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.