16 February 2018

Do-It-Myself Spaceship Miniatures (A Tutorial)

Alternate title: Scratchbuild Spaceship Tutorial: A New(ish) Technique

Why the weird title, why not call them "DIY Spaceship Miniatures"?  Take it as a disclaimer I guess, that this technique works for me, and produces designs that I find appealing.  More importantly, this technique uses a number of different materials that might be cost-prohibitive to procure solely for miniature spaceship production.  The materials are however very useful for many other art or hobby projects and if you are like me and dabble in various media, then you may just have extra lying around.

The technique presented here combines a few of my older techniques and allows me to make spaceship miniatures that I can reproduce at will.  The tutorial documents the creation of the ship featured in yesterday's post.

Getting right into it, the first thing is to produce a "simple pattern", which will be the general shape of the ship's upper hull.  I do this by securing various shapes, typically pasta, to a piece of scrap plastic (usually from food-packaging) using CA glue.  The left side of the photo below shows the simple pattern.  The photo also shows that other shapes accompany the main upper-hull pattern on the plastic sheet; these additional shapes will help bulk-out the remainder of the ship (bottom and side hulls).  The shapes can be glued to any flat substrate, like a piece of office paper, but using clear plastic will help during the next step.  TOP TIP: use 220 grit sandpaper to roughen the scrap plastic if it is PETE (#1 recycling symbol).  CA glue clings tenaciously to abraded PETE plastic but has a hard time sticking to smooth PETE.

Next, produce an impression mold by squishing polymer clay on to the simple pattern.  I find the cheaper the polymer clay, the better the results.  Soft, slightly sticky clay works best and I use basic white Sculpey.  If the simple pattern was secured to a transparent substrate like scrap plastic, flip it over and examine all the edges of the pattern: you should be able to see where the clay is not "tight" against the pattern and make corrections.  Keep adding clay until a sufficient amount is present (~2-3 cm around the pattern at the highest point) and trim to make a rectangular mold.  The transparent plastic helps here as well as it can prevent you from trimming your mold too close to the pattern.  Remove the clay carefully from the pattern and you'll have a nice impression mold like the one shown below in the right of the picture. 

Next, use various tools to add regular shapes to the insides of the impression mold cavities.  Remember that although you are making negative spaces now, the final result will be a positive protuberance.  I recommend subtlety; typically I press too hard, producing exaggerated depressions (as shown below) and the final ship ends up looking "warty".

Once satisfied with the impression mold detailing, build a dam wall of polymer clay around the mold, as shown in the picture below.

The process continues with the creation of a detailed pattern cast in dental stone poured into the impression mold.  Dental stone captures fine detail better than any other material I've found, with only resin being close.  Dental stone however is far easier to work with than resin, especially in the later stages detailed below.

Creating a bubble-free cast for the detailed pattern requires not only a high-quality material like dental stone but also a surfactant sprayed into the impression mold and of course vigorous agitation to dislodge any bubbles in the curing plaster.  I mix the dental stone by placing my estimated amount in a cup and adding water in very small increments using a spray bottle.  Since I don't mix to the manufacturer's recommended ratio, I wait at least 3 hours before demolding.  A bubble-free detailed pattern is shown below; note enough plaster is poured to create a ~2 cm thick base beneath the pattern.

Build a dam (I used tin foil) around the detailed pattern and fill with 10:1 silicon rubber.  I've tried this technique with a "cheap" DIY rubber consisting of thinned silicone caulk but it just doesn't produce crisp enough results.  Just use a good 10:1 silicone specifically designed for mold-making and you'll be much happier.  Ensure enough silicone is mixed to create a 2-3 cm slab around the pattern at its highest point.  If you try to save material and pour a very thin mold, the mold will likely curl up as it cures.  Incidentally, the mold shown below only required 33 grams of rubber and catalyst total.  Notice the air bubbles: since it's a one-part mold all of the bubbles have risen up away from the pattern and are not an issue.

Although this particular rubber (Alumilite Amazing Mold Rubber) is designed to be demolded in 4-6 hours, I typically let it sit 10-12 hours.  Also, dental stone does not require any mold release with this rubber.  Once the final mold is removed from the detailed pattern (see photo below), you're ready to start making multiple spaceships.

The bulk of each ship is cast from dental stone.  Mix it up as before, apply the surfactant to the mold and add the plaster.  Ensure it is scraped flat, as shown below, and agitated to prevent bubbles.

Once the pieces cure simply flex the mold and they'll pop out.  While you'll need to handle them carefully, dental stone is vastly stronger than Plaster of Paris or even Durham's Rock-Hard Water Putty.  The picture below shows the ship components fresh out of the mold before the edges are cleaned up using jeweler's files.  The pieces should all lay flat.  If not, the mold was poured too thin and curled while curing resulting in distorted casts.  In such cases the mold has to be recreated; luckily the detailed pattern still exists.

Obviously the ship still requires quite a bit of assembly from the raw components above.  As shown in the photographs below, various materials are added with CA glue to the bottom of the main body to provide bulk.  The remaining cast components then get glued all over: top, bottom and sides.  Paper strips wrapped around the aft end makes a convincing engine exhaust section and more pasta pieces act as fins and struts.

Once one prototype is completed, it's easy to just cast more components and build them up in the same fashion.

Scratchbuild Spaceship Miniatures: 15 Feb 18 Edition

Finished a new scratch build design tonight.  I really like this design and I used a new technique that allows me to duplicate the ship.  Tutorial will follow this weekend.

11 February 2018

Scratchbuild Spaceship Miniatures (11 Feb 18 Edition)

A new scratchbuild completed tonight, plus some better pictures of the ones featured in my last post.

I'm not a fan of this design but I followed through and finished it to document the process.  I plan to do a new tutorial summarizing my newer methods.

28 January 2018

Scratchbuild Spaceship Miniatures (28 Jan 18 Edition)

I decided not to title this as "Spaghetti Spaceships" as I normally do, since pasta was not used for the two finished pieces shown here.  Various pastas were used to create the general vessel shapes , which were then captured in an impression mold that was further detailed.

I'm very pleased with how these turned out.

27 January 2018

Solitaire Illuminati: New World Order (INWO)

I started this blog 7.5 years ago talking about an old CCG from the 90s, Steve Jackson's Illuminati: New World Order (INWO), focusing on solitaire play in particular.  My final post covering INWO, so many years ago, presented the final version of a solitaire version, which I called INWOSolo.

I mentioned in that old post that INWOSolo captured the feel of the multiplayer game well and indeed it does.  Recently however I've been reflecting on why, if the above were true, have I not played more solitaire INWO over all these years?

Despite the normal excuses of real life commitments, I realized that the problem with CCGs in general is the time sink of deck creation from a large pool of options.  Deck creation drains the player of any enthusiasm to play and my solitaire rules for INWO exacerbated this by requiring the creation of twice as many decks as a normal, multi-player game!

The rules for solitaire INWO on the Downloads page of this blog still stand but now all cards are played from one Plot or one Group Deck, as appropriate.  I'm in the middle of a playtest and so far the results are great.

In order to construct a Plot and Group Deck for solitaire INWO, some specific rules should be followed to maximize the challenge.  These rules should replace paragraphs (1) to (4) in the "Beginning the Game" section of the INWOSolo rules.

First, choose your Illuminati.  Next, select 1 to 5 (recommend 3) rival Illuminati cards to form the core of the Plot Deck.  Set these aside and begin creating a Group Deck of 49 cards.

First, choose two non-opposed alignments that will feature prominently in the deck.  At least one of these alignments should correspond to your Illuminated goal (if applicable).  Next, for each of the two alignments and the respective opposing alignments, select six cards Group cards, plus an additional seventh Group card that duplicates one of the six.  You should now have 28 of 49 cards selected.  Choose an additional 12 Group cards for flavor.  These cards should generally be of different alignments to the four already represented; typically these cards will be selected based on Attributes.  Criteria for inclusion includes having Attributes necessary for any Illuminated Goal (yours or your rivals!) or Attributes that have appeared already in the first 28 selected cards.  Once these cards are selected, bringing the total to 40, select nine Resources to round out the solitaire Group Deck.  Eight of these Resources should be different, with one duplicate of a Unique Resource.  Since any Resource could be drawn either for or against the solo player from the same deck, certain Resources should not be included (for example, the Bronze Head).

The Plot Deck consists of 64 cards, starting with the rival Illuminati.  Next, add two of the +10 booster cards (i.e. Albino Alligators for Weird groups) for each of the four chosen alignments, one each action token reload cards (i.e Reload for Violent groups) for the four alignments, two each alignment changer cards (i.e. Fundie Money for Conservative), and two each "set Power to 6" cards (i.e Self Esteem for Liberal groups).  This should add 28 cards to the total, along with the rival Illuminati for a count of around 30.  Next add one Disaster card for every Place and one Assassination plot for every Personality in the Group Deck.  Add six New World Order cards, two of each color.  Add any desired Goal cards, focusing on cards that will facilitate a win for you and those that help the rival.  All these additions should bring the total to around 50.  The remaining plots are chosen for flavor and usefulness.  For the most satisfying game, choose cards that are useful to both you and the rival powers (Swiss Bank Account is a great example, as is Sucked Dry and Cast Aside).

The INWOSolo rules remain relatively unchanged with a few exceptions.  First, to start the game, after drawing the normal three Plot cards, draw seven Group cards and select one as your initial lead group.  Also, an Illuminati card can never be drawn into the solitaire player's hand; if revealed during the Plot card discard/draw phase of the player's turn, the Illuminati card is played to the table as a threat, as detailed on page 3 of the INWOSolo rules.

For those of us with large INWO collections but no opponents, I hope this makes the solitaire experience a little more palatable.  If you try these rules, let me know what you think.  Personally, I think they're a hoot.