Reversing the Apocalypse: “Un-ruining” the Mantic 28mm Brick terrain set

I picked up the Mars Attacks! brick ruin terrain boxed set a year or so ago, while I was on my last Fallout kick. The sci-fi kits they put out were pretty cool, and I liked the way those fit together, so I snagged a couple of the MA! ruins boxes on sale from the LGS, hoping they’d fit the good old zeerusty Fallout aesthetic. They were.. not the most impressive. A couple of connectors snapped off while I was doing test fitting, and there were a huge number of “samey” pieces of ruin. That tends to make everything look a little too planned for a crumbling town (in particular, the three identical un-shattered glass doors, and all the identically-busted windows). The clip-together system also leaves huge unsightly gaps between pieces, and glaring holes in the models’ texture that would require filling. Plus they were a garish salmon-orange-pink. So I knew that if I put these together I’d either hate them or have to give up on the modularity that was supposed to be the kit’s selling point.

Instead of doing either, I got annoyed with it in the planning stage and stashed it in the back of my closet with the rest of my unloved but usable gaming crap.

Today I’ve been inspired by the work of the gent over on Tabletop Terrain to give my 20th-C brick a second look (he’s got a couple of really cool posts through that link showing his own work on it). He fixed the gapping problems and the clip-holes quite handily. As I said, however, the biggest thing that bugged me personally was the uniformity of the busted bits, along with how small most of the pieces are. Some are barely big enough to make a blasted corner sticking up out of the rubble, and only have 1-2 clip holes. That makes building walls and linear terrain much harder. Plus, I want a couple of vaguely intact buildings to fuck about in. The best part about Necromunda and Mordheim was always the massive, multi-level terrainscape; I want to get some of that feel with my own This is Not a Test tables. I know Mantic offers actual un-ruined sets, but most of them don’t actually give me anything over what I already have. In particular, the roof tiles look shit and they have no models with plain, open windows – everything’s a thin layer of tough, orange plastic I’d have to saw out anyway. I might pick up their Convenience Store for the windows, but really their setup is pretty janky and this is more about salvaging and getting the most out of what I have. Kinda appropriate for a post-apocalyptic project, if you think about it..

So I set about restoring what bits I have and planning out new ones – the roofs are going to have to wait for a bit.

One of the first things I noticed was that the “Accessories” sprue has some pretty cool bits on it that aren’t actually on any of the buildings Mantic offers – a different dustbin, beer kegs, a better-looking paneled door – so I plan to might wind up separating a few of those off and repairing/recasting them for scatter terrain. That door is >definitely< going under rubber, although I’m going to have to make it as a “face” mold since the other side is covered by crates and reinforcements.


Annotated to show some of the nifty salvageable bits here


Almost the same size, and you can’t tell me this isn’t cooler…

The park benches are too difficult to cast, and I can make my own, better-looking ones more quickly and cheaply with coffee stirrers and wire anyway, but the road signs and 50s-style lamps are badass.

I also did a basic repair on the main panel.

I had the sneaking suspicion that one of the smaller “ruin” pieces would match up fairly closely to the missing chunks of the largest panel. None of them did exactly, but a couple were pretty close. This was the best fit.
I traced the outline of the larger wall on it with a sharpie and got to work with the ol’ razor saw (this stuff is a little too stiff to cut with the X-acto, although my heavy boxcutter is decent for trimming), and an emery board.

These things are the shit, kids. $1.50 for fifteen, and they're wide, straight, flat, and flexible.

These things are the shit, kids. $1.50 for fifteen, and they’re wide, straight, flat, and flexible.

Anyway, I sanded until the model hit a decent temporary fit, then clamped it into a pair of other walls as an alignment jig and sanded until it fit cleanly and without real effort before I glued it. I also lightly sanded the surface of the piece – like a lot of these hard-plastic wargaming models, it warped slightly while cooling and I want the recasts to be as clean as possible.

main-panel-fit-and-glueNext up is making a quick-and-dirty epoxy mold to transfer and repair the brick texture from the other side and replace the two bricks in the middle.

After that I have a couple of ideas, but given how shitty this plastic is to work with I think I may just cast up quick-and-shitty molds of the main unique wall sections instead of building off of what I have.

Said larger bits of ruin

Said larger bits of ruin

One of the cooler things is that the door piece aligns in a couple of different ways with the window-walls. With proper castings and a little elbow grease these ought to break up a lot of the monotony of the set.

Side alignment with two full-height windows

Side alignment with two full-height windows

Side alignment with the paneled door

Side alignment with the paneled door

Center alignment with two small windows above the door.

Center alignment with two small windows above the door.

The bay window will be kind of a bitch, but at least I can get my brownstone on in a reasonably attractive manner. Floors will be super easy, just joisted coffee stirrers with a little filler on top, and I think can get away with using the floor separators as a frame to hold on upper levels since I’m not going to be using the Mantic clips to hold the structures together.  Given my ongoing mold hold-out rates, this ought to give me enough casts for a couple reasonably-sized buildings to play in and beat the shit out of in a slightly less-regular manner than they probably intended.

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.


Start of something awesome (Gundam 1/400)

I’m still writing up my full review of Better Than Any Man, so for the meantime…
I finally got my bloody casting rig working again. You may not know this, but there are actually several different Gundam gashapon (basically, really nice quarter-machine toys) wargame systems running around. You can find one here (Facebook group, translated rules and unit cards in the files section), as well as the forever-teased, never-released Gundam Senki*. I need a lot more masters to add to my collection, but I’ve started my first MS team. These guys are late-war remnants, ala the Midnight Fenrir battalion but not nearly so well-equipped. Yet. They’ll form the core of a battalion (possibly regiment?) in the future. And of course, what good are Zakus without GMs to blow up?
This particular gent is Michael vanOrden, my perpetual 3iC and recon team leader in mecha roleplaying ‘verses; his wife Maria is usually XO and the team’s Assault leader. “Doc” Schott’s custom recovery Zaku is gonna take a while to pull off, and I don’t have any Doms to do up a Funf for Maria yet, so in the meantime I’m doing Third (Blue) Team. Squadron name is the “Sunset Chasers”. I’ll have better pics up later, but I wanted to get something out there. Also, Magic Wash is Magic.

*Mike from R. Talsorian has floated the idea of doing a kickstarter for it once the Mekton one is over. I drool with anticipation, but.. after all the shit I’ve been through waiting for it, I’m a little cynical.

Battletech Projects Update

I’ve been offline but not idle. The cough is still with me (whee) but the rest of it’s died back a lot.
First, the Longbow/Phalanx is progressing nicely. The legs are finished, I’m starting on the arms and finishing the last bits of the body (heat sinks, collar, and the drop-out reactor in the back of the torso). Click to embiggen the photos. Note that the spotlight is just blu-tacked on, I’ve got to build the mount for it and add the antennas.
Lonbow bash sculpt progress 6-5

I’ve resumed the Diesel Thunderbolt from TRO 3063 (see below).Fucking Canopians pt deuxIt’s very much my favorite ‘Mech from the project, both in appearance and sheer amusement value. I broke off the sculpt because I couldn’t get the armor plates right: now that I have the right tools, it should go much faster. I’m basing mine off an Unseen Thud, instead of the Jihad-era Reseen we used in the book art.

I’m insanely happy about this last one – I got permission from Alex Iglesias to sculpt up some of my favorite designs of his, the “unfucked protomechs”. He occasionally posts original designs and comics on /tg/, and these.. well, judge for yourself.
I’m making the Roc for sure, probably with swappable weapon mounts, and I’m seriously considering several others. I need to hone my skills more, but I finally have the tools and equipment. It’ll be nice for my Spirits to have the tools I want and not the horrid Chaffee designs.

Bad Resin! No Biscuit!

As you may remember, I’ve been fiddling around with resin casting, working up to sculpting and casting my own wargaming minis. I ran out of the white resin I’d been using previously, and broke out the Smooth-cast 325 I bought a month ago. It’s “clear” and, in theory, tintable, although I haven’t sprung for any of the colors they sell for it.  Allegedly, it’s got the same work and demold time as 300, which I’m now quite comfortable with.
I tried to run up some quick-and-dirty armature casts for the torso and arms of a Destroid Phalanx/Longbow LGB-0W that I’m sculpting.
Short story? It did not go well.

Longer story:

Mold Experiments, days 5 and 6

Well, new year, and first case of food poisoning on day one. Well played, /13..

In molding news:
The Scriptarius method (caulk accelerated by acrylic paint) produces a tough, heat-resistant, and detailed mold.. but it’s not reliable. Or especially good at preventing surface damage and imperfections. It also stinks like a mother.
Worse, it causes lead rot: acetic acid is the curing agent and causes lead corrosion. So old models (the kind you most need to cast bits from for, say, repair and mirroring) will be destroyed.
It’s cheap as hell – ~$8 for materials made enough for about 8 mold halves – but I had to throw away every single one of them. Only two halves of two separate molds came out acceptably, even after I ruined an old paintbrush brushing a thin layer onto the master before pouring the structure. The quality of any individual mold half and pour also varied wildly, even though my last four pours were made with identical quantities of identical paint, the same amount of caulk, and nearly identical mix, pour, and cure times – halves ranged from dense, detailed, and opaque to translucent and spotty with almost no rhyme or reason.
I may try again with a thinner master, or try to find a less-viscous form of base RTV, but for now.. the tin-cure won.

My first tin-cure throw took about an hour of carefully prepping the matrix and mold box, and then another half-hour or so of cleaning and checking the first mold half for issues. I used leftover rubber from the first batch as filler on the second and subsequent batches of rubber. The first cast off of it, however, was perfect. Lots of flash, not like I wasn’t expecting that.. but no surface flaws, the mold lines matched perfectly (the hardest part of the prep work), and the cast model actually has sharper detail than the master, which I blame on the superior casting material.
The tin-cure is expensive – $25+ a kilo – which I currently estimate will last me for another 12 mold halves discounting filler. On the other hand, it’s thin enough to work well, even if it is more toxic.

Speaking of which; I’ve been working a bit with Smooth-0n 300 now. It’s amazing how far it goes – 1T made a bulky 28mm model with flash to spare. It’s fragile: bendy and rubberlike as you first pull it from the mold, but subsequently becomes more brittle. If you want to adjust a pose or the like, do it fast. It also helps to run a little wire inside the mold before you cast, especially inside thighs, upper arms, and other fragile bits (although you can also use plastic rod/strip; I used Q-tip shafts [the hollow rubbery soft plastic kind] in my second mold with no adverse effects) to strengthen the parts.
My first cast seems to be holding the primer (standard Krylon flat black spray) well, and I’ll paint her up tomorrow. I’ll mix it in with some of my other stuff in the pics, I think..

Also, more tutorially stuff, hopefully with more pics, to give you a better step-by-step feel for the process.

Mold experiments, day 4

I saw The Hobbit on Saturday. I was extremely disappointed. Further details in another post.

Mold 2, Side 1:
Material: DAP Silicone caulk, catalyzed with Delta Ceramcoat Mediterranean Blue (10 drops), approx. 1/4th cup
Matrix: Van Aken oil-based non-drying clay
Cure time: 12 hours
Size: 2″x3″
Mold frame: 3 legos high

This was the first mold attempt with Van Aken, and also the first using legos as key pieces.
Outcome: Botched application of silicone.Parts of the side, bottom edge, and areas around the master did not receive enough silicone – I didn’t press it down hard or well enough – and the silicone became lumpy and missed areas. Key blocks turned out very nicely, however, and the Van Aken made a good and pliable surface with which to work.
This mold was also slightly shallower than the master required.

Mold 2, side 1 redux:
Material: DAP, catalyzed with 8 drops of Med. Blue, approx 1/3 cup (previous mold too thin)
Matrix: Identical
Cure Time: 14 hours
Size 2″x3″
Frame: 4 legos high

On demold, discovered that the clay had picked up a pretty hefty amount of acetic acid, and had a surface consistency change. Airing it out on the back porch; this gives me concerns about future plastic molding, however, as having that much acetic acid right against the curing surface will likely slow the exchange reaction even with a catalyst – possibly ruining surface detail. Silicone partially rejected the catalyst; pockets and chunks of paint are visible, and the mold is more transparent than normal. Increasing paint amount for next cast.

Mold 2, side 2:
Material: DAP caulk catalyzed with 15 drops (better safe than sorry..) of Med. Blue. I’m also using almost a half-cup for this cast.
Matrix: Mold side 1(bis)
Mold release: Mann ease-release 200
M.R. Application: heavy spray, brief brush over master, second lighter spray
Cure time: intended 11-12 hours.
Frame: flipped previous frame and poured into bottom
Size remains the same. Final mold will be just over 1-3/4″ deep.

My master is vinyl, so I’m worried about possible damage to it from the M.R. We’ll see in a few hours.
Edit: no visible damage to master on demold.
Mold release failed; the mold halves were stuck together, and once again only the differing densities and shear line allowed me to get them apart. Will first try a heavier application and letting it sit longer, before switching release agents.
The silicone also had some foaming and detail loss, as with last time. The key blocks were filled incorrectly, and there were some potentially really nasty flash areas around parts of the master.
This is by far the thickest area/mold I’ve tried to cast: I suspect I may have to build the next mold half in separate sections instead of in one go, further complicating the mold release issue. It also looks like the thicker (viscosity) silicone may be complicating the casting process.

Further testing suspended until after Christmas. Will try a cast to see how buggered Mold 2, Side 2 really is..