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This is part is commonly found in the Divers theme back in the late 90's (http://brickset.com/sets/theme-Town/subtheme-Divers) The part in question is a minifigure accessory: http://www.bricklink.com/catalogItem.asp?P=30092


This is a "Underwater Scooter". It's a handheld device to propel a diver forward. Similar devices can be seen in the James Bond movie "Thunderball".


The best set from 2014 is Furry Creatures (31021) at $0.20 per plate. Here's one possible way to do this: Download the listing of all parts in all sets from Rebrickable. Join this data up with pricing data (perhaps from the Brickset API) to get yourself some pricing information for each set. Define which parts count as plates. Write yourself a little ...


The sloped face of the 2x2 brick is 16mm across by about 11.3mm tall.


This weekend I sorted through some boxes of lego that have laid dormant under my parents' house since I moved out. They contained bricks from the 80s to late 90s. THe only broken pieces I found where these technic chain pieces, crushed at the bottom of the box, and lego traffic signs broken off at the base. I can reuse the traffic signs by sticking them ...


I've had one or two long technic pins (part 6558) break on me.


The ones that gave me the most trouble were the "new-style" BIONICLE axle connectors like this one: It seems that the parts holding the axle ball were much thinner than on the previous versions, and they tended to crack and break from extensive use. It was possible to use some cracked ones, but some broke beyond that.

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