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This question already has an answer here:

Maybe my question is not suitable for this forum, but I figure this is the place where people have the most experience, so, here goes.

My 4 year old son loves to play with LEGO and we encourage him. We built a few sets together and he mostly builds stuff from his own imagination. He likes to build new sets with us and to follow the schematics, even if we don't have all the parts (we try to make changes as needed).

The problem is - we have gathered a big LEGO box of parts from about 7-8 sets and looking for a specific block is becoming more and more difficult. When we build sets together it's my job to find the parts and his job to follow the schematic. Needless to say, it may take me 5 minutes to track down a specific part and it takes us too long to build the set. Once a set is built he plays with it for a while (a couple of hours or days) and then comes back apart.

For now we try to keep the parts sorted by color, but for some colors (grey or blue) we have too many parts and we need to empty the bag on the floor to look for parts (and this gets messy).

I wanted to ask for advice on the following topics:

  1. What's the best way to sort LEGO blocks so that they are easier to find and in a way that they don't take too much space (e.g. I wouldn't want to have to sort them by shape - it's too many of them!)
  2. For some sets we don't know if we have all the parts (obviously because we don't have those exact sets). Is there an "app" that I can tell which sets we have and that can generate a part list from those so that I can look to see if I have the needed part? Or, better yet, tell the app what I want to build and it should tell me what parts I have (without keeping track of color - only shape) and what I'm missing? I'm thinking it's not an impossible app and something like this may exist, but I haven't found it yet.
  3. Now comes the "sci-fi" part. Can I find a phone app that can use the camera to "scan" a bunch of parts thrown on the floor and do image recognition of the part that I need in order to highlight it? Image recognition can do shape recognition, so, again, it should be possible to implement - I just haven't found any.

Any tips on handling LEGO for better management is welcome. Thanks!

marked as duplicate by Mr. Shiny and New 安宇, pcantin, jncraton, Zhaph - Ben Duguid Feb 16 '16 at 23:31

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migrated from parenting.stackexchange.com Feb 8 '16 at 7:54

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  • Not a full answer, really, but there are Brick-Sorters based on Mindstorms. Perhaps you can go from there? – Layna Jan 20 '16 at 8:26
  • Hmm, I had no idea these existed. However they seem rather limited and slow for what I wanted. But it's a starting place, thanks... – Adrian Jan 20 '16 at 10:47
  • Augmented Reality could, in theory, do what you want, but to actually build a tool to do it sounds like a huge undertaking. – Erik Jan 20 '16 at 10:57
  • Stop trying to do that. Lego is much better when you use it to build what is in your imagination. Don't they do those big buckets of variadic Lego pieces anymore? Buy one of those, and mix all your parts in it. – fiatjaf Jan 27 '16 at 10:06
  • Well, out of 10 sets built, I'd say 9 are built out of his imagination and one needs to be built according to schematics. Hence the need of having a way of sorting and keeping the blocks. – Adrian Jan 27 '16 at 12:20
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This is really more than one question, and the main one (storage) has answers here. For the second question, the answer is to use Rebrickable.com. You can put your sets into a database and it will tell you what else you can build. You can see inventories for each set and you can see if you have the pieces to build other sets.

For your third question, I don't know of any app that finds pieces based on computer vision. I sort by part and colour so I wouldn't need such an app, myself.

For a small collection sorting by colour is probably easiest. If there is a lot of one colour you can break it down by part type. If you primarily build sets and not your own creations, you could consider storing each set in a ziplock bag, that way all its parts are together. Of course, if you then pick parts out of those bags to build something custom, putting them back is annoying. You could have one bag for "unsorted" parts, and when you want to build any given set you grab that bag and the set's bag, and all the parts would be there. You do need to put them away in the right bags afterwards though.

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The best way I've ever seen this done is exactly the same way you'd see a handyman manage all of his nuts, bolts, and screws. The general idea is that you have lots of small compartments for each of your different kinds of legos - and it can be up to you whether you separate by color, or just by shape and size.

On a quick glance at a big box store website, this seems like it might be a good inexpensive starting point:

http://www.homedepot.com/p/Husky-28-Drawer-Small-Parts-Organizer-222169/205053254

  • Our children worked this way they had smaller boxes, after playing they put them in these boxes sorted. So next time they start directly without having to search a great deal of time. – Nachmen Feb 8 '16 at 5:34
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Each Lego set has a parts list by color and shape. If you live close to a Lego store they can provide you with one. Many include the list on the box. I'm not sure if the downloadable schematics for consumers has a parts list. Once you have found the pieces once, bag them separately from your freestyle Legos. Additional Legos for freestyle are available online or at the store. If you are missing pieces from a set, Lego will supply them at no charge from a store or the cost of shipping by mail.

Personally, we like the 3-in-1 sets. It provides a little more variability if you're only going to purchase a few over time. As for an app, it seems like an awfully long process compared to just sorting it right the first time. But perhaps you could suggest it to the company!

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For kids I favour a sheet or cloth circle with drawstring for the bulk of the Lego, then a few ice cream or take-away containers for small parts. There are lots of instructions for these online, including this no-sew version

no-sew drawsting bag/play cloth

If you have a tennis or badminton racquet handy to use as a sifter that makes it easy to separate out the really small parts that are hard to find in the big pile, and keep them in smaller containers.

Lego make the "big Lego head" storage/sifter containers that do the same thing, and they can sometimes be found cheaply (but are relatively rare in physical retails for the same reason they're often on sale... they are big and sell slowly)

Lego Sort and Store Head

I also like to build with wood and metal so I built my own version of those a few years ago using fairly thick nylon fishing line and some timber frames. That let me customise the size, since I have mostly Technic Lego and the part sizes are different so the Lego thing didn't work for me. They're not hard to make, just labour-intensive - think of a picture frame, with small holes drilled every 10mm around the perimeter and then strung up like a tennis racquet. Those work really well, and a couple of other people in the local Lego fan group have since made similar things. One by drilling lots (and lots and lots) of holes in a sheet of thin timber, another by simply copying exactly what I did.

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I actually used to play with Legos quite a bit when I was 8-11. (Now I'm middle school). My mom bought me some fishing boxes (like this:http://www.dhresource.com/albu_267111068_00-1.0x0/box-new-plastic-buckle-case-styled-fishing.jpg). Then we would sort all the small pieces like minifigures, weapons, connectors, 2x1s, etc into these each being in its own section. Then, we would have another fishing box for beams sorted by length. Finally, I had a big bin to hold large pieces like plates and irregular objects.

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