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10K CLUB INTERVIEW: Steampunk Explorer Lionel Martin and Max Brich

Today's 10K Club Interview is dedicated to two of our regular builders Lionel Martin (aka Castor-Troy) and Max Brich. Here we can present their third 10K club collaboration. A massive congratulations to both! Read more about their fascinating Steampunk Explorer project inside this post.



  1. Who are you? 

    Castor Troy: My name is Lionel Martin and I called myself Castor, but everyone knows me as Castor-Troy (if you know Rocky Raccoon/The Beatles).

    Max Brich: I prefer to stay anonymous, but Max Brich is not my real name, it is just a silly pun based on the romantic composer Max Bruch.

  2. Where are you from?

    Castor Troy: I live in a small village in the middle of France.

    Max Brich: I live in Paris.

  3. How old are you?

    Castor Troy:
    I am 48 years old.

    Max Brich: I am 36.

  4. What do you do for a living?

    Castor Troy: IT manager.

    Max Brich: I am a software engineer.

  5. What hobbies do you have?

    Castor Troy: I play with LEGO products, I play drums in a band (with friends), I like spending time with my loved ones (my daughters, my family, and friends) and I am a big fan of Prince.

    Max Brich: I play the violin. I’m part of a video game modding team (as a programmer). I also love swimming.

  6. Do you have a personal LEGO portfolio website that you can share with us?

    Castor Troy: You can follow me on:
    Flickr : Castor Troy | Flickr
    Instagram : lego_castor_troy

  7. Have you created any LEGO MOCs (my own creations) that you’re particularly proud of? What is it, why are you proud it and do you have a photo of it?

    Castor Troy: I am currently working on a 2m x 3m project: Horrifik Land. It's an abandoned park and Mickey and Goofy are investigating inside. The story comes from a French comic strip in a 1930s style. I will present it at an exhibition next year. About 200,000 pieces planned. Otherwise with the LUG (LEGO® User Group) we are doing a special Harry Potter build: I must reproduce Diagon Alley on 10 plates of 32x32

  8. How and when did your interest in LEGO products come about?

    Castor Troy:
    I have been playing LEGO since the age of 7 with the bulk of my uncles' parts. Then I asked for LEGO as a gift for my birthdays and Christmas until I was 18. I took up my passion again in 2006 with the birth of my daughter Lilou.

    Max Brich: I loved LEGO as a kid, but I completely stopped in my teenage years. My interest came back when my elder son became old enough to play with LEGO. I was looking for parts on the internet to restore some childhood sets, when I stumbled, by chance, upon LEGO Ideas. I immediately liked the concept, and I installed a couple of digital design software to give it a try.

  9. What is LEGO for you? What does it mean for you? How does it fit in your life? E.g. build, display, meetups, play the games.. or 'just' watch the cartoons. 

    Castor Troy:
    LEGO building is an important part of my life; I am a creator. I particularly like making large dioramas that keep me busy for 2 or 3 years. I decided with friends to extend my passion by creating a permanent gallery in my city which will be dedicated to the exhibition of dioramas and original creations. Our association is called “La Maison de la brique et du diorama” (The House of Brick and Diorama). It is difficult to be a project manager, to obtain funding, to stay mobilized on long projects. If we win LEGO Ideas, my complete efforts will go into this project.

    Max Brich: At first it was mostly a father and son activity. But now, it is also a serious, creative hobby. I like that it requires various skills beyond LEGO modeling, like drawing, 3D modeling, video editing and advertisement, etc. Since Castor and I started on Ideas, my Blender skills have improved quite a lot.

  10. What is your favourite LEGO theme (current or past)? Why? And has any theme inspired your building style or preference in any particular way?

    Castor Troy:
    My favorite theme is still steampunk. It's a theme that brings together many LEGO enthusiasts. The possibilities are endless, the architectural, sartorial, and technical aesthetics are very rich and very varied. I dream of a very nice LEGO set dedicated to this theme. 

    We had a lot of support from Steampunk groups. There are gatherings all over the world. Many fans like to dress up in 19th century style. There are a lot of women who love the aesthetics of this movement.

    Max Brich: That would be pirates, steampunk, and medieval. Also, I don’t know if it is really a theme, but I love the 3-in-1 creator series. Those are great for creativity and my kid loves them.

  11. What is your favourite official LEGO set? Why?

    Castor Troy: I think the LEGO designers have taken another step forward with Hedwig's latest set (76391): it's brilliant and it's beautiful: bravo! Personally, I don't know how to make cars, but the LEGO sets of the Porsche and the Mustang are remarkable and ingenious.

    Max Brich: It has not changed, and it will not: my favorite set is the Carribean Clipper 6274. Building it with my dad when I was a little kid is one of my fondest childhood memories.

  12. What is your favourite LEGO element? Why?

    Castor Troy: In fact, one of my favorite pieces (as I get older) is the plate 1x1. The more you progress, the more you work with small parts.
    Max Brich: I really like bricks that add some texture; the grid tile (2412); the fluted brick (2877); the brick with log profile (30136) and, of course, the masonry brick (98283).

  13. Is there a LEGO designer (official LEGO designer or fan designer) who you are inspired by and look up to? Who and why?

    Castor Troy: My favorite designers are all designers, especially those who, 3 or 4 times a year, take out their creations to show them at exhibitions. Fewer and fewer of us are creating because you are more likely to have likes on the networks by photographing yourself with a box, than with a creation. It's very sad. Also, when you spend 3 years on a project like LEGO Paris Steampunk, the mainstream media pick up your images and videos and make millions of views. They earn a lot of money. But what does a designer gain? Nothing.

    The worst part is that we have no rights over our own creations. Some don't even mention your name or steal your identity to get likes. That's why I want a place dedicated to creation, highlighting those who play LEGO bricks like a child; those who instinctively dismantle the set to create their own universe. This is the goal of the House of Brick and Diorama.

    Max Brich: I am always amazed by the quality of official sets (even more now that I tried to design sets myself), but I’m not very aware of official designers. On ideas, I feel that there are so many talented designers. Those that come to my mind at the moment are Ralf Ranghaal, Bricky Brick, BrickHammer... and, of course, Castor-Troy!

  14. Is there one or more particular LEGO-related websites (not official LEGO websites) that you visit often and/or are inspired by?

    Castor Troy: I really like the Youtube channel of our friend Brickmitri:

    Max Brich: Same!



  1. Where did your interest in this particular model come from?

    Castor Troy: I exchanged ideas with Max to identify the best idea (among our small list). We had to tick the boxes: aesthetics; playability; modularity and popularity. I said to Max, “let's build a set that we would like to buy.”

    When I do an exhibition, I always stay next to my booth and talk to all the visitors. Parents come for their children, but in the end, they were the most interested. Our creations do not interest children; they appeal to mothers! In fact, when adults stop in front of our steampunk dioramas, they understand that it is not SW or HP sets; that there is a real universe. Real creative research. The "Steampunk Explorers" project is the result of this observation. 

    Max Brich: We love this theme! And after a mild reception on a previous steampunk project, we were eager to try it again, putting into practice everything we have learned in between.

  2. How long was the process of making the project did, and what did you have to research as well. What kind of prep, research and design phases did you go through to produce your creation?

    Castor Troy: We work well together. I propose architectural ideas and Max corrects, adapts, and modifies them. It is important to offer different techniques and colours, to bring something more. In the end, we produce a raw project and Max brings the final magic touch. Creating is not always a fun activity. Currently, we are starting a new project and it is a difficult process. We have spent a lot of time finalising and building a beautiful harmony of colours.

    Max Brich: In my free time, I work on a video game modding project which has been very much about steampunk, in the past few years. I have been frequently exposed to steampunk content and research, so it has been a source of inspiration.

  3. What special challenges did you face creating the model? What was the most difficult part to recreate?

    Castor Troy: We integrated many techniques into this project, if only for the assembly of the 3 buildings. Otherwise, the dome-shaped glass roof, of course, which came from one of my creations, and the idea of the hot-air balloon which, when in a stationary position, reveals a dome at the top of the main building.

    Max Brich: Early in the project, we spotted an official minifigure from 2012 with a nice diving helmet that would fit perfectly in a steampunk set. When we looked for the 3D model for this part, however, it was nowhere to be found. It was neither in, Ldraw, or anywhere on the internet. So instead of giving up, we decided to make the 3D model ourselves. That was a cool experience.

    One other big challenge was choosing the right colours. We were quickly very satisfied with the shape of the building, but picking the colours proved to be a long and difficult process.

  4. If you could talk to yourself before you started on this project, what would you tell him/her? What do you know now that you wish you knew then?

    Castor Troy: Frankly, leave the creation as it is. If it appeals to LEGO fans and if it appeals to the LEGO team as well, the designers will make it one of the most beautiful LEGO Ideas sets. We are not in control of the choices, but sometimes there is evidence: the Van Gogh was obvious. As soon as we saw it, we knew. I think everyone knows if their project can win or not. You also have to be objective with yourself.

    Max Brich: I would give myself some precious advice on renderings. I learned quite a few new tricks during this project!

  5. How long did it take to complete the model? Did you finish it fairly quickly, or did it take a long time? And how did the build time compare to the time you spent promoting your Product Idea to reach 10,000 supporters?

    Castor Troy: In total, we took 3 months to finalise this project. We really tweaked it. And once again, for the promotion, we were very lucky because the project became very popular immediately. After 5K votes, it took a bit longer but with regular votes. We made 4 or 5 posts on FB.

  6. How did it feel when you reached the magic 10,000 votes and how long did it take?

    Castor Troy: This is our 3rd project to reach 10k. The joy remains whole, and it is almost a relief when in the morning we got up and saw we had hit 10K. But there is also a sense of fear because it is only a small step and overall, all projects have their chance. We try to reassure ourselves; we compare ourselves with others and we cross our fingers.

    Max Brich: It felt awesome, as usual! I can remember precisely where I was and what I was doing when we hit 10k. It took 2 months and 2 weeks, which was an extremely pleasant surprise. We really didn’t know if the project would gather a broad fan base, or only a few steampunk aficionados.

  7. Approximately how many LEGO bricks did you use to create your model?

    Castor Troy: 2980 bricks

  8. What is your favourite building technique or part/section that you’ve incorporated into your Product Idea?

    Castor Troy: Beyond a technique, we wanted a "wow" factor when we completed the set. I think we succeeded. We wanted to surprise and not present the same project for the 3rd time (even if it's the right way to reach 10K).

    Max Brich: The parts I like the most are the (half) dome of the observatory and the telescope. The dome includes smart techniques to accommodate the 45° angles, and the telescope has a cool rotating chair that, luckily, fits perfectly in the room. My favourite minifigs are the lady in pink and the diver.

  9. If you built your model digitally, what software did you use to build and render your model?

    Castor-Troy: BrickLink's Studio

    Max Brich: The parts I like the most are the (half) dome of the observatory and the telescope. The dome includes smart techniques to accommodate the 45° angles, and the telescope has a cool rotating chair that, luckily, fits perfectly in the room. My favourite minifigs are the lady in pink and the diver.

  10. If you used custom stickers or prints for your design, how did you create them or where did you get them?

    Max Brich: We drew all of them ourselves, using Inkscape - a vector graphics editor. Vector graphics are especially suitable for LEGO elements because you want your decorated part and minifigs to easily catch the eye with simple shapes and flat colours. Oftentimes, if it gets too realistic it does not look as good.


  1. Do you have any useful advice about creating a successful LEGO Ideas project?

    Castor Troy: The first image is like a job interview; it must catch on at the first glance. And read the rules!

    Max Brich: Aim for the highest level of quality, both in your build and in your pictures. Also, avoid making a vertical build because it will be difficult to have it fit in your main picture. It may seem silly, but we believe this is important.

  2. What (if any) methods did you use to advertise and attract support to your Product Idea? 

    Castor Troy: We posted on Facebook and Flickr and a bit of Instagram. Our community affords us the luxury of not having to advertise too much. It works pretty well with a few posts on FB no more no less.

    Max Brich: Nice renderings will help a lot. Very realistic renderings tend to do well on social media. For inspiration, taking a look at the visuals of official LEGO sets might be a good idea.

  3. What is your favourite LEGO Ideas Product Idea (besides your own of course)? Are there any Product Ideas you think have been overlooked?

    Castor Troy:
    The "Medieval Blacksmith" set is the one that inspires me the most. A beautiful building, a theme that speaks to all, which allows space to develop and build on the same theme.

    Max Brich: I really like “Medieval Blacksmith” too. And before that, Pirates of the Barracuda Bay. And, recently, I’ve been quite impressed by “Magic Bookends” by Brick Dangerous. As for overlooked ideas, I would suggest taking a look at the Western River Steamboat by CTDPower, and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon by Quangtrang1993.

  4. What is it about the platform that attracts you? What tips would you give to anyone who is thinking about uploading an idea?

    Castor Troy:
    It all depends on the goals you set: get 1K, 10k or having your Product Idea approved. On the first project with Max (a steampunk ship: “Silver Arrow”) we spent hours working on it. It's a creation that the public loves on display and on Flickr. Max made a video of a professional level with the music composed by my brother and yet it was a huge failure! That was very hard for us. You have to accept that a project that seems totally worthless to you will be appreciated more than yours.

    Max Brich: The idea that anyone can submit a build that may eventually become an actual set is extremely appealing to me. I’m also a fairly competitive person, so trying hard to reach the difficult objective of 10K supporters is definitely something I enjoy. My #1 tip would be: enjoy the creative process no matter what. If your project does not get as popular as expected, it may be disappointing at first, but chances are that someday you will look back on it and be happy you made it nonetheless.

  5. Do you have plans to submit any other Product Ideas in the future? If yes, can you give us a hint of what that might be?

    We have a project which is very complex and difficult to promote.

    Max Brich: And, if we manage to release it, it will be quite different from our previous projects!


  • castor troy
  • max brich
  • steampunk explorers
  • product idea
  • 10k club

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