Friday, December 31, 2010


New Year's Eve in Germany is known as Silvester, after the feast day of Saint Sylvester, though the celebrations actually go back to the pagen Rauhnächte, and it is a noisy, raucous night of celebration.

I tend not to go for raucous or noisy, though I hear fireworks outside as I type this, so obviously even in Seattle there are those that do.

This year, my celebration is inspired by a brochure that appeared today on the German website devoted to preserving and sharing scans of materials related to Ankerstein. Apparently the product promoted in this brochure never came to market, but I looked at the picture (at right), and said, "I can build that - with Ankerstein."

So I did.

I imagine this fountain in a quiet square in a small German town. You may imagine it surrounded by revelers & illuminated by fireworks.

Good Block Play & a very happy new year to each of you.

[And a very special raise of a Silvester glass to Claudia Haase, with whom I was to attend a Silvester party in Bad Helmstedt, Silvester, 1971, had my U.S. Army superiors not intervened egregiously, sending me to Bremerhaven mere hours before.]

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Happy Holidays

Christmas Greetings to all those that celebrate the day.

The gold foil paper may or may not provide a 'Christmassy look," and doesn't succeed pictorially, to my eye.

The stereo pair, best of several first Blockplay efforts with a very special Christmas present 3D camera, doesn't entirely succeed either, from an esthetic point of view, but there you are.

It more-or-less succeeds as stereo, and I am celebrating the day in my own way. ;)

Somehow I didn't post a Happy Holidays or do any Blockplay as part of Hanukkah, though I did post daily Hanukkah "Light" pictures in another blog. Perhaps you can find something there to like.

As always, however the pictures turned out, returning to Ankerstein after an absence was a special treat of scent, touch, heft, and accomplishment.

Very special Block Play.

Best wishes to every one.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Ankerstein Starter Set

I keep an automatic change-watch on the update log of the CVA plans & info archive website, which gives me intermittent small pleasures and occasional real treats.

A recent example was the introduction (to me at least) of a new Ankerstein "Starter-Set" - which on closer examination turns out to be our old friend the Heinzelmännchen, with a new box label and plan sheet.

I'm am being cautious not to say these are new plans, because some are from William Seppeler's many Heinzelmännchen designs in his Anchor Stone Constructions blog, and others seem to be from the rudimentary sheet that came, but I have not carefully checked.

Under either name, this a very good set size for beginners, dabblers, younger children, and the budget-limited.

But please note that this is NOT the same as the "Starter Set" in my Amazon-based Block Play Store - which is actually a Set 4. My store Ankerstein listings are automatically generated by the Amazon software - while I am happy if you purchase Ankerstein & other Amazon items there & give me a small commission at no extra cost to yourself, I am just as happy if you order from The ToyHouse and mention my blog.

Whichever set, whichever source, Ankerstein is always Good Block Play.

[modified 12 Nov 2010]

Sunday, September 26, 2010


While some of my wife's brothers were working on building her a potting shed (below), I found some of their cutoffs and built a small tower.

Most of my constructions lately have been small Froebel Gift 3 exercises, and my tower reflects that.

I did do some Mini Wedgits block play the other day though, and suspect I will be back at it soon.

Seems likely, if even a half dozen two-by-four cutoffs are good block play.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Ghost Wedgits

I like ghost Wedgits.

This particular iteration is my white Wedgits from the Class-Pak illuminated only by ultra-violet flashlights.


Good block play.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Ankerstein Recovery

I think that in the years I have had them, Ankerstein have been some of the best value of any purchases I have made. Expensive, but big bang for the buck. Durable quality, enduring pleasure.

So why so long an absence here?

A few months ago, Chris Baldwin of The ToyHouse died in a canoing accident.

That couldn't help but take away a chunk of my pleasure in building with Anchor.

I never met him in person, but over several years of emails, I had come to think of him as a friend, not just as the source of most of my Ankerstein, and some other block sets as well. The ToyHouse is apparently still in business - whether for the long run or just until the inventory is drawn down, I don't know.

Either way, please give them some business.

This morning I was talking to the owner of a more local toy shop, and mentioned Ankerstein. I'm afraid I let down the side and failed to give a good pitch as to why he should carry them. He's got a fine, spacious store, full of quality toys and with a supportive customer base. Just the kind of place where Ankerstein should do well, if they can do well anywhere. The Seattle area is good to toy stores, and we have several large and healthy independents. Please go to his web pages and use the contact form to make up for my lost opportunity.

I came home intending to break my long empty streak and build something with Anchor Stones, and actually did. The set #6 image above is my result. A little wobbly in that right-hand tower, but I've been wobblier.

It was great experiencing that wonderful scent of linseed oil again; feeling the satisfaction of the stones - just the right weight, just the right semi-smooth, semi-roughness; having the structure rise easily and elegantly in front of me.

Very good block play.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


The SepToys seven-faced blocks may be three dimensional, but most of what is done with them is pattern making, based on the shape of a single side - most often the trapezoid.

This can be seen in this tweaked down-on view of the above construction, where only the reflectivity gives away that these are not flat trapezoidal tiles.

But there is enough exploitation of their three-dimensionality to make them valid as both pattern play and challenge block play.

They should be great for helping children develop good spatial perception.

There is only one "kind" of block, but it appears in both left- and right-handed, mirror image versions.

Each of the seven faces is different, some with "handedness," some without.

The blocks are accompanied by a sheet with a number of sample designs (or challenges) and there are many more on the SepToys web site - including designs for more than one set.

Good Block Play.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Space Puzzle

At first glance, these look like Wedgits, and indeed the original design is a product of the same fertile Swiss toy company, Naef Spiele AG. Wedgits are based on the Diamant design, these are based on Cubicus.

And there you have it, as you can easily decode from the Naef names, this construction set is based on cubical shapes, while Wedgits are based on the rhombus (or diamond) shape. As it turns out, that makes these perhaps a bit easier in some ways, but also probably less versatile.

The bottom line is that both are fun, each in their own way. And their similarities are sufficient that if you like one, you will probably like the other. though Wedgits are much better for an extended enthusiasm, while these are more appropiate for an occasional diversion.

Availability is another matter: Wedgits are available widely, and the only place I am aware of with this set is Seattle's Math'n'Stuff - fortunately for me, they are not far from my home. Fortunately for you, they also sell online (this item isn't listed on their web site, but I have seen it there recently, so inquire).

The set consolidates into a 4" cube which fits snugly into a box that unfolds to show sample designs on the inside and outside. (One panel also shows their "Triangle" product - which is a poorly made version of Wedgits and should be avoided.)

Good Block Play.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Lott's Sea-Side Cottage

Lott's Tudor Blocks, Revised Series, dates from the 1950s, and is delightful. The Sea-Side Cottage (their hyphen) is one of eighteen sample designs provided for the 31 bricks and cardboard roof piece.

The booklet also shows eighteen additional designs are shown for the larger Box 2, and the booklet cover and box lid show designs for set 4. Inspiration for more buying, as well as more building.

For the first time, I am using an actual Lott's roof on a Tudor construction, and the original roof that came with my set 1 at that. It's a more recent acquisition than my earlier Lott's Tudor posts, for which I had to make construction paper roofs.

While double-checking my date recollections of this series, I was pleased to see that Andy Harris had updated his Lott's web pages in this very area just a few days ago. Nice coincidence.

Cute building. Nice project size. Good Block Play.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Wedgits Red

Wedgits are a reliable turn-to when my Block-Play is blocked.

And at times like that, I am often especially appreciative of the several single-color sets which make up the Class-Pak 90 Piece Kit.

At times, I will go with Black or Blue or Green or White, all of which are easy on the yes. But sometimes the Yellow or Red is just the thing.

Good Wedgits.

Good Block Play.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Märchen 1

A year or three ago, Ankerstein introduced a pair of new sets as Märchen 1 and Märchen 2 (Fairy Tales 1 & 2), which intrigued me greatly, but if they were ever offered in the United States, I missed them.

A week or three ago, the printed materials for these sets showed up as scans on the CVA repository site. Look under Vorlagen => Neue Fabrik => Märchen.

Not just the booklet pages are there, with the constructions and stories, but also the figure pages with fairy-tale characters to cut out.

I wanted to build with them right away, but I didn't know which stones were included in each set, so I set the project aside until I could rummage through my hard drive folders for wherever it was I saved the pictures that I downloaded when the sets were announced.

Today I gave up on getting around to that any time soon, and decided to just see what I could do with just what is in a #6 box, and so we have the Märchen 1 oven in the title image, at top.

Then I started writing this blog post, and while checking that my links work properly, I took a moment to check that site under Einpackvorlagen => Neue Fabrik => Märchen.

They might not have appeared in the site's Änderungen page, which is what I monitor for new stuff, but there they were. Including an end-shot of one of the little wooden stands, in case you want your figures "as-factory."

Now I know what stones belong. Which I find more comfortable, though neurotypicals may find that less of a requirement.

Between my various sets, I may not have exactly the right stones to duplicate a Märchen 1, but I can fake it. Aside from the thin #58 stones at top (of which just one is used in just one construction - as a door - fake it with wood or card?), the likeliest problem for most people having just a couple of sets would be the three #98 arches, since there are just one each in the Set 6 and Set 6A. Use the 6A's pair of #100 half-thick arches as a substitute. My extra Set 4 provided me with a third #98.

Right stones or not, I had fun. And there is still Märchen 2 to explore.

Good Block Play.

Note - the larger images linked by clicking the images above are reduced from those on the CVA site.

Saturday, February 27, 2010


I make no claims today for quality of my work, either in construction or photography. But you may note that it has been a while since I posted, and under those circumstances, it seemed to me that getting anything built, photographed, and posted, was the objective.

We can deal with quality later.

This is a Bayko set No. 0 example - the Poultry House.

It really should have some chickens.

Part of my purpose was to work a bit with a new camera light, and as is often the case, use of the new, superior tool has resulted in poorer quality results. But once I get some more practice with it, I think it will pay off.

Bayko is fun - and has the advantage of being easily relocatable, which is not so true of stone constructions, and is especially useful while experimenting with new lighting arrangements.

After a long lull, good block play.

Thursday, January 07, 2010


There were Ankerstein copiers all over, some well known and others not so well known.

Tomola may fall into the least known category, or if not, the least known are ones I still haven't heard of.

The box says they are made by "The Beton and Ceramic Factory Limited Co." of the Ujpest district of Budapest, Hungary.

I am inclined to believe that "Beton" is the same as the German word, which means "concrete," and that the concrete portion of the business contributed more to the technical development than the ceramic side.

The sand may be a finer grit than we are used to in concrete, but these feel much more like concrete than do Ankerstein, much less Lott's.

Even though it's out of register, it is worth clicking on the example plan sheet to see someone else's take.

These blocks are 20mm, the same is the earliest Ankerstein, and Richter's later Kleinkaliber, rather than the 25mm of later Ankerstein or 25.4mm of Lott's. I like the size, but it is less suitable for larger structures. Same goes for me, so there.

On another note, I have been tickled with the news coming out of CES about all the 3-D stuff coming along. Now I want the new Fujifilm 3D digital camera even more.

For now, I will keep shifting my Olympus sideways for stereo pairs (below).

Much fun & good block play.