Monday, 27 June 2011

The Trebian Toy Soldier Storage Method

I think I’ve written about this before but a recent Larry Leadhead cartoon makes this relevant.

I’m a really ill-disciplined, untidy person. I can’t put stuff away. However one of the consequences of Real Life & Being a Grown Up often means that you share your living space with another Grown Up. If you want that sharing to be reasonably harmonious you have to do your best not to Wind Up the other Grown Up.

Mrs T is unlike me in this respect, - the tidiness thing I mean. She likes stuff to be put away. She is, however, a very tolerant woman but it is important not to abuse that tolerance (after all, it might be needed at a later date).

Having a large collection of wargames figures feeds the undisciplined, untidy part of me. It is so tempting just to get it all out and leave it lying around to put way later. Or just put it all in one big box, because, like I’m going to remember what I was going to do with it all aren’t I?

So, running against all my instincts I have to make sure that as armies are painted the storage runs in parallel with it. If I let the painting run away from the storage it’ll never be done. I therefore have to put it into my routine of army production. This means obtaining the storage before I start the painting.

My storage systems have refined over the years, but I found that when we moved into Trebian Towers, the family’s country estate, that standardisation was key.

First off I decided to standardise on file boxes, and built bespoke shelving in the garage to take the boxes. I discovered at this point that file boxes are not actually standard size. But no worries, the shelving takes several sizes comfortably.

When I started out I was wargaming in 25mm metal, then branched out into 20mm plastic. Because of the nature of what I was doing figures weren’t really in fixed units. This was compounded by my first 15mm armies which were for AK47 Republic as those are likewise really malleable. However, 15mm figures introduced me to the slimline box file and I’ve never really looked back.

The key breakthrough was discovering strip wood of a certain size in my local hardware shop to use as dividers. The problem I had was how to stop figures sliding about in the box, getting damaged and also getting the units all mixed up. One solution was to use magnabase (and Tim at Megablitz and More does this) but I didn’t want the extra height on the figures and the expense. The strip wood doesn’t reach to the top of the box, but it doesn’t need to, - it just has to be tall enough to stop the figures getting out of their section. In practice I don’t put the dividers in right away, - I start by putting the based figures in the boxes in units, and move them about until I work out the optimum layout.

By dividing up the boxes as I do the figures can’t get out of their little sections and unless you really thrown the box around or drop it upside down they generally stay in their places and don’t get damaged from bumping into each other.

I colour code the backs of my figures discretely and then put in box liners with that colour and the unit flag, if any, on them. This enables any one helping to tidy up to make a decent fist of getting the right stuff in the right boxes.

The Spanish Civil War has so far generated four boxes, and I spent some of Sunday cutting up the strip wood in the garage to divide up the boxes and gluing it in place with PVA. This works really well as I discovered when I tried to take the dividers out having realised I could do the configuration in the Legion box to accommodate an extra tabor of Moroccans. I’ve tried to colour code the boxes. So far the red boxes are for the Republicans, and the Black boxes for the Fascists. Eventually they’ll have labels on the top, end & side.
The first, full, Republican box.

All of which brings us back to Larry. Because I'm going to need another box, but I've only got enough figures to fill half of it.

So I'm going to have to buy more figures.



  1. That all makes perfect sense to me! I always buy box files in batches so often have 'spare' capacity. Time for more toys.....

  2. Great minds, Tim, Great minds.

  3. I don't know whether to bravo for being so organised, or sad for being so organised?

  4. No, it's bravo for overcoming my innate tendnecy to leave everything as a mess.

    And it's sadder still not to be able to find the right toys when you want to play a game!