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

Hands-on with 43179 Mickey & Minnie Mouse Buildable Characters, the latest LEGO Disney set for adult collectors [Review]

Large-scale display pieces catering to the nostalgic adult fan have long been a mainstay of Disney merchandise. Whilst some LEGO Disney sets have flirted with the memorabilia audience before now (notably 71044 Disney Train and Station and 21317 Steamboat Willie) the latest Disney set — 43179 Mickey Mouse & Minnie Mouse Buildable Characters — has its sights set firmly on the hearts (and wallets) of adult Disney collectors and enthusiasts. The set contains 1,739 pieces and features the iconic couple as large-scale figures, clad in their signature outfits, and with a range of accessories. It will be available from July 1st, retailing for US $179.99CAN $229.99UK £169.99.

Let’s see how LEGO’s tribute to Hollywood’s most famous power couple stacks up…

Click to read the full review

You’re so vain, I bet you think this model is for you

The Victorian era saw a celebration of the gothic, the elaborate, the ornate, across everything from architecture to wallpaper, from calligraphy to crockery. The period saw a revival of the baroque and rococo styles popular a century before, and furniture design was no exception. This Victorian Vanity Set is a collaborative build by brothers Tong Xin Jun and J.J.Tong. It delivers an amazing recreation of typical rococo styling. The black structure provides an excellent backdrop to the gold detailing, and the white top gives plenty of space for some well-built beauty “equipment.” Don’t miss out on a closer look at the make-up gear, particularly those perfume bottles and the flowers — lovely designs. The seat upholstery is an easily-overlooked highlight of the build, and it’s a great bit of work. Yes, this is a digital build, and I’d be worried about the stability of that mirror frame in “real life,” but it’s a beautiful creation all the same. Great stuff.

LEGO mirror beauty retro

Worm-ridden figure is a creepy delight

LEGO isn’t all cheery minifigures and bright colors, sometimes builders conjure up imagery guaranteed to haunt your nightmares. VB‘s latest — The Red Death — is one such creation: a lurking horror surely deserving of its own chapter in the Cthulhu mythos. The overall frame is a wonderfully creepy form, the shape immediately evoking a hooded figure, with skeletal claws offering a deadly embrace. But then the eye is pulled in, we are powerless to resist, and we become aware of the egg clusters and the black tentacle form nestling within the red worms. The puckered purple mouths at the end of the red tubes provide a final, disgusting, glorious highlight to this sinister figure.

Red Death

Eats shoots and leaves

“The panda who shot up the restaurant” is a classic example used to illustrate the importance of punctuation — he “eats, shoots, and leaves.” But thankfully these beautiful LEGO pandas by Vincent Kiew don’t appear to be toting any weaponry. The bears are well-sculpted, and their faces are excellent. I also like their angled ears — a subtle touch that adds a lot to their realism and character. The bamboo stalks and tree are simple but effective, and offer the opportunity to show one of the bears in action-clambering-mode — something which happens for about 15 minutes in a day with real-world pandas!

Panda

Vincent has been on a roll with the LEGO animals recently. In the past few weeks he’s given us an adorable LEGO hedgehog, and an impressive show-jumping LEGO horse.

I own an island off the coast of Costa Rica – a really small one

“Welcome to Jurassic Park”. I’ve loved Jurassic Park since devouring Michael Crichton’s original novel in 8 hours of straight reading, months before the movie adaptation had even been announced. Then there were the years of waiting, wondering if Spielberg could possibly deliver on Crichton’s vision, before we finally experienced the jaw-dropping impact of seeing “real” dinosaurs on the big screen. In a world where CGI effects are the norm, cinema audiences have become rather blasé about regularly seeing the impossible made real — back in 1993, this was something special. The effect this movie had on me was considerable, and I’ve always enjoyed the challenge of recreating elements of the film in bricks. I figured I’d never be able to build a LEGO version of the whole park to the scale I wanted if I used minifigures, so instead I decided to give it a go in microscale…

I own an island off the coast of Costa Rica

Click to see close ups of the model

Toot toot – here comes Thomas

Let’s take a trip to the fictional island of Sodor, home of the Rev. Wilbert Awdry’s Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends series of classic children’s tales. If your day trip includes a railway excursion on the branch line from from Knapford to Ffarquhar, you might encounter the titular hero of the stories: Thomas himself. He’s never looked better than in this LEGO version by city son. The cheery little engine’s face is nicely done, with those big Mixel eye tiles a perfect choice. The colourful livery of the original character is captured well, and I particularly like the use of lifebuoys for the front-facing windows and that brick-built 1 on the side. There’s even an accompanying minifigure version of The Fat Controller, or “Sir Topham Hatt” as he was called in the US. All this model needs is a voiceover from Ringo Starr and we’re sorted.

LEGO Steam Train

What lies beneath

There’s a lot to like in Carter Witz‘s atmospheric LEGO model of a sunken ruin. Above the waters, we’ve got twisting vines and an excellent selection of parts to create the impression of aged, decaying stonework. And then plunging below the surface, we have a clever change in tone from light grey to dark, with fish flitting between the columns, and weeds choking the lake bottom. This is a well-put-together model, but as with many of the best LEGO creations, it’s the sense of story, the questions it prompts in the mind of the beholder which elevate it into something special. What was this ruined structure? Which ancient civilization built these broken arches? And what terrible cataclysm saw it flooded? Who is the man in the canoe? Where is he going? And what sauce will he cook that chicken in?

Into the Ruins

Enter the underworld, if you dare

A haunted forest, a ruined castle, an underground cavern — a lost world awaits. Eli Willsea‘s LEGO scene is a masterclass in microscale, creating a sense of epic scale and mystery with a tight colour palette and a small footprint. The forest ruins were a treat to begin with, but the vast underground chamber beneath the structure is where the excitement lies. We’ve got everything an adventurous explorer expects, from arching masonry and rickety wooden stairs, to perilous drops over deep dark water. My favourite detail is the section of the castle, poking from the water beneath the hole its collapse created — lovely stuff. I’ve obviously played too much Tomb Raider in my time — my immediate thought was that a jump to the hanging chain would surely activate some ancient mechanism to drain the water allowing access to a hidden chamber.

The Old World

A cozy cabin where you can play through the winter

We might be heading into the summer up here in the northern hemisphere, but this LEGO model by Little John is all about cuddling up by the fire as the cold nights draw in. This rustic cabin makes for a cozy home for a family and their pets. They seem to be LEGO fans too, maybe even collectors, judging by the set boxes on display around the room. There’s an excellent use of printed tiles as pictures throughout the scene, and the furniture is simple but in keeping with the rest of the interior. I dread to think how long it took to put that floor together; it’s made entirely of brown plates in a selection of shades — an effective way to create a wooden floor look. My favorite detail is the boy playing with the toy castle — check out the wonderful little dragon with which he’s threatening the ramparts.

No Place Like Home

Nothing fishy about this sushi ship

Hungry? Grab your chopsticks and get tucked in to Anakin Skywalker 2012‘s LEGO sushi. Brought to your table in a classic serving boat, there are all kinds of sushi delights to enjoy. This looks like a complete feast, with the palette of bright LEGO colors making for an appetizing spread — and who’d have thought shiny black tiles (normally so difficult to photograph well) would look so good as the gleaming seaweed wraps on the maki rolls. The serving boat is excellent, too, with a smattering of discolored tan bricks included to create the impression of a well-used piece of serving ware. And if you’re thirsty, there’s nothing better than a flask of sake to share with a friend. Presented all together, this is one tasty piece of LEGO building.

[LEGO] Sushi Ship

Alfa Romeo romeo, wherefore art thou?

First introduced in Europe in 2013, the Alfa Romeo 4C was rolled out in North America the following year — the Italian manufacturer’s first foray into the US production car market in the 21st century. As you’d expect for an Alfa, the car is a stylish beast, with smooth curves and that distinctive plunging V-bonnet which always make me think of an eagle’s beak. And as you’d expect from a LEGO car from Noah L, his brick-built version is a smart recreation of the original’s lines, put together in a remarkably tight 15-stud wide footprint.

Alfa Romeo 4C (1)

I’m always thoroughly impressed with the level of detail Noah manages to cram into his cars, whilst still keeping the exterior lines smooth and clean. Even better, his models usually boast opening doors and bonnets or boots, and this vehicle is no exception. Check out the detailed interior…

Alfa Romeo 4C

Go west, life is synthetic there

“It doesn’t look like anything to me…” The stock response of the hosts from TV show Westworld is absolutely not applicable here. Mitch Phillips‘ LEGO rendition of a host being put together is immediately recognizable — the striking Vitruvian Man and the surrounding printing technology provide one of the show’s iconic images, familiar even to non-fans. But a closer look reveals some excellent building techniques on display as well as a fine capture of the overall feel. The robotic printing arm is well put together from a selection of Technic parts, and the half-formed host is a mass of different pieces, brilliantly conveying the idea of synthetic musculature. The lines on the torso, in particular, are excellent — check out those abs! The presentation of the model is spot-on too, with dramatic lighting creating a real sense of scale — this looms in the image, much larger in the eye than it is in real life.

Westworld Host Printing