Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Tools: The Basics

After having already posted a couple models of mine, I feel that it is time to cover the tools that I have collected over the years and have found to be essential to the effective creation of quality work. Having the right tool for the job makes a task that much easier and that much more efficient. Some are required, others not so much. Skills and techniques, of course, are also essential, but this is not that article. I will discuss what tools I use and how well I feel they work.

1. Cutting Board - To begin, let's start with a place to safely work without damaging the kitchen table. This is a definite must if you want to work without leaving little cut marks on everything. I use the Gale Force 9 Self Healing Cutting Mat. Of course, anything that can resist the cut of a blade under pressure will work just as well, but I really like the security that this mat offers. It can really stop a sharp blade. It's also cheap, and small enough to be portable.

 2. Light - A good light is extremely important for all you fine model sculptors and painters. I mean the models are fine. Doing small, precision work in dim light is hard on the eyes, which may not seem like that big of a deal to the younger hobbyists but it will leave a big impact later on. I just recently starting using the OttLite 508 Illumination natural light lamp. I used to use a standard bright lamp to get good direct light onto my models, and I felt that was good enough. Now that I've started using this lamp, I've immediately noticed a difference. The biggest difference has been how much easier on the eyes it is. There is a significant reduction in pressure on my eyes, far less painful, far less strain. It also brings out the true colours of the paint and shows me how terrible I'm doing, so it might just improve my work, but we'll see. This is a definite must, despite the high cost of the lamp. You really need to ask yourself, how much is your eyesight worth? I strongly do not recommend working without proper light. Being a visual artist in both traditional and electronic media, protecting my eyesight is of the utmost importance.

3. Clippers - Sprue snips, cutters, clippers, whatever name you call them, these are the start of the hobby process. They make cutting out the models quick, and with the right pair, clean as well. I have found, oddly enough, that the Citadel Plastic Cutters do an excellent job at removing plastic parts from sprues relatively cleanly. They also do well at removing metal flash and resin spill-off as well. I don't recommend trying to use them on thick metal parts however as this will significantly reduce the effectiveness of the cutters.

4. Hobby Knife - Xacto knife, precision blade, again whatever you call them or whichever it is, this is my choice tool for cleaning plastic and sometimes metal models. Also useful for those times when there's simply not enough room for the Sprue Cutter to get to a particular piece. I first roughly cut off any large injection points still on the model and gently scrape smooth the left over mold lines. For conversion, I switch the blade to the other chisel types for easy cutting of parts. My current favoured precision blade is the Techni Edge hobby knife with the #11 Hobby Blade. That's for general cleaning work and some cutting. For hacking away unwanted parts for conversion, I use the curved chisel from the #1 Assorted Hobby Blades of the same brand.

5. Files - There are times that a hobby knife just isn't cut out for the job. Metal models are especially prone to the requiring of files. Files are a clean up tool, meant to file smooth any slips of the molds that a knife can't scrape away. I use the GaleForce 9 Twelve Piece Diamond Micro File Set, and they work fantastically. I have found that they work well with plastic and metal models. I don't recommend them for use on resin, as they will create resin dust which tends to be carcinogenic. Files, I will admit, are not a necessary tool, but they do help.

6. Greenstuff - Two Part Epoxy Putty is the go to when there's simply not enough contact surface for parts to join. It's also useful for making your own sculpts to add extra detail to your miniatures, or create something totally unique. There are many great tutorials on various blogs and Youtube as well, don't be afraid to seek them out. If anyone has any particularly good ones, feel free to post a link in the comments. I've used both Games Workshop greenstuff and GaleForce 9 greenstuff, and have not noticed any significant difference. I've used greenstuff for contact area and sculpting. For those of you who don't know, greenstuff and super glue really do make a powerful combination, although it can end up messy if you're not careful. As long as you take the time to learn how to use the material, it will be a big help to your modeling hobby.

7. Sculpting Tools - If you want to get the best results from your explorations into greenstuff sculpting, you will need a good set of tools to manipulate the putty. Everything you have seen or will see on my blog that involves sculpting will have been done using this very set of tools below. The GaleForce 9 Twelve Piece Sculpting Set and Case is a great kit. Expensive, but definitely worth it. There are even extra pockets under the fold on the left that I use to hold my precision blade. There are two different heads on each tool, so there's almost a guarantee to be something useful to you.

8. Pin Vice - Sometimes greenstuff will not be enough. Sometimes parts are too heavy for just glue. This is where drilling and pinning comes in. Drilling holes for pins to hold these parts together give immense strength and stability to models. Rarely is it needed for plastic models unless you are trying to make a supremely dynamic pose, but for large resin models and some metal models, pins are required. I have built an Imperial Warhound Titan, a Necron Gauss Pylon and Kaladrax the Dire Drake, and pins were critical to the successful completion of these projects. I used the GaleForce 9 Model Pinning System, which provides a pin vice, two sizes of pin drill and two sizes of pins to match. I use my tin snips that I have around to cut the thicker pins. Definitely do not use plastic cutters on them.

9. Glue - Now this is important, the stuff that keeps your works together. There are lots of different types of glues, and everyone will swear by a different one. Plastic cements, metal glues, glue accellerants, you can use all of these and more. However, I find these types of glues from GaleForce 9 and Games Workshop to be sloppy, messy, and often troublesome. It will spread around and dry into blobs on your models. I recommend Loctite Gel Control Super Glue. Only a small amount is needed, and the less you use the stronger the bond. This along with the gel control keeps the glue where its supposed to be without oozing out of place across your model. It takes 15 seconds to set, and 30 seconds to harden. Sometimes it does take longer, and the more you use, the longer it will take. Gluing in a warm, dry location helps a lot.

10. Brushes - Once you get your models built, it's time to paint. Any small, fine brush will do, but if you're looking to do it right you have to put in the effort to find the best. After looking at the Games Workshop brushes, I wonder how anyone could possibly use them to make anything but a mess. Perhaps that's just my local GW store, but that's all I have as reference. For my brushes, I go to a pleasant art store called Curry's for their brushes. I hand pick every single brush, checking every tip and bristle. Always brush it against the back of your hand to see how the bristles will spread. This is important. I find that these open brush shelves often have mangled brushes, so be wary. The absolute necessary brushes are a broad small tipped brush for laying down paint on relatively large spaces like a Space Marine's armour or a Skeleton. A slightly larger and broader tipped brush is needed for dry brushing, and a very small, fine tipped brush for detail work. I like to keep brushes for specific paints like white, which can easily be ruined by any left over colour in the brush. Metallics are especially bad for this.

11. Water Cups - Having water around to smooth paint and clean brushes is important. Anything will work for this as long as it can hold water. I use the left over container from Mott's Apple Sauce and other fruity flavours. Always keep metallic and acrylic water cups separate. This is a MUST. Better still, keep dark paint, light paint, white, red and metallics separate. Metallics will leave sparkles in everything, red stains everything, white is too easily corrupted, as well as lights, and darks are just too heavy to mix in with whites or lights. But for those of us not looking to be so energetic, always have a light, dark and metallic water cup.

12. Paints - Now this is a source of debate. There is everything from Vallejo to Reaper to Citadel paints. They all have benefits and draw backs. However, as I like to say, a tool is only as good as the tool using it. I mean, a tool is only as useful as the wielder's ability to use it. I know how to use Citadel Paints, I know what they do, how they react, and how to manipulate them. It's expensive trying to relearn that with different paint systems, so I stick to Citadel Paints despite their drawbacks. I strongly recommend looking into different paints and choosing the ones best for you. Knowledge is power. It's not cheap or easy to jump between paint sets.

   That's everything you need to know to get started and everything I have found helpful to me. For those veterans out there, feel free to leave a comment if I've missed anything or if there's anything you find useful. Share your experiences, leave any comments, concerns, questions, flames or feedback. I'd also like to give an honourable mention to the Graphite Pencil, an old standby when ever I've needed to mark things down or add damage to a model. I didn't think it appropriate to mention in this article, but I also find Citadel Spray Paint to give the best consistent results for base priming models. Typically very soft and smooth, as long as you don't spray too much on. That's all for now.

Signing out

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...