Workshop Wednesday: Budget Sponge Transports
Most newcomers to the miniature gaming hobby balk at how much miniature transport cases cost, and this tutorial is a cheap alternative to most of the options out there. I don’t think that this is for everyone (and in fact I think that considering how much you spend on minis, spending a little bit more to ensure their protection is a worthwhile investment), but even I was a poor college student once, and making your own sponge transports provides a decent middle-ground between paying upwards of a hundred bucks on a branded transport bag and just carrying your minis around in plastic bags. This tutorial is for Warmachine and Hordes, but I’m pretty sure you should be able to use the same technique to hold Warhammer armies. You’d just more space, considering the amount and size of models.
First up, get a box. It can be a shoebox, or a posting box, or anything like that. Key attributes you should be looking for are how protective it is, as well as cost (preferably free). I’d also recommend it be at least 4 inches deep; the larger it is the more minis you can carry. I’ve gotten a postal box here for a few bucks. I could’ve used a shoebox, but those are a bit small and I like the fact that I have tabs that secure the box closed.
Next up, get some foam. You could cannibalize some foam lying around, but for uniform depth and size and whatnot, I recommend buying it. You should be able to find some foam in your neighbourhood craft store (maybe they call it cushion foam or something). If you want to save some extra cash I’m sure you can wait for a sale, but it should be relatively cheap anyways (it’s $5 SGD for an 18″x18″x2″ sheet in Singapore, so I’m sure it should be $2 USD or even less elsewhere). Get the 2″ depth; it’s enough for small bases, medium bases and some large based models.
Measure up your box and then cut the sponge to spec. My box was about 12″x8″x4″, and I trimmed down the sponge a little bit so it would be easy to fit in.
Trace the outline of the model you’re cutting for. In this case it’s Kovnik Joe. With his sword raisy pose you’ll have to lay him down on his side, but most small based models should be able to fit a 2″ deep sponge tray standing up. It’s a good idea to label the hole you’re cutting now, cos it gets confusing when you have a lot of minis to match up.
Start cutting through the outline with a craft or a pen knife. You don’t need to cut through the whole thing because you’ll be-
Picking off the sponge. You’ll also realize that this is a bit of trial and error. Put in the model again, see what’s sticking out (in this case the base) and then get a little bit more depth by cutting a deeper divot and then picking off all the extra sponge.
Second time’s the charm, and you can see that Kovnik Joe now fits nicely in the sponge.
A $5-$7 dollar expenditure should allow you to carry around a 35-point army, and maybe even a small 50-point army if you’re lucky. My box could fit about 4 heavy jacks, and about 20 small based models. You can also compartmentalize your sponge trays for specific units like my iron fangs below.
Some things you need to worry about though. The sponge isn’t the high density type that you get in your usual sponge transport bags. That means that it won’t be providing as much structural support. But the cardboard exterior and the fact that you are cutting out holes to fit does mitigate that some what. The custom holes also do support your minis pretty well, as opposed to the pre-cut ones most sponge transports have. Another point to note is because you’re tearing out the sponge, the divot that your minis sit in is going to be a more bumpy than your usual, which means spiky bits can snag more easily. I’ve had some of my Iron Fang Pikemen snag once or twice before, but if you take enough care that shouldn’t be an issue. Lastly, while custom cutting the holes for your units will save you space especially for those long pokey models (see how I squeezed all my IFP), that also means each specific type of unit will need its own sponge tray. YMMV.
All in all, if you’re on a budget, this method of carrying around your minis will do you well. I survived on this for about 1 year, without any major incidents (just the 1 or 2 snagging issues I mentioned before). In the end I still ended up forking out the money for a sponge transport bag, but this allowed me to transport my minis in safety with a portion of the cost.