About Rod

Rod likes building stuff, particularly steampunk and microscale. He's built for a number of the Dorling Kindersley LEGO books, including LEGO Play and the Awesome Ideas book. When he's not building, he writes, and has published a trilogy of old-fashioned adventure stories. To pay the bills he works in innovation and marketing for one of the world's biggest brewers, inventing new beers and ciders. This is clearly the best job in the world.

Posts by Rod

All that jazz

Improvisational jazz — taking basic structures and guidelines and playing with them to make something beautiful. Exactly what LEGO 7 has done with the bricks in this fabulous Jazz Quartet. The instruments are brilliantly done — check out the shaping and details on the piano and the double-bass, and I love that pearl gold trumpet. However, it’s the figures which make this something particularly special. The poses are striking in their expressiveness, perfectly capturing the look and feel of the band taking their cues from the trumpet player’s solo. The natty styling of the musician’s clothing is the icing on the cake, with little details making the difference, like the white band on the drummer’s hat, and the slight angle to the trumpet player’s necktie. When this kind of virtuoso LEGO building performance is coupled with clean stylish photography, the result is simply stunning. It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing. But this? This is fully syncopated and super-cool.

LEGO musicians band jazz

Room 101

I never had bunk beds as a kid. There was plenty of space in my bedroom for friends to sleep over on a camp bed, but somehow bunks always seemed more fun. Guess I’ll have to suage my nostalgic regret with Markus Rollbühler‘s LEGO-built version instead. The bunks sit at the heart of a charming little model — a child’s bedroom, packed full of furniture and belongings. The scene was created as part of a challenge to build something with no more than 101 pieces, and the restriction lies at the heart of some creative parts use. Don’t miss the swivel chair with its backrest made from an old-school minifigure cape, and the little bulldozer on the floor. I also love the Belville shoe used as a computer mouse and the anglepoise lamp on the nightstand. This is one of those LEGO models which manages to be both cute and clever at the same time.

LEGO room house

The brightest of battles amongst the stars

From movies to TV shows to LEGO models, we all love a bit of Star Wars action. But one of the persistent criticisms of the franchise is the peculiar need it appears to have to return to similar planetary environments over and again. In an entire galaxy of apparently habitable planets, it seems weird we keep ending up on desert or frozen worlds. Here’s a LEGO creation that decides instead to revel in the possibilities of alien environments, setting a battle between the Republic and the Trade Federation on the colourful world of Tealos Prime. I love the bright foliage and unusual tones in the scenery here — a brilliant contrast with the typical grey vehicles of the Star Wars universe.

The scene, a collaborative effort from Tim Goddard, Mansur Soeleman, and inthert is an absolute cracker — massive in scope despite the micro scale employed on the individual models. Check out this wider top-down view which reveals the full size of the layout, with scenery ranging from forest to cliff-side landing pad, and the impressive array of vehicles from both factions…

Thatch the way, a-ha a-ha, I like it

“If you must know more, his name is Beorn. He is very strong, and he is a skin-changer.” So Gandalf the Grey describes their host to Bilbo and the band of Dwarves, when Beorn takes them in and offers them shelter. Mountain Hobbit and Cole Blood collaborated on this LEGO version of Beorn’s house — a wonderfully rough stone cottage topped with an impressive thatched roof. The surrounding landscaping is nicely done, with a collection of livestock which reflects the descriptions of Beorn’s home in The Hobbit. But it’s the building which dominates the scene, pulling the eye in to feast on the details — the stonework, the triangular windows, and that roof. It’s good to see a scene featuring Beorn which concentrates on his domestic arrangements and the gentler side of his nature, rather than focusing on him in rampant bear form.

LEGO Hobbit Beorn's House

Bugs in space

LEGO Spacer Blake Foster only just launched an impressive cargo hauler decked out in Classic Space livery, and now the cargo fleet sees a cute expansion with this smaller craft — a jump shuttle packed with oddball character. There’s an impressive depth of functional-looking greebling packed into the light grey sections of the ship, and I particularly like those front legs — obviously useful in helping push this little spaceship free from gravity’s tethers. The angles on the blue hull section are excellent, and the unusual design is all tied in nicely around the trans-yellow bubble cockpit. Blake calls this the Cargo Critter, because of its bug-like appearance — a perfect nickname for a perfectly-formed spacecraft.

LEGO Classic Space spaceship

The rules of the race

In the non-LEGO “real” world, I work in innovation, developing ideas for new products, mostly in the world of drinks. Doing work like this, you come across multiple techniques for enhancing creativity and improving idea generation. In my experience, one of the most effective is the setting of constraints and rules around what you’re trying to do. Although it seems counterintuitive, the narrowing of possibility, the scaling-back of the intimidating blank canvas, gives more permission and opportunity for creativity. That’s where my recent Hover Car Racer models came from. In a bid to get past a bout of “builders’ block,” I set myself some constraints — a handful of key elements which would be common across the models, but beyond those, each racer could vary in design. The “rules” I set myself: bold color styling, a whiff of a muscle car, elements of asymmetry, and an enclosed cockpit. I’m really pleased with the variety which arose from sticking within these constraints and was pleasantly surprised at the creative flow of the building process…

LEGO hover car speeder

The next time you’re struggling through a bout of the creative block (regardless of your creative medium of choice), I’d recommend setting yourself some constraints. Give yourself an unreasonable time limit, drastically limit the materials you can use, or set size and/or color restrictions — paradoxically, you’ll find such limitations will set you free.

Once I had a few models, it seemed natural to expand the world of Hover Car Racing. I imagined a future where the drivers are rockstar celebrities, with wall-to-wall coverage of races on every channel. I love taking a model and presenting it in a way that implies a broader universe around it…

LEGO hover car racer speeder

Life on the road

Two brightly-coloured wagons are home to a band of travelling folk in Andrea Lattanzio‘s latest LEGO model. Life on the road has never looked so inviting, with the bold colors of the mobile homes enhanced with bursts of flowers, and the scene stuffed with functional-looking details. I love the hanging tassels, the little chimney stacks, and the clutter of bags and lanterns and buckets. Don’t miss the use of minifigure hats as flower-pots, and the catapults used for the legs on the fortune teller’s table.

LEGO Romani Wagons

Hands up ready for the boom

We see lots of LEGO buildings and battles, from sci-fi through to fantasy scenes. What we don’t see as often are brick-built “special effects” which capture the dynamism and danger of an explosion as well as in Joseph Zawada‘s siege scene. Chunks of masonry and minifigures go flying in different directions, and trans-red and yellow projectile bars effectively create a feeling of energy and heat as the blast tears the castle wall to pieces. The wall and castle gate sport a gnarly level of texture and some smart arches to break up the expanse of grey, and the wider landscaping provides an effective backdrop for the combat action. But it’s the explosion which catches the eye and makes this feel like a still from some epic movie. I feel sorry for the castle’s defenders — it looks like there’s another boom coming with that trebuchet unleashing the next bombardment.

Siege of Kastermore

The portal drew him onward

Out for a walk in the forest, and you stumble across an ancient inter-dimensional portal. What to do, what to do? Only one thing for it — grab your gear and see where it takes you. Andreas Lenander‘s LEGO portal gate is nicely weathered, creating a sense of age and decay, and the tree is wonderfully gnarly and twisted — a result of it being constructed mostly from minifigure lasso pieces. However, the eyes are drawn inexorably to the glowing blue portal, a collection of around 600 stacked lightsaber blades, backlit to create a stunning effect. It looks great, but I dread to think what happens when Andreas tries to move this thing!

LEGO fantasy castle portal

Back in brick

Forty years old this July, and AC/DC’s Back In Black remains the greatest rock album of all time. I’m happy to fight you if you say otherwise. Whatever your opinion on the album, I hope you agree this is a pretty damn good LEGO sculpture of the band’s iconic guitarist Angus Young, captured here in his trademark school uniform by Pedro Vezini. The cap, the skewed tie, the shorts, the socks, the duck-walk stance — all spot-on. But my favorite touch is the face, perfectly capturing Angus’ over-the-top on-stage grimaces. If you’re not hearing hefty riffs in your head right now, then there’s something wrong with you. I prescribe an hour of AC/DC listening as a little pick-me-up.

Angus Young

The entire world of Mario Kart just got shrunk by lightning

With the exciting news of the forthcoming LEGO and Nintendo Super Mario partnership, we should expect to see a bunch of LEGO creations imagining what some of the forthcoming sets might look like beyond those revealed in the press release. BenBuildsLego is off the starting grid early, with this wonderful idea — an Architecture-style line up of iconic tracks from the classic racing game Mario Kart 64. We’ve got six tracks, each immediately recognizable just from a tiny seven-brick-wide segment: Koopa Troopa Beach, Mario Raceway, Bowser’s Castle, Sherbet Land, Wario Stadium, and of course, Rainbow Road. If you didn’t start humming the tunes for each of those as you read through the list, are you even a real Mario fan?

LEGO Mario Kart Nintendo

The very model of insanity

When considering the possible end of civilisation, it’s important to consider worst-case scenarios. However, I have to admit I’m baffled so many people appear to have decided the very worst thing that might happen in the coming weeks is that they run out of toilet paper. Gregory Coquelz appears to share my bemusement as he’s put together a LEGO version of an intrepid prepper — securing enough toilet rolls to see them through the coming sh__-storm (see what we did there?). Our heroic shopper has certainly stuffed his trolley to bursting point with the precious resource, although personally I might have grabbed at least a little food as well. Of course, the stockpiling of LEGO to get through any quarantine period would be a different matter entirely — an eminently sensible idea if you ask me.

LEGO coronavirus covid-19 toilet paper