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A few quick questions about Hirst Arts Molds


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#1 Pole

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Posted 19 April 2012 - 12:41 PM

So I just a call from home, and my molds and dental stone arrived today! So naturally I'm stoked to get home and start playing with it all. I have a couple of questions though before I get started.

1. I know to clean the molds and such before I start, but does anyone know of any other pro tricks to keep bubbles from forming while I am pouring the stone? I bought the debubblizer stuff and am going to try that, but does it work as well as the wet water method?

2. Merlin's Magic is expensive to ship!!!! Is it really worth it? Is there something else that is readily available that I could buy instead? I am really looking for something strong that I can still work with for cutting and sanding.

3. What do you guys use to cut down blocks when you are building? A kife? Something else? Along that line, what grit sand paper should I be using?

4. I don't have a dehydrator handy, so does anyone have any suggestions on how to best dry them out? I was thinking oven over night, but I don't have a clue what to set the oven to.

5. Do you guys prefer to do the varnish before painting or would regular spray on primer work as well or better?

6. Anything else a noobie should know before diving in head first?


Thanks guys!

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#2 Shakandara

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Posted 19 April 2012 - 01:26 PM

First, before I address any of your individual points, go to the HA site and read through as much of the tips and tricks and advice articles as you can stand, even if it is about molds that you don't own. I've found some very good advice there that is only mentioned on one page within all the stuff there, so it does pay off to take some time to read up on everything on Bruce's site..

1. I use Jet Dry in my mold wash between casts. I use a hand-hend vibrating massager gently around the perimeter of each of my molds after I pour them, and between that and the wet water, I have very little issues with bubbles in my casts.

2. Find a local dental or gypsum cement supply store. The shipping is always the killer, so if you can find a local source for a comparable product, it should help. Bring a mold and some casts with you if you go there in person. The place I buy from here in Houston was very helpful in offering me alternative products that would work for my needs. I'm currently buying HydroStone from them in 100 lb. bags for about $40; I've also tried their more expensive Drystone product (which is a little denser and has a slightly higher break-strength), but I think that the HydroStone has turned out to be the best mix of quality vs. price for me.

3. Rarely do I need to "cut" a brick. Break, maybe, and then it's a pair of pliers. If you do need to cut them, what you cut them with would be largely dependant on what your desired result is. Are you making ruins? Then pliers and angled cutters are great for cracking and chipping. Trying to cut something down to get a perfect fit with a non-standard piece, or something that doesn't already exist in a HA mold? Then you will probably want to saw it or sand it down. It still is plaster in the end, so it isn't that awful to reshape.

4. I let my blocks air dry. Just make sure you can a) lay them out in a single layer (so they dry faster), and b) have enough room to keep the products from your molds separate while they are drying. I package my blocks in zip lock bags (usually 1 gallon) with quart size bags inside of them for the smaller pieces from a mold. It keeps the pieces from a mold together to make finding them faster, while keeping the little pieces from being crushed or lost with the larger ones.

5. I never primer my blocks. The first coat of paint on them is always my base coat of whatever color scheme I am painting for. Bruce has a lot of great tips regarding painting and finishing; find what works for you.

6. Don't be afraid of making your own custom molds for projects. They can save your sanity, and can be a pretty fun experience to boot.

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Edited by Shakandara, 19 April 2012 - 01:27 PM.

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#3 Castlebuilder

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Posted 19 April 2012 - 03:15 PM

Welcome to the addiction!

1. Over the years I've done various wet water tricks and such. I finally gave up and for the most part don't have any trouble. For the tricky pieces that want to hold air bubbles, I will dip the mold in regular water. I also keep an old paintbrush handy and will sometimes pour in a bit of plaster and work it around with the brush to get the air bubbles out. Then I just rinse the brush in my cup of water and set it aside for next time. Note: I primarily use fieldstone, so if I do get a bubble I just carve it out with my hobby knife and don't worry about it. This doesn't work as well for smooth styles of blocks.

2. Merlin's is the top of the line, but the shipping is a mother. I used to have a dental supply store about 20 minutes away, and bought lots of Denstone and Labstone from them. Once they closed I switched to Hydrostone. I do a lot of filing in my custom projects, and I find that Merlins is actually to hard for my taste.

3. My primary tools are an couple of old files. One is a blacksmiths file, with I call the knuckle eater. The other is smaller and has rough and medium cuts, with one flat side and a slightly rounded side. I also use a hacksaw for cutting blocks and a hobby knife to make small adjustments and carve out air bubbles.

4. I air dry my blocks. Spread them out and position a fan blowing over them if you are in a hurry.

5. I varnish my builds after everything is built and painted. One thing that I do and few (none?) others do is dip my block in a black wash before I build anything. After the blocks dry a couple of days, I pile a bunch of blocks in a plastic shoe box (3 at a time), pour thined down black paint over them, and then pour off the excess. It's a messy process, but with dark grayish colored blocks if you miss a spot painting it doesn't show up like a white of light gray one will. You can dip the blocks individually or in small groups, but it takes a lot more time. I normally build larger projects, so I go for lots at a time.

6. Read the forums, and don't be afraid to ask questions.
Look at how others do it and take inspiration from them. The Hirst Arts group is real good about using other peoples work and then going for a new level with it. Just give credit the the builders who inspire you.
Start fairly simple to get the hang of it, from there you can expand to all sorts of things.
"I forgot about the gods and spun my own bright fate, while at the root of life the three spinners laughed." Bernard Cornwell, Lords of the North

#4 Inarah

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Posted 19 April 2012 - 03:42 PM

3. I generally don't cut the blocks. I work with the sizes that come in the mold(s). As long as you're not overfilling the mold you won't need to do much sanding. You'll get the hang of that.

4. Get a couple of old cookie sheets (try a thirft shop) or buy some cheap ones. Lay the bricks out in a single layer (more or less). Set the oven @350F and let it go for about 5 minutes. It will not have reached temperature. Put the bricks in and shut the oven off. Go to bed and wake up to dry bricks. There's no fumes or anything to worry about.

5. I didn't notice that primer did anything. The plaster just sucks it right up and it didn't affect how the paint went down.
As a side note, you can buy colored plaster, so if you know what color you plan to paint you can coordinate this and make any nicks or dents less noticeable. You can also dye plaster.

As others have said, the Hirst forums are a wealth of information.
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#5 Pole

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Posted 20 April 2012 - 08:47 AM

Thank you all so much for the replies. I didn't get a chance to cast anything yesterday so weather permitting I plan to start tonight. I am hoping to have enough blocks to build something simple by Sunday.

I will have to look into finding a hydrostone source near to me. I bought 25lbs. of Merlin's Magic to play with so once that is gone its good to know I can go with some cheaper supplies.

I have been reading over the forums quite a bit. There are a lot of very interesting projects there. I actually think I will be doing quite a bit of airbrushing with my different buildings. Many people seem to be having good results that way.

And yes Castlebuilder I can see this could become quite a costly addiction for me. I alreay have a list of 15 molds I want to order for my next shipment =( I got five molds that looked like I could do quite a bit with them so far. I will have to play around with those until I get the feel for things, and then I think I will probably jump in head first lol!

2013: 14 Minis Painted

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#6 MiniCannuck

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Posted 20 April 2012 - 10:46 AM

Food dehydrators are pretty cheap to buy. I found a 4 tier model for $30 that I use to dry my bricks.

The other tool I find a must is a plastic scraper that they use for smoothing wallpaper. Once the plaster gets to that "toothpaste" consistency, I run this along the mold to smooth the bottoms. I have very little sanding this way. Make sure you get one that is at least the width of the mold so that you can smooth in one pass.

You are going to have so much fun with these molds.

#7 Pole

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Posted 20 April 2012 - 12:01 PM

I bought a good metal dry-wall scraper last weekend just for this purpose. The 4" is perfect sized.

The first thing I thought of when I saw the molds on the site was Minecraft and Legos. Both very powerful addictions that have eaten more time than I would like to admit. I had built a cathedral in Minecraft that looked almost identical to the one on the projects page. When I saw that, I knew I had to order the four molds needed to make it. I am starting simple though. First things first I will be builing the Bell Tower and Tomb to see how things go together and paint.

I must say though, I never envisioned that the bricks and parts were so small in the molds. I always picture things bigger when it comes to miniatures. It was acutally quite a welcome surprise. I like working on small intracate things. A giant plus to it being smaller is I waste less paint when I run it through the airbrush.

Sadly its raining here today =( As long as its dry under our patio cover I should be ok, but I am taking my supplies to a friends this weekend so I can cast while we are watching the baseball games. Hopefully it will stay dry out there in the country.

How long do you leave your bricks in the dehydrator?

2013: 14 Minis Painted

2014 Mini Painting Goal:  Paint something :down:
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#8 MiniCannuck

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Posted 20 April 2012 - 09:06 PM

It usually takes about 4 hours. They turn a light colour when they dry.

#9 Pole

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Posted 22 April 2012 - 02:03 PM

Well I FINALLY got to do some casting yesterday. Overall I am very happy and excited about getting started.

I manages to snap a few of the thin piecies as I was removing other bricks from the molds. But at least I know now to removed those first! The only other problem I have run into was some air bubbles forming on the doors and a few of the trim pieces I cast. I guess its just a practice makes perfect thing. I did forget to spray the debubblizer I bought on my first batch, so the second did come out MUCH better and smoother.

I placed all the bricks onto cookie sheets and left them drying on the dining table. I hope they will be ready to be played with a bit by the time I make it home. Ok so only 18 more molds to fill so I can start building!

Next question, what are your prefered types or brands of glue? I really don't need things falling apart as I paint and I am looking for something that dries semi-fast and holds strong. (I have some big projects i am planning)

Thanks for all the wonderful information!

2013: 14 Minis Painted

2014 Mini Painting Goal:  Paint something :down:
Free time = 0


#10 Rastl

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Posted 22 April 2012 - 02:32 PM

About the bubbles. I tend to cast in sessions so the molds are always in use. Before the first cast I run water over them so the plaster (Hydrostone) can flow into the cavities. Once I pour I take a plastic paint brush and use it to "dig" the bubbles out of the places I know they're going to be and brush along the faces of the bricks. Seems odd but once you do it a few times you'll probably see a difference.

I use aliphatic wood glue to build. The yellow stuff. It's better suited for building than PVA (white) glue. Make sure to wipe off excess with a damp paper towel before it sets.

When gluing walls to floors or other things that have a high chance of torque I use 2 part epoxy. 20 - 30 minute set time is good since you have a while to put things together and make sure they're where you want them.

I don't use Jet Dry, I don't use a pounding board or anything else like that. I use an old gift card to scrape my molds (and dig out the occasional bubble) and use a very light touch so I don't get short bricks. I use cement dye to tint my plaster a light grey but it does change the consistency of the plaster so you need to experiment a bit.

Here's the last hint for this post. When demolding the thinner, longer pieces stroke the mold from the back side and gently raise them up from the bottom. This works great on the doors and the wooden planks. And yes, take them out first.
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#11 Castlebuilder

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Posted 22 April 2012 - 08:29 PM

I concur with Rastl's recommendation about using wood glue. I buy mine by the gallon from the Hardware store and just re-use my old glue containers.

By the way, which molds did you pick up?
"I forgot about the gods and spun my own bright fate, while at the root of life the three spinners laughed." Bernard Cornwell, Lords of the North

#12 Pole

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Posted 23 April 2012 - 07:25 AM

Ok well its off to the hardware store for me this afternoon. I am hoping to get round two of the pouring and casting done tonight.

I ended up buying 40, 42, 54, 55, and 56. If I like the way things turn out, I am pretty sure I am going to order another 10 or 15 molds next month after ReaperCon. I found a place last night to purchase hydrostone for a good price locally and saving on the shipping should help quite a bit.

So far so good! The finished and dried pieces look great and seem to be really strong!

2013: 14 Minis Painted

2014 Mini Painting Goal:  Paint something :down:
Free time = 0


#13 Castlebuilder

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Posted 23 April 2012 - 01:00 PM

Nice choices. The church and bell tower can be combined for all sorts of cool effects, and the gothic molds are all totally awesome! Look me up at ReaperCon and we can talk Hirts Arts stuff. I'll be running the sunken city miniatures game and the cowboy shootout.
"I forgot about the gods and spun my own bright fate, while at the root of life the three spinners laughed." Bernard Cornwell, Lords of the North

#14 MiniCannuck

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Posted 23 April 2012 - 04:10 PM

I wouldn't mind being part of a Hirst talk over a couple of beers. They can become very addictive!

The Hirst molds, not the beer.

I wait till GenCon each year and get 10-15 molds. They give you a pretty good discount at the booth and I avoid the shipping to Canada.

Last year was sci-fi. This year will be the dungeon crawler molds.

#15 Castlebuilder

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Posted 23 April 2012 - 07:54 PM

The only bar I'm familiar with down there is the sports bar out in front of the BW. Another option would be simply to take over a corner somewher at Reaper or perhaps meeting over lunch or dinner at Rudy's BBQ.
"I forgot about the gods and spun my own bright fate, while at the root of life the three spinners laughed." Bernard Cornwell, Lords of the North




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