Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Bases are on Sale!!

I went ahead and signed up for an account on Etsy to sell my bases. I only have 5 sets right now but we'll see how it goes.
here is the link;

Friday, November 25, 2011

How to make a mold

I hope you all enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving! This year I gave thanks for Super Dungeon Explore! Of course I also gave thanks for my family, friends, and health etc., etc. :). But I was thankful for the extra vacation time that allowed me to dig into my miniatures hobby again. Since I've posted my how-to on making bases, I felt like I should complete the tutorial and post a how-to on making a mold of the bases I sculpted. The perfect opportunity came up with the full release of the Super Dungeon Explore game from Soda Pop Miniatures. The game uses 50mm bases for some of the bigger miniatures and it required me to sculpt a 50mm base to carry on the theme of the stone bases to all my SDE miniatures.

So I took to my sculpting tools and sculpted a 50mm base using the one provided with the game as a base for my base (yes you read that correctly). Nothing different or special. Used the same pattern as my current theme

Next I made a mold box from Legos. This is the best thing to use for mold boxes since you can make molds any size you need. Want to fit more pieces in the mold, just add more Legos!

The only problem I found with using Legos is that the silicone rubber would get into the cracks of the Lego blocks and would be rather cumbersome to clean after. so  to remedy the problem I started lining the inside of the boxes with blue painting tape and since then clean-up has been easier.

So next I take a piece Styrofoam(or plexiglass) and first glue my sculpting master to the Styrofoam using wood glue like Titebond II. The wood glue is strong enough to hold the master down in place and still makes it easy to remove the master afterwards without damaging it. Make sure the Syrofoam lays flat on a surface and has no indents in it. The master needs to lay as flat as possible so no RTV can get underneath it and can mold properly. Be sure to glue only the edges of the master so it can seal it as well. Next take your mold box and also glue it down to the Styrofoam. Be sure to glue the edges only since your aim is to seal it from allowing any silicone rubber to leak(as well as holding it down).  

Since my sculpted base is made from dental plaster, I then took some Future shine and brushed it on the master to seal it so it can release easier and not tear the silicone rubber in the process.

Looks nice and shiny huh? :). So I let the Future shine dry for about an hour before I do anything else. I am sure it does not take that long for Future floor shine to dry but I am a bit over-cautious. Next I take some Smooth-on Ease Release 200 and spray it on the mold box and wait 5 minutes for it to dry. Be sure to spray this in a well ventilated area or maybe even outdoors. The odor from this pretty strong and I am sure it's not safe to breathe the vapors from it.

Alright so here is a bit of info that I know on silicone rubber products. You have typically 2 types of rubber that are made from silicone. Tin-cure and Platinum-cure. Tin-cure is very versatile, cheaper, but as a side effect can tear easier and usually needs some type of release agent with casting resins since the heat from the chemical reaction can slowly damage the mold over time. Platinum-Cure is more fickle and will not cure if the master you are molding is made from latex or has sulfur in it which typically is most things made out of clay.  But it's strong point is that it can not tear easily, can even withstand being cast with low melt metals, and you can cast resin with it and not even use any release agent if you choose. Molds that are made from this rubber have a shelf life of at least 3 years. Platinum-Cure rubber is a lot more expensive but well worth the price you pay. I have made over 100 casts with resin and no release agent with  a platinum-cure mold I made and it still looks brand new.
For most of my hobby molding needs I use Oomoo 30 also from Smooth-on. It is a simple to use 1 to 1 ratio Tin-cure silicone rubber. Not my first choice but I will get the occasional 40% off coupon from Blick Art in the mail which makes it the perfect choice for making hobby molds for the price. The product I recommend for a long shelf life and over 100 casts is Mold Star 30 from Smooth-on. For the extra money you get a high quality platinum cure product that is easy to use.

So you have to do a little experimenting with how much silicone rubber you're going to need for your mold. The best thing to use for estimating the amount is rice. I tried using water before but some water droplets get left behind in the mold box and then reacts with the silicone rubber while it cures and can ruin your mold. Rice is dry and can get cleaned up easier and it gives you an almost exact measurement of what you'll need. So then I poured out the 2 rubbers into 2 separate cups making sure they line up pretty evenly. if you go a bit over it's OK, Tin-cure rubber is more forgiving than platinum cure. I then pour the blue rubber into the cup with the pink one. The blue rubber is less stiff and flows easier out of the cup. Be sure to wear gloves when using silicone rubbers. Rubber is hard to clean off your hands and will require the use of paint thinner to remove it completely(or a good 30 minute shower works too).

Next take an acrylic rod and mix the rubber together for 2 minutes. The rod helps by minimizing bubbles in your rubber and that is definitely what you want to avoid when making molds. Bubbles in your silicone rubber can prevent your master from molding properly and capturing every detail of the surface. Oomoo 30 has a light purple color when it is mixed together so take care to make sure it is well mixed or else you'll pour unmixed rubber into your mold and it won't cure. Let me tell you there has been many times when I ended up with uncured rubber in my molds and it always happens to be right on the master so basically the mold becomes unusable.  Sometimes I pour it into the other cup I used just to be sure it mixed all the way through.

Next take an old but clean brush and brush some mixed rubber onto the top of the master. This insures that the little details on the top surface will mold properly after you pour the rest of the rubber into the box.

To minimize the bubbles that can form while you pour the rubber into the mold box, I usually hold the cup about 18 inches from the mold box and slowly start to pour a small stream of rubber into one of the edges of the mold box. Try not to pour any on the master and just let the rubber flow over it till it's covered up completely. It will get messy, very messy, but once the rubber cures you can just peel the cured rubber from any surface it fell on. Now just let it stand untouched and uncovered for a minimum of 6 hours.

So this is what you it should look like in after 6 hours if you mixed and poured the rubber properly. You might need to trim some of the edges of the mold if some rubber got underneath your master during molding, but otherwise it is ready to use. Casting it in resin is a similar process. You also pour equal amounts of resin and then mix together and pour it into the mold.

Here is a comparison of the sculpted piece and it's duplicate cast in Smooth-cast 300 from Smooth-on. I was impressed since the rubber actually molded the surface detail properly without any visible defects. This ended up being one of the better molds I have made as far as quality in the detail that got molded.

Already getting mass produced for all the miniatures in the game.

And as you can see the SDE Angry Bear is excited about his new base he gets to stand on. His hands are up in excitement over it :P. The new base is more sturdy then the stock base and will survive all the handling from gaming with it. So now you should have all the tips you need to start sculpting and molding your own bases. If you have any questions always feel free to ask and as always... Keep on gaming! 

P.S. as promised here is the templates for the bases. It should print to a 8-1/2 x 11 sheet of paper if you save the full image size by right clicking the picture and opening it in a new tab.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Sculpting Bases: Part II

Just in time for labor day weekend the much anticipated part II to my sculpting bases tutorial. I am leaving out the mold making part because I felt it wasn't necessary since you can find lots of how to's about mold making on other websites. I am just going to touch on what I did to mass produce these bases and what materials I recommend.

So I am just going to jump in and explain this process. Overall the sculpting is very easy and quite enjoyable. The stone texture takes almost no time to sculpt once you outline the pattern.
The tools I used for this is(from left to right):
1. Razor saw. Makes clean lines quickly and accurately. Use one of the finer toothed blades.
2. Dental pick. These work well to make grooves in the plaster blank. Check ebay for great deals on dental tools. I got a set of 5 for 6 bucks plus shipping. They also come in handy when using green stuff.
3. Exacto Knife: I have yet to meet a fellow gamer/ hobbyist who doesn't own one. You can use some old blades for part of the sculpting, but once you start texturing the stone it's best you use a new blade. Just be careful when using the exacto knife. I have a few scars on my fingers from being too careless with Exacto knives.
4. Your plaster/base blank.

Alright before you begin, I recommend you work in an area with plenty of ventilation and wear a mask to help you from inhaling plaster dust. I have asthma so I actually wear a heavy duty painter's mask when I sculpt multiple bases. Sure it's cumbersome and you feel like Darth Vader but it keeps nasty chemicals from going into your lungs. To minimize some dust, I usually get my plaster blank wet beforehand and sculpt immediately after. It almost feels like the water softens it a bit and makes it easier to carve and reduces the dust a bit. I first started out using the razor saw and etched in the lines I drew. The razor saw is the best tool for this since it grips the plaster and very neatly carves it away.

You should be able to carve the lines easily and quickly with your razor saw especially if you got the base wet beforehand. Try not to go to deep because the razor saw can very easily cut through the base fast. If the base ends up getting cut through, don't throw it out. You can still glue it back on with super glue and use it as normal to sculpt.

You also want to etch the lines on the edges of the base to give the base more detail. Again try not to cut to deep with the razor saw. You want it just enough to indicate the edge of the stone tiles.

Alright the next part you are going to use the point of your Exacto knife to further sculpt the grooves. Here you can use an old blade to do this. But be sure to replace it later on with a new blade.

So basically you take your knife and carve the groove lines a bit deeper to give the stone tiles the impression of having depth.

This photo shows how you should use your knife to carve the stone tiles. I find it really carves better this way and gives you more control.

Next take your dental pick and go back through all the lines you just scraped with the Exacto knife.

I know this step seems pointless but what I actually accomplish in this step is I widen the groove lines just a bit more. The dental pick I have is a bit thicker than the pointy end of my Exacto so when I scrape along the grooves, the pick actually widens the grooves more evenly so you can see the individual stones a bit better.

Well it's starting to take shape now. You can actually stop here and use this pattern as a ceramic type tile base. The only addition you would need would be a few bevel marks in between each tile to give it a more machined tile look. Which that actually introduces the next step.

Here is where you'll need your new blade. Carefully use your Exacto to bevel the edges of each individual tile along the groove lines. I was a bit careless since I was rushing to get the sculpting done.

Next you'll take your Exacto knife and randomly carve out some grooves into the tile surface. It's better to start with just slightly carving out some grooves on the surface and carefully dig in a bit more as you go along. You'll start to get lots of plaster dust on the surface of the base(and your work table, clothes, shoes, carpet, etc etc.) so be sure to take breaks and rinse the base every once in awhile and then start sculpting again. 90% of my finger injuries have occurred while doing this step so again be careful and always be aware of what you are doing.

To finish off be sure to cut some grooves on the edges of the tile. So that is pretty much it. Now you just repeat the same pattern on all the other tiles. You can see I went a bit deep on the grooves but it does still give the appearance of stone. This texture works better for a dungeon theme base, whereas less grooves works for more of a road, tavern, or more civilized theme.

Depending on what you want to do, you can add some more detail by taking your dental pick and scratching some cracks into some of the tiles. I've even broke some of the bases into pieces and glued it to a thin piece of round plastic card the same size of the base with some tiles removed and the holes filled with basing sand like the photo below:

The possibilities are endless on what you can do just with this type of base. The next step is to then take all the bases you made and mold them for mass production. I'll just briefly go over this process.
You basically want to form a "mold box" that can be used to mold your bases. I use a box made from Lego blocks with blue painter's tape wrapped around the inside of the box. I then use wood glue and glue the Lego box to a piece of plexiglass. Then I arrange all my bases in the box and glue them down with wood glue. I then seal the bases with Pledge FutureShine and then I wait about 24hrs. I mix some RTV silicone and pour it into the mold box and within about 12 hours I have a mold good for mass production. I've used many RTV silicone products but the best and easiest one to use is Mold Star 30 from Smooth-on. It is a 1:1 silicone that doesn't require any fancy equipment to use. Just mix and pour. Very easy for beginners and available from Just be cautious when using those chemicals and always wear gloves. Silicone is hard to clean and usually requires turpentine to clean it off completely.

So there you have it folks. That is pretty much all I do to make all those wonderful little bases. If you have any questions let me know. I will post the stone pattern in my next blog post if you would like it for reference. I also occasionally sell resin cast of these bases. I only have them in 30mm, 40mm, and 50mm sizes right now and are made to fit the fancy bases used by the game Warmachine. But if you are interested let me know and I can setup a sale through Ebay or Paypal.
Thanks for your patience and sorry part 2 took so long.
Until next time
Keep on gaming!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Sculpting Part II is coming soon.......

I know you've all been waiting for it and it is coming I promise. In the meantime enjoy a photo of some recent work I started up again. It's my eldar army. I've had this army for years and invested a bit of money on the bases. But it's coming along.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Sculpting Bases: Part I

Well after a few months of a hiatus I am back and writing up a tutorial for sculpting bases. I've been asked many times how I sculpted them so I decided to stop being a snob and show you ;).

First of all let me advise you. The method I am going to show you is a reduced cost but yet effective way to do this. You're going to spend a few hours and money doing this and you will need to know how to work with hazardous chemicals at a certain point. So if you feel this is too much then you are better off buying from great sellers like

OK let's get started. You will first need the following tools to make your sculpting blanks. Alternatively if you know someone with a lazer cutter they can cut more precise 30mm, 40mm and 50mm round base blanks and then you can mold them(which is what I did) but like I said this is a more cost effective method.

So let me list off the materials(from left to right):
1. Circle template: you can use a template or make one out of white sheet styrene and a circle cutter. Use .30" or .40" for easier cutting.

2. Basic Sculpting tool: I got mine from Games Workshop. Privateer Press has the same one.

3. Bases: more for checking accuracy so it's not required if you're a math wiz and can convert millimeters to inches.

4. Sculpy or Fimo: I used Fimo for this exercise. Alternatively Green Stuff would work also since it cures and can act like a mold.

5. Roller: The most precise one is the pasta clay roller machine since it provides consistency. But if you don't have a problem sanding your blanks after, then use this.

6. Dental plaster: for casting blanks. Not pictured but more on this later :)

First you roll out your Fimo or green stuff to a thickness of about a 3mm thickness or .12 inches. If you use a surface like plexiglass you can easily flip the Fimo around and roll the opposite side without damaging the front. Another reason why I love Fimo
Next place the circle template with the correct diameter that you want on top of the Fimo and use your sculpting tool to cut and remove the Fimo from the inside diameter of the template.

With the the template still on the clay, take the blunt side of your sculpting tool(see photos above so you know what I am talking about) and wet the end of the tool with water and smooth the inside edges of the clay so you can have the most precise circle you can get. Just keep scraping around in circles till it's smooth and perfectly even. If the clay starts to tear or break, you can always add more Fimo and smooth it out.

After all that, this is what you end up with. This is basically going to be your mold for your sculpting blanks. The next thing you do is pour some plaster into your "mold" to cast your blank. Wait about 5 -10 minutes after you notice the plaster starting to dry at the top and use the blunt end of a knife to scrape and smooth out the top surface of your cast. Don't worry about the plaster leaking out. If you rolled and flatten the Fimo with the rolling pin, it should hold the plaster with no problems. Now lets chat about plaster. I've had tremendous success with Merlin's Magic dental plaster, and I should for the money I spent on it :). But a good alternative is Hydrostone. It is strong but easy to sculpt with and cheaper and easily available. Just Google it for more info. Don't use Hydrocal or that stuff you find at model train shops. It's no good and will only make you angry ;). This is probably the most trial and error part of this process.

Now here's the kicker. With uncured Fimo, you will only be able to use it once to cast with plaster. To make more blanks you'll need to go through the process again and you will risk losing consistency with your blanks. I recommend you sculpt and cast your different size blanks and then sand them to consistency with each other and then use RTV silicone to mold them. Smooth-on products makes a good and relatively inexpensive 1:1 RTV silicone named Oomoo 30. Easy to use and cures in 6 hours.

Did I mention this was an investment?

After all that, this basically what you are going for. A nice blank round cast of your base. So now comes the sculpting part.

Since your blank will be relatively smooth, you can actually take a pen and draw your sculpting lines directly on the surface. To get that nice consistency within all your bases, I recommend using a template made on a CAD program. You can then use transfer paper and copy your pattern on to your blanks. Since I am so nice I will provide the template I used at the end of this article. So I hope I gave enough information to get you started. So hopefully within the next few days I can get the sculpting portion posted.

Like always, Keep on gaming!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

First Super Dungeon Explore mini rolls out

Well after a slow start thanks in part to the cold snap we've been having last month, I have finally completely finished one super dungeon explore mini. We finally got some 60 degree weather here in good ol' ATL that allowed me to spray prime all my super dungeon explore miniatures in one afternoon while my toddler was napping. I used a wide variety of paints for this mostly Reaper Master Series, GW paints, and Vallejo Game Color paints. The blue-green color is actually a custom mixed color I mixed from a base of Jade Green and then added some off-white and blue-green color to it till I ended up with an Aqua-fresh(as I call it) color. I mixed up to batches, one base color, and then a highlight color.
So how do you like the base? Yes this was my ice-looking base from my first post and as you can see now, it looks more like a dungeon stone floor. I had thought about selling them but I really didn't seem to get much interest in them. Oh well, That's life ;).
Keep looking here for the next batch of heroes coming next week hopefully....

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Miniature pinning in a few easy steps

Today I want to show you a simple technique I learned to properly drill and pin a miniature. Pinning is more of an advance modeling technique used to properly fit and glue two pieces of a miniature together. This is usually a more preferred technique when you have two pieces that are flat on the ends like this Kobold Gouger from Soda Pop Miniatures.

So I will be showing you how I pin the tail on the Kobold so it stays on and survives the wear and tear of gaming. You will need the following tools for this project:

1. Pin Vice- Basically it is a hand operated drill. This allows for precise drilling without ruining any detail. A Dremel also works but I don't recommend it for small pieces like the ones I am working with unless you want a new hole through your finger ;).
2. Drill Bit- In the photo it is already attached to the pin vice. Bit sizes usually come in millimeters or inches. Miniature use drill bits range from .50mm to 1.90mm or 1/32in. to 1/8in. I prefer to use a bigger drill bit if I feel the piece can handle it without any damage. In my opinion it produces a better join.
3. Brass Wire- Used to join both pieces. Comes in all sizes as well. Match your wire to the drill bit you are using.
4. Premo modeling clay- This is what I used for this project. Sculpy or something similar works as well. You want to use a non-drying clay that can easily be cleaned up and not leave any residue behind.
5. Super glue(not shown)- Almost a given for working with pewter miniatures. I use Gorilla brand super glue. Of course you can use whatever brand you prefer.

So you start by drilling a hole in the smaller piece that will be attached to the bigger piece. In this example I drilled out the Kobold mini's tail. You want to to drill it pretty deep but take care not to drill through the piece.

After you finish drilling, do a dry fit on the piece to make sure they fit together properly and are the correct pieces. Believe me, I have had my share of wrongfully pinned and glued miniatures in my day. So after you've done a dry fit twice, grab a small bit of the Premo clay and apply it to the piece you are going to drill next. In the photo you notice I placed it on the Kobold miniature where the tail is going to be pinned.

Now carefully join both pieces and here is where it gets tricky. You have to try and be as precise as you can joining both pieces as they are meant to be fitted or you will have a mis-aligned piece. If the clay is too thick use a smaller amount. You want to use just enough to stick both pieces together.

Now I carefully remove the tail from the Kobold and end up with a blob of clay precisely where I have to drill my next hole. You might have to give it a few attempts to get something similar to the photo above. But if it is not working, try drilling the hole a little deeper on the smaller piece and that should give you better results.

You can now take your pin vice and drill your next hole on the miniature. At this point, I just went ahead and drilled enough to get me started and then cleaned off the rest of the clay and continued drilling on a clean surface till I felt it was deep enough. Of course how deep your hole will be depends on the miniature's anatomy. Luckily the Kobold is a solid piece so I can drill it without worrying about over doing it.

Next you take your brass wire and glue it to one of the pieces. It doesn't really matter which piece you glue the brass wire to but I prefer to glue it to the bigger piece. This is just my preference since I've had the smaller pieces take flight when I cut the wire and then spend about 20 minutes searching the carpet for it. I usually cut the wire a bit longer than necessary and either drill the smaller piece a bit more or sand the wire down till I have a perfect join.

All that's left is to do is to pour a bit of glue on one end and join both pieces together. You should be left with an almost seamless join depending on your miniature. You may have to go back and fill the seam with green putty. Judging from the photos it looks like that's what I'll have to do with my Kobold.

So hopefully I was able to show you a helpful technique to use next time you need to pin your miniatures. I am sure I had seen this technique explained somewhere else on the net before but since I couldn't find it I thought I would write up a tutorial explaining it.
Any questions let me know.
Keep on gaming!