It was through online social networking that I encountered Jef, a 34 year old software quality assurance manager from Toronto. Though I hadn’t been slumming around the LEGO networks for too long before feeling like a total amateur. They were all using shorthand for brick assembly techniques, like the wholly unappealing acronym SNOT – which is grossly inappropriate when talking about how to stick two things together anyhow. I was out of the loop. What I DID understand were pictures of stuff, and I was drawn to a picture of Jef, standing in front of an array of amazing LEGOs. ‘Piles of things’ is a language that appeals to me.
So, we had a conversation. I was curious about the motivations of other LEGOmaniacs, and if they were so different from my own. I was recently asked what three things I’d bring with me to a deserted island. Was I so unusual to say ‘an infinite supply of LEGOs’?
CQ : First off, I came across your profile on Facebook in a LEGO group, because I’ve been disproportionately in love with Legos lately. I saw an image of you with shelves upon shelves of LEGOs, and I was impressed. In short, what’s up with that?
jeffwith1f : Well…I was big into LEGO as a child, and spent many an hour building spaceships, robots, vehicles, towers and other contraptions, and then tossing them down the stairs. Of course, as I hit my early teenage years, LEGO took a back seat to other things (read: mostly girls & carousing with friends), but then, one Christmas in my early twenties my late grandmother gave me a small kit of LEGO as a stocking stuffer, remembering how much I enjoyed it.
I didn’t think much about it until a couple of days later when at home enjoying the winter break, I cracked out the kit and put it together (it was a small airplane). At this point in my life I had spent a couple of years building scale model airplanes, and I marveled at the quality of the plastic molding and how everything went together. Simply remarkable. It was intensely enjoyable, and took me right back to all the aspects that I enjoyed about it as a child.
First I built the model from the kit, enjoyed it, and a day or so later I took it apart and built my own customized creation from the same pieces (a different plane). Part of me thought, “this is great, I wish I had more, but LEGO is so expensive” (it always seemed out of reach of my ability to save my allowance money a a child), but it then dawned on me that now I was an adult, and had a job (and no real expenses at the time besides some cheap rent), and that I lived just down the street from a Toys ‘R’ Us – so I wandered up the street, picked out a Technic Motorcycle (the super street sensation kit I believe), and I once again became a confirmed LEGOManiac. From then on I started to look for and pick up kits that interested me. As well as periodically work on my own projects.
CQ : I notice you’re saying ‘LEGO’ instead of ‘Legos’. Am I using the plural completely incorrectly?
jeffwith1f: For starters, I believe LEGO should always appear in all caps (it’s the brand name after all). It is somewhat less clear whether LEGO alone implies plurality, as I have seen both used. Personally, I’ve always referred to a pile of LEGO simply as LEGO, much as a bowl of cereal is “Cereal” not cereals, or a bucket of popcorn is “popcorn”, not popcorns. For all I know there are camps of embittered people that debate this like Trekkies and Trekkers.
CQ : Now, when you ‘collect’ LEGO, do you leave them in their boxes, or build them, or buy two copies of each? What’s your strategy towards play vs. pay?
jeffwith1f : I pretty much play with all of them. I only have one kit that I would not open, and that’s a set of basic red bricks from 1973 that I found while in Spain a couple of years ago. There’s no real point to open it, and I’m chuffed to have a kit from the year I was born, that’s still unopened. Inevitably over the years people have gifted me kits that I already have, and unless I need the parts, I will also leave them sealed, but 95% of my kits have been opened, built, played with, but when done, I return the pieces of the kit to the box, and close it back up and store it. Every now and then I embark on a creation of my own that requires me to borrow pieces from kits, and if it’s just one or two, I will leave a note in the box so I can find the pieces later if I need to, and when a larger amount of pillaging is done, the kit kind of gets sacrificed for the project. When possible building my own creations I attempt to use my loose bin of LEGO from when I was younger so that I can leave the kits I have bought as an adult intact…
I do realized as a collector that not being able to offer the kit as “Sealed Mint in Box” does affect it’s current resale value, but I have no plans on parting with any of this for many decades, and I am hoping that when I am 60 and wanting to retire and/or cull off the collection that being able to offer up most of these kits simply as “intact and in original packaging” will be uncommon enough to retain a good chunk of the value. I think toys that aren’t played with are kind of sad anyways, so it would be wrong not to enjoy the toy for what it is. I do work hard to ensure they remain intact though.
CQ : The ‘leaving a note’ system is probably a lot wiser than my own ‘I’ll figure it out later with the instruction manual and throw everything into a giant tub’ methods.
So, what’s one of your favorite home-made creations?
jeffwith1f : My favorite own creation (or MOC as they seem to be called) is “the Hand”. I was watching a show on robotics and they were discussing how difficult it has been to simulate muscles. I was thinking that the Technic pneumatic pistons would emulate a muscle in LEGO form, and in my hubris, I thought that if I could design a working human-like hand, then surely I could build anything. I spent a month of weekends working out the design, but ended up with something that seems to impress pretty much everyone that sees it. They are even more impressed when they find out that it moves as well. It’s got a pretty good grip actually.
CQ : What’s your favorite LEGO-made creation?
jeffwith1f : I think my favorite LEGO kit so far is probably the Technic Front End Loader kit # 8459 (which was also re-released a couple of years later under a different number I believe, certainly different packaging), it is a challenging build and an awesome model in a decent scale. That’s a tough call though as most LEGO kits are well designed and contain excellent design elements that you appreciate even more than you think once you get it together.
Click here for the rest of my talk with Jef, fellow LEGOmaniac, and proof that I’m not alone in this LEGOmadness.