I am a huge fan of micro scale diorama style models. Today I want to show you some amazing designs by BenBuildsLEGO and do an in-depth review of one of his designs. Furthermore, there is a raffle for free instructions at the end of this article!
On the one hand I really like large scale LEGO models, like the UCS Super Star Destroyer, due to their impressive size and the level of detail. On the other hand I have a strong weakness for well-designed micro scale models. When going to these scales the design of the model is getting more and more challenging. In the past we have already reported about the amazing Game of Thrones micro scales MOCs by Jonas Kramm. Today I want to show you some amazing creations of BenBuildsLEGO.
The designer came to my attention when I was scrolling through my Instagram feed. He has designed an extremely nice MOC of the Empire Strikes Back main showplaces in a small diorama. When I checked his feed even more amazing MOCs could be found. And the best part about his MOCs: he is providing instructions for a fair price as well (you can find them here). I immediately bought some of his instructions and started collecting the bricks for the Empire Strikes Back skyline. My original idea was just sharing the building process and review the final model. But with the possibilities of social media I though why not ask him for an interview? Luckily he was willing to answer all of my questions!
Interview with BenBuildsLEGO
StoneWars: Hello Ben! Thanks for having an Interview with StoneWars. Could you quickly introduce yourself?
BenBuildsLEGO: Hi! My name is Ben. I am 28 years old and I currently live near Chicago, USA. I am a corporate trainer, but I originally planned to be a teacher. I actually did my student teaching practice on an American Air Base in Germany, so I have been fortunate enough to visit the beautiful cities of Munich, Berlin, and Hamburg.
I currently mostly build Lego in the computer using the Bricklink Studio software, and in addition to LEGO, I also enjoy photography as a hobby.
StoneWars: You are mostly doing LEGO Architecture style Microbuilds. Did an official LEGO Architecture set inspire you or did you came up with the idea by yourself? If LEGO inspired you, which set would you name as the one that gave you the idea to do microbuilds on your own?
BenBuildsLEGO: I loved the official LEGO Architecture sets; however, I believe what motivated me to start building seriously again was building the Berlin Reichstag. The Reichstag is my favorite building in all of Europe. I love the unique blend of the neoclassical and modern styles. I bought and used the excellent instructions by Thilo Schön. This build really showed me a lot of cool building techniques, and it began my journey back to building Lego regularly!
StoneWars: I am a huge fan of microbuilds because I like the minimalistic way they are done. What is the main fascination about those microbuilds for you?
BenBuildsLEGO: I am currently attracted to micro style LEGO builds since they force you to be creative and work within the limitations of the LEGO bricks. If you have enough bricks, you can build LEGO to look like anything; however, with microbuilds you need to be especially careful with your choices to achieve a desired result. It’s a fun and frustrating process! I also like the idea that the skyline style of sets I design look great on your desk at work or around your house. It’s an easy way to show your love of Lego to others!
StoneWars: Did you ever consider building large scale models?
BenBuildsLEGO: It’s something I thought about, but I just enjoy microscale too much! If I did a larger model, I would probably do a modular style building. I am always so impressed with the fan-made modular style buildings I see online.
StoneWars: Do you take inspiration on building techniques or general methods from any page or designer or do you mostly build on your own?
BenBuildsLEGO: Whenever I start on a new build, I sometimes look around online to see some techniques / styles that other people have used – but I am careful to not steal any particular design. Overall, I mostly focus on the LEGO bricks themselves for inspiration for achieving the look I want.
While they do not build the skyline style of LEGO that I focus on, I am a big fan of Rocco Buttliere and Jonas Kramm.
StoneWars: You are using BrickLink’s software Studio to create your MOCs. Do you prefer building in the software or in real life? Or do any practical reasons (e. g. not enough bricks) keep you from building in real life?
BenBuildsLEGO: I prefer to design in Studio since I think it’s easier / quicker, and the photo-realistic renders are awesome! I currently do not have a big, organized LEGO storage system, and Studio provides me with every piece I could ever want! It’s also easier to separate bricks with a computer mouse rather than hurting your fingers.
The only time I wish I were designing in real life is when I am working with more complicated angles. In real life, it’s super simple to rotate the bricks as needed, but it can become a headache in the computer!
StoneWars: You have some nice videos on Instagram showing the development of your MOCs over time. How long does it usually take to design one of your MOCs?
BenBuildsLEGO: I mostly work on my builds during my lunch hour at work, and I average around one skyline per week. So I would say it roughly takes me about 6-8 hours to finalize a skyline. I enjoy seeing the improvement and progress with my test renders. You can really see where I made mistakes or where I thought was going to go in a different direction with the design.
Depending on how sloppy I was during my initial build, the instructions can take another 4+ hours. I thoroughly review all my instructions multiple times to make sure I am using the bricks in the most efficient way possible. Oftentimes when I am cleaning up my builds for instructions I will find instances where I originally used two or three bricks, where just one brick would work fine. My instructions are reviewed by my patient little brother so I can make sure I have not made a mistake.
StoneWars: How did you come to LEGO in the first place? I read that the original Landspeeder from 1999 was one of your first sets. Do you still have your childhood LEGO?
BenBuildsLEGO: Yes, my first memory with LEGO is the original Star Wars LEGO sets from 1999, when I was just 8 years old. Sadly, not a lot of my sets survived my childhood intact! There are some survivors thankfully, including Jango Fett’s Slave I – LEGO really needs to release an updated version again as an official set!
StoneWars: What is your favorite official LEGO Set?
BenBuildsLEGO: Anyone who follows my Instagram page knows that I am the biggest fan of „Star Wars: Rogue One.“ I might have been crying of happiness after seeing the movie for the first time…
So naturally, I am a huge fan of the Krennic’s Shuttle set (75156). I actually modified the original set to make the wings longer so it is more accurate to how the ship looks in the movie. My girlfriend still catches me flying that ship around our apartment while I make spaceship noises.
StoneWars: You already covered a lot of movie themes, like Star Wars, Harry Potter, Game of Thrones and some Disney Movies. Do you plan to cover more movie themes in the future or do you stick with your current selection?
BenBuildsLEGO: I am always open to new ideas! I keep a long list of my phone of future ideas. Of course, I will eventually tackle The Lord of the Rings – I have had a lot of people asking me to do those movies. I’d love to hear any ideas your readers may have in the comments section!
StoneWars: Speaking of your next MOC: What are your plans for the next MOC and when will it possibly be released? I hope for more Star Wars themed MOCs.
BenBuildsLEGO: I am constantly building, so we’ll see what comes next! I like to mix up the content a lot so I don’t become stale, but don’t worry I am still working on finishing my series of doing every Star Wars movie as a skyline!
StoneWars: Thanks for your detailed answers Ben! For interested desingners Ben is moderating a sub-reddit page about digital building LEGO in the computer.
Review of the Empire Strikes Back Skyline
Of all Star Wars Movies The Empire Strikes back ranks clearly in my top 3. Thus Ben’s ESB skyline was the first of his designs which I wanted to realize.
Once you have bought the instructions from his page you will be able to download a high quality PDF, which is very similar to official LEGO instructions (like step wise building etc.). In each step the new parts are highlighted with red outlines. This makes building rather easy. I found no mistakes or flaws in the instruction. Only at one point I was struggling. When building the generator a bar is used. Since the length is not stated in the instructions I took a Bar 4L for the generator. Surprisingly the bar was too long and I could not finish the generator. Since the bar in 3L is used as well in the model I swapped the part. The Bar 4L is used for mounting the cloud city.
What I really liked about the instructions are some quotes of the movie during the building process. This immediately put some lovely memories of that movie back to my mind. I definitely need to rewatch the movie very soon.
Acquiring the Bricks
Most of the parts used for the MOC are pretty standard. But there are three special/expensive parts which can be a challenge. The pieces for the clouds (Brick, Modified 2 x 4 x 2 No Studs, Triple Curved Top) has retired since 1997 (in the color white). The part is not very expensive, but there are only very limited number available on BrickLink. The next part is a Tile, Round 1 x 1 Quarter in dark tan. This tile was only released in the Luke and Yoda BrickHeadz Set. If you have the set, you will have a spare one, but you will need a total of 4. Unfortunately LEGO is not selling them on their page. Lastly the transparent light blue micro figure is not particularly hard to get, but rather expensive (3.2 Euro). If you have a Vader’s Castle or one of the latest Star Destroyers you will have one in your collection.
The build is rather easy and we start by building the ground plate of the diorama. On the left hand side the Hoth rebel base is build. I really like the main gate to the base and the way it’s build. On the left of the gate the shield generator is located. Everybody well remembers the shield generator of the UCS Assault on Hoth set had only three discs. In this build the right number was realized. A viper probe droid is searching the area and the ghost Obi-Wan is completing this beautyful first part of the diorama.
After the escape from Hoth Luke is going to the Dagobah system to hone is Jedi skills. The builds includes Yoda’s hut (at the time I took the picture I was still missing some parts), which is really nicely designed on that small scale. In the swamp we can find Luke’s half sunken X-Wing and a small swamp monster. Lots of nice vegetation is built around this scenery. There are no extremely special building techniques involved, but building this scene is very satisfying.
The last part of the diorama is the infamous cloud city. Lots of clouds are built before the city will be put on top of them. Although the cloud city is made of a very small number of parts it very well represents the look of the cloud city in the movie. And I think we can as well agree on the fact, that this build is nicer than the master builder series style cloud city. At the bottom of the cloud city a small cloud car is flying through space. It only consists of three bricks and I still love it. If the Technic part get’s available in orange we could even realize an orange cloud car.
Well, what should I say? I really fell in love with that diorama since the first time I saw it on Instagram. The build is very nice, the instructions are easy to follow and the result is stunning. Sometimes I tach myself just looking at it and recalling all those scene from the movie. Another huge bonus is the size. It’s only XX cm in length and YY cm in depth. It can be easily put anywhere and does not take up enormous amounts of space like any of those UCS models. But of course there are some downsides as well. On the one hand some of bricks are difficult to get and on the other hand the model is not really robust. But in general I can really recommend building this model. My fingers are already itching since I want to start the next diorama right away!
Raffle for Free Insturctions
Since Ben is such a nice guy, he is willing to share any selected instruction of his with a lucky winner. All you have to do is mention the word „raffle“ in the comment section. Do not forget to provide a valid E-Mail address so we can sent out the PDF instructions and the XML wanted list. The raffle will end 16th of August 2019. Perhaps you can mention what is your favorite MOC from Ben as well?
Large scale, minifigure scale or microscale? What is your prefered size for LEGO models? How do you like Ben’s builds and is building MOCs with bricks from BrickLink an option for you?