CHAPTER 5: LEGO Storage for Large Collections
This chapter looks at storage solutions for advanced LEGO builders with a very large collection of bricks. These “Large” LEGO collections range from 50,000 bricks to well over a million bricks, and are typically sorted by part. Some extremely large collections are sorted by element (separate container for each unique color of each part). Because this chapter covers a wide ranges of collections, it includes many LEGO storage solutions, including professional storage solutions which are typically used in an industrial setting.
If you have a modest collection of bricks and you don’t want to sort by part, go back to Chapter 4: LEGO Storage for Medium Collections.
If you aren’t sure how you should organize your collection, start with Section I: Organizing, Sorting, & Storing LEGO Bricks.
One of the most popular storage solutions among AFOL’s with large collections are Plastic Drawer Cabinets. They are reasonably priced, and with more than 50 drawers per cabinet you can sort your pieces by Part, or even by Element (Part + Color).
Selection and quality varies greatly, with only one or two brands receiving the majority of attention in a given region. In the United States, the most common choice is the Akro-Mils products, but the Stack-on products are also popular. Some models can be stacked several units high, while others require wall mounting.
Features to look for in these cabinets include: flexible drawers (which bend instead of breaking), drawers that can be removed easily, drawers that can be stacked when they are removed from the cabinet, and drawers that are the right size for your needs.
- Akro-Mils Drawer Cabinets – Plastic drawer cabinets by Akro-Mils are the top pick of most LEGO Enthusiasts in the USA. They have several advantages over other options including: drawers are easily removed and stack-able, drawers are deep enough for 16-stud bricks, drawers are flexible which makes them hard to break, and have competitive prices. All three cabinet sizes are 20″ x 6 3/8″ x 15 3/4″ h (50.8cm x 16.2cm x 40cm h). They can be wall mounted, or stacked up to three units high. I strongly recommend the 64-drawer cabinet for most scenarios, but some people will want to use the 24-drawer cabinet for common elements or minifig accessories. There is also a 44-drawer cabinet with both large and small drawers.
The small drawers have interior measurements of 5.0cm x 13.3cm x 3.7cm h (2″ x 5 1/4″ x 1 1/2″ h), and a volume of 0.25 liters (15 1/4 in³).
The large drawers have interior measurements of 10.8cm x 13.3cm x 5.3cm h (4 1/4″ x 5 1/4″ x 2″ h), and a volume of 0.76 liters (46 1/3 in³).
- Stack on Drawer Cabinets – The Stack-on brand is also popular and well made. The cabinets are taller than they are wide, which might be easier in your home. The drawers are not stackable, which is less convenient when carrying drawers around your workspace. As with the Akro-Mils product, they come in three sizes: 60 small drawers, 18 large drawers, and a mix of 39 small and large drawers.
Drawers with dividers
If you want to store your LEGO collection like the LEGO design studios in Billund, you want large drawers with divided compartments. Drawers with dividers allow you to keep a large collection meticulously organized, and they take up less wall space than the drawer cabinets highlighted above. These cabinets are especially well suited for people who want to separate pieces by Element (Part + Color) instead of just by Part.
I have seen beautiful examples of drawers with every common brick and plate of a single color in one cabinet, or alternately, every color of a single part in a single drawer. Which organizational scheme you pick will depend on whether you think about the LEGO library of elements by color first, or by part first.
- Really-Useful Scrapbooking Drawers – In addition to making premium storage boxes, the Really Useful Box company also makes quality stacking drawers for scrapbooking, and a divided insert which gives you 15 compartments per drawer for storing LEGO parts up to 12-studs long.
Since scrapbook paper is 12″ x 12″ (30×30 cm) these are big drawers that can hold a lot of LEGO Bricks. With the insert, each of the 15 divided compartments are 10.5cm x 7.0cm x 7.5cm h (4 1/8 x 2 3/4″ x 2.9″ h), and a volume of 0.55 liters (33.6 in³).
- Papimax LEGO Storage Drawers – This UK company makes the only storage drawers designed specifically for LEGO Bricks.
Each drawer is 37cm x 23cm x 6cm h (14.5″ x 9″ x 2 1/3″ h), with a total volume of 5.1 liters (311 in³). Drawers can be configured with up to 15 compartments measuring about 7cm x 7.5cm x 6cm h (2 3/4″ x 3″ x 2 1/3″ h), and a volume of 0.32 liters (19 1/4 in³). Each drawer is about 1/3 smaller than the Really Useful Scrapbooking drawers.
Note: Neither of these products are readily available in the US at this time. I’ve contacted both companies about expanded global availability.
Tackle boxes are popular in the crafting community, and they are popular with LEGO enthusiasts as well. These containers have divided compartments and a tight fitting lid, and are less expensive than some other options. The most common designs have a lid which is attached to the base with a hinge, and the size of each compartment is often adjustable with plastic dividers.
Accessing a specific part is a bit slower than some other solutions, as you need to find the right container, fold it open, and carefully remove the parts you need without causing an earthquake (where parts end up shifting into the wrong compartment.) That said, they are extremely portable, making them a great choice for younger builders, or people who need to bring parts to a LEGO convention. It’s also a good deep storage option for well-organized builders who need an inexpensive and efficient storage solution for less frequently used parts.
- Plano Tackle Boxes – Tackle boxes come in a wide range of sizes, but the larger sizes can hold more LEGO bricks. I recommend the 3700 Series which is 14″ x 9.25″ x 2″ tall, and has up to 24 compartments. The smaller 3600 Series is 11″ x 7.25″ x 1.75″ tall, with up to 21 compartments. (Anything smaller than this is probably too small for LEGO bricks.)
- Plano Multi-tray Tackle Box – For the ultimate in well-organized portable storage, consider one of these large tackle boxes which store up to four tackle box trays. The Plano 1374 Rack System holds four of the 3700 Series Tackle Boxes recommended above.
Plastic bags are one of the cheapest and most commonly used LEGO storage containers. It helps that they are very easy to find — you can buy them at almost any grocery store. That said, not all bags are created equal… Premium bags don’t cost much more, but they include convenient Sliding zippers, and are designed to stand up when placed on the ground. This might not seem like a big deal, but it’s really helpful since you can leave a bag unzipped without worrying about it falling over and spilling pieces all over your workspace.
Plastic Bags are especially well suited as overflow storage for people with very large collections — you can stack a lot of bags in a box or large drawer without wasting space. (Plastic Bags are also useful for storing sets, manuals, or other LEGO accessories.)
- Ziploc Slider Stand & Fill Bags – This is the premium option for storing LEGO bricks in bags. The slider makes it easier to open and close, and the bag stands up while you fill it. Available in Quart, Gallon, or a Variety packs. (For even larger quantities, or to store a complete LEGO set, try the Hefty Slider 2.5 Gallon Bag.)
- Standard Plastic bags – The most common sizes are Sandwich, Quart, and Gallon. The name brand regular bags cost almost as much as the Slider bags, but you might be able to find inexpensive generic bags at your grocery store. The “Freezer” bags are thicker and more durable, but more expensive. (I really like the Snack Size, which is the same width as the Sandwich size, but half as tall. It’s perfect for small parts and accessories.)
- Small Bags – If you’ve ever purchased LEGO bricks on Bricklink, you probably received some of them in very small plastic bags. The smallest size I can recommend are the 3″ x 5″ bags, which are cheap and can hold a fair number of pieces. (The 2″ x 3″ bags aren’t very useful, although they are large enough to store a couple bricks or a single LEGO Minifigure.)
Designed for industrial applications, some professional LEGO builders use open-front storage for commonly-used bricks. This storage solution takes up a lot of space, so it only makes sense if you have a very large quantity of common elements. For example, artists like Nathan Sawaya who use a large quantity of classic bricks to make large LEGO sculptures.
The main concern with this storage solution is that it is expensive, takes up a lot of space, and pieces can fall out if the container is too full.