Sculpting again – Robotech Tactics

I was annoyed by the lack of Malcontent command chips, so I started sculpting my own this afternoon. So far, I’ve got about 20-30 minutes of work into it. I freehanded the base shape onto paper using a UEDF chip as a size comparison, sketched the design onto it loosely with a Micron .005, and then freehanded from that with my engraver (picked on up free from one of the Makerspace guys who was ditching it after getting a laser engraver).

After cutting the base chip and freehanding the Malcontent logo on there with the Dremel - ~5m.

After cutting the base chip and freehanding the Malcontent logo on there with the Dremel – ~5m.

Next, I mixed a tiny amount of Green Stuff and worked it onto the design.
Step three - 10 MinTook about 10 minutes so far. I’m pretty proud of the detail on the Valkyrie tail, especially since it’s less than 1mm tall.

Now I gotta wait until after my volunteering shift at the local film society to throw another layer of GS on there, but it’s already looking damned good. I’m probably gonna be in shape to drop rubber on these by the time I can afford to buy more. Eventual plan is to cast off a pair of masters, sand the backs down slightly, and then glue them together and install a thin rim instead of trying to do this thing double-sided. All told, should take me about an hour’s actual work to get a mold going, maybe another 40 minutes total to set up a full mass-production rig.
Not, of course, that I’d MP these. But Jesus, Palladium, it’d take a pro sculptor less than a fucking day to set this up and GHQ could be pumping them out by the thousands in less than a week. Hell, you already have masters for the UEDF and Zent chips, put them under some rubber and give us enough to actually play with…

Pirate conversions, and more Black Widow work (TotBWC, Battletech)

So, I’ve been much more productive these last couple of months than usual. Part of it’s getting on the right meds for a change, part of it’s completing the better part of a year’s worth of therapy for my ADHD. Now I’ve got time to work on something other than fixing my headspace, I’ve been working my ass off on my project backlogs. It hasn’t really made it onto the blog, since a lot of my projects have just been aimed at unfucking my house or otherwise not hobby-related, and I haven’t been in the mood to write for a while either. But now it’s too hot for carpentry, so back to the keyboard we go.

Right now I’m working on my massive post queue; I kept starting posts and then abandoning them to the ether after twenty minutes over the last year or so, and now I’m going back and finishing them – or adding on the stuff that I quit writing to do and never got done.

This is one of those posts – a selection of the ‘Mechs I converted/prepped/repaired in the course of three days back in June. I had to pull a couple back for QC (like the Bounty Hunter), but it was a lot of fun.

Overall production

Left to right, front to back:
Front row: SHD-2D “Vang” custom Shadow Hawk (This one is a little surprise for the mission “Leave No Survivors“; check below the break for the tech readout. It’s a beast), Stinger, Crusader, converted GRF-1S “Steiner”.
Second Row: Stinger, converted Wasp (left-handed, with a Recon Camera, two Vehicular Grenade Launchers, and a Small Laser replacing the missile system), an ICE Thunderbolt (modified from Steve’s design in 3063, see below the cut), a dressed-up Griffin with a Dougram Bushmaster’s linear gun, and a stock WHM-6R for the Santander Killers.
Third Row: two stock Wolverines, plus a Shadow Hawk converted to a Wolverine standard. See below for the parts breakdown. After that there’s another upgunned Griffin and a reposed and cut-down Stalker for the pirates (I’m using the stats for the lightened 80-tonner with it).

IMG_20160605_213303_957Detail pics:
Here’s some slightly better shots of the four who do me proudest.
SHD-2D “Vang”: Added another Dougram light Linear gun (the ML on the Shadow Hawk) from my gashapon collection, and put on a light SRM from the same source. The over-the-shoulder gun is the Large Laser I took from the Thunderbolt, mounted on a small part from a MW Clix mini. I recarved the area next to the head to remove the original grenade pack and plugged the SRM holes in its “collarbone”.

SHD-2 “NISE* Wolverine”: So, I’ve always disliked the way the Wolverine looks (heresy, I know. Shut up.). I scored a 3e plastic Shad on Ebay for $1 since the backpack gun was damaged and the laser had broken off. And I figured “Why the hell not? Someone’s gotta get a Command ‘Mech out of this, and pirates seem like the folks to do it”. First I rebarreled the arm laser with a bit of wire and some Green Stuff, then added a spare Command Destroid pack to the back in place of the AC. I mated the AC receiver to a barrel cut from scrap from a WH40 Basilisk fighting platform railing and a short magazine made from plasticard, then mounted it under the fore-arm. It’s hard to see, but there’s a small finger guard attached to the hand-grip. The missile rack is a carefully re-cut pair of SRMs from a JES-1 carrier. I also filed off the VGL mount on this one, but left the gap clear for the backpack SRM to shoot through.
This is going to be the leader for Recce lance of 2 Coy, Santander’s Killers.
*From the Gundam fandom. Refers to a “mocked up” or faked version of a ‘Mech using another’s chassis; the original NISE Gundam used a GM chassis.

TDR-6FX1: I like diesel Thuds. You like Diesel Thuds. We all like ’em. So this was an easy rebuild choice for another E-Bay rescue Thud. The shoulder mount is a pair of Dougram Linear guns, cut down and reinforced, with a Locust-like arm pod made from plasticard and a plastic rod. The arm got a Wolverine hand-gun from a WVR-6M conversion I did ages ago for a buyer, plus a shield from an MS-06F Zaku II that I had converted to a Zaku I. The smokestacks are made from sprues, and I sculpted a simple engine and heat sink into the back (as well as the laser pack space in the front). Given that these things are supposed to be like forty years old by the late Jihad, I busted her up a little bit too.

GRF-1S: This is a simple up-gunning, using components from a Roundfacer “Korchima Special” as well as a RRPGT Defender radome and some cord.First I cut away the shitter guns that come with the vinyl 3e minis, then carefully sawed in the detail on the legs and re-carved/sculpted the shoulder and side of the head. I added a small “reactor pack” on the back using a casting taken from a AAA battery, and wired it up to a recast Roundfacer gun. I tried a couple different components to dress up the other side of the pack, but the radome just seemed to fit so well. On the other side, I’ve mounted a smaller missile launcher, taken from a Dougram gashapon. Oddly, given how much time and effort I sunk into the others this one is still my favorite-looking.


The Future:

Painting to come once I finish allocating to the various forces in the book, though I already have homes for the Stalker, “NISE” Wolverine (both to the Killers), Thud (Canopian militia), Stingers, Vang’s SHD (Draconis March Militia), and Griffins (One each to the Donegal Guards, Killers, and Black Widows). On the shelf I’ve got some converted Archers, Pixies, the Bounty Hunter (3015), a few Valks, and the Dougram gashapon to fiddle with, plus a fuckton of vees.

Record sheets:
Below the cut, with some quick commentary on the design process and ideas behind them.

End of an Era (40k, Sisters of Battle)

I don’t talk much about Warhammer on here, simply because I don’t play it any more, but I used to be an avid – even tournament-level – player. I have almost a full maniple of Space Marines with armor and scout support, a very large cultist/IG force based around Necromunda Eschers and converted IG, some Inquisitorial forces, and various uncompleted vehicles, even an entire unfinished army of Dark Eldar and AdMech. But they’re not really what this is about.

Last year, I sold my Ulthwe’ Eldar to a friend. Then again, that army never really got off the ground as far as I was concerned. I had a couple of cool conversions in the force, but I really made it (back in the halcyon days of 3rd edition) to prove a short, extremely violent point to a local metagame that had been obsessed with Swordwind armies. Nobody in the area had ever played against an Eldar swarm with shitloads of cover saves, and it ended hilariously – especially the deathball of 40 WS5 I6 Storm Guardians massed around an Avatar of Khaine. Part of that force was a converted Jetbike warlock of whom I was particularly fond, as well as a massive Seer Council – I actually owned all but one of the Farseer and Warlock models that GW had produced up until 6th edition, with over a dozen minor custom jobs. Anyway, when I sold them, I documented a couple of my conversions for my own archives. IMG_20140404_241747_286 IMG_20140404_241802_233 IMG_20140404_241813_972 IMG_20140404_241840_036Now, though.. another friend of mine has offered to buy my Sisters of Battle.
Sisters are what got me into WH40k, specifically the infamous image of the Palatine crushing a skull under her boot as she advances from the cover of the 2e Sisters ‘dex. They were my first and last love in the game, and they kept me playing through a decade and four editions. I have hundreds of painted sisters and over a dozen vehicles (all based on the old Rhino chassis). At the same time, I’m never going to wind up playing again. It just feels insulting to the Girls to leave them in a box for the rest of forever, especially since they’ve won me many tournaments and dozens of friendly games (not to mention, of course, dying hilariously in dozens more).

Those desultory photos I took for my Eldar just won’t do it for the girls. So over the next week or so I plan to photograph my models, share some memories, and talk a little bit about my games with them and my experiences as a Sisters player over the years. I’m heading off to set up the lightbox later tonight, and we’ll go over the squads and my notable conversions  as I post them.

Robotech RPG Tactics, Wave I – Part II (Problematic Models and their assembly, and Component Quality)

This is part 2 of a multi-part series
#1: Compatibility and Scaling
#3: Destroid Defender

In addition, Palladium addressed some of the concerns expressed in this post, including making some of the excluded cards and assembly instructions available on-line (though they’re still partially incorrect)
See the post here.

By way of preface, this was supposed to be a fluff post, and take maybe a couple hours to write while I worked up test models for the game, took pics of the sprues, and noted down the hard spots for a new modeller.

It’s been a sodding week, and I’m only covering the worst offenders so far; the Destroids are on hold until I can get some magnets.

The mini quality has been, hands-down, the most controversial part of the entire game to date. Is everything shit? No, not by any means.
But all three armies (Zentraedi, Malcontent, and UEDF) get the shaft on something. The Quel-Regult is by far the worst offender, with multiple parts that don’t fit, and a missing component (see below). The UEDF player, meanwhile, gets a bit screwed by having even more models to build than the Zen player – models which take almost three times as long to build out, and have significant problems of their own. The Malcontents? The boxed set doesn’t even contain any legal units for them.
And while some of the models are a bargain, the Zentraedi get hosed on a critical component of their army.

Full breakdown after the jump.

Quick-and-Dirty Mold-Making and Resin Casting For Newbs, Part 3 (Resin Casting and The Final Product)

So, three days on and here we are; time for the payoff.
Basic precautions and materials: Part 1
The Mold-making process: Part 2

As before, wear your safety gear; respirator, gloves, and disposable clothing. This stuff will give you chemical burns and make your skin insanely sensitive to even the most minor irritants. It doesn’t really wash out, either.
Use a waxed paper sheet, big enough to hold ALL the molds you’re casting in this run and your resin containers with at least 3″ of room for overspills around the edges on your surface (You can see some of the results of NOT doing that in the last couple posts..). For the love of pants, put something between you and the floor, especially if you have carpets. I like cardboard because it comes in big sheets for basically free behind any local business.

Mixing the resin is a delicate and fiddly process. That’s why there aren’t really any pics of me doing it; the detail required is too high, and the times so short once the curing agent hits (plus the chances of getting resin on a couple hundred in electronics..) that there simply wasn’t time.

Step 1: Prep your molds. Finished insideHere’s our mold from last time. You want to make sure there’s no dirt, old resin, or clay clinging to the surface. You can use a thin layer of mold release to extend the life of the mold, but in my experience it only gives you about 5-10 more casts before the mold wears out; important for infantry or trees, not so much with bunkers and artillery, or fittings for books and costumes. Place the clean mold halves, opened, side by side on your dropcloth; try to arrange them like book pages, so you can quickly and accurately fold them together when the resin starts to set (see step 4, below).

EDIT: I have begun using talcum powder as a mold release. It is freaking amazing and you should do it too. Look for a scentless baby powder (scented if you can handle the stink) with “talc” or “talcum powder” as the only ingredient. Cornstarch fucks with the chemistry, but does make a fantastic filler putty (see: ) . Wear a mask, because inhaling a bunch of it will fuck your evening up. Tap the talc lightly over the mold halves, then clap them together a few times to distribute the powder evenly. It shreds the resin’s surface tension, and I’ve managed to pull much cleaner and less-bubbly casts than ever before with it. Get dat shit.

You will probably want to cast multiple items simultaneously; it’s very difficult to measure the exact amount you need for a mold by eye (again, as we’ll see below..). It’s a good idea to have an additional mold on standby just in case, so as not to waste resin – one model’s worth per run adds up FAST.

At the same time, resin cures faster when there’s more of it; more than about 4 mold’s worth of a fast-curing resin will sieze up in the mixing cup before you can pour it. For the Smooth-cast 300 I use, I’ve found the sweet spot is 3 molds’ worth – about 2Tbsp each of the two parts of the resin. I’ve tested 325 Colormatch before, and found it a bit lacking for small-scale casting; it’s very sensitive to mix ratios, fills with bubbles if you don’t vac it, and cures unpredicatably.

Step 2: Mixing the resin

No pix here, but I’ve got some pointers.
• Stir the resin in each jar separately, using a smooth circular motion to avoid bubbles. Let the jar sit for a few minutes before pouring, which will also help.
DO NOT allow ANY of either component of the resin to enter it’s opposite number’s jar. You can instantly ruin it. I store the jars on opposite sides of my workroom, in fact. Use separate, labelled stir sticks for Part A, Part B, AND the mixing cup. Pour the resin parts into opposite sides of the mixing cup.
• If you you accidentally pour too much of one part into the cup, MATCH IT. Bad proportions of the resin can keep it from curing, or cause it to attack the mold; both can ruin a day’s work slowly and painfully. It’s better to waste half a pour from curing too fast than wreck multiple molds.

Once it’s in the cup, you’ll notice that one part is smokier and a bit yellow, while the other’s clear. You can use a desklamp from the side to see the two liquids as you mix; stir with a smooth, circular motion until the two blend completely and the mixture looks clear. About 15 seconds is enough for a small pour.

Step 3: The Pour
This is where you make or break your piece.
You want to pour the resin evenly and smoothly, starting with the smallest and most detailed items and moving to the largest last. To minimize bubbles, aim for the lowest area on the mold and pour slowly. You can use the stir stick to guide the flow to a certain extent.
Remember, it’s better to overpour than get too little into the mold, but every dram that you overpour is contributing to the mess. Try to keep the resin from overflowing the mold cavity, but don’t freak out if it does.
If the resin starts flowing less like water and more like honey, it’s about to set; it will also heat up significantly.

Step 4: Pricking Bubbles (Optional)
So, you don’t have a vacuum table/viber? It’s cool.
Remember that pin/paperclip I mentioned a ways back? Here’s where it comes in; this step is optional, but will dramatically improve the quality of your final piece. You only have 30 seconds to a minute to do this, depending on how much resin you mixed and poured. Keep an eye on the other molds; if you see the “bloom” (see next step), or if the resin starts to “skin up” on the one you’re working, STOP.

Now, what you’re trying to do isn’t actually popping the bubbles, just pulling them off of the surface of the final piece.
Pricking bubblesThis was a pretty clean pour; I’ve already pulled one bubble on the left, and I’m working another one out of the rivet hole on the right. Work delicately, you don’t want to tear the mold; it’s usually better to put the pin over the bubble and coax it up by stirring the resin than to dive in and crank it out.

Step 5: The Bloom

As the resin is about to cure, you’ll see a skin develop, then a white cloud appear in the middle of the cavity.
Resin Bloom
Once the resin blooms, you have to work fast. If you’ve overpoured and let it cure too long, you won’t be able to press the mold halves close enough together, leaving massive mold lines and distorting the piece. If it doesn’t cure long enough, the resin will run out of the major cavities inside and, again ruin the piece (see below, “Candling” for some more on this).

Take the more-cured half of the mold – and there will be one, it’s usually the one you poured second because of the weird-ass ways resin works. Using your gloved hands (you do have gloves on, right? This shit will squirt..) fold it quickly and firmly onto the other half, matching the keys and making absolutely SURE the sides are perfectly aligned. Press down gently but firmly, or squeeze it using both hands for even pressure; you want to make sure the halves are as close as possible to minimize flash (the extra stuff around the edges) without distorting the mold. At this stage any major distortions you put it through will show as wrinkles and bulges on the final pieces.
To avoid distortion on particularly delicate pieces, you can go back to the legos: build a frame just high enough to enclose the bottom half of the mold (if you enclose the top, it’ll prevent excess resin from escaping, and it will likely catch the top mold half up, further distorting the cast), then press the top half down on it.

Step 6: Waiting

Set the pressed molds down and walk away. If you’re worried about the molds slipping, you can place a thin board or sheet of plastic on top and a weight on top of that: the board will keep the weight distributed evenly, and protect whatever you’re weighting it with.
For a fast-cast resin, you’ll want to wait about 10 minutes, or a little longer: you can use the resin around the sides to judge when it’s fully cured.
Resin leaksThis isn’t quite cured: the resin is shiny and flexible. You’ll want it to be a little more matte, and just losing its flexibility.

Step 6: The moment of Truth (Sort Of)

You can take the gloves off for now, since most of the reaction is done. Keep the mask, though. When you open the molds, the resin will still be warm to the touch and slightly flexible: the flex will help you extract the models. Now you get to see how well you did.

Well crap.

Well crap.

This is a common error: I underpoured the resin for the bunker half. You can try to salvage an underpour by adding more resin, but you’re more likely to just wind up with a piece that’s got weird raised and lowered areas all over it from the new resin partially flowing under the old.

Step 7: Candling (optional, but recommended)

Take your piece and hold it up to a light. As you can see, I’m using a CFL desklamp (hooray for ecological responsibility AND cheapness)
Candling the pieceAny internal air bubbles – like the massive one here – will show up as much lighter areas. This is caused by closing the molds while the resin is undercured, and/or squeezing it together too hard.
For smaller holes, if you have modeler’s epoxy putty – I use Green Stuff and JB Weld Qwik Wood – you can carefully cut out a section from the least-visible part of the bubble, then force some putty inside to reinforce the part. With a larger bubble like this, I usually just scrap the piece. Small surface bubbles can also be patched with epoxy.
So what can you do with these trashed parts? Battle-damaged scrap, terrain, base embellishments.. You can also take correctly-cast parts and save them: this one had perfectly fine gun barrels. If one of the next passes winds up with messed-up barrels, I can just glue them in place, or save them for converting other pieces.

Step 8: Cleanup.Resin pre-flash
So, you’ve got a finished, non-screwed-up piece. All that extra crap around the edges is called “flash”. It’s usually best to wait until the resin fully hardens to do the fine detail work, but you can trim the flashing down immediately with your diagonal cutters. While the piece is still soft and pliable, you can straighten detail parts, and easily do some preparatory cutting work for any planned repositioning.

After the part hardens, mask up; resin dust is still a lung and eye irritant. It helps to wipe down your work surfaces with a wet rag or paper towel and vacuum the floor after any trimming or filing.

Te remove the flashing, it’s best to trim it close to the surface, then sand or scrape off the remainder. To scrape, hold your blade facing at a slight angle away from you, and drag it towards yourself slowly with very light pressure, while holding the piece in a clamp or your other hand.
For sanding, I use several jeweler’s files for the aggressive work, but I mostly resort to a very fine-grit 3M sanding sponge; you can wash it out after every batch and re-use it pretty much indefinitely.

The final product!

The final product!

Okay, the caption’s slightly premature: the tiny bubbles you can see in the windows need to be popped off with the tip of a craft knife, and the barrels need a wee bit more sanding. Note how the barrels on the cast piece are straighter than the master, and the detail seems sharper: these are common benefits when you’re recasting from lower-quality plastics and rubbers.

I hope you’ve found this tutorial helpful, and wish you success with your own casting setup.

Quick-and-Dirty Mold-Making and Resin Casting For Newbs, Part 2 (The Mold)

Okay, so you’ve gathered up the gear I listed in Part I, and are keeping in mind my warnings and tips. What now?

First off, you’re going to be working with some nasty, nasty shit. It won’t kill you, but it will damage your skin, make you itch like mad, and ruin everything it touches. Wear your damned gloves and clothes you won’t miss.

Step 1: Assemble Your Gear.

Starting materialsHere’s my starting setup. Note the horribly resin-stained sheet of waxed paper on my desk, and the damage from the resin on the surfaces outside it. The giant red lump is Van Aken oil clay. It’s non-hardening, and more importantly, non-reactive with all the things we’re about to expose it to. It also works easily. Knead it a little bit before you start building the mold frame, it’ll get more flexible. Also, it stains.

Step 2: Building the First Frame Layer, Testing Layouts

test layout
You’ll need to do both these steps at the same time. First, lay out your master on your baseplate, trying a couple of configurations. My master today is a generic artillery turret I got in a sack full of stuff from China. I need more arty and pillboxes, so into the silicone it goes.
I sprayed this master with mold release beforehand – it’s not usually necessary, but I wasn’t sure about the material, and the mold release helps shield it from what’s about to happen. There’s also a buildup on the bottom right corner of the bunker, which I didn’t notice until I was ready to pour. I keep around a shitty old watercolor brush to help smear the release around and pick up excesses. It ruins paint, so, yeah, make sure you keep it out of your regular paint caddy…

Anyway, what you’re doing here is working out a good layout for your pieces. You want to leave some room around the edges for “keys” – parts that force the mold to line up when you’re casting. For this style of mold, you also want at least 1/8″ of space around each edge to keep it from being damaged in a cast.
Once you find a good layout, build up the blocks to about half the height of whatever you’re casting.

Step 3: Placing and Prepping the Clay.

rolled clayOnce you’ve got a good layout chosen, tear off some clay and pack it into the block frame, then roll it flat. I used a wine cork because I’m cheap, but really almost anything will work. Make sure, if you’re doing a deep 2-part mold, that the clay is deep enough to sink the model half-way in, or you’re going to have to redo this step.

Step 4: Embed the Masters in the Clay. 

Clay pre-sculptTHIS STEP IS CRITICAL to the quality of your finished piece.
Do not fuck it up.

I’ve done something slightly naughty here because I was short on time: since resin cures faster the more of it there is in a piece, you usually want to make separate molds for parts of drastically different sizes like these two. In fact, the turret base could get away with being a one-sided mold, even though there is a lightening space on the other side of the master.

Place your master on the clay.  With long, thin parts (like the gun barrels on this one) push them down into the clay, then pull them out completely and set them gently back into the holes. You want them to lie as naturally as possible; otherwise, the part will be deformed in the final resin cast.

This clay is now exactly the shape the second mold will be.In fact, if you only want to cast one, one-sided part, you can skip the rest of this and carefully pull the master, then skip ahead to the next section (mixing and pouring the resin)
The three divots in the clay were all made with a pencil eraser: they will be the keys in the final cast, along with the 2×1 brick in the top left corner. You ideally want keys going into both sides of the mold to help the alignment; you can also press bricks into the clay and then pull them out. Make sure the keys align at least three corners and two sides, and put keys on either side of small or fiddly parts to keep them aligned.
AFTER you’ve made the impressions for the keys, carefully take your sculpting tool and bring the clay up to the edges of the material being cast. You want to avoid what are called “undercuts”. That’s places where the mold wraps around a part; they shorten its life, and make bubbles much more likely.
For round or cylindrical pieces, try to make the mold line come right up to the center of the part, along its long axis.
For a more pyramidal part, like the gun and the turret base here, you want to keep the mold line at the bottom.
If you’re doing more cubical parts, try to keep the mold lines running vertically on the “sides”; that’s the area and placement your eyes will be least likely to make out any distortion.

Also, you don’t want a really strongly raised or lowered area in your molds, so if you find yourself having to cut or build up a large area inside, try tipping the master at a diagonal. If you’re casting a pre-cast plastic master, follow the existing mold lines; plastic casts absolutely cannot have any undercuts, which makes your job easier.

Step 5: Raise the Mold Frame’s Sides
building up the sidesNow, you’ll take your blocks and build up the sides of the mold frame. You want the top of the frame to be at least 1/4″ higher than the highest point on the master inside the frame. After this photo was taken I added another level just to be sure.

Step 6: Mix and Pour the Rubber

Once the frame is high enough, mix and pour your rubber according to the instructions. If you have scrap rubber, don’t completely cover the piece; you want it to just barely submerge all the components.

This is the second most important part of the process; accidentally disturbing your master or getting surface bubbles will ruin the mold and you’ll have to start over. You can minimize bubbles by stirring the rubber inside the cup with slow, linear motions instead of a fast, circular one. If you have a vacuum table, great, but most people don’t. This is the most cheapest and most effective method I’ve found yet.

Step 7: Basic Degassing
Once you’ve poured, stir the rubber inside the frame in a slow, gentle back-and-forth motion at the top of the mold, as you see below.

stir 0 stir 1 stir 2 stir 3It’ll take 3-5 minutes for the mix to stop actively bubbling and quiet down. You may have noticed the bits sticking out of the rubber there, and be asking yourself “why is it so thin?”
Here’s where recycling comes in.

Step 8 (Optional): Reinforcing and Recycling

If you’ve fucked up (or, in this case, worn out) a mold, you can use it to reinforce a new one; it’ll also stretch your available material considerably.

Scrap moldHere’s a trashed mold (I actually poured badly-mixed resin in and it destroyed the casting surface, but that’s for next post). You can also use the pucks of leftover rubber that will build up in the bottom of your mixing cup.
Diced mold scrap
Slice off a chunk of the scrap with your craft knife, then dice it into smallish chunks. The small blue bits you can see inside there are actually from another salvaged mold; you can keep doing this pretty much indefinitely. Pick off any resin stuck to the diced scrap. You want to keep the scrap to about 30% of the total volume of the mold half; too much more and it starts to become unstable.

inserting scrap 1inserting scrap 2inserting scrap 3To insert the scrap, place it on the surface and gently push it in with the end of your stir-stick. This helps keep you from trapping large pockets of air under or between the bits, and also from disturbing the mold.

Once you’ve put in the scrap, you’re done with this half of the mold for the next 8 hours. Put it on a level surface where the cat/kids can’t get at it, and walk away.

Step 9: Extraction and Cleanup

(8 hours later).
You’re ready to trim and prep the bottom half of the mold. Bust open the frame (carefully), and peel the mold away from the master and clay.
Opening the finished moldSee all those dangly bits?  They need to come off. This looks like a job for Mr. Craft knife!

Trimming 1Lay the piece on its side on a cutting mat (or not, if you don’t care all that much about your furniture..). Make a straight, slightly beveled cut on each side, rolling the mold as you go. You can also tear or trim off the areas where rubber snuck between the blocks now. Here’s a shot of the finished outside.Trimming 2Note how all that mixing still didn’t get all the bubbles out; the rubber gives off gas as it cures. But at least this way they’re inside the rubber, not on your casting surface.

Finished insideWell.. mostly. After inspection, I’d normally trash this mold half – but the bubbles are small and not in immediately noticeable areas, and I’m low on rubber, working with a relatively unimportant piece. I’ll give it a bit of clemency.
Look over the inside of the piece for rubber “tags” – small bits of unsupported stuff hanging off. You can see a few places on the turret base where I had to cut them away. Also, you’ll want to clean any clinging clay from the mold, or it’ll interfere with casting the second half. Note also how I trimmed down the keys slightly to keep them from binding in the other half of the mold.

Step 10: Prepping for the Second Mold Half

Now we come to our second toxic friend – mold release.
This shit is nasty. It burns your lungs and gets slippery oily crap everywhere. It’s kind of what it’s supposed to do. Wear a mask, and do this outside.
mold release
Spray a thin coat of it on the mold half, without the master model inserted. Smear it around, making sure to get all the nooks and crannies; I use a shitty old Crayola watercolor brush.
Wait 5 minutes and do it again.

Step 11: Here We Go Again

For casting the second half of the mold, the procedure is almost the same, though there are a couple of pointers:
• Completely disassemble the mold frame, place the mold on the baseplate, and completely rebuild the frame around the first mold half. DO NOT shove the mold into the old frame; it will distort it and ruin the second half of the mold.
• Make absolutely, completely, 100% sure that the master parts are inserted firmly and held in place on the first mold half. If not, you’ll have to start over. By the same token, be especially gentle when outgassing and pouring the second half. If I’m working with a really, really fiddly part I use a thin layer of white glue to hold it into the first mold half. Be aware that you’ll have to wait about 6-10 hours for the white glue to dry so it doesn’t screw with the rubber’s chemical reaction.
• Once again, do not screw with the mold for at least 6, preferably 8 hours. I usually time it so I wind up pouring the second half right before I go to bed so I’ll be less tempted to do something stupid..

Click through to Part 3 here, where I’ll show you how to use your new mold with yet more toxic stuff!

Quick-and-Dirty Mold-Making and Resin Casting For Newbs, Part 1 (Materials and Equipment)

I’ve been meaning to make this post for a while. It’s the product of more than a year of horsing around and testing, using a somewhat uncommon method of casting. This method is best for short runs (less than ~25) of items without especially dynamic poses or deep recesses/spindly projections. My failure rate on casts is about 10-15%.
First, before we get into this, some notes on legality (and remember, I’m not a lawyer, just an opinionated internet asshole from America) :

• It’s technically legal (in the “not-criminally-actionable, but still-naughty” way) to cast stuff for your own use, and of course anything you’ve sculpted >entirely< yourself or using parts cleared for reproduction is okay.
• It is all kinds of illegal to sell or (to a lesser extent) even give away models based on/including parts from someone else’s work. Get permission, get a contract, and get a lawyer before you start even thinking about doing casting for someone else.
It’s actually much more complicated than that, between FASA vs. Playmates and Chapter House Studios vs. Games Workshop, among others – but this is a decent guideline for not getting your ass sued.

Selling “Garage Kits” (short-run, self-sculpted models of something that the official licensor doesn’t make) is still illegal, but usually tolerated. If you do still want to break the law here, remember that it’s in the same general category as fansubs: don’t mass-produce, don’t do anything to twit the creators, and immediately back down if you’re challenged or even requested to. Not that I’m advocating it, of course.

• It is a DICK MOVE to take recasts into a store that sells that product line. No-one cares how “legal” it is, you’re shitting where you eat. Don’t take them to tournaments either, you will eventually get busted and ejected. Similarly, if you’re making garage kits or even recasting for your own use, don’t post about it on official forae.

Finally, there’s something a lot of people on the Internet forget –

You have no “free speech” rights in a private forum or place of business.
The owners are completely within their rights to kick/ban/C&D you. They can, and will, so fucking fast it’ll make your balls slap your voicebox.

Now then, with that out of the way, let’s get into the materials and equipment you will need.


Yesterday’s Sculpting, Today’s Converting (Battletech, Gundam)

Got some more sculpting done last night

L-R: PlasTech Valkyrie, F4X Thunderbolt, Hunchback -4J, Centurion, PlasTech Panther

L-R: PlasTech Valkyrie, F4X Thunderbolt, Hunchback -4J, Centurion, PlasTech Panther

Stripped the two painted PlasTechs I got off of eBay. I also blu-tacked the Thunderbolt sculpt; it needs some serious work on the armor, but the chassis is complete. I discovered shortly after this photo was taken that the GS hadn’t cured on the Hunchie, and I had to pull the top LRM frame and the left leg reinforcements.
The Centurion is a simple conversion to more closely match the actual art and card art: I’ve sunk the missile launcher farther into the chest. The ML needs to be resculpted, however.

On the Gundam 1/400 front: Tonight I converted up the rest of Michael vanOrden’s team, as well as his wife’s.

L-R: 2x 120mm MG/leg rockets MS-06J, 1x MS-06F with 240mm Zaku Bazooka

L-R: 2x 120mm MG/leg rockets MS-06J, 1x MS-06F with 240mm Zaku Bazooka

Image quality on these two is a bit shit, still working out a good lighting setup for shooting primed stuff.
This is your basic, late-war Zaku II team layout, before the adoption of the Zanzibar increased average team size. Some fairly simple conversion work here. The center Zaku has had its legs reposed and the left hand flipped. The far right Zaku had to have the shoulder shield trimmed to keep it from impinging on the bazooka. Gonna try heating and rebending the BZ again, but I don’t hold out much hope at this point.
Paint scheme will be tan and grey, heavily-weathered. This is “blue team”

L-R: salvaged artillery rifle, 100mm MG and shield, Giant BZ

L-R: salvaged artillery rifle, 100mm MG and shield, Giant BZ

Red Team has a support-focused armament.
The conversion work here was a bit more involved: I don’t have any base MS-05 models, so I had to cut down MS-06s and resculpt some minor details.
The right-most Zak has a Giant Bazooka (yes, it’s actually called that) salvaged from Johnny Raiden’s MS-06R, and a shoulder shield.
The center is a command mod mounting a resculpted shoulder shield (made into a close-combat shield) on the left hand and a 100mm MG converted out of the standard Zaku II 120mm gun in the right.
On the left, I mounted the salvaged gun from my Thunderbolt conversion as some kind of arty rifle. I added the magazine to the model, as well, and did some minor resculpting to the hands and grip.

Green Team (Reinhardt Wießmann) arriving as events warrant

A Productive Day (Battletech, Sculpting WiP, rust reference photos)

Well, after fiddling with that pen, I felt the need for some sculpting. My long-running Longbow/Spartan project is one layer closer to completion, and I’ve begun taking a miscast Hunchback from my Battletech Intro Boxed Set and turning it into a “Swayback” variant – in this case, the twin LRM-10/quint Medium Laser HBK-4J. Click to embiggen all photos – the knife shots below are quite large for reference purposesLongbow WiP 08 Oct 2013 - Hunchback
Then I went out to make dinner. Turns out a bottle of vinegar-based salad dressing had overturned onto my carbon-steel meat cleaver.
You may know what acid does when exposed to good steel.
I had the presence of mind to photograph it, as this is pretty much what a good bloodstain that’s been ignored will do to a sword/cleaver/knife. Commentary in the captions

Left side of blade, with a quick wipe to remove the pooled vinegar.

Left side of blade, with a quick wipe to remove the pooled vinegar.

Note the grainy texture of the corrosion on the right side, and the ring of corrosion around a nearly untouched center at the top of the blade (if there’s no contact with oxygen, the blade can’t rust – that’s why you oil weapons)

Right side, again after a quick wipe

Right side, again after a quick wipe

This side didn’t get it nearly as bad. Again, though, notice the texturing and contours of the corrosion around the clean areas of the blade.

Here’s the blade after a scrub with paper towels, but before I scoured and re-seasoned it. This is what hastily wiped-off blood would look like if you let it sit in a corner somewhere. Also, note the color changes as the oil scrub absorbed the majority of the “fresher” light orange oxides on the damaged parts of the blade. The corrosion’s almost black underneath, building though thicker browns to a powdery, newer orange.

Battletech sculpting/conversion update.

Got some ‘Mech modeling done over the last few days. First off, I got sick of the heavy-duty sculpting work I’ve been pushing the last few weeks, and started on a lance of Donegal Guards – specifically the 17th Donegal. They’re set up to be legal for play from the early Star League all the way through to post-Jihad, and most of the designs are acceptable in the late Age Of War.



Composition: BNC (Steiner variants), Locust (1-S), Commando (-1 series), Wolverine (Stock, can use minor variants and upgrades). Runs just shy of 4k BV, or 4500 with the Jihad-era variants. Basic idea is, the WVR hangs back with the Banshee while the Locust and Commando zig-zag across the line of advance. When they find a target, the Commando falls back to snipe and bodyguard the ‘Shee as it advances to engage, while the Wolvie and Locust flank the target and pressure it. Been experimenting with loading the Commando with Inferno rounds so it can set fires and deal with vees, but I never manage to use them up in a fight. The strategy seems to work okay in Megamek, although the lance is a good bit more explosive than I’m usually comfortable with. I’m really proud that I managed to keep resupply easy (only 3 different types of ammo, and mostly they eat up 6-packs of SRM like Skittles), and still kept a reasonable theme going.

All are converted plastics from the boxed sets, as follows:
• The Commando uses the laser designator from a 1/72 Apache’s Hellfire rack. I integrated it with the recarved SRM wrist rack.
• Banshee: Sculpted SRM rack, with a heat sink in the back. Drilled gunbarrels in the waist, added a salvaged Whammy arm from my adventures in ebaying 3e plastics.
• Wolverine: Didn’t like the way it was clearly facing the wrong side of the base, so sawed and pinned the waist. Minor GS work to fix a miscast on the back.
• Locust: Cut out the center “barrels” on the arms, drilled the bottom and added a quick-and-dirty paperclip and GS laser. Top barrel sanded round, will be jeweling it as a laser lens for the SLs later. Cut off the underslung Martell, saving it for a Taurian locust conversion later (over-under linked barrels. It’ll look great or completely shite).

Pic is after 1hr of painting. I managed both base and highlight coats on the three painted ‘Mechs, but didn’t have time to ink the Bug or work on the Wolverine. I really need to fix that sloppy-ass highlight on the Banshee’s barrel, too.

I’ve also resumed my “unfuck the 5e boxed set” project. Everything from simple reposes (Panther, Jaegermech, Vindicators) to model changing (Clint -> Clint IIC for my Spirits), heavy-duty reposes (Jenner, Dragon), and weapon swaps/sculpting (Banshee, Zeuses).
Boxed Set Mods #1Working from Left to Right;
• The Hunchback was a simple gun cleanup; the other one I own is in the midst of a Swayback (SRM) transition.
• Panther: a simple saw-and-pin on the arm.
• Dragon: heavily reposed, rebased, and guns drilled. It’s still waiting on radio antenna and a reworked arm laser before it sees primer. I loosely based its pose on an old illustration I have somewhere.
• Whitworth: Arms reposed, with the lasers respositioned to the correct angle and the micro-missile box on the left arm beefed up to better proportions. Still debating whether to make the missile hatches open or closed.
•  Clint: just started its rebuild; still needs a hand actuator and a head/arm/leg repose to match the Loose illo in 3060.
• The primed Zeus is one of my earliest gun rebuilds in the scale, and needs a little rework now that I’m more comfortable. Its unprimed sister is set to become the ZEU-6Y experimental model from the Succession Wars, because I am a whore for Blazers.
• The Jaegermech has had the barrels cut, rotated, and pinned. I can’t find my JM-6A conversion right now, alas.

There are several more conversions on the way, with six 3e plastic ‘Mechs waiting for primer and another five 5e models, but I felt like throwing these up to remind myself I’m making progress. Especially with the Thunderbolt’s reactive armor still kicking my ass.

Definitely not using the foil backdrop again, though, yellowed the fuck out of my pics. Time to try postcards, I think…

Project Log: Pinewood Derby (Gary’s)

So every year Kayce runs a pinewood derby at Gary’s (see sidebar) (Gary’s has since, sadly, closed.) to celebrate her birthday. They’ll post more stuff on the Facebook page later, along with a vote for the prettiest car.
Anyway, this is the first year I participated, finally feeling comfortable enough to try. Bought a standard Woodland Scenics $4 kit with a 2×2 block, some axles, and some wheels.

400 and 600 grit 3M sanding blocks.
Gerber pocket knife
X-acto (#2 blades), razor saw (used to start the hacksaw cuts)
Bargain-bin Hacksaw. I think I got it from Harbor Freight like 6 years ago.
JB Weld “Qwik Wood”
Various Deco Art acrylic paints

Step one: Roughing and carving the block.
Partway through the first cut I belatedly realized that I have a blog, and random people might actually like to see this.
SDC10029This is partway through the first cut. You can see the roughed-out design freehanded with pencil on the side of the block here. It changed a little, of course. This is ~3PM

SDC10030Started whittling.  Don’t worry, I patch that horrid fuck-up in the hood later.
SDC10032Mostly finished with the sanding now. You can see my knife in the top right corner here – had to sharpen the blade 5 times before I was finished.
The kitchen floor in the aftermath… After that, it was bondo time.
Here you can see some of the stuff I was roughing out for the decorations. Unfortunately, none of the pictures I took of this step came out :/

Step two: Detailing and painting.
SDC10037Detailed and basecoated. 2 Reaper Bones kobolds, a Games Workshop Land Raider hatch and Rhino hatch arranged like an Israeli/British turret, part of some weird Dr. Frankenstein diorama I bought ages ago (see the comment below for the post where I finally IDd the damn thing), a shitload of Green Stuff, and an Unseen Rifleman (actually a 1/300 Macross destroid) arm. Chain is from my inexhaustible supply of crappy aluminum quarter-machine jewelry chains, anchored with green stuff. You can tell the thing on the head of the “gunner” kobold was supposed to be a taco hat, because pirate kobolds. This was taken around 7:30 PM.

SDC10040First bascoat layer. After this I went to do other shit for the night (cook dinner, watch Deep Space 9 with my wife, etc); ~8:30 PM.

Day Two: Painting.
Started at 9:45 AM. Had to leave by noon-thirty, so I had to bust ass to get this done.
SDC10043In this shot, the varnish is still wet, ~1205. Unfortunately, it started to frost, and I had to patch it.  Text on left side reads “Luv Waggin” and on the right is a “20” inside a triangle. “JATO” in stencils on the rocket pack on the back.
SDC10050SDC10049The Van De Graff generator on the ass-end. I wonder how bad-ass it would be if it went into the red? :b
Note that the “pirate hat” has now, sadly? devolved into a pompadour, but it’s still sufficiently awesome to require no redo.

SDC10055Finally, a shot of me and the other racers on race day (I won!). Kayce’s Twinkie in the middle, Tim entered the Gandalf wagon to its left. (Entries are arranged in order from first place in the races on the right, to last on the left). There’s still a contest for best-looking racer, which will also go up on the Gary’s facebook page.