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21k pieces, 103 sets, 21 year absence and one heck of a sorting job!

Andy_GAndy_G UKMember Posts: 9
This is probably by no means a unique story. My interest for Lego has recently been re-kindled after I retrieved my old Lego collection from my parents loft in order to start getting it ready to pass down to my son. He’s still on Duplo at the minute, but as I had a relatively large collection (around 85 sets) I thought it would probably take quite a while to sort through. As a child I was Lego crazy. I wasn't spoilt by any means, but Lego was all I ever asked for on birthdays or at Christmas. After a few evenings of internet trawling, I seem to have re-caught the bug! I collected Lego between roughly 1985 and 1994 – quite a bit seems to have happened since! I have a few questions to ask/observations to share if that is ok? If this thread picks up I will post pictures of the various stages and sets as they get built. I’m estimating the whole process will take me around two years given the limited time I have available between work, family, home improvements and other hobbies. This would be just in time for my son to start enjoying it.

I have started to do a bit of research into how I would best go about compiling/restoring the sets. Like most kids, once I had finished playing with the models, they joined my general supply. From time to time bricks got broken, lost outside (usually on a parachute out of the window!) or sucked up the vacuum. A few minifigures even got sacrificed and were painted as WWF figures – this was the days before licensing! I probably only ever had about 10 models assembled at any one time, but I know we never got rid of any Lego so they all should be in there somewhere. Opening the boxes bought back floods of memories and it seemed like only yesterday when I last looked at it. I don't know where 21 years has gone!  My current plan of attack is as follows:

1) Workout what sets I have got and list them on brick set. I did this relatively easily from memory – it shows what an impact Lego must have had on me at the time. The stats reveal that I have 85 sets (80 unique) and around 14600 parts. About half still have instructions but the rest will be online. On top of this, my brother has also let me have his sets to sort – this brings the set count to 112 and the piece count to 21271. A lot of the bricks will have ended up in each other’s collections, so it makes sense I sort them both at the same time. He is three years younger than me, so more exotic parts already started creeping in (my 6386 compared to his 6398 for example)!

2) Filter out the white, grey and blue bricks and clean. I was amazed at how yellow some of these were! The Oxy Cleaner/ hydrogen peroxide treatment sounds like it should do the trick. The only problem is that most of the links (although they do all seem to be from 2009-2011) suggest that Hydrogen Peroxide is relatively cheap in the USA. Here in the UK it seems to be around £12 a litre as only food grade seems to be available. Does anybody know a cheap supplier of it in the UK? I also have concerns about how it will look if I order 10s of litres of the stuff! Also, there seems to be less success stories documented about cleaning the grey and blue bricks – should I risk it?

3) Sort bricks by type. I plan to use the lids off photocopier paper boxes from work. These shouldn’t be too big to sort through when I need to find a piece. I don’t think I have enough bricks to justify sorting to too fine a level – perhaps all the single width bricks in one, all the double width ‘Basic’ bricks in another, all the plates in another etc.

4) Use the Bricklink set inventories (are they accurate enough?) to pick the sets from the bricks, adding any missing bricks to my Bricklink wanted list. I’m planning on buying a few size ziplock bags to hold the sets in – perhaps shoe boxes for the larger sets such as 8880.

5) Order the missing bricks from Bricklink.

6) Have a sneaky build of some of the sets.

Have I missed anything obvious? My other half is amused at how ‘obsessed’ I have become with this project so quickly! I can never do anything by halves - it comes from my physics background I think, everything has to be optimised.

I’d be interested to hear people’s views on this but from what I have seen of the current range, the sets seem to have a lot more unique parts than they did in the 80s/early 90s. As a child, I would have loved to get hold of some these parts – they would have added even more realism to my creations (as evidenced by some of the amazing adult builds I have seen). However I learnt how to build by building hundreds of simpler models from instructions. The more models I built from instructions, the more I got a feel for how the bricks went together, and the more complex I could make my own creations. It is my hunch that a child building the kits of today would find it a lot harder to know how to incorporate the bricks into their own models – the common building techniques may be harder to spot. For this reason, I was thinking of interspersing some of the 80s/90s stuff in with the newer stuff that I will give to my son in the hope that he will ‘learn the trade’ more effectively.

The Technic sets also seem to have changed dramatically since my last set 21 years ago! They look like a cross between Technic as was and the Model Team range that was available at the time. Do the Technic sets now favour form over function, or are the mechanical elements just hidden under more bodywork? I personally liked it when the inner workings of a Technic model were more visible but maybe it is just progress.

Apologies if I am breaking forum etiquette with all these questions in a single post – it kind of all links together however (excuse the pun), and there must be people out there in the same boat. I would love to hear of any success stories from people who have tried to do similar. As I said, if there is any interest, I will endeavour to post pictures of the process as I go along.

samiam391SumoLegoDaraghFarmer_Johnsnowhitiematt666itsnotmePepperrocao

Comments

  • BrickarmorBrickarmor USAMember Posts: 1,257
    Welcome to the madness! And the forum. May I suggest a bulk wash before you go any further? Sort out any motors and stuff that shouldn't get wet, fill a pillowcase about a third full, tie it, and run it through the dishwasher(mild detergent) on the top rack. THEN move on to sorting and perhaps doing small batches in peroxide/Oxy clean. BL inventories are very accurate, by the way. And yes, the sets today are glutted with "unique" parts.

    I really envy you! It sounds like you've got a wonderful treasure hunt coming up.
    SumoLego
  • LusiferSamLusiferSam MontanaMember Posts: 512
     Hi and welcome. Couple of quick comments. In sorting out what sets you have personally I'd start with what you have instructions for or any sets that you have unique parts from. Second, I wouldn't use the peroxide treatment on the blue bricks. I've only had luck doing this on white and light gray. The blue bricks always end up with kind of a milky white look to the blue. And finally I'd say the BrickLink inventories are very good and highly accurate for the last 15 years, a bit less so with stuff going back to about 1984, reasonable back to the mid-70s and highly questionable for anything older.
  • SumoLegoSumoLego New YorkMember Posts: 13,261
    You want to sort through a jumble of 15 pirate ships?

    There's some pirate gold in one of the chests...
  • Pitfall69Pitfall69 0 miles to Legoboy's houseMember Posts: 11,412
    Yes, don't use the peroxide on the blue bricks. I have only had a few parts that turned out ok. 
  • MojoestMojoest UKMember Posts: 474
    edited May 2015
    I Found Chemists good places to get Hydrogen Peroxide solution in the UK. When I've bought it (in far smaller quantities than you want), its been readily available in 3% strength 200ml bottles for about £1 (sold as a disinfectant/mouthwash). Ok so you'd have to buy loads of bottles to get up to the volume you want, but £5 a litre is better than £12. I've also found that I can use it over and over so don't need so much of it by cleaning in batches. 
  • Andy_GAndy_G UKMember Posts: 9
    Welcome to the madness! And the forum. May I suggest a bulk wash before you go any further? Sort out any motors and stuff that shouldn't get wet, fill a pillowcase about a third full, tie it, and run it through the dishwasher(mild detergent) on the top rack. THEN move on to sorting and perhaps doing small batches in peroxide/Oxy clean. BL inventories are very accurate, by the way. And yes, the sets today are glutted with "unique" parts.

    I really envy you! It sounds like you've got a wonderful treasure hunt coming up.
    That's a good idea - I'd not even considered doing a bulk wash first to be honest. I was thinking about just washing the sets individually when I'd picked them, by immersion in water/washing up liquid and giving them a quick scrub with an old toothbrush. The dishwasher method seems a lot quicker though, it sounds too good to be true! Does it not melt or scratch the bricks? Also, what happens to the dirt, won't it get trapped in the pillowcase and end up back on the bricks? Picking clean bricks would be a lot nicer experience.
  • Andy_GAndy_G UKMember Posts: 9
     Hi and welcome. Couple of quick comments. In sorting out what sets you have personally I'd start with what you have instructions for or any sets that you have unique parts from. Second, I wouldn't use the peroxide treatment on the blue bricks. I've only had luck doing this on white and light gray. The blue bricks always end up with kind of a milky white look to the blue. And finally I'd say the BrickLink inventories are very good and highly accurate for the last 15 years, a bit less so with stuff going back to about 1984, reasonable back to the mid-70s and highly questionable for anything older.

    Thanks, I won't risk it on the blue bricks then. How about light grey castle panels that have dark grey detailing on? Will the detailing stay dark grey? I'm assuming it's just the bricks themselves that have the Bromine in, not the detailing? The same goes for white panels with red detailing on, such as the governors’ buildings from the pirates range.

    Good news about the inventories then as I only have a few sets from before 84 and these are mainly universal sets.
  • Andy_GAndy_G UKMember Posts: 9
    edited May 2015
    SumoLego said:
    You want to sort through a jumble of 15 pirate ships?

    There's some pirate gold in one of the chests...

    I'm ok thanks, I've got 6275 and 6285, so plenty of pirate ships/treasure to be getting on with.
    SumoLego
  • Andy_GAndy_G UKMember Posts: 9
    Mojoest said:
    I Found Chemists good places to get Hydrogen Peroxide solution in the UK. When I've bought it (in far smaller quantities than you want), its been readily available in 3% strength 200ml bottles for about £1 (sold as a disinfectant/mouthwash). Ok so you'd have to buy loads of bottles to get up to the volume you want, but £5 a litre is better than £12. I've also found that I can use it over and over so don't need so much of it by cleaning in batches. 

    Ah....I never even thought of chemists. These bottles are indeed better value. I found a 200 ml bottle of the Care Plus stuff but 6% concentration, for 80p! I can water that down to 3% and automatically get double the value. How do you find the process works in the UK with the rain and lack of sun? I think I'll probably put it on the windowsill in the garage. That way it will get the sun but won't get watered down if it rains.





  • suecar2002suecar2002 United StatesMember Posts: 1
    Hi, your story sounds similar to mine, although I don't have quite as many sets. I'd guess between 40 and 50. The legos were purchased for my two sons at around the same time period as yours, so we have mostly pirates and castle stuff. Later we added some technic and space sets. We also have a monorail and train set. I started out by separating out pieces that were obviously pirate/castle, then separated out pieces that obviously weren't. Then I separated out bricks from plates. My sorting became more detailed as I started working on the sets. I've been washing with dish soap and a toothbrush as the sets are completed. I've found that "Iris" scrapbooking cases (available in craft stores and on Amazon) are the perfect size for most sets. For smaller sets I use ziplock bags and store as many as I can in a case. I keep lists of anything missing, and will buy the replacement pieces when I'm done. I find that many of the missing pieces show up when I start working on another set. 

    I've completed the majority of the pirate and castle sets, and will start working on the monorail next. 
  • BrickarmorBrickarmor USAMember Posts: 1,257
    About the dishwasher method: household units will not melt Lego, but I usually turn off any "heat dry" option; in fact, I forgot to add that the best way to dry them is spread flat on a towel in front of a fan. Just rummage through them every now and then to be sure everything gets dried. Every time I've done a batch, it seems that the dust/dirt/grime attaches to the pillowcase. But you'll probably have to resort to the toothbrush on some parts that may have been most exposed to settling dust, it just won't come off any other way. Also, I think it's underestimated just how much oil our fingers leave, so the dishwasher is a super easy way to get the years of gunk rinsed off.
  • snowhitiesnowhitie BelgiumMember Posts: 3,002
    Hello and welcome! Sounds like a great adventure, finding out all the missing parts/cleaning etc. I can't get hold of my old Lego anymore (annoying parents don't want to give it to me, they said they paid for it and its just sitting there in a box, anyway, rant over) but I did buy some bulk deals online that I cleaned. I usually sorted them roughly by colour during which time I took out stickered bricks/printed bricks before washing the rest. I used to leave them drying on towels around the house and just turn them over ever 4 hours or so... There are a couple of threads on cleaning bricks/restoring bricks on the forum that might give you some tips.

    a good one on sorting: http://www.bricksetforum.com/discussion/205/the-sorting-methodology-thread/p1
    bit more on peroxide: http://www.bricksetforum.com/discussion/comment/291895#Comment_291895
    on chalky water: http://www.bricksetforum.com/discussion/16753/cleaning-hard-water-off-lego-bricks
    general one on cleaning: http://www.bricksetforum.com/discussion/69/cleaning-lego

    Good luck with it all and enjoy your new hobby!





  • GalactusGalactus NLMember Posts: 255
    I recommend that you don't put any bricks with stickers in the dishwasher. Also, iirc, bricks with prints are vulnerable to the peroxide treatment. 
  • khmellymelkhmellymel United KingdomMember Posts: 1,260
    edited May 2015
    For cleaning, I use the Lego in a pillowcase washing method, but in a washing machine instead (make sure the pillowcase isn't too threadbare and tie the knot tight!)
    77ncaachamps
  • BrickDancerBrickDancer Dunes of TatooineMember Posts: 3,639
    ^Do you notice that method leading to scratching of the bricks?
  • khmellymelkhmellymel United KingdomMember Posts: 1,260
    Hmm, that's a good question.  I usually remove certain parts (like large windows for example) before sticking them in the wash, but most of the Lego I have purchased in bulk have been older sets so maybe I just wasn't bothered. I'll take a look at the Friends ones I got a little while ago and report back tomorrow. 
  • thehornedratthehornedrat Member Posts: 86
    You wouldn't use a side loading washing machine that tumbles the bricks obviously. Use a top loading one that spins horizontally!
  • legogallegogal USMember Posts: 755
    Wow! What a task! I have sorted most of our newer (purchased used) bricks since 2008. But am unwilling to take apart the complete sets still in one piece built by my sons aged 3-12 during the 90's. Nor the boxes of old grimy parts left over from their sets. Maybe they can clean and sort them for their kids, and I will focus on my clean ones!

    It has taken me years to sort my LEGO, but I have enjoyed working on my stuff because it was mostly for me. And sorting/cleaning can be relaxing in a way if you don't have a deadline over your head. I have given my 27 year old son thousands of newer parts for building his skyscrapers and temples for inside his aquaria; it has made me quite happy to see him building again. LEGO surely can bring a family together!
    khmellymel
  • Andy_GAndy_G UKMember Posts: 9

    Sorry for delay replying. I had a two hour stint sorting some of the white and grey bricks out the other day and it dawned on me just how big this project is! I only managed to get about a tenth of the collection sorted though!

    I purchased a small quantity of 6% H2O2 and experimented on a small batch of highly yellowed bricks (we’re talking beige!). Five days in and the yellowing is very pale, although I changed the solution for some new stuff half way though as the reaction seemed to have stopped. I’ve learnt that keeping the bricks in a vertical container (pint glass) seems to work better than in a horizontal container (Pyrex oven dish). This surprised me as I thought increasing the surface area exposed to the sun would help. It’s easier to get submersion of parts in a vertical container however. I’m not sure what I’m going to do when I upscale the whole process though – fish tank perhaps!?

    I tried to post some photos, but it won’t seem to let me upload them.

  • BrickDancerBrickDancer Dunes of TatooineMember Posts: 3,639
    @thehornedrat That might be my problem, both the washer and dryer are side-loading. I've gone this route maybe 4 or 5 times, but on the last try I noticed quite a bit of light scratching, which was very visible on 'black' parts.

    So since then, have resorted to gentle rinsing by hand in small batches with occasional use of a toothbrush when necessary. Even that needs to be handled lightly and with a soft brush to avoid scratching. But this is too time and labor intensive in large volume. So guess the only fix is to get a different washer and dryer combo that is top-loading.
  • khmellymelkhmellymel United KingdomMember Posts: 1,260
    ^Do you notice that method leading to scratching of the bricks?
    I've checked out the last parts that I've washed with this method and can confirm that some (not all) have some light scratches.  My only problem is... I bought a bulk lot from eBay, so I'm not sure if the scratching was from previous use or from my washing machine!  

    I started using the washing machine method years ago and am usually very happy with the results, but I've only started doing that recently here in the UK.  My machine in the UK is side loading vs my machine in Canada which was top loading, so maybe the side/top loading thing does account for it.

    I'm pretty happy with the results though, I think I'll continue using the washing machine for sets that are quite used or that will go in the parts bin.  Likely not for the new sets or any used sets I receive that are in pretty good shape - just in case!

    There is one set that I've recently washed though (got it on eBay for a song) that still smells kind of funny... the smell is not bad, but you know how fruity smelling things for kids are very overpowering?  The washing machine did not get rid of the fruity smell!  Anyone have any ideas?
  • Andy_GAndy_G UKMember Posts: 9
    Some photos showing the hydrogen peroxide trial I've been doing on some of the yellower bricks:

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/sets/72157653704368500
  • Andy_GAndy_G UKMember Posts: 9
    As the photos show - seven days of treatment and even the most affected bricks have nearly been fully restored. Now I know that it works I'll go ahead and order enough hydrogen peroxide to treat the whole lot!
  • Andy_GAndy_G UKMember Posts: 9
    A few photos of the Lego fresh from the loft and a peak inside some of the boxes. There were still have couple of large boxes to bring down at this point.

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/sets/72157654101300742
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