Of Flight Stands and Rare Earth Magnets

In my continuing quest to clear the decks of all the old, lingering, unfinished projects I’m going to show you how I make flight stands for 1/285 scale aircraft.  In the past I have used flight stands from various manufacturers and each has it own unique limitations.  Of those commercially available my least favorite are the AC Bases from CinC.


The one pictured here is the medium base but the others are similar.  These stands feature a criss-cross pewter base and a pewter support.  These pieces are not strong enough to stand up to more than static display of your miniatures.  Even careful transportation and gaming use will cause these to bend and unfortunately your aircraft will crash.

The next rung up the ladder of quality is the Aircraft Stand (catalog # AC40) from GHQ.


These stands have a thin steel wire which is inserted into a criss-cross pewter base.  Much like the product from CinC, in my experience the pewter support legs are not strong enough to stand up to gaming and transporting.  Additionally, the tolerances of the hole where the wire inserts into the base makes getting the wire to sit vertically is a challenge.  Large or heavy models will also tend to distort the hole in the pewter base over time.  On the plus side the thin steel wire is both strong and unobtrusive on the gaming table.  The miniatures look less like models on sticks than with the CinC option.

My favorite bases are the Flight Bases from Ral Partha although these can be a challenge to find.  These stands use a hexagonal pewter base and a thin steel wire as the support.  One of the cons of these stands is the hexagonal base can be too small for large heavy models making them prone to tipping.  The examples I have date from 2000 so there may be newer products available.  Here is what they look like in the package.


In the past I used one stand per aircraft but today’s project will allow me to make a number of flight stands that will be interchangeable with all the aircraft in my collection.  I could accomplish this by not gluing the aircraft to the existing bases but where is the fun in that?  So, break out the tools its time to get to work!

In concept the new bases will have a support which will have a rare earth magnet glued to the end.  For the uninitiated the rare earth magnets are those tiny but powerful magnets that can be very difficult to separate.  The magnets on the end of the flight base will couple with a magnet on the belly of the miniature holding it in place while gaming but allowing you to separate them for storage and use fewer bases overall – at least that’s the plan.

To start with I decided to use nails of the same diameter of my magnets to act as the support for the aircraft stand.  Any steel nails will work fine I choose these in two lengths to represent helicopters and fast movers flying slightly higher.


In order to accept a magnet on the end the pointed tip of the nail has to be removed.  My Dremel tool with cutoff wheel made short work of the nails.  Wear safety glasses!  Here’s the nail after tip removal.


The next step is to prepare the base to accept the nail.  As mentioned above the Ral Partha bases are made to accept thin steel wire so the base has to be drilled out to the diameter of the nail.


Most machine made nails are not quite perfectly flush where the shaft and nailhead meet for this reason the underside of the pewter base needs a slight countersink drilled out to accommodate the nail head.  Alternatively, you could machine down the shaft of the nail but since pewter is softer than steel I stick with reworking the base.  Here is the slight counter sink drilled out on this base.Image

Apply glue to the shaft of the nail at the nailhead juncture and slide it in place in the base.  Set aside to dry.  I prefer to use gel style CA or crazy glue.  The gel style has a slightly longer set time which allows me to correct placement errors.  It also works quite well as a gap filler.



Once the glue on the nail/base has set the rare earth magnets can be attached to the tip of the nail.  Again, I use gel style CA glue for this.  Set aside to cure.


Tip: Glue one magnet to the tip of the nail but keep a second magnet attached to the first to make sure the polarity is aligned. Mark the top surface of the second magnet a a reference mark.  This marked surface will be glued to the belly of the model.  If you drop the second magnet while attempting to glue it to the aircraft the mark will tell you which side to glue to the aircraft.

Here is the Egyptian MiG-21 that will be my test case.  I’ll have to remove a bit of the belly fairing on this model to attach the magnet.  Take the second magnet from the flight stand that was prepared earlier and glue the side with the reference mark to the belly of the aircraft.  If this model wasn’t already painted I would have drilled a hole in the belly of the aircraft to recess the magnet.  I didn’t do that here because I didn’t want to scratch the paint or decals.


And here it is with magnet glued in place.


And a couple views of the MiG on its stand.  The MiG-21 in these pictures is from Raiden Miniatures.  The decals are from I-94 Enterprises.



All that remains is to paint the stand.  I managed to make eight of these in a little over an hour not including the time taken up by photography.  With this type of flight stand you’ll only have to make as many stands as you expect to have on the game table at one time.  Just make sure all the magnets that are glued to the aircraft have the correct polarity alignment with the magnets on the stands.


2 responses to “Of Flight Stands and Rare Earth Magnets

  1. Nice paint on the aircraft! I look forward to seeing more of your work! I made the originals of the A-4, MiG-21, Super Mystere, Mirage/Nesher/Dagger
    George Kettler
    Sculptor, Raiden Miniatures

  2. Pingback: How Small is Too Small? | Table Top Gaming

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