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 househusband to one wife.

Posts by Benjamin Stenlund

Depth is just an illusion

As I have undoubtedly said before in these pages, and will almost certainly say again, I love immersive LEGO scenes, the sort that fill every corner of the image with LEGO (or a neutral sky background, as often I’m not too fond of brick-built skies). There’s something magical about being able to step into a creation that way. But it takes a lot of bricks, usually, and some meticulous planning of angles to make it work. There is a more natural way, and master-builder Markus Rollbühler shows us how: build a fantastic vignette that fills the frame and then put an iPad behind it with the rest of the scenery.

Scouting the Harbor

Some simple techniques in the build go a long way, such as tiles pushed down only partway to create a weathered brick arch, loose bricks on their sides for cobblestones, and some of his signature bushes made of grass stalks and leaves. The perfect lighting, the minifig posing, and the iPad’s added depth all lend themselves to a delightful scene. And no fancy Photoshopping required!

More than meets the eye

As someone with a degree in Latin, I love seeing Latin words and phrases used out and about in the modern world. Car names in particular seem to be Latin-derived, like Maxima (greatest), Navigator (helmsman), and Optima (best). Speaking of the latter, there is also a well-known Autobot called Optimus Prime, which is roughly “Best First” in Latin (I say roughly, rather than exactly, since it ought to be Primus rather than Prime, but it is still based on the same word). He is the best Transformer, that much is clear, from the Prime family, which is the “first family” of the strange alien robots. Sam.C (S2 Toys Studio) brings us said Autobot with this stellar transforming LEGO build.

PMOP1

Optimus looks awesome with his massive guns and his blocky shape. I love the shaping on the head in particular. He looks so angry, like Megatron just stole the AllSpark. It brings me back to the toys I played with as a kid, with limited range of motion but big guns and broad shoulders.

Read on to see Optimus’ transformation

When evolution is devolution

From what I remember of evolutionary biology, the closest living relative to the unfortunately extinct Tyrannosaurus rex is the chicken. It’s admittedly disappointing. To go from a towering beast of muscle and razor-sharp 8-inch teeth to a small, rather stupid bird (with no teeth!) is a crushing downgrade. Surely the dinosaurs are rolling in their fossil graves somewhere in disgust. What would old grandpa Rex have to say about chicks these days? Timofey Tkachev brings us that moment of encounter in LEGO form, showing the T. rex confronting its pathetic descendant about its shortcomings.

What has become of us?!... ;)

Of course, as a build, the chicken has no shortcomings; it is the best LEGO chicken I’ve ever seen, from the head, with a Bionicle claw as a comb, minifig hands holding claws for a beak, and blankly staring eyes made with 1×1 round plates with a hole wrapped in a rubber band, all the way to the tail, and all the layered feathers in between. The dinosaur is equally impressive, with plates angled every which way and left studded to create a scaly, organic texture and lots and lots of teeth (though not quite 8-inch razor-sharp ones). The part I love best about the beast is the eye, with the 2×2 round boat slider in trans-yellow gleaming at me in a most lifelike way.

Like this build? Don’t miss other recent builds by Timofey, like Tom Waits and Iggy Pop talking or a sci-fi rover.

When will my LEGO life begin?

Lost somewhere in all the hysteria that is Frozen, Disney has put out several other surprisingly good animated movies within recent memory, such as Moana and Tangled. Sure, these aren’t the classics of my youth, or the gilded treasures of Disney past, but they are enjoyably watchable when I sit down with my kids. Tangled, in particular, stands out, if for no other reason than the absurdly long hair of the protagonist, Rapunzel. 1soko brings the tower that serves as the abducted princess’s prison to life beautifully in LEGO form.

Keep reading to get a closer look at the roof

The prelude to the robot apocalypse

Ah, robots. Despite not being alive, somehow they manage to capture our hearts. Try hating WALL-E or R2-D2. Try it, I dare you. I knew you couldn’t. I suspect they’re just trying to soften us up for the impending AI overthrow of humanity, but in the meantime, it’s fun to think about helpful and friendly sentient robots. Take this one by Grant Masters; it’s inspired by the movie Elysium, and is here helping this child who broke his leg. Adorable, right? See the trust in that kid’s eyes? Any moment now the robot will rip his face off with those pincer hands and stomp on him with those grille and roller skate feet. The greebles and textures look perfect, and the contrast between the body plates in white and the technical stuff underneath in black makes for a sharp image. Almost as sharp as those pincer hands.

Keep Hope Alive

She’s kinda cute, but the tentacles creep me out...

How do you make a giant red alien lady laugh? With ten tickles! Ha! Get it? Tentacles… Ok, in all seriousness, I’ve never been into Anime, but the images that come out of it can be awe-inspiring sometimes. The highly stylized art form has a strong visual presence, to say the least. And this LEGO build by Sheo. has a strong visual presence, too, with that red alien lady and a spaceship in the background. The ship is the Sidonia, from the Manga and Anime work called Knights of Sidonia. The red figure is Tsumugi, a genetic hybrid of human and alien, designed to fight off the bad aliens with her giant body and immense powers. I love the use of ten tickles, er, tentacles to create a ragged organic shape, and the pirate hats for breasts is inspired. The end result is something disturbingly close to human, but still very much alien. Does it match the source? I don’t really know, and don’t much care, because as a LEGO build, she’s awesome! As long as she keeps her distance.

Tsumugi (Knights of Sidonia)

So love has blinded you?

I admit it. I love the prequel trilogy of Star Wars movies. It is not for the scintillating dialogue or the powerful acting, though, impressive as those are. No, it is for the cool spaceships and the deeper look at life in the galaxy. There’s more to the thousands of planets than a few military bases and super-weapons, after all. One of those cool spaceships is the Venator-class Star Destroyer, used by the Republic. Fans of LEGO have been clamoring for years for a UCS (Ultimate Collectors Series) model of the ship, and, quite frankly, I’ll be surprised if they ever get it due to an anti-prequel bias. For now, though, they can be content with seeing this microscale version built by Stephan Niehoff. It’s got everything it needs: blasters, thrusters, greebles, and most importantly, the dual bridges and the dark red stripe along the top. Now it’s time to take out some Separatists!

Venator

Neo-Classic Space rock(et)s!

I’m too young to have played with Classic Space sets or figures firsthand, so I don’t have the nostalgia that many fans of LEGO feel. I caught the tail end of Futuron and grew up a die-hard fan of Blacktron II. That being said, my uncle had a bunch of the original spacemen and I enjoyed playing with them whenever I went to my grandparents’ house. And today, as an adult, I love the simple color scheme and the almost whimsical design of the old sets, and even more the highly detailed and almost absurdly greebled Neo-Classic Space creations. This rover by billyburg hits a sweet spot; it’s not too greebled, but also not too studded (or studded at all). It is an homage to 6950 Mobile Rocket Transport, but with two rockets and a much different scale. This one is for tiny spacemen! The knobby tires look great and the metal detectors make for a nice sensor array in the front. Time to get exploring.

Lego 6950 Mobile Rocket Launcher

You can’t take kids anywhere these days

Ruins are hard to do convincingly in LEGO form. I think this is partly to do with the rigid grid of the brick, which does not lend itself to organic shapes of decay, and partly to do with the visual incoherence that often results from too many shapes and colors in the same visual field. Even though we are a far cry from the primary/white/black color days at the dawn of the LEGO brick, there is still a limit to the shades and hues that can be used to differentiate areas of a build and maintain something that still makes sense to the brain. That being said, this post-apocalyptic build by Peter Ilmrud does a good job of showing buildings that look both coherent and ruined, covered with verdant vegetation, while a menacing black ship prowls air above the streets.

Teddy is Lost - Front

I’m fairly certain that nearly every botanical element produced by LEGO appears in the build somewhere, from vines to leaves to leafy vines to seaweed and more. Even the sprues from the three-leaved plants appear as vines. It is a lush city. The bad guys (you can tell they’re bad because they wear black) are aliens trying to kill the humans to harvest natural resources (like Avatar in reverse), and their ships are filled with greebles, especially ones from the Batman pack. Of course, with evil aliens on the prowl, one of the poor kids has lost his teddy bear crossing a street. Kids, I tell you what. Good thing they’re cute.

Teddy is Lost - Back

A cottage among the leaves

LEGO is an art form. It requires precision placement of elements, meticulous thought, endless creativity, and a bold sense of the possibilities. Sure, you can build like a four-year-old, placing stuff willy-nilly and using any old color you please. You can also color on walls like a four-year-old, but that doesn’t take away from the frescoes of Raphael or Michelangelo. A build like this one by Marcel V. illustrates my point. There is a balance of composition, the cohesion of form, careful use of colors, and especially crisp photography. This is no child’s toy anymore.

Sofia's Journey - Lady Ophelia's Treehouse

This is not the first time I have written about a treehouse by Marcel, but this one has glorious limbs and even more glorious little rooms. The cheese slope roof looks great, and if you look close, every potted plant is constructed and attached differently. Don’t miss the book as a little roof over the door, too. My favorite detail might be the small table at the base of the tree, built of a combination of sorcery and twigs. The little pebbles arranged so carefully, stalks of grass, and even the soldiers posed loose give the build a much larger feel while still exhibiting a mastery of brick composition. After all, LEGO is an art form.

Red looks good on more than just Ferraris

When I was a kid, I collected lots of Hot Wheels and Matchbox diecast cars. Somehow or other, among them all, I ended up with three red Lamborghini Countaches, all identical. I just had them out the other day, looking at them with my son, in fact, driving at insane speeds around the coffee table and eventually plunging over the edge in a fiery wreck. I also recently purchased the new Ferrari F8 Tributo, and noticed that the new windscreen looked a lot like the Hot Wheels Countach’s shape. It seems I am not the only one, as super car LEGO builder Jonathan Elliott used that very piece to create his own 7-stud wide take on the Countach LP400, and did it immeasurably better than I could have.

Lamborghini Countach LP400

The signature triangular scoops in the sides are done perfectly, and the angular hood and body, which ushered in a new era of sharply angled supercars, replicate the original’s nearly spot on. I wish this version had the huge V-shaped wing on the back that later models (including my Hot Wheels) had to add control to the car at high speeds. Sure, the wing decreased the top speed a bit, but the car handled better with it when pushing its upper limits. But that’s minor. The 7-stud body is a nice compromise between the too-small 6-wide and the too-large 8-wide, too. I’m not sure if it fits a minifig, but does it have to when it looks this nice?

Wait, a not-grey Star Wars spaceship?

I love the LAAT gunship from Star Wars, so when I saw it was a candidate for an upcoming UCS set I was thrilled. Better known as the Republic Gunship, it is probably my favorite Clone Wars ship. It has great blasters, a refreshingly not-grey color scheme, an interesting shape, cool doors on the sides; it’s essentially a cross between a UH-1 Huey, an A-10 Warthog, and a spaceship. And I love it. This rendition by Thomas Jenkins is awesome, with elegant curves and smoothly-transitioned angles. Because that’s the trick with the LAAT; there are so many different curves and angles that fitting them all in while maintaining a solid model is exceedingly difficult. But this one succeeds, and even appears to include Jedi Bob.

Modified bricks with curved tops make for some smooth curves, improving the square edges of all the official LEGO renditions. Also a major improvement is how Thomas made the wings and doors of bricks rather than plates; this allows them to be smooth and solid without needing a ton of tiles, which always looks a bit off due to the slightly rounded edges of tiles. The interior looks smooth, too, and big enough for minifigs without being excessively large. If LEGO does release a UCS version of this ship, I hope the designers borrow some design elements from models like this one. I would buy one in a heartbeat. Did I mention I love it?