In a previous episode had a glimpse of the famous co-host of Mythbusters, Adam Savage, building a storage solution for keeping his LEGO elements organised. The followup to that project is to get some actual sorting to be done. In this episode, Adam sorts his LEGO elements by colours and that approach works for him and his modest collection.
Adam Savage, famously one of the co-hosts of Mythbusters, is known to have a penchant for thorough sorting and storage solutions, keeping his (very full) maker workshop meticulously organized. He frequently extolls the virtues of an efficient workspace on his YouTube channel, Tested, as he goes about building recreations of various movie props and other nerdy DIY projects. But what’s less well known is that Adam is also an avid AFOL (or Adult Fan of LEGO), and consequently, his needs for organization extend beyond shop tools and construction supplies. Adam’s latest video delves into a topic that’s extremely familiar to us: sorting LEGO.
Here at The Brothers Brick, we’ve also been doing a series of articles on sorting, since so many of us find ourselves with extra free time lately due to the stay-at-home orders in many locales. Everyone’s system is different, since it should be designed to fit your needs. Adam’s system is similar to my own, starting with color first and then dividing out in part type, with the occasional diversion to sorting some elements by pure functionality with no regard for color. Many builders have other methods, though, so be sure to check out our article series to learn more about LEGO sorting.
- Storage and building in small spaces: a look at LEGO organization with guest contributor Kevin Moses [Feature]
- It takes all sorts of sorts: LEGO organization and me, Chris Doyle [Feature]
- How to organise and sort your LEGO collection, by the Mad Physicist [Feature]
Adam, being the ultimate DIY-er, though, doesn’t just stop at sorting, but takes it to the next level with a custom-built storage cabinet as well.
Check out the full video below. Continue reading
Continuing our series on LEGO organization and storage, guest contributor Kevin Moses shows us that maintaining a collection in a small space doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Read the previous articles here:
- How to organise and sort your LEGO collection, by the Mad Physicist
- It takes all sorts of sorts: LEGO organization and me, Chris Doyle
Those of us who live in smaller urban spaces have limitations and considerations that are more pronounced than people with larger houses. While any space can be optimized and organized, we must do this more out of necessity than desire. Since many of us are stuck at home, it’s a great time to think about how you can make things better.
I’ve given a few presentations on this topic at conventions and started the Urban Brick Builder website to collect ideas that come up.
So, let’s start by putting things into context. One of my most vivid childhood memories is lying on a thick shag carpet, watching Battlestar Galactica, and being super frustrated that the clone brand LEGO that my parents had bought for me didn’t have the fine detail I needed to build Colonial Vipers. I remember swearing to myself that if I made it to adulthood, I would buy enough LEGO to fill a room. So, eventually, I did.
But a collection like this comes at a cost. And I don’t mean just that official LEGO product is on the expensive side. It eats up space, and time, and quite a few additional purchases just to keep things organized. So, in a vain attempt to justify this non-trivial investment, let me show you around and share my sorting process. C’mon. It’ll be fun!
With a lot of people holed up in their homes, as a result of stay-at-home orders to reduce the spread of COVID-19, The Brothers Brick has been getting questions on how to best organise one’s LEGO collection. There are obviously many different ways to do this. These range from not organising it at all, via sorting elements by colour or type, to giving every type of element in every different colour a separate container. The latter is seen by some people as the “ultimate” or “most advanced” sorting solution. A behind-the-scenes discussion among our contributors revealed that we all have somewhat different sorting systems. So, for those of you staring at a large pile of random unsorted LEGO, we’ll be sharing our ideas in a few feature articles. We’ll also go into the process of cleaning and sorting your LEGO.
In this installment, we kick off with our very own Builder in Residence, Ralph Savelsberg aka Mad physicist.
There are some individuals who find sorting LEGO pieces therapeutic, but most of us loathe the task. And there are entirely non-LEGO machines that could do it, although what fun is that? Some people have tried to use LEGO to build sorting machines, yet their limitations have been quickly apparent. Enter Daniel West and his incredible Universal LEGO Sorting Machine! This baby uses Artificial Intelligence, with the most extensive index to date, to sort parts at a speedy one brick every 2 seconds!
The quote above is from The Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde and it’s the epigraph for The Ideal Order, a recently published novel written by Christoph Bartneck. (You can find my review of this book on Goodreads.) The story is centered around the life of a troubled AFOL (Adult Fan of LEGO) named Rob, who, like all builders before him, eventually realizes that his LEGO collection is virtually useless when stored in one big cardboard box and thus sets out on a quest to find (you guessed it) “the ideal order” for sorting his LEGO collection. (Spoiler alert! No such order truly exists.) I sympathize with Rob’s predicament, because I’ve been there. There’s nothing worse than trying to build an old set by fishing pieces out of the rainbow-colored abyss of plastic that is an unsorted box of LEGO. So we sort.
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.
I have always been the first one to admit that I have an intense fear of sorting LEGO elements. Spiders? Confined spaces? Heights? HA! I laugh in their faces!! But you set a big ol’ pile of random ABS in front of me with some empty drawer units and I start to hyperventilate, my palms start sweating and I get all twitchy.
Well, ok maybe I am just a lazy procrastinator who would rather play with LEGO than organize it, but I am still going to play the sortophobia card.
But there is light at the end of this cluttered tunnel…yesterday I took my first steps on the road to my sorted recovery. But before I get into that, I will give you a bit of a background.
When my wife and I moved into our house, I attempted for the first time to sort my LEGO. But like the rookie that I was I made a crucial mistake and sorted my entire collection by colour. It was hard enough to find a yellow headlight brick in a giant bin of bricks, let alone trying to find one in the bottom of a drawer that only contained yellow elements. So basically my three or four weeks of sorting were wasted and I started re-sorting it all into part type to better fit my style of building. Well that was 8 years ago and I haven’t really stopped sorting since. I would say that about 2 years ago I was approximately 85-90% fully sorted and organized. And I have been on a steady decline since.
Fast forward to 2013 and things got really bad. I hit my rock bottom. Readers may remember my AFOL’s guide to having a newborn. In particular point #1. I have learned over the preceding 10 months, that #1 is #1 for a very good reason! I didn’t really slow down the level of production of my builds, but my efficiency with build time had certainly been affected. Then I just became really lazy and made zero effort to stay organized. My LEGO collection basically became an un-useable mess of cluttered drawers and overflowing shelves. It took ages to build a simple model and believe it or not, it even started to take the fun out of building.
Well 2014 is a new year, and I intend to get my butt organized! Not only to increase the ease of building, but also for my wife’s sanity. We now have three, going on 4, LEGO maniacs in our house and I can only see this getting worse if I don’t nip it in the bud now. So that is where my steps on the road to recovery come in. What were they you ask? Simple. I dumped everything into a big ass tub.
And I have to say, it felt really good to do that. For the first time in 8 years, I am actually looking forward to sorting. It’s a brand new year and my future is looking bright and organized!
26.5 kg (58.5 lbs.) of un-sorted LEGO never looked so good!
Dave says, “One of the biggest hassles involved with building with Lego is sorting. Oh sure, I could keep all my bricks in a big tub, but it’s easer to work with them if they’re sorted. Fortunately, there are all kinds of gadgets and gizmos you can use to more easily sort bricks by size. Unfortunately, I mostly sort by color, and there isn’t an easy way to do that.”
Thankfully, Dave invented the Brick Sorter, a device that uses symbols written on glossy cardboard and a simple shake of an Amazon.com box to pull the target color out of the unsorted mess.
Hard to believe? I thought so too, until I saw the video:
Read all about it on Dave Ex Machina.
The BrickIt team in Denmark has built a robotic system to sort LEGO bricks. The “Dynaway Sorting Plant” uses 28 Mindstorms NXT motors, 7 processors, 4 color sensors, and 14 touch sensors, and took over 250 hours of programming time plus 800 hours to build. The result is an amazing system that separates 2×4 and 1×2 bricks by both shape and color and then moves the pallets full of sorted bricks.
Read more about the sorting machine on BrickIt.dk.