Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Lego: First pass: Macro sorting

 So you have a few thousand Lego bricks and want to organize them. Where do you start?

The most common approach is dump them all out on a large surface, get a few storage containers, and sort by color. This works for storing the bricks but has some shortfalls. 

  1. Not efficient if you actually want to build anything with what you have in inventory.
  2. New bricks (new to the collections and/or new styles of bricks) will just get lost in the mesh
  3. If  you want to build something and you go searching for a specific part, it will be much easier to locate, e.g. finding a grey 2x1 plate will be easier to find in a mess of other 2x1 plates than in a bin of all grey parts.
  4. Boring and unimaginative
Brick Architect has a good guide on this. He breaks everything into six categories: Bricks, plates, tiles, slope, technic, and SNOT (Studs Not On Top).
But... it feels too confined.

I use a technique that I refer to was macro sorting. It is a combo of sorting by type or size.  

I use these categories (You can rearrange these as you see fit, but my biggest piece of advice is be consistent.):

  1. combined plates and tiles (separate them later, for now keep them together), any shape as long as it is the 1/3 height
    1. move anything larger than 4x4 (16 studs) to a separate bin, these take up a lot of space.
  2. Bricks (anything 1 block high and all right angles is a brick, even if it has decor on it
    1. unless it is a technic
  3. Slopes, any brick that changes direction from top to bottom of the brick is a slope, this includes arches
    1. unless it is a windshield or wheel well
  4. SNOT, anything where the studs are in weird places and/or on more than one side, plus things like hinges, fences
    1. lots of exceptions here
  5. decorations, this is broad and includes plants, minifigs, any items designed to be held by a minifig, flags, signs, and many things I am unsure where else to put. For whatever reason I also put anything designed to clip together in here
  6. technic, anything intended to be part of a moving assembly that has the ability to connect in non-stud ways
  7. vehicle chassis and parts, boat parts, wheels, tires, wheel wells, motorcycles, cranes, winches, forklifts, etc
  8. Large items: walls, windows, doors, bricks that are more than 1 brick high, windshields, canopies

I will update this as I think of things, but remember, this is just your first pass. We will break things down further as we go along.

Monday, January 8, 2024

The streets of heaven are paved with gold Lego bricks

I have had a love affair with Lego since I was around 3-4 years old. I am now pushing 50 and I have recently rekindled this flame.

A little personal history, to put things in perspective. 

My father is a rocket scientist, an honest to goodness aeronautical engineer. I always thought this was a pretty cool thing to have in my family, but I also learned that it meant that engineering was in my blood. In my day job I am an operations engineer for technology. In short, I make things work with computers, either with networking, software, or even just technical processes. My job is to get to a fully operation battle station as quickly as possible. This requires a skill for organization and administration. A place for everything and everything in its place.

I have recently begun applying this to Lego. 

I had not really touched my personal bricks in a couple of decades. I had a few Star Wars sets that I picked up here and there and put together and enjoyed, but nothing really large. Recently, my mental health took a bit of a turn and when confiding with a dear friend he told me that he had been buying Lego bricks in bulk (by the pound) online. His belief was that the simple act of sorting the Lego bricks set off a dopamine kick every time he sorted as few as five bricks. I decided to try it out and bought twenty pounds of random Lego online and learned he was dead on.

I wish I had taken a few pictures of the boxes when they arrived... it was absolutely heaven in a box. All these new bricks I had never seen, partially assembled sets, garish colored bricks, and then... a sudden panic attack. These were a lot of random bricks. How was I going to organize them? My personal stash were still stored away in a giant footlocker and were all organized by color. How was I going to integrate these tens of thousands of new bricks?

There are dozens, maybe hundreds of posts, blogs, and tutorials online about the "expert" or "master"  way of doing this. However, most were unrealistic to me. They had lofty expectations of time, space,  and resources. I have plenty of time, but I am a father, husband, etc so I need to be very cognizant of where I spend it.

In the next few posts I hope to share my pitfalls, snags, educations, trials and tribulations around a large influx of new bricks for the Lego layman. Stay tuned as I try and lay out a decent path to organize the chaos of organizing the little bricks from heaven.