Legos are either the bane of barefooted parents or the perfect creative vessel for die-hard fans.
Twenty-two-year-old Chris Ringelberg of Orange City is a member of the latter and is called a “master” Lego builder by locals.
Lego is a Danish toy production company founded in 1932 that is most widely known for the manufacture of Lego-brand toys consisting mostly of pieces of interlocking plastic that can be used to build a variety of items or scenes.
Ringelberg’s Lego love began at the age of 5 and continues strong.
“I sort of just never stopped playing with them,” he said. “Building sets, big tubs, random pieces. When I was in eighth grade I told myself to come up with an idea and then follow it through.”
Ringelberg gives himself Rube Goldberg-like projects with moving parts and gears.
He built a hand-cranked record player with Legos and a replica of Black Beauty from the 1960s’ television series/2011 movie “The Green Hornet.” Black Beauty is a Chrysler Imperial Crown with hidden gadgets and features.
“I was fascinated and figured out how to make the steering wheel turn the wheels on the car and how to easily pull it in half like it does in the movie,” Ringelberg said. “That is one of my favorite pop culture pieces.”
Sitting on his desk at home is a Lego tree house. Ringelberg built the replica using only the brown and green pieces he has available.
“A strong sneeze would make it fall over, but I like how it turned out,” he said. “I enjoyed it and having it sit on my desk, seeing it. I get a nice, calming feel when I look at it — similar to people who have a bonsai tree sitting on their desk.”
Ringelberg does not just start putting Lego pieces together when he gets an idea in his head. He has quite a number of Legos; the actual count is unknown but pieces can fill two 18-gallon tote boxes.
After he figures out how to use each piece most effectively he is ready to use it accordingly.
First, he plans it out, and in the process of building if something does not work he will try another route. That is how he teaches himself — through trial and error.
Ringelberg will buy Lego sets to acquire rarer pieces he can utilize in future projects.
“What else can I make with the pieces in that set? I can make some current projects better through trial and error,” he said. “Building with Legos is a learned experience.”
The typical Ringelberg creation takes a span of five hours during the course of two days. Sometimes he will step away from what he is building and then return to it with a clearer mind.
“I will leave it alone for a minute if I get frustrated,” Ringelberg said. “I want to have fun with what I am doing.”
Whether or not the completed piece survives for a while is determined later.
“If something has certain pieces that I only have five or six of, I will ask myself if I want to break it or not,” he said. “I will keep it around for three or four months so I can keep studying and admiring it.”
One website Ringelberg uses to find certain pieces is Bricklink.com. Through that website he can connect with other Lego enthusiasts to buy or sell pieces, and he acquired specific pieces to create his own mini-Lego Ringelberg.
The piece is similar to the characters in the Lego movies but with matching hair and clothes of Ringelberg.
He carries his “mini-me” in his pocket at all times.
“It helps me think about how I could turn something I see in the real world into something brick-sized,” Ringelberg said.
Just walking around town, with the Lego man in his pocket has given him some ideas. Some of the projects Ringelberg is contemplating are a small scale of his house, the block he lives on and even Orange City itself — either that or a fantasy scene with a castle and a tower.
“It might be a while until it is set in stone,” he said. “I’m looking to have a lot of fun with it.”
Ringelberg also gets a lot of ideas for Lego creations from his job as a supervisor at Main Street Holland Plaza in Orange City.
Since he began his Lego hobby he has watched the local Lego community grow.
Ringelberg said Legos once were not something that had an active fan base, but since area libraries have embraced the toys it has become more accepted.
He helped lead Lego Club: Brick Layers at the Sioux Center Public Library in 2016.
When Ringelberg worked at the Hospers Public Library, he ensured Lego sessions were available.
“When Sioux Center started there were only 15 people in the class,” Ringelberg said. “By the third year there were two classes of 20 people and a waiting list of 15 people. People got more hooked on how much fun they can have.
“The Lego presence in Sioux County has grown. It is exciting and I hope there are more opportunities in the future.”
He encourages budding Lego creators to build whatever it is they want and use the trial-and-error method before reaching out to anyone for help.
“Whatever you make is going to be true to you,” Ringelberg said. “Always try your best to do what you want. Maybe leave it alone and come back to it. Don’t let anyone take over. It’s your creation in the end.”