Tag Archives: Sorting

Here’s how Adam Savage does LEGO sorting and storage [News]

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.

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

Storage and building in small spaces: a look at LEGO organization with guest contributor Kevin Moses [Feature]

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:

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.

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It takes all sorts of sorts: LEGO organization and me, Chris Doyle [Feature]

Continuing our series on LEGO organization and sorting, contributor Chris Doyle invites you on a tour of his workspace and processes.

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.

Workspace (better lighting)

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!

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How to organise and sort your LEGO collection, by the Mad Physicist [Feature]

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.

Click to read more about how Ralph sorts his LEGO collection

World’s first AI-powered LEGO sorting machine built with 10,000 LEGO bricks [Exclusive Feature]

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!

Watch a video of the sorting machine in action!

To be highly organized is, I should fancy, the object of man’s existence: 5 tips for keeping your LEGO collection sorted [Essay]

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.

Sorting MOC
The possibilities are endless when deciding how to sort a LEGO collection and what’s right for one person is not going to be right for another. However, there are certainly some agreed upon standards that most builders share when sorting. For example, sorting by color alone just doesn’t cut it. On the other hand, it’s nearly impossible to have a separate space for each unique piece. So what is the best method?

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.

Continue reading

I’m a recovering Sortophobe. [Editorial]

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!

2014 - Year of the Big Sort [Day 1]

Time-lapse sorting of 100 Lego sets

Rymdreglage, the creator of 8-bit trip, recently announced the making of 8-bit trip 2. Anyone who has undertaken a large Lego project will also know the tedious process of sorting. 71 hours later and this video was made.

Via Toys N Bricks

Dave Lartigue invents automatic LEGO sorting box [April Fool’s]

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.

LEGO brick sorter

Hard to believe? I thought so too, until I saw the video:

Read all about it on Dave Ex Machina.

LEGO sorting machine built from LEGO

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.

Q&A with Bricklink sellers

If you’ve been a LEGO builder or collector long enough, chances are you’ve bought from Bricklink or at least heard of the website that’s been referred to as the eBay of LEGO. You may have also wondered what it’s like to be one of Bricklink’s many big-time sellers. In this article we invited four of the biggest sellers in the US to answer questions about their selling experiences. We’ll kick off this Q&A with a self-introduction by each seller on the panel.

Plastic Bricks Direct (BL PBD): Plastic Bricks Direct is a privately held company with one mission, to bring LEGO brick products direct to your door. We pride ourselves on friendly customer service, and having one of the largest selections of parts to choose from.

Missing Brick (BL MB): My store on Bricklink started in March of 2001 initially to sell used surplus pieces I had no use for. A few years later, I also started selling new pieces from sets I bought for my own use, and again later I started also selling sets. About 2 years ago, I almost completely did away with selling used pieces, the only used pieces I am selling nowadays are either rather rare pieces, or minifigure/minifigure-related, as well as some old used complete sets.

Toy Brick Brigade (BL TBB): We are a family-run business, our inventory and the main part of the operation is in North Texas. Payments are processed in Idaho, so it can be confusing for customers sometimes, but it works well for us. We are grateful to be able to make a living from home, working for ourselves, and doing something we enjoy.

Brick-A-Thon (BL BAT): Brick-A-Thon, Inc., is a Florida based business comprised of Tracy & Chris Dale who are both AFOL’s. Tracy loves Fabuland, Star Wars and Technic sets, primarily, while Chris really likes the Exo-Force line, Sponge Bob and minifigs (and loves the new Collectible Series). They also collect shot glasses, baseball cards, baseball memorabilia, are avid Tampa Bay Rays fans, and Chris was born and raised a Cheesehead (Packers fan). They are hoping to attend at least one LEGO Event this year, but haven’t determined which, yet.

How did you decide to become a Bricklink seller?

BL PBD: I originally came to Bricklink as a buyer to complete some old sets. I was extremely frustrated to have to buy a minimum of $5, $10, or $20 worth of parts when I only needed one 5 cent part, even though I was willing to pay shipping/handling to get it. I knew I was not the only one who was willing to spend a few bucks on shipping to get a 5 cent part. I opened our store with that basic premise of letting people purchase what/how much they want, and the rest is, well, you know.

BL MB: I started out as a LEGO train collector. I was buying lots of unsorted parts on eBay to complete my childhood models. Once I stumbled on Bricklink, I mainly used Bricklink for my purchases, and after a few months, I signed up to sell the pieces I did no longer need or want. I started building MOCs, and needed more bricks, so I bought more, and had more leftovers, and my store grew.

BL TBB: Lego is fun, and seemed to sell pretty quickly. It seemed like a great business to get into, so we gave it a shot.

BL BAT: I came out of the “Dark Ages” at the age of 33 and discovered BrickLink. I started buying and then realized I could sell off the parts I didn’t need on BrickLink to help fund my hobby – that’s how it all began, and it snowballed from there. Chris joined the store officially in 2007.

Is it your full-time job? Do you hire others to help you?

BL PBD: Yes, I spend about 60-70 hours a week staying on top of it, and it is also a full time job for a handful of other people. After a year of begging, I was able to convince my wife to leave her full time professional job with a nation-wide employer to join me as our COO. We have two other full time employees and a handful of part-time staff. By the end of 2011 our goal is to have 10 full time staff running various functions throughout our organization.

BL MB: No, this is purely a hobby for me. I have a great regular job. I spend nearly all money I make from selling LEGO on Bricklink (unlike most other big Bricklink sellers, I only sell on Bricklink, nowhere else) to buy more bricks, I primarily sell to make money to buy the bricks I need for my models. I work alone, but have friends that do some sorting now and then.

BL TBB: Yes, it is our full time job. We have had hired help in the past, but not right now.

BL BAT: Yes, this is a full time job for both Chris and me, and we have employed “Contract Workers” (friends) to assist at times with sorting and odd jobs, but we don’t have anyone full or part time that we keep on staff.

Where do you get your inventory?

BL PBD: LEGO, and a handful of other distributors. You’d think one could go straight to LEGO and be constantly supplied, and I guess if it were that easy then there would be much more competition.

BL MB: The bulk of my inventory comes from buying sets on sale at local stores, such as Target, Meijer, Toys’R’us, and Walmart, or when LEGO Shop at Home has good deals, I buy there too. In addition, since last year we have a LEGO store in Columbus, and I often buy inventory from sets on sale or Pick-a-Brick items.

BL TBB: Wherever we can. People email us wanting to sell their collection, or we find them on eBay.

BL BAT: We buy primarily from retail stores, LEGO Shop at Home, the LEGO Store in Downtown Disney, eBay, BrickLink and individuals looking to sell their collections.

Where is everything stored and how are things organized?

BL PBD: We currently have a completely stuffed 2,500 square foot warehouse, by the end of January we will have double that space! Sealed sets are stored in isles of Gorilla racks, and all of the parts are stored inside plastic bags or drawer liners, and then stored inside drawers. It’s like a hardware store stocked with LEGO.

BL MB: I have all items for sale stored in my basement. I have parts in zip-loc bags, stored in stackable drawers. Sets I have on storage racks. Nothing is labeled, so I rely on memory, and somewhat of a system, to find the parts. I keep related parts together, so all tiles are closer to other tiles, all bricks close to other bricks.

BL TBB: We have a 1,200 sq ft shop building next to the house. We have our own inventory system, and custom shelves to store everything.

BL BAT: We have product in our house in 3 rooms at one end which are the Office, Pulling Room and Sorting Room. We also have a storage unit on our property to hold sets and overflow product. Most everything we need for orders is in one room (in bins/bags) with some items (sets, mostly) in the office. There’s also product being sorted in the “Sorting Room”, of course. We’re thinking as we keep growing we’ll need to get another storage unit since we can’t easily expand the house.

What’s the most time-consuming aspect of selling?

BL PBD: Picking and packing. Sure, you could just throw all of the pieces in a bag or two and call it good ala LEGO Online PAB, however we take a more meticulous approach. Parts are organized and packaged neatly so that when you receive your order you can go right to building, not more sorting.

BL MB: Most time consuming is picking the orders. Especially those high lot counts with large variety, I have to go all over the basement to pick 1 here, 1 there. Because the large variety of buyers and orders, and the occasional inability to swiftly locate a part, I spend 80% of my time on 20% of the orders, and often within an order, I’ll spend 80% of my time on 20% of the order. Parting out sets for sale takes time too, so I only do that when I have at least 10 of the same set.

BL TBB: Most time consuming? Probably either the sorting process, or pulling orders that have many many lots.

BL BAT: Parting out sets, sorting product and counting/preparing it for sale – and then listing it all; that and the bookkeeping.

What do you think makes your store successful?

BL PBD: Friendly customer service, expeditious processing on every order, no limit purchasing, and having a large inventory with very competitive prices.

BL MB: Reliability, and a serious attitude. I ship orders quick, because that is how I would want my own order shipped. I pack my order well, because that how I would want my own order packed. I hardly ever have a backlog, I ship 99% of all orders out within 24 hours of payment. If you look at my customer base, I have a low percentage of first time buyers, but have a very high percentage of seasoned AFOLs. I am not always the cheapest, but consider myself one of the fastest and most reliable sellers, and that gets me much repeat business (that and that all repeat customers always get a coupon for use with their next order).

BL TBB: We try to have a great selection, a big variety and quantity of parts. We also try to be as quick as we can.

BL BAT: Two words: Customer Service – That’s what makes any business a success, is good, solid customer service. If you don’t make sure you have happy customers, you won’t have any coming back. We back that up with continually adding new and different items which is essential to draw people in.

Do you build with the bricks you have?

BL PBD: Not with anything that is kept at the warehouse as that is property of the business. I have a room at home that is used for play. If I want parts to use I have to buy them!

BL MB: Absolutely. I sell mainly so I can buy bricks to build with. As a builder, I like to build large structures, like skyscrapers, and I have build several in which I used over 30,000 pieces. I recently finished my largest MOC ever. Once I have that completely finished, and populated, it will be over 1 million bricks (actually mainly plates and tiles)

BL TBB: Not with our actual inventory, but yes, we do build occasionally, either with the kids or on our own.

BL BAT: Yes! I try not to take too much from store stock, but sometimes I see something and my brain gets going and I decide that not only do I need what we have in stock but I also have to go and buy a ton more on BrickLink. I have at least 4 projects in the process of being built right now. Chris has a passion for making up new minifigs with the parts we have and displaying them in the office.

What is something that you think most people don’t know about being a big-time Bricklink seller?

BL PBD: The amount of time that needs to be devoted to run a successful operation. Contrary to popular opinion it is NOT a get rich quick scheme.

BL MB: Particularly for me, for all my LEGO related activities, I would say I am an AFOL first, and Bricklink seller a distant second. Most probably see me as a seller that does this to make money, but if you see what I build, you know my true passion is being an AFOL.

BL BAT: That we really don’t make very much money. A lot of people think that we’re making hand over fist but we’re just scraping by, and we do it because we love the product. People don’t realize just how much work it takes to make a store like this function on a daily basis. I know I didn’t have a clue when I started and if we weren’t passionate about this then Brick-A-Thon wouldn’t still be in existence.