It’s been a while since I had to think through building a new miniature hobby station, but recently I moved and sold my old desk and chair. This allowed me to start from scratch and redesign the hobby work area. Like many wargamers, I spend a significant amount of time painting and assembling figures, terrain, and vehicles that I use in games. As such, making design choices that allowed me to effectively use my hobby station were really important. As such, when I went through this process for my new home I thought it would be an excellent time to share some of my thoughts about the process!
Where you do your tabletop miniature hobby is the single most important decision you have to make. One of the things I strongly recommend is to have a permanent workstation to do your hobby. That certainly is not possible for everyone, but once you determine where you are doing your hobby you can start to make decisions about the area itself.
Not everyone has the luxury of space to be able to leave a workstation permanently set up where they can work on their projects. If this is the case for you, here are a few questions you can ask yourself that will help you get the most out of your hobby time.
- How much time per week do you have for your miniature hobby time (assembly and painting primarily – not playing games)?
- How much space is available to store your hobby station when not in use?
- Where do you do your hobby currently?
- Is there good lighting?
- Do you have convienent access to electrical outlets?
- Do you need to store your hobby supplies securely (children, pets, etc)?
Mobile Workstation Solutions
Here are a couple of solutions that I have used in the past as either a mobile solution I’ve taken to a game store or that I can rapidly set up and tear down at home.
Our hobby supplies include various tools, fluids, and other supplies, a small toolbox can make a great hobby supply solution. Most toolboxes also have the ability to add a padlock to them keeping children or roommates out of your hobby supplies as well! Most small toolboxes also include an upper shelf and then a lower, larger bin, this allows you to separate out hobby tools and brushes from your paints, glues, and fluids.
We don’t often think of ourselves in the miniature hobby world as artists, but we just so happen to be that exact thing! Artists have been trying to solve the storage problem for years and looking at artist supply shops for storage solutions may yield an amazing idea you can use at home. Some of my favorites are plastic bins with their multiple modular sizes so that I can sort out different paints, tools, and maybe even stash a few bits in them.
Of course, if you have a bit more space like in a closet in a spare room, then you may be able to get away with a cart. Something like the Simply Tidy rolling cart pictured here gives you several tubs to put current projects, paints, and other materials and supplies. The best part is that you can roll the cart into a closet or storage area until the next time you are ready to the hobby. On top of that, depending on the solution that you choose you might be able to use the top of the cart as a sort of mobile workstation so that the whole cart becomes your hobby workstation.
Portable Hobby Station
There have been many iterations of the portable hobby or painting station over the years. From the Citadel painting station from Games-Workshop (oh how I wanted one of these back in the day!) to figure assembly-specific ones like the Hobby Trayz 12×9 Modeling Base.
These stations provide a great work area for your hobby and protect surface areas like your kitchen table or computer desk when you are working. For storage, you will want a dedicated shelf somewhere out of the way and close to where you do your painting if possible. One of the challenges that these present is that while they provide a nice workstation, everything is loose on top of it. You will need either another storage solution for all of your stuff that you have to take out and put away every time or leave it on the hobby station wherever you put it away.
Having a permanent place to work on projects is one of the best things you can do for your hobby experience. If you are lucky enough to have that kind of space in your home, then count yourself fortunate. So many people that are into miniature hobbies have to do so from a bedroom, kitchen table, or other temporary space.
When diving into setting up your hobby space there are some key questions to ask yourself. This is much like the process for temporary hobby space, but affects the decision of where to put your hobby area as well as what you will need to outfit it with:
- How much space do you have available for your workstation?
- Do you have additional storage space for your hobby nearby?
- Will the area also need to serve other functions?
- Is the workstation in a more private/secure space in the home or will guests/children/animals have access to it?
- Do you have access to electrical outlets and lighting?
- Is the workstation above carpeting or another surface?
The Hobby Desk
There are a plethora of options out there for you to work from with a hobby desk. The key here is a larger flat workspace that can accommodate the types of projects that you are working on. If you build a lot of gaming terrain or have projects that have longer dry times, a larger space may be in order (or at least someplace to stash projects as they dry/set up). If you are mostly painting figures and vehicles then a smaller workspace may be in order. At the very least, the workspace should have at least an 18-inch by 15-inch flat area for you to work from.
A Folding Table
A very popular and low-cost option is to use a folding table. A folding table is a bit flexible in that you should be able to move the table around if needed. Almost any folding table is also going to give you an abundance of surface area to work from.
There are some downsides to a folding table. First off you have no storage options built into a folding table. I personally like to have several nooks and shelves to stash things vertically, but keep them handy. Working on a folding table I find my supplies sprawl out and are rarely within arm’s reach. Next, I have found that many folding tables are a bit lighter in construction so it’s easier for them to get bumped and have that impact on what you are working on. Finally, a folding table doesn’t give me the feel of a long-term solution. This area is the one thing I will use for the most hours, over any figure, paintbrush, or hobby tool. For me, I like to give it a little more investment and consideration.
This ever-so-popular option is used by a lot of people, including myself (at least I used to). Particularly corner computer desks here are frequently used since you can dedicate part of the desk to the miniature hobby and the other part to the computer. Of course, I found when I was thrust into working from home, my miniature hobby area showed up on the webcam angle and did not portray the most professional look.
I really did like my computer desk hobby space for its versatility, it lasted over a decade before I decided to move on from it. If it had not been for career changes that facilitated working from home as a legit option, I would still be painting miniatures on that desk. That should say how good of an option this can be.
My new space for working on hobby projects is not only a hobby space but also houses my work from my home office. I wedged out a corner of the room for the office which stays very professional, but that left quite a bit of room for painting, assembly, and storage of supplies.
I started looking at computer desks. It was what I was familiar with. Most computer desks didn’t offer the storage and built-in shelving that I was looking for. Thinking outside of my normal box, I wondered what other artists, crafters, and dabblers in hobby projects used that were not miniature gamers. That’s when I stumbled into the hobby desk.
I selected the Ameriwood London Hobby Desk which I am reasonably happy with. It has a ton of built-in shelving, a very good amount of space for assembly, plenty of space to store all of my paints, and is available in a few colors to match the room decor.
Storage Above the Desk
I really like to take advantage of the space I have and that means taking advantage of vertical space. Floating shelves come in many shapes and sizes which can really take advantage of that space. Floating shelves above your hobby area give you a place to put products you don’t use all of the time, stash a project to dry, or a place to display some of your favorite pieces to keep you motivated.
I went with the Conboy 2 Piece Floating Shelf for my hobby space. This has basically two shelves and two nooks for storing things. In addition, it comes out from the wall far enough that I could even use it to mount a light , effectively creating undercabinet lighting! While I was hoping this would solve my lighting for painting, it does not. I am still working on a solution and will surely write an article in the future about lighting and miniature painting.
Another option I have seen people do is put cabinets over their hobby area. These can be really great choices as they give you storage with doors. They also tend to come out from the wall a bit more, thus giving you a better place to mount and install under cabinet lights.
From simple cabinets such as these Wayfair Basics Springboro Wall Storage Cabinets to more industrial shop cabinets, there are far too many options that you could pick. The ultimate choice here is more the amount of effort and vertical space you have to fill.
What Else to Consider?
There are so many variables that go into this. Lighting is a major concern (and one that I am currently solving for). Don’t forget about places to store and display finished projects. Maybe you also want to put some posters or art on the walls that you picked up. There are more options than I have time to cover, but hopefully, you have some new options.
Good luck when you build your amazing hobby desk!!!
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