In my quest to build the 6080 King’s Castle from 1984, I have had to scavenge my childhood LEGO collection for parts. You may recall the mess I discovered on my first excavation in March. There was no order, nor was there any order to my search, when I began – just an assorted collection of generic, dusty boxes, with some partial sets and a lot of separate bricks inside (plus the random non-LEGO toy or part).

I think I have learned a few lessons since then. The first one was sorting the parts. As I have gone through my old collection, I have began to move them around a little to create some sense of order as I go. I haven’t made significant progress yet, and I’m not sure how far I will go (either by myself or with my son), but a little nevertheless. The most important task has been to collect all the castle grey and black bricks together and sort by color. It helps a lot when trying to use the pieces. If nothing else, sort by color.

The second lesson was how to efficiently hunt for bricks from your collection. Trying to dig in by hand and attempting to navigate around brick avalanches is not really effective when needing to be thorough, like when sourcing a very rare part or many parts from an unsorted box. It is enough when looking for an easy part, but other times it just makes you search the same bricks over and over again. I learned that turning the box upside down and refilling it, while putting aside the bricks you need, is the best way to go through a lot of bricks quickly and completely.

Third lesson had to do with washing LEGO. I have learned a lot about soaps, water temperatures and toothbrushes, but most importantly not soak small LEGO (or especially valuable minifigure) pieces in a washbasin that has a larger overflow hole. You may get quite the scare or worse. I have also used the brick pool method to wash bricks as a build, which helped to make sure I don’t waste limited hobby time washing bricks I won’t use. Of course I would like to wash all of my collection, but like sorting, one has to prioritize.

The fourth lesson was to get two brick separators and, really, use them. I can’t remember how many times I’ve searched for parts, found some attached to other bricks or plates, and then caught myself trying to pull them apart with my fingernails or teeth. Resist the temptation and keep the brick separators handy. Not only do they help preserve your bricks, they really work magic and make separating bricks fun instead of a chore.

Understanding how many bricks you need – and how little you actually may have – was the fifth lesson. Calculate your brick orders using this understanding. The sixth lesson I learned yesterday and will be the topic of my next post: Part blind.