Chapter 5: LEGO Storage for Large Collections
Considerations for large collections
There are several different ways to store a large collection of LEGO bricks. They range from high-end solutions with a drawer or compartment for each part, to inexpensive ziploc bags stored in larger drawers or bins.
Storage solutions for large collections
There is no “perfect” storage solution because everyone’s budget, storage location, and building style is different. Each of these products will appeal to different people.
- You may choose to use one product for some pieces (such as basic bricks) and another product for everything else (such as rare or seldom-used pieces).
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, Akro-Mils is the most popular brand due to their high quality and fair price, but other brands like Iris and Stack-on (now discontinued) are also popular.
Features to look for in these cabinets include:
- Durable drawers (which bend instead of breaking).
- Drawers that can be removed easily.
- Drawers that can be stacked when they are removed from the cabinet.
- Drawers that are the right size for your needs.
- Cabinets that can be stacked on a desk or table.
- Cabinets that can be wall-mounted.
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.
The drawers have interior measurements of 5.0 × 13.3 × 3.7 cm h (2 × 5¼ × 1½″ h), and a volume of 0.25 liters (15¼ in³).
In addition to the 64-drawer cabinet, Akro-Mils offers cabinets with larger drawers. The 24-drawer cabinet contains only large drawers, and the 44-drawer cabinet includes a mix of small and large drawers.
The larger drawers have interior measurements of 10.8 × 13.3 × 5.3 cm h (4¼ × 5¼ × 2″ h), and a volume of 0.76 liters (46⅓ in³).
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’ve 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.
This UK company makes the only storage drawers designed specifically for LEGO Bricks. The dividers are removeable, and each compartment is slightly larger than 8×8 studs.
Drawers can be configured with up to 15 compartments measuring about 7 × 7.5 × 6 cm h (2¾ × 3 × 2⅓″ h), with a volume of 0.32 liters (19 1/4 in³).
Really Useful Products makes high quality drawers designed for scrapbooking, and an optional divided insert with 15 compartments that works great for large LEGO collections. These are really large drawers that can hold a lot of LEGO bricks.
With the insert, each of the 15 divided compartments are 10.5 × 7.0 × 7.5 cm h (4⅛ × 2¾ × 2⅞″ h), with a volume of 0.55 liters (33.6 in³).
Each compartment in the Really Useful drawers is about 70% larger than the Papimax Drawers. Because each compartment is so large, the Really Useful Drawers are most appealing for extremely large collections and large LEGO rooms.
Note: Both of these options are now available in the US. They are fairly expensive specialty products, and can only be purchased direct from the manufacturers.
Removable Compartment Organizers
One of the newest products to gain popularity with LEGO builders is a new kind of tackle box with removable compartments. Many LEGO builders like how these have tight-fitting lids, but you can remove just one compartment and bring it to your build area.
These products typically come in both a regular, and deep option. The shallower options are better for people who want a lot of small storage containers, especially when sorting by Part or by Element (both Part and Color). You typically get more compartments this way, and they aren’t as deep so it’s easier to remove parts from the bottom of each compartment. The deeper options only make sense if you sort by both part and color, and have a lot of basic bricks that you need to store.
With 25 removeable compartments, this is a great option for collections which are very well organized. A tight-fitting lid makes this perfect for portable LEGO Collections.
They also offer a deeper version of this product with just 10 larger compartments.
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 × 9¼ × 2″ tall, and has up to 24 compartments. The smaller 3600 Series is 11 × 7¼ × 1¾″ 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 × 5″ bags, which are cheap and can hold a fair number of pieces. (The 2 × 3″ bags aren’t very useful, although they are large enough to store a couple bricks or a single LEGO Minifigure.)
While they are designed for industrial applications, some professional LEGO builders use open-front storage for common 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.
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.