Ask A Lemur – Sorting, Joining a LUG & the Founding of the Blog

Merry Christmas, Dearest Readers!

It’s the TBB Lemur Intern here, once again, to answer your questions and be your window into the deepest, darkest reaches of the LEGO hobby. Well, that and candy canes, cookies and all the other yummy bits that people keep leaving about. Such a scrumptious time of year! I’m loving everybody! Caylin let me lick the bowl after she made her world famous fudge and Ralph needed a guinea pig for his egg-nog experiment. I said I didn’t know any guinea pigs so he said I would have to do. It was really yummy! Not sure what the experiment was, but as long as he turns out delicious nog, I’m happy.

Oh, I have a bit of news. There is now a Lemur button on the sidebar! If you want to ask me a question, just click on it and leave a comment in the most recent ‘Ask A Lemur’ post. There is also a bit of delay in the Lemur Loot. Once it gets here, the mail room gnomes will gather all the addresses and get caught up on the backlog.

On to your questions!

How do you sort your Lego collection? And what ways of sorting have you found work best for which styles of building?

That is a great question! It is also not an easy question to answer because everyone sorts a little bit differently. There are two main ways though. Sorting by color and sorting by piece. Many fans first begin by sorting their collections by color.

The problem with that is once all your pieces are in bins of the same color, it is really hard to pick out the pieces you need because everything sort of blurs together. So most builders then move onto some version of sorting by piece. The problem there is that there are so many different pieces you can spend the rest of your life sorting your collection in the various pieces.

A good way to start is to do what many call a “rough sort”. Figure out what kinds of pieces you use most and separate them from the mass of pieces you don’t use. Then you can sort those into similar categories. If you have a lot of the same pieces, you might want to sort those by color. Some do and some don’t. I’m sure other readers will chime in and talk about the specifics of how they sort.

Personally, I sort my collection by taste. It takes a very keen set of taste buds but it’s totally worth it.

What do you think is a good age to join a LUG?

Like most things, it depends on the individual LEGO User Group (LUG). Some only allow adults, but if your local LUG allows minors, I would recommend that you be at least in your teens and to take a parent or guardian with you. Most LUGs that allow minors also require a parent or guardian to be present at the meetings.

The majority of LUGs are designed for adults and meetings are set up accordingly. A mature and responsible teen might fit in but some may not. Check with your local LUG and/or talk with members and see what age they allow or recommend for their group. My local Lemur LUG allows members of any age but we are unusual in that respect. Plus we only have one member.

TBB will be ten years old in 2015, an incredible acheivment for any blog. How was TBB founded and how has the blog grown and changed over the years?

Wow, you are a fan! Not many people have realized that the blog will be ten years old next year. It was originally Andrew’s personal blog but he asked Josh to help build it into something more and The Brothers Brick was created. There have been many great contributors over the years, who have all helped make TBB what it is today. If you click the “About” menu, it lists all the contributors, past and present. We currently have the largest group of contributors ever and it is awesome having such a diverse range of people and experience to draw upon.

Some things have changed and some things haven’t. The blog was started in order to highlight the best work of the LEGO fan community and to present that work to the non-LEGO world at large. We are still doing that. We have added other things over the years. Some features have stayed, while others have gone away. We are constantly trying to improve ourselves and experimenting with how we do things. Nothing is set in stone, except that we have no intention of going away and will always feature the best models and creations we can find.

Thanks you all, once again, for your questions and I will see you all next week! Have a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

5 comments on “Ask A Lemur – Sorting, Joining a LUG & the Founding of the Blog

  1. AK_brickster

    Here is one of my favorite LEGO articles of all time, by our good friend Remy over on lugnet (http://news.lugnet.com/storage/?n=707):

    Here’s a description of an evolution of lego collection sorting. It might
    be yours, at least in parts. It’s certainly been mine.

    I might turn this into an essay some day, but for now it will have to begin
    life as a series of unsupported claims. If you have any comments or
    additions, toss’em in.

    The Evolution of Lego Sorting
    —————————–
    Let’s assume you start your lego collection like most of us did: with one
    set.

    1. You don’t sort your Lego. You just keep them in the box they came in.

    (Then, over time, you get another set, then another, then another.
    And your pile of bricks grows. How do you cope?)

    2. You start sorting your Lego. You sort it by set.

    (Your collection grows.)

    3. You give up on individual set boxes and toss all your Lego in a big
    storage bin or a Lego denim bag, or a couple of your large set boxes. You
    become very familiar with the sound of someone digging through large bricks
    looking for a 1×1 transparent red plate.

    (Your collection grows.)

    4. You begin to sort your Lego by category: normal-looking bricks in one
    set box, other pieces in another box.

    (And grows.)

    5. Ok, you realize you actually have to sort it. You decide to sort the
    obvious way: by color.

    (And grows.)

    6. You keep sorting by color, but you get pickier about how you do it,
    and you start filtering out by type for the first time: probably the
    first things you sort out by type are minifigs and wheels. You realize
    you already had baseplates sorted out separately.

    (Let’s just assume at this point that between every paragraph, your
    keep adding lego to your collection.)

    7. You cave in and actually get a storage system. Maybe it’s rubbermaid
    bins, or piles of blue buckets, or fishing tackle boxes, or ziplocks. But
    now you’ve got a system.

    8. You grow weary of digging through all the yellow bricks looking for that
    one specialized yellow piece somewhere in 2 cubic feet of yellow. But you
    think of how much work it’s going to take to split by part and you don’t do
    it.

    9. Sorting becomes difficult enough that you decide, in some cases, not to
    break some sets down and put them in your main pile of lego… instead, you
    store them as a set, because that set is so cool just the way it is. (Ok,
    so this set is from the 80s…) The pieces for that set are either in their
    box, or in a ziplock or something. Congratulations, you’ve just invented
    Set Archiving, and now you have two ways you store your Lego: broken down
    by parts, and archived by set.

    10. You give up and decide to sort your parts by type rather than by color.
    You go get more bins or tackle boxes or whatever your container of choice
    is, you dedicate an evening or a weekend or a month to it, and you split by
    type.

    11. You have now invented your own Lego categorization system. You have no
    doubt separated out bricks, plates, wheels, minifigs, slopes, and so on,
    but you’ve also clumped “things with curves” together, and doors and
    windshields together. You also have a category called “misc”. Your
    categories, amazingly, don’t look much like the LDraw categories.

    12. You realize you have piles of stuff that don’t fit easily into the
    categorization system: RCX bricks, train track, those huge A-shaped
    pieces, monorial supports, and rubber bands. You get a different sized
    drawer system for stuff like that.

    13. Your collection is now clearly housed in many different types of
    containers ranging from buckets to drawers to bins to individual tackle box
    components.

    14. You begin to develop large piles of lego in various states of being
    sorted, i.e:
    the sorted stuff
    the stuff you’ve kinda sorted and is ready to be put away
    piles of lego you aren’t going to sort because you think you’ll use
    it all to build something else anyway
    lego sorted some other way than the way you sorted into drawers to see
    if this way works better than that way did
    your building projects
    your new boxes of lego, some opened, some not
    oh, and let’s not forget your various models and MOCs

    15. You begin to develop strong opinions on Plano vs. Stak-On and
    Rubbermaid vs. Sterilite.

    16. The original categories you made begin to follow this life cycle:
    – They grow too large to fit into their container.
    – You divide the category into two categories in order to get them
    to fit into the containers… one for each category. (Now you
    have windshields, doors, and windows, each as a different category
    of pieces, each in their own containers.)
    – You store those subcategories together, but as parts of them become
    too numerous or too hard to find, you split them out. So your tackle
    boxes now have a different compartment for each type of door.
    You realize that at this point the endgame is that you will have a
    different compartment for every type of piece you have.

    16.5. Every once in a while, you open a drawer you haven’t opened in a
    while and discover that you’ve been sorting some piece into two separate
    places in your drawers. This throws your categorization for a loop.
    How exactly do you categorize the 1×2 plate with the little robot-looking
    thing on it? Oh no… partsref doesn’t have it either, augh!

    17. You rearrange your house so that you can fit your storage system into,
    hopefully, just one room.

    18. You give up on the “one compartment for every piece” theory because you
    can’t keep up with that. Instead, you start putting some of the similar
    things into shoebox-sized bins. The way you decide what to
    compartmentalize and what to put into bins together is to think about how
    long it takes to find an individual element. It’s ok to dig through a pile
    of windshields looking for the trans yellow blacktron hood. It’s not ok to
    dig through a pile of slopes looking for the specialized corner cap slope.

    18.5. You document your categories so you don’t get lost.

    19. You develop a multi-stage sorting system. It may take a piece several
    hops before it ends up in its final resting spot, but it’s a bit more
    efficient to sort this way, and you can do some of it while watching a
    video.

    20. Bizarrely enough, you actually give up and go back to sorting by color.
    Only this time, you sort by color after sorting by piece. So you now have
    a bin for yellow 1×3 plates, and a bin for black 1×3 plates, and so on.

    21. Finally you create an “overflow” system of buckets, where, if the bin
    of 1×3 yellow plates is full, you just any additional ones into that
    overflow bucket, along with other plates. (One of the first indicators that
    you should do this was that you didn’t have a compartment big enough to hold
    all your Lego horses…)

    22. You begin to toss most pieces directly into overflow.

    23. You now have what, to a stranger, would be a bizarre sorting system. You
    have some parts thrown together in bins by type. You have some parts split
    out with a separate bin for each part. You have some parts split out with
    a separate bin for each color. You even have some parts split out by how
    old they are: red 1x2s from the 60s, red 1x2s from the 70s, new red 1x2s
    that hold really well, and all the other red 1x2s. And you have an
    alphabetized pile of large buckets for the overflow pieces and another one
    for the 1st stage of sorting.

    23.5. That stranger would also think you were certifiably insane. Or at
    least retentive.

    24. You start looking for a new house. One with a large basement.

    25. Vision recognition becomes interesting to you.

    26. You begin to long for the day when you could sit at your desk and
    actually reach every piece you owned without getting up.

    27. You decide to keep a special set or two at your desk, away from the
    huge sorting system, just to play with a few great sets without having
    to sort them. And then you add another cool set. Pretty soon
    you’re digging through 3 inches of bricks trying to find that 1×1
    transparent red plate and you think about sorting your bricks…

    Of course, somewhere along the way, you probably quit buying just sets, and
    started to do things like:
    – Buy lego sets in bulk, to the point where you have 10s to 100s
    of unopened boxes.
    – Work on very large construction projects.
    – Acquire other people’s collections.
    – Run large auctions over the net.
    And those bring up entirely new sorting challenges…. but those won’t
    be written about tonight, at least not by me.

    -r’m

    Remy Evard / [email protected]

  2. bruce n h

    LOL – I was going to reference Remy’s Evolution of LEGO Sorting as well. It’s pretty much required reading for anyone taking their first steps into the madness of sorting.

    Technically this coming July is the 10th anniversary of Dunechaser’s Blocklog, and this coming December is the 10th anniversary of Pan-Pacific Bricks (a niche blog I really loved). May of 2016 is the 10th anniversary of the evolution into the Brothers-Brick.

    And yes, this makes me feel old.

  3. Andrew

    @Bruce: If the Japanese LEGO community was what it was in 2005, PPB would likely still exist as a separate entity. Unfortunately, that community was already fading a bit by the time we folded all the PPB posts (all of which still exist) into the TBB archive.

  4. Sirglub

    Hey Lemur,
    I’m trying to start a LUG(by that I mean tried and failed…). How should I go about doing it so that the LUG meetings don’t drag on and get boring?
    Thanks,
    Sir glub

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