About Benjamin Stenlund

Benjamin started building he was three, when his father gave him a small Futuron set (6810), and has not stopped since then. Castle and space are nearest and dearest to his heart, but other themes occasionally get built, too; there are quite a few super heroes and Star Wars sets in his collection, at least. He builds as Henjin_Quilones on Flickr, and under the same name is the leader of one of the guilds on Eurobrick's Guilds of Historica role building game. When he is not building, he is busy being a stay-at-home dad to three kids and trophy househusband to one wife.

Posts by Benjamin Stenlund

Mortgages are truly horrifying

I’m not the kind of guy who likes to watch horror movies; real life is scary enough, so why should my entertainment be scary, too? I mean, have you ever considered how much money you pay in interest on a 30-year mortgage? Terrifying! Add in taxes and maintenance, and it really does feel like my house is eating me. Now, I realize that Pieter Dennison built this incredible LEGO monster house after watching, well, Monster House, but I haven’t seen it. That doesn’t stop me from being frightened. Seriously, look at the state of those shingles, probably a slate roof that would take more than my left kidney to repair. And that siding needs fresh paint, if not a total tear-off (unless you slap some vinyl siding on top, like lipstick on a pig). And that front porch? There’s no way that railing is up to code. This is true horror, folks.

Monster House

Cute or terrifying? You decide.

Adult male fans of LEGO were probably not the target audience for the erstwhile Elves theme, but I loved it. A major part of that was the plethora of recolors of existing pieces, finally released in bright purples, pinks, and blues, as well as the hairpieces, which are great for fantasy-inspired builds. But often overlooked in my own collection are the cute little animals. Fortunately I have a three-year-old daughter, who does everything except overlook the cute little animals, so they are strewn about and squirreled away throughout my LEGO room. And when it came time to build a series of mechs for Mechtober (I know, eyeroll, another sci-fi-themed LEGO month), I could not help but be drawn to incorporating the little baby dragons in some heavy-duty mechanical suits.

Dragonsuits: The Heavy Lifter

I had a lot of fun building this “Heavy Lifter” suit, using as many greebles as possible while still maintaining a coherent look. I wanted thick arms and sturdy legs to convey the sense that this thing could so some serious lifting, like peak Arnold in the gym. I feel like I succeeded, and the whole thing is remarkably sturdy, especially for being largely bar-in-hole and clip-on-bar connections. It might not be the best mech out there, but it is the best mech I have ever made, and that cute, colorful little dragon juxtaposed with the drab grey industrial atmosphere is fun. But maybe you disagree, and think cute animals piloting heavy machinery is the scariest thing this side of stepping on LEGO bricks in the middle of the night…

Constraction faction, why the detraction?

I’ve got to be honest, I never liked constraction figures from LEGO. Personally, I thought Bionicle was lame and more than a little cheesy, the Knights Kingdom, Ben 10, superheroes, and Legends of Chima big figures even worse, and the Star Wars ones at best mildly interesting. Better than Galidor, certainly, but not by much. I was a System builder, period. Perhaps my position is evolving, however, or else I just love great LEGO building when I see it, because this character from Matt Goldberg is amazing. The color blocking is on-point, with bold, crisp red contrasting with the grey, and that gold visor just pops. The whole head is just perfect, in fact. Add in some superhero power bursts, and you have a dynamic sci-fi hero ready to save me from my anti-constractionist bigotry.

Trooper Harpaxus

Orange is the new bley

Every year, for a little over a month, the LEGO sci-fi fans among us get a treat: SHIPtember. A celebration of insanity and massive amounts of small interlocking bricks, it is one of my favorite times of year (it doesn’t hurt that I enjoy everything else about autumn, too, like Oktoberfest beers and wool sweaters). One name that consistently shines out among the rest is ZCerberus, who, perhaps taking his cues from the changing foliage of the Northern Hemisphere, has created a fleet of massive orange spaceships. This year’s model is a repair frigate, LL885, ready to fix any small fighter that might have an issue. Small cranes, tons of greebles, and lots of roller coaster tracks make this one a great addition.

Back LL885

Love orange spaceships? Then check out ZCerberus’ other builds, since he has built a whole fleet of them.

Pretty as a picture of a picture

It takes a talented builder to take a very specialized LEGO part, like a train switch, and turn it into something totally different. Of course, we all know Jonas Kramm is a talented builder, so it should come as no surprise that he managed to make a train switch into a painting of a peacock. It is unquestionably the best peacock head I have ever seen done in LEGO form, and perhaps the best bird head, too. The bumps on the switch make perfect nostrils, and it also works well as the eyes on the tail. But Jonas did not stop there: he also used the part for the lantern flame, and the drawer pulls. Not to mention the Jurassic World gyrosphere for the lantern glass and the green snake for paint. It’s a great composition of a great composition, for sure!

04 - Painting a Peacock

Like Jonas’ builds? Then check out some more. And don’t miss the Iron Builder action, where the train switch is the seed part.

Moves like Jaeger

One thing that always bothers me about movies about giant metal things, be they spaceships in Star Wars or Jaegers in Pacific Rim, is how they get all that material in one place and assembled. I mean, where did Palpatine get the materials to build that giant fleet? That’s some serious mining operations! Jaegers aren’t as large as Star Destroyers, but the question remains; what factories are churning out those parts? Are they all built in one place, or are different components assembled in different factories and then shipped across the country for full assembly? To answer the question, I built a LEGO scene depicting a giant arm on a giant trailer, ready to be shipped to a shatterdome to be joined with the rest of the Jaeger body.

Jaeger Arm Transport

It was my first foray into building this sort of thing, as I typically consider myself more of a castle builder, but I was reasonably pleased with the arm itself (other builders are designing the rest of the mech, and we’ll assemble the whole thing digitally once it’s finished). It looks the part of a large robot arm, at very least. Harder was making a scene to give it scale, especially since I wanted to include a flying helicopter (and my bricks don’t fly on their own, sadly). I added an arch from a previous build, made up the truck and trailer, and included a previously built helicopter, after making some modifications to it to improve the proportions. But how to get it all in one shot? Maybe other builders are better at photo editing than I am, but it takes a long time for me to splice different photographs into one coherent picture. Four different camera shots went into the final image, in fact, making it kind of like the Jaeger, comprised of many different parts assembled at the end.

Microscale mission of mercy

A friend in need is a friend indeed, they say. Who is they? Probably Louis of Nutwood, for one, since he built this microscale LEGO scene of a relief ship unloading its supplies to help save a city near destruction. The ship itself is small and sleek, elegantly color blocked, and the harbor is great, too, with its large cranes to unload the supplies. The water deserves some extra attention, with the subtle variation in colors and the studs being used for waves near the shore. But more than that, the whole piece has an elegant composition, with the rocks, uneven edge of the water, and the clear central focus on the ship. What kind of ship? Friendship.

A sailor's solitude

Do go chasing waterfalls

Ah, nature. It feels great to get out of the house and stretch the legs, hiking strenuously over hill and dale to find the perfect vista by a babbling brook to soothe the troubled soul. Or, you could save yourself the strenuous part and just look at this beautiful waterfall built by Grant Davis, like me. From the smooth rock, comprised of larger elements not often seen in LEGO cliffs, and the hint of greenery at the top, all the way down to the sparkling blue pool and perfectly captured foam, it is a satisfying blend of the complexity of technique and simplification of texture and hue. While I do not envy the folks in that unfortunate boat at the top of the falls, I can at least reassure them that they are just falling into a pile of flowers.

Taking The Plunge

If you love builds of waterfalls, check out the TBB archives of waterfall builds. Or if you just can’t get enough of Grant (and who can?), here are some more of his builds.

Wait a minute, Mr. Postman

What do you get when four of the most talented castle builders out there collaborate on a series of LEGO builds? It’s a bit like alchemy, because the result is solid gold. Well, Grant Davis, Simon Hundsbichler, Marcel V., and Markus Rollbühler teamed up to show the life of a postman, carrying the mail across every bridge in the realm to make sure each and every citizen receives their letters on time. Each build is different in every detail, except the postman himself, but they are all scaled and shot to mimic the others, with the result that the builds complement each other perfectly. I’d love to have these framed on my wall, side by side, because these are not just LEGO builds, but art.

A Day In The Life Of A Postman

Click to see each of the builds up close

On the back of a dewy mountain

I love single-use LEGO elements, those pieces that are so specialized that they can only be used to make the one thing they were designed to build. Take, for example the head of a dewback from Star Wars. It’s very useful for building, well, a dewback, but not much else in the hands of an average builder. But in the hands of a master, like Simon Hundsbichler, that same piece becomes a mossy hill in a microscale creation. Add in one of the hip assemblies from the same creature, a video camera as a tower, a Bionicle leg as a coniferous tree, a werewolf head as a cliff, and about thirty other pieces, and you have a miniature masterpiece.

Lonely Lighthouse

Just try not to sneeze on the pixie dust

I simply adore microscale castles, and microscale LEGO creations in general, too. There’s something about it, where even the slightest wrong choice in elements can ruin the whole composition, but the perfect usage of that one clever piece can make a masterpiece. Enter Markus Rollbühler, one of the world’s best LEGO master builders (seriously, check out his TBB rap sheet). His microscale fairytale castle and village are chock full of amazing and clever parts usages (and color, too; do I spy some sand red in there?).

Of Farms and Fairytales

While he’s used the party hats for tower roofs before, pairing them with cupcake liners is new. And there’s a mug in the tallest tower, Elves keys for the keep, wand sprues supporting book covers for the village houses, a katana holder for windmill blades, a roller skate as a cart being pulled by what looks like a non-production brown lever arm, a cupcake top as a haystack, and the list goes on. And don’t forget the unicorn horns balancing as trees. Even blinking near this thing must have the tiny denizens crying “Timber!”

At least it wasn’t just whitewashed

A limited color palette can be tricky to work with in a creation. I’ve done LEGO builds where I only used one color, and it was challenging. Cab ~ here has limited the palette in this cathedral to just three: light bluish grey, transparent red, and transparent yellow. The back-lit stained glass is beautiful, each window unique and telling part of the Easter story, according to the builder, if in an abstracted way. The vaulted ceiling, held together by interior flex tube, looks great, too. It does look a little bland with only grey, however, or maybe just incomplete; so perhaps now that the masons have finished their part, the rest of the artisans can get to work adding paintings, gilded ornaments, and tapestries to outfit the cathedral for its intended purpose, glorifying God.

Tri-color Cathedral

Like church architecture? Check out some more churches and cathedrals in the TBB archives.