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How would you recommend to sort your lego parts? Finding a certain part in a box with parts of about 20 models takes ages :) Should I sort by color? Or by size? Another category?

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get you brother/sister/cousin to sort them ;) –  tombull89 Oct 25 '11 at 21:33
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Worth a read: news.lugnet.com/storage/?n=707 –  Kramii Nov 8 '11 at 14:35
    
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4 Answers

up vote 14 down vote accepted

I think the correct approach to this is to consider the whole process and not just the sorting part, although the short answer "sort by form" will still be valid.

The whole process is not limited to sorting, but in a more general way goes from the moment you decide to store a part away to the moment when you retrieve it to put it in a model.

As such, you have to keep in mind your ultimate goal: find the part you need for the model you're currently building. Most of the time, you'll have a specific part in a specific color in mind, and need to find it as fast as possible. But not always! Sometimes you don't care what color the part is in (invisible support structure), or maybe you can't see it (blind kids). In most cases, form is at least as important as color, but sometimes it's just color you're after.

So what is sorting? Sorting is a way to do some of the finding work in advance, so that when you need that particular part, you don't have to waste too much time. You'll also win serious time on the sorting since you do it for a lot of parts at the same time.

Let's assume you're afetr a specific part in a specific color, which will be most of the time. So that means your parts have to be sorted both by color and by form. That may prove too impractical for normal people, but keep in mind some serious builders do that.

So the trick is, since you have two sorting criteria, you use one at the moment of building, and the other when storing or sorting parts (with discipline1, you'll sort when storing). Usually, you'll want to do as much tedious work when sorting, so you'll keep the color-sorting for when you're building. Color-sorting is the fastest, just think of a tub with all red bricks of all sorts and find 5 1x1 bricks in it, then picture the same task from a tub full of 1x1 bricks of all colors.

Again, this depends on what you'll end up doing with the bricks; if you want to build a lot of 2-studs-wide uniform walls for example, maybe a tub with one color of 2xn bricks makes more sense than separating the 2x2, 2x3 in different color tubs.

In any case, keep in mind the ideal is to have each part in each color stored separately. If this is impractical, consider mixing parts which have as little in common as possible. If one container holds 1x3 and 1x4 bricks together, it will be more trouble to pick them apart than if you mix 1x1 and 2x3. Or, maybe you can mix 2L Technic axles with 1x2 slopes.

And the last thing to consider is how many of the part you have. If you have 2000 blue 1x1 bricks, and only a few dozens of other colors, don't mix them. Separate the blue ones and the others, or better, separate the blue ones but keep a few mixed with the others, so that the nearly-2000 blue-only 1x1 bricks can go to long-term storage. Similarly, make sure that rare parts for which you only have a few are easy to find, even if that means they have to have their own storage bin (maybe they can be mixed together, though).

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Awesome answer! Maybe you could add a bit about how LEGO themselves sort their bricks? –  Peter Cassetta Oct 27 '11 at 13:48
    
I wish I knew :-) The only designer workshop I've visited is the one in LEGOland Windsor. There they have huge drawers in their main office with one of each part in the drawer glue on a small baseplate on the front. I didn't see one open, but I suspect they are sorted by element AND color. In their stockroom, about every part is sorted similarly by element AND color; with huge boxes for common parts like bricks or plates while for smaller ones they have a gridlike arrangement of small open hobby boxes. Horizontal is shape, vertical is color (or the opposite, I don't remember for sure). –  Joubarc Oct 31 '11 at 8:02
    
"mixing parts which have as little in common as possible" is a very good hint. Thank you! –  Mulmoth Oct 31 '11 at 19:29
    
Here also +1 for "mixing parts which have as little in common as possible". Especially makes sense for parts that are rare. –  Zsub Nov 5 '11 at 13:48
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A pigeon hole drop panel connected to the rear of a rack of pullout storage trays is a proven way to sort small parts. Just toss your bit into the correct slot and collect the sorted pieces from down below. I haven't seen one built specificly for LEGO elements, but the idea is sound. It would work great in a studio situation where large sorts, frequent model breakdowns, and bulk element storage are part of the routine.

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If you have a lot of unsorted lego, it isn't easy to apply a fully-developed categorisation system without a lot of work up-front. One way around this is to develop a sorting system gradually.

  • Exactly how you sort will depend on the size of your collection, the profile of your pieces, the time you have available and the categories that are convenient to you.

What not to do

  • As a general rule, don't bother sorting by color until you've already sorted by shape.

General notes

  • You'll probably have an "everything else" container for a while. Don't worry about it.
  • This is your collection - sort things in a way that is convenient to you and into categories that are convenient to you.
  • Think about how you'll use the bricks. Sort for use rather than because the categories are neat. For example, I keep some wheels on axels rather than separating them out because I usually want them that way when I'm building.

Starting off

  • It is often easier to sort out the big bits first, because they're easiest to find.
  • Some things, like tangles cables and string can really make things messy.

Get things out of the way: - Pull out the big base boards - Pull out any cables, winches or anything else that is prone to tangling - Pull out any really big parts - Pull out any instructions, catalogues etc.

Next steps

  • Develop some broad categories of things that tend to be used together. Whenever you come across anything that belongs in these categories, pull them out into a separate container. You don't have to sort all of the bricks in these categories all at once - just pull them out whenever you find them.

Examples of major categories: - Technic - Electronics - Minifigs and their tools

  • As you go, pull out anything that really isn't lego:
    • Duplo
    • "Heretic" bricks (MegaBlocks etc.)
    • Other toys
    • Scraps of paper
    • Fluff, twigs etc.

Sort by shape

  • Stick similar parts together. Ignore color.

    • Make stacks of 2x2 bricks
    • Stick round things together
    • Make stacks of plates. Offset the plates so they are easy to separate
  • Whenever you come across pairs of pieces (e.g. wheels and their tires, right and left hand wings) stick them together. You'll probably need them as pairs when you're building.

Categorize by general purpose

  • Stuff for vehicles

    • Wheels and axels
    • Windshields
    • Wheel arches
  • Stuff for buildings

    • Doors and windows
    • Fences
  • Train stuff

  • Boat stuff

Categorise by general shape

  • Big bricks
  • Slopes
  • Round bricks
  • Arches
  • Plates
  • 1x? bricks
  • 2x? bricks
  • Hinges and turntables

Sort strictly by shape

  • 1x1 bricks

Finally, sort by color

Where you have a lot of bricks the same shape, sort by color too.

  • 1x1 yellow bricks
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First group by fit. So you put for example normal bricks on one stack, those technic bricks with holes on another and so on. Then start grouping the different sizes of your bricks like 7 long bars with holes, 9 long bars with holes and so on. I never sorted by color, but after the last step, if you have still to big stacks, you should do that.

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