Fear the Workshop
Tour Updated 9/26/07

When I was growing up my parents were very generous with the toys. I had an armada of Micronauts, plenty of Hot Wheels toy cars, and GI Joe was my personal friend. If I wanted something, and wanted it badly enough, odds are I would have it before too long. I don't remember lacking for anything.

No, that's not true.

It started out with Play-Doh. I don't recall ever owning my own - because my Mom had learned a simple recipe that would let me make a "just as good" version out of household stuff. I'm sure I must have whined about it (sorry, Mom), but I must admit her stuff tasted better than the stuff out of the can.

(Edited to add: In September 2007 my mom sent me a big assortment of Play-Doh. "Better late than never" was written on the box. Thus, I can no longer truthfully claim my mom never bought me Play-Doh. )

This simple substitution, I fear, laid the groundwork for a much more sinister replacement that would later claim an entire room of my home as retribution. They were called "Brix Blox" and they came from Sears. They were meant to be "just as good" as LEGO bricks.

But they weren't.

By the tail end of the seventies, my folks had gotten me a huge pile of these bricks - they came in the ever patriotic "Red, White, and Blue" color scheme, although the add-on "Race car" kit had some clear and yellow elements. I remember spreading out my bricks on the living room rug and making tiny Battlestar Galactica ships - Colonial Vipers, the Galactica herself... and I remember with a strangely vivid focus how frustrated I was. The bricks were just that - bricks. The only deviations from the monolithic rectangular dimensions were the gears and wheels - I just couldn't get the level of detail I wanted out of them. Everything looked....cubist. I was seven years old and years away from learning the importance of Cubism as an artistic movement. I just wanted better bricks. Oh, and maybe some in colors I couldn't find on the flag.

I swore, with all the energy and determination of a seven year old's tantrum, that if I ever reached adulthood I would buy SO MANY REAL LEGO BRICKS that it would take an entire room to hold them all! That I would BUIILD and BUILD and BUILD until my fingers bled!

And, as things worked out, I did indeed reach adulthood. (Note I didn't say I grew up any, though.)

And, as things worked out, I did indeed fill that room with LEGO bricks.

Oh, it started out innocently enough. A set here, a set there. By 1999 I had picked up maybe a gallon or two of bricks, but noting near a "hobby" or "obsession" - LEGO was just something I picked up to fiddle with once in a while. My collection rested safely in one or two of those small LEGO containers.

At the time, though, I was heavy into Star Wars toy collecting. When LEGO acquired the license to put out toys from the Trilogy I was doomed. I was enthusiastic, though: "Oh, boy," I thought, "here's my excuse to finally pick up some serious LEGO!"

I don't recall for sure which sets I picked up first, but I think it was probably the Landspeeder and Anakin's Podracer. I remember building them and displaying them on the long kitchen counter of the apartment. As the year wore on, and as more and more Star Wars sets were released, that counter became more and more crowded. I started taking a more serious look at the other offerings LEGO had out, and that small stash of sets and parts grew from a couple of small boxes into one of the big 66-quart Sterilite bins I was using to house my Star Wars toys. And then, when there was no more room there, I dumped things into one of the HUGE 116-quart Seterilite bins. And then, when that was full, I divided things into two of the big bins...

Well, at this point I was fully addicted. I was quickly a $200 a month LEGO junkie. In time, that would seem cheap.

Now I should also mention that I've got a very serious "Type-A" personality sometimes. I like to have things organized. And, once I hit the "multiple boxes" level of storage, I knew I'd be looking for ways to sort all those bricks for easy access. There are few things a frustrating as trying to find one piece lost in a sea of plastic.

When we graduated from apartment living to home-indentured-servitude I was able to start some serious sorting. My wife and I shared an upstairs room for our computers, and I shared my computer desk with my need for an area to build. Over the desk I hung a row of three tackle boxes, and I meticulously filled each of those tiny little drawers with the parts I didn't want to sift to find. Of course, those three boxes filled quickly, and I had to get another two. Meanwhile my "bulk" LEGO bins (now consisting of two big and one HUGE tub, along with about six of the smaller LEGO-issued buckets, two of the Big Blue Brick containers, and a couple of big set boxes) were slowing being subdivided by type. The huge bin held "basic bricks" - the same rectangular shapes that had vexed me so as a lad. The smaller LEGO-issued tubs held wheels, or saucer parts, or some other "high quantity, non rectangular" part. I had a Blue Brick filled with clear bricks and windows.

Around this time I found this article.(Mirror) At the time, it was funny - I didn't see it for the warning it was. I was on a roll, and there was no reason to put the breaks on.

In early 2006 we got rid of the bed from our spare bedroom, planning on replacing it with a futon. For one reason or another that purchase was delayed. Suddenly there was a room in the house without a dedicated purpose to it...and in time I took over that room and turned it into my LEGO workshop. The dreams of the seven-year-old-me had become reality at last.

Let me give you a quick photographic tour of the room in March of 2006. Please excuse the mess...

When you first enter the room you have to dodge this area. These first two black storage towers contain things like "small baseplates" and "assorted inverted slopes". As you can see, most of these drawers are pretty close to "capacity". The next phase is to break them into smaller sub-divisions of parts. The drawer of 2x3 bricks will get sorted by color, the inverted slopes will be broken into finer divisions, the baseplates will probably migrate to a Blue Tub.

The tackle boxes on the wall are filled with mini-figure accessories; the one on top of the towers is full of plant parts. The two standing boxes are full of Mini-fig headgear (wigs, helmets, etc.) The general mess on top of the towers is just the result of that being the only open, flat surface near the door. A lot of stuff just gets dumped there until I can get worked in elsewhere.

To the right you can see an old chest of drawers - it's filled with old catalog and building instructions. On top of some more sorting bins is the tail end of "Mama Serenity" - I don't have a large enough display area to keep her assembled. (The FSM Church was sitting in my living room when I took these photos.)

The next shot is a better look at the matrix of 3-drawer bins that live on top of the dresser. I have plans to remove the dresser and replace it with more of the five-drawer towers from the first photo - when that happens I'll pick up some more of these 3-drawer sorters as well to spread things evenly down the wall.

On top of the drawers you can see the rest of Serenity, and a bunch of mini-figs that I haven't filed away for some reason. Sitting on top of Serenity is a small Mule model that I built looking at someone else's design on Brickshelf.

Amid the clutter is a small drawer filled with LEGO Skeletons, and the first two DVD collections of "Good Eats" - I spend a lot of time in my Workshop with pre-recorded TV as my background noise.

If you were able to pan up, you'd see a couple of small shelves mounted above this area where I keep some completed MOCs. Not sure why I didn't get a shot of that.

Anyway, the next photo (at right) shows the next corner of the room. My workshop TV (with a bunch of Serenity kits atop it), a window-sized bookshelf/display area, and enough X-Pod centers to beat someone to death with.

The stuff on that display shelf never changes - I can't reach it anymore with the TV in the way.

Behind the X-pods you can almost make out another pile of baseplates - this time the 3-D style.

To the right you can make out the first parts of my "real" work area. The wall-mounted tackle boxes are the ones that first started me on the obsessive "sort everything" road.

Okay, this next picture is pretty large, but there's a lot of stuff to point out...

And here's my main work bench. It's rare that the table is this empty - normally it's covered with whatever I happen to have "in progress" at the moment. As it is, the parts crammed over to the right are all "must-work-ons". (The real reason it's so clean is that I took this just after finishing the B-Wing kit, assembled and to the left side of the table.)

To the left are two seven-drawer towers. These hold most of what I think of as "common bulk bricks" - the parts I want on hand and don't want to have to go too far to get to. Right now, those parts range from 1x2 plates to 2x6 bricks, as well as hinges, technic axle/pin combos, and the ever popular "rounded slopes."

Atop the towers are more assembled Mini-figures, in this case more Serenity-related stuff.

The five hanging tackle boxes are the ones that first started my obsession with sorting to the nth degree. Let me give you a peek into one of the drawers...


The open drawer holds my current favorite part - a 1x1 tile with a slope on it. (Like a little wedge). It's an awesome detail piece that LEGO only recently started making. This is the sort of detail that I longed for back in '78. Well, better late than never.

The tubing is from the FSM Church project - and there's a couple of omni-present "brick separators" mixed in with it.

A bunch of recent MOCs (My Own Creations) are displayed/stored along the top of the hanging boxes. On the wall above them are some of the rare figures from my Star Trek collection - I'm not doing much at all in that area anymore, but they're still a nice reminder of the hunt.

On top of the work table are some smaller 3-drawer bins, most of which are filled with "finishing elements" like 1x1 plates, smooth tiles, or small greebling elements. Another small tackle box has bricks with printing on them (control panels and whatnot) and a group of button sorters atop that hold most of my 1x2 printed decorative tiles.

Under the desk are a bunch of bulk storage containers ranging from "dragons and horses" to "assorted wildlife" and a huge bin of "Duplo". Thanks to my Mom's pack-rat nature (which I inherited) one of the smaller LEGO buckets contains my childhood collection of Brix Blox. One of these days I'm going to have to get them out and see what I can make with them now...

Continuing the left-to-right seep of the room, you come to the pile-o-stuff just to the right of the work table. Just behind the chair are a bunch of big LEGO tubs filled with wheels, windows, and thick baseplates. Atop those are three button-sorter boxes filled with Mini-figure heads and legs.

To the right of that is another 7-drawer tower with the usual mix of junk on top.

To the right of that is my "I need to do something with this stuff" area - right now that's a bunch of Bionicle Bulk packs I snagged on clearance, an couple of empty sorting containers (they won't stay that way, trust me.), and a bunch of "Soccer Baseplates" that I have no idea what to do with.

Please ignore the couch. I know it's ugly, but hey, one just like it was in "Mallrats" so it's sort of pop-culture-ish as well.

Oh! There is one detail worth sharing from this photo - amidst the clutter on top of the tower is this little gem:

A bin of monkeys! (Haven't you always wanted a Monkey?)

That seems like a good place to stop, no? There's not much else in the room...above the couch is another MOC display shelf or two, and then you're back to the door and on with your life!

Oh, what a difference a year or two makes. Here's a quick tour of the room as it stood on August 31, 2007.


A look in through the doorway - the main change is new shelving along the right-hand wall. All but one of the rolling bins have been relocated to the far left side of the room. This is actually an improvement as I can now get to the bricks easier when building.

Here's my work area:

The bins under the table hold things like "a whole lot of red 1x2 bricks" or "boat hulls". I'm going to get around to putting labels on them at some point - but for now I have a decent idea of where stuff is crammed so it's not a big issue.

You may notice a bunch of MOCs on top of the white drawers at left - every available inch of space tends to get used for either clutter or display - so I try for "display" where I can.

The room is too shallow to get a decent shot of the new shelving, so here's a poorly constructed mosaic of it:

Mostly I planned for the shelving to hold my completed buildings and sets. For the most part, it's doing the trick, although I'm already pretty much out of room. (And I just put those shelves in two days before I took these photos!)

In terms of the sorting article referenced above, I'm now tottering between stage 20 and 21.

I'm doomed.


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