15 November 2018

Old Elementary: The Modulex Integration Explanation Part 1

A year ago we published a post by LEGO® history geek Francesco Spreafico about an old LEGO product called Modulex. At the time there were some mixed feelings towards the post, primarily because Modulex is often thought of as incompatible with the LEGO System bricks we all know and love. More recently we came across Ralf Langer, a German builder who seems to have a real knack for integrating Modulex into his creations. Ralf was happy to offer some insight into his methods.


I bought my first Modulex bricks back in June. I'm not quite sure why I finally decided to give it a try but most probably it was Terracotta, a nice muted earth tone. I really like using muted colours and the Modulex colour Terracotta is a tone that seems to be suitable for roofs or decorative strips for houses.
I already knew that Modulex had totally different measurements to the LEGO System so I've never expected that some kind of 'real' integration would be possible. My aim was to find some technique that would lock the Modulex without using the studs; e.g. with bars and clips or even with  Technic elements. So I just decided to order a selection of cheap parts; a lot of Terracotta Modulex tiles in a variety of different sizes.

There are many, many other ways to connect Modulex and LEGO elements, as I recently learned, but I am focusing on basic elements here because they offer by far the most value in terms of use. Note that the Modulex System has tiles with and without tubes (as shown). If you get a choice, then chose the tubeless version as they are more flexible to work with in terms of positioning.
I always tinker around when holding LEGO in my hands and I always have some Tile 1x2 (Design ID 3069) around. It's one of the parts that my building style depends on, as they have no tube underneath and so are movable. This is a great tool for fixing holes when building out of System. It didn't take too long till I stuck a Tile 1x2 on to a Modulex 1x3 brick. I was quite surprised that the brick connected well with perfect clutch, it almost seemed like it was made for this. No forced too-tight connection. Just a smooth fit.

Further investigation showed that a 1x2 plate did not fit, as the middle stud of the Modulex collided with the tube on the underside of the LEGO plate. Same with a Brick 1x2 (Design ID 3004) but not with a Brick 1x2 without pin (Design ID 3065). It seems we can integrate every LEGO 1x2 System element that does not have a pin. This includes: Brick 1X2 without pin (Design ID 3065), Palisade Brick 1x2 (Design ID 30136), Ingot (Design ID 99563) and the most recent 'Jumper' Plate 1X2 W. 1 Knob (Design ID 15573) – the earlier variations (Design ID 3794) will not work.


Unfortunately, the '3 Modulex studs to 2 LEGO studs' ratio seemed to be the only one that worked and even then, multiples of the 3:2 ratio do not work, e.g. a 1x6 Modulex brick is much smaller than a Brick 1x4 (Design ID 3010).

Utilising these connections

To be honest, being able to successfully connect a tile to Modulex parts was more success than I expected. This connection alone allows a variety of applications.

As the colour Mx-Brown is a little darker than Dark Tan, they go together quite nicely. The combination immediately reminded me of cardboard, which led me to my first little scene.



It is important to note that the Modulex brick fits in length but not in width. This is actually useful as the offset portion of the tile remains free for connection to a LEGO plate between the raised studs or to attach a variety of clips to hold the integrated section in position.




The post box to the left of the front door in the image below is an example of this technique. An Ingot (Design ID 99563) was used instead of a 1x2 tile, and a Plate 1X1 W. Holder (Design ID 4085) connects to hold the Ingot in place.

The house number is a printed 1x1 Modulex Tile, and this connection will be discussed later.

Tiles between Studs

The next technique starts legally with LEGO tiles held between the studs on a plate. The gap between each row of tiles can then be utilised for holding Modulex.



Some Modulex bricks are connected to the tile, while others are simply held between the tiles with friction.  This allows variations in texture and surprisingly they hold very well.



As you can see, the rows of Terracotta Modulex bricks and tiles are held in place by the Reddish Brown LEGO tiles to give an uneven paved affect.

Plate 1X1 W. Upright Holder 

Now we come to the technique that is probably the most versatile and useful! The Plate 1X1 W. Upright Holder (Design ID 2555) can be used to firmly hold Modulex Tiles in place. I used this attachment within the house number in the mailbox example. Discovering this technique was a major breakthrough for me although I later found out that others already knew and had documented this connection.

It is important to note that not all Plate 1X1 W. Upright Holder are the same.


Only those in bold below will fit.

a. Plate 1X1 W. Upright Holder (Design ID 2555) rounded clip ends
b. Plate 1X1 W. Upright Holder (Design ID 2555) thicker squared-off clip ends
c. Plate 1X1 W. Upright Holder (Design ID 2555) thinner squared-off clip ends
d. Plate 1X1 W. Upright Holder with Center Cut (Design ID 93794)
e. Plate 1X1 W. Upright Holder - Rounded Edges (Design ID 15712)

The most important differences are within those with Design ID 2555. Type a is rounded while b and c both have straighter sides. There is a subtle difference between b and c,  but it's important. Type b will not fit as the square clip ends are thicker than c. Thankfully type a is very common despite the mould retiring in 2015. Type e is the current mould used, with improved engineering to avoid stress. The clip arms in the other moulds are liable to cracking and snapping off.



Connecting Modulex 1x1 tiles to a plate is quite useful since Modulex offers a large variety of 1x1 letters and digits. If we continue with this particular connection and compare two similar walls, below; the wall on the left is mainly constructed with Modulex 1x3 tiles while the right version uses system Tile 1x2. In the picture the Modulex version looks quite nice, but the horizontal gap between each row is quite large so it is worth considering which look is better for your build.


Creating Arcs

You can also link elements and bend them a little. The Plate 1X1 W. Upright Holder offers enough grip to set at angles. So, what do we get when connecting some tiles and angling them? Bendable arcs! This was like a dream come true for me.


Below is another example of using the Modulex Tiles held in place by Plate 1X1 W. Upright Holder to form the curved corned of the pavement.


Join us next time when Ralf will be taking a look at further techniques and then showcasing some of his creations that put all the examples to use in larger LEGO creations.



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9 comments:

  1. These buildouts are cool but Ryan Howerter showed us a ton of techniques years ago. https://www.flickr.com/photos/ltdemartinet/8331549172/in/photolist-dGeniw-fu26Ed-etGyuc-dB8XGu-dJE4ty-ggPw4X-dJKE4w-dPJKLw-8xgTEd-8xgTEN-fcgLXh-8QSRkp-cUYttQ-ffzdD7-cV6Koh-ffjZdB-dypNr9-eDjzgA-jH2VWP-f2eELo

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    1. Yes, we've linked to those in the past but always worth another view!

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    2. Hi Brian,

      Elspeth an I were aware of the techniques mentioned by Ryan Howerter and there are also many, many others (e.g. Brixe added quite a lot).
      I would say it's a different approach here; mostly different techniques and a different aim.

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  2. I enjoyed this post.

    I would like to offer a suggestion for a future post (perhaps this could be a challenge). Can you review Clikits parts and their integration with system?

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    1. I would second that, since I don't know anything about Clikits yet

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    2. I have looked at Clikits colours (personally, not on NE) but perhaps Clikit integration could be a nice little project for Ralf haha

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    3. Clikits parts actually seem easier to connect with regular System parts.

      Clikits icons with pins fit into Technic holes, into tubes and inbetween tubes at the bottom of bricks and plates, and placed offset on hollow Technic studs. Clikits icons with holes fit on regular Lego studs.

      http://thebrickblogger.com/2010/12/lego-clikits/

      I have a couple, both of Clikits and Modulex parts, that I found cheaply on thrift stores and similar, so I should probably use them for something, someday.

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  3. I'm not sure if it's a typo, but I think the technique of placing tiles or plates between studs actually is illegal, since it puts extra stress on the parts, IIRC.

    /Håkan

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    1. Sorry your comment took so long to publish Håkan - it somehow ended up in a 'moderation' folder I never knew I had :)
      Plates are illegal, tiles are legal. They are microscopically thinner.

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