Thursday, 16 May 2013

Reveiw : Lego Technic 9391 Tracked Crane (Part 1)

Yes, it’s actually some information about a Lego Technic set, rather than me waffling on about shopping, or complaining about not getting huge discounts on expensive sets…

I decided a while ago, that rather than work through the sets in the order that I bought them - which would have involved me embarking on some enormous builds while still being a Technic newbie - I’d begin with the smallest sets and work my way up in scale.  This way, I figured, I’d pick up some experience, but if I did mess something up, it shouldn’t take too long to fix, even if I had to start again from scratch.

So thus far I have built a couple of palm-sized models, the 9390 Mini Tow Truck, and the 8065 Mini Container Truck.  Looking at the large and inviting pile of unopened boxes (1), the next smallest set appeared to be the 9391 Tracked Crane

Lego Technic 9391 Tracked Crane

It does have 218 pieces, which sounds quite a lot, but over 60 of those are the individual links of the caterpillar tracks, so in practical terms, it’s more like 150-odd.

Opening the box reveals the following…

Two bags of Lego goodness a couple of manuals.  In a break from what I’m used to, both the ‘A’ model (the Tracked Crane) and the ‘B’ model (a bulldozer) have one manual each.  Previously the ‘A’ model instructions were split (unecessarily, to my mind) into two booklets.

'A' model booklet

'B' model booklet

Sorting out the packets, I had one main bag, containing…

It also contained two sub bags of axles, connectors and gears… a bag of caterpillar track pieces.

Parts neatly sorted (I tend to lay out the main parts as above, and empty the small bags' contents into a bowl to stop them rolling away), I began building.

Talking of parts rolling away, something I’ve found useful is to have the section that you’re working on sitting on a tray.  That way, you have a lip around your build area, and if something does ping out of your fingers, it can’t usually go too far.

What with Technic being a largely ‘work from the inside, out’ sort of discipline, I find that I usually start building without having any idea what it is that I’m putting together.  There’s usually an ‘Ah!  That’s what that is!’ moment 10 minutes or so down the line, but to start with… who knows?

So after the requisite 10 minutes or so, I had this :

I figured it’s probably going to be part of the superstructure, as there’s a turntable under there.  And as it turned out, I was right.

All in all, the build took around 30 - 40 minutes, and in terms of complexity, was a step up from the previous, relatively simple trucks.  It has three separate mechanical functions - a gearwheel at the rear of the main body drives a crownwheel hooked into the turntable, which revolves the crane itself.  On the body, a second gearwheel drives a wormgear that raises and lowers the (fixed length) crane arm.  And lastly, a third gearwheel winds the string to raise and lower the crane’s hook.

To be honest, it’s a lot simpler to just turn the crane body by hand, but it’s nice to see more examples of engineering at work.

One of the last jobs to do is to put the tracks on.  As you can see from the picture, the tracks come as 60-odd individual pieces, which clip together.  I thought that fitting the completed tracks onto the model was going to be a fiddly task, but as it turned out, it was pretty straightforward.

The finished model

It’s a nice model.  Understandably, given that it’s a piece of construction equipment, the majority of the parts are yellow, with virtually all of the remainder being black.  In comparison to the trucks, it doesn’t really ‘drive’ round the kitchen table terribly well, as the tracks tend to remain static on shiny surfaces, so it just slides.  It does, however, do just fine on carpet.

It was an interesting build to look back at once it was complete.  It all fits together perfectly (as you’d expect), but involves a lot of techniques that probably wouldn’t occur to me if I was going to try and build something similar from scratch. (2)  Which parts to use as spacers.  The times to use free-spinning connectors, and the time to use friction connectors.  Just because a piece can connect two items , and then a third at right angles doesn’t mean that you have to use it like that, and so on.

I find I learn as much from taking the models apart as I do from putting them together, as when you work backwards, you can see what the intention was, and then see how it was acheived.


I’ve got a thing about using string on models like this.  It’s… I suppose it’s just not neat enough.  When I used to build Airfix kits as a child, I’d start out with the best of intentions.  It was going to be perfectly put together, all the edges would align, there would be no blobs of glue all over windows or cockpits, the painting would be crisp.  I’d get all the transfers in place - without any wrinkles or tears - and it would end up looking just like the exciting picture on the box lid.

But it never did.

Maybe I didn’t have the patience, maybe my fingers were a bit too chubby, maybe I just didn’t have the skill, but they always ended up… so so.  From a distance they’d look fine, but get up close and you’d realise that the pilot’s eyes were two huge blobs of blue paint, or the camouflage wasn’t quite right.  Maybe there was a wonky wheel, and there would always be a trail of glue somewhere.

So Lego appeals to the neat-freak inside me. (3)  It can be put together exactly as the picture on the box shows.  Nothing misaligned, nothing uneven, no glue, no paint issues.  Because the bricks are either put together correctly, or they’re not.  There’s no almost right.  But the string…  the string introduces fat-fingered fumbling again.  It’s never neat enough, or there’s too much string sticking out of the knot.  And if you trim it off with a pair of scissors, then a) the string gets shorter, and b) how do you get it undone again?  And when it is undone, you’ve frayed the ends.

Anyway.  Enough about string. (4)  Anything else?

Well it would have been nice if you could extend the crane arm.  Automatically I mean.  You can extend it, if you get hold of the end in a firm manner and pull quite hard, but I guess that given we’re talking about a set that costs less than £15.00, you can’t ask too much.  I mean, if the tiny sets did all these things, nobody would buy the large ones!

All in all, a really good model.  And of course that’s only half the story.  Next task will be to take it apart and build the bulldozer.

Watch this space.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

(1) Some artistic licence here.  Due to compliance with Mrs Boo directive No. 45318, all unbuilt Lego sets are actually stored in the loft.

(2) Which is one of the main points for me.  As well as putting together some neat models, I’m trying to grasp the basics of Technic construction.

(3)  Off in the distance, Mrs Boo is snorting with derision, as my desire for neatness doesn’t always stretch as far as the domestic arena.

(4) More than enough.  I wonder if I have OCD?

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