This is a guide to storing wargames figures using plastic DIY cabinets designed for holding nuts & bolts etc... It is aimed at any fellow hobbyists who may be interested - either as a possible solution for themselves or just out of interest in how other folk do stuff. This guide was first submitted on 15/09/08 and was last updated on 15/09/08.
By way of a bit of background I rediscovered (or it rediscovered me) my childhood passion for toy soldiers about ten years ago around the age of 30. I soon started snapping up all sorts of figures but mainly 1/72 plastics and 28mm Games Workshop. It quickly became apparent that a storage solution was needed urgently if my rapidly growing collection of little chaps were to be kept protected, dust free and out of the way.
I settled upon some plastic cabinets from DIY store Do It All (not sure that they are still going now?) which appeared ideal and indeed have served me well ever since. I can't recall exactly how much they were - about £10 each I think. I do remember however the strange look on the shop assistant's face when I ordered 25 of them!
I am conscious that these exact cabinets may no longer be readily available, new at least, but every DIY store sells this type of thing so hopefully much of their usefulness should apply to other similar items. Read on to find out what's good about these...
This is the basic cabinet as shop bought. It is approx. 42cm high x 14cm deep x 30cm wide (divide by 2.5 to get inches). There are seven trays that are released from their runners by clicking the red button at the front. This is good as it means your trays full of figures don't slide out of their own accord. The top three trays are less high at 4cm tall than the bottom three at 6cm tall. It has removable rubber feet which stop it from moving about or sliding off shelves easily etc...Can be removed if you want to lower the overall height a bit or need to slide them off shelves rather than lift them. The front is slightly curved which is not ideal but not too much of a problem.
This is one of the lower height upper trays. It has three rigid compartments, the outer two being approx.13cm deep x 9.5cm wide x 4 cm high and the middle section being 12.5cm x 8cm x 4cm. As sold it came with many dividers that enable you to turn the outside sections into 2 or 4 smaller areas and the middle section into 2 parts. Not required for my wargames units but great if using all or some of the draws for storing spare figures, accessories, dice etc...
When building wargames units I quickly came to factoring in how I was going to store them as a consideration with how big they should be and how they should be based. For example the tray above will accomodate 12 x 3cm square stands in the outer sections and at a push 8 x 3cm square stands in the middle. Or if using 2cm square individual bases the outer sections will hold 24 figures and the centre will hold 15 figures. So my units tend to be these sizes which works well for me.
If you have pieces that are too tall for the relevant draw you can always store them laid down as I have done with these GW LOTR Moria Goblin flagbearers. These figures have painted base underside to help unit recognition as have the other unit figures. By painting the tray the same colours you can provide yourself with an easy recognition system to aid putting away figures during and after a game - helpful as I always find I lack the discipline to do this quickly / well!
Here is one of the taller lower trays. It's pretty much the same as the upper tray just 2cm higher allowing you to store taller figures and larger pieces such as the converted warg riders pictured. The dividers shown in this tray are semi-permanent in that I don't think they are meant to come out but they will do if require providing you with the option of one complete open tray if needed.
Tray dividers. As mentioned already both types of tray have additional dividers if required. The outer sections of the lower trays can be divided down the middle and the upper trays can be divided up even smaller if required. I ended up with huge amounts of these plastic dividers as I did not need most of them.
1/72 Scale Usage. Most of my figures are 1/72 scale plastics and here's how 8 cannons and 8 limbers sit nicely in one of the taller trays. I could fit more in if I laid them out differently but I like, if possible, to leave enough room for to easily get the pieces in and out without causing damage to them. I store my 12 base infantry units each to the left and right with their respective coin based markers taking up the middle section. I am careful when converting my flagbearers to ensure they will fit in the height allowed.
Converting! No surprise that in a hobby full of conversion possibilities I have adapted the cabinets also. I noticed that the sides have catches and with a bit of gentle persuasion with a flat screwdriver will come apart - including the lid and base. This enables you to reassemble your cabinets as you need. For me the brief was to build as many with the higher draws as I could that would fit where I wanted to store them - on top of my bookshelves. The gap between ceiling and shelf top was 45cm so this mean't I could build 6 draw units max.
nb - Apologies for the dust seen in some of these photos - my other half would kill me! A product of these cabinets sitting for years in the garage, loft and atop bookshelves! At least it does not get onto the figures.
Converted 6 Draw Cabinet. This cabinet now has 6 tall draws instead of the 4 / 3 configuration of the shop bought item pictured earlier. The draws are transparent so you can see your figures but it's easy to also add labels or stickers or flags to the draws to identify the contents as required. This converted cabinet holds Union infantry hence the flag on the bottom draw.
Converted 8 Draw Cabinet. This one has 8 of the lower height draws. The cabinets have slots at the back so could also be wall mounted if that was required. Theoretically you could build a huge tower of draws particularly if secured to the wall at sensible intervals. The draws would still be portable as you can take them right out but the cabinets themselves would not be so easy to move if built and secured in this manner.
Portability. Other than moving them around the house from time to time this is not such a big requirement for me but for others it will be. The cabinets come with handles that make carrying them easy. The click stop draws don't come open without help easily and their robust construction also help to make them ideal for transit as well as for permanent storage. A good sized complete army will fit in 1 or certainly 2 cabinets so they make transporting your guys to the tabletop pretty easy. Being more vertical than horizontal they also don't take up so much space when gaming and fit nicely on the window ledge or against a wall etc...
Storage en Masse. I collect Napoleonic, ACW and LOTR figures which sit nicely in their respective cabinets atop my bookshelves. So when not in immediate use they are out of the way and yet accessible which is ideal.
So there you go - a quick guide to how I store my wargames figures in pretty cheap but very functional plastic DIY storage cabinets.
See my other guides for more on wargaming, collecting, painting etc...
eBay user id: flagbearer101 ( As well as being a hobbyist I run the Drum & Flag eBay toy soldier store).