It all started with the Harry Potter sets, more specifically the wealth of pieces with the lovely stone pattern decoration on them. I'd amassed quite an assortment of the three different kinds below and thought it would be fun to see if I could use them all in one big castle.
Brick 1 x 2 x 5 with Stone Wall Pattern
Brick 1 x 6 x 5 with Stones and Moss Pattern
Panel 4 x 4 x 6 Corner Round with Stone Wall Pattern
The first dozen or so pictures will show how the design and the castle grew. I didn't have any plan in mind other than that. "What's the outpost for? What does it guard?" I didn't conjure up any backstory because this was really just a building exercise.
I have a LOT of the arched windows with barred inserts, so I got them out and started by making as many wall sections as my supplies would allow.
Whenever my Lego table is deployed, my "supervisor" is compelled to oversee construction in the most inconvenient way! Amazing how they do that, isn't it? I guess I should be glad that even these meager walls made him feel protected!
This was my first attempt to incorporate the wall sections with the typical castle corners and the 1x6 decorated walls from Hagrid's Hut.
One drawback of such close and long-lasting "supervision" is the mess!
However, as much as I liked this look, I realized a couple of things:
- The decorated walls would likely be totally obscured as I built a second wall behind them.
- Modularity would HAVE to an intergral part of the process if I was going to be able to make changes at any acceptable rate of speed and ease.
With that firmly in mind, I extended arches around the barred windows and fashioned as many 8x8 boxes as I could.
I changed the small gray pillars to black for some color matching and used the 8x8 black plate with the grating so that some light could filter down to the ground floor.
At this point I thought that I'd use the headlight bricks for torches or perhaps to attach the module together, but this arrangement didn't last long either.
I also have a good number of the 11 brick-tall one-piece pillars, and figured that they would add some regal majesty. The tan lion head bricks made nice capitals.
Here's where I first used the curved decorated walls from Hogwarts Castle and Dumbledore's Tower. I was initially psyched at the decorated bricks around the ladder, but again, I realized that they would be obscured by further building so I pulled them out and set them aside to be used last.
Here's the first time I put together all the wall and turret modules. I started with just the four towers in the corners, but then added the middle ones for more height variance. Also, I wanted to have some large, open areas on some of the turrets for mini-figs and hopefully a table with some wine bottles and goblets. I echoed the tall black pillars in the towers with smaller ones in the wall sections, each one flanked by a pair of 1x2x5 brick-patterned pieces.
Yet another visit from my so-called supervisor! He stopped by on several occasions to lend his approval to the project!
I decided to use the brick-patterned parts only in places where they would be the most prominent. Not only would this maximize their decorative power, but it also meant that I wouldn't have to worry so much about adding other castle-like details. Large projects like this can make you a surprisingly lazy builder!
I ditched the barred windows for the wall modules completely at this point because it didn't make sense defense-wise to have such an easily accessible opening on the ground floor!
I had just got out my bag of Black Falcons and was beginning to populate the towers. I had also amassed all my Black Falcon shields and was pondering a way to use them on the battlements. I was very pleased to find that there was room inside the tan lion heads for the stem of a torch! However, there was still one major structural change coming . .
The walls just didn't look as tall and imposing as I wanted, so I resolved to add a second level. I used almost all the 1x6x5 decorated bricks to line the interior. You can also see the templates that I constructed for the bases of the four corner towers with their Technic bricks. I was very pleased with how the stair arrangement didn't take up much room in the middle.
You can also see the modularity of the wall sections and turrets. Each wall section is doubled-up and then sandwiched in-between a corner turret and a middle turret. I was very careful about making changes at this point because if it was a wall section that needed alteration, I'd have to do it fourteen times!
Very close to the final layout. I had yet to build a big entryway, but I was saving that for last.
Here's everything pushed together. I added more battlement detail along the tops of the walls to help keep the sections together. I've also filled in the bases of the corner towers with more decorated panels.
The entryway and tower were the last major assembly and took quite a bit of time given how many features I wanted it to have. I have some better detail shots later as this area was rebuilt a LOT. The following two shots give a nice view through the open gate.
I'm glad I put the mini-fig for scale in this shot, and I like how it makes you feel like you're actually entering the castle. I've tried to remember to put 'figs in as many shots as possible to not only make the MOC look lived, but having a human avatar always makes the picture more relateable.
The width of the arrow slots was reduced a bit later on because I thought that they made the wall look to weak to support the second story.
Here is the final version of the entire thing. I added some more tan elements to complement the lion heads and black elements to the towers for a spikey, Mordor-ish vibe. Black Falcon shields adorn most of the outside battlements and their standard waves from the four corner turrets. I eliminated the rest of the banners and just put two over the entrance.
After coming back from a fabulous trip to England in May of 2008 and seeing some real castles up close, I added a detail to the big doors which I'd seen a LOT over there.
There's almost always a smaller, human-size door built into the big one since you don't have always have to admit a procession of knights on horseback or a caravan of carriages laden with cargo! It took a bit of time find the right arrangement of rounded brick that would allow the door to open while being only one brick thick. There was one particular detail that was also necessary. . .
"Why, we can't just let any old taffer or padfoot pass through these doors! Surrender your officially sealed parchment or be off with you!"
"Awlright, everfing's checked out okay! Mind your manners, guv'nor, this here's a civilized place, it is! Leave your sword with the master o' arms, eh? Don't make me say it twice!"
From the inside looking out you can see the second story guard stations are faithfully manned, aided by my lantern design which is EVERYWHERE in the castle. "Can't have too much loight in those bleedin' foggy nights, mate!"
I didn't bother to turn around the yellow flags, as they're only meant to be seen from the front. "We Black Falcons won't have nuffin' to do wif 'em Slytherin blokes! Downright scurvy knaves, they is!"
I just LOVE my new digital camera, as it allows me to get shots like this.
Another view from the inside looking out. This archer has many quivers at his disposal to deal with would-be intruders. You can also see more lanterns to light the darkened hallways.
Without the archer in the way, you can see how the tiling in the entrance is repeated here and on the third story battlements.
At the base of each corner tower there are two lanterns in the walls above two small tables for a goblet and a wine bottle. After all, standin' guard is thirsty work, even if you can't be bothered to sweep up the dust! Something tells me that this bloke's fancy for spirits might lead to some kp duty!
Indeed so, and this spunky fella looks like he's got a bit more self-control. Behind him you can see why this job is so important, he's guarding one of the armories in the base of each of the four corner towers. Now, before we get a look at all the shiny weapons and armor, I have a few nice mood shots from before I had the idea to use all my chrome parts.
I'd thrown an assortment of armor, helmets and shields in here at first, but I changed them when I realized that I could use the chrome parts here and display the rest in other areas of the castle. However, I like the sort of sunset or "magic hour" light captured in these two shots.
Oh man, I just LOVES me some chrome, and chrome is just the tippity-top of snazzety-snazz! I was very happy with the dummy for the armor and helmets. I was also jazzed to find a use for a big bag of dark tan 2x2 tiles. I used them in several places around the castle to denote areas of importance. The chrome reflections in the tiled floor also make me smile!
Now that we know what the corner tower bases are used for, what about the middle towers? Initially, they'd been armories too, but I realized that not only was that overkill, but I was cheating myself out of the opportunity to inject some daily life features into the castle. After all, these blokes live here, and some creature comforts were necessary. How do you find them? The stairs are the answer!
However, first we have to go back for a minute to the beginning of the project. Once I'd determined that the middle towers would be "daily life' areas, I had to determine what activities would be most representative. My first thought was a kitchen, and after that I thought that a couple dining areas would compliment that quite nicely. However, that changed as well.
At the base of each staircase stands a locked door with a guard. Speak the proper password and he'll let you into the first story. Notice the lantern behind him, which not only keeps his place of work illuminated, but also provides light beneath the staircases so you won't trip over yourself headin' to the loo in the dead of night!
What's in the room over his shoulder? We'll come to that in a minute!
Given the limited space I had, I was glad to have the experience of building a few Castle sets so I had some idea of how to build a compact fire pit. Once that was done, I needed bottles of wine, bowls and other pots and pans. I also needed a cook and at least an assistant since they'll be toiling for LOTS of hungry soldiers! I gave them matching hair color to suggest that it's a father and son operation.
Once ya got yer bangers and mash, where do you go to bolt 'em down? Well, this soldier's already got the lead on that!
"Sit on down, mate, and have a slake of this spiced rum from the West Indies! It'll grow your whiskers twice as thick!"
Here again I used the dark tan 2x2 tiles to establish the importance of this room as a site of much merry-making! Yeah, I know there's no chairs, but regular mini-fig chairs don't really have a medieval feel and I couldn't see how to add any brick-built furniture that wouldn't really cramp the already tight space.
Remember the guard at the door earlier? Well, you could probably tell that that wasn't a dining table behind him! After all, what would any self-respecting soldier want after pounding down a leg of lamb and a pot o' porter?
Some rack time, o' course! Aaaah, to sleep and dream of angels with a full belly! HuzzaaazzzZZZZZZZZZ!
'Course, you never know when the alarm might be raised, so a few crossbows nearby will help you sleep soundly knowing that if the klaxon rings, you can speedily arm yourself for battle!
Now, let us journey back to the gate and explore the entry tower and the second and third stories! We will begin outside.
First, we must open the majestic doors. CREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAK!!
The lion head and the two banners signify the Black Falcons' allegiance to King Leo. I like the fact that in addition to dressing up the entrance, they also give the guards on the second story battlements something to hide behind.
Since it's a Black Falcon-themed castle, I wanted some part of the architectural design to reflect birds in particular. I was really pleased with the arrangement of avian statuary over the arch. The one actual black falcon that I have is centrally placed like a general. I envisioned this part of the tower as a symbolic aviary where all the flock comes home to roost, hence the small arched windows up to which they're lined up.
The two windows on either side of the lion head and their function is where we shall begin our tour of the tower and the third story. Even though the kingdom is peaceful, watchful eyes must always be alert for danger!
The windows provide a bird's-eye view (nyuk,nyuk!) into the backs of any carriages passing through the gates. If any ruffians try to sneak their way in, a clothyard shaft through their wishbone will soon educate them on the error of their effrontery!
If far away views are necessary, scramble up the ladder behind you to the two lookout platforms. Two specially selected soldiers with the best eyes in the troop maintian constant vigilance. They have their own bunk here since well-rested eyes ensure the sharpest gaze.
To aid them in their duties, these soldiers are provided with a very unique fortified wine that comes in green glass bottles which greatly enhances their night vision. The green goblets from which they quaff this special sauce are another special honor only they enjoy.
To finish our tour, we return to the guard battlements at the entrance and discover a special secret that was created because of a rather alarmlingly stupid mistake by the builder!
Just behind the guard battlements there's something blurry in the foreground. What can it be? Well, back when I decided to add a second story to the walls, a MAJOR error occured which only presented itself when I was finished with construction: I'd totally spaced on providing access to the second story from ANY part of the castle!!
The stairs in the courtyard only lead to the third story, and the doors under the stairs only lead to the ground floor. To further complicate matters, the ladders from the tops of all seven towers are accessed by the second floor, which means that the towers would also be bereft of watchful sentinels!
I couldn't believe that I'd missed something so basic in all the time I'd spent building and fine-tuning the design. At first, I just sat there for bit, drool running down my chin while my jaw hung agape. What the heck could I do that wouldn't require a huge overhaul of one or more areas?! Luckily, I had two wall sections on either side of the entrance that enabled me to solve the problem.
As often happens, the error turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as I came up with a simple solution that's one of my favorite design functions in the entire MOC. I created a trapdoor with a folding ladder, and the following pictures show how it works.
First, the trapdoor is opened.
Then the ladder folds down. Now, obviously this would have to happen in reverse if someone on the ground floor wanted to go up, but I forgot that while shooting these pictures! The best laid plans of mice and AFOL's!
There are two lanterns on either side of the ground floor corridor in this module, which is the clue that soldiers must look for when seeking the ladder at night.
A lovely bit of serendipity I discovered was that when the trap door folds out, it blocks the window to the courtyard. So if a soldier is climbing up the ladder, he is shielded from attack. I love happy accidents like these!
Every castle needs a mascot, and Gunther has taken a pause to pet Olaf the Underfoot!
What follows next are some shots to show the ladders and trapdoors that provide access to the corner and middle towers. We'll start with the middle towers.
Looking down one of the dark corridors on the second floor, the short tables, goblets and weapons let you know where the ladder to a middle tower lies.
The ladder assemblies went through quite a few versions before I remembered that the barred window insert could double as a short section, and luckily I had enough in brown as I needed seven to finish the ladders for all the towers.
Here's the view from outside, where I've removed some panel sections for a clear view. I keep it this way so that the public can easily see these kinds of details without me having to tear it apart every time!
The view looking down. Hope you ain't afraid o' heights, mate!
Once up top, the soldier can put the trapdoor down and assume his duties, aided by a bottle of wine to warm him against the chill winds.
Once you reach the corner tower, you have an even longer climb ahead of you!
Now you're in one of the highest towers in the castle, where you can keep a lookout and, if need be, check the standard for wear and tear. Black Falcons take great pride in their flags, and keep them tightly stitched to withstand the gales that sometimes blow across the plains.
We brought another "supervisor" into our home a few years ago, but this is the first time she's been captured on the job!
"Oy! Watch out mate! There's a giant mewling dragon with the amber stare o' death right behind you!"