17 September 2006

Crash Test Dummies and Other Errata

Arrrggghhh! A minor setback yesterday. . . As I detached my recently completed 2nd (Von Laurenz) Musketeers from their temporary bases, I discovered to my horror that the undercoat and green paint along the edges of each figure’s base pulled away down to the grey plastic underneath. So, now I have 63 figures waiting for some minor painting repairs today and tomorrow.

I quickly decided that gluing the figures (reminder: my figures are large 1/72 figures by Revell AG in Germany) to temporary bases is not the way to go with plastics! Moreover, I concluded that the underside of each base must also be base coated in Elmer’s (PVA) Glue, Liquitex acrylic, and painted in the same green as the topside of the base. Then, the ENTIRE figure is sealed and encased. And TWO protective coats of Future are in order, I think. I’ve also resigned myself to simply holding each figure carefully during the painting stages as I apply a particular color to it.

On that note, I next quickly removed my Jaegers zu Fuss from their temporary bases after applying the coat of white Elmer’s Glue. The first basecoat of black Liquitex followed although one has to do this in two steps, first the bottom half of each figure, then the top halves, because there is no longer a temporary base to hold onto. I’ll have to query Henry Hyde over at OSW and learn in more detail how he works with his old plastic Spencer Smith figures during the early steps of painting.

I also discovered about a week ago that coating a test figure in the Future floor polish to protect it works well, but with one caveat. It causes some of the brass colored oils I used for badges on the black cartridge pouches to run. Arrrrgggghhhh! I’ll either have to revert to my Humbrol metallics, purchase acrylic-based metallics from GW (an appealing possibility since I like the colors I’ve purchased from them so far), or slap a preliminary protective coat of matt Humbrol varnish over any metallic areas before applying the Future. For now, I tried the third possibility. And the lesson is: Always, always, always try something new on a single test figure before proceeding with the entire unit. Fortunately, I have only the single “crash test dummy” to repair, rather than the entire unit of 63 figures. Whew! That would have been heartbreaking.

On a final and more uplifting note, have a look at a new blog by Patrick Lewis at: http://maglittlearmies10mm.blogspot.com/ and learn all about his 10mm painting and figure collecting project involving The War of Spanish Succession. His tiny figures are impressively painted, and it’s interesting to learn about Patrick’s ideas and process in detail.


MurdocK said...

Interesting your problem with the Future floor polish.

I had heard about complications regarding the mixing of floor applications and oils, but not of mixing acrylic and oil based floor products.

I have been using GOLDEN tube based acrylics (called poster paint I think, by some users) they have a great range of colors, all are metal based (meaning they do not use organic dyes) so they can all mix easily with one another. Moreover they also have a number of metallic tubes. I use the Iridecent (fine grain) colors of Bronze, Silver and Gold. I think I bought the tubes about five years ago, have painted hundreds of 25mm guys and still have not gone thru more than 1/6th of a tube of any of them.

For the gloss coating I used to use Krylong triple thick Clear spray. Now I use Minwax PolyShades Pecan color. The Minwax will not interact with dry acrylic at all and once it sets up it becomes a 'dusty' color in all the cracks and crevaces (if your wipe off) or becomes a nice tanning color on horses or other large flat areas.

My suggestion for your little minis problem (of tearing off the bottom colorant) is to definately NOT hold each mini one by one. The painting will take forever and carpal-tunnel is a killer [I know I tried it before].

1) Push a very sharp long pin into the bottom of the fig and glue the top (upside down) to a board (or nail the pin thru a card and push the mini onto it). This way there will only be a 'pinprick' in the bottom of your mini and that can easily be sealed up with your future or other product etc.
2) Place a fender washer (you can get reall small ones now) on the bottom of each fig, then you can use magnets to 'hold on' to the fig while you are working on the 'important' colored side. Once you have the painting done it is very easy to 'dip' the bottom in some latex house paint of the correct color and this will stick to the small fender washer, giving the desired bottom coloring. The fender washer will also give your plastics some 'weight' on the table and keep them from tipping over so easily.


Bluebear Jeff said...

Murdock is from my neck of the woods (and he gets lots of figures painted -- I'm envious).

He's just started his own blog. Here's its URL:


He's a good guy to game with too.

-- Jeff


Patrick Lewis said...

I used to mount all of my figures on a craft/popsicle stick for painting, but I switched over to using golf tees and/or roofing nails instead.

The main problem I had with craft sticks is that they can be a little awkward to handle and hang on to. I solved the grip problem somewhat by mounting the craft stick on a 1/2-inch square length of wood that was about the same length as the craft stick. I held the two together with a few blobs of poster putty, but rubber bands would have probably worked, too.

I used this arrangement for quite a while, but then I read about mounting the figures individually on golf tees and I thought I'd give it a try. I bought a bag of wooden tees (several hundred for just a few dollars) and a new package of poster putty. To mount the figures on the tees, I just took a small piece of the putty, rolled it into a ball and pressed it into the little depression on the top of the tee. After that, it was just a matter of pressing the figure onto the putty. Once the figure is on the tee, I push the tee into a block of styrofoam I salvaged from some packing material.

Instead of using golf tees you can use roofing nails as they've got a fairly wide flat head. One advantage of using the nails is that you can use less putty for holding the figures because you don't have that hollow space to fill like you do with the tees. On the other hand, the golf tees have a bigger diameter and are a little easier to hold. (I did take quite a few of the tees and fill the hollow with wood putty to make them flat on top, but that's just more fiddly work.)

Whether you use tees or nails, the biggest benefit of this method is it gives you a nice handle for each figure. You can easily tilt and rotate the figure this way and that to inspect your paint job. Also, you don't have to worry about accidently getting paint on adjacent figures as you would if they were mounted in a line on craft sticks.

Another nifty technique that's useful with figures mounted on a handle is that it's sometimes easier to hold the brush in place and rotate the figure if you're painting a straight line like on a belt or similar.

I should also add that I when I prime the figures (I use cheap gray enamel primer), I cover the styrofoam block with aluminum foil first, then jab the tees or nails into it. The foil protects the styrofoam from the solvents in the primer so you don't end up with some noxious melting blob of plastic.

Sorry for rattling on so! And thanks for the plug for my blog.



Bluebear Jeff said...

Hey, Patrick, some good ideas there. Thank you!

I've posted a link to your blog on mine as well:


-- Jeff


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