We Built A Plane And A Chair


It’s been half a year, two hundred and twelve pages of instructions, and 1,297 pieces, but John finally finished his LEGO Cargo Plane.

Insofar as the clone was five years old for most of the build and six years old for the finish, and this kit is known to be a little tricky for full-grown adults, it’s reasonable to ask how much of it he actually did. The truthful answer is that he performed the vast majority of the build himself, looking at the directions, with me pulling the pieces for him and checking his work. A few tasks, like hanging the engines on the wings, weren’t all that clear from the directions so I had to get involved.

I was impressed by how readily John understood the relatively complex arrangements of gearing used in this kit. The Cargo Plane can raise and lower the nose, operate the rear liftgate, extend and retract the landing gear, spin the props, and manipulate wing control surfaces. The central power distribution unit has a transmission with sliding dog rings. So at the age of six he already comprehends the workings of a manual gearbox better than most of my driving students.

We spent an hour playing with the plane. John made cargo boxes to fit in the plane and he flew it around the house. He expressed an interest in seeing real cargo planes so we made a plan to go to Wright-Patterson and check out some C-130s.

Since we were on an assembly gig, I thought I’d put something else together, too.


This fiberglass Herman Miller chair came from a friend who is helping out his local community library by cleaning up and selling some of their old inventory. John screwed it together and then pointed out that it was really better-sized for him than for me. So here he is:


That evening, we went to dinner and had a talk about our experience building the plane. I pointed out that we had spent a long time building the plane and that he had wanted to give up on it a few times. (To be fair, he was eager to work on it far more often than he was not.) We talked about the fact that not everything in this world is easy, not everything in this world is quick, not everything in this world happens right away. That there is disappointment to be had in everything you do, but that the end result of hard work is its own reward.

It is a lesson I’ve always found easier to teach than to accept.

17 Replies to “We Built A Plane And A Chair”

  1. AvatarMrThayer

    My 6-year old self is insanely jealous at the moment. That thing looks awesome. Is the Lego F40 in his future?

    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      I think we’re going to do the Technic motorcycle kits then maybe try the LeMans racer.

  2. AvatarWill

    Girls play with barbies and fashion, (real) boys build things. Then women wonder why men are ahead in terms of salary. Starts at these ages. I guess a discussion for another day.

    I still have my legos and other builder sets. Proud of those when I was 5.

      • AvatarWill

        Starting to do things at a young age makes a huge difference in skill levels as we become adults. I understand it completely.

    • AvatarVTNoah


      Lego has recognized this issue and has been coming out with a bunch of girl themed sets these past few years. I’ve got boy girl twins under the age of two and got them both Duplo sets which they are equally interested in. While it’s true that men think in more mechanical terms, you can still foster those skills with girls.


  3. AvatarJohnny Puddles

    Man, you got a real score on the Eames by Herman Miller chair!

    The patent label is still intact!

    And the chair is in Tangerine, no less!

    Johnny Puddles

  4. AvatarFelis Concolor

    I hope you have a bookmark for http://rebrickable.com/ , the better to enhance future builds and give him ideas for later kit combinations.

    I came across a killer deal on a bunch of LEGO’s specialty creative boxes and towers last year. I look forward to setting up a few random surprise gifts to less advantaged kids in the neighborhood in coming months.

    We’re trying to instill the patience and perseverance mindset in the young man in this household. He’s refusing to take on anything remotely resembling a challenge, which means the vintage Yamaha bicycle frame is still just a collection of parts instead of generating serious cool points with his peers.

  5. Avatarbkl

    Thousands of Lego’s, hundreds of baseball cards, more Transformers than could be counted (Omega Supreme was my favorite), and more happy memories than any parent has a right to. I wish that for you and your brother.

  6. AvatarVolandoBajo


    The bonding moments between a father and a son, when the father is helping his son learn about the world, and when the father is hoping (and hopefully realizing) that his son will be an even better man than he, even at his best, are some of the most valuable and precious of life’s moments.

    But it is clear that you already know this…I just felt like putting it down in words, to help me remember this principle, as I continue to do similar things with my 21 year old son, as he is discovering that he would rather learn how to create his own business, than to end up selling his time, and often his dignity, for something approximating minimum wages.

    That concept didn’t take hold of me until I was in my mid-thirties. I marvel at how quickly my son has grasped this concept, and how hard he is willing to work to make it a reality. And how much character, and grasp of what makes people happy with his work, are forces that drive the directions he goes and the decisions that he takes.

    It is unfortunate, both for you and for him, that you will not have the full time input of his mother to also help shape him. But that is a nicety, not a necessity, and when it isn’t right, it isn’t right.

    But what is right is your dedication to seeing your son become his own person, and the effort you put into it, along with the satisfaction you derive from it.

    When I see something like this, I know that there are still things that are essentially right and good in this world, and it gives me hope for the future world that your son and mine will find themselves in, notwithstanding all the decks that are stacked against young men in the world, even as people push the idea of “male privilege”.

    I think we may be on the verge of a new renaissance led by our children, as the best and brightest of them make highly adaptive adjustments to a world where the traditional paths to “success” still promise, but often fail to deliver, anything that could remotely be called “true success”.

    Keep up the good fathering, and even though he may have an intellectual grasp of the following point already, still continue to remind yourself over and over, that these are precious times and years that you are experiencing with your son, and continue to make the most of them.

    And if you are as lucky as I have been, you will even come to a day when your son will also be teaching you things, things that you didn’t think were possible for him to have learned, or for you to have discovered and accepted as improvements things that he discovered first and shared with you, real things, core life and being things.

    These times fly by like the wink of an eye, though they seem that they will last forever. But I also believe that even as they change far too quickly, it is possible for a bond to form that will be unshakeable, and continuously rewarding for both of you.

    It is a race forward into life where position doesn’t matter, and where every new line that is discovered brings immeasurable satisfaction and joy.

    You likely have the best friend you will ever have, sitting in that chair you worked on together.

    Thanks for reminding me of how so much of this applies too, to my relationship with my son.

    And it brings true joy to me to see that you, a person who is very talented and is a person true to himself, has found the same thing.

    Please continue posting more adventures of John and Jack. They are an excellent portrait of what is best about life.

  7. AvatarVolandoBajo

    Re: Women and STEM careers, etc…I minored in math, and during those phases of my life when I was actively looking for an intelligent, charming and good looking woman, I would often offer to help tutor women in math-related coursework. And it has been my experience that much of women’s difficulties with mathematics comes from repeated conditioning that “women aren’t as good as men at math,” leading to nervousness, fear and learned helplessness in areas requiring mathematical ability.

    In HS I once coached a woman who had failed miserably the first time she was tested on graphing equations. I took my time and broke the material down systematically. When it was time to take the “real” test (the first was some sort of warmup test), she BEGGED me to let her copy my answers. I refused, and told he that she already knew everything she needed to know that would be on the test. She took the test and got a very good score the second time.

    It was the first time she had ever done better than just squeak by on a math test, and it was the first time that anyone had told her that she was smart enough to learn the material.

    My wife was a single mom college dropout when I met her. After we married and our son was born, she returned to college to work on her CPA. One of the prerequisites to graduate was passing college-level calculus.

    She had spent her high school years being told by her engineer father that her three younger brothers were “really good at math”…she was not told that she was anything. Just a void. Of course, she had a tremendous math phobia. And she was certain that she had to work all problems EXACTLY the way she understood that the professor had done them. The first time, I could not get her to consider other ways of looking at calculus, or other methods of problem solving.

    She bombed the course.

    The second time, she was open-minded to trying to pay attention to the explanations I gave and the way I set problems up.

    She aced the course.

    This is not to say that I am some kind of pedagogic genius…I believe anyone with a good grasp of college level math who is willing to take the time to show a woman of slightly above average intelligence how to do math, will end up with a mathematical equivalent of a Liza Doolittle. The fact that my wife has a tested genius IQ just made the whole proposition that much easier.

    But she had been taught that she couldn’t do calculus and/or engineering math. But as soon as someone she believed in told her that she could do the math, once she put the effort in, she did well in the course.

    There is no doubt in my mind that the entire issue was the fact that she was conditioned to believe that she couldn’t learn college math, which became a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    Both of those women were of above average intelligence, had been conditioned to believe that they had no math aptitude, and were given a shot of confidence and a bit of clear explanation, including time to ask questions, and to be sure that they understood what they were doing.

    There was no “magic” and no special course of instruction. Just a reinforcement of the idea that they COULD do the math, coupled with taking time to make sure that they had learned it.

    I could give other first hand examples, but will not. These are sufficient to both illustrate, and I believe, prove my point. Women are actively taught that they cannot do math above grocery store, shopping cart level problems. And this is true only for as long as they remain brainwashed and kept from clear explanations of what is going on.

    I have to admit it was a cool feeling to see the transformations. But I do not think for a minute that they took place because I was some kind of genius…on the contrary, I just wanted to see a friend, in the first case, and my wife in the second, do what they needed to do, were capable of doing, but had been taught that they were incapable of doing.

    In the case of the young woman in HS, the teach was so startled by the transformation that she thought the woman had cheated, and made her do a couple more problems, to try to “catch her”. There was nothing to catch, and she did the extra problems just as easily as she had done the test, once she got over her fear, and was freed up to learn.

    A similar thing happened with my stepdaughter, who couldn’t do enough math to count a handful of apples, hardly, in Jr. High, but who later graduated with honors from GMU, not exactly a slouch of a school

    This repeated teaching of mathematical inability to women is one of the greatest wastes and greatest shames of our society.

  8. Avatar-Nate

    “This repeated teaching of mathematical inability to women is one of the greatest wastes and greatest shames of our society.”

    BIG TIME .

    I used to date the CFO of Hilton Gaming , she was a whiz with math and everything else .

    Sadly , it seems Men are in the main , deathly afraid of smart Women and so perpetuate this bullshit .

    My Daughter In Law races Motos and automobiles competitively and often far better than fully half the field she’s in at any given time .



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.