A history of Technic axles (2)

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Following on from part one of this article, today I turn my attention to axles that have been modified in one way or another, the first of which appeared in 1995 to solve a specific problem.

I suspect you're getting bored with Technic parts histories now but that's the only area in which I have any expertise. So, if you fancy writing the next article on a family of System elements, do get in touch and we'll be delighted to publish it.


6587: 3M Cross Axle With Knob (1995 - )

Until this part was produced pulling a wheel from a Technic model usually resulted in the axle coming away with it and the bush holding it in place falling out.

This axle solved this, because it can't be removed from a beam or other part when pulling on it from the axle end.

Originally it was produced in dark grey before being replaced by dark tan in 2010. 8009 R2-D2 has a pair in white and interestingly, white ones cropped up again in last year's 10712 Bricks and Gears. Presumably dark tan was considered too drab for use in that colourful set.


32209: 5,5 Double Cross Axle (1998 - )

Znap, LEGO's answer to K-Nex, was generally considered to be absolute rubbish but it did introduce a couple of useful new parts: this axle and the flexible one below.

There was probably a reason why it needed to be 5.5 units long, and it could be that because it is, it remained in the parts palette and is still in use today.

It was originally white in Znap sets and black in others, just so it could get lost among all your black other axles. Nowadays its usually dark grey although white ones crop up from time to time.


? : 26M Flexible Axle (1998)

While building GBCs recently I've found this part to be exceedingly useful for transferring rotation to hard-to-reach places in my modules.

It appeared in just two motorised Znap sets so consequently it's rare nowadays and commands a relatively high price at BrickLink.


55013: Friction Element, Cross Axle (2006 - )

I didn't realise until now that this axle was first introduced in Bionicle sets, in 2006 and was used in conjunction with 53586, Friction Element, Cylinder, and 53585 Friction Element, Ball Ø 10.2 which explains why it is named as it is. The end stop was needed to prevent the ball from coming off the end.

Originally black, but dark grey became the standard in 2007 when it was used more widely as a general purpose axle with the same advantage as 6587 3M Cross Axle With Knob, above.


87083: Cross Axle 4M With End Stop (2010 - )

Clearly the advantages of having an end stop are manifold because three more axle lengths have been introduced subsequently, starting with a 4l one in 2010.

It has only ever been produced in dark grey.


99008: Krydsaksel M/Stop 4M (2012 - )

I believe this tan axle, whose name has not been translated from Danish to English in LEGO's database, was first produced specifically for use in 9398 4x4 Crawler.

The smooth section in the middle reduces friction when threaded through a beam which must have been seen as a problem when using normal axles.


15462: Cross Axle 5M With End Stop (2014 - )

The 5l beam with end stop started life in dark tan but from 2017 has been exclusively brown.


24316: Cross Axle 3M W/End Stop (2016 - )

This, the latest axle to appear, has always been brown and a I suspect a specific requirement in one of 2016's Technic sets, probably 42055 Bucket Wheel Excavator, led to its manufacture.


LEGO has produced a comprehensive selection of axles that have evolved from the plain simple ones to those that solve one problem or another. Of course we can't be sure what, if any, new designs will appear in the future but if I had to hazard a guess I suspect we'll see more lengths of those with end stops. Personally, I always seem to find I need a 6 length one, so maybe that'll be next.

I hope you enjoyed this article. As I said at the start, if you'd like to contribute a parts history article do get in touch!

53 comments on this article

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By in United States,

I am NOT bored with Technic part histories- keep 'em coming, please!

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By in United States,

@Huw: Great article! - I love the all the useful information and dates for when each part was released. I must confess I actually did not know that the last element on this list (24316 - Cross Axle 3M W/End Stop) was released relatively recently (I thought it had been around for longer).

I love these articles about "The history of ......" - they are so informative, useful, and fun!

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By in United States,

I need one of those flex axles... lol

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By in Australia,

These "The history of" are great articles Huw. It is great learning about new parts i didn't know much about or even existed. Especially if they came out on my birth year of 1998 :), might have to buy some just for that reason. Basically you do great work please keep it up.

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By in United States,

What surprises me is that the holes in technic bricks have always had a bit of a bevel to accommodate the end stops even before the end stops were introduced. Though as I right this it occurs to me that the bevels were likely intended to accommodate the thicker mid-section of 2L pins. Nevermind.

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By in United Kingdom,

i love LEGO parts history. i definitely like to see more stuff like this. history about lego Tyres would be nice. lego are the world biggest Tyre manufacturer
@Huw not at all bored with Technic part histories

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By in United States,

Please do keep these coming! At this point I have worked with enough recent LEGO sets and LDD that I am at least familiar with most of the parts (26M flexible axle notwithstanding!), but I still like learning about the available colors and the history.

Possible future articles (?!?):
- Connectors
- Gears and turntables - including details about spacing, this could become a "how-to"
- Panels
- Beams, including all of the angled ones, half-beam, and the "beam frame" pieces such as 64179

For some of these, there might be some value in providing one or two use examples. Again, a "how-to".

I know all of that represents a LOT of research and work. If you're willing to do it, I know there are many of us excited to read about it.

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By in United Kingdom,

Would never get bored of articles like this Huw - find the history so fascinating! Thanks ever so much, keep ‘em coming!!

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By in United Kingdom,

"I suspect you're getting bored with Technic parts histories now..."

Nope!

I appreciate & applaud your dedication.

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By in Germany,

But why are they in such useless colors these days? Brown and dark tan ???

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By in Canada,

I don't even own any Technic sets but its amazing how many Technic pieces are in my inventory...shows how important they are. If it wasn't for Technic we probably wouldn't have Star Wars (look at early sets) ships and vehicles. Most of these sets are built upon a Technic Frame with panels attached.

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By in United States,

More please!

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By in United Kingdom,

I find these oddly fascinating...
Keep it up please!

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By in Portugal,

Great article! Stuff about Technic is something I sorely miss here, keep'em coming!

Regarding the 4M axle with stop in the middle (I don't even try to memorise its official name), I don't think the stop is to reduce friction, as the greater area of contact between axle and hole should actually increase it. Instead, I think it was created (and it's how I use it) to prevent it from sliding off during use: if you mount a gear in it, it'll be locked in place. In this example, once the motor is mounted using the black pins, the axle will be locked and unable to slide out: https://imgur.com/a/WIpOdte

@TomKazutara More worrying than that is the choice of brown for some axles. For some reason, elements moulded in brown are much more prone to cracking than in other colours, and this is especially true for elements subject to stress such as axles.

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By in United States,

Thank you so much for this great article Huw! I find these types of historical articles absolutely fascinating and hope to see many more in the future!

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By in United Kingdom,

Oh, huh, I didn't know the ones with the stud on the end were created for that purpose; that's cool. My first introduction to them was in Adventurers sets, where they were often used - with a 1x1 round brick on the stud - as the triggers for various trap mechanisms.

And the next one down from them, I had always assumed was a new piece for the Toa Metru in 2004, all of whom had one of them as part of the gear mechanism in their chest pieces. Fascinating that it originally came from Znap.

I think the only one of those facts I did know was the origin of the 2006 cross-axle... I do remember Brutaka and Axonn being the first sets to show them off, giving them more sturdy legs than the titan sets who came before them. The thing that I *didn't* know was that they'd been put to different uses since Bionicle's end xD

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By in United States,

Honestly, in the case of the 3M cross axle with end stop , I almost think one set that may have been as big a factor in its introduction as any traditional Technic set was 75113-1 Rey.

In the 2015 Bionicle sets, 4M and 5M cross axles with end stop were the standard method of attaching the shoulder joints of buildable figures to a gearbox for a swinging-arm function. But these resulted in proportions anywhere from reasonably to cartoonishly broad-shouldered, which would not have been suited to narrower-shouldered characters like Rey or Jyn Erso. A 3M cross axle with stud would be just as effective at preventing the shoulder joint from becoming detached from the torso, but at the cost of posability.

While the Star Wars buildable figures and Bionicle reboot have since been discontinued, both these things appear to have been spurred on in part by the LEGO Group's flagging sales and subsequent structural changes beginning in 2016. So the designers working on Bionicle and Star Wars buildable figures for 2016 may not have known at that time that those sets weren't going to be a long-term commitment. Even if they had, I doubt it would have discouraged them from pushing for new parts like this one which would have lasting usefulness across a much wider range of themes.

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By in Singapore,

"interestingly, white ones cropped up again in last year's 10712 Bricks and Gears. Presumably dark tan was considered too drab for use in that colourful set."

Which is funny considering it has dark tan System slopes and plates for the barn owl :P

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By in Netherlands,

I really enjoy reading these informative articles, can't wait for the next part! Would like to read one on wheels, just a suggestion.

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By in United States,

These are great Huw! Thank you for taking the time to write them =D

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By in United States,

@AVCampos - thanks for posting about that part ("4M axle with stop in the middle"). Along with the linked picture, that was really useful and informative!

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By in United Kingdom,

@AVcampos, I hadn't considered that but of course that certainly is an attribute of the 'stop' in the middle. I assumed it was also to reduce friction because that bit has no 'edges' so there's fewer to rub on the beam.

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By in United Kingdom,

Another person in the camp of "please more of these history articles".

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By in United States,

I really like these history of parts articles. I particularly liked the info on parts that had changed over the years. In addition to "history" articles, maybe some interesting legal uses of parts or most unusual parts articles would go over well?

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By in United States,

Great articles and never bored. I second an article for gears... Always have difficulty distinguishing them. Any article on Technic is great. Keep it up.

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By in United States,

I did not realize that the 5.5 axle originated in Znap; it was used quite a bit in Bionicle.

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By in United States,

I agree more history of articles, never gets boring, definitely would read one about gears and turntables!

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By in Australia,

Not getting bored @hew, enjoying very much.

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By in United Kingdom,

These articles are really interesting and may someone could do ones on various subjects like tyres, modified plates (ie.curves, corners) and sloping bricks (straight 'roof' type and curved). These are just a few I thought of while reading the comments, maybe Lego customer/corporate relations may help if the call came from such a respectable organisation as Brickset.

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By in Australia,

One more to say 'not boring'. These articles help me understand how Lego goes together and give me ideas for sorting and storage.

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By in United Kingdom,

Thank you, Huw, fascinating stuff. Where do you get all the information from, may I ask? Do you keep detailed records when you buy sets - new parts, colours, changes to parts etc? I wouldn't know where to start looking if I wanted to know the history of a part.

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By in Australia,

When the 5.5 axels first showed up in bionicles, in the Toa Metru sets, they were also white. Actually the only set I have with black ones is a Spybotics set. Does anyone even remember those?

By the way, the article on pins actually missed a type of connector peg w. friction. It looks almost identical to the modern one, but it has thicker walls and doesn't fit a 3.18 shaft in it. Im not sure when the change to the modern version was made, but the first few waves of bionicle at least used the thicker variety.

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By in United States,

This article made me feel axley(;) CONNECTED to LEGO for once. It really CLICKED with me, and I want more of them.

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By in United States,

I've been enjoying these articles greatly. Please keep them coming!

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By in United States,

Another interesting parts history article. Like to see one on gears and turntables as well.

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By in United Kingdom,

@huw it would be cool to see a history of ball-joints. They go back to the very early Lego figures (used in Thier hands).
Please keep these articles coming :-)

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By in United States,

I had no idea Znap was a thing.

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By in United States,

Definitely not bored with these. Keep them up!

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By in Sweden,

Seems that one axel has a Danish name instead of English. Pretty sure it translates to cross axle. Or seasoned axel. But cross axle makes more sense. ;)

Thanks for the wonderful articles!

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By in United States,

@huw @AVcampos I think "4M axle with stop in the middle" is to reduce friction - not between the axle and the beam, but between the beam and the gear. It provides proper spacing. In 40 years of Technic building I've never once had an axle slip out so doubtful that's the purpose.

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By in United States,

Friction Element, Cross Axle (2006 - )
This part (and it's fellows that created the assemblies) made me fall in love with the BIONICLE Titans. It was so skeletal, yet machine like, and created a simple but effective function that always just *worked* when it came to making giant robot calves. I believe Toa Mata Nui from 2009 (the very set I made my username after) even came with a pair of them in it's torso to add structural support that just kinda looked *epic.*

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By in Portugal,

@lippidp I believe axle slippage is an issue, at least in high.stress applications. The prevention of that is the only reason I see for the addition of the two black 92907 Cross Blocks/Form 2X2X2 to each portal axle element in the 9398 Crawler; they're shown in page 32 of the first instruction booklet.

I don't know if preventing axle slippage was the reason for the creation of this 4M axle, but it really seems suitable for the task.

Oh, and I only have 30 years of Technic building, but I did already experience axle slippage. ;)

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By in United States,

Others have noted that a history on wheels would be enjoyable. To add to that, I would very much like to see a writeup or chart that indicates which wheels are compatible with which tires. I currently use LDD to try to figure this out when I want to acquire a new kind of wheel or tire, and it isn't always a fun task.

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By in United Kingdom,

^ BL keeps lists of compatible pairs of tyres and wheels. (Also windows and frames, etc).

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By in United Kingdom,

Technic isn’t a theme I’m particularly interested in, but I’m loving these articles anyway.
- DEFINITELY not getting bored of them!

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By in United Kingdom,

Love it- bring on more histories of articles!, reckon we'd be equally fascinated by histories of various system parts... Maybe windows and doors...?

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By in Denmark,

@Librarian1976: The grove in Technic brick-holes is for the 'rim' on the pins, the axles endstop was simply designed to fit in the same space ;-)

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By in United Kingdom,

Don't know why but I'm fascinated by articles like this, keep ‘em coming Huw!

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By in Norway,

Another great and interesting view on the Technic parts. Have been a lot of those so, it is nice to read where they came from or why those was created.
Hope it will be more in the future

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By in Spain,

Bring these LEGO articles on please!

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By in United States,

Nerding out on these. More please!

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