Menu

17 February 2019

Brickset: A history of Technic pins

Occasionally we see an article about LEGO® parts that we love so much, we republish it here on New Elementary. (With permission, naturally!) Well our good friend Huw Millington of Brickset wrote this great rundown about the humble Technic pin and we definitely didn't want any of you to miss out.

I can't quite believe I'm writing an article on such a seemingly mundane subject as the history of Technic pins but, given the popularity of last week's article about one such pin, perhaps there'll be similar interest in this one too.

The first Technic sets launched in 1977 came with just one type of pin; however, the very first 'Technic' pin produced predated them by some 7 years, and it wasn't made from plastic...

Metal pin (1970)

If fact, it was made from metal and appeared in 800 Gears. Motor and Bricks, released in 1970. It was designed to connect the new gears in the set to the existing train motor, which accepted the metal axles of train wheels.

That set also introduced the cross-axles that are still in use today.


Design ID 3673: Connector Peg (1977 - )


The first six Technical sets, as they were called at the time, introduced many new pieces including beams, gears and connectors. This humble pin was among them. It was used to join beams together as well as at rotation points. Being frictionless, the resultant structures could be a bit floppy.

It's only ever been produced in light grey: old light grey prior to 2004 and light stone grey afterwards (from now on when I refer to light grey I'll mean both colours).

It's still in use where rotation is required.

Design ID 6562: Connector Peg/Cross Axle (1978 - )


A year later this frictionless pin made its first appearance in 855 Mobile Crane, to mount wheels with axle holes to beams.

Originally it was mostly produced in light grey until being entirely replaced by the tan version in 2004.

There have also been black ones, in two space sets, and BrickLink alleges that a white version appeared in some versions of 8558 Cahdok and Gahdok although I believe the vast majority contained the friction version.

Design ID 4274: Connector Peg W. Knob (1981 - )


This pin seems to have been originally designed for holding toothed angle connectors together in the 1981 Technic assortment, as can be seen clearly on 8845 Dune Buggy. That piece is now obsolete but this pin enjoys life nowadays as a means of interfacing Technic and System parts.

Until 2001 it was exclusively light grey but since then both grey and blue versions have been in use. Interestingly, the blue version appeared only in System sets until 2004, after which it also cropped up in Technic.

It was also produced in white for a few sets released 2003-2005, most notably in 10042 U.S. Flag where they were used for the stars.

Design ID 4459: Connector Peg W. Friction (1982 - 1990)


The original frictionless connector pin resulted in floppy constructions which must have been seen as a problem in the increasingly complex Technic sets of the early 1980s. This pin enabled beams to be connected together very securely. In fact, so securely that it's extremely difficult to get them apart again. The only way to remove this pin from beams is with pliers or teeth.

If you come across any, throw them away, do not mix with the later version or you will regret it!

Design ID 2780: Connector Peg W. Friction (1990 - )


Technic fans of the 1980s had to risk breaking their teeth for 8 years before the awful version above was replaced with this usable one that we know today.

Like many of you, I suspect, I own more of this part than any other LEGO piece.

Officially, it's only ever been made in black but there seems to be a whole range of colours available on BrickLink, including transparent. Presumably they are LEGOLAND model shop or factory escapees.

Design ID 6558: Connector Peg W. Friction 3M (1993 - )


The 3 long friction pin first appeared in three 1993 Technic sets, in black. Pins and axles were either grey or black in those days which made sorting and locating all the more difficult.

Clearly LEGO saw this as a problem too because it was phased out in 2008 in favour of blue. I understand, from conversation with a System set designer at the time, that they were not happy about it because it had often been used for gun barrels and similar.

Let's not forget the solitary white one!

Design ID 32002: 1 1/2 M Connecting Bush (1996 - )


When researching this article I was surprised at how late this one -- for connecting to half-width parts -- appeared, given that the first half-width liftarm (2825/32006) had been around since 1989.

The original dark grey version was superseded by tan in 2013.

32054: 2M Fric. Snap W/Cross Hole (1997 - )


This one, that has an axle hole in the end, has been produced in 13 different colours although nowadays only appears in black, red and light grey.

I believe its original intended use was as a pin that can be easily inserted and removed to join subassemblies because its first use was in 8277 Giant Model Set which built various modular models.

Design ID 32556: 3M Connector Peg (2001 - )


Eight years after the friction version was produced, this 3l pin surfaced first in four Bionicle sets in 2001 before finding more widespread use the following year.

It was originally light grey before being switched to tan in 2008.

Design ID 43093: Conn.Bush W.Fric./Cross axle (2002 - )


This is another one that arrived relatively late, given how prevalent it is nowadays.

It was originally black, which must have made finding it in a pile of similar pins nigh on impossible, so thank goodness it was changed to blue just a year after its initial production.

A white version was used for the teeth of Bionicle creatures in 8558 Cahdok and Gahdok, in 2002.

Design ID 11214: Con. Bush 2M Fr. + Cross Axle (2014 - )


Twelve years passed before a 3l version of the pin above was produced and it's now used in just about every Technic set.

Until late last year it was produced only in dark grey but now it seems that it's been switched to red. I wonder how they decide what colours to standardise pins in...?

Design ID 18651: Cross Axle 2M W. Snap W. Fric. (2015 - )


I guess it was inevitable that this one would follow the one above given how useful it's proved to be.

It's only ever been produced in black, so far...




So, who knew that the humble Technic pin, that we all have thousands of, could be so interesting? :-)

If you enjoyed this article do let me know. I might be tempted to write more...


This article is a republishing of the original by Huw Millington at Brickset.

8 comments:

  1. "... they were not happy about it because it had often been used for gun barrels and similar."
    I couldn't agree more. :) Why couldn't we have two colors, like the pin w/ knob?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Interesting article. It would be nice to see the pin-length axles (black and red) included as well.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Interestingly, I believe that 18651 only has half-friction. It doesn't have the full friction of a black friction pin that's for sure.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Also, there have been 2 versions of the standards 2L black pin. The old version was somewhat thicker. Nowadays, these pins allow inserting a bar. Not sure when this is changed (it was for sure an improvement, to me), but it's not super long ago (maybe 10 years?).

    Also, there are of course pins with pinholes now (both 2L and 3L, and the axle hubs (2L, 3l and 2x2). I'd say an overview of pins isn't 100% complete without these. Also, we have the 3x3 connector with 4 pins used for steering, and a larger, somewhar rare, L-shaped version, found e.g. in the base of 42055. So the concept of "pin" is somewhat merged into other types of Technic parts.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Paul D, I'll cover axles in another article.

    Erik, you are right but as far as I know LEGO doesn't differentiate between the two: the part has had that design ID and part number (4121715) since it was introduced in 2003.

    anothergol, I hadn't noticed that but you are right: it has just 2 friction ridges instead of 4.

    ReplyDelete
  6. About the metal pin (bb301): there was also a 3-stud long version, pinpw2, released in 1974 in the 811-1 - Gear Supplementary Set, 811-2 - Gear Crane Set and 813-2 - Gear Bulldozer Set.

    Here's an image that shows both of them:
    https://bricksafe.com/files/Simon/20190217_215226.png

    Take care,
    Simon

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Fascinating! Thanks for highlighting Simon

      Delete
  7. You left out my new favorite pin!!! "6587 Technic, Axle 3 with Stud" I think I just invented a new SNOT technique with them -- I made a 4x4 stud cube cube using these and other obsolete technic parts.

    ReplyDelete