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ARTICLE: Preserving Your Lego


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#1 TheBrickster

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Posted 07 September 2008 - 04:55 AM

PRESERVING YOUR LEGO

How To Keep Your Sets Looking New For Years To Come

After reviewing numerous Classic Town and Space sets, some of which are greater than 30 years old, some Lego enthusiasts have asked me, "How have I managed to keep my sets looking new for so many years"?  The first thought that comes to mind is, "what did I do, build them once and put them back in the box"?  Actually, the answer is quite the opposite.  As a kid, my friends and I played with Classic Lego Town sets for days and weeks at a time.  In fact, I even broke a few sets over the years by throwing spaceships across the room in order to create a "crash landing", or smashing custom hotrods against one another to see which would stay intact.  Playing with Lego is a MUST, esp. for children or parents who buy Lego for their children.  How can one simply build a set, display it for a few days, and then take it apart?  The real answer came accidently after buying and collecting Lego since the late 70s.

Balancing PLAY with PRESERVATION is important.  While I am not advocating that you display all of your Lego for short periods of time before boxing them up for storage, doing a few simple things may keep them looking great for years to come.  I'm sure that you are not thinking of doing a Lego review of that Coast Guard set you just bought, 30 years from now on Eurobricks or other favorite Lego community web site; but at the same time, why not?  Are you interested in keeping those favorite sets for years to come?  Perhaps not, but if you are interested in doing so (for whatever the reason), incorporating a few of these practices may help you in your efforts.

#1: Keep Your Pieces Together

While this is probably the most difficult recommendation to follow, the more you you keep your pieces together (meaning: do not mix them up), the better the chances of finding that "special one-of-a -kind brick" within your huge collection of Lego.  I did not do a very good job of this as a kid, as most of the MOCers; I'm sure, would say the same.  If you must mix your pieces, store similar themes together (see also #8: Storing Your Bricks).  By doing so, when you pull out a theme that's a few years old, all your like-theme pieces will be together for easy set re-creation.  The more you mix, the more difficult this becomes.

#2: Save Your Instructions

The best thing I ever did was save my instructions from old sets.  Obtaining instructions on the web is not that difficult anymore, but at the same time, finding them, downloading them, and printing them on a printer that shows variations in greys and blacks, and slight lines between pieces is sometimes difficult.  I discovered this problem when trying to print out a few set instructions that I lost over the years.  Although I never did so, I would strongly recommend creating a book with plastic page covers to insert your set instructions; especially if you do not store your sets in their original boxes.  You can place the set instructions in order of theme and set number to easily find them later.  A three-ring binder would work well so that pages can be added and taken out when needed.  I plan to do this with my older sets.

#3: Avoid Using Decals

I know this is a tough one, esp. for sets with lots of decals.  Let me explain why.  First, paper wears much quicker than printed pieces.  Stickers are also more likely to peel off after a few years.  Temperatures like extreme heat will dry out glue causing the sticker to fall off.  Humidity and moisture cause stickers to peel and/or also loose their stick.  Add playing with your Lego and touching the pieces with the oils on your skin will also cause the edges of the stickers to wear and scratch.  In addition, the worst thing Lego does is create stickers that attach to multiple pieces.  The first time you want to take the pieces apart, your sticker must come off or separate.  Also, if you peel off a sticker and do not get all the glue off the piece, the glue will cause dirt and grime to build up on the piece.  This becomes worn on and is sometimes hard to get off years later without scratching the piece.

TIP: "What if I want to use my stickers"? you ask.  I have a solution.  Create a scan or copy of your sticker sheet and print it on photo-paper or sticker paper.  You just need to cut the stickers carefully.  I've done this before, and it's worked quite well.  You do need a good quality photo printer and scanner to do this.  Not only do you preserve your original sticker sheet, you can always reprint a set if you decide to remove the stickers later.

#4: Wash Your Hands Before Building

It may sound a little strange, but a good idea before any build is to wash your hands.  Hands are naturally oily, esp. if eating anything before or while you build.  Washing your hands removes oil and other dirt from your hands which does get on your Lego; you just don't see it.  I sometimes wash my hands a few times during a long build to avoid finger printing.  The way I discovered this was during a photo-review.  My pictures showed the finger print(s).  I actually had to wipe the bricks off to eliminate the prints, and re-take the photo.  Black seems to always show finger prints more.

#5: Handle Your Printed Pieces with Special Care

Have you had those designs on printed pieces wear off?  I have.  You need to handle any printed piece with extra care.  Avoid touching printed pieces directly, meaning push them by other sides of the brick.  Oil from your fingers will wear off printed pieces over time, some much worse than others (see also #4: Wash Your Hands Before Building).

#6: Care for Your Minifigs

Minifigs always have an extra chance of getting lost.  The reason why is that many people store their minifigs separate from their sets and bricks.  If you save your sets in their original boxes, keep the figs with the set (or like themed-sets if you combine themes).  In addition, apply the same care as mentioned in #5 above.

Avoid creating clones of your minifigs.  Many Lego "collectors" buy sets of the same theme.  Lego has a tendancy to offer the same fig in multiple sets.  I'll use Indiana Jones as an example.  How many Indies do you need?  Assemble one Indy and put the other Indies away.  This preserves at least one or more of the same fig and you still have one to swoosh/play with.  In addition, many have told me that hands can safely be taken off minifigs.  I have tried this and when I do, I find that the hands become loose and/or very removable when removing any tool from the minifigs hand.  I don't think I'll be removing hands from a fig again.  I think what happens is the very small plastic around the minifig's wrist becomes worn when removing it from the socket.  When placed back on, the fit is much more loose.  I think if Lego meant for hands to come off, they would sell them separately.

TIP: Don't lend your minifigs to your friends or make them part of school projects.  You may never see them again.

#7: Don't Take Your Lego Outside

As tempted as you may be, do not under any circumstance play with Lego in the dirt or outside of your house.  Dirt does scratch pieces and ruins their naturally high-gloss shine.  In addition, you also run the risk of loosing small pieces when taking sets outside, esp. in dirt and grass.  Sun can also yellow your bricks.  Avoid placing lego in swimming pools and other bodies of water with chemicals.

#8: Choose a Good Storage Method That Works For You

I hate to even mention this because so many of you have different methods to store your Lego; some by color, some by piece type, some by set.  If you have the storage space and want to keep your sets together, I would HIGHLY recommend storing sets in their original box with instructions, stickers, and minifigs.  I place pieces in ziplock and/or sandwich bags inside the box.  At the same time, this is probably the least fun method for the avid builder/MOCer.  A quasi-storage method is to store like-themed sets in one box.  I use this method for all my small Johnny Thunder sets, storing them in an old wooden chest.  This also makes taking them out extra fun.  Other good storage methods include using large plastic tubs for bulk bricks, and smaller shelf-like plastic shelf boxes for smaller pieces.  Plastic shelf boxes can be purchased in any hardware store or hardware section in a department store.  They are usually sold nearby screws, bolts, and nails as they are used to store these types of things.  Whatever storage method you choose, choose one that works for you and enables you to find the piece you need when building from instructions.

#9: Store Translucent Pieces Separately

If mixing your pieces together in boxes or bags, separate windshields, windows, and other tranlucent pieces from colored bricks.  The reason why is that translucent bricks show scratches much easier and seem to be easier to scratch.  I always place them in bags of their own.

#10: Keep Dust to a Minimum

Dust can be blown off Lego if the dust has not been on the set for a long time.  After time, dust will build up and not be as easy to remove.  I find a good way to eliminate dust is to keep your constructed sets in a room free of bedding (sheets, blankets, and pillows).  In addition, you may also want to keep doors and windows to your Lego room closed to eliminate dust carried through wind or breezes.  I also find that air purifiers work well to remove dust in the air.  I own an Ionic Breeze that is excellent for removing dust.  I'm sure other air purifiers would do the same.  If dust has built up on your sets, a wash may be needed.  A soft rince in mild soap water generally does the trick.  Avoid scrubbing and excessive rubbing on your bricks (esp. printed pieces).

#11: Avoid Smashing and Throwing

Lego plastic is very "dentable".  Always avoid smashing pieces together or throwing Lego on the floor to create crash landings.  Dented pieces may not stick together well, and you may run the risk of breaking a delicate piece.

#12: Respect Your Lego

Lego, just like any other material object, is something to appreciate and enjoy.  You can continue to build for years, but treat your pieces well.  Know the limitations of ABS brick.  Pieces are breakable, scratchable, and loosable.  By taking a little extra care, you will certainly preserve your Lego and have them for years of enjoyment in the future.

But always remember, Lego is still a toy and is meant to be played with.  Don't loose site of the "fun factor" through Lego preservation.

This is my recently restored Lego Tabletown from the late 70s/early 80s:

Posted Image July 2008
All of the pictured sets have been reviewed in the EB Town & Train Forum

I hope you find this article useful for preserving your Lego.

#2 robbo

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Posted 07 September 2008 - 06:11 AM

Thanks very much for these instructions, i encourage everyone to follow these. If you look after you bricks they will last, I still have a few bricks from the late 70's that look brand new.

It dosnt hurt to buy a second set for smash up derbies and throw across the room smash landings...lol...oh the good old days......totally no respect for the brick.

#3 CP5670

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Posted 07 September 2008 - 06:57 AM

Great article. It brings up a lot of important issues with this.

One other thing I'll add is that you can improve the strength and integrity of pieces by separating them carefully, especially plates. You want to slowly wiggle them out and pull them straight apart instead of pulling one piece out at an angle. If you do it at an angle, the studs on the bottom brick will deform the top brick's plastic and create small bumps in it that grow larger over time. The bumps especially create trouble in Technic models, since they prevent bricks from lining up properly and add friction to axles that are supposed to rotate freely. I highly recommend not using the Lego brick separator to remove pieces, since it does so at the worst possible angle.

I keep a couple of trans-neon green 1x4 antennas handy (these have outstanding gripping strength), which can be used to remove stubborn pieces safely. You can attach one or two antennas to the brick and their strong grip will pull it out, and the part is then easy to remove from the antennas due to their round bases.

Quote

It may sound a little strange, but a good idea before any build is to wash your hands. Hands are naturally oily, esp. if eating anything before or while you build. Washing your hands removes oil and other dirt from your hands which does get on your Lego; you just don't see it. I sometimes wash my hands a few times during a long build to avoid finger printing. The way I discovered this was during a photo-review. My pictures showed the finger print(s). I actually had to wipe the bricks off to eliminate the prints, and re-take the photo. Black seems to always show finger prints more.

I usually point a fan at my hands to keep them from getting sweaty whenever I'm building. That eliminates most of the fingerprints, which as you say are most noticeable on black pieces.

Quote

If mixing your pieces together in boxes or bags, separate windshields, windows, and other tranlucent pieces from colored bricks. The reason why is that translucent bricks show scratches much easier and seem to be easier to scratch. I always place them in bags of their own.

A metal polish like Brasso works well to remove the tiny, hairline scratches that can give used transparent pieces a slightly foggy look. It won't do anything to larger scratches though.

Quote

I hate to even mention this because so many of you have different methods to store your Lego; some by color, some by piece type, some by set. If you have the storage space and want to keep your sets together, I would HIGHLY recommend storing sets in their original box with instructions, stickers, and minifigs. I place pieces in ziplock and/or sandwich bags inside the box. At the same time, this is probably the least fun method for the avid builder/MOCer. A quasi-storage method is to store like-themed sets in one box. I use this method for all my small Johnny Thunder sets, storing them in an old wooden chest. This also makes taking them out extra fun. Other good storage methods include using large plastic tubs for bulk bricks, and smaller shelf-like plastic shelf boxes for smaller pieces. Plastic shelf boxes can be purchased in any hardware store or hardware section in a department store. They are usually sold nearby screws, bolts, and nails as they are used to store these types of things. Whatever storage method you choose, choose one that works for you and enables you to find the piece you need when building from instructions.

Well, I think storing them in the original boxes is only worth doing if you're picky about keeping exactly the same pieces together when rebuilding the set.
The plastic shelves seem to be the best solution. I would suggest using the Stack-on drawer sets, which are sold at Home Depot and many other places. These containers are actually recommended by TLG themselves and are sold on the Lego education site (although the prices there are ripoffs).

Quote

Dust can be blown off Lego if the dust has not been on the set for a long time. After time, dust will build up and not be as easy to remove. I find a good way to eliminate dust is to keep your constructed sets in a room free of bedding (sheets, blankets, and pillows). In addition, you may also want to keep doors and windows to your Lego room closed to eliminate dust carried through wind or breezes. I also find that air purifiers work well to remove dust in the air. I own an Ionic Breeze that is excellent for removing dust. I'm sure other air purifiers would do the same. If dust has built up on your sets, a wash may be needed. A soft rince in mild soap water generally does the trick. Avoid scrubbing and excessive rubbing on your bricks (esp. printed pieces).

The most important factor in dust buildup seems to be the AC vents in your room and their locations. Anything directly under a vent catches dust very fast. Height is also a factor, with models on the ground collecting dust faster than things placed higher up. I currently have my collection in my bedroom and I'm not at all happy with the rate at which dust is building up, but I may soon try moving everything to another room with the vents all closed off.

Quote

TIP: Don't lend your minifigs to your friends or make them part of school projects. You may never see them again.

Yeah, the latter is a very bad idea. I learned this the hard way in sixth grade and lost 12 or 13 space and city guys from various early 90s sets. :cry_sad:

#4 F0NIX

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Posted 07 September 2008 - 09:57 AM

Good article.
But somehow it seems that not all of it apply to me. I do preserver my LEGO bricks very well (I hope), and have some realy old bricks too (about 40 years old). But I dont follow all those above rules.

First of all, LEGO is made in a good quality and are ment to be played with. And that is probably the reason I have preserved my LEGO so well, the last 20 years I have just built the sets once after I got them, I even build the alternative model too. But when I have built it I try out all the moving parts to see how it works (yes, I'm mainly a Technic builder). Then I take the models apart and store them now in a sorting system after type and depending off how many pieces I have I may sort them in colors too. In the beginning lots of pieces was mixed togheter, but later when I got more of each part they got theyr own little plastic box in my sorting system. This is a ongoing project since my collection is growning all the time and I have to re-sort  many items and divide them into color box'es or into larger containers.
I also know some collectors will be mad on me when I mention that I trow away the orginal LEGO box. For a few years I tried to collect only the front side of the box, but even that was piling up too much and I could see no reason for taking care of the box or the one page of that box...

So I dont follow rule #1 at all. But that is because I seldom rebuild a set. I bought the set to get the parts for building my own creations.

I do collect all the building instructions, but I'm afraid I have not taken good care of them in my young days. I have many torn apart instructions from the oldes sets. And are missing much of the instructions from my childhood. But later I found out it was a good thing to take good care of them. They are now stored in a separate box. I tried the plastic folder system, but that was taking up too much space so I went for a big 100 litre plastic box that is now over half full.

I do try to avoid using the decals, but that is mostly because I dont like the residue of the glue on the bricks. The stickers from the latest period is a lot better and are easy to take off and dont leave a so much glue on the brick.

Well, I have never washed my hands only because I was going to build with LEGO. But I try to not get them dirty, so clean hands is a must.

I don't have many printed parts, but they are all stored in a seperate container, and since I don't use them much either, they don't wears down much. Never thought of that the touching from our fingers would damage the print....

And the minifigs, again I dont collect them for sets, so they are parted out, but now I have so many minifigs that I have a dedicated plastic storage case just for minifigparts. All parts are sorted into heads with diffrent colors and type in theyr own little storageroom, hats and wigs also got theyr own little storageroom as the legs and torsos. But I now have to find a new type of storage box because this one is almost full.

And one point that is not mentioned by TheBrickster is what to do when you are on big exhibition where you display your models in a mix with other builders? Then you have to mark the models in some non damaging ways. Road plates is often mixed very well, so it is essential that you can find your own parts when youre going home. Some just use permanent markers under the road plates. I use a type of correction fluid (like Tipp-ex), it does not damage the LEGO and can be taken off easy. I used the same on models and minifigs too.
But if you want to mark your bricks like this, try first on the underside of one brick and let it dry. Then take it off to see if it leaves some marks, before you apply this to all the other parts you need to mark.
Noting is impossible, the impossible only take longer time.

#5 JopieK

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Posted 07 September 2008 - 11:10 AM

About this tip: "TIP: Don't lend your minifigs to your friends or make them part of school projects. You may never see them again." Well, the new First LEGO League sets have about 12 Minifigs so let them use those instead indeed ;)

Posted Image

-== Classic LEGO trains are the best ==-

Do you need replacement stickers for LEGO (reproductions and customs): ministickers.nl

What then about the LEGuanO?!


#6 TheBrickster

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Posted 08 September 2008 - 01:50 PM

Good additional points CP and Fonix.

 CP5670, on Sep 6 2008, 10:57 PM, said:

I highly recommend not using the Lego brick separator to remove pieces, since it does so at the worst possible angle.

I keep a couple of trans-neon green 1x4 antennas handy (these have outstanding gripping strength), which can be used to remove stubborn pieces safely. You can attach one or two antennas to the brick and their strong grip will pull it out, and the part is then easy to remove from the antennas due to their round bases.

I usually point a fan at my hands to keep them from getting sweaty whenever I'm building. That eliminates most of the fingerprints, which as you say are most noticeable on black pieces.

A metal polish like Brasso works well to remove the tiny, hairline scratches that can give used transparent pieces a slightly foggy look. It won't do anything to larger scratches though.
I don't use the brick separator very often, but I always thought it was a pretty good tool.  

Thanks for adding your suggestions.

#7 Eilif

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Posted 08 September 2008 - 04:19 PM

Nice article, lots of good suggestions on substituting stickers, preserving instructions, etc, but I think it needs to do more to address on of the most universal problems of LEGO builders, the yellowing of white bricks.    That would be a good addition to the article.

Overall, it's a very good article.  The set preserver who follows this article will likely find that thier collection retains it's quality and value for decades.  Even as someone who has zero interest in "preserving" sets, I found it to be a very well organized and informative read.  The Sub-title "how to keep..." does a good job of letting the reader know that this is primarily aimed at those who are interested in peserving individual sets.   This is good for AFOLs like myself who are primarily MOC'ers who will find usefull information inside, but won't be expecting an article aimed directly at them.
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#8 Freddie

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Posted 08 September 2008 - 07:23 PM

It's a good and useful article, altough to all articles there's bound to be some exceptions - some of my older sets featuring stickers, still have their stickers attached in perfect condition, like 2150 for instance. Also, there's no mention of keeping sets assembled or disassembled, altough I suspect that the latter is the better alternative for maintaining gripping abilities.

And finally, I think quite a lot of people who would be interested in this article are missing out on it because they don't visit the town'n train forum very often. I suggest that the crew moves this thread to the general forum, where it will prove more useful, and index it in an "Useful articles" thread.

#9 Manta

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Posted 08 September 2008 - 07:34 PM

That's a great article, I'm going to remember this, I store most of my stuff the right way, but I made a few mistakes, like trying to find pieces to rebuild sets is a pain for me, becaus I store them by color, not set or theme.
So am I still waiting, for this world to stop hating. Can't find a good reason, can't find hope to believe in.
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'Cuz we don't live, We just survive, On the scraps that you throw away
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Now will it matter long after I'm gone? Because you never learned a god****ed thing
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