By: Johnathon P.
When I first started out in the miniatures hobby oh so many years ago, multipart kits were just becoming a thing as we left the dark ages of single piece models behind. Back then I would slap models onto a base as fast as possible, throw a few coats of paint on it with whatever brush I had laying around and get it onto the table top to play. Now as models have advanced in both detail and materials and I have become more of a hobbyist over a player I have invested more time into how I put my models together and how they finally look on the table when I do get a game in. To this end I figured I would share some of the tips and tricks I have picked up over the years. Please keep in mind this is my method of doing things, everyone has their own way of doing things and I find my techniques change and evolve as I come across other ways and methods.
Step 1: The Tools of the Trade
I have drawers full of various tools and devices I have picked up to help me when working on my hobby, these are the most common and what I would consider required to work with miniatures.
Glue: My current preferred glue is a Cyanoacrylate (CA) type that produces a minimum of fumes and bonds fast. I stay away from plastic cement types and modeling glues that are meant for plastic models as they slightly melt the plastic to bond and most of the models I do these days are a combination of Plastic and metal, or other resins so I don’t want to swap my glues around.
Hobby Knife: I use a standard blade knife for all my work, there are lots of kits out there that come with a multitude of blade types but the standard blade is all I find I need. The key here is to have a solid supply of replacement blades and trade them out often, sharpness is your friend and so is the comfort when gripping the knife. As a side note also keep a first aid kit on hand, I’ve been doing this for over 20 years now and I still slice and cut myself on a regular basis.
Clippers: A set of good hobby clippers from your local store will do, just make sure they have a flat edge to them, do not use wire cutters or such from a hardware store, these are usually not flat on one side so produce a “pinched” cut when used on both sides. This is especially bad when clipping parts from sprues as you want a flat side facing the part itself.
Files: Basic file sets all tend to have the same 3 types, rounded, flat, and triangular. I use the flat and triangular ones the most, these are used to remove mold lines and other imperfections on surfaces.
Small Drill and pinning material: Commonly called a pin-vise a small drill is used to make holes sized to metal rods on parts prior to gluing everything together, just like with human bones that need assistance when mending this helps to strengthen the join. When purchasing be sure to get one that has a counter spinning top section so that when used you rotate the body/drill bit while the top section is braced against your hand and does not. Cheaper models will not have this and as placing pressure on the top of the drill is needed to get the best results you can really put some interesting marks into your hand with them.
2-part epoxy putty: Commonly referred to as “Green Stuff” this can in fact come in many colors but the most common is the blue+yello=green type, this is used to fill in gaps and cover over joints that may be to apparent.
Step 2: Preparing the parts
In this step we will review the parts, inspect for damage, and remove any mold lines or injection port marks. To start I usually lay out all the parts, looking for any that may be missing or any major defects that cannot be fixed thru routine cutting or filing. I also take the time at this stage to dry fit, physically hold parts together as they should be, in order to see if I like the look or if I need to bend or change the parts in any way (ask me about Brickhouse sometime…)
Looking at the picture above is an example of a very mild but standard mold line, this is where the 2 pieces of the mold come together and can sometimes leave a line usually down the middle of a piece. usually just taking your hobby knife and dragging it perpendicular down the line is enough to remove the marking. If the line is particularly bad a file may be used to “blend” the line into the sorounding area. Mold lines can also be left on plastic and resin for the same reason, below you see a typical line, it is removed the same way however in this case it is a little trickier as it is recessed into the part. Remember to use a fresh blade in your hobby knife and with the tip cut down and then curve the blade under the line and lift it up at the end, if you are unsure of the depth take smaller passes with the blade until you are satisfied.
The next most common piece of prep work is to remove any injection port marks that are left, this is from where the medium was poured into the mold and some of it remains in the channel. These are usually larger and are what our clippers are used to remove. The objective with the clippers is not to trip close to the model but to remove enough of it so that we can finish the rest with our knife and files. Clipping to close may cause the piece to break off instead of cutting clean and take part of the model itself with it. In the above mold line picture you can see the excess material has been clipped but not 100%, the rest I just round out with the knife and files to my liking.
For the base check the edges and remove any excess material, then decide based on the model if the slot (if it has one) is needed or not. In Ace’s case he does not so I will fill this with green stuff.
Take the putty “tape” and cut a piece off. Use a wetted blade to do so to prevent it from sticking. Then begin rolling it into a ball, pushing and rolling the putty until it assumes a uniform color. You may need/want to wet your fingers while doing this to prevent it from adhering to your skin.
Now pinch off enough to cover the surface you want, in this case I also pull off enough to fit into the gap and then work it in with my fingers. As I will be covering the base with flocking material later I don’t have to worry about it being to pretty or 100% level. If I was applying this to the model to cover a hole or gap I would wait for it to dry and then file/cut any excess off until it was level with the surrounding area and smooth enough.
Step 3: Assembling the model
These days most models use a socketing system, in fact Ace’s legs have square pegs that should be sufficient to hold them together with just an application of glue. However I believe in over building my models and have a habit of pinning every possible joint I can, to that end the first thing I am going to go over is using the pin vise properly. The first thing is to dry fit the pieces together, paying particular attention to how they line up so that you can pinpoint the best place to make your hole. Once that is determined use the correct drill bit for the rod you will be using. The fit should be snug, many brands of hobby supplies provide the correct sized drill bit with the rod when you buy them. Be sure to align the drill bit directly over the section to make the hole in, if this section is not flat take a file or knife and flatten the section prior to drilling, this will prevent the drill bit from slipping off the model (and if you’re like me into your fingers).
Carefully rotate the pin vise clock wise applying enough pressure so that the drill bit catches into the metal and drills down into the surface. As this is a manual process and the drill bits are small the bit may become caught up as you drill in, do not force it, this can cause the bit to snap and you can be left with it embedded in the model, reverse the direction of the drill and if this does not work slowly wiggle the drill bit till it loosens and releases, then resume drilling. Continue to make a hole until it is sufficiently deep enough to hold the pin rod without assistance, repeat the process on the opposing piece of the model. It is possible for metal/plastic to get stuck in the drill bit, if so take your knife and run the tip thru the groves to loosen and remove any remaining material. Be sure to dispose of the excess material as it can be sharp and you don’t want yourself or any pets/others to pick it up.
Now apply a small drop of glue to the end of your pinning rod, rotate the rod to allow the glue to coat the entire tip. Then align the rod to the hole and insert it, then take your clippers and clip off the rod to an acceptable length to connect to your other part.
Not that when clipping be sure to clip with the flat edge so that the pin that remains in the piece is flat, then take your file and remove any excess from both the inserted pin and the left over rod. This helps insure a better connection.
Then apply another drop of glue to the exposed part of the rod as well as to the surface that will be connecting the two pieces. Be sure to apply a small amount of glue, excess glue will cause a weaker bond and take longer to properly dry.
Finally align the two pieces and press them together, insuring the pinning rod inserts into the opposing hole correctly. If necessary insure the piece is aligned at the correct angle after pressing them together (with Ace the leg and arm joints are socket joints that only fit one way).
Inspect the pieces to insure there are no large gaps, any excess glue should be wiped away as if allowed to build will dry into a solid mass.
Continue this process for all remaining parts, once complete you are ready to attach to the base, align the model so that you can see where the feet of the model will align with the base, then use the above steps to attack the model to the base with a pin linking the two to insure it can’t be easily knocked off it’s base.
Note that some models will overstep their bases, the spacing of the legs and size of the model may strain the constraints of the base, the important thing is to insure the model is solidly and centrally located on the base to insure balance and reduce any overhanging limbs. This is not always possible (I have built Mulg and his giant tree club), but reducing overhang will make placing and moving models on the table easier especially when moving into close combat.
Be sure to allow the model to properly dry, sometimes between individual parts as necessary, before moving onto the next phase, priming and painting. I usually give my models 24 hours to set.
Next time we will start to get into priming and painting the model, and then basing/sealing.