A modular storage system for planes

It comes a time, in the life of a modeler, where one contemplates the vast array of built models and the massively larger stash hidden somewhere in the closet, or the garage.

While beautiful to look at, eventually all these built models tend to increase in numbers, and put a strain on the chronically limited shelving resources. So one starts to think “How do I store safely all these beautiful aircrafts, so they are protected and easily retrievable? Could I then make this storage contraption useful also for transporting them to and fro meetings and shows? How will I pay my next rent?”

Maybe the last question doesn’t arise alongside the previous ones, but it has in this case. Funny, because I pay a mortgage and I’m not renting so… but I digress. Back to storage.

So, requirements:

  1. Capability to store a large number of models in a limited space
  2. Ability to be easily transportable
  3. Ability to be stacked and/or use existing shelving systems
  4. Cheap

If we were to deal with wargaming miniatures, there are plenty of existing systems. For example, Citadel produces Pelican-style cases that are perfect for all the above requirements (except for #4), but they’re not suited for WWII propeller aircraft (yeah, that’s my use case). Many other companies produce similar cases and storage systems, but they all have some kind of pluckable foam inside that is perfect for figures but definitely not ok for delicate antennas and guns.

So I had to think a bit out of the box. Or, well, find a box.

For requirements #2 to #4, I’ve always found some Ikea product to be my go-to 🙂

Who doesn’t love the Kallax storage system? It’s inexpensive, sturdy(ish), comes in pretty colors, and can be built with a hex key, a hammer, and just a few drops of blood. Designed to fit in the Kallax shelves, one can find a number of compatible boxes, like the STRIKT – now discontinued –  or TJENA ones. I have a bunch of STRIKT boxes, so I used those, but this article applies equally to the TJENA ones.

So, what did I do?

  • First, I took the bottom of the box out and used it to measure and cut a few rectangles of foamcore. Each one of these will represent a “layer” for our storage system.
  • Then I arranged as many planes I could onto one of the layers. One one layer I was able to fit, with a bit of room, a Spitfire, a Bf 109, a Macchi 202, and a Reggiane 2000, all in 1:72 scale.
  • At this point I cut a bunch of 1/2″x3/4″x2″ pieces of balsa wood, glued them together in pairs and stuck two large head nails on the small sides.
  • Then I positioned them under the wingtips of each model, careful not to interfere with pitot tubes and antennas, and used a small rubber band to secure the model to the supports.
  • With the supports in place, I super glued them to the foam core base. This needs to be done individually for each model, as they all have a different configuration. In they have a particularly high landing gear, you might have to make the supports taller.

  • Once all models are safely tied down to their supports, measure the highest point that they reach.Make sure to accommodate for rotating propellers and folding antennas (this would work for tanks too!). Cut four pieces of 1/2″x3/4″ balsa wood with this measured length and super glue them vertically at the corners of the foam core. These will for the supports for the next layer.
  • Repeat this process until you reach the internal height of the STRIKT/TJENA box. It’s good to be better safe than sorry here and have a bit of extra space.
  • Measure then from the top layer to where the lid would hit and cut four more spacers so the top layer is locked in place when the lid is closed.

You should be able to store 12 to 20 models per box, fewer if they are larger ones, and stack as many boxes as you want either freestanding or in a KALLAX/EXPEDIT shelving set.

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