This Old Workbench #3 Mount up!

I can’t remember how many times a friend has said ” Wait till you see the new troops that I’ve painted they look great! I really took my time on these and did them right!”. Well he gets to the house and proudly opens the lid on the shoe box only to reveal a tumbled mass of arms, legs, bent barrels and chipped paint! ” Gee they must of taken a spill when I hit the brakes?” he says. I counter with” I thought you said you took some time and did it right!” This sad scene is repeated all over the war gaming world day in and day out. It never fails to amaze me the amount of time gamers will put into building their armies, painting, researching uniforms, getting just the right combination of figures, and then spend as little time as possible on basing and storage! Lets face it with prices of miniatures going up all the time and the figures getting more detailed and delicate, extra care should be taken in transport and storage to protect ones investment in both time and money. After all any of the great generals will tell you that troops rested and well cared for fight better! So lets find a open space on the old workbench and get to work.
Proper storage of your miniatures starts with basing. The base is the main support for the figure and also usually the only part that comes in contact with terrain. Its also the buffer between your figures and whatever you chose to transport or store them in, and a convenient way to pick up and move them without direct contact with your sticky pizza covered fingers! There are several different materials popular for basing, heavy card stock, plastic sheet, metal sheet, and lately magnets. Having tried most of the above I found that card stock didn’t ware well, plastic was a little hard to work with, as was metal sheeting, and none of them kept your figures from shifting, tumbling , and generally getting bashed about in the box. The last material magnetic strip has been gaining popularity and I believe gives the best all-round results. Most of your gaming shops sell strip magnet that you can cut to size for your bases. Figures can then be mounted directly on the magnet or the magnet cut to size and then glued on the bottom of already based figures. The magnetic material that I’ve found to work best for me, came from a sign shop. Its the same stuff that they use to make magnetic signs for the sides of vehicles. Its thinner than most of the magnetic strip sold in gaming shops and comes in 2 foot wide by 10 foot long rolls. They sell it by the foot and it goes for about $3 bucks a foot. So for $3 dollars, you get a 1 foot by 2 foot piece will do quite a few troops. I like this material because it is thin and when covered with scenic material is hardly noticeable on the battlefield unlike the other bases that leave your troops looking like there standing on soap boxes about to make speeches! This type of magnet may seem to flexible at first but by the time you finish the basing process it will have stiffened up considerably.
]OK lets see what it takes to get your troops on Magnetic bases. Start by taking the sheet and laying it out on a flat surface so that you can measure and layout your base sizes. If the sheet does not want to lay flat or has kinks in it try heating it with a hair dryer, that should help. The material comes with a white flexible coating on one side, do not remove it, it helps stiffen the sheet. This is also the side that you do your layout on. I use a ball-point pen and one of those see through rulers with the 1/8 inch grid work on it. Its easy to work with and the grid is very helpful, but any ruler will do. After your layout is done You can use a good pair of scissors to cut it. You’ll be amazed how easy it cuts compared to other basing materials. If you have access to a paper slicer it will work fine and really speed up cutting time. This is a great help if your rebasing allot of troops at one time. If you use a paper slicer remember to keep one edge tight against the top and firmly hold the material in place. this will prevent the material from being drawn towards the blade creating a uneven cut. I picked up a paper cutter at a garage sale for $5 dollars, such a deal! Anyway the material is very easy to work with. Once the bases are cut lay them out on a piece of metal sheet with the white side up, it is the side that gets painted ,and the figures mounted to it. Using a material that the magnet will stick to will make sure it remains flat while you paint and glue figures to it. Glues and paint tend to warp material as they dry. I use a thin metal stock called roofers tin ( its made of steel ) or roofers shingles (photo #2). Its available at most lumber yards and comes in sheets 6″x 8″, and cost about 40 to 50 cents a sheet. Next I take a little steel wool and lightly rough up the white side of the cut bases (this step is not absolutely necessary but I do it). This will help the primer we are going to apply next to stick better. Why prime the base? Well, the white side is smooth and paint has a hard time sticking to it. OK, you can now prime the whole bunch at one time.
After the primer, a coat of the proper color paint and your bases are ready to receive figures (Photo #3). Before I actually affix my figures to there bases I experiment with figure placement till I get the best look and spacing. Then one bye one remove and replace (with glue) the figures. Oh, Oh, the age old question facing gamers every day! which glue to use this time? Well white or wood glues will form an acceptable bond but take to long to dry. Epoxies set fairly fast but are messy to work with and if you should ever want to rebase your figures (never say never!) you’ll have a very hard time separating them from there bases. I use gap filling super glue its thicker and easier to work with. Super glue creates a good bond between base and figure that should holdup fine under most gaming conditions, and if you should ever want to remove figures just apply pressure sideways and waa,laa they’ll snap right off! clean and flat ready to be re-glued on there new bases. Finally comes flocking the bases with artificial grass or whatever is appropriate to your figures. There are a great many types available but they’re all are applied basically the same way. Start by thinning some white (wood glue) with about 10 to 15 percent water. More than that will make it to runny and it will tend to dry out before you finish covering the whole base, less will make it hard to apply. Take an old brush a #3 to #5 should work well and brush the glue over the base getting it into all the cracks and crannies between the figures. Immediately apply flocking to the bases. Flocking should be done over some sort of container so that the excess stays clean and can be reused . I use a shoe box, but any small box or can will do. Sprinkle the flocking over the figures and base heaping it on all areas of the base. Then use the other end of your paint brush and while holding it horizontal to the base tamp down the grass material into the glue. you should be able to work the end of the brush in between the figures forcing contact with the glue. Finally set the based figures back on the metal sheet and let them dry over night. All that’s left to do to make this system work is to line your carrying container with thin steel sheeting.
The roofers shingle that I mentioned before is perfect for this. I’ve cut this stuff with scissors and if you have a old pair try it, but the best way is to use metal shearing scissors (photo #2). these can be bought at any good hardware store. The longer the blades are the better since the short bladed type tend to distort the metal a little. Try to borrow a set if you can, possibly get some friends together and split the cost, if not a good set will cost $20 bucks but last a life time. If your like me an keep accumulating more and more miniatures its a good investment. Measure the inside of your container and then using a pin and ruler scribe the sheets to the proper size putting one or more sheets together if need be. Cut along the scribe line and cut with the shears. The last thing you’ll need to do is affix the sheets to the container. Epoxy works well but super glue will do in a pinch but I don’t recommend it. My favorite is a spray adhesive by 3m called 77 spray. You spray the sheets and the container bottom following the directions on the can and you’ll get a great, flat bond that will last. So take that little bit of extra time and truly finish up your figures properly (Photo #4 Happy Gamer). The extra time you spend now will be more than made up with less time in repairing damage to them, and not having to straighten and sort them out every time they travel to a battle.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *