LEGO Storage for Large Collections

CHAPTER 5: LEGO Storage for Large Collections

Do you purchase multiple copies of a LEGO set because it includes great parts? Do you have a whole room dedicated to your LEGO collection? Have you been collecting since the 80’s? Your “Large” LEGO Collection needs to be really well organized, and you need to find the perfect storage solution for your home.

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.

Drawer Cabinets

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).

Akro-mils drawer cabinets are very popular.  They are high-quality and cost effective.

Akro-mils drawer cabinets are very popular. They are high-quality and cost effective.

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.

Recommended Products:
  • 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″ wide, 15 3/4″ tall, and 6 3/8″ deep. 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 an interior measurement of 5.0cm x 13.3cm x 3.7cm = 0.25 liter. The large drawers have interior dimensions of 10.8cm x 13.3cm x 5.3cm = 0.76 liter.
  • 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 they do in the LEGO design studios in Billund, you want to find large drawers with divided storage within. Drawers with dividers allow you to keep a large collection meticulously organized, and this approach takes up much less wall space than the drawer cabinets highlighted above. These cabinets are especially well suited for people who want to separate pieces by Element (Brick + Color) instead of just by Part.

Really Useful Scrapbook Drawers with Dividers. (Photo from Brickset)

Really Useful Scrapbook Drawers with Dividers. (Photo from Brickset)

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.

Recommended Products:
  • Really-Useful Scrapbooking Drawers – In addition to making premium storage boxes, the Really Useful Box company also makes quality stacking drawers for scrapbooking. They also make a divided insert for their Scrapbooking drawers, giving you 15 compartments per drawer for 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. (The drawers are 3.1″ / 8cm deep, and have a total volume of 440 in³ / 7200 cm³.) Each divided compartment is 10.5cm x 7.0cm x 8.0cm = 0.59 liter.
  • Papimax LEGO Storage Drawers – This UK company makes the only storage drawers designed specifically for LEGO Bricks. With drawers that are 14.5″ x 9″ x 2 1/3″ (37x23x6 cm), these cabinets are 1/3 smaller than the Really Useful Scrapbooking drawers. (Total volume 311 in³ / 5106 cm³.)
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

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.

Plano 3700 Series tackle boxes can store a lot of LEGO bricks.

Plano 3700 Series tackle boxes can store a lot of LEGO bricks.

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.

Recommended Products:
  • 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

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.

Zippered Plastic Bags are inexpensive and versatile.

Zippered Plastic Bags are inexpensive and versatile.

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.)

I strongly recommend having bags available in all sizes from the smallest 2″ x 3″ size to the largest 2.5 Gallon size — They are inexpensive, and you never know when you will need them!

Recommended Products:
  • 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 better 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.)

Open-front Bins

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.

Akro Mils Shelf with 8" x 12" Bins.

Akro Mils Shelf with 8″ x 12″ Bins.

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.

9 Responses

  1. Jack McKee says:

    Tom, the open Akro Mils drawers would be great, but dust on parts can be frustrating. I’d like to see drawers with clear lids which would open when you pulled the drawer out, and close as you shut the drawer. I don’t know if these exist or not.

    I am enjoying your beta book; learning a lot! Thanks for letting us read it.

    [::] Jack

    • tomalphin says:

      Jack,
      I have not experienced problems with dust while using the Akro-mils style cabinets. While they aren’t airtight when the drawers are closed, there isn’t a very large gap to allow dust to enter.

      I am not aware of drawers with lids which open when you pull the drawer out.

      Good luck!
      —tom

  2. Andreas Lederer says:

    Hi Tom, just a thought:
    I use three different types of tackle boxes – red, blue, and yellow – they have different tray sizes. Advantage: this solution is stackable – example:
    https://www.amazon.de/dp/B0002YYXUM/ref=twister_B01MZ0OJVH?_encoding=UTF8&th=1
    ( Hünersdorff 611900 Sortimentskasten )
    If a brick is out of stock of these boxes, I use in parallel plastic bags with the equvalent brick types. This is my “big” store.
    So I can decide quick and easely to reorder. The plastic bags are stored in boxes like you presented the “under-bed storage” solution 🙂
    Best regards, Andy

    • tomalphin says:

      Andreas,
      Thanks for sharing a link to a product which is versatile and works well with your collection. I love that there are versions with different size compartments, but the outside dimensions are the same so they stack well. I will consider offering a link to this product when I expand the article to include international product links.

      As for your system which includes overflow storage in plastic bags which are kept under the bed, that makes perfect sense to me! It’s not just about picking one product, but picking a set of products that work well together; finding the perfect LEGO Storage Solution for you!

      Sincerely,
      —tom

  3. Roloff de Jeu says:

    I also use small containers that are normally used for storing food (in your fridge or so). I take of the lids and stack them. I’ve started to use these as they are cheap, durable, and don’t waste space as I stack them with the lids off.

  4. Ralf says:

    A challenge I have is to find the piece I needed. The solution, I give all the parts that I store, a storage location like xxx.yyy, where the xxx points into the right box/cabinet/bag and the yyy the location in that box/cabinet/bag. Searching was never that easy, but also during the breaking out, it is easy to find the right spot.

  5. Josh chase says:

    I would also consider sterilite drawers that come in small, medium, and large sizes. Those small acro mills ones fill up very quickly. The small and large come apart and can be reconfigured to stack securely as high as you like. I currently have a 12×12 back of small drawers for most parts, with, 27 medium (9 units, and 9 large for very common parts I have a lot of. I also have an 6 stack on combo drawers and 2 acro mills small drawers for the rarer stuff. It’s worked out really well after a lot of trial and error. I find the tackle boxes and divided cases are a pain when you need to break out a large box for a single part, and often you need several for a category of part, especially technic. Anyway, food for thought

    • tomalphin says:

      Josh, thanks for the feedback. I agree that there are some medium-sized drawers that I should add to the guide, and look forward to hearing more about the specific Sterilite drawers that are working well for you.

      thanks,
      —tom

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