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An Introduction ~ Part 1

It came from the frozen northern Chaos wastes… Canada, that is. Welcome to this first in a long line of Text-&-Picture-Walls. (I tend to ramble sometimes, in a good way, with lots of nice photos.) Welcome to my muse, my passion, my obsession… my insanity. The Dark Gods whisper to me from the Warp, and I am compelled to obey. They let me see so many things I want to make real, but I only have one mind, two hands, and so many hours. Oh well, no rest for the wicked, no sleep for the weary… the whispers, the voices in my head, they won’t let me…

I’ve been gaming and playing Warhammer 40,000 on-and-off for over 20 years; the bulk of it, I attempted to collect and paint a Chaos army – Black Legion, more specifically. I always collected a modest force, but it was never as complete or elaborate as I wanted. And so, as it happens to many of us, life distracts us from our addictive little plastic soldiers, and they get tucked away. But for most, that really enjoy the hobby, we always come back. In early 2011 I dusted off my bits boxes, cases of miniatures, supplies, and took stock. I had some solid units that could use some polish to get started with, and a few simple scratch-build projects that never got done. As good a start as any.

I chose to do a cold-centric theme throughout the army; Most accent colours are in neutral or cool colours, and I extended the concept to the blue-grey highlights I use for the Black.

Not all bad guys wear black, but the Legion make a point of it; here's a small block of the army with highlights done, ready for some weathering.

time I wanted it to be different; I wanted to really create the unique, personal, and elaborate army that I could see in my mind when I was fifteen, and flipping the Realms of Chaos books. Only in recent kits has GW started to release what I would consider ‘proper’ Chaos Vechile kits; Love or hate the new Daemon Engines, they definitely have a good Chaos style/feel to them. Before this round of kits, Chaos got an extra sprew or two thrown into the box, and that was a major defining look for the faction. Just adding spikes does not a Chaos army make! I do some modest kit-bashing and converting on Troops and HQ to keep the army feeling unique; I like the rank-and-file models to each have a bit of flavor, but nothing too elaborate, yet. Now the vehicles, they offer such a wonderful large canvas to work with. One that has been neglected for far too long.

The idea was simple enough, just take the feel and look of Chaos used on the 'proper' Chaos Troops miniatures and illustrated in the books, and run with it. Read: Lots of banding/trimming, rivets, arrows, points, and layering... lots of layering. I had a general idea of where I wanted the look of the army to go, but now I needed more of a theme. I found direction in the movie Apocalypse Now from the The 1st of the 9th Air Cavalry. In the movie, they are a… ‘self-motivated’ unit that bombs around Vietnam in helicopters looking for good places to surf between (and during) the fighting. During aggressive unexpected assaults, they terrorizing the enemy by playing Wagner (Ride of the Valkyries) over loud speakers attached to the helicopters. Switch helicopters for some VTL vehicles and loud speakers for Dirge Casters and the start of my theme was forming; The 1st of the 9th Black Crusade – Heavy Armoured Cavalry. ('Heavy' so I had added excuse to really armour the vehicles) At the time, fliers were still off in the distance; I knew I wanted some for show at least, for the theme, but formal rules didn’t even exist. So, I choose to focus on a mechanized army to build a core, and then consider some kind of flying transport in the future. In Warhammer 40,000 it’s the feet on the ground that gets things done, after all.

So, I went about making my army look Chaos, without adding any spikes. I should also mention I really like working with Rare Earth (Neodymium) Magnets. Sooo useful!

This Rhino and Predator were the first serious Chaos creations I put together with an eye for the look I was going for. When they were done, I knew I was on to something.

One of my favorite materials is styrene plastic. If you’re trying to build something mechanical and angular, just put your mind to it and you can build it in plastic. Take it far enough and you can build actual working mechanics in nothing but styrene, if you wanted to. As a general tip about learning how to build in styrene, I suggest looking up general scratch building techniques. There are many tabletop gamers who are doing amazing things, but there is much more experience out there if you broaden your search. Military modellers have been scratch building models of exceptional detail for many decades; I just ignore the subject and absorb the technique.

My preferred painting method: Paint the harder stuff messy and quick to get it done looking the way I want. Then go in to carefully clean up the mess. Rinse-and-repeat until finished.

I put a lot of effort into the scratch-build, but these are playing miniatures, I choose to keep the paint job more straight forward and attainable. I let the building do the real talking.

Base colours + Lots of washing and glazing + Simple (but clean) 4-step layered highlighting + A bit of strategically placed blending + Some straightforward sponged chipping + A dusting with weathering powder = Now that's Black Legion without loosing my mind painting it.

By late 2011 I had some good progress on the core I was bringing together, and I figured I’d start showing off some of my work. I started a modest thread showing a few of my builds, and blathering about what I do and how I do it. Little did I know I was already too far down the Dark Path to ever find my way back… wanting to reproduce things, I started to work with RTV rubber making moulds for resin casting. Two things quickly happened: 1) I learned that I am quite good at making complex resin casting moulds. 2) I'm totally hooked to the process and really enjoy doing it! Now, as soon as I could actually replicate my work, that opened another door altogether...

Most of what you see here was just the start, stay tuned for Part 2: I'll show where this has all has lead, and talk about where it's going. For now, thanks for looking, thanks for reading, much more to come...

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An Introduction ~ Part 2

Ok then, where was I? Oh yes, the mysterious dark art of resin casting and how it has forever corrupted my soul... in a good way!

Now, I like scratch building, a lot. It's great to take an idea, design a flat template, and then turn that template into a three dimensional object. Problem is, scratch building is very labour intensive when you're as particular as I am. Larger things like vehicles may justify a one-off build that will take quite a bit of labour; they're large and not as prolific as troops, so why not? But, when you start getting down to doing smaller objects across an entire army, the idea of building say, six reasonably identical Havoc Launchers, becomes daunting. So I figured it may be a good idea to learn how to make some resin casting moulds...

I've always hated the Havoc Launchers provided on the Chaos vehicle accessories sprew. This is what I think a Havoc Launcher should look like.

I originally created my first replacement Havoc Launcher as a single solid object. It was one of my first moulds, so I was still experimenting. That early prototype worked, but it came with some limitations and drawbacks. If you resin cast, you quickly learn that your biggest enemy is bubbles. So, solid objects with no 'hidden sides' give you no place to hide bubbles. You can never get rid of all of the bubbles all of the time, but you can get rid of most of them. Also, if you cast an item correctly you can actually hide the rest. That is my constant goal - avoid or destroy all (most) bubbles. This kit is a perfect example; I've designed the moulds to intentionally cast the parts with the detail side down (As I try to do with all my moulds, when possible), so if any bubbles do form, they rise to the back/bottom of the part during curing, and will be hidden by the assemble of the kit. It's not genius or witchcraft, but I think it's clever. It doesn't work every time, but anything that saves a few casts from the reject bin is a good design philosophy.

With some logic, careful consideration, trial-and-error, and just a bit of luck here-and-there I worked out most of the kinks for making more complex resin casting moulds. It's one of those things that anyone can do, but it takes a certain knack to do it well. I've still got lots to learn, and I want to invest in more studio equipment so that I can start doing other casting processes. Currently I only use Pressure Casting (50+ PSI) for bubble eradication, but I also want to start doing Vacuum Casting for when pressure isn't the best solution, and that will require a proper Vacuum Chamber. Hopefully, all in due time.

I learned a lot making this little kit, but I wasn't sure if it was going to translate into larger items. Time to move up to making something... bigger...

I had this Land Raider kit calling to me, compelling me to make it Chaos, so who was I to argue? In these photos you can also see the Havoc Launcher prototype just before casting.

Did I mention it was a larger project? This is a picture of a mould, as large as the Land Raider itself, for just one (rather large) part in the final kit.

One thing I quickly learned making RTV (Room Temperature Vulcanizing) rubber moulds: Bulk matters. It takes some extra rubber, but in for a penny, in for a pound, I say. Making the walls of the mould thick ensures that the part casts without warping. Adding lots of the pictured locking-pins to hold the mould together is also key; A well made 2-part split mould like this locks together perfectly every time, minimizing mould lines and all but removing any mould slipping. Again, this mould cures the part face-down, so bubbles rise to the hidden back side. I put the same thought and process into all my moulds.

Designation: Loricatus Pattern Mk.I Heavy Land Raider

I think the investment in time and materials is worth it when you can make something like this, and completely transform the original Land Raider into a rolling icon of Chaos. (Look ma'! No spikes!) Ok, so clearly my ideas on making larger moulds were translating well to the larger objects. *In his best Montgomery Burns voice* Excellent! But there was still another challenge that I was trying to deal with at the same time. Enter the Proditor Pattern Mk.II Rhino Trim kit for demonstration.

This build was actually the first time I used one of my own resin kits to trim a Rhino. Up to this point they had all been scratch builds made of styrene and glued to the model as I built.

With the Land Raider I was worried about how large the parts are/were, with my Chaos Rhino Trim kits it was how small/thin they are/were. On the surface it seems straight forward to cast these trim pieces; they are nice flat-backed parts, after all. But, when you consider that they are only 0.8mm tall not including the rivets (I use two layers of 0.4mm sheet styrene for my trim/banding details) it makes the parts very long, thin, and delicate. How to get the resin into the moulds became a real issue because of this. After some research and a few practice moulds I adopted and refined a method of using a syringe to forcibly inject resin into the moulds. Without the added pressure to force the resin into the mould, I don't think I would be able to make these in my modest studio.

Proditor Pattern Light Armour Trim Kits - Left: Mk.II (Pictured here) Right: Mk.I (Pictured in Part 1)

So, even though these trim kits don't use that much resin to produce, they make up for it in the technical challenges inherent in their design. With what I learned here, combined with what I had learned from my other early projects, I covered most of the major technical issues I might run into for any of my current design plans. I was starting to feel confident enough to do something even more elaborate.

Started before I learned resin casting, I glued the scratch-built styrene directly onto the model as a scaffold to construct on, so I was never able to take it off to make moulds of it.

Unfortunately, all of my building has stopped my painting in its tracks. This Loricatus Pattern Mk.II Predator hasn't come any further than what's pictured here. I've finally started to get my studio back in some level of order and my painting area is active again. This beast should see some progress soon, along with several other monsters hiding in the shadows.

Even though I couldn't make a cast of these parts I really liked the design; with some further inspiration and some conversations with fellow gamers and tank-heads, I had a few other changes I wanted to make.

Naturally, now everything I build has casting in mind from that start, unless it uses parts that are protected in some way. As long as I make every part myself, (and don't build directly on or with any GW pieces) I'm free to replicate anything I build. Since I couldn't actually use this build for a kit, I was forced to make another from scratch.

More on that in Part 3...
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An Introduction ~ Part 3

So this time, I built the Predator kit with resin casting in mind...

This time I built everything 'loose' - able to come free from the model. Not being able to glue to parts down to the model for support came with its own challenges, to say the least.

I took the opportunity to tweak the design and incorporate elements I used in the Land Raider, designing them to look cohesive-but-unique when together. I also completely changed the shape of the turret by extending the slope of the original turret down. In my opinion, this turret looks like it is designed to deflect incoming fire much better than the original turret shape. Beyond those two major changes the overall design stayed very true to the MK.II Pattern.

Originally I had use the part in the GW Predator kit to make the sponson weapon link, but if I wanted to make a complete kit I needed to design my own solution.

I'm very pleased with how it turned out. It's a post with a 'cap' that has a proper seat for the optics bit. It's designed to work with two square 1/8"x1/8"x1/16" magnets, letting you easily swap between Las'Cannon or Heavy Bolter. Square magnets also let the optics turn with the weapon. It's a little thing, but hey. Normally I work in metric, with metric tools, but Neodymium (Rare Earth) Magnets are the one exception. The selection of sizes in Imperial is just so vast; I can't find the same in metric.

Designation: Loricatus Pattern Mk.III Heavy Predator - The culmination of everything I've learned so far about casting, manifest in resin for the first time. I do believe I've got the hang of this!

So this brings me to the end of the Dark Path that lead me to this point. My selection is modest so far, but everything seen cast in resin through the course of this thread is/will be in production, and available from my shop The Dark Works, if anyone is interested. I'll also add to this thread with some tutorials on what I learned and some of my techniques over the coming weeks and months. I've been itching to paint lately, so expect a painting article or two sooner-or-later, but for now it's all about the current builds and expanding the line of kits I have to offer. Speaking of which... (What, you though it was over? Never! Submit to the will of the Dark Gods... *Subtle starts speaking in strange tongues* ... *Cough* Err... where was I?)

In case you thought I only did scratch-build, here's a Chaos Decimator that's on my workbench. Naturally I took the time to magnetize the arms for easy weapon swapping.

For the most part, the Decimator will be stock. It's just such a hardcore miniature, it really doesn't need much modification if you don't want to invest the effort. I do plan on altering the weapons a bit; Improving the Storm Lasers, Conversion Beamer, and Butcher Cannons to make them more Chaos. The stock butcher Cannon especially, to me, is very... meh. Reaper Auto-Cannon barrels attached to an 'ok' ammo-drum-like-thing. I think I can do better. It needs more... Butcher!

What's that you say? A proper Chaos Storm Eagle? I think I may be able to work something out. (Must have VTL vehicles for my Air Cavalry!)

This is a very early proof of concept build, not even a prototype yet. (It's been in the back of my brain for quite some time.) Since building this, I've had time to contemplate, and I want to go back to the CAD design one more time and refine this base structure. It is very close to what is planned, but I have several adjustments to make. This is going to be a large ambitious build that will take some time to come together, but it's something I really want to make happen, so it's on my short list. Unlike the Forge World Storm Eagle, my kit will make much more use of the base GW Storm Raven kit. It's such a good model it's a shame not to use as much of it as possible. It should have a slightly longer and leaner line than the FW kit, while still feeling like plausible counterpart. Compare this to the early build picture of the Predator, and you can have an idea where this is going. Being a flying vehicle, I plan on doing the Chaos Trim detailing with a lighter plastic; .33mm or.25mm verse the normal 0.4mm. It should give it a more sleek lighter look. Well... as sleek as you can make these 'flying bricks' look, that is. And I think the missile racks are going to mount wrap-around on the corner of the engine housing, with a stabilizer coming out from the center. It's a little hard to describe, but the Havoc Launcher should also give an idea of the feel they will have. My take of a Reaper Auto-Cannon for the nose, and Las'Cannons for the wings will also be part of the build. I want to make this as complete as the Predator kit. Also, a key feature of this kit, it will be really really easy to build. Everything interlocks and links together; the only thing holding the entire build pictured here together is that single rubber band. Everything is dry fit and held together because it's locked that way.

I mulled some ideas over on the left, inspired by the original track pattern. I've chosen to go with something more unique.

I've considered doing treads before, but the repetition always turned me off. (I have to make how many?!) So, this time I'm going to make a small selection of links and make moulds to mass produce them. I'll still need to make lots of them, but casting them a few at a time is more appealing than fabricating each one. from there I'll construct the needed lengths from a collection of links.

The other issue was size; they're so small (especially the Rhino links) that there really isn't that much room to be that creative. There's only so much you can do with a tiny link, even on a Land Raider. In the end, they are a very utilitarian part of the tank so I chose to keep them simple enough. A single layer with low-profile rivets.

Finally, also on my (not so) short list is a Chaos Vindicator kit in the Loricatus Pattern style, and a selection of Chaos vehicle components: Chaos Search Light, Dirge Caster, 'Dozer Blades & Destroyer Blades for Rhino and Land Raider chassis. I'm also looking at the Hell Drake kit and trying to figure out a way to make a 'Hell Drake Jet' kit. Everyone who doesn't like the Drake seems to want it to be a jet, maybe I can help them out. I've also got this really cool idea for counts-as Chaos Drop Pods... I think I want to call them Hell Thorns... *Subtle's speech starts to drift* ... or Hell Spikes... fired from orbit, they drive into the planet, planting themselves and opening a portal for troops... *Subtle starts wandering off, still muttering to himself* ... so much to do, so little time...

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First off, thanks for the kind words and positive feedback. I tend to start many of my posts off with a 'thank you', and some times I feel like a bit of a broken record. But, I mean it every time I say it. When I first started showing my work I was caught off guard by the response from the community I received; while I do good work, I can get... distracted and/or discouraged sometimes, and the good feedback really helps give me a boost and keep me focused on actually finishing things.

This p'log is playing a bit of catch-up with content I've been showing in a few other corners of the internet, so you can expect a modest bombardment of content over the next while. For example...

Ammo Drums, Smoke Launchers, and Search Lights, oh my!

These still have a few more details to be finished (mostly rivets) but they'll be done soon. I'm trying to keep everything modular and magnet ready. Yep, options and flexibility are good.

I've got a few other bits-and-pieces to go along with these, and I'll show them all off more when I can talk in length about my plans for these new kits. I think I might have a building article to add in the mix as well, but that's a for another post.

But before then, I have a large ramble I'd like to do about tools. You see, I have a bit of a... thing for quality tools and useful found items being turned into tools. So, stay tuned, and get ready to do some reading, if you are interested.

If tools, technique, and equipment isn't really your thing, don't worry, I have plans for painting tutorials and showcasing much more of my own army. Much more to come...

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Thanks for the kind words. I hope I can keep impressing with my future tales and exploits pursuing my obsession that is the war-gaming hobby. While I've learned a lot (with plenty to share already) I've still got lots more to figure out, and It'll be fun to share the ride.

To answer
Jacobite, when I'm working with square magnets it's always when I'm building in Styrene plastic; it's just not practical to try and cut square holes in most model kits or miniatures. In those cases I would drill and work with round magnets, or build a square post/pin and drill a round hole in the center for the magnet.

When I build with Styrene I have three options; 1) Build four actual walls of material to create a box. 2) Use square tube cut to the right height to create a seat. 3) Cut a hole of the right size into a sheet of plastic and then laminate it to a surface to create a spot for the magnet. No one method is really 'right', they all have situations that suit them.

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Legion Rising - Tools of the Dark Manufactorium

Tools of the Dark Manufactorium

This had been a two part article on most of the common tools I use, but since the information is already together, I'll post it as one massive orbital bombardment of hobby information. Target Locked... Release payload!

First up, let me just say that I try to talk from a place of first hand knowledge and experience; I won't write about something unless I've tired it myself. My aim in these articles is to show a wide range of tools and techniques - from basic to more advanced - so people can get a really good idea of what's involved, and try it themselves if they want. I Always found lots of great information while researching and reading, but it was usually in bits-and-pieces or poorly documented. I figured it might be helpful for some to get a lot of my lessons in concentrated form, and create some free extra added value from my studio.

My methods and opinions are not necessarily 'the best', they're just what I do and think, and they work for me. I take what I do, and try to push it as far as I can, because I'm lucky enough to have a basement to setup my studio in. I understand that scope and scale of workspace is set by your living space. Take what I talk about and make it fit the scale and scope of your hobby; however there are things that hold true everywhere, no matter how large or elaborate the setup is.

Good Light - Weather you're building or painting, lots of good light is key. Get yourself several 26W 'Daylight' or 'Cool White' bulbs and brighten up your space. Setting them up in adjustable arm-lamps lets you move the light where you need it to eliminate shadows. Do your eyes a favor, use good light while you work.

Organized Space - No matter how humble the space try to have some level of organization. Trust me, I constantly struggle with this, and my space gets seriously cluttered. But once-and-awhile you need to tidy up. Once things start finding a logical place to go, the entire build and paint process is improved by it.

Quality Tools - I'm a bit of a tool snob, and that's what this article is about. Don't get me wrong, we all start somewhere, and you can do amazing things with a limited selection of tools. Do yourself another favor, and make your limited starting tools good ones. The thing is, a few quality tools won't instantly make you more skilled at building and modeling; but they will make all your projects easier and more enjoyable, by working exactly how they should. Low quality tools can and will ruin hard work very quickly, so get something that works the way it should from the start. Quality tools are an investment, and many last decades or a lifetime, but in many cases the best tools don't even cost very much. Take your time and purchase some select quality tools over the years, and keep a supply of other simple disposable tools at hand, and you'll have what you need to do great work. Just think about how much you spend on these models; it's only fair to spend a little on the tools your use to build them.

Cheap and simple - exactly my speed. Not everything needs to cost much to setup.

It doesn't take anything really elaborate to take some good pictures. I took a cheap table on wheels, mounted an old magazine rack on it (that also holds an extra overhead light), and attached sheet of textured white plastic as a backdrop. Bring in a few lamps and a cheap tripod and I'm good-to-go. Since the table is on wheels I can roll it away when I don't need it.

If you want good feedback on your work, take good pictures. This simple setup is all I really use when I want to take bright, clean, clear photographs.

Lets start with some of the basics ~ Clip, Crush, and Bend. Try to get spring-loaded Pliers and Clippers if you can.

1) Be sure to get a good set of clippers. Don't settle for a set that will mangle parts as you try to clip them free of a sprew. A set of nippers is also useful now-and-then.

2) A good set of standard Pliers and a set of Needle-Nose Pliers are always useful. Make sure they have good teeth for a strong bite and grip.

3) Sometimes you want to bend or pinch something without damaging it. A set of Round Pliers is handy if you work with metals. I've added a bit of rubber wire insulation to give them extra padding.

If you're going to scratch-build, you're going to do a lot of cutting and measuring.

1) Don't ever cut with a wood or plastic ruler! You're asking for bad cut if you do. Get at least one good stainless steel ruler. The larger ones to the top of the picture are good for larger projects, but the thinner rulers in the middle are perfect for cutting styrene. The Square to the left is great for making accurate 90° cuts. I prefer a ruler that doesn't have a no-slip back (cork or rubber) so the ruler sits directly on the plastic I cut. It helps with accuracy and making precise cuts.

2) A digital Caliper and a digital Angle Gauge help take really accurate measurements easily. They each cost about $22 CAD, and they're worth their weight in gold. I couldn't get my work as accurate as I do, without them.

You don't need a lot of different blades to do great work, I cut the vast majority of my projects with the same razor blade.

1) By far my favorite razors are No.11 blades; I use them for almost all my styrene cutting. Do yourself a favor and buy them in bulk. It costs a bit more upfront, but you save a lot more in the long run, and you always have fresh blades. A No.11 blade has a really fine tip that will hold up well during cutting, but they break eventually (especially on heavy styrene) and need to be replace regularly to keep cuts clean. When I'm chopping plastic, I prefer to use the push blades shown in the center-middle. They're much thinner then a No.11 blade, so they are excellent for chopping and shaving through material.

2) If you're cutting a lot of sheet styrene like I do, a ring-style handle is a good investment. It holds the blade directly under your finger and really locks it in place, helping make very accurate vertical cuts, very safely. Not quite a 'must have', but I swear by it and can't do lots of cutting without it.

3) A standard stick handle is a good standby for holding a blade, and a larger handle is always useful for larger blades and when you want a more substantial grip. The larger handle is also good for larger chisel-style blades. I don't use them often, but they're very useful when they're needed.

4) A Compass is always useful for drawing circles and arcs, but I use this one to cut them as well. By replacing the drawing point with a second sharp metal point, I can use it to scribe into plastic and cut circles. It's a bit of a crude cutting tool, but it works in a pinch to make very accurate circles and arcs.

A selection of saws, miter boxes, and the handy-dandy Chop-It from Micro-Mark.

1) The top saw is a crude club beside the elegant rapier that is the bottom saw. I use the heavy saw up top to do really rough cuts; it never touches a model, it's a utility saw for ripping through things. The second pictured on the bottom is called a Razor Saw or a Jeweller's Saw. The blades (which you can buy in bulk) are thinner than a razor and have fine teeth that can quickly cut through any material a modeler might work with. With a Razor Saw you can harvest a part from a model with great care. I get all my Jewellery tools from places like Contenti and Rio Grand. Any Jeweller Supplier is, hands-down, the best place to get Saws (and bulk replacement Blades), bulk Drill Bits, and quality Files.

2) These are two Razor Miter Saws, with their Miter Boxes. Sometimes you can't use a blade to slice through an object (tubes tend to crush and distort) so it is best to cut it with a saw. The Miter Box helps make accurate cuts at most common angles. The plastic orange Miter Box to the top is for smaller items, and the aluminum Miter Box on the bottom is used for larger material.

3) When repetition is the name of the day, the Chop-It from Micro-Mark is a really cost effective solution. This little arm lets you chop simple pieces that are identical, without losing your mind. The rail is customizable to let you set any angle you need the chop to be. Very handy when you need a ton of tiny consistent bits.

My go-to selection of adhesives. Never underestimate the advantages of using the right adhesive for the job.

1) I discovered Acrylic Adhesive many years ago and I try to extol its virtues to anyone who will listen. I hardly ever use White Glue because of this wonderful stuff. I can find it at well stocked Art Stores and Hobby/Craft Shops, but it can be hard to locate. It's also a little expensive, but it goes a long way; a bottle will last years. When used for basing it shrinks very tight and bonds super strong; it holds basing material better than While Glue ever did. It dries clear, and since it's acrylic it dries waterproof. It can be mixed with acrylic paints to thin and/or toughen them, makes a good base for homemade washes, and works well as a protective varnish for scenery pieces or even models in a pinch. This is just great glue with lots of other uses. The only thing to really remember is that it is not sticky or tacky; parts must be in good contact and let dry completely. Once it's dry, it's really solid.

2) When I do use White Glue, I use Weldbond. Nice and sticky, super strong, and thins well for large coverage.

3) Spray adhesive comes in a lot of brands, some better than others; you'll need to a brand that works well for you. That said, it's great for making anything sticky. I use it all the time to glue sand paper to sanding blocks, glue no-slip pads to the bottom of items, or to laminate virtually any two materials together. Spray Adhesive has a tendency to dry out and loose its stick (especially the cheap stuff) so I wouldn't use it on important long-term building jobs, but when you need to make something sticky, it's great.

4) My favorite brand of Plastic Glue is made by Tamiya; white cap is the general purpose glue, and the green cap is an Extra Thin product. The white cap glue is great for big projects and the built-in brush gives you lots of control. The white cap glue is useful, but... The green cap Extra Thin glue is absolutely amazing and I use it a lot. Since it's very thin you can use the built-in brush to touch a join, and capillary action will pull just enough glue into the gap to fuse the parts. You can also use the brush to smooth and clean joins, should you happen to add a bit too much glue. A damp glue brush can also be used to polish and finish an area that has been sanded. Being mostly solvent, the glue also evaporates very quickly, keeping the glue lines very clean and letting you smooth surfaces with it. Finally you can use this glue to carefully create a bit of 'plastic soup' that you can use to fill small gaps and cracks; excellent for stubborn wrist, elbow, and shoulder conversions. This glue is really useful, and i always have a few bottles in the studio; I think I might do an art installation with all of the empties. :)

5) Last but not least, the humble Super Glue. Normally, you can find a cheap brand of Super Glue that will do, and you can save a bit by finding that strong generic brand. But, I've really gown to like the official Krazy Glue single use tubes. With larger tubes, no matter what brand, I was loosing most of it when it dried in the tube. With these tubes you open a small amount (that still lasts as long as a larger tube) and save the rest for later. If it dries out, it's fine, you have more. Better still, each tube has a fresh tip, and they can be easily trimmed down to a nice point to get the glue into tight places. The cost a bit more, being a brand name product, but I save more in the end by not wasting glue.

Speaking of glue and adhesives, it's worth mentioning a few things about Syringes.

1) This kind of syringe can be purchased at many Drug Stores, Pharmacies, or Chemists. You might need to search, but try to find an Oral Medication Syringe if you can. These Syringes have a plunger that is made of plastic and has an o-ring gasket to create a seal. You can put all but the Spray Adhesive and the Krazy Glue into one of these Syrines, and since very little of the rubber is exposed to the damaging adhesive, it won't wear out or turn to slag. I'm still having a hard time finding a bulk supply of these Syringes in Canada; I would love to get 20cc and 30cc sizes for larger projects. Turns out they're not made and distributed by many companies.

2) The next best thing can be found at a well stocked Art Store or Hobby Shop. These are rubber-plunger Syringes with super fine tips for applying thin beads of glue. Since the plunger is all rubber you'll have issues using them with solvent based adhesives. They can work, but the rubber tends to go... funny... after a while.

3) Standard Syringes can be found in massive sizes (this is a 30cc) if you have larger projects.

4) Fine point tips that fit on most standard Syringes can be found in Hobby Shops as well. Testors makes the ones I use. They resist glue, so anything that might dry in them can be easily pushed out, letting a pack last a very long time.

*Subtle stops and takes a long deep breath...* Pant... wheeze... gasp... *He composes himself* ...

The fundamental task - make a hole. A wide selection of tools for just that. And Magnets, because many times they are the reason you're drilling a hole.

1) I can remember being 14 and reading White Dwarf, and they would talk about a Pin Vice used for drilling holes to pin and support delicate conversions. I lived in the middle of nowhere, so they seemed like witchcraft far outside my reach. Needless to say, if you don't have a Pin Vice, get one. In fact, get several, so you don't have to switch Drill Bits as often.

2) This is a Micro Hole Punch from Mico-Mark (this place has too many wonderful little tools to spend money on - be warned) that can punch discs out of various materials. 0.5mm to 5.0mm in half millimeter steps. Place the material between the plastic sheet and the metal plate, place the corresponding pin the the hole, and strike it with a plastic/rubber hammer. Great for rivets, gauges, gaskets, and all manner of other small round bits.

3) A selection of Drill Bits. The gold Bits at the top are titanium-coated, and can be found at most Hardware stores. For larger drilling, if you get goods ones, they can be quite good and will keep a sharp edge for a long time. Downside with a Hardware store is selection; smaller Drill Bits are usually only sold in sets. I buy all my Drill bits in bulk from Contenti; high quality Bits that will cut resin/plastic/metal like butter.

4) I have a local Surplus Store that carries all manner of odds-and-ends; the selection is vast and too lengthy to list here. Needless to say, I found these at said shop. They are Dental Drill Bits, and they are some really useful Bits. I like basing with natural stone, and these Bits can easily drill holes clean through stone so I can pin a model in place. They are also excellent in a rotary tool (Dremel); it takes a firm grip and a steady hand, but you can carve, hollow, and shape wonderfully with these. The larger bit to the right is used for the same; its larger shape is perfect for hollowing out shoulder pads and larger objects.

5) And that brings us to some of my favorite little items: Neodymium (Rare Earth) Magnets. I'm tossing them in here because many times you drill holes to mount these little bits of awesome. If you don't already use Rare Earth Magnets, get some and start. You don't need to do anything really elaborate to make use of them for basic jobs, and if you get creative then can do all sorts of things. If you plan on getting them to mount bits, wargear, and gubbins for swapping, remember to get extra, and get a few different sizes. Once you start using them they go fast, and you wish you had a bigger one here, or a smaller one there. I get mine from K&J Magnetics, but there are many places to buy online. For $20-$30 you can have all the magnets you'll need for ages.

Good Files are a must have in my books; I swear by Swiss made Grobet Files. Once you use a good quality file you quickly become spoiled and lesser Files don't measure up.

1) Files are cutting tools. They have formed teeth that shave at the material, and if you use a hard wire brush to clean your files you'll dull them quicker. This funny looking round thing is a File Cleaner; made by Alpha Abrasives, I've had it for 10+ years. It's a tough rubber disk with rough texture and it's slightly sticky. Scrub it across a File and it clears out fouling from the teeth better than anything else I've found. Nothing clears Greenstuff out of a File like this little disk.

2) #2 Heavy, #4 Medium, and #6 Fine Half Round Files. Half Round Files have a blade edge that is great fro cleaning mould lines from annoying places like corrugated tubing and vents. Being round on one side, flat on the other, and tapering to a nice point, this file is useful for all sorts of tasks.

3) #0 Heavy, #4 Medium, and #6 Fine Equaling (Rectangle) Files. Great for getting smooth fat surfaces and sharpening up corners. When you want it flat, this will do it.

4) #2 Heavy, #4 Medium, and #6 Fine Round Files. Sometimes, only a Round file will do the job; the Half Round is usually enough, but have a Round file or three is nice. Note how slim and subtle the taper of the file, and how fine the tip (~ 0.5mm). It's really hard to find a really nice Round File like these outside of a Jeweller's Supply Shop.

5) An assortment of Micro Files. Bought from a local Hobby Shop, these are not quite as well made as the larger Files, but sometimes you need something a bit smaller for a tiny job.

6) If I could only pick three Files these would be the three. Top - #4 Half Round for the perfect mix of flat and round with a good bite. Middle - #0 Equaling (Rectangle) for a heavy-duty file that can really chew through material when it's needed. Bottom - #4 Round for when you need a good Round File to get the job done.

7) I've seen crap quality file being sold in Hobby shops and Craft stores that cost almost as much as these Grobet files. These files have perfect edges and corners, a sharp smooth bite, and practically polish the surface while they work. They're more than sharp enough to cleanly file even softer materials (like Greenstuff) without tearing and mangling it. #00 and #0 (Pictured) are very coarse and will chew through material really fast. #2 and #4 (Pictured) are a nice average bite; press lightly and it will polish, press hard and it will remove modest material. #6 (Pictured) are very fine and will polish any surface; they are almost too fine, and clog very quickly. A #0 for heavy work and a #4 for everything else is all you really need. Trust me, these Files are worth the trouble to get, they almost make removing mould lines enjoyable. I hate mould lines, and these Files make sure my army has none.

I don't sculpt nearly as much as I should. I want to get better and more confident sculpting, and the only way to get better at something is to do it. When I do brave it, these are my tools.

1) Painting Knives, an Art Store staple, come in all shapes and sizes. I used them mostly for mould making but they have a great sharp edge and smooth surface that's great for some jobs.

2) Stainless Steel Sculpting Tools of various shapes and styles. I prefer going to an Art Store to buy my hard Sculpting Tools so I can inspect the quality of the working ends. These kinds of tools come in a wide rage of quality, and it's best to see it before you buy. Good thing is that they are usually cheap, so it's easy to amass a collection over time.

3) Cheap Soft Sculpting Tools with Steel Burnishing tips on the other end. I got these in my search for rubber/soft tipped sculpting tools. Sometimes you want a softer tools to blend the medium you working. These work well, but I use them more for the Steel Burnishing tips now that I have the real deal...

4) These, are called Colour Shapers; they come in many wonderful shapes and sizes. I had the hardest time finding these tools; I kept looking in the sculpting section of Art Stores for 'Clay Shapers', since it seemed like a logical description. I finally found these 'Colour Shapers' in the painting section. They offer a subtle touch when you sculpt, so they don't replace hard tools, they just offer a lighter touch when you want it. Like any tool, they don't make you better at sculpting, they just give you more options and another technique you can use.

Different products for different jobs, all on an handy-dandy working board.

1) A Cutting Board with baking Parchment Paper (check your Grocery Store) taped onto it to help make it non-stick is a great board to work sculpting materials on. Roll, press, sculpt, and do whatever on this and it should peel away easy. Peel off and replace if it get chewed up.

2) Milliput - This product is like clay; you can even use moisture to thin it and make it softer. It's a bit soft and crumbly/flaky to sculpt on its own, but it cures as hard as stone. That's a major advantage when you want very hard sharp details, but it can be a bit brittle. You can find it at any good Hobby Shop.

3) Fimo - A staple of Craft Shops, Fimo is an oven baked plastic clay that is cost effective way to make all sorts of things. Horns, spines, bones, and other quick-to-make mass produced items can be baked up, read to use. There is a small amount of shrinkage when being cured, so don't use it for size sensitive sculpts.

4) Kneadatite (Greenstuff) - The good old standby, Greenstuff is the go-to middle ground. It will cure but a bit of a plastic-y consistency; hard and stiff, but with a bit of flex. Sometimes I will mix a bit of Milliput in with the Greenstuff to counter that flex; the Milliput adds hardness when the blend cures, but it stays tough and not brittle.

5) Kneadatite (Brownstuff) - Cousin of Greenstuff, I've only just got my hands on some of this stuff. It's supposed to cure harder and stiffer than Greenstuff, and should eliminate the need to mix Greenstuff with Milliput. I'll see once I have a project that warrents using it.

6) Instant Putty - I got this along with a restock of Greenstuff and when I got the Brownstuff. I've played with it a bit, and as advertised, it cures fast (under 5 minutes); maybe too fast. I'll have to see what I think of it when I can try it with some press moulds. It cures so fast, that's about all I think it'll work with. Time will tell.

The humble sanding block. Big and small.

1) Anyone can make a Sanding Block with some Sand Paper, a bit of Spray Adhesive, and a heavy block or tile. I like thick tile as a base since it's nice and heavy. I add a but of padding to the bottom to help keep them from slipping. They're so easy to make, might as well have some of different grits.

2) Made by Alpha Abrasives this is a pack of adhesive backed Sand Paper and acrylic sticks you can stick it to. You can use this to make small sanding blocks of exactly the grit you want. Reusable and it comes with plenty of Sand Paper, it's a simple but brilliant idea.

A few more advanced sanding options.

1) These sanding sticks are really useful when you want a softer touch. Perfect for subtle blending and final cleanup. It's really just good sandpaper attached to a styrene stick with some double-sided foam tape, so they are easy enough to make if you want to. It surprising how something simple can be so useful; these sticks are how I clean plastic without taking its hard edge off.

2) I don't use these often, but sometimes a Needle File is good to get in tiny corners or awkward places. Good for taking unwanted glue residue from nooks-and-crannies.

3) If you work on curved surfaces (and I plan to more, in the future) this Sanding Bow can be handy. Since the Sand Paper is a strip held by the metal bow it has lots of give and contours to curved surfaces.

4) Finally, another cost effective tools from Micro-Mark, the Sand-It. This little sanding jig lets you set up a brace at any angle to sand little bits at obscure angles. The Sanding Block is cleverly designed to take four different pieces of Sand Paper; one per side.

Brushes are one of those simple little tools that can be overlooked. Filing and Sanding will always cause some burring, and a good brush is the solution.

1) Metal for metal; A harder Steel Wire Brush for a more aggressive scrub, and a Brass Wire Brush for a softer scrub. When you're working on pewter, wire is the way to go. They work well enough on plastic and resin too, but they can bee too harsh.

2) A good standby is a stiff Toothbrush. If you can find an older 'Hard' style brush like the vintage pink one at the top, all the better. Just get a few brushes with the stiffest bristles you can find. Then, take one and clip the bristles down to give you a more aggressive, but gentle, brush. The Shortened bristles will help it really remove plastic and resin burring, but not harm fine details.

3) Kinda' like the Toothbrush, but bigger. This is a Denture Brush. Nice and large, with a smaller brush on the back, it ha stiff bristle and a nice large handle. Again, get two, and shorten the bristles on one so you can make a stiffer more aggressive brush. I use these all the time while I build to clean and burnish plastic without harming detail.

4) A 2" paint brush I use as a Dusting Brush. It's just a coincidence I started using this brush ages ago to dust and clean my miniatures, but its natural bristles taper to fine points letting it gently scrub even suborn dust off of miniatures. Since the bristles do taper and give, there's no chance of harming details or paint jobs.

And with that, I come to the end of my wall-o'-text-and-pictures on the subject of Tools. This covers most of the common tools I use all the time to build and construct for the hobby. I've got other odds-and-ends, but they're more for specific tasks, and I talk about them when it makes sense.

Ok, thanks for reading (if you made it this far, I commend you), hope it's been useful; as always, comments, questions, musings, are always welcome.

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Legion Rising - Vacuum Forming Styrene Plastic

When I started my recent small builds I knew one of them was going to be a Searchlight, and I wanted it to have a curved surface for the lens. When it comes to producing several consistent curved shapes the first thing that comes to my mind is Vacuum Forming. This process is used in all sorts of manufacturing, packaging being one of the most prolific. You know that clear plastic package that keeps your precious new object safe, even from you, as you struggle to open it to get at your prize? Made with Vacuum Formed plastic.

This process can be elaborate, using large equipment to shrink heated plastic sheet over complex shapes and forms, but it can also be done on a much smaller scale that almost anyone can make use of for hobby projects. If all you want to do is make some small objects or shapes, then it is very straight forward process.

A selection of simple objects can easily be made into a Vacuum Forming tool with just a bit of effort.

1) A plastic tub from a local Dollar Store. Any box or chamber with rigid sides and a nice flat bottom will do, really. It just needs to be large enough for your needs, and have enough structure to have some modifications added. Remember that you're going to apply as much suction as you can, so this bx needs to be reasonable stiff. On a related side note: If you get a bin/box with a locking lid you can use it to store all the parts for this contraption when it's not being used.

2) These two white frames are made from a sliding screen frame purchased from a Hardware store, and trimmed down to the size that fits my purpose. An inexpensive sliding screen gives you all the material you need to build several frames if you need/want different sizes for different projects. Try to find a screen that uses metal corner brackets to assemble the frame; they will hold up better to the temperatures you'll be working at. The ones pictured here are plastic which is not ideal, but I find they hold up just fine if it's all you can find.

3) Black Butterfly Clips are used to clamp the frames together around the plastic sheets that will be vacuum formed. A little more on this later.

4) Foam Weather Stripping Tape (again, from the Hardware Store) is used to create a gasket seal for the frames. It's this seal that lets the vacuum do it's work, pulling the soft plastic over the object you're replicating. Don't skimp on this seal; buy the more expensive, high density foam product. (just squeeze the tape through the package to tell the difference) This seal will be exposed to high temperatures, and the cheaper Foam Tape will melt and turn to slag.

5) A look inside the box to show how it was assembled; I used an adhesive called Goop Household to glue the parts together and create a solid seal. It doesn't need to be that pretty, just get the job done. The 'grill' that lets the vacuum do it's thing is made form a section of an old computer case door; any stiff grill with lost of holes will work just fine, weather you make it yourself or source it from somewhere. Finally, a connector was added so that a standard household vacuum can be connected to the entire contraption. Any vacuum cleaner will do, but the stronger the suction, the better the results.

6) The white frames work well as a jig to cut out sheet Styrene plastic to the required size.

7) As mentioned earlier, the black Butterfly Clips are used to clamp the sheet of Styrene plastic in place between the two metal frames. Notice how the Butterfly clips are perfect for the job because you can remove the silver handles once they are in place, so they don't get in the way.

Once you have the Styrene sheet clamped, it's ready to be headed and formed. Preheat your oven to 325°F-to-400°F.

1) Since the heated plastic will droop considerably it needs to be suspended to keep it from touching anything. I've used four heavy glasses that can take the considerable amount of heat that is involved, and placed them on a baking sheet. Remember that these glasses will hold this heat for quite some time after you're done forming plastic; take care handling them after you done.

2) With the Styrene suspended place it all in the oven and wait for the heat to do its thing. Lighter plastic (1mm thick) will work well with 325°F-to-350°F, but heavier plastic (1.5mm+) might need a higher 375°F-to-400°F temperature. Learning just what temperature works best is not an exact science, and something you'll need to experiment with.

It should go without saying that you will need some form of gloves to protect your hands while working with the heated plastic in the following steps.

After about 2 minutes the Styrene will start to sag; the trick to get the best results is to wait for it to sag twice, as it were. I'll try to explain: The plastic will start to sag (and it's tempting to try to form it with this 'first sag' - be patient) and then it will actually tighten back up ever-so-slightly, before starting a 'second sag' that indicates that the plastic is ready for forming. once it's at this point, turn on your vacuum and get ready to quickly move the plastic...

1) In my case, all I wanted was to replicate these dome-shaped metal disks in Styrene plastic, which is much easier to work with than metal.

2) As mentioned, quickly (and carefully!) take the Plastic Frame from the oven and lower it straight down over the Grill in one swift motion; press it firmly into the Foam Tape Gasket to create a seal, and the suction will instantly pull the plastic down and form it around any object sitting on the Grill. I did a few sheets with some other objects (washers, for example) so I will have a good supply of these shapes in future.

3) Here is the final part in use, giving the Searchlight a nice curved surface. I can see myself using these bits for all sorts of things; radar dishes, large optics, vehicle hatches, loud-speakers, etc.. The process is only limited by the size of the box you want to make, and the size of your oven. It could easily be used to make anything from clear canopies for cockpits, to curved armour panels for vehicles, to a thousand other things in between.

And in closing, a little build work unrelated to the above article.

Left: The track links are almost ready for mould making; from there I'll cast-and-assemble them into the required lengths for final kits that fit their respective chassis. Right: Another build I have been struggling with; I want to make a vehicle mount Combi-Melta that makes use of the Combi-Bolter included on the Chaos Accessories sprew. I'm on the right track, but this first attempt is just too tall. Back to the drawing board I guess.

Thanks as always, for reading. I hope some might find it informative. As usual, any comments, questions, or general musing are always welcome.

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Happy to help. To answer, yes, and no. While you could use his method to do simple shapes like clean shoulder pads, it won't replicate fine detail like banding, studs, or rivets. The thickness of the plastic mutes out all of the detail unless it's very thin and not that practical; even then some detail would be lost.

Now, to create a base shape that you can build detail up on is how I'd use it; just like the Searchlight. Form as many base shoulder pads as you want (and they will all be exactly the same perfect shape) and then detail them each how you'd like them. From there you can use them as-is, or cast them to replicate them with high detail.

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Thanks as always for the great feedback. Rest assured, there's much more to come.

You and me both Arngeirr; while my core army is close to finished, all painting has ground to a stop since I turned my focus on getting my studio up-and-running. I am determined to finish painting what I plan to play with before I use it. Not really because I mind using unpainted miniatures, but to avoid harming the half finished paint job. Every time I've broken down and played with a half painted miniature in the past, it's all but ruined when I go back to paint it. If it doesn't have varnish on it, I'm not groping it.

That said, I am itching to play, and will be giving my core force some much needed attention soon. I'm in the suburbs of Toronto, in the west end of the city. Sooner-or-later I will be looking for regular games. And on the storage/transport case subject, I might have an idea (the case I use personally) but it's a magnetic case solution that requires a bit of commitment. It's totally worth it, in my opinion, and I plan to do an article on it in the future; I'll see if I can put it together sooner.

And now, on with the feature presentation...

Now I know why I avoided the tank tacks; I knew that, no matter how I went about doing them, they would be a pain in the :cuss. I stared this project with a positive attitude hoping that being able to cast would make it go much faster.

It all started with a simple plan; and after some feedback I chose to use just the Master Links for the entire length.

I kept the moulds very simple for these pieces. The parts are straight forward enough, I hoped they wouldn't pose a problem. After all, I cast large complex pieces with my injection method, these small links can't be that hard, right?

And so began my decent into madness... The links, they taunt me, laughing at me with each bubble they trap.

1) The very first casting looked very promising; the face of the tracks were well formed and clean. It wasn't until I had a closer look...

2) On a related side note, several other parts and moulds are in the works. I need to juggle when I cure moulds in the pressure chamber (it takes over seven hours) so I can also make resin casts. Pictured here are a few new Havoc Launcher mounting plates. The old mould for this part is well past its prime.

3) So, as I said, once I had a closer look at the Track Links I started to see an issue; the dreaded bubbles. It turns out the teeth on these tracks just love to catch large bubbles and hold on to them. Since the parts are so thick the flowing resin passes over the bubbles, instead of forcing them out of the part. This is exactly why I'll be adding a Vacuum Chamber to my studio in the next few weeks. Where my method works well for thinner and larger items, objects like these are better cast under vacuum to pull the bubble out of these stubborn places.

4) But until then, I'll just have to make do with the equipment I have. I've devised a method of manually injecting some resin into the problem prone places, followed by closing the mould and completing the injection. It works much better, but it's still far from perfect. What I can't do with my normal precision, I will complete with volume!

The Rhino Chassis links were much more reliable with my new technique, the 'Raider tracks have been much more stubborn, and slowly driven me to the brink. *Eye twitch... twitch*

The Rhino tracks came together with some effort, but it gave me hope that this wasn't going to be too bad. They are fiddly, but at least they cast somewhat reliably. The Land Raider tracks are just frustrating, but I am determined to get this set complete! :)

The voices from the warp, they goad me on; they have no sympathies for my trials, the Dark Lords care not for such things.

So, even though they are being a pain, I'm getting them done through brute force. I'm really liking how they are looking so far - soooo Chaos. It's too bad I need to make a fresh set of moulds so I can do the other side; but I think I have some ideas for simple improvements that might help them cast better.

I had hoped to have these done by now, but these technical issues will slow down making the final production moulds by a few days. Beyond that I'm well on the way to have all of the recent builds casting by next week, barring any unforeseen complications. The improved selection and kits will be ready an available at The Dark Works shortly after.
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Discussion Starter · #23 ·
As usual, thanks for the positive feedback; during frustrating builds like these tracks, it really is motivating. Everything is on track (See what I did there? clever, yes/no?) but a little behind schedule. Until I can get at least one more Pressure Chamber up-and-running (very soon) I can get caught in a catch-22 when I need to do casting and make moulds at the same time. With a little juggling I've kept things moving forward and the last new moulds will be done very soon.

I have finally got a Vacuum Chamber in the studio and got it to work right away. It's a very interesting addition to the casting process that took some experimenting to get right, but now that I'm getting the hang of it, I'm very pleased with the results. I'll be doing an article about working with a vacuum at some point in the near future. It's been fun learning the process, and it made it much easier to cast the larger 'Raider Track Links I've been finishing. Speaking of the 'Raider Links...

After some less than enjoyable bench work, the Proditor Pattern Land Raider Track Links are ready for the mould making process.

Everything in these pictures is either held in place with friction, gravity, or poster tack; if any of the fit looks a bit off, it's just because of this temporary fitting. One key point about these kits is that they will require the end builder to remove the small 'key' tabs that are used for the original GW links. It's just easier to remove the hidden tabs then to try and carve out a clean gap in these painstakingly crafted pieces. I would have literally blown a brain-fuse if I happened to ruin a part trying to do it. I completely overlooked them until I had several sections done, and potentially harming them was not a happy consideration at that point.

It's was worth the annoying effort in the end; these tacks really complete the transformation of the GW kit, if I do say so myself.

Where the Vacuum Chamber really helped with the 'Raider Links, it wasn't useful for the smaller Rhino Links. After fighting to get it to work with the vacuum, I ended up going back to pressure only to complete the kit. As tricky as this build was, it really did help me learn some about the limitations of each method (pressure and vacuum) and when to consider using each. Funny how the annoying mistakes usually teach you more then the easy successes.

To the left: Satisfaction with a job well done. Yep, these look awesome! To the right: Frustration given physical form in resin!

When you're building a prototype it needs to be really close to perfect. It's almost scary just what details will be replicated in the mould; even a trace of my finger print is forever immortalized in the back side of the odd part. So, any flaw that would take longer than a reasonable amount of time to fix was tossed into the rejection pile. So many lost links. *Sniff*

So, the all of the track links are done, and I am currently preparing them for moulds as I write this and also casting fresh pieces for stock before the moulds take over the chamber. The Proditor Vehicle Accessories are half moulded, and I'll show them once the entire kit is complete. They are turning out very well, and the Vacuum Chamber has been key in that success.

But that, as they say, is another story...

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Discussion Starter · #24 ·
Since the subject came up elsewhere, I figured this would be a good time to revisit a little tutorial about how I do my flat-top rivets. To start I'll say that I plan for all my rivets in my CAD designs; that ensures they will be accurate and well placed. When I use a needle pick to transfer the points of the design that I use to cut out a pattern, I also prick the center of each rivet placement. After using a larger pin to expand the hole I carefully drill each hole as a seat for the rivets I make. Made this way, the rivets are not just glued to the surface, but sit in a seat that keeps them from ever popping off from use.

Now with that said, first up, how the heck do you make lots of consistent rivets? Here's what I came up with...

I call it a Razor Rake. By super gluing spacers between several broken down lengths of utility razor, I get a rake of evenly spaced blades.

The plastic spacers combined with the actual thickness of the razor means I get an even spacing to cut uniform rivets. The plastic spacers just need to match the thickness of the styrene I'm working on - 0.4mm in this case. Once placed, the rivets will stand out a razor thickness in height.

Carefully rolling the 'Rake' over a piece of round styrene scores the plastic. Ready for cutting into rivets.

For the first rivet I start just inside the end. The first rivet will be too short to use, but it makes sure all of the following rivets are ready to go. Once I have the first group of lines cut I can place the first blade in the last line as a guide, and score another group of lines. Working that way I can covert long lengths of styrene rod into rivets very quickly.

I don't press hard enough to cut all of the way through in one go. There's two reason for this. First, the rivets will wedge themselves into the Rake; naturally, that's not good. Second, the blade deforms the plastic a bit and keeping the rod as one piece makes the next step possible...

A quick sanding on a fine grit sanding block will remove the minor deformation caused by the Rake.

I just roll the rod under my finger while sliding it carefully back and forth on the 320 grit sanding block pictured. It just takes a few seconds to smooth the rod back down, and the rivets are ready to cut.

The blade can find the scored lines very easily. With a quick rolling chop they each pop off. (Remember to get rid of the stumpy first rivet.) I find it best to carefully place my finger over the blade while I cut, so I can stop the freshly freed rivet from flying away. They get easily lost, as I'm sure you can imagine.

It won't take long before you've got a large pile of rivets ready to be placed. But then you run into the next problem. How the heck do you place that tiny rivet into its tiny hole? It took a bit of trail-and-error to come up with a surprisingly simple solution...

Prefect in its simplicity; by flattening the tip of an old Clay Pick I made a straight forward rivet pressing tool.

The rivets are so light that all you need to do is add a tiny bit of moisture (Read: spit) to the end of the tool, and the rivet will stick just enough to be placed. Carefully align the rivet to the hole, get it as straight as possible, and press gently but firmly. the flat tool applies even pressure, and most times the rivet will pop right into the hole. Most times.

Sometimes they will be stubborn, trying to go in crooked and deforming the rivet in the process. Rather than futz around with a 'bent' rivet, I just disposed of it and get a fresh one to use. They are easy to make, after all. On occasion the hole for the rivet will also be a problem, but a quick 'reshaping' of the hole with a drill bit gets things right. You don't want to drill the hole deeper, just clear out any glue residue - the usual problem I run into.

Once they're in place they just need a bit of clean-up and touch of glue to lock them in place. 8 down, 600+ to go... *Eye-twitch... twitch twitch*

I've become hooked on the pictured sanding sticks made by Alpha Abrasives. Perfect for all sorts of subtle sanding jobs where a file might be too stiff or aggressive; I use one to give the tops of the rivets a light sanding and make sure they are all the same height.

From there I add a tiny dab of Tamiya Extra Thin glue. The brush built into the lid makes it easy to brush the glue around the rivet. It doesn't take much, and it evaporates away into a very clean join, ready to be primed.

Anything as repetitive as rivets will be tedious to do. This process is no different. The build pictured here took over 650 rivets, each drilled and placed just like this. It can be a bit... daunting sometimes, but it's worth it for the final piece. Once you get a feel for the process and get going it actually progresses rather quickly. Here's hoping people find this informative.

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Discussion Starter · #26 ·
I am but a conduit through which the Dark Lords speak... They say I must scribe my trials so that others may learn, be inspired, and perhaps drawn to their cause. My hands are but an extension of the energies made real by the Warp... The Dark Lords gift me these ideas so that I might make them real. It would be blasphemy to turn from such gifts.

*Cough* Errr...

But seriously, thanks for the kind/positive feedback. Much more to come...

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Discussion Starter · #29 ·
Since the vast majority of my work is layered up, I just plan for the rivets in the last layer, and drill clean through. But yes, if the material is a thicker single layer I will use a mark on the bit with fine point Sharpie for depth if need be. With practice you don't even need it, you get a feel for drilling a bit shallow and/or use a taller rivet (made with a 0.5-0.75mm spaced Rake) and then file/sand them down to the desired height once they are completely dry.

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Discussion Starter · #33 ·
Message received, I'll get some articles up about my mould making process. I've started a series, but I've learned a lot and added some new equipment to the process, so I'd like to update it from the beginning. This would be as good a time as any, I've been making many moulds the last while. As this post will attest to...

*In his best Eugene Krabs voice* “Prepare yourself for a tale of misery and woe! … And delay that skipping… Pirates don’t skip!”

Sometimes I swear projects have a curse on them. I try to be positive and ignore setbacks, and usually that's more than enough to get me through. Mistakes and challenges happen, after all, so there's really no choice but to deal and figure it out. Then there are those builds that refuse to co-operate, testing my resolve to the very end. Yes, I'm looking at you... track links, oh scourge of my recent existence! Apparently, the Dark Lords have some hidden lessons for me to find in these trials.

Several weeks ago I added a Vacuum Chamber to my growing selection of studio equipment. I had a good theoretical idea of how to use vacuum to help with removing bubbles, but there was a definite learning curve to figuring out how to get the desired results. Since I needed to make tons of individual links for the track sections I was building, I used the build to experiment with the new vacuum process. After all of those cast links (and they were a challenge in themselves), I thought I had it figured out.

Thinking I had the process sorted out, I started making moulds for the Rhino Tracks kit, and with that, the curse started messing with my mind. First, I managed to break the seal for two moulds I was making, and this happened...

I tried to adjust the mould boxes after the rubber was poured, but before it cured. Not a good idea.

Since I thought my plan was sound, I tried to economize my time and make several moulds at once. In an effort to get them all to fit in the Pressure Chamber I shifted the top moulds too much, with no idea that I broke the bottom seal. It wasn't until I opened the chamber that I discovered the mess it created. Lesson 1: If you're not careful, trying to save time can actually cost you time. I was trying to push the limit of the chamber, and now I know better.

Once that issue was sorted out (nothing to do but start the moulds again – this will become a painful trend over the coming weeks) I completed the set and got to work casting; and that's when my inexperience with vacuum casting came back to bite me.

When vacuum degassing, vents to let the expanding air escape are critical to the process.

I was trying to avoid gates/vents where I could, since more gates/vents equals more cleanup during assembly. These parts are reasonably small, so I assumed a vent on every-other-link would be enough. I was almost right... but almost isn't good enough in this case. The parts would cast (almost) perfectly, but small flaws keep appearing very consistently in every link that doesn't have a proper vent. I tried to modify the moulds by hand cutting some extra vents, but unfortunately it didn't work. Lesson 2: When in doubt, take the extra time to do a single test mould before committing to a larger set of moulds. I assumed this mould setup would work. Baaad assumption! *Hits assumption with a rolled up magazine*

Unfortunately, the vent issue only became really apparent after I had already started the moulds for the Land Raider Track Links. After seeing the problems with the Rhino Track casts, I knew the same issue would appear in Land Raider Tracks if I finished the moulds. So, I returned to the prototypes and added more gates/vents before re-starting the moulds.

Lesson 3: Dropping an uncured mould is bad. 'Nuff said?

Good luck cleaning up a sloppy mess like this while the rubber is still soft. It sticks to everything and smears everywhere. Better to just let the rubber cure, and peel it up later; and this is exactly what I did. While not really hard to re-make, naturally, the waste sucks.

Success! The added gates/vents did the trick, and the parts are now casting with virtually no flaws.

I'll be doing a much more elaborate article on using Vacuum during resin casting in the future. But for now, let me just say that once you get all of the variables worked out, the combination of Vacuum and Pressure is amazing for getting near-flawless casts. When done right, the success rate for casts is amazingly high. However, it's not a process that works perfectly for every kind of component, so it's not a 'one size fits all' solution.

The results with the Rhino Tracks were so encouraging that I was positive the Land Raider Tracks were going to cast just as well. I had taken the time to add the extra vents, after all. Well, it turned out there was another unexpected twist to be dealt with.

Just when I thought I had it all worked out, this strange problem with bubbles cropped up.

Lesson 4: Different components need different vent considerations; not all parts will cast the same, even if they are similar. The Land Raider tracks are a perfect example; all of the longer lengths of assembled links cast perfectly almost every time, but the single links keep trapping bubbles in the 'teeth' of the links. I'm not totally sure what's happening in this case. The parts are similar, so why is there an issue with only the single links? For some reason their size seems to cause bubbles to get really trapped in the 'teeth' with no chance to vent out. Whatever the cause, there was too many flawed casts for me to use these moulds. *Mutters a harsh curse under his breath* All of this would almost be comical at this point, if it wasn't such a waste of labour and materials.

Third time's the charm! With some final changes the newest moulds are finally casting really well.

Ok, so now for the light at the end of the tunnel. The track moulds have finally been completely finished, and they are all casting very well. Curse lifted… I hope. The accessories are catching up now that the tracks are sorted out.

Some successful casts up top; and a size comparison on the bottom.

Again, I’ll talk more about Vacuum Casting a little later. (I’ve already created a larger-than-expected wall-o’-text) It adds a layer of labour to the production, but also opens the door to an improved process for certain objects. If they are the right size and you can add a moderate vent, they will likely cast very well with this method. The search lights and smoke launchers are a good example. Two Dirge Casters, the vehicle Bolter ammo drums, and a few other bits-and-pieces are in the works. Such as…

Another example of a part that will cast much easier using vacuum during the process.

After kit-bashing an Auto-Cannon a looong time ago, some dark creature whispered to me from the Warp, telling me that I could make a bit to the same job in one step. It seems the dark entity was correct. It still needs some more detailing, but the idea is there.

So, for anyone who has shown interest, The Dark Works will be getting an update very soon with everything pictured, and a few other bits. I hope it’s been worth the wait. I can’t say I enjoy the process when it’s this stubborn, but I always like seeing it come together in the end. You defiantly learn more from your mistakes, and I’ve learned a ton that I’ll be taking forward.

More to come…

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Discussion Starter · #35 ·
Normally, major mistakes are rare, so many times they don't get documented becuase they get overlooked in the rush to get things done. But this time there were so many problems one-after-another, it seemd a good idea to make an article about it. But also, this is the overall philosophy I've choosen for my studio; I am a firm believer in several things that others might not agree with.

Information should be shared, not hoarded and kept secret. Processes generally advance and improve much slower if they are kept secret; the power of the masses to consider and inovate new ideas is almost endless. Some may say, "Why would someone pay you to do this if you show them how to do it themselves?" and there's a grain of truth in that. But, knowing how to do something, and actually having the skills, time, and willingness, to do something are very different things, so I'm not too worried about sabotaging myself.

I try to show the good, the bad, and the ugly. While successes are great, and it's very helpful to see how to do things correctly, many times the best lessons are taught through mistakes. Not only does this show what pitfalls to avoid, but it gives people a true sense of just what it takes to do the things I do. Sometimes, if you don't have a deeper understanding of everything involved (good and bad) a process might seem almost effortless. Realistic expectations are good things.

As for miss-casts, I keep the 'almost good enough' casts for personal use, and the completely worthless ones are tossed in the trash. The rest get placed in a reject bin for later consideration. Most are too flawed to invest a lot of time trying to make them usable for their intended purpose, (better to just cast a new one, really) but they might have areas with details that can be cut free, cleaned up, and used in some other way. My current plan is to use these parts to help build shrines and intallations devoted to Chaos. I might also be building some larger scratch-build projects that these parts can be incorperated into.

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Discussion Starter · #38 ·
~ 2-Part Mould Making ~ Part 1

~ 2-Part Mould Making ~ Part 1 (Again, how I do it, at least. I hope you like to read... this is just the beginning)

1-Part vs. Split vs. 2-Part ~ Fight! For anyone interested I'll explain the difference... (Note: Everything I'm doing is self-taught, if anyone has any input for process or technique, I'm eager to hear it.)

1-Part Mould: If you have an object with a flat back (my Trim Kit parts being a perfect example) a 1-part Mould can be a perfect simple solution. Just mount the object on a flat surface or slab of plasticine, build a mould box around the object, and pour a slab of rubber over/around the item. Once cured and the prototype is remove, you'll have a mould that is gravity fed. Read: gravity pulls/holds the resin into the mould.

Pros: Simple to make, simple to use. Shallow/short objects will work well with this type of mould. If you take the time to poke and prod any trapped bubbles with a toothpick you can even manually remove most bubbles by hand. With slower kicking resin you'll have plenty of time to get a casting 'just right', and you don't need to invest in a Pressure Chamber or anything more than some basic mould making tools and materials. Perfect for someone who just want to make a few of some creation/s.

Cons: Slow and messy to use, and more limited in the objects it can reproduce. If the object is somewhat complex you need to slowly pour/inject 'just the right amount' of resin into the entire void. Then you need to go around and carefully remove bubbles. If you're just making a few of something for personal use, this is fine; if you're making lots of something, that's far too much labour-per-item. You also need to find a way to flatten the back of the resin (surface tension will make the resin back want to 'curve'). Messy option 1; use a flat object lubed with mould release as a second half of the mould and lay it over the poured object. This usually causes some excess resin to squish out, and makes tons of flash. Messy option 2: 'Skim' or scrap the liquid resin to level the back. Not only is this messy, you can still have surface tension problems. Messy option 3; Pour a little extra into the mould to make the part bulge a bit, and remove that with aggressive sanding after it’s cured. Lots of extra work, and so... much... dust... 'Nuff said?

Split Mould: This type of mould is a lot like a 1-part mould, but for objects that are much larger and complex. You setup the prototype and pour a large slab of rubber over/around the object. Once the rubber has cured the prototype will need to be carefully cut free (Read: split) from the center of the rubber block. When you start getting into objects this large and/or complex you usually need to start considering how to deal with bubbles in places you can't even see. Again, if you're just making a few copies of an object, it may be fine to just fill and repair the bubbles each time, but it adds significantly to the labour-per-piece.

Pros: Simple to make*, simple to use, and works well with Vacuum degassing. *Once you learn how to cut a prototype free from the rubber (this does take practice to do really well) this is an easier way to make a more complex mould. Pouring the rubber is simple, since it's usually a top down gravity fed mould with a single gate/vent. Since you don't need to set up for a second half (cutting the mould open creates the two halves) all you need is a prototype with a nice large pour gate, maybe some simple venting, and pour a block of rubber around it. Vacuum degassing will cause bubbles to 'boil out' of the resin rising up-and-out of the object and into the large simple pour gate.

Cons: Mould slip, mould lines, massive pour gates. Without anything to really lock the split of a Split Mould in place, it can easily misalign and produce a significant mould line or even a bad 'slip'. Slips are when the sides don't even come close to meeting; a bad mould line that is next to impossible to easily remove, usually requiring reconstruction of some sort. I hate all of these issues, so even when I end up doing large gate Vacuum friendly moulds, I will avoid using true Split Moulds. I swear by full 2-part Moulds. And the Pour Gates, massive Pour Gates. Resin is rather inexpensive, but it's still not free. Every CC of resin lost in the Gate and Vents could have been used to make more objects. In this case, more and less is always better; more parts, less waste? Yes please!

2-Part Mould: These start much like the 1-part mould, but the process follows with a second slab of rubber to make... you guessed it, a second part. This method can make gravity fed moulds, or my preferred, injection filled.

Pros: Control, precision, consistency. You can control exactly where the mould line runs; along edges, corners, and over easy-to-clean places to avoid detailed places. I hate mould lines. I insist on trying to make them easy to get rid of. Also, if you take the time to make many mould 'pins' to lock the mould halves together, with lots of staggered pins (more on that later), the halves of the mould lock together very tightly. I rarely ever have any 'mould slip' and always have reasonable mould lines when I cast thanks to these pins; I lose many many more parts to bad bubbles and voids than slips. Finally, you also get full control of the channels and gates that you use to inject or feed the mould with resin, and you don't end up with massive Pour Gates and Vents consuming lots of resin, if you do it well.

Cons: These moulds take more labour, skill, and materials to produce. Not only does each mould need to essentially cure twice (once per half), anything other than a flat backed object takes more time and skill to make the mould. Plasticine is your friend when making a 2-part mould; it's not only used as a base on all of the moulds, but also essential filler for more complex parts. It can take many hours just to build the plasticine to occupy the negative space that's required for complex objects, but the resulting flexibility you get in the mould is worth the time.

For me, 2-part moulds produce excellent reproductions with virtually no mould lines and only a bit of flash. They also waste less since you don't need a large pour gate like the Split Mould method. The amazing quality of the reproductions is well worth the effort, if you ask me.

Ok with that wall-o-text done... on to process! First, a few key tools and materials you'll need for this method.

  • Lego, lots of Lego. (Mega Blocks also work well) Hands-down this is one of the most straight forward materials for making mould boxes. Modular, endlessly reusable, and prolific, Lego lets you make any shape or size mould box you need. Lots of 2x4 blocks are perfect.
  • Plasticine. The same stuff you played with in school, Van Aken Plasticine can be found a most craft and hobby stores. You can even pick your favorite colour.
  • A Rolling Board. I've taped down a square of Parchment Paper to a cutting board for this task. Parchment is use the world over as a non-stick surface for all manner of jobs. You can find it at most grocery stores.
  • A Rolling Tool. A proper rolling pin is fine, but I make due just fine with a short length of rigid PVC-like tube.
  • Spacers. Just some thin strips of wood that are even and about 1cm thick. This will let you roll an even slab of plasticine.
  • A poking Tool. To errrr... poke, with. :) More specifically, to poke mould pin holes; but more on that shortly.
  • A scraping tool. A long tipped painting knife is perfect.
  • A Long Spatula. I use an icing spatula for mixing the rubber, to be more specific. But a few Spatulas for scraping rubber off tools and out of mixing cups is a good thing.
  • A Strong Mixing Stick. Always mix your rubber well before you pour it. Unmixed rubber will take much longer to cure, or not cure properly at all.
  • Mould Release Spray. Prototype parts will generally pull free of the rubber without Release Spray, but the mould halves can be almost impossible to pull apart without some spray.
  • Gloves and Safety Glasses. Rubber is sticky and doesn't wash off; wear gloves and older cloths or an apron. Also, the last thing you want to do is get a splatter of it in your eye/s. Slips do happen sometimes; always wear goggles when mixing and working with the rubber.
  • Lots of Paper Towel. When working with RTV Rubber and Resin you’ll always need to have some towels to wipe up sticky messes. As a general side note, drop cloths and other ‘keep it clean’ considerations should be made when doing these processes. Drips, drops, spills, and all manner of things can go awry. (I once flung an open bottle of liquid plastic across the room, due to a heavy-handed slip of the hand) Be careful, protect your work area, and yourself.

First you need a slab of Plasticine that is smooth, even and large enough. Also, a mould box of Lego to fit the part.

Use the strips of wood (or other objects) Spacers on either side of the Plasticine while you roll it out. Rotate it as you go to try and get the shape you'll need. There's no problem trimming sides down and attaching them to corners to get rid of an inevitable rounding you'll get while rolling. Just blend the seam a bit with your finger, and roll them together. The Plasticine is so dense that air trapped in and under it is not affected by the Pressure Chamber. You just need a smooth flat top to mount your prototype.

Once you've got a large slab, make sure it's big enough to reach all the corners of your Mould Box. How deep the Box is will naturally depend on the object. This is a shallow trim bit, so three Lego blocks is more than deep enough.

When making the Box around the object, always remember to give the item plenty of room. You want nice thick walls of at least 1cm around the object. The thicker the mould, the less chance of warping when casting. In some cases this will mean moulds will be massive blocks, but with the right rubber, and planning in the mould, it will last long enough to offset the modest extra cost.

Just place the object lightly to use it for reference. Here's where to Poking Tool comes into play.

With a light press on the Mould Box you can get an outline to use for reference. Trim off excess Plasticine and place the prototype as a guide while you press the voids into the Plasticine that will become the locking pins. All I use is a simple rod of metal with a mark to keep them all about the same depth. You want them somewhat thin (so you can fit more) and rather deep so the really lock tight with the other half of the mould. I start with the corners along the outside edge, then add pins as evenly spaced as I can manage. Follow the Lego pattern in the Plasticine to help with the spacing.

Again, more pins = tighter locking mould. And don't worry if the Plasticine puckers a little where you press these pins in; as long as the prototype has good contact with the Plasticine base that's all that matters. You want a clean mould, but the Plasticine doesn't need to be flawless.

With the rows of staggered locking pins in place, the Mould Box gets pressed into the Plasticine base.

I stagger the pins to get as much fit as possible, and have them as close to the object as I dare. I want the mould to have no choice but relax to a perfect fit every time, and this many pins does that.

With a firm press around the edge the Mould Box is sunk ever-so-slightly into the Plasticine to create a seal. Take extra care that the corners are getting a good seal. You can use a tool to press along the outside edge of the Plasticine and help make sure the seal is tight. The odd tiny slow leak will happen, but they stop as the rubber thickens while curing, and just create a little rubber blob to remove.

Naturally, the prototype is also pressed down to stick to the Plasticine at this point. You want it to stick to the slab, but not really sink into it. A light but firm press is usually more than enough to get the part locked in place, but sometimes a spray of Mould Release will help a part stick. It tends to soften the Plasticine ever-so-slightly, before evaporating.

Now the Scraping Tool (Painting Knife in my case, but anything similar will do) is used to free the entire contraption from the board.

The Parchment Paper will help considerably when trying to get this off the board. It's a little tricky even with paper; work your way around the Plasticine and gently lift the entire piece as you go. You want to keep the Mould Box in place, so take your time. Without the paper the slab with be almost glued to most boards. Pressing the pins really bonds the Plasticine down, and you usually warp the mould when you're trying to lift it. Do yourself a favor and get some Parchment Paper. It's at your local Grocers, right by the wax paper, plastic wrap, foil, etc..

Room Temperature Vulcanizing (RTV) Rubber, Goggles, Gloves, and a strong Paint Brush Handle as a Mixing Stick.

I'm using Smooth-On products, but there are many other brands. In this case Smooth-On Mold Star 30. This RTV Rubber flows very smooth, Pressure Casts perfectly, and is surprisingly tough yet very flexible. It is also very stiff in a good way, and doesn't need mould boxes to help it keep proper shape. A good thick mould of this makes exact copies of even the most delicate objects.

Gloves and Goggles should go without saying. Again, this stuff can be messy, you don't want it on your hands, and the last thing you want is an accidental flick of it in the eye. You might even consider an apron or coat to protect clothes; or just wear work clothes that you don't mind getting rubber/resin on. You can't plan for accidents or slips, so be prepared.

I'm trying to find something better, but for now the Paint Brush Handel is doing fine as a mixer. The chemicals in rubber will settle and make it act very strange if you don't mix them up before you pour, so make sure you mix them well.

No super exact measuring needed, just a simple 50/50 mix and it's good to go.

Use a spatula to to scrape as much of the Part A cup into the Part B. With this product Part A flows much faster/easier than Part B, so I pour it first. Don't worry if you can't get every last drop out of the cup, just try to get as much as you can. I then start with the Mixing Stick to get the blend of A and B started.

Now I switch to a long Spatula to mix, scraping the sides, corners, and bottom carefully.

The mix needs to be complete. Any poorly mixed rubber will make a soft spot in the mould. So you need to take time and care to scrape the sides of the container, and be sure to get it mixed out of the corners and off of the bottom of the cup. The RTV rubber cures very slowly, so you have a lot of time to work with it. Make sure the mix is very complete for the best results. Using cups that you can see through helps considerably, since you can actually see if the mix is compete and consistent with no streaks.

I use an up-side-down cake pan as a base for my moulds; it's stiff, fits the Pressure Chamber perfectly, and has a useful non-stick coating.

With the RTV rubber mixed, I let it sit for a few minutes to let the larger bubbles rise up and out. A quick blow on the surface will make the bubbles pop. Mixing will inevitably add lots of tiny bubbles to the rubber. Curing it under pressure will make them all completely vanish, but I give larger bubbles as much chance as I can to rise out.

Pour slowly from one corner of the mould; let the RTV rubber slowly creep over the part. Again this minimizes the chance of trapping air bubbles. But even if a small one does get caught, the Pressure Chamber cure will get it.

Lego is also great because you can build stilts for extra moulds. This time I cured a second mould stacked on top of the stilts.

Once it's in the Pressure Chamber I make sure it's very level. Liquids will always settle flat, so leveling the mould never hurts. In this case it's even more important. With my Trim parts I need to clamp the moulds in simple Mould Boxes to get good results. If the mould is perfectly level, it will clamp better at casting time.

With that, I seal the mould up in the Chamber, and apply 50+PSI of pressure during the 7 hour cure time.

Well then... this has been quite the wall-o-text, and this is just one half of a simple 2-part mould. Granted, the first half of the process is more involved, and takes more time and effort. Part 2 will be shorter, since the second half of the mould can use this first half as a base.

Thanks for reading; I hope it's been interesting.

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Discussion Starter · #41 ·
Thanks, as always, for the the kind words and positive feedback. It's the reception as a whole that I've been getting from the community that has really fueled me to try to push my work to the next level and see if a studio can actually become real. I've found such an enjoyment out of it all that I really want to make this a livelihood; my choice to start studying for a bachelors degree in Industrial Design is in no small part due to my obsession with creating and building for this hobby.

~ 2-Part Mould Making ~ Part 2

After 7+ hours of curing under 50+PSI of pressure the rubber as close to perfect as you can get.

Now that the RTV rubber is solid and locked in place it's as easy as flipping the Mould Box and peeling the Plasticine away. Sometimes the pressure has a way of forcing rubber under the piece in a few places, but that can be cleaned up; I'll show some of that next...

After removing the Plasticine it's time for some cleanup.

It's not uncommon for the odd seam to leak a little. The rubber gets thick enough to stop flowing in the first hour or so in the Pressure Chamber, so it's not enough to be a problem but it needs to be cleaned up at this point. Note: If you are not careful handling your mould boxes you can break the seal it has with the Plasticine. This can cause a large enough leak that will let much more of the rubber ooze out before curing.

Also, a few spots usually get a bit of rubber forced under by the pressure. It's usually a thin film that can be easily trimmed away. A fresh #11 scalpel blade is my go to favorite for this job, but it's my favorite blade for almost everything. Carefully cut along the edge of the object and use a set of tweezers to pick and peel away the unwanted rubber.

After cleanup it's a simple matter of building up the Lego to create a box for the second half of the mould.

With the walls built up there are two final steps before pouring the second half of the mould. First, input/output gates need to be attached to the sprew. These will pass right through the second half of the mould that is about to be poured. Once they're glued in place the entire cavity is sprayed liberally with some Mould Release. Be sure to spray the rubber areas well; note enough Mould Release will make the two halves of the mould stick together, and very hard to split apart.

Just like the first half of the mould, an even smooth pour starting in one corner is all that's needed.

Just like before, once I have the moulds poured I stack them up before returning them to the Pressure Chamber for the second high pressure curing.

Now it’s time to dismantle the Lego Mould Box and reveal the newly completed mould.

As Lego blocks are pulled away each of the seams will leave thin flash. It likes to stick to the Lego, but it peels away very easily; it’s just a bit fiddly and annoying, really. Once all of the Lego is gone it’s simple to pick this flash away by hand.

Now the Prototype needs to be freed from the new 2-Part Mould.

The Mould Release spray used earlier will help the two parts split apart. The Pins can be a bit stubborn at this point, as they each pop free for the first time. Working slowly around the part you can open the entire seam. From there just peel the mould open.

A press on the Inlet/Outlet Gates should push the Prototype away from the mould.

Slip the Prototype free and the mould is ready to use. With the pressure during curing, the RTV rubber has been formed flawlessly. Even the shine left from the glue I used during the build can be seen in the mould surface - amazing.

Now, since I created this article I’ve done many more moulds (most successful, several others… not so much
) And I figured it would be a good spot to show how this method can be taken to do larger and more complex objects. Plasticine is an excellent base and temporary filler and it can be used suspend complex objects.

It’s all in the layering; build a base slab, and place your prototypes on shelves made from plasticine.

It takes some practice, and a willingness to cut certain slabs several times until the correct shape is achieved; but fitting the object like this will let you completely control where the mould split will be. In this case I get it along the outside edge where it will be very easy to clean. Any major overhangs that could grab at the second half of the mould are filled with plasticine, and will be removed and cleaned in the next step. Getting the seal of the component to the plasticine is the trickiest part at this point. A little Mould Release brushed on along the seam can help. Getting it as clean as possible will make for clean mould lines that are easier to remove from the final resin casts.

After pouring and curing the first half, just like the simpler flat-back mould, remove the plasticine and clean things up.

Building the plasticine up is more complex in this case, but taking it out is the same principle. Getting the ‘stump’ of plasticine out can be a bit of a pin, but once it starts it usually rolls out as pictured. Traces of plasticine in nooks-and-crannies can be cleaned out with rubbing alcohol and/or Mould Release. As before, some rubber will get forced under the parts in a few places, they will need to be cleaned up. Beyond that, the Mould Box is built up again, injection vents are added, everything is sprayed with Mould Release, and the parts are ready for the pouring of the second half of this mould.

De-moulding parts from moulds like this becomes more difficult; shapes like these like to bent and warp as you try to free it from the mould. So just how complex they can get is somewhat limited, but they can easily be large enough for most war-gaming model needs.

So, that's it for now. Any questions, comments, ideas, or other general musings are always welcome.

Up next... I have no idea... But I'm sure I'll come up with a little something.

Thanks for reading.

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Discussion Starter · #44 ·
The flexibility afforded by using the Lego loose is just too useful. The parts I make can range in size and dimension, so I would have a hard time choosing 'standard' sections. For the extra few minutes it takes to remove the blocks one time, I'll take the added flexibility.

Vents change in size based on what they'll be doing. Smaller vents will just let a bit of air escape/through and won't really be for moving resin to fill a void. Medium vents are large enough to take fast flowing resin and usually connect larger objects; these are what feed most objects to fill them. Larger vents are either for a large syringe used to inject resin into the mould, or as a large gate to let venting gas escape during vacuum casting.

The two biggest problems I run into are vents/gates that are a bit too small to take the force of the injection (resulting in bad flash). Vents at least as large as the syringe opening are the best solution, and/or slowing down the injection speed.

Second is having vents that are too small during vacuum de-gassing. If they are too small the surface tension of the bubbles locks them in the vent and stops other bubbles from escaping. Larger vents are the key; I've found ~2mmx2mm vents work very well.

As with many things, there is potential for doing the right and wrong thing. Nothing I've shown is really much more than distilling the information that I've gotten from a few sources online (Some notes on Resin Casting and SmoothOn were two key sites) and combining it with my own real-world experiences. Really, Some notes on Resin Casting is the inspiration for my entire process, but I've adapted it to better suit my studio.

As a designer who is trying to make an income with my work I have a real respect for Intellectual Property. I take great care to create everything I make to respect GWs IP; I conceive and fabricate everything that I cast in resin. Nothing is made from an outside source of any kind, as it should be. I'll hope that others have the same scruples and use these amazing materials and useful processes to make all manner of wonderful war-gaming goodness.

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Discussion Starter · #45 ·
To get away from casting and moulds for a moment, I figured it might be interesting to show a bit of what keeps me away from my studio during the Fall and Winter months. In this case, it fits right in with miniatures and gaming, so it seemed a good subject for a small distraction post.

I've mentioned on occasion that I have recently returned to school to study for a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Design; and by ‘study’, I mean draw and build, draw and build, draw and build some more… then start again. My choice in field of study is in no small part due to the war-gaming hobby and everything that comes with collecting, building, and painting. The response to my work from the community in general told me I needed to take myself seriously, and go for it. If I can do this in my basement, what could I do in a larger industry setting?

My direct goal isn’t to become a miniature designer necessarily, but I have several more years of school to figure out where I fit and what I want to do. That said, I’ll be bring all of the skills, equipment, and process that I can into my modest studio and the kits I’ll produce over the coming weeks, months, years. Huh… that’s almost a paradox. Oh well, such things happen when you’re fueled by the Warp.

So, while many of the projects I have done (and will do) have limitations on what I can choose to create, sometimes we get freedom to make larger choices in form and function. I was flipping through some older photos and a project from last year came up; we were tasked with making a Carryall for a modest selection of items important to a task. My brain immediately set on a case for miniature painting supplies…

The construction had to be made mostly of paper; almost everything is built from Posterboard, Cardboard, and Mayfair paper.

The hinges, swing arms, drawer slide, and magnetized latch are the only parts made from plastic, so that those parts would be strong enough.

I had the option of building to a smaller scale, so I could have made the build easier; but if I was going to make this, I wanted to be able to use it in the end.

The paper plastic combination in the construction makes the build a bit fragile, but it still functions well to keep all of the most needed painting supplies in one place. I can close it all up and tuck it way if I need the desk space, or if I want to move my painting location temporarily. Maybe someday I’ll improve the design (it really deserves a good handle of some sort) and try my hand at making it from plastic and metal.
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Discussion Starter · #47 ·
No rest for the weary, no sleep for the wicked. Been juggling quite a bit the last while and sadly the studio time has had to suffer for it. That said, I've finally got the last bits done for the first Accessories Kit, so here's a quick update...

A few extra details and some rivets finish up the linked-Bolter Ammo Drums.

I wanted to keep this more simple and neutral; it's easy to clutter something so small. I'm happy with the straight forward look it has, and there's nothing stopping me from revisiting this bit and making variations.

After a few failed attempts, the last bit in the selection finally took form, the Dirge Caster.

As I built these parts I kept thinking I'd do something more elaborate, but as the layers came together the clean vox-grill look with a single high frequency satellite speaker didn't seem to need more, in my humble opinion. By using the same curved base part that I used in the Searchlight, the parts share a nice cohesive form with the rest of the kit.

Moulds are curing as I write this, and the first casts of these final bits should be done in the next few days. If all goes as planned I'll sit down this weekend and update The Dark Works; everything shown the last while should be available next week.

I've got a few more ideas and projects bouncing around inside my head, but that's another story for another day. Must... not... write... wall... of... text.
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