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[updated 8/18/03

History of the LEGO Orthanc:
After seeing Fellowship of the Ring over a year ago I was inspired to create cus
tom models from the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
The most ambitious model I was to build would be the tower at Isengard, the Orth
anc. The design of the tower is based off
of the design from the movies and is approximately half minifig scale. That tran
selates to exactly 200 LEGO bricks tall and
around 6 foot 3 inches tall. (The tower in 'real' life would be about 500 feet
tall). The early building process initially was trial
and error. The first version of the tower was at about quarter minifig scale an
d the base was 20 studs across. I had about 10
inches of it built before I decided to get the level of detail I wanted, I would
have to build it twice as large. The second version
of the tower was 40 studs across and was a slow process. Using all the LEGO par
ts I had at the time, the tower grew to two
feet in height and then sat untouched for about 3 months. After going to my fir
st LUGOLA meeting back in April 2002, I was
reinspired to start building the tower again. After seeing various techniques u
sed I decided I would destroy the tower that I
already had and start again. Also I had come up with ideas to make the tower mu
ch lighter and stronger as well as adding in
a lot more detail. The second version of Orthanc was insanely heavy and nearly i
mpossible to pick up without cracking and
was pretty plain looking. I rebuilt the tower using the same dimensions as bef
ore (40 across the base) using new techniques.
Consequently, it also required a lot more specialized parts and an insane amount
of 1 x X plates. After completing about a foot
of the tower, it sat in the corner unfinished as I contemplated how to get more
parts without blowing my budget. I originally
estimated the cost of completing the tower at around $1000, not an amount I was
willing to spend. In November 2002 I made my
first Bricklink purchase and construction resumed after about 6 months on hold.
With the parts from Bricklink I was able to add
another foot to the tower, bringing the total height to just under 2 feet. Afte
r Christmas I decided to use some of the money I got
for Christmas on LEGO Shop@Home to buy bulk packs of black parts for the tower.
Luckily, LEGO added new black plate bulk
packs to their inventory (10057 and 10061) which helped tremendously. Unfortuna
tely, I had underestimated the amount of 2x2
bricks I needed and construction ground to a halt when the tower was at 4 feet.
I realized that I was only $100 away from
finishing up the tower, (and at less than half the total cost I had originally e
stimated) so I made a couple orders through Bricklink.
One of the Bricklink orders was a large order of mostly 2x2, 2x1, and various sl
opes, and the other order was a smaller one of
specialized parts needed to finish some of the 'fins' near the bottom and top o
f the tower. With that, the tower reached it's full
height and is near completion. Eventually, I want to retro-fit the base of the
tower so the back could be opened to reveal
Saruman's throne room. The throne room is already in there, but is 'locked' ins
ide the tower. The tower is by far the most
massive LEGO structure that I've completed!
The tower is built in 4 sections ranging from 15 inches to 2 feet in height. Th
is was done to make movement of the tower easier
and to prevent strain while building. The tower is 200 bricks tall (about 6'3")
and 40 studs (12.5 inches) at the base. There are
approximately 7,500 LEGO parts used in the tower, the vast majority of them blac
k, with a few dark gray highlights and light gray
base. There are parts of other colors inside the tower which were only used str
ucturally and to help save black parts.
Thanks goes out to:
Bricklink shops -
Bartering the Brick
Active Builders
Dwayne's LEGO Parts
LEGO Shop at Home
Brian 'the Parts Pimp'
Jon Furman - for inspiration (check out his amazing LOTR customs at: http://www.
The guys at From Bricks to Bothans (
and most of all, my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ
Updated 8/18/03
The Orthanc stood tall in my studio apartment for 5 months before being dismantl
ed for moving into a new apartment.
The tower survived the move intact, except for the lower half of the base. It w
as a good thing that if any of the tower had
to be destroyed, it would be the base, because that was something I wanted to im
prove upon. I decided I wanted to have
Saruman's throne room accessable. I figured I couldn't build the throne room wi
th panels that opened on the back because
it would not be structually feasable, considering there is another 5 and a half
feet of tower above. Instead, I decided to
make the lower (base) section of the tower into two smaller sections so that rem
oving the upper section of the base would
reveal the throne room on the top of the lower section. I rebuilt the first 10
inches of the base with a new structural support
system while keeping the exterior identical from before. At the top of the lowe
r section is Saruman's throne room, complete
with tile floor, his throne and the Palantir (Seeing Stone) The upper section of
the base was constructed hollow to go over
the throne room. Because of this, the supporting walls needed to be just one st
ud wide in most places, so the exterior
design is a bit different from before. Even though the upper section of the bas
e is very light, it is also quite strong, using arches
on the inside to span accross, giving additionsl structual support, while allowi
ng for the throne room to be 'open' in the inside.
As a result of the design changes, the tower actually gained a few inches in hei
ght, making the overall height about 6'6", but
still retains the overall propotions.