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Lego Ideas Modular Castle Designer Interview

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I get sent a lot of Lego Ideas project submissions, and I’m always happy to promote the best ones. But it’s very rare that one comes along that makes me think, “why don’t Lego make that already?” But Michael Kalkwarf’s modular castle system is exactly that. Rather than being just a single model, it’s an entire castle building system, with walls, turrets, gates, balconies, ramparts and more – all of which can be re-arranged to create your dream castle.

 

Kids who start building with Lego do two things early on – they build towers and then they build walls. That’s what makes Castle such an obvious theme, it’s a natural extension of a child’s basic building skills. Sadly it’s been a while since Lego have done anything with it, with the closest thing being Nexo Knights. But Castle was great because of the simplicity, the clean lines and muted colours. This modular system would be the right way for Lego to bring the theme back, with a huge opportunity for a whole range of sets built on this method. If you agree, vote for it.

I took the opportunity to ask it’s creator some questions about his history with Lego, and where the idea for this set came from.

Where are you from?
I live in Seattle Washington with my wife and 2 boys 10 and 12.

How long have you been building Lego?
I have only been building with Lego since my boys got me interested in building along side them. That must have been 6-7 years ago.

Where do you get your inspiration for what to build?
My children have been my inspiration. When building with them, they would ask me to build them something, like a spaceship. I could never finish what I was building before they went to bed and would end up staying up late to finish it for them. My son had an X-Wing fighter where two of the major sections were connected by a pair of Technic pins. That gave me the idea of making modular spaceships. That way I could build a tail section or cockpit in one sitting with my kids and in the end have something new they could play with. Every new spaceship piece further extended what their ship could be and before long we had a fleet of ships made of interchangeable parts.

Then after visiting BrckCon in Seattle where we saw some awesome castles, they asked me to build them a castle. I knew I could never build them anything close to what they had seen in any reasonable amount of time. So I started looking around for a modular castle system or standard and was unable to find anything that could do what I wanted. For Lego, I found that “modular” sets were really just ways to take something apart in large chunks for transporting, not for rearranging them in any combination. I wanted a way to build them a new module at a time to give them something new each week like I had done with the spaceships. I started experimenting and came up with this system. It is constantly evolving and improving as I figure out new types of modules to create. Each new module significantly multiplies the number of possibilities of what you can build.

What is your actual job and does this relate?
I am a technology Manager at Expedia. In technology you want your software to be generic and reusable so that you can take advantage of that piece of code numerous times rather than writing something new each time. This way of thinking led me to the “modular” way of building with Lego.

Do you build official sets as well or just do MOCs?
I don’t collect sets and rarely buy one for the purpose of building it. For a while, I did buy sets for the pieces I wanted that I could not steal from my kids. Then I discovered BrickLink where you can get any piece ever made.

I don’t build beautiful frail modes that would fall apart at the first touch of a 10 year old boy. Everything I build is for kids to play with. I give all of my MOC’s to my kids and eventually they become parts for their next creation. As they are getting older they tend to keep the better ones together longer and longer.

Is this your first submission to Lego Ideas?
I submitted the same concept without knowing how to take decent pictures or how to communicate what the set could do. I thought I could edit my post as I improved things. I did not realise that once you submit an Idea, you cannot change it. It did not get much attention. When it was close to expiring I took the time to submit it again learning from the mistakes I made the first time. It is still difficult to convey all the different things you can do with this system. I am trying to post a new Castle of the Week to try and highlight and explain a new or unique capability of the system.

How big is your piece collection and how do you extend it?
I have no idea how many Lego pieces I have. When I need more I harvest them from bins of torn up sets and MOC’s in my kid’s room or buy on BrickLink.

What’s your advice for somebody who only ever follows the instructions?
If you want to build your own creations and are not sure where to begin, making modifications to existing sets is a great place to start. You could add guns to the wings or add controls in the cockpit. If you continue to make bigger and bigger modifications as you gain confidence you will end up rebuilding more and move of it until you have completely redone it.

Having your pieces sorted is crucial. If you have an idea and have to spend 15 minute digging for the piece you want, by the time you find it you forget what it was for in the first place. That can be very frustrating.

Why do you love Lego?
Lego is so cool because you can build what you can imagine. I always envied artists who could draw what they could imagine. I could never get my hands to draw the lines the way I imagined them. With Lego I don’t have to draw, I can just assemble the pieces to make the thing that I imagine. It is the one way that I can create.

To learn more about the modular castle system, you can see Michael’s Flickr account, Youtube channel, and of course, make sure you vote for it on Lego Ideas.

Lego Ideas Apollo Saturn V Revealed

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Lego Saturn V

1 meter high. ONE METER! That’s the heady heights that the Lego Ideas Apollo Saturn V is going to reach when it’s released on June 1st. With a history referencing 1969 pieces, and a UK price of £109.99 and a USA price of $119.99, this is the largest Lego Ideas set so far and I want it, want it, want it!

I’m a sucker for all things NASA, so it’s great to see that they’ve actually done the gigantic size of the real Saturn V justice with a significantly sized set. I was concerned that what we’d actually get was a tiny little desk model, but I’m pleased to see how wrong I was.

Now if they’d just do a super detailed Shuttle again, that’d be great.

The set is officially described as…

Make history with the LEGO® NASA Apollo Saturn V, the first rocket to put people on the Moon! Build the 3 stages of this stunning meter-high rocket and display it on the stand or launch into orbit. Offload the S-IC and S-II sections, dock the lunar lander with the command service module, and complete a successful Moon landing mission!

The set also includes 3 stands to display the model horizontally, 3 new-for-June-2017 astronaut microfigures for role-play recreations of the Moon landings, plus a booklet about the manned Apollo missions and the fan designers of this educational and inspirational LEGO Ideas set.

Lego Saturn V Tall

Lego Saturn V Long

Lego Saturn V Open

Lego Creator Expert Carousel Announced

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10257 Carousel Main

Announced today! It’s set 10257 – Lego Creator Carousel. This little beauty is available June 1st, and weighs in at 2,670 pieces. It will be available as a Lego store exclusive for a very respectable £159.99 in the UK and $199.99 in the USA. This will act as a great companion to the existing Ferris Wheel and is a nice replacement for the now retired, super expensive Carousel from 2009.

This does look like a fantastic looking set, and with the ability to upgrade it for motorised function as well, you’ll be well on your way to creating your own full theme park (with the Disney Castle in the middle of course).

Here are the bullet points from the Lego press release…

  • Includes 7 minifigures: a ride operator, mom, dad, boy, girl, grandmother and a granddaughter.
  • The Carousel features a large textile canopy, ornate, reflective rounding boards with blue and gold detailing, reflective center panels, two-level deck comprising a raised boarding platform with handrail and a main platform with five buildable animal rides, including a white swan and four moving animals: an elephant, tiger, flamingo and a frog.
  • Also features a sturdy, buildable base for easy transportation.
  • Buy your ticket at the booth, take the stairs to the boarding platform and choose your favorite animal ride.
  • Turn the crank and see the elephant, tiger, flamingo and frog move up and down as the carousel rotates.
  • Enjoy an ice cream, candy or a delicious hot dog as you watch the whirling carousel.
    Accessory elements include a camera, ice cream, candy and a hot dog in a bun.
  • New decorated elements include printed tickets and printed storybook tiles.
  • Includes lots of molded golden elements, reflective golden labels and medium-blue/dark-blue elements.
  • Motorize the Carousel with the LEGO® Power Functions 8883 medium motor and 88000 AAA battery box (not included).
  • Collect and build an entire fairground with the LEGO Creator Expert 10247 Ferris Wheel.
    Measures over 12” (32cm) high, 14” (38cm) wide and 13” (35cm) deep.

As is always the case with Lego reveals these days, there’s a designer video showing the whole thing off…

Happy Lego Friday Everyone

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Happy Lego Friday everyone! Hope you have a whale of a time this weekend.

Special bonus points if you recognise the set I’m building in the background (clue: it’s not related to the whale). Post in the comments if you know it.

Lego Technic Bucket Wheel Excavator UK Discount

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We reviewed the giant Lego Technic Bucket Wheel Excavator last year, and thought it was a fantastic build – but we just couldn’t get it working as smoothly as we would have liked.

Perhaps you can build it better than we did, and you can find out with 31% off at Amazon UK. That takes £58 off, and reduces it to £131. A great price.

My First Lego Minecraft Set

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I’ve never really built any Lego Minecraft sets before, but I’d thought I’d give it a go. This is set #21114, The Farm. It’s actually quite a nice build, and although simple, creates a nice little play scene.

The good thing about the Minecraft Lego sets is that they’re all basic bricks, so very easy for small hands to put together. And they’re also very modular, allowing you to fit them together to create larger scenes.

The bad thing is that they’re very expensive. I don’t know if Microsoft are just charging them high license fees, but considering the basic bricks involved, the per piece cost seems higher than it should be.

I Built Four More BrickHeadz

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I put together 4 more of the BrickHeadz – Batman, The Joker, Iron Man and Captain America. So cute, so collectible.

Each of them has a pink block in the middle of the head to represent their brain!!!

The construction is simple enough that the creative among you probably wouldn’t have problem inventing your own. If you do, send them over so we can all see them.

And if you’re looking for the best bang for the buck – The Joker had more pieces and was a more complex build than any of them. That hair is complicated.

5 down, 5 to go. £9.99 each. Lego Store exclusive. You know you want them.

Super Cool Lego BrickHeadz Robin

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Hey, check out this super cool Robin from the new Lego BrickHeadz range!

Each of these is £9.99/$9.99/€9.99 and there’s currently ten of them to choose from – 4 from Batman, 4 from Marvel and 2 from Beauty and the Beast.

Took about 10 minutes to throw this together, very straightforward. It looks fantastic, and a great addition to your Lego room.

You do have one of those don’t you? It’s not just me? 😉

New Lego Ideas Winner announced – Women of NASA

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New Lego Ideas Winner announced! Women Of NASA.

Totally surprised by the choice, but great to see. So different from the stuff they’ve picked before. And very relevant if you’ve seen the movie Hidden Figures (now in cinemas) which is about the unsung female heroes of the mission to send John Glenn into space and ultimately, to put man on the moon.

Paper Airplane Making Lego Machine

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Want to see the most AMAZING Lego machine? Want your own creations to feel inadequate?

This Technic build can not only fold a piece of paper into an aeroplane – it can launch it too!!!