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Storage conditions and brittle LEGO elements


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5 replies to this topic

#1 Offline Bominominomu Nemo

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Posted Dec 02 2013 - 12:09 PM

Hello,

 

This question is of a rather obscure nature, and there are many variables involved, but I hope to be able to understand what condition(s) has caused this problem of mine.

 

To begin: some years ago, when for some odd reason I believed that I was no longer interested in my LEGO collection. (Blame a combination of puberty, existential crisis and sheer stupidity, of which many, if not all, of my old posts can reassure you of. If you go looking at my old posts, please forgive me) I stored it in large plastic tubs in my basement, sealed with duct tape. It was not exposed to sunlight, direct or indirect, and no great quantities of moisture ever came into contact with them. They were, however, exposed to rather low temperatures.

 

About a year later, I got them out again, and I was very sad to see that many elements seemed rather brittle, some already inclined to it even moreso than usual. Certainly, I would expect things like 2007-2010 BIONICLE sockets, Mars Mission Alien leg clips, etc. to already be fairly brittle, but it seems that their stay in the basement has increased this greatly, for unknown reasons. Some pins and other thin technic pieces have also become rather brittle.

 

This is not merely an issue with 2007 bright green and the naturally brittle transparent pieces, it applies to other parts as well, such as red technic clips, to give an example.

 

Also, nearly every connected ball and socket joint which I found are unusually tight, and in the case of those using the rebuilt socket type introduced in 2008, difficult to move at all.

 

Because of these issues, I left them in a closet, which is also quite cold in winter times due to my home being warmed by a small wood-burning stove. The LEGO elements and sets have been there for years, also out of sunlight, direct or indirect. I'm rather terrified of using them, even moreso for not completely understanding why they have become as brittle as they are.

 

Does anyone have any idea of what would cause this odd brittleness?Would constant exposure to cold increase the stress on connected elements, such as the Alien legs connected to the torsos, or balls held in socket joints, which have not been loosened by constant contruction and deconstruction? I thought ABS to be a very resilient plastic in the face of varied temperatures.


Edited by Bominominomu Nemo, Dec 02 2013 - 12:13 PM.

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#2 Offline BobaFett2

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Posted Dec 02 2013 - 02:31 PM

When things are cold, they contract, and when heated, they expand. This may have affected the flexibility of the plastic over time, but beyond that, I don't know.


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#3 Offline Bominominomu Nemo

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Posted Dec 02 2013 - 02:45 PM

When things are cold, they contract, and when heated, they expand. This may have affected the flexibility of the plastic over time, but beyond that, I don't know.

 

This is what I've been thinking, but it seems like a rather drastic change, considering I used to freeze LEGO minifigures and play with BIONICLE figures in below-freezing temperatures when I was quite young. I suppose the constant strain of cold-shrink on connected parts such as clips/rods and ball/sockets would be rather great, but I'm surprised at the Technic pins, since they are under comparatively little pressure if attached conventionally.


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#4 Offline Gengar

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Posted Dec 02 2013 - 03:19 PM

It could be the time, perhaps you left them there for "too long"?


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#5 Offline BobaFett2

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Posted Dec 02 2013 - 05:39 PM

 

When things are cold, they contract, and when heated, they expand. This may have affected the flexibility of the plastic over time, but beyond that, I don't know.

 

This is what I've been thinking, but it seems like a rather drastic change, considering I used to freeze LEGO minifigures and play with BIONICLE figures in below-freezing temperatures when I was quite young. I suppose the constant strain of cold-shrink on connected parts such as clips/rods and ball/sockets would be rather great, but I'm surprised at the Technic pins, since they are under comparatively little pressure if attached conventionally.

 

Yeah, I played with my BIONICLE figures in the snow as a kid quite a few times with no issues. I think I buried a minifigure in it once and it was fine.


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#6 Offline Bominominomu Nemo

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Posted Dec 07 2013 - 03:15 PM

After closely feeling how smoothly the balls turn in their sockets, I think I've come to understand the issue: after shrinking in the cold, they expanded to such a great degree in warmth that the balls took on a slightly oblong shape, hardly the sphere that they started off as. Because of this, the sockets are now stressed not only on separation, but also when turned and placed in left in positions different from the initial position they were in when the plastic expanded. This seems to affect pins and clips less, perhaps because the smaller clips give way more easily than the heftier Technic sockets, which had little else to do but snap under pressure.

 

This issue is most prevalent on the 2008-2009 sockets, whose thinness contributes to their weakness in the face of unusually proportioned ball joints, but affects a fair share of the original-style sockets as well.

 

This theory is backed up by the observation that balls and sockets left unconnected while in storage can be connected and disconnected with a far smaller chance of them breaking, and when connected, the balls have all turned smoothly in their sockets, unlike those left connected while in storage.


Edited by Bominominomu Nemo, Dec 07 2013 - 03:19 PM.

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