If you have been building with LEGO mostly by yourself, you may have not realized that there are many different ways to get ready to build a LEGO set. Older LEGO fans who grew up before parts were sorted into numbered bags may still prefer to dump all the parts together before beginning to build. LEGO introduced numbered bags for larger LEGO sets to break down the building process into smaller sections without the need to open all the bags at once. Whether opening all the bags at once, or only bags for a certain section, many LEGO fans often further organize the parts by type, color, or both, so they can easily find the pieces as they build. This can be especially helpful when working on very large sets (photo below by Crowguys).
And there are also people who take pre-building organization to a whole other level with a process called knolling. According to online dictionaries, “knolling is the process of arranging related objects in parallel or 90-degree angles as a method of organization”. Wikipedia says that the term “knolling” was first used in 1987 by Andrew Kromelow, a janitor at Frank Gehry’s furniture fabrication shop. At the time, Gehry was designing chairs for Knoll, a company famously known for Florence Knoll’s angular furniture. Kromelow would arrange any displaced tools at right angles on all surfaces, and called this routine knolling, in that the tools were arranged in right angles—similar to Knoll furniture. The result was an organized surface that allowed the user to see all objects at once. There is even a book on knolling titled Things organized Neatly: The Art of Arranging the Everyday by Austin Radcliffe.
While I’m sure there are many LEGO fans who have been knolling without ever realizing their method has a name, it was made especially popular in the LEGO fan community by Adam Savage, the American special effects designer, fabricator, actor, educator, television personality, and producer, known as the former co-host of the Discovery Channel television series MythBusters and Unchained Reaction, and for creating models for Star Wars and The Matrix films. His YouTube channel, Adam Savage ‘s Tested, is a wonderful source for entertainment and learning.
Adam is a very experienced and organized tinkerer, neatly aligning all his tools, equipment, and materials. In other words, he is a knoller. In addition, Adam is an enthusiastic LEGO fan, who naturally utilizes knolling when building LEGO sets. There are several videos on Adam’s YouTube channel where you can see him knolling with LEGO before building a set. In the player below, I have included three such examples.
Many other LEGO fans share their knolling layout. To see some great examples, all you have to do is search for “LEGO knolling” on Google.
Most of us organize our building area to some extent before beginning a project. We quickly and efficiently arrange parts into logical groups, but our focus is to begin working on the project as soon as possible. Knolling makes organization a separate project by itself. You slow down and neatly arrange all the parts by type and color before you would begin building anything. Some people take this even further and make knolling a piece of art, separate from the project that they will be building from the parts later. For example, take a look at this beautiful example of knolling by LEGO fan bleatingspectre, who organized all the parts of the #21320 LEGO Ideas Dinosaur Fossils set into an intricate layout.
Organizing, arranging, and laying out LEGO parts before building is not just for efficiency. Many people find the process meditative and therapeutic. And since knolling layouts will be dismantled to build actual sets, they also provide a similar type of “creating and letting go” experience as the sand mandalas made and then destroyed by Buddhist monks.
If you’re intrigued by the process, I would recommend trying it out next time you build a LEGO set. And if you are already an experienced knoller, feel free to share your tips and tricks in the comment section below! Happy knolling!
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