The Steampunk Submarine

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If you’re been in our studio over the last few months, then you’ll have seen something large, grey and scary coming together. Well, finally we can say what it is and where it’s going. LEGO House, meet a Steampunk Submarine!

 World Explorer. Photo (c) LEGO Group

World Explorer. Photo (c) LEGO Group

It’s fair to say that we get a reasonable number of requests for ‘special projects’ - but this one is a bit different! Way back in February, Teresa and I were exhibiting our airport at LEGOWorld Copenhagen and got talking to Jan from LEGO about the LEGO House. For those that don’t know, 12 months ago the LEGO House was opened in Billund (the home of LEGO). It’s a celebration of the brand and an amazing experience. I’d wholly recommend it to anyone who is able to make it there. Anyway, within the LEGO House there is a large area called the ‘World Explorer. And within that area are 3 items that change each year…


Still being huge LEGO fans, Teresa and I couldn’t resist the opportunity to build something for the LEGO House so when asked - we jumped at the opportunity to build the next ship that would dock at the port. Not knowing the brief would be to build a ‘Steampunk Submarine’! Now, putting the basic physics aside of a steam powered vessel not working underwater, we set to work on a design. The size of the space was fixed, and we agreed with LEGO not to make a traditional submarine as, well, you can’t see much of those even when docked!

 Final ldraw design. False coloured to show the direction of the bricks (up/down/left/right etc)

Final ldraw design. False coloured to show the direction of the bricks (up/down/left/right etc)

The final design was inspired by an image we found on the web of a brass submarine in the shape of a fish. Now all we had to do was convert an image in to LEGO bricks! Thankfully, this is something we’ve done before so we already had the software processes available to us. Once drawn in CAD, we could convert the drawing into a LEGO render (above). Now, it’s just a case of building it!

Of course, simply building a model from a 3D render isn’t as easy as it sounds (Well, it can be, but if you just slavishly follow the render then the results are…. pretty terrible to be honest). First up, we false coloured the image to see each section of the fish would be. As LEGO bricks aren’t cubes, we can get more definition by placing the bricks on top with their studs going upwards, and those on the sides with their studs going towards each side. The next stop - to mark out doors, windows and manually design the eyes, because we had to have minifigs inside the eyes! Finally, a good amount of manual sculpting to the model, to make sure it’s just right.

 The fish mid-build. You can see the CAD image on my laptop to the right

The fish mid-build. You can see the CAD image on my laptop to the right

Once the design was finished it was build time. I took on the main body, which involved ordering about 12,000 plates to add to our current stock and the 5000 tiles that the body would be covered in. Now it’s just a quick job of copying the design on screen into LEGO. Making sure it holds together because the CAD image doesn’t. Working one layer underneath the one you can see, because the final layer is tiled. Working as a mirror because the CAD model was only one side. Ensuring the underneath steps back correctly to meet the next part. Yeah, that was an easy two weeks….!

 Ouch!

Ouch!

Once the main body was completed - it was time to start putting the sections together. Whilst I’d worked on the body, Teresa had put together some accompanying craft, Guy had worked on the hatches and engines and Kirsten on the science lab and engine room. At this point, I was quite glad that the sides could be fairly easily removed as there was a lot of work required to make all these parts fit together! Some had to be glued as they’d be too delicate to be on display for a year otherwise, but mostly it was a question of fit, remove, alter, fit, remove, alter…. Oh, and quite a few Brickstuff LEDs!

After something like 150 hours of building later it had all come together! Now all that was needed was a short 22 hour drive to Denmark to install into the LEGO House. This was one model we weren’t going to ship!

If you get the chance to visit the LEGO House in the next 12 months, then I hope you enjoy it and get to see the fish - especially when the lights go down - as we had a lot of fun building it. All we need now is a name. Perhaps Bricky McBrickface or Fishy McFishFace? Gerry or Troy ?