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

This Y-wing is the bomb

There are some builders out there whose names are synonymous with quality, often in a highly specialized niche within the larger LEGO fan community. Jerac is one such builder, whose Star Wars creations are famous for their exceptional level of detail, down to the minutest of greebles, and their near-perfect scaling. His latest creation is a stripped-down Y-wing bomber with all of its parts showing, as was typical in the fleet of the Rebellion. I love the shaping of the cockpit, as well as all of the technical details on the back part of the craft. It is a difficult task to get the rear maneuvering rings looking good, but this version of the Y-wing has lovely round rings and even the little details that should be there. Can a minifigure-scale Y-wing be done better in LEGO? Perhaps, but I have not seen it.

BTL-S3 Y-Wing Bomber

Jerac’s builds are often a master-class in LEGO greebling techniques, with piece usages both expected and unexpected. By now, things like ingots and bars are old hat in spaceships, and even binoculars are expected; but the use of some of the binoculars here is a new one for me, at least: placed recessed into the ship so that only the lenses stick out, as Jerac has done here towards the back of the fuselage. The stretcher holder makes for some great cables or piping, and the use of minifig arms looks good, too, at the very back of the fuselage. And there are more handcuffs than I can count. All in all, this is one terrific spaceship, ready to drop some bombs on Imperial targets.

BTL-S3 Y-Wing Bomber

Every piece is useful in chess and in LEGO

If you love strategy games, it is likely that you enjoy chess, one of the oldest strategy games out there. When I was in high school, a group of friends and I got together to play chess every Friday, but I must admit that I showed up mostly for the Twizzlers and chips and salsa. Judging by his excellent LEGO rendition of a chessboard, Chris Maddison seems like the kind of guy who would have shown up to show people up with skillful moves and clever endgame strategies.

Chess Set

This is a very handsome and elegant board and set of pieces, with virtually no studs showing except for the eyes and throats of the knights. The anti-studs at the top of the rooks look great, but my favorite piece is the king, with a simple yet effective cross atop his crown. The SNOT (studs not on top) board looks perfect for playing; I could easily see myself being checkmated in three moves on it. Perhaps it is time for me to dust off my old chess set and start playing again; or better yet, I could build myself one like Chris.

A LEGO philosopher’s dream

Sometimes the best inspiration for a LEGO creation comes from someone else’s failure, or at least from their frustrated abandonment of a complex idea. Pau Padrós‘s brother attempted to build Raphael’s masterpiece “The School of Athens”, but was about to give up; Pau took the build, changed the scale, and ran with it to create this amazing digital model. The painting, and thus the plastic version, focuses on the two most important philosophers of the Greek world, and thus of Western civilization: Plato and Aristotle. Naturally, some details of the original painting have been lost—I don’t recall Euclid’s face being a hollow square in Raphael’s version—but it is still a masterwork in forms; Plato would be proud. (That’s a philosophy pun, if you missed it.) I love how Pau has kept the detail of the two philosophers’ hands, with Plato’s pointing to the sky (where the ideal forms of all things reside) and Aristotle’s flat over the ground (which is the natural world, the observation of which is the source of our knowledge).

The School of Athens

Besides the philosophers shown, which is exciting enough, Pau has hidden all sorts of details in the build. Each of the figures of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle are comprised of twenty-two pieces, which in numerology means that they are on the path to turn dreams to reality. Of the 41 solid colors of LEGO in production, 38 are used, which perhaps represents the broad range of ideas held by these different men (and woman). The sextant makes for an effective lyre in Apollo’s statue’s hand, and a droid body approximates Athena’s Aegis-shield well enough. Don’t miss the green barbed wire as Epicurus’ garland, either. With forty-seven philosophers here (everyone from Alexander to Zeno) there’s something for everyone to appreciate and emulate. Most importantly, perhaps, is the lost art of disagreeing amicably and discussing rationally.

Want to see more of the build? Check out the video here:

Swoosh in space in style

I love spaceships. I might not be Benny the 1980-Something Space Guy, but I was born in the 1980s and my name is Benjamin. I used to build spaceships all the time from my modest LEGO collection, mostly small, single-seat fighters. This spaceship, built by seb71, hits all the things I love about spaceships. It has elegant lines, attractive curves, a coherent color scheme, enough greebly texture to be believable, and massive propulsion units; it looks perfect for picking up and swooshing around while making engine vrooms and blaster pew-pews and running around the living room. I mean, everyone does that with a spaceship when they are done building it, right?

spaceship Chimera

In addition, it has great striping, lovely integration of sloped bricks and different angles, and the single-seat cockpit that brings me back. Of course, this is way bigger and way better than anything I built as a kid. While smaller elements give satisfying greebles, like the gear rack and the macaroni tube, the real star of the show is the hot air balloon piece as a reactor cover. It works perfectly. I love that the reactor is still visible underneath the housing, too. The twin-pronged fuselage gives the ship a distinct Vic Viper feel, making me hope that we’ll see more from seb71 around NoVVember.

The form of the Forum taking shape

I love it when two things that I like and know something about come together, like peanut butter and jelly or LEGO and Roman history. Tim Schwalfenberg brings us a slice of the early days of Rome, when they were still constructing the Forum.

Roman Forum

Or perhaps it is later in Rome’s history when they were building a second, third, or fourth forum. I suspect it is early, though, since the streets are not yet paved and there is still active construction going on with a wooden crane lifting up a block of marble to add to a second building. If that’s not deep enough, please excuse me while I put on my scholar hat for a moment. It should be pointed out that not everything is completely accurate here: the Romans generally built with brick or concrete and faced the buildings with marble, rather than building the whole thing of marble; and also, Caesar Augustus, the first Emperor of Rome (reigning from 27 BC to AD 14) is said by the historian Suetonius to have said, “I found it of brick, but left it of marble”, since marble was rarely used before Augustus’ day.

However, taking my scholar hat off, this is an impressive build, with lovely columns of clearly Ionic styling. The structure conveys the grandeur that is proper to that mighty republic of the past. The trees are particularly nice, with the whips coiled around in an organic way, and evoke the stone pines of Rome well. The folded minifigure capes do a great job as togas, too; you can see a few senators, perhaps, near the sundial in their white togae candidae. My favorite piece usage, though, is the inverted jumper plates for the ladders. The whole thing is impressive. Augustus would be proud.

A spirit to bring your lonely soul home

Constraction figures have been a source of contention among LEGO fans for years, starting with the launch of Bionicle in 2000. Are they really LEGO? Are they just a subset of Technic? Or are they something else entirely? Obviously, the correct answer is yes (but to which question?), and they are a gift that keeps on giving with their many unique and surprisingly versatile pieces, not to mention the cult following they acquired among certain parts of the fan community that routinely churn out awesome builds. Builder Patrick Biggs is one such fan, if his photostream is anything to go by. His latest creation blends System, Technic, and Constraction parts together so seamlessly and organically as to lay to rest the earlier questions. It is all LEGO. And speaking of laying to rest, the centaur-like figure, capped by a deer skull, is a spirit that cares for broken, lost, and lonely souls, finally shepherding them home. I’m not sure that this spirit is one that I would like to see were I broken, lost, and alone, but perhaps some people would find it comforting.

The Caretaker

There are many great parts usages here, from the torso armor used for the lower abdomen to the Hero Factory blades used as calves on each of the four legs. But far and away the best, and even inspired use, is the shin guards as hooves and lower legs. It looks the part perfectly and almost seems made for the job. I must point out, too, the beautiful color arrangement and work in contrasts; the black body with the white deer skull and the green plants with the red flowers, on top and bottom, make the image pop. Everything is balanced, just right for a spirit to lead your soul home, I suppose. It is beckoning. Will you follow?

A chicken walker just waiting for Ewoks to crack it like an egg

Despite the vehicles from the Star Wars movies being built time and time again, from endlessly re-hashed official sets to uncountable builds from the LEGO community, sometimes a fan creation comes around that makes you say “Wow.” This Imperial AT-ST by GolPlaysWithLego is one such build, capturing the likeness of the scout walker impeccably. The hips have the wobbly look that is so distinctive of the aptly-nicknamed chicken walker, always sorely lacking in official sets, yet it still seems solidly put together while maintaining excellent proportions — it’s certainly the best I have seen.

AT-ST LEGO MOC v3.0

See more of this excellent LEGO Star Wars AT-ST

A village with a bit of everything

Oftentimes castle builds focus on the impenetrable keep with its solid grey walls, or else they depict a single building, like an inn or a blacksmith shop. Then there are the occasional massive dioramas that have everything, but also require five tables to display and several vans to haul. In a comfortable middle place, Peter Ilmrud brings us a charming village with enough shops to be believable and a footprint that is reasonable. There is a blacksmith, an armorer, a baker, a cheesemaker, stables, a cooper, and even a mage-astronomer’s tower. Add in some nice trees and architectural details around Wyvernstone Village, and this makes for a fine build that does not even take up all of one table.

Wyvernstone Village

See more of Wyvernstone Village here

These tires might not be racing slicks, but the racing is sure slick

Everyone likes to watch a racecar speed around a corner at a break-neck pace, caroming nearly out of control, tires barely maintaining friction with the pavement. Add in a bit of ice and snow to reduce that friction to almost nothing, and the excitement increases. Builder Simon Pickard brings us a rally car in just that situation, seemingly mere seconds from sliding into a drift. I love the composition of the shot, with the beautiful movement implied by the curved road.

Snow Rally - Monaco

While the car is the MINI Cooper from Speed Champions set 75894 (be sure to check out our review), the setting for the vehicle is what sets this apart from the pack. The curvature of the road is the detail that catches the eye above all else, with the excellent tire tracks. Formed from tiles and plates arranged carefully, the path and the posing of the car give it all a profound sense of movement, especially with the 1×1 round plates kicked up by the skidding tires. My only quibble is that the front tires are still straight, when all of my highly technical race knowledge gleaned from watching Cars with my kids tells me that he should be turning left to go right…

I bet she knows how to open doors, too

When LEGO builder chubbybots saw the new Jurassic World set with a dinosaur mech (75938), he felt like the Tyrannosaurus needed an upgrade to even the fight. And what an upgrade it is! From the robotic legs with enormous claws to the extraordinarily long arms (for a T-rex), this dinosaur can now pack a punch as well as take one. The powerful blasters on the back look certain to take down any foe, be they robotic or organic.

Dino Rider 3

The use of many textures in the greebles both lends an air of authenticity and implies that this is a custom suit made at home, rather than a sleek factory-produced exoskeleton. I love the Bionicle armor covers on the knees, and the splash of red at the shoulders gives the otherwise grey and earthy model a bit of zip. Adding Emmet as the pilot, rather than Owen, is a clever nod to both roles played by actor Chris Pratt. Did the T-rex really need the upgrade? I’m not so sure, as I have seen it take down pretty much every other big bad beast on the island.

A border keep to keep the border well-kept

A castle built in the north must be strong enough to survive the icy winters and keep the enemy hordes at bay. Looking at this one by Marco den Besten, we can safely say that the inhabitants will be well-protected from both. Built near the southern border of the icy guild of Mitgardia, where it borders the rival guild of Avalonia, the fortifications are thick and the walls high. Ample crenelations protect those on the walls from any enemies who might aspire to shoot arrows at them from below. Plenty of action fills the scene, with troops marching over a bridge, a farmer bringing produce to market, folks fishing, and even a ship approaching the dock. Are the intentions of the sailors friendly? I don’t know, but axes are drawn.

Aithaz Hold

Marco is famous among LEGO castle builders for his large displays, and perhaps even more famous for his large evergreens made of uncountable spines/vines. The way the towers are set at angles to the walls makes for a visually striking shape, a far cry from the square castles I used to make as a kid. Like this creation? Check out more huge castle dioramas built by Marco den Besten such as a fortified city and a city in the snow.

An impish little tree stump

Sometimes a build comes around that is not large, or highly sophisticated, or deeply symbolic, but instead is just plain whimsically charming. This little tree stump built by Marcel V. and inhabited by several imps is one such build. The lovely arrangement of earth tones strikes the right chord, and nothing is out of place or superfluous. The grass stalks and flowers set a scale for the build that is life-sized, with little four-brick high imps scurrying about causing mischief from their little home. And don’t miss the wood grain of that severed stump!

the imp's tree stump

There are a few nice piece usages to be seen here, like the cupcake cup for a flower and the corn-suit from a collectible minifigure growing beside the little house. I love the little ladders and the window on the roof. It is all captured in a clean visual aesthetic, with impeccably placed pebbles, too. These impish fellows look like they could come straight from the microverse of the Planticore we featured a short while ago.