LEGO Display Methods and Techniques

<Steps to podium> “Hi. My name is Nathan and I’m a collector.”

 

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Collecting – it’s essentially an addiction. This veritable compulsion serves as an outlet for our inner hunter/gatherer while simultaneously stroking the ego of the hoarders we’re most likely destined to become. And you know what? It’s not such a bad thing to be! A full display shelf offers a unique type of satisfaction that is hard to come by through other means.

 

I’ve had my share of display shelves. Shelves are sort of a prerequisite when you’re a lifelong collector, a notorious nerd, and a kid LEGO nut turned AFOL functioning in society. If you’ve acquired some item collection-worthy item, it’s only natural to want to show it off like your own personal museum. My collection makes me happy because each piece stirs up its own unique memory or feeling. Looking at my display shelf (shelves, truthfully) is almost like flipping through a tangible photo album. The mix of items span from yesterday all the way back to my childhood.

 

If your situation is anything close to mine, you have a spouse that is supportive of your collecting…. to an extent. There’s a line that’s constantly walked between clutter and style. My wife has graciously allowed me to display items primarily on one wall in our bedroom. Sure, there are various items sporadically throughout the house, but it is my collectors wall that is my true pride and joy.

 

LEGO can be a very complicated thing to show off. When space is limited, the complications increase exponentially. After experimenting with a multitude of different techniques over the years I feel I’ve found an efficient, yet effective, balance of displayed minifigures/builds. These techniques are also pretty cost effective since I’d much rather save my money for more collectibles (or bills, or food for my children, or all those boring things).

 

Minifigures

 

When it comes to displaying LEGO Minifigures, their miniscule footprint is something that will consistently work in your favor. They typically take up such a small horizontal space that a ledge can be around an inch deep to hold them with the black base that is usually included. I recommend you use this base plate to prevent any ‘domino’ effect from slightly bumping the shelf…. a lesson I learned the hard way.

 

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The first ‘minifig exclusive’ shelf I created was made using wood, wood glue, and black glossy spray paint. Quality materials make a massive difference in the end product here – don’t go cheap with scrap wood. Using cheaper oak planks will get you a warped/uneven ledge that isn’t as smooth as it should be for items as small as LEGO minifigures. I’ve had the most success with poplar or cedar. These wood types warp less and sand without altering the integrity of the shape.

 

Two planks will suffice for this shelf type. A perpendicular connection will provide a base wide enough for the stock minifigure stand. The top ledge is perfectly sized for any plate that’s two studs deep. Using the top ledge can get a tad precarious so double sided tape might be needed to ensure the plate stays put.

 

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If you want to pack a lot into a condensed space, you can add multiple levels. This takes some patience as the glue must dry on each level prior to adding another. I made the one in the picture below to display Series 14 (the only series I’ve sought to collect in its entirety) and a few other monster-related singles.

 

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In order to properly mount these shelves to the wall, you must be willing to drill a hole in the spot. I tried several other ways hoping to limit the amount of drywall damage – none were able to cut it like an anchored screw. Fortunately, minifigs weigh next to nothing so it doesn’t take much to secure a shelf. The best method is to drill a single hole centered in the shelf then use one 2-3 inch screw with a proper wall anchor. A major advantage to having a centrally drilled hole is you can easily shift the shelf to level it out without needing to re-drill anything in the wall.

 

Shelves are all well and good, but what if you don’t have enough space to mount one? Or what if you can’t do anything that will leave a lasting mark/hole on the wall? The problem I ran into is that my collection quickly surpassed the maximum capacity of the shelves I mounted. In order to make the most of the space you have all you have to do is implement some LEGO-styled ingenuity….

 

Here’s what you need for an individual row:

  1. One 2×16 plate
  2. Six 1×2 plates
  3. Two 3M Command mounting strips

 

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This tactic allows the minifigure to stay put in a standing position with surprising stability. Five figures can comfortably fit in each 2×16 position with enough clearance to hold any given accessory. Using 1×2 plates provides enough room for them to stand upright without being forced into a bent or leaning stance. You may need to get creative with a 1×1 plate or an extra 1×2 if the minifig has any piece (like a backpack or a wide head/hair piece) that would require more space from the wall.

 

By using the 3M command strips you have nothing but flexibility in how rows are arranged. It enables you to make full use of a space without limiting the display via a permanent mounting. Using a level is advisable for any shelf; it helps the end aesthetic and appeases the obsessive compulsives of the world.

 

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A portion of what my kids call “the toy museum.”

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They have a surprising amount of strength considering the minimal connected bricks.

 

A bit more work is required for any “short-legged” minifig if you want to utilize the command strip method. Their lack of connection points on the back of their legs means they must stand. It’s still possible to do this by adding an extra 2×16 plate positioned perpendicularly with any brick meant to change build direction. This works out for the line of their heads is at the level of a normal figure so you don’t disrupt any overall symmetry on the line. You’ll need at four to five of these short figures to occupy a section – having a normal one on the same plate will stick out like a sore thumb.

 

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Looking for an easy way to display minifigures without building anything or mounting anything? Find a wooden drawer organizer in the houseware section near the cooking utensils. These are easily obtained from Walmart or Target for between $9 and $15. It must be wooden because then you’re guaranteed to have flat surfaces as opposed to the space-conserving rounded edges of a plastic organizer. Turn the drawer organizer on its side and you instantly have a perfect display shelf. Each section is designed to hold knives, forks, and spoons yet the dimensions are perfect for your LEGO army. I found the one below at Walmart for nine bucks. It has expandable sides for additional rows. One row was glued in the expanded position while the other is there for when the need inevitably arrives. As a bonus, each level has enough surface area to accomodate minifigures with large bases. LEGO has evolved a lot in the last ten years so you can’t count on mifigures to all follow the same profile.

 

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Sets

 

Diversify your arrangement with some smaller sets mixed in. With some slight modification you can show off a constructed set amongst the rows of minifigures. These sets can take up considerably more space, so you’ll like be presented with some choices to make down the road. Remember, you’re working with one of the most versitle toys ever made – it’s alright to use that to your advantage. Use additional bricks to create a stable base or shift the profile to something suitbale on a couple inches of ledge. Some builds can be shown securely on narrow shelves if you anchor them to the wall with a small section of fishing line and a clear thumb tack.

 

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Mix up the monotony!

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This would be a disaster without having it anchored – the ledge is far too narrow for the build.

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Adding a jointed or clear piece can adapt a set for display.

 

How about full sets? Sometimes it isn’t the minifigure that prompted the purchase, it’s the build! I recently encountered this situation when I picked up the Millennium Falcon. As a set that’s as gorgeous as it is huge, I knew allowing it to sit atop a bookshelf wouldn’t do it justice. Instead, I tracked down a load of transparent bricks. The lot I bought was 1x2x2, but 2x2x2 would have worked just as well (if not better). I toyed with multiple configurations before settling on one that utilized the landing gear built in as part of the original design. The Falcon is a heavy build, so having evenly spaced mounts allowed the weight to be distributed equally enough to have an angled final position. 1×2 plates modified with handles paired with 2×16 plates created a flexible enough attachment to obtain the angle I sought. I took pictures from a few angles to demonstrate the connection along with the tremendously satisfying final result.

 

 

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The Ultimate Collector’s Slave I joined recently. Thankfully, LEGO includes the means for an upright stand with the build.

 

Are you just as crazy as I am with showing off your LEGO treasures? What display methods do you use? I consider this an ongoing project so ideas are always welcomed. Keep building!

 

 

LEGO Star Wars: Millennium Falcon

Do you stare longingly at those giant LEGO sets in stores? You know the ones, the $100+ sets with an obscene piece count that can make your inner child giddy through proximity alone. A small bead of drool escapes your lips as you scour your brain for any logical justification for spending money like that on a LEGO set. It’s in these moments that you ponder how being an adult is double edged sword…. On one hand, you make money that could buy yourself things that you’d dreamed of getting as kid. Then on the other hand, you have bills and stupid “adult responsibilities.”

 

This is an ongoing dilemma for me. My kids whine, “we need new clothes. We need to eat. It’s our job to occupy every free dollar you earn.” All the while, my brain is interjecting, “don’t give them your money. Buy LEGO instead.” The middle ground I’m forced into is to skip the sets on the high end of the dollar/pieces spectrum for more economical ones. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve never bought a LEGO set I didn’t enjoy. As much as I do like these smaller sets, I still find myself locked into that longing stare time and time again.

 

In comes a book royalty check! Money has never once been my motivator for writing but it’s always a welcomed bonus. When those periodic checks do come in, I make it my mission to buy something LEGO-related and to take my family out for dinner (see – I do have a conscience). When my last check from 2015 arrived in the mail I was determined to finally get myself one of those big sets. It just so happened that I was going to pass a LEGO Store on a day trip to see family. The Universe clearly wanted me to get a big set because the timing was too good to ignore.

 

I regress into a childlike state whenever I’m in a LEGO Store. There’s so much wonder and possibility that getting excited is unavoidable no matter what age you are. Just beyond the entrance for this location was a table of sets marked down for their less-than-pristine boxes. I was drawn to it because something beautiful caught my eye – The Millennium Falcon. “Holy shit!” I thought and possibly said aloud, “there’s no way the Falcon is discounted.” Much to my delight….

 

It was! Thirty dollars off is nothing to shy away from. If you’re a fan, you know that LEGO very rarely gets discounted. It was a sign – I had to own it. Now it is my absolute pleasure to review it. I took pictures throughout the long build to highlight my favorite pieces or components. This review will be very reliant on those pictures I took because there is no better way to show why this one is worth the money.

 

LEGO Star Wars: Millennium Falcon #75105

 

This set is no joke. With 1329 pieces in nine bags (compared to a normal set with 1-3 bags), you’re in for quite a project. My actual build time was probably around 7 hours. I’d work on it for 45 minutes to an hour at a time in the evenings. I tried to be extra-aware of my eagerness to get it built and thus kept myself in check. The plan was to build it AND enjoy the process. I’ll start by highlighting my favorite part – the minifigures!

 

Minifigures (not in the order they came out of the bags)

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Rey and BB-8 are probably my favorites. BB-8 is freakin’ adorable just like he is in the movies. LEGO did a superb job at capturing his charm in brick form. Rey is equally perfect with her freckles and even the style of her hair. No company is better than LEGO when it comes to mastering minute details to bring subtle charm and uniqueness to each character. I do wish Rey came with her staff instead of the little blaster; guess I’ll have to pick up her Speeder set to get that.
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The minifigures for Tasu Leech and the Kanjiklub Gang Member aren’t really anything special. Few brands have as many (named) obscure characters as Star Wars. Although it would be neat if all main characters along with this set, it makes sense that they’d pad it a bit with expendables. I will say that both are very different from each other so they don’t feel like the near-duplicate similarities that come with Storm Troopers, Imperial Officers, or other scene extras. Their differences will please collectors looking for variety rather than sheer numbers.

 

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The Finn minifig featured in this set is a tad underwhelming, to be honest. Plainness aside, I was very excited to have him because of his importance in this new era of Star Wars. LEGO tends to make their movie sets true to the scene and so any other variation of Finn would have been incorrect. It would be great if LEGO designed a set with the crashed TIE Fighter so Finn could have partial Storm Trooper armor printed on the minifigure.

 

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It wouldn’t be the Millennium Falcon without Han and Chewie! The ‘feels’ come back with a vengeance when I think about Episode VII being the last time we’ll get to see the pair at their rightful place behind the helm of the Corellian freighter. LEGO did an excellent job aging the two characters for accuracy. The version of Han Solo for this set definitely stands out from the others in my collection. I’ve mentioned in previous reviews how the detail LEGO puts into characters only gets better with each version; Chewbacca is a perfect example of this improvement.

 

The Build

 

Make sure you have a decent-sized area for this one. You’d be surprised how much surface area it takes up only after a few pages. I grew excited when the skeleton frame started taking on the iconic shape (sort of).

 

 

It doesn’t take long before that skeleton frame is covered and the little interior details get tacked on. At this stage those details feel totally random. LEGO generally follows some semblance of symmetry so be ready to question whether or not you’re placing bricks correctly. The random placements fit because throughout its film appearances, the Millennium Falcon is referred to as “garbage” or a “hunk of junk”. Many of these random pieces needed to be turned or made askew in a way beyond their connecting design. This was a nice touch to give the ship a much more organic feel rather than a strict, clean grid.

 

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The biggest flaw with this set are the infernal decals. As I’ve frequently stated in past reviews, I despise decals. Unfortunately, The Millennium Falcon is chalked full of damned decals for some very important details….

 

 

Thankfully, LEGO printed a few pieces. If the Holochess piece was a decal I would have certainly botched its application. Some of the other small tiles were printed while many were placed practically side by side with decals.

 

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In order for the curved walls to be formed it essentially has you building a linked chain which is fixed on its side so it can bend upon attaching to the body. Once all of the walls are in place it is surprisingly sturdy considering how few places are actually attached to the rest of the build.

 

 

There were many steps that involved bricks used in ways I wouldn’t have thought of. Many of these pieces are less common than what is normally included. If this were any other set, I would likely cannibalize them for future builds.

 

 

The engines are very cleverly designed. While using the same linked chain technique for the other walls, a flexible blue tube was worked into the link so that once it was bent for placement you had the perfect radiant blue ship engines.

 

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As the supporting outer shell is placed you also finalize many of the hidden compartments perfect for smuggling. There’s also a great vertical seating that’s built in for both the upper and lower cannons to be manned. Later in the build there are lots of familiar components which are gradually brought to life right down to the landing gear below.

 

 

LEGO found a compromise for how to make the set look good from the outside while making the finer details on the inside accessible for play – the outer hull is made of individual flaps that fold up for access to the inside. Each flap has its own little details to give the Falcon its trademark “hunk of junk” look from the outside.

 

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Before long the Millennium Falcon is whole with the exception of its nose and cockpit. The “nose” is build as two separate sections that hook onto the main body. Each section conceals the spring loaded missile launchers in a way to prevent the play function from tainting the true-to-the-source design.

 

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The cockpit is printed on clear plastic. I was terrified they’d resort to a decal with this part too. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case at all. The assembled cockpit section slides on in one piece then is affixed to the whole. This part is one of the few weak design points in the entire set. Removing the piece to take a minifigure out or put one in is a bit precarious. It would have been incredible if it was sized so that more than one minifig could be seated inside. Of course, this would have to practically double the size of the entire set to keep things proportionate.

 

 

After attaching the cockpit you have bittersweet completion! The end build is hefty, to say the least. Here it is whole then with the flaps opened.

 

 

My rating of the LEGO Star Wars: Millennium Falcon #75105 is a perfect 10 out of 10.

 

10 out of 10

 

BONUS!

 

For me, half of the fun of collecting is finding a way to display what you’re so proud of. The Millennium Falcon is worthy of pride, yet when it sits flat you can’t appreciate the full size/design from a straight angle. This simply will not do! So I designed my own stand for it using clear bricks which is attached to the (very secure) landing gear of the ship. The end result was better than I could have hoped for. I plan on doing a full write up on LEGO display ideas in the near future. When I do I’ll also include instructions on how to make your own stand.

 

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LEGO Star Wars: Droid Escape Pod

LEGO continues their push to recreate classic scenes in brick form with their spring releases. Much like the brilliant Carbon-Freezing Chamber, the Droid Escape Pod #75136 provides a nice selection of minifigures (for a small set) at a reasonable ticket price. I’ll break down my thoughts into a few key points.

 

Minifigures

 

There are two separate Jawas included with the set. This was a major draw for me since I (shockingly) didn’t have any of the little guys in my sprawling Minifigure collection. The only differentiator between the two is that they have unique weapons. I believe one is intended to replicate the stun device used against R2D2 in A New Hope.

 

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This is the third C3PO to join my collection. It’s not all that different from previous appearances, however, subtle changes in his leg printing were made. I love how much LEGO has advanced their standard level of detail as the years and decades have passed. Here’s a picture of the three I have in my collection – it’s like night and day when comparing the earlier versions to this one and the red armed version from Force Awakens.

 

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The middle one is what comes with the Escape Pod

 

Confession time…. This is my first “normal” R2D2. I know… I’m a disgrace. I already had the snowman version from the advent calendar but had never grabbed a set that had good ol’ R2. It’s good to have him join my brick horde! Even though I have no tangible basis for comparison, I hear there are enhanced details in the print coloring.

 

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Set/Build

 

Overall, it’s a pretty simple set. The piece count is low (more on that in the next section) so it won’t take long to get everything together. There are a few interesting techniques in regards to flipping the build around to expand from another direction. The way it is structured for the pod shape with a playable opening is clever.

 

 

Its biggest flaw is the reliance on decals… I HATE DECALS. For those of us with meaty paws, placing a detail is like defusing a bomb. Unbeknownst to me, I actually placed one decal without realizing the component needed to be flipped around. Once I flipped it, the little asshole sticker was oriented wrong. An obscenity-filled scratch session fixed the problem, however, that little wrinkled corner made when I peeled it off will always be there laughing at me…

 

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Monkey funking decals

 

One of the major highlights is the tile piece printed with the Death Star plans. Tiny details like this bring magic to LEGO. From a play standpoint, the Death Star tile inserts into the panel on the pod then can be removed when the droids escape.

 

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The sensor panel is a decal, unfortunately.

 

Value

 

There’s a lot to like about this set. It has plenty of playable features with enough minifigures to recreate the scene. I’ve heard many complain that the price point is too high for a set with only 197 pieces. The thing about The Droid Escape Pod, is that the set is almost an afterthought for there being four distinct(ish) minifigures. Had they limited it to one Jawa I think it would need to be a $19.99 set. All things considered, $24.99 isn’t a bad ticket price for what you get.

 

My rating of the DROID ESCAPE POD (set number) is 7.5 out of 10.

 

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