I got the chance to interview LEGO Master Builder Chris Steininger for this year’s LEGO Star Wars Day. If the name Steininger rings a bell, it’s because he’s the son of Dan Steininger (read last year’s interview with Dan) and together they make up the world’s only father-son Master Builder Team.
Dan and Chris were flown in by LEGO Australia to celebrate Star Wars Day in stunning fashion. Together, they are going to construct the world’s biggest LEGO Millennium Falcon at Westfield Southland on Saturday & Sunday (2-3 May) and they are going to need all the help they can get. Find out more about the event details here.
The event is free and open to the public so if you’re in Melbourne, be sure to come down and help put together a 4 metre long Millennium Falcon!
I got to chat with Chris today on what’s it like to have one of the best jobs in the world and his personal journey from carpenter, to LEGO Master Builder.
Hey Chris, is this your first time in Australia?
No it’s actually not. I was down here in Australia about 3 years ago in Sydney for a couple of LEGO events. I constructed some large scale models at the Sydney Aquarium for a big exhibition there. It’s great to be back, the food is amazing and the people are nice which is what I like about Australia!
You’re one half of the world’s only Father-Son Master Builder team. Was following your father’s footsteps a natural progression?
It kinda was. I actually take credit for getting my father into LEGO. I grew up surrounded by LEGO unlike my father, who didn’t have access to LEGO bricks when he was a kid.
I was a very big LEGO fan from an early age. My father would come home from work and he would build with me. We’d smash cars and do boys stuff with LEGO. He then realised he really liked doing it and was able to get a job at the LEGO Model Shop with some help from a friend using his experience from his art background.
When he became Master Builder, it instantly made me have a ‘cool factor’ in school. What this also allowed me to do was to get into LEGO during Summer and Spring vacation to do some work in the shop and help build some models. It was a really fun start in the LEGO world for me.
What’s your story? How did you end up in one of the most coveted jobs in the world?
After high school, I went off to do my own thing. I did some carpentry and woodworking work as well as some furniture making. I’m a very hands on, building type person. I’m always having to create something.
LEGO actually called me back 5 years later when they were super busy and needed some help. I didn’t come in and start building LEGO models immediately. I came in because of my carpentry background to build the crates that LEGO models get shipped around the world with.
As soon as that stuff started slowing down, they needed someone to build the models with and I stood out because I already had experience building models. I’ve been there full-time for almost 7 years now and about 5 and a half of them were as Master Model Builder.
What is your favourite thing about working with LEGO?
My favourite things about working with lEGO is the fact that there’s endless creativity in what I do. There is no wrong way to play with LEGO. You can build anything that’s in your imagination – it doesn’t matter what it is, you can always figure out a way to build with LEGO.
There are thousands of LEGO bricks in the assortment, the best part is figuring out different ways to use elements to create something new and exciting with LEGO.
Tell the truth, what’s it like working with your father?
Generally we don’t do a ton of events together. When we do work together, it’s usually for these larger events like this weekend’s Millennium Falcon just because we need the horsepower to build the models in a short time frame.
We do share an office together, so when we’re not travelling doing events we’re always working together on projects .
It’s pretty good working with my father. We’re both pretty easy going. We don’t let stuff bother us too much. We might disagree on a particular way to attack a problem but normally one of us will give in and just say “it will get done, we’ll figure it out” We won’t beat each other up. I’d say we work pretty well together!
How big of a Star Wars fan are you?
I’m a pretty big Star Wars fan. I’m not the biggest fan where I know all the character and can remember all the scenes. If anything, I’m more of a classic Star Wars fan. I’m not a fan of the newer stuff.
I do have big hopes for the new movie (The Force Awakens). I’m hoping it turns the franchise around. The prequel movies kinda went south and didn’t have the same nostalgic feel as the classics.
How much planning goes into building the world’s largest LEGO Millennium Falcon?
We’ve been working on this one since last year where we started the initial brainstorming.
How are you guys planning to approach the build this weekend?
This is the first time we’ve ever built a model like this where its more or less a pancake, as opposed to typical models like last year’s Darth Vader and Yoda that are more of a fire hydrant shape – they’re wide at the base and skinny at the top.
This one is more like a pancake. It’s quite unusual. We’ve never done anything like this. My father is the one that designed the prototype for this with one of the other LEGO Master builders in Enfield (LEGO’s US HQ).
It was a difficult process for him in particular. He had to figure out a way to make the whole top section of the model stay up. It’s a big 3 metre area thats covering the entire model. We worked out a puzzle type piece setup where sections of the model would be built upon stilts. We would take LEGO bricks and build up and then outwards from each one of those stilted sections which would create the top of the model.
It’s a different way of building that we’ve never done before!
What are some of your most memorable LEGO projects?
It would be another Star Wars model, the world’s largest X-Wing. We unveiled it right in the middle of Times Square in New York City.
If you had an unlimited supply of bricks and no time constraints, what would you build?
I happen to have a fascination with airplanes. I like airplanes in general. I would love to build a life-sized airplane, like a jumbo jet. Like an A380 – just something MASSIVE.
If you had to choose, would you pick the Galactic Empire or the Rebels?
I’m a Rebels kind of person for sure. Theyre kinda down and dirty, they’re not neat, clean or tidy.Everything they have is kind of beat up and wrecked. They’re scrounging around to make things happen. Thats the way you gotta be be – you gotta be creative to make things work.
What is your favourite LEGO theme and set of all time?
I am a big Technic fan. That’s what I really grew up playing with for the most part. My favourite Technic set ever was the Technic Space Shuttle set. It had the extendable arm and fiber optic lights in the jet engines that would light up and look really cool.
What is it about Technic that you like?
What draws me to Technic is the gears, axles and making things move. Figuring out how stuff works. It definitely fits in with my personality, I really like the mechanical side of things as well.
If you could describe yourself using one minifigure, what would it be and why?
That’s a good question! Currently, I would put myself on a bike cause I like mountain biking. I’d put a helmet on my minifigure, put him on a bike and put him in some woods.
What’s your favourite LEGO element in the world?
If you ask my father the same question, he’ll probably answer the same thing (he did!) – it’s the 2 X 4 LEGO brick. It’s the iconic LEGO brick and is the most versatile element – if you take two 2 X 4 bricks and put them together there’s over 24 different combinations possible. You can really create a lot of things using 2 X 4 bricks.
What advice would you have for LEGO builders to put away their instruction manuals and build creatively?
It can be a daunting task. Where do you start when do you want to build something? You need some sort of inspiration, I would say. Start with something you’re interested in.
For example, if you’re into race cars – you can do some research and start thinking about building the nexrt Formula 1 or Nascar vehicle. Start by designing components of it and then hopefully you can create the actual model in the end.
Take it in bites. You don’t need to look at the whole thing right away. you can look at smaller sections of a model and design those first before bringing it all together in the final model.
Can you give a shoutout to my readers and Australian LEGO fans? Tell them why they should come down to Westfield Southland tomorrow and give you guys a hand!
Everyone’s going to have a great time. They’re gonna get to meet the only father and son Master Builder Team. They’re gonna help us make an absolutely massive Millennium Falcon. We’re gonna make sure that everyone that comes is going to have a great time!
Melbourne LEGO Star Wars Day Event Details
WHEN: Saturday May 2nd, 9am to 5pm Sunday May 3rd, 10am to 4pm
WHERE: Centre Court, Westfield Southland – 1239 Nepean Highway, Cheltenham VIC 3192