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Drowning in Bricks

AmélieAmélie Member Posts: 1
Hi guys,

due to covid I decided to get my collection straight. I got about thirty or more sets, mainly Star Wars some Dinosaur and City too and some other weird ones. The collection wasn't build and all bricks are in boxes. So I started to sort them. First by color then by form, I thought this would be enough to build all my set accurately with the correct bricks. Then I saw that some bricks have other bottoms and that the colors vary pretty much. I tried to sort by color at day light, which did not work so well.
Now the drowning begins. I want to make sure, when I'm building a set that it has the correct bricks which it ones had. I need help with this, especially with the colors. Maybe cleaning would help. But how should I proceed after that? I thought of using some program that detects color, like the pipette in Photoshop. But I could not find some like that.
So please guys. How do you sort your bricks precisely by color and did you ever heard of some program that may help.

Thanks in advance.


  • AstrobricksAstrobricks Member Posts: 5,441
    edited May 2020
    Hi, and welcome to the forum!

    My first advice would be don’t sort by color. Think about how difficult it will be to find a particular shape brick in a pile that is all the same color. It is much easier to pick out the color you want in a pile of identical (or similar) bricks. Sorting by color starts to make sense only when you have a very large collection. I have a medium sized collection, and I only sort into color “categories”, like monochrome, or bright vs. muted colors when I have filled up a bin with the mixed colors and I don’t want to use a bigger bin.

    That being said, it also doesn’t make sense to sort into every possible different brick/shape. There are just too many. When you don’t have a large quantity, it’s better to combine similar types together. For example, all 1 wide plates, all 2 wide plates, all 4 wide plates, 6 wide, 8 wide, etc. 

    Personally, I have never found it that difficult to find the color I want. If building from instructions, they will show the color. And even though it is sometimes difficult to tell what color they mean, you can usually tell by the number of pieces needed, or with a little trial and error. If you happen to have a form of color blindness, I can see where it would be challenging.
  • madforLEGOmadforLEGO Member Posts: 10,760
    It all depends on how much time and storage space you have.
    If low on both, then sorting color is the way to go. At least at first. Then buy Akro mills part cabinets or other similar types (usually found on Amazon or hardware stores... Amazon sometimes gets the price down to 20-30USD per).
    As for re-parting them into sets, bricklink is a good place (I forget the other) to get inventory lists (just print them with pictures). You do want to be careful with the colors.
    I think there are a few threads for how to sort on the forum already and they may also help with your decision.
  • datsunrobbiedatsunrobbie Member Posts: 1,813
    Another reason to sort by shape rather than color, as I realized this past weekend, is substitutions. If you cannot find a part in the right color, you can sub a different color. Subbing a different shape, not so much.
  • daewoodaewoo Member Posts: 794
    I only sort by color if I have a significant amount of an element in a single color.  Otherwise I group by element with a mix of colors.
  • Switchfoot55Switchfoot55 Member Posts: 3,275
    To join in on what others have said, I recommend sorting by type, then by color. I've recently redone my sorting from color to element and have found it a whole lot easier to find what I need. 

    To answer your other questions, Aside from learning what bricks (bottom tube shape) are from which era, it may be difficult to find the "exact" piece. I had a bulk lot I purchased that spanned from the 80's to current. The 2x4 bricks were the most notable in that there were a handful of different tube types. I finally sorted out all the 2x4's (or other elements that had noticeable differences) and then sorted those by the different versions of the bricks. I then used tools such as Brickset and Bricklink to narrow down the years those types were in production, and pieced it together from there. Not a quick method, but one that worked. 

    Color can also be difficult. The differences between Dark Gray and Dark Bluish Gray or Light Gray and Light Bluish Gray can be really touch to separate. You're best bet is to find a few pieces (the larger the better) that you KNOW are of one color, and then use those as your color palette to compare against. For the grays, I've gone as far as to lay down white paper or a tablecloth and have bright lights handy. For me at least, the white background and bright lights tend to help me see the differences more easily. 

    You'll likely also run into issues with Brown and Reddish Brown. 

    A lot of the other color variations are easily enough to distinguish (in my personal experience). 

    Hopefully some of this helps you in your quest!
  • SumoLegoSumoLego Member Posts: 15,217
    I also have one of these - it's probably good for larger pieces, but mine only collects dust.

    Surprising cheap at Harbour Freight.

  • AstrobricksAstrobricks Member Posts: 5,441
    Yeah, open bins are a no-go for me due to dust.
  • BrainsluggedBrainslugged Member Posts: 2,199
    edited May 2020
    ^^Those storage bins make me feel soooooo uncomfortable. Each bin wastes a bit of space to the sides and a huge amount of space above and below. Plus they can only be filled half full before they'll start overflowing. And they dont even keep the dust out! I'd give those an E- as a storage solution.
  • hoodaddyhoodaddy Member Posts: 315
    If I am trying to rebuild sets from a lot, I like to sort by color since bricklink lists inventory for sets by color.  Several years ago I purchased a lot from Goodwill that was a mix of several classic space sets.  I sorted into colors as most was blue, gray, white and black, then printed pieces, transparent pieces and wheels.  From there I could identify sets by unique or printed pieces, pull up the inventory, and go down the list for each color.  I see the merits for sorting by piece, but for some people and methods sorting by color can be just as effective.
  • BrainsluggedBrainslugged Member Posts: 2,199
    I have experience of both sorting by colour and sorting by shape. Both have some pros and cons. I came out of my dark ages while living in the US, and had about 4 years post dark ages there where I sorted by piece. Upon moving back to the UK 4 years ago and pretty much starting my collection from scratch, I switched to sorting by colour (although my pieces are also sorted by type within each colour).

    I think sorting by colour is the best way, but a massive advantage it has is when sorting out a bunch of mixed up Lego. It is relatively simple and mindless to do a pre-sort of a huge amount of lego into colour. You can then sort each individual colour at your leisure another day. Conversly, when sorting by piece, it's a lot more daunting and involved a task to do so when starting with a huge pile of unsorted  brick.

    I've posted the following pic in the past, but it shows how I've put individual colours into PaB cups awaiting for a more fine-toothed sort another day. Over lockdown it was also quite satisfying to think "right... I'll get all my greens finished today" etc.

    I guess sorting by colour also works well with small collections, because if you end up with too much of one colour to find anything easily, it's pretty simple and organic to just say "ok.... I'll put all the pack plates in one drawer, black bricks in a second drawer and everything else black in a third.

  • AstrobricksAstrobricks Member Posts: 5,441
    So the advantage of sorting by color is you get to do it twice? ;-)
  • madforLEGOmadforLEGO Member Posts: 10,760
    So the advantage of sorting by color is you get to do it twice? ;-)

    Its all about cost and more importantly storage space. I have been sorting by color only because of the multitude of different parts and the lack of small storage to hold them all. Sure I can use Ziploc bags, but I think part bins work far better, but considering how expensive part bins can be, I think sorting by color-at least at first- if you either have space or cost restrictions is likely the better way to go. I have a bunch of bins but still need to find the space for them, where as I can pile up bins or parts sorted by color more readily.
  • KungFuKennyKungFuKenny Member Posts: 2,368
    I think it is natural to sort by color when your part collection is smaller.  As you total number of pieces (and types of pieces) increases, a switch to “by part ID” sorting it is inevitable.  I’ve posted this pic elsewhere but it shows where I’m at currently... it is a great luxury to be able to find the right piece in the right color quickly!

  • madforLEGOmadforLEGO Member Posts: 10,760
    I think it is natural to sort by color when your part collection is smaller.  As you total number of pieces (and types of pieces) increases, a switch to “by part ID” sorting it is inevitable.  I’ve posted this pic elsewhere but it shows where I’m at currently... it is a great luxury to be able to find the right piece in the right color quickly!

    Nice! I have 8 Akro Mills parts bins (like those above) for new parts, but it is just a chore trying to find such a place to get them setup so I have that type of access to sort all of the parts (as I have been breaking up sets just to try to reduce the space that the boxes take up). I also have five Akro Mills type bins on a table in what used to be my dining room that hold mostly older parts (from the 70/80's-early 2000's).

  • colaycolay Member Posts: 547
    Me: Hey honey, you know all that money I made on my Lego going up in value?
    Her: Yes dear.
    Me: Well, i spent it on storage bins to keep it in
    Her *facepalm*

    LOL, sorry, couldn't resist
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