Mounting a Model Wagon

The job’s not finished till the paperwork’s been done – or in the case of modelbuilding, “till the model’s on display”.


Displaying a model in an enclosed case/cabinet/whatever you choose, not only makes the model look better,it also helps protect the it from dust and general weather conditions, thereby preserving it for much longer. (For example: The ox-wagon that I built in 1986 still looks as though I completed it yesterday! The unprotected milk cart that I built in 2004, looks as though my grandfather built it – it is really covered in dust!)


This article explains how I displayed my model Studebaker Sprinkler Wagon.


Please bear two things in mind: First off, I decided that I wanted it to look as though it was standing on a dirt road. Secondly, I wanted the base to complement the wagon, so decided to paint that black.


Having the base wider than the model on all sides around makes it appear neither too cramped, nor making it look lost, inside an inappropriately-sized display case. This is however, subjective and one will have to decide on a case-by-case basis.

In this instance, I decided on 30mm.

After FIRST having had a custom size fish tank made (based on the measurements required for the model to display nicely as mentioned above), I cut a base from a piece of laminated wood shelving to match the outer dimensions (plus 1.5mm all around to allow for expansion) of the glass tank. Then I cut some strips that are 5mm wider than what the base is high, and made a frame around the base using glue and nails. I then cut 5x5mm strips for the inside, so that I could make a groove in which the tank can rest. (Making sure that the glass case would have some space to expand - as mentioned above). Once I had painted them black, I secured the strips in place, using glue and counter-sunk pins, which I would later smooth out in order to conceal them.

NOTE: the following steps can be avoided if you have a router, in which case you would simply router the groove for the glass case to slip into. Should you decide to use a router, however, then be sure to allow an extra 1.5mm all around the outside of the glass case to allow for expansion. (I have had a tight-fitting glass case crack in the past because it fitted too snugly). I find the steps below to be easier than using a router.

After everything had PROPERLY dried, I poured a layer of varnish (about 2mm thick) into this inner compartment and poured finely sifted beach sand over this. (Varnish is cheaper than wood glue, and some experimentation proved it to be easier to work with in this application). Using my finger, I cleaned up the surface of the wood strips to ensure that there was no varnish on it. Then I used a flat object to level the sand. 

I left this to dry for a week and then tipped it upside down so that the excess sand could drop off.

After ensuring that there was absolutely NO sand residue in the groove, I painted the outer wood strips with a few coats of black enamel paint. I let it dry for another week to ensure proper curing for the steps that lay ahead.

Next up, I positioned the wagon on the base and marked, then drilled some holes on either side of the wheels and 5mm apart.

On the under side of the base, I cut grooves joining the pairs of holes and hollwed the area out. 

I pulled the base slightly off the table top, and weighted the back corner to prevent toppling. Then I worked from the ground up to fasted the brass wires.

Once twisted securely, I pressed the wires down using a screwdriver tip.

And finally….

You will notice in the final photos that the sand did not dry in a very flat manner as anticipated. At first I thought this was a flop, but now I rather like it. It looks more natural. Just be aware that this might happen if you choose to use this method

The wagon wheels were then secured by brass wire going through the pairs of holes, one on either side of a spoke, and twisting the ends in the joining grooves beneath. (Acknowledgement and thanks to Bill Hudson from Oregon for having suggested this method of securing).

I hasten to add: using sand as I did in the pictures below, is only if you want a sand base. The sand can be replaced with any surface that you wish to have your model placed on. Just be sure that the surface you choose to use is level with the top of the 5x5mm strips, that it looks realistic, and is relevant to the model. 

A few examples of surfaces to choose from include: fake grass, bricks, mirror, coffee stirrers, and so on. You are only limited by your imagination).