Last time around (Tool Tips 01) things started to warm up a bit, now it’s time to really start cooking!
Miniatures typically come on a sprue of plastic material, which requires one to carefully trim away those itty bitty miniature parts. Even metal miniatures tend to have mould lines that should be cleaned before you start painting.
I’ve heard some people say they like to prime or paint while the minis are still on the sprue, in the interest of saving time. I’ve never tried it, and at least for myself, trimming around already painted areas and then painting said area, would likely take me much longer as I get mired in the details. But it is an option. It’s probably good to note that some of these steps (Trimming, Washing, Basing, etc.) can be interchangeable.
Craft knife – I’ve used X-acto Knives for years. For cutting the mini from the sprue, trimming/scraping mould lines, conversion work, etc. As long as you have a decently sharp blade (and use it safely!), you should be just fine. After picking up the Fiskars knife above though, I’m really very happy with the sharpness and probably more importantly, the grip. It’s got a nice shape to it which makes cutting really natural.
Cutters – as mentioned above, I used to use X-acto knives for all my cutting needs. Yes, you can get by with those. I think I used some wire cutters at some point, and that can also work. However, I picked up the Xuron Cutters, and they work very nicely. The shape of them makes it easier to clip closer to the actual mini, which means less clean up of excess material later. The cutting end is also small, so it makes easier than wire cutters to get inbetween parts of the sprue.
Scraper – I used to use the edge of the X-acto knife to cut or scrape away mould lines and excess sprue material. I then started to use some small files from a metal file set. It still would always take awhile to clean away excess material and it’s a part I really found to be a chore. Especially with the Mantic Dreadball and Deadzone miniatures, which never seemed to get clean. But I didn’t know any better, so I kept using craft knives and files. Then came the Seam Scraper. I really wish someone had screamed at me years ago “GO GET A SEAM SCRAPER!!”. It makes the chore of getting mould lines off the mini, so much easier. Sometimes I can even get them in one pass. I have no idea why it works so much better than a craft knife or file, but it probably has something to do with the shape.
I’ve found you can either pull towards you or push if the material isn’t coming off as fast. If you don’t have one, I’d highly recommend getting one. Probably one of the best tools I picked up in 2017. I might even get a second one, as I dread the day it becomes dull and/or isn’t available! *Just remembered one niggling complaint. It’s solid metal. Which means it will last awhile, but the day after cleaning an entire team of Blood Bowl minis, I was wondering why my fingers were sore. I figured it out pretty quickly when I went to use the tool once again. My poor, dainty man fingers! I imagine one could wrap some tape and/or cushioning material around the handle to make things easier. If I get around to trying that, I’ll report back at some point.
Cutting mat – pretty much anything will do. One with lines on it can sometimes be nice as a guide. Just make sure it’s “self healing” and doesn’t take up more space than you want. I often paint over the top of mine, to save the desk from spills.
All of these tools (and others) have Games Workshop or other brand equivalents. They typically cost a bit more for the name, but are essentially the same product. Just something to be aware of.
Make sure to wash your minis *before* you start any sort of priming/painting. Miniatures tend to have residual “release agent” chemicals, grime, dirt, grease, etc. on them. Those will cause paint to be less likely to stick to the miniature. Paint not sticking to the mini, is bad news of course.
I’ve become more regimented about this recently. Maybe after dealing with some finicky resin minis. I run hot water, rinse the minis, give them a little scrub with the wire brush and place them in a big bowl with hot water and soap. I’d use an old tupperware container for the “big bowl”. Resin can be pretty nasty, and old miniatures were made of lead, neither of which you want to leave in a bowl that you would eat out of later! I let the minis sit in the bowl of hot, soapy water overnight. Take them out the next morning, scrub and rinse, then leave them out to dry for a day. Usually flipping them over inbetween on their drying towel to make sure all the water comes off.
I haven’t found the best solution yet, but for really small parts, I clean them the same, but throw them all in an ‘Organza bag’ before putting them in the big bowl, so I don’t lose them during draining/rinsing. You can find the Organza bags for pretty cheap online and I also use them to organize and store parts for a lot of my boardgames. I already have a lot of them, so it was the first thing I thought to grab when trying to make sure I don’t lose those itty bitty bits in the soapy water. I imagine there are tea strainers or something else that works just as good.
Conversions are a huge topic, with many, many articles/posts on the web. I don’t consider myself that great at conversions. Well, I’m not that great of a painter either, but conversions even less so. I do have a few conversions in the works though, and maybe once those are done I will bridge the topic in a future post. Basically you will want some sort of clay/putty material, gap fillers, clay shapers, files, etc. It’s best to do all of this before priming. I’m going to lump “magnetizing” in here at the same time, as it’s another thing I haven’t done extensively but will likely be tackling in the near future.
That pretty much covers all the tools I use in getting the miniature prepped for assembly and priming. Next time around we will get into the actual assembly.
Next up: Tools Tips 03