22 February 2011

Ship Two Painted

Ship Two is painted.  Not pleased personally, but I keep repeating my mantra "good enough for the gaming table".  The paint does bring out the details, but I think since I chose such a light base color for this model, maybe I should hit it with a wash.  It does look better on the table without the hobby light right above it glaring down and bringing out every little imperfection.  

21 February 2011

Worlds of Water-putty

Below is a picture of scratchbuild number 3 with three of my scratch-built planets.  The earth-like world is painted using techniques inspired (blatantly copied) from Desert Scribe's awesome blog Super Galactic Dreadnought.  Check his stuff out!  The ringed planet is not yet painted.  My planets are a bit small, but they get the job done.

My technique is water-putty poured into a mold.  The mold is window-caulk silicone spread over an old globe light bulb (painted first!, silicone loves to stick to glass).  An alternative would be to simply push the light bulb into a big block of Sculpey... I'm going to experiment with this later.  After pouring the putty (not too much) into the mold, slosh it around so it makes a super thin coat.  Let it set 20 minutes and then repeat twice.  After three thin layers have built up and 60 minutes have passed, mix up some more putty and pour it in, then add small strips of either cheesecloth or, as I prefer, plastic window-screen.  This provides the tensile strength needed to remove the sphere from your mold.  After 60 more minutes, gently remove your hemisphere.  You can reinforce it further if you wish, at your leisure.  I use my planets as mixing bowls when I'm whipping up some putty for other projects.  Eliminates wastage!  You can also use this technique to make domed roofs and igloo-type buildings.

Ship Number 2... in Lead

I freed ship number 2 from its RTV prison today and poured my first ever metal cast.  As you can see from the pictures, the mold is very rough-and-ready.  Although I've made dozens of molds using window caulk, this was the first mold I've made using gasket-making high temperature RTV silicone and it was hard to manipulate.

The cast is OK, but a bit underwhelming.  Even if I cleaned it up, there is still significant detail loss.  Since this was my first cast ever, I'm sure I did plenty wrong.  I used a lot of tips I've found over the internet, like warming up the mold by doing three practice casts.

I like the process, and I think I answered the question: yes, $5.00 gasket-making RTV does work for one-sided molds.  However, the level of detail lost combined with the inconvenience of exposing oneself to hot lead makes me think that I will avoid casting in lead for my fleets.  The only advantage is durability of the model, but since I'm a solo wargamer and don't travel with my minis, this point is invalid.  If I absolutely must have a copy of a scratchbuild, I will make a mold out of window caulk silicone and cast with water-putty.  Both methods have a 24 hour cure time but I find silicone caulk much easier to work with.

Oh, one more advantage to metal casting: ever buy a lot of miniatures for that one ship or figure you really wanted, but had to take some crappy ones along with the good one?  Well, with metal casting you can melt down the crappy miniatures and turn it into your own custom ships!

Ship Two and mold made from gasket-making RTV silicone

I'll stick to water-putty thanks

20 February 2011

Third Ship

Finished with ship number three, my favorite design so far.  For this one I used three lengths of chopsticks as the basic press-shape.  I still utilized a little pasta, glued to the sticks, for surface detail.  I used both angel hair and thick spaghetti.  After pressing the basic shape in the mold I detailed as before.  A new homemade tool I tried on this one was simply three beads strung on a piece of metal wire.  The beads were pressed into the basic outline to give the spherical tank look to the starboard side of the spacecraft.

Master Press-shape

Putty cast fresh from mold (2 hour cure)

Poor paint job, but it gets it on the table

Spaghetti-ship Number Two

I pressed out another ship mold last night and filled it with water-putty before bed.  I woke this morning to find it has turned out beautiful.  Still a few air bubbles, but really on a model representing a 400m long spaceship a bubble looks more like another greeblie than an error, unlike on say a 15mm human figure.  I like the model so much, I'm going to experiment with making a mold of this cast using gasket-making silicone from the hardware store.  I will then cast in a lead alloy.  As a note, one thing I did different on this model was I added small strips of window screen to it right after I poured it.  The flexible plastic lattice-like material provides tensile strength.  Of course, the six hour cure time probably didn't hurt either.  Once you have your technique down and an organized workshop, you could crank out a ship mold and pour the water putty in less than an hour (or maybe a half-hour).  You could take 30 minutes before bed every night for a work week and end up with four new ships for Friday gaming (barring inevitable casting errors).  Lots of pics follow, detailing the process for ship #2 from cradle to grave (almost).  The last few pics show the ship next to my scratchbuilt moon and an Amarillo Design Bureau Federation Heavy Cruiser for size comparison.
Spaghetti master with ship 1

polymer clay after spaghetti removed

mold after detailing pressed in

Water-putty cast, cleaned up

ADB Fed CC and Ship 2 near moon

19 February 2011

Spaghetticraft 2000 to 2100 AD

Closer, less blurry pics.

Spaghetti Starships...

... or, Poured Slab Starships.

Tonight I finished my first scratchbuild starship.  I've been tinkering for a while, but I finally buckled down and finished a ship.

Quite a while ago I read a post on Starship Combat News called "Cheap Spaceships".  The post featured some brilliant little miniatures that were cast in Durham's Rock-Hard Water Putty.  I misread the post, and thought the author had somehow scuplted the miniatures using Durham's.  So for quite a while now I've been trying to figure out how to do that...  After rereading the post I realized my mistake, but in the meantime I've developed a way to make ultra-cheap starships that can look passable on the gaming table.  One of the best parts of this is there is no cutting of plasticard (or anything else) involved, nor is any epoxy putty required (except in basing).

First, take some spaghetti, whichever size you like.  I used thick spaghetti, but experiment.  Using CA glue, bond several pieces of pasta together to form your desired spaceship shape.  I would advise against measuring or detailed planning; we're making rough-and-ready spaceships here so just go with the flow.  Make sure however, that your starship has a flat bottom which is wider than the top.  Don't use any substance with a high water content on the spaghetti, or it will warp.  Glue your little spaghetti ship to a wooden stick (I use a chopstick).  Now, take a big block of Sculpey polymer clay, about the size of your fist minimum, knead it, and shape it into a square block with a smooth flat top.  Sculpey will cost you a good $10.00 at Hobby Lobby (USA), but the best part of this method is that you can reuse the polymer clay indefinitely.  Press your pasta spaceship upside-down into the Sculpey, then gently remove it so as to not distort the impression left in the clay.  Now take various household objects and press shapes into your spaceship mold.  I use actual sculpting tools, like ball burnishers; interesting objects like ink pens and calculator buttons; and homemade tools like chopsticks with their ends carved into various basic shapes like triangles and rectangles.  Go hog wild and add all sorts of surface detail.  Next, mix up some Durham's Rock-Hard Water Putty and pour into the mold.  I use the suggested ratio on the container, 3:1 powder to water.  A 2:1 ratio helps prevent trapped bubbles, but is too fragile.  Have other molds standing by if you mix too much.  I have a mold for my bases; three teaspoons of powder and one of water produces enough putty for an 85mm long ship and still has plenty left over for a base.  Tap the mold to dislodge trapped air bubbles.  Wait at least one hour and then gently peel the Sculpey away from the cast starship (the mold is destroyed, so each ship is unique unless you make a silicone mold of the cast).  Base, paint, game.

Below is a picture of the Sculpey mold with details pressed in already, the spaghetti master for the basic shape, and the cast ship.  Next is a blurry picture of the cast piece mounted on a flight stand.  The final picture (again blurry) shows the painted ship next to my scratchbuilt moon.