22 June 2020

Old Elementary: Odds & Tipper Ends

Posted by Admin
We take another trip into LEGO® part history today to discover a kind of piece introduced 51 years ago that is still found in sets in 2020; 'tipper ends'. They're a passion for Finnish LEGO builder Eero Okkonen and today he delves deep into their geometry and reveals building techniques utilising them.

As we all very well know, adults complain 64% of the time that everything was better when they were kids; the only LEGO® bricks were basic angular blocks (and lost behind the radiator probably) and you could build everything based on your own imagination and didn’t have to follow the instructions and it made you a better person in the end. I don’t think like that, and one of the biggest joys depicted here on New Elementary and in contests like Iron Builder (and hopefully in my own work) is finding new, fresh uses to odd and curious parts, no matter what their original use in the sets was.

This article is about what I will call the Tipper End Family; today I’ll introduce the parts and their history, then go through their dimensions with a series of tablescraps and explanatory pictures, then tomorrow show some older builds of mine using these pieces and close with an unpublished build.

Vehicle, Tipper End Flat 

The Tipper End family originated in 1969, thus likely existing in the childhood of many of those “basic-blocks-were-better” type of adults, when Design ID 3145 first appeared. BrickLink call it ‘Vehicle, Tipper End Flat with Pins’ but confusingly, its ‘pins’ are not pins like Technic pins but short bars… that are not quite like bars. It made its debut in sets 125 Tipping Wagon and 120 Complete Freight Train Set with Tipper Trucks, coming in White in both.

125 Tipper Wagon ©1969 The LEGO Group via Peeron
It was then introduced in Black in 1970, Bright Red/ Red in 1972, Bright Yellow/ Yellow in 1973 and Grey/ Light Gray in 1977. Yellow and red are the most common colours, with the grey ones only available in one set: 163 Cargo Wagon. Images within the instructions for that set reveal the possible intended purpose of the hole and two studs on this piece:

163 Cargo Wagon ©1977 The LEGO Group via Peeron
The part retired in 1982, the last appearance being in 599 Super Basic set. However, this was not the end of Tipper End Flat. The part was reincarnated 14 years later in 1996’s Classic Town set 6581 Dig ’N’ Dump (pulchritudinous name, right?) again in yellow but this new version, Vehicle Tipper End Flat without Pins (30022), exchanged the pins and hole for two extra studs. Otherwise, the parts are basically the same. 30022 was introduced in grey in 2000, again being available in only one set, and in Bright Orange/ Orange in 2015. In yellow, the part appeared twice in the 2010s but the most recent appearance is this very summer, in 80008 Monkie Kid’s Cloud Jet, where four are used in very elegant manner to form the air intakes of the jet engines. We will look at this set in more detail on another day.
80008 Monkie Kid’s Cloud Jet © 2020 The LEGO Group

Vehicle, Tipper End Sloped

Tipper end got a wild and interesting cousin in 1972 when Vehicle, Tipper End Sloped (3436) made its debut in 378 Tractor, appearing in another nine sets. Yellow is the most common colour, while the red variety came only in two sets. Alas, the part was retired in 1998. I mourn this loss; it is extraordinary.

378 Tractor © 1972 The LEGO Group via Peeron

Panel 1x6x3 with studs on sides

According to the BrickLink category system, Panel 1 x 6 x 3 with Studs on Sides (98280) is not related to tipper ends, but their similarities are obvious: sides that are half-a-plate thick, with recessed side-studs. 98280 doesn’t have antistuds on its inside wall however, and overall is simpler: its lack of special angles makes it less interesting.

4434 Dump Truck © 2012 The LEGO Group via Brickset
It first appeared in Medium Stone Grey/ Light Bluish Gray in LEGO City sets of 2012 and most recently in this year’s 60246 Police Station. It was introduced in yellow in 2013, orange in 2014 and Dark Green/ Green in 2019. The most common use in official sets seems to be as the back of six-wide vehicle cockpits.


Having a sturdy LEGO System piece with studs and antistuds piques the interest of an AFOL mind – especially if uncommon angles are involved! The sides of 3145, 30022 and 3436 are isosceles trapezoids with a 120° angle to the base and a 60° angle to the top, making it essentially an equilateral triangle with one tip cut off. The sides of this triangle are six studs wide (and four studs where the ends are cut off). It helps if you imagine an equilateral triangle with side length of two studs projecting from the flat (bottom) end.

Yes, as you already might have guessed, you can make a ‘circle’ with them; actually it is an irregular dodecagon or, with some imagination, a pineapple slice. The tippers here are connected with part 32000, Technic Bricks 1x2 with holes (an illegal connection by LEGO standards).

As the imaginary triangles in the middle are two studs in side length, 1x6 plates connected to the Technic bricks meet beautifully:

Bow ties are cool!

On this alternative bow tie below, the middle hole is one stud wide; again, between the sides of the hinge plate, there is an equilateral triangle with side length of one stud. (The SNOT brick is there just for reference.)

With a similar manner, futuristic structures and patterns can be arranged.

Panel 98280 can join the fun, with a 1 x 6 plate stuck on the bottom to make the height match.

As the flat end of 3145 and 30022 are one plate thick, you can connect two (here by using old hinge pieces and the 2:5 ratio rule) to make a coffin for a very fat minifigure:

The original 3145 had its two ‘pins’, to enable the tipping effect. The pins simply lay between two studs without any connection, easily tipped and easily broken in a train crash. I doubt this would be acceptable in modern sets.

The bars connect to bar holes but don’t meet the same standard as modern 3.18mm bars like the lightsaber. They’re thinner at the tip, not connecting to the recessed stud of a Technic brick for example. They get wider near the base though and can be connected to a hollow stud, however this can not be detected by eye.

The ‘bar hole’ of 3145 is too small for a regular bar. The end of these ‘pin’ bars can be connected to it, but just barely, and I wouldn’t recommend using this weird connection:

As noted earlier, 3436 adds more angles to the excitement. I warn you; the initial shape is very hard to describe with words, especially for one who is not used to writing about geometry in English. In side profile (or, in other words, in section view with the piece cut into two symmetrical halves) the angled slope in relation to the bottom is a little more than 135°; but the side panel itself is a symmetrical pentagon with three 90° and two 135° angles. Basically, most people would call this shape ‘a house’.

I’ll try to express this more mathematically: The side panel is a 1x4 plate (but thinner) with an isosceles triangle on top of it (making the roof of our pre-modernist ‘house’). The base of the triangle is four studs wide and it is two studs tall. In other words, it divides into two right-angled isosceles triangles with cathetus (or leg) length of two studs. This shape is the same as Tile, Modified 2 x 2 Triangular (35787), or would be if that tile’s sharp points were not cut short.

As seen on this ‘loudspeaker’ thingy below, gaps between the end panel are wider near the centre, as the angle of the profile is a little more than 135°. For the same reason, the tipper ends must sit on 2 x 2 plates to avoid intersecting with each other.

As with the flat tipper ends, Hinge Plate 1 x 4 Swivel Base (2429 & 2430) is our friend here. And with 135° angles, a “circle” can be made again. Or, as I call them, chrysanthemum I and chrysanthemum II. Maybe a mini-TARDIS console room, or an air turbine?

The studded sides are perpendicular to the centre, so two of these can be connected diametrically with some hinge plates – or could if I had 16 available. But here’s half of it.

Four can be connected with swivel hinges, with their sides being on the same plane with the piece next to them. This is getting mind-boggling…

Here all the tipper ends are on the same plane, but the pattern is rather interesting, if challenging to use in an actual MOC depicting something non-abstract:

Construction equivalent of Sharknado: meet the Tippernado.

Now, the pinnacle of my tablescap section: “a thing that looks like the things that skilled people in the catering industry make out of napkins”:

It might look messy, but I grant you, it’s perfectly geometrical object! And surprisingly complex too:

Back to the simpler ideas. This hexagon can be also made with the flat version, but looks more exciting with angled ones:

Interlaying angled tipper ends creates armadillo-like textures. An armoured poncho, maybe?

Radiator grilles, stairs, radars, armoured wurms, shoulder pads – whatever the use, I enjoy the pattern of endless recessed studs slightly stepped:

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  1. This is really fun, thank you. The row of studs on an angled edge in 3145 reminds me of the (much simpler) "Slope 53 3x1x3 1/3 with studs on side" . I wonder if TLG deprecated all such slopes for a similar reason. It is quite hard to stay "in system" when you start putting these together, but it can be done beautifully as in Nick Trotta's spaceship Ataraxis here which uses 26 of them, if I counted right (very expensive to source in white). I feel like 3145 could probably be used to achieve similar angling on spaceships -- again, they would be expensive to source in large quantities.

    1. So glad you enjoyed it Jon. That ship of Nick's is just glorious. Love it! Here's an active link to save folks copying and pasting: Nick Trotta's spaceship Ataraxis

  2. In the first pic, there are two red parts. My brother got a set that had those in yellow, but I think that was it for our childhood collection. I vaguely remember trying to attach stuff to those pins, but obviously didn't have any luck. His set was a very basic dump truck, so they didn't even serve any purpose that we could see. Interesting to finally see what they're for, but that is truly bizarre. How many other elements are purposefully designed to just perch on top of other parts without any solid connection?

  3. I still love your description and work.
    I am not fluent in english, but all article about old parts from you is a piece of joy !
    It's fun that I used part Modified 2 x 2 Triangular (35787) on one of my latest MOC, an Harley Davidson Scrambler in same scale than 10269 set.

    I don't know how to post pics of it, so this is a link to see it on FlickR :

    I would be very proud if you like the use of this part that I did on my Moc, and do not hesitate to show my pics on your blog if you want, you have my agreement.

    Thanks again !

    1. Amazing bike Mofofo!
      Here are Mofofo's links as active links to save people copy/pasting:

      Pic 1

      Pic 2

      Pic 3

    2. Thanks Tim !
      Your blog inspired me..

  4. Oh, just as a note on that "illegal technique", according to Jamie Berard's famous presentation, it's only illegal if you bridge the two parts on top or bottom, because the holes on a Technic brick sit just a tiny bit higher than the studs on the side of a brick. In this case, the bottom probably wouldn't be an issue, since it's a sideways panel and not a studs-up brick. Even if you attack that to a plate, the panels should sit high enough to clear the tops of any studs beneath them.

    1. The official line now (or a couple of years ago anyway) is stricter than that. Inserting a single stud into a Technic hole is permitted, but no more. e.g. you can stick a 1x1 plate on but not a 1x2 plate; even that will stress the elements.

    2. Gah! I forgot to scroll down. I just rechecked the presentation, and it did address that. 1x1 plate was okay, 1x3 was not. In that case, it was more than just putting undue stress on the elements. There's also a point where young kids can't physically attach or detach the parts, and lots of studs in Technic holes is pretty tough.

      That said, maybe it _could_ be legal, if you switched from the 1x2 bricks to 1x1. It's a bit of a cheat to flip it around like that, but you'd still be dealing with single-stud connections again. The one unfortunate thing about that presentation is it never gets updated (not for the public, at least), so as new things come up we kind of have to guess at some of them. One 1x1 Technic brick would probably be okay, but putting a whole row of them out there could still be a problem if the pressure inside of the hole causes the bricks to bind together.

  5. Thanks for this great article. As I didn't know the word, I looked up "pulchritudinous" an apparently it's only used to describe persons.

    I might need to find me some of those bricks, because I have none in my collection.