Sunday, July 27, 2008

Bing there

In the heyday of stone construction sets, the Ankerstein sets from originator and market leader Richter had several imitators.

Some were British and American (including A.C.Gilbert, of Erector Set and American Flyer fame), which mostly got into the market when German imports were stopped during the first and second World Wars -- some even acquired Richter subsidiaries which had been declared enemy property, confiscated, and sold to domestic companies.

But some imitators were right there in Germany with Richter, including the famous Nuremburg toy Company Gebrüder Bing -- probably best known in America for their wonderful tinplate trains.

Bing made two series of stone construction sets. The expensive and innovative Series A had special angular stones for making curved arches, unduplicated in the Ankerstein line.

The more budget-oriented Series B more or less duplicated the smaller sets from Ankerstein, with only a small variety of stones.

The title image is of a small structure built with old Bing stones, and reminded me how much more fun it is to build with modern production stones.

Most old stones, from whatever source, show their age. They can be chipped, cracked, or simply falling to pieces. I've had second hand Ankerstein crumble in my fingers like a stale cookie.

When building with stones with hairline cracks, one must always be careful lest the stone break completely in two. It has happened to me.

I have mended some broken stones, but have not found a tried & true technique - what works on some stones fails on others.

With my Bing set, the stones are inconsistently sized, some are worn around the edges so the middle seems to bulge, most are chipped and cracked.

Building with it is an advanced exercise in wobble control and stone reorientation. Sometimes when you place a stone on a structure portion, the stones beneath it rotate.

All in all, a more frustrating exercise than I am usually seeking in block play.

So although I have Bing Set B-4, I have never satisfactorily built a B-4 structure with it -- though I am very, very fond of the green roof stones.

To be fair, I couldn't swear that my set is pure Bing - someone may have mixed in some stones from Anker or yet another manufacturer. In play with multiple sets, that could easily happen and could account for some of this set's irregularities.

Fortunately though, a Bing B-4 has exactly the same mix of stones as an Ankerstein GK NF Set 4. As a change of pace, today's scans are mine, rather than from the CVA. (If there is interest, I could also post the scans for the designs built with sets above or below B4 that were in my booklet.)

The photos below of the larger structure are built from a Bing design, but with Anker Set 4 stones, which is what I recommend for builders.

It was good Block Play.


Herman said...

I like the look of what you built. especially the last/right view

Alan said...

Thank you :)

I think the back view looks like a fireplace

Herman said...

ooooh, it does sort of seem like a fierplace. probably why i like it