So, I have mini-helmets, caps (lots of caps, my wife won’t let me buy any more caps), pictures, old ticket stubs, old field credentials, a Dr. Pepper bottle from the 1980 season, a Frank Beamer Miniature statue (ok that’s my wife’s along with two helmets), and she has a signed mini-football. There’s a Hokie Bird statue, and assorted wall hangings. I guess, my eldest son, Tech Class of 2013, and former (and occasional) contributor, Joshua, didn’t think that I had enough kitsch. So, last Father’s Day - FD 2019, he tells me that the box being delivered today is for me.
So, I opened it, and found this gem -
Inside it were bags of tiny little itty bitty FoCo.com designed BRXLS blocks (They’re like quarter sized Lego blocks) set and instructions, 24 pages long that basically looked all like this:
Each page contains one layer of the “puzzle” - which is what this is, a puzzle. The angle is the same no matter the page, and there is no more detail than what you see. Josh, the Architect, tells me that they are isometric. I would have appreciated a few more views, but I suppose that would reduce the challenge. Well, there are other challenges besides the tiny instructions. The colors on the plans are slightly different than the colors of the blocks, and then the lines delineating the type and size of the blocks were painful to see. Note: I am also red-green color-blind so some things just looked like other things and I had to ask my wife or daughter and figure out if that greyish brown was red, or what served as black in the plans.
So, I started off at the dining room table with the light cranked up to high, and a hope that I’d figure it out... that was Monday after Fathers’ Day 2019. The first thing that I noticed is that the pieces were not presorted. The bags had to be cut out and the parts all sorted by color, pin count (light gray six blocks, dark gray four blocks, odd green blind blocks, etc.) Well, I looked around and figured out that short of losing my mind losing pieces, I would be best served to think of a list of things that I’d need to deal with the construction project. I needed some craft bins (Seen here - not too expensive but 4 added up to about $25 at the local craft store).
And I also grabbed a base that I will eventually mount the finished model to. This did cost more than I needed to spend; but it will be neat looking when painted - and it also was a great platform to build on. It allowed me to grab ready pieces, and keep track of tools.
Now you have to understand that my hands are old and arthritic. No, not joking, I am serious, so I don’t have the same sense of feeling or dexterity of my younger days. My first six pages went from “oh, this isn’t too too difficult”...”to okay, if I have to rip these two layers apart one more time, Josh can build it!” By the time I got the supplies and sorted the bricks, the construction didn’t start for a few days. The first few layers looked like this:
What I really noticed was that I didn’t have enough cells in the boxes to fit all the different kinds of blocks in the puzzle. The instructions were still killing me, and even at this stage it took me a couple of passes to validate the base and first few layers.
Eventually I went out and bought enough boxes to handle all the bricks. As I said before, it ended up being four. And at this point, about a week into the actual work and somewhere near the end of the first week in July 2019, my wife told me that it couldn’t stay on the dining room table, and I needed to do something to help me read the directions. So it was closed up, stacked, and neatly placed in a chair in the corner.. from July 2019 until Joshua reminded me that I never finished it when he saw the stack of stuff in the corner of the dining room - in May of 2020.
He did bring something to help, though. Remember I said that he graduated in Architecture? Well, one of those tools that we forked over money for was this little (errr big) gem...
My wife bought me a work table that I could set up nice and high so I could sit up straight. and after some assembly and attaching and adjusting by the 1st of June I could finally find my way past step 6 on the plan set. The funny thing is that you’d think that the magnifying lamp would be for the actual construction. Nope, that was pretty easy with the glasses and even without them. The magnifier was strictly for reading the isometric diagrams. I would start on a page, fish out the requisite number of pieces by color placed on the wooden base and work one quadrant at a time... well that was the goal, I actually ended up missing a quadrant and had to tear off one layer and go back. No, I promise I didn’t cuss to loudly... okay, I did, but no one was home except the dogs, and they don’t mind.
It took me about two days to assemble the next few layers. The lower parts of the stadium are pretty slow going because there are lots of pieces to put in each quadrant. Each layer goes a bit faster.
I finally felt like I was making headway at about layer 10/11, here:
Oh, you’ll notice that the BRXLS come with a little pry tool that helps deconstruct brick piles (believe me you’ll make mistakes and will end up using it a whole lot. But I also used a pair of needle nosed pliers and some of the tools on my multi-tool. The pliers are really handy when you get near the end and a piece falls into a hollow cavity under the growing stands. Needless to say, just like when you were a kid, the blocks like to try to pop apart over time, and make that weird squishy sound just like the bigger bricks.
Last weekend I finally found myself with what was looking generally like Lane Stadium. The East Stands still needed to be capped off, and the Jumbotron was still being layered up, but the Student section was done, and the West Stands had a roof.
The construction finishes up pretty quickly after about page 19, but I did notice that if you made any mistakes, you will know because at that stage, nothing that is supposed to fit will fit. I think that I got lucky, I only had one layer of the East Stands that had to be done, it was three layers back, but all of the sections moved in groups, making it pretty easy.
There are a few things to note with this model in the final pictures. First, I built up the towers a few layers (there were enough bricks of the right colors). The existing model leaves the towers a bit short. I had to wing it with the goal posts and used an orange crossbar for each... there weren’t enough yellow single row threes. There are a few mis-placed blocks on the first rows of the front of the West stands. I am not tearing down the entire west stands to fix two blocks. There was a single row red three block missing for the sign for Lane Stadium (which really should be on the South side of the model base, not the North, but we’ll live with that until I change it) I did a little twiddle with two dark gray three single row threes, and then used a sturdier base configuration.. the original was a bit spindly for my tastes.
All in all it was a fun project. If you like puzzles and have a hankering to go back to your childhood spent in a pile of builders blocks, this is a perfect shot at some nostalgia. I don’t know if FOCO,COM will have any more of them any time soon, the last that I checked they were sold out. But If you like this sort of thing it was fun.
Don’t ask me how long it took. If I said a year, I’d be telling the truth from a certain perspective. But really if I had done it in one sitting it probably took me about two weeks of evenings.