Chapter Five: The Finished Castle
Ok. I got fed up of waiting for the final Bricklink order to arrive, so I bought a couple of lots from ebay which had the parts I needed, and I'm finally ready to go
The following Bricklink orders had already come in:
As you can see, I ordered an unnecessary quantity of shields and halberds, but I figured the spares would come in handy! The remaining Bricklink order which never came should have contained - amongst other things - a similarly excessive number of vests.
The decals are applied:
I'm still not 100% happy with the clover vests - the clovers reach too closely to the edges, and the blue is a little too deep, but they'll have to do. Otherwise, I'm delighted how they've turned out.
I also didn't match the yellow correctly for the banner decals:
If I have time in the future, I'll replace these with transparent stickers like the bottom one, but with the deeper purple.
Starting again at the beginning ...
In the end, I couldn't get the box any better than this. I even tried weighting down the lid for a few days, but it remains crumpled. Short of ironing it, which might cause irreparable damage, there's little else I can do.
Here it is, open, with all the clean parts sorted and ziplocked:
It's amazingly full
. With the extra space taken up by the ziplock bags, the lid doesn't quite close properly. 767 pieces doesn't sound so much by today's standards, but these are for the most part large bricks rather than cheese wedges or 1x1 round plates.
The eight dudes of the home side line up for their team photo!
The clutch of the heads onto the torsos is quite weak in some cases, whilst that of the helmets onto the solid stud heads seems super-strong. This makes attaching the helmets correctly a little tricky at times, but happily does make posing the figures a little easier. Unfortunately it also means that the vests don't always sit on straight, as you can see in the second figure from the left
The away team:
The red squire's got his legs back! I now wish I'd made the grey surround to the black figures' vests a little lighter - it came out almost black, which looks great on the shields, but not so hot on the vests.
And here are the knights on their blocky mounts:
Simple they may be, compared to their modern one-piece counterparts, but I really like these brick-built horses. You might not approve of the method of attaching the 'ears' - most likely considered illegal by LEGO nowadays - but they have a surprisingly realistic shape. I'd be tempted even to modify them to give them individual legs, and I might even make one or two in brown.
Building the castle was a joyous trip down memory lane! It may be monotonous - literally, in terms of colour - but the simple brick-on-brick design makes a refreshing change from today's penchant for large castle wall pieces. There are even a few surprises, particularly when constructing the supports for the walkways, as seen in this in-build shot:
I'm referring specifically to the inverted slopes used to support the walkways at the front, and the 1x1 pillars halfway down the sides. Today I'm sure they'd use larger single bricks for many of the pillars in this set.
Note also the three 1x4 bricks attached incongrously to the baseplate and nothing else - two at the sides, which keep the opening sections locked in place, and one in front of the rear entrance, which serves no purpose I can see
I had thought that these would be temporary, and removed later to be used elsewhere, but no, they are extra parts which come with the set.
Another view from the front:
I really like the little mini-towers which flank the gatehouse at the front. It would have been all too easy just to make the castle a perfect square, but these add a great little detail to make the front more interesting. This view is also perfect for admiring the embrasures which line castle walls in all sides, and the machicolations of the tower crests, picked out beautifully with the black inverted slopes.
There's a lovely gradient from front to rear in the tower heights, though from the side the gatehouse looks a little puny. It's a stark contrast to most later LEGO castles, which tend to have a massive gatehouse (in order to accommodate a portcullis) with much less behind. You can see here the regularly spaced arrow-loops in the curtain wall - It's just a shame none of the guards have bows in this set! Bows weren't invented in mediaeval LEGOLAND until the advent of the grey era, six years after this set.
Here you can also admire the black fence-pieces which are built into the structure of the rear tower - quite what purpose they serve is unclear, but they're a nice way to break the yellow monotony - and also see where some of the extra shield decals go (though there are four spare crown shield decals, and only three places to stick them
The third shield sticker goes on the central rear tower:
I remember as a kid being a little bothered by the towers having little substance to them - they are just walls with walkways through them. This rear tower has a lovely window design on the front; surely it should contain the king's chamber?? But there isn't a king with this set, and if there were he'd be a little drafty!
There's also no easy way for the poor guards to get up and down from the tower roofs, and it's a mighty long drop from there
The central towers can be walked through:
Steps are conveniently placed to enable the figs to negotiate the change in levels easily. Shame there aren't steps up to the walkway from the ground, though
. If you look closely, you'll see that there are two 1x1 grey plates on the top of each step - this isn't because I was missing the right parts, it's actually the way the set is desgined. Perhaps those 1x1s are needed for alternative builds, but I've never tried to recreate any of the other designs on the box.
This aerial view shows the castle layout off nicely:
It's a bit of a shame that there isn't much going on in the castle courtyard, but I guess it's an empty slate to be filled by one's imagination. If only I'd had enough bricks and figures to make it more intersting back then! But then space figures would look a bit out of place
One of the amazing - and innovative, for its day - features of this set is it's ability to open out, allowing easy play access to the central courtyard, but also making the structure look much more impressive:
Anyone lucky enough to own two of these could place create a massive courtyard from two sets together
The drawbridge is raised and lowered with ease, just by cranking the winch:
I had worried that it might stick, but the use of the old technic frictionless pins allows the weight of the drawbridge to lower it when the rope is unwound. I'm sure Rick will be pleased to know that I found two old grey pins in the end!
It's a shame that there appears to be a gap large enough for attackers to crawl under when the bridge is raised, but they'd have to find a way to cross the moat first - oh, hang on a minute
The rear of the castle features two large gates allowing alternative access (or an easier place for the besieging army to attack). The passage through from front to rear looks lovely here. Again, there are interesting steps in the rear walls to break up the 'perfect square'.
As you can see, one of the banner stickers is placed here to welcome people to the tradesmen's entrance
I think the opposite view from the front of the castle is just the best:
The gatehouse alone may be a little puny, but with the bulk of the castle behind it, it looks really imposing, sure to intimidate an attacking army. Note the slight asymmetry of the drawbridge ropes - the designer could quite easily have added another 1x2 technic brick on the other side, but this would have added a degree of complexity in securing the rope's end, which might have been a little too much for the average six-year-old.
Finally, I've recreated the box cover picture for your delectation:
A procession of knights from other imagined kingdoms arrive for a jousting tournament, and are welcomed by the castle garrison. Let's hope they find somewhere to stable their horses!
This concludes my restoration project! I hope you enjoyed following along; let me know what you think! If the remaining Brickling order ever arrives, I might throw in a restoration of 383 Knights Tournament
as a little freebie
In the meantime, further pictures are available on my Flickr
I'll post my decal designs in the MCW at some point; if anyone wants a copy, let me know. Thanks for reading!