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Thursday, 29 March 2012

Making Magnetic flight stands

I posted on The Black Ocean that I'd get a post on here about the flight stands I've made for our FSA ships. My first attempts at making these were using some 3mm x 2mm neodymium rare-earth magnets that I've used for magnetising 40K tyranids (I should do another post on that too, I suppose!). This is actually harder than it sounds, as it involves gluing two of these fiddly things, one into a hole in the ship (relatively straightforward), and another onto the acrylic post of the flight stand. Needless to say, unless the flight stand is absolutely vertical the magnet doesn't want to stay there whilst the glue dries, and acrylic isn't that responsive to superglue anyway, so if you knock the table etc it falls off and sticks to anything not made of acrylic (the table, paper, fingers, jeans etc). I did one Aquan frigate, and put it on when it had dried to find out it was not straight at all.

Now these magnets are pretty cheap nowadays (you cn get 100 on ebay for less than 5 GBP /~$7 including delivery), so I wasn't that bothered about using double the magnets, I was more concerned with how long it was going to take me gluing all these magnets to flight stands well. Of course, you don't need two magnets if one side is a ferrous material, which got me looking into 3mm diameter steel rod. You can pick 33cm/13" lengths of this up on-line or on ebay for about 7 ($11) GBP per metre delivered - I got 10 lengths for 20 GBP delivered.

Each of these cuts into 7 FSA flight-stand-length pieces, but of course as it's stock material you can cut it shorter or longer if you want some variety - this also has the advantage of making it easier to cluster your ships together without cross-talk (sneaky, eh?). Cutting the lengths is the dullest part of the operation, but obviously was made harder in my case because I was making them for a lot of ships at one time. Once cut, they need levelling out and de-burring which only takes a few seconds per piece.

Once cut & cleaned up, they go into the stand without any issues, just replacing the normal plastic flight peg.

On the ship side, the first ships I did, plus the metal frigates, all got magnets as they were, which makes them pretty much flush to the surface - here's an Aquan escort to show that;

I used 5 minute epoxy rather than superglue, because it's both stronger, more flexible and easier to carve if it gets where it shouldn't. It also has nice gap-filling qualities, which is good because some of the holes on my models were almost 4mm in diameter (more of this with the resin models in a moment). The magnets are strong enough to hold them even if not sitting flush to the end of the flight stand, but on some ships - notably the Relthozan frigates, they don't necessarily hold them perfectly. One reason for this is that the glue can lip up over the edge of the magnets or cover them completely, meaning uneven contact with the rod. This can be easily remedied with judicious use of a scalpel - you can see this has been done on the escort above.

On the resin models, the magnets aren't necessarily doing the holding up of the model, they're more keeping it in place, so the rod still needs to support the model lateraly. As some of the resin peg holes are shallow anyway (the Sulan and Aquan cruisers, together with the Dindrenzi Heavy Cruisers are worst for this), they really need drilling out some more. Here's the magnet in a drilled out Relthoza battleship - just visible down the dark hole...

This is easier on some models than others - Terran cruisers aren't very deep to start with! I mentioned some of the holes were pretty wide anyway, and again the Sulan cruiser comes up here - it's got such a wide, shallow hole I don't believe it would stnd on a normal flight stand anyway. When I first magnetised one the magnet sat flush with the model's hull, and the weight of the metal front just pulled it down. After digging the magnet out of the epoxy, drilling a deeper hole and re-magnetising, they do very well indeed. Here is the Rethoza battleship above being held upside down on one of the steel-pegged flight stands - just the magnet holding it there... (I did test it out a few inches above a soft cloth before doing this, but was still a bit nervous!)

So, for an outlay of about 25 GBP ($40) you can convert about 70 flight stands (which should be enough for most games) and have a bunch of magnets left over for other projects - plus you can use the left-over Spartan plastic rods to glue lava rocks onto for asteroids!