I put together a few documents related to using Bones. I've submitted these to the Craft section of the website, but as it may be a little while before Reaper has the time available to add them, Bryan suggested that I post them here.
Bones - Preparation (this document)
Bones - The First Coat is the Difference (primer, primer alternatives, paint durability)
Painting Bones Miniatures: Preparation
Reaper’s claim that you can open a Bones miniature package and just start painting is absolutely true! However, it is also true that there are optional steps you can take to better prepare the miniature, depending upon your desired end result.
Cleaning Bones Figures
Undiluted paint adheres well to a Bones figure straight out of the package. However, many people find that the paint goes on more easily if the figure has been washed. Also, if you’ve had your figure out of the blister for a while, or you’ve handled it to remove mould lines or otherwise prepare it, you should clean it before painting, as it probably has dust and skin oils on it that may repel paint or cause paint to chip off. All you need to clean it is some dishwashing liquid on an old toothbrush. Give it a scrub, and then rinse it really well to get off all the soap. Let it dry before painting. (You can hurry up the drying with a hairdryer set on low.)
Note that if you paint resin or metal figures, you should always clean them before painting. The moulds used to make these are dusted with powder before the miniature is cast, and the residue of that power can stick to the miniature.
Reshaping Bent Parts
Bones is a somewhat flexible plastic material that has a ‘memory’. If you bend a sword out of the way to paint the part behind it, the sword will flex back into place when you stop holding it. However, that also means that if your figure has a sword or spear that is crooked, you can’t just bend it back into place the way you can with a metal figure.
To reset the position of a thinner area like a weapon or arm, hold the figure with tongs or in a sieve, and dip it into boiling or near boiling water for at least a minute or two. Remove it from the water, reposition the part, and immediately dunk it into a bowl of ice water for at least a minute. It should hold in the new position. If you expose the figure to heat at a later time, it may revert to its original position. For this reason, if you want to wash the figure with soap and water prior to painting, you should use cool water or wash it before you heat it to reset a warped part.
Important safety notes: Please exercise caution! The Bones material may get hot when dipped in boiling water, so you should use protective gear rather than touching it with your bare fingers. The Bones material might be damaged or damage your pot if placed in direct contact with the pot surface. If you are under the age of 18, please ask your parents for permission and have them read this section before boiling Bones figures.
Filling Part Gaps
Some Bones miniatures are assembled from multiple pieces at the factory. These pieces are designed to fit together snugly, and the glue used to assemble them usually fills any small gap that might remain. Occasionally you might find a Bones figure with a slightly larger gap. If this bothers you, you can use Green Stuff putty (sold by Reaper) or a similar epoxy putty to fill in the gap and create a smooth surface. Alternatively, you can try dabbing a tiny bit more superglue into the gap with the end of a pointed toothpick or pin and pushing the two pieces together while the glue sets. Products like Vallejo’s Plastic Putty, Games Workshop’s Liquid Green Stuff or fine art supplies Modeling Paste are also useful for this purpose.
If you receive a Bones figure that is assembled incorrectly or which is missing a piece, you should contact firstname.lastname@example.org, and a Reaper representative will work with you to correct the issue.
Removing Mould Lines
Grab one of your Bones figures and take a close look at it, particularly along the sides of the figure where there are smooth areas like skin or cloth. You will see a thin ridge of plastic that sticks up slightly from the surface of the figure. (You might have to try looking at it from different angles to spot it.) That ridge is called a mould line, and you will also find it on metal or plastic miniatures, regardless of manufacturer. Miniatures are made by injecting material into a mould in the shape of the desired figure. The mould breaks apart into two halves after the material hardens so the figure can be removed. Mould lines form where the two halves of the mould meet.
Lots of people choose to ignore mould lines, particularly if they need to paint a number of figures quickly for a game. Some people like to remove them before painting if they plan to paint the miniature as a decoration or to give as a gift. There are several tools you can use to clean off the lines. Reaper doesn’t sell these, but information on how to find them is included at the end of this section.
One tool you can use to remove mould lines is a basic hobby knife with a sharp #11 blade, or a scalpel. With metal and hard plastic/resin miniatures, you can do that by holding the sharp edge of the blade perpendicular to the mould line and scraping it off. This does not work very well with Bones miniatures and may damage the surface. Rather, you need to position the blade just under the line and carefully slice it off, similar to the motion you would use if you were paring a potato or hand-sharpening a pencil.
Another tool you can use in a similar way is a micro chisel. This is a very tiny chisel with a sharp, but not knife-edge sharp, edge. It takes very little pressure to push it just under the mould line and along the surface to slice it off. If you are nervous about knives, you might prefer this tool. You can still jab yourself with it, but the potentially for injury is much less than with a knife or scalpel.
Many people use files to scrape off the mould lines on metal figures, but files tend to damage the surface of resin and some plastic figures. You can use files to clean the mould lines from Bones figures. There are two types of files – the classic toothed files (which have a pattern of lines or crosshatches etched into them), and diamond files. For either, you want small, fine tools designed for small-scale hobby work. For best results with files, carefully scrape across the mould line in one direction, moving the file perpendicular to the mould line. After you’ve removed the mould line, you may notice a few remaining stringy bits. Carefully scrape the file very lightly in the opposite direction to detach these.
Sand paper and sanding sticks are another option. Use these in a similar fashion as files.
Some people have also experimented with using rotary tools (like a Dremel) or a battery operated jewelry maker’s engraving pen. In my experiments with a rotary tool, I got better results with a tiny cutter (like the last item in the tools picture above, but with a smaller head). The diamond coated bit (the second to last item in the tools picture above) left a pretty rough surface. Because these tools are powered, be aware that it is possible for them to get away from you and damage the figure. It is also possible for them to injure you, and you should always take appropriate safety precautions, such as wearing goggles and safety gloves.
Which of those options works the best? A lot of that comes down to personal preference and comfort, and the nature of the surface area you’re working on. For example, if you’re leery of sharp tools, you might prefer files. In my experiments, the hobby knife and micro chisel worked best over smoother, flatter areas. It was easier to get into some crevices and depressions with files and the rotary tool cutting bit. Below is a picture of the surface results I obtained with the different mould line removal tools I tested on Bones Cave Troll figures.
From left to right: as produced by factory; exacto knife; micro chisel; diamond files.
From left to right: crosshatch tooth files; emery board (sand paper); rotary tool – cutter on torso, diamond coated on leg; combination of a variety of tools.
ADDENDUM: Since writing this, I have also tried Alpha Precision Sanding Needles, both medium (blue) and fine (white), and highly recommend this product for removing mould lines from Bones figures.
Where to buy products mentioned in this document:
Hobby knife – hobby store, craft store, art store
Micro chisel – Google search ‘mission micro chisel’ for the one pictured in this document, or do a general search on micro chisel for other possibilities
Files – jewelry section of hobby/craft store. For online search, use the terms ‘needle file 2mm’. Looking for a 2mm diameter file set will ensure you find ones small enough for use on miniature figures.
Rotary tool bits – hobby store, hardware store, Micro Mark online store
Engraving pen – jewelry section of hobby/craft store
Sanding needles - hobby/craft store
Converting and Customizing Bones
When people talk about converting a figure, they mean altering how it looks in some way. For example, you could cut the head off one figure and swap it on to another, or you could replace a large sword blade with a pin to make a rapier. Another way to customize a figure is to cut off an arm or a leg and glue it back on in a different orientation to change the pose of a figure. You can also cut a Bones figure off of its base if you’d like the option of positioning it on a pre-made or custom base of resin or metal. The Bones material cuts easily with a sharp hobby knife or sprue cutters.
Bones and Glue
Reaper recommends using cyanoacrylate glue (superglue) to glue the Bones material, whether to itself or other materials. I tested a few different kinds of glue, and in my tests the superglue bonds were the strongest.
I tested three different types of glue, and how well they would attach Bones figures to various types of basing materials. The glues tested were: cyanoacrylate (superglue, HobbyTown store brand); 5-minute epoxy glue (HobbyTown store brand); white glue (Titebond brand). The base materials tested were: standard black plastic; flagstone textured metal; unfinished craft wood; MDF wood base; concrete textured resin; thin styrene/plasticard.
After allowing all of the glued pieces to cure for more than a day and a half, I subjected them to a couple of tests. First, I tried pulling each figure away from the base to which it was glued. Any that survived that test were thrown together with an additional metal figure loose in a plastic container that I shook vigourously for several minutes. I also examined the figures and bases for any sign of chemical reaction between the Bones and any of the glues. I did not detect any.
The cyanoacrylate glue bonds were demonstrably stronger than either of the others. Only one figure adhered with cyanoacrylate glue was detached from its base during the tests - I was able to pull the Bones glued to a craft wood disk off with moderate force.
Only two Bones attached with 5 minute epoxy made it to the box shake testing stage – the one attached to the craft wood base, and the one attached to MDF. The box shake test broke the bonds on both of those.
The white glue bonds were pretty weak, with some figures being knocked off their bases by light contact, and the rest requiring little effort to pull off. It took more effort to pull the Bones off of the white plastic base than expected, but it did come off. White glue is not the best choice for Bones conversions or for attaching Bones to bases. However, it should work as well as it does with metal figures for attaching gravel and flock textures to Bones material bases.
For my initial experiment, I did not score or roughen the Bones bases or base materials, nor did I use pins. Using either or both of these should increase glue adhesion.
I tested the 5 minute epoxy glue a second time on standard black plastic, flagstone textured metal, MDF wood, concrete textured resin, and styrene/plasticard. For this second test, I scored lines into the base of the Bones figure and the surface of the base with a hobby knife. After allowing the glue to set for a couple of days, I tried pulling the figures off of their bases. I was able to pull the figures off of the styrene and MDF bases with moderate force, and to remove the figure from the metal base with a little more effort. The figures on the black plastic and resin bases remained in place. For the next stage of testing, I placed these loose, with other figures and items, into a plastic container, which I shook vigourously and threw onto the ground several times. The figures on the black plastic and resin bases remained attached.
Bones and Epoxy Putties
Epoxy putties such as Green Stuff can be used to alter and customize a figure, and to fill and smooth gaps left after converting or assembling multi-piece miniatures. These are two part putties. Once you mix them together, they stay workable for an hour or two, and fully cure within four to six hours. I tested the putties I had available on Bones figures. For each skeleton spearman, I moulded a cylinder of putty around its spear, and a crest on its head. I gave the putties a full day to cure and then tested them. I tried to bend the spears under and to either side of the putty cylinders. I worked to pull the crests off of their heads. Then I threw all of the spearmen loose in a plastic box and shook it for several minutes.
From left to right in the above photograph, the putties I tested were: Kneadatite (Green Stuff); Brown Stuff; ProCreate; Milliput Yellow-Grey; Apoxie Sculpt; GF9 Gray Stuff; Magic Sculpt.
After the tests, I examined the figures. I found no signs of damage from the testing on any of them, nor any reaction with the Bones material. All but the Milliput and Apoxie Sculpt crests detached from the figures with mild to moderate force. Of the ones that detached, the ProCreate crest took the most effort to remove. However, it should be noted that the same thing can happen with putty on metal figures, and that it is easy to glue on a custom-shaped part like that.
NOTE: The crests on the two end figures popped off during testing. I placed them back on for the photograph. Due to the differing natures of the putties, the sculpting on the two that stayed in place was a slightly different shape, which may have contributed to them being harder to pop off.
Smoothing Rough Areas
If you remove the mould lines from your figure or do any conversions to it, you may find that it has areas where the surface looks a little rough. Reaper makes a product called Brush-On Sealer. You can paint a coat or three of this over a rough area to smooth it over. It won’t look any different to your eye, but once you put a coat of paint over it, the area will appear much smoother. If you don’t notice that an area is rough until after you’ve started painting, stop and apply some Sealer, then paint another layer of paint over it and you’ll get that same smoothing effect. Using Brush-On Sealer to smooth rough areas also works on metal or resin miniatures. Note that more than a coat or two of the Sealer will start to obscure small, finely sculpted details.
The Brush-On Sealer is essentially acrylic medium. (Or what makes up paint apart from the pigment colour and binders.) There are other products you can experiment with for a similar effect – gloss sealer, matte medium, glaze medium. These may or may not work the same way, but if you happen to have some around you can try it until you get your hands on some Brush-On Sealer.
To demonstrate the effectiveness of the Brush-On Sealer, I applied several tools to the bottom of a Bones Purple Worm to scratch and gouge it. The picture on the left shows the surface following a wash of paint to make the damage easier to spot. The picture on the right shows the same figure after I applied three coats of Brush-On Sealer, two coats of white paint and the same paint wash. There are still a few areas of damage apparent, but the majority of the surface is smooth and ready to paint. (And I could easily apply another coat or two to the problem areas.) As you can see from the text in the middle, the Brush-On Sealer will also fill in some detail, so it is best not to use more than one coat on areas of intricate sculpted detail.
Removing Paint from a Bones Figure
Sometimes painting a figure doesn’t go exactly as planned. If you would like to strip the paint from a Bones figure so you can start from scratch to paint it another way, just drop it into a dish of Simple Green Concentrated All Purpose Cleaner for 12 – 24 hours, then scrub it with an old toothbrush and it is ready to paint again. Some paint colours may leave a stain on the Bones material, but should not leave any texture or affect subsequent layers of paint. Simple Green in an eco-friendly cleaner sold in most hardware stores and some grocery stores. Brake fluid also works, though is a much more toxic material.