And now for something completely different. A year or so ago Lisa made a terrible, terrible mistake she’s regretted ever since. She came home with a little post-shopping-trip present: a Lego minifigure, one of the famous toy’s iconic little men. What she probably didn’t realise was that the figure was part of a series, blind-packed figures with usually sixteen to collect per set, in a similar way to you may have collected football stickers or Pokemon cards. Of course this meant I had to collect the whole set and now several series of Lego minifigures later, I have almost a hundred of the little (mostly) yellow people.

Now what to do with them? My basic requirement was to display them in a way I could show them off as a collection in an adult-friendly fashion, so that when we have guests they’re not too worried I’m a childless-adult-with-a-house-full-of-Lego crazy person.

The official solutions are a bit too targeted at Lego’s key child demographic and not really suitable for our décor:

Minifigure display cases from Lego. Not girlfriend approved.

Minifigure display cases from Lego. Not girlfriend approved.

As always the community has come up with some great options, mostly surrounding the Ikea Ribba frame, which is a thick frame that allows a picture to be mounted deep in the frame- perfect for hosting minifgures. There are many people out there on eBay and the like selling these, a great example can be found reviewed on BrickSet. Inspired by this I thought I’d make my own using a large 50cm x 70cm Ikea Ribba frame:

My first attempt. Note the seam in the backing paper, the wonky alignment of some of the figures and the Simpsons Scratchy figure is too big for its stand.

My first attempt. Note the seam in the backing paper, the wonky alignment of some of the figures and the Simpsons Scratchy figure is too big for its stand.

To do this I glued white backing paper to the frame’s back board, then super-glued sloping Lego bricks in a regular pattern on the paper, putting the minifigures on their bases on the slopes. This was a disaster, but I learned a few lessons:

  • Only the square Ribba frames have the internals to ‘back mount’ the frame, the rectangle ones require you to have the picture board at the front of the frame behind the perspex, which is useless for my needs.
  • To fix this I tried to flip the frame round and use it back to front, except the back isn’t painted and trying to paint it looked very amateur.
  • The weight of the figures hanging off the white backing card meant it sagged.
  • The choice of white meant you could see the seams where the various bits of card met.
  • Some of the figures – such as the Simpson’s Scratcy figure or the mermaid – have tails and other components, which means you really need four bricks ‘deep’ of space, which is too bit too deep for the Ribba frame with the perspex glass in place.

Next I found a fantastic video of someone using Lego as the frame for supporting a host of Stormtroopers:

Much more neat and tidy.

Much more neat and tidy.

Inspired by this with a bit of maths and with a lot of Lego, I came up with this:

The finished article, hung on the wall.

The finished article, hung on the wall.

Measuring the inside of the frame it became clear that the dimensions are exactly 73 Lego bricks tall and 63 Lego studs wide (this page proved invaluable for the maths). Seeing that I needed about 7 bricks to fit the tallest minifigures such as Marge Simpson and 4 studs to fit the width of the minifigures (plus an extra stud each side to space the figures out), I worked out I could fit in 9 levels, each fitting 12 minifigures, for a total of 108 figures. This fits 6 sets of 16 figures, with space for 12 others on the bottom shelf. The design of the frame is best visualised:

I'd suggest a less garish colour scheme.

I’d suggest a less garish colour scheme.

I used various lengths of ‘flat’ bricks to build each level, overlapping 3 layers of flat bricks to provide a strong foundation, then put a 7 brick high by 3 brick deep wall on either end to act as a frame. A further supporting wall is placed on the middle of each level to stop the levels sagging.

Close-ups of the frame. Note the less obvious paper seam, the middle supporting wall and copious amounts of dust.

Close-ups of the frame. Note the less obvious paper seam, the middle supporting wall and copious amounts of dust.

I then took the perspex out of the Ikea frame (remember, the figures are too deep), placed the whole Lego frame inside the Ikea frame and then placed the backing board – with black backing paper glued to it this time – behind it. With this, the Lego acts as the frame to push the backing board to the back of the Ikea frame.

To secure the backing board I had to pull all the little nails that usually hold the backing board out of the frame and re-hammer them around the outside, as well as re-screw all of the brackets:

frame_back

I think this looks far neater and more professional than a lot of options, and importantly has girlfriend approval. Here’s a few final points I discovered when putting the frame together:

  • As the figures are too deep to use the perspex, dust is a real problem. A deeper frame or sacrificing the deeper figures would get around this.
  • For the levels I took a random mixture of flat bricks. Just make sure to overlap bricks as if you were building a brick wall.
  • I didn’t have an endless supply of black bricks so used the official brick supplier – Lego’s Pick-A-Brick – for my first, aborted attempt. Their prices are extortionate however and the bricks are delivered from eastern-Europe at a snail’s pace. For this reason I would not use official sources for your bricks.
  • Instead I used the community site Brick Owl for my next attempt, which is a eBay-style marketplace for bricks. The quality is as-new and more importantly, the prices are significantly cheaper. I suspect a lot of sellers are simply buying up very large Lego Technics sets and the selling off their contents for a small profit. I did however seem to exhaust the UK community’s supply of black bricks!
  • Having to put in a central wall of bricks means that the stands that the minifigures are supplied with don’t quite fit for the central figures, as seen below.
Lego 2012 Olympic minifgures on their bases. Note their slightly off-centre bases.

Lego 2012 Olympic minifgures on their bases. Note their slightly off-centre bases as the central wall is in the way.

So to recap, if you want to build something similar, you’ll need the following:

  1. An Ikea Ribba Frame.
  2. Coloured card to stick to the back board.
  3. 3 walls per level and 9 levels for a total of 27 walls, made up of:
  4. 10 levels 3 flat bricks high and 3 studs deep, which are made up of 1 and 2 stud wide flat pieces, all overlapping, for a total length of 63 studs. These come in various lengths, the longer the more expensive they become. I bought a variety mostly 4, 6 and 8 in length. Note that as the frame is an odd number of studs in length, every level will need a 3 stud piece.

Hopefully I haven’t scared off some of our readers with such a verbose article on Lego and at the same time hopefully this will inspire fellow AFoL (Adult Fans of Lego) with their minifigure displays.