Making a Tournament Tray: Round 2

So with the last tray being less than ideal I thought it about time to make another one, this time out of Formex. While at the Softcore tournament in London I took a look at the Mechanika Studio tournament tray that Martyn Jenkins won from the Smog pit which seems to be made the exact same way I did mine (judging by the burn marks). The main difference is that they only cut about 1-1.5mm into the plastic rather than my 4mm. So if that is enough depth I don’t have to remove as much material this time.

The last tray was a monster at 12″ x 24″ so this time I decided to make one that would fit into my KR bag, 400mm x 270mm. In order to minimise the amount of wasted slots I actually planned out how many bases of each size I would need, in this case 6 large, 31 medium and 22 small. Simple sketch + MATH later showed me I can’t do it. So instead I changed it to be a variable slot tray to hold 9 large, 33 medium and 8 small bases. The large and medium slots having a 2nd layer to old another medium or small slot respectively.

Only two pictures this time, forgot to take them mid way.

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The 2nd row of slots isn’t completed yet because i’m not sure if i’ll even use them, but will finish at a later date as its pretty easy. Unfortunately while cutting I also ended up with a long scratch down the board but shouldn’t be to visible.

As you may have also noticed, i’m pretty bad at MATH. I got the number of large bases wrong as there wasn’t enough space, but at least I managed to get another medium slot out of it. I also fail at hand to eye coordination loosing a small base slot because I started to far away from the edge I had marked out. Sigh.

Using Formex wasn’t to much different from mdf, at least while cutting it I wasn’t covered in sawdust. I’ll stick with it for now since it’ll cut down on my laundry and I don’t need to spray it.

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Making a Tournament Tray

So last week i’d had the sudden urge to aquire a slotted tournament tray, a quick browse through the interwebs led me to Brokenegg and Mekanika studios and I asked around for some advice. A few replies quickly disuaded me from ordering abroad, reliability and price being the main issues. Still wanting one I decided to stop being a lazy bum and make one myself as I realised I had most of the tools required for the job already.

Before starting I aimed to create a tray that could hold up to three full lists, a daunting task considering how many different models Skorne can use across their lists. This was made worse by the fact it has to hold the 26 medium base monstrosity that is Xerxis T2 which is only likely to share the Gladiator with other lists.

My initial concept was to use a hole cutter to cut holes through a 4-5mm board and then attach that to a thicker base to create the slots. The benefit from this is that if I tap the base I can use bolts/screws to swap out the top layer if I need to hold different base sizes. I spent a few minutes testing out various hole cutters at work and settled on using 32mm, 41mm and 51mm cutters for the various base sizes. All that was left was to get some board and i’d be set.

At this point it was pointed out to me that we actually have a woodworking router stashed away at work that hadn’t been used for several years. While the shafts were fairly rusty some steel wool, sandpaper and WD40 got it moving again and ready for work. I tested it out by using a pencil to mark the base sizes before carving it out but I could never get the circles just right and it would inevitably look wonky. I went back to using the hole cutters this time going roughly 4mm deep to create the outside rim before using the router to clear out the inside. Below are pictures of my first set of tests on a sheet of Formex.

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With the tests done the rest was pretty simple. I bought a sheet of 12mm mdf and cut it down to just under 24″ x 12″. Before marking out the board for cutting I made sure to recheck the way the Americans did their boards and I noticed they tend to have the large bases off to one edge of the board, something I wasn’t to fond of. Instead I opted to keep my large and small bases more central if possible as most of my heaviest models fall into those base sizes. I tried to mimic the spacing of their slots but ended up just marking rows and staggering the holes. I also planned to have cut out section on one side to hold dice/cards/tokens along with my army, something that with hindsight i’m not sure I needed.

Some pictures of the board marked for cutting and the in progress shots. While I was working I didn’t consider how much sawdust was going to be flying around, and it was lucky for me that i’d decided to do this on a Friday.

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How the board looked after i’d finished cutting out all the holes before and after i’d sanded down the edges. The spots are burn marks from the router as I started each slot

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Once the board was completed I brushed off most of the dust before wiping it down with a moist cloth to take off any remaining dust. With the board cleaned I sprayed it entirely black on all sides before finishing it off with some matt varnish for protection. The finished tray with some of my models on it below.

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I had a lot of fun making the tray, although there are a lot of things i’ll change for next time as I made a lot of mistakes. A few of the holes aren’t aligned properly and I don’t need that many small base slots as I generally don’t play small based units and it turns out that i’ll need somewhere around 40+ medium base slots in order to fit the armies i’m considering taking to the Welsh in May. I also have should left more space between each large base slot and not have put a small base slot at the edges, titans don’t get along with each other.

As you may have noticed the board is made of MDF, big mistake on my part. While its light and was super easy to work the finish at the end left me wanting and the inside of each slot rough. I’m currently considering remaking it using Formex or plywood. The Formex we have is only 10mm thick so having a two tiered slot becomes a bit tricker, also the router is just hot enough to start melting the plastic if i’m not quick just as it burns the MDF. Plywood seems easy enough, but as its layered i’m hoping it won’t have the same rough surface as MDF after I use a router.

I’m definately going to make another tray, maybe smaller once I get a better idea of what lists i’ll be using. But I doubt i’ll ever get a 3list tray to fit into my KR bag, a 2list tray might be doable. I’ll post up again next time.

Genius, listen to the man.