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Parts used more often for uses other than their original design...

M1J0EM1J0E Calgary, ABMember Posts: 29
The sausage thread got me to thinking how many parts are used in ways the original part designer would’ve never intended thanks to the creativity of set designers.  The one that always comes to mind for me is the elephant trunk/tail.  It seems to be used more often in decor/furniture, or sometimes even as other animal tails, rather than the short lived life the part had as an actual elephant tail.

So with that said, I’m kinda curious:

1. Who approves new part designs?  Who sits down & says y’know what we really need in our back catalog is an elephant tail.  With it we could design elephant themed sets, & that’ll really make our quarterly numbers.  Someone has to approve the investment in tooling for new molds for new parts.

2. Now once the part is created, designers are of course free to use it in ways other than it’s original design purpose.  There must be many other parts like this that everyone can think of that designers found creative uses for & extended their lifespan.

3. Having said that, eventually the molds have to wear out.  What is the decision process then?  Do the designers get told thank you for finding new uses for an odd part to help us recover our investment in molds, but we’ll no longer produce it.  Or does manufacturing say wow we’re cranking out piles of elephant tails for other sets, even though we don’t make elephants anymore, so we’d better make a new mold to keep producing this odd part?

Thoughts?  Does anyone know how the thought process around weird parts works?  Or does anyone want to nominate a part that has creative uses far beyond its original design?
Addicted2Oxygencatwrangler
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Comments

  • IstokgIstokg MichiganMember Posts: 1,941
    edited November 3
    M1JOE... there is a part that I absolutely hate.... the 1x1 headlight brick.  I don't mind it as a headlight brick... and for many other useful SNOT techniques.  But I hate it when it is used as 1x1 windows.  The most obvious example is the Ole Kirk House model, which uses it as small window mullions attached to larger window panes below it.....



    TLG needs to FIX the LEGO window issue... namely there is no longer much of a real LEGO window system, like there was from 1956-87.... You used to be able to mix and match windows togehter to get pleasing results.  Today LEGO windows are often a hodge-podge of different parts never designed as true LEGO windows.

    Here's an example of what I am talking about... using several examples of the classic LEGO windows (back when the LEGO doors were 3 bricks tall, and there were no Minifigs).  Even though the scale of LEGO buildings have doubled.... these windows would still be very useful in LEGO constructions today.....



    But instead... the worlds major construction Toy is still without a window system... such as found on this 1958-66 European retailer windows/doors box (214 1-10).....




    But instad we are relegated to build with headlight bricks.... :-(




    bgl_84madforLEGOkiki180703MynattmafonAddicted2OxygencatwranglerTechnicNick
  • M1J0EM1J0E Calgary, ABMember Posts: 29
    Thanks @Istokg for such a detailed response!  I’d actually forgotten about the headlight brick used as a window, when in reality they really do need a proper window.  Come to think of it, it’s surprising the ‘old style’ windows were never reapproved for new molds.  How different, and improved, would the Ole Kirk house look with the windows available from earlier models such as the hotel you’ve provided the great pic of.  I’m going to have to go back & take another look at the Capitol Building now, which uses headlight bricks just as you’ve shown.    
  • ricecakericecake Maryland, USAMember Posts: 761
    Not exactly the same piece, but in a similar vein, I bought a used #10021 U.S.S. Constellation on eBay, but then someone else was selling the original windows from #398 U.S.S. Constellation, so I used those instead of the Brick 1x1 with 1 Knob that comes with it, and it looks a lot better.
    vs.


    catwrangler
  • M1J0EM1J0E Calgary, ABMember Posts: 29
    Similar piece to be certain ricecake.  That’s two sets now where the original 1x1 windows would be preferable.  I wonder why those molds weren’t redone?  A window is hardly an odd one off piece, they’re integral to all sorts of buildings, and well in your case, ships.  Nice find!  The U.S.S. Constellation always look like such a cool ship from the pics.  Is it worth finding a copy of?  It’d be a cool display piece I’m sure.
  • IstokgIstokg MichiganMember Posts: 1,941
    edited November 4
    @ricecake .... actually that is the same 1x1 classic window as I showed above.  It's just that after 1970 the window ledge at the bottom no longer stuck out like the earlier ones (yours is an example of the newer version)... and also the glass was gone from the 1x1 windows (as well as the 1x2 and 2x1 windows) by the mid to late 1970s.  Yes the 398 USS Constellation Set had the 1x1 windows (no long ledge, no glass)... just like the 375/6075 Yellow Castle set did (but in red).   It was replaced by the headlight bricks in the 2003 version. 

    When the 2003 re-issue of the USS Constellation Set was introduced, the 1x1 windows were retired (as were the closed stud 1x1 gray round bricks used in the earlier construction, and replace by open stud 1x1 gray round bricks in the re-issue).
  • AanchirAanchir United StatesMember Posts: 2,310
    M1J0E said:
    Similar piece to be certain ricecake.  That’s two sets now where the original 1x1 windows would be preferable.  I wonder why those molds weren’t redone?  A window is hardly an odd one off piece, they’re integral to all sorts of buildings, and well in your case, ships.  Nice find!  The U.S.S. Constellation always look like such a cool ship from the pics.  Is it worth finding a copy of?  It’d be a cool display piece I’m sure.
    I think a big part of it is that LEGO no longer pre-assembles their windows and window panes, and attaching a 1x1 window pane to a 1x1 window, let alone REMOVING it later, would be a rather great burden on the builder. Also, as mentioned, the scale of LEGO buildings has increased to the point that 1x1 windows are needed very rarely.

    I think it's overstating things to say there is no longer any window system. LEGO currently has 1x2x2, 1x2x3, 1x4x3, and 1x4x6 window frames. That may not be as much variety as there used to be in the 60s, but it's still a system in its own right. A 1x4x6 window frame is the same size as two 1x4x3s, or four 1x2x3s, or six 1x2x2s. And it's also been expanded as a system in other ways, because the window panes for the larger frames are now interchangeable with jail cell walls, windows, and doors, or with a glass door, or with a wooden door with a four-pane window. Back in the 90s or earlier none of those types of doors shared a door frame design, let alone one that could be used as a window frame as well.

    Anyway, I can think of a lot of parts that have continued to be used outside their original primary use, but like the elephant tails, it's worth bearing in mind that even when first introduced they were already being used in ways other than that primary use. The LEGO Bionicle ball joint, Bohrok eye, mini Piraka spine, and Barraki eye have continued to be used extensively outside of Bionicle for very different applications. But they were being used in such ways from the very beginning.
    PaperballparkricecakeLyichircatwranglerdougts
  • ricecakericecake Maryland, USAMember Posts: 761
    @M1J0E Yes, the Constellation was a very fun build and looks great on display. The one I bought didn't have printed instructions. The instructions I found online for #10021 were pretty low resolution, plus they're the older style instructions where you add many parts on each step but they don't give you a part call-out, so I also referenced the instructions for #398 to fill in the gaps since the scans of those I found were higher resolution, even though there are a few small differences in the two builds. For example, in the part where the rigging string goes through the front part (I'm not a boat guy so I don't know what it's called), the original used a 2x2 plate with holes in it that's usually used to put an axle through for wheels (part on Bricklink), but the rerelease just uses regular plates and leaves a gap. Speaking of the rigging, I need to get some black thread, as my cats seem to have chewed through it.

    @Istokg I don't doubt those are the same old 1x1 windows you were talking about. When I said "not the same piece", I was referring to the replacement, the 1x1 with stud on the side (doesn't have the lip at the bottom) instead of the headlight brick (has the lip at the bottom).

    As I said, I bought the windows separately, so I'm not sure if they are the ones that actually originally came with #398, but here they are on my model.


    And here is the completed model (like I said, the rigging needs to be replaced).

    catwrangler
  • madforLEGOmadforLEGO USMember Posts: 8,135
    I do miss the 1x1x2 windows
  • M1J0EM1J0E Calgary, ABMember Posts: 29
    Thanks @Aanchir that may well be why they didn’t renew a mold for 1x1 windows.  Bricklink shows it was last used on the yellow castle in 1981, just after the headlight brick came out.  It’s possible at the time the company viewed the headlight brick as a replacement, assuming it would no longer be needed as a window.  Particularly if they were looking forward to the system you describe.  Though the 1x2x2 ‘old style’ window certainly lasted much longer.  Now I’m getting nostalgic for these windows I had in basic sets as a kid!  Thank you too for your point that parts used in other ways aren’t necessarily an effort to use up the production molds, but that alternate uses happen from when the part is first available.  Appreciate the help!
    catwrangler
  • M1J0EM1J0E Calgary, ABMember Posts: 29
    Thanks for the pics @ricecake!  That’s an impressive model!  & it looks like quite a large one too.  
    ricecake
  • M1J0EM1J0E Calgary, ABMember Posts: 29
    @madforLEGO I miss all these old windows now.  I have to think of a way to include them all in a modern MOC for a vintage look
  • M1J0EM1J0E Calgary, ABMember Posts: 29
    Thanks @Mynatt for the pics and link!  Checking out that link, I’m not even sure I can identify all the parts used.  There’s a real talent for viewing different parts in cool creative ways for a very polished end result!  Impressive for certain!
  • IstokgIstokg MichiganMember Posts: 1,941
    edited November 5
    Aanchir said:
    M1J0E said:
    Similar piece to be certain ricecake.  That’s two sets now where the original 1x1 windows would be preferable.  I wonder why those molds weren’t redone?  A window is hardly an odd one off piece, they’re integral to all sorts of buildings, and well in your case, ships.  Nice find!  The U.S.S. Constellation always look like such a cool ship from the pics.  Is it worth finding a copy of?  It’d be a cool display piece I’m sure.
    I think a big part of it is that LEGO no longer pre-assembles their windows and window panes, and attaching a 1x1 window pane to a 1x1 window, let alone REMOVING it later, would be a rather great burden on the builder. Also, as mentioned, the scale of LEGO buildings has increased to the point that 1x1 windows are needed very rarely.

    I think it's overstating things to say there is no longer any window system. LEGO currently has 1x2x2, 1x2x3, 1x4x3, and 1x4x6 window frames. That may not be as much variety as there used to be in the 60s, but it's still a system in its own right. A 1x4x6 window frame is the same size as two 1x4x3s, or four 1x2x3s, or six 1x2x2s. And it's also been expanded as a system in other ways, because the window panes for the larger frames are now interchangeable with jail cell walls, windows, and doors, or with a glass door, or with a wooden door with a four-pane window. Back in the 90s or earlier none of those types of doors shared a door frame design, let alone one that could be used as a window frame as well.

    Anyway, I can think of a lot of parts that have continued to be used outside their original primary use, but like the elephant tails, it's worth bearing in mind that even when first introduced they were already being used in ways other than that primary use. The LEGO Bionicle ball joint, Bohrok eye, mini Piraka spine, and Barraki eye have continued to be used extensively outside of Bionicle for very different applications. But they were being used in such ways from the very beginning.

    I can agree with you on the difficulty of trying to put a 1x1 glass into a window frame.  That would be no fun.  I notice that Bricklink has some 1x1, 1x2 and 2x1 glass pieces for the old classic windows for sale... but those were never originally sold that way.  In every instance they were glass pieces that fell out of the window frame, and later became available on the secondary market.

    I partly disagree with you however on the new windows compatibility with each other... granted the 1x4x6 3 pane window technically is twice the size of a 1x4x3, and 4 times the size of a 1x2x3, and 6 times the size of a 1x2x2 flat front windows.  But can you use them together in making a larger window and have it look compatible?  I know that the old 1x4x3 (with shutter clips) were not very compatible with the 1x4x5 single pane windows.  But then again, some of those (the 1x4x5 and 1x4x6) would probably be used standalone.

    The real problem in modern windows not having a system, as I refer to it... has partly to do with color availability.  when you look at all the modern windows... most of them are available in at least a half dozen to a dozen colors.  But there are few matchups in them all being available in the same colors.  Tan is a nice new window color... but good luck in finding them in all sizes.  Ditto for other colors.  Like the old classic windows... red and white seem to be the colors available in all sizes, as well as black.  But you won't find any of the other dozen colors of windows in all sizes.  And that cool round top 2x2 2/3 window doesn't even come with glass.

    The old small 1x1, 1x2 and 2x1 windows have always been very popular (and pricey), even with modern collectors.  Here are a few examples of how you can mix and match them in some historic looking window combinations....










    And even a mix of the larger classic window sizes match nicely when used in multiples...




    So there is so much more versatility among the older windows than the new ones... and since there were just red and white windows (for the most part)... it was easier to always find them in the same colors for a build.
    LittleLoriMynattricecakemadforLEGOcatwrangler
  • M1J0EM1J0E Calgary, ABMember Posts: 29
    Thanks @Istokg for posting such impressive looking window combos!  I recall stacking the 1x2x2 & 1x2x4 windows as a kid to make larger combinations, which was all I had and all my creativity could allow.  Now I really do need to come up with an MOC that uses the old style windows for a classic look in my city.  I’m not much of a MOC’er, but I’m sure I can come up with something using all these pics for inspiration!
  • FauchFauch FranceMember Posts: 1,769
    it looks like the modern system exists in black and white,  and in red, tan and reddish brown if you omit the new diagonal door.
    AanchirLyichir
  • ecmo47ecmo47 North CarolinaMember Posts: 1,901
    The 2x2 turntable base is used a lot for cool looking windows. 
    madforLEGOcatwrangler
  • M1J0EM1J0E Calgary, ABMember Posts: 29
    I forgot about the turntable base being used on it’s own rather than as a turntable.  Could that be why they always come as 2 separate pieces now rather than being pre-assembled?  Or like the windows, is there just a move away from pre assembly of parts that aren’t minifigs?
    catwrangler
  • Switchfoot55Switchfoot55 Washington, USAMember Posts: 544


    What is the part on the right side sticking out? Looks to be either white or light gray?  It is the only part in a recent bulk bin I have yet to be able to identify.
  • PaperballparkPaperballpark UKMember Posts: 2,749
    I'll say the Unikitty tail. Now used for architectural detailing.
    Oldfanandhe
  • Switchfoot55Switchfoot55 Washington, USAMember Posts: 544
  • MynattMynatt OH/NYMember Posts: 482
    Was just thinking some more about it and in #10227 there is the use of CCBS hands in black to give some detailing on the engine:

    Ninjago City also has an exceptional reuse of the painter's pallet in green to create lily pads.

    madforLEGOLyichirFowlerBrickscatwranglersid3windrmafonandheGothamConstructionCo
  • M1J0EM1J0E Calgary, ABMember Posts: 29
    Those roof designs are cool!  I’d also thought of the unikitty tail when I built the detective’s office.  That’s one that has to be at hte top of the list for parts that will go on to have a long life with unconventional uses.  
  • jmeninnojmeninno The Batcave (MA)Member Posts: 326
    I thought the use of the frog in the design of the gargoyles' face in #10937 was very clever.
    catwranglermadforLEGOAddicted2OxygenGothamConstructionCo
  • M1J0EM1J0E Calgary, ABMember Posts: 29
    Wow, that is cool use of a part @jmeninno!  It’s cool to see just what other parts can look like when used in different ways.  

    Which thinking of that, the hands example above, the frog use, and the lily pad above, all require different colors from what might be standard.  I wonder what the process is, if a designer comes up with a new way to use a part, what the process is to request it in a different color than it’s currently available/molded in?  Surely that has to be easier than requesting a new mold, but It still might not be done.
  • CCCCCC UKMember Posts: 15,067
    M1J0E said:
    I’d also thought of the unikitty tail when I built the detective’s office.  That’s one that has to be at hte top of the list for parts that will go on to have a long life with unconventional uses.  
    It wouldn't surprise me if they know full well that they were going to be using the unikitty tail for architectural designs at the time it was designed.
    catwrangler
  • catwranglercatwrangler Northern IrelandMember Posts: 1,566
    edited November 7
    I'm also a big fan of the use of weird things as roofing parts - diving flippers are perhaps my favourite: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/370139663109156314/

    EDIT: The historic themes forum on Eurobricks is often a good place to see more inventive part use in roofing...
    Galactus
  • BumblepantsBumblepants Sofia BG/Dallas TXMember Posts: 4,012
    cockpit with bow 3x6x1

    moved on from just a windscreen to being wheel arches for the Mini Cooper in dark green and a City construction vehicle in yellow. Then an Elves roof detail in purple. It also became part of Baze Malbus' armor in a constraction set.
    FowlerBricksMynattmadforLEGO
  • FowlerBricksFowlerBricks USAMember Posts: 483
    cockpit with bow 3x6x1

    moved on from just a windscreen to being wheel arches for the Mini Cooper in dark green and a City construction vehicle in yellow. Then an Elves roof detail in purple. It also became part of Baze Malbus' armor in a constraction set.
    Yup. I have Baze and that windscreen works great as part of his armor.
  • Speedman29Speedman29 Brickswell CloseMember Posts: 655
    At Steam the other year Bricks to the Past built an amazing cobbled street from dozens of Technic connectors. Attaching the side studs to the axle holes.


    LittleLori
  • CCCCCC UKMember Posts: 15,067
    I was just looking at that technique this morning. It's a shame it is an old part in old light grey.

    https://www.brickup.de/technic/studded-technic-connector-cobblestone?sf_paged=5


    sid3windrLittleLori
  • FauchFauch FranceMember Posts: 1,769
    edited November 7
    in red it could be used for roofing. not in a perpendicular pattern of course. though the studs on side would be an annoyance.
    also, I was thinking of the paint roller, used to hold lanterns.
  • M1J0EM1J0E Calgary, ABMember Posts: 29
    The paint roller is a big one.  Those diving flippers look great!  Here I was thinking the crowbars in the Ninjago city were some of the more inventive roofing uses, apparently there’s a lot more from there!  The technic connectors are really cool too.  & who would’ve thought a windscreen would have so many uses?

    The big one I think is the life preserver, which has to be more commonly known as a toilet seat.  But makes a great Christmas wreath as well.

    I wonder, as CCC pointed out, how many parts might be designed ahead of time with alternate uses in mind?  As was pointed out earlier, often the part alternate uses are right from the start.  
    PeteM
  • OldfanOldfan Chicagoland, IL, USAMember Posts: 567
    edited November 8
    Back in the day, I remember enjoying the inclusion of parts 30088 (speargun) and 3837 (shovel) as greeble details in the wings of #7181 UCS TIE Interceptor.  It's nice to know that when the TIE pilot is shot down and crash-lands on a deserted planet, he'll be able to go spearfishing and dig for buried treasure on his new home...
    dutchlegofan50BumblepantsAddicted2Oxygen
  • MynattMynatt OH/NYMember Posts: 482

    Last year when the images for AS got released it took me awhile to figure out what element was used to create this roof but once I saw it was the technic scoops I thought that this repurpose was absolutely brilliant.

    Honorable mention to the cool detailing with the hammers. 
    madforLEGOandhe
  • CyberdragonCyberdragon Maryland, U.S.AMember Posts: 61
    How are those hammers being held in there like that? Clips or what?
  • luckyrussluckyruss UKMember Posts: 846
    You could do something with clips but also anything with an open stud - in this case I think the hammer handles are pushed through our friend above the headlight brick
  • BobflipBobflip Member Posts: 371
    The pneumatic T bar ended up being used for all sorts of greebling tasks!

    https://www.bricklink.com/v2/catalog/catalogitem.page?P=4697b#T=S&O={"iconly":0}
  • KingAlanIKingAlanI Rochester, NYMember Posts: 1,417
    Many pieces represent something else in a different color. Like 22667 Cherries, it represents grapes when in lime instead of read.
  • M1J0EM1J0E Calgary, ABMember Posts: 29
    Funny you should mention AS Mynatt, as that’s what I’m building now, & I’m on bag 6’s where the roof & hammer pieces should come in short order in a few steps.
    Good points on the T bar & the cherries as well.  
    Mynatt
  • MrJacksonMrJackson Member Posts: 95
    Speaking of modulars, the skeleton legs seem to get a lot of love doubling as railing detailing: they hold up hammers in the Green Grocer (which in and of itself is a great parts use) and are in Palace Cinema as well with an identical function. 
  • ReesesPiecesReesesPieces Member Posts: 400
    I really like how they used the gold bars in gray on the brick bank.  I also like the use of the pulleys as part of the roof railing as well.
  • sid3windrsid3windr BelgiumMember Posts: 854
    Turntable bases are sometimes used for "fan" look (i.e. hvac units), as have a rim decoration + 2 fenders on the Kwik-E Mart :)
  • luckyrussluckyruss UKMember Posts: 846
    It isn't just a theme from modern sets either - just remembered the fence pieces in classic space set #6874 from as long ago as 1986, forming a landing pad...
    Aanchir
  • xwingpilotxwingpilot UKMember Posts: 724
    Ice axes as X-Wing engine 'T' pieces:


    SirBrickalotOfLegoMynatt
  • FauchFauch FranceMember Posts: 1,769
    in the U-wing too I think. I'll find out soon.
  • MynattMynatt OH/NYMember Posts: 482
    edited November 17

    Nice use of the car doors on #72005 to hide the spring launchers.
    AanchirmadforLEGO
  • CyberdragonCyberdragon Maryland, U.S.AMember Posts: 61
    How did one of those ^ already end up on ebay when it's unreleased?
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