Wednesday, September 14, 2011

On movement trays and how I make them

Welcome to another Wednesday post. Today, I will be discussing a topic that I feel is a bit understated in the whole industry and blogosphere - the movement trays.

For WFB players, these are a must. There is simply no avoiding the usage of a 'regiment base' - as the trays were known before GW released the multi-model strips and called those Regiment Bases. Moreover, more and more people magnetize their bases and trays become essential. The 'natural' course of action was to make the trays out of metal - specifically steel - to make the magnets do their job. This worked fine for me as well.

Steel is rigid (duh), it can be cut to extremely precise angles and it can take glue just fine (more on that later). But it has its flaws. First and foremost, the availability. I assume few of us have a steel cutter at hand. For 1mm thick steel in "Warhammer-sized" sheets you can either go to your local metalworks, where, depending on people who work there you can get a ridiculously great bargain from the leftovers bin or walk out empty-handed: such small bits are not normally sold and the company might have a minimum order. Alternatively, you can purchase these from dedicated gaming stores, just not a lot of them carry sheet steel for movement trays. And it can be pricey.

On top of that, steel is heavy. It has sharp edges and corners, so filing is necessary to avoid cuts. Learned that the hard way.

An alternative to steel is a substance called ferrous adhesive tape. As the name suggests, it is and adhesive sheet (of various widths) with metal-like capabilities - chiefly magnetism. It's very handy to work with (just cut and stick), it's light (it's essentially fancy plastic) and it's more widely available than proper metal sheets. It's also more expensive, and since it's not at all rigid, you still need some base for your tray to stick the tape to.

I have tried both of the above and neither worked well for me. Long and hard have I resisted the GW Modular Basing Kit before I bought one just of sheer curiosity.

I was pleasantly surprised. The plastic 'bottoms' are very, very strong, 3 mm thick plastic sheets with 20x20 mm grid on one side and 25x25 mm one on the other. And you get two per pack. It's not a great value, to my mind squeezing a third in there wouldn't hurt anyone, but hey, it's GW. You also get the borders, which are sadly a disappointment.

After gluing them to the sheet, they leave very unsightly gaps between the border and the models' bases. It's 2 mm wide per side, meaning your finished tray will be almost half a centimeter too wide. I managed to fix it thusly:

It's just 2 mm thick cardboard, but it does the job nicely. But to make matters worse, the inner edge of the border bits is NOT perfectly perpendicular to the surface - making some sort of filling necessary.

In addition, if you're making a big tray, say twenty models, you need to glue some 0,5 mm of material under it - after adding the borders, the plate doesn't lat flat against the surface.

Not so good now, hm? Bear with me. I think I can convince you how good this product is yet.

First of all, it's very sturdy and lightweight. 'Nuff said. Secondly, and I think here is where this product's hidden strength lies, is its ability to make custom bases for things like war machines, chariots with more than two beasts, giants, the arachnarok and the like. I will be returning to this in the future and I will show you exactly what I mean.

Now, how do I go about making my trays. I do magnetize all my models and to avoid having to stick anything more on the already thick base plate, here is what I did:

I simply drilled through the whole base plate with a 3 mm drill. The plate is 2 mm thick, exactly the height of the magnets I use. To make them align perfectly with the magnets under the bases, I clamped the bases (one at a time) to the tray and carefully marked the spot. To prevent the magnets from falling out of the tray and to give them more material to glue to, I reinforced the tray with a sheet of 0,5 mm polystyrene.

It is a time consuming project at first, but once you get the hang of it, it goes very smoothly. I built the tray above, from cutting the components to painting, in one evening.

That's a wrap. See you on Saturday, when I'll be showing some painted minis!

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