My blog about my wargaming activities. I collect a lot of 15mm miniatures for the American War of Independence and so collect a lot of rules for this period. I started miniatures with Napoleonics, so I have a number of armies in 6mm and 15mm figures for skirmishing. I have15mm WW II figures that I use for Flames of War, Memoir '44, and someday, Poor Bloody Infantry. Finally there is my on-again, off-again relationship with paper soldiers that I sometimes write about.
Saturday, January 20, 2007
Bases for Paper Miniatures - Solved!
Sounds good, but it is a little more complex than that. Printing the miniatures is no problem, even if you have to create new files for the new basing scheme. Gluing them together and cutting them out takes more time, but it is still not that problematic unless you want to start with a large army. But basing, now that is where it gets to be a problem.
On one hand you can simply glue the paper figures to the appropriate sized paper or cardboard base - that is what I did initially. But, others convinced me that I was throwing away one of paper's major advantages as a medium - the ability to store the figures flat, and thus store thousands of figures in the space where only dozens of lead figures could be stored. A 1" by 1" base with paper miniatures took up just as mucg space as a 1" by 1" base with lead or plastic miniatures.
So, that lead to the idea of having individual figures that could be easily mounted and removed from their bases. This way, the bases could easily be stacked on one another in a box and the figures stored in an envelope. Again, you could store thousands of figures and their bases in a very small space.
So the problem then became how to create a base where a figure could be easily mounted and removed, with minimal damage to the figure, and ease of building the base. This was a bigger problem than it sounded, actually.
I started with foam-core board. This worked pretty well, and I was getting a large collection of it for free at work (I worked next to a graphic arts department and they threw out a large number of scraps every day). The problem was cutting a slot wide enough to slide the figure into, but not too wide as the figure would wobble. Simply cutting a stroke halfway through the board wasn't good enough. Although it was fairly easy to do, the cut was not wide enough for two sheets of 110 lb. paper glued together to go through unless you bent the board. Of course, if you did that then the base would not sit flat. After awhile, the base would lose its tension and the figure would start wobbling. Of course, you could simply throw away the old base and make another, but I was looking for a more permanent solution.
Next up was cutting a slot in the foam-core. I used a cutting wheel from Dremel and that worked but it was a horrible mess. Also, the foam-core usually has formaldehyde in it, so inhaling the dust was not a good idea. Also, it was very easy to cut the slot too wide, so there were a lot of throw-aways.
Next I tried balsa wood. Again, just cutting the slot didn't produce a wide-enough gap, so I used an X-Acto saw blade. Again I noticed the tendency for the base to bow. Also, it was very hard to saw deep enough into the balsa without sawing all the way through.
Next I took balsa strips and glued them to balsa bases (also to metal washers). This worked pretty well. The figure slid in easily, there was no bowing of the base, and the results were pretty durable. At first the problem was getting the gap the proper width so the figure would not wobble, but I found that after I painted and flocked the bases the fit was nice and tight. The problem was that this method added tremendously to the time to get a unit up and running. In fact, the bases took far more time than the figures themselves.
So, one day I was staring at the office supply closet and thinking about this problem and it struck me that I had been using a solution all along: brass fasteners. Fasteners are used when you three-hole punch a document then need to bind them together. You stick these two-pronged fasteners into the holes and then spread the prongs apart to keep the pages together. I quickly grabbed a paper figure and yes, I could slide the figure into the slot between the two prongs into the fastener. Later I trimmed the prongs down and low and behold, I had a clip at the base of the figure.
As it turns out, even the smaller (1") fasteners are flat enough so that a figure clipped into it will stand upright without any problem; the larger (2") fasteners are just that much more stable and easier to grip when attaching the figure.
As I am doing more games with individually mounted figures, simply putting the figure into the clipped fastener is enough. Later, I can paint the brass grass green and maybe even add some flock, but that's not really necessary. When I want to play a game using multiple figures on a base, I simply glue clipped fasteners to a balsa wood base and slide the figures in. (You can paint and flock those bases over time too.)
As an aside, another method experimented with, and I am still considering, is to use magnets attached to the paper figure. A small enough magnet would not add considerable size to the figure (there are 2mm square rare earth magnets for sale on eBay) and you could embed another in the balsa base for a strong hold. But, I'll stick with brass fasteners for now.
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- Huachuca City, Arizona, United States
- I am 50 yrs old now. I bought a house in Huachuca City, AZ (although I have a townhouse in Houston, TX and a small home in Tucson, AZ) working on a contract for "the next two years" that is going on five years now. To while away the hours I like to wargame -- with wooden, lead, and sometimes paper miniatures -- usually solo. Although I am a 'rules junkie', I almost always use rules of my own (I like to build upon others' ideas, but it seems like there is always something "missing" or "wrong").