Thursday, 28 June 2012

Magnets: Fun with Ferrites

This week I have been learning to harness the power of magnetism…

You think I look badass now. When I grow up, I’m going to be Gandalf.

My armies have tumbled off their movement trays so often I’m starting to suspect they enjoy chipping their paint and forcing me to get out my brushes and give them a little touch up.

In a bid to keep everyone where they should be, I have decided to TAP INTO THE POWER OF THE EARTH’S CORE (or possibly the North Pole, the Wikipedia article wasn’t very enlightening).

When beginning my preliminary investigations into magnetising the miniature bases, my concerns were as follows:
  1. The magnets would be too weak to hold them, everything would fall off and I would have wasted my time.
  2. The magnets would be too strong to ever detach, and I’d end up ripping the figure off the base.
  3. My DIY experience stops at IKEA assembly – would this really involve me having to cut up sheet metal?
  4. Being in proximity to so many magnetic fields will, I assume, fry my brain and/or bring out latent superpowers.
With the exception of the last one, all my concerns were dealt with fairly easily by the Tiny Worlds Wargames store, from whom I purchased a couple of samples to test out.

It turns out that getting metal to the bottom of the movement tray is simplicity itself: take one sheet of ‘rubber steel’, cut to size and stick down with the adhesive back. The trickiest part was actually measuring up (the adhesive back is so sheer, marker pens struggle to imprint upon it).

Cutting was also more difficult that it should have been. Assuming I was dealing with ‘steel’ steel, I used a craft knife, steady hand and ruler that kept slipping off the sheer surface, throwing my straight lines out of alignment. I eventually discovered you can just cut through the rubber steel with a good pair of scissors, with no more resistance than thick paper.

It look a lot of measuring and cutting to achieve that uneven, jagged top line.

For the magnets themselves, I reasoned I would need two strengths: one for plastic figures and a stronger one for metals (they also stock a really little magnet for swapping around weapons on dreadnaughts and the like).

N42 Neodymium

For the plastics, I used N42 Neodymium (3x2mm) magnets.

1p piece added for scale. (NB this is novelty penny, about 3ft in diameter)

A drop of superglue on the bottom (and remembering - eventually - not to use my usual metal tweezers or craft knife to push them into position).

"I don't know why, but I'm suddenly attracted to you..."

And how did it work?

It took nerves of steel to do this for the first time.

N38 Neodymium

For the metals, I used N38 Neodymium (6x2mm) magnets.

Same penny.

A nice feature of these magnets (and too perfect to be a coincidence) is that they are exactly the same thickness as the underside of the plastic base, so they fit neatly to the rubber steel.

Not quite thick enough and they wouldn't make contact and I doubt the hold would be strong enough. Too thick would be even worse – I don’t fancy having to pare down solid neodymium with my little file. These were just right.

"I don't understand it, sir. Ever since I joined the regiment, my audio cassettes have gone funny."

So the hold is very secure (as you can see from the upside-down demonstration), but they do come away when you want them to.

Why a glass of water, you may ask?
So you don't think I'm trying to fool you by inverting a regular image.

They can withstand a gentle shaking, though probably wouldn’t respond well to being thrown against a wall (then again, neither would you). Other than that, it locks down better than a SnowSpeeder’s tow cable.

“Good shot Janson! Now go and do 148 more of them.”

I haven’t yet tried cavalry bases, but my estimate is that the same strength magnets would work for plastic/metals (at least with my little LotR horses).

I also need to try monster bases (although that’s not going to happen until I move on to Trolls/Treekin), but I reckon two N38 magnets per base should suffice.

So it was all surprisingly easy and straightforward. My only observations would be:
  • When you’re laying out the magnets in preparation, space them nicely apart, because the little buggers will jump at each other.
  • When magnetised figures are not attached to the steel base, they can jog each other about it with the magnetic rays and not rank up smartly (but, away from the tray, why would you need them to?)
  • Do magnets ever lose power, like batteries or nuclear fuel rods?

Otherwise, it’s all steam ahead. Very soon my army will be far more stable than its owner.


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