Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Magnetized Carrying Cases

I've been looking for a transportation solution for my Nighthaunt army, and after seeing them in action, I'm completely sold on the idea of magnetic trays for carrying the miniatures. I put one together for myself, and thought I would share the process...


Some of my friends at the game store have been using magnetized trays for their armies, and more than anything, I'm impressed with how much time it saves when setting up and putting away their models. I've always been a proponent of foam trays that have been meticulously cut for each figure, arranged to maximize the space. But it takes me forever to pull out all my skeletons, and attach the weapons on my Morghasts before and after each game.

On top of that, the Nighthaunt models are all flimsy, with pointy bits poking out in every direction. They are just begging to have a piece break off while pulling them out of the foam, or require larger-than-normal cavities to accommodate their irregular shapes.

I have to thank Zoltan from the local shop for his idea– These are the containers and method that he uses for transporting his Sylvaneth army, and it seems like it offers the most space, protection, and versatility of the different options out there. It's pretty inexpensive, too.

The system consists of three components: The carrying case, metal trays for the units, and magnets on each miniature.

The Cases

The case is the most important part. These Sterilite® containers come in sets of two, and are available at Target for about $10. I bought two sets, and that should house my entire Nighthaunt force with room to spare. The cases are fully enclosed, so it will keep dust out and in the event that anything comes loose from its tray, the model won't go anywhere. 


Each tray has clips that connect it to the tray above it, or to the lid. So, the trays can be stacked together. Perfect if you only need to bring a small force that fits in one tray, or if you need to bring your entire collection. The trays are each 3" deep, so everything but the largest models should fit in them. The lid sits a little higher, so the topmost level will have about 3 1/2 inches of space. If you have larger models, you can cut out a section of the tray's bottom, to create a space that a tall model on the tray below can pass through.


The first step is to pick up some magnetic sheeting, and line the bottom of each tray. I couldn't find any sheeting with adhesive back, so I used spray adhesive to stick it down. If you use spray adhesive, make sure to spray the bottom of the magnetic sheeting, not the plastic tray, because the adhesive will get all over the sides of the tray and it will be a mess.


The Metal Trays

Simply putting magnets on the miniatures and sticking them to the magnetic sheet won't work because the rare earth magnets don't grab the magnetic sheet securely enough. So, each unit will need a metal tray. The metal tray sticks securely to the magnetic sheeting, and the magnets in the models stick securely to the metal tray. The trays can also be useful as movement trays during the game, and serve as a way to keep the units organized, making it easy to swap them out depending on the army list that you are bringing to the game.

For the trays, I use tin-coated steel sheets. (Do not use aluminum; the magnets won't stick!) K&S Precision Metals makes a variety of thicknesses, and .013-inch thickness is the easiest to work with. You can find them at craft stores, and model railroad hobby stores, and a 4" x 10" sheet is about $1.50 so they are pretty inexpensive, too.


To cut the metal sheets, you'll need a steel ruler, extendable snap-off knife, metal sheers, a hammer, flat needle-nose pliers, and and a file.



Start by measuring out the size you need to cut. The bases of these Chainrasps are 25mm, so each one takes up about one square inch. All 40 of them can fit on one metal sheet. I decided to cut it into quarters so each block of 10 will have their own tray.


The Spirit Hosts go six to a tray, so theirs is cut 4" x 6".


Mark the cut with a pencil, and then use a steel ruler and the snap off knife to score the metal. The knife can't cut all the way through, but it will give you a nice line and groove to follow with the metal sheers, helping you to get a straighter cut. By the way, this will kill the tip of your knife, so using a snap-off blade comes in handy because you can just snap off the segment and get back to a sharp point without wasting a whole blade.


When you cut with the metal sheers, take care because the edges will be sharp. The metal may also curl a little, especially at the corners.


To straighten it out, use the head of a hammer like a burnishing tool– press it down and rub along the edge to flatten it out. You can also flex the metal sheet by hand a little to get it flat again. Don't "hammer" with the hammer, because that will just dent the metal.


Next, use a file to smooth the sharp edges.


For the corners, use flat needle-nose pliers to bend the tip of the corner up 90-degrees.


Then, snip off the top of this point. This does two things: It eliminates the sharp corner so you won't poke yourself, and it creates a little lip that you can get your fingernail under to pick it up off the magnetic sheeting. File these corner cuts to eliminate any sharp edges.


And that's all there is to it.


The Magnets

Each model needs a rare-earth magnet. I use 1/8" diameter x 3/32" thick magnets, and they are the perfect height for fitting under a GW base. If the magnet is too thin, it won't make sufficient contact with the metal, and if it's too thick, it will protrude and the model's base won't sit flat. K&J Magnetics is my go-to source. These magnets are item # D203 if you are looking for them, they are about $1.40 for 10.



The magnets are strong enough that one is enough for most models (even the Spirit Hosts). I put two under my cavalry models just to be safe.


One final touch was to spray the metal trays so they matched my bases. I attached them to a board with double-sided tape and sprayed them with back primer and Model Masters Medium Green.



Each tray holds its models, and they all sit securely in the case. For single characters, I've made a spare metal tray that they can all stand on together.


Here's everything I can fit in one tray. They also take up less space than if they were in foam trays– For example, the foam tray for the hexwraiths has about the same footprint as this case, and the 40 Chainrasps' tray would also take up about the same space. Those two trays would stack nearly as deep as this container, and there wouldn't be enough room to fit the Spirit Hosts.


The beauty of this is that I can still put foam trays in one of the empty levels if I need to bring models that aren't magnetized. As I mentioned above, I can also cut out the bottom of a tray to create a deeper cavity, and I'm definitely going to need to do that once I get my Black Coach painted. As it stands, the Knight of Shrouds is too tall to fit in these trays, so I'll have to make an opening for him. 


One concern I have is that the handle is a little flimsy, so I wouldn't trust it to support the weight of an entire army, especially if the models are metal.  I think I'll add a strap that can cinch around the stacked cases to ensure that the clips won't come loose and drop any of the trays. I also wouldn't recommend this for long travel or as carry-on if you're flying.  In those instances, use a proper case with protective foam.


I'll post an update once I've made an open tray for some larger models, but for now this is enough to get the bulk of my Nighthaunt army to the battlefield.

'Til next time!


  1. Just be aware that magnets do not help if you drop your box.

    Not that I have ever done that (cry).

    1. Yeah, that's my fear. Definitely going to add a strap to make sure nothing comes apart. Also have to make sure it can't slide around or roll over when it's in the car.

  2. I just finished a carry case for my SCE based on your design. Thanks so much for posting this, it turned out great!


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