Product review: Miniature Holder from PK-PRO

The PK-PRO Miniature Holder is an excellent tool for display pieces and character models.

Pk-Pro miniature holder

promotional image from PK-PRO

I’ve been working on collecting gadgets and tools to help me take my painting game to the next level. I saw one of these model holders online, and I instantly understood the premise because of the way I hold minis. I thought it looked like an expensive and maybe overly-fancy tool, but I was still interested. I resisted it for a long time, and then one day I was shopping and I bought it by accident…

I was looking at the webstore and thinking about ordering it, so I put one in the cart to calculate shipping costs. Usually there’s a final page to confirm your order before placing it, but after putting in my payment and shipping info it went right to a confirmation screen. At that point I figured I’d just keep it because it would probably be a hassle to return it. I’m certainly I’m glad I did.

What does the Miniature Holder do?

If you’re anything like me, you probably have a very specific physical stance when you’re painting. In my case it’s hunched over, head thrust forward ork-like, holding the mini in my left hand with my brush in my right. My hands are close together, and usually I touch my hands together while I work, almost cupping the model. I would think this much is fairly universal, as unnatural and unhealthy it is.
In my case, for as long as I can remember, I’ve always held a mini with my left index (or pointer) finger stabilizing the model. Usually, this means it’s resting on the head, upraised weapon, backpack or some other bit that sticks up around the top. It’s not a great habit because my finger oils and the friction of moving the model around inevitably wears out any paint there. So I have to repaint that bit at the end or just save it for last. I was always in awe of folks that could just pop the model on a cork or attach it to the base and hold it from the bottom, because when I tried that every little movement of my left hand would be amplified around the top of the model, messing with my accuracy for fine details. Does this sound like you? If so, read on… (actually, read on anyway because you might like this thing even if you currently hold a model just from the base).

How to use the Miniature Holder

How to hold a Pk-Pro miniature holder

Not me. Taken from promotional materials.

Since not everyone holds a model the way I do, let me explain what the PK-PRO Miniature Holder does in a nutshell. The most important design element here is the metal arm. It’s got just a bit of flex to it, and the simple-yet-clever construction allows the arm to rotate 360 degrees around the base so you can keep it out of your way as you work. The cute little plastic skull at the top is firm, but has a bit of give so it’s comfortable to grip. That’s where the soft pad of my finger naturally rests, and the detail carved into it makes it very slip-resistant.

Pk-Pro miniature holder assembly

promotional image from PK-PRO

The base is fairly heavy, made from something like porcelain, and there’s a tapered hole in the middle. It comes with a custom tapered cork insert to match, split about 3-4 of the way down, to secure your model. The taper means the harder you press the cork into the base, the tighter it grips. You can either put a base-slot in there if the model has one, or drill into the miniature’s foot and glue a pin in place to sandwich between the two halves of cork. I add a bit of Blu-Tack as well just to keep it from moving around, but in general the grip so so tight it feels very solid. I’ve never had a model fall out of it, anyway. Removing the model is as easy as a gentle push on the cork from below, popping it up and opening it to release the model.

I’ve also heard of people using the metal arm to rest their brush hand or fingers on to reduce shaky hands or trembling. The manufacturer himself suggests doing this. I’ve never tried it, though, so I can’t really speak to that method. Maybe if someone out there has they can send me some pictures to add?

Pros

The killer feature here is that it keeps the model clean from dirty fingers, which allows the paint to adhere and lay unmolested until you can give it a spray sealant. Any long-time modeler who holds a miniature like I do will immediately see this benefit. There are a number of other features that I enjoy, however.

  • The base is nice and heavy. I can just plop it down on my desk with no concern the model will fall over into the paint that I’ve just mixed on my palette. This used to happen to me fairly often, to be honest: Murphy’s law, I guess.
  • It protects the model from dropping by acting like a sort of roll cage. Further, if you don’t actually touch the model it’s harder to break off delicate bits. I actually busted fiddly bits off the Deathwatch Overkill Dark Angel miniature TWICE from simply handling it with my fingers. As Citadel and others make models with finer details, they become much more delicate in general.
  • This is maybe specific to me, but it puts the model on an actual physical pedestal, which puts it on a mental one as well. I feel a strong compulsion to finish the model that’s mounted on this thing. I can only have one mounted at a time. Seeing a miniature on there reminds me to concentrate on that project instead of getting carried away with what’s next. It’s another killer feature that’s not advertised anywhere.
  • Even if you don’t currently hold models with a finger on them, maybe you should consider it with this. A model cradled in that position is far more stable, which is excellent for painting fiddly details. If you have shaky hands at all, this will really help create stability and improve brush control.

Cons

There aren’t many. The most obvious downside is the price. For those of us in North America, it costs a lot to ship from Germany to here. As of writing this, the Miniature Holder costs just over $30 to buy and ship to where I live. That amount will vary as it’s a rough conversion from Euros, of course, but $30 is an awful lot to spend on something you might be able to make yourself if you’re handy.
The metal arm can feel be a bit fiddly to rotate sometimes. The porcelain base feels nice and solid, but the metal really likes to grip it. It’s a good thing when you’re painting, but on some models I feel like it gets in the way more than I’d like it to as I mess around finding the right position for it.
I wish it were just a few millimeters bigger, actually. They make a larger one, but that would be way too much, I think. On some models, particularly ones pointing a pistol or holding a sword above their head, the arm just barely passes over it. I guess this is unavoidable as well, so it’s hard to say it’s really a flaw. More like something to consider.
I wish it had come with additional corks, but that’s not really a downside per se. I could have tossed some into the order. I should be able to make a new cork if I ever need it, but frankly this one’s holding up pretty well after seeing quite a bit of use already. But still, I wish I had at least one backup just in case.

Conclusion

As an expensive tool, the PK-PRO Miniature Holder provides some great benefits to an avid painter with few drawbacks on balance. This isn’t something for the batch-painted Tactical Space Marine squad, it’s for one-off character models that you plan to invest some time and attention into. If you’re a serious painter looking to make the process a little easier or a mid-level painter ready to level up your game, you could do worse than picking one of these up.

Kickstarter update:

The folks who created this now have a 3rd version up on Kickstarter with some interesting features. It’s mostly the same, but it looks roomier so the bar is a bit further from the model. That could be a good thing for those models with bits popping out all over (looking at you, Eldar Harlequin). They have 3 different sizes now so it should be easier to find the right one. It’s also got a wood base instead of the porcelain one, so I’m guessing the bar rotates around with a bit less friction. Might not seem like a big deal, but I bet that’s nice. If you want one, they also have a version with a hand-grip handle. I don’t think I would use that, since I cup the base on my hand as is, but it’s a great option to have. Did I mention the price? It’s going for under $20 through the Kickstarter. Not bad!