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Storage Stategy : Not Too Many Miniatures


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The question of storage has come up a couple of times recently (e.g. Something re Bones 6, and something in Randomness), so I thought that it might be helpful to put this into a thread we could just point to later.  I’m sure that other people have creative solutions to share.

 

In my case, storage needs to serve three purposes: Easy access to painted and unpainted miniatures when I am ready to play with them or work on them respectively, secure/safe storage of painted miniatures, and ability to transport miniatures to a remote game location (i.e., not the dining/game room).  

 

There is one very common purpose I am NOT attempting to meet: display.

 

Objective #1 is generally met with stacks of Really Useful Boxes (hereafter RUBs) (a brand name; you can search for them) in various sizes.  The boxes are stacked on heavy duty shelves obtained from one of the big box home stores (I think it was Lowe’s, rather than Home Despot).

 

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Some of my unpainted miniatures are in 3x5 ziploc baggies in card boxes, organized by company and catalog number.

 

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If that seems a little over the top, I can assure you that it is necessary…

 

Things in packages are generally also in RUBs, with temporary labels of masking tape.

 

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My label maker is sitting in front of those boxes.  Painted miniatures end up in boxes with printed labels:

 

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Specificity of the labels varies; livestock, for example, is all in one box, so it doesn’t migrate.  “Massed Fantasy Armies” boxes have a tendency to have the contents rearranged from one game to the next, although my ultimate goal would be to have boxes dedicated to “armies” (e.g. “Chaos Wars Orcs” or “Minifigs ME Gondor”).

 

The RUBs meet objective #2; the plastic lids lap over the tops, so the miniatures should be safe even if an overhead water line were to leak.  For handling purposes, I mount all of my miniatures on some form of steel bases, whether flexible steel (plastic with iron content) or carbon steel washers, and I line the boxes with flexible magnet sheet material, which I generally buy these days from Amazon, in 2 foot by 10 foot rolls.  I experimented with various methods of gluing the magnet sheet down in the boxes, but eventually settled on securing it with double-sided carpet tape.  Carpet tape strips can be seen in the bottom view of an empty box.  As others here have noted, I am relunctant to have my miniatures rubbed by foam, so I am accepting a tradeoff between security and abrasion

 

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The four liter RUB is a handy size.  Lined with magnet material, it has a usable area a little larger than 8” by 12”, and is tall enough for most 28mm foot miniatures, although some standard bearers and such will not fit, and need to be separated out into “tall” boxes.  The 9 liter box has the same footprint as (and will therefore stack with) the 4 liter boxes, but is twice as tall. That works for all the smaller dragons and such that I use.

 

If one uses a hexagonal close-packing formation (seen below), a 4 liter box will hold 8x13 (or 104) miniatures on 1” (25mm) bases.  Otherwise, 8x12 = 96.

 

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RUBs come in a variety of sizes.  As noted, the 4 and 9 liter boxes will stack with each other, and are commonly available at office supply stores in the US.  The 11 and 17 liter sizes have a larger footprint, and are not quite interchangeable, but the 11s will stack neatly on top of the 17s.  17s I use primarily for terrain, but the 11s are tall enough for 40mm cavalry, and also generally serve as storage for my mold library.

 

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As far as Objective #3 (transport) goes, the basic idea is that the steel bases and the magnetically lined boxes will give you some protection against bumps and jostles. How much protection varies depending on how tall the figures are, how heavy they are, and how big the bases are.  In my collection, the worst case figures are things like 40mm cavalry on 30mm washers, metal 25mm dragons in rearing positions on small circular bases, and metal ents (of which I have a moot).  25mm fantasy foot on 1” bases (as shown above) are pretty solid; massed fantasy figures in groups on 6cm square bases more so, and my 1/72 plastic armies (generally in groups of 4-8 foot on 6cm by 4cm bases, see below) are solid enough that you can flip them upside down with no fear.

 

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When I need to take the boxes somewhere for a game, the fact that the RUBs securely nest is an advantage.  I stack them, wrap an click release strap (walmart automative department) strap around them laterally, and then use a widget recommended to me by another club member, the “Strap-a-Handle”, around the boxes longitudinally, which gives me an easy carry point.

 

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I noted that the 4 and 9 liter RUBs are commonly available at office supply stores.  Because I take games to conventions by air, I have looked at the carry-on luggage profiles and concluded that the 12 liter RUB is the largest single box which will fit under an airline seat (note that 2 6 liter boxes occupy the same volume),  and that a 12 liter box and a 6 liter box (plus a bonus 2.5 liter box, as shown above, or 3 6 liter boxes) will fit in the overhead compartment of a 737.  I would note that the new 737-800s have overhead compartments that tilt up, leaving your luggage at an angle, so one might want to stick to the underseat dimensions or ensure that your miniatures are of the most securely fastened sort, if you don’t know in advance what model of plane one might be flying in.  I would also note that the 6 liter and 12 liter sizes are not generally available at the office stores, but CAN be ordered directly from the RUB web site, at least in the US and UK.

 

(Edited) Oops.  I meant to add one more thing on travel.  Because the 6/12 liter boxes have the largest aircraft-compliant footprint, but are otherwise hard to obtain, I made an effort to set aside 3 of them, the maximum carry-on stack, duly labeled, and miniatures going to away games (especially by air) go into the ‘travel muster” boxes, and are returned (eventually) to their normal storage locations upon returning home.  This will usually (but doesn’t always) work.  As I type this today, one box is properly empty, one has an army mustered for a much-delayed test game of Fantastic Battles, and one is carrying painting sticks cleared from my desk in the advance of having visitors to the house. The mustered army is ok, but the painting sticks are not …

 

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Anyway, that’s what I do…others?

 

 

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Edited by Rob Dean
Added more on travel
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This is really helpful, especially the specific sizes of the boxes.  I looked up Really Useful Boxes after your post in the Kickstarter thread, and I was a little lost sorting through all the size options.  I appreciate having some specifics.  Also, the magnets and metal bases is really clever.

 

As for what I do, I have no system.  I have a few old cardboard miniature boxes with foam inserts, and I have a few other boxes in which I have added foam for padding.  With my collection at *only* a few hundred miniatures, I can do this sort of ad hoc storage, but as I get more (including a few hundred from the Bones 6 Kickstarter in 18 months or so), I really need a better system.  I would love to hear from others, though, before settling on anything specific.

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Most of mine are lined up on shelves or in similar boxes. I've also got a few travel cases for things...I've got one old GW case that I'd originally bought for 40K, but I never played anything that used very large forces since my group took the lunch battles thing during college which remained around 500 points and used the 3e book with included rules for the different armies.

 

That case only had a few minis in it at any point, until relatively recently when I shifted the stuff inside elsewhere and put my Star Wars Legion forces in it.

 

My Star Wars prepaints are in a large toolbox thing that can fit everything in it, including most of the battlemaps (And I have a binder with all of the old cards and sheets that goes with it).

 

Most of my old Vampire Counts army is in a case from Battlefoam that's mantic branded which I bought early on before Kings of War had a print release.

 

I also have a full Reaper case that's pluck foam which I put most of my random minis in for D&D.

 

There's also the bag that I bought which has a upper area with foam for a few minis, that's my normal bag for when I play D&D because I can put my various character minis there...and I've got a hard plastic, foam filled case from, I think, chessex that I got from a closing store that was intended for microarmor or smaller scales which I have some of my smaller minis in, and it works decently for my goblin warband that I used for Song of Blades and Heroes on occasion.

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My problem is display.

I paint for fun and display.

 

My solution...HERESY!!!

After a while I will sell some of my painted stuff to make room for new ones.

Some will always stay with me of course...

 

As for unpainted stuff, a few drawers and boxes full of stuff and an external 2 TB harddrive for 3D files..

If I could print all the files I have and combine them with my physical stuff I would drown in minis..

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My brother has two Battlefoam bags for army transport, but he has the magnet rack system for them, so it ends up being the same general idea as my stacked RUB’s….I’ll see if I can collect a picture from him.

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My current solution for transport is Feldherr foam.  The have a lot of custom pieces designed for Star Wars Legion so big things fit well and don't end up bent or broken (if you've seen most of the Legion vehicles, they are so wacky shapes).

I've been using the same for Bolt Action and Konflikt '47, and so far haven't noticed any wear on the metal figures (not that they are painted, but they are primed and sometimes base coated.).  I've used similar foam in the past using assorted hard cases.
I like the idea of the various magnetic solutions (and use magnets a fair bit for weapons and turrets) but I've got a lot invested in foam, and can't figure out a good way to secure spider walkers and the like use magnets......

My home solution is a bit of a mess.  Boxes and boxes of stuff that isn't current.  Shelves of boxes and stacks of boxes for current stuff.  And labeled plastic bins for "near current" stuff. And shelves of painted stuff that isn't being used currently.  And more shelves of stuff that is waiting on priming/painting.  My Legion, BA and K47 stuff pretty much stays on the foam trays on shelves when not in a travel bag.

 

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