Lego Company Man-iac?
June 27, 2008 6:13 AM   Subscribe

Can I play with Legos as a job?

There's just something about Legos (Lego building blocks to be accurate, but I don't care). I love putting the models together, I love the way everything fits together perfectly, the snap of the pieces together, and the feeling of just assembling something from parts. It doesn't have to be Legos, per se; I spent a joyful hour last Christmas putting together a Playmobil set for my fiancée's nephew.

I doubt there are jobs explicitly for putting together Lego sets, and if there are, they're probably highly competitive and low pay. However, I'm wondering if there are any jobs/careers that would approximate the challenge and joy of putting together Legos.

I mean something that requires both mental and manual dexterity, a logical outlook, and employs a system without being tedious. I don't think I could work on an assembly line because I'd want to put the whole car together, rather than mounting 1000 left front doors.

Is there anything out there that's like this, or am I doomed to envying Adam and Jamie of Mythbusters for essentially being able to fabricate their own metal and ballistics gel Lego world?
posted by explosion to Work & Money (22 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Not quite as exciting as Legos or Mythbusters, but some people put together Ikea furniture for other people as a side gig. I've seen ads posted on Craigslist, but I don't know how often their services are utilized. I'm guessing being near college campuses will allow for a larger clientele.
posted by twoporedomain at 6:28 AM on June 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

The closest thing that comes to mind is to be some type of "tech" at a "engineering" company like Lockheed, boeing, ULA, ..., you could get a tech job in some area of R&D and basically make random stuff. I is probably pretty competitive because it is a pretty good job. a tech job in a production area of one of these companies would also be pretty fun just a little more repetitive.
posted by humanawho at 6:34 AM on June 27, 2008

Well, there are some people out there who are professional Lego builders, like Eric Harshbarger, but I agree that it is probably very competitive and not very reliable income if it's just on commission. If you contacted him though, he might be able to give you some advice. Just for fun, the photos in his portfolio are astounding, for example these Golden Gate Bridge and Eiffel Tower sculptures.
posted by Kirjava at 6:35 AM on June 27, 2008

There are plenty of educational programs that put Legos in to the hands of teachers. I'm sure they need sales/demonstrators, etc. In fact just Google Lego education.
posted by Gungho at 6:40 AM on June 27, 2008

As Kirjava said, there are Lego professionals. My nephew worked for one such company in Seattle. It's certainly possible to pursue such a career.

I recommend a book called Finding Your Perfect Work. It's designed to take you through the process of matching your interests and aptitudes with possible careers. It's excellent in the way it helps you think creatively about such matter, and has dozens of inspirational stories about people who figured out how to make a living from an unusual talent or interest.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 6:51 AM on June 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

Carpentry, ie cabinet making? at a nice artisany level? or if you want to work within more of a pre-laid out framework, an apprenticeship in someone else's workshop?
posted by runincircles at 6:56 AM on June 27, 2008

Thanks for the answers so far. I might have steered the answers in the wrong direction by mentioning Legos too much. I don't even own Legos right now, I just like the fiddly bits and working with my hands in general.

The Ikea construction answer is actually pretty on-track except that it doesn't sound like it'd offer any sort of job security. But if I could assemble Ikea furniture for folks and get 40 hours of work at a fair wage, it'd be sort of up my alley.

Working as a tech for Lockheed sounds pretty awesome, but I don't have an engineering background, so unless they're taking long bets and charity cases, I don't know how I'd get my foot in the door.
posted by explosion at 7:07 AM on June 27, 2008

Even more than wood-working, I'm thinking metal fabrication or custom vehicle fabrication, making racecars, dunebuggies, tube chassis rockcrawlers, custom motorcycles, rat rods, etc. It's both a creative and a technical enterprise, and has a lot of the same satisfaction when something "snaps" into place.
posted by Forktine at 7:08 AM on June 27, 2008

The Lego company does actually employ people to design their products Here's an advertisement (PDF) from last year.

You would probably have to move to Denmark, however, and would probably need to have studied product design.

I remember having a subscription to the Lego club magazine back in the 70s. They often had interviews with the man (I think at that time there was only one person) who designed all the Lego sets; I always thought he must have an incredibly fun life.

Another avenue might be to look for a career at one of the Lego theme parks.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 7:10 AM on June 27, 2008

Forktine, do you know how I'd break into that field? I'd love to learn that sort of thing, but I've literally never worked with a welder, and my financial situation (student loans, rent) doesn't afford me the freedom to take on an unpaid apprenticeship in the same way an 18-year-old could.

Even though I don't even own a car, that sounds a lot like what I'd be into.
posted by explosion at 7:15 AM on June 27, 2008

I know some folks who used to own a small toy store, and the owner's daughters hated...hated...being asked to set up the displays. So he had to hire someone to put the big lego contraptions, t-rex robots, flying crap hanging from the ceiling, barbie houses, and playmobil worlds together. Coolest gig ever. Lamest daughters ever.
posted by phunniemee at 7:19 AM on June 27, 2008

Product or industrial design is probably a profession that you would get excited about. Not that that helps you terribly in the short term, just throwing that out there.

I have a friend that designs and assembles after market car parts. It's the coolest job ever, and he just kind of stumbled into it. Start looking around and seeing all of the STUFF that is everywhere, try and figure out where it came from, and work backwards from there. You may find a place that is perfect for you.
posted by 8dot3 at 7:25 AM on June 27, 2008

Aaaand on preview, what Forktine said. If you want the name of my friend's company so you can Google them, PM me and I will fill you in. Thanks.
posted by 8dot3 at 7:30 AM on June 27, 2008

do you know how I'd break into that field?

Community college! Every state does things a bit differently, but at least one of the schools in your local community college system will have a really strong technical program. Depending on how they have things arranged, you may find a program that does exactly this (perhaps labeled as "auto body" or something else), or you may need to patch something together -- partly auto body, partly mechanics, partly machining, partly welding. Tuition (according to google) in Mass is about $4k/year, with lots of grants available, so cost will not be the barrier. Some programs are set up with built-in paid work, too, so it may even be partially self-funding.

Just call up the technical adviser (one of the people who run the program and/or advise students on the technical track) and say that you are interested in learning welding and vehicle fabrication; what sorts of programs do they have that will get you there?

Bonus to doing this: have you looked at wages for certified welders lately? It beats a lot of white collar jobs by a long shot, so supporting yourself while you work towards setting up your own shop will not be a problem.
posted by Forktine at 7:54 AM on June 27, 2008 [2 favorites]

Marked Forktine as "best answer" because I hadn't really thought about metal fabrication at all. Thanks!

Still open to other suggestions and advice, so I hope people aren't considering this question closed!
posted by explosion at 8:11 AM on June 27, 2008

My (future) brother-in-law works at a small custom furniture manufacturer where he assembles all the pieces of furniture. He glues, nails, screws, sands, etc. until all the pieces come together. He loves it. Sounds very similar to what you're interested in.
posted by AvailableName at 9:20 AM on June 27, 2008

It's a bit off because you're producing the pieces as well as fitting them together, but you might get the same kick out of building architectural models, for which there tends to be constant demand.
posted by carbide at 10:04 AM on June 27, 2008

I have a friend who does special effects for film. On any given day, you can find him building a city (in miniature) that has survived a nuclear attack, mixing his own special recipe for alien blood (mostly corn syrup), fabricating a monster head mask and hands out of latex, building weapons props that sport real lasers and spark when you pull the trigger, sanding and painting twenty sets of vampire teeth, building a realistic looking cave, rigging up an actor in a harness so they can 'fly' onscreen, etc, etc, etc. Again, the money's not the greatest, but C'MON!!! Sound like something you'd like? I know I envy him every day of my life...
posted by Spyder's Game at 10:05 AM on June 27, 2008

In college, I had a four credit lab class built around Mindstorms. The idea was that Lego is a means for extremely rapid prototyping. I'm not suggesting you take up a career in Weapons and Systems Engineering, but I imagine there are positions under industrial engineers for prototypers.
posted by csd at 12:27 PM on June 27, 2008

Along the metal work lines, if you're at all into cycling, or motorcycling, build custom bikes. You'd still need some decent welding skills, but otherwise it's pretty much bolting things together, with the satisfaction of having something useful, and sell-able, at the end.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 3:12 AM on June 28, 2008

Programming = lego, except it doesn't make a nice snapping-together noise. Perhaps you can customise your IDE to emit satisfying snapping-together noises upon each successful compilation.

I am mostly kidding. Mostly.
posted by hAndrew at 8:41 AM on June 30, 2008

Funny, I've always thought of software development and Lego being a good analogy. Basic building blocks, depending on how you put them together, you hopefully end-up with what you had in mind. In reality, software has bugs, but Lego can be dirty and/or slightly broken as well. Lego is still more fun in my mind, I find working with my hands to be more rewarding. Doesn't pay as well though ;)
posted by hungrysquirrels at 9:33 AM on July 2, 2008

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