Tuesday, 20 November 2012

The First Cut Is The Deepest...

Removing Bits That You Don't Want.

Now is the time to remove all the extraneous bits on your figures. Even  the best figures will have little extras on them left over from the moulding process. The first is mould-lines which is where the molten metal gets into the tiny gaps between the two sides of the mould. A bit like when you toast a sandwich in one of those dinky machines (personally I like that extra crispy bit of cheese hanging on the edge but pretty it ain't). The second thing is bits of random metal apparently just hanging of the figure called flash. This is caused by the necessity to incorporate tiny canals into the mould to allow any air caught during the process to be released and is usually found at the extremities of the figure such as the hands and feet. All the flash and mould-lines need to be removed before you lay the on first coat of paint...

The surgeon's table...

I have to say that this stage is my least favourite because it is necessary to concentrate on doing something rather tedious. It is not a job you can do while watching reruns of Dallas. Several tools are needed for cleaning up your figures:

A Stanley knife or an X-Acto knife with a heavy duty blade fitted
A scalpel or similar sized craft knife with plenty of spare blades
Needle files
Emery boards/Sanding sticks
A little brush
Protective goggles

And most importantly...

There, there, there...

Removing the mould-lines is easy. Gently use the scalpel to scrape them off. Try and use a single fluid action to avoid nicking the metal each time you apply the knife. For this I used  Swann-Morton 10a blades in a No 3 Handle. However, I found that after scraping away for an hour or so the handle was becoming very  uncomfortable to use. Swann-Morton produce a chunky plastic handle (5a) which I will be investing in in order to alleviate the problem. Try to scrape away from your fingers for obvious reasons.

Removing the flash element is not quite so clear cut. It can sometimes be quite hard to remove and you also have to be careful not to lob off an arm or headdress. This is where the heavier duty blade comes in especially when cleaning metal on the bottom of the bases. Sometimes this can be filed down but usually it needs a good scrape. This is usually where the plasters become part of the story. I suggest cutting the large pieces into finger tip size pieces in advance as it isn't easy doing so when bleeding all over the shop. Another safety point is that I suggest you wear some kind of eye protection during this stage because, no matter how careful you are, tiny bits of  sharp metal will ping into the air and land on the carpet, in your cup of tea or, if you are really unlucky, your eyes...

When the lines and flash are removed give the figure a going over with a fine grade sanding stick. It is useful to have a selection of sanding sticks of different grades. I bought a set of Squadron Sticks from Hannants. For those awkward to reach bits such as armpits and the like I use a pointed needle file followed by a quick rub with a piece of fine polishing cloth attached to an old scalpel blade. Finally dust off the figure with a small soft brush to get rid of any little bits of metal that may be lingering in nooks and crannies.

The Ila from North Star that are the main subject of this site are well moulded and needed very little cleaning up. They still took me 6 hours on a rainy Thursday afternoon. Do not rush this part of the job no matter how tedious it becomes, your miniatures will love you for it later when you come to paint them.

I hope this post comes out alright as I am using the Android App. for the first time. Still at the wrong end of the country. Normal Service will be resumed tomorrow when I will be spending some prime time with you.