Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Making 28mm terrain from greenstuff and home made moulds

Recently a few of the nerds were quite taken by a Kickstarter project called Basius. It's a set of resin moulds from which you can create interesting-looking "base toppers" for 28mm miniatures. A few of us even pledged for one, to see what they were like.

Having spent the last few days in front of a computer screen (whether for real work, or debugging the latest nerd project) it was nice idea to get away from the computer for a few hours and make something a bit more "arts and crafts-y". There's quite a bit going on, other than just nerding about, at Nerd Towers at the minute, so a bit of escapism is always welcome!

Using the Basius project as inspiration (and being impatient because the campaign is still running and the products aren't likely to be shipped for a few months yet) we set about creating our own simple moulds, from some "junk masters".

The first thing we did was stick some "industrial" looking bits of plastic to a base. These are easily picked up at local hobby shops, by rummaging around through junk boxes, or raiding charity shops for old, broken toys. As we're going for an industrial look, anything with plates and rivets was fair game - along with some herring-bone patterned squares (which looks like the metal diamond floor covering on gantries and the like) and various doors and hatches. We even dismantled a cheap metal sieve (not shown) to get a nice, textured effect for a floor.

Next, we used some Instant Mould. This is a low-melting point thermo-plastic and has a variety of different names, such as Polymorph, PolyForm, Shapelock, and the super-catchy sounding Polycaprolactone. Basically you bung this into a cup/pan of boiling water for a few minutes, and it goes all soft and sqidgy. Take it out, and you have maybe a minute or two, to form it over your "master" shapes, to create a negative mould.

Here we were probably a little stingy with the Polymorph - a thicker layer over a smaller area would have created a much more rigid/easy-to-use mould in the long run.

Douse the plastic in cold water to help it set more quickly.
This stuff is amazing. Hardly anything sticks to it - not even superglue!
As a result, it pops off the master really easily.

Although the top surface is uneven and it doesn't look particularly brilliant from this side, on the underside - where the business end of things is - it has captured even the tiniest of details perfectly:

So all that's left is to try out our new moulds.
Using some two-part epoxy putty (often called kneadatite, or simply green-stuff) we made up some little balls of green goop and pressed it onto a couple of 28mm bases

This stuff is really sticky when fresh, and is hard to weed out of little nooks and crannies - which also makes it great for picking up detail from small moulds. So we simply wet the top side of the green stuff (the side that was about to come into contact with the mould) and then smooshed it into the negative (is smooshed even a word?)

For a first attempt, these didn't come out too bad.
The one on the right is a bit warped, as we bent the mould while we smooshed the green stuff into a relatively deep pocket on it. Using a bit more Polymorph would have made the moulds a bit thicker, and given extra support around the areas where the walls of the mould get a bit thin (and are liable to bending under any amount of pressure). But, for a first go, it didn't look too bad at all!

We compared our efforts to some resin-case bases to see how they lined up. After spraying the green and resin bases a uniform black it was tricky to tell them apart.

A heavy drybrush with gun-metal, followed by a lighter coat of shining silver acrylic paints, and the bases are ready for the miniatures to be mounted onto them.

If you look closely you can tell which are the resin cast bases, and which are the home-made ones. But you have to look twice to tell them apart. And for that reason, we're going to call these a success.

From the top-most base, running left-to-right, top-to-bottom, we have: homemade, resin, homemade. On the next line, resin, homemade, homemade and the base at the bottom of the photo is a professionally produced, resin-cast one.

A few hours work, some left over junk (that would otherwise have gone to landfill) and a bit of putty, and we've got some really nice bases for our playing pieces.

And the best part?
The polymorph is completely reusable. Once we've finished casting these industrial style bases for our space-soldiers and starship inhabitants, the plastic can be dropped into hot water, and used to create a whole new set of base moulds, in a completely different genre. That's the best £8 we've spent this month!