Someone at work asked about my storage system, and since I tend to share way too many details, I figured I’d turn it into a blog post instead.
First off – a couple disclaimers: this is not a brag post. I know there are plenty of collectors out there with walls and walls of meticulously-sorted Lego parts and I’ve (mostly) gotten over my inferiority complex and accepted that I’ll never have a massive collection like them. On the flip side, this is certainly not a prescription on how to do anything. It’s just a continually-changing work-in-progress that meets my needs right now: a cheap and easy-to-find-everything-in-reach solution for building sets and MOCs from my desk.
First up, we have pins and axles in a 20-bin storage case from Harbor Freight. These things are amazing. Identical to $20 Stanley containers, they are normally $9, and every time they went on sale, last year, I’d pick up another one for $5 or $6. Each individual tray can be removed and rearranged making for really convenient retrieval and organization. I mostly use them for sorting out new sets or when re-building something like a modular building. Only one is permanently homed in my Technic collection, but that might change soon.
Next up is the typical “hardware drawer” solution most enthusiasts cover their walls with. I’ve tried Harbor Freight ones – they’re garbage. I’ve liked the Tuff Store line from Menards for their relative cheapness (wait for 11%) and decent construction (though I have done a little filtering at the store trying to find one not too warped…). The top rows don’t always “catch” right (I had one disastrous moment where I sent a ton of tiles raining into my other drawers once…), but they come with plenty of drawer sub-dividers which is surprisingly rare in these things. I started with 1, then 2 of the 17-drawer units and am now onto the 43-drawer one. Probably going to the 60-drawer soon (or just giving up and having two of these units; but I’m trying to conserve space!).
Finally, onto the great (though somewhat hard to find as of late) Sterlite drawers! I got a good deal on a 6-pack of the 3-small drawers and haven’t looked back. They stack together well, pop out well when needed, have clear fronts, so you can see inside, and are the perfect dimension to hold many of the medium-sized Technic pieces. I’m only exploding out of a few (and that only because everything is disassembled right now due to a house move). They can hold exactly 78 5×7 frames, and I have 2-drawers of 13- and 15-length beams*.
I also have a couple of medium sized drawers for larger things like panels and electronics, and then a stack of 3 huge drawers (that I’m not really a fan of, so they didn’t make the photo gallery) for all the overflow: tires, buckets, hoses, and several bins of overflow from the Harbor Freight case (holy cow do I have a lot of black and blue pins!!).
As I said, it’s a work in progress (as evidenced from some of the still-tiny-labels that have upgraded to larger drawers!). If you’re just getting started, start small and work your way up. It’s definitely okay to mix pieces if you have a logical method of doing it (or if you like being illogical…. to each his or her own!); I still have several drawers of mixed-pieces, just because it’s easy enough to distinguish one from another – though I suggest you leave yourself plenty of slack in a container if you’re going to do this. I used to have all my “modified” axles in a single packed bin, and it took forever to find the right ones. Just find something that helps you enjoy the hobby. If that’s “digging through a huge bin of random parts” then more power to you! Have a nice day!
* So I hadn’t actually finished dismantling my last set. I’m now overflowing several drawers and have some capacity numbers! I might keep this up-to-date as I feel like re-packing them neatly. Here is the capacity-per-small-Sterlite-drawer:
- 1×9 Beams: 250
- 1×11 Beams: 200
- 1×13 Beams: 150 (sadly leaving a lot of slack space)
- 1×15 Beams: 140
- Any beam: 19 across, 25 front-to-back, and 5 tall
- You lose one unit of length when switching sides since beams are a fraction of a millimeter thicker in one dimension than another; for example, you can fit 2 9-beams across the drawer with no room for an extra in the middle, even though you can fit 19 beams sideways.