Geek & Sundry’s Painters Guild is our show where host Will Friedle goes on a journey to learn how to paint miniatures. Last season, he learned basic techniques, and in season 2, he’ll be improving his miniature painting skills as guests join him and teach him new tips and techniques. Join him on Alpha paint those #happylittleminis!
If you’re a miniature gamer just getting into the hobby, one of the things you’ll soon learn is that magnets are freaking awesome. There are very few things in the hobby toolbox that offer the kind of practical utility that magnets can, but because their utility isn’t obvious and most magnet kits are sold by third-party hobby supply companies, rather than game publishing companies themselves, it means that if you’re perusing the paint racks of the largest miniature paint and supply companies (such as Game’s Workshop’s Citadel line, or Privateer Press’ Formula P3 line) it’s easy to never find out or know about magnetizing your miniatures, let alone best practices for it. The tips below are my tips for success with magnets, many of which I learned the hard way.
Use Rare Earth Magnets
There are kinds of magnets in this world the same way there are kinds of apples. Some apples are better for eating, some for baking and some are best left to fall on the ground to rot. Same goes for magnets, though obviously not for eating.
If you’ve never done any specialized hobbying, you may not be familiar with rare earth (a.k.a. neodymium iron boron) magnets. They are different than the magnets most commonly found behind the plastic letters on your fridge (which are typically ceramic or ferrite magnets). The difference between rare earth magnets and other magnets available to consumers is simply strength. Because rare-earth magnets are so strong, they can also be very very small, which makes them perfect for use with miniatures.
Most hobby stores stock or can order in rare earth magnets (if they sell miniature painting supplies, they often have distributors who stock brands like Primal Horizons, that offers these magnets as small as 1/16″ by 1/32″), but they’re also available online and through other specialty retailers. (I’ve purchased larger rare earth magnets I use for the bases of my miniatures from specialty carpentry and woodworking stores, like Lee Valley Tools.)
One word of warning: these things are so strong they can damage electronics and cause serious harm to living creatures if ingested, so keep them away from your phones, bank cards, pets, and tiny humans.
Magnetize your Miniatures For Transport
You may have noticed I mentioned putting magnets in the bases of my miniatures for transport. With the various sizes of magnets, you can generally find a magnet that can be seated to be flush with the bottom of most hollow bases. Doing so allows you some flexibility in transporting miniatures — you can use magnet-compatible metal boxes like toolboxes or metal lunch boxes — to store and transport your miniatures, often in cases more compact than those that rely on foam. It’s especially useful with plastic or resin miniatures as they’re generally much lighter than their pewter counterparts and simply need to be secured down so they don’t rattle around during transport when they are vulnerable to paint chips and breaking.
There are definitely cases available for transporting miniatures with magnets (like the A-Case pictured up top), but if you play games with small model counts (like Shadespire) you can glue down flexible sheets of low strength ferrite magnet (most commonly used by realtors and plumbers for business card magnets) into a container and adhere them that way for transport. Bonus: if you use a clear acrylic container, like this card box, you can also display your miniatures stacked on shelves with a minimal footprint.
Magnetize Your Weapon Options
Many model kits, particularly vehicle kits, often include weapon options. From a gameplay perspective, using the correct weapon option tells the people you’re playing with which weapon statistic you’re using for games played with what-you-see-is-what-you-get social contracts or tournament rules. Magnetizing instead of gluing those weapon options allows you to extract more value out of a single model because you don’t need to buy the kit multiple times to have a model with each available weapon option.
When magnetizing my weapon options, I avoid using magnet-to-magnet bonds, for a couple reasons. The first is that rare earth magnets can get expensive quickly, so cutting down the number of magnets required saves money. Secondly, magnet-to-magnet bonds are very strong, and I’ve experienced failure of super glue on those contact points (where the super glue eventually breaks from the stress of me pulling on the magnetized weapon over time) both because the magnets are so small (meaning the amount of contact the superglue has to the magnet is tiny and thus weak) and because the amount of force needed to pull the two rare earth magnets apart is relatively high.
My solution (derived from having to dig out un-superglued magnets from sockets stuck to other magnets with tiny tweezers, which is a pain) is to instead adhere a magnet to the side of the connection point that has the most contact surface (for vehicles, that’s often the chassis itself) and drill into the option with a magnetic pin or rod. It significantly decreases the amount of stress on the superglue adhering the magnets at the contact point, since the attractive magnetic force is less. It annihilates the chance of accidentally misaligning the polarity of magnet-to-magnet contact points, which is especially common when dealing with teeny-tiny magnets, and is just a pain to fix.
If you want to see these magnets in action and specific steps on how to magnetize weapon options, you can check out my video on the topic:
Got magnet tips to share with other miniature gamers? Share in the comments. For more tips and techniques, check out Geek & Sundry’s Painters Guild on Alpha – new episodes go live every Monday. Don’t have an Alpha subscription? Get a free 30 day trial at projectalpha.com
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Image Credits: Teri Litorco
Teri Litorco is a tabletop game fangirl who makes YouTube videos about painting minis and playing miniature wargames/boardgames. She’s also the author of The Civilized Guide to Tabletop Gaming. She’d love to see pics of your #HappyLittleMinis – send them her way on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.