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Flexible Basing and Saboting (2) –turning things upside down

In a previous post here on Derek’s Wee Toys I discussed  basing system I’ve been using in various forms for over 20 years for projects where I want to have single figures available to play skirmish games.  I’ve been using  British coins for the bases and magnetic sheet to hold them onto sabots and storage boxes.   About two years ago I bought a Napoleonic British landing party from a friend and pretty quickly found out that he’d based things the other way round from what I normally do, the figures were on rounded corner mdf squares, with self adhesive magnetic sheet stuck on to them.   I was thinking seriously about doing a mass  re-basing on to 1p pieces, but decided that was all just too much work.   The attraction between the magnetic sheet that was on the bases and the ferrous sheet I had  available was not very strong, so after making some sabots I decided I’d try and add some  neodymium magnets to the base.   So out came the drill and a few hours later  all the figures had 5mm circle x 2mm depth magnets glued into holes in their bases.


Well that worked exceptionally well indeed.   The attraction between the magnets and the flexible ferrous sheet I have is very strong indeed.  So strong that the figures will stay on a sabot or storage box  that’s being held upside down.


And that’s not just for plastic figures, those marines are Perry metals and it works with figures such as the Reaper Heracles pictured below. At 25 grams he’s a big lad.  In fact the attraction is  so strong that you have to be careful when taking figures with thin ankles off from a sabot.  I’ve lost a plastic skeleton that way.


Here’s another demonstration.


If you look closely at that animation you might notice something.


The models in that box are mostly  plastics, hoplites and skeletons, but there’s a few metal figures in there as well (marked with a yellow dot).  Yes, that’s Heracles and even more surprising to me was the group of three hoplites on a sabot base.  The 5mm magnets in their bases are holding the figures on to the ferrous sheet on  base of the box through a layer of ferrous sheet and then  a layer of cardboard on the base of the sabot.  Very useful indeed.

So I’ve decided to change my default basing standard.  From now on it will be 2mm thick  mdf bases with 5mm  neodymium magnets as a base and flexible ferrous sheet on sabots and storage box bottoms.   I’m not going to indulge in wholesale rebasing as  I’ve just got too many forces already based on coins.   Forces such as my Dixon Samurai on 2ps,  the 28mm Napoleonics I use for Sharp Practice on 1ps, and hundreds of 15mm WWII models on eurocents will be staying as they are.

Some people are using magnets in the sabot base and ferrous washers or coins for the figure bases, but I really don’t like the resulting 4mm thick sabot.   I usually buy my sabots from Supreme Littleness Designs, they have cardboard bottoms and come out at about 2.5mm thick.  That looks a lot better to me.

I much prefer a 2.5mm thick sabot (Right) to a 4mm one (Left).

I’ve been thinking about all this for a while now and I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ve stuck with coins for several years mainly out of habit, rather than through any conscious decision.   Coins as bases made perfect sense when I started using them, and the fact that they are ferrous was a bonus.  But over recent years the drop in price of neodymium magnets has been spectacular and I now think it makes sense to do things the other way round.  Though I do think I’ll stick with Eurocents for 15mm figures for which I find a 2mm thick base somewhat overwhelming.


I’ve decided that my default basing for new projects using 28mm figures will be 20mm rounds.  That’s about the smallest size you can get most modern 28mm figures to fit.   Remember you can use sabots to make your bases bigger, but if you want them smaller you’ll need to rebase.  Having said that I’ll continue to put officers and other characters on larger bases.  Some people put them on 20mm bases and then use single figure sabots to give them larger bases.  In my opinion that just doesn’t look very good, though I do have some of those sabots which I use when I’ve run out of dedicated characters.


Neodymium magnets – Available in a huge range of sizes from various suppliers.  Ebay is your best bet for bargains, and you can make even more savings if you’re prepared to buy from China and wait a while to get your magnets.  British suppliers are quicker but they’re usually quite a bit more expensive.   I constantly forget to get new magnets in time and wind up paying more than I could.

Ferrous Sheet – Again look on Ebay.  You can get various thicknesses and it comes plain or with a self-adhesive backing.  It’s usually quite expensive to buy pre-cut sheets and the big savings come if you buy 5m plus rolls of the stuff.   Get together with your pals.

Mdf Bases – You can get bases with pre-cut circular holes for  magnets from Supreme Littleness Designs and Warbases, though you can of course  just buy standard bases and drill a hole yourself.

My first troops on my new standard basing. Republican Romans for Infamy, Infamy!

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2 Responses

  1. Mervyn says:

    Hi Derek, Did you drill holes in the MDF bases with the figures already in place (and if so without problem)? Did you use a smaller hand drill or a full blown drill? I’m tempted to try to add magnets to my Mortal Gods figures too, but don’t find mdf very easy to drill into…I may be making elementary errors however!

    • Derek says:

      I use a small electric screwdriver/drill. It’s definitely easier if you drill the hole before putting the figure on the base but I’ve added magnets to many figures I based years ago and it’s not a problem.

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