DIY: Make Your Own Foam Miniatures Trays

Posted: October 2, 2010 in General, Pictures, Tutorials

If you are anything like me (pray that you are not) then you are completely obsessed with storing and organizing your miniatures. For a while I used magnets to store my miniatures, and that worked rather well. As I accumulated more, however, I quickly lost the ability to store them safely (also, metal boxes are not cheap and are hard to find). Finally I decided to switch to foam trays. Lookign around, I found Sabol foam that works with the Army Transport cases for roughly $8.95 a sheet (in some places and some sizes, it was more). The dimensions are 7.5 x 13 x whatever. Thats a total of 97.5 square inches. Not bad! These things are also really easy to use. All you have to do is remove the foam squares and put your figures in. It would seem like that is the best option, but did I happen to mention yet that I am totally obsessed with storing and organizing my miniatures? Going to my local fabric store, I found high denisty foam (like the stuff that you use for cushions) that I could get cut into many sizes. The best part? On a normal day, this foam is half the price of the Sabol trays, and on the 50% off days, it is a quarter of the price of the Sabol trays. Looking around more at the fabric store, I found some childrens craft foam (thick and stiff foam boards) for $1.00 each. Their measurements are 9 x 12. That nets me 108 square inches. Now granted, cutting the trays yourself involves a time investment, but when you absolutely need to make the foam trays the exact size, shape, and measurements of your figures, it is worth it. Let’s look at what I spent and what I made:

  • (2) 4 x 9 x 12 trays
  • (2) 3 x 9 x 12 trays
  • (8) 2 x 9 x 12 trays
  • Price: $36

Now consider that  $36 would only buy me 4 Sabol trays, and you can see how the money really adds up. Prices vary depending on the days you go and the coupons you bring with you, but on average you should see a pretty good savings. Now on to the work. Sabol cases are very easy to work with, taking only minutes to get set up. I spent roughly 3 hours from start to finish assembling and cutting my foam. Do I think it was worth it? Hell yes. Below is a guide for you to make the trays yourself and experience a similar savings. Enjoy:

First are the materials and tools you need. In order: tray foam, base foam (1/4″), cap foam (1/4″), Razor, glue, scissors, knife

Tray 1

Tray 2

EDIT: That is duct tape on my finger. I was serious when I said mind your fingers.

Tray 3

Tray 4

Next thing you do is layout your figures and mark the holes that you plan on cutting

Tray 5

Then the fun part, the cutting! Mind your fingers (seriously)

Tray 6

Now, if you are anything like me, you can’t cut a straight line to save your life. Don’t fret, the underside might look like crap, but when you glue the base on and trim it, it will look awesome. The picture shows my crappy cutting job.

Tray 7

Next, lay your glue on thick, and press it down onto the foam baseboard. Put something heavy on top and give it an hour or two to dry.

Tray 8

Almost there! You will notice how I have all of the pieces of foam that I cut layed out in order up top. This is really important for putting the foam back into place for figures that need padding or for spots that are empty for the time being. Now place your figures. If the tray is too deep for the figure, cut the top off of the foam piece that fits into the figures slot and the figure will have some nice soft foam to play on in there.

Tray 9

There you go! You are all done. Simply place them into whatever case you have available and put you 1/4″ foam top sheet on to further protect them. Something I learned a long time ago that I will share with you now: make your trays about haf (if not more depending on your case) the size of the case. This way, you can make more trays for you case and swap them in and out. As it stands, I have several 8″ x 22″ foam trays I made before that I now have nothing to do with.

Thats all for my little guide. Hope you were able to make some use of this. Happy gaming.

Comments
  1. drferling says:

    What craft store did you find the foam at? JoAnns, Michaels, or a local shop? Thanks!

  2. ChicagoWiz says:

    You and House of Paincakes inspired me to not only make my own trays, but to make a carrier system ala Sabol or Battlefoam.

    http://oldguyrpg.blogspot.com/2011/03/gaming-on-cheap-diy-miniature-carriers.html

  3. Eric says:

    If you don’t want to spend all the time and would like a pro-cut design, there’s always MyCaseBuilder – http://www.mycasebuilder.com

    • Mike Geig says:

      Except your site is insanely expensive. $25 for a single 13 by 7.5 sheet?

      • Eric says:

        Hi Mike. It might be considered expensive from a foam-only standpoint, but the price includes as many cutouts as you please (as complex and form-fitting as you’d like) and the foam is much better quality and strength than the one shown in your images. That, and you’ll save your poor fingers. :) I certainly appreciate the ingenuity of the do-it-yourselfer and your tutorial is great. I just thought I’d offer up an alternative for those who might be less creatively inclined. That, and I’m a gamer, too — although my miniatures are all from 1980’s era AD&D.

  4. If your interested in having foam precision cut for your gaming needs visit http://www.reillyfoam.com We cut to specific sizes and have many different materials to use, we are a foam packaging and fabricating company and with our help you can custom build cases or storage options for your models very inexpensively.

  5. Steven Fry says:

    Thanks for the tutorial Mike. I recently got into miniatures but rarely have the extra funds to buy cases, etc. I appreciate the DIY methods you describe; cut fingers not included. :)

  6. Tavaar says:

    I’ve done this before (using a plastic tool box for the hard case and fitting trays to that). Has worked well so far so I’m glad to see someone made a tutorial so others can try it out. I was wondering what type of foam you used for the tray bottoms though, I havent found anything I like for it so far (all the foam at the stores Ive been to are the same foam I use for the trays).

  7. Jerry says:

    A 12×9 file case works really well too!

  8. Matt says:

    If only the green foam wern’t so ugly.

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