How to Build LEGO Sets With Lost Instructions

by | Jul 30, 2021

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My kids and I have been on a LEGO kick recently and we’ve been trying to rebuild some of my old LEGO sets that I had as a kid. Unfortunately, some of them are missing some pieces, and all of them are missing instructions. That hasn’t stopped us! Here’s how to build LEGO sets with lost instructions.

How to Build LEGO Sets With Lost Instructions

Figure Out What Set You Have

Sometimes this is the hardest part. If you’re not sure what set you have you won’t be able to look up the instructions. The way we found easiest was searching for the set series and the time period it likely was from. Then we looked for identifying pieces in those sets. For example, we had the disc for the Mini Millennium Falcon, so once we saw the set online it was immediately recognizable.

From there, we grabbed the set number from the box. It’s usually listed around the ages and number of pieces. You’ll need it to find the instructions and parts.

Look up the Parts List

Newer sets have the parts list in the manual, so you may be able to skip this step. For my older sets I used this LEGO set reference site. You can check the parts right off the list on the website, but I opted to print it out to make things easier. Then I could make notes as I went too.

The parts list is handy for two reasons: 1. You can make sure you have all the pieces before you start building and 2. You can find the parts number for pieces you might be missing and try and replace them.

Find Missing Pieces

This can be done in a few ways. In most cases, substituting the same piece in a different colour is going to be the best choice. Try and find something similar, if you can. For example – I swapped some “old grey” and “dark old grey” pieces out on my set. They look similar enough that it’s fine. In some cases the colour barely matters anyway, like in the LEGO technic pins.

If you don’t have the piece at all, you have a few options:

Pick a Brick

LEGO store pick a brick wall

First is the LEGO store pick a brick – maybe you can grab it there. If you’re not familiar, the pick a brick at the LEGO store is a wall of different bricks that you can pick and choose. They give you a cup to fill for a flat rate and you try and cram as much in as you can! It’s cool, but there isn’t a big selection there.

LEGO Website

Second, LEGO has a bricks and parts section of their website and may be able to help, especially if it’s a newer set. You’re not going to find the specialty pieces on there, but you can replace some more common ones pretty easily.

For fun I tested it out on my old set that I was building and the bricks are quite inexpensive, ranging in 4 cents to 70 cents CAD each.

buying one brick for the LEGO Mini Millennium Falcon


You can also try Ebay if you’re missing a specialty or hard to find brick. More than likely, though, this will end up costing a lot – but if it’s a set you really want to put together it might be worth it.

I decided to look up the top of that Mini Millennium Falcon. Searching the part number (found on the parts list) brought up a few results. Here’s the top one:

ebay post showing Lego pieces you can buy

So it was pretty easy to find the part, even in a set released about 20 years ago.

Buy Another Set

Last, you can always buy another LEGO set that has the part in it if you really want that piece! This is definitely the most expensive option, but it’s also the most convenient if you pick it up in a store.

Get LEGO Instructions Online and Build the Set

This is the easy part. Now that you have all your pieces and the set number, you can get to finding the instructions. Years ago it was nearly impossible to find these, but thankfully LEGO has added all the instructions to their website. All you have to do is search by set number and it should come up.

So far every set I’ve looked up I’ve been able to find on there.

If you don’t have the set number, you can also browse sets to help find the right directions.

I’m going to let my 11 year old build the Millennium Falcon, so here’s Han Solo frozen in carbonite for you to see instead. We used the above process to find all the pieces and build this little set after we found the frozen Han Solo brick. It’s missing a flame in the picture (oops!).

finished star wars lego set

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Everett Franchuk

Everett Franchuk

Everett loves to plan parties and events, decorate, and make crafts/DIY projects. As a parent of 5 in his early 30s, he decided to start The Best Nest to offer practical tips and ideas.

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