I got hooked on war gaming with miniature figures years ago (see Warfare in the Age of Reason by Todd Kershner & Dale Wood). Life intervened and I finally decided to follow through on painting some figures I acquired over the years. Displaying the figures involves figuring how to keep the dust bunnies from accumulating. I was unable to find any suitable cases at local hobby shops when it finally dawned on me that, with some modifications, a cigar box would be the ideal size. I am presenting my first attempt (and my first Instructable).
Figures (I have used 25mm figures)
Cigar Box (Locally I found them at Wild Bill’s, usually about $2 each)
Plastic Sheet (e.g. Lexan, Plexiglass) – any Home Center – 1/8 inch works well.
Implements of Destruction (hobby tools with saw blades), Coping Saw, Wood Rasp.
Glue (I used Elmer’s)
Square wood stock – ¼ or 3/8 inch.
Display materials (hobby railroad materials)
Hinges (Hobby Lobby)
Screws – Used #4 wood screws, #4 pan head wood screws and 3mm x 6mm machine screws, as well as the screws included with the hinges.
Step 1: Step 1: Measurements
Take the dimensions of the box you will be using. The inner dimensions and thickness of the sides/lid are key.
Step 2: Step 2: Start Cutting
I wanted to see the figures from the top and the front of the box. I started by removing the front of the box I have noted that some boxes use dovetailed corners and some don’t. I found (the hard way) the this box (not dovetailed) had a staple about ½ way down. Have extra saw blades handy.
Step 3: Step 3: Front Window Frame
The next step was to create a support structure to attach the plastic to. Before doing so I tested the wood stock to see how the screws I was was going to use would work. I wound up using 3/8 in stock as the ¼ in in stock split.
Step 4: Step 4: Securing Window Framing
The supports are offset by the thickness of the plastic. I glued & screwed the supports in place. I used brass screws (#4) for the bottom brace. These didn’t work so well as they were a bit too long and stripped out very easily. Due to these screws protruding slightly, I covered the bottom of the box with sheet cork (not shown), so it wouldn’t scratch.
Step 5: Step 5: Securing the Front Window
For the sides, and for attaching the plastic to the side supports I changed to a #4 pan head wood screw; these work much better. Make sure to pre-drill the holes for the sides to avoid splitting the support. You will need to pre-drill the holes through the plastic as well. I was working for a symmetrical look for both the sides and front. I got the sides OK, but the front not so much.
Step 6: Step 6: Creating the Lid
Next step is to cut the lid. This was the biggest challenge as the saw blade liked to wander (a Dremel tool would be great if it didn’t melt the plastic). This is where the rasp comes in.
Step 7: Step 7: Attaching the Lid
After (finally!) getting the plastic dimensions correct (did I mention cutting this 3 times?), I attached the lid to the box. This was a bit of a challenge as I couldn’t use the wood stock as it would not allow the hinges to work correctly. Additionally, the hinge leaves were not long enough to attach to the outside of the box and to the plastic. I wound up attaching one leaf inside the box and using machine screws (3mm x 6mm) for the lid. The screws included with the hinges protruded through the box wall so I wound up cutting them down, then replacing them and using a drop of glue to secure them more tightly.
Step 8: Step 8: Interior Work
For this display I painted the interior with 2 coats of latex paint as I hadn’t located any background scenery. It does help highlight the figures.
I did add some material (local hobby shop railroad supplies) to make sure the bottom would blend with the figure diorama.
Step 9: Step 9: Finishing the Display
After final assembly I placed the figures. I did not attach the figures to the box as they have cork on the bottom and the friction with the bottom lining of the box holds them in place fairly well. (Good idea to not jostle them too vigorously).