As I write this, I am in the closing moments of the Second of April, 2020, Australian Eastern Daylight Time. Although the clock might tick over before I publish. This year, for various reasons, I missed April 1st.. Where I am writing, in Australia , we refer to the date as the date as 2/4/20. If I was elsewhere, I might think of today as 4/2. Oddly enough, I’m not the only one who when hearing those numbers in combination isn’t only thinking about a pice of treated pine used in building construction. When I hear 4×2, I also think of the brick that debuted over 60 years ago, and from there, I make the leap to LEGO in general.
Now, if you have followed the Rambling Brick for a while, you would know that we like nothing more than to place an emphasis on history and nostalgia. Even more so when there is big birthday.
Last year, we celebrated 50 years of DUPLO, 40 years of Fabuland, 30 years of Pirates and 20 years of LEGO Star Wars! All coupled with 40 years since the first appearance of the 6000 Ideas book (which came right at the end of 1979). All of these elements made it a big year to celebrate the use of LEGO for telling stories.
So, I went to Brickset’s database and started to browse through the sets from 1980, to see if anything was new. And there was.
1980 saw the debut of the Erling Brick. More officially known as the Angluar brick, 1×1, Design ID 4070. More affectionately known as the Headlight or Washing Machine brick. No longer was the direction of building limited to the same as the rest of the studs. This is the first brick to all us to build at 90º to the main plane of construction. Of course, it is not the first time that we saw studs going to the side: wheels in the 1960’s-70’s featured studs on them, allowing lateral building, although this was rarely exploited in any set. There are also some examples of tiles or plates wedged in between studs, whether as lights on police cars or horses ears, which predate the arrival of this element.
The Erling Brick, named after Erling Dideriksen provides us with great insight into the geometry of the basic LEGO Brick. the stud on the side of this 1×1 brick is recessed, by half a plate. Back in the depths of time, we discussed the fact that a brick 2 studs wide, is the same distance as 5 plates, on their side (excluding the stud). When you closely look at the headlamp brick, it becomes apparent that the body of the brick is 2 plates thick.
However, the stud on the side protrudes ever so slightly past the confines of the 1×1 base, preventing them from being placed face on while sitting on adjacent studs..
This stud inset allows the ‘minimum offset’ to be provided by bricks to be half a plate – occurring for the first time in 1980. I would suggest that the introduction of this element, as well as the Minifigure 2 years earlier, mark the start of the development of a less ‘blocky’ aesthetic, and to start approaching one where we have a variety of curves, as well as an increase in colour. A shift from low resolution, in a limited palette of colours, to an ever increasing level of detail, with a greatly expanded colour palette.
A month or so ago, before the world took a leftward turn down the road of pandemic, I did my best to construct a version of the Erling Brick, out of 2×4 bricks. It is not yet perfect, and might see further refinement as the year goes on.
I have an early example of a set containing the Erling Brick, waiting to be built and I shall present that in the near future. After 40 years, there is no doubt that this element still has a significant role in the designs of official sets, as well as AFOL’s MOCs.
In the meantime, enjoy my 1×1 Angular Brick, as made out of 2×4 bricks.
Until next time,
In the mean time, the #Ramblingherohabitat competition is still open, with another 2 weeks before entries close. Keep your pictures of minifigure heroes in habitats coming in – there is such great variety coming through. You can read all the details here.