Wednesday, 11 May 2016

It has been a few months...

You may have wondered what happened to Part 2 of the toy fair report.  Well, It contains details of models being produced under licence and we were asked not to disclose the details without checking with the guys at Meccano. So far I cannot get an answer. So for now I will just let that one lie and get on with other matters...

As some of you are aware, we have been working closely with Spin Master to help promote the Meccano brand and to pass on any juicy information. In the beginning there was a lot of activity and it was all looking good. Enthusiasm was there and I think they over-estimated the commercial worth of the enthusiast market. Now we are closing in on the end of the third year of Spin Master ownership and I think some of that enthusiasm has waned somewhat.

The kids love this set
There is no doubt that Spin Master have injected new life into the brand. They have now produced a complete new range of construction toys. The younger user of Meccano is not using it in the same way as we did. Most models are built (if at all) to the instructions and stood on a shelf. The next purchase may be another Meccano model, but it is just as likely to be from another manufacturer, and I don't mean just Lego.

Meccano is a totally different product today and that is the only way it will be successful. Spin Master have made it a success in the toy trade, modern Meccano sells for what it is - a toy - and all the time it does that the brand will stay alive. For us, there may be some parts that we can make use of such as those new brown ball and socket parts that make up the T-Rex dinosaur's spine. Some of the sets are appealing but we are so far away from modern thinking that what Meccano sell today has very little interest to the established enthusiast.

The Meccano we turned into a hobby was a different product, as far away from today's Meccano it is possible to get without abandoning the BSW thread, imperial hole spacing and square nut - the DNA of Meccano, if you like. We still talk to Meccano and get the odd snippets of information on what is happening but so much of it is outside the scope of our hobby it starts to become irrelevant.

It is not unusual for us to go a bit quiet from time to time, it does not mean we have gone away or that we have left the hobby. We have been Meccano enthusiasts most of our life and the way we keep it fresh is not to live and die it. To prove the fact I have been plying with our pre-war No.6 set and have built my version of the Big Wheel, model number 6.5 from the 1929 4-7 manual. It did not take long to work out that the 1929 set was a fair bit bigger than the 1931 set that we have. I will write up the build and post it over the next few days but for now here is a picture of the finished thing.

Big wheel from the 1929 instruction book model No. 6.5
It makes a pleasant change to be building with familiar parts. As much as we embrace the new plastic parts there is something very satisfying about building a traditional model that will never be replaced. Now, where is that new dinosaur set?


Friday, 29 January 2016

London Toy Fair 2016 (Part 1) and...

Olympia calls - The London Toy Fair
Yes, it is that time of year again when the toy industry launches its range of products for 2016. As usual, Sue and I attended the press day earlier on this week to see what is new and what Meccano are offering us for the future. But that is not the whole story, there are other places where Meccano show new product and do not necessarily release it at the London Toy fair. Last year we were all sworn to secrecy regarding the smaller G15 Meccanoid until after its d├ębut at the New York Toy Fair. Again there are Items that I cannot talk about just yet but something I can show you, as it is in the public domain even if it was not on show in London, is The Meccasaur T-Rex.

New for 2016 Meccasaur T-Rex
This interactive, programmable robotic dinosaur is set to be a kid's best friend. It is fully-programmable and comes with a security mode function, to guard and protect a user’s things! I am sure parents and kids will love this one! RSP is $109.00 in the US and the UK price is likely to be around the £100 mark meaning it is priced somewhere between the G16 and G16-KS. Yes I did mean '16'. New updated versions of the Meccanoid are to be released later in the year. These are essentially similar to the G15s but with "faster voice recognition, twice as much memory and improved programming capabilities". We have not actually had hands on any of the new Meccanoids yet, but as soon as we do we will give you the low-down.

G16 and his big brother G16-KS. You can play spot the difference by clicking HERE
to see the previous models
Also new and fighting among themselves on a table at the London Toy Fair were the new Micronoids. These are the much smaller interactive, reconfigurable and programmable robots based on a common processor they can be built and rebuilt using the parts supplied or adding any parts from other sets as you choose. Priced at under £40.00 they are bound to be popular and a great introduction for any child into the world of programming. Again, we will bring you more on these little fellows once we can get hold of some production models. 

Micronoids interact with each other
Another new set is the Boeing Dreamliner 787 This is a new type of set featuring some bespoke parts. My first thought of this were negative as I am against the use of these sort of parts but then it dawned on me. This is not new, it is just a modern version of the pre-war aeroplane sets that featured bespoke parts and were assembled with nuts and bolts. The parts were compatible with classic Meccano and the models could be modified by adding standard parts. This new model is a halfway-house featuring bespoke cockpit and fuselage sections as well as standard parts. I am not sure about this myself but time will tell.

747 - Today's aviation, yesterday's idea
As usual a whole new range of sets to replace the current sets have been unveiled. Starting with the Starter sets (where else!) and running through the themed sets. This year the emphasis on vehicles and aircraft has been complemented with animals, dinosaurs and insects, in fact all the things that kids love. There is a move towards more plastic parts and in doing so opens up the option so make evermore complicated parts, actually 'components' might be a better description of many.

Love it or hate it, Meccano is moving into the twenty-first century - See Meccano in 2016.

There are far too many new parts to list here, but a couple that need pointing out are the 'new' rubber rings that fit ¼ inch pulleys and the new caterpillar track. Before you all start shouting at the screen and raising your blood pressure, I do know that Meccano had a small rubber ring in the system before the war. However the guys in the design office probably think they invented it so I am not going to be the one to burst their bubble. The rubber ring has been around for a while in one of this year's starter sets, but as they have not exactly been readily available, and it only contained one, I am choosing to ignore that too!
Digger - I like diggers!
The new excavator set, however, not only comes with tracks, it appears to have eight of those small rubber rings too. This is a very nice little set that offers the choice of being made up as the digger or a bulldozer.
The alternative model
This should be a popular set with the kids as well as the enthusiast, providing the plastic parts are accepted as they should be. After all, we all loved the original plastic tracks and these should be even more useful with the ability to bolt parts to them.  We will be exploring a few possibilities over the next few weeks.

Tracks have ½ spaced standard holes
On the model the tracks run on the ½ inch rubber rings
Now for the news everybody was asking about last year...

The next Thunderbird

"What is the next after Thunderbird 2?" - Thunderbird 3! No other details yet, not even a mock-up box. We will let you know more details as soon as we get them.

There is more we can tell and that will be in Part 2, later this week. There are also some very exciting new models we can't talk about at the moment. As soon as we can we will post the details.

Ralph and Sue.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Meccano in 2016

Meccano, but not as we knew it!

Meccano have moved on a leap, again this year, with the introduction of lots of new parts and a complete new range of sets. Aimed squarely at the toy market (where it should be) the new range may have less appeal to a lot of the traditionalists. The use of more plastic parts may also put a lot off too, but don't be too hasty to condemn this move.

If you are a traditionalist and want progressive sets and standard parts, as made by Meccano until the demise of the Binns Road factory in Liverpool,  then you can have it. It is all available in abundance. There is plenty of good quality second hand stock around and it is still being manufactured by third-party suppliers, with Meccano's blessing. Meccano, on the other hand, have turned the clocks back, in marketing terms, and set about making the brand a market leader once more. This transition is not going to happen in a day, a week or even a year, but it will happen.

Over a hundred years ago, when Frank Hornby sat on that train looking out of the window at all the new and interesting things happening around him, the seed of a system that would enable his children to replicate the cranes, vehicles, trains and any other new and interesting subject of the day, was born. It used the materials and construction methods of the day, namely steel and nuts and bolts.

Meccano are now doing exactly that, but in the 21st century. As far as the youth of today are concerned, steel has largely given way to plastics and mechanical engineering has given way to electronics and computer control.  The steel and the mechanical engineering are still there, they are just not the focus of attention and are certainly not as appealing, in isolation, as they were when we were first excited by the Meccano of the mid 20th century.

New for 2016
Today's Meccano and especially the 2016 range has developed into the toy of the future. It has happened slowly, over the past two or three years, but now it it is here, providing a construction toy that will appeal to today's playing and buying generations. One hundred years ago this year, the first edition of the Meccano Magazine was issued, eighteen years after Frank Hornby's original concept was born . The children who had played with his invention created a burgeoning new pastime that was to continue into adulthood and became the adult hobby we know today.

The original system became so ingrained, into the minds of those who grew up with it, change was always going to be a delicate subject. The harsh fact today is that the adult hobbyists that perpetuated the hobby (and the sales of Meccano) in the latter parts of the 20th century are no longer the buying force they once were. What's more, we have not been able to  propagate the hobby to the younger generations over the years. I am sure the hobby as we know it is time-limited and that clock is running out rapidly.

The new Meccano of today bears very little resemblance to the red and green progressive sets we all know and love and that is how it should be if Meccano are going to encourage a new generation of enthusiasts who will take the hobby forward into adulthood. This new hobby will be all about development into the future, not so much about replicating the past. The Meccano clubs and societies will eventually disappear and be replaced with 'Maker' groups, while the Shows and exhibitions will evolve into 'Maker' conventions.

Meccano have embraced this change and are slowly reinventing the product so It will fit into this new tide of creativity while still retaining the DNA that is Meccano enabling all new parts to be totally back-compatible with what has gone before. Over the past year or so Sue and I have had the chance to see and work with these new parts that are just starting to appear in some of the 2015/16 sets. The new sets shown at the London Toy Fair this week introduce a lot more new parts to the system. The fact that they are all totally back-compatible means that they can be incorporated into our 'traditional' model making.

Just remember Meccano always was a toy first and it was that toy that appealed to us as youngsters that we developed into a hobby. The toys of our youth have no appeal to today's kids and that is why we have very few younger members of our hobby today. The new 2016 range is designed to appeal to kids and I am sure it will.


Thursday, 17 December 2015

New Race Car!

About time too!
If like me you have been eagerly awaiting this one, your patience is about to be rewarded. It is now in UK distribution and should start appearing for sale any time now. I don't think you will be disappointed, it is a really good portrayal  of a generic Formula 1 car. Not aligning itself with any one team, there are even extra parts that can be used to change the look of the finished model by swapping some of the more obvious silver/zinc parts for black ones.

New cam fits onto the axle nicely
The first thing I always do is hunt for new parts and this set has it's fair share. New cams are supplied to lift the 'pistons'. these are driven from the back axle and are reasonably effective, if not at all prototypical. I guess the kids will like them - it is doing something and it does not need batteries...

The new cams slide onto the tri-axle rods with ease. I am really pleased that Meccano have resolved the problem of 'fat ends' to the axle rods. They have also made sure the rods are the correct length, or even slightly longer. This is one of the main reasons the small gripper washers, used to hold parts on the rods, got so much bad press. I agree that they are not the best solution, but they do work better now that have some length to grip and are not right on the end of an over-thick rod.

New large pin
The other new part that nearly sneaked in under the radar is a new larger securing pin. The original pins were first seen securing the nose cone to the Rocket in the Space Quest set. They have since been used in the Mountain Rally set, where as here they have been used to secure the new fabric body 'panels' in place.

I know there was a lot of talk about these little bits of stretchy fabric when they first made an appearance when the new models were shown at the 2015 toy fairs around the world. I am undecided myself. I hated those red triangles and squares introduced in those horrible 'space' sets that came in the yellow plastic boxes, back in the early 1980s. It only took me about thirty years to accept they could be useful... It was only about twenty years to get to appreciate the yellow boxes.

Love 'em or hate 'em they look as if they are here to stay. I am sure we will find some useful purpose for them in time. It has already been muted that they might be of some use in a Marble bouncer, not so much as the bouncer pad but as part of the catcher mechanism.  As far as the Race Car is concerned, they are used to make an indication of bodywork. Does it work, I suppose it does but I must confess I struggling with this concept myself. This is irrelevant, of course, as it is the target market that have to approve and for the most part are not shackled with my preconceptions of what Meccano should be.

The Build

This is a simple build, a reasonable amount of it but clearly laid out and if there were any mistakes I did not see any. I say that because it is very easy to get ahead of yourself as the instructions are very comprehensive building left and right constructions one after the other bolt-by-bolt. I found I was building the other side before the instructions got around to telling me to.

The building begins - note the new cams
The build starts with the interesting part, building the fake engine and moving 'pistons'. That all goes together well and actually works as it should. This is built into two of the new (this year) plastic flanged plates that make up the chassis. The shape of the car is then 'outlined' using mainly the straight and curved narrow, ¼ inch hole spacing, strips and lots of brackets of all shapes and sizes. There are an awful lot of small parts used in these modern sets. The set also includes two pair of bevel gears and three cams.

Taking shape
Almost there
The construction continues by bolting on a few more strips, straight and curved. The spoilers are fabricated as sub-assemblies and bolted in place. all of a sudden the the models has become instantly recognisable as a slick streamlined racing machine.

Elaborate front spoiler detail
 Now for the wheels. Probably the most fiddly bit of the job is getting the tyres to sit nicely on the rims. There is a bit of a knack to this. I managed to get is worked out after I had fitted the forth one! The new wheels look really good with the red rims.
Now all that is left is to fit the bodywork and its is off to the track. The wait was worth it. One of my personal favourites of all the 2015 models I am sure this will be popular with the buying public and enthusiasts alike.

Finished - Click to enlarge!
The new models really have evolved from the nondescript fantasies of a few years ago. The system has evolved and some will like the new direction, others will not but Meccano have simply gone back to its origins - building the world we see around us today! The parts may look different, to our eyes, but the fact the DNA is still there means that every new part is generic, based on imperial hole spacing and 5/32 BSW threads are used throughout. That means it is all compatible with every Meccano part ever produced.

Finished - Click to enlarge!
 If you look closely at the finished pictures you will see that the new larger clip referred to above, used to secure the rear of the 'body' panel,  has a hex socket moulded into it. Not only does this look better, but it will enable it to be positioned, using a hex driver, into usually inaccessible places.

Is it a bolt - No!
Finished - Click to enlarge
There is a even more to come next year so look out for our Toy Fair coverage in January and, if we can, we will let you know a bit sooner. The future is looking good for the brand and it looks like will end up with a lot of new and interesting parts to experiment with in the coming months.


Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Did you miss us?

Like most of us, Sue and I have other interests and commitments outside the our passion for Meccano. Sometimes this takes us away from the mainstream and we can appear to have dispersed. Well, we have not! This year, yes we have been active in some of our other interests, but we have also been working hard, behind the scenes, on various Meccano projects like this one...

The Meccano Community website was launched back in the Spring of 2014. Although we were involved with it from day one, we were not in the driving seat and were following the initial concept. The site was plagued with problems and it was getting to the stage that nothing was getting done. Eventually, by this time last year, we had given up and resigned from the project. The site lay all but dormant until the late summer of this year when after some negotiation with Meccano we agreed to be involved in a relaunch. The main difference being that we are now running it and it is hosted in-house by Meccano's IT team giving us a direct link with the people responsible for the platform. In a nutshell, we should be able to get things done. We have already given the place a lick of paint to bring in visually in line with existing the Meccano presence and are slowly working on getting it running as it should.

You can check out what we have been doing by visiting the new-look site HERE.  If you like what you see join in and post your builds or send me material and I will use it on the MC blog if it is appropriate. There are various form on the site for uploading material but if you would rather just send it to us by e-mail, click HERE.

Enough of that, I have just received the latest Meccano set, the long awaited Race Car. Several pictures of the prototype were seen at the beginning of the year but due to production problems the launch had to be delayed and has now reached the UK distribution centre. It should start appearing in the shops and on the internet for sale any day now - if it is not out there already!
Here at last, the eagerly awaited Race Car
 That's enough waffling, I've got a Race Car to build - I will show you how I get on and let you know what I think tomorrow - hopefully...


Thursday, 15 October 2015

A tall story...

A couple of years ago, Sue and I had a meeting with a couple of guys from the new owners of Meccano just a few weeks after they acquired the brand. At that meeting, among other things, we discussed the introduction of what was referred to at the time as a 'connoisseurs' set. This was to be a set aimed at the enthusiast to show that the new owners were absolutely going to support the hobby. They also said they they were going to introduce a now product they had been working on before the acquisition. That 'product' was Meccanoid.

They explained that although they wanted to support the enthusiast, they were not going to take Meccano back to what it was. The market and the retail environment has changed and Meccano had to change with it. Lots of things were discussed at that, and subsequent meetings.

The 'connoisseurs' set was discussed at length and a questionnaire was circulated via the clubs and societies. Of course, there was the call to re-issue  the No.10 set but, if you think about it rationally, the cost would be phenomenal and, let's be honest, even if they did how many would they sell? Very few I suspect. It is perfectly possible to buy good, even unused 10 sets today at far less than it would cost to make one, let alone what the retail price would have to be. After much discussion it was decided to go back to the original Frank Hornby principal and to supply parts to make a model of a current icon of our age. Looking out of the office window in any great city and you will see a tower crane. Indeed, looking out of my window here I can see one.

The production set box
The tower crane was conceived and developed with the enthusiast in mind. Eagle-eyed readers will have noticed that in our posts regarding the London Toy Fair15, There is a box showing the crane with a tower made from narrow strips. This was deemed to be impractical for several reasons but as far as I was concerned, building it with standard strips and angle girders would put lots of standard building parts back into the set making it far more versatile.

The tower from the test/display model
Once the initial design was done using all sorts of parts in all sorts of colours (just like we do in our hobby due to lack of parts to hand) a comprehensive parts list would have been produced, any injection mouldings would have been commissioned and test shots (usually in white) supplied to build test and display models - so don't you believe that the models are not tested - they are, over and over again. The Tower Crane set Sue and I have been displaying at recent shows is one of those test builds, some of which were used at the toy fairs to show prospective buyers.

The problem

It is very easy to look at a problem in hindsight and say that it should never happen, but it does. The crane had been designed and built using real Meccano. I know from first hand experience that the models are not designed using CAD as many others have stated in recent weeks. As I have explained, the crane was prototyped and built using actual Meccano parts. Any parts that do not exist in the range are drawn and then 3D printed so they can be used to provide the part in a real model. Don't forget, you can click on any of the pictures in our posts to enlarge them. most of them will have been made to a larger size than the Bloger software will display them within the post.

The problem - miss-alignment of round holes
The problem that has come to light here is one of manufacturing tolerances that have always been present in the range. The prototype models went together correctly. The girders fitted together and there was not a problem. I have removed some of the bracing so you can see inside one of the pre-production model towers.

as you can see it fits perfectly on this test model
The production sets contain standard girders that have obviously been manufactured to the opposite extreme of the tolerance than would have been helpful. You will find if you test the narrow girder against your existing stock of girders that it will fit some perfectly and others it will not. I have tried it with girders from all eras and found in all cases it will fit some and not others. The original test/display models were built with girders that had been produced to favourable tolerance. 

The narrow girder bolted to two angle girders from our own collection.
the one on the left is French production from the 1980s/90s and the one
on the right is Binns Road production of the late 1960s/70s
The narrow girder, supplied in the set, is an existing part that first appeared in the Evolution Tow Truck first announced at the 2013 London Toy Fair. This part was designed by the previous owners and took no account of the manufacturing tolerances so long associated with traditional Meccano. If it had it would have been manufactured with slotted holes on one face as it's larger cousin the standard girder. If it had been manufactured with the slotted holes, this problem would not have arisen. Perhaps there is a lesson to be learned here for the future.

Standard girders are connected through the round holes - it should not be possible
The variation of tolerances in the manufacture of these girders is well documented and even used to its advantage. The Steam Wagons I have built in the past couple of years exploit this anomaly of tolerance to the full by suggesting in the instructions for the chassis that two 12½ inch girders are bolted together through their round holes to extend their length. The only way it is possible to achieve this is to exploit the fact that these girders did and still do vary from one to another. Click on the picture above to enlarge it and you will see the joint, circled.

Okay so now we know what has happened Meccano have told Ralph and Sue's Meccano News that:

"We are aware of the problem, working on it now 

and will offer the solution by early next week."

So we know it will be sorted out for existing customers and future sets. Let's look at a few alternatives that can be implemented right now for those who want to build it without waiting for the solution to be rolled out.

The first suggestion to be made was published on the Rust Bucket forum by our good friend John Hornsby. This is the one I will use on our production model we have here in the office awaiting to be built. It entails using a few standard and narrow strips (that most of us serious Meccano nuts have in abundance) bolted to the inside of the girder. To be honest, even if there was not a fitting problem I would probably have adopted this route to free-up those girders for use in other models.

A simple solution for now
Another way to get around the problem is to go outside the the official range of meccano parts and use some of the extended range of narrow girders that are available from third party suppliers. These will bolt directly to the girders supplied in the sets.

Extended range parts fit nicely and are another work-around
I realise that there will be those of you out there saying that it shouldn't happen and that this is down to 'this' or down to 'that',  but I assure you, nobody is more upset when things don't go to plan than the guys who actually design the sets and models and I know they are doing whatever they can to put it right.  The proof of the pudding will be in the eating, but I am totally confident that this problem will be resolved soon and everybody will be happy... Well almost everybody!


Good News!

If you have bought a Tower Crane set and need replacement girders please contact customer service via the website (link below)

Follow this link:

Claim your parts by calling or send an e-mail to the Meccano support team and your replacement parts will be sent to you.

Please pass this information on to any other people you know who have purchased the crane set in recent weeks. This problem has now been rectified on the production sets and all new sets will contain the correct parts. 


Thursday, 8 October 2015

The new face of Meccano...

As you may know, Sue and I can be seen at all the big shows with the latest Meccano boxed sets and usually the models too. We usually have prototypes of future releases. This year we had the pre-production model of the Tower Crane and a disobedient G15 KS at Skegness.  We even had the box for the new Thunderbird 2, that we announced HERE back in June, this year. I should have one of the production models next week to show you.

The big news story this year has been the Meccanoids. Love 'em or hate 'em they are poised to be a big seller this Christmas. The robots themselves are entertaining enough but what is making me think is the potential of this new venture for Meccano. We have spent a lot of time over the past few months with these guys.

The new logo has the words MAKER SYSTEM incorporated and is instructed to be used only as a whole. This logo will become very recognisable over the next few months as Meccano roll-out the publicity machine on the lead up to Christmas. The two robots are now being seen in all the big shops and as the name suggests (the 'G' stands for Genesis - the origin of something) This is only the beginning. Extension packs are already starting to appear in the American stores and will be available to all via the internet.

The first of these packs is the smart servo assembly shortly to be followed by the battery packs. This is only the beginning, we are looking forward to getting stuck into this new development in our hobby and seeing how we can combine this high-tech new kid on the block with the classic Meccano we all know and love. Even though Meccanoid and the new Meccano Tech is state of the art 21st century toy, it is still 100% compatible with all the meccano that has gone before. The DNA of Meccano is still there, ½ inch hole spacing, 5/32 BSW threads and square nuts.

As the new developments happen we will bring you the news first. In the mean time we will be experimenting with what we have already and building some new and exciting programmable gadgets and models.

Don't fear, there is plenty of new classic Meccano to keep us busy too, now the Tower Crane set is becoming available, through the internet, we have got our hands on one and will be playing around with that to see what else we can build with it and discuss a few of the problems that have been reported regarding the fitting of the narrow girders inside the standard ones...


Thursday, 13 August 2015

G15 - The little build!

After a slow July recovering from Skegness and collecting together new models we are back with a whole host of new sets to talk about. The first of which is the G15 Meccanoid. Little brother of the larger 'Kids-Size' version this is the first of the new generation Meccano Maker System 'Tech' sets to become available here in the UK. Released in very limited numbers through Argos stores, initially to coincide with their autumn/winter catalogue, and should become more readily available over the next few weeks, and of course leading up to Christmas. Already tipped to be among the top ten must have toys this Christmas, it is already outstripping demand.

There are shades of the clever marketing that made Meccano a household name for decades in the middle of the last century. Frank Hornby (the inventor of Meccano) teased his prospective users (the kids) with pictures of huge models on small boxes. That 'impossible dream' was instilled into the boys of the time. In those days the toys were unashamedly  marketed to gender. Toy domestic appliances and dolls to the girls and construction sets, trains and cars to the boys.

Today's marketing has to comply with all sorts of rules and regulations that Hornby was not restricted by. To get the toy world excited by launching all the publicity around a larger version that won all sorts of awards as I have mentioned here in the past, to get the attention of kids and parents alike really worked. The master stroke, and brilliant bit of marketing, was to announce a smaller set, a few weeks later, to blow the parents defence of "Its a fantastic toy but it is a lot of money"  Straight out of the water with an almost half price version. Brilliant!

At an initial price if £169.99 it is now 'affordable' and is a real contender as a Christmas gift. Initial supply was very short but I have just checked the Argos website this morning and it is in stock and available for collection at all my local Argos stores after 4:00PM today. That probably means it is 'in stock' at central distribution and can be delivered to the local store for collection this afternoon. However it works, it does mean that it is available. Okay, I know It is all right for me, I live in London and I have heard of some fellow enthusiasts having to travel miles to obtain one, but if you will live in far flung places with stunning scenery and a more relaxed way of life, like Scotland, you can't have it all!

Packed with parts... So keen was Sue to get on that we forgot to photograph the
open box This is a picture of our good friend's G15 box (Photo: Chris Instone)

Meccanoid G15 is supplied in a suitcase-style box that has a cardboard,segmented liner and is pretty much stuffed full. All the parts are packed in plastic bags and are well protected. A plastic bag contains the instruction manual and various other pieces of paper warning you not to eat him or strangle any children under three years of age with the cables. I know this is all there to comply with the toy trade legislation, but some of it is a bit over the top to say the least and is more about the manufactures (I am referring to all toy manufactures here) having to cover themselves against litigation claims. Don't get me wrong, I agree there should be some warnings but pages of it are surely non-productive. Again I am not having a go at the manufactures here, they are just complying with the latest mad-cap theory imposed upon them by the legislators.

The build

I am not going to go through the build stage by stage as I am sure that will be all over the internet soon and there is no point in repeating it here just to fill space. What I will do is point out any problems, or to quote a good friend of ours and prolific Vlogger on the YouTube, 'issues' we had with the build. Sue decided to build G15 on the kitchen table using only the tools provided and a pair of scissors to make opening the plastic bags easier.

Kitchen table build... What's for supper dear?
The first thing we encountered was that the four short pivot bolts that are used to hold each servo shroud around the servo do not have the threads fully formed making them stiff to tighten. This is a shame as it becomes apparent in the early stages of construction and could put some builders off. It is easy to rectify by just running the bolt through a nut held in the centre hole of the spanner. It is not much but just enough to be a problem. Meccano are aware of this problem and it will be rectified in future production.

One of the servos all wrapped up in a nice Meccano-friendly parts
The build is fairly quick and it does not take long to have a good 'lump' of him built. The larger parts and single bolt and locator construction makes it much simpler to assemble. This is the first time that Meccano have designed a speedy construction method that, not only works but, is completely back-compatible with all that has gone before. As high-tech as this set is it still retains the DNA of all that has gone before; 5/32 BSW threads and half inch hole spacing albeit  on a ¼ matrix making it compatible with the newer parts as well as the X-Series parts of the 1930s. The servos are wrapped up in Meccano-friendly mountings making them easily interfaced with the other parts of the G15 as well as as being totally compatible with classic Meccano if and when required in the future.

Stop it... That tickles!
The instructions can be a little confusing in places but that may be more to do with acclimatising to the new parts and methods. The hand orientation caught us out. I am not sure how the hands were intended to be but we have fitted them so they look right to us. Other than that he goes together very easily.

Now he is built we will spend a day or so working out how he works and we will be taking him and his big brother to Blists Hill at the weekend. We will report back next week and show you the finished model, complete with feet!


Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Back to reality...

From the time we left here last Wednesday, to go to SkegEx 15, to the time we arrived back on Monday evening we just did not stop. It is one big merry-go-round from packing the van, setting up, manning the stand and being parts of the social life in the evenings, sleeping and back on the stand. The interest in the new product range and packaging was manic. The really nice thing about the weekend, and what made it so rewarding, was that without exception, everybody was being complimentary about the packing and the new models.

G15 KS was a hit with the selfie brigade!
Meccanoid stole the show but the new Thunderbird 2 was also a big hit. It makes such a change to stand there and agree with the comments, something that has not happened before. We usually find ourselves trying to justify what is in front of us. I have been emphasising that Meccano in the real word is a toy. It is only going to be successful if it can become a must-have brand with the kids and the parents alike. Again, for the first time in decade the kids were excited, not only with Meccanoid (which everybody loves - even my 88 year old Mum is taken with him!) but with the classic sets. I am sure this is because they can relate to the models. What's more, it is not just the boys. The girls like a lots of the classic sets too.

On the Friday evening Sue and I were asked to talk about flowers, Meccano and the new product range, after the official SkegEx 15 dinner, held in The Vine Hotel, Skegness. Tim managed to make a reasonable recording under far from perfect conditions and here are the highlights for those who are interested. Sue started it off with a short talk about Meccano, flowers and a gold medal. Sue's video is only five minutes.

I then took up the baton and did my bit.  Anyone who knows me will tell you I am not shy about getting up there and saying my piece, but I can tell you I have not felt so nervous about addressing a crowd for years - you can tell by the Umms and Errs and the fact that most of the talking is done with my arms! I was not aware I did that! Anyway I hope this short video is informative and not too long - at just a shade over 10 minutes.

Before we set off for Skegness, we had started to talk about the new sets. We had got as far as the Space Quest set see HERE. The next two to be put under the spotlight will be the Desert Adventure 20 model set and the Mountain Rally 25 model set. Both these sets make up well and include some new parts - we particularly like the new tyres!  Below are a couple of publicity shots of the two box-art models. Keep coming back and checking, lots more to add over the rest of this week and next.

Desert Adventure - The tyres look good!
Mountain Rally - Nice profile and new parts!

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Sun, Sand and Meccano!

Final update and videos!

It's that time of year again! Time to get out the knotted handkerchief, pick up the bucket and spade and head for the Seaside! Yes, this weekend, anyone passionate about Meccano will want to be in Skegness for the premier international Meccano event of the year - SkegEx 15!

To see the alternative side to this huge event, click on the image above. We will be blogging live from the show before, during and after the doors open. There will be plenty of images of the goings on, the people and the drama. We will show you all sorts of things related to the show that the usual internet coverage ignores. Yes we will show you the odd model that catches our eye, but there will be dozens of people posting model pictures on line and we will link to any of those as and when we discover them.

So stay tuned and come back to the live page throughout the event to keep up with what is happening. You can also join in with your ideas and requests by making a comment below.

Oh, I nearly forgot, I suspect our tame (at least I hope so) Meccanoid, Frank, the G15 KS is bound to make an appearance at some point in the proceedings....

Can I drive?

...NO! You can't drive  - Get out of there and tuck your battery pack in!