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Unofficial Rules of the LEGO® Purist: An Article
An article I thought I'd post before putting up my next few models...Enjoy!
About this creation
Introduction

What does it mean to be a LEGO® purist? Almost everyone who builds with LEGO elements is a purist in one way or another; some people choose to use “clones” but would never think of cutting their plastic pieces to make “new” parts; others detest non-LEGO “knock-offs” but readily modify their official elements with custom decals, paint, and glue. Everyone has their own preferences and idea(s) of how LEGO bricks can and should be used recreationally. Builders who are known as purists, however, tend to follow a stricter set of self-imposed guidelines when it comes to creating LEGO models than others do, leading some people to consider them the snobs of the LEGO hobby who are limited in the things they are capable of constructing. While this assumption may be true in some rare cases, most purists are ordinary builders who have tried to enrich their hobby by making the personal decision to abstain from using anything non-LEGO in their LEGO creations. Although this does limit the builder in the types of pieces they can build with, purism offers a unique challenge in that it forces one to find building solutions and ideas within the LEGO System itself to address the obstacles that one faces. Purism also tends to impress people when they view one’s creativity with the LEGO brick and realize that one did that “ with only legos."

There are two main tenets of orthodox LEGO purism into which all of its so-called rules fall; one is to use only what the LEGO Group (TLG) has provided to the public for building LEGO creations, and the other is not to modify these elements in any way not intended by TLG. [An alternate, less orthodox, form of purism states that anything distributed by TLG, regardless of whether TLG intended it to be used in building, is a LEGO element and thus acceptable.] Many purists will deviate from these rules at times, and even professional LEGO builders (such as the famed Model Master Builders who work for TLG), who are otherwise purists, will regularly break the rules regarding glue and/or internal bracing in order to increase the durability and life span of their works.

The “Rules”

(1) - Never* inherently modify or alter a LEGO® element (Note: Application of decals/stickers is not an inherent modification but an exterior, temporary one).

-No Cutting (Exception: Certain elements, such as pneumatic tubing, which were cut to a certain length by the builder as intended by TLG, are perfectly acceptable for purists' use.)

-No Engravinging/Inscribing

-No Painting/Printing

-No Combining with sculpted clay or other materials

-No Melting

*[An exception to this rule is the removal of LEGO® elements (e.g. minifigure coins, flowers, and certain tools) from their sprues (the excess plastic pieces that are molded together with the actual elements). Removal of LEGO parts from their sprues is optional and is entirely up to the decision of the builder; however, strict (orthodox) purists tend not to use just the disconnected sprues themselves, as they were not intended as stand-alone building elements by TLG; others see no real problem with this, as the sprues are officially distributed by TLG and are thus acceptable LEGO parts.]

Addendum (Regarding the use of damaged/broken LEGO elements):
Orthodox LEGO purism draws its standards from the likely intentions of TLG regarding elements in the LEGO system; it assumes that, in general, TLG never intended for LEGO elements to be inherently modified, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Strictly speaking, then, the rules of orthodox purism prohibit the use of damaged elements, as they have been inherently altered from their TLG-intended state. [However, many otherwise orthodox purists (including the author) are reluctant to simply dispose of their damaged LEGO parts when the amount of damage is minimal, viewing this as a waste of expensive LEGO elements. These purists then make a compromise, many opting to 'salvage' the lightly-damaged parts by placing them in the interior of models (where they are hidden from view but are still being used) or using them in other normal ways that conceal the fact that the parts have been modified. This is not strict orthodox purism, however, unless one believes TLG meant for damaged pieces to be 'saved' in this way.]

(2) - Never use anything in a model that was not officially distributed or intended by the LEGO Company for the consumer’s use in building LEGO® creations. (Note: Batteries, while non-LEGO® elements, are intended by TLG to provide power for electric LEGO components and are thus perfectly permissible for purists’ use in this role.

-No so-called ‘clones’ (i.e. elements produced by the LEGO Group’s competitors in the building-toy market).

-No custom-made elements

-No decals/stickers unless they were publicly distributed by the LEGO Group for the purpose of applying to LEGO elements.

-No glue or other unofficial adhesives (like tape).

-No internal metal bracing or any other non-LEGO® component(s) for maintaining the structural integrity of the model.

-Addendum: I forgot to mention: elastic bands and string released by TLG in LEGO sets are considered to be official LEGO elements. [An element is considered to be 'LEGO' based on its distribution by TLG, NOT by the material(s) it is composed of.]

Conclusion

Orthodox LEGO purism, as I have defined it here, states only what elements are acceptable and unacceptable for a purist to use in their LEGO models; it does not however make any mention of how the official LEGO parts are to be used. This is because TLG has never really placed any "rules" on how LEGO elements are to be used; rather, the LEGO fan is expected and encouraged to find new and creative ways to use LEGO pieces in their building and explore the unlimited possibilities present in the LEGO system. Regarding such topics as how certain elements should be used by the builder (as in the question, 'Should official stickers only be used on the elements they are intended for?'), purism is not concerned but traditionalism and other building philosophies/preferences that reflect the manner in which a builder uses the LEGO system (perhaps the subject of a future article!) There really is no "pure LEGO" building method, so as long as one uses only unmodified, official LEGO elements, one is considered a purist, regardless of the techniques or building methods one uses.

The rules stated above are intended as guidelines for those who desire to improve the quality of their LEGO building and more deeply enjoy their hobby by limiting themselves to only official, unaltered, and pure LEGO elements. While it is completely unnecessary to follow purists’ rules in order to build fantastic creations, as many do without such rules, I have personally found these standards and principles helpful in refining my building methods and hope that others, purist and non-purist alike, may gain from my clarifying them.

Sincerely,

Cole Edmonson

(A LEGO enthusiast who enjoys writing these kinds of things.)

Thanks to all my viewers who, through your thoughtful comments, suggestions, and questions, have helped me improve this article and clarify the points that it makes.



Comments

 I made it 
  July 30, 2014
Quoting Centurion Cone I built a desert eagle with a broken piece and it worked the same as with a non broken piece, it was only half-broken but it still worked the same. how's that on the scale?
I say that if the broken part's invisible from the outside, then it doesn't matter; that's great that you can still use the piece. Thanks for the comment! ~Cole
 I like it 
  July 27, 2014
I built a desert eagle with a broken piece and it worked the same as with a non broken piece, it was only half-broken but it still worked the same. how's that on the scale?
 I made it 
  May 17, 2014
Quoting Patrick Flanagan On LDD, if you use "LDD extended" mode and paint a piece a color that isn't usual to the piece (e.g. a purple tire), is that non-purist or purist?
That's a great question! Personally, I think the scale tips toward the 'non-purist' end, but I've never even considered purism/non-purism when it comes to digital building (and I've never really used LDD myself, being an LDraw guy). The way I've defined purism here is using the LEGO elements the way that TLG might reasonably expect you to (and I was referring to the physical elements). I believe that TLG expects you to use purple tires, since they apparently put that in their own program, so I guess that's digitally purist; until TLG physically makes that element in that color, though, you can't use it physically within the "laws of purism." Thanks for your comment! ~Cole
 I like it 
  May 16, 2014
On LDD, if you use "LDD extended" mode and paint a piece a color that isn't usual to the piece (e.g. a purple tire), is that non-purist or purist?
  March 25, 2014
thank you
 I made it 
  March 23, 2014
Quoting joseph remington great for lego puriststs but i am a customizer through and through so i don't agree with all the points. one thing about "-No internal metal bracing or any other non-LEGO® component(s) for maintaining the structural integrity of the model." thats what TLG does for the legoland models . one last thing if you use a kre-o 2x4 because you ran out of 2x4 in that colour in a big project does that count?
Yes, the professional master-builders are not purists when it comes to bracing their work (one of them called me "a stupid purist" once for not taping a model that I was transporting to a local convention). It is never purist to use any clone brand, but whether it "counts" is up to you; the hobby is not about following rules but about having fun. Thanks for the comment! ~Cole
  March 23, 2014
great for lego puriststs but i am a customizer through and through so i don't agree with all the points. one thing about "-No internal metal bracing or any other non-LEGO® component(s) for maintaining the structural integrity of the model." thats what TLG does for the legoland models . one last thing if you use a kre-o 2x4 because you ran out of 2x4 in that colour in a big project does that count?
  November 13, 2013
How does illegal building techniques fit into the purist mentality?
 I like it 
  September 13, 2013
Thanks for writing this all up! Very fun to read! You gotta love Lego purism!
  January 18, 2012
It doesn't matter if your really a purist or not. Just as long as your having fun.
 I like it 
  January 7, 2012
Even tho I am not a purist and a purist this is funny.
Cole Edmonson
Wyatt Boucher
  October 11, 2011
Now I feel bad for being a non-purist.
 I made it 
  September 18, 2011
Quoting Joshua - aka - Imaginator I'm new to MOCpages and my question is (will using Duplo bricks for bace strength or build strength in general considered agents the rules?)
Not at all! Duplo elements, while not part of the traditional LEGO® 'System,' are genuine, official, and purist-approved LEGO elements; simply-speaking, they're just larger elements, which TLG designed for use with regular LEGO pieces. Thanks for the comment! ~Cole
  September 18, 2011
I'm new to MOCpages and my question is (will using Duplo bricks for bace strength or build strength in general considered agents the rules?)
 I like it 
  September 14, 2011
Good article, Cole. I must say, I used some custom made parts (cutted from TLG parts) on some of my weapons. For example, my latest Colt M1911A1. Otherwise I could not made a very important part.
 I like it 
  September 2, 2011
this is great!
 I like it 
  September 2, 2011
I like this explantation, Im pretty much purist, but I use uofficial rubberbands. But what happens I put to many rubberbands on to power my can and something breaks? would i not be purist if i used it in way with that break as a benfit, or would a purist throw it away? Just wondering about that, but great explanation i never really thought about it. good job!
 I like it 
  August 30, 2011
very good, informative article. You should do this more often, there is a plethora of things to write about in the Lego universe... I like to think of the purism abstractly; I do often use off-brand basic bricks, but only because when I was little my mom bought me the massive sets they offered with thousands of bricks. I strive not to let the off-brand bricks show and use them for basic construction (like interiors of buildings or vehicles). I never have modified a Brick, but have used slightly damaged ones in places suitable. To be a purist is to be the architect who uses stucco instead of drywall. To be the arms manufacturer who uses 416 steel instead of 420.
Cole Edmonson
 I like it 
kelvin johansson
  August 29, 2011
So if I have a piece break (e.g. Clone Helmet) and used that piece in a moc would that be purist or not?
Cole Edmonson
AA (Noname)
  August 29, 2011
Although I am against tagging yourself as a "purist" (because it's pointless, among other reasons), as a purist, would you use pieces that were accidentally cut/broken?
 I like it 
  August 29, 2011
Well, this is a very good point that you have here. If this is true, then by no means am I a purist. Some of this I don't quite agree with, but everyone has their opinion. I appreciate the fact that someone finally decided to do something like this. A very good point in this, you made. - KP
 I like it 
  August 29, 2011
In all honesty, I really no not like "non-purist" moc's because of the fact that it is in a way cheating. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion on this matter but a real builder's skill is determined by how they can build what LEGO has given us to use as a medium. I really like the fact that you made this. Maybe it will change some builder's minds. Being "Purist" only helps you become a better builder.
 I like it 
  August 29, 2011
An excellent article, Cole, and one that I heartily agree with! My only "transgression" as far as purism goes is when I placed some Scotch tape on a piece and then wrote on it. Besides that, I have always tried to live up to "The Purist Code" :) Good job getting the message out!
 I made it 
  August 29, 2011
Quoting MortalSwordsman . What a great read. I consider my self a purist ( but not a snob ;) ) i certainly don't mind if others use non purist methods. I take it one further by not using stickers at all (unless already applied to second hand Lego) I do however use non Lego elastic bands. Can I add this to the discussion - what about non traditional building methods - for example I like my mocs to be sturdy - so I always click the elements together. I have noticed that some builders place bricks on without clicking them together. This improves the look of the moc but if you turn it upside down bricks will fall off. What do you think? :)
I think that is an excellent question, but one that falls outside the focus of this article. Building methods, which are different ways of HOW to use LEGO pieces in a model (i.e. traditionalism), differ from purism, which is a set of standards regarding WHAT pieces are acceptable to use. Purists widely differ on how elements are to be used and can often espouse completely different building philosophies and preferences, yet still have purism in common. The question of how sturdy one's model should be built, for example, is based entirely upon the design priorities and preferences of the individual and the purpose they have in mind for their model (as in, "Is it going to be played with, or be put on display?" and so on). ~Cole
 I made it 
  August 29, 2011
Quoting Andrew Hough What about phenumatic flex tube? I consider that purist to cut because the original sets including it told you to do so.
Thanks for your question! An element cut to size by the builder, as intended by TLG, is perfectly acceptable for purists' use. (I have now added this to the article, as that is a good point to mention.)
 I made it 
  August 29, 2011
Quoting kelvin johansson So if I have a piece break (e.g. Clone Helmet) and used that piece in a moc would that be purist or not?
Thanks for your great question! I have tried my best to answer it in a new addendum to the article.
 I like it 
  August 29, 2011
Hmm... Considering I mostly build Technic, I guess I'm a Purist, because there really AREN'T any clones for Bionicles/HF, and I would NEVAH paint/sharpie any Lego element. EVAH >.<
 I like it 
  August 29, 2011
Yep purists rule!
 I like it 
  August 29, 2011
Purism shows talent. Anyone can buy a brickarms gun, but not everyone can build it. LEGO can in fact create nearly every imaginable shape - there are literaly endless possibilities - even without modifying. People only modify when they don't know how to build the desired shape out of official elements.
 I like it 
  August 29, 2011
Er, I don't really think they do it for the challenge, just so that they can use the pieces and/or retail it again later on. Heh, I totally agree with Mortal Swordsman there on the first bit.
  August 29, 2011
Good article. I'm a purist and stick to all the above - but I too would add on Mortal's point below - that balanced bricks aren't purist. I think if it can't be played with it's not a purist LEGO MOC
 I like it 
  August 29, 2011
What a great read. I consider my self a purist ( but not a snob ;) ) i certainly don't mind if others use non purist methods. I take it one further by not using stickers at all (unless already applied to second hand Lego) I do however use non Lego elastic bands. Can I add this to the discussion - what about non traditional building methods - for example I like my mocs to be sturdy - so I always click the elements together. I have noticed that some builders place bricks on without clicking them together. This improves the look of the moc but if you turn it upside down bricks will fall off. What do you think? :)
 I like it 
  August 29, 2011
What about phenumatic flex tube? I consider that purist to cut because the original sets including it told you to do so.
 I like it 
  August 29, 2011
I work mostly within your definition of purism with only a few minor exceptions, those being I painted one piece because it is not made in the color I needed and a few cutting of pieces to achieve what I needed. Personally, I try to make any "non-purist" mod I do look as professional as possible, trying to make it look like it would have come from TLG. For that reason, I despise sharpies, and paper decals. But I do like using water slide decals. They come out looking very professional. Gluing is a gray area, since TLG glues their key chains together.
 I like it 
  August 29, 2011
Wow, nice definition of purism/non purism! Well done!
Cole Edmonson
Rtas 'Vadum
  August 28, 2011
The only rules I break (anymore) are using unofficial rubber bands and modifying parts in some minor ways. For example, modifying a part to allow a wire to pass under it, or attaching a 9 volt battery connecter to a power functions cable.
 I like it 
  August 28, 2011
I really liked this article. I to am a purist. I have made a few exceptions for paint, but only rarely, and I've used one modified part on a MOC, just because it broke anyways and looked better(it was a piraka spine that the head came off) I've run into people who've called me a snob cause I am a purist, so its very reassuring to see that this is a known and developed orthodox of building. Thank you for writing this. :D
 I made it 
  August 28, 2011
Quoting samuel kehler what about using official stickers on the unintended parts
Thank you so much for your comment; this is one of the most thought-provoking questions I've received and I have tried to address it the best I can by rewriting the Conclusion to my article. You are a purist either way if you do or do not use official LEGO stickers on the LEGO parts they are intended for--whether or not you are a traditionalist is another question.
 I like it 
  August 28, 2011
what about using official stickers on the unintended parts
 I like it 
  August 28, 2011
Cool, thanks!
 I like it 
  August 28, 2011
An interesting read. I'm purist by your rules other than that I consider the sprues to be fair game, having been distributed by TLG.
 I like it 
  August 28, 2011
I'm a little bit a purist, because I use rubber bands there not are from LEGO
  August 28, 2011
plzzzzz can u join my group guns and ammo! ~charlie btw can u have a look at my sten mk2 and famas !!!!!
 I made it 
  August 28, 2011
Quoting G W I had a few 2516s (that two-handled gun part used in some of the old Space sets) with incomplete/missing handles from the molding process. After I trimmed them off (they would have been useless otherwise), I manged to get some rather cool looking guns. Other than that, yeah, I don't modify parts or use anything that didn't come out of a LEGO set. The elastic bands found in some sets, though, can come is really handy for some builds.
Oh, I should mention that rubber/elastic bands from LEGO sets are official LEGO elements and are acceptable for purists' use. Thanks for your comment!
 I like it 
  August 28, 2011
i have only ever drew on about 3 clones wich i totaly regret btw cant wate till the k98!!!
 I made it 
  August 28, 2011
Quoting Square Box Okay... So, I think I'm purist, except once, when I painted 1 brick for my gun (ran out of black ones...) Am I right? I can't even modify bricks..! PS. How is kar98k doing?
Thanks for the comment! As long you don't keep using your modified/painted bricks, you're a purist; I used to have a few clones mixed in with my collection until several years ago when I finally disposed of them, which I have never regretted doing! As far as my 98k goes, I have had the project on hold for a little while now after constructing the stock-portion; now that I have a LEGO fan convention coming up, I will probably finish it within the next month or so. Stay tuned...
  August 28, 2011
I had a few 2516s (that two-handled gun part used in some of the old Space sets) with incomplete/missing handles from the molding process. After I trimmed them off (they would have been useless otherwise), I manged to get some rather cool looking guns. Other than that, yeah, I don't modify parts or use anything that didn't come out of a LEGO set. The elastic bands found in some sets, though, can come is really handy for some builds.
 I like it 
  August 28, 2011
Okay... So, I think I'm purist, except once, when I painted 1 brick for my gun (ran out of black ones...) Am I right? I can't even modify bricks..! PS. How is kar98k doing?
 
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