25 September 2019

Old Elementary: The 1x2 plate with the arm that moved

Posted by Admin
Today's look back into LEGO® part history comes from Felix Stiessen, an avid LEGO enthusiast from Austria who is always interested in discovering new and interesting techniques to exploit the unique geometry of certain LEGO bricks.

Making its first appearance in 1984’s LEGO Castle range, the basic design of the LEGO® 1x2 plate with a vertical bar attachment has now been around for 35 years. However, in 2008 LEGO introduced a subtle design change that might have gone unnoticed by many.

This article will explore the difference between Design ID 4623 - Plate W. Hook 1X2, and Design ID 88072 - Plate 1X2 W. Vertical Schaft (sic).

I first realised that there are two different variants of the part when I noticed the two seemingly identical elements listed in LEGO Digital Designer. At first I thought nothing much of it but when I had to use it for a real creation a rather interesting difference came to my attention. According to BrickLink, the original version was in production from 1984 and was still found in sets in 2012. It has its 3.18mm bar attachment positioned 1.5 plates away from the actual 1x2 plate, leaving space for a plate or tile to be put between the bar and bricks attached to part 4623. This means attaching SNOT elements such as Brick 1X1 W. 1 Knob will result in a noticeable 0.25 plate gap.

This is rather unique in the LEGO System and allows for some interesting connections with jumper plates, as demonstrated below.

A more practical application that came to mind is the use as a crude lock for castle-style doors. (The 1x4 tile is held in place firmly.)

A Subtle Change

BrickLink and Brickset disagree as to when the new design, 88072, first appeared in sets but the latter date it as 2008, within Belville sets such as 7585 Horse Stable. This version of the part has been in production ever since. On BrickLink, both designs are called Plate, Modified 1 x 2 with Arm Up but the two variants are distinguished by their horizontal arm length (6mm and 5mm respectively).

Unlike its predecessor, 88072 has what might be considered a more logical design. The 3.18mm bar attachment is now 1.25 plates (half a module) away from the 1x2 plate. Attaching elements such as Brick 1X1 W. 1 Knob now leaves no noticeable gap.

While the redesign eliminated some interesting options, it did mean that the part can be used in the System more easily. I have found it to be especially useful for changing building direction, transitioning from even to odd widths, or both at the same time as demonstrated below.

LEGO Senior Designer Mike Psiaki also put it to great use in 21309 NASA Apollo Saturn V, as has previously been elaborated upon in New Elementary's review.

Interestingly, part 30043 Plate 1X4 W. Rev. Hook, which can definitely be considered a relative of both elements described above, has always had its shaft positioned 1.25 plates outwards ever since its first release in 1996 until its most recent appearance in 41161 Aladdin and Jasmine's Palace Adventures this year.

In conclusion, having spent a fair amount of time inspecting both parts, I can confidently say that both of them allow for equally unique and interesting building techniques. However it is fair to assume LEGO decided to update the mould to make it easier to integrate the part into the System, especially in connection with parts such as 30237 Brick 1X2 W. Horizontal Holder.

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  1. I discovered this change few years whilst building extra prison pods used in the original Space Police line. If you build them with the newer version of the parts the pods can not connect to the ships!
    Of course always happy to have variants of parts that open up new possibilities though!

  2. I think I first became aware of this for a very odd reason, which was how I chose to start displaying the CMF series. I figured out a way to link the minifig magnet bases together into a long chain that remains a lot more stable on a fridge door as it's repeatedly opened and closed. Minifigs hold their accessories where it's practical, but for stuff like the skateboard, any printed tiles, and the swim fins. The latter are what tipped me off. In order to display the fins with the S1 Diver, I pulled out a pair of these, and discovered that when I added them to the magnet strip to hang the swim fins from, they were at different heights. I first realized the likely purpose for the design change when building a small MOC with a sky background a few years later. When designing the cloud, there weren't really any good inverted curved slopes, and one of the solutions I came up with for inverting the bottom half of the could used this very element. One version worked perfectly, while the other left the lower section of cloud sticking out to a painfully obvious degree.

  3. As soon as I saw the article thumbnail I was convinced the novel usage of this part in the Saturn V would be mentioned. That section of the build process was a joy to put together (as was the rest of the set). It's a rare treat when a lego set feels just as complex as a MOC!

    Its parts like this that have existed for so long (relatively speaking when compared to other elements with bars/clips etc.) That it's usefulness tends to be overlooked. The slight change does intrigue me though, makes me wonder of TLG has ever made a boo boo where a set's design specifically called for the older or newer variant of a part that was in the process of switching to a new mould. Anyone aware of such an occurrence?

    1. Actually, yes! In their post about the Treehouse ideas set, newelementary noted that the minifig neck bracket with 1 stud has changed to a more standard thickness, and that several builders had found both new and old types in Trafalgar Square, where they are required (and failed) to line up with each other. Boo-boo indeed.

      Took me a bit of digging to remember that one.

    2. Hrmm… I used the old neck bracket in red to make my Flash Kit (~55' of modular speed blur for DC's Flash), but it would look better in yellow now that they made red shorts/yellow boots legs. I was really hoping they'd eventually release it in yellow, but now the question is if yellow would even work anymore due to the thickness being changed. I may actually have to think about trying to stain white brackets yellow now.

    3. Yes! Part 4873 Bar 1 x 6 with Open Studs was replaced with a closed-stud variant (6140) in the early 90s. I got a copy of 6042 Dungeon Hunters that was unbuildable because it came with the new part instead of the old one. I would up taking the set back to the store and exchanging it for an older copy.

  4. Thank you for doing these articles - I really like this type comparing the different uses of bricks.
    I have been looking for a compact way to build downwards upside-down and may have to steal the 1x5 plate with axlehole idea.

  5. Im surprised they never made a similar change to 3839 plate modified 1x2 with handles

    1. 3839's spacing, while odd, serves a quite important purpose—being spaced just right to be gripped by minifigures (and now mini-dolls as well). Technically it was changed from an earlier variety, though—the bars used to be centered on the height of the plate but were moved downward. I'd love to see New Elementary do a similar examination of why that particular change was made.

    2. I just saw Bryan Bonahoom learn that at Brickworld Michigan a week ago. He was rebuilding some spaceships of his original design, and ended up attempting to stack the newer version on top of the older version. This isn't really possible, since the bars hit each other before the plates can be attached, so he ended up swapping the old version with a new version elsewhere on the build.

      I have no idea why the change was made, but I'm also a bit curious about that. Other parts, like the clip plates and the headlight plate, I fully understand why changes have been made (usually in an attempt to beef the element up and prevent breakage), and I'm wondering how long it will be before the minifig hand gets updated to incorporate some of the design that went into the standardized C-clips.

    3. I don't know if the minifig hand would be updated—it can't really be thickened like the other C-clips since it relies on the top being able to function as a stud, and moreover I'm not sure it needs to since I've rarely had minifig hands break at the clip. It's also one of the more iconic aspects of the minifigure, which Lego has been reluctant to change the form of in any substantial way.

      Thinking it over, I think the reason for the change to 3839 was probably to bring the plate "in system" with other parts when gripped by a minifigure in the front or back. The way it is now, the top of the plate aligns neatly with the top of the hips, five plates above the "ground" the minifigure stands on. The older version would be a fraction of a plate lower.

    4. @Andrew:
      The benefit of redesigning the minifig hand would be to incorporate the clean curves on the ends of the C-clip. One of the biggest benefits of the new style of clip is that it no longer presents hard edges to any bar that's pressed in from the end of the clip. Minifig hands still do, and accessories made of polyethylene plastic are particularly prone to being damaged when pushed into a clip like that from the side. That much of a change should be easily possible without altering the iconic shape of the minifig hand too noticeably.