Friday, July 25, 2008

Ankerstein 4 - NS

The Anchor Große Kaliber - Neue Folge (GK-NF, large caliber - new series) sets that we have been looking at were preceded or paralleled by several series of stones, and followed by Große Kaliber - Neue Serien (NS, "new series" also, but a different German term; the GK tends not to be used since Richter had dropped the KK or Kleine Kaliber 20mm stone series).

A new post-Cold-War company restored production with a return to GK-NF, partially because NS had never achieved the popularity of the older sets, but primarily because the GK-NF series went to set 34 (and some special sets went beyond) while NS ended at Set 18.

NS differed from GK-NF only in having the large arches made with block-sized notches in the upper corners.

The GK NF 4 and NS 4 packing plans looks just the same until you look closely and realize that the #98R arch has been replaced by a #98aR and two #19R stones. That also applies to GK NF 6 and NS 6, and so on, though larger arches in some higher numbered sets have more complex notching.

By itself, the notches make the arches more versatile: Anything that can be built with a standard arch can be built with a notched arch by simply filling the notches with the proper stones. But the notches also allow larger stones to overlap into the notches, or the notches to be left open for a different appearance.

Beyond that versatility, however, what really catches the eye is that many of the NS designs represent a more modern design esthetic - 1920s versus 1890s, Weimar versus Kaiserzeit, more factories and secular structures versus churches and monuments.

I like campaniles and belvederes well enough, and even churches and monuments, but sometimes a little Art Deco and industrial gothic is welcome.

And as you can see from the design pages reproduced here, the artwork made a significant shift from the earlier styles. Whichever one prefers, I think there is pleasure in having an alternative available for a change of pace.

A conversion set is available which includes all the notched arches needed to convert up through set 18, as well as a generous selection of extra roof stones in several styles - those being in frequent demand by advanced builders.

That conversion set is not inexpensive, though, and individual notched arches can be hard to find. Excluding, or at least delaying, availability of a "proper" NS set for most of us.

However most of the NS series plans can be built with the corresponding GK-NF set -- the arches have a lesser role in the more modern design styles -- and most or all of the remainder with just a few extra stones, with greater or lesser degrees of adjustment.

I have built most, perhaps all, of the designs on today's pages over the last several years, and some -- particularly the factory on page 15 -- several times. But I haven't paid much attention to what stones I was using, or kept count.

Todays photos show the three I thought most likely to have problems, and if you look closely, adjustments had to be made. But some of the ones least likely to need adjustment, because they do not use the large arch, may well make use of the two extra #19R stones.

I am assigning myself the enjoyable ongoing task of building the more challenging appearing of the designs in this NS Set 4 booklet, included here from from the CDroms, and will report back.

After that, we can take a look at the NS 6 booklet, and see how it builds.

Whatever those exercise discovers, there is plenty here for good block play.


releppes said...

Very resourceful. I like the tribute to the older Ankerstein sets. The one thing that throws me is the #4 NS must have a few more 69 and 31 stones than the #4 NF set. I see from several of these designs, there's at least four 69G stones, while in the #4 NF set, there's only two. I also see at least two 31G stones in some designs (could be wrong).

I really like the one design with the large arch and what appears to be a barred gate in front. I'll have to duplicate that.

BTW: I like the notched arch format of the NS series. Too bad the NS series wasn't the focus of the reproduction. It's seem that if the NF and NS series were that close in format, that it'd not be a big issue to continue the NS series from 18 up to 34 with slight modification to the building plans. I can see how the notched arches might assist in creating more stable structures. Stones would seem to interlock better with a scheme like that. And to me, interlocking, overlapping stones is what makes designs interesting.

Great article and nice photos!

Alan said...

Thank you for you for your kind comments.

The current production GK NF Set 4 has 4x 69G stones and 4x 31G stones, just like NS-4 (and Bing B-4, though numbered differently by Bing).

This is an increase over the classic set, like the 21R stones in the Heinzel. A few other stones were added as well, which you might as well use in your new designs. ;)

Reasonably accurate stone counts are in the stone catalog downloadable from

Stones added to fill the larger box aren't on that inventory (eg 4A), but actual box contents can be checked by looking at the open box images at, though you will need the catalog inventory to identify double-stacked stones.

It is true that all GK NF sets could be delivered with the notched arches (and the #19 and #31 stones to fill the notches, and to make a true NS set for Set 10 and higher, adding 4x 210B roof stones).

Whether to include NS booklets or GK NF booklets with a sheet illustrating the substitution, or both, would be an interesting question.

However the new Anker Steinbaukasten GmbH seems to prefer to harken back to the old F. Ad. Richter & Cie, rather than the interwar or postwar successors. How much of this is marketing, and how much is cultural or political subtext (which is certainly part of marketing) I could only guess.

The Steinkatalog also has a conversion chart showing the differences between GK-NF sets and NS sets. That shows substitutions for the small arches as well (eg 108a for 108), but these aren't in the offered conversion set or the catalog, and from the booklet designs, differ only in the pattern markings.

Many of the NS designs do show stones interlocking into the arch notches, oriented both parallel and perpendicular to the arches. I'd like to build some of those as drawn, and am hoping The Toyhouse will be getting a stock (or restock) of those stones soon.

And maybe when Anker finishes the GK NF series with set 34, they will begin releasing an NS series -- though honestly, I would prefer a bridge series.

releppes said...

Ahhh....I feel cheated!

Ok, not cheated, but misinformed...but it's my own fault for not being observant!

I while back, I emailed George for the packing plan of a set #4. What he sent was a JPG image. He only sent the image and made no mention of the "new" set #4 packing plans. Seeing as how he doesn't offer a set #4 for sale, maybe he just didn't know.

Anyway, all my set #4 designs have been based on this apparently very old packing plan. It'd sure be nice to start using that extra 15R stone as well as the extra 19G stones. All those 69 stones will come in handy too!

I never thought to consult the packing plan of the new #4 set, so it's my own fault for not doing research. Strangely, I've seen the "new" packing plan several times, but I never noticed the extra stones. I feel pretty foolish about that.

Then again, maybe I SHOULD have waited for that set #4 to show up on my door step. I was always hoping for another free gift/sample from the factory. I have been working hard on creating new designs (even if the work is play based). Deep down, I knew it was never going to come, so I jumped the gun and just started creating set #4 designs.

Going forward, I'll start using the new packing plan. I wish George or Burkhard would have said something. I've never received feedback from either of them about the designs. This is one case where I really needed the feedback.

BTW: This is akin to my first HM designs. I started creating HM designs before I ever owned an HM set. My designs were based off an old HM packing plan which didn't have 21R stones in it. Which is why none of my initial designs used those stones. Once the factory sent me a sample set, I was able to start creating designs which used all the blocks. Maybe I should have asked the factory to send me a set #4 sample. Guess I feel funny about doing that.

PS: In one of your posts, you posted an alternative plan to one of my designs. I saw the extra 69 stones in it, but didn't say anything. I thought it was a mistake on your part. Now I realize the mistake was all mine. I still can't believe I missed those extra stones in the new packing plan. Wow, what an over sight! I feel like set #4 is all new to me again.

Alan said...

I hadn't really noticed your shortage as such either, and I am very small-design oriented, unlike most of the CVA, who seem to strongly prefer huge models and consider Set 12 "small."
At best, I noted a couple of times that some of the leftover stones could be useful - and used them to make "improved" versions.

No biggee -- there may even be folks out there looking for stuff they can build with a "real" set 4, with "real challenges," rather than the "tarted up" Bing or new Anker versions. ;)

If the extra #19 stones had been 19R instead of 19G, the new Set 4 would be able to build a bunch more of the NS 4 designs as-drawn. But then it wouldn't have duplicated a retrofitted NS 4 quite so exactly - the new Set 4 packing plan is exactly the NS, except for the lines in the archrs.

I like the NS designs -- and artwork style -- as a change of pace, and built the lovely train station yesterday. But I will probably be building the rest of the Bing B-4 designs for a while, then I would really like to do some Anker Set 6 and Bing B-5.

However, I will keep an eye out to see what you create to take advantage of your discovery.