English magnetic building toy

June 5th, 2010
Magnetic Constructional Toys box lid

Magnetic Constructional Toys box lid

Here is a rather splendid looking but not terribly user friendly Magnetic Constructional Toys set.  It comprises a variety of painted / printed / enamelled (I’m not too sure how best to describe the method) metal panels, painted rectangular magnets, two metal support beams plus some decorative parts which are essentially ball bearings and washers. The box is metal so that it can be used as a building base and despite how it looks in my photograph, is dark green.

Magnetic Constructional Toys box contents

Magnetic Constructional Toys box contents

The panels depict an interesting range of both exterior and interior designs, ranging from the straightforward brick house and contemporary domestic interiors, through a chronologically confused stone terrace house with castellations and Georgian-meets-Elizabethan details to a collection of Moorish arches.  The panels with what look like coach lining seem to be intended primarily for bridges although the accompanying leaflet shows them in other uses too.

Magnetic Constructional Toys leaflet

Magnetic Constructional Toys leaflet

The toy was made by Goodtoy Products Ltd of Kentish Town Road, London and shows a provisional patent number of 3926.  I’ve not had a chance to check this out in the library, but the set appears to date from the 1930s. One thing I particularly like is the company slogan: “A Goodtoy product ‘makes’ a good child”!

Dutch construction set Elba

May 24th, 2010
Elba box lid

Elba box lid

After the vernacular complexity of Buildo, I thought it would be nice to look at something quite different both in style and method of construction, although the principal component material – card – is the same in both.

Elba box contents

Elba box contents

This modernist Dutch building set is very simple, comprising slot together thick card panels and beams in four colours. Nonetheless it creates interesting and satisfyingly complex models in my opinion.  It is possible that only one size of set was available, as the instructions indicate how many sets are required for larger models as opposed to specifying a set number.

Elba manual illustration

Elba manual illustration

The set was made by Van Mouwerik & Bal N.V, Zeist, Holland in, I’m guessing, the 1950s or ’60s.

English construction set Buildo

May 15th, 2010
Buildo box lid

Buildo box lid

As a counterpoint to my first featured set from down under, this splendid building set exudes that kind of rural Englishness that is still the subject of misty-eyed yearning but was, I suspect, mostly a myth. Whereas Arkitekt was proud of being made in Australia, Buildo here is proud of the native architecture it depicts, proclaiming on the box lid that:
 
 ’These models … provide amusement and instruction in the design and form of our unrivalled English homes.’
 The set comprises printed, and in some cases textured, card parts held to each other and to metal stiffening pieces with metal pins. These are tiny versions of the sort used to hold paper together – pushing through the hole and opening out at the back.  There are a few wooden parts too – a chimney pot and porch roof  support in this set.  Also in common with Arkitekt, the set includes a tool – in this case an awl, presumably for easing the holes in the card parts or to help with the alignment of holes when building.

 

Buildo parts

Buildo parts

I have a number 1 set which of course will only build the more simple models, but this page from the manual shows what was possible with larger sets. 

 Buildo manual page

Buildo manual page

The set was made by Alldays of Birmingham, who according to a quick internet search seem to have been primarily printers of postcards, posters and souvenir brochures, active from at least 1900 to the 1950s. 

My only basis for dating this set (as with so many in my collection) is the image on the box cover as there are no hints in the box or manual text.  The dress worn by the lady at the porch suggests Victorian or Edwardian, but if the designer is going for nostalgia then there’s no guarantee it is meant to be contemporary, in which case the set might well be ’20s or ’30s. 

If anyone has more information I’ll be delighted to be corrected.

Australian construction toy Arkitekt

May 6th, 2010
Arkitekt box lid

Arkitekt box lid

 To start on an idiosyncratic note, I have chosen an Australian set from the early twentieth century.  Whilst I have lots of European and north American sets, only three systems that I currently know of are Aussie.  And this one is very proud of its origins.  The introduction to the instruction manual begins as follows:

Dear Boys and Girls – In introducing “Arkitekt” to you, I wish as the Inventor and Patentee, to let you know that like yourselves, I am a young Australian, and I am therefore proud to offer you first of all this Superior Building Toy, which was not only invented by an Australian but is an Australian production from beginning to end.  The wood was grown here, the toy was made here; the illustrations and printing in the book were also done here.

The set comprises variously sized and shaped wooden components with grooves down the centre of two, four or all six faces.  Most of the parts have the same square cross-section (including the curved parts) and the groove runs parallel to the longest side of a face. The parts are held together by the insertion of thin square metal slips and the set includes tools to help with these – a pair of pliers and a kind of chisel, presumably for opening up grooves.

Arkitekt box top tray

Arkitekt box top tray

There are no panel type parts and as you can see, the manual shows models built as frameworks only, which I personally find rather unsatisfying in a building set. On the plus side, the introduction is honest enough to say upfront that you won’t be able to build the magnificent church shown on the box lid with a small set, which isn’t something you see acknowledged very often!

Arkitekt manual page

Arkitekt manual page

The set was made designed and sold by Leslie Herbst of Burke Road, Camberwell, Melbourne, Australia.  The box has a provisional patent number on it of 3829, which I’m currently trying to find the date of.

About

May 6th, 2010

I am currently taking three months off work, mainly to catalogue, photograph and, ahem, find all of my collection.  I will also be updating the website to better reflect the primary subject matter of architectural toys.  This blog is for posting interesting sets and commenting on my progress.

Jumping rather late on the blogging bandwagon

May 6th, 2010

Since I’ve agreed to post a blog on the Toy Collector site it seemed only right that I add one to my own site as well.  I’ll mirror that blog’s entries here, but include additional comments here that wouldn’t be interesting there, such as updates on my collection cataloguing project.