You may have noticed that this model is not like other models I’ve built for this blog. I’d say it’s a close relative, though. And, in some regards, I’m not sure if I should even call it a model, so much as a DIY art piece. An art piece built out of metal hardware, and built in some ways like a model, and yet not. But whether it’s a model or a unique DIY project, it’s stunning.
It’s also quite big, and made from a whole heck of a lot of parts. The surprising thing is that, even as big as it is, those screws are tiny. Like, really tiny. I love the steampunk styling they have with this model – the brass gears and segmented tentacles just grab your attention. And it’s surprisingly big, while also being build from some hardware that is unbelievably tiny. The result is both daunting and detailed.
So, why am I building something so different? Well, as it turns out, the company that makes them, MoyuStore, reached out to me and asked if I would be interested in building one if they sent it to me. And I have to admit I was intrigued by the concepts / designs. Of course, the first thing I did was make sure that they knew that I am always honest and direct with my reviews – that I would post the good and the bad about any build, whether I bought it myself or it was sent to me for review. They were perfectly fine with this, expecting no less. So I agreed.
Of course, I wasn’t quite prepared for the little surprise product they included with the model. You see, this model is designed so that you can insert a little bluetooth speaker or light inside the “bulbous” section of the model, which is pretty cool (sold as accessories on the website, or in a bundle). But they also sell 3D printed light-up planetoids that can be customized with photos, or in this case a logo! I’m not letting that influence my review, of course, and it is a product they sell, so I’m not considering it a bribe.
You might realize, in looking at these models, that they come at a bit more of a premium than my standard laser-cut metal sheet models (currently USD$65-90, for this particular model). In fact, they’re probably a bit out of my usual budget range, but I feel like I keep a tighter budget than a lot of other builders, lol. Given the materials that they make these from, though, I can understand the higher price tag. Not just for the material itself, but also for the work that goes into bundling it all up, plus the extra items in the box (more on that later). If this type of model sounds like something you might like, you can check it out at their online store here (where it includes a Jupiter light): https://bit.ly/3vzWO3P (not an affiliate link, I don’t make any money off it). I’ve since bought a speed cube for my son from them (as he’s recently become obsessed with solving Rubik’s cubes), and he loves it.
In my last attempt to “get back in the swing of things,” I cruised through three builds in a row, planning on writing all three posts shortly after that. Clearly, that didn’t happen, and I feel bad for taking so long to deliver on this review, and I hope they understand that I wasn’t just trying to get a free model without actually following through on the agreement. Nevertheless, here we are, and I’m going to give you, the readers, my honest impressions / experience with the build. Which, as I’ve said already, looks amazing.
And, for the most part, I found the build to be fulfilling and enjoyable. However, it didn’t go off without a hitch. Though, in all honesty, I think that has more to do with my inexperience with this type of model than anything else. Or possibly the fact that I have big, chonky fingers. Some of those screws and washers and nuts felt microscopic in my squishy pinchers. Getting the nuts aligned and screwed onto the tiny screws without cross-threading was quite a challenge. I cross-threaded a handful of nuts before I got the hang of it (thankfully the model comes with some extras).
And that’s an important note: I had nuts that got cross-threaded and couldn’t use, but was always able to switch to a different nut. The screws never got mangled. Of course, I was suspect, so I kept checking and verifying, but I think I’ve decided that the machine screws are hardened much more than the nuts, so if you get binding while building one of these models, don’t bother swapping out the screw, it’s most likely just fine.
So, if you couldn’t tell from seeing the model, there is a good bit of lather-rinse-repeat to this model, particularly where the tentacles are concerned. But you have to admit, it wouldn’t be nearly as impressive without those amazing tentacles. I found the key to dealing with this conundrum was to spend some time and thought with knolling out the pieces beforehand.
With the first tentacle, I just counted out the right amount of each piece to complete the part, and then just had them available in piles. Grabbed each part as I needed, and this just felt… sluggish. But it also worked to my benefit, because I was able to work out a “process” to adding each segment that worked for me.
For subsequent tentacles, I laid out the parts in segment groups, so I could just work my way down the groups. I refined this even further as I went, simply by knolling out some pieces pre-assembled. Specifically, the machine screw passed through the two parts that go on before you thread the screw through the holes in the previous segment of the tentacle. Things really started to feel like they were going fast at this point.
Of course, with all this talk of knolling, I had to mention a couple of big difference in these models (from what I’ve gotten used to). Obvious ones, if I had stopped to think about it, but of course I didn’t. Anyways, the parts for this type of model don’t arrive in a large sheet, where you clip them out of it. No, they come in little resealable plastic baggies. Also, many of the parts do not stick to magnets. So this presented a couple of challenges for knolling.
My solution to both was to drop by my local dollar-store and pick up these cheap tiny “snack containers” that came in a pack of 10. I bought enough packs to have a separate container for all the parts where there was more than one. And thus, I avoided having to open and close tiny ziploc baggies a million times. As for the non-magnetic-ness of many parts, I just knolled out (from those containers) only as many parts as I planned on putting together in a sitting. This required a little more planning, but it’s worth it when you have 3 cats. The snack containers helped to make this process less frustrating. Oh, and I put some masking tape on the sides of the containers so I could write the part numbers on them. Don’t want to get that mixed up!
Back to the process of building the model, it really does start with the lather-rinse-repeat process of the tentacles, possibly to just get that out of the way. And crank through them, I did. I made one big mistake here, though – I didn’t tighten the joints enough. I mean, I didn’t leave them loose or anything… it’s just that you should really tighten these down more than you think. Like, a lot more. I was thinking that I shouldn’t make it too tight, because I still wanted to be able to pose the tentacles, right? Well, as it turns out, posable is relative. As in… you want the joints pretty darn stiff, if you want it to be able to stand up on those tentacles. But you can still do posing with a stiff joint, it just takes more efforts. And that’s a lot less frustrating than an octopus that falls flat when you try to stand it up.
But there’s another reason for tightening down pretty hard. The nuts that come with the model are not locknuts. And with as much as you will be handling and manipulating the model during assembly… well, I had a number of times where they got loose, and a few times where the nuts fell completely off. Especially when I was trying to attach the tentacles to the core of the octopus… things got a bit cramped, so I had to kinda turn the tentacles a little, then secure one, etc, etc. Anyways, I’m getting ahead of myself, more on that later. What I’d really love would be a clear threadlock to make sure the nuts stay put, but I couldn’t find anything like that.
Now, you may have noticed that the tentacles on my model have a bit of a twist along the length of them. I don’t know what I did that caused this, because I kept trying to straighten them out as I built them. I do know what makes it possible, though. The holes in the brass segments are not an exact fit for the screws – there’s quite a bit of play. However, that’s a good thing for assembling – it would be a nightmare trying to get the machine screws through holes sized specifically for them, especially since the screw ends up passing through them at an angle. So this is not a flaw in the design. Just… wish I knew how to not end up with a twist.
I did get confused by the process when it came to the end of the tentacles. I managed to leave out one of the segments that differs from the “standard” pattern used in the rest of the segments. Completely. And I didn’t notice until I was assembling either the second or third tentacle (I can’t remember at this point). So I had to redo the end(s) I’d finished. So… pay close attention, there are three unique segments at the end of the tentacles. The first with two of the brass pieces placed between the brass pieces of the previous segment and no plastic washers (steps 7 & 8). The second segment sandwiches those two brass pieces between two more, again without plastic washers (steps 9 & 10). Then, finally, a single brass piece placed between the two brass pieces of the previous segment, no washers (steps 11 & 12).
And now for an embarrassing note: I apparently only did the last three segments (shown above) correctly with one of the tentacles. Given that I noticed I’d done it wrong after the first one, and went back to correct the first one… I have no idea how I ended up with 7 of them done wrong. So… yeah, I was thoroughly confused, twice over. But I blame myself, honestly. I goofed up steps 7 & 8, placing the added brass pieces on the outside, rather than sandwiched together in the middle.
Now, back to the core of the octopus. This is where I did really screw up, but it’s totally my own fault. In this section, the tentacles are attached around a double-set of gears (and also holding those together), and I decided, in my great wisdom, that I wanted the attachment points to be symmetric across the model. And so when I had assembled the tentacles, I flipped the L-shaped piece (#27) on half of them, so they would all face the same direction (relative to the whole model) when assembled. One side with the L-shape part facing the clockwise-direction, the other side facing anticlockwise.
It was a terrible idea. You don’t want to mess around with the assembly instructions to “style” your build. This is one of the reasons I refer to this product as an art replica, rather than a model. You’ll want to build it exactly as instructed, otherwise you might screw up like me. And totally miss the fact that the tentacles are arrayed with one front, one back, and three on either side. Also… they all need to have the L-shaped piece facing the same rotational direction, otherwise they will collide with each other, and you won’t be able to attach them properly. So… don’t be like me.
Circling back to how cramped it was in there for attaching the tentacles, it sucks to have to do it twice. And… like a lot of the rest of this review, I’m going to take a quick detour. Because this model actually comes with all the tools you need to build it. Most of the time, I used the 4-sided mini-socket wrench for the nuts, while I found myself rotating through the various sizes of screwdrivers that were included, to fit the particular need. But for securing the tentacles to the base, the screw head is somewhat blocked by the tentacles themselves. It makes it a little hard to tighten these screws/nuts, and it’s really, really important to tighten these down solidly. It was these connection points that presented the most “self-loosening” trouble.
Following this, you get to the really exciting part of the build, at least from my personal experience. You get to start putting together the steampunk ornamentation of the core of the octopus, attach the red-light eye, and begin to assemble the bulbous section of the body. But just as I was getting to this point, I hit a small snag. In step 29, it indicated that a screw was needed, and that it was part 10. I knew that was wrong, however, because I had been using part 10 a lot, and it was much shorter than the screw shown in the picture. I figured it had to be either part 11 or part 16. I decided to use part 11. I’ve now confirmed with MoyuStore that part 11 is the correct one to use, as well as learned that they had already corrected the instructions. Anyways, if you somehow get one of these with the old instructions, watch out.
From there, I moved on to the bulbous part of the body, where I ended up deviating from the instructions again. I know, I told you not to do that. But this is different, I still assembled everything to the same resulting shape, I just did it in a slightly different order. In steps 36-38, the instructions direct you to first attach the long flat sides (parts 50) to the center assembly (from steps 33-35), then assemble and add the pointy tip sections (steps 39-44) that you had pre-assembled. I had trouble holding the long flat pieces (part 50) in place on the center assembly, given the cramped space. So I decided to assemble the pointy tips first, and attach those to the long flat pieces so that I would have some “assistance” in holding everything together when attaching to the center assembly. I think it worked fairly well and would recommend it. Effective order: 34-35, then 39-43, and then 36-38. I’ve mocked up (very, very roughly) what that looks like below.
So far, I’ve mentioned a few times that cramped quarters made this build challenging. But I’ve also pointed out that I have really large fingers, so small spaces are hard for me. So those things might not affect you much. The last step in the build (step 50) is not the same. I don’t care who you are, you are going to feel the constraint of the tight spaces. I’m still not sure I know how I managed to pull this step off. With all the ornamentation at the core, it’s hard to find a way to hold the parts in place while threading the screw through them. And then somehow getting that tiny nut on the threads, and screwing it together? Much challenge, that was. But it is clearly possible. So hopefully that is encouraging.
So, I bet you are wondering how long this build took me, aren’t you? I am surprised to report that it only took me 7 hours to build this. Of course, I probably spent a couple hours knolling out all the parts, but I don’t record that, so I don’t have an accurate time for that. One interesting note is that it took me ~53 minutes to finish the first tentacle, ~36 to finish the second, then ~46 to finish two more, and finally another 81 minutes to finish the last 4. Definitely some improvement as I went through it. All the videos (repetitive as they may be) are available below, for reference.
Thanks for the explanation! That was helpful.
Since I’m subscribed to their emails, I held out for a really good coupon. They frequently offer 10% or 12%, but I was able to get 20% off for Father’s day.
What does it mean when you say a nut was “cross-threaded?”
I bought one of their butterfly steampunk models, and I enjoyed it as a change of pace. I then purchased two of the more difficult kits (anglerfish and chameleon), but I haven’t started either yet.
I wanted to mention to your readers that it’s very important to purchase the shipping insurance. When I purchased the two models (and yes, they are very expensive), only one arrived, and it was obvious the box had been tampered with while in transit. One kit was removed, and the box was re-taped. I had purchased the shipping insurance, and I found the MOYU customer service to be very responsive. Of course, they required some photos of the box, including a photo of what I received on a scale to show the difference in weight between what I received and what they shipped. Once I provided the necessary information, they sent me a replacement for the missing kit. It was a very positive experience.
I didn’t even think about that word not being a common word. So, by cross-threaded, I mean when you accidentally don’t align the nut correctly, but it starts screwing anyways… then locks up because the nut is going on crookedly. Unfortunately, if you’ve tightened it enough for it to lock up, that usually means that it’s bent some of the threading out of alignment. Then it’s near impossible to use if you retry it with the correct alignment, because the threading is damaged.
Those two, the anglerfish and chameleon, look amazing. I love the heat-coloring on the chameleon! Definitely some of the first ones I would pick up if my budget were more compatible.
Good callout about the shipping insurance! I think many of us have gotten used to the luxury of Amazon or big-box store’s absorbing the costs of shipping incidents. I opted for the shipping insurance when I ordered the speed cube for my son. MoyuStore is not a big company, and they are shipping from out of the country, so I definitely understand their decision to make that an optional item. I figured it was worth it.
This is cool as heck. So many off-the-shelf parts, but I love that these models include obviously hand-crafted pieces to get the sections affixed to each other.
Indeed! I love the creativity and fun of it. Super glad they reached out to me!