Sunday, 19 September 2010

What's the Plan ?

After months of eager anticipation, Set 10212 UCS Imperial Shuttle arrived on my doorstep a couple of weeks ago, and I've been itching to get building ever since.....

I finally had some spare time over the past couple of days, so I took a deep breath and broke the seals on the box.

Building a big set like this, which has over 2500 pieces, requires some organisation. At least it does if you want to complete the build within the average human lifespan.... The problem is the sheer number of pieces. If you just pour all 2503 pieces into a huge bucket with a view to rummaging through them to find each piece you need for each step of the more than 300 pages of instructions, you will quickly lose interest and/or your sanity. To give you an example of the problems you'd face, this set contains 2 white 1x1 plates with a clip light attached. Do you have any idea how long it's likely to take you to find these tiny pieces amongst 2500 other pieces, many of which are also white ? Precisely - it could take forever. Which is why the experienced LEGO builder learns early to formulate a plan. Building is, after all, supposed to be fun rather than gut-clenchingly frustrating.

Every experienced builder will have their own way of doing things, but most will spend time up front sorting the pieces before they start actually building. This can take quite a while, but trust me - it will repay you many times over in the long run and ensure that you retain your sanity. I suspect that everybody sorts the pieces slightly differently; the key is that you need to have some sort of plan, and you mustn't forget what that plan is halfway through the build..... 

When I tackle a big set like this, I get hold of 3 large clear crates. One of them is earmarked for small pieces (generally 2 x 2 studs or less, plus a few additional pieces that I always sort with the small pieces such as Technic axles), one is for plates (i.e. flat pieces), and one is for bricks and everything else that remains. It's then just a case of opening the (many) sealed bags which hold the pieces and sorting them into the relevant crates. Sometimes you'll be lucky, and a bag will only contain plates, bricks or small pieces which you can quickly pour into the relevant crate, but other times there will be a mixture which you'll have to sort by hand into the correct crates. You can see a pic of my "work in progress" sorting the pieces included in the UCS Imperial Shuttle set below.

Sorting in progress - all 2503 pieces from the UCS Imperial Shuttle....
I'd always advise going for crates which are as big as you can possibly accomodate, so that once the sorting is done and the building begins you can spread the pieces as thin as possible over the bottom of the crate and find what you're looking for more quickly. And go for a clear crate, so that if you're struggling to find something you can lift it over your head and peer upwards through the clear bottom of the crate, or look through the sides.

Some people will sort more obsessively than this, making ever smaller piles of identical pieces, sorting pieces by colour etc. - whatever works for you. I have to admit that I'm reluctant to sort the pieces any further than I've described above. It feels a bit like cheating for some strange reason. Rummaging through the pieces, pulling your hand through them as if you're mixing hot and cold water in a bath, and of course the absolutely unique clattering sound of hundreds of LEGO pieces moving over each other, are for me as much a part of the overall LEGO experience as actually clicking the pieces together. So if I sort the pieces too much I miss out on part of the fun...... Consistent with this, I'm not a big fan of the way that the pieces in newer LEGO sets are often sealed in numbered bags which correspond to a specified part of the model you're making. Again, it feels a bit like cheating. I guess that for every builder there's a unique balance between making the building process sufficiently fast and efficient so that it doesn't get frustrating, but also prolonging the build for long enough to extract the maximum enjoyment. Each person just needs to find where that balance lies.

So happy building, but don't forget to sort first !

1 comment:

  1. Wow - I'm surprised they don't organize and label each little baggie - "Bag for pages 1-10" and so forth, so that you merely open 1 bag at a time as you get to them.

    Also, and this has nothing to do with anything, but I still can't believe that with 2,500 pieces and a pricetag of nearly $300 US, that it only comes with 4 minifigs.

    Thanks for sharing your process!