LEGO Sorting

I am in the process of changing the LEGO sorting scheme I had as a child to something better. These are my thoughts and experiences on how to organize LEGO. The general goal is to sort by both type and color; that is, for each type, have several bins, but not one for each color. For a discussion about performing the sort, check out how to Sorting LEGO Faster.

View the results here or continue reading to see how I got there.

To give you some perspective, the size of my collection is about 50,000 pieces, not including the pieces used in my Capitol Project.

Contents

Ideas

A collection of links to other LEGO sorting pages I found insightful.

* I would strongly recommend this sorting method for those who have a smaller collection of LEGO, but one where sorting by color is not enough. Presumably if you had dozens of sets or around 10,000 pieces. The method I will be using is heavily influenced by this scheme.

Summary: sorting by color is not generally helpful as tiny parts are hard to find. Sorting by type means you must bring out many, many bins to make a project. In general, I am applying this method to a sub-set of my parts that I am using for my Nebraska State Capitol Project, see the Case Study section below.

Old Way

I have had my LEGO sorted for a long time, but they have been sorted largely by color. Thus all my gray bricks (all shades) have been in a single large tub, same for the other colors. This makes it especially hard to find small parts of a given color. Each color was stored in its own drawer. One plus to this method is that it is very easy to sort (which is half the battle). This is step 7 in Evad's post. I have been stuck at step 8 for a while.

Aside from color, I have also sorted out a few other categories:

  • Baseplates
  • Tiles
  • Wheels
  • Clear + Windows
  • Minifigs, animals and their hand-held accessories
  • Technic parts have had their own sorting scheme that will not be covered here

New Way

This is a work in progress (both in theory and execution). The general concept is to sort by piece type, but only combine a few colors at a time. For example, put all the blue and yellow 2xN bricks in the same tub. Referencing back to Remy's post, my goal is probably step 13 or step 14 - with the large pile of stuff waiting to be sorted lying in my brick sorters (see Hardware).

Ideally, I would like to bring out as few bins as possible for any creation. I would also like to complete my sort too! I do not have enough pieces to sort by type and color.

Hardware

I have been purchasing 6 quart clear Sterilite containers when they go on sale (see image below). Drawers are more expensive, but you must provide your own shelf-space for containers. These containers are about $1 a piece on sale or in bulk.

Clear Sterilite Container

Clear Sterilite Container

I also have the draws I have had since I was a child. I have 3 that are multi-gallon size, half dozen gallon sized square, three gallon sized flat and a half dozen smaller ones. I plan on using these for less used parts.

The larger your containers are, the more general your catagories must be. Sorting by exact part requires hundreds of small bins as there are hundreds of parts.

I own two tiered LEGO sorters:

Tiered LEGO Sorters: Box 4 Blox (left) and Sort & Store (right)

Tiered LEGO Sorters: Box 4 Blox (left) and Sort & Store (right)

I plan on using one of these as my unsorted bucket (when it gets full, time to sort again) and use the other one to sort my bins while building. For instance, I would dump my 1xN bricks in to get find the 2xN ones faster; then dump the sorter back into the bin when I have all of those little ones.

For what it is worth, I like the official LEGO Sort & Store better than the Box 4 Blox, though the Box 4 Blox does hold more.

Now seems like a good point to describe the area I have available for storing and working with my LEGO. I have got one half of the large room in our basement. This gives me two walls and roughly 8x12 sqft of floor space. I do have some shelves and tables to use for storage and I have a separate table for working on they LEGO. This table used to be a flat door; my father made it for me years ago (best Dad ever!). In my first childhood home, I even had my own LEGO room.

Sorting by Part

My initial plan is to sort the following parts into containers and combine just a few colors per container:

  • 1x1 plates and bricks, including those with clips
  • SNOT (Studs Not On Top)
  • 1xN Bricks
  • 2xN Bricks
  • 1xN Plates
  • 2xN Plates
  • MxN Plates
  • Slopes
  • Arches/Tiles
  • Everything else - See The Rest below

As bins fill up, I will have two options. My first one is to separate on size. 2x2 and 2x3 brick separate from the other 2xN bricks, for example. The second is to sort out the colors. I like the first approach because it seems to be a natural extension, but if I use my LEGO sorters when I am searching, this may not be an issue.

Sorting by Color

My plan is to combine the following colors (Bricklink color IDs shown, names are my own):

  1. Blue (7) Yellow (3) Orange (4)

  2. Red (5) White (1) Medium Blue (42) Dark Blue (63)

  3. Old Gray Light (9) Old Gray Dark (10) Old Brown (36) Green (6)

  4. Light Bley (86) Dark Bley (85) New Brown (88) Lime Green (34)

  5. Tan (2) Black (11) Sand Blue (55) Brick Red (59)

  6. Transparent

  7. The rest

The ten most common colors are: Black [23] White [13] Red [12] Old Gray Light [9] Yellow [9] Blue [8] Light Bley [6] Dark Bley [5] Green [2] Old Gray Dark [2] -Peeron - Where [N] is relative quantity.

In general, I have tried to group the colors by contrast as well as those I would likely use together. Using the common colors charts, my main color combinations should be approximately weighted as: 19, 25, 13, 13, and 24; which is fairly even.

I have had a bit of a hiccup in telling the old (light) gray from the new one (bluish gray or bley). I am sure there are a few in the wrongs bins. After installing LED lights, telling the difference is much easier. In general, better light helps. One useful tip has been to take out a bley plate and put your other bricks on it to compare. The best way, I have found, is this: sort until you only have all light gray bricks in a (clear) container, then hold the container under a light and shake it around. Keep track of the bley bricks (assuming you have more old gray); if you can track them moving, they are probably bley. The old darker gray and dark bley are easier for me to tell apart.

A bit of history on bley is an interesting reading. TLG has said the these colors are [untouchable](http://news.lugnet.com/general/?n=47365: red, green, blue, yellow, white, black, light bley, dark bley, new brown. The LEGO Color Palette for 2010 is here. Either way, it seems the colors are going to remains somewhat stable for a bit. My bins of 'other' colors account nicely for sorting those rare pieces; we will see how easy finding is sometime later.

The Rest

The remaining parts of each color will be sorted as follows:

  • Baseplates
  • Wheels
  • Doors
  • Windows
  • Big ugly rock pieces
  • Castle wall pieces (gray and black containers)
  • Printed Pieces
  • Minifigures - possibly by theme - this way I can include accessories. Castle will be its own for sure.
  • Remaining Small parts
  • Remaining Medium parts
  • Remaining Large parts

The remaining parts are as sorted by tiered sorters. They will likely include parts that belong in the other groups. I plan on all parts larger than a 1x2 plate to be in the medium container and above.

Enumeration

If you put all of that together, you get the following:

Type\Color ______ ________ ________ ________ ________ The Rest
1x1 xxxxx
1xN Bricks xxxxx
2xN Bricks xxxxx
1xN Plates xxxxx
2xN Plates xxxxx
MxN Plates xxxxx
SNOT xxxxx
Slopes xxxxx
Arches/Tiles xxxxx
Rest Small xxxxxx
Rest Medium xxxxxx
Rest Large xxxxxx

The Rest (Bins)
All Metallic
Windows
Tiles
Trees
Transparent Bricks
Transparent Plates
Transparent Round Pieces
Wheels
Animals
Castle Minifigures and accessories
Other Minifigures and accessories
Gray Castle Wall Pieces
Black Castle Wall Pieces
Wooden Wall Pieces


The Rest (Small containers)
Flower Stems
Flower Petals
Transparent Round Pieces

The Rest (Large containers)
Green Baseplates
Other Baseplates
Big Ugly Rock Pieces

That gives a total of 12x6 - 9 + 14 = 77 bins, plus other small and large containers as well as Technic pieces.

Adjustments

I have made the following adjustments and I have been sorting.

Color Scarcity

I did not have enough of the following colors to find them in the their tubs:

Pink (23) Dark Green (80) Dark Tan (69) Purple (24)

They are now in the the rest bin.

Arch Scarcity

I do not have near as many arches outside of the black and gray colors as I expected to have.

A solution would to place all the curvy pieces into a bin. This would include arches, rounded slopes and macaroni pieces. I have settled on just adding the bows.

Tile Abundance

I previously had all tiles in one drawer. This made finding the smaller tiles quite difficult. I have since put them inside smaller containers (ones from Target gift-cards) inside of the arch bin.

SNOT Adjustments

I will be putting my technic bricks inside the SNOT containers. I do not have too many SNOT bricks, but I still think keeping them separate will be beneficial.

Intra-Bin Separation

I do not have a nice way to sort items within bins. I am not sure how necissary this is though. Using smaller, clear trays with lids (Target gift-card boxes) is working so far, but I do not have many of them.

I am using Plastic bags for my [other project ](#Case Study) and they work well, but seem a little sloppy. They are cheap and clear.

Update: I am still struggling with this. Plastic bags are ok, but get in the way more than the other containers do. When it comes down to it, having one or two inner containers (bags or boxes) is tollerable, but more than this gets in the way.

I have bought a few bead boxes to help sort the bins that had many sub-sections.

Future Sections

At this time, I do not have the need to sub divide the following parts, but they seem like good sections.

  • Car Parts
  • Fences
  • Rounds
  • Panels
  • Bars and/or Clips
  • Hinges

Case Study

For my Nebraska State Capitol Project I am buying most of my pieces. This means I have the ability to easily sort them as I receive them and they are limited in scope. There are very few colors I need; the bulk of them are tan. I have them divided into the following eight bins:

  • Tan 1xN Bricks
  • Tan 2xN Bricks
  • Tan Plates and Tiles: Inside of the tub, I have a few small zip-lock bags for the small parts
  • Tan specialty: (everything that is not a brick, plate or tile)
  • Windows
  • Black bricks and gray plates: **: Black bricks are for putting behind the windows; Gray plates are for the roof
  • Decorative: non-tan specialty parts
  • Unseen: bricks and plates used for the inner structure - all colors
  • Baseplates: not in a bin; this are just sitting separately until they are required

Overall, this has been working quite well. I only need eight tubs, and can often get along with three or four 'on top' - thus giving me extra table space.

Result

While this endevor is still in progress, I have completed much of the work and have built a few MOCs.

First, using one of the tiered sorters as the 'to be sorted' bucket has worked great. When it starts to get full, it only takes about an hour or two to go through it.

The actual sorting is described in the image below. Pieces are sorted by part and grouped by contrasting color.

Sorting Scheme

Sorting Scheme


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