Introducing BrikSmith Customs!

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How do you make a 14yo boy smile? You say yes when he comes to you looking for odds and ends like Sharpies and acrylic spray. Ethan (aka E14 here on Blog, She Wrote) started making custom LEGO minifigs last summer and has created a whole little world of Clone Troopers among other things.

blog she wrote: custom clones

I’ve been getting to know all about making “customs” this week as we prepare for the 4-H public presentations on Saturday. His topic this year is an illustrated talk on customizing minifigs entitled, “Transforming LEGO Minifigs”. He’s done a great job sharing how he got started and what he’s learned.

Blog She Wrote: close up clones

Any good project deserves the appropriate place in which to work. We set up a table down in our basement where he has his own workshop. The picture below shows some extra things like a NERF gun that he was modifying for a huge battle with friends. Everything you see here has a purpose. The bottle of colored liquid is rubbing alcohol which is where he soaks off the Sharpie if he messes up a clone. The bamboo skewers hold the different pieces as you work wit them. It’s a whole process! The hallmark of any good workspace is the ability to leave out your work and see a beautiful, productive mess!

Blog She Wrote: Custom lego workshop

Note the project journal- this piece of magic Ethan started on his own to record which characters he’s already customized. Most of these are Clone Troopers from The Clone Wars cartoon and LEGO has not come out with every trooper in their sets. So, he takes plain clones and turns them into the characters. He prints out the clone so he has reference material to work with and decided to use them as a way to document his process and progress.

Blog She Wrote: materials for customs

He began this journey all on his own and all we had to do was say yes. Dan has been terrific at setting Ethan up with the things he needs even allowing him to spray the acrylic spray to seal the work he’s done (properly with a box and ventilation).

Once he asked to have heat so he could poke a hole in a helmet and make a new helmet into an older looking model. Dan got him going with a candle and a needle. It was a failed attempt, but kudos to him for trying it out! Dan is more than happy to teach and to show Ethan how to be safe and it’s cool to see him try things out.

An important aspect of Project Based Homeschooling is to make sure kids don’t have to constantly ask for permission. At our house, we definitely strive to make things available to our kids and we’ve always done that in an age appropriate way. This is really key. If kids have to ask for everything, chances are they will stop asking…especially if you aren’t timely about getting them the help they need.

Blog She Wrote: Custom minifigs

Ethan has done his own research and tried a lot of things that failed before hitting on what really works for him and the materials he has for making custom LEGO minifigures. What a great process!

Blog She Wrote: custom minifigs

Ethan’s been dying to have his own blog for years, but we’ve been waiting for the right thing to come along for his “platform”. LEGOS fit the bill well. Click over to BrikSmith Customs and enjoy a detailed look at the world of customizing LEGO minifigs- my guess is I have a few readers with kids who would love a peek!

So much in life is learned through direct, unstructured experiences. Does your schedule allow your kids to explore? I know my children learn many lessons from the time they work on their projects. It is a priority in our homeschool to make project time available daily.

How do you encourage your own children in what they love to do? How can you encourage them to find something they love to do?

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  1. i had this saved in my bookmarks to come back and read — what a fantastic project! can’t wait to show this to my son! you are doing some awesome stuff! 😀

    1. Thank you for taking a look Lori. It’s really been enjoyable to take some things we’ve already been doing and realize how much more value it has than even what we thought before. Thanks for the encouragement!

  2. hi, this is so sweet! my son also has a blog for his custom clones. it’s really great to see what your son is doing!
    originally my son’s was “Joseph’s Custom Clones.” he later changed it to “Joseph’s Lego Collection” so he could stretch out a bit more. he started 4 years ago – he was only six, and he’s still making custom clones – ha!!!
    being so young, it was a great way for him to start writing. that was a subject he was happy to write about! he would write his posts in a notebook, then type them out. it’s a project he’s completely in charge of. he learned how to set up his “photo shoots,” upload the photos, edit them. he later figured out how to redesign his blog template. that might not sound too relevant, but he was sooo little!
    I can’t wait to show him brick smith customs!

    1. I’ll have to let my son know about Joseph’s lego collection. What a lot of work for a young guy! Thanks for taking the time to share with us!

  3. Thanks for this idea! I showed it to my 10 year old son and he ran with it and couldn’t even wait to get to the store to start making them. I am curious what kind of acrylic spray your son uses. We tried what we had around and it just caused the permanent marker to run on the minifigure. Thankful that my son thought that it looked cool on the one guy I tried!

    1. Andrea,

      We use whatever is the glossy spray from the craft store. I can’t remember the brand off hand.

      However, my husband warned my son about this. He probably read about it along the way as well.

      First, he takes apart the whole mini fig and puts the parts on bamboo sticks if he can. He tapes the holes shut before spraying (with painter’s tape). This keeps the spray from gunking up the connections between the pieces because LEGO tolerances are pretty tight. An extra layer of spray might stop a LEGO mini fig from going back together.

      My 14yo had this trouble too and he works hard to get a thin layer on there. If you spray too much it will run into drips as well and stay on the minifig that way even if the sharpie doesn’t run. I’ll check with him to see if he has any specific advice for you tomorrow morning!

      I’m so glad your son had a good time with it!

    2. I talked with my son this morning and he said two things. First, don’t overdo it with the Sharpies. Only make the mark you need and go over and over it. Secondly, spray from further away so that what lands on the minifig parts is not droplets but a fine mist. I hope that helps! He said it took some trial and error to get it right.

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