I have a habit of making characters who are not the standard ones, for example, a half orcish alchemist barbacue chef, a summoner half elven 'cowgirl' (I use a picture of Jenny from the Last Night on Earth to represent her), a violin playing bard kinda like this.
I'm curious, are any companies mini's more easily modify-able than others and are there 'tricks' to modifying minis?
I did this a LOT with the Wizkids Mage Knight/Heroclix... and then with the D&D plastic minis.
I ASSUME any softer plastic can be modified easily. (switching hands, heads, cloaks, weapons, etc...)
Since then I've switched to the metal Reaper minis... They have MUCH better details and are more fun to paint...
I ASSUME that there is a way to 'modify' them... as they sell extra 'parts' for modifying... but for the life of me I can't figure out how... my scalple isn't strong enough, and any other tool I have looks like garbage afterwards....
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AH! Conversion! My favorite. I do need to get a proper picture of the dwarf mini who I replaced her hammer with a barstool made of putty and toothpicks.
These are some things you want to think about having on hand if you want to do conversions. This is a big list and you don't need all of it, but I'm trying to cover most of the bases:
First, cutting implements:
1. Your handy dandy very sharp X-acto knife.
2. Wire clippers/sprue clippers.
3. A jeweler's and/or razor saw
For plastics and easy conversions, the top two is what you need most. The latter is worth the investment if you want to do some more complex conversions or need more precision (clippers tend to deform the plastic or metal). You will also want it for your metal miniatures to get off major parts -- so phantom1592, for example, if you want to remove someone's leg and replace it with a tentacle that Reaper sells in one of its fancy dandy part packs, you use a jeweler's or razor saw to saw off the leg.
Plastics are obviously much easier to cut and you won't need the saw unless you decide to do some complex conversions where you're cutting something large or weirdly shaped off.
You will probably of course also want a safe place to cut. Some people buy fancy cutting boards, I usually just use old cardboard on a desk I don't care about.
Then, pinning tools:
1. Pin vise and bits (this is a tiny hand drill)
2. "Pins" which can be paper clips or brass rod of similar width.
IIRC a paper clip width drill bit is something like 0.69 or 0.68 but I'm not sure.
You'll also want your clippers from above.
Pinning is also useful for just assembly--two parts that don't want to stick together with glue or break off easily can be pinned for sturdiness.
But what is pinning, DQ? Pinning is holding together two parts with the pin. I'm going to use attaching an arm in my example:
1. With an X-acto knife or awl, score a small divot in the center of the arm socket, and the center of the arm where it is to attach to the socket.
2. With your pin vise, drill a hole using the area you scored as a guide. You want to drill in as far as your patience will allow, without punching through the other side of the mini. Basically far enough that your pin will sit inside the hole without your having to hold it there, notwithstanding gravity. Do this to both the socket and the arm.
3. Stick an end of the rod or the paper clip into the socket and see how far it sticks out. Likewise test the depth of the hole in the arm. Then trim your pin so the two will fit together
4. Once you're certain you've got the right size pin, put a drop of superglue in the socket, and insert the pin. Let cure. Then put a drop of glue in the arm, slide of the piece of pin sticking out, and again, let cure. You may want to slide around a little to get the pose you want.
5. Your miniature has an arm! It won't easily break off! Yay!
Obviously this works for all kinds of things other than arms--you can even cut two miniatures in half and pin one to the other to create a new mini (need a centaur mini, and have a horse and a human figure to spare?).
It's GREAT for simple weapon conversions too--carefully cut off the original weapon, carefully drill through the hand, and insert new weapon. If you ever see a bunch of minis where you say, "That looks perfect, but if only he had a hammer instead of a sword," that's where this can really come in handy.
Some people also invest in a Dremel tool to do cutting and drilling to save time. I do not, because I am the kind of person who will saw the tip of their finger off or drill a hole in their hand with something like that.
AND sculpting tools:
1. Some kind of sculpting putty that cures over time. The industry favorite is "green stuff" AKA Kneadatite Blue/Yellow, which is also the stuff used to make entire miniatures (Green stuff is tough enough to vulcanize). There's other putties as well, and some are better than others for certain tasks; Google around if you want to do some research.
2. Sculpting tools. This can be a knife and a toothpick if it's all you've got, or carve some out of bamboo. If you want to get smancier, there's dental tools/wax carvers. The one most useful sculpting tool is the one with a flat round end on one side and a knifey looking bit on the other; Citadel sells a version that is good BUT here's the thing--you can buy that one tool from Citadel for $8.25 or you can buy 12 sculpting tools which includes that one for $8.99 from somewhere else. (PROTIP: Citadel gouges prices like you cannot believe. Do not buy from them unless it's on sale or you can't find it anywhere else.) There are also cheaper options for fewer tools elsewhere.
3. Maybe some vaseline or chapstick. (This keeps your putty from sticking to your fingers or the tools, but you have to be careful with it or it will also keep the putty from sticking to the model!)
At the basic level, you can use putty to fill in gaps and smooth out imperfections.
As you learn to work with it, you can sculpt on whole accessories and body parts. IT TAKES PRACTICE so if you try this, start small and work up and be patient with yourself. Probably the most ambitious thing I did was sculpt on the arm on the guy on the top of this page. (Sorry for the hideous photography) The player didn't want the arm and the weapon it was holding on the mini he otherwise liked, so I cut off the whole arm, cut off a hand holding a rapier from another miniature, and made a big long arm-length pin, from the arm socket, attaching the hand and rapier at the end. I then layered on green stuff to make the arm. It's not perfect (he's got a weirdly lumpy forearm there) but for a first attempt at something like that, I feel like I did an okay job. I am nowhere near being a pro (as you can obviously see from the photos) so obviously this is something the amateurs can do.
Sculpting is also great for bases. I make a lot of "stone" and "tile" bases by smearing on green stuff and shaping it to look right.
Sculpting isn't necessary but it can often help make an okay conversion look a lot more natural. Once painted/repainted, you usually can't tell what was original to the model and what you added.
1. Keep on hand random stuff like toothpicks and paper clips and plasticard and whatnot. Those and whatever else you can think of can always be used to make weapons and accessories.
2. Keep a bitz box. Any bit you don't use, anything you decide not to glue to a mini even though it came with it, throw into a box and keep them, because it might end up being the perfect piece to convert a mini.
If this is something you're interested in, I suggest Googling "miniature conversion" and similar phrases to get other advice and demonstrations.
Good luck. Don't be overwhelmed by all this stuff either. If you were like, "but all I wanted was to cut off this weapon and glue on another one" then of course all you need are clippers and glue. This is just all I can think of for the whole shebang, depending on how interested you're in.
My favorite resource for miniature hobby tools is Micro Mark. There's stuff here on the Paizo store as well, and there's also for all kinds of miniature stuff, the Warstore. All three sources are very well known for fair prices and excellent customer service.