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

All that is gold does not glitter, but don’t tell this dragon that

I love dragons. One glance through my own Flickr stream would show you that. I grew up reading books about dragons, watching movies about dragons, collecting pictures and sculptures of dragons, playing with dragon toys, and even writing stories about dragons. Some dragons are evil, others are good. This dragon by Jessica Farrell looks more like the evil variety, e.g. Smaug from The Hobbit, Fafnir from the legends of Sigurd, or the wyrm from Beowulf. Why do I think so? Well, judging from the picture, it is the type that gathers gold, guards it jealously, and gets attacked by resplendent knights. Plus, it is spiky and red and black, and everyone knows that spiky red and black characters are evil (hello, Darth Maul).

The Dragon's Hoard

What I love about Jessica’s dragon is the size and setting. This is a large beast, probably fat from eating all those brave knights and the kings who once possessed that gold. The articulation in the tail and neck makes for a very natural pose, despite the hard and mostly rectangular nature of LEGO. The giant columns are also lovely, with the curved slopes making for good round shapes. That glittering golden bed, though, draws the eye like nothing else can. It looks like just about every gold piece, whether that is pearl gold, flat dark gold, metallic gold, or chrome gold, went into this dragon’s hoard (I’m not seeing any pearl light gold or speckle black-gold, but maybe I just missed them). This dragon has stolen crowns, as one might expect, but also satellite parts, the One Ring, and even Aquaman’s buckle! Plus everything else that’s gold. Jessica says that the model consists of precisely 7,416 LEGO elements, and it seems like half of them are gold. The dragon would know for sure how many, since they know down to the smallest coin what their hoard contains.

Ollivander’s shop looks wand-erful in LEGO

My preferred style of LEGO build is the kind geared towards a fully immersive photograph. The lack of edges, the painstaking arrangement of light, and precise positioning of the minifigures contribute to a realism that is gratifying with tiny bits of plastic. It is about the photograph. The work of up-and-coming builder Lego_nuts is in a similar vein, with splendid use of light. The subject matter will be apparent to anyone who has seen the first Harry Potter movie, as Harry tries just about every wand in Mr. Ollivander’s shop before finding the right one, making a huge mess in the process (though why anyone cares about messes in the wizarding world is beyond me, as it cleans itself up with a flick of a wand). But what excites me about the build is the light streaming in the window in the back, giving it a feeling of harsh daylight outside on Diagon Alley.

Oops, sorry Mr. Ollivander...

The stacked wand boxes are also beautifully arranged, utilizing a number of different elements to create the effect, from ingots and grille tiles to masonry bricks and grille bricks. I love how many of them are at an angle, just stuffed in there wherever they can fit. The desk has some wands for display, of course, highlighting the different colors that one could have (perhaps the different woods?), along with a ledger and quill. Some 1x4x1 fence pieces make for great wrought-iron risers on the stairs, too. What sells the build, though, is the tiled ceiling and the light fixture hanging down, finishing the space. It’s the details like those that are the difference between a lackluster immersive build and a lustrous one.

Many minifigures would give their right arm for a rover like this

There are many LEGO builders out there who are such strict purists that they would never, ever use an “illegal” connection, such as one that stresses a piece. I’m not one of those people, and it seems that official LEGO designer Chris Perron is not, either. Try to wrap your mind arms around the way the wheels get a grip on the terrain, or do your best to get a handle on that gold accent near the front; something seems off, not quite orthodox, but I just can’t seem to put a hand on it. Besides the countless arm-less and hand-less minifigures walking around Chris’s workbench, I would be remiss if I did not point out something else that separates this build from the pack: the use of a teal brick separator on the hood, seamlessly integrated. I also love the bubble canopy and the bright colors of the rover and the landscape. It’s so pretty! It is like a Friends version of Neo-Classic Space.

Ridge Ranger

Read more about “illegal” LEGO connections, or check out our glossary for other cool LEGO terms you might not know.

So many spaceships! It’s heaven for Benny.

If you’ve been following The Brothers Brick lately, you may have seen some sci-fi builds by ZCerberus. He had an awesome entry for SHIPtember, a cool spider walker and, most recently, a Classic Space vehicle. Now he’s back and bigger than ever. In my article on the SHIPtember build, I expressed hope that the fleet would continue to expand, and he has delivered in a delightfully orange way. The one on the far left is the previously-covered SHIP, but the rest are nearly as impressive size-wise and equally as detailed and heavily armed. I love the editing job with the cool space background and all of the ships flying together.

Fleet1

See more details of the fleet

Chugga chugga choo choo! All aboard this awesome LEGO train display!

When I was a kid, I loved riding in the car on the way to my grandma’s house, watching the railroad tracks that were along the highway for much of the way. It was the peak of excitement when I saw a long freight train chugging along, with what seemed like miles and miles of boxcars or coal cars or tanker cars. The best part was always the graffiti on the sides, full of vibrant hues and indecipherable words. The trains I saw were all diesel, as I am waaaaaaaaay too young to have seen steam engines out there in the wild, but I did watch a lot of Shining Time Station on TV, so you might say I am an expert. One can learn a lot about trains from Thomas the Tank Engine! One could also learn a lot about trains from Alexander, I bet, based off this huge display that he and his crew put together for a LEGO show. It’s got everything, with every sort of train, houses, roads, terrain, and even a massive roundhouse. Check out this slick shot of two engines rounding a bend; they’re so pretty!

SAR Steam

Click to see the full display

What is this, a mall for ants? It has to be at least...three times bigger than this!

When laying out my list of things I would love to build someday from LEGO bricks, a shopping mall would be far down the list. Just kidding, it would not make the list. Malls are good for one thing, in my opinion, and that is serving as locations for LEGO stores. However, if a shopping mall wanted someone to build a LEGO version of it, and was paying for it, I’d be all over that. And that is what happened for architectural wizard Rocco Buttliere. He built this stunning layout of the Hawthorn Mall, showing the expansion that they are planning to do with mixed use commercial/residential units. It looks sleek and epic, and dare I say sexy, despite being a mall.

Hawthorn Mall Commission

See details of the mall below

Knight’s Kingdom II is kickin’ it new school

Forgotten somewhere in the recesses of LEGO castle history is Knights’ Kingdom II. It lacks the deep nostalgia of the castle themes from the 1980s and early 90s and the surprising novelty of the Fantasy Era sets. For some people, it might rank above Nexo Knights while still remaining near the bottom of their list of favorite castle themes. What it did do well, though, was to introduce Bionicle-like buildable figures to castle, allowing builders to fight each other with action-figure sized LEGO creations. Have you ever tried to engage someone else in a duel with a minifigure holding a sword? I have. It is not easy, and it looks strange to boot. Constraction figures solved that problem, and LEGO 7 has solved the problem of clunky old constraction figures for the theme, giving Sir Adric a brilliant updating.

SIR ADRIC 2.0

Many of the pieces of Sir Adric have been retained, like the shield, ax head, helm, greaves, and pauldrons. But the similarity ends there, as the builder has introduced heaps of constraction parts from Bionicle and other themes, with Darth Vader’s chest armor being among the most notable. While the original Adric was small and static, this one is the complete opposite, large and dynamic. Look at that action pose! Sir Adric could totally chop Vladek to bits with this upgrade. I love LEGO 7’s model, and I’m not even a fan of constraction!

A delightfully derelict and decrepit drive-in

Post-apocalyptic builds are popular in the LEGO community for some reason. Is it because we are fatalistic about the fate of society, and are certain it is all going to go up in mushroom clouds? Is it because we play video games that are set in a post-nuclear apocalyptic world? Do we just want to watch the world burn? Perhaps it is some combination of all those. hellboy.lego brings us a scene from the video game Fallout 4, which at very least satisfies my second suggestion. The Starlight Theatre, a now decrepit drive-in movie theater, serves as the camp for some raiders, and is gloriously derelict. Vines and trees are growing up everywhere, and the buildings are all half-ruined.

Starlight Theatre Overview

Click to see more of the Starlight Theatre

This Mustang is ready to run with the horses

Not much screams “American” like a big-engined, gas-guzzling, machismo-granting muscle car. The throaty roar of the tailpipes, the peeling tires, racing down a secluded stretch of road away from the cops…ahh, for the halcyon days of my youth, playing with my Hotwheels cars. A while back, LEGO Ideas hosted a contest to build a poster for the Ford Mustang to celebrate the release of the large Creator Expert Mustang set, and aido k submitted a digital entry, but wanted to make a ‘Stang in real bricks, too. The challenges were real, since making an 8-stud wide car with a battery box inside for the working lights is not easy. But the finished product looks great, clad in the classic white with blue stripes.

Classic Mustang

I love the angled windscreen to get a steeper look than the piece provides. A subtle variation in how far down the tiles on the side are pressed creates a delightful little scoop in the side door, and the roller skate makes a brilliant door handle. The fastback slope is smoothly done, too, integrating nicely with the rest of the car. The lights make this machine one of the coolest cars I have seen, with their warm glow enhancing the photos and the presentation. Now who wants to go burn some rubber and show those Camaros and Challengers who is boss?

Classic Mustang

The stairs actually move in this incredible LEGO model of Hogwarts

One of the magical aspects of Harry Potter and especially Hogwarts Castle is that ordinarily static things move. Pictures that in my house just hang there, with the people and things in them remaining frozen in time, always the same, in a wizarding house would be full of moving and talking, and even sentient, figures. And while we do have moving staircases in the Muggle world (we call them escalators), they don’t typically abruptly change their destinations; not so in Hogwarts, not so. The trouble is, we have not seen a single good moving staircase or moving picture in any official Harry Potter set. Fortunately for us, Jonas Kramm has filled the void with a brilliant build depicting both. There are innumerable gilt frames filled with magical chaps and dames, plus one of those moving staircases that so befuddled a young Potter and his pals in their early days of school. The moving functions are elegantly integrated and perfectly executed.

Hogwarts Magical Staircase

See the stairs and pictures move below

Radioactive goo has never looked better

The sensible thing to do when you see a bunch of terrified people running is to run with them (unless you are in Pamplona; then the sensible thing to do is to stay out of the street, away from the bulls in the first place). I have seen enough movies where something is attacking a city and the populace is running, or a disaster is striking and everyone hopes to get to safety to know what to do. I don’t know what kind of strange goo is creeping around the corner and through that door in this scene by Yuri Badiner, but by the look of those minifigures’ faces, I am not sticking around long enough to find out. Some sort of radiation must be leaking at the power plant, and in real life radiation does NOT turn ordinary people into superheroes.

Double Trouble At The Power Plant

What makes Yuri’s build special is the cinematic feel of the photograph more than the construction techniques on display (not that those are bad, mind you — I love the use of the ingot tiles). The light coming through the doorway, the green slime streaming through the air and pooling on the floor, the minifig posed in mid-leap, plus the perfect selection of anxious and terrified faces, makes this a special shot. There is even a touch of foreground and implied space with the hook and chain hanging from the invisible ceiling. It pays to go the extra mile and make the picture perfect, rather than to spend all of one’s effort on complex building techniques that can’t be seen because the build is poorly lit or the picture is grainy. I just hope that green stuff washes off the LEGO bricks and doesn’t stain the ABS!

Something about this build bugs me

If I had to identify my favorite insect, I would easily respond “dragonfly.” Why? Because dragonflies eat mosquitoes. Simple as that. Now, they also have a cool name — I mean, who doesn’t like dragons, right? They also have fascinating eyes and neat wings, and they don’t sting, bite, or infest; really, what’s not to like? And indeed, what’s not to like about Grantmasters‘ dragonfly build? The insect is perfectly poised above a verdant leaf with eggs of some sort on it, ready to zoom about eating things that want to eat me.

Odonata

The wings, so delicate and transparent, make brilliant use of some garage doors. Rancor fingers and paint brushes make for some crooked legs. Palm tree trunk sections create a wonderfully segmented tail, just like the real thing, and the mandibles are recreated by a fist. Then, of course, there is the banana bee, and the egg-eating snake worm, and a leaf made from a watering can and dragon wings (appropriate enough for a dragonfly, right?). Nice piece usages abound!