Building a Rotating Base for Painting

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If you’ve been into customizing any length of time, you start to get the point where off-the-shelf tools just don’t cover all your needs. When that happens, you start to create your own.

What I’m going to show you in this article is how to build your own sturdy little rotating figure stand—cheaply and without having to resort to a lot of effort or tools. These figure stands can be used for display, but more importantly they will allow you to mount a figure for priming, painting and sealing—without having to touch the figure while you’re at it! You’ll just spin the little disk as needed to get to whatever side you want to touch. Very hands-free.


Parts you will need

  • A wooden base. A small wooden plaque, that can be easily found at most hobby and craft stores, is ideal. It’s cheap (usually less than $1), not usually warped and has plenty of surface. Shape doesn’t really matter; round, square, whatever you like.
  • A round wooden disk, 1 ¾” inches (330.20mm) in diameter. Typically found for about $0.99 at most craft stores in packs of 3.
  • A metal shaft. You can use wood or plastic, but metal provides the least friction and best fit, I’ve found. The axles from cheap toy cars found at the dollar store or on some older Joe/COPRS, etc. vehicles are excellent, though you can also use a thin nail or tack if you don’t have (or don’t want to use) the others. Basically any straight, thin metal shaft will do.
  • 2 GI Joe figure stands (assumes RAH/new sculpt-style footpegs and not 25A style). If you use the type sold through Smalljoes, I HIGHLY recommend grinding off the corner pegs first; not necessary but it makes assembly easier.
  • Optional: a length (at least 2”) of SQUARE 3/16” (76.20mm) wooden dowel


Tools you will need

  • Ruler
  • Pencil
  • Drill (hand, electric, even a Dremel will do)
  • Drill bits (2); one the size of the shaft pin, one slightly larger. For this project the bits I used are 3/32” and 1/8”.
  • A small saw or some other means of cutting plastic figure stands


Optional Tools

  • Center punch or small nail
  • Metal snips or wire cutters
  • Small hammer
  • Glue
  • 3/16” drill bit (if for alternative foot peg installation) (not shown)


The Steps

Step I

Begin by finding the center of the base; it doesn’t have to be exact but try to get as close as possible; use your ruler to measure from the top and the side, drawing an intersecting line at the center. If you don’t feel like measuring it simply “eyeball” where you figure the center is and go from there. (Really, that’s how I did the disk. I can’t measure for beans!) Mark the center of the disk, either with intersecting lines or a pencil mark.


Step II

Use your center punch or nail (optional) to make a small dent at the center point on both the base and the disk.

Now, using the larger of the two bits, drill straight down through the center of the base (careful not to drill into the table like I tend to!) Change to the smaller bit, and drill a hole through the center of the wooden disk.

This is the fun part! Insert the shaft pin into the wooden disk until one end is flush with the top of the disk. This is where a small hammer can be used to tap it into place. If it’s a little loose, use some glue squeezed in around the head to secure it down. It should look like this when you’re done:


When inserting the post, try to trim it an 1/8 to 1/16 inch shorter then the depth of the base. Otherwise, you run the risk of marring your work surface by turning a sharp piece of metal around on it. This could also be solved by adding feet or a felt pad, but that simple snip would eliminate the threat.

Special Note

If by chance your shaft is like the one I used for this project, it’ll be a bit tougher than the usual toy axles; you’ll need a small hacksaw or Dremel with a cutting bit to cut through instead of snips. In that case after you insert the shaft into the base, flip it over and use your snips to make a dent into the shaft where it needs to be cut, then cut from there with the saw or Dremel.

Check to make sure the disk can turn easily; if not you might try wiggling the larger bit in the hole or using a slightly larger bit. Don’t worry if it’s slightly crooked; craft wood is often slightly warped and this will not cause you any problems in using your stand.

If all went well it should look like this:


Step III

Take your figure stands and measure each one out to half its length (about 2 marks past ¾”) and mark a line across it .


It helps to line them up like in the image below first. The end result is you want the two stands, when cut, to be the same size as a single stand, but it doesn’t have to be perfect. Using a small saw, cut along the line, sawing each stand in half.

Lay the stands on the disk with the cut side of each facing the other; check for fit.


Now remove one piece, apply glue to the underside, and press it in place. Repeat for the other. Once the glue dries, you’re done!


Alternative Step III

An alternative design for those who don’t want to use figure stands requires a bit more work (and isn’t guaranteed to be 100% effective) follows:

  1. Measure a straight line across the center of the disk, and mark it with a pencil.
  2. Measure in ½” from either side of the disk edge, along the line, and mark those spots (helps to use a center punch here.)
  3. Drill a 3/16” hole into the disk at each of these points.
  4. Insert (you may need to use a small hammer) a length of SQUARE 3/16” wooden dowel into each of the holes and trim to fit; not sure of how high to go so play adjust as needed. Again, be sure to use only SQUARE dowels; it’s essential to a tighter fit.
  5. Using the foot of an RAH figure (you can use new sculpt, but the harder plastic of RAH is better), push it down onto each peg, twisting and turning to round the peg off.

And that’s it—you’re done.

Step IV (optional)

Attaching rubber feet or a sheet of foam rubber to the bottom isn’t needed but can provide more traction against slipping or simply avoiding marring up desktop surfaces. Simply cut and glue (for foam rubber) or peel and apply rubber feet if you like.

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