Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Protip: Magnetic basing

Transporting miniatures safely has always been one of the bigger issues of the hobby, regardless of the scale you game in. I use, or know people who use, shoe boxes and tool boxes and GW cases and Battlefoam and everything in between. While some tend to find one method that works for them and stick to it, I prefer to tailor my transporting solutions to each game system or even each army.

I don't use magnets a lot (I have a single 28mm army based this way) but it seems like a no-brainer for 15mm infantry, especially if it is individually based. If I wanted to transport the figures in classic foam trays I would need a load of tiny compartments, and all the dividing walls would make that a very poor use of space. On the other hand, the miniatures lend themselves really well to magnetizing thanks to their light weight and low centre of gravity (once you add a metal base). So how do I go about doing this?

I base my 15mm infantry on euro cent coins, and the fact that these are ferrous enough to stick securely to magnetic sheet was a large factor when I chose them for my bases. I would have preferred them a little bit smaller, and my initial thought was to cut the bases out of plasticard and add some metal sheet underneath, but that turned out to be a lot of fiddly work and in the end I decided to save that approach only for models that require larger bases, such as support weapons and field artillery. You'll have to take my word for it, but the white bit in the first picture here is self-adhesive metal sheet - very, very handy when playing with magnetic basing.

With the miniatures firmly mounted on ferrous material of one type or another, we also need something magnetic to stick them to. Rare earth magnets are great for larger models, but in this case they are excessively powerful. Self-adhesive magnetic sheet or tape will quite suffice for tiny 15mm infantry.

I actually considered making the bases themselves out of magnetic sheet - this would allow me to use my models as fridge magnets! - but as the sheet is kind of soft, the models would still need a coin or layer of plasticard as well, and that would make the bases unappealingly thick.

The last component required is an appropriately sized box. Most importantly, it must have a flat and firm bottom to glue the magnetic sheet to. Apart from that, everything is fine as long as it packs well. I found these clear plastic boxes at a craft shop. Apparently they are intended for paper envelopes, but they're a great size for my needs.

With a total height of about 3cm, they leave a comfortable amount of head room for the models, and they're large enough to hold a complete force while taking up very little space in my backpack - perhaps the volume of 2 or 3 DVD cases.

The models are perfectly secure even if the box is turned upside down and waved about. The only real worry is that a model could come loose off its base and bang around the box like a tiny bowling ball, which is why I secure all the figures with both superglue and modelling putty.

If you can avoid the bowling ball effect, magnets are the safest method of transportation in the long run, as even soft foam will rub paint (and varnish, too) off a model eventually. It's also a lot faster to pack and unpack as so many figures can be stored in a single tray, and you don't clutter up the game room with foam or other packaging material.

That's it for today. Next time I'll show you how to save a fortune by making custom cut foam trays for 15mm vehicles at home.

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