Dark ages. That is what they call the period between abandoning your LEGO bricks (usually a child growing up) and then rediscovering LEGO later. I certainly know when mine began and ended – it was teenage and parenthood respectively, separated by some fifteen years in the dark. An avid fan of LEGO in the 1980s, I have been reacquainted with them in the past few years through building with my son. Ever since I learned the acronym AFOL (adult fan of LEGO) a couple of years ago, I have often thought about participating in this hobby directly and not merely through parenting. But, being realistic about the time and space available, the suitable way to do so has eluded me.

My son had wished the 7946 King’s Castle for his birthday present, from the 2010 LEGO Kingdoms theme. Which, it turns out, had just been discontinued in early 2012 and was nowhere to be found in my native Finland or the LEGO online store. The nearest toystores promising to still have the castle were somewhere in southern Sweden – that would have meant two days by ferry and car – and any possible replacement sets, under The Lord of the Rings license, were even more distant: months or years away. After a bit of sleuthing, though, I managed to source some Kingdoms stock and a timely airmail delivery from the aptly named United Kingdom. The parcel gods smiled ever so kindly, beating the expected delivery time by a wide margin, and the birthday was saved.

The boy is still at an age where his attention is held only halfway through the building of a larger set, after which I usually find myself completing it while he plays with the minifigures and completed pieces. This is made worse by the current LEGO habit of dividing models into sub-models for easy building, which means the set becomes playable much sooner than it used to in the past. This time was no different. After finishing the front side together, I found myself playing a builder serf, while the king was busy acting out a major battle against Dragon Knights on the couch. Safe to say, the Dragon Knights didn’t stand a chance.

It was good fun building the castle, and it got me thinking about my youth and my own LEGO castles. I had two: the yellow 375 Castle from 1978 and the 6073 Knight’s Castle from 1984. I built, tore down for parts, and later rebuilt both many times. The yellow castle was a standalone for me and pretty much for LEGO as well, but the Knight’s Castle – or Black Falcons’ castle – was part of a larger collection that for me included the 6061 Siege Tower and some smaller sets. In fact, the 1984 LEGO Castle series was the original predecessor of the 2010 LEGO Kingdoms theme, and other grey castle themes in-between, and the 7946 King’s Castle gets its shape from the original 6080 King’s Castle.

Ah yes, the 6080 King’s Castle. The one that got away.

For some reason I never had the 6080 King’s Castle, even though as a child I remember adoring it in the catalogs and spending countless afternoons trying to recreate its portcullis, which neither of my castles featured. I think I managed some bastardized version of the portcullis once, but it was a poor substitute due to lack of suitable bricks. This was a time before Internet instruction booklets, pick-a-brick stores and a monthly salary. So, while I was assembling the 7946 King’s Castle – and indeed its portcullis (not brick-built unfortunately) – it occurred to me that the times now are different. In addition to a monthly salary, I now have access to online instructions and pick-a-brick stores.

My dark ages began in the early 1990s when I, with the help of my parents, poured all my LEGO bricks and models into a few large cardboard boxes and put them into storage. These boxes have followed me ever since, moved from storage to storage whenever I have moved to a new home. The boxes have remained unopened, untouched inside, mostly forgotten. The idea has always been to eventually pass them on to a child of my own. Indeed, I have already given my son one of the smaller containers to complement his LEGO collection, but I have been torn about what to do with the rest. I am reluctant to just dump a decade’s worth of LEGO collection into his room fearing it might be too much. I need to do it bit by bit.

The plan for the next bit of LEGO collection I will pass onto him came to me as I was putting the finishing touches on his 7946 King’s Castle. I will scavenge my old LEGO collection for bricks and build a 6080 King’s Castle, or as near a replica as I can, and then donate the end-result to my son’s kingdom. This will also allow me to entertain my AFOL curiosities – and hopefully to finally build that bloody portcullis. I understand that I will need to buy some new parts as well and cut a few corners here and there. I will refrain from buying a used 6080 King’s Castle for parts, though, since this project is first and foremost about re-purposing the old parts that I already have.

The goal (left) and the inspiration:

For myself and for my son, and perhaps for the interest of some others, I intend to document my 6080 King’s Castle project and my initial excursions into the world of AFOL in this blog. I expect to proceed in small steps and post little notes or pictures when I make some progress. This project is bound to take a while and contain frequent breaks. Before I start, my apologies and respect to the true AFOLs out there. I am a novice and I know it. Your reading and comments are appreciated.

P.S. This blog post contains my first tip to novices like myself, the embedded brickset.com links to useful LEGO set information and pictures. It is a wonder what the Internet can do to refresh memories.