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Master builder brings Lego bricks to life

Aug. 1, 2014
GRANBY – Lego bricks have been an icon of the toy industry dating back to the company’s founding in 1932.

Many children have to give up their love of the creative building bricks once they get old enough to move into the working world, but Granby resident Chris Steininger, a Lego model master builder, builds with Lego bricks for a living.

“There’s only seven master model builders in North America,” Steininger said. “I’ve been playing with Lego bricks since I was 6 or 7 years old. My father at the time was a sales associate at a flower shop. He would come from work and build with me.”

Steininger’s father, Dan, has been working at Lego for 21 years and helped his son get his foot in the door.

“I was about ten when he started working at Lego [as a model gluer trainee]. When I was in high school, he helped me get an internship in the model shop. After I graduated I went into carpentry and woodworking. Lego start[ed] to get busy again [and] called me up. I’ve been working at Lego full-time for seven years,” Chris said.

Lego master builders are known for their background skills in different mediums.

“We look for people with artistic and creative backgrounds. I have experience with carpentry and woodworking. Other Master Builders have done work with sculptures, painting,” he explained. “We’re creative artistic people. Essentially what we’re doing is sculpting with Lego bricks.”

Some of the “sculptures” they have created include life size versions of Darth Vader, Yoda, Lightning McQueen from “Cars,” the models displayed at 2014 Comic Con International: San Diego.

When asked which model was his favorite to build, Chris replied it’s was working on a life size X-Wing fighter that measures 43 feet long and its wingspan is 44 feet, and its 11 feet tall. It weighs 23 tons, and is constructed out of 5.3 million Lego bricks. It took more than 17,000 hours to complete.

“All the models are designed first. It takes hundreds of hours to develop. We’re involved in every step along the lines of designing models, designing the crates that transport the models, and traveling to the events. You have to learn a lot of different aspects to be a master builder,” Chris explained.

“Generally it’s a small group [as there’s only] about seven to 12 model builders, gluers and trainees. It’s one of those types of positions where the best way to get into the position is to by first getting a job at Lego,” he continued.

Chris was also part of the team who built one of the sets for “The Lego Movie.”

“I was part of the team that designed and built the city of Bricksburg at the end of ‘The Lego Movie.’ We had a huge time crunch to build that model so we designed and built it in about five weeks. It truly is amazing to see something that you helped create on the big screen,” he elaborated.

While building Lego models for a living may sound like a dream job, there are some aspects that can sometimes be more onerous than fun.

“Gluing every single piece on can be tedious, but it’s part of the game. If we didn’t glue it together it would fall apart before anyone could see it,” Chris explained.

“[Also, filling out] expense reports. We travel a lot and we have to do the expense reports. Once you’ve seen one airport you’ve seen them all [and] there’s lots time in hotels, being away from family, [but] you get to see different cities,” he continued.

Traveling to different cities, and countries, is one of Chris’ favorite parts of the job.

“I like to travel, see different areas, [and] see different things. Every day is different at Lego,” he said.

Chris has been a part of projects in the United States, Canada, and Australia. His next project will be in New York, where a new Lego store is being opened in the Flatiron district. The store will be featuring a new model that he thinks people will be excited to see.

“I can’t say what it is, but it’s a very big, impressive model with significance to the New York area,” he hinted.

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