Sunday, April 26, 2009

Lott's Tudor Pavilion

Yesterday in a favorite neighborhood used book store, I picked up a nice pictorial of Pavilions, which is British for the building alongside a cricket pitch. I'm not particularly interested in cricket, but I enjoy the architecture of small vernacular buildings, and the pavilions at village cricket pitches can be quite small and vernacular. From there they range up to large and ornate for the major contenders, but even they tend to be interesting in their ornateness. It was cheap, I had a store credit from selling them some of my discards, so it came home with me.

Then yesterday's mail brought me Gary Birch's recent Lott's booklet from the Lott's hometown Bushey Museum - I highly recommend this fine (and inexpensive!) booklet to anyone with an interest in Lott's or construction sets in general. I learned a lot (pun accepted) not just about Lott's, but about the construction toy business in the between-wars and postwar eras.

To cap it all off, a new batch of Lott's manual scans arrived in my email this morning, with the first structure being a cricket pavilion.

How could I resist?

Not enough blocks? I borrowed some from size-compatible American-made Liberty Blocks, hiding them in back.

No roofs? I still had the homemade roof from my first Lott's Tudor post, and cut a 8.75" x 6.375" piece of ordinary cardboard to serve as the floor, in lieu of the second roof being used as such.

Not enough sense? When has that ever stopped me?

Well, maybe it should have slowed me down a bit. Then I might have gotten the proper red brick under the front stairs. And I might have used the least chipped Dii lined brick in the most obvious position on the lower front, rather than the most chipped.

Ah, well. I kind of needed to build something & it was fun.

Good block play.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Ankerstein in the park

It was so warm & sunny today that I took my Ankerstein #4 set along and found a picnic table in the park to build on. The design isn't from the GK NF book that accompanies current sets, though. Instead it is from the #4 NS (Neue Serie = New Series) of notched-arch fame.

Since the large Arch isn't used in this structure there is no difference in bricks, so it doesn't matter which set is used. Not that most NS designs can't be built with unnotched arches, some of them just lose some charm.

With or without the notched arches, NS designs typically reflect later, simpler trends in architecture than the GK-NF and earlier designs.

I reproduced the entire set #4 NS designs in an earlier post, but here is the page for this little building again, so you don't have to peer at the thumbnails (images can generally be clicked for larger versions).

This structure fits the low & wide pattern that has perhaps been what has been drawing me to Lott's Bricks & Bayko for my recent posts, but is a more substantial looking structure - an electrical substation perhaps?

Good block play.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Meccano Bayko

The Bayko constructions I have posted so far has been what is known as Plimpton Bayko, and have all been from a 1950s set number 1. Plimpton made different sets before WWII and in the immediate postwar period. After the 1950s, the Bayko line was purchased by Meccano, and underwent modification.

Unfortunately, Meccano was itself having problems, and the Bayko line did not survive.

This can all get rather confusing, since a "Meccano set" is a metal construction set much like Erector sets. In fact, in much of the world "Meccano set" is often improperly used to denote any set of this type, just as "Erector set" is so used by many Americans. Meccano Bayko i no more like Meccano/Erector type sets structurally than Plimpton Bayko was, and that's not much. Unfortunately, while compatible, there are enough differences to warrant making a distinction, and the larger pieces are actually marked "Meccano Bayko" on the backs, so there we are.

The most obvious differences are the yellow windows and the green roofs. But the plastic used is different, and lighter colors are present overall. In my construction above, I didn't bother to distinguish between the darker Plimpton red and brighter Meccano red in the bricks, or duller and brighter white. Partly this is a test to see whether I accept the results or would prefer not to mix.

The Set 1 I referred to above is my only really coherent Bayko set. Aside from that I have a "Plimpton set 3" that was cobbled together from mismatched parts by a seller that does that as well as offering individual parts, and a hodgepodge of mixed pieces and a couple of partial sets, including the Meccano Bayko from which I built today.

In addition to color changes, Meccano Bayko dropped the one piece hip roofs characteristic of Plimpton Bayko, and expanded the flat roofs, of which Plimpton had had one size, to multiple sizes, each with matching ends. The flat roofs offer more flexibility, usable in pairs as peaked roofs, or flat as flat roofs, platforms, etc. They probably also allowed smaller boxes for the sets, which may have been the biggest appeal for the manufacturer.

Unfortunately, Meccano Bayko roofs include two size A, one B, one C, and no matching ends. The ends for the Plimpton flat roof pieces seems to be equivalent to size B, so if I had two size B roofs ...

The yellow windows also have tabs for glazing, as do some green windows I got in another odds & ends batch. But neither batch included any glazing.

Well, this is what makes buying used stuff on the Internet interesting.

The plan for today's building was originally published in Meccano Magazine, and is available on the Baykoman web site, an absolutely amazing repository of information on almost all things Bayko. click on 'Architect' in the left hand column, then "April 1964 / Shop & Office" near the bottom of the page.

An extra treat on each of the 'Architect' pages is that there are color images of each structure by Andy Harris, who also has some fine Bayko web pages and Lott's Bricks web pages. The latter has been especially helpful with my recent Lott's Bricks activity, as has Andy himself. Which is how I went from Lott's to Bayko this week,

And please check the Bayko Collectors Club - for Bayko of course, but also for Lott's Bricks, Anchor Stones, and many of the other things we explore in the Block Play Blog. Tell them I sent you.

The Internet has loads of good block play.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Bungalows & such

Today I am indulging in a little bait & switch. I built a bungalow with Lott's for my tradional title photograph, but want to talk about Anker.

Because - unfortunately - the Ankerstein set I want to talk about is very hard to find. If I have ever seen one for sale, it has gone for more than I could afford to spend on it.

But the Ankerstein company has recently changed hands, and the new owners intend to increase production and introduce new sets.

Recent production of Ankerstein has been heavily influenced by adult enthusiasts who seem to generally subscribe to a pholosphy of "more expansion sets, more stones, bigger buildings."

I'm not knocking that -- they have surely done an immense amount of good in helping the the reborn (after the fall of Communist East Germany) company get up and running and survive its early growth years to become something very admirable.

But the new owners are toy people, currently specializing in top quality toys for younger children. The Ankerstein line will complement their current line very nicely at the high end. Especially with some lower end Anker additions to fill what seems to be a gap.

And the old Landhaus series set 301 (shown here in scans reduced from the CDroms) seems like a very good series to look at. It is the closest Richter came to the Lott's approach, and the dates are just complicated enough to suggest that neither was "inspired" by the other.

So why bring in Lott's? Because all my Lott's constructions so far are from sets with no more stones than an Anker Set 4. And for toy store sales easy starter sets, multiple choices, and low entry cost, all matter. And the roofs make a big differenence in ear;y accomplishment with fewer (expensive) stones.

So lets hope that, while not neglecting the advanced enthusiasts at the high end, that the new direction includes exploring some of the alternatives at the low end, old and perhaps even new (what would Richter have done with the ability to laser cut & line wooden doors and windows?).

And by the way, how do you lie today's shallow pitched roof using the same Lott's Tudor gable stones (turned lined side inward) and cardboard roof as last weeks steep-roofed tudor cottage. A nice contrast.

Good block play.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Lott's Postwar

This is a set from the Post-World War II Lott's line, but reprises the pre-war "New Series."

The pink windows strike me as yucky, and clash with the embossed brickwork and the roof. I have contemplated repainting them. The windows on the right end are transparent plastic with blue-painted framing to match the painted stones.

If I had thought through the lighting a little better I would have put a light to the right rear to reflect off those panes. I had forgotten that the windows and doors are recessed slightly back from the wall stones and then was trying to think of a good light source to illuminate those windows from within. Maybe next time.

Note that in the plan sheet above, today's structure is upper left, and the earlier post with this set is the design at upper right. I did not include booklet scans in that post.

For all that, the aesthetic shortfalls mostly cause me to hesitate, and perhaps unnecessarily choose something else to build with. Once I am started, I enjoy the building just fine.

Good block play.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Lott's Tudor

Recently I bought a small batch of Lott's Tudor Blocks, more or less as a pig in a poke -- I couldn't tell which stones were included, nor did I know which stones I would need to actually build from the plans.

But there was a "Set 1" instruction booklet and a brochure describing the Lott's Bricks line, so it was tempting. And in truth, the benefit I get is from block play is often from the total process of building, photographing, blogging. So maybe if there were only enough of the distinctive Tudor half-timber stones to only do one photographic angle, and I had to cut stand-ins from wood for the backs, I'd still get some good use from them.

On arrival, I was delighted to determine that the batch does indeed include the required specially "lined" and specially shaped pieces to build all the structures in the Set 1 booklet, and among the bricks was only missing a few plain unlined pieces I can borrow from my other Lott's sets (which I have previously blogged here & here) and the chimney piece and roof.

The roof wasn't too much of a challenge -- I swiped a piece of dark red card stock from my wife's craft supplies and cut it to size. It lacks the thickness and shingle lines of the included roofs, but will do for a while. The highest numbered Tudor sets include thatched roofs, which would certainly be appropriate for this cottage and would also be a good project.

The chimney was a bigger surprise, since I had somehow thought that the piece "L" chimneys I had would work. But of course the roof angle is different, so the notch needed to be sharper to not wobble. And the Tudor chimney is 1" thick not 1/2" like the standard chimney (Lott's stones are on an inch -- 25.4 mm -- basis, so do not work well with Anker 25mm pitch stones). Same part designation, but not the same part. So I had to wander down to the wood shop (pretty much my wife's as well, but she wasn't home).

I found a scrap that was an inch thick that could have a 1" cube cut out of it, and proceeded to do so. I cut the approximate notch, sanded the various cut surfaces on my wife's belt sander (she is fierce), and quickly had something that would do before all the window light for photography was gone. I may sand some more to get the size correct, or maybe just let it do as-is.

I have long coveted a Lott's Tudor set, so am delighted to have cobbled together one to build with. Excuse enough to blog twice in one day! (And third post in three days, after several weeks lull.)

Good block play.


I've built this structure before, but with the smaller Kleine Gernegroße set.

Today I just wanted to build something, anything, that would break the long drought in my Ankerstein block play.

So I grabbed my Heinzelmännchen set, glanced through the designs under the lid -- both factory supplied and internet downloads, and chose this one, which is William Seppler's h12. He and his web site are the honorees on this month's edition of the web page.

I also wanted to demonstrate my method for coping with a cluttered background, since the topic came up in Don's Hobby Keep the other day. I think the second image adequately demonstrates the use of a 12"x18" piece of construction paper. See the comments for that post for more words.

Good block play.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009


We had snow April 1st. Seventy degree sunshine April 6th. A while ago I did Bayko in the snow, today I'm sharing Bayko in the sunshine.

This time of year has long been difficult for me, with seasonal mental health problems and such. The weather is good for photography in terms of light, but the photographer gets uncomfortable & fidgety and the results show it.

It may not be seventy degrees outside, but I managed to get a reasonably decent picture. Even set up a reflector, though a fill flash on an umbrella would have been a better choice.

Even with my usual indoor block play venues inaccessible due to piles of stuff I'm supposed to be working on, I should be able to work on Bayko -- it doesn't require as stable a surface as Ankerstein and can even be moved in mid or completed consturction. There are other options as well. So my apologies to those who have missed my posts.

Warmer weather should let me return to outdoor block play as well -- though my favorite spot has been wiped away in a park remodeling.

On a totally different topic, Amazon this morning sent out a promo on Green Toys. Can you think of a greener category of toys than classic construction toys or their modern counterparts?

Think of Unit Blocks -- all wood, and enduring in play for years or even decades. Even sets with plastic components I believe can be considered "green" if they provide such long lasting use. Is a trendy bamboo toy that sees only brief or occasional play really that much "greener" in environmental impact than the sixty year old Bayko set in today's post?

Not that the Amazon Green selection doesn't include some nice items at nice prices, but couldn't they have included at least one unit block set?

Red, white, and Green, or natural wood, Block Play is still good.