I have never been enthralled with steampunk. Maybe it’s because I’m not the biggest fan of the Victorian Era in general, let alone a fantastic version of it filled with steam-driven automatons. Despite that, I can recognize a cool LEGO build when I see it, no matter what era it is from. And that is what this steam-church by Dwalin Forkbeard is. Inspired by a church in Ukraine, this particular one lacks a second tower (due to lack of parts) and the square in front (also due to a shortage of parts), but it looks great just as it is. I love how the smaller chunks of city life are connected to the central build by pipes, linking them together without needing to make a giant plaza. And I do like pipes. I also like seeing the planet half-spheres used for domes. Add in some handcuff ornaments and one amazing gas lamppost, and you have something special. Isn’t that right, old chap?
As a kid, I built a lot of model airplanes. I loved gluing them together and painting them, but never liked applying the decals. I read books about military airplanes, too, and played with tiny toy planes. I loved airplanes, at least ones that carried missiles and guns. I’m going out on a limb here, but I would hazard a guess that James Cherry loved airplanes, too, and still does. Why would I guess that? Because he has built an amazing Eurofighter Typhoon airplane out of LEGO bricks. Measuring up at over a meter in length and 73cm across at the wingtips (it’s a European plane, so we have to use metric), this is one beast of a creation, too. The whole thing is tiled an oh-so-smooth, with a custom canopy and nose cone, since The LEGO Group does not manufacture anything close to these specs.
Where I sit, the government has issued a stay at home order, and non-essential in-person businesses are closed. Grocery stores are an exception, of course, as we all still need to eat, and so are liquor stores, as folks still need to drink. I mean really, what else do you do when socially isolated? It puts me in mind of Captain Jack Sparrow, getting through his time marooned on an island alone. He, too, drank away his sorrows. So when I (Benjamin Stenlund) decided to enter the Style it Up contest to pass the time during my days at home, it wasn’t long before I hit on the idea of building a ship. And since I have a lot of black fabric elements, I decided to build a black ship. And if I was going to make a black ship, why not make Captain Jack’s ship, the Black Pearl?
At first, I tried building the sides with slope bricks and tiles, but it looked too chunky at this small scale, so I hit upon the idea of using the quarter dome elements for the prow, and the rest of the ship filled in from there. The 1×1 round plate with bar makes for some nice cannons, even if I did not add enough to equal the real ship; there are concessions one must make at this scale, after all. The sails are cloaks wrapped in rubber bands, and the crows nests are Black Panther ears and ninja cowls. The soft sails, combined with the rigging, make this unique among small-scale LEGO ships that I have seen, but what really sets it apart (if I may toot my own horn a bit) is the atmospheric quality of the photo. Since the contest required that only one color be used, the water is black, too, and the backdrop is also black; in fact, the photo is unedited except for cropping, so this is full-color. Perfect for the ship of a drunken pirate.
Many people seem to have more time on their hands recently, with much of normal life disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. And as a result, contests are popping up out of the woodwork to give LEGO builders some inspiration, whether it’s Reverse Engineering or Alphabet Starfighters. Included in that is one called Style It Up, where the rules dictate color choices and style rather than content. Since the first week’s challenge is to build something with only one color, jnj_bricks went straight to black. As in black panther. Now, if you have ever tried to photograph LEGO, you know it can be a challenge to get the lighting right. When your build is black, it gets about a billion times harder because it reflects everything. Yet this cat is perfectly captured mid-step, standing out against the black foliage.
A lot has gone into the panther, with teeny tiny parts giving it an organic shape. I see flippers, a mohawk, and a cap, to name a few. But minifig arms and gobs of horns for the grass add further details, and the scene as a whole is both dynamic and vibrant, despite being monochrome.
Feel inspired? There is still time to hop over and get some entries in.
I’m something of a failure when it comes to building spaceships. I have tried and failed for the past three SHIPtembers to build a massive spaceship, and even my smaller spaceships generally end up on the scrapheap due to a lack of vision for their execution. Balancing the greebles with the smooth parts is a challenge for me, and integrating the cockpit with the rest never seemed to work out well. But then Dave Kaleta announced an alphabet starfighter contest, and I had to give it a go. Finally, I had a coherent plan for the design, a letter of the alphabet. And what better letter to start with than B? After all, my name, Benjamin Stenlund, starts with B, and so does Benny from The LEGO Movie. And since Benny and I are both from the 1980s, I went with a Neo-Classic Space styling, to remove any further difficulty that might have arisen from complicated color choices. I had to start somewhere, you know?
I was quite pleased with the way the dual cockpits integrated with the overall shape, and indeed having two of those canopies was a major reason I went with this design, as the curves add to the B shape perfectly. I added as many Classic Space elements as I could, like the triple loudspeaker on the back and the computers in the cockpits, gleaned from the older part of my collection; and then I went greebled like crazy in the gaps. My favorite element in the greebles is the old exhaust pipes from my childhood Town sets. I’m not afraid to mix old and new greys together, so both can be seen in the build; I think it adds a sense of weathering appropriate for a spaceship. I’ve already been commissioned by my 4-year-old to build him a few spaceships, so hopefully, I’ll be able to add to the collection of finished craft soon and spread literacy across the galaxy!
I love The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien. Like, really, really love it. I have more than a whole shelf in my library (yes, I have a library, filled with many leather-bound books) devoted just to the book and its ancillary volumes (The Hobbit, Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales, etc.). Tolkien is my favorite author, by far, and I’ve read his major work at least twelve times. So when I see really well done LEGO builds based on the stories, like this one by Simon Hundsbichler, it gets the warm fuzzies going inside. Even if it is based on the movies, I still love it; after all, for whatever butcheries they did to the characters (e.g. Faramir), Peter Jackson et al. did a phenomenal job of representing the material cultures of Middle Earth. This particular build is inspired by the second volume of the work, The Two Towers, and features many towers, from the horn tower of Helm’s Deep to Orthanc to Minas Morgul to Cirith Ungol.
Microscale is notoriously tricky to pull off, but Simon is a master among masters at it. Some features that need to be pointed out include using the tiny hole in the bar holder with clip as the window at the top of Cirith Ungol. Genius. But it is all amazing. Helm’s Deep bears repeated looks, with the absurd number of unconventional pieces in the rockwork, from grey hawks and frogs to saddles. But then there’s my favorite stair technique with a grille brick leading up to Meduseld. And a stud shooter in Cirith Ungol. And rockets in the towers of both Minas Morgul and Helm’s Deep. And a spider as Shelob, a giant spider. Brilliant. And there’s a Treebeard, too! Add in the book base, and the water flowing through it, and you have one of my favorite LEGO creations ever.
If you missed Simon’s masterful representation of the first volume of The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, check it out here. I can’t wait to see the third installment!
I don’t play video games, since I was that poor, deprived kid whose parents never bought him a system, and I didn’t have friends who played them, either. I played with LEGO bricks instead. That being said, I do have nostalgia for certain video games, having watched others play them at certain times of my life. Take Contra, for example. A few guys on my high school cross country team used to play that game in the wrestling coach’s office after practice, cursing up a storm and generally having a good time. Seeing this old TV and console with that logo across the screen built by qian yj brought me back to those halcyon days of youth. With a crowd pressed into the small room, we’d watch bandanna-and-aviator-wearing elder statesmen of the team gleefully shoot pixelated villains.
The curve of the small screen is great, a far cry from the giant flat screens of today. And the antennas, the corded controllers, the cartridge… ah, memories. The small details look spot on. It took me several views, in fact, and a careful zoom, to be sure that the console was made from LEGO and not just the real deal with brick-built accessories. Does it make it play better if the LEGO cartridge is taken out and blown upon? Probably.
Sometimes it feels like every spaceship I see out there in the LEGO building community is either a single-seat starfighter or a giant capital ship. Sometimes the fighters are tiny, sometimes they themselves are giant, and some of the capital ships are minifig scale and others are microscale. But wouldn’t it be nice to see something else with more frequency? Like, what about the civilian ships, or even the military support vessels? Someone has to move the supplies from Planet A to Planet B, right? Well, thankfully we have Blake Foster, who has made us a small, minifig scale Neo-Classic Space (NCS) cargo shuttle. Called the Blue Lobster because it grips two containers at a time in its mechanical claws and it’s blue, it is the ship you hire for small jobs, when you don’t want to spend an entire nation’s GDP to move a few crates.
The coherent color scheme is perhaps my favorite aspect of NCS ships, and the Blue Lobster does not disappoint, with the obligatory yellow canopy and the blue and grey body. The grey greebles are perfect, using my favorite greeble element, the piston bar, and the Nexo Knights droid torso to great effect around the engines. I also love those crates; each is a work of art in itself, with some fascinating geometry making them work. Now, I need to move in a month or two, and I think my family’s belongings could fit in those crates (if we were minifigures, that is); maybe I should ask Blake if this cosmic crustacean is up for hire.
Ah, airplanes. What would we do without them? They make travel over long distances easy and affordable to everyone, which is great, and they make spreading contagion across the world lightning fast, too, which is not so great. Gone are the days when we had to wait for the rats in the hold of the ship to spread the pestilence! But military airplanes, deadly in ways non-viral, have a strong nostalgia attached to them for many people, from history buffs to kids who like to zoom things around and make machine gun noises while spitting on everything. Wesley has made a LEGO model of a RAF SE5a, a delightful WWI-era biplane, complete with said machine gun. The shaping is fantastic, especially on the fuselage, and I love the cheese-slope chocks under the wheels. The under-construction aerodrome gives depth to the image, especially when combined with the minifigures and the green “grass”; it’s a simple addition but brings it from a plain ol’ airplane to an immersive scene.
…Next time won’t you sing with me? With several toddlers roaming the hardwood, I sing the alphabet song frequently around my house. It’s a classic. That also seems to be what Dave Kaleta is singing with this gorgeous poster shot of all of his alphabet starfighters, built out of LEGO in collaboration with his young son. We have featured several of them on their own, like B and C, among others, but all together they are gorgeous.
And while we usually don’t promote contests here at The Brothers Brick, I can’t resist pointing out that Dave really is inviting you to sing the space alphabet song with him by entering your own alphabet starfighter into his contest (clicking the image below will bring you to the rules). It ends May 9th, by the way, so you have time to get some entries in!
I’m a sucker for superhero movies. I love the superpowers, the epic explosions, the over-the-top bad guys, and even the mysterious hideouts that shelter the heroes. One such hideout is Doctor Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum (Latin for Holy of Holies), a building on Bleeker Street in New York City that serves as both a storehouse for mystic artifacts and a node for protecting the Earth from enemy attacks. Anders Horvath has built a beautiful rendition of the Sorcerer Supreme’s lair, in the style and scale of LEGO’s Creator Expert modular buildings. In fact, it would fit right into your collection at home. It is based on official LEGO set 76108 Sanctum Sanctorum Showdown but upscaled to a point where it is a whole new thing. The interior is lovely, too, so you should check out the album on Flickr. I love the appearance of a microscale Disney Castle, as well as the different weapons on racks. Based on the residents, I’m not positive the Masters of the Mystic Arts still use the place (though they left behind an Infinity Stone), but at least you can get a sandwich or slice of pizza next door!
I’ve mentioned before in these pages that I have a background in Roman stuff, particularly language and literature, but also some history and architecture. In fact, I compiled and annotated a Latin reader on Roman military texts for my Master’s degree. So imagine my delight when I saw this functional Roman ballista by Jerac. These things were used all over the Republic and Empire, including Caesar’s siege of Alesia. There’s no gimmickry here; just like the real deal, the force to launch the bolts comes from coiled cords, not the bow. And the whole thing is LEGO, which makes it even cooler. The Technic gear and axle connector don’t look out of place as parts of the mechanical structure, and, in fact, I believe the lip on the bushing catches on the gear to ratchet the tension. Then flip up those rods, and voilà! You have just destroyed a tower. The wooden planks and the soldiery, along with the suggestion of landscaping, are just icing on the cake to dress it up a bit; the real beauty of the build is the technological achievement.