A Gift Twice Given

datetime April 22, 2018 12:08 AM

*sigh* Fine, show us your stupid tray

Infinity armies aren’t very big, so you don’t need a particularly big carrying tray to move them around. Before I built anything, I spent a few minutes drawing shapes on a piece of paper and dropping piles of models onto them to see how big it would need to be, and ended up deciding that 10″x6″ seemed about right– space enough for 15+ models without things bumping and chipping.

I also decided, on a whim, that the tray wouldn’t be square, but would instead be sort of a long pill shape, with a 6″ diameter semi-circle capping off each end. Thusly decided, I whipped the shape up in Illustrator and printed it out on cardstock.

Quick model footprint test. Looks good. šŸ™‚

Next, I designed the walls that would go around the tray. I wanted them to be low up front, and then gradually rise up to create a scenic backdrop in the back for models to look cool posing against, mainly featuring an Onyx sectorial logo that I would cut out of craft foam.

These were also printed out on cardstock– note where I had to repeat part of the wall at the top of the page to get everything to print on a single page. After cutting the pieces out, I taped both parts together, using the text to line everything up properly.

The shapes were then transferred to a sheet of foamcore and cut out.

Foamcore doesn’t curve very well, so to let the wall wrap nicely around my pill-shaped tray, I had to kerf parts of the walls. To do this, I first drew parallel lines 1cm apart all along the relevant sections, and then used a knife to cut down through the top paper and all of the foam, but NOT through the paper on the other side.

I then angled the knife and cut a small wedge of foam away next to each of these cuts.

With that done, the foamcore became flexible enough to bend nicely around the edges.

The gang moved in for another test. With their approval, I moved on to the truly dastardly part of this build.

In addition to the standard “flat bit the models stand on” that you get with any old carry tray, I wanted to make mine extra fancy by incorporating some token and dice storage– specifically, by building a pull-out drawer under the tray. šŸ™‚

The large rectangle I’ve added here shows the size of the drawer– I think it ended up being roughly 4″ x 8″.

This new template was used to trace two new, slightly different pill shapes– one squared off to form the bottom of the drawer, and one that will have 3/16″ of its front edge cut off to give the front face of the drawer space to close (this may or may not make more sense later– a lot of the mechanics of the drawer are kind of hard to explain without being able to point at things and wave my arms around).

To build the walls of the drawer and the box that would contain it, I needed to know the precise perimeters of various lengths around the pill shape.

Due to the curvy shape of my tray, I needed to measure these by bending a fabric tape measure around the foamcore cutouts.

Once I had my lengths recorded, I cut out another long strip, with the exact same length, segmentation, and kerfing as the upper walls, but uniformly 1 7/8″ tall instead of swoopy. 1 7/8″, if you’re wondering, is “1.5” of storage plus two foamcore thicknesses” to accommodate the bottom of the drawer and then the bottom of the box that contains it.

I measured and cut a piece out of the long strip to form the front of the drawer.

The back walls of the drawer were glued on…

…followed by the front face, and then finally, the back wrap-around.

To ensure that the drawer slides correctly, I dug two parallel 1/4″ trenches out of its bottom…

…and then placed corresponding “runners” onto the box floor to slide inside them. I shaved the bottom paper layer off the runners to make them a bit shorter than the slots they were fitting inside, reducing friction and making the drawer easier to pull (which is a concern when it’s all made of foamcore– it won’t stand up to as much stress as, say, a wooden dresser drawer, so I tried to keep the motion as loose as I could).

To keep the drawer from popping out completely, I added plates on the back with a slight overhang, then dropped in hard stoppers for them to bump into.

The back wall on the upper part of the tray is 4″ tall, which I can comfortably grab in my hand to carry around. However, adding nearly 2″ for the drawer layer made it too tall to securely hold with one hand, so I decided to add a handle slot on the back. This was basically just a small foamcore box…

…which I dropped into a specially cut slot here. This part will hopefully make more sense when you see everything fully assembled later, but trust me, it was definitely needed. šŸ™‚

The handle slot and drawer comfortably coexist within the confines of the tray’s lower reaches.


That about did it for the structural elements of the tray, so now I just needed to decorate it with craft foam paneling.

Onyx models have a general visual language of “complex curves terminating in points”, and I tried to mimic that same style on the tray’s walls.

These were cut out on my new Silhouette Cameo “knife printer”, which I will explain more thoroughly in a future project– I was working quickly this time and didn’t get any good shots of it working. Suffice to say, though, that I will soon be able to create much more complex craft foam cut-outs much more quickly than I do now, and I am super pumped about it. šŸ˜€

Once the panels were ready, I applied white glue across the interior of the walls, spread it around with a wide paintbrush…

…and stuck the panels down. I left a 1mm gap between the panels to give me something to highlight later.

Those are definitely evil walls. Objective achieved. šŸ˜€

I textured the floor in the same way I had done with the bases– first by spreading acrylic gel around the whole area…

…and then dabbing up and down (this time with a plastic baggie instead of a leaf) to create the webbing. This went really quickly– I could probably do an entire 4×4 table this way in about ten minutes. šŸ™‚

The logo was then cut out. Note that I didn’t draw this logo myself– it’s taken from the High Res Vector Logos thread maintained by Vyo on the official forums. Thanks for saving me two hours, random wonderful forum person. šŸ™‚

Slop on probably too much glue…

…and then stick it down.

And the interior’s done! šŸ˜€

That left only the exterior walls, which received a very similar style of swoopy panels. This time around, for whatever reason, I decided to freehand the shapes with a pencil instead of designing them on the computer.

No idea why, but whatever, it worked. *shrug*

I had been holding off on attaching the upper tray to the lower layer out of general “what if I forgot something?” paranoia, but at this point I had no choice but to finally go ahead with it. I placed paper masks between the drawer and the adjacent outer walls to prevent the two from being glued together accidentally.

Once they were attached, I started sticking the panels on.

Almost immediately, I realized that I screwed up. I got the measurements mixed up in my head, and accidentally cut the panel edges for a drawer MUCH smaller than the one I had built. Not the end of the world, but it did leave me with some visible seams at the end. Boo. šŸ™

This is where the actual vertical cuts should have been made. Sigh. :/

This big swoopy piece is actually not purely decorative– if Tom ever puts anything super heavy in the bottom drawer, the bottom could theoretically tear loose from the top. This long diagonal panel acts as a strap to keep the two halves tightly secured together, protecting somewhat against Tom’s unpredictable foolishness.

And we’re done! The needless seams on the bottom will bother me until my dying day, but otherwise… pretty badass. I can’t wait to make trays for my own armies now. šŸ˜€


The last thing to do was to paint it. I didn’t want the spraycan to eat away at the exposed foamcore, so I gave all of the exposed foam edges two solid coats of Mod Podge.

Once that was dry, I taped it to a pizza box to give me something to hold while spraying it.

RANDOM THING: Noctifers come on the galaxy’s most majestic Tactical Rocks, and I forgot to pop them off when I was painting the rest of the bases, so I did that now. Oops.

I repeated the steps I had used on the bases, spraypainting a solid coat of dark blue over the entire interior and exterior, followed by a zenithal highlight of turquoise.

(If you’re wondering what the circle is for– check out the 360 video on the next page.)

Turquoise was again sprayed to “colour correct” the kind of crappy teal spraypaint. I dabbed it away in the front, but left a thicker coat in the back to create a receding shadow effect.

I dropped one of my paper templates over the floor to keep it masked while I painted the walls.

I made them grey.


And then I had to paint all the webbing by hand.

This took nine years.


And then I detailed and highlighted everything else, and it was done, and it looks AMAZING, and I’m very happy. šŸ˜€


AAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRGGGH *sets random nearby objects on fire*

Alright, so, one weird thing now: my dual goals when making this tray were to provide both a practical carrying tray, AND a cool photo backdrop for the army. However, I ran into some problems with the second goal. To explain, let’s first look at a photo of some models in the tray sitting on my desk– which is very poorly lit. Looks fine, right?

Now here’s a group of models (on the left) inside my lightbox, with tons of clean white light blasting everything. For some reason, in those supposedly optimal conditions, my camera picks everything up as PINK. And despite my best efforts in Photoshop, I couldn’t get it to colour-correct without screwing up the rest of the image.

Contrast with the same lightbox and lighting rig, but with a neutral grey background, on the right– everything looks normal. Note that neither side of this photo has had any adjustment done– both are straight out of the same camera.

Super annoying. :/

This is the first time I’ve ever had problems like this with my camera, and unfortunately I didn’t have time to troubleshoot them, as I had only about an hour to shoot photos before I had to run off and hand this whole mess to Tom for his birthday.

And that’s why all the photos on the next page are against grey backgrounds instead of my cool scenic thing.

Booooo. ;_;

3 thoughts on “A Gift Twice Given

  • Tom

    Just found your blog, this was the first thing I read. Iā€™m a Tom. I wish I had a friend like you. Really enjoyed reading this and Iā€™m now looking forward to perusing through the rest of your work. Thank you for sharing.

  • Sergio

    Even though it doesn’t match the original inspiration it is still an awesome looking army .

    Was your camera doing automatic white-balancing? It appears to me like your camera was desperately trying to neutralize your radiant blue bases by pushing more pink into the picture.

  • yaumlamachine

    Hey man, I’m totally fine living in the purple group. šŸ™‚

    Also, my page link is still on your page and by today’s standards this act as a sacred bond.

    You’ll never get rid of me! Suck it, nerd!

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