17 August 2013

Don't fence me fence in

Posted by Admin
Whilst new LEGO® elements are the raison d'être of my blog, they are not the be-all and end-all. (Does that sentence need another cliché added?) One diversion I'll be taking occasionally is to look back on parts released years ago, or even decades ago. The Old Elementary, if you like. Thanks to a now 60 year-old concept at the core of LEGO sets, System in Play, a cool old part (ooh, say like 1960s letter bricks) can sit happily in your MOCs alongside a 2013 element. But we're not going that far back just yet; only two decades.

Fence 1X8X2 2/3

Design ID 6079

For me, this part has long languished in my mental category of "parts that can only be used for one thing, and a rather dreary thing at that". But recently I noticed the amazing geometry of this part makes it far more flexible than I had imagined. It cropped up on some Pick A Brick Walls in UK Brand Stores last year, and after I employed that useful self-justification "why, I'm sure I'll need to make a big long fence one day", plus some egging-on from fellow addict friend SilentMode, I bought a large cup. And so it was that I began fiddling with fences and rapidly realised the original Parts Designer put seriously nice work into this element's design back in the early '90s. Nothing is wasted here.

As is often the case with Friends today, I suspect we have a girls' theme to thank for the introduction of this part. It appeared in the initial year of Paradisa; a really lovely 'girls' theme which ran from 1992-7. (I should add it also appeared in one 'non-girly' set that year.) Back then the fences were available in Pink and in White. Through the '90s and first half of the '00s it then came out in Black, in Yellow [BL] / Bright Yellow [TLG], and then one set in the Adventurers theme finally had it in Brown [BL] / Earth Orange [TLG]. The part took a break after 2005, not appearing again until 2009, since when it has featured mostly in White but also in the appropriate hue of Reddish Brown.

The most unusual feature of the design is the width of the posts, which are the same as the diameter of a stud - the horizontal slats then compete the width on one edge of the posts. This means two offset 6079s can snuggle up back-to-back as shown here, and the full depth of the resulting combination is the same as one regular brick. A double-sided fence that takes up no additional depth - that's quite neat. The problem of course with having the whole-stud offset between the elements are the single-sided protrusions at both ends. Not very pretty but that needn't be a dealbreaker, which will become more apparent now as I look further into the geometry of 6079.

For starters, tiles or other parts can be added on top. Additionally adding tiles at ground level to fill in the gaps between fence posts creates a more modern-looking fence, as seen below in this detail from my 'Life Store' MOC. I've spaced the rear fences irregularly, but if you want a less random appearance just space them at equal intervals.

The key aspect of the part's appearance are those large horizontal slats. The height of each of these is the same as two plates, and critically the spaces between them are also the height of two plates. This has several implications, and I'll start discussing these at the legal end of building with the way I imagine the original designer intended this be used. Firstly, you can stack the fences and still retain regular spacing between slats which looks great for tall fences - or gates when attached sideways. That aspect may seem too simple to mention, but parts don't always have this symmetry included. (Oh how I'd adore a new part that could sit between Radiator Grille 1X2 tiles to create even spacing of grilles.) I wonder if the designer ever considered making this part a 1X8X1 1/3 fence instead - i.e. by stacking two of them, you'd have a fence the same size as the existing part. It would have made the part so much more useful! But I guess it would look a little less fencey with the extra bases halfway up.

Secondly, the matching heights mean you can work some plates in and around your fence. Because the slats have such narrow depth, you don't even need to use tiles to slot between fence slats - the slat sits perfectly between the plate's stud and edge.
By using a couple of plates, this corner of fence in the Life Store is going some of the way towards fixing the issue of the end protrusions. I say some way, as the other side of this corner looks nowhere near as neat! But you can't see that, ha.
Thirdly, and we're heading off-piste now, the fact that the slats and the gaps are the same height means there is another method of connection between two fence elements - turn one upside down and push the slats into the slots. You end up with a perfect rectangular panel with some very irregular posts rising at 180°. You don't have to make a perfect panel necessarily; the fences can be offset by any amount you wish.

In what must just be a happy accident of the geometry, there's another way to connect these fence elements. The difference in width between a post and its base, in combination with the equal one-plate height of the base and the gap above it, allows fence elements to grip together. In the example below (which now I look at again, reminds me of a robot monkey face) two sit back-to-back and the third is placed at 180°. This attachment is a little fiddly to engineer, but the resulting connection is a tad more solid than you may imagine.

You can't stick this onto studs... all the base holes are obscured... but a fourth fence can be added by the same method, and the structure is enlargeable using the other methods I've described above. We're not so much off-piste now as roaming the enchanted forest with no likelihood of pausing for hot chocolate with marshmallow. With a bunch of fences and the above techniques you'll find you will quickly be creating sprawling modernist latticework that could look pretty cool in a large model. Admittedly uses for random fencing are clearly limited, but I know what you're thinking, I used it in the Life Store didn't I? Hell yeah. One goal in creating my pretentious store for pretentious minifigs was to include a lot of pretentious usage of elements.

A little game to finish; you can't have missed the 1960s vintage letter bricks in the kiosk above and maybe you spotted the baby bows too. Can you see another recent new part (i.e. a new shape) and also a new element (i.e. an existing shape in a new colour)?

I've only shown details of the rooftop bar of the Life Store in this post - I'll post complete pictures after I rework it this month. I'm always fiddling. Never finishing.


  1. "works of art are never finished, they're merely abandoned"

    any way I can request a similar analysis on the (white) door? http://www.bricklink.com/catalogItem.asp?P=60623 We've run into a situation where we have thousands...without frames.

    1. Cripes. My first reaction is, good luck with that! But to be more helpful, here are a couple of thoughts.

      Think of it as SNOT - the part that people are always asking for; a plate with a stud on both top and bottom. Admittedly there's a whole lotta useless guffins aside from the SNOT bit but you may find something interesting when using it with large plates to make a big model.

      You can insert any "318" part (e.g. lightsabre) into the hollow stud to connect doors. I can't think that'll be of any good whatsoever, but who knows!

      The windows are interesting. They're almost the exact size of the faces of a 1X1 brick. If you make a long 'brick' out of two plates and a tile you could thread a load of doors into it. With four of those 'bricks' you coud thread all four windows - it'd be relatively strong and could make an interesting texture worked into a large building for example. Using just two 'bricks' you'd be able to alternate which windows you threaded through which might be an even more interesting effect.

      Please post a link to your experiments, would love to see them!

    2. Oh, and another thought. If any of your members resell parts, perhaps you can sell half the doors and use the money to buy frames :O) May take a while though...

  2. New part: the white gothic arches

    New colour: I'd say probably one of the 1x1 round tiles.

  3. It's the orange 1x1 round tile. Only just appeared in the Dolphin Cruiser.

  4. Blimey, that's brills!


  5. Really enjoying reading your posts and finding new and fresh uses for such otherwise boring parts like these fences.

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