Friday, June 12, 2015

Evolution of Figure Storage

“A Personal Journey”

OK, so the title is tongue in cheek, but I was making up some additional storage boxes the other day and I thought a post on my “personal voyage of discovery” might be of use to someone. Cue the violins…

Let’s get this out right up front – I am a container junky. I have boxes full of boxes. If we’re in a store and my wife doesn’t know where I am, she knows to look first in the craft/hobby section and then in the container/organizer section. I never met a box I didn’t like…

photo by Getty Images

My original storage technique was a cardboard box, usually a shoebox. That was for Airfix figures and my first figures for D&D (c1974). This lasted throughout my college years, but by around 1990 I had drifted into WH40K and a shoebox just wasn’t going to cut it. I got serious about storage and started using boxes by Chessex.

The classic Chessex
These are still available with various configurations of foam inserts to cover 25mm up to larger figures. The Chessex cases have a number of great attributes:
  • The cases are EXTREMELY tough. I knew a guy who taped several together and sent them through airline baggage check when going to GenCon. Not a scratch.
  • They do a pretty good job with most miniatures. I have had problems with taller, more anatomically accurate miniatures such as Rackham getting a little bent, but for 99% of 28mm figures there are no worries..
  • They used to be fairly economical back in the day at ~$15ea.

As my gaming tastes broadened and I switched from slotta bases to metal washers, I became intrigued with magnetic storage.

I started to fool around with Rubbermaid type containers, in the shoebox or "6 quart size", and magnetic sheet. 

At first I was using single sheets of magnetic sheet available from a number of hobby suppliers. Sometimes these run $10 a sheet so after a while I found a 30” by 25 foot roll for around $25 from a sign company (this was over a decade ago and I am just finishing the roll now, so I guess I will have a price update in the near future).

Well it turns out companies like Rubbermaid change their box styles fairly regularly – I had a hard time standardizing my storage. Hey, that’s just the way I’m wired, so “’nuff said” as they used to say in the comic books.

With the shift to 15mm, I was also finding these boxes a little large. I had briefly flirted with building a mezzanine out of MDF but that proved to be a bit fiddly. So I then migrated to hinged hard plastic boxes from the Container Store.

There was a lot to love about these bad boys.
  • A convenient size,
  • Other sizes available for the odd size figure
  • Readily available at the Container Store
  • They are clear so you could easily see what was inside

 I used these for several years and was rather happy with them. There were three flaws though:
  • They were ONLY available from the Container Store – this meant high priced postage or an hour drive to the nearest store.
  • As with anything made from dead dinosaurs, costs have risen swiftly from roughly $6 to $12 in under a decade.
  • The plastic is brittle. Cracks are frequent and the hinges break. This was really the straw for the proverbial camel.
     So now I find myself at Figure Storage revision 5. I switched to the Small Sterlite Clip Box which I can get at Dollar General stores for $2.65 each. They are 11” x 2.8” x 6.6”. This design has been stable for several years, has multiple sources and also offers a variety of sizes. I especially like that the lid securely clips closed and that the plastic is very forgiving.

Sterlite Small Clip Box

Here’s how I make a figure storage box.

First take an emery board or a piece of sand paper and scuff up the bottom surface. If you do not do this, the adhesive will not hold well. Then I wipe down the inside with rubbing alcohol. This removes any mold release and clears and dust from scuffing up the bottom.

Cut a piece of magnetic sheet to size and use a knife to make a crisscross pattern lightly on the underside. This also helps the adhesive hold.

Currently I am using 20 minute epoxy. The slow set time permits me to do several boxes at a time. It is thinner than 5 minute epoxy. Epoxy is also not as volatile as some other adhesives. For my original boxes I had tried rubber cement and other contact adhesive. These “hot” adhesives would warp the bottom of the box so much they became garbage if I was not careful. Epoxy is much more forgiving but not foolproof. The underside of the box is slightly recessed. I’ve made a shim out of aircraft plywood to support the recess during gluing.

So the shim goes under the box, the epoxy gets mixed right on the back of the magnet and spread out, then it’s dropped in the box and weighted until the epoxy cures.

An hour later, take out your weights, I usually add a Brother P-Tough label, and you’re done!

The Sterlite Clip Box is not my only storage method now, but it is my preferred!

Hope you found something usefull here.



  1. I laughed at this post because I related to it so much. Like you my packing style has changed over the years, going from shoeboxes to plastic boxes, though I skipped the Chessex stage as I never found something like it that I could afford. The current method is tin cookie or biscuit boxes for my multi-figure based stands with adhesive magnetic sheets cut and put on the bottom of the stands. Unfortunately, since I source the biscuit tins from thrift stores, I have a fast variety of sized boxes, and since the tins are also opaque I have to label them. I have another military move coming up next month so I'm hoping the magnetic system works, it's relatively new to me.

  2. Ahh, the biscuit tin. Certainly a good choice when going the magnetic base route. A friend went that way but used a metal tool box. Unfortunately most reasonably priced tool boxes are all plastic now.

    Any special label technique?


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