11 March 2019

LEGO® Gears: from Samsonite to splat!

When we first saw the images of LEGO® sets due to be released in 2019, one new type of element caught our eye in particular.  Because of their shape we affectionately called this group of elements 'splat' gears, but BrickLink call them Modified Plate with Gear Teeth / Flower Petals, and the official TLG name is Gear Wheel.


Today we take a closer look at these new elements and their place in the history of the LEGO gear. It turns out there is more to LEGO gears than just Technic; they have appeared in various guises over the years including DUPLO, Dacta and Samsonite. Before we take a look back at the ancestors, let's take another look at the new gears on the block.

There are three splat gears to be found across four different 2019 sets at the moment, with one size coming in two colours.



  • Vibrant Coral Gear Wheel 6X6, Z14 (Element ID 6258385 | Design ID 35446)
  • Medium Azure Gear Wheel 4X4, Z10 (6238331|35443)
  • Dark Stone Grey [TLG]/ Dark Bluish Gray [BL] Gear Wheel 4X4, Z10 (6252371|35443)
  • Medium Lilac [TLG]/ Dark Purple [BL] Gear Wheel 2X2, Z6 (6238330|35442)

The underside of the plates shows that the central circular portion is a similar design to the equivalent Round Plate but with the teeth extending beyond the outer circumference.


One tooth of each plate has an upwards arrow, presumably a starting point indicator that may be utilised more in future sets.  The underside of the teeth are not anti-studs which makes sense as the teeth themselves are smaller than a 1x1 round plate. I tried attaching a few different parts to the underside and I did not find any connections.

The curved shape of the teeth and the curve between the teeth are of course the same diameter. I thought it would be interesting to see what else could nestle in the curve between the teeth. Starting from the yellow element going clockwise, the first four do not fit. They are all a module wide (i.e. the width of a single 1x1 brick ≈8mm at maximal width) : Round Brick 1x1 (Design ID 3062), Plate 1X1X2/3, Outside Bow (49307), Beam 1X1 (18654) and Flat Tile 1X1 ½ Circle 'Stadium Tile' (24246).


As you can see all the other recesses are filled rather nicely with the exception of the C-curve of a minifigure hand which is too small. Starting from the red element and going anti-clockwise: Red Tap Ø4.9/6.4 (4599), Trans Fl.Red Orange Antenna 1x1x8 (2569), White Aerial (3957), White Candle No 1 (XX), Sand Green Holder Ø3.2 W/Tube Ø3.2 Hole (11090), Dark Stone Grey 3.2 Shaft W/5.9 Ball (22484), Light Flesh Minifigure Hand (983), Med Stone Grey Stick Ø3.2 2Mm W/Knob And Tube 'Telescope' (64644), Bright Blue Connector Peg W. Knob 'half-pin' (4274), Black Mini Antenna (75387).

Make 'Em Spin

The central hole of the gears have a 'snap' that allows them to click into a turntable and spin without releasing the connection. You can connect the gears to existing LEGO turntables plus the new Turntable 2x2 Female (6238334|27448) which we discussed in our review of 10264 Creator Garage.

Like any LEGO plate, the splat gears are also compatible with turntables that connect using the underside studs like the 2x2 turntable (comprising Design IDs 3680 and 3679).

Splat gears offer a bit more room to manoeuvre as the teeth connect even if they are not perfectly in position with the neighbouring gear. This is mainly due to the size of the teeth when comparing them to the usual Technic teeth, they are more forgiving.


If you wanted to make splat gears turn using an axle then there are a few ways to do this.  The simplest way may well be to attach a 2x2 Round Plate with central axle hole onto the splat gear (either to the underside or on top) and voila...your splat gear can be controlled using an axle.

Now let's take a look back at earlier versions of LEGO gears.

Samsonite gears

It seems that LEGO gears began with the appropriately numbered set 001.  This was a set released in 1965 exclusively for the US and Canadian markets, under the agreement between Samsonite and The LEGO Group.


There were four Samsonite LEGO gears: a White 14-Tooth (Design ID 741), a Bright Yellow [TLG]/Yellow [BL] 21-Tooth (742), a Bright Blue [TLG]/ Blue [BL] 35-Tooth (743) and a Bright Red [TLG]/ Red [BL] 42-Tooth (744). These four early gears did not have the axle connections we now know; instead there is a central hole.


The hollow studs are the same size as the LEGO studs but the hole is not made to fit 3.18mm bars. This is because the gears pre-date the use of 3.18 bars so the studs do not use this standard. You can push a 3.18 bar into the hole a short way, but it is very, very tight and will not pass through. I had to really yank the yellow bar out after taking the photograph.

The studs are at the regular LEGO distance apart, allowing a 1x1 Round Brick to have clutch between four studs, as shown.

Interestingly, the central hole is slightly smaller (a couple of mm) and does not fit any regular LEGO element but an aerial (Design ID 3957) is held perfectly when placed upwards through the hole, as seen in White.

There always seems to be a workaround with LEGO and so if you really wanted to make a Samsonite gear work with an axle there are ways to make this happen. For example the same method I used for the splat gears also works for the Samsonite gear.

Universal Building Sets

A new type of gear was introduced in Europe in 1970 as a subtheme of the Universal Building Set theme. None of the Samsonite style of gears were compatible with this new style of gears, which were smaller and used axles to turn. 

©1970 LEGO Group
There were three different gears; a Bright Red 9-Tooth (Design ID 596), a Bright Blue 15-Tooth (570) and a Bright Yellow 21-Tooth (572). The studs visible on the Bright Red and Blue gears are not actually functional and cannot be used to connect.

The yellow and blue gears only appeared in six Universal Building Sets from the Gear subtheme but the red gear enjoyed wider usage, partly due to its smaller size but also because it could be combined with link chains on vehicles (such as in Legoland 387 Excavator and Dumper from 1976) or even a large tyre (such as in Hobby Set 392 Formula 1 in 1975.)

Technic gears

In 1977, "Technical sets" – soon renamed Technic – were released, bringing a whole new selection of toothed gears.

One of the first sets was 850 Forklift Truck which contained three of the four gears initially introduced into the Technic System. These core Technic gears have had design improvements over the years and, of course, a vast array of new gears have been added.
Bionicle and subsequent Constraction themes were based on the Technic System and so they introduced ever more strange new gear pieces such as ones attached to torsos.

DUPLO


In the late 1990s, Duplo Technic gears appeared in Dacta sets and then reappeared under the Education theme from the mid-2000s onwards but in a rather limited number of sets. Shown below are Bright Yellow Dacta Gear Wheel Z40, M2 (4501044|6530), Bright Red Dacta Gear Wheel Z24, M2 and Bright Blue Dacta Drive Wheel.

©1995 LEGO Group

Then in 2017 Duplo sets were released with what looks like the Duplo version of the splat gears. There were two different plate gear sizes: Bright Yellow Gear Wheel Z8,W/ Tube,W/O Clutch Power (Design ID 26832) and Bright Red Gear Wheel Z12,W/ Tube,W/O Clutch Power (26835). These gears did not have a central hole but instead had a tube connection on the underside.




Ker-splat!

2019, and splat gears hit the shelves! The new Gear Wheel elements are available in the following sets. If you're buying your LEGO sets (or anything) from Amazon, please consider following our affiliate links to get there! It sends a few pennies our way and helps us carry on publishing.

Vibrant Coral Gear Wheel 6X6, Z14 (Element ID 6258385)

Dark Stone Grey Gear Wheel 4X4, Z10 (6252371)

Medium Azure Gear Wheel 4X4, Z10 (6238331)

Medium Lilac Gear Wheel 2X2, Z6 (6238330)




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10 comments:

  1. Can the splat gears work at 90° to each other?

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  2. If the splat gear is attached to a 4x4 turntable base 61485 does it spin freely or "click" as it is turned like the 4x4 round brick does when it is attached.

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    Replies
    1. The 6x6 ones, at least, spin freely. I imagine the 4x4 ones do as well.

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    2. oh sorry forgot to click reply below so you get notified.
      Gear Wheel 6X6, Z14 (Design ID 35446) and Gear Wheel 4X4, Z10 (35443) both attach to the 4x4 Turntable base 61485 and spin freely as the central hole of the gears has a 'snap' that allows them to click into a turntable. Obviously Gear Wheel 2X2, Z6 (35442) doesn't connect as it the teeth extend into the circular ridge on the turntable base.

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    3. Thank you for the answers. I just ordered a few from bricks and pieces to pay around with.

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  3. Gear Wheel 6X6, Z14 (Design ID 35446) and Gear Wheel 4X4, Z10 (35443) both attach to the 4x4 Turntable base 61485 and spin freely as the central hole of the gears has a 'snap' that allows them to click into a turntable. Obviously Gear Wheel 2X2, Z6 (35442) doesn't connect as it the teeth extend into the circular ridge on the turntable base.

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  4. Hmmm, although the Red-Yellow-Blue coloring system has been fairly recurring through the years, there hasn't been much continuity in color-size coordination across different systems.

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    Replies
    1. Good point, it's almost the opposite as if the colours red/blue/yellow have been purposefully changed around in size comparison :-)

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  5. I would very much like to see the difference in size between a Technic axle and a Duplo axle. Can anyone provide a picture of this? Thanks

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    Replies
    1. I'm not sure if Huw covered the DUPLO axles in his recent history of axles articles? Have a search of Brickset.

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