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Setting Up a Hobby Space

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Firstly, apologies if this seems a bit rushed, but I finished this article once already and then in the act of posting, Google Chrome ate my post and it vanished into the ether. A couple of days later, now that I’ve stopped fuming, I sit down to rewrite it – hopefully better than ever before!

In September I moved to Dundee, moving in with my boyfriend and getting a nice two-bedroom flat. But we only needed one bedroom, so the other room got turned into a hobby room. Setting up a dedicated hobby space was a lot of fun and meant that we had to think about a lot of things, everything from the perfect height for the hobby table we had to buy (which is why it took so long) to storage and a place to play. So I decided to write this article describing what I learned over this interesting process. This should be equally useful for those thinking of having a dedicated space or those with something less permanent (been there, done that!)


The table was what really took the longest, but finally we found one which fit the room. Height is important as you will be bending over to paint your miniatures and back problems can result from a table which is too low. Also, it needed to fit with the chair we had. Another factor which had us dismissing the idea of using a trestle table was that of sturdiness. You don’t want the table wobbling when you’re applying your last drybrush on your epic piece of scenery, or worse, collapsing entirely with your army on it. The table we have is solid wood, with a nice feature of six drawers for holding more hobby stuff. This let us leave the white set of drawers in the room for household storage (everything from University folders to DIY hammers and screwdrivers).

While drawers are not essential, being able to draw yourself under the table is; proper posture is an investment in the long-running functioning of your back! Working at a table too low and unable to sit close to it will cause problems in the long run. If you are forced into this situation, work for short periods at a time and then go and do something else for at least half an hour. Obviously, even if it is at the perfect height you should still take breaks from painting (modelling or putting together isn’t so bad as you’re generally shifting about and not concentrating as much) at regular intervals.


Lighting is fairly simple, a pair of halogen lamps for painting. I would recommend getting daylight bulbs but unfortunately they don’t make them for the bulbs in these table lamps and I can’t afford the ones that do still have actual lightbulbs in them. If you can do so, investment in a good table lamp and daylight bulb will make sure your painting is more consistent and looks better in most lights. I have two for taking pictures (though again, light from the window is probably best for this) and because my boyfriend needs a lamp too when we’re both at the table.

The table is protected thoroughly from damage by a layer of cardboard which has been parcel-taped down onto it, and then two layers of broadsheets put down to catch spills and such. The cutting mat is for using the saw and craft-knives on, so that we don’t accidentally mark the table underneath. Putting some sort of protection down is vital, even for temporary set-ups. A good idea for these is to have some sort of mobile station which can be stored somewhere when not in use. GW does a painting station, but a sturdy cardboard box cut diagonally along the width works equally well. This will keep you from accidentally painting/cutting/destroying your mother/partner’s prize kitchen table. This is bad.

Apart from the actual workspace itself, you also have to consider the other part of a hobby space – which can, if you are not careful, explode and become unmanageable: storage. We have three places to store our hobby stuff: a shelving unit affectionately known as the Rack, a decent sized cupboard and storage in the base for our gaming board (which is actually a bed base).


This is all carefully organised, made a lot easier by the amount of coffee I drink (don’t judge me!). The empty coffee jars make brilliant containers for basing sand, grit, PVA, flock, etc. I guess you could use any other kind of jar. We also use toolboxes (bitz, materials) and plastic boxes which you can get from any “Home & Garden” type of shop. I got mine from Poundstretchers for a few pounds each.

As an aside, having your own rubbish bin is very helpful, and should be considered even for temporary set-ups.

The Rack is split into three shelves, painting, basing and bitz/misc at the bottom. The painting is at the top because it is the most accessible and needs to be. I usually take a handful of paints with me to my painting station, then return to it should I find I need some more. Brushes can also fall into this category depending on whether I correctly identified its stage on the journey between brand-new perfect brush and only fit for drybrushing. Possibly as an upshot from this, I have a lot of brushes in various sizes from extreme detail (which are hiding at the bottom of the cup, which is full of brushes by the way) to big scenery dry-brushes as can be seen in the picture. We have a palette each, for obvious reasons. You can also use a clean plate or a white tile. I would avoid using the best china however! *embarrassed cough* Be better than me and clean your palettes regularly and thoroughly, so you don’t get bleed through when you’re mixing on top of other paints.


The next layer is basing stuff. Not much to say about this, apart from that plastic containers from takeaways are incredibly useful. I use these for a permanent basing kit, which has a plastic spoon in it along with the usual mix of sand and grit I use for basing. This makes it a lot easier to base my models and I leave it with the lid on. My boyfriend has plastic sheeting in a cobblestone pattern for his urban army, which you can see in the picture, also stored in one of these handy containers. The last thing I use them for is holding my greenstuff and implements. I have problems with greenstuff irritating my skin and as such I have to keep it separate from the rest of my hobby stuff and wear gloves. I stuff everything into one of these little containers along with the modelling tools and have peace of mind.

The other thing I wanted to talk about is basing sand and grit. A lot of people seem to have problems with either having to buy a huge bag of sand from a building yard, which can be problematic if like me you live in a first floor flat (who wants a bag of sand in their house?) or paying through the nose for modelling sand. While the former can be coarse but is definitely value for money, the latter is expensive but usually of a fine grade and thoroughly cleaned. An alternative to this is to go to a pet shop or general shop and have a look at bird sand and bird grit. While this isn't as fine as most modelling sand, it is clean and you can get a manageable 1kg bag for about 80p.


The last shelf just holds my bitz box, boxes full of sprues, unopened boxes, and my miscellaneous stuff box, which is full of flock, bicarbonate of soda for snow bases, leaf scatter, scenic cement, etc. Only thing I want to talk about on this level is my black A4 portfolio bag. This little thing was from the Works, for a very decent price, and keeps all my plasticard, tubes, wooden strips and so on, neat and tidy and in order. I thoroughly recommend something like this for those of us who use plasticard regularly for projects but not enough to have an organiser for different thicknesses.


Storage is very important, but so is organisation. If you just throw things in willy-nilly, you’d better have a good memory or else you will never find them again. Sorting things into similar sections can work, or you can put them in sections which reflect what you need for a particular activity, such as basing or painting. In my cupboard, I have a box for finished scenery, one for bought-but-not-worked-on-yet scenery and of course the GW army cases for my models, with those neat little army tags that let me pick the right box every time. Coloured tape or paint would work just as well. Also in here is an empty cardboard box I use for spray-painting so it doesn’t go everywhere. I also have a black satin sheet which I hate (ever tried sleeping on those things without sliding out of bed?) which I put underneath the box to catch any overspray from my black primer or varnish.


In finishing, just a few thoughts. I would have preferred to have had the table in front of the window for the light, but this was not practical due to the fact that there was not enough room for two people in that small space. If you can get a table in front of a window with plenty of light, you will save money on daylight lamps if nothing else!

In this room, I have carpeting. This is impractical for a few reasons, but there’s not much I can do about it as we are renting. I am considering getting a rug for it to save the carpet just in case we have a paint or superglue incident, but tiles are best for hard-wearing and the ability to scrape spills off.

So after babbling for so long about my new hobby space, I’m finally ready to get to work! Comments are, as always, appreciated, expected and … plleeaasse comment!

NB: Got Firefox working after deleteing all the cookies and flushing the caches! Yay! There doesn't seem to be any support for Google Chrome on this site, it thinks it's the Safari browser. Anyway, now it's sorted, thanks for the help from the people who lended a hand.

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