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Pingo

A Modest Proposal On Rethinking the Casting of Separate Outstretched Arms

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Note:  This was not inspired by anything I bought from Reaper, but another company.

 

Note also:  Sculpting and casting is not my art.  It is entirely possible that I am being thoroughly ignorant about this and it is already a solved problem.

 

***

 

Occasionally one will run into a miniature in a particular pose popular at the moment, with two arms stretched straight out front, generally holding long range combat weapons.

 

In such cases it seems to be pretty common to cast the arms as separate pieces to be attached to the rest of the model at the shoulders.

 

This is, I gather, is because of the nature of moldmaking.  Pieces seem to need to be not too far from flat to release from the mold properly, so a complex shape is often broken down into simpler shapes to be assembled after molding.

 

But casting the arms separately makes for a very difficult and delicate attaching job, involving balance and cussing and tiny drills and wire (and that last is especially difficult if the figure is, say, a woman with tiny, thin arms).

 

This results in a fragile miniature, difficult to handle and play with.

 

This strikes me as inefficient.  Surely there are better ways to put together a human figure.

 

May I suggest a different way of thinking about dividing up the figure for molding?

 

The problem here is the arms, which are long, thin, horizontal structures with only a single attachment point which needs to bear their weight and any stress put on them from handling.

 

But what if they had built-in support?

 

If a figure in that pose were composed of two pieces, one the body from the armpits down and one the head, shoulders, and arm assembly, it seems to me it would be less fiddly and more sturdy.

 

If the arms and head were a single piece it would still be relatively flat for casting, something of a flat "U" shape, but it seems to me it would be much easier to glue and structurally much stronger than separate arms are.

 

***

 

(Note again, sculpture and casting are not my arts.  Am I being naive here?  Would the difficulty of dividing up the sculpture and the possibility of weirdly placed gaps outweight the convenience and stability?)

 

 

 

 

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I don't know the answer, but I'm looking forward to hearing from those who do. I know that I have more than a few figures that might never see the light of day due to exactly what you're describing.

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I have some modular figures that are really annoying about this.  I assume they were divided in such a way as to minimize casting materials, but that also minimized attachment points. 

 

So many fantasy figures have some kind of leather strap crossing their chest diagonally that they would already appear to have a natural line of dissection.

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I am fully on board with you about the tiny outstretched arms.  I sometimes assemble and paint miniatures for friends, and while I tend toward buying Reaper (and, admittedly, whatever I happen upon that's fairly cheap), some of my friends are more likely to go for more "boutique" minis.  Here, "boutique" seems to generally mean something like "Pretty girls in scant clothing with thin limbs, active poses, with lots and lots of little parts and bits and a dangerously difficult time of telling what's detail and what's flash when prepping."

 

(I am making gross exaggeration here, but sometimes this it what it FEELS like.)

 

While I am sometimes critical of the Workshop that is famous for Games, recently I started assembling and painting miniatures for a new board game involving Quests and Hammers of War.  The super-fine plastic has details sharp and hard enough to prick my fingers, and assembling the figures has been not unlike assembling several tiny puzzles, but I was impressed that the "puzzle-like" assembly had its purposes: I haven't had to do a bit of pinning so far (save for anchoring the bottoms of feet to custom bases).  If there was an arm that was a separate piece, then it wasn't just a break along the arm; rather, the arm would be attached to a shoulder, and the seam followed the edges of musculature or folds of cloth, etc., or would be obscured by a separate armor piece that would be glued over the joining spot.

 

I imagine that some sort of CAD had to be involved, however, for the intricacy of the details and the way everything fit together.

 

Still, even using conventional sculpting measures, I figure there has to be a way to make things a little less insane for assembly.  For instance, in the "two arms pointing forward, holding guns" situation, it might make more sense if the arms are attached to a piece that's basically the front chest and shoulders.  Where exactly the seam would be, would depend upon natural break points in the clothing (e.g., belt, straps, collar).

 

There have been some figures I've had to put together which I simply can't imagine could have been properly pinned in the example pictures used for advertising/packaging/etc.  (Not if the miniature used in the pictures was pewter, anyway.)  Just gluing the pieces together might work for making a pretty picture, but it would hardly hold together for the intended use as a playing piece for a miniatures war-game or board game.  It's left me with a fairly low opinion of certain miniatures lines -- for such expensive miniatures, ostensibly meant for a game, at times I can't help but feel that a proxy of some sort might not only be CHEAPER than the official miniature, but more practical for actually playing the game.  (It's also made me appreciate Reaper minis all the more, for not giving me such grief when putting them together.  :)  )

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This is the figure that provoked this thinking.  It came in an assortment of modern female adventurers.

post-8022-0-58463900-1464655484.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

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The arms could've also been done on the shoulder join for more surface area to glue but they clearly wanted to avoid an awkward back due to the nature of the sculpt.

If the arms were sculpted so that the deltoids were more like insertions, creating a wedge shape, it would be a bit easier as well I think. When you sculpt up a whole figure and then cut things off, you have to make due with what you can manage vs sculpting the pieces separate from the start. This is one of the major advantages of 3d sculpting IMO.

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This is the figure that provoked this thinking.  It came in an assortment of modern female adventurers.

 

Ugh. Reminds me of my Tobias Winterhorn... assembling him I think is an exercise I will leave to those more skilled than I.

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@Pingo: BIG SHOULDER PADS SOLVE EVERYTHING.  If I were faced with a figure like this, and if the arms were thin enough that I couldn't pin them, I'd probably dig into my box o' Ork Bitz (I don't play Orkz, but I got a box of leftover "bitz" at an old game bazaar years ago) and get out a couple of big oversized shoulderpads, do whatever putty business is necessary to give those arms a decent anchor point, then hide the evidence over a couple of big road-warrior-esque shoulder pads, and slate the mini for use in post-apocalyptic games.  :)  Even if you don't have a box of Ork bitz {deliberate misspelling, because using a "z" makes it oh-so-edgy and Orky, or something stupid like that), you could probably whittle one out of some plastic sprue.  They don't need to match each other in the least, if you're going for '80s-'90s-style cyberpunk or post-apocalyptic.

 

My first thought would be to drill holes into the two pits in the mutant shoulders, then take a dull hobby knife and cut off the round arm ends so I'd have a fairly flat surface to use the pinning drill on.  (I find it nigh impossible to try to drill into a knobby round surface -- the drill tip will just skip off as soon as I try to turn it.)  Then, wire 'em up.  I still imagine that with the way those arms join, the joining part is going to look painfully obvious, so some green stuff will probably be required to hide it a bit, but even with the careful pinning, I'd be tempted to go the route of "obscuring shoulder pads" -- if for no other reason than that there's a pretty good chance that when I'd try to drill the hole into the shoulders, I'd end up going too far and popping out the other end, with as little room to work with as I'd imagine that offers.

 

Best of luck with that!

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OK, big discussion here.  This is one of the hardest things to learn as a sculptor: engineering a sculpt for the mold.

 

First, to address your first post.  No you could not cut the mini off under the arms and cast the upper part separate.  If you did, the head would stick straight into the mold and would lock in under the chin.  That said, there are a lot of things the sculptor could have altered to make it more mold and customer friendly, mostly with adding pins to the arms and cutting them between the deltoids and the collarbones.

 

When casting metal in a rubber mold, you can get away with about a 15 degree variance off the plane of the mold (maybe 20 if you don't like your mold maker much).  Any more than that requires that you cut up the sculpt.  In the case you present, the head and arms are at 90 degrees.  This won't work unless one or the other can stick straight into the mold and be smoothly pulled out.  In this case the arms are too long to be stuck into the mold and the guns would lock anyway, and the head would lock under the nose, chin, and hair.

 

A good sculptor will review all this before posing the mini, designing everything to have the best looking pose while still meeting the needs of the mold, modeler, and company.  Multi-part minis are more expensive to produce, so most companies want us to keep the part count low.  They also make for a more difficult to assemble and use mini.  There are some amazing sculptors out there doing some awesome work, yet who seem to have taken the attitude of "It's my art and I don't care how many pieces you need to assemble."  Personally, as a modeler myself for many years, I find that attitude contemptible. 

 

This is something that you do not learn overnight either.  If you look at my first sculpts, they sucked in this department, no tabs or anything.  I am getting a lot better now at pre-planning everything before I start sculpting, conforming my vision to the mold, instead of cutting it up after the fact.

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That is a good analysis by talespinner.

 

Id like to toss in my two cents about alternative cut points for arms and the like:

 

If we cut into the torso to generate a larger attachment point for the modeller (like having part of the torso on the arm piece) this can lead to some frustrating problems when things don't come out exactly right. during the molding process shapes change - it involves pressure , so pieces can become compressed or distorted. additionally, molds wear and require venting points. all of these things mean fitting a bigger section of the shoulder/arm girdle can be more difficult to the builder than a fiddly little arm joint. if the flat join doesn't fit perfectly well because of a molding distortion ,the proportions of the entire figure could be thrown off and the the model could become un-assembleable.

 

to the point: in my experience, big seams are not better than small joins (as a sculptor and modeller).

Edited by vulture
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I am not a sculptor nor a mold maker so I can't really comment on that side of things.  I am however a putterer-togetherer of things and can at least offer an opinion on my preferences.

 

Since my first Reaper 28mm mini a few years back, I've picked up some white metal kits from Pegaso, Scale75, Andrea, etc.  For anyone that hasn't seen one up close, these are often in 12 or more pieces, half of which can be body parts and limbs. I am OK with that.  I look at a little gap filling as part of the hobby and would be perfectly happy fitting together a Reaper model where I had to attach the head and legs to a torso if the trade off was not having to pin at the wrist (looking at you Mierce).  Maybe I'm in the minority, but there you have it.

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If we cut into the torso to generate a larger attachment point for the modeller (like having part of the torso on the arm piece) this can lead to some frustrating problems when things don't come out exactly right. during the molding process shapes change - it involves pressure , so pieces can become compressed or distorted. additionally, molds wear and require venting points. all of these things mean fitting a bigger section of the shoulder/arm girdle can be more difficult to the builder than a fiddly little arm joint. if the flat join doesn't fit perfectly well because of a molding distortion ,the proportions of the entire figure could be thrown off and the the model could become un-assembleable.

 

That explains why so many larger metal models, such as siege engines, carts, space ships, etc are sofricking difficult to put together when they're usually such simple shapes. 

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