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

Defend the walls of this enormous snow-bound castle

The only thing worse than your castle being attacked is surely your castle being attacked during the winter. I’m pretty sure Orcs siege engines toss more than snowballs. This enormous LEGO castle layout by Larsvader is a beauty, depicting an island fortress under attack by a terrifying army of Orcs. We’ve seen large castles before, but what elevates this model is the striking atmosphere created by depicting the castle in winter, with patches of snow blanketing the landscape, turrets, and rooftops. Just looking at this thing makes me feel chilly. Larsvader says this scene took 20 months to put together, but the effort involved more than paid off. The castle itself is excellent, with off-grid building creating interesting angles for the walls, and good use of texture and colours to break up what might otherwise be a large grey expanse. And the surrounding landscape is nicely-done, careful thought given to the layout, making the island feel like a natural strategic chokepoint — the obvious position for a stronghold.

LEGO Fantasy Castle Siege

The buildings and streets inside the castle are just as detailed as the surrounding walls. Take a look at this close-up image of what the town looks from minifigure eye-level. I love the stonework and wooden structural elements, but it’s the inclusion of mundane background details like the bakery which create the impression of a realistic castle during an extraordinary moment…

LEGO Fantasy Castle Streets

Watch out for splinters – hands on with LEGO Originals 853967 Wooden Minifigure [Review]

A surprise announcement, a pop-up LEGO art gallery launch in London, and the start of a new line of LEGO products — 853967 Wooden Minifigure has had quite the introduction to the world. We’re not sure we’d call this a “set” as such, although it does feature a handful of regular LEGO bricks as well as the titular 20cm tall oak figurine. LEGO themselves describe the figurine as a “blank canvas” for personalisation and creative decoration. Whatever you want to call it, the wooden figure is available from Nov. 3, 2019, for VIP members, and Nov. 8 for everyone. It can be purchased from the LEGO Shop online for US $119.99 | CAN 154.99 | UK £109.99.

(EDIT: The wooden figure is also available from LEGO in bundles including a discount of up to $30 US when combined with various other LEGO products, including one 1,500-piece Classic set.)

Read our hands-on review of LEGO 853967 Wooden Minifigure

LEGO Originals – gallery opening and interview with Sine Klitgaard Møller, LEGO Design Director [News]

Seven Dials is a small area of London, squeezed in between the city’s theatre district and the nightlife of Soho. It’s one of the cool parts of town, narrow streets stuffed full of quirky shops and art galleries. One of these galleries is playing temporary host to a new LEGO launch — the Limited Edition large-scale wooden minifigure, the first release in the new LEGO Originals line, and we attended the gallery’s opening this morning. We also had a chance to sit down with the project’s design director for an interview.

Fans were invited to register for a timeslot to visit the gallery through the LEGO VIP loyalty programme, and the first session was booked up almost immediately. Although guaranteed admission, these first visitors still arrived early, and there was a good-sized queue well in advance of the official opening time. A further “standby queue” had also formed — people hoping some of those registered to attend might not show up. LEGO’s PR proved to be on-point, with the general air of excitement wafting off the line of adult fans and kids prompting photos and questions from passers-by.

Click to read more about the LEGO Originals gallery and read our interview with design director Sine Klitgaard Møller

A castle is a wish your heart makes

The subject of an impressive official LEGO set, Disney’s Cinderella’s Castle has also proved itself a popular building with LEGO microscale modellers. However, few of the versions we’ve seen previously have captured the detail of the original as effectively as this beautiful creation by Koen Zwanenburg. The high walls rising out of the water are nicely shaped, with some ingenious parts use (check out the hammers as supporting buttresses beneath the crenellations). The soaring towers are lovingly depicted, with a level of texture and detail which makes the model seem much bigger than it really is. And who would have thought the underside of plates would so perfectly depict the tall windows built into the Mansard roof?

LEGO Disney Castle

This is an extensive redesign of a model Koen built a couple of years ago. It’s a great example of a builder revisiting their work and improving on it in almost every aspect. This is excellent microscale LEGO building.

When desert warriors take over your classic castle

Here’s a fabulous tribute to a classic LEGO set — the iconic Yellow Castle 375, reimagined as a desert fortress. Galaktek has done a cracking job with this Arabian take on the 1978 original. Whilst the shape is immediately recognisable, a modern parts selection allows for the injection of more detail, with printed tiles and patterned fencing helping create the impression of elaborate tiling, and an appropriate choice of minifigures adding to the exotic Arabian atmosphere.

LEGO Arabian Nights

Best of all, the model features one of the most fondly-remembered elements of the original — it opens up. This was a much-loved play feature “back in the day” and, in this creation, allows us a better look at the fine interior work…

LEGO Arabian Nights

I’ll build about that tomorrow, after all tomorrow is another day

We see plenty of LEGO creations depicting scenes from movies. However, it’s less often we get a behind the scenes look at film production. That’s exactly what Marcel V. provides with this neat little diorama going backstage during the making of the 1939 classic Gone With The Wind. The scene shows Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler face-to-face inside a set which captures the feel of Tara, the plantation mansion in the movie. You can almost imagine the snide remarks and love-to-hate-you banter passing back and forth between the leads for the cameras’ benefit. The surrounding equipment is nicely put-together, with the lighting rig an obvious highlight. This is a fun little build and makes me want to see more “behind the scenes on the movies” LEGO creations.

LEGO film set movie studio

Fun fact: for the famous sequence in the movie where Atlanta is set ablaze, the film-makers actually torched the abandoned sets from 1933’s King Kong.

The late 90s called, and Tony Hawk wants his video back

Skateboarding video games may have fallen out of favour since the heady years of Tony Hawk’s regular domination of the console charts. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have fond memories of practising ollies and flips for hours on end, with sore thumbs our only risk versus real-life skater injuries like broken wrists and shattered elbows. It seems Nick Jensen also has a soft spot for skateboarding videogames as he’s put together a LEGO version of one of Pro Skater‘s key collectible items — the hidden VHS tape which featured in every level. The tape is nicely done, built to scale with a real VHS cassette (although how many of us still have one of them lying around to check the measurements?!) The light-up frame is perfect, a smart re-creation of the highlights around the tape in-game. Sweet building dude.

LEGO Skateboard Videogame

Rocket man, burning up his fuse out here alone

LL166, this is Moonbase Control, you are clear to begin your approach…

Time to run through the LEGO Classic Space checklist: Transparent yellow canopy? Check. Blue body plating with light grey greebly-bits? Check. Yellow and black striping? Check.
And yet, this spaceship by ZCerberus manages to look fresh and new whilst still complying with all the Classic Space “rules and regs”. That’s at least partly down to those twin engines, with the cogs in the mountings implying the thrusters can rotate, making this a neat little VTOL craft. The fuselage angles are sharp too, with more than a little whiff of an Apache helicopter, making this look somehow dangerous despite the lack of obvious armament.

LEGO Spaceship

Lazing on a sunny afternoon

We’re big fans of the stylish architectural LEGO creations of Swedish builder Sarah Beyer. She has a knack of turning our favourite plastic building material into classy modern homes we’d love to live in. On top of the undoubted building skill on display, the presentation of the models is always immaculate. This image of her newest build is a case in point. It showcases the use of textured bricks and tiles to create a smooth-yet-detailed look, and the quality photography is reminiscent of imagery you’d find in a high-end homestyling magazine. Who wouldn’t want to spend a few hours lounging in those chairs, enjoying a cup of tea and taking in the garden view? Lovely.

LEGO Architecture Interior Modern House

Bavarian Motor Works gets the Danish Brick Works treatment

With the release of the excellent LEGO Creator Expert 10269 Harley-Davidson Fat Boy set, we appear to be experiencing a corresponding uptick in fantastic motorcycle creations. Here’s a belter of a bike from André Pinto — a brick-built version of a customised BMW R80 RT. The shaping and overall frame are spot-on, and the sticker-work is just perfect, adding little touches of detail without overwhelming the bricks. The splash of gold from the ribbed hoses adds a lovely burst of contrast against the black, as do the red forks, and the overall presentation of the model is enhanced by the wood-effect base.

LEGO Motorcycle BMW

What’s got two legs and goes woof?

Wildfire — Game Of Thrones‘ very own version of napalm. In this neat LEGO vignette by ekjohnson1 we get to see the everyday reality of Wildfire production and storage down in the depths of the Kings Landing branch of the Alchemists’ Guild. Sure, the gloopy green stuff is worth a fortune, and makes short work of any invader vessels coming up the Blackwater. But drop a candle in it? Things get hot and messy real quick. The green liquid is nicely done in this model, with transparent pieces capturing its unearthly glow, but the highlight for me is the subtle angle on the brick walls between the timber supports — a nice touch which perfectly evokes the idea of the arched tunnels beneath Westeros’ capital.

LEGO GoT Kings Landings Wildfire

Enormous medieval town offers a gateway to the desert

LEGO Castle displays tend to focus on the Western European medieval era, with great grey fortifications set amid green forests, featuring knights engaged in combat, with perhaps the odd siege engine chucking rocks. How refreshing to see this huge collaborative display by thirteen members of SwissLug which breaks with tradition on two fronts: first, by depicting a city in the Levant (the lands of the Eastern Mediterranean), and second, by showing off the peaceful, multicultural side of life (probably right before the Crusaders show up and make a nuisance of themselves!)

LEGO Medieval Levant Holy Land Eastern Mediterranean

Click here to enjoy the pictures of the diorama…