The flip side of all the building that I’ve been doing is that I’m terribly behind in my sorting. A well sorted collection is key to being able to build well (since a piece you can’t find is a piece you don’t have). With Bricks Cascade behind me, it is time to get busy disassembling unwanted models, parting out sets, and sorting all those elements.
I’ve settled into what is generally a two-stage system for sorting. My first step is to sort elements into rough classes based on geometry and use. The second stage is to further sort those elements into finer selections of type and color.
I do most of my sorting on the floor in my living room. That gives me some space to spread out and has the advantage that I can stream tv or music while I work. I lay out various containers in an arc so that I can reach them while I sit in the center. I like to use drawer organizers as trays while I work, though if possible I disassemble models straight into sorting bins.
To one side I keep four one-gallon bins. Each bin is a broad class of elements: bricks, plates, slopes, technic. Obviously there is a fair amount of fudge factor here based on the idiosyncrasies of my organizational taxonomy. I tend to toss uncommon/boring modified bricks and plates in these bins. My definition of slopes includes domes, dishes, and arches, and my technic bin gets wheels and tires too.
On the other side I use a profusion of yogurt containers to sort out all the little stuff. These are the fiddliest elements, so I have the containers labeled to keep me sane (it also helps in identifying their contents when sealed up).
This first rough sort isn’t perfect. I often drop elements into the wrong places. The main goal here is to avoid having a big bin of completely unsorted elements. I have a bin like that, and I hate trying to dig through it, the elements in it might as well be in the trash.
When one of my sorting containers gets full (or overflowing), that signals that I need to switch gears and do a finer sort. The layout for this isn’t as structured, since each cup or bin can wind up getting sorted into dozens of different places in my overall collection.
Here, I’ve taken that cup and sorted it quickly. The pockets help break all those tiny elements into less daunting quantities and give me room to paw through them as needed. I don’t always use a tray, sometimes it is just neat piles of elements just waiting to be transferred to their final destination.
When all the sorting is finished, the elements should be organized enough that they can be located and used in a quickly enough not to disrupt my building process. A nicely organized tray like this gives me access to functionally similar elements in a variety of colors.
Of course there are actually more than two stages to my sorting. As my collection grows, my sorting has to grow in complexity. I store most of my elements in zip-loc bags. Whenever a bag gets too full, I sort the contents into more bags. The whole system is like one of those Russian nesting dolls, except that I can add and subtract layers as needed.
I’ve learned some lessons along the way. Always have good lighting when sorting colors. Many times I’ve opened a bag and found dark blue elements mixed into the black because I’d sorted in dim light. I’ve had projects take way too long because I hadn’t done the side work and gotten everything organized first.
My best advice is that you should learn to love sorting. A well-organized collection is a thing of beauty that rivals even the most intricately built model. What’s more, that model wouldn’t be likely to exist without all the sorting. Sorting is the builder’s second hobby.
I’ll talk about organization in the future. I have too much sorting to do right now.
Keep building and enjoy!