Monday, 27 June 2011

Toy Soldiers: Displaying your collection?

As a wargamer, I generally keep all my painted miniatures lovingly stored away in padded cases and toolboxes ready to be carried along to wargaming sessions. However, realistically speaking I rarely get a chance to actually game with my miniatures, so they spend most of their time hidden away where no-one ever sees them. A real shame after I have spent so much time and effort working on them, modelling, converting, painting and basing them.

Old Shelf 01Old Shelf 02

Years ago I bought a small shelf system from Ikea that I used to display one or two of the large figures I had sculpted or painted and a few other figures and statues. It served it’s purpose was was really quite small and as I recently discovered was a real magnet for dust! I ended up have to literally immerse most of the figures in soapy water to remove the years of dust that accrued on them. This made me realise that I needed to do something to protect the figures from the dust, and so the idea of a glass (or acrylic) fronted cabinet came into my mind.

At this point I also realised it would be nice to actually display some of the my favourite figures, rather than leave them buried in storage all the time.

Now, the existing shelves were tucked away on a piece of, basically, dead space on the wall over the stairwell. This was fine as it meant the wife didn’t complain about them cluttering up anywhere special, and yet I get to see them every time I go down the stairs. So I started to form plans for a new “fronted” cabinet, that I could hang in the same place.

I happened to have some nice 18mm (3/4”) pine shelving in storage that I had ripped out of a store cupboard and so I set about designing the new cabinet to utilise this. I bought a metre square sheet of 3mm thick clear acrylic sheet to use as the door, and then set about designing the layout.

My first consideration was cutting the acrylic. I had already decided to use my works laser cutter to cut the sheet, as it gives a polished edge, straight out of the machine, far easier than trying to clean it up myself afterwards. The maximum sheet size that the laser cutter will take is 600mm x 450mm. So this meant I had to work within that size for the the door. So I ended up with two acrylic doors, 600mm wide by 590mm high. I then proceeded to build the cabinet around them.

I divided the areas that would be behind each door to suit what I felt would give me a good variety of spaces for displaying different sized miniatures. I also allowed an internal depth (front to back) of 120mm, as I sometimes base larger figures or small dioramas on old CDs or DVDs.

I built the outside of the cabinet, and also the dividing shelf, from the 18mm pine. While cutting these bits on the table saw, I also cut a slot in the them to act as a runner for the acrylic doors. The back of the cabinet is made up of two pieces of 3.6mm ply. I then thinned down the rest of the pine (using a planer/thicknesser) to 12mm for the internal shelves. This was both to reduce the weight and also for the aesthetic look of the cabinet. The whole thing was simply glued together with Evo-stik “Resin W” Wood Adhesive, sash clamped and left to dry. Once it had all set, I gave it a quick sanding down and then varnished it with a clear satin varnish. The whole process from start to finish took barely a days work.

I hung the new cabinet over the weekend and put the figures from the old shelf back into it. I am very pleased with the result and now I just need to look through all my figure cases and toolboxes and settle on which miniatures and models are worthy for display!

New Cabinet 01New Cabinet 02


  1. What is the little Cthulhu statue in the middle of the shelves and where can I get one?

    - Aaron

  2. It is as you say, a small Cthulhu statue.

    I have had it several years. I got it from my local games/comic shop. I think they ordered it through Previews (the comic catalogue).

    I don't know where you would get one now though, sorry...


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