The hobby of miniatures wargames is filled with a wide variety of challenges. It is a complex and diverse hobby that on the surface includes the strategic challenges of the game and painting of the models themselves. As you dig into the modelling side of the hobby things branch out rapidly into various painting and modelling techniques, terrain vs. units, converting, sculpting, casting, etc. For the most part these various aspects of the hobby are covered pretty well across the internet. One aspect that isn’t as widely discussed but it equally important as the others is where to actually do all of these things!
That’s not to say this topic hasn’t been discussed at all. I’ve recently read the posts on Greggles Tabletop about his new paint rack and his new lamp (plus his compiled recommendations from others) and it got me thinking about my own hobby workspace. As a husband and father of two I have to balance my hobby needs against my family’s needs and a reasonable budget. I do most of my modelling and painting in my dining room:Those lights are dimmable LEDs that put out decent quality light when turned all the way up. I can see the TV from here and easily get to the fridge when my beer glass runneth dry, so it seems like prime real estate! I can’t just pick the most comfy spot in the house and pile my hobby stuff around it (well, the living room sectional is the most comfy, but difficult to work from.) So I’ve laid claim to one cabinet in that hutch on the right.
This cabinet is large enough to hold at least one of my current projects plus any materials and tools I need to work on it. For my modelling projects I usually use a wooden or plastic tray and an organizer box or two. The model(s) go in the tray with most of the materials and tools I’m using while the organizers hold tools and bits that I might need. For painting I built myself a tray that can hold all of the paints I’m using for a given model or unit along with my brushes, wet palette, and water can. The wet palette keeps the paints I’m using in good shape for days at a time so I don’t have to dispense and/or remix paint every time I start again. Here’s a shot of the paint station set up and the LED lights on full brightness. Having the paint or project tray stashed in the dining room cabinet like this keeps the clutter out of my family’s way and hidden from the sight of any visitors but still makes it easy for me to pull out my latest project and start working without a lot of setup. I find I can make a lot of progress by working for 20-30 minutes between getting ready for work and actually leaving each morning. Taking this moment for myself each morning also puts me in a better mood to start the day.
I also have a more permanent workstation in the basement. I use this space when I am airbrushing so that my family doesn’t have to deal with the noise of the compressor, and so that I don’t spray paint all over the dining table. I sometimes work on other modelling and painting down here but it’s not as well lit and in the winter it is colder. It is a heated basement but we keep the temperature lower down here and I’m not going to waste the fuel to heat it up for a 30-minute morning painting session. If I ever invest in a more expensive hobby organizers and lights then this is probably where it will go. With a better setup I might prefer working down here more often. Right now sitting here just reminds me that I need to finish that wall some day, so I usually just stay upstairs!
Here is a quick shot of the “light booth” I use when I want to get a nicer picture for finished models. Like most of my hobby stuff it has been cobbled together from odds and ends because I’m too cheap to buy better. The top light is a random SAD therapy light I picked up somewhere. It would actually be fairly expensive but I got it from someone who didn’t feel it helped them and didn’t have another use for it. The side lights are cheap clip on lamps from an old terrarium setup, one with a “daylight” incandescent bulb and the other with a soft-white CFL. Home Depot recently dropped some of their LED bulbs to less than $5 so I might try a pair of those out soon. The backdrop is an old shower curtain. When it was time to replace it I cut off the dingy sections and kept the clean parts for this.
So that’s how I fit my hobby into my house without driving the rest of my family nuts and while saving more of my money for the plastic addiction. To maximize on your limited hobby time you need a way to keep your current project easily accessible so that setup time does not become a barrier for you. A dedicated space is a great way to do this but a portable workspace that can be quickly stashed away also works well. There are a lot of nice accessories out there to help you set up a top notch workstation but if you can’t find the money and/or space for a setup like that you can get by just fine without it. With a little bit of thought you can find the space for your hobby in almost any home and budget.
Now you’ve seen how I squeeze the hobby into my life. What kind of workstation do you have set up? What are your tips for making the most of limited hobby time?