In the steampunk realm, vehicles are powered by the Victorian power of choice: industrial steam. Well, with a futuristic spin, of course. This LEGO steampunk galleon by Chris Wright fits the genre perfectly — a huge steam-powered mega-wheel with a central ship that seems to defy gravity. The detailed central minifigure-scale ship remains stationary within the huge outer wheel thanks to a collection of wheels at the points where the two meet. The ship itself is full of great details but the first thing to catch my attention is the size of this thing and colour scheme thanks to those Medium Azure highlights throughout.
This week we were fortunate enough to track down Guy Himber. Guy has worked extensively in the film industry with credits for special effects, creature mechanics, makeup and more. He is a prolific Steampunk builder and has authored a book on the subject entitled LEGO Steampunk. He runs the Iron Builder LEGO competition and has founded his own company, CrazyBricks, which manufacturers quirky, short-run, custom pieces compatible with LEGO. Let’s dive in and raid his brain!
TBB: What can you tell our readers about how you got into building with LEGO?
Guy: Like most folks I grew up playing with LEGO as a kid. Countless were the hours I spent building and rebuilding and sorting and blowing up my favorite plastic bricks. The dark ages kicked in around middle school and I didn’t do much with the bricks until I started using them to do some mechanical prototyping for animatronics in the Film Industry (mainly Technic bricks from my old collection). When my son was old enough I got him his first LEGO set and he took to the bricks like his old man and the two us started building more and more sets and then creating massive environments and Jurassic Parks. The fateful AFOL day arrived via a special trip to BrickCon in Seattle many years ago. That was the Con that got me bit by the LEGO bug again and started me building at a serious level.
This week we were able to sit down with Vincent Gachod from Toulouse, in the south of France. While balancing his job as the head of video production at a french university and raising two kids, he finds time to create some incredible LEGO builds. Let’s pick his brain and see what we can learn from this master of the brick.
TBB: How did you get into the LEGO hobby and what inspires you to build?
Vince: I started with LEGO in the mid 70’s with bricks from my brother’s collection. My first set was the 374 Fire Station of 1978. After my “dark age” in the 90’s, I came back to LEGO with my son and his first sets. I’m inspired by lot of influences (movies, animation, videos games, books, magazines, cars, architecture…) but I’m more inspired by the details : a car’s wheel, a plane’s engine or a vintage vacuum cleaner! I often start a MOC from a single detail like a car’s grille or an exhaust pipe. I spend a long time working on details.
We recently had the opportunity to talk with Paul Hetherington and take a tour inside his head to see how he invents such fantastic creations. Our readers will recognize him as the builder of our Creation of the Year 2016, Gotham Theater Showdown, but his creations span a much greater range in subject and technique than many people may realize. Let’s get to know Paul, shall we?
TBB: Can you give us a little background on how you got into the LEGO hobby and what inspires you to build?
Paul: I’ve been into the LEGO hobby since before you could reasonably use the word “classic” to describe old space and castle sets. I bought my first set as an adult in 1991, which was the Space M-Tron Pulsar Charger. Little did I know back then that I had just taken the first step on an epic journey — one that would introduce me to so many amazing people, and have my LEGO creations be recognized around the world. Because back in 1991, as far as I knew, I was the only crazy adult who bought LEGO sets.
There are so many things that inspire me to build. My first creations were just built for my own enjoyment, as there was no way to share them. Then when the internet came along, all of a sudden a local LEGO club formed which I joined. From that point I had a reason to build. The first years of creating were mainly spent recreating local buildings, trains and hot rods for train shows and museums. I found I really enjoyed doing research to ensure that my creations were historically accurate and to scale. I soon became inspired to add some fantasy elements into my creations. I discovered Art Deco, Art Nouveau, and the works of Antoni Gaudi. Theme parks, Mardi Gras floats, and parades were also a great source of inspiration.
More recently, I had the pleasure to work with the artist Douglas Coupland on an installation and came to the realization that Lego has a place in the Art world. I find the Surrealists, especially Dali, and Pop Art, and Comic book art to be particularly inspiring. In recent years my creations have had more of an artistic twist and I see myself going more in that direction. Architecture will always be at the heart of what I do and is usually the catalyst for my creations.
Charis Stella depicts the moment when two proud LEGO inventors introduce their latest steampunk automaton to a pair of potential inventors. The figure posing here is well done, with nice use of custom arms allowing one of the inventors to adopt an appropriate “Goodness Gracious” stance. But it’s the clanky contraption doffing his hat to the visitors which captures the eye — a lovely touch which adds a bunch of character.
This stunning steampunk sculpture was first revealed at BrickCon in 2015, where it won a well-deserved Best In Show award. Although we covered this creation in our BrickCon roundup post at the time, the builder Paul Hetherington has only just posted his own images — a perfect excuse for us to feature this beautiful LEGO model in more detail.
This weekend sees The Great Western Brick Show take place in the UK at the STEAM Railway Museum in Swindon. Some of the displays this year will mark the fact that it’s 175 years since Isembard Kingdom Brunel opened his maintenance facility, whose surviving buildings house the museum. Jimmy Clinch has chosen to celebrate the occasion with a brilliant mosaic of the big man himself…
Brunel is something of a hero of mine: the most audacious engineer of the 19th century — a designer of tunnels, bridges, railway lines and enormous steamships. He’s a pinup-boy for any self-respecting steampunk fan and I would love to hang this mosaic on my wall.
I had a crack at building my own tribute to him a few years ago, recreating the famous image taken in front of the SS Great Eastern…
If you get the chance to make it to the show this weekend, show your respect with a doff of the top hat to Jimmy’s mosaic. I’m sure Isembard would appreciate it.
Vince Toulouse brings us this excellent automaton — ready to roll out on its single wheel and come to the rescue of any malfunctioning contraption.
The retro-futurism of the design here is just awesome — slick and smooth, yet unmistakably “old-timey” in its sci-fi. The color scheme is spot-on and the greebles strike that balance of believability and character essential in good steam- or dieselpunk building. The red-tinted goggles are a masterstroke, lending a wonderful dash of personality. Lastly, this is one of those models which looks as good from the rear as it does from the front. Great stuff.
Great Ball Contraptions are a mainstay of LEGO conventions, consisting of short sections of machinery which transport LEGO soccer balls from one side to another. Each builder’s machine can be connected to the next, to transport a dizzying number of balls around a display. Many builders focus on the all-important task of getting the fundamental mechanics working smoothly, but we’re seeing more and more builders take some time for the aesthetics as well. One such example is this enthralling contraption by chumuhou (楚沐猴), which has a fantastic steam-age industrial vibe. Check out the video to see it in action, too!
Bricks magazine issue 16 is now available, and this month the main theme is LEGO Castles, with some added Steampunk for flavour, and a little VW Beetle action for variety.
The 124-page magazine has a range of exclusive articles and fan built creations, including a delve inside the magical walls of LEGO’s new 71040 The Disney Castle, and a dangerous encounter for the LEGO Elves as they try to save the baby Princess dragon egg in 41180 Ragana’s Magic Shadow Castle. The magazine explores Michael Kalkwarf’s modular castle system, while James Pegrum illustrates how to build circular towers in his builder’s masterclass. Whilst not medieval but definitely within the realm of fantasy, Rod Gillies explains the Victorian-inspired alternate universe of Steampunk with steampunk-style Ultra Agents MOCs and a look at LEGO’s own take on this genre.
Bricks is available in both digital and print format at a cost of £4.99 or US$6.60 (approx. due to variable exchange rates). Shipping and packaging costs for the print version are £1.50 for the UK, £4.25 for the rest of the world.
Gabe Umland brings us this nifty vibrant LEGO floating rock, topped with a warehouse for steampunkery. Never underestimate a mundane subject for your models — nearly anything can look magical when built with skill, even an industrial warehouse in the middle of the sky. Don’t miss Gabe’s great technique for paneled siding using stacked and twisted 1×1 bricks, and be sure to scrutinize the hodgepodge of goods for sale; scenes such as this are a way to find uses for that pile of unusual pieces you have.