Nfld. & Labrador

N.L. Lego fans are coming back to a childhood hobby, brick by brick

Adult Lego fans gather online and in person to share their favourite models, including ones that are custom-made.

Everything is awesome for NewfoundLUG, a group for adult fans of the enduringly popular toy

Stephen Churchill estimates he has about 70 Lego sets, many of which are custom builds of Star Wars ships and vehicles. (CBC News)

Lego have been in Canada since 1961, which means several generations now associate the classic building toy with their childhoods. But for the people who refer to themselves as AFOLs — adult fans of Lego — the fun continues on well past youth.

"The nerd quotient is high at my work so it's sort of a little more accepted, I think, than it would be at a lot of other places," said Stephen Churchill, whose model of the Verafin building in St. John's, where he works as a software engineer, is one of many he has completed since rediscovering a favourite childhood toy in his 30s.

Some people engage in a bit of "gentle mocking" when they find out that he still loves to play with Lego, Churchill told The St. John's Morning Show, but that teasing often changes to nostalgia about their own childhood sets.

"I enjoy my hobbies as i take them," he said. And on Saturday, Churchill, the president of NewfoundLUG — Newfoundland Lego Users Group — gathered with others who share his hobbies at Bricks & Minifigs in St. John's for the group's second annual showcase.

This custom-designed model of the building for his employer, Verafin, sits in its lobby, Stephen Churchill says. (Paula Gale/CBC News)

Members brought their Lego creations, both commercial sets and original designs, for display at the store, he said, and answered questions from visitors and other Lego fans.

"We're going to show off a little bit."

Returning to a childhood favourite

Churchill's return to Lego isn't unusual — he said Lego fans refer to "coming out of the dark years," which means rediscovering their childhood pastime after giving it up during the teenage years in fear it was no longer cool.

"I really wanted to sort of remix it because it wasn't screen accurate," he said. 

"So once I started down that road it was just a matter of time."

Custom Lego models, like this one of Cabot Tower, can be designed using computer programs. (Submitted by Stephen Churchill)

His re-entry to Lego came through a Star Wars set he saw and liked, and many of the builds he now designs himself using computer software are for ships and other things from the Star Wars films that aren't sold by Lego as commercial sets.

The hobby appeals to different kinds of fans, he said. Some like to buy a set and build it as per the included instructions, while others enjoy making custom designs. One group member has built an oil rig that is 4.5 feet tall, scaled to the size of Lego minifigures, and is working on a custom build of an Oceanex ship that will be more than nine feet long.

Storing those models take up a lot of room, and while Churchill likes to keep his own constructions once they're finished, other people are OK with impermanence, he said.

"We have people who build it, look at it, say, 'That's great!' and then tear it apart."

Making a custom design requires taking or acquiring a lot of photographs from many different angles, as well as thinking about how you'll build unique features with the Lego pieces available.

"When you're looking at the photos you're trying to say 'what piece is this?' as you're going through," Churchill said.

"Sometimes you'll end up with a single piece that will dictate the entire scale of the model, just because it's too perfect to give up otherwise."

The entire process can be time consuming, he said. From start to finish, his Lego model of the Verafin building — which now sits in its lobby — took about 20 hours. The majority of that time was spent on the design process, he said, not the actual construction.

"Putting it together once it's designed is the easy part."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Cecil Haire and The St. John's Morning Show

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