Introduction: Magnetizing a Warjack

About: Just a tinkerer with a project list a mile long.

Let me start with some background: I play a table top war game called Warmachine. Details are kind of here: Think of this like a cross between Magic the Gathering and Chess. It's an aggressive tactics game with a modeling and painting aspect. Models come unassembled and unpainted.

My favorite part of the hobby is the assembly. I have become so good at it that the group I play with trusts me for all of the most difficult work. But there was something I couldn't do until now: magnetizing.

Warjack models used to come in two variants per "chassis". That means there were two models that had similar bodies, but different arms and heads. This was expensive for Privateer press to produce so they made a controversial business decision and started producing these kits in plastic. Now, for $35, you get a kit that has a single body and all of the possible arms for every Variant. This allows a modeler to assemble the warjack they want out of the kit. Privateer Press even added new variants to the game to remind us why we love warjacks! But what do you do with the extra parts? And who wants to spend the $35 on another kit (and more extra parts) to assemble another variant of the warjack. Enter magnetizing: a process by which modelers put magnets on the arms and shoulders allowing them to swap between variants as needed for the game. One chassis can suddenly support all of the arm options for all of the variants!

Magnetizing is tricky. The magnets are smaller than most people like to work with. Alignment is an issue because magnets that are misaligned, and/or do not physically contact are usually not strong enough to make a connection. In many cases the weight of the limbs causes the end product to droop and look bad. My friends have been pushing me for years to magnetize warjacks for them. I have the skill, but this was something I was not sure I could do.

I tried this before on a different model. That was a disaster. It was my own kit, but the magnets fought me and the end product just wasn't the quality I was willing to accept. When you are good at something, never let your fans see you fail. But I learned from that kit. And today I took what I learned and applied it.

Step 1: The Warjack

What you are looking at here is the body section of an "Assimilater" chassis. This is a Convergence of Cyriss warjack for a friend of mine. Here is what the finished model should look like:
Not my faction. Not my model. Honestly I don't even like the look of it. But I can't resist accepting the challenge. I do love assembling models.

You'll notice shiny places where I've already done some magnet work. There is a waist joint that did not need a magnet, but I figured "why not?" Then there is a tricky backpack piece that only goes on for one of the variants.

Step 2: The Magnets

I order my magnets from K&J magnetics. These guys are awesome. If you need a magnet, they have exactly the right one, and the prices are amazing. For this I needed two sizes of magnets. I used some tiny 1/16th magnets for places where a magnet needed to hide in plain sight. 1/16th is still useful, but after a coat of paint will completely disappear into the details of the model. These are actually left over from the first magnetization attempt. The other size are 1/8th magnets. I got a bunch of n52 and 1/16 thick for places where I could not drill deep, and some n42 1/8 thick magnets for the shoulder studs. If I had to do this again, I would have gone 1/4 in on these. You'll see later how I stacked them to do the job.

Again, can't plug these guys enough (I do not get paid for this).
If you are ever bored and looking for a beer related project, they have a great blog post where they did some research on the best magnet for a bottle opener. I've made two of those and they rock.

Step 3: The Job

The basic idea is that the round plastic stud in the shoulder piece should be glued into that 1/8th in hole in the arms. My plan is to drill out both the arm and the shoulder and put in magnets.

Step 4: The Arm

It's hard to see, but I actually tried to put a sharpie mark on the drill bit as a depth marker. That ended up being unnecessary. I drilled the holes in the arms slightly more than 1/8th in deep. I plan on putting a 1/16th n52 magnet in the bottom of the hole, and having 1/16th of a 1/8th magnet socket in to connect.

Step 5: The Shoulder

I chose to drill out the shoulder stud before I got into setting the magnets. I used a hobby knife to take off the plastic stud. Then I scored it to find the center.

I have a tiny chuck for tiny drill bits that is supposed to go into a changeable screwdriver. This is my most powerful tool for working with these tiny models. In this case I drilled a pilot hole in the shoulder using a bit of similar diameter to a sewing pin. it's a pilot hole, so the diameter really isn't that important. Just try to get it as straight as possible.

I followed the pilot hole with the 1/8th bit. I think I drilled 1/4 in into the shoulder (I had room).

You have to be very careful drilling this plastic. The bits can cut through it very quickly. Later on you will see where it went through a part. I have gone into my finger with a drill before. You do NOT want to do that. Be careful.

also, that is not the smallest drill bit I have...

Step 6: The Stud

I wasn't sure how deep the hold went, so I used a small drill bit and measured it. It just happened that the hold was deep enough to take 3 stacked 1/8 magnets and have a perfect 1/16 stud stick out. (whoa that is deeper than 1/4 in!)

I used a common hobby super glue to set the magnets in. Super glue choice is an important personal preference. Assembling a model can be miserable hell if you do not have a glue you are comfortable working with. This particular one is a medium odorless.

Step 7: The Arm Socket

This is where it got tricky. The magnet in the arm has to be deep enough so that the socket hides the new stud magnet in the shoulder, but shallow enough to guarantee a good contact with the stud. The intuitive solution to getting this position correct is to put the arm magnet on the shoulder stud. Then put a drop of superglue on the arm magnet, socket them together, and let it dry. This gets complicated by superglue tending to go everywhere it's not supposed to. If you mess up here, your joint is permanent and you have failed the project. I found that by rotating the arm/shoulder joint for a few minutes, the shoulder stud could not dry onto the arm magnet, but the arm magnet was able to dry in it's mount. Then I was able to just pull the shoulder off. Lucky! If I were smarter I would have used some non-ferrite 1/8 dowel for this. I am not a smart man.

Step 8: A Better Way

I wasn't as lucky with the second arm as I was with the first. So I developed a better way.
First, I used a drill bit to figure out how deep I needed to set the magnet in the arm. Sharpie mark for depth.
Make sure to check the pole alignment on the magnet. Is it aligned right to stick to the arm stud? I almost made this mistake. Thankfully this was lesson 2 from the previous attempt.

With depth and alignment, I could put the magnet on the end of my bit and use that as a ram to set the magnet in the arm. A drop of glue on the magnet before it went in was all it took.

You can see that the stud trick completely hides the magnets when the parts are together.

Step 9: Bonus: the Cables

I love assembling models. So I couldn't resist this bonus challenge. One variant has these cable pieces that connect the arms to the backpack. The plan was to just leave them off, but I couldn't be happy with that. Also, I had a lot of extra magnets on hand.

I drilled and glued the first cable piece exactly like I did the arms. But when I did the second one, the bit jumped through. Well, when you make a mistake on a model like this there is only one thing you can do: hide it. In this case I could just drill through the other one. When the model is painted these exposed magnets will look like just another round detail on the model.

I chose to use the n52 magnets for the space, but in the end it was two per side. They turned out much better than I had expected.

Step 10: The Hard Part

remember those tiny magnets in the backpack? I have a lot of those. And here I was looking at a 1/8 part that I needed to sink a magnet into.

I used a pilot hold for this one, and a 1/16 drill bit. You can see how I used the same drill bit to line up the magnets. I stacked them to get more overall power, since these are n42 (weaker).

Alternatively, this is a place where I could have cut out a tiny piece of a steel bottle cap and glued it on the surface. Not my style, but I've done that before.

I made the magnets flush. I'm betting on the little magnet to naturally align center on the bigger n52 magnet. I was right.

Not only was I right, but the connection is very strong considering the size of the magnets.

Step 11: Finished

I'm not a great photographer (you might have noticed) but here are the result pictures. The arms are possible, but they connect well enough that the model can handle gameplay.

The last picture is the entire model fit back into the plastic it came in. I think the friend who asked me to do this will be very happy with it.

In the parts spread you can see the 3 head options for the model. I could have magnetized these, but they are very difficult to grip to remove. I'm going to leave them off so my friend can pick one and glue it in before he paints the model.