How to magnetize your miniatures: an illustrated guide

Simple Base Tutorial
Simple Base Tutorial

Have you ever gotten home with your warjack kit and thought to yourself, ‘Man I wish I could build all three of these configurations not just the ironclad. Or has your buddy shown up to a game with the ability to reconfigure his imperial knight just by pulling off the bits he didn’t need and clicking on the bits he wanted to use? Have you ever wanted to have interchangeable parts on one or more of your army models? Well you are in luck because using magnets is the way to accomplish this.

When should you magnetize your models?

Any time a model comes with extra bits, you can magnetize the bits to use them in different ways. It is most useful when your models come with enough bits that you could make one model in any of a few configurations, but not multiples of the entire model.

It also makes it convenient for transporting some large models. When you can take the turrets off of your tanks when you put them into your bag they are less likely to get damaged en route to your friendly local game store.

Since it takes time and effort to magnetize models, I only do it when the choice affects the way that I can use the models in a game. I almost never do this for only cosmetic reasons. In these images you can see that I magnetized the weapons on this AT-RT so that I can change between them based on what will look best on my squad.

This is one of the three weapon options for the AT-RT

Use rare earth magnets

Rare earth magnets are much stronger than traditional magnets. The magnets that are sold in your friendly local game store are almost all rare earth magnets. This means that you will have magnets that are much smaller and are able to fit into more places and still hold bits in place. This is the type of magnet that I use when I magnetize my minis.

Trim the piece to be the same size after the magnets are in place

Even though these magnets aren’t incredibly large they still add some length to pieces that will be used, messing up the scale of the model. This can be solved by either drilling out a piece of the model to recess the magnet into the model itself. Use a pin vice to carefully drill into the soft material of the model. I never use a power drill or rotary tool, because these will go through these soft models far too quickly to maintain control. If you are attaching a piece into an area that you can’t drill like on this AT-RT, then you can trim the weapon instead. A simple way to get the right amount trimmed is to place two magnets onto the side of your hobby knife.

Magnets on the side of your hobby knife will help you to trim the right amount.

Then score the piece of plastic to mark where you need to cut it. Use your side cutters to cut where you scored it. Use a file to smooth the pieces so that they will be flat and adhere the magnets with glue better.

By trimming your pieces this way you will not change the way that your model looks after it is assembled.

Get them glued in place the right way

Magnets only stick together if the polarities are different. Positive will attract negative. I can’t even count the number of times I have gotten the magnets glued into place and then needed to dig one side out because I got it backwards. It help to have a system for getting these magnets in so that they are the same every time. I created a magnetizing tool by gluing a magnet to a tool that I never used for anything else.

Magnet placing tool with a magnet on it.

I use this tool to put the magnet onto the bits that I i’ll be placing on the weapon, arm, or turret that will be swapping out from game to game. I attach a magnet to this fixed magnet on my tool, and then I paint the end of the magnet red so that it is easy to identify.  I put some glue on the part and them glue the magnet so that the red dot is not visible.

Once the magnet is glued on properly my red dot is not visible

Once I have magnets glued to the weapons, I use them to set the magnets into the body of the model correctly. You can see here that I have attached another magnet to the weapon that will be swapping, painted the other side of the magnet red and then used it to seat the magnet into the front of the AT-RT.

Using a consistent method like this to ensure that all of the magnets on your weapons are the same polarity. I can’t think of much that is more frustrating than getting all of the magnets in place and then discovering that one of them is backwards because you skipped a step to hurry up.

Take your time and make sure that you get these magnets in the right way and you will be happier with the finished product.

What size of magnet should you use?

Use the largest magnet that will fit into the space that you need. It is better to have pieces that stick together extra well than pieces that spin and fall. One of the first times that I magnetized arms onto a warjack. I was putting together an Avenger, Centurion, Hammersmith kit. I only had some small magnets but I felt like the arms weren’t going to fall off. I got the magnets into place and I was correct that the arms were still in place. However because of the torque that the sword and hammers put onto the hands and arms the weapons kept turning sideways while I was playing.

There are a couple of ways that I could have avoided this fate. I could have used the advice that I gave in the previous paragraph and used larger magnets that just barely fit into the places that I needed to hide. Another method would have been to put multiple magnets into each weapon arm. This would have given more support to the pieces as well as supporting them in a way that would make it very difficult for the pieces to spin or turn.

Have fun with magnets on your models. You can get very creative when you are able to swap out pieces.

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