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I would sort through my collection removing one color at a time as it helped me focus and keep my sanity along with making fewer errors. Its taken me awhile and I don't know if it was the fastest approach but looking around, it has already proven to be useful to rebuild old sets.
- Figures and accessories
- Any CCBS and Bionicle parts
- Removing all plates larger than a 4x4 (This makes it easier to sort and find pieces down the line as these pieces are no longer in the way)
- Yellows (These colors tend to pop out to the eye)
- Whites (The next color to stand out)
- Light grey and silver
- Dark Grey
- Green and Blues
- Orange, lime green, light blue, and purple
- Dark red, dark green, dark blue
- Any other solid colors from transparent colors
The whites, dark greys, light greys, and blacks are still a bit too large so now I am in the process of removing all plates, bricks, and tires. This is the current stage that I am at.
If I may I also have a question. I am having a hard time sorting the pre-2004 greys and browns. I was wondering if there is an easier way to tell the difference between the two. I am having an especially hard time with the light greys.
I sort by part type, and only resort to sorting by color when a part starts overflowing its container. I figure it’s faster to find a desired part this way because it’s easier to pick a desired color out of a bin of identical parts than it is to pick a part shape out of a bin of same-colored parts. You ever try finding just the part you want in a pile of all black? Painful.
That being said, others have pointed out that it’s harder to “free-build” where you just play around sticking parts together when everything is fully sorted.
And there's @henrysunset 's sorting and storage guide thread on here somewhere too...
I had a look at the other feeds, and the majority seems to go down the path of sorting by party type, then colour. Thanks for the pointers.
Consider what kinds of things you want to build.
Most things are dependent on colour to look right. Your eye picks out wrong colours quickly. So broadly sorting by colour, so that you can easily find parts in the right colour, is often a good choice. Also there are fewer colours than part types. The downside is that finding that one black plate with a clip amongst hundreds of black pieces is hard.
However, if you build by function, you might not care about colour. Sorting by part type makes the most sense here.
If you build official sets mainly, but don't want to store each set separately, consider how many packages you'll need to open to re-build a set. I used to sort by type: each container had exactly one kind of part in it. This grew too unwieldy too quickly. It's easy to find the blue 1x1 bricks in the box of 1x1 bricks, but building a set required opening dozens of boxes.
My solution is to use flat multi-compartment boxes (like tackle boxes - the ArtBin Super Satchel series). Each box has a single colour in it (with few exceptions). Each compartment in a box has one kind of piece in it. Opening the big lid on the box means all the compartments are open at once, so there are fewer things to open/close when building. The downsides here are the cost of the boxes, and the tedious need to re-organize the boxes every time a compartment overflows. Some people use ziplock bags instead of tackle boxes; you can then have a large box for light-grey parts, and each kind of part is in a ziplock. This is cheap and flexible but requires lots of rummaging through bags and opening/closing bags when you need parts.
The more there is, the more off putting and arduous it becomes... Well, it is for me anyway.
Sure, you'll need a lot more containers, but if you start small and add containers as you need them, it'll be manageable. All my wedge plates are in one container. All my large plates (6x10 or larger) are in one container. All my wheels are in one container. All my windows and doors are in one container All my fences are in one container (well, two now, but you get the point).
You don't need one container for each element, you can group them together and still find what you need easily enough, as long as you group them fairly sensibly.
Here is the website for the same author:
(Heck, it may even be worth sorting it that granularly with as few as 100k pieces, especially for the most common shapes. Much under that and it may not be as worthwhile though.)
Then people use different terms like "type" used earlier in this thread which I think they mean "part" ...maybe. And then there's the fact that when you look up a set on Brickset, you see "Parts: xx" as a tab at the top. For example #41130 says Parts: 1120. But when you look under Set Details on the right is shows Pieces: 1124. So what's the difference? If I look under the 1120 Parts tab, I see Element ID 302026 which is Black 2x4 Plate (10 of them) and Element ID 4211065 which is Gray 2x4 Plate (3 of them) for example. But those two are the same part as evidence by the same 3020 Part ID (or Design ID). So is the 1120 "Parts" counting this same part multiple times, once for each "piece"? Yeah, I'm a little confused on that one.
So as seems to be general consensus, to sort larger collections (large is relative, yes) what people are saying is put all 1x2 plates in one container, all 1x3 plates in one container, all 2x2 bricks in a one container, so on and so forth, correct? This could takes lots of containers with few pieces in them unless the collection is very large.
Question, what's the terminology for something like "all plates"? Is that a "type of part", i.e. plates vs. bricks vs. tiles vs. brackets vs. panels and so on? Would there ever be an advantage to sort by "type of part"? I'm thinking it may be no easier to find a Gray 2x3 plate in a container of all plates vs. a container of just gray pieces.
I do not build MOC's. I only build official Lego sets. I typically buy large amounts of parts in bulk buys which have varying degrees of complete sets. In order to complete sets, I save Bricklink inventories of sets into my tablet's OneNote and then cross off what I have and circle what I need for each individual set. I have hundreds of mostly completed sets with hundreds of thousands of parts not yet put into sets.
For my purposes, sorting by part type ONLY does not work that well. Bricklink inventories are organized by colour first and then part type. Therefore, I have found sorting like this works best:
1) All printed or stickered pieces - these are by far the easiest way to identify a set.
2) All irregular parts - the second easiest method to identify what set(s) a part is used in is by this method. It's pretty easy once you have more than a passing knowledge of Lego to figure out parts that are uncommon.
3) Separate all Bionicle parts.
4) Separate all Technic parts such as pins, connectors, axles and gears.
5) Separate all wheels and tires.
6) Separate everything else by colour first - except you can usually combine all trans colours as well as combine uncommon colours (e.g. teal, sand red, speckle colours, chrome, etc.).
7) Depending on the size of your parts collections, separate the most common colours into general parts classifications (bricks, plates, hinges, etc.). These colours will likely be black, the two grays, white, red, yellow and blue.
Also, Lego limits the number of any one element to 200, so if there are more than that in the set, the parts list here on Brickset will state 200. for examples, see the Tan cheese slopes in #10214 Tower Bridge, or the black Technic pin in pretty much any large Technic set.
Basically yes. However, you may not have many 1x2 and 1x3 plates, for example, so you might decide to group them all together in one container for the time being. This cuts down on the number of containers needed. Also, a lot of people have some kind of toolbox drawer system as well, to store smaller parts in - you can often get 30 - 60 drawers in each one, which helps to give you lots of containers.
I probably have somewhere north of 400,000 pieces in my collection - which includes easily more than 150,000 pieces tied up in mocs and sets on display, so I maybe only have 200,000 - 250,000 pieces actually in containers. I use a mix of drawer systems and plastic boxes to store them, but even with that many pieces (and many people have a lot more) I still have three large-ish boxes containing 'everything else' - all the parts which I simply don't have enough of to justify giving them their own container. As I've said before, I also have containers which just have 'types' of parts - for example wheels, or windows, or wedge plates. Again, I don't have enough of any one type of these to justify giving them their own container - that and the fact that the container they're in isn't full yet!
As far as I'm aware, the terminology for 'all plates' is 'all plates'! ;) However, that covers a wide range. Do you include wedge plates in that? Circular plates? Plates with bits on? Personally, if I said 'all plates', I'd mean normal rectangular plates, not including wedges, circles, etc.
Most people tend to use BrickLink terminology for the most part - or some variation of it. I think mainly because BrickLink has been going for a long time now, and most people use it for ordering parts.
Sorting by 'type of part' can be useful - in my examples above, wheels, wedge plates, circular plates etc, you tend to either not have all that many, or not use them that often, so the time spent digging through them generally isn't that much. I have some low, wide foil trays (normally used when building sets) which I sometimes use if I can't find what I'm looking for in a box - I'll empty the box into one of them and look through it that way, then tip it all back in the box when done.
The example of putting all 1x2, 1x3 plates etc. together may be a bad one - personally I wouldn't do it for small plates. I do it for large plates though, because you don't tend to have as many of those. The principle is right though - if you don't have many of the parts, group them together, and it'll probably still be just as easy to find them. Once you get a lot of them, or it becomes harder to find a part, separate them out into separate containers.
Last 3 nights my family has been sorting one bulk haul of about 70 pounds nearly to your outline above. I've bagged instructions and large intact pieces for sets I can identify. Will inventory those sets, then first go through the sorted bulk to find missing pieces for sets. Then go through my miscellaneous bulk to find more missing pieces. Lastly go through Bricklink or other methods to obtain remaining missing pieces. My fear is trying to find a 1x3 plate in my approximately 10 pound bag of black from this haul will be tedious and potentially easy to miss it.
I'm thinking I may need to consider sorting a bit further according to your number 7 above for at least the largest color groups.
And, of course, any of the variety of Sterilite bins. The shoe box sized ones are great, and typically available for less than $1 each at Target or Walmart.
Also totally agree with the Sterilite bins, although I tend to store bagged sets that I want to keep together in the larger ones. For large item or long term storage, I really love the 12 gallon hinged lid bins, like these here. A little more expensive, but really sturdy, and great for stacking while not being too large to move easily or big enough that it's easy to over-pack them weight-wise.