Thursday, March 10, 2011

How Specific do you Sort?

In the LEGO library, there are thousands of parts that are created for all the sets, from mini figure accessories to simple bricks. When keeping a small collection, there are only a limited number of parts to sort, but as the collection grows, so does the assortment. This inevitably leads to sorting challenges.

For most of us, we don't have the space to make room for every individual part, so we combine in some way. I combine my parts in two different ways:


With my plates, I combine colors that are distinct together - the size is easy to recognize, and color is even easier. Here, I start with 1x2 plates and go to 2 x 8 plates at the end. Larger plates are in bins under my work surface. The bottom row has my exotic colors - the ones that I probably will not use. When I need large plates or run out of a color in a drawer, I have a couple of overflow bins to search.

The bottom left drawer has all my small rounded slopes. I don't have these sorted by color either. I am not that organized:-)! I do have my 2 x bricks separated by color in bins, though.

For specialty parts, though, I use a slightly different strategy.

I group similar parts together. These are parts that have the clip handles in some way or form. The only exception is that control brick element in the foreground, which needs to be somewhere else! All the other parts are there for two reasons:

1. They are easier to find in a group than separately. This is especially applicable when I only have a few parts.

2. Grouping encourages my creativity by letting me see more than one option to a part.

Here's another example. Headlight bricks and SNOT bricks in the same drawer. The different options from sunk-in stud to studs on more than one side, give me a variety of ways to mount parts by the side, and in some cases, more than one side.

This system seems to work for me most of the time, although I am in the process of migrating the most used parts to the drawers to build more efficiently. Developing your own sorting setup and system will take a little time, as you have to see what parts you use the most to determine what goes where. Also, if you are a more precise builder, you'll probably want more specific bins and drawers. Keep in mind that this will expand your work area, though. A former AFOL I knew had an entire basement set aside for building, and his walls were lined with drawers of parts.

So how do you sort?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Going a New Direction...

The blog has been quiet for a while, and it's been bothering me. I take care of a website, a magazine, and this blog, not to mention my Facebook account. My primary focus is the mag, then website, then here...which means that the blog is often forgotten in the din.

It doesn't help that I place news on the website...that usually leaves very little here. Until I started getting requests and questions about building and other aspects of the hobby. It was these notes and a academic paper about the AFOL community that I read that made me realize that while blogs show cool MOCs and photos, there is almost no explanation as to the building methods.

As a result, I decided to make this blog a place to show building methods and how to do things with LEGO elements. Any person can become an expert builder with practice and understanding of this medium. I hope to start showing and maybe teaching here for those who are curious about how it's done.

But first, a disclaimer: any ideas and thoughts here concerning building and things associated with it are NOT definitive. You, as the reader, are allowed and encouraged to use these thoughts as guidelines to help your building. There is no right way to build, but there is YOUR way. Make that way the best for YOU.

Okay, so here goes the first subject:


Yeah, this is part of my workspace. I showed a pic of a model, and some people were impressed more with the wall in the background. It looks nice, but it needs to be changed.

Workspace sorting is a necessary evil in building. The big trick is to figure out how precise you want to be. Other factors play a part in this too, such as what themes you build in. I have seen workshops that had a million parts placed in drawers that were sorted by color and unique parts. In Billund, they have drawers that have compartments for every part, and they take up walls of space. In other places in the LEGO Group, there are walls of bins with parts. Each place has an overall plan to their organization so builders can find and get what they want easily.

For a beginning builder, the first question to answer is: What do you want to build? Building castles is different from building spaceships, so what you keep at close hand will be different. Here's some general examples of parts and colors used by different themes:

Space: greys, plates, 1 stud width bricks, specialty pieces
Town: primary colors, tan, grey, bricks 1 and 2 wide, chairs, doors, windows
Castle: greys, castle walls, bricks,
Micro: specialty parts, plates

Your theme specialty will determine what needs to be in the priority areas of your workspace. After all, you don't want to waste time looking for a part. My original plan was meant for making spaceships, so plates and detail parts were front and center. But my collection outgrew what I started with...

This is what has become of my 1 x 2 plates. Not useful for quick building, so I gotta fix this....


Shelves are the easiest way to organize. The wall behind my work area has these, and you can get them at Wal-Mart or Home Depot for under $20.

The more drawers you have, the more precise you can be. This can be very helpful - if you take a look at the shelf above, you'll see that I go from smallest to largest plates : 1 x 2, 2 x 3, 2 x 4, 2 x 6, 2 x 8. Larger plates are at the bottom drawer. You'll also notice that I place more than one color in each drawer. I'd do that to minimize drawers, or else I would have many more shelves!

Now, remember that drawer of 1 x 2 plates? You can make things much easier and faster by putting them in drawers, like so:

The most important thing in building is knowing where your parts are, and a shelf is a good start!

As you buy more parts, you're going to max out the drawers though. One thing I did was keep some Bionicle containers for storage:

That way, I can see the parts, the containers stack, and I can get the parts out relatively quickly.

Next size up is a shoebox:

I have a shelf for these beside my workspace. And after that, I have double shoeboxes, mostly for bricks :

The problem I have now is that the parts I use often are not in the shelf, but in the shoeboxes. I need to make room in the shelves I have for those parts.

I also have some plastic containers for some specialty parts. Keep in mind that you want your most used parts close and in front of you.

Questions? Comments? Builders are encouraged to talk about their organization for their elements. Everyone has a different style of building and sorting, so take note!

I'll answer these questions, but also send me questions about building. I will post the answers here. Hope to hear from y'all soon!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad