Tales From the Legoratory: Vegas Edition

If you watched episode 28 of Bricks & Beer you saw a limited view of my Legoratory, but the camera was fixed and we were too busy discussing the subtle nuances of string-theory and molecular gastronomy to give you a proper tour of my building space.  Although the size of my Legoratory has changed over the years, this is the same basic setup I’ve had for the last decade.  Sure I’ve added a good deal more LEGO product in that time period but the tables and layout have stayed the pretty much the same.  The main table is 4 feet by 8 feet by 3 feet tall and I’ve successfully covered it in LEGO 5 times since 2007: The Omicron Weekend, Logan’s Run, Zero Hour, Spirits Rise and most recently, Bucharest.  The space is certainly a far cry from my first Legoratory which was the tiny living room of a 1 bedroom apartment, where I built on a coffee table and the few organizers I had were crammed under furniture and in the back of our single closet.  While the table may not look all that appealing, it breaks down very quickly and space-efficiently, making it ideal for transporting large-scale dioramas.  When Bucharest was finished I recruited three neighbors to help and we simply picked up the big sheet of plywood and carried it like a coffin to a waiting cargo van.  The table has the added value of having ample room for storage underneath.

In case you’re wondering, the black and white map on the wall is an aerial photo of Vegas taken in the early seventies.  It came from an old real-estate office, you can see different colored film overlays for different zones.


My current Legoratory is one part of a large room at the front of my home, which also contains a living and dining area.  I have never had a work space that was this open to the rest of the house and initially I resisted the idea but the only other option I had would have resulted in a smaller build table, an that just won’t do.  My previous and most beloved Legoratory was situated in an upstairs corner, very private and the closest thing I’ve ever had to a man-cave.  I thought I would miss that privacy and being so exposed to the most-used section of the house, I thought I’d lose build time to various distractions.  Quite the opposite has happened, I actually get more build time now because I don’t have to make special preparations to sequester myself in the back.  Now I can easily squeeze in a half hour session here and there, which over the course of weeks and months adds up to quite a bit of extra time. The kids like it because they can still interact with me while doing something else and I can communicate with my wife without yelling or those annoying in-house text messages.

The room also has an abundance of natural light that makes it a good deal easier to photograph large models, I just have to shoot during a specific time-window to avoid harsh shadows.  In the old days I had a bunch of lamps and extension cords running everywhere during photography so this is a big improvement.

The are a couple of negatives to my current situation but they definitely qualify as first world problems.  One issue is that I’m up against the limits of my storage capability.  The smaller tables in photos above, as well as the big table up top are maxed-out with full bins and I cannot easily accommodate any further expansion of my collection.  I’m so short on real-estate that I have to put some of the organizers on the main build table and I’ve got a box of BURPS in the attic. Because my Legoratory is one of the first rooms you encounter upon entering the house, I can’t just stack shit to the ceiling like I would if I was a swingin’ bachelor.  Marriage means compromise and I have to make allowance to my wife’s decorating sense.  I also have kids who like to climb things they shouldn’t, so there are vertical limits to consider as well.  Speaking of kids, the table and chair in the corner is a designated reservation for my wee ones.  The small Ikea table is only clean for this shot because I finally made them take down a crumbling stable/castle/dance party that was turning into an unused post apocalyptic nightmare. It was spreading onto the floor and more importantly onto my build surfaces and that can’t happen.  Back to the point, I can’t add much more new product without first subtracting something into long-term storage or selling it off.  The days of easy growth are over, this is never a problem I had to consider before…how much is too much?

Another downside to my current setup is that any visitor to the house cannot help but to notice and comment on the room and it’s contents.  While I’m certainly a base creature who craves attention for my LEGO hobby online, it’s not quite the same when it comes to real life. Most people react positively but not everyone and sometime I just don’t feel like defending my chosen hobby to the plumber.  The guy in question asked me if it was an “A.A. thing?” and when I responded that it was not, he shrugged dismissively and went about his work without a further word on the topic.  Even when the observers are well-meaning and friendly it can be tedious, it becomes like a convention in microcosm: where did you get all the LEGO? how many parts to you have? and my favorite “what is this?”.  There is something to be said for doors.  I’m not one to typically preach the gospel of the hobby either: if you’re into it, we can talk, but I’m not looking for converts.

My table has finally seen the last of Bucharest and after 8 months I’m not too sorry to see it go.  The project was fun and super-successful on many levels but 8 months of any single model is enough.  Now that the sorting is over and the rigs are about to be shipped back to the contributors only one question remains, the eternal question: what’s next?

I should probably comment on my wall decorations, since this article is about out of gas.  I won’t bore you with my sorting philosophy, it’s mostly separated by part first and then color.  I break the rules of my own sorting conventions so often that it’s almost useless to summarize because of it’s specificity.  In addition to the map of Vegas I talked about at the beginning of this article, the pride of my Legoratory is an original Escape From New York poster, a gift from my wonderful wife many moons ago.  You can also see the painting Mike Yoder did of my old SHIP the GHOUL (among others), it makes me smile every time I look at it.  Cheers Yoder!  I’ve also got an autographed photo of John Carpenter on the set of Ghosts of Mars and a painting by a local artist whose name always escapes me.  The Lego builds include Tyler Clite’s Appa design I used in my Avatar diorama and one of Dan Rubin’s Iron Mountain mecha.  I have been fortunate enough to collect my share of AFOL built models from around the globe, but I don’t have room to display them all so rotation is required.  You can also see the Aku sculpture I created with my older kid and the Scooby Doo mansion set that my younger kid won’t let me take apart.  The smaller picture frames contain programs from most of the conventions I’ve attended over the years and old BrickJournal / Wired magazine covers.  One of these days I’ll add Spock to the wall and the room will be complete, if such a thing is possible.

I hope you enjoyed the 10 cent tour, constant reader and if you’d like to see your own Legoratory appear on the Manifesto, simply write an article and contact me through the blog, Facebook or Flickr.


29 thoughts on “Tales From the Legoratory: Vegas Edition

    1. I probably should have played along with him, but I didn’t want to get trapped into a discussion of “the process”, I wanted my plumbing problem fixed. Yeah, that was a new one for me, it took me a second to figure out what he was on about.


  1. Lovely tour Keith. I love how most building spaces are a projection of the builder and their style. Your large tables boast the massive builds and collaboration capabilities that are you be expected from you. I love the wall decorations, perfect.


  2. AA? Pffffft. We can quit anytime. Cheers!

    Kyle said it best, “building spaces are a projection of the builder and their style.” This one’s no exception. I know we’ve talked in the past about having many irons in the fire at once if just for sanity’s sake, but I know that your LEGOratory shows an abysmal lack of chaos. Proof of your clean designs and immersive builds. I also know that the most important element to any LEGOratory has got to be an understanding wifey/hubby. Just putting up with our madness isn’t enough when you factor in the absurd amount of real estate these tiny bits o’ plastic consume.

    I love how you address storage, albeit briefly, and how it evolves and gets modified to a point where it doesn’t follow your own rules. In some cases I’ve seen, it actually consumes more money and build time than the LEGO itself. Reminds me of when I was looking for work in a pair of foundries; one was a disaster in an old church with crap everywhere and no rhyme or reason to the set up, the other was in a brand new building and was brilliantly designed for flow and was spotless. I’ve been working at the church for around ten years now and sweep up the place every four months or so IF it’s slow (I can probably melt all the bronze dust I gather back into a full ingot.)

    I guess there are several schools of thought to clean or messy. I think I’m right in the middle myself. I prefer it clean but it’s always messy. Organized, yet chaotic. In that respect, Kyle’s quote is rather spot on for me.

    Additionally, I love the decorations around that are not LEGO. Really adds to aid that we are not entirely insane. I have old lunchboxes, my Powell & Peralta skateboard, an antique cleaver, and a Ford chainsaw on the wall. Okay, maybe that doesn’t help at all clarifying my own sanity, but I think you understand.


    1. You should abso-fucking-lutely type up a treatment for your Legoratory, it sounds a hell of a lot more interesting than mine and far less generic. Just the stuff hanging on your walls would be cool to see. If I can’t persuade you, I still hope and plan to see it in person this fall. I must encounter the house of rountRee in person and see if I can live to tell the tale. I figure I’ll be trapped in by giant brass doors and I’ll have to build my way to freedom with your expansive collection.

      As for an “abysmal lack of chaos” in my Legoratory, don’t forget these photos are heavily staged. Usually the area is festooned with children’s toys books and half-built ideas. I won’t deny I’m a neat freak though, the entire hobby plays right into my streak of OCD.

      So breathing in bronze dust for years is the reason you’re so weird and the most likely LEGO nerd I know to turn to cannibalism for the fun of it? I thought it was au-nautral. I love it when you talk about ingots, it makes me feel all tingly.

      I’m not saying my super-clean Legoratory is best, I just don’t have much choice in the matter. When it gets too cluttered I get irritated and it starts to inhibit my building. Some of the best builders I know have chaotic building spaces so I don’t think it matters all that much in the big picture.


    1. I’ve seen a dozen or so Legoratories and I think all of them were considerably larger and more impressive than mine. I think we all start out small with less than ideal building circumstances and obviously great things can come from less than great workshops. Your space won’t always be that way, it’s taken me over a decade to get to this point.


  3. I’ve always admired your ability to organize. Sure it helps when you have some space, but it takes time to sort and make your collection workable. I love that it is in the family room. We can play or talk or watch the kids climb on the table naked.

    It’s a lifestyle.

    My current lego organization looks something like this: http://www.avidly.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/toy-story-incinerator-1024×576.jpg

    And I say, if anyone like plumber boy has something to say about your castle tell him “Fuck you, you fucking fuck.” Now go fix my toilet, Bitch.


    1. Thanks my friend and don’t get me started about naked climbers, it’s just an ugly situation. It is a lifestyle indeed. I’ll remember the proper way to address a plumber next time we have an issue, and I’ll help you do some sorting in a few days! Your journey from casual fan to AFOL is almost complete.


  4. Always dig to see how fellow Peter Pans organize their space. Yours is a truly attractive and fun area, man. Perhaps the biggest kudos go to the missus for buying in to it, being one of the first things the Book Club sees before guzzling tankards of wine to forget their husbands for an evening. My current is my first real, finished brickcave. The two previous AFOL-era ones were corners of unfinished basements where, me, the spiders and the 14in CRT monitor with Airwolf on repeat did most of our work. To be honest, sometimes I miss those areas in a crazy, first car sorta way. When we finished the basement a couple years back, I got corporate approval for claiming the back third of it to build out to my spec, incorporating a portion of it for a little art studio for my daughter.

    When I was about 10, we went to a friend of my Dad’s for dinner. Afterwards he gave us a tour of his house, including a room in the basement dedicated to his hobby – scale airplane models. He had dozens of them built and displayed, dios etc., as well as huge wall of his ‘stash’ – modeler vernacular for unbuilt kits. He had an assembly table, as well as side table for painting. It was all so organized, with racks of categorized paints, brushes, tapes etc. I think I busted a toe when my jaw hit it. After a side tour of the room, he gave me a kit to take home. Ever since then I knew that one day I would have such a room in my house – whether for scale models, cartooning or whatever, it would be the wood and drywall reflection of my 10yo dreams.

    Once Lego grabbed me by the neck and dragged me up the AFOL tree in my mid-20s, I knew what the final room purpose would be. I’ve got a small nook there intended for scale modelling and cartooning as a tribute to the original vision (and to give me another outlet when the brick burns me out for a time). Every time I walk into the room, I get a sense equal parts serenity and happiness. Kind of First World pathetic I know, but it is what it is. I try to assuage my consumerist guilt by the other joy the room gives. When friends with their kids drop by I see the same look I had on my goofy face a million years ago, coupled with the feeling I get when I send them off with a small set from my stash to start or continue their own Lego dreams.

    On a closing note, it was interesting what you said about not being an extroverted AFOL. I’ve been much the same. My group of motely droogs had no idea about my hobby. Even through the crazy years of spiked hard milk and cutting other’s cables, I still drew out designs and bought the occasional set yet never felt comfortable or compelled to tell the lads. Only a 3 or 4 years ago did it become general knowledge after we had a big party and one of the visiting kids came running upstairs… ‘OMG DAD…A WHOLE ROOM OF LEGO!!!’ I knew that the party would be nerdly coming out for me, and it was a fun experience which my buddies all seemed to really enjoy and support. I was pretty nice moment.

    Fun article, and topic!


    1. That model airplane story is awesome, I try and keep a stash of small sets on hand too, to dole out to selected types. It does seem like a small gesture can go a long way. I’m glad to find a kindred spirit about not proselytizing about the hobby, because it seems like the vast majority of Lego nerds seem to take it as a personal responsibility to preach the corporate gospel. The lego always draws out the true believers anyway who see your collection and start wondering if they still have that box of bricks in the attic. Thanks for the comment Gil, that was just the kind of story I was hoping to generate in the comments.

      Sometimes I pine for the days of floor building in my old apartment, mostly because we didn’t have kids then or a mortgage, or gray hairs. It never lasts for long though, I dig my legoratory.


  5. Keith, good survey of your Legoatory. You spent what? I’m guessing only about an hour cleaning it up. The Frau has a healthy respect for your organization techniques, and has consequently imposed several of them on me. I can’t lie. Without her commercial grade organizing skills, arranging my smaller parts and putting them into dozens of Plastic drawer units on the walls… I’d still be working out of a gigantic single reservoir. Let to my own devices, I would be looking for a brown headlight brick at the bottom of a kiddy pool full of brick. Without the wife’s support (uncompromising directions) I’d be pretty much screwed.

    Hopefully, in a month or two I will be able to submit a Legoratroy essay of my own. In the mean time, I ardently encourage ALL builders to knock out an essay and send it to Keith! He needs the material! I’m talking to YOU Dues! And YOU rowntRee! And YOU Nick! You know, in a way, having a lousy Legoratory but still making kick ass MOCs is sort of a reason to brag right? So anybody with a corner in the bedroom or a cramped attic room, or a workbench in a messy garage should push an essay forward! Oh, I forgot… nobody wants to brag because it’s so base.

    Sigh… Everyone is so civilized.



    1. Yeah, about a half hour, I had to stuff a pile of unsorted rubble into a box and purge my kids version of cloud koo-koo land. Your wife is responsible for everything good in your life and all your successes in and out of the hobby so I”m not surprised it was any different with your legoratory. I hope you get up and running again soon, you’re finally home for “good” and you still can’t get crackin’. This must change.

      I’ll take your IOU for a legoratory-report, maybe you can chronicle the process of setting up your new workshop when the time comes.

      Base or civilized? Impish or Admirable? you control the action.


  6. Keith,

    I have a similar Legoratory situation. Our home has a similar weird “family”/dining area right at the entrance. It’s unclear to me why one would need two sets of couches and dining tables, so I carved out a section of it as my workspace. An IKEA room divider provides a rough boundary. I have committed the grievous mistake of sorting by color, a legacy decision that made sense when I was 12, which makes finding small pieces in a tub of black the worst (especially now that I’m finding my night vision is getting worse with age). I’m acquiring more smaller bins to help, and I’m mulling paying my kid to sort out all the Brick Buddy parts and set them aside in a separate bin.

    Where our areas differ is display. With all due respect, your models seem to have the half-life of Einsteinium. I go through a bit of trouble to preserve and display all my aircraft, cats be damned. I’m in the process of saving up to upgrade my display cabinet. My wife is generally supportive of the hobby, and figures I should show off my growing fleet in style, and in a way that matches our furniture. While most adults are casually indifferent to the hobby (what do you mean you don’t follow the instructions?), I find that the aviators and ex military are the most interested. A model CH-53E or A-10 is a good way to break the ice with them.

    – juan


    1. I sort by color but only if it’s a super-rare color. I keep all my olive green together for example, because when I use that color I tend to need every part available. I wouldn’t be comfortable with it on a large scale though, I think it would slow me down too much with large projects. I can’t wait until my kids are a little older and I can pay them to sort, I’m gonna steal that idea from you.

      You’re absolutley right, I don’t keep anything of my own assembled, even on those rare occasions when I build something small I either return it to the bins, or give it away. I would really like to have a display cabinet for the builds I’ve amassed from other AFOLS, I’ve got some cool stuff, but I just don’t have the room for stuff in the workshop that isn’t functional.

      I don’t know that many people in the military, but the few that I know really well are all into Lego. Rutherford can probably speak to that a little better than me but I know there are some relatively high ranking cats in the Army and Air Force who dig the brick.

      Thanks for sharing your legoratory story Juan, it’s always good to read a comment from you.


    2. Juan,

      “all my aircraft, cats be damned.”

      Indeed! Cats do seem to especially hate aircraft… and cats should be damned! I need to go home right now and dam all 4 our ours!



  7. Well, that’s stellar. It’s pretty much what I aim to do… in a few ages. Obviously with more boobs involved.

    Funny to see your view on the space issue, for me it just the opposite; I remember after building the ucs imperial shuttle my first two thoughts were “Holy fuck, that’s amazing” followed by “Now where the hell am I going to put this thing?”. Space was a a problem for me from the get go. Aside from Lego I also have a small collection of 1:4 statues that are proudly displayed in their boxes in the attic. :))

    Prepare to bask in the glory of my awe inspiring setup: http://i273.photobucket.com/albums/jj202/vitreolum/Clipboard01_zpsv8z6i5si.jpg

    As for the building space…. well, I build in bed. :))

    Sorry, Deus, I think I win.


    1. Until I see evidence of the Deus workspace I have to suspend my judgement, what I can see of yours has a certain charm to it (dig the silver organizers). The thing about building in bed is weird though, not Deus weird, but I’ve never heard of that one.

      Mostly it’s a great testament to your skill that you can produce so many high quality builds from your legoratory at such an impressive pace. Build, sort repeat, right? Thanks for sharing the photo!


    2. Absurde!

      You don’t win a dam thing until we get a pic of you actually building in bed! Do you expect the members of the committee to accept this claim without some scientific proof!

      Deus, Absurde has blundered by revealing his strength! I have created a window of opportunity for you! Its not to late, you could still win this thing. Send us a picture of you building in bed right now… and WIN!



    3. The fuck?! Shit Deus, I gotta see your set up now given the gauntlet thrown there. Master craftsmen dueling shit holes. XD


      1. Deus doesn’t cave to peer pressure dude, I doubt we’ll see any evidence of his legoratory It’s a shame but Deus continues to be an enigma.


  8. I accept your challenge and will tidy up my hole in the basement wall prior a write up and photos. Should have it ready in a week or so (kid goes back to college tomorrow, then there’s two or three days of papers to grade when I get back to school on Tuesday). Your space looks great — I like how your build area is not pushed up against the wall. I also appreciate your fondness for neat and organized, although I’m more of a middle of the road person. When things start getting out of hand, I get a little bonkers and HAVE to square it all away before doing anything else.


    1. Dennis! Glad to have you here at the manifesto, I look forward to both your Legoratory essay and your customary wit and wisdom in the comments section. The tales of Glomshire was great writing, it made me try my hand at the comic presentation with less than spectacular results. Send me an email when you’re done and I’ll post it up. Legomankeith@aol.com Kudos to rountree for getting you over here, I thought you’d disappeared after DA2.


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