15 October 2020

LEGO® IKEA® review: 40357 BYGGLEK & storage boxes

We have a new contributor writing today; Omid (@nwbricks) who is a LEGO® City- and train-loving AFOL from the UK. His first assignment is an unusual one: the new storage boxes from IKEA®. The products in this article were provided for free by LEGO; the author's opinions are not biased by this.

History teaches us that very occasionally, when the stars align just right, some things are destined to be together. Romeo and Juliet. Mac and cheese. The Chuckle Brothers. These pairings are so utterly ingrained in mankind's collective psyche that to mention one without the other feels weird and incomplete; they are two halves of a greater whole, a plurality made singular.

But all that nonsense pales in comparison to 2020's new heavyweight power couple. Stand aside Kim and Kanye. Supreme x Louis Vuitton? Don't make me laugh. 

IKEA x LEGO is here. Say hello to BYGGLEK.

A Match Made in... Scandinavia?

As far back as anyone can remember, people have been measuring their LEGO train layouts in Linnmons and sizing up storage and displays based on their Kallax-ability (or Expedit-ableness, if you're old school). Half of my home layout is resting on top of £2 Burhult shelves, the building area is lit with various IKEA lamps and light strips, and even the wooden surface in these photos is a budget Jokkmokk dining table. In other words, LEGO and IKEA is not a new relationship.

So when I first heard about the new product line I was pretty excited, and while I wasn't sure quite what to expect I'm a sucker for clever storage solutions so had high hopes. I'd half expected some sort of plastic drawer and divider system given that's how the majority of AFOLs store their parts, but I guess that would be reinventing the wheel.


When the boxes were unveiled I was pleasantly surprised, and even more so when they turned up in the post. The packaging is really attractive and unlike some sets (not pointing any fingers) the tabs are glued fairly lightly in just two places meaning you can easily get it open in one piece with a sharp knife.

Byggie Smalls

Aside from the range of boxes themselves, there's also the 40357 Bygglek box of bricks. 


I won't spend time looking at the pieces as there's nothing particularly new or exciting, but I counted 201 plus the two "classic smile" minifigs. While there's no instructions to speak of — just a small Ideas Book-style page of mini builds — it's a decent little assortment of common elements. Having said that, a printed IKEA tile or torso would have been a nice touch.

Inside the other packages everything leans heavily toward the IKEA end of the spectrum. The larger boxes require some assembly, which is just a case of snapping the four walls together into the base. It's not quite a 942 piece pneumatic set with 32 steps but if you're anything like me you still might put the wrong sides in first, and while the tolerances aren't quite up to LEGO standards they lock together well and are extremely difficult to take apart once together.

I did wonder if we might get some thoughtful touches like LEGO-style instructions or even a minifig in place of the usual IKEA Man in the manual, but that's probably just me being a graphic design nerd. As it is, the manual is a fairly throwaway affair although there's a subtle hint at one of the major design flaws on the back page.


Once assembled it has to be said the boxes look great and they're clearly very well made. They use the same plastic as typical LEGO bricks although they do feel slightly different, presumably because we're not really used to such a large, flat surface area of shiny ABS.

Boxing Clever

Much has been made of Bygglek in the last few weeks and there have been some brilliant interpretations from the AFOL community, as you'd expect. We've seen palaces, planters and even Blacktron bases — all really clever ways of repurposing the boxes and capitalising on their playful side.

But the reason these things exist is for storage. New Elementary prides itself on finding creative and alternative uses for weird parts, but in this case it's more important that the product actually does what it's supposed to. And I really think they've missed a trick or two here.

The boxes come in four flavours: 44x32, 32x22, 22x16 and 16x11. All the internal walls are exactly 2 modules thick which is a nice bit of symmetry but unfortunately means that by the time you get to the smallest ones the internal area is a measly 7x12 modules with a height of four bricks. It would make a nice little trinket box but with all the will in the world, you won't get many more than about 20 2x4 bricks in there.

Why 44 was chosen as the length is a question for the ages. Bumping that up to 48 would have given nice, clean divisions that line up with existing LEGO baseplate offerings and also added a smidgen more space to the smallest boxes. Really though, this issue is kind of arbitrary. It's still a nice little box. No, the real problem with Bygglek is the kind of oversight that makes you wonder how on earth it got past concept stage: the lids don't lock.

As I'm writing this I'm still looking at them thinking surely not?! I keep half-convincing myself that I'll find some ingenious mechanism hidden in the lid that will restore my faith in the good names of our collective Scandi overlords but it's futile: they don't even try to lock by friction or otherwise. This is in stark contrast to basically every other container IKEA sells, for which you can buy any of approximately seven million different lid and base combinations, give or take.

©2020 The LEGO Group

Just feast your eyes on that lovely, homely display. So nice and tidy (well, mostly). I give it about ten minutes before a toddler tries to grab a box out of the cupboard, assumes incorrectly that those things on the side that look like handles are, in fact, handles, and tips the contents all over themself and the floor.

Conclusion

As a concept, Bygglek is great. Unofficial storage boxes with studded lids have been around for a while so it's nice to see them being produced officially. But as much as I hate to say it, the idea is poorly executed with function playing a very obvious second fiddle to form. If the recessed areas on each side had been omitted that would be a small saving grace but as it stands the shape naturally invites you to pick the box up at its weakest point.

At the end of the day, they're cute little boxes with nice geometries that line up with the LEGO System. The negatives take nothing away from the play side of the product: I can think of numerous uses for the lids, which are exactly one brick tall and would make great chunky baseplates for a variety of MOCs. In fact, LEGO historians will immediately recognise the satisfying similarity between the lids and the early baseplates from the 1950s and '60s. The boxes themselves, meanwhile, could make boats, truck chassis, houses, swimming pools…

But they're not marketed or purchased as LEGO parts, and if the goal was simply to create some chunky, odd-sized hollow boxes to be used alongside System bricks then there would be no need for the IKEA collaboration. There's nothing particularly wrong with them, but they are billed as storage solutions and they're not doing anything you couldn't achieve by gluing a baseplate to some Tupperware — and to be honest that would be an improvement because you could at least seal it shut. I rate them for play, but for storage you may as well just use the cardboard box they're sold in.




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11 comments:

  1. I feel this article could be a little more extensive. I would've liked to see all boxes side by side, get all the inside measurements and perhaps one or two builds like I see a lot of on Twitter.

    I second your wish for a tile or exclusive minifig. That's kind of disappointing.

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    1. Fair enough, I'm glad New E readers do indeed want more :) I will mention I encouraged Omid to take a different approach though, given how much is out there. Anyone wanting a detailed examination of the boxes, Stonewars' article from back in July is really thorough.

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  2. And presumably it's inadvisable to leave them anywhere sunny as well, unless cream-coloured Lego boxes are your bag.

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  3. Beautifully and entertainingly written! Welcome Omid

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  4. They may be made of ABS, but they may not be made of the same ABS as LEGO bricks. ABS consists of Acrylonitrile, Butadiene, and Styrene. Styrene is pretty simple. It has a fixed chemical formula, and it's just chained together to form polystyrene. Acrylonitrile is also pretty simple. It's the Butadiene where things start getting wonky. Butadiene comes in several configurations, which exhibit different properties, and result in different qualities when used in ABS. Then the three compounds can all be used in different ratios to produce the raw plastic (adding colors can also have a profound impact on the plastic, which is why Mixel joints are exclusively light-bley and dark-bley, and various colors have earned unfortunate reputations for becoming highly prone to shattering over time). So, The LEGO Company uses a proprietary blend of ABS in all of their factories outside of China. In China, they are required to source their plastic locally, and didn't want to just give up their most valuable secret to _all_ of China, so they've been using an alternate formula for ABS when producing parts there. The most obvious examples of this are the early waves of the CMF theme. Everything from at least Series 1-11 feels super cheap, almost like polystyrene. I don't know exactly when they switched to a better formula, but at least by Series 19 it feels stronger. An easy test is to pinch the legs. If they pinch together almost to the point of touching with very little effort, it's early CMF plastic. If there's some resistance, and they don't flex inward very much, it's probably either not of Chinese origin, or it was made using the later Chinese formulation. But the early stuff is so different than we're used to that it looks like a different plastic, it feels like it weighs less, and it feels different to the touch. If these are produced by The LEGO Company for sale through Ikea, they may actually be made with their proprietary ABS formula. If they're licensed to and produced by Ikea, they may actually be a different blend of ABS.

    I hadn't really considered this before, but this may be why LEGO baseplates feel different than LEGO bricks. The LEGO Company apparently only deals in the injection molded parts, and farms out baseplates because they're vacuformed instead. They're still ABS, but depending on how the sheet stock is sourced, they may not be the same ABS as they use in LEGO factories.

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    1. I like the 'leg test'. Thanks!

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    2. Hmm, it's obviously not "Leg good", I guess...

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    3. @Tim:
      The leg thing is a bit weird. I suspect it has to do with the design of the hips (it's really the pins that the legs attach to that are allowing that level of flex), plus any impact the change in material had on their levels of tolerance. I've noted that I can often see a gap between one or both legs and the codpiece on the hips with an early Chinese leg assembly, where the gap is always closed up on their European counterparts (yeah, no matter how much I try to clean that up, it still sounds dirty). So, there's a bit more play in the system if you try to click the heels on early Chinese legs, and it's easier to flex the pin than the actual legs.

      One notable drawback to this is that it makes disassembly a risky choice. I've sheared off a few of the retention spurs on the pins that the legs attach to. In every case, it was the first (and only) time I removed the legs from the hips. In every case I've been lucky, and I was either planning to put the legs on different hips (so I didn't really have a use for the damaged hips), or I screwed up a plain set of hips that was easy to replace. But there are a lot of interesting prints spread throughout the early CMF line, and some day I might decide that one of the early CMF has the perfect printed hips for something I'm working on, and I may have to consider cutting the legs to free them without risking any damage to the hip pins. Hopefully not, as besides the fact that this would 100% guarantee the legs are ruined, there's no failsafe way to cut a leg off of the hips without significant risk of damaging the hips anyways.

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  5. Thank you for the well written and honest review. I have not seen these first hand but I too was disappointed by the outcome of this collaboration. I don't really know what I was hoping for, but somehow I thought they would have truly embraced the storage challenge of the Lego hobbyist. Maybe another reminder that the weight of AFOL nation is not quite as significant as we like to think. I assume there is more money to be made with these funny boxes than with a comprehensive and perhaps less appealing proper storage system.

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  6. Another problem with these boxes is the simple fact that they are opaque. Perhaps the cutouts on the side were for the user to attach elements indicating the contents. Opaque is good for protecting parts from light damage but if I keep my room closed from sunlight I much prefer clear storage boxes so I can see contents at a glance.

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