Saturday, 5 August 2017

Socket adaptor...

Having been 'out of the loop' recently, one very useful addition to the Meccano tool armoury was completely overlooked by me. It first appeared in the radio control set depicting the Lamborghini Huracan. It has now surfaced in one of the latest radio control sets to land on my desk.

It is a small plastic 'fitting' that if you are not careful, could be easily overlooked. It is in fact a socket designed to fit the standard Locking Nuts that we are all familiar with. On the Lamborghini Huracan, the wheels are bolted on to the axles, and the wheels have deep recesses in which the nuts have to be fitted. Without this adaptor, this would not be possible using only Meccano tools.

The neat little adaptor fits onto the end of a Hex Driver to enable the nut to be placed and tightened. Having not actually built this set as we had seen it built at the Toy Fair at the beginning of 2016, I had not realised there was a need for the tool or that it even existed. It was not until I was looking at the very latest RC offering, the Speedster,  I realised it even existed. I will be looking at these new generation of RC cars over the next few days and I will feature them in a review here next week. For today I just wanted to highlight this very useful little socket.

The socket fitted to a Hex Driver
It is intended for use with the Meccano locking nuts which do seem to be very slightly larger than a standard nut. This means that the standard nut is not as 'snug' as it might be but it will stay in the socket most of the time. If I was planning to use it with any amount of standard nuts, I would place a small ball of Blu-Tak in socket, just to aid the grip when working against gravity, saving large amounts of tooth enamel.

I have a feeling this little thing will be very useful
This socket has been around since the introduction of the RC Huracan, but with a hefty price tag I doubt many enthusiasts raced out to buy one. The new Speedster is much cheaper and may well sell in greater numbers, making this little tool only slightly more accessible. Don't forget look out for the review of the two RC cars, mentioned here, next week!


Thursday, 3 August 2017

Plastic Spanner

New spanners seem to be included in all new sets 
Today I have been building the latest robotic creation in the TECH range, M.A.X. I will write a full review once I have worked out how he (it?) works. I was somewhat surprised to find it has a new spanner included that, on further investigation, has been rolled out in all the latest new releases.
It's plastic!
My first thought was one of horror. A plastic spanner, what good is that? A few minutes contemplation, a closer look and I realised it was the nut-placing end that is plastic. Well, and I didn't think I would be saying this, it seems pretty good, no, it is pretty good. The nut placer spanner of the pre-Spin Master era was a welcome new addition to the sets, but it was always a bit hit and miss. The redesigned spanner that Spin Master came up with a couple of years ago, was better on the nut placing end but there were a few complaints about it being 'soft' and not very nice to hold. Personally, I did not have a problem with it. This new spanner is even better. It is easy to hold and the nut-placer holds the nuts, even at odd angles, very well.

So far the new spanner seems to have been received well, even by some of the most critical enthusiasts. It is good to see the design guys are constantly trying to improve the product.

I used it for three hours this morning and it did everything I asked of it. I also realised that they can be extended. I am sure there will be a lot of other uses for the hole and slot, spaced at a convenient ½ inch spacing...

The sunken hole and the nut-placer are at ½ inch centres - Handy!


Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Welcome to our all new Meccano blog!

Things are looking up...
Earlier on this year Sue and I took the monumental decision to give up building new models and to sell off our entire stock of traditional and modern Meccano building stock. We have given up attending meetings and shows and decided to get on with the other things in our life that we enjoy doing. Meccano has been a part of our lives for as long as we can remember, even in the periods of non activity the interest has still been there as we would be buying, even if we were not using or dealing. If that sounds like an addict speaking, I suppose it may be. It was not some chemical substance that gave us a high, just a craving for more Meccano!  

The sell-off of our building stock continues and I thought that would be it. I was sure I had kicked the habit and Sue felt the same too. We had always intended to keep up with the new releases and continue to follow the Meccano company and its development within the Spin Master family. Right from the beginning of the Spin Master take over we knew there were going to be changes. Like a powerful car accelerating hard, from a standing start, can loose its grip and veer from left to right before the power is tamed, and it heads off in the chosen direction with the confidence of a thoroughbred, so too has it been with the journey of Spin Master's development of the brand over the past few years. That period of testing the market seems to have been concluded and Meccano has morphed into the robust toy that it is today. 

I am sure that when Spin Mater were thinking about buying Meccano, they were given the impression that the adult following for Meccano was much greater than it actually is. I have often been pilloried for saying that the true number of adult enthusiasts, who are actively building and buying Meccano is very small. Initial discussions with the new management of Meccano in London, during the early part of December 2013, were encouraging and it was obvious that they were prepared to listen. One of the questions that came up at that meeting was how many ten sets did they think they would sell if they produced a special run for us enthusiasts. Now, bearing in mind that this would have been at today's prices - I have no idea what that would be, but it would have to be several thousand pounds - I said "Ten, world wide?" Their jaws dropped and I said I might have underestimated it slightly "Maybe twelve".

When I explained that there were probably only a few hundred Meccano enthusiasts buying Meccano world wide they were staggered. They had obviously been talking to other enthusiasts who had given them totally the wrong impression. They were also beginning to discover what Sue and I call the missing generations. For decades now, Meccano enthusiasts have been trying to sell the hobby to the subsequent generations, without any success. Kids have become fathers, fathers have become grandfathers and now even great-grandfathers without successfully passing on the interest. I was standing at one of our Meccano Road Shows talking to a dad, whose son was demolishing our display, and he said " I remember Meccano... My grandfather had some!

The guys from Meccano were full of enthusiasm for the product, these guys are not the suited and booted bean-counting men in grey suits, far from it. These guys are down to earth toy industry 'lifers'. They have been with Spin Master for years and in the industry before that. Even at that first meeting it was obvious that they had a plan. It was way back then when we were first told of some of the changes to come and the development of what eventually emerged initially as Meccanoid GKS 15. (Genesis [the beginning] Kid Size and first released in 2015 - GKS 15). We left that meeting full of hope for the future. Little did we know then of what was to come...

It was not long before the robots were taking over - No, you can't drive!
By the summer of 2014, we were working closely with both the management (now in Toronto) and the design and marketing team in L.A.) Things were developing at an alarming rate. At the London Toy Fair 2014 Meccano had the largest presence I have ever seen. Spin Master had proved to us and the toy trade that they meant business.

Development of the brand continued and we were now firmly on-board with what Spin Master were doing. Having bought the company, lock, stock and barrel, they were committed to continue with  the immediate product releases. The first new products would not start to filter through for another year or so, however all the existing licence agreements for models were terminated. This was the end of the Rabbids and Gears of War models, both of which were very second rate compared with the sort of names other manufactures had on board.

It took a while, but today the new Meccano models have moved on. Away from the all metal sets of our childhood to the modern materials of today. This has been a shock to the system and one that has been just one step to far for the few remaining hard-core traditional Meccano enthusiasts. I get that. Most of us have been involved with the Meccano we knew and loved as a child but we could not afford to buy. I know that all I wanted to do was build with what I defined as 'real' Meccano right up until ten years ago. As far as I was concerned, I believed 'real' Meccano production ended when production was moved away from the iconic Liverpool address of Binns Road.

New parts - of days gone by...
For the past ten years, mainly thanks to Sue's less prejudice eye, we have championed the new parts - even the plastic ones. The introduction was always an addition to the range, as far as we were concerned, something to increase our choice, not to replace our beloved metal parts, which is what is happening with strips and now solid plates. Having already 'divorced' traditional Meccano it has been much easier to look at what is in fact a totally new construction system with new eyes. Yes it still has links with the past and of course all parts and fixings are compatible, but the concept is alien if you have grown up with Meccano. Change has always been slow and organic. Never before has there been a such a radical change in such a short time. What has come out the other side is something that merits proper consideration and a respect for the design and thought that has gone into each and every part.

So, it's plastic, it still looks like Meccano!
Forget that the system is more plastic than metal now. It is the material of the age. Just as Frank Hornby used the material of his age - steel. Forget the 'progressive' set. That is not how kids see or use toys these days. When I was a kid, I would refer to my toys by brand and only brand. With the exception of maybe Lego, but even that usually is prefixed, or suffixed with another major brand. Today most kids will refer to toys by subject "I want a Motorbike" for example. They may well go into the big box store and come out with a Meccano Ducati, but I bet most kids will only see it as a motorbike, not as a Meccano set. The next trip to the shop, to buy another motorbike, could easily result in yet another purchase for Lego.

The way kids play with toys has also changed. Kids don't want to create and entertain themselves, they want to consume and be entertained. One mother told me that her "little 'orror" preferred Lego "cus 'e could do it wiv one 'and" When I asked cautiously what he was doing with his other hand, I was relieved to discover he was "Textin' innit".

For us, the latest Meccano releases have opened up a whole new interest in the product. No we are not going to be building lots of models to tote around from one show to the other, neither will we be going back to being a slave to it. What we will be doing is keeping up with new developments. building and trying to understand the new TECH range and seeing if we can build a few different models from the contents of the sets.

You will be able to follow our journey and get all the latest news here on our new blog. Bookmark it and keep coming back as we will be adding to it regularly.

Ralph and Sue, August 2017