13 October 2012

Scratchbuild Spaceships: New Technique

I've been messing around with Milliput Fine for a month or so now and while I like the ability to scribe panel lines, I'm not liking the slow nature of having to sculpt a starship from the inside out, building it up.  I'm American: I want instant gratification!  So I developed a new technique that allows me to make ships much faster.

First, I roll out a thin sheet of Super-Sculpey.  I find a 15mm diameter ball of Super-Sculpey makes a nice strip roughly 60mm long and just a finger or so wide, only about 2-3mm thick.  I make sure the strip is flat and smooth and then scribe in panel lines with my homemade tools.  After 30 minutes or so of scribing, I take a box-cutter blade and carefully cut the strip into a myriad of tiny rectangles and a few odd shapes, all with sides ranging from about 1mm to 5mm.  The tiny shapes then get baked at 275C for 12 minutes to make them ceramic-like, and then glued to the ends of small wooden sticks, making little clay stamps.

Next I roll out a block of sulfur-free clay (NOT polymer clay) so that it's flat.  I then press out the shape of the ship itself using the little stamps I just made.  I pour Alumilite Super-Plastic resin into the impression and then 10 minutes later remove the finished spaceship, making sure to use a tooth-brush to remove any clay clinging to the cast.

Here are pictures of my first two designs.  I'm crossing my fingers that tomorrow I can get these painted and bring out all these wonderful panel lines.

Prior to sandpaper clean-up



  1. I seem to be batting a 1000 here in terms of messed up posts! Looks like an interesting technique but my concern would be that I would not know what the ship would turn out like as I was creating a negative image of the ship. Does that make sense?

  2. Yes Chris, that makes sense. I find one of the fun parts of this technique however, is being surprised by what pops out of the clay after I cast. It's usually pretty apparent when I'm making the impressions whether or not the design is going to look neat or pretty lame.

  3. I was led here by your posts on the BGG site. This is very, very cool. I am interested in making some custom ships for my son's Battleship Galaxies game, and some custom tanks for Memoir 44.

    Do you have the ability to make a video of the process (for ships, or tanks)? I think it would fill some gaps for me and make the process more complete.

    That, or a couple hundred more photos ;-)

    Thanks, either way!

    1. I'm not able to do a video at this time, but I'm happy to answer any questions you may have. If I can answer them with more pictures, I'll put them in a new post. Thanks for looking!

  4. That's terrific, thank you for being open to fill in some holes for me!

    I found myself getting stuck on two different things... where you "press out the shape of the ship," and fill the impression with resin are areas where I don't quite keep up. I've not made molds or worked with resin, so I have a hard time visualizing those parts of the process.

    Are you making a negative "hole" lined with impressions from the "stamps" to form a ship? I am somewhat confused there.

    Thank you again! These are inspiring.

    1. Yes, that's exactly what I'm doing... I'll dig around on my computer and see if I have a shot of an impression mold and if not, I'll take one and put it in my next post which I planned for today, updating my progress on the tanks. Thanks again for the kind words; I hope you can use these ideas to make minis for your son. It really is a simple technique, which requires little skill, just costs time and money.

  5. Thanks for the info. I make 54mm nativity sets and 25mm fantasy figures out of lead and was looking for a way to make toy spaceships so I can make molds since no one sells molds for this. Thanks again for the info.