Magnetising MDF Bases

Quick one for now.

A common question for newer KoW players is how to transport multi-based models. Magnetised bases in a Really Useful plastic box is the best way. Grab a Really Useful crate (the 18L size is perfect for a typical KoW army), stick some ferrous sheets down on the bottom and then build your army on magnetised bases.

You do need to magnetise the bases before adding surface texture or models.

You need:

  • MDF bases
  • Round neodymium magnets (3-5 per base), same height as the bases
  • Drill with bit the same diameter as the magnets
  • Sandpaper
  • Masking tape
  • Superglue

I use 3mm MDF bases, just because I think they look so much better than 2mm. To go with these, I get magnets that are 4mm in diameter and 3mm high. I use a 4mm drill bit – I’m sure someone will notice that I had a drill bit aimed for use on metal, but the rest of my drill bits are in the workshop and it’s cold outside.

MDF bases are MDF bases, buy them from wherever your national supplier is and they’ll be the same as any other. There’s not a huge variation in cost. For the UK I use either Charlie Foxtrot Models or Warbases. Magnets are often widely available at hobby shops but honestly I just hop on ebay. You can pick them up in bulk for very cheap.

I didn’t have the specific base sizes that I wanted “in stock”, so I cut down some other bases I had in my drawer. I wanted some cavalry troop bases (125x50mm), and had plenty of cavalry regiment bases (125x100mm), so cut those in half using my stanley knife and a metal ruler. As always, I changed my knife blade before starting a new project. Dull blades are dangerous!

I drilled out holes for the magnets using my drill. No need to be especially careful about where the holes are made, just fairly evenly spread around the base. As to how many magnets per base, it depends on the weight of the models going on it. For a typical plastic or resin regiment, I’d go for 5 magnets in a cross shape while one using metal models would get 7 or even 8. A troop gets 3, individuals get 1. If you’re using metal models or heavy scenic elements then you need to increase the number of magnets.

If you put too many magnets in a base then it’s going to be a pain to separate it from the ferrous sheet and you risk damaging the models when trying to pull the unit out of the box. Too few magnets and the units will slide around and become unstuck too easily. There’s not a hard and fast rule about it, it’s just judgement.

Once the holes have been drilled, the bases are sanded down with the sandpaper to smooth them out. Make sure that the drilled holes are completely clear of all debris.

To stick the magnets in place, first cover the holes with masking tape on one side. Then, flip the bases over and put a drop of superglue in each hole. Press a magnet into each hole. I prefer holding a stick of magnets and pressing the end one in, before sliding the stick to the side leaving a single magnet in place.

It doesn’t matter which polarity the magnets are.

Sometimes the magnets don’t quite sit flush in the holes so you need to force the issue. I use the end of my stanley knife to push them in and ensure they sit flush.

Once the superglue has dried, you can usually peel the masking tape back off, but honestly it’s fine to just build the base with the masking tape facing up.

And that’s it. Magnetised bases. These will hold strongly to any magnetic surface after adding models, even vertically.

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