Monday, June 20, 2011

Warhammer: Building your own army-transporter

I’ve been rather quiet lately regarding my latest spark of creativity. Not because it’s something special, but because the entire project has been on a prolonged stand-by due to RL-restrictions.
However, in recent time I finally had the chance to invest a bit in the project known as ‘Miniature Case – Homebrew’.

Transport-cases for minis have always been something of an issue for me, ever back to when I first started playing in Warhammer 4th edition. Things were a lot more complicated back then. Not only were the minis (frankly) quite simplistic and ugly, but they were often a logistic nightmare. Back then, a lot of them were still made of lead, with a few, crude plastic-models emerging. This meant that more than often, you’d risk vital parts breaking off your knights and such, unless you had a decent transporter. It’s no exaggeration to say that I spent the first half hour of every tourney gluing my Cold One Riders back together.
Naturally much of this was my own fault, as I never owned an official GW-transporter, and still haven’t. At that time it was too high above my budget, and I prioritized other things more. That meant I’d use my father’s suitcase, packed with a lot of foam and newspaper. Not all that aesthetical and neither practical. I suppose I owe all those Dark Elves an apology for the bumpy rides.
Now, several years later, I’m still at loss. I’d gladly invest in the new GW-transporters as they are truly a lot more sexy than back then. But on the other side, with two armies and one of them being Skaven, I pretty much figured I’d need more than one of the standard-bags.
Therefore, being the handyman I am, I decided to make my own. And now I’d like to share it with you.
First and foremost, I can’t take credit for everything in here. I had help for the calculations from this guide:
Second, before screaming, please bear in mind that I was going for a simple, practical and thorough transporter above eye-candy. I could’ve used a lot more time, but I didn’t. With so many miniatures clocking my house, I needed to pack down at least all the infantry asap.
Step 1) The tools
I bought a trolley when they had a sale in the nearby supermarket. Beyond that I am pretty certain they can be easily acquired either from retail or used from a store dealing with that sort of thing.
I deliberately chose one of a certain size, due to mentioned reasons.
Thereafter I took measures, in order to determine how much foam I’d need. For this, a handy formular:M = (F - B ) / (C + B )
M is the number of miniatures per row, F is the foam width, B the width of each wall between the minis and C is the width of the compartments themselves.
In my case, the trolley was roughly 41cmX58cm (I deliberately measured a bit less, in order to make my foam-layers fit better, as they’d consequently be smaller than the actual size of the suitcase. This isn’t as big a problem as you might think, as long as you deal with 1cm-intervals). In this way it’s possible to use the formular to estimate how many minis your suitcase will likely hold per layer.
My point of origin was my Paint-set from GW, which has some nice compartments that fit a mini or two easily (it’s certainly possible to squeeze in two clan rats in one slot). A layer of foam is 2,5cm for the niche itself, and 1cm of foam as “foundation” below the grid. 3,5cm in total. Measuring the height of my trolley revealed about 26cm. / 3.5cm = 7,42 layers.
Each small compartment housing a mini seems to be greatly off with a measure of 3x5cm. You can put in a lot there.

Therefore I went out with my trusty girlfriend (who this entire project is, as always, dedicated to) to find the right amount of foam. Luckily we have an entire shop dedicated to that in my city, so it was no biggie. It was even possible to have it cut out specifically for your measures, but since I wasn’t that certain of my measuring skills, I decided to take it the long way.
Sadly,  I had to settle for less, since 2,5cm thick foam is pretty hard to come by. In the end I had to settle for 3cm and 1cm foundation. This meant fewer layers, of course, but I still estimated around 450+ miniatures could be stored in there.
I got a great deal on 200x70cm, and bought a couple. Along with the tools for the trade, this wasn’t a bad bargain. You might argue that white is an inferior color to black in this regard, but I will get back to my reasoning later.
Step 2) Foam-slicing
I cut out a layer as a prototype. This was merely to see whether my measures were totally off. Luckily they weren’t which meant I could just copy this layer five times.   You will notice that I rounded off the corners, which is because of the form of my trolley.
Step 3) Rinse and repeat
Put on a good DVD and repeat five times. Notice how nicely they all stack.
Step 4) The bottom foam
Then I did a prototype foundation for the first layer, which is to serve as the bottom. This one I just outlined and then cut off. Notice that I only did this one for the first one. The rest I waited to do until I had all the layers done (see later)
Step 5) The compartments
Using a scalpel, I CAREFULLY cut out a 3x5cm chunk of foam. You don’t have to be exact by the millimeter, but it helps a lot. Again I must warn that scalpels really can be insanely sharp, so you really want to forget about the DVD for a while.
Step 6) Measure
I screwed up a bit, actually. A good piece of advice; compare one of your tallest models to the piece of foam. In this case it was actually too big, which was because I’d done a bad measure. So I redid it and made it work. Those small initiatives can save you a serious headache later.
Step 7) Paint
Paint the surface of the foam liberally with dark paint. I’m not sure whether it matters which kind, as long as it doesn’t smelt the foam. I used basic acryl.
Step 8) Stamp it!
I HATE measuring. And there is a lot of measuring to be done, if you insist on doing all this by hand. Instead I decided to stamp every compartment of the layer, and then cut from those lines. I could basically fill out an entire layer before I had to reapply the paint. You don’t have to press that hard, really, it will leave some good markings for you to follow later, even with gentle pressure.
Step 9) Looking good
An example of how it will turn out. Notice that I didn’t go for that much structure and I could likely have maximized it better. But I’m happy with it, and don’t see that much waste. Remember to leave some double-rooms if you have big units, like ogres, weapon-teams, knights and the like : )
Step 10) Time is just flying…
One night and another good DVD later.
Step 11) The worst part
This is clearly the dull part, and can be painfully longer depending on your perfectionism. Time to cut out the compartments. I again used a scalpel for this, and once again will stress the importance of minding your fingers. I found it possible to just cut down at all four sides and then gently ripping out the entire block. This WILL leave some more messy compartments, with fluff and shreds hanging, compared to spending several minutes on every room. It’s up to you, really. But for me it’s just there to carry my Skaven-Slaves, so I couldn’t care less.

Step 12) The grid
When all is said and done. If you don’t like the remaining marks from the paint, I imagine you could easily spray it over with the color of your choice, once everything is done.
Step 13) Getting there

Nice and tidy
Step 14) Getting to the bottom

I placed the grid on top of the 1cm foam and cut out a bottom matching the exact grid above. This I did for every layer separately and took great care not to mix them up. It’s not a huge issue if you do, except you will waste some time playing foam-tetris to find the correct combination afterwards.

Step 15) Glue
(Sorry for the non-optimal quality of the photo, but I mostly work at night). I went outside to apply glue. Turn the entire layer upside-down, so that the paint-markings are facing downwards and apply glue as thoroughly as possible. I know there are a lot of ways to apply glue, and make sure it’s the right kind of glue! Check with a hobby-store, as some glue can actually ruin foam, I’ve heard. I used a spray with water-based contact-glue, which worked wonders. I sprayed as much of the grid as I could, and then held the bottom 1cm-foam gently against it for a minute. Then I left it to dry outside for half an hour and repeated it for the other layers.
Step 16) All the layers
Now with their glued-on-bottoms.

Step 17) Does it fit?
It’s likely that your layers won’t be an exact match, depending on the restrictions of your suitcase. With a scalpel this is easily remedied. For me it was a pretty near fit, and I honestly think I’d be no problem pressing another layer in there. I’ve decided to leave it as it is, though, so that I’ll have room for my armybook, rulebook and movement-trays. An additional tip, which I forgot but will have to make, is an extra 1cm-layer in the top, stopping your minis from falling out as you carry around the trolley.
Also notice, if you chose to go for the spray or another way in which you don’t have complete control over the glue; you WILL hit some of the compartments, and these WILL be sticky for some time. Not to any drastic amount, but you will notice it. The best bet is to simply move on, use your brand new transporter, and in time you will wear it off with no problems.
Rejoice that you now have your own, personal army-transporter.
In this stage you can even consider spraying it with a color of your choice. I am no expert in this regard, as you will likely require a very specific kind of paint in order not to stiff out your foam or have the paint crack. As always your hobby-store could help you here, but remember to save some foam for testing.
Just in case, before you go crazy on your new project : )
I hope you enjoyed it. I know I did making it, for sure. Transporting the Underempire has never been easier.

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