Lego Map: Travelling Japan

Lego Travel Map

Konnichiwa! November 1st 2015 is the date I kissed my fiancée goodbye and flew across the world to the coastal city of Kobe, Japan for a six month work assignment. It was here I built all the flowers for our Lego themed wedding, but also where I took the opportunity to explore, learn and embrace the culture of Japan.

I travelled the country end to end, experiencing something new every weekend. Travelling by plane, shinkansen, intercity train and on foot, I explored many of Japan’s ancient shrines, temples and castles. I gained a taste for okonomiyaki, sushi and rahman, whilst drinking my way through a lot of sake, whiskey and 80+ different Japanese beers! I fed monkeys in Arashiyama, met the deer of Nara and visited a cat cafe in Tokyo. I also completed some of Japan’s more unusual experiences by visiting Tokyo’s robot restaurant, played pachinko and climbed a mountain to relax naked within an onsen. I achieved a lot in 6 months, yet only managed to learn 14 words!

Lego Japan & Korea

Documenting my travels over those was realised through the creation of my custom designed and built Travel Map of Japan! Built four years after my adventure, the Lego map of Japan is the sequel to my European Lego map. It leverages the same terrain heights and colours as the European version, but is smaller at 48 by 48 studs and consists of roughly 1500 Lego bricks.

I visited 11 cities/ towns whilst living in Japan. Each city/ town is highlighted on the map by a number, which has an associated label around the maps frame.

I visited each of Japan’s three largest islands. Honshu is the largest island, and where my new home city of Kobe (19) was situated. The cities of Kyoto (22), Osaka (21), Nara (30), Himiji (20), Okayama (27) and Hiroshima (28) were all close by so spent a lot of my weekends exploring, eating and drinking here! Tokyo (23) was accessible via a three hour Shinkansen (bullet train) to the east of island, where I visited the famous Shibuya Crossing, Skytree Tower and the technology district of Akihabara. I also spent time in the small north coastal town of Kasumi (31) where I ate a ton of crab!

Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido, is home to the city of Sapporo (24). The cities annual Snow Festival was on during my visit, so saw hundreds of snow and ice sculptures and snow sport events. My last trip was to the south island of Kyushu, where I visited the city of Kumamoto (29) just before the 2016 earthquake shuck the city.

Whilst living in Kobe I also visited South Korea and China as they were just a short flight across the sea. I visited South Korea’s capital Seoul (25) over a weekend, visiting a war museum, eating a Korean BBQ and exploring the local markets.

A small bit of China is visible but given the huge size of the country, I will look to build a separate dedicated map in the future.

Hope you enjoyed by Lego travel map of Japan and Korea. Sayōnara!

Lego Map Europe Feature Image

Lego Map: Exploring Europe Brick by Brick

Lego Travel Map

I have been lucky enough to have travelled around the world on business and for pleasure. I have photos, magnets and a world travel map of the places I have visited around the house. The travel map above our bed was great until it fell off the wall onto my wife’s head whilst we slept one night! Faded, crumpled and now on the floor, I decided to build a new travel map out of Lego!

Introducing my Lego Map of Europe! The map uses coloured Lego bricks to highlight the countries my wife and I have visited. I used grey bricks to illustrate the countries we were yet to explore. A key documents terrain elevation in metres and feet, from the sea floor to the tallest mountain. The map measures at 65 x 65 cm (82 x 82 studs) and it’s tallest point (the Alps) is 2.4 cm tall. It’s my biggest build since my Lego wedding, at an estimated total of 5000 Lego bricks used!

Making the map personal and unique to my wife and I was important, so wanted to go a step further. When we visit a new city or town, I include a two letter/ numerical code (e.g. 00/ XX) to it’s location on the map. The code then links to a flag, country and city/ town name on the maps frame. The codes are categorised to a visit by me (Mark), my wife (Lynn) or both of us as illustrated by the image below.

Whilst travelling is fun, home is also important. I used a flag symbol to highlight our home in the UK. I also decided not to document every city we have visited in the UK, otherwise this build would never have finished 🙂

As the top of the African continent was going to be visible, Morocco and Tunisia were also included. l will be adding additional countries from outside of Europe in the coming months. Europe is the first part of my large Lego map puzzle! More details on that at the end of this post.

Visiting a Country with Lego Bricks

Why scratch off a country when visited (like most travel maps), when you can build the country out of Lego instead!

Animation of the removal of grey bricks and adding coloured bricks when visiting a country.

Illustrated by the small video above, updating the map with a new country requires the completion of simple four steps:

  1. Remove Grey Bricks: remove all the grey bricks for new country
  2. Add Colour Bricks: add coloured bricks to match the elevation of the country
  3. Add Code Tile: add a 1 x 1 tile with printed code for visited city/ town in the correct location on the map.
  4. Update Frame: update the frame with the country name, flag and city/ town name with it’s associated code

Designing & Building Lego Europe

Building a map of Europe out of Lego took a lot longer than I had initially expected. After a lot of evenings, weekends and many orders from, I hung my completed map on the wall of my office. I have summarised the steps I took to designing and building my map below:

1. Digital Relief Map:Using a relief map I purchased from Shutterstock, I imported it within Inkscape (a vector image editor) and resized it. I then applied an 82 x 82 grid over map, where one square would equal a 1 x 1 Lego brick.

2. Pixelating the Digital Map: Using the Lego colour palette ( I painted each square with my chosen colours matching the relief of the map. I then exported the map to my iPad and marked up the different types of bricks I would need for the build.

3. Building the Lego Map: Once the map was pixelated into Lego form, I got down to building! I created the foundations of Europe with a lot of left over red plates from my Lego wedding build. Coloured and grey plates/ bricks were then added on top, as instructed by my pixelated map. Many BrickLink ( orders later, and my Lego map of Europe started to take shape!

4. Country, City/ Town and Elevation Key: Initially I was going to build my own flags out of Lego, but found I couldn’t get enough detail at the size I wanted them. Luckily I found this great sticker book: Flags of the World: Ultimate Sticker Book. The flag stickers were the perfect size for a 2 x 3 white tiles which made up the frame which I built to surround the map. A Dymo label maker was used to create the labels for the country, city/ town names which I attached to tiles on the map, frame or key.

5. Wooden Frame & Hanging: Using gorilla glue, I glued the map securely to a 5mm plywood board and attached wall fittings to the back. A few nails in the wall and my European Lego travel map build was complete!

Building the Rest of the World in Lego…

Originally the lego map included a dedicated section on the left for all the other countries my wife and I had visited outside of Europe. After three different iterations, I concluded that this section just didn’t look right so decided to remove it.

Instead I will be building new dedicated maps for: North America, Japan/ South Korea, China and a few other countries… These will be added to the wall of my office in the coming weeks and months!

I hope you like my European Lego Map. Let me know your thoughts, comments and questions. Mark!

Lego DNA double helix on its side

Lego DNA Double Helix

Human Body

Let’s break down the human genome as the worlds largest and most complicated Lego set….

The Human Genome consists of an estimated 20,000 genes (small Lego models).  Your genes form one of 23 pairs of chromosomes (large Lego models).  DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) consists of a set of instructions to building a gene (your Lego instruction booklet), using 4 nitrogenous bases adenine, thyminecytosine, and guanine (Lego bricks), wrapped up in a double helix of phosphate (more Lego bricks).

How many bricks would I therefore need?  It is estimated that the human genome has over 3.2 billion base pairs and thus, including the parts for double helix phosphate, you would need at least 10 billion Lego bricks in order to replicate build the human genome…

It’s clear I won’t be constructing the human genome out of Lego any time soon! However I was able to design and build a small portion of a DNA double helix…

Lego DNA Double Helix


Green = Adenine (A)    Red = Thymine (T)

Blue = Cytosine (C)     Yellow = Guanine (G)

White = Sugar Phosphate

The DNA Double Helix was one of my easier builds to date.  Stood upon a tiled base plate, I repeated a pattern of 1 x 2 bricks, 1 x 1 cylinders and 1 x 2 bricks and gently twisted them to form the helix.  I then connected 10 1 x 1 cylinder bricks together to form a base pair, connecting them with a pin.  The only complexity was the fragility of the design, requiring some additional struts which were added whilst building the model.

Hope you enjoy my Lego DNA Double Helix… and don’t find too many flaws in my quick maths (I am sure some smart ass will!).  Whilst I am not a biologist, I do work within the healthcare industry as an IT professional so I do have an interest in science and the human body. I might look to make a series of health/ human body inspired models if I am able to find the time.  Have a good idea – let me know!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all,


Lego wedding table plan setup with four Lego vases with 17 Lego Roses & Thistles each. Taken at Wedding Venue

Lego Wedding: The Big Day

Lego Wedding

One year of building 4 vases, 68 roses, 16 thistles, 42 personalised minifigure guests, 1 table plan, 13 large letters and 8 boxes of Lego, the mega Lego Wedding build was complete!

I will keep this post short and to the point, as the images speak to themselves.  The Lego Rose & Thistle Vases were setup per table, with their personalised favours.  I also added some last minute Lego letters for the top table spelling out our new name – Mr & Mrs Johnson.  Wooden letter boxes full of Lego bricks were also provided for our guests…. even if it did mean I ended up with a variety of Lego cocks by the end of the evening!

Our Lego Wedding Cake finished everything off nicely, courtesy of Cake & Lace from Newbury.  The three layered cake had two personalised and edible Lego version of myself and my wife.  Each layer had sections peeled back revealing a Lego brick interior.  It was perfect and tasted great to!

Time to finally close this chapter and plan my next Lego build.

Photography Credit:  Adam Hillier Photography


Lego Wedding Party Minifigures

Lego Wedding Minifigure Personalisation

Lego Wedding

A Lego themed wedding wouldn’t be complete without personalised mini-figure guests!

Every guest who attended the wedding got a personalised Lego version of themselves to take home.  Unfortunately I was unable to construct everyone as a Lego Star Wars character (courtesy of my childhood), so logged into and ordered a set of heads, hair, torsos and legs.  Using everyone’s Facebook profile photos online, I built the whole wedding party (44 day guests) in a few days.

In addition to this each guest received 4 bags of Lego chocolate which we found on Amazon sold by Gwynedd Building Blocks.  We ordered a small taster kit initially and then a 2 kilogram box!  We would both highly recommend them to anyone else.  Yum!

Lego Wedding Table Plan

Once my army of Lego minifigure wedding guests was complete, I started to build the table plan.  At first I expected this to take a few hours, but this escalated quickly into a few evenings after work and a whole weekend!

I started by setting up a mini photo studio in my living room (you will notice by now I have a very forgiving wife!) and started to snap comical scenes with each wedding guest.  Every scene was personal to that individual person.  Highlights include:

  • Arresting the Groom:  Father-in-law was setup to arrests me whilst my wife and mother-in-law looked on laughing.
  • Catching the Bouquet:  Yet to be married women attempting to catch my wife’s bouquets.
  • Hide the Sausage!  Two of my friends from school were set up to play hide the sausage… granted in this case I was just having fun!

You get the idea.  You can see all of these at the end of this blog post.

Once I had finished with all these photos, I added them to my table plan using the photo editing software Gimp (emphasis on the words photo editing).  Even the tables and miniature flowers on the plan were Lego! I finished the design off by using a Lego font across the by naming everyone on the plan.  You can learn how to do this by following this useful post by Persialou.

You can see the table plan, the flowers and other extras in my final post next month where the whole Lego wedding comes together.


Lego Rose feature image

Perfecting the Lego Rose for the Wedding

Lego Wedding

An English Rose for a wedding between an English groom and a Scottish bride… this was always going to go down well with her side of the border!  Over a six month period on and off and whilst moving to Japan part way through, I built four different variations of my Lego Rose.  The end result was an elegant Lego rose which was also somewhat and “wedding guest proof”.

It all started with this simple design, using a similar approach to the Lego Tulip. A little too small for my table centerpiece though… let’s make it bigger! I simply built upon the initial version by adding extra petals to give a three layered petal design with an interior centre twist.  The second iterations increased size worked, but felt overly ‘blocky’ (yes I know I was building with Lego). The new stem looked great though.

Lego Rose v3

How to make Lego look less ‘blocky’? I think my third iteration answers this question, with a slimmed down version with rounded petals. I achieved this by layering up basic slate bricks and combing them with trapezium slate bricks to add extra curves. Adding some small sloped tile bricks increased the effect.  These four petal cores were attached to an improved central block with a twisting centre.  Using the small tiles in the centre, I also found these really elegant curved bricks which I overlapped to pull the design together.  This design was a significant improvement on its predecessor!

Final Lego Rose Design (v4)

Elegance is all well and good, yet when it can’t stand up by itself it is beyond useless for a wedding!  The final Lego Rose was a minor tweak on its predecessor, with the aim to add strength.

I found some old plastic tubes which I think were part of a Lego submarine I got in Torquay as a child and inserted one within the stem of the rose. This added the much needed rigidity to the stem. I managed to find a suitable set of similar plastic tubes from Joshin across the road from my apartment in Kobe, Japan.  To get the rose head to connect to the stem I had to tweak the inside of the rose base a little for the tube to sit inside.  A little elegance was lost in the base of the flower, but this was quickly resolved with a larger green cylinder.

Other updates to the design included minor tweaks to the petals for simplicity and strength. There were a few drop tests involved and was surprisingly sturdy!

Happy with the design it was time to replicate and build 68 of my Lego Roses and design 4 vases!  You can read about this in my next blog post. Let me know your thoughts and comments on my final Lego Rose design.


Lego flowers blog post

Experimental Lego Flower Design

Lego Wedding

After distracting my wife to be with a shiny engagement ring, it was time to order a ton of Lego and start the design phase of my year long Lego Wedding project!

Once I got over the new brick excitement, I knocked together a small simple Lego flower with 7 petals clipped onto a Lego technic steering wheel.  Simple yet dull.

I then got more creative and developed two new intricate and effective techniques. The yellow Tulip (open and closed versions) took 4 core petals which were attached to a central core with outward facing studs. I liked this lots. I then tried another technique by layering various slate bricks upon each other to build a larger red flower (not a clue if this resembles any real world flower). This technique allowed me to create petals of any shape. These quick mock ups would form the basis of the next two flowers I would design…

Lego Gerberas

Flicking through images of Gerberas flowers on Pintrest, I concluded it would be good candidate for my layered petal technique. My initial version used a two tiered petal design clipped onto a octagon shaped Lego brick. I then added another technic steering wheel to it’s centre to complete the flower (left pic). Whilst this worked well, it wasn’t round or full enough. I therefore tweaked the petal design and added extras to create the full Gerberas look (right pic). This design also leveraged a Lego pipe which was secured to a technique wheel and octagon. Only issue was it was a little heavy, yet still quite a realistic copy of a real life Gerberas.

Lego Rose

Designing a Lego Rose was always going to be a flower I would want to attempt for the Lego Wedding!  My Lego Rose was built using the same technique as the Tulip, with a central core of outward facing studs attaching 4 core petals. The picture below is the second version of my Lego Rose. I take this design further in my next blog post focused on perfecting Lego Rose design…

Lego Engagement Ring Box Open Close Up

Lego Engagement Ring Box

Lego Wedding

What better way to persuade my future wife to have a Lego themed wedding, than proposing to her with an engagement ring in a Lego box!

The ring box went through various iterations, utilising various red, black and white tiled bricks left over from my childhood Lego collection. The box sits at 6 x 6 studs wide and 3 bricks high to match the dimensions of a standard ring box.  The ring (not made of Lego!) sits on a mini raised plinth made from a 2 x 2 brick and a few 1 x 2 slates for a secure ish fit. Luckily her costume jewellery worked as a perfect substitute while designing this box whilst I spent a few weeks going in and out of shops looking for the perfect engagement ring.

The box and the ring was a success and she said “yes” when I proposed in Budapest on a four wheeled bicycle on November 2014. The Lego wedding theme snow balled from here…