Review: Really Useful Scrapbook Drawers
Is a storage tower that was originally designed for Scrapbooking perfect for your LEGO collection? It might be!
Many LEGO enthusiasts use Really Useful Boxes to store bulk LEGO bricks or bring MOCs to LEGO conventions. They are high-quality stackable plastic boxes with latching lids, which are made in the UK by Really Useful Products. (They come in a bunch of different sizes.)
They also manufacture storage towers with drawers. The drawers were designed with scrapbooking in mind, which is why each drawer has an inside dimension slightly larger than 12×12” scrapbooking paper. A separate “hobby tray” can be inserted into each drawer, dividing it into 15 equally-sized compartments.
Really Useful Scrapbook Drawers
I learned about these Scrapbook Drawers w/ Hobby Tray while researching my LEGO Storage Guide, because several prominent members of the LEGO community in Europe were pleased with how well they work for LEGO collections.
The drawers comes in both clear and translucent rainbow-colored options. I prefer the clear drawers—even though they use a soft, milky translucent plastic, you can see the color of your LEGO bricks through the front of the drawer.
While you can use the drawers as-is, the optional “hobby tray” makes the drawers more useful for sorting your LEGO collection by dividing each drawer into 15 identical compartments.
- Cabinet exterior dimensions (per drawer): 39.5 × 42 × 11cm tall. (15 9/16″ × 16 9/16″ × 4 5/16″ tall.)
- Drawer interior dimensions:32.4 × 37.1 × 8.3cm tall. (12 3/4″ × 14 5/8″ × 3 1/4″ tall.)
- Hobby Tray compartment interior dimensions:10.1 × 7.2 × 7.6cm tall. (4″ × 2 7/8″ × 3″ tall.)
In LEGO units, the compartments that are a little over 13 studs wide, 8 studs deep, and 8 studs tall. As such, elements which are more than 13 studs long will not fit.
Because Really Useful Products is based in the UK, their products are readily available in Europe.
In the USA, the scrapbooking drawers are available at Michaels stores, or direct from Really Useful Products. (The hobby tray was not available in the USA until recently, and to my knowledge is only available direct from reallyusefulproducts.co.uk/usa)
You can order a cabinet direct from the manufacturer in any configuration you like, or purchase the cabinet and order the hobby insert later. Let’s look at the a-la-carte pricing, and determine how much a common configuration will cost.
Price per part
- $4.97 – Drawer.
- $5.98 – Stackable Section.
- $7.84 – 15-compartment Hobby Tray insert.
- $7.64 – Top (one per tower.)
- $3.85 – Castors (one per tower.)
Each cabinet has a base cost of $11.49 for top and castors, plus $18.79 per drawer. That’s $161.81 plus shipping for an 8-drawer cabinet. (You may be able to save money by purchasing the tower locally, and ordering 8 hobby inserts for $62.72 plus shipping.)
The castors are optional, but recommended if you want to move the tower easily. They work great on hardwoods, and work reasonably well on low-pile carpets.
There isn’t a lot of competition for drawers with dividers. Besides ludicrously expensive business-class solutions by companies like Schaller, the only direct competitor in this space are the Papimax StackX Drawers which were designed specifically for LEGO collectors.
Really Useful Products makes high quality drawers designed for scrapbooking, with an optional 15-compartment insert that works great for large LEGO collections. These are really large drawers that can hold a lot of LEGO bricks.
Brick Architect rated it “Very Good” (3/5 stars). Read the Review.
Plastic drawer cabinets by Akro-Mils are the top pick for 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.
Papi-max drawers are much smaller and shallower, holding about ½ as many bricks per drawer. Unlike the hobby tray insert, removeable dividers allow you to configure up to 5 rows and up to 3 columns of separate compartments. Each compartment in the Papi-max drawer was designed to hold parts up to 8×8 studs, which is a perfect fit for most parts, with the option to remove a divider to hold longer parts.
The other main competitor to this product are shallow cabinets with lots of individual removeable drawers. The most popular option in the USA are cabinets by Akro-mils which offer models with 24 large, or 64 small drawers. (While each drawer can be dividen in half, the biggest advantage is that they are much easier to use if you store multiple parts or colors on each bin, since you can easily dump out a single drawer to find the parts or colors you need.) I’ve also included the Akro-mils products in this section.
The following table shows the dimensions and storage capacity for each of these products.
|Unit Dimensions||Unit Volume||Compartments per Unit||Compartment Dimensions||Compartment Volume||Qty 1×1 plates|
|Papimax StackX||23.1 × 37.1 × 6 cm tall
(9″ × 14 5/8″ × 2 3/8″ tall)
|5.142 L||15||7.0 × 6.6 × 4.8 cm tall||222 mL||552|
|Really Useful Scrapbook Drawer w/ Hobby Tray||39.5×42 × 11cm tall
(15 9/16″ × 16 9/16″ × 4 5/16″ tall)
|18.249 L||15||10.1 × 7.2 × 7.6cm tall||552 mL||1398|
|Akro-mils 24-drawer Cabinet||50.5 × 16.1 × 40 cm tall
(19 7/8″ × 6 5/16” × 15 ¾″ tall)
|32.522 L||24||10.8 × 13.5 × 5.0 cm tall||729 mL||1893|
|Akro-mils 64-drawer Cabinet||50.5 × 16.1 × 40 cm tall
(19 7/8″ × 6 5/16″ × 15 ¾″ tall)
|32.522 L||64||5.1 × 13.5 × 3.5cm high||241 mL||563|
- “Qty 1×1 plates” is the maximum number of pieces that fit while allowing the drawer to open and close without getting stuck. This was measured experimentally, and is the average of several measurements for each product.
- The divider in the Papi-max drawer is slightly shorter than the drawer itself, which seems like a bad idea, but makes it harder to over-fill the compartment and cause drawer to get stuck when opening and closing.
If you have a huge LEGO collection, a small LEGO room, or both, you need to make sure your storage solution uses the space efficiently. (Space which is occupied by the storage solution itself can’t be used to store more LEGO!)
In some rooms, the most limited resource will be wall space, while in other rooms the bigger issue is overall volume. If the room is plenty deep but has limited wall space, a deeper storage product might be more efficient. If you have a narrow hallway with a ton of wall space, a shallow product like Akro-mils Drawer Cabinets might make the most sense. That’s why I’ve included both overall Storage Density (as percentage of storage product’s overall volume), as well as Storage Capacity as a function of wall space.
|Unit Volume||Unit Wall Space||Compartments per Unit||Compartment Volume||% Storage Density||Wall Space Storage Volume|
|Papimax StackX||5.142 L||0.014 sq m||15||211 mL||62%||228.3 L/sq m|
|Really Useful Scrapbook Drawer w/ Hobby Tray||18.249 L||0.043 sq m||15||560 mL||46%||193.2 L/sq m|
|Akro-mils 24-drawer Cabinet||32.522 L||0.202 sq m||24||729 mL||54%||86.6 L/sq m|
|Akro-mils 64-drawer Cabinet||32.522 L||0.202 sq m||64||241 mL||47%||76.3|
The biggest disadvantage of the Really Useful Scrapbook Drawers w/ Hobby Tray is that they aren’t very efficient with space. Even though the Scrapbook Drawers are deeper than the Papimax StackX product (5cm / 2″ deeper), they can hold 15% less pieces in the same amount of wall space, and 25% less pieces in the same volume.
They compare more favorably to the Akro-mils product, but only if you have a room that is pretty deep. Because the Akro-mils 24-drawer cabinet can store half as many pieces in 1/3 the depth, it is a more efficient product overall, and a great option for a narrow room or hallway.
Lastly, I calculated the cost per liter of storage for all four of these products.
|Compartments per Unit||Compartment Volume||Total Storage Volume||Cost per unit||Cost per Liter|
|Papimax StackX||15||222 mL||3.2 L||$12.50||$3.95|
|Really Useful Scrapbook Drawer w/ Hobby Tray||15||552 mL||8.4 L||$20.22||$2.41|
|Akro-mils 24-drawer Cabinet||24||729 mL||17.5 L||$30 (typical)||$1.71|
|Akro-mils 64-drawer Cabinet||64||241 mL||15.4 L||$35 (typical)||$2.27|
Even though the Really Useful Scrapbook Drawers w/ Hobby Tray is expensive, the cost per liter is pretty competitive because each compartment is really large. This makes it a fairly good value if you have enough bricks to nearly fill most of the compartments. Otherwise, you are paying about $2.50 per Liter to store air.
How does it stack up?
This product only makes sense for people who have a very large, very well organized LEGO collection, and want to use each compartment to store a unique element (unique part and color). Storing multiple different pieces in a single compartment is an excercise in frustration—the drawers are pretty deep and you might need to scoop out all the pieces to find the color you need.
In practice, you might decide to use multiple storage products for your collection. A practical solution is to store your most common elements in a cabinet like this, and use a different storage product such as Akro-mils Drawer Cabinets for less common parts which don’t need to be sorted by both part and color.
Let’s start with the obvious, this is an expensive LEGO storage solution that isn’t practical for most LEGO enthusiasts. That said, there are a few people who have massive LEGO collections, dedicated LEGO studios, and are willing to invest in premium storage solutions.
In my LEGO Storage Guide, I explained that people with small collections don’t really need any organization, medium collections might sort parts by broad categories or color, and large collections which are typically sorted by part (but not necessarily by element—both part and color).
Really Useful Scrapbooking Drawers make the most sense for two of these audiences:
- Scrapbook Drawers with the hobby tray make the most sense for LEGO enthusiasts with very large collections that are sorted by both part and color. (While each drawer has 15 compartments, they are very deep making it hard to find specific color pieces if you put multiple colors of the same part in each compartment.)
- Scrapbook Drawers without the hobby tray would be perfect for a medium-sized collection, with each drawer dedicated a different broad category of pieces. (ex: Bricks, Plates, Minifigures, Technic.) Another option which is fairly popular with younger builders is to sort by color, although adults typically prefer to sort by function.
While not the focus of this review, these drawers without the insert are highly recommended (4/5 stars) for people with medium-sized collections, due to high level of craftsmanship and durability. They’re a lot cheaper without the inserts, but it’s still a premium option compared to lower-priced flimsy plastic drawers from brands like Sterilite.
I found the drawers to be very satisfying to use, and easy to work with. I like the soft plastic used to make the drawers. It is quieter than other kinds of plastic, and feels both flexible and durable.
You can make a tower taller by clicking a module onto the top, or make it shorter by pressing a button on each leg of the support, releasing the section above it. Adding the Hobby Insert is even easier—just slide it into an empty drawer and fill with LEGO.
I dedicated a single drawer to each of the ten most common colors, with one compartment for each of the 15 most common Bricks and Plates. This makes it easy to grab all the basic parts for a single color, and bring it to my build space.
Unfortunately, each compartment is deeper than I would have preferred. A shallower drawer and insert would allow you to have more drawers in the same amount of space. Further, the decision to make each compartment the same size results in compartments storing very small pieces (such as 1×1 plates) which are much more than half full.
While it is already well suited for some LEGO collectors, there are a number of changes which would make this product appealing to a wider audience of LEGO fans.
- Improved Storage Density – Tubular walls waste a lot of space which I would rather use to store more LEGO Bricks.
- Shallower drawers – The drawers are too deep for anything but common and bulky parts like the classic 2×4 brick.
- Removeable compartments – If each compartment could be removed separately, I could store multiple colors in the same compartment since it would be easy to dump out one compartment to find what I needed.
- Lower Price – While I love high quality products, these drawers are a bit over-engineered for LEGO storage.
Really Useful Scrapbook Drawers w/ Hobby tray is a very high quality product that is pleasant to use. The drawers slide easily and feel solid when carried across the room. The storage insert fits perfectly in the drawer, and it’s easy to remove pieces from each compartment due to gently rounded corners at the bottom of each compartment. It is an excellent option for people who have a huge collection that is sorted by element, a lot of space, and a large budget. If you happen to fit this demographic, you should give it a serious look.
Unfortunately, there aren’t very many LEGO fans that have collections quite that big, let alone enough space for relatively inefficient storage products. Due to the incredibly narrow audience for this product, my overall rating is “Very Good” (3/5 stars). I would love to see a similar premium quality product with shallower drawers, higher storage efficiency, and removeable storage cups.