Unofficial Rules of the LEGO® Purist: An Article . An article I thought I'd post before putting up my next few models...Enjoy! . 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.
(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 Combining with sculpted clay or other materials
*[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.]
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.
(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.