Friday, October 24, 2014

Build an Army Display Tray - Part 1: Assembly

Back in June, I was working on my Minotaurs Space Marines army in the hopes I could complete and play with it at the Astronomi-Con Toronto 2014 tournament. Unfortunately, life has a way of interfering with plans, and I quickly ran out of time to paint the army to the level I want. At the beginning of July, with only a few short weeks to go, and an army only about 20% complete, I shifted gears and decided to bring one of my existing armies, The Crimson Fists. I'd recently added a couple of new units to the collection, and wanted to field them. I also wanted to do a nice new presentation tray for the army so they stood out and would look fantastic on display.

Over the years I've made many display trays, and find the ones I like best are usually made from large picture frames for 18" x 24" portraits. I then stick some army related artwork, or the army list, or other some such inside the tray, and replace the backer board with a black foam core and a light piece of plywood.

This lends itself well to a simple yet highly professional looking tray, on the cheap, and quickly. However, I didn't want to take my old tray and repurpose it, because I still use it a lot for another army and wanted to preserve that, so I decided to make a brand new tray.

I also decided to take my original design, and improve upon it.

One thing about my older tray design is that, because it was a very simple re-purpose of the picture frame, I had to be careful not to overload it, for several reasons. The first being the glazing points on the back of the frame used to hold the bottom on are not meant to be load bearing, so when moving the tray around I found I was always worried about the bottom dropping out. But also because the tray has a glass surface, there is a risk of shattered glass flying everywhere if it does fall out, not to mention a fallen army every where.

So for this new design I decided the bottom would be anchored to the frame, and I would actually be doing a scenic display tray.

So off to the local art store I went to find a suitable frame. There were a couple, but this is the one I liked best.

I also picked up a wooden painting board. This is like a canvas, except it uses a light plywood for the painting. It has the distinct advantage of being in standard sizes that fit in the opening of standard picture frames, being very solidly built, square and true, and relatively inexpensive. Always check the fit before you take it home. Though the sizes are standard, it could be a little tight and you'll have to do some modification to the wooden canvass.

Finally, I picked up some angle brackets and #8 x 1/2" wood screws from the local DIY store.

Before assembly, you first need to take the frame backer board, glass, wall hangars, and glazing points out of the frame. Save them for later as they are very handy, and if you don't texture the board, you can use them to act as a protective cover for any insert material you put inside, like army list, photos, ribbons/award certificates, artwork, etc. This frame had a nice thin sheet of plexi-glass, so it won't shatter in case it gets dropped. So I'm keeping it handy in my construction materials, and will likely use it to replace the glass of my original framed display tray, along with the improvements in design I've made to make it more sturdy.

Now that you've removed everything from the frame, insert the wooden canvas board into the opening. Centre it so as to ensure maximum strength, and avoid gaps in the display.

Then locate the angle brackets spaced evenly around the frame so as to avoid any excess unsupported base, and to ensure a nice snug fit. Screw them in with the hardware, careful to not over tighten as these woods are usually softer and strip easily.

When you are done, you should have a very sturdy carrying tray, upon which you can support your army confidently.

This tray is now ready for the next step.

As I mentioned earlier, at this point you could just put the original black backer and plexi-glass face back on, and insert some artwork relevant to the army. However, I've already got a display tray like that, so this time I'm going to build up some terrain on the board that is thematic to my army!

Build an Army Display Tray - Part 2: Terrain Construction
Build an Army Display Tray - Part 3: Painting

Deserres Art Supply Store
Games Workshop

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