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Storage Wars! The Incomplete Guide Part I




In my multi-part series I would like to explore the myriad of ways we store miniatures. As a great many of you grow your collections and/or become more ambitious playing larger games, it is always wise to think ahead on how your gonna transport all your precious plastic. I would like to focus on the 1000 ft view of storing mini's to begin with, starting with the basics and the age old dilemma of magnetizing vs foam storage. Later I'll explore more advanced or practical storage with respect to how we play miniature games. In every case, I want to provide the best blueprint for all of you fine folks to make the best decision for yourselves. I certainly have my preferences but my focus will be providing the best pros and cons of every idea I present. In addition, I'll do my best to provide direct links to hobby supplies and pretty pictures to see what all of this fuss is about. 

Lets get started. 

Foam Storage

Most people entering the hobby will likely be first exposed to using foam for their miniatures. The reasons for this is two-fold: 1) Hobby stores and gaming companies already have a strong commercial presence for foam and could be seen as the industry standard on how to store their other products and 2) players can be intimidated by the thought of spending anymore time or effort on modifying the miniatures themselves to store them, i.e. magnetizing them, and thus, a community of newer players might find this as a way to avoid another layer of "hobbying". More gaming, less fiddling with paint and plastic I say. Since this is the case, I thought this would be a good place as any to start. Lets take a look at whats out there. 



FS035WH06 35 mm (1.4 inches) full-size foam tray with 50 slots for ...

Miniatures Storage This is a good breakdown of all of the companies out there and what they provide. They go through their own pros and cons of each product. A lot of them include cases that match the foam

Pretty straight forward. There's a great many product out there from all sorts of companies. Here's a few retail options out there to get you started.

Battle Foam

Miniature Market

SpikeyBits Storage Hacks These folks are a great resource on their own but they break down some great tips for foam storage here. 

There are plenty of ways to use foam but often it is determined by the size of the models, how heavy they are, what orientation you want to store them and most importantly, the dimensions of your container.  The beautiful thing about foam is that's its easy to handle, shape and can be used for all sorts of things around the house. I wanted to open with the commercial side of things above so that we can move onto the more exciting topic: finding foam in the unlikeliest places. 

If you're like me, I spent all my budget on plastic and don't need gold trim foam. For that reason , here's a few suggestions for finding alternative foam and how to manipulate it.

"So anyway I started blasting" 


So anyway I started blasting meme origin - YouTube

Gun cases are a surprisingly decent source for what is known as "pluck" foam. This type is a pre-cut array of rectangular rods that are all attached lightly to each other so that you can "pluck" parts out of the whole.


Brand New Replacement pluck foam for the Pelican 1520. Middle ...

You can then form pockets of space that conform to the shape and size anything you want to protect. If there is a hunting and fishing supply store or, for us Americans, a gun store just down the block, you're likely to find a kit that has some. This can also be sold by its lonesome at a great many online stores. 

I will note, gun cases themselves can be the opposite of cheap and the foam as well due to the added production costs but with some searching you might find folks with extra or some cheap equivalents  from online stores. As an added bonus, you might end up with  a weatherproof gun case to protect your expensive toys. The miniatures, I mean.  Guns sold separately (or is it?)

"The princess and the plastic"

Foam bedding, or high-density foam, is another wonderful product that a great many large retail stores carry. Generally buying one mat of it will keep you fully supplied for a while. The sheer volume for their price point is often a miracle unto itself. I like this option for those who are more hobby oriented because you can replicate the look of gaming foam that game store carry with some careful manipulation. To keep it real simple you can create simple blocks of foam to separate miniatures or line your containers. Thick enough blocks can serve as supports in your containers so that you can place horizontal shelves of foam on top for doubling your storage. 


High Density Reflex Foam Sheets any Upholstery soft & hard foam ...

It is often made of a coarser material and can be a bit harder to manipulate because of this. Often its used in upholstery and can stand-up to you sitting-down on it. Here's a few tools tips for handling: 

1) Hot wire cutter: More often used with styrofoam, its still possible to slowly cut foam of this grade. I do recommend to take your time using this tool to manipulate your block of foam. Just consider how soft or porous the foam you are cutting  so that you don't worry about snapping the wire. Word of caution: you do want to be in a well ventilated area as the plastic nature of different foams reacts to the hot wire. Best case scenario it smells bad. 

2) Electric Turkey carver: I was not expecting how common this is in my hobby research but it is a very popular tool in the upholstery business. Do use caution when holding the foam as its shape is distorted while holding it, I don't want anyone to hurt their hands. Frankly this remains the most efficient option especially for tougher foam. It provides clean cuts for making smaller blocks for you to use.

3) Kitchen knives: Don't. Just don't. I won't confirm or deny there's a story there but I'll just say I didn't have an electric turkey carver.

If you end up cutting up pieces and what to assemble them, just using some simple hot glue will do the trick. 

"Just peachy"

Peach boxes. If its ever stone fruit season, head to your local grocer. Most stone fruit such as apricots, peaches, plums and nectarines are shipped and stored in flat boxes when coming from distributors. At the bottom of the box is a thin layer of tough foam that's just thin enough to easily manipulate with a pair of scissors. This option is so ridiculous I love it. This is a personal favorite of mine since I discovered it in my time working produce for two  years and haven't looked back. Here's what some boxes your local grocer might receive that likely has some foam about 1/2 inch thick to use for lining your containers. 


Merger of stone fruit producers Gerawan Farming and Wawona Packing

Beneath the crinkly plastic that holds the fruit is where the foam is. If you already work in produce, you're my hero. You know what I'm talkin' about. Just ask someone working produce at your local store during stone fruit season if they have any saved in the back. Some stores will re-utilize this foam for display purposes on the retail floor and might be willing to give you some. Its worth a shot. Here's an example of what I've used it for for my own purposes, using it to line my hardware case to store my magnetized parts.



Bonus tip: DON'T use styrofoam. Static is your enemy and you'll never get little bits of the stuff off of your miniatures. Sigmar save you if you have already done this. 

So why use foam to store stuff?

Instead of listing all of the reasons, i'll approach this as when to use it as opposed to why. Lets say you've got a lot of vertical models, lets say banner-men, cavalry and lots of 'em. If you found a way to stack them vertically they are actually going to use up more space because each layer in your bag or container has to be as high as the tallest model. When laid flat, you can take advantage of the relatively 2D shape of the model and so each layer can be relatively small. Easy enough. Even for large models like Imperial knights, if you've magnetized the model to be deconstructed, you might find that each piece can have the same height in one dimension. You can make efficient use of vertical space this way. 

Another time to use it is if you've got chunky boys. Models made of pewter or ones with square base models are prime candidates.  Often these models will more naturally fit in the rectangular cut spaces of most pre-cut storage foam. These same models are also able to sustain more aggressive handling, shoving them into foam pockets and the like. This is handy for most casual gamers who are lucky to have a faction or themed collection that have minimal spikey bits (sorry chaos players). 

When NOT to use foam is a matter of opinion and this can be a contentious topic. I would argue that if you have the after mentioned spikey/spindly model range, you'll find yourself constantly watching your models snag on the foam if you haven't compensated with some wiggle room. In this case, you could consider just an open layer of padding on the bottom of your container but the matter of entangled miniatures becomes a problem. My biggest criticism of foam storage, particularly with newer GW models, is that with better looking models comes more spindly bits, and more spindly bits invites wear and tear. If you are the fortunate gamer to have many game nights whether it be DnD, Warhammer, X-Wing and the like, you have to consider how many times you have to pull them out of the foam  and risk them snagging. In addition, foam may be soft but it can also be abrasive. If anyone uses the alternative foams I mentioned above, this will be particularly true. Without proper seals on your miniatures, you may find wear and tear much sooner than later. 

Other recommendations would be to weigh the practicality of taking out hordes of miniatures for your game. You should consider the type of game you'll be playing most with a set of miniatures and at what scale. If you need to deploy 200 plus models every game (which is certainly my case), you may find yourself spreading out your layers upon layers of foam sheets across a table at a hobby store taking up space as you 1 by 1 handle each model onto the table. All the while making sure you don't snag them on foam. Yikes. On the flipside, if you play a game such as Warcry or X-wing with an incredibly low model count, not only is that not a problem, but you can easily organize your miniatures by game at your home. All you have to do is grab the one layer of foam with all the miniatures you need. This particular topic is precious to me because I feel self-conscience about deployment phases of most games where I bring so many models. 


A great many experienced hobbyists will have found their own use of storage foam in their gaming career and perhaps the concerns of cost or utility of this storage method is negated by players'  textbook care of their miniatures. This is true. But alas, I hope this entry serves as a modest but helpful bit of guidance. Most of you have already found storage solutions but I want any players out there feeling overwhelmed with their collection to feel at ease.

Next on the docket I'll be tackling magnetizing the bases of miniatures, the what, the how and when to use this technique. As I end each segment for this series I shall leave you with the storage equivalent of a potato. Enjoy.


Sorry Trev, I had to. 


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As an avid user of what I will call the "Baked Potato Method", AKA; just setting your stuff in a box without any foam in it, there's a few advantages/disadvantages over storage with foam.

  • It saves on space. Real estate is still expensive, even here in Texas where there's a whole lotta nothing. Sure, a storage unit is an option, but why would I pay for all that space just for a tiny set of models
  • It saves on space for models that aren't going to break anyway. See your very first picture. Unless I'm smashing the model with a hammer, or used CA glue improperly (i.e. I used CA in the first place when plastic glue is 100 times superior), none of those figures are going to break, much less in a meaningful way.
  • If you get the right kind of box, like a sterilite plastic container, you can use it in combination with some of the other methods without creating that weird tetris gap in your collection
  • The lone disadvantage is that shaking the box or transporting the models as they are isn't a good option.
  • The work around for that disadvantage is that if you have a box of foam as means of transportation, all you lose is the packing/unpacking time.

I'd never store it in a non-closable container like your friend though. That just seems like asking for trouble.


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