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"Magnets for terrain Tiles" Topic

21 Posts

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565 hits since 14 Feb 2018
©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

CAPTAIN BEEFHEART14 Feb 2018 9:45 a.m. PST

I keep hearing about Rare-Earth Magnets and how powerful they are. I was thinking of inserting them in the corners of Styrofoam terrain tiles and then epoxying them in place.
I would want to make them flush to the edges and so counter-sinking them and affixing them with strong epoxy would seem the best way to go. Would the magnets rip themselves off of the foam later on, or am I over thinking this? No, I didn't get the magnets yet. Suggestions?

22ndFoot14 Feb 2018 9:49 a.m. PST

How would you align the polarity? I shouldn't bother if I were you.

Thomas O14 Feb 2018 10:33 a.m. PST

There is someone who makes a MDF or plywood type frame that you put Styrofoam into that does just that, but I can't think of who it is right now. They had a system that would line up the polarity. If I find out the company I'll repost.

Thomas O14 Feb 2018 10:36 a.m. PST

Found it! Sally 4th makes them.

Personal logo ColCampbell Supporting Member of TMP14 Feb 2018 10:41 a.m. PST

You better test your epoxy on a scrap piece of foam just to make sure it won't dissolve the foam.


Personal logo Extra Crispy Sponsoring Member of TMP14 Feb 2018 11:51 a.m. PST

There was a guy who made boards out of Gatorboard and he did just that. Part of keeping it all working was to slide the boards laterally to detach, not pull directly.

CAPTAIN BEEFHEART14 Feb 2018 12:00 p.m. PST

Many thanks to all.

Neal Smith14 Feb 2018 1:15 p.m. PST

4Ground does this with their mdf "bases" on the 28mm Jesserai industrial terrain.

JARROVIAN Supporting Member of TMP14 Feb 2018 1:56 p.m. PST

Magnet strength varies too. I think N52 are the strongest.

Yellow Admiral14 Feb 2018 2:57 p.m. PST

They're extremely strong. Even small ones are extremely hard to pull apart and will eventually rip themselves (or the metal they attach to) out of the foam. I have two recommendations:

  1. Put the magnet behind a barrier outside the foam; the much broader surface area covering the magnet will spread out the force against the foam and prevent the foam from tearing
  2. Have a magnet on one side stick to metal on the other side. If you try to stick magnet-to-magnet, they will be much harder to pull apart, much harder to align, and you are almost guaranteed to make a polarity mistake somewhere.
Both of these recommendations are incorporated into the Sally 4th tile frames:

Very smart, should be very durable.

- Ix

DyeHard14 Feb 2018 3:21 p.m. PST

I would suggest you do not need anything like a Rare-Earth Magnet for holding terrain together.

Look into magnetic building sets like this:


This avoids the need to secure a strong magnet into a soft material like foam. The plastic shapes will distribute the force over a much large volume, saving you the risk of the magnets pulling themselves out. Also most likely lower cost per edge you want to join.

If you do buy raw magnets, you do not really need them to come into contact to hold strongly. Consider lining all your terrain boards with paper or even card to provide something to space the magnets out and also provide a much larger area to distribute the force (and glue) over. A PVA glue is very best pick for Styrofoam, working time, mess, cost, and potential for attacking the foam makes epoxy a poor glue for this. A low temp hot melt glue would be a good one to secure the magnets into foam. See:
Then PVA for the paper around the edge

CAPTAIN BEEFHEART14 Feb 2018 5:20 p.m. PST

I was told cutting up beverage cans can be a good source of metal covers.

Yellow Admiral15 Feb 2018 11:53 a.m. PST

Cutting up beverage cans will be a lot of work, probably cause numerous cuts, and the end result won't be magnetic (they're aluminum these days). Foods and pet foods may still be canned in steel, but those are often textured (for strength) and quite tough to reshape.

Save yourself a lot of work and pain and shop for 90 metal reinforcements for drywall corners:

They're light, thin, easy to cut, often self-adhesive, and some are made of magnetically receptive materials (e.g. zinc-coated steel). It may be some work to find one that has all of those features at the same time and is also small enough and smooth enough. They are usually 2-3" wide to maximize protection, and textured to help adherence of spackling compounds, but there are lots of variations available.

- Ix

Yellow Admiral15 Feb 2018 12:21 p.m. PST

Just curious: are you trying to convert existing foam terrain panels? Or is this a new project?

Not trying to depart from the OP, but if you're not committed to using magnets with foam panels, there are probably other solutions which are easier to accomplish.

- Ix

CAPTAIN BEEFHEART15 Feb 2018 4:58 p.m. PST

New project. All ideas welcome. Just polling the TMC hive mind and stealing enlightenment….

I had a bad experience in cutting my own and just butting them together. The tiles came out great but as an ensemble grouping were a disaster

The fit problem is cured by buying tiles, the cut is perfect. Quick and simple non-invasive adhesion is the question. I've heard magnets were a good fix but got worried when I heard about the strength of the new kind
I'm looking for a tight, flush fit that won't bounce apart. Magnets and or magnets and metal plates seem good so far.

So far, a great deal of helpful advice here and elsewhere. Gratitude to all who have posted.

Yellow Admiral15 Feb 2018 10:01 p.m. PST

I got around the earthquake-by-belly-bump problem by using interlocking foam floor tiles with puzzle-piece edges:

They're light, durable, relatively cheap, can be carved into hill shapes, painted with latex, and terrained with caulking and ground foam. There are numerous threads about how to make these, some containing good photos of other people's work.

This site illustrates an alternative way to make them, by overlaying felt, which seems to hide the puzzle-piece edges pretty well. I'm tempted to try this myself…

- Ix

CAPTAIN BEEFHEART16 Feb 2018 1:53 p.m. PST

Too spngy but thanks-looking for city/town tiles

Yellow Admiral16 Feb 2018 5:21 p.m. PST

Will these have to abut countryside tiles, or lay on top of the other terrain, or be a cityscape-only table with no open country at all?

If you can use thin tiles, take a look at floor tiles. You might find some that will work, and they're cheap, durable, and precisely sized to fit together. Glue a steel washer and a magnet (of equal heights) under the 1/3 and 2/3 position of each edge (or as a middle layer between two tiles), so that no matter how you rotate the tiles, they stick together.

Whatever you do, some helpful info about aligning magnets:

Magnets have "north" and "south" poles, sometimes (rarely) colored red (north) and blue (south). You can use a regular compass to identify the ends; the needle will point at the south pole of the magnet and away from the north pole. Use paint (or a Sharpie on silver magnets) to color the pole red or blue so you don't forget, then you can always tell which way to orient the magnet before you glue it down. Red repels red, blue repels blue, red and blue attract.

- Ix

CAPTAIN BEEFHEART17 Feb 2018 4:49 a.m. PST

city only-28mm street scape-hence the need for good alignment. I will look into floor tiles.

DyeHard17 Feb 2018 10:58 a.m. PST

There are snap together tiles systems, that might work for you:






I made 2 foot by 2 foot squares for a 28mm Mordheim board with roads, paths, and canals. The base was plastic corrugated board with 2" foam on it. All rather light weight. No real problems with miss aligning them (except when placed on uneven card-tables). I would put down a sheet of felt clothe over table and then place squares on that. Doing it again, I might glue gripper feet or just some spots of sand on the underside, to help it grab a bit better. Smaller squares will tend to move about more. You could also just use some type of alignment pins sunk right into the foam

CAPTAIN BEEFHEART18 Feb 2018 7:16 a.m. PST

Wow!!! Many,many uses there.

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