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  • Cheap Figure Holders

    Some of you may have read the page on my own website or the post I made to the forum a while back about suitable ways to hold your figures while you're painting them. If you didn't, well you're in luck; I thought I would add a suitable article on what you're looking for, and where to find the pieces to the CMoN articles section.
    Essentially, there are two good ways, one cheap and some-what Do-It-Yourself, the other already assembled but slightly dearer. The former I started making myself a few years back when I found a place to get very cheap X-Acto copy handles. All the companies mentioned in the article will be listed at the end of the article so interested parties may get their own handles.

    First up is my favorite handle and its extremely cheap - the X-acto copy handle and a crocodile clip. Both can be obtained fairly easily and cheaply from the UK company CPC (US versions will be listed at the end of the article), who stock both crocodile clips, and X-Acto handle copies. Although you can buy the handles in a set of three (with blades and one of each the big 'red', the medium metal, and small metal handles) from Warehouse Direct for only £1 (the postage is slightly expensive however if you don't order much).

    The cheaper handles come with a plastic collet rather than the metal one in real X-acto handles, but so long as they have a hole down the middle (that is just the same size as the croc clips incidentally), you'll be fine. I find some figure are slightly too heavy for the plastic collets - which are no good for use as knives because the collet doesn't stand up to force, which is needed to cut, but is fine for holding the croc clip and figure, even a metal one, because you don't press hard on the figure while painting, unless you're really ham-fisted - in such cases, a suitable handle can be found in the real X-acto with the metal collet. The Games Workshop Ogre Kingdom models are too heavy for plastic collets for instance but can be held fine in the metal ones.

    This holder is easy to make, just get a crocodile clip, often available from science supply stores, online or you may have luck and already know where to get some. If you're still in school you're school might let you have a couple for free if you ask the science technician/teacher or you could arrange to buy some from them when they next order with their supplier. The crocodile clip is the most important piece, because a few of these will allow you (with a piece of wood with suitable holes drilled in it) to use one handle, but paint up many figures at a time.

    I made a small Medium Density Fibreboard (MDF, also sometimes referred to as Masonite in the US but it is slightly different) water-pot and croc clip holder so I could let my figures dry while I moved on with something else. Any piece of wood off-cut would work; I even made a small covered shelf out of some off-cut pine at one point so that I could paint up my Space Wolf army (covered it with a box made of cut acrylic, stuck with plastic cememnt so the dust couldn't get in).

    Because you aren't handling the figure, you're not likely to get any oils or greases from your fingers on the piece, making the paint stick better, and of course, give you a better finish.

    I converted an old swivel vice I had lying around (I tightened it too much and, well, it broke, so I abused it slightly) and made it into a holder suitable for painting freehand - my 'student' (i.e. my brother in law) uses it for painting eyes or when he starts to shake after a few hours of holding a figure as still as possible (we all do it, don't worry, its not just you). Using the swivel vice allows him to move the figure to a suitable position, re-tighten it and start painting! The vice was originally from Warehouse Direct.

    Mostly all figures will happily fit into the crocodile clip holder, although some figures can be too top-heavy and some Games Workshop figures, or those with suitable tabs can better be held in a machinist's vice.

    This allows you to clamp the tab and hold the figure firmly whilst painting. Both handles allow access to every part of the figure, so they are extremely handy.

    For those who want to use the small knife handle for something, consider putting in a small drill bit. I find sometimes it slips about, so adding in a small amount of epoxy glue will keep the bit tight, and give you a holder suitable for small parts - rather like a 'free' pin-vice, because the handle isn't suitable for cutting (if it has a plastic collet) and has no hole for use as a croc clip holder. You can see I've added a drill bit (also from Warehouse Direct, which do small boxes of 10 drill bits for £1 too, a great way of getting lots of tiny bits [they start at 1mm which is suitable for most small pieces] and go up from there. 3mm is about the biggest you'll probably ever need if you only paint 54mm or under. For some figures such as large Forgeworld pieces or those over 54mm larger bits are probably recommended, but they may be too heavy to be held in the plastic collet. If you routinely paint large figures, consider getting a real X-acto handle with a metal collet, or a pin-vice. CPC sell pin-vice much cheaper than Games Workshop does or try Wargames Foundry.

    Both of the large, 'red' and medium metal handles work fine for holding figures however, so out of one box of handles you'll get two suitable holders - remember, its just a few crocodile clips you need, not holders.

    You can also use a haemostat, which is suitable for holding pieces that have a flat area on them (like the tab on Games Workshop figures). I bought mine from CPC and Proops.

    Search Google (or try Froogle) for crocodile clips for the holder piece (they are on the far right in the first image and look like little serrated clips). Try Xacto or knife handle for the handles themselves, you ideally want either the one with the red bottom (mid first image) or the medium sized one (second in from far right in first image).

    Searching for it locally

    Machinist's vice or hand vice is what you want to search for for those two handles suitable for holding Games Workshop figures (or others with tabs, thought the croc clip type will hold them fine too, which are on the far left in the first picture, the metal one is slightly larger than the black one. The metal one was from CPC and the black one from Poops Brothers, both in the UK). Haemostats are available online from dental or medical suppliers and electrical suppliers, such as Radio Shack in the US also often carry the crocodile clips and haemostats for holding PCBs or solder work.

    UK Suppliers - sell machinist vice, pin vice. - sell pin vice, Xacto handle copies, croc clips and machinist vice. - sells Xacto handle copies, cheap superglue, drill bits, tools and cheap nails (suitable for pinning). Most things are about £1.

    US Suppliers - sell croc clips, Xacto handles (might be metal collets) and occasionally sell machinist vice and pin-vice.
    I will update this article when I find (or if people email me at with suitable places in other countries or if they have a supplier they have used or know about in their country) other suppliers. Also consider trying Ebay for Xacto products if you can't find a suitable handle locally, and most model stores these days (even places like Michaels or Hobby Lobby in the US) stock the real X-acto handles. Although they are dearer than the copies, you can and do have the advantage that you may use them for cutting as well as holding figures - something that may rate highly on a beginners starting out budget!

    Elliott - - personal website
    Comments 2 Comments
    1. Mr. Biggles's Avatar
      Mr. Biggles -
      As long as the figure is not too large, or too heavy, I CA them to the plastic tops of pop bottles or milk carton covers. It makes a handy little stand for them, as well as to handle them during painting. The tops are also useful for mixing small quantities of paint in.
    1. heinrichsteven's Avatar
      heinrichsteven -
      Thank you for some fantastic ideas. I really appreciate your tutorial.
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