Do-it-Yourself Magnetic Movement Trays
[Editor's Note: This is part of an ongoing series of articles originally written by the talented Kyun for his late, lamented Wee Toy Soldiers site. Since he's had to step away from the hobby for the foreseeable future, he's kindly given permission for his work to be reprinted in the interest of keeping it available to the community. The series will continue each Tuesday as long as the supply holds out.]
With my recent purchase of the Warhammer 7th Edition boxed set Battle for Skull Pass, and my painting project therein, I’ve realized that movement trays really make a lot of sense for the Warhammer game. Unlike WH40K or Lord of the Rings, where the miniatures are grouped loosely together on rounded bases, formation movements are the de rigueur in a game of Warhammer, as it makes it so much easier to maintain precise formation and also to move units around in alignment.
Games Workshop (who else?) sells a set of movement trays like these:
There are two sets of these four trays (eight total) in the kit (no. 65-03, current MSRP $10.00): four trays for 4 x 2 formation of 25mm based units, and four trays of 5 x 4 20mm based units. These of course work fine, but for those wanting custom-sized trays, or simply save a few dollars and are DIY inclined, here’s another method.
I used sheet styrene supplies from Evergreen (which can be found just about in any decently-stocked hobby stores). In particular, I used #9030 Plain .030″/0.75mm sheet for the base, and #153 0.060″ x 0.060″/1.5mm x 1.5mm square strips for side rails:
The construction is as simple as can be. You simply measure out the dimension of the base sheet based on how many ranks and files of what size bases you want it to accommodate, and add a little extra for the side rails. Here’s the assembly in progress:
Here’s the finished tray. Notice I’ve cut a little extra on the side rails; no big deal, it can easily be sanded to fit.
Now, at this point, the tray is pretty much done. You can prime it and paint it to match your unit. However, I decided to take it an extra step and magnetize the base.
Magnetic system, whether magnetic movement tray or magnetic bases, offer some convenient advantages over its non-magnetic brethren. For one, it makes transportation of units much easier and neater. Nothing like arriving at a gaming venue and having to spend time sort through and reform figures that have been knocked around in transit. Also, during the game, magnetic bases do a much better job keeping your figures from accidental harm (like a jostled gaming table or accidentally hand brushing).
There are two ways to turn your ordinary base into a magnetic system. You can magnetize the movement tray, or you can magnetize the figure bases themselves. Either way, when done right, the end result is the same.
Magnetizing the Movement Tray
If you decide to magnetize the movement tray, then you need to get some flexible magnetic sheets. You can order them from various online retailers. Your local hobby store or craft store may carry it, or they may be able to special order them for you. I bought mine from Bryan Lunny at 50 Paces.com, a hobby mail order retailer located in Vancouver, British Columbia. A plug — the service was fast, courteous, and products were exactly as described!
In addition to specifically ordered flexible magnetic sheets, you may be able to find sources of flexible magnets around the house. For example, every year, our local trash and recycling company gives us a refrigerator magnetic with pickup dates. They are flexible and thin enough to work perfectly as magnetic movement tray inserts:
Basically, any sort of refrigerator magnet big enough to cover a base (or use two) will work just fine!
… here’s how the tray looks, primed and painted dark brown, with the aforementioned magnetic sheet in place:
This is purely optional, but I like to paint the bottom of the tray as well — or at least around the edges — so that when the formation is maneuvering on or near a hillside, the unsightly white bottom won’t show.
In addition to magnetizing the movement tray, you will need to give the miniature bases steel property so that it will stick to the magnetic surface. Some people don’t mind gluing small metal washers under the bases. Personally, I don’t like how they make the bases “float” from the surface. You can buy flexible steel sheet (again, 50Paces.com — link given at the end of the article — carries them) and cut them to size to fit the base, which will add a little extra height to the base. Not bad. Or you can paint the bottom edges with magnetic paint (more about this later).
I actually prefer to magnetize the miniature bases as opposed to the movement trays. With rare earth magnets, you can mount them inside the hollow part of the plastic bases and keep them flush with the bottom of the bases. I prefer this method largely because it does not change the appearance of the miniature bases.
Magnetizing Miniature Bases
I started out using 1/8″ x 1/32″ round disc-type rare earth magnets (from Amazing Magnets — web address given at the end of the article) to magnetize the bases. I used two per base, although later I’ve experimented with other size magnets and found that you could use just one 3/16 x 1/32″ magnet. I used green stuff, and also experimented with concrete patch, to fix them to the base. Basically, anything that starts out soft and dries hard and provides adhesive qualities (lots of two-part putties will fall in this category) will work.
Once I gently push the magnets into green stuff, I press down the base (right-side up) against a flat, hard surface (in this case, a clear acrylic sheet) to make the magnets flush against the bottom.
Here they are, after the green stuff fully cured. I’ve noticed that on occasions, green stuff would become unattached from the base; a small drop of superglue takes care of the problem.
Here are three figure bases with 1/32″ and 3/16″ magnets, the first two with green stuff and the last with concrete patch. Whatever works!
Now that you’ve magnetized the bases, you need to provide a surface on the movement tray that magnets will stick to. You can use flexible steel sheets mentioned above:
Despite its flexibility, the magnetic property is quite strong!
You can also use a magnetic paint, like this one from Kling Magnetics, Inc.:
Now, the name is somewhat of a misnomer. Despite what it says, the paint itself is not magnetic. It has iron fillings in a primer mix that will give any surface a degree of permeability for magnets to stick to. Obviously, the thicker the coating, the better permeability it’ll give. But that has a downside for our purposes, as we want a relatively flat and smooth surface for the magnetic bases to stick to. Also, when the paint can has been sitting for any length of time — even a few hours — the iron fillings settle to the bottom of the can and it requires a very vigorous shaking or some sort of mechanically-assisted stirring to mix them up properly. An alternative is to mix the can up really well, then transferring a small amount to a dispenser bottle — complete with agitators — for ready-use. The dispenser bottle shown here only requires a few seconds of shaking before it’s good to go.
Actually, it turns out that a fairly thin coat of the paint will give a surface enough permeability for our purposes. Here’s my test with a dollop of magnetic paint:
… brushed on over a clear acrylic sheet:
… then given a basecoat of brown:
After it dried, it provided strong enough to vertically hold a magnetically based plastic figure:
A metal figure would need either a thicker coat of magnetic paint, or perhaps the flexible steel sheet would be a better choice.
And here is a unit of Dwarf Warriors, with magnetic bases, all finished!
Happy magnetizing! Keep them away from computers and credit cards!
For further information:
- Games Workshop US Online Store, where you can find the movement trays mentioned in the article.
- 50 Paces.com, Bryan Lunny’s mail order business where you can get, among other things, flexible magnetic sheets and steel paper.
- Kling Magnetics Inc., the manufacturer of the magnetic paint I use.
- Evergreen Scale Models, manufacturer of numerous styrene sheet and products.
- Amazing Magnets, a mail-order supplier of rare earth magnets in California.
Added: October 24, 2006
A visitor to the website, Jon Mattison, has kindly left a comment on this article which included some photos. As the comments boxes cannot display inline images, I’ve appended them to the article, with his permission.
“…I magnetized my Empire army a couple of years ago and it has been fantastic.
I got that exact brand/size of magnetic paint at Michael’s a couple of years back but decided (without trying it), that it would probably not provide the magnetic grip I felt I would get from the pre-cut miniature base sheets. The rare earth magnets probably work a lot better.
I got all my ’steel paper’ and pre-cut magnet supplies through www.litkoaero.com.
For all my infantry I used standard and modified GW trays:
For my cavalry I used styrene and magnet sheeting but did not put edges on it:
For those on an extreme budget, I found that tie plates, such as these from Home Depot are functional with little to no modification. (afterwards I realized that there was a larger tie plate size that would have held 5×6 infantry instead of the 4×6 pictured):
Army shot, magnetized and on trays, in custom case:
Another budget idea are the “magnetic draft covers” or whatever they are called. I saw them at Home Depot. They measure roughly 7″x14″ and are for covering metal heater/AC registers. I think it is thicker than some of the sheet materials cut & sold specifically for miniature basing.
I have never used rare earth magnets but plan to use them in other aspects of miniatures.
Thanks for the link to Amazing Magnets.
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