Closes May 31st:

Competition: make a LEGO font

13 July 2013

A neat excision

A friend recently joked that my blog spoils the surprise of happening across a new element when you open a set. Actually I suspected he was only half-joking, so today I'm pleased to report his claim is not true!

Flat Tile 2X2, Round

Element ID TBC | Design ID 14769

Colour White


This element turned up in my 70002 Lennox' Lion Attack, a set which I happened to pluck from my build queue yesterday for no special reason other than it was close to my bed where I lay mafted by the unseasonable English warmth. Clearly it doesn't always come in that set - as 70002 has been available all year and as far as I can see, and no-one has mentioned this alternate part yet - so please don't buy the set expecting to get your hands on it! In fact, good luck getting your hands on it quickly, as there's no way yet to easily obtain it on BrickLink or Replacement Parts. Think of it as a poor man's Mr Gold for now.


It's a new mould of part 4150, of which the element ID for the white version is 415001. The original mould (since 1983, according to BrickLink) came with an "X" underneath, where usually on LEGO® parts you would expect a tube. This new part 14769 has now reverted to tradition after 30 years and used the tube instead. A small change, but significant and as per usual I'm intrigued by it, for a few reasons.


Functionally it is surely an improvement, as you can now use the tube as a connection point just as you might with any other 2X2 plate or tile. This standardisation of the ability to interconnect is a central tenet of Godtfred Kirk Kristiansen's great 'light bulb' moment in 1954, "System in Play". Sure, this change to the 2X2 Round Tile doesn't open up a world of new building opportunities, but I can recall being frustrated in my efforts by that strange "X" at least once in the past, when trying to use a tile on a 1X1 Round Brick to create a cute little table.


The X is also present on the similar part 2376 Round Plate 2X2 W/Eye (although you probably think of it as 'that handle thingy used to string up big baubles from the Star Wars Planet sets') which got a redesign in 2009. Under Design ID 74698, it comes with the tube, plus the 'eye' was amended to match Technic half-beams. The BrickLink Catalog large image shows the amends well.

Which all begs the question, why was an X used originally? My guess was that this new tubed version would have better clutch. But after conducting some (admittedly highly unscientific) tests which basically consisted of sticking a few on a plate and removing again, my feeling is that actually the X version provides slightly better clutch. Nothing worth writing home about (or perhaps indeed writing a blog about), but it might have been enough for TLG to go with the X at first? But I could well be quite wrong. Does anyone know why they went with the X? Are there other parts I haven't thought of that also have the X? I can think of one other...

Following on from my last post about logos on studs, you could also argue this "X to O" standardisation is also an improvement to the Brand. The addition of tubes was critical to LEGO's success back in the '50s, when it was just another self-locking building brick with a frustrating lack of clutch, and was by no means the original. Dare I risk excommunication from AFOLdom by pointing out LEGO was a clone brand? ;O) However LEGO's patenting of the tubes in 1958 was original, and their patent included various other binding arrangements such as the "X", as you can see in this close up of the original test mould submitted with the patent.


That gorgeous squelchy mass connecting the bricks is the residue from the moulding process, but of course what is most gorgeous is the glimpse into What Might Have Been for LEGO bricks. The dotty version bottom right is my aesthetic favourite, but I'd wager that LEGO's second favourite after the tubes was the X version. My sole basis for that claim is that the X brick was in fact released in Italy in the early '70s, and here I am indebted to Gary Istok's fascinating read, The Unofficial LEGO Sets/Parts Collectors Guide (1949-90s), which I recommend purchasing as a download.

Gary's extensive research explains that to protect Italian industry, laws had been passed which largely prevented the importation of toys and so LEGO created an Italian company called Minitalia. Concerns around protecting their 1958 patent caused LEGO to include the X brick instead (but these fears dissipated after a few years and Minitalia sets began to include the regular tubed bricks). The plastic used was of poorer quality than the usual ABS and clutch power on the X bricks was reportedly lower than tubed bricks. I'd be interested to know if it was more the fault of the plastic than the X design that created the weaker clutch, please do comment if you know - but I guess without some proper ABS X bricks to play with, we could never be sure.

Musings aside, we can expect the tubed 2X2 round tile to gradually replace the X version. But how will this new version get incorporated into databases? Minor changes to moulds don't always get recognised at BrickLink, but with the functional change this new part will surely require a separate entry in their database. Or not! - part 2376 doesn't have separate listings on BrickLink for the X and O versions, which would be irritating when you specifically require one type. Obviously TLG have assigned a new Design ID (14769). My only way to obtain this was from looking at the embossed number on the part itself; the inventory in the instructions for set 70002 lists the Element ID for the old X version, confirming the tubed version is an alternative part introduced recently. Neither ID has yet been added to TLG's online system, as used by Brickset's parts search tool, but that is not unusual. I guess we need to wait for the instructions for a new set containing this element to be listed in order to obtain the Element ID and to learn whether TLG will give it a different name to the X version.

Right I'm off to play Noughts and Crosses in the (Met Office Level 2 warning!) heat. But seeing as I only have three of this element, it could be a challenging game.

35 comments:

  1. The 2x2 plate with eye has been remoulded for awhile now, maybe a year? I've seen some with a circle showing up, mixed, on PAB wall.

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    1. Ahhh thanks - have now located on BL, will update this post. Seems the width of the 'lifting ring' changed too...

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  2. Neat. But, although this new mold adds the functionality to put a stud right in the middle (the little table example), it removes some different functionality. In the old mold, you could put a 1x2 underneath the piece, right in the middle, spanning the piece's diameter. Interesting trade-off.

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    1. It may be 2am here but I just had to get up and try that. AWESOME. And the holes in the tile edge even align to the plate! Thank you Jeff. No trade-off required... we now have both options!

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    2. Indeed, where the new style has five connection points on the underside, the old style actually had eight. There are times when the X-version is necessary and the new version simply will not work (like capping the head on my Buggalo), and there are times when the new version will allow you to do something that previously would have required another part to bridge the gap (your table). The upside is that yes, we do now have both styles available. The downside is that we can assume that any color that is not currently available in the old style will probably never be made, where the new style is going to be extremely rare in both colors and quantity for the short term, and there are some colors that it will never be released in (old greys and brown, for starters).

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    3. Indeed, and such a technique is obviously considered "legal" by Lego Group, as it was used to mount the headlights on #8816 Technic Off-Roader. The new "O" tile wouldn't work on this set.

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    4. Fascinating, Paul, thanks for the very relevant comment! Here's the link to the instructions for anyone interested. http://peeron.com/scans/8816-1/12/

      Does anyone know of later examples of official TLG usage? Despite being legal, I wonder if it was discouraged as being different to the usual method of building. Although of course these days they'd likely just use brackets for that effect.

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    5. Check the pieces that cap the centres of the wings on the 9492 TIE Fighter from 2012. It is hard to see it in photos, but the horizontal poles that form the borders of the wing panels finish with a 1x2 plate on the inner end, and they're mounted on jumper plates to keep them centred in-line with the outer hexagon shape that forms the iconic TIE Fighter wing shape.

      So we have two 1x2 plates mounted back-to-back (which is effectively a 1x4 surface) on top of a half-stud offset, what other option do we have over the old X-shape to place something over the end of this to keep it centred and aesthetically sound?

      I do hope that Lego keeps both types of elements in circulation.

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    6. Nice point, M will have to dig 9492 out of my build queue and.. er... build it.

      I'd be very surprised if they did bring the X-style back in the future, I'm not aware of any instances where a mould has been brought back after having been altered (for better or worse). But very happy to be proven wrong.

      We can take solace in the fact we have 30 years' worth of X-style to source on the aftermarket :O) It's the designers who will have to suffer without it, but as Nabii pointed out, it never got a lot of use anyway.

      Personally, I'm surprised how much love for the X-style has surfaced here. Maybe I'd feel the same if I'd ever noticed its advantages!

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  3. I could see this being used for a slight redesign of 21013 Big Ben - some people complained the clock faces stick out too far because of the extra plate necessary to make that stud-to-tube connection.

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    1. I would love to see that redesigned ;O) - great suggestion. Maybe I'll get a custom clock print on four of these new babies. When I have four.

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  4. You can also put most square 1x1 plates/tiles/bricks onto the x of the old style 2x2 round tile to invert them. Some clutch better than others but can do some cool detailing. Learned this trick from the kickstarter "mobile frame zero" game

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    1. Loving these tips folks, keep them coming!

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  5. Looking at the 2x4 bricks; perhaps the upper left one would be the most usable. Friction may have been sketchy but looking closely at it, it appears to be a combination between O and X. The Tubes have cutouts in them that leave notches that would be in the same direction as the Crosses. It has the uses of both forms. I grabbed two of my Round 2x2 X Tiles and tested something. If you were to have a 2x3 and one of those 2x4 X bricks, you could place the 2x3 directly to the 2x4 without having those tubes to get in the way and it be equidistant on both ends. You can't do this with the round tiles because of their shape causing the middle two studs of the 2x3 to be restricted from the connection, but in theory, this could work. If you look at the upper left 2x4 brick design, again in theory, a 2x3 could connect in place in the same piece as one where you could later connect a 1x3 in the tubes. It must have failed a friction test, but it is quite an interesting thought to consider what those would be like if we had them today. There then becomes a larger range of connecting pieces therefore creating new designs. While I am too much of a purist to defile my own bricks, I would definitely try this out with a handful of bricks of perhaps a clone brand that I was given by an uneducated individual in what quality bricks are and test out my theory. It is a very interesting design. Oh, and I love your Tic Tac Toe game design.

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    1. Ooh, you've got me intrigued MCLegoboy. Great thoughts on that upper left brick. I imagine the multiple points of connection were considered too complicated for children? There must be more info about these alternate bricks out there... maybe some even escaped from Billund into the hands of AFOLs.
      Failing that, there's plenty of uneducated individuals out there ;O) Please stay in touch if you pursue this, I'd love to link to your pics.

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  6. Personally, i rather prefer the x ones aesthetically speaking. I dunno how much more you can do with the new molds over the x molds. If you recall, for table purposes, Lego already has a tabley shaped piece, of which an example can be found in either Friends' Mia's Skateboard polybag. that tabley piece is minifig scale and may even have enough room between top and bottom for the legs of sitting minifigs.

    Again, save for Tic-Tac-Toe (aka Noughts & Crosses), i don't see how the new tile molds would fit on say, a 4x4 plate, as the x allows space for studs, which the O seems to block.

    Of course, i didn't forget that there's the possibility of them both being available for years to come with each having different unique uses. I don't have any O ones of my own yet, but i'm sure someone will find a use for them.

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    1. There's no issue with the tube of the new version allowing space for studs - it's the same diameter and alignment as every tube in LEGO.

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  7. Ugggghhhhh. The X was useful because you could center the tile onto two studs, with each stud bordering a inner corner of the X.

    And THIS is how you create a 'cute little table':
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/pepa_quin/500504440

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    1. Nice connection, thanks for sharing!

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  8. It was changed to bring it into line with all other round LEGO elements. The original cross was there so the 2x2 round could be placed centrally on two studs of a one stud wide beam - this was originally designed for use as signals/signs at the side of railway tracks.

    We made the call to change it (I was one member of the group that made the call) after discovering the above building option had only been used twice in sets in the last 20 years, and not at all in the last 10, whereas many Designers had been frustrated by the cross in the center of the part.

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    1. Great to hear confirmation of all that Mark and that fascinating insight - thanks so much for taking the time to join in the comments. Paul Mutton identified 8816 as one of the sets, anyone care to chime in what the other was?

      I'd also love to see it used for train signals as you describe.

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    2. And here's the relevant page for that one: http://peeron.com/scans/8032-1/67/

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    3. Here's the most recent example of the cross being used in sets as far as I know: http://www.brickset.com/detail/?set=7937-1

      Take a look at how the clock is attached to the enclosed part of the station. ;)

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    4. Silly me - I have it on the coffee table right in front of me, and didn't notice that 7938 Passenger Train also uses the same technique to mount the clock on the small platform.

      So as well as those two old Technic sets, there are at least two *current* sets that explicitly require the X version of the part.

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    5. Do you have a round coffee table perchance?

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    6. No; it just about fits into the rectangular footprint on top of this one I made for another railway to live inside...
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NCjyibdCyuE

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    7. Pretty sure it's way more than 2 sets, and it includes some recent/current sets, as others have pointed out, but that's not the major point. Usefulness should be the real measure. I'm still not sold that the new design is better. While you can no longer span two studs, centered, in many (though not all) situations where that is useful you could just put a jumper plate under the new round tile. So we're trading some situations where the old one sits flat for some where the new one sits flat.

      I personally care more about the x connection possibilities than the tube connection possibilities: I've used that trick tons, and can't remember ever having wanted to attach to a single center tube (probably because I was using a 2x2x2 space stand in situations where I wanted a middle-attached 2x2 round surface).

      And while it may not be an official connection, the fact that you can do SNOT 180 by sticking a 1x1 on the x is very valuable to me, too. So we're giving up 2 connections (one official, one not) and gaining 1 connection. And I've never wished that new connection was there. Oh well.

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  9. Do you know which piece is the official one, on your brick photograph; the center left, or the center right one? They're almost identical, but I think they're at least kinda different.

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    1. NVM; I noticed the small protrusions on the right one. That's he correct one. ;)

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  10. Thanks, great read:)

    On the 2x4 bricks, the top left one was actually used in early DUPLO 2x4 bricks.
    The bottom left was used by a competitor: http://www.flickr.com/photos/maxx361/5224186674/

    The X was also used by LEGO Japan and gives us the results for ABS X-bottom bricks, very good clutch:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/maxx361/7923312662/

    I am still looking for the rest, but I assume these are only inhouse at LEGO Billund.

    Maxx
    (2x4 brick collector)

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    1. Ah I know well of your 2x4 collection Maxx, I have enjoyed your Flickr collection for some time :O)

      I had however completely forgotten about OLO. They are beautiful bricks. I must get hold of some, and the early Duplo too. It might take me a little longer to come around to hunting for Pebe though!

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  11. At last we will be able to fix the awful sticky-out clock face on the Big Ben architecture set. Just need a printed clock face version of this new tile.

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  12. I know this is almost a year later, but the clock is now printed on the new version!

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