Sorting LEGO Bricks and Pieces for Larger Building Projects on the Horizon

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One of the important tasks that I had set for myself over the Spring Recess was to sort my LEGO brick collection. For many, many years, I would painstakingly look through my bins of bricks for types and colors of bricks as needed for a given project. While it was fun and relaxing to spend time searching and accumulating the bricks that I sought and discover other useful bricks during this process, it was also excessively time consuming. I have bought and sold enormous LEGO collections, but I have never properly sorted any of them. Now, I have ideas that I would like to attempt to build, but they will require a more thought out and planned approach to building than my previous work. Therefore, I realized that I had to sort my bricks so that I could take stock of what I had and be able to access my brick stock as efficiently as possible. Essentially, I would put in time sorting now to improve my knowledge about what I had, access to that inventory, and efficiency when selecting bricks with which to build.

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Initially, I wanted to use what I had on hand to begin the sorting process. I often recycled shipping boxes for working with LEGO, so I began there.

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My cardboard sorting tray worked well enough to separate bricks and pieces during sorting, but I quickly learned that extracting those bricks and pieces without their intermixing under my makeshift barriers was impossible.

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Thus, I invested in a 44-drawer Akro-Mils storage bin. Manufactured one town over from Kent State University in Akron, Ohio, this drawer system works really well for my novice sorting needs.

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I follow an iterative process for my brick sorting. I have several 12.7 quart Sterilite latch boxes full of LEGO bricks. I pick one box and see what bricks seem to be in greater quantity. I pull out drawers from the Akro-Mils storage bin and being pulling only those types of bricks (focusing on type of brick and collecting all colors of that brick). This reduces the quantity of bricks in this that Sterilite box until it is small enough to dump the remaining bricks into the next Sterilite box. Then, I repeat the process again. However, I focus on different brick types depending on what dominates in a given Sterilite box.

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With those bricks (and plates) that I have more than will fit in the drawers of the Akro-Mils bin, I repurpose the empty Sterilite boxes for those larger quantities. For example, one Sterilite box is only 1×1 or larger bricks, and another is only plates 1×3 or larger. I will use another Sterilite for slopes, another for arches, etc. With my system, I am focusing on type of brick instead of colors, because I can’t afford to purchase enough Akro-Mils bins to separate by type and color.

I am a professor of English at the New York City College of Technology, CUNY whose teaching includes composition and technical communication, and research focuses on 20th/21st-century American culture, science fiction, neuroscience, and digital technology.

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Posted in Lego, Personal
Who is Dynamic Subspace?

Dr. Jason W. Ellis shares his interdisciplinary research and pedagogy on DynamicSubspace.net. Its focus includes the exploration of science, technology, and cultural issues through science fiction and neuroscientific approaches. It includes vintage computing, LEGO, and other wonderful things, too.

He is an Assistant Professor of English at the New York City College of Technology, CUNY (City Tech) where he teaches college writing, technical communication, and science fiction.

He holds a Ph.D. in English from Kent State University, M.A. in Science Fiction Studies from the University of Liverpool, and B.S. in Science, Technology, and Culture from Georgia Tech.

He welcomes questions, comments, and inquiries for collaboration via email at jellis at citytech dot cuny dot edu or Twitter @dynamicsubspace.

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