Looking at these LEGO steampunk models, you can almost hear the hiss of steam, the clank of gears, and the whirr of clockwork. The steampunk aesthetic isn’t all wood and brass, so be sure to check out all the colorful models alongside classic steampunk creations from around the world.
We recently had the opportunity to talk with Paul Hetherington and take a tour inside his head to see how he invents such fantastic creations. Our readers will recognize him as the builder of our Creation of the Year 2016, Gotham Theater Showdown, but his creations span a much greater range in subject and technique than many people may realize. Let’s get to know Paul, shall we?
TBB: Can you give us a little background on how you got into the LEGO hobby and what inspires you to build?
Paul: I’ve been into the LEGO hobby since before you could reasonably use the word “classic” to describe old space and castle sets. I bought my first set as an adult in 1991, which was the Space M-Tron Pulsar Charger. Little did I know back then that I had just taken the first step on an epic journey — one that would introduce me to so many amazing people, and have my LEGO creations be recognized around the world. Because back in 1991, as far as I knew, I was the only crazy adult who bought LEGO sets.
There are so many things that inspire me to build. My first creations were just built for my own enjoyment, as there was no way to share them. Then when the internet came along, all of a sudden a local LEGO club formed which I joined. From that point I had a reason to build. The first years of creating were mainly spent recreating local buildings, trains and hot rods for train shows and museums. I found I really enjoyed doing research to ensure that my creations were historically accurate and to scale. I soon became inspired to add some fantasy elements into my creations. I discovered Art Deco, Art Nouveau, and the works of Antoni Gaudi. Theme parks, Mardi Gras floats, and parades were also a great source of inspiration.
More recently, I had the pleasure to work with the artist Douglas Coupland on an installation and came to the realization that Lego has a place in the Art world. I find the Surrealists, especially Dali, and Pop Art, and Comic book art to be particularly inspiring. In recent years my creations have had more of an artistic twist and I see myself going more in that direction. Architecture will always be at the heart of what I do and is usually the catalyst for my creations.
Charis Stella depicts the moment when two proud LEGO inventors introduce their latest steampunk automaton to a pair of potential inventors. The figure posing here is well done, with nice use of custom arms allowing one of the inventors to adopt an appropriate “Goodness Gracious” stance. But it’s the clanky contraption doffing his hat to the visitors which captures the eye — a lovely touch which adds a bunch of character.
This stunning steampunk sculpture was first revealed at BrickCon in 2015, where it won a well-deserved Best In Show award. Although we covered this creation in our BrickCon roundup post at the time, the builder Paul Hetherington has only just posted his own images — a perfect excuse for us to feature this beautiful LEGO model in more detail.
Grantmasters has recreated Greg Broadmore’s Saboteur 66 in LEGO form and it’s beautiful. The builder uses a variety of subtle techniques to maintain the elegance and sleek design of the original. I want one of these sitting on a shelf in my LEGO room!
This weekend sees The Great Western Brick Show take place in the UK at the STEAM Railway Museum in Swindon. Some of the displays this year will mark the fact that it’s 175 years since Isembard Kingdom Brunel opened his maintenance facility, whose surviving buildings house the museum. Jimmy Clinch has chosen to celebrate the occasion with a brilliant mosaic of the big man himself…
Brunel is something of a hero of mine: the most audacious engineer of the 19th century — a designer of tunnels, bridges, railway lines and enormous steamships. He’s a pinup-boy for any self-respecting steampunk fan and I would love to hang this mosaic on my wall.
I had a crack at building my own tribute to him a few years ago, recreating the famous image taken in front of the SS Great Eastern…
If you get the chance to make it to the show this weekend, show your respect with a doff of the top hat to Jimmy’s mosaic. I’m sure Isembard would appreciate it.
Vince Toulouse brings us this excellent automaton — ready to roll out on its single wheel and come to the rescue of any malfunctioning contraption.
The retro-futurism of the design here is just awesome — slick and smooth, yet unmistakably “old-timey” in its sci-fi. The color scheme is spot-on and the greebles strike that balance of believability and character essential in good steam- or dieselpunk building. The red-tinted goggles are a masterstroke, lending a wonderful dash of personality. Lastly, this is one of those models which looks as good from the rear as it does from the front. Great stuff.
Great Ball Contraptions are a mainstay of LEGO conventions, consisting of short sections of machinery which transport LEGO soccer balls from one side to another. Each builder’s machine can be connected to the next, to transport a dizzying number of balls around a display. Many builders focus on the all-important task of getting the fundamental mechanics working smoothly, but we’re seeing more and more builders take some time for the aesthetics as well. One such example is this enthralling contraption bychumuhou (楚沐猴), which has a fantastic steam-age industrial vibe. Check out the video to see it in action, too!
Bricks magazine issue 16 is now available, and this month the main theme is LEGO Castles, with some added Steampunk for flavour, and a little VW Beetle action for variety.
The 124-page magazine has a range of exclusive articles and fan built creations, including a delve inside the magical walls of LEGO’s new 71040 The Disney Castle, and a dangerous encounter for the LEGO Elves as they try to save the baby Princess dragon egg in 41180 Ragana’s Magic Shadow Castle. The magazine explores Michael Kalkwarf’s modular castle system, while James Pegrum illustrates how to build circular towers in his builder’s masterclass. Whilst not medieval but definitely within the realm of fantasy, Rod Gillies explains the Victorian-inspired alternate universe of Steampunk with steampunk-style Ultra Agents MOCs and a look at LEGO’s own take on this genre.
Bricks is available in both digital and print format at a cost of £4.99 or US$6.60 (approx. due to variable exchange rates). Shipping and packaging costs for the print version are £1.50 for the UK, £4.25 for the rest of the world.
Gabe Umland brings us this nifty vibrant LEGO floating rock, topped with a warehouse for steampunkery. Never underestimate a mundane subject for your models — nearly anything can look magical when built with skill, even an industrial warehouse in the middle of the sky. Don’t miss Gabe’s great technique for paneled siding using stacked and twisted 1×1 bricks, and be sure to scrutinize the hodgepodge of goods for sale; scenes such as this are a way to find uses for that pile of unusual pieces you have.
This steampunk aircraft from Andreas Lenander has a smart white and gold aesthetic — a pleasant change from the genre’s usual hackneyed brown and grey color schemes. Beyond the colors, the smooth curves of the air intake on the nose work nicely, and those gold props look great. Couple a good model with an interesting low-angle POV and some decent photo-editing and you’ve got a steampunk LEGO flying machine which I wouldn’t mind taking out for a spin.
Alexis Dos Santos has you and your cargo covered with his steampunk skyboat to ferry it all across the skies. This multi-layered blimp is the first of its kind that I’ve seen that’s also excellently crafted and presented. The sand-green cabin is a nice touch to break the earth-toned colors.
A fantastic selection of primarily Technic elements come together in a LEGO double-barreled steampunk handgun built by nobu_tary. All kinds of interesting details are found throughout, such as the split paneling revealing the barrels, compass piece as some sort of gauge, and a thin wire trigger guard.