Design ID 14181
Colour White | Element ID 6040362
Colour Black | Element ID 6048849
Colour Light Bluish Gray [BL]/Medium Stone Grey [TLG] | Element ID 6048848
A new design (shown here in Light Bluish Gray) for the old part 2413 (shown here in White) began appearing in sets this year. Viewed from the top, they appear identical but seen from the bottom the change is obvious; notches have been added along the diagonal edges so that they can now be attached to elements underneath. It appears in five sets so far (but may also be used in older sets as the previous version runs out). White is in 60012 Coast Guard 4x4 & Diving Boat and 9664 First LEGO® League Challenge 2013 Nature's Fury. Black is in 76007 Iron Man": Malibu Mansion Attack and 76001 The Bat vs. Bane": Tumbler Chase. Light Bluish Gray is in 60015 Coast Guard Plane.
Decisions about whether or not to use notches have a long history at LEGO. At the time when System in Play began in 1955 you could buy little spare parts boxes of 'macaroni', the 2X2 round corner brick (part 3063), but this part came in notched and notchless versions simultaneously. Not like Schrödinger's cat though. Distribution of the two versions was seemingly random, just like when parts get new moulds today and you're unlucky enough to get both types in your set. Although the notchless version certainly looks nicer, its limited ability to attach to elements below meant a swift death, in 1957. Also killed was the larger macaroni sister, the 2X4 semi-circular version, also available with and without notches - but even the notched version was deleted, deemed superfluous. This left only the classic 2X2 notched macaroni to survive (until a somewhat irritating redesign in 2008, but let's not go there right now).
Another notchless part from that time is the 4X8 plate with a curved end (parts 712 and 713); designed that way perhaps because they were only ever used in sets as overhanging rooves, so there was no great need to change the mould. Or was there? British LEGO Ltd. (the company licensed to produce LEGO for the UK, Ireland and Australia until the early 1990s) did in fact make notched versions from their factory in Wrexham, northern Wales, starting in 1965 and ending when the part went out of production just two years later. As with so much of TLG's history, the circumstances are unrecorded so we'll probably never know who instigated the redesign and why it didn't happen in Europe. These notched versions are very rare nowadays but the ones pictured here are even rarer; Blue [BL]/Bright Blue [TLG] prototypes never released in a set! My thanks to Gary Istok for supplying this picture and for these great bits of historical trivia from his LEGO history book.
As wing pieces began appearing in LEGO, such as in aeroplane and Classic Space sets, they too were notchless. My guess is, like the 4X8 curved plates, that this was because their primary intended usage did not require the diagonal edges to be attached to parts below - they were, by definition, wings. Although in the very first year the 4X9 aeroplane wing appeared, 1987, it was also used as the base of a fire crane!
And now in 2013, the decision has been made to give the 4X9 aeroplane wing notches too, so for those who still like to use it as a wing, the presence of notches is a distinctly unwelcome aesthetic. I'm happy though. I never use it as a wing, so now there's another diagonal tool in the box at a wonderfully shallow angle.
Secondly, it's nine studs wide. Wing parts often seem to have odd dimensions (literally), but a nine-wide plate is unique (or so I am told, and can't be bothered to research). I like this and am glad it wasn't altered to be eight or ten studs like common plates. Now that it has notches it could simply be used like a regular plate in a build, so long as you're covering up the diagonals. Whilst you don't often need a nine-wide plate and could almost certainly find a workaround, I just like knowing that the option is there!
And finally, the angle of the diagonal edges; each crosses an area six studs wide but only half a stud deep, whereas all notched wedge plates stick to whole-integer studs. I'm happy the aeroplane wing can now be stuck on a plate, but the effect of that half-stud limits many applications. But hey we like idiosyncrasies in LEGO. This edge is kinda nice:
Here I've embraced the half-studdiness and staggered several to make a very gentle slope then filled it in, to create a three-to-four stud tapered 'brick':
There have been many crazy angles in wing parts over the years but as I mentioned, in contrast, the notched wedge families are wonderfully systematic - let's remind ourselves of these.
This was generated in LDraw so there isn't a notched aeroplane wing to use yet. As well as notchless plates I've omitted octagons and compound angled plates, for clarity. Brian D'Agostine (DagsBricks) has compiled a thorough listing of angled plates, both notched and notchless, on his excellent blog. You'll also find a similar one for sloped bricks, and he cross-references angles between the two which is very handy for SNOT work.
A purely systematic approach to redesigning the aeroplane wing would have been to change the angles to 6:1 ratio; thus losing the half-stud corner whilst retaining the overall 4X9 dimensions. But that would have been a huge aesthetic alteration. Keeping the angle shallow but losing the half-stud (12:1 or say 10:1 as a compromise) would have required a much wider and deeper plate.
Who knows; maybe the aeroplane wing will be the first of a family of half-stud wedge plates. OK, I doubt that would ever happen, but a 1.25:1 would be very useful. But it might be more realistic to hope for a 2X2 wedge to join the 1:1 family. And a 2X6 for the 6:1 family. Pretty please, Design Lab! The other possible future event is that other wing parts will get notches, but I'm not sure that any get used enough to warrant a redesign.