Sunday, June 26, 2011

Creating a Portable Display Base: Planning

One of my favorite parts of the miniature hobby is creating display bases.  They tell a story and set the tone for the army.  Just like basing a miniature, it really pulls the painting together.  I've created dozens of display boards over the years and every time I learn a new trick on how to improve on them.

Usually I create a large board that is 24" by 30".  Why you ask?  Well I created a rolling beer cart (out of 2x2's with a privacy curtain) so I can wheel my board around at conventions.  Plus it hides a cooler for liquid refreshments.  The size is big, but it accommodates multiple armies that way.  I just create a topper that goes over the top.  Here's an example of a couple of boards that I've done this route.

Now these are great for rolling around but are too big to place on top of a gaming table, and are not able to make a road trip, let alone on a plane.  Plus for a weekend tournament at a local store, they're a lot of work to get out.  So I need to have something more then a sanded board, but not too elaborate.

First things first, it's important to sketch out the size.  For the Nova Open, I will be flying out to DC, so it'll need to be able to be checked on a piece of luggage.  Well my last big 29" bag broke on my trip to Italy so I picked up a new one.  I can comfortably fit a 24" by 18" board without any issues, as long as it isn't too high. 

The "New Bag" with both wheels working!
I also want to keep it light (for travel and moving between tables at the convention) so using light materials is key.  1/8" MDF is sufficient strength to act as a base as long as I glue 3/4" to an inch of foam on the top.  That willact as my base.  I then sat down and sketched out a rough idea on what I'd like to create.  You can see how I created the first board at this post: Imperial Suns Display Board.  The board can't be too high so I still have room to pack clothes, but I need some change in height otherwise it ends up being too boring.  I love the space marine statues, they make great guards.  I also found a roll of cobblestone rubber matting on sale at a craft store after the Christmas holiday (for the holiday miniature villages) that would make a great path.  I'm a huge fan of water effects, so a little river with a bridge might do the trick.

Things I try to take into account while making a portable display board:
- Weight.  Lightweight materials are key.  I've created projects before out of plaster, and it's no fun hauling from table to table or transporting
- Durability.  Protecting the edges of the board is big since it will get dinged up.
- Backdrop. I need to have the board increase in height as it goes to the back to create a visual backdrop
- Versatility. For this board, the marine statues will be removable so I can use it with other winter themed boards for either 40k, fantasy, or even a different gaming system.

Yes, I'm not a great sketch artist!
I set out to the local crafts store and hardware store to pick up my supplies.  While shopping for more hot glue sticks, I found some wooden trim that will make a great edging to the foam.  I'm probably the only adult male in the hobby store - I can only wonder what they think I'm working on when I show up with a odd dried flower arrangement (for basing). 

everything but the cobblestone
Now that I have my supplies assembled I can begin the fun part of the project... creation!  I'm traveling to
the east coast Monday through Thursday so I'll need to put the project on hold.  It's going to be a whirlwind tour of Baltimore, Long Island, Jersey & Manhattan.

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