By Hadas Kuznits

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A temporary exhibit of hand-built model ships made of Legos sailed through the Independence Seaport Museum this weekend.

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126 Lego ships were on display at the museum. They were all built by Wilbert McKinley over the course of 2-1/2 years.

“Most experts can recognize what type of ship it is,” McKinley said. “We have every type of modern vessel represented in Legos from passenger ships to drilling rigs to aircraft carriers to tugboats.”

Wilbert McKinley, Lego ship builder and commodore of Teach Fleet (credit: Hadas Kuznits)

Wilbert McKinley, Lego ship builder and commodore of Teach Fleet (credit: Hadas Kuznits)


So what inspired McKinley to build ships out of Legos?

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“I had an after school program (that I taught) that was based on transportation,” he said. “I bought a couple Lego kits for the classroom and it just took on a life of its own.”

McKinley, a former ship designer, says he never worked with Legos before instructing the program and all of his ships are built from memory.

“I’ll build a small portion of the bow, which is the front of the ship, first,” he said. “and once I get the bow done I can visualize the entire ship in 3D in my mind.”

McKinley gets his Legos from thrift stores and Ebay.

“I just build from what I have,” he said. “When I want to start a project I look through my inventory, I see what looks like it would go together, I sort them by color, count out the number of pieces, because I never want to run out of pieces.”

McKinley estimates he’s used about a half-a-million Lego pieces for his projects so far.

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