Adult male fans of LEGO were probably not the target audience for the erstwhile Elves theme, but I loved it. A major part of that was the plethora of recolors of existing pieces, finally released in bright purples, pinks, and blues, as well as the hairpieces, which are great for fantasy-inspired builds. But often overlooked in my own collection are the cute little animals. Fortunately I have a three-year-old daughter, who does everything except overlook the cute little animals, so they are strewn about and squirreled away throughout my LEGO room. And when it came time to build a series of mechs for Mechtober (I know, eyeroll, another sci-fi-themed LEGO month), I could not help but be drawn to incorporating the little baby dragons in some heavy-duty mechanical suits.
I had a lot of fun building this “Heavy Lifter” suit, using as many greebles as possible while still maintaining a coherent look. I wanted thick arms and sturdy legs to convey the sense that this thing could so some serious lifting, like peak Arnold in the gym. I feel like I succeeded, and the whole thing is remarkably sturdy, especially for being largely bar-in-hole and clip-on-bar connections. It might not be the best mech out there, but it is the best mech I have ever made, and that cute, colorful little dragon juxtaposed with the drab grey industrial atmosphere is fun. But maybe you disagree, and think cute animals piloting heavy machinery is the scariest thing this side of stepping on LEGO bricks in the middle of the night…
One thing that always bothers me about movies about giant metal things, be they spaceships in Star Wars or Jaegers in Pacific Rim, is how they get all that material in one place and assembled. I mean, where did Palpatine get the materials to build that giant fleet? That’s some serious mining operations! Jaegers aren’t as large as Star Destroyers, but the question remains; what factories are churning out those parts? Are they all built in one place, or are different components assembled in different factories and then shipped across the country for full assembly? To answer the question, I built a LEGO scene depicting a giant arm on a giant trailer, ready to be shipped to a shatterdome to be joined with the rest of the Jaeger body.
It was my first foray into building this sort of thing, as I typically consider myself more of a castle builder, but I was reasonably pleased with the arm itself (other builders are designing the rest of the mech, and we’ll assemble the whole thing digitally once it’s finished). It looks the part of a large robot arm, at very least. Harder was making a scene to give it scale, especially since I wanted to include a flying helicopter (and my bricks don’t fly on their own, sadly). I added an arch from a previous build, made up the truck and trailer, and included a previously built helicopter, after making some modifications to it to improve the proportions. But how to get it all in one shot? Maybe other builders are better at photo editing than I am, but it takes a long time for me to splice different photographs into one coherent picture. Four different camera shots went into the final image, in fact, making it kind of like the Jaeger, comprised of many different parts assembled at the end.
I love immersive builds, where everywhere you look there is LEGO, except the sky (I don’t like brick-built skies, due to the brick pattern). It’s like I’m one of the minifigures, standing in the scene, seeing the sights. It is my preferred building style, at least when buildings and rooms are involved, and one that I (Benjamin Stenlund) used in my latest creation. Set in the Guilds of Historica’s fifth guild, Varlyrio, in the Venice-like capital of Illaryian, it depicts a slice of daily life, with gondoliers poling, shopkeepers selling, families visiting, soldiers guarding, sailors lounging, and rogues prowling.
I tried to vary up the action of the figs to make it lively without being cluttered, and to vary the patterns of the houses to make it homogeneous without being monotonous. All of the buildings have the same roof style, with tiles pressed down on just one end, but three colors are used (you can barely see the lone dark grey roof on the right) to mix it up. Varying the patterns and heights of the buildings helps to make it visually interesting, but basic patterns get repeated. It’s like a block of modular buildings, if LEGO made modular buildings that were just rickety facades with no interiors. I don’t build interiors, unless it’s going to be visible in the shot, since it won’t be seen. That’s just wasted effort for my purposes. Another secret is that the water ends just around the corner under the bridge, where it stops being visible. It’s all about the camera shot, for me. And yet, it looks so nice, I’d like to visit the place myself. If only I were about 1.5 inches tall…
Contests bring out a different side in builders. I cut my teeth in the LEGO world making fantasy-based castles and the like over in the Guilds of Historica on Eurobricks, but for contests I have been building out of my comfort zone. First there was some Star Wars builds last May, then more recently a Neo-Classic spaceship, a pirate ship, a butterfly, and a bird. They’re quite different from what I got used to building, and they required different approaches. Most recently, I (Benjamin Stenlund) built an American Mustang, and no, I’m not talking about the muscle car, but about the horse that roams some parts of the Western USA. Though maybe I’ll build some cars soon, too, just for kicks.
Building him (and he is a male, if you look closely, a stud stallion) required patience in shaping like grey castle walls don’t. A plate or two of difference in the legs, the angle of the head, the girth of the chest, all these things required fine tuning and frequent adjustments. I built the head first, because if you start with the body, scaling the head to it becomes a nightmare (or is it a night stallion?), but even so I had to redesign the body multiple times. And pulling apart reddish brown pieces is a harrowing experience, never knowing when one could snap. And then supporting the weight of the whole horse with the tail required some Technic structure; I admit I fudged it a bit, and things did not quite line up, but it’s a custom creation and not an official set, so who cares? It was built for the studless category of the Style it Up contest (hence I made a stud) but I threw in some gratuitous minifigure-leg cacti to enter it into the Iron Forge, too. Now hopefully I can go back to building castles for a while…
In the northern United States, at least, one of the first signs of spring is when the robins return. It is a day much beloved, a turning point when the cold and snow is gone and flowers are about to bloom. Of course, in many places the robins never actually leave, and snow never really comes, so it is less exciting, but I know as a kid growing up in Minnesota I loved to see that first robin. So, since it is spring where I live, and needing an idea for a contest entry, I (Benjamin Stenlund) built a robin coming back to the newly-hatched chicks in her nest. I am quite pleased with how it turned out, with the adult bird poised in mid-air with her flight feathers extended, feet ready to grasp the edge of the nest; and I think the nest itself turned out well, too.
The adult robin was fun to make, even if it is awful fiddling with those wings; they stay together just fine unless you jostle them, but moving the model from my building table to my photography station required some rebuilding. A round plate with bar built into her tail fits into a dinosaur neck twig to hold her in the air, just off the nest. The hardest part was the face and trying different solutions for the beak; I wanted to be able to put a worm in her mouth, but it would not look right with the parts I had, so I left it out and just used the spike. Lots of flex tubing went into the nest, but it was worth it for the un-LEGOy, organic shape of it. And when I ran out of flex tube, I used oars and blunderbusses and a variety of spikes and whips. To maximize the spring feeling, I added some flowers; perhaps cherry blossoms, maybe apple, or whatever pink flower you like to see on trees! I know it makes me want to get out of the basement where I build and go take a walk, at least.
Like bird builds? Here’s a sparrow and an owl for your viewing pleasure.
In the northern hemisphere, spring is underway. It might not feel that way for some, as snow is still falling in parts, but it is indeed springtime. And what says springtime better than a butterfly? Maybe flowers, but flowers need pollinators like butterflies, and so the two go hand in hand. Or proboscis in nectar pit, as the case may be. So when the Style it Up contest gave the prompt to build something with LEGO that is perfectly symmetrical across a line, I (Benjamin Stenlund) eventually settled on a Monarch butterfly, one of the most recognizable insects in North America. Ok, I admit, my wife told me to make a butterfly.
The challenge, of course, is trying to replicate the complicated patterns on the wings, with their many angles and colors, all while using a mostly rectangular system of interlocking bricks. I found that the old fingered hinges were better than the newer clip hinges, as they are flat, so I was thankful to have my childhood LEGO laying about. An even greater challenge than the building was photographing it without glare, as the flat surfaces reflected everything. But the end result, in my not-so-humble opinion, is delicately beautiful.
Where I sit, the government has issued a stay at home order, and non-essential in-person businesses are closed. Grocery stores are an exception, of course, as we all still need to eat, and so are liquor stores, as folks still need to drink. I mean really, what else do you do when socially isolated? It puts me in mind of Captain Jack Sparrow, getting through his time marooned on an island alone. He, too, drank away his sorrows. So when I (Benjamin Stenlund) decided to enter the Style it Up contest to pass the time during my days at home, it wasn’t long before I hit on the idea of building a ship. And since I have a lot of black fabric elements, I decided to build a black ship. And if I was going to make a black ship, why not make Captain Jack’s ship, the Black Pearl?
At first, I tried building the sides with slope bricks and tiles, but it looked too chunky at this small scale, so I hit upon the idea of using the quarter dome elements for the prow, and the rest of the ship filled in from there. The 1×1 round plate with bar makes for some nice cannons, even if I did not add enough to equal the real ship; there are concessions one must make at this scale, after all. The sails are cloaks wrapped in rubber bands, and the crows nests are Black Panther ears and ninja cowls. The soft sails, combined with the rigging, make this unique among small-scale LEGO ships that I have seen, but what really sets it apart (if I may toot my own horn a bit) is the atmospheric quality of the photo. Since the contest required that only one color be used, the water is black, too, and the backdrop is also black; in fact, the photo is unedited except for cropping, so this is full-color. Perfect for the ship of a drunken pirate.
I’m something of a failure when it comes to building spaceships. I have tried and failed for the past three SHIPtembers to build a massive spaceship, and even my smaller spaceships generally end up on the scrapheap due to a lack of vision for their execution. Balancing the greebles with the smooth parts is a challenge for me, and integrating the cockpit with the rest never seemed to work out well. But then Dave Kaleta announced an alphabet starfighter contest, and I had to give it a go. Finally, I had a coherent plan for the design, a letter of the alphabet. And what better letter to start with than B? After all, my name, Benjamin Stenlund, starts with B, and so does Benny from The LEGO Movie. And since Benny and I are both from the 1980s, I went with a Neo-Classic Space styling, to remove any further difficulty that might have arisen from complicated color choices. I had to start somewhere, you know?
I was quite pleased with the way the dual cockpits integrated with the overall shape, and indeed having two of those canopies was a major reason I went with this design, as the curves add to the B shape perfectly. I added as many Classic Space elements as I could, like the triple loudspeaker on the back and the computers in the cockpits, gleaned from the older part of my collection; and then I went greebled like crazy in the gaps. My favorite element in the greebles is the old exhaust pipes from my childhood Town sets. I’m not afraid to mix old and new greys together, so both can be seen in the build; I think it adds a sense of weathering appropriate for a spaceship. I’ve already been commissioned by my 4-year-old to build him a few spaceships, so hopefully, I’ll be able to add to the collection of finished craft soon and spread literacy across the galaxy!
When not writing articles about fine LEGO creations or taking care of my young children, I crawl down to my basement man-cave and build things out of LEGO. Yes, I am a bit like the dad in The LEGO Movie; and also yes, my toddlers ignore my prohibitions on touching the bricks. But some things survive the attack of sticky little fingers, and I am pleased to present the readers of The Brothers Brick with my latest.
As my alter-ego, Henjin_Quilones, I built and shared this landspeeder repair shop as part of an annual Star Wars competition on Eurobricks. Run by a Twi’lek named Veenac’ebla, the garage on Nar Shaddaa services many types of speeders, often providing them with upgrades to boost the specs. Three speeders, all loosely inspired by real-world cars, sit in the shop for repairs. The red and the grey speeders hearken to classic muscle cars (and to the M-68 from Solo), while the dark blue was inspired by curvy sports cars.
See more of this shady landspeeder garage
Light is everything in this atmospheric creation by Henjin Quilones. Young Queen Ylspeth has gathered her council to her palace to seek advice. The photograph centres in on the young monarch’s concentrated face, leaving her advisors suggestively out of focus.
Using a glowing orange laptop screen to create a sense of torchlight emanating from the left of the room, and a desk lamp to imitate glaring sunlight to the right, gives the model a genuine sense of place. It also metaphorically frames the difficult choices the Queen must make: the two statues behind her, one holding a sword the other a key, reinforcing the motif.