I've had decent results with that "ArtPlaster" I found at Michaels. But I haven't been able to find any more. It was pretty cheap, about a dollar a pound, but with no shipping, that's not bad. It's not as heavy or as strong as the Excalibur of course, but it works well enough for some of the random terrain stuff I'm casting with it.
So far I've only used Excalibur in the Hirst molds. And I've been quite pleased with the results. I just need to find more.
Wellsmv, you did it the hard way. I did one or two that way and decided that was nuts. Then I decided to use some cross-braces just like in an actual bookshelf using some square toothpick like sticks. Once you have the braces glued in, gluing the shelves is a piece of cake. Yours came out real nice though.
What I do now is cut the sides to the height I want, usually a dozen or so at a time, then I lay them all out side by side (with the edges touching) then I lay out the wooden sticks I use for crossbraces so that they are all the same height, then I glue them all in. After the glue dries, I cut them apart (or break them if I'm lazy and in a hurry) and then cut out the shelves as close to the same length as possible (but it's not critical that they be exact since I will be glueing them to the cross braces instead of the sides of the bookshelves, they just have to be long enough to reach the cross-braces). The glue itself will usually hold them in place while they dry.
Piece o' cake once you get the hang of it.
Thanks, the first batch I'll work with will have been drying for a bit more than 24 hours when I start assembling them. Plus two hours of that was with a space heater blowing warm air on it, and five hours was with a fan blowing on it. When I touch them, they don't feel cold anymore.
I've done four casts now with the syringe and it is really working great.
I am a perfectionist, I'm not even sure most people would care about the bubbles I am trying to get rid of. And it's only on a few blocks... but as I said, I'm a perfectionist...
By this time tomorrow I should have the bridge built and all the blocks cast for the tower. I'll probably have to wait until Sunday to build the tower unless I get impatient (and I probably will) and end up drying the blocks in the oven...
Oh, and while I'm on the subject...
How do you dry your cast Excalibur objects? Do you bake them in the oven, or just let them air dry.
I've been letting mine air dry for almost 24 hours now, and I had a small space heater blowing on them for about two hours last night.
How long should I wait before building the actual item?
I am using Excalibur too (although I do have some standard plaster of paris and some Lightweight Hydrocal I use from time to time).
I have thought about making a vibrating table. Our dog did a number on a massaging pillow and the vibrating element still works (it's just a big lump of plastic that you put a couple D batteries in) so I could just screw that to a small table...
I use the "wet water" recommended by the Hirst "Tips and Tricks" page. I use a few drops of dish soap in a small spray bottle filled with water and I spray the mold and then spin it and tap it on all sides to (hopefully) get the whole thing moist. Then I pound out the excess wet water. That works well too.
I'm going through my 25 pound bag of Excalibur much faster than I had anticipated... and it wasn't cheap (roughly $50 when you add in shipping). So spillage and waste is an issue for me, at least with this stuff.
But it's amazingly strong. And it paints well, although it does suck up a ton of paint when you put on the base coat...
edit: Oh, and the syringe isn't wasted. It's totally reusable. I just suck up a bit of water when I'm done with the plaster and squirt it out, it works fine the next time.
I've done enough casts now (10) to build the bridge from the Hirst Arts bridge mold (#74) and I am letting them dry out before assembling the bridge (which is my goal for tonight), but I noticed that in spite of my most diligent efforts to follow all of the instructions on the Hirst site, I still ended up with a few bubbles.
Also, I ended up with a lot of excess and spilled plaster, which is sort of a mess to clean up.
So last night as I was going to sleep I pondered ways I could improve the plaster pouring process to avoid waste, spillage and bubbles.
My brainstorm was to use a syringe to have absolute maximum control of the process of filling the mold cavities with plaster. I figured this would work to improve all three areas.
I just happened to have a syringe lying around (it came with a guitar humidifier device that I no longer use) which had a large enough nozzle to apply plaster to the molds cavities. So this morning I did a test cast using the syringe.
It may have taken a minute or so longer to use the syringe due to having to refill it from time to time, but it wasn't a major increase in time invested.
But it was a huge improvement in controlling the waste and spillage. In fact there was virtually no spillage whatsoever, and I may have ended up with a teaspoon of wasted plaster (which I scooped up and reused in a large mold anyway). But the best news was that when I demolded the items, no bubbles.
So I'm wondering if anyone else has used a technique like this? Or some other similar technique. I was very pleased with the results. The only shortcoming of the current approach is that the syringe I'm using is very small and has a blunt and short nozzle. I am going to get one with a longer and curved nozzle which will hold more plaster to reduce the number of refills while filling molds.
I'd say the worst Reaper pre-paint is better than the best, rarest D&D pre-paint.
I've got a pretty good collection of WoTC, Reaper and WizKids miniatures (as well as lots from other sources as well).
Of the prepainted minis, I've found the Reaper Pathfinder line to have the most consistent paint quality. Note that I did not say the "best" paint quality. In fact I've found the paint quality to be so variable on the WoTC and WizKids miniatures that some totally blow me away while others look like they were handed out to kindergarten kids.
I love the way pathfinder does them but I cannot bring myself to paint an entire goblin raiding party.
Asphere, I did a 45 character set of orc raiders in a bit over an hour using three colors (base coat of green spray paint) and a minwax varnish/stain dip and they came out pretty well. And I'm no great shakes as a painter.
Asphere, I'm with you. My own main gaming group is filled with resentment and anger towards WoTC. Even the dude who is still active in the MtG card game world hates 4e enough that he won't purchase anything from WoTC that is targeted towards D&D. We play Pathfinder now for all of our campaigns, but I have a second group that still plays 4e, and I enjoy that as well. It's a totally different game, but it's still fun. I use my miniatures interchangeably on both systems.
On the other hand, one of the members of my gaming group hates everything about 4e and won't purchase any 4e gaming materials, but aggressively purchases WoTC miniatures to play Pathfinder with... I think that's a more reasonable position than the complete boycott approach.
I've never understood the 4e hate. I prefer 3.5, and I think Pathfinder is a great continuation of the original D&D game style, but nobody held a gun to my head and made me throw out all my 3.5 material when 4e came out. In fact I still have my 2e and 1e stuff if I really wanted to play it. In the end it's all just a reason to get together and share some fun with some friends.
This seems like an old news item. Maybe I'm missing something. Still, I fully support the concept of selling miniatures in the way that virtually every GM I know would prefer to buy them (by faction, no surprises, what you see is what you get).
Although I will say that when I decided to build out my mini collection I was able to do so pretty easily with after market minis, making my own and purchasing older plastic sets off ebay.
Hope everyone is having a great Holiday season and a Merry Christmas.
I would be interested to know if folks tend to receive miniature related Christmas gifts. Since this is a relatively obscure hobby I don't know how many people have family and friends who actually approve of and promote the hobby with gifts on special occasions.
Last year my daughter gave me a box of dragons from the "How to Tame Your Dragon" movie, and I turned those into 30 usable game miniatures, so that was a great gift.
This year my daughter and wife gave me a large faux-stone black dragon with a letter opener "sword" that will look pretty imposing as part of my GM accoutrements, but my wife really surprised me by purchasing a couple of Hirst Arts molds (the bridge and 4" stone tower). I was already planning on making a tower, so this will just make that easy, and I needed a bridge (my first attempt at making a bridge out of plaster was... shall we say... not fully successful...)
If you got some cool miniature related stuff, I think it would be cool to hear about it and how you will be using it in your gaming.
Here's a couple more stone walls. The one on the left is just a lark, all I did was press a stone pattern into some modeling clay and then fold it over so that it had two sides with stones, sealed up the ends and poured some casting plaster into it. The one on the right is really more interesting since that is the first attempt I've made so far to duplicate the basic ideas of Dwarvenforge or Hirst Arts stuff. It's just one wall section, but it's a start. Because I wanted to make something that I could cast a bunch of copies of, I used sculpey clay to make the mold. I made a classic two-part mold out of sculpey clay and baked the clay. The wall is 1.5" x 4". I should be able to cast a couple dozen copies from the mold I made, or at least I hope so. Based on how this turned out (which I think is pretty good) I am going to start working on more complex shapes. Corners, doorways, windows, etc. I've even come up with a way to make round walls. Using sculpey is 1/10 the cost of expensive silicon molds, and certain shapes (like my round walls) are actually easier to make with sculpey than the same mold would be to make with silicon. I'm thinking this could be the start of something big. I also have a brick pattern I can do the same thing with.
And finally, yet another example of my penchant for finding cheap miniatures. Yes, once again, they are dragons.
Just a quick update on the plaster casting thing...
I found some "Artplaster" at a local Michaels. It's a bit cheaper, sturdier and heavier than the Lightweight Hydrocal. I've been using that by itself and I've been mixing it with the Lightweight Hydrocal. That's been working fine.
But I still wanted something sturdier so I purchased some "Excalibur" dental plaster from one of the links on the Hirst site. That stuff is AMAZING. It mixes smoothly and quickly, it picks up extremely fine detail (fingerprints are no problem for this stuff) and it feels like solid rock. The only possible negative for it is that it settles down quite a bit compared to the Lightweight Hydrocal or Artplaster. You have to account for that settling or you'll end up with some issues. It's about the same weight as the Artplaster.
There are several "paint your miniature fast!" tutorials that show how to use two colors and a "dip" to achieve very good results. I purchased almost 500 minis that I needed to paint and ended up using two or three colors on almost all of them, then dipped them in maple Minwax floor polish to achieve these results.
You can definitely sculpt the tree trunk and branches with Sculpey, I've done that. But the preferred means of making the tree trunk and branches is to use lots of thin wire twisted together. There's a Youtube video of a guy making trees that way. Basically you take a clump of wire about half as thick as a pencil, then you twist it together for a half inch or so, then separate that into two clumps, and twist them, then separate those into four clumps and twist them, etc. until you run out of wire. Then you can paint or glue or spread epoxy putty on them to hold them and glue clumps of flocking to it. Makes great trees. I've made a couple that way too.
You can also find small twigs out in the yard and use them, although they can be a bit fragile.
After thinking about the walls overnight and on my way to work in the morning I've decided that my current technique of using foam core poster board for walls is by far the best solution for my purposes. The material is light, strong and can be cut and shaped with exacto knives or even scissors. It's quite easy to make a series of rooms of significant size, and the walls are thin enough that you can still use every square on the game board.
Up until now I've used white and black poster board but haven't done anything to customize them. I am considering printing out brick or stone patterns and glueing that to the poster board before cutting out the walls. That will improve the look dramatically without adding much to the effort.
I'm going to continue to focus on making terrain items which enhance the atmosphere and which can be used as movable tactical elements in the game.
As much as I love the look of the Hirst and Dwarvenforge dungeons, I still just can't see giving up that many usable game board spaces just to have a nice looking dungeon. I need all the space I can get for my encounters.
Awesome stuff Blaaarg! Again inspiring, I think you'll see some more copies, especially your scrying pool and the throne.
And I dunno why... but a couple canoes... Not fully painted yet.
I've been contemplating making walls... I don't like the thickness of the Hirst or Dwarvenforge walls... uses too much of my game real estate. I've made some prototype stone walls, but haven't done anything yet that can be made into dungeon rooms... that's why I bought the Hydrocal though, so I gotta get off my butt and make some...
Fake Healer wrote:
Thanks, I was trying to avoid the shipping costs.. :-)
I'll give one of those links a try as soon as I run low on the Hydrocal.
pres man wrote:
I've been using a very similar plastic bag of wood chips from Hobby Lobby. I don't think it's exactly the same, but close. I also use coffee stirrer sticks, wooden dowels, bamboo skewers and craft sticks (plus a whole bunch of non-wood stuff).
Very nice stuff. I hope you stick with it for a while and add a bunch of stuff to your gaming collection.
Look no further than your local pet store.. many of the fish tank toys are Atlantis-esc in that they are sunken columns and the like. I've even used some as terrain in my games (my dad used to own one, so anything that came in broken...)
I have seen some aquarium terrain that would work well for the game, especially some of the plastic plants. The cast items generally seem too expensive to me though. One of the main reasons for using the Hydrocal is to save as much money as I can on this stuff, and Hydrocal itself is about three to four times as expensive as generic gypsum plaster which is essentially the same stuff, but you have to buy it in 25 or 50 pound bags. I got the 1/2 gallon container of Hydrocal just to see how it worked. Since it's working OK, I will probably move on to a cheaper bulk alternative. I hear good things about Merlin's Magic...
Fake Healer wrote:
Where do you get your Merlin's Magic? I've tried to find it in the Denver area with no success. I'm using "lightweight Hydrocal" from Woodland Scenics, but I've heard that's not really the best stuff to use. It's not as sturdy as I would like.
Still it's cheaper than the casting material I've been using...
I am considering trying to sculpt some Hirst-style blocks to make my own stuff.... I've got sculpey, I've got silicon mold material... how hard can it be?
I don't like the idea of using individual tiles for the floor though, that just seems like a ton of effort for very little gain. Walls, stairs, columns, etc. make sense, but it just seems like an insane investment of money and time to make individual tiles for literally every square inch of the battle grid.
That column looks so huge next to the mini! I wonder if you can find molds in other styles like that one. Can you imagine a Mines of Moria-looking room full of columns to stage a battle in? Epic stuff.
Yeah, I am using these as deliberate "huge" columns. Although if you look at the columns in the Parthenon or other ancient Greek structures, these are actually pretty consistent with those sizes in comparison to a human being.
I have my wooden columns for more "reasonable sized" columns so I can do both small and large columns. The whole point of these columns is to make tactically interesting battlefields, and I think they will work great for that.
Heh, this is quite the coincidence. I just made some coffins last night myself, and a tomb...
I need to make some stairs, but I've been struggling with making stairs the way they are normally made. You can't put a miniature on the stairs, they just slide off. So I'm thinking of making my stairs with 1 square inch treads, which will look strange, but will allow placement of minis on any height.
I'll try to make some tonight to see how they turn out.
Here's a column made from Hydrocal. I could see making a dozen or more of these and using them for all sorts of things. I've also made some "broken" columns for terrain purposes.
Blaaarg, I was thinking about the relative thicknesses of your sculpey items and the things I'm making out of wood.
The wood items I am making are absolutely more "realistic" in terms of thicknesses, and I really like that they are actual wood, which stains pretty nicely, especially since my own ability to make faux wood grain is, well, laughable.
But I think the 1/72 scale throws things off. Just like a typical warrior miniature has a wrist as thick as its neck (or even head), it somehow looks more robust with some things thicker than an actual scale should be.
Looking at Dwarvenforge, Hirst and even Wartorn Worlds stuff, it looks like they understand this since all of their tables and benches are all much closer to your items' thickness than mine.
I was just about to make some bookshelves using my little wooden sticks and I decided instead to make a couple out of sculpey sort of like yours (they are cooking in the oven as I type this). Then I'm going to make some with the thickest wooden craft sticks I have and see how they look.
In the end I think my tables would have looked better with the thicker craft sticks, even if that would mean a foot-thick tabletop if scaled up to real life size. I suspect it will appeal more to the eye than my "realistically scaled" items.
Very nice. I've made some furniture with sculpey clay, but I also use other techniques such as craft wood sticks, foam core posterboard, epoxy putty and just stuff I find laying around the house.
I really like your bookshelves and doors. You've inspired me to make some.
Here's a few things I've been making that are in the same vein as your stuff:
And here are a few things on my list that I intend to make but haven't done yet
Your stuff is much, much more artistic than my stuff though. I've very impressed. My stuff is pretty lame, but it works.
This was my technique for years, decades actually, before I decided I could make usable, if aesthetically challenged, minis that at least were recognizable as orcs, kobolds, ogres, or whatever, and had the weapon that the encounter called for. It helps a lot to not have to say "No! This rock is the goblin with the spear! Those rocks are the goblins with the slings!"
I bought some sculpey clay and some basic paints for maybe $20 total and made dozens of minis for my campaigns.
Hmm... perhaps I could do something with my next mold I make to show the process. But I dunno if it would do much good, there are some real good videos on Youtube which show how to make molds and castings, plus the companies that sell the mold and casting materials also have some very good tutorials as well. You can find some great ones just by googling "miniature casting tutorial" or something like that.
Stormthecastle.com has a whole series of videos on that and making terrain.
I've used three different molding materials so far, and what I'm using now is the best. It's a translucent silicon molding material which is great because I've discovered that it's not really necessary in most cases to go the the trouble to make a two part mold if you use the translucent mold material. You can do a single part mold and then because you can see the figure inside, you can use an exacto knife to cut it apart. In my case this has worked as well as the two-part mold process I used originally, and it's much, much easier. I went to that technique when despite all my efforts to avoid it, one of my two-part molds came out as a one-part mold and I had to use an exacto knife on it anyway, and I was surprised at how easy that turned out to be.
I've used a variety of casting resins too. Right now my favorite is from "Smooth-on" and it's a very low viscosity material which cures quickly to a somewhat flexible white result. It doesn't take paint all that well, but I haven't found any casting resin yet that does, so you really need to prime it to be sure your paint won't flake off.
It's really pretty simple to do this stuff. The only thing I don't like is the clear resin because it stinks to high heaven and has certain unhealthy chemicals. I did some casting in my garage with the window open and garage doors open, and my house smelled like that resin for a week. Plus it takes hours to cure, and I've gotten spoiled with the 30 minute curing resins. It's pretty awesome to finish your mold and within a couple hours have a handful of cast objects from it.
The Hydrocal says it sets in an hour, but my first experience was not consistent with that claim. I basically had to let it set overnight before I could demold, and they still had a wet, squishy feel to them. I may be doing something wrong though, because the web is full of glowing testimonials to the joy of Hydrocal casting. I'll keep trying until I figure it out.
I highly encourage you to watch the videos and give it a try. I will say that the molding and casting materials aren't cheap. Especially for making molds. You use a LOT more mold material than you think you will, so you'll run out of a $35 supply much faster than you realize. The casting material is about the same price per volume, but the final cast objects tend to use much less material than the mold does, so you end up making quite a few miniatures from one $35 supply. Still, it does mount up and you can end up spending a lot of money, and when you screw up a mold, or don't pour your casting material fast enough, it feels a whole lot like flushing money down the toilet.
I like metal miniatures for pure quality and durability, but from a playability perspective, metal miniatures are sometimes too heavy for some of the shaky 3D terrain that GMs use. I have the only metal mini in our bi-weekly game and it's alway my mini that causes the bridge to fall over or the stairs to collapse...
Yeah, it's the WoTC mushroom man, well, except the left arm, which I had to make from green stuff when the original left arm broke off while demolding and then got crushed accidentally.
Typically if I make a mold of a purchased mini, it's because I want to do some modifications like my "horned devil" which is a mold of an ancient troll that I've added horns, a tail, wings and repositioned the arms. But in the case of the mushroom man, I haven't done any mods.
I don't link every post I make on my game blog, but when I do something that I think I might personally be interested in if someone else had done it, that's when I will come here and link to it. I hope that's OK.
If my posting of these things is annoying, let me know. I feel like I might be posting too much here.
Anyway, here's my first attempt to use Hydrocal (TM) a plaster of paris like material that is used for making terrain elements in railroad modeling. It's usually used for rocks, buildings and bridges and stuff. I will probably get around to that, this was just a quick test of how to use it.
And here's a quick wood hut I made at the request of a friend. It's tiny, but would work as a hut for a small peasant family. Took me about 30 minutes. I could make a whole village of these in an afternoon.
I wouldn't restrict your ebay searches to D&D miniatures. The Mage Knight miniatures are cheaper and many are of equal quality. Since you are looking for human figures, there are lots of miniatures from different sources that would fit what you are looking for.
I would search eBay for "fantasy miniature" and might even do separate searches for "human sorcerer miniature" etc...
If you have a game store nearby you should check to see if they sell any of the prepainted collections from Reaper, Wizards of the Coast, WizKids or if they have consignment miniatures for sale (most of the ones I frequent have a fairly large collection of used prepainted miniatures for sale).
I also wouldn't be so hesitant to paint your own. It's really not hard to do a decent paint job. Even I can do it, and I'm about as artistically challenged as you can get.
Thanks Lisa, honestly the paper spirit things came out much better than I had expected. I'm not sure what they are though... I suppose they could pass for wraiths or cloakers either one.
I guess I should at least make another five or six just so I have enough for a memorable encounter one day.
Now I'm working on crates and barrels....
Excellent question Hallidan...
Some of you may recall that a few months ago I posted some examples of origami furniture, including some origami tables and chairs. I used them and they worked fine, but left something to be desired in the verisimilitude department, which is why I decided to make some out of the wooden sticks.
But chairs... It turned out for our game that chairs were more of a problem than a solution. You can't really sit most, if not all, game miniatures in chairs, and even if you could, you can't slide their knees under the table.
I ended up using small foam circles to indicate chairs, so that when a character was sitting down, their miniature was on the circle, much like I used foam circles for statuses during combat (like dazed, stunned, etc...)
So for these tables I deliberately did not make any chairs. I don't want to go to a lot of effort and end up just getting frustrated trying to use them. I have my origami chairs if I really have some need to show the location of unoccupied chairs.
I did make two benches, and have benches on my list of items to make. But I have some of the same concerns about benches.
Today, during the NFL games I was listening to on the radio, I made fourteen chests of drawers. I'll do a base paint job on them tonight and post a photo on my blog.
That would give me 16 tables of various sizes. I should be OK for a while. I can always make more, they're very simple to make.