Thursday, July 31, 2008

Ankerstein 4½

At some point Richter's felt obliged to create intermediate sets in range 2 - 4 - 6 - 8 or 1 - 3 - 5 - 7.

Either the series was deemed too widely spaced, or it may have been primarily a matter of getting the large arch into smaller sets - even though Set 4 doesn't include the #98R large arch, set 2½ does.

The odd numbers were not available, being used for Kleine Kaliber sets, so the intermediate sets were numbered 2½, 4½, 6½ in the GK NF series.

Two different GK NF 4½ sets were offered at different times with different numbers of stones.

Our example is the larger (right above), which at 7½x11 "cubes" is only a little smaller than a 6 at 8x12, the smaller (left) at 6½x9 is only a little larger than the smaller 4 at 6x8½ (the current 4 is 6x9).

The set also appears as set 3½ in the "VE" series, which took over the odd numbers after the KK sets were dropped. VE sets larger than set 5 (= GK NF 6) had metal parts, and one wonders if the two series were ever carried in parallel in the same shop.

The VE 3½ demanded mention because the only set 4½ designs I have found so far are for the smaller set, but the VE sheet at right contains several models for this block mix, albeit sans layer plans, and is clearly numbered "3½."

Newer CDrom sets may have more designs for this set, with layer plans. I will need to get a set and see.

This block mix (minus two stones) was already in my workspace as a stand-in for the Bing B-5, which probably duplicated this exact block mix. Bing didn't have an alternate series occupying the intervening numbers and thus could number it with the more logical "5."

These designs should appeal to Set 6 owners looking for something a little different, with few of the Set 6 stones leftover (left).

The model in the title picture in fact uses all of the Set 4½ stones, and was quite a challenge to put together without the layer plans. Recommended for puzzle fans.

Good block play.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Bing after B-4

When I posted on Bing set B-4, I only included the design pages for that set, plus the smaller set design that actually appeared as the title image, but I suggested I might return with examples from Bing sets that came after B-4.

So today's photos are of the two Bing B-5 designs included in the B-4 booklet to tempt customers onward and upward. Built here with modern Anchor Stones, to preserve my imperiled equilibrium and because I only have a Bing B-4, not a B-5.

Unlike Ankerstein, Bing went from set 4 to set 5, rather than set 6. And Bing's B-5 seems to fall between Richter's GK NF 4 and GK NF 6. A major motivation in my building these two designs together was to see what stones from GK NF 6 were not used.

So I built one, dismantled it without returning the stones to the box, and built the second. Missing from both constructions, and presumably from Bing set B-5 are the large split arch (Anker 101G/102G), the four corner roof pieces (Anker 212B), and the four half roof pieces (Anker 210B). The paired half-thick full small arches (2x Anker 110R) may or may not have belonged - both construction could have used them as a substitute for one of the full small arches (Anker 108R).

That was more or less what I guessed before I started. A few smaller stones were also left over, but of types that are represented. The real point is that Bing B-5 designs are fully constructible with an Ankerstein GK NF 6. [Bing B-5 seems to have been identical with Richter GK NF 4½, which makes sense - more on that in the fullness of time].

The second design was nasty - very unstable in the upper reaches, where the large arch is supported only by cantilevers of the split small arch. Amusing that stability had just been a topic of discussion.

It would seem that the Bing B-series sets originated before World War I, in the period when Bing may have been the world's largest toy manufacturer, and Ankerstein sets were the world's most popular commercial toy.

One can certainly understand why Bing would feel obliged to tap some of stone construction set market, and also meet the desires of their wholesale clients.

I find it interesting that the B-series design pages show blue-gray roof stones, just like Richter's, while the actual stones in the set are green. Was there a problem with Richter? A desire to distinguish the Bing sets for marketing reasons?

Or did the color change when the A-series was introduced? The green stones look even better in the A designs, and my B-4 booklet shows green stones in the A-series constructions on the cover and inside.

I'm hoping that sooner or later folks with Bing sets will stumble across this pair of posts and fill in the gaps in this information - and perhaps share some more design scans with us.

To end this post at the beginning, and go a bit beyond Bing after B-4, the remaining designs from sets before B-4 are included here as well, albeit after the ones that came after.

Good Block Play.

Sunday, July 27, 2008


I've posted a lot of images in this blog, and at some point, Google started putting those images in a folder in their Picasa Web Albums service. I didn't realize that for a while, because I wasn't otherwise using Picasa Web Albums. Once I figured it out, it didn't seem very important, since the images are just a chronological heap.

But I've posted over 60 pages of designs for block sets here recently, and if someone wants to print them out, it's can be a bit of a hassle.

So, instead click on the picture below or this link, and there you will be. Click on the first image you want to download, click on the "download photo" link at left, click on the right arrow above the image, continue.
Block Play

I wish I could at least have the images sorted in reverse chronological order, so the newest images would be at the top instead of the oldest.

And I wish that you could get from an image to the blog post for that image. The best it offers is there is a link to get to the blog from the album page -- nothing more specific.


The title picture for this post is another Anchor Stone Constructions design, which I would call a belvedere but is known in ASC as a tower, design g26. Well, a belvedere is a kind of tower, so that's not wrong.

This is a Kleine Gernegross construction, which means that the square cross sections of stones is a snit under a half inch, as is the diameter and height of the cylindrical pieces. The whole thing is a bit fussy for such small stones, and the result is rather wobbly -- the more so because the horizontals extending out to the balcony aren't touching the pieces resting on the column. Probably due to an irregularity in the surface I was building on -- the design is correct.

If I build it again, and I probably will, it will be with full size stones, not the tiny ones.

Yet even so, good block play.

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.

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.

Ankerstein 4 some more

I am beginning to think that the Number 4 Anchor set is an ideal size.

Many Anchor builders have a view that you've got to go waaaay up there in the big sets with hundreds and hundreds of stones for interesting building, but they are interested in building large, detailed, realistic representations of actual buildings.

That's fine, but I prefer building more schematic, iconic allusions to styles of structures - perhaps best considered a step up from tangrams (why haven't I done a blog post on tangrams yet?).

Tangrams have seven pieces, basic Wedgits fifteen, Ankerstein Heinzelmännchen 42, Set 4 has 55, Set 6 has 105.

And yes, set 6 is an ideal size also - it is on the cusp where schematic, iconic representation begins to turn into realistic representation.

Today's title image at top appeared as a challenge in Anchor Stone Constructions.

The side images are more designs that can be built with Set 4 - three show subset designs, the fourth mostly duplicates designs in what I already posted, but has one new, and none are in the booklet that comes with the set.

I think that mounted and framed, these could make a nice set to hang on a wall. Click on the images for a higher resolution version for printing - and let me know if you want the full resolution from the CDroms.

The final image is from the ASC challenge again, but slightly modified.

It is hard to leave well enough alone.

Good block play.