Save on Lego Costs This Holiday Season

I got you with that headline, didn’t I?

Well if you are like me and you have approximately 10 million Lego pieces and yet your children still ask for new Legos sets, allow me to take you on a journey.

Okay so, it’s not really a long journey. It began when I realized that new Lego sets exist in all their complete glory for about three days in my household before getting discarded, at which point I am forced to sort through all the pieces and put them in their proper bins (because I am that kind of crazy).

And that when building with my children there is always one specific thing that they ask me to make for them: some kind of dwelling that has “lots of cool features”.

My own personal design aesthetic at this point is to gather as many pieces of the same color or same color gradient together first and then come up with an idea.

Here I submit to you the plan: This year, instead of spending $30-50 apiece on a Lego set, you are going to build one yourself.

  1. Find as many gray pieces as you can (windows, doors, bricks, odds and ends) and gather them into a bucket in secret. Then find a suitable base plate, something small (16×8 perhaps).
  2. You’ll want to gather up more than you expect. And make sure to do it in secret. Several times I was caught “with my pants down” rummaging through Lego piles and had to quickly gather them up and hide them like I was sixteen trying to hide weed from my parents.
  3. If you have two kids like me, make sure and gather twice as many pieces. Then divide them in half equally.
  4. Come up with your idea. It can be basic! I decided I was going to make an Alchemist Lair. So I knew I wanted to build a little cave-like dwelling at the side of a mountain. And I needed my Alchemist (well I needed two).
  5. Then just.. start building up. You will be amazed how good something can look when you stick to a simple color pallet.
  6. It’s all in the details, so make sure you add in something fun. For my lair, as a finishing touch, I added in a handful of glass vials that the Alchemist uses to brew his potions, and each child got their own “familiar” animal.

The next step was the most challenging for me: Making the instructions. I knew there were lots of good options online, but I went with the now-defunct Lego Digital Designer (you can still download and use it but it is no longer officially supported).

The Alchemist’s Lair. (View from front)
The Alchemist’s Lair (View from back)

I then disassembled one of the models in small chunks and added each piece one at a time to the Lego Designer. When complete, it attempts to make a good blueprint of instructions for you, but generally fails pretty spectacularly.

So once you have the model built, you’ll want to download a separate application to update and print your instructions. For that I used a little piece of software designed by a Lego enthusiast called Blueprint. There are pretty good instructions on the site on how to import a file from the Lego Digital Designer.

You can find my instructions here if you want to take a look.

Lastly, I put the pieces into a couple of plastic bags, printed out the instructions, and dropped it all into a shoebox.

Happy holidays and good luck!


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