After the LEGO House announced that they were closing for the pandemic, they made the exclusive sets available through the online store, in some markets. This is in conjunction with the announcement that the Tree of Creativity set is to be retired. With the LEGO House hoping to reopen in the next week, today they are proud to announce the next Exclusive set: 40501 The Wooden Duck.
Those familiar with the history of the LEGO Group would be aware that the Wooden Duck was produced over the course of many years, when Ole Kirk Christiansen specialised in high quality wooden toys….
The story behind the LEGO® duck
More than 100 years ago, 24-year-old Master Carpenter Ole Kirk Kristiansen buys a wood workshop in the tiny town of Billund, Denmark. From the very first toys coming out of Ole Kirk’s workshop, the dedication to quality and functionality is obvious. The design and the carving, sanding, and painting of each piece of toy is done to perfection because Ole Kirk is convinced that children deserve toys of high quality, made of the finest materials, so that they will last for many years of play.
In an interview from 1982, Ole Kirk’s son, Godtfred Kirk, shares the following story about his father’s focus on quality:
Working in his father’s workshop as a boy, Godtfred Kirk is laying the finishing touches on a consignment of wooden LEGO ducks. This means applying coats of varnish, and finally bringing the boxes with the finished toy ducks to the train station for dispatch. Back at the workshop, Godtfred proudly announces to his father that he has done something really clever and saved the company money.
“How did you manage that?” asks Ole Kirk.
“I gave the ducks just two coats of varnish, not three as we usually do,” is Godtfred Kirk’s answer.
Back comes his father’s prompt response:
“You will immediately fetch those ducks back, give them the last coat of varnish, pack them and return them to the station! And you will do it on your own – even if it takes you all night!”
“That taught me a lesson about quality,”
Godtfred Kirk recalls and continues to explain how he then carved out wooden signs with his father’s motto “Only the best is good enough” to hang on the walls of the workshop to remind himself and the rest of the employees never to compromise on the quality of a LEGO product.
Throughout his life, Godtfred Kirk remembers his father’s words and to this day, “Only the best is good enough” – because children deserve the best.
The wooden duck was in production from the mid 1930’s to the 1950’s. And it has remained a symbol of the quality that the LEGO Group continues to stand for to this day. There are models of the duck on display in LEGO offices around the world, as a reminder of the commitment to quality.
It is fitting then, that the next LEGO House Exclusive set is in fact a model of the wooden duck, designed by Stuart Harris (designer of the experiences at the LEGO House), and Jme Wheeler – who had recently joined the LEGO Group from the Fan Community. While he is part of the Ninjago design team, this is his first official set!
Speaking at the launch event, Stuart discussed his role in developing sketch models of the Duck. For Jme, he needed to take Stuart’s sketch model and develop it into a set ready for prime time.
Stuart said that the duck was chosen, because the story of the duck is core to the lessons in quality that drive the company forward. Although there have been a number of models of the duck in the past (including the employee Christmas gift in 2011), as well as other MOCs that come up at fan events, it was important to go back to the source – the original wooden ducking to work out how best to make a copy. He spent hours studying the model that is on display in the LEGO House, as well as others in the LEGO Idea House.
The colour scheme chosen for this duck is the same as featured in a number of corporate communications around the organisation, in association with ‘Only the Best is Good Enough.’ Stuart worked through several iterations of the model, particularly working on a mechanism to allow the duck to ‘quack’ – opening and closing its beak as it is dragged along.
There were a few challenges with the sketch model which Jme Walker needed to overcome, not the least of which was the fact that the head was only held on by a couple of studs. Ultimately, he was able to come up with a solution so sturdy that you should be able to lift the completed model up by the head, with no fear of it falling off.
After the main presentation, I had a talk with Signe Wiese, one of the corporate historians who works within the LEGO Group. The company’s History Department also helped out with development of this set, by sourcing the original working drawings of the wooden duck, as well as bringing out all of the examples of the wooden duck that were to be found in the archives for the designers to study. There have been a number of different designs/shapes of duck over the years. Some were painted by hand, others were spray painted. The ‘quacking duck’ depicted in the set was virtually unchanged, mechanically (although the colours varied from time to time.) over the 25 years that it was available. Finally the department made some contributions to the text that ultimately appears in the instruction manual for the set, as well as on the box.
The original wooden duck is one of the most iconic features in the LEGO history and you can find the wooden duck replicated in LEGO bricks many places throughout LEGO House – in the Tree of Creativity in World Explorer and even in the Red Zone.
I am looking forward to being able to get to the LEGO House again at some stage in the future. In the mean time, you can still sign up to the LEGO House Online history tours, and keep up to date with the going’s on via their You Tube Channel.
The Wooden Duck will cost 599 DKK, and be available from the LEGO House, when it reopens on Monday, June 22 2020. It will be exclusively sold at the LEGO House. The second of the new “LEGO HOUSE Limited Edition” sets is already in development. while but we were unable to ascertain exactly what. ‘Limited’ meant sets What would you most like to do at the LEGO House? leave your comments below, and until next time,
- Between 1932 and 1947, the LEGO® company solely produced wooden toys.
- From 1947 onwards, the LEGO company produced both wooden and plastic toys before switching solely to plastic in 1960.
- The wooden duck went on the drawing board in 1935 and was produced until 1960.
- The duck was designed by LEGO founder Ole Kirk Kristiansen.
- Through the years, the wooden duck has been produced in various sizes and shapes.
- The most popular duck was the same type as the one in the exclusive LEGO House set: It has a moving beak which opens and closes when the duck is pulled back and forth.
Facts about The Wooden Duck:
- The Wooden Duck recreates an iconic moment from LEGO® history. This display model perfectly captures th e handmade style of the original.
- The ready-built, 621-piece model measures over 8” (20cm) high, 7” (22cm) long and 1” (3cm) wide and stands on a base measuring over 5” (13cm) square.
- Base comprises printed tiles with the words ‘ LEGO® House’ and ‘The wooden duck’.
- Ideal for fans of LEGO® building and collectors of toy memorabilia. Suitable for ages 10 and up.