69466

One of my main issues with frame construction is that I don’t know where to start. I just put pieces together until it looks good, tacking on pieces as arms and legs whenever I get to a place where I think it looks good. This doesn’t usually work too well. I propose taking a moment before you start building (whether SSC or otherwise) to look at the pieces available and think it through. Do you only have a limited number of joints? Try a hi-leg. Large, bulky pieces? Let’s build an industrial. Lots of small pieces, many clips? That definitely calls for a humanoid.

Once you’ve made your decision as to the type of frame to build (and there are more than the ones I’ve discussed, such as Ijad, that will be in a later article), you can start putting pieces together. I like making my legs first to ensure that I have enough support for the frame, then I make the torso, then arms (if planned) and lastly, whatever’s left I’ll tack on as systems. Unless, of course, there are pieces that just scream at me from the get go, such as my naphtha sprayer from 41527 Rokit, and the tusks from my as-yet-unposted 41535 Boogly (awaiting completion of my lightbox).

The joy of frame construction is that you can do nearly anything, as long as you have the pieces. I, personally, am a pretty big fan of the mixel ball joints. They allow simple joints with few pieces and little thinking required. A lot of people don’t like them because they don’t look as good as other joints do, and it’s true, hey look a little out of place when the only thing connecting two parts of a leg together is a ball. They do, however, make building simple for the novice like myself.

MF-43 “RAT” [dune rats], by A. Yates

Even A. Yates uses them in his new MF-42 “RAT” frame as shoulder joints as well as ankles. Since they’re so well hidden, you can’t really tell that they’re ball joints unless you look on the inside seam. Using ball joints for hidden joints such as shoulders and hips can be fairly flawless, especially on bulky industrial-style frames, but you wouldn’t want to use them on a humanoid frame since they have much finer detail. For humanoids, the most common that I’ve noticed are taps for the shoulders and pneumatic t bars for the hips, connected to travis bricks. It’s unlikely to be available for use during a Single Set Challenge, though, which is why building (good-looking) humanoid frames as SSCs is fairly difficult. Hi-legs can use any parts that clip together, such as 1×2 clip connected to 1×2 handle or even the new 1×2 w/ 2 handles which can be found as a 3-of in our friend 41531 Flamzer.

The mid-limb joints such as knees and elbows can be done in one of two ways: articulated, or inarticulate. Articulated means that it uses a clip or ball joint to move so that the upper arm or thigh can be posed independently of the lower leg or forearm. Inarticulate means it does not have an actual joint, and instead is just built in whatever shape you want. Yates’ “RAT” frames have inarticulate knees that are assembled in a 90 degree angle and inarticulate arms that are just sticking straight from the shoulder. The “Hi-Leg Pikeman” has articulated knees, which includes a clip connection so that the leg can bend. The “Halchan” has articulated elbows while having inarticulate knees. Instead, it uses a articulated high ankle to give it that little bit of extra flexibility and the very classy goats-leg look.

Hands and feet are generally fairly easy. A hand can be anything ending with a clip, so that systems can clip into it by the use of handle of some type. A foot, however, can be much more complex or just as simple. A lot of work goes into feet, and there are dozens of perfectly valid types. The important part is that they’re appropriately sized and positioned so that the entirety of your frame is stable. If it isn’t, it risks falling over whenever someone so much as looks at it.

There are many other methods of construction and I’ve barely scratched the surface. Other things to take into consideration are torso construction, head construction, various types of systems, terrain and stations. I hope to cover them all eventually, but I think this is enough for today. Once I’m done my light box, I will get a couple of shorter mixel SSC posts up. This article has taken me a total of 4 hours to write and I’m running out of steam. Plus, my boss wants me to get back to work.

Thanks for reading, as always, comments are my lifeblood. I love improving and doing things you like but I can’t do that if I don’t know how. Have a great week!




  1. AC

    Good points, I’m a novice as well and don’t think there’s anything wrong with using the Mixel joints, just depends on how and the overall look IMHO…


  2. nautibutts

    great post for the techniques, and even better that you linked the parts!

    about the colonial uses for a hi-leg, they seem quite limber and i could see them being able to cross difficult terrain while being fairly easy to maintain, so maybe they could be utilized for things like geological surveys and scouting


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