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The Science of Miniatures Casting


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#1 Kuro Cleanbrush

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Posted 30 October 2012 - 05:01 PM

Hello again everyone! It's great to be posting again on the Reaper forums!

Anyway, as several of you know, though I haven't been posting much lately, I've been very busy. Most of that busyness is related to my current quest to get my Bachelor's degree in Metallurgical Engineering, but this semester I have had the good fortune of being able to combine my love for miniatures with my love for engineering!

All engineering seniors at my college (the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, to be precise) are required to take part in a class on engineering design. Normally, the professors create a list of projects for the students to tackle and then assign the students to the different projects according to each student's preference. However, the students are also allowed to pitch project ideas to the faculty for their approval. This year, the professors decided that they would like to have a project focusing on metal casting, but they admitted that they had little real direction for the project, so I immediately went to them (fresh from my tour of Reaper HQ during Reapercon) and proposed the idea of casting pewter miniatures. Several of my professors were already familiar with my hobby, and they liked the idea, and so my team (myself and two other seniors) was off to the races!

After I received the go-ahead from my professors, I immediately contacted the excellent folks at Reaper asking if they would be willing to provide any advice that we could use (my school is set up for sand casting of aluminum or lost wax casting, but nothing like this). Before I knew it, I had an email back from Reaper Ed saying that they would be happy to help in any way possible! So far, my team has been a little slow to get going, so I haven't had to avail myself of Reaper's help, but this is just one more reason why I love this company! Thanks again, Reaper!

To keep from having to write a wall of text any longer than this, I'll momentarily skip relating our design plan. Our final goal is quick and easy to relate, though. By the end of next semester, we would like to be able to cast 28mm heroic-scale replicas of our school's mascot, Grubby the miner, possibly for distribution through our school bookstore. (And possibly out of metals other than white metal [92% Tin, 8% Antimony], or, even better, possibly electro-plated in gold, silver, or copper. ::): )

Okay, now that everyone has a background on the project (sorry for its length...), here's a picture of Grubby:
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I have taken some artistic liberties in my interpretation of Grubby as a miniature (he's like Santa Claus; he looks different in every picture) mainly to help make up for the fact that this is my first time ever sculpting an entire miniature. I had some difficulties with my green stuff during my attempts to sculpt Grubby's pants, and so they are not as well done as I would like, but I feel that my quality has been improving with each new layer of epoxy. And I can finally breathe a huge sigh of relief after finishing his face without botching things too badly. ::):

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Each new picture corresponds to a new layer of green stuff. Hopefully, my team will be constructing the initial molds by the end of next week.

A very big thanks to anyone and everyone who made the Fort saves needed to survive the reading of such a long opening post! Please let me know what you think!
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#2 Reaperbryan

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Posted 30 October 2012 - 05:16 PM

This is going to be fascinating to watch!

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#3 Last Knight

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Posted 30 October 2012 - 05:59 PM

What @ReaperBryan said, I look forward to watching your work with interest - and what an awesome project!
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#4 Adrift

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Posted 30 October 2012 - 06:03 PM

Freaking awesome!!!!!

#5 MonkeySloth

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Posted 30 October 2012 - 06:06 PM

Impressive for first time. It'll turn out great.

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#6 bloodydrake

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Posted 30 October 2012 - 07:02 PM

very cool gonna love keeping up with this as it progresses

#7 Corporea

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Posted 31 October 2012 - 06:41 AM

wow!!!
oh, you mean I can put stuff here?  cool!  now to think of something...

#8 klarg1

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Posted 31 October 2012 - 08:27 AM

Sounds like a cool project, and your sculpt looks very nice so far. I'm also looking forward to the rest!

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#9 dispatchdave

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Posted 31 October 2012 - 02:45 PM

I'm curious about your casting method... is it centrifugal (spin) casting, pressure casting, something else?

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#10 Pingo

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Posted 31 October 2012 - 03:03 PM

This is a great college project. Good luck!
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#11 Exwilly

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Posted 31 October 2012 - 08:21 PM

im looking forward to watching the progress.
"Remember practice doesn't make perfect but it sure does help only perfect practice makes perfect but you cant be perfect without making mistakes and learning from them." dont know if this is an actual quote by someone lol.
 
 
 

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#12 dks

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Posted 31 October 2012 - 08:36 PM

Yes, I can see your improving skills from stage to stage. Good work!
If you're going to sculpt other figures, you might find it easier if you do things in a slightly different order -- generally working your layers from inside to outside: add a bit of mass to the abdomen before sculpting the pants (though you got it to work out fine), sculpt the face and neck before the shirt (so the collar goes around the finished neck), sculpt the shirt before the belt, and don't attach the handle of the pick until the shoulder and arm are finished (so the handle can rest on the final surface of the shoulder). But otherwise you're showing good instincts for what to do so far.
Good luck with the rest of the sculpt and the rest of the project.
Derek

#13 Kuro Cleanbrush

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Posted 01 November 2012 - 01:53 PM

Thanks a bunch for all the encouragement and comments, everyone! Hopefully I'll be able to finish the sculpt this weekend.

I'm curious about your casting method... is it centrifugal (spin) casting, pressure casting, something else?


The exact nature of our casting has yet to be determined; I want to play with our materials and equipment a little before I decide. My group and I talked about spin casting, and we really liked the idea, but given the small-scale nature of our casting we may be okay with simply producing the minis one-at-a-time in a stationary mold. Alternatively, my campus has a relatively large centrifugal casting "device" (basically a horizontal trebuchet arm that can hold a small mold at the end) that they typically use for casting metal rings. Our first castings will actually be of an ASTM E8 (kudos to everyone who knows what that means) tensile test specimen, and that will help us figure out if we are going to have any materials flow issues. I'll keep everyone posted. ::):

@Derek: Thanks very much for all the tips! I have actually had quite a bit of fun with the sculpting, and I am considering doing a full mini just for fun over winter break, so I'll be sure to apply what you mentioned.
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#14 Kuro Cleanbrush

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Posted 05 November 2012 - 10:29 PM

Well, that took a little longer than I was hoping, but the green of Grubby is finally finished and ready for casting! Unfortunately, I'm forseeing substantial difficulties in making a single-piece mold for our intrepid little miner, but we'll see what we can do. Thursday, my team and I are going to begin experimenting with out silicone rubber mold making material to gain some experience with it before we risk the green itself. Most importantly, we hope to determine whether or not we will have problems with entrapped bubbles if we use only a vacuum chamber without external pressure.

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#15 MonkeySloth

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Posted 06 November 2012 - 12:01 AM

I can see how he probably won't fit into a mold without some surgery.

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