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

Take flight with Crimson Squadron and build your own sky-fi aircraft

I’ve always been a fan of Sky-Fi aircraft. It’s a glorious retro-futuristic look, typified by the Xbox classic Crimson Skies, and the creations of LEGO builders such as Jon Hall and John Lamarck. To pull myself out of a recent bout of builder’s block, I set myself a challenge — to build a series of Sky-Fi aircraft, in a common colour scheme, with a similar overall style, but each design different. Crimson Squadron is what emerged over the next few weeks…

lego sky-fi plane

The first of the squadron’s aircraft to roll off the production line was this twin-engined beast — the Bulldog. It established the signature elements which sit across the rest of the fleet: the red and chequerboard livery, a whiff of a muscle car from the up-front intakes, a bubble canopy for a fun retro feel, and an overall super-condensed chunky chibi look. I was pleased with how the Bulldog turned out and immediately set to work once more.

See more of the Squadron and instructions to build your own

Large-scale LEGO Batmobile is ready to move out

I was given one of the large-scale Batman LED torch figures a few months ago and it planted a dreadful seed in my mind. I don’t know about other LEGO builders, but once I have an interesting idea for a model it haunts me, making me unable to concentrate on building anything else until it is exorcised by an attempt to put it together. After months of experimenting and tweaking (and multiple Bricklink orders), I finally ended up with a Big Ol’ Batmobile — over 10 inches long and 4 inches wide. The trickiest part of the process was embedding the domed canopies neatly within the bodywork, but the worst part was undoubtedly when I discovered late in the build that a key piece was unavailable in the colour I required. Do not be too outraged, dear reader, when I tell you I resorted to spray paint.

Big LEGO Batmobile

I’m not a scale-modeller, I don’t have the patience or toolkit of building techniques for it. So the key for me was capturing the spirit of the original Batmobile — its styling and key elements — without attempting to recreate it perfectly. Identifying those signature elements was the first step — bubble cockpits, red striping, a “bat face” in the front grille, the three rocket pipes, and, of course, prominent fins to the rear (as seen in the image below). I’m pleased with how this model eventually turned out, although in future I won’t underestimate how long it takes to build something to a larger scale than you’re used to.

Big LEGO Batmobile

Falling for these autumnal flowers

This bunch of autumnal LEGO flowers by Barbara Hoel is a beauty — one of those creations which at first you scroll past assuming it cannot possibly be made of bricks and has made it into your feed due to some glitch in the algorithm. But then you look again and realise the pot is brick-built, oh… and the stalks, and the flower petals, oh and EVERY LAST PIECE OF THE THING, including those wonderful puffballs to the rear. The parts use on show here are delightful, well worth a closer look, particularly the use of pearl gold crowns for the impressive puffballs. We’ve seen more LEGO flowers since the release of the official LEGO flower sets, and when they look as good as this, long may this horticultural building trend continue.

LEGO bunch of flowers

Titanic ship on a tiny budget

Struggling to find the cash or time to invest in the enormous new LEGO Titanic set? Well builder POMXLEGO may have a solution — why not build your own teeny-tiny version instead? This is an excellent microscale model, managing to nicely capture the essential elements of its larger inspiration — the shaping of the hull, the colours, and the raked angle of the masts and funnels. It’s immediately recognisable without attempting to cram too much into its tiny footprint. I love the use of inverted vertical clips along the top to create texture and detail.

Alien’s Nostromo recreated in the brick

1978’s Alien is a watershed moment in sci-fi cinema — tapping into the enthusiasm for all things sci-fi following the success of Star Wars, but using its interstellar setting to spin a very different, very adult, and very scary tale. LEGO builder Bousker perfectly recreates the film’s opening sequence with this depiction of the eerily quiet interior compartments of the starship Nostromo. Ron Cobb‘s original production design for the ship’s interiors have become as iconic as Giger’s famous design for the film’s beastie. The Nostromo has an industrial functionality and a cold but lived-in look, coupled with a whiff of the 70s with those curves and stark white walls. Bousker has captured the feel of both design and sequence perfectly — I particularly love the curved couches, the ladder between decks, and the scattered equipment awaiting the rousing of the crew from their cryosleep. Classy touch to add the cinematic black strips to the image too.

LEGO Spaceship Alien Ron Cobb

Blown away by this windswept floating castle

Floating rocks have become a staple of fantasy world-building, but this floating castle, designed in LEGO by Matthias Bartsch is a standout example. The castle itself, perched upon it’s levitating rock, is nicely detailed, and successfully pulls off the twin magic tricks of looking larger than it really is, and using grey, sand green, and dark tan parts without looking like a poor man’s Hogwarts. However, what really sets this LEGO creation above and apart from similar creations is the framing architecture to either side and the decision to include autumnal trees and scattered leaves. The resulting image goes beyond the typical fantasy model, conjuring up a feeling of windswept melancholy. The scene is a digital render, but Matthias says he’s only used bricks which are available in these colour combinations — great work.

LEGO Microscale Floating Castle

Standing out against the dark depths of space

LEGO Spaceship builder Pierre Fieschi doesn’t put together models as often as he used to, but when he does, you can be sure it’ll be something worth taking a look at. This 105-stud long starship is for “deepspace rescue and crisis response” and appears to be ready for anything, bedecked as it is with grabber arms, sensors, and drop-ships. The colour choices in this model are excellent, the accent colours really popping against the greebly detailing. I love the striping on the yellow and black carapace section — that in conjunction with the bold teal gives this a strong Chris Foss vibe, and evoking the grand-daddy of starship designers is surely a good thing in anyone’s book.

LEGO deepspace rescue craft

Taking a dreamflight

Simplicity is often bold and striking, but in this LEGO aviation scene from Nikita Sukhodolov it also creates a dream-like feel. The little plane and the clouds are relatively simple designs, but the choice to go all-white and contrast against the bright blue backdrop makes for a strong composition. I love the way the monochrome models pull you out of the ordinary and up into that big blue sky. This is a great example of when less can most definitely be more.

LEGO dreamflight

This sun-dappled battle is pretty brutal

Sun Tzu said, “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.” However, if you absolutely have to engage in combat, then why not take a leaf out of LEGO builder Simulterious‘ book and deploy a band of fearsome samurai armed with a cartload of rockets? This is a great little battle scene — soldiers scrapping over control of a pagoda-styled tower whilst gunpowder-driven projectiles fly all over the place. The walls of the building are nicely textured, creating a weathered effect and a sense of age, and the surrounding landscaping is well done with the rockwork suggesting a craggy hilltop in a wider forest. But it’s the photography and lighting which elevates this model into something special. I don’t know if this battle is taking place at sunrise or sunset, but the low hazy sun makes for a very pretty skirmish indeed.

LEGO Samurai castle battle

The loneliness of the long-distance rover

Simple, striking, and evocative — Jan Woznica‘s tiny LEGO space scene is a genuine thing of beauty. I love everything about this, from the “studs as tracks” left in the cute rollerskate rover’s wake, to the twin crescent moons hanging above. But my favourite part has to be the wonderful retro colourways in that stylised sunset — it’s like something from a poster for a 70s sci-fi movie.

LEGO Rover

Two-tone spaceship is one nice model

If you only take a look at one big grey LEGO spaceship today then it should be this one — put together by F@bz. Big grey spaceships are often… (how can I put this politely?) …maybe a little dull? But this one is a cracker, primarily down to those large patterned areas on the spaceship’s front section. They’re built using 1×4 shooter parts, whose split colours and diagonal details make for some interesting shapes amidst the “alien language meets corrupted bitmap” feel of the futuristic decoration.

Large LEGO spaceship

Whilst the camo-style patterns up front might capture the initial attention, there’s further good use of shooter parts around the craft’s bridge area. It’s Technic shooters this time, providing a nice bit of texture along the ship’s sides to complement all that lovely greebling up top…

LEGO spaceship greebles

Three (thousand) bricks in the fountain, each one seeking happiness

The Trevi Fountain in Rome is one of the Eternal City’s most famous landmarks—a stunning piece of architectural theatre, usually swamped by hordes of tourists tossing coins into the water as they follow the advice of the Sinatra song. Luca Petraglia‘s excellent LEGO creation depicts the fountain without its attendant crowds, meaning everyone can get a decent view of the beauty on display. A 1.5m wide brick-built version of the Palazzo Poli offers a dramatic architectural backdrop to the fountain itself, its triumphal arch framing the central statue of Oceanus. I love the simplicity of the colour choices in this model, ensuring the trans-blue waters of the fountain really pop against the stark backdrop. Luca says the statues themselves were designed by fellow builder Eero Okkonen—it’s nice to see his character builds given such an impressive setting.

LEGO Trevi Fountain