HOBBY: Building Squad Display Trays


If you’ve ever entered a squad or regiment of models in a painting competition or just sat them out proudly for display and thought they’d look a lot better if they had a device to physically and visually link them together, then this hobby article is for you. This is a quick and simple project that just about anyone, even a beginning hobbyist can do, yet it will greatly enhance the display of your models as well as making it easier to move them about. Are you ready? ‘ere we go!

First, set out the models as desired on a piece of 1/4″ thick foam core board and draw circles around the bases with a pencil.

Next, cut out circles from the foam core where you’ve marked the circles for the model bases to go. Make the circular holes ever so slightly larger than the diameter of the bases to ensure the models will fit easily in the holes. Foam core is easy to cut with a modeling knife and requires little effort and no special tools. It’s cheap too. Then, glue the piece of foam core to a piece of hard board, plastic card, heavy tag board, etc.

Now, texture the top of the foam core as desired. You can do this by gluing sand, flock or sawdust to the surface with inexpensive white glue. Add rocks and other terrain features as desired. Paint the textured surface as desired to match the bases of the models that will be displayed. Add scenic bits if you wish like skulls, girders, columns or whatever might enhance the models you’ll be displaying.

Finally, spray with matte sealer to protect the surface of your new display board.

The picture at top shows the first squad of Space Marines for my new custom Codex Space Marines chapter sitting in a display board built in the manner I’ve just detailed. I finished the models last week in time for the final Assault On Black Reach (AOBR) painting contest at the local GW Battle Bunker where the models are currently on display. I’ve already painted one AOBR Captain and one Dreadnought. With the completion of this Tactical Squad my paint scheme for this new army is now well established. I’m currently working on painting the first Drop Pod for the army.

The display tray the models are sitting on in the pictures above and below is one I actually made years ago, originally with a green surface back when all models pretty much had sand on their bases painted to simulate grass using GW “goblin green” or similar colors. Last week I quickly upgraded the tray in time for the contest by spraying it black and then drybrushing it to match the way I do most of my model basing these days. This further demonstrates how easy it is to paint simple textured surfaces with pleasing results. These simple texture and painting techniques work for model bases, display boards, and even full sized table gaming surfaces.


I hope this article is helpful to some of you out there in making your own display boards. As always, questions are welcome in the comment area below. I should have another hobby article for you soon, perhaps next time on something a wee bit bigger (wink!).

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