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FU!UK Sculpting FAQ Index
What tools should I use?
What putties can I use?
Where do I start?
In what order do you sculpt
the various parts of a mini?
What is the maximum size a
figure can be?
What’s a mouldmaker?
FAQ compiled with the help
of Seth Nash and Pete Brown
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FU!UK Sculpting FAQ
the first question you should be asking yourselves is what
tools can I use? The simple answer is whatever the hell
you want! (I started off with nothing more than a sharpened matchstick!
1-6 are used mostly for “straightedge” work (carving and shaping
dry putty) while 7-9 are mostly for “wet” work (literally
working the putty while it is un-cured)
What's a wax #5?
Experienced sculptors reading this will argue that a wax five is an irrelevant little dental tool, some have even said that it was never used until White Dwarf mentioned it in an article several years ago, well I don’t care! A wax five has a cutting blade and a smoothing bit all in one tool which is pretty much all you will ever need for most wet sculpting jobs. If you are starting out then you can’t go far wrong in picking up one of these.
Where can I buy them?
OK So where can I get these fine items of which you speak? Yet again simple, you’re reading this right? On the I-n-t-e-r-n-e-t? Good here's some links to some places then:
have a fine shop in London and a pretty good site
If you want a wax five but don’t want to pay £20+ then you are wise to try www.dentsply.co.uk. You want the ash UK wax spatula no 5.
Needles can be bought from anywhere from your local supermarket to a specific knitting type shop, I suggest two, a darning needle and if you can find them, one with a straight shaft and a conical top (very good for wide but not too deep holes).
Don’t blow loads of money on a reach/sensodine turbo 2000 toothbrush the cheap ones from chemists work just fine.
Needle nose pliers and a set of cutters can be obtained from any diy/hardware shop or Andy at: http://www.heresyminiatures.com does a nifty set of cutters and he sells pin vices too!
Now if you have more time on your hands or just need the fresh air then you can probably find some of this stuff in your local model shop, happy foraging.
Can I make my own sculpting tools?
When you know what you want out of a tool then go ahead and make your own to suit your needs. (Tom Meier recently showed that you can make two very basic tools and sculpt with them, thank god that he’s had 20+ years of experience otherwise I doubt he would have known what he needed to make to get the results that he wanted - Waxfive)
What putties can I use? / What are their different properties?/ How long does it take to set?/ Can I speed-up/slow-down the setting process?
there are several types of putty on the market,
Those that will include:
stuff (kneadatite/ duro)
stuff is the industry standard modeling putty, it air cures, it can be
carved and drilled and sticks to itself too it is however quite flexible,
stuff, its from the same company that makes green (polymetric systems)
and overall is very similar to green, it holds a shape well and dries
to be quite rigid so it lends itself to straightedge work well. However
it costs a lot
is another putty that dries rigid however it is a little more fragile
than brown stuff and can snap at the worst moment possible, it is however
in comparison to brown quite cheep
Sculpey/super sculpey is a putty that requires baking in order to harden it, it wont work in a standard black rubber mould although if you don’t mind a bit of reworking and you can find a bloody good Mouldmaker then it is possible to get a mould from it. It holds shape and edges better than most putties, it is however quite fragile when baked
Fimo is another of the bake to cure putties, it comes in lots of pretty colours and holds shape well it wont however vulcanize and can be quite fragile, but if you want to sculpt a one off figure without having to paint it afterwards then it could be worth a try!!
Curing time for both of these is not until you bake it
Follow any instructions that you get with these putties, some of them may or may not be hazardous to health
All of the above putties can be smoothed with water, the green/brown stuff can also be smoothed with Vaseline, this has some sort of reaction with the green/brown and can give you a really nice polished finish to the sculpt
(I don’t condone licking your tool; it is however the best way to apply a controlled amount of fluid to a figure…downside doing this may poison you. It is a personal choice)
How should I store them?
If you buy a lot of green and don’t intend to use it all within the first month of purchase then storing it in a fridge will probably be something that crosses your mind, I don’t do this, mostly cos polymetric systems the people that make it don’t refrigerate it, and neither do most distributors but if you feel a need too then put it in a plastic container away from food and don’t let your younger brother/sister/son/daughter eat it
To be honest an airtight container should be fine for storage, keep it out of direct sunlight
Which glues work with which putties?
wouldn’t use polystyrene cement for gluing greens, it has a chemical
reaction with the green sometimes, everything else is probably ok.
Can I mix different types of putty together?
Yes, green can be mixed with:
Milliput: to take away some of miliputs brittleness
Brown stuff: to make it cure a little harder, I have also found that green/brown mix holds detail a bit better than just green, and saves a bit of time re-working your edges
Sculpey: I have heard of it being done but haven’t tried it yet
Sculpey and certain types of fimo go together well i.e.: classic white, glow in the dark, dark flesh. The fimo takes the translucent edge off the Sculpey and helps keep it stable,( it has a tendency to go a bit slushy? When you work it a bit and get some heat into it.
Are there any materials I shouldn’t use?
depends, first ask yourself what you want the sculpt for, if you are going
to produce it then stick with the vulcanisable putties, if you fancy a
change and it’s a one off then give sculpey a try, if you are some
kind of out patient then mashed potato carved with your sharpest crayon
will probably fit the bill. You should avoid plastic card for weapons
if you want to make a career out of it as most companies wont do plastic
in their moulds.
Where do I start?
Number one priority know your green. At certain stages in it's drying you can do certain things, for example shapes and basic structures can be done while the green is fresh, whereas most detail work should be done when the green is a bit more cured Gary Morley explained it like this: "when first mixed all the molecules are running about and aren't holding together this is when you can shape it. As it cures the molecules bond and it gets more rigid allowing you to create finer detail." This isn't exactly what he said because that was 2 yrs ago but you get the idea. Play about with green for a while do some conversions etc… then you can move onto creating a figure for yourself.
What reference material do you use?
That depends on what you want to make, for the sake of argument I will assume that its humans
A knowledge of anatomy is particularly useful, not necessarily proportion more a case of the grouping of muscles on the body i could go on and on about anatomy, but..... I'm not. The best book that I have found for anatomy is "Dynamic Anatomy" by Burne Hogarth, the man is a god. "Anatomy for the Artist" is ok but it's more traditional in it's approach (it includes the major arteries etc.... only of use if your doing super detailed zombies!) "Dynamic Anatomy" can be got at amazon, and while your there get "Dynamic Drapery" by the same man (it deals with cloth and how it folds) damn useful.
A mannequin ( those wooden things that all artists have hanging about on desks) is also useful when you start out cos you can bend them about to get a rough idea of the pose that you want
Nb: action man will also do just fine
Can I copy someone else's figure/artwork?
If you want to practice then fine go for it, one of GW’s entry requirements was always that you copied one of their sculpts. Replication is the key to sculpting, at the end of the day you are trying to replicate the human form in miniature. Anyone can make a zombie look ok, ( I know this cos it was one of my very first sculpts, the face can be awful and you can remove or hide the hands really easily ) but to make a human you have to be able to look at what makes the little piece of putty in front of you characteristically human.
What I wouldn’t suggest is that you copy anything with the intention of selling it or making a profit from it. This is not only illegal but also very bad form!!
What are dollies and armatures?
An armature is the very basic wire skeleton that you sculpt over, a dolly has more detail on it. From the basic muscles for a naked figure through to, for instance a bunch of soldiers. If you are making them for production then you don’t want to sculpt the same uniform a million times so sculpt it on a few poses and then have them cast before adding arms, a head more detail etc…
Dollies are more of a professional technique for the production of a large amount of figures armatures are for making one specific figure
How do I make armatures?
I make mine out of 30 amp fuse wire (cos it's cheap and easy to find, yet pliable and just under 1mm thick so good for pinning). Two bits of wire are used, one for the legs, one for the torso. You can see a diagram with the measurements here.
Once you have your basic armature you can "skin/bulk up" the
wire. The way to do this is to get a thin piece of flat green about 0.5mm
thick and 8mm by 8mm square (the exact measurements are unnecessary but
you get the idea), attach one end of the putty to the wire and smooth
around the wire. Do this on all the limbs.
In what order do you sculpt the various parts of a mini?
Start with the core of the mini, build out, as much as possible, try not to think of your sculpt as a group of parts but a finished model.
Can you make things separately and glue them on later?
Yes, glue can be used, normally “super glue” is good for holding small items in place, and will stand up to Vulcanization in the moulds. Try not to introduce major parts to your mini, working on the model as apiece rather than a kit, leads to better finished pieces.
How do you support/hold the mini when you are working on it?
Use the wire frame armature with it’s “legs” pushed firmly into a large cork, or held tight in bulldog or crocodile clips.
What is 'bulking-out' and why is it so important?
Bulking is the filling of all areas on a model that my cause difficult or troublesome undercut in the moulds. Most areas in and around detailing will need a degree of putty to bulk them to join them to the main body.
How do you put "weight" into a pose
By the use of strong poses and dynamic detailing. It’s not easy many sculptors never get this right.
I accidentally swallowed a piece of greenstuff, can you help me?
What do you think I am, your mother?
How do I remove hardened/soft putty if I make a mistake?
With a sharp knife and a stout heart.
How do I get a crisp edge?
By working the putty at exactly the right point where it will hold the level off detailing given but still be malleable enough to work. Practice. It also helps to go over your detail again when the putty has cured a bit (but not all the way of course) to redefine the edges.
How do I get that smooth and shiny finish?
Use a lubricant. Vaseline or lighter-fluid work well with Greenstuff, water for miliput is good. Spit can be use on both. Working a surface with a rounded, smooth blunt tool is usually enough.
What's the expected lifetime of a green?
What are you going to do with it? Stand it on a shelf and love it from a distance, It’ll last a life time. Expose it to 15 tonnes and 150 degrees c, it might only last 5 or 6 presses.
How long does it take you to finish a miniature?
Does it look finished? Are you happy with it? Do you think that you have learned something for next time? Then it’s done.
What is the maximum size a figure can be?
In general it’s best to stay with in about 20-24mm across a miniatures deepest plane. Minis can be made much thicker than the dimensions given above but the thickening off the mould to compensate leeds to other problems elsewhere.
How thin is too thin to cast?
Thinness has a relationship with length, easy to cast a 0.5mm thick piece if it only sticks out from the main body of the mini 10mm. Different matter all together getting it to cast if it’s 10cm
What can and cannot be moulded?
Lots of things can be moulded. Metals like copper and brass, minerals
like glass crystal and stones work. Don’t use wood or anything without
the strength to resist 15 tonnes of pressure.
Will my master survive the moulding?
Did you make it very strong?
How do you cut up a model that will be a multipart cast?
And how do you know where to cut?
How do I make joints in multipart models?
Easily done, by removing an area of putty and adding clean edges to create
the “female” half of the join. After this side is set hard
cover this in Vaseline and represent the other half of the join, with
a blob of putty added approximately where the female point is.
How do you add a tab for a slotta based model?
Normally if there are wire armatures sticking in to the cork or other
holding device, these can be bent, trimmed and covered with putty to form
What is the mouldline?
It’s the line round your mini where the two halfs of the mould separate. For small runs of figures it is less important that things run smoothly along the mouldline. On large number production runs it’s very important.
What’s a Mouldmaker?
He’s the person who turns the little green men into little lead men, by the means of a “mould”.
Metals? Lead, Lead-free, pewter, Zinc. What and why?
The choice of metals comes down to two basic types. Lead or “Lead-free”
based alloys have been the metal of choice for the British based companies
All the metals mentioned above may cause physical harm if taken internally.
“Lead-free” casting alloys are so called because they contain much less of the lead than other alloys. Normally less than 4% the rest being made up of Tin. Tin is a much harder metal than the relatively soft Lead, and does not rub off on to your hands when touched. Try running an unpainted soft Lead mini on a clean piece of paper, you can write your name with it. Tin does this less. Tin is also lighter than Lead, so you get more miniatures from a kilo.
10 years ago, The American trade distributors took fright at a lawsuit
filed in New York, which blamed a miniature used as a teether for Lead
poisoning in a child.
Fantasy and Sci-Fi miniatures are at present still made with Lead based metals; these should not be sold to children (a self-regulation followed by most of the Brit based mini manufactures).
Zinc is another lead free alloy that can be used to make minis, you need a furnace and Silicon moulds. I don’t know of anybody that uses this type of metal at present.
Miniatures can also be cast using room temperature resins. Many different types/grades are available and differ in their strengths, poring time and the rate that they cure. Resin casting can be difficult and is best done with a Vacuum chamber.
Rubbers Vs Silicones?
Traditionally moulds have been made from black discs of Organic rubber compounds that vary in their toughness and durability properties. They are about an inch in depth and can have a diameter between 5” and 15”. This rubber has to be “Vulcanized”, a process where silicon is added and then heated under pressure. Lots of heat and lots of pressure. Imagine your newly sculpted green babies under a huge pile of hot bricks. Things that are moulded in to Organic rubbers have to be able to withstand great heat and pressure.
Some resins can be moulded in rubber.
Silicon materials are becoming an increasingly popular way of over coming the need for all that heat and pressure. Many silicones cure at lower temperature and need a lot less pressure. This means that lots of softer materials can be use in the construction of the original model. Plasticard and Sculpey can be moulded in silicon.
Resin can be moulded in and cast from silicon moulds
Pressures and shrinkage?
Two problems occur with all this pressure, one is that the original piece does not survive the moulding process intact, breaking the piece before vulcanization takes place and producing an inaccurate copy of the model. The second is that the Model survives the moulding but has lost an amount of bulk. This loss of bulk is called shrinkage and effects most Organic compounds. If a miniature is only to be moulded once this is usually not a problem, a loss of about 5-10% is not uncommon. If pieces are to be moulded a number of times the shrinkage must be taken into account. What seems like minimal of shrinkage can be problematical when multiplied two or three times.
Low-pressure low heat silicon materials curse little or no loss of bulk in moulding and are less likely to break things pre-curing.
Miniatures break under pressure it’s an inevitable fact. Sculptors and Mouldmakers work together to ensure that this happens as little as possible buy making the little babies as strong as possible and by moulding them with care.
Bad Mouldmakers cause shrinkage.
All detail on minis makes little negative indentation in the mould. The rubber completely encases the piece and flows in to all the tiny detail. Where the detail is protruding into the mould causes under-cuts. More the detail sticks out (into the rubber) the bigger the under-cut. Small under-cuts are little or no problem; bigger ones are more stress and will eventually tear the mould. These tears can be seen on minis as rough jagged areas that are difficult to remove. Rips that are detrimental to the final look of the figure cause the mould to be scraped and replaced.
This is where making miniatures that fit along a “mould line” come from the more two-dimensional the miniature the less it rips.
What is the expected mould life?
Metal type, rubber compound, under-cuts and the care take in opening the moulds all effect the mould life. Perfectly round objects cast in soft “lead”, in hard compound rubbers and used with care can and should last about 1000 spins. Alter any of the above specifications and the mould life is reduced. Spiky 80’s Chaos Dwarves cast in Tin from silicon materials and opened by someone who doesn’t care, will last ten spins. It’s always a trade-off between the miniatures that you would like to make and the constrains imposed by the moulding and casting process.
When will sculpting make me rich and famous?
If you're good and lucky, you might make a half decent living in about five to ten years after starting to sculpt. At the time of writing top sculptors working for successful companies can earn between 20 and 30 thousand GBP per annum. Not a huge amount. Newbies get less, a lot less. 12K for a couple of years and then redundancy when the next newbie comes along.
Fame, forget it, unless you were in at the start of a major company nobody will ever hear of you. Unless you’re in at the start of GW or Ral Partha (Tom Meier, the Perrys, Jez) fame is never going to happen, well not unless you’re very, very good (Brian Nelson).
If you have further questions, you can contact peteB through our forum Private Messaging system.