I love going to dollar stores and looking through the toy aisles. Part of this goes back to the time I collected weird bootleg toys, but overall I just like seeing what they have. Sometimes in between the ripoff Barbies and keychains from a movie no one liked you’ll actually find something interesting.
This column is going to be about the those rare interesting toys.
Building toys are very hot now, with the hottest being Lego followed by it’s Megablox and K’Nex competitors. But before Lego there were other building toys. One of these predecessors was the Erector Set (or known as Meccano in the UK). Erector sets are kits full of metal parts, nuts and bolts allowed children (or bored adults) to build all sorts of toys. However, due to the fact that it included so much metal, these sets were often pretty expensive.
Enter the “Build It Stainless Steel” series. These toys are a series of cheap erector type sets. They supposedly include all the parts, nuts and bolts you need to build a complete model. They even include the tools you’ll need. As for the quality of all this, well… you’ll see.
I picked up the Build It Stainless Steel Racer set from a local Dollar Tree. Originally I was going to send it to my favorite British Youtuber since he’d reviewed similar things before, but I decided to spare Ashens the pain, so I decided to review it myself instead.
This is what the box looks like. Fairly standard. It says 6+ on it, but I can’t see any six-year-old sitting still long enough to put this thing together. It’s more suited for an older child; at least an eight-year-old, maybe older.
There are four sets in this series in all. I picked up the Racer one. I gotta say, I am very disappointed by the lack of Engrish on these boxes. The Build It creators found a good English translator to write their copy.
This is what you get inside: two bags of parts, a tiny Phillips-head screwdriver and a fairly useless wrench. There is also a small pamphlet with some not always clear instructions and an inventory of parts. The unclear instructions are another reason why this set should only be for older children. Most younger kids won’t have the patience to sit and puzzle out what is going on.
And here is the finished product. Building the thing took me about a half hour. In some places I had to actually put the screws in backwards. When I tried putting it together the way the instructions said, the resulting space was way too small to tighten the bolt. Even using the included tools didn’t allow me to get everything tightened up.
Another problem I encountered was in assembling the wheels. You’re given four long bolts, and you’re supposed to put the wheel on first then a nut as a spacer, then add two other pieces and the final bolt. The problem though is that the bolt you’re given only has threads on half the length of the bolt, so it’s almost impossible to get the spacer nut all the way down. This causes the wheel to slide back and forth on the bolt and makes it very hard to get the final nut in the sequence on.
According to the instructions and the package the wheels are supposed to sit flush with the screw. Whether by luck, or just a lot of effort, I managed to get one of my wheels to sit like it was supposed to, but the other three didn’t want to cooperate. On the picture above you can see the difference between the wheel that worked on the left and the one that didn’t on the right.
I will say this, it did end up looking like it said on the box. Too bad the racer is too small to fit any Lego figures though. I guess my mini-figures will have to take the bus instead.
So that’s the Build It Stainless Steel Racer set. Don’t listen to the box; this is NOT for younger children, and it probably won’t keep older children occupied for very long. The set has some problems, but the wheels do roll freely, and will eventually it will all fit together with some fiddling. The resulting model is kind of cool looking, if small.
Overall, not a bad value for a dollar, but I wouldn’t pay much more than that for it.
Have any cheapo toys you want me to review? Please leave a comment and let me know what you want to see!