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I've got several games that have all the pieces rattling around in the box, each set of pieces stored in its own Ziplock bag. But I'd really rather have my own custom inserts.

I looked into making vacum-formed inserts out of plastic, but construction of such a machine was too much work, and in my area there are no companies willing to make a "run" of a single formed piece.

So I thought of getting foam and cutting it to shape around all the bits, but I haven't found a good guide about how to measure the cuts, and what types of foam are better for this.

Any advice? I'm willing to accept "You're wrong! You have to be doing [something else] instead!"

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I prefer the zip-lock bags, actually. If you don't want to waste a full-sized sandwich bag for tiny bits, they're available in smaller sizes. Search for "bags" here: fairplaygames.com/games.asp –  Kristo Nov 26 '10 at 15:32
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Oh, I've got 4 different bag sizes. I think I got them all in Office Depot. That's not the problem. I'm a little OCD, for this, and I think it would look waaay cooler to have all the little bits in their own little spots in a game insert. Since I can't make a plastic one, I guess a foam one would have to do. (Then again, I'd still be forced to make some tuckboxes for cards, and component boxes for cubes and such.) –  scraimer Nov 29 '10 at 8:24
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5 Answers

up vote 8 down vote accepted

I'm not sure if this would work well for you, as you didn't mentioned exactly what type of things you're transporting, but I'll throw it out there as a posibility for when you need to transport larger items (eg, I have a wh40k scale titan that I built for a friend when the Armageddon rules came out)

  1. find a container of a suitable size for transporting the items
  2. get two heavy duty plastic bags, each larger than the container (can be lighter weight, but then it won't be as durable. The more in/out bits the item to be cushioned has protruding from it, the larger the bag you'll need.
  3. get enough spray foam from the hardware store to fill the container.
  4. find a couple of heavy twist ties
  5. tape a bag to the tube for the spray foam, leaving as much space as possible for the bag to expand. Do not fill the bag with air, only open it enough to get the tube on and secure the bag's opening.
  6. If using more than one can of spray foam, prepare the other bag, too.
  7. place the first bag into the box, and fill it part-way with foam, then set the item onto the bag, and fill the bag until it's takes up about half of the empty space in the box. (you may have to move the spray tube to the next can and/or just use a bag per can ... more bags means the foam will separate into more pieces)
  8. place the second bag on top, and close the lid as best you can, with the tube sticking out the side, and fill the bag with foam 'til it starts trying to come out the container. (note -- some spray foams continue to grow after spraying ... it's a good idea to pay attention to how it grows w/ the first bag, so you can be prepared)
  9. let cure

It works well for packing stuff once, but the foam sets up fairly hard, and so you sometimes have to break the foam when removing the item, which makes it less useful for repacking multiple times.

You might also be able to just place all of the items in the bottom of a shallow box, use a single bag of foam over it, then once cured, flip the whole thing over to have little recesses for each piece.

...

If the question was simply 'how do I keep the pieces from rattling together', I'd go with egg-crate foam; you place the pieces in the valleys of the foam, put another piece on top, then compress the whole thing together. For anything but stuff with really fine and/or delicate parts, it works great.

...

If that still isn't enough for you, and you really wanted to make one of those boards with various sized holes in it, then you'll need lots of free time, some sheets of foam (but not too rubbery ... it seems to attract hair and dirt), contact cement, a few sharp craft knives, and some free time.

For each tray, you'll need two pieces of foam -- one to hold the piece, and one as a 'bottom' to the tray. The bottom should be stiffer, but fairly thin, such as camping pad. The other one should be thicker, but 'softer' material, tall enough to sufficiently hold the piece laying down. You should be able to find this at fabric stores, as it's used for upholstering. You'll then want one of the thin but stiffer pieces as a lid to the whole thing.

You're only going to be cutting the pieces that are thicker and softer. For each hole, you'll want to cut it just under the size of the piece it's going to hold. How much smaller depends on how soft the material is. (the softer it is, the smaller you'll want the hole, basically, you want to wedge the piece in the hole and it to hold firmly if it's heavy such as metal figures; you want it less tight if it's lightweight with more delicate parts). Cut all the way through to the bottom.

Once you've got all of the holes cut in the sheet, use the contact cement to attach the cut piece of foam to one of the bottoms. Make sure to read the warnings on contact cement; they're not kidding when they say shut off the pilot lights in the house as it's highly flamable. I'd also recommend using a disposable brush (or a scrap of foam), as it's a pain to clean up after.

Once you're all done, you have a series of trays that you can stack together, and then put the lid on it, and transport. (although, it also helps to identify a container to set it all into first, and make them to fit the container for easier transport)

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That's AWESOME! Thanks! –  scraimer Dec 1 '10 at 18:21
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There are a couple of companies I can think of off the top of my head, Sabol Designs and Battle Foam who have foam trays where you can pluck out squares to fit the shape of models you need. Depending on how small the game pieces are, though, the squares may still be too big for you, and they're not exactly cheap either.

If you want to make your own, I believe that the trays mentioned above are made from polyethelyne sheets, but someone please correct me if I'm wrong.

Unless the models are fragile or expensive (Space Hulk comes to mind), I would stick with sandwich bags, it's just easier.

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If you're still interested in vacuum-forming, Make magazine (by O'Riley Press) had an article on how to make your own vacuum-former in issue 11. I followed their instructions and made one so I could quickly duplicate parts for a board game prototype I'm making.

An important note: You'll want to find a (local) source for sheets of .03" or .02" Styrene if you're going to do vacuum-forming.

Another route: I'm not sure how pricey the foam people are suggesting is. If it's fairly expensive, consider making your own custom holders with Crayola's Model Magic. It's a foamy clay-like substance that's lightweight, easy to sculpt, and hardens fairly quickly when exposed to air. I can easily imagine taking a hunk of it and modeling custom inserts for a game box.

Incidentally, the solution I chose when I had lots of bits rattling around in my copy of Terra Prime (which is a darn fun game, BTW), was to purchase a bunch of little snap-top craft boxes - like you'd store pins & needles, or buttons in - from a craft store. Each token has its own box, and each player piece color has its own box, along with the tokens and chips you're supposed to start with. Stuff still shifts around in the box, but not as much since it's all in larger boxes, and it all stays organized anyway. On top of that, setup is much faster since players already have their starting tokens in their piece box.

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The boxes sold at craft stores tend to be the same ones sold at sporting goods stores for holding fishing lures -- but the sportings goods stuff is seasonal so sometimes goes on sale at the end of the season. (I use a few larger ones for storing my WH40k bits while I'm assembling / painting.) –  Joe Dec 22 '10 at 13:46
    
+1. Craft store / tool shop boxes are the answer for me - flexible, cheap, always come with lots of compartments to store small things. Most of my Fantasy Flight games are dependant on them. –  Tynam Jan 21 '11 at 22:18
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What are you trying to store, chits or models/figurines What sizes?

For chits, we buy plastic trays (with lids) at a local gaming store. A tray is about 9x12" and has 15 compartments -- great for the gazillion different types of chits in Merchant of Venus, 7 Ages, etc.

For figurines, back in my D&D days I took open-cell foam (that's the squishy yellow kind), cut it to fit the box I was going to use, and then cut out little "nooks" sized for the figures in question.

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I'm storing chits/markers, usually from cardboard or plastic. –  scraimer Jul 13 '11 at 8:27
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How about using papier mâché? You could use those egg crates to get a very fine-textured pulp and build the insert from that, then cover the backside with paper strips. Lightweight, durable, cheap, and paints easily.

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