Miniature Storage is the largest areas of time sinks I’ve had over the last two months. While it feels silly that one can spend so much time on the method of which to store and organize models and figures. My mentality is that if I will spend the time to make & create these things why not protect them as well.
I started to do research on the different storage solutions out there for miniatures including magnetizing, foam trays, carrying cases, nail polish stands, etc.
Lets look at some of the different types.
Magnetizing: Is a system i’m super interested in doing, however this is more rigid to based miniatures and ones with hollowed bases to hold magnets. Since most of my 3d printed miniatures do not start out based this would not work for the pile of opportunity I have laying around. Also many 3d printed bases do not have holes for magnets and would require drilling. I would say magnetizing is the most common solution i’ve found online for miniature figures.
Nail Polish stands: These are extremely popular for both paints and miniatures to allow you to have an amphitheater type display shelf of what you have done. While this looks nice I do not have the shelves to store my miniatures.
Hardware Drawers & Tackle Boxes: Also popular since things like tackle boxes have sectioned areas with separators and are meant to be portable. However the hard plastic of the sectioned areas I knew would be to tough on my more fragile miniatures. I also need a mobile system so the hardware drawers would not work and would need something close to a box.
Foam Trays: This is probably the closest to what i’m looking for. Using foam tray would help isolate individual miniatures and also be modular to mix up which trays are out and about at any given time. However I also have heard quite frequently that foam trays commonly rub paint off the miniatures. I have not been consistent about varnishing my minis and am worried about that happening.
These trays can also come with soft or hard cases and sometimes travel bags to go to game stores or tournaments. This would most likely be the most expensive option for my miniature storage. I am personally not yet ready to invest in something super expensive and am still evolving my collection. I also needed my storage to be mobile and rigid to be capable of stacking as well unfortunately climbed on while still keeping the figure safe. I think I’d do an official system such as this if I ever owned my own completed army for 40K or similar.
As a result this is of course as you probably already have guessed it caused me to begin experimenting with various storage solutions of my own to cater to my unique needs.
Previous System Design
Previously, the most complex system I’ve used was designed by my incredibly handsome husband which used a modular sliding tray system to hold models. I would have a plastic box which could hold up to 8 of these trays and each tray would hold approximately 30 standard miniatures. Therefore each box could hold up to 180-200 models. It was an incredible way to hold models in place for an extremely efficient model per area storage method. Trays could be designed to hold a variety of base sizes and only required some simple 3D modeling changes.
The downsides however began to creep up on me. Firstly, if the figures were of varying base sizes especially non standard 20 mm, 25 mm, 50mm, etc. sizes they would not fit onto the trays and stay. So I’d need to make specialized trays for them or some kind of holder per miniature that didn’t fit the design criteria. Also not all miniatures come with bases already on them requiring me to temporarily tack them onto a base or glue them. Also the way the tray holds into the miniature the ideal threshold for height of the bases and things on it resulted in a slim threshold for flexibility and creativity. As a result trays are being shelved (pun intended) for the time being.
The one thing I’ve absolutely loved was using this tray system however was using a custom wall mount above my workstation to hold miniatures up and out of the way.
As a result to the rigid restrictions of the 3d printed storage solution. I started to design my own miniature storage trays that was not as dependent on learning design software. I’m still such a beginner using the various software and realized I was reliant on the incredible talents of my other half. I’m not afraid to learn but sometimes these things take time you do not have at the moment.
Earlier in the year I started experimenting using cardboard, foamcore, and old archivist book board (from an old job). I thought I was have an interstate move so I then began to organize my scatter terrain. Previously I stored scatter terrain in the classic plastic craft/jewelry plastic box, however I was outgrowing my storage containers quickly and needed a larger storage solution that would be more efficient and cost less overall.
While the above system works well it did not give me a lot of flexibility for reusability as I wanted to move objects around or hold things in place more resulting in a consistently more chaotic box every time I moved it or the baby bumped the box.
Overall I loved the concept of the newer storage but I needed to store more fragile miniatures. Time to go back to the drawing board in material choice. Criteria, I needed a more robust and flexible system.
I concluded to use almost all foam core aka poster board as my material of course. The goal of the foam core is to be semi soft but also rigid. This could provide protection for the figures but also be capable of bearing the weight of several in a tray. Also since it is soft I use toothpicks to hold spacers in place adding to extra rigidity to hold miniatures in place but also modular to be reused in the future as my storage adapts and evolves.
I planned to make trays that fit into some of my favorite boxes, plastic ornament boxes. This would make me capable of making it modular and therefore adjustable for almost all my figures based or not up to about 4 inches (10.16 cm) in height. If the box is the top of the stack and due to how the lid sits on the box rather than inside of it my models can go up to 4.5” in height.
I also discovered that since these boxes are essentially 1 x 1 feet (30.48 x 30.48 cm) my trays will also fit perfectly in the cube boxes which are affordable and even available at the grocery store. Any trays I made would be capable to store in the super prolific cube shelves with the cloth boxes as well.
The Miniature trays themselves were similar to the scatter terrain trays but were instead constructed with 100% foam core. The bottom and sides would be glued using hot glue and I also glued the rows to hold the miniatures. Then using white foam core I would use toothpicks to hold the miniatures to custom widths to snugly fit the models. These could be adapted and changed as needed if the trays changed its contents. For the guide on how I built these trays check out my DIY Foam Core Miniature Storage Guide.
For the trays I’ve counted approximately 70-80 standard miniatures per box (two trays per box). I also have made a variant for large monsters but have yet to completely fill an entire box at this moment for the full count.
In some cases for larger miniatures I would instead use a harder card stock as the bottom saving the 1/4th inch ( 6.3 mm) in height and could customize the height.
I also used different cardstock on the outside of the trays so that way from afar I could pull out specifically what box I was looking for in the future.
Overall I’ve really happy with the solution as it can be modified to almost all my miniatures and scatter terrain. Also due to the rigidity of the boxes and foam core it can currently withstand the weight of a small human who apparently likes to climb on them.
I have some future ideas on trays for terrain that I’m looking forward to experimenting with. That will have to wait though. For now these homemade foam core trays are my current solution. Let me know what works for you? Have you experimented with different methods? What ideas you have on improving my system.
As always thanks for hanging out and reading. Let me know what you think. Next up, the evolution of my project organization, notes, and workflow as apart of my Storage Wars Series.