Savaging the Lego System
May 20, 2020 4:23 PM   Subscribe

Does making order calm you down? Do you enjoy seeing how other people organize their stuff? Do you have a soft spot for Lego Classic Space parts, like the 1x2 with the arrow swooshing across a planet? Then Adam Savage's One Day Builds: LEGO Sorting and Storage System might be just the thing for you (SLYT, plus Savage's sorting superstar mom).
posted by MonkeyToes (38 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
He sorts by colour, though!

It's much easier to find the single red 1x2 brick in a sea of other 1x2 bricks than it is to find the single 1x2 brick in a container of other red parts.
posted by Paladin1138 at 5:56 PM on May 20 [22 favorites]


*Angry Legos*
posted by klausman at 6:01 PM on May 20 [1 favorite]


The table-saw stuff at 13:30-ish scares the willies out of me. GET YOUR HANDS AWAY FROM THAT BLADE.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 6:20 PM on May 20 [4 favorites]


I had the same table-saw reaction -- I'm totally stunned that somebody who works alone as often as he does, who has the resources he has, doesn't own a SawStop. His table saw is an awesome machine and I understand wanting to keep it but SawStops are pretty fabulous table saws too, and (probably) won't take your finger off.

Mostly though I was hoping for a "Sorting and Storage System" where "system" meant "automated brick-sorting machine and/or robot" and instead I got the other kind of system.
posted by range at 6:40 PM on May 20 [7 favorites]


Adam tore his finger on a moving lathe about a month ago. Hopefully he's being super careful now.
posted by JoeZydeco at 6:58 PM on May 20 [2 favorites]


This made my day. Thank you. People just gotta work through projects and inevitably make mistakes along the way. I appreciate the honesty.
posted by pmburns222 at 7:30 PM on May 20 [1 favorite]


What made me shudder with the table saw were the times he casually picked it up and moved it while it was still operating.
posted by ursus_comiter at 9:26 PM on May 20 [3 favorites]


It's been fascinating watching all of the videos of Adam Savage doing builds and answering questions on the Tested YouTube channel during the lockdown, but yeah, I've found in terms of shop safety he talks a good talk but doesn't always walk the walk. (Though even then, it feels like this one's a bit more egregious; I suspect that it's the end of day fatigue he references later in the video.) Also I'm pretty sure this was filmed after the lathe incident.
posted by Aleyn at 10:33 PM on May 20


Oh my, is this ever timely.

1:50 Oh Adam, you ain't shit. 2 boxes of Lego? We have 12.

2:05 Sort by color?? No, no, no, no, no. You sort by function. This is elementary level Lego.

My kids' collection includes my sister and my old Legos of course and has expanded enormously. No one ever throws out Lego. Which brings up the question my kids and I have been pondering during the lock down: if they are continuously producing new Lego, and no one ever throws out Lego, it follows naturally that one day the entire world will be overrun with, and probably consist entirely of, Lego. How many years into the future will this Critical Lego Event occur? 100? 500?

6:06 Aw, shit yeah, the control panel 2 x 2 slanted. Best Lego piece ever!

10:07 Yes, there are so many Legos. The ideal storage solution has not yet been invented. Someday some revolutionary mind will come up with the solution. But we are all constrained by the limits of our own minds to conceive of this solution. Are the inadequate, highly labor intensive, systems we use now just wasted energy until the One True Unifying System of Lego organization is developed?

10:45 Good choice on the bins, Adam. But any serious Lego collection will require maybe 50-60 of those thin divided bins.

18:30 Oh man, unsafe table saw technique!

19:00 By the way, Adam, progressive lenses. They're a thing. So much easier. Great frames, though.

24:00 I'm wondering if he is manic. Before he started cutting, the clock read 9:30, he's been at this all day, this is now a couple hours later. Would explain the mistakes. And maybe his noticeable weight loss.

26:19 I really need to get a friggin air compressor.

Ok, here's the thing. I've dabbled in Lego organization. Stacked art boxes. Color-coded draw string bags. Lego "tables" with central receptacles. I've explored every prevailing theory on Lego storage and organization. Lego naturally wants to co-mingle, it's a natural characteristic of the forces that hold the universe together, like gravity, the LEGO Force. Energy expended to resist this force greatly exceeds any advantage. In fact, it is likely that keeping all the "red, flat" pieces together in one place decreases the creative capacity of Lego.

This notion was put to the test recently when I was presented the nightmare scenario. I gifted my youngest child a very large Lego set 2 years ago, the "Destiny's Bounty." In case you are not versed in the Ninjago universe, it is a fantasy triple masted sail ship which flies through the air and in addition to all the usual wind powered sea-worthy ship accoutrements, includes a dojo for the practice of "Spinjitzu" (the imaginary martial art practiced in the Ninjago universe), two dragons, living quarters, an observatory, and the entire cast of characters from Ninjago.

Naturally, the ship that took us (i.e. me) three days to build gradually succumbed to the Lego Force and eventually disintegrated. A few weeks ago, my 8 year old noticed that his very very special so important to him Ninjago Ship was now gone. Anxiety became tears. Tears became blubbering. Daddy promised he would do whatever it takes to bring Ninjago ship back. Just please stop the sobbing because it was literally breaking daddy's heart.

He would forget for a few days and then suddenly, usually right before bed while snuggling, he'd remember and start all over. I actually looked on line thinking buying a new set would be easier than trying to reassemble the ship out of 12 boxes of mixed Lego. No luck, it was no longer made and this set was going for a thousand dollars on collector sites.

So lockdown happened. We needed a project. We had the instruction manual. 2295 pieces mixed in with ...I'm guessing several million.

We are now about 10 hours into reassembly and remarkably we are probably 2/3 done. I am really confident we will have this thing "good as new" as I promised by the end of the weekend. It has become the single most important thing in my life.

With all the confinement to home, and no social interaction, and worry about the stupid world spinning chaotically out of control, I need my child to know that his father has the power to fix at least one thing in his life.

I think we'll be done this weekend. And the point is, the hours I am spending combing through boxes of Lego looking for that one particular weird brown piece among hundreds of thousands of others is STILL less time than I would have spend trying to keep the Lego organized by color, shape, and function.

I am sorry Adam, but Lego organization is a fool's errand. It can't be done and it is only taking time away from Lego's intended purpose, which is Shiva: destruction, intermingling, recombining, and creating anew. Even in the worst case scenario as I am dealing with now, the numbers just don't add up.

Lego wants to be free.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 10:48 PM on May 20 [49 favorites]


Brickset have been doing a fun series about different people's Lego storage solutions.

Some like to keep things neat. Some prefer their lego underfoot. While others just enjoy excess.
posted by Lorc at 12:43 AM on May 21


He sorts by colour, though!

It's much easier to find the single red 1x2 brick in a sea of other 1x2 bricks than it is to find the single 1x2 brick in a container of other red parts.


As he says in the video, sorting by colour is only the first step. He's going to sort by form factor next, once he has a system figured out.
posted by Pendragon at 12:51 AM on May 21


Slarty Bartfest, switch out Destiny's Bounty with the Simpson's House and you have accurately described my lockdown LEGO life.
posted by theBigRedKittyPurrs at 3:21 AM on May 21


I sorted by color at first, but once you reach a certain critical mass, it's more productive to sort by piece.

Speaking of which, my build table is covered in parts to be sorted. It tasks me.
posted by Fleebnork at 5:10 AM on May 21


I appreciate that he has a storage pool table, which in my experience, every pool table becomes as they age.
posted by gc at 5:44 AM on May 21 [7 favorites]


Slarty Bartfest, switch out Destiny's Bounty with the Simpson's House and you have accurately described my lockdown LEGO life.

All in all, it’s not a bad lockdown activity.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 8:06 AM on May 21 [1 favorite]


That is ambitious. I recently started thinking about Legos again for the first time in 40 years and decided I'd like to buy a few sets of 200-400 pieces to have fun and kill time during quarantine. Imagine my surprise when I started looking at Legos on Amazon and OMG everything is $150 and up. The cheapest Millenium Falcon set is like $400. Anything in the creator series seems to be way over $200. How can anyone afford these sets?! I know there's a used market but holy crap it's expensive too. Any advice on where to find inexpensive Legos?
posted by photoslob at 8:21 AM on May 21


Legos have always been expensive. Googling around, in 1979 the Galaxy Explorer set cost $38, or $135 in today's money.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 8:29 AM on May 21 [1 favorite]


(but I personally assure you that it was suh-WEEEEEET)
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 8:29 AM on May 21 [1 favorite]


We were hunting around for a toy trolley bus. Not easy to find, but we did find a pseudo LEGO trolley bus. Cheap. Turns out there is a Chinese company cranking out LEGO-like kits. Ok kit. Bus looked good. But. The pieces wouldn’t hold together. The child would play with it for a few minutes and things would fall off. So I glued a bunch back. Even the glue wouldn’t hold this plastic together. Model glue. Superglue. Nothing. Inexpensive LEGO? You get what you pay for.
posted by njohnson23 at 8:39 AM on May 21 [1 favorite]


Also, TiL that I am older (slightly) than Adam Savage.
posted by hanov3r at 8:49 AM on May 21




*LEGO NOISES INTESIFY*
posted by hanov3r at 9:09 AM on May 21 [2 favorites]


Legos have always been expensive. Googling around, in 1979 the Galaxy Explorer set cost $38, or $135 in today's money.

I guess when you're a kid and not buying them you really have no clue how expensive they are!
posted by photoslob at 9:13 AM on May 21 [2 favorites]


[Couple comments removed. I know it's not intended unkindly, but randomly speculating about someone's health or appearance is in general not great, let's skip it.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:19 AM on May 21 [9 favorites]


The ideal storage solution has not yet been invented. Someday some revolutionary mind will come up with the solution.

Sorting Lego, you say?
posted by 43rdAnd9th at 9:03 AM on May 21 [+] [!]


Well that didn't take long. I stand corrected. I was thinking this person might have bought their ticket to a dream -- a cool job working for Lego in Denmark. Then I started googling and discovered someone else did this better, and even made his machine out of Lego.

Any advice on where to find inexpensive Legos?

I think the inflation adjusted price of Lego has come down. Most of the sets we buy are in the $30-$50 range from like Target or Amazon. The big marquee sets like the Saturn V or Hogwart's are seriously over-the-top like nothing we had back in the day. The Millenium Falcon would take a normal person like 2 weeks to build, these are made for adults. Intact used sets are also very expensive because they are usually collectible and it's unusual to not have missing pieces.

There's a big market for by-the-pound unsorted Lego and if you go to a Lego store, they'll sell you pieces by weight that you can pick out yourself, but you are limited to whatever 40-50 bins are out that day. Lego also sells virtually any brick you choose by the piece (I am trying to imagine the inventory control system) but that seems tedious as hell.

In the end, your best bet may be to get an 8 year old child and throw them a birthday party. Make sure your kid is only friends with the children of a bunch of uptight liberal parents who would be mortified to provide a gift that wasn't wholesome and educational or offended in any way. You can always return the books you get and exchange them for more Lego.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 10:54 AM on May 21 [6 favorites]


I enjoyed the Savage video, but can’t help but think a disorganized heap of Lego from
mismatched sets was always the Most Fun Lego. When I was a kid, out Lego storage system consisted of an old, battered suitcase from which you dumped the commingled pieces in a pile and proceeded to build Frankenstein creations from there.

Some pieces, particularly small ones, would sometimes get left behind on the floor, with predictable results.

Lego wants to be free.

*whispered nature documentary narration*

Lurking unseen in the 70s shag carpet, the escaped Lego lies in wait for the bare foot of a hapless parent.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 11:51 AM on May 21 [4 favorites]


I recently started thinking about Legos again for the first time in 40 years and decided I'd like to buy a few sets of 200-400 pieces to have fun and kill time during quarantine. Imagine my surprise when I started looking at Legos on Amazon and OMG everything is $150 and up. The cheapest Millenium Falcon set is like $400. Anything in the creator series seems to be way over $200. How can anyone afford these sets?! I know there's a used market but holy crap it's expensive too. Any advice on where to find inexpensive Legos?

It sounds like maybe your eyes are bigger than your wallet. If you want big sets, they cost big money. A good general estimate of value is a part/price ratio between 10-12 cents per piece. Anything cheaper than that and you can feel ok about getting decent value for your money.

However, some of the prices you're seeing might also be inflated by collectible pricing.

The thing you have to watch out for with Amazon is resellers. Some of the inflated prices you're seeing are third party sellers asking more money for sets that are discontinued and have become more collectible. This problem has also begun to surface on Target and Walmart websites as they have started to allow resellers.

The cheapest bang for your buck with Lego is always garage sales. Discount stores like Tuesday Morning, Second and Charles, and others often have clearance prices on recently retired sets.

Star Wars sets are always going to have the "Star Wars Premium" prices compared to other sets with similar part counts. You're probably not likely to be able to get a Millennium Falcon for under $100 unless you catch a clearance at the right time. The most recent Falcon set released for Rise of Skywalker was $159.99 MSRP. The big holy grail coffee table sized ultimate collector set is the $799 one.
posted by Fleebnork at 12:17 PM on May 21 [1 favorite]


I feel my username requires me to weigh in here, but I mostly just want to say that if you are sorting for building efficiency, your personal sort method should be based on what you build.
Don’t sort by color, unless you build a lot of blue houses, in which case it may benefit you to sort all the blue pieces out and subdivide them by shape.
Also, with large collections, group pieces by function. All styles of hinges and turntables should be near each other, so you know where to find them when you need them.
For parts you don’t use often, there’s no need to increase the resolution of the sort. For me, train parts have their own highly-sorted parts boxes, but all rubber wheels and tires go into one big tub.
My ultimate sorting goal is to sort the least amount possible that still allows me to find the parts I need when I need them.

And my personal PSA is that if you have kids, resist the urge to sort their LEGO collections more than is helpful to them. Maybe pull out all the mini figures into a shoebox, and put all the rocket parts in a baggie, but when you are a kid building creatively, there is glory in searching through the unsorted mass!
posted by LEGO Damashii at 4:09 PM on May 21 [2 favorites]


Let's not forget that this is Mefi's Own™ asavage!
posted by ChrisR at 4:14 PM on May 21


That table saw. I guess he's working with large-ish panels of wood and isn't holding them too close to the blade when he's cutting them but yeah I was really worried for his fingers when he was using it.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 4:14 PM on May 21


Lego wants to be free.

Flagged as fucking fantastic because it made me cackle and laugh out loud for the first time in days.

Thank you. Carry on, Doctor.
posted by loquacious at 11:56 PM on May 21 [1 favorite]


For parts you don’t use often, there’s no need to increase the resolution of the sort. For me, train parts have their own highly-sorted parts boxes, but all rubber wheels and tires go into one big tub.

I generally do this as well, but I have a few tubs of seldom-used parts that are grouped into gallon size ziploc bags.
posted by Fleebnork at 6:44 AM on May 22 [1 favorite]


This post and the comments sent me down a multi-hour internet rabbithole trying to remember the big "starter" set I got when I was a kid. It was this glorious beast here, which is still in my Dad's garage in some degree of completeness with subsequent smaller kits almost certainly mixed in.

Also in the garage is a smallish tub of all the Castle kits I bought in the 90's, all mixed together. I kept all the instructions in an accordion file, that I haven't seen in more than a decade. It seemed like a reasonable idea at the time, but clearly mistakes have been made.

Sure, I could have called him to ask which one it was, but then I'd have to answer the natural follow-up question of "When are you going to come get all this crap?"
posted by ApathyGirl at 10:39 AM on May 22 [2 favorites]


He's charming, but the table saw antics gave me the heebie jeebies. Later in the video I noticed Savage aligned his hands with the channels when he was cutting the quarter inch plywood, which is a little better, but he's still just way too cavalier with safety for my taste. And while I really appreciated that he shared his mistakes and reacted with flexibility and aplomb, as one should, the measuring and glue-up errors coupled with the safety lapses made me think he needs to be more careful about working while tired. I need a new table saw and usually work alone, so I'm definitely going with the SawStop.
posted by carmicha at 7:31 AM on May 23


OK To Go - Still Untitled: The Adam Savage Project - 5/26/20 - asavage still checks Metafilter every day and seems amused by the discussion of his skinny-ness.
posted by zengargoyle at 1:16 PM on May 26 [2 favorites]


Ha. Bless you, Adam.
posted by cortex at 2:56 PM on May 26 [1 favorite]


Lockdown has been a little tense, parenting-wise, but watching this video with my Lego-loving son was time well spent. (His comment: "Look, Adam Savage's mom helps him sort his Lego, too!") Thanks, asavage!
posted by MonkeyToes at 3:49 PM on May 26 [2 favorites]


Lego is a bourgeois indulgence, but I do enjoy watching people organise things, and Adam Savage is of course fantastic, so this was my bedtime viewing last night.

And yes, the blue slanted spaceship console is the ultimate Lego piece to ever exist.
posted by turbid dahlia at 9:46 PM on May 26 [1 favorite]


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