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At the beginning of 2021 I bought a couple of Woodland Scenic rock molds for terrain work. Unfortunately life got busy and the projects I wanted to use them for got put on hold, but I did spend a couple of days researching and experimenting before storing everything, and I thought it might be useful for someone if I do a bit of a postmortem (and I think they're pretty neat to boot!)
(A selection of finished pieces; overall I cast and painted around fifteen
or so from various molds to get a feel for the molds and putty)
These were cast in January of 2021 outside in warm, dry weather, and painted a couple of days later. I used basic, watered down acrylic paints, and did not seal them in any way, including the bottoms. Since then, they've been stored in a sealed plastic container in the garage.
For the casting material I used Durham's Water Putty, of which a 1 lb. can cost about $2 at my local hardware store. I really like this stuff! It's readily available, very cheap, and easy to work with; just mix and pour. It also can be watered down or thickened as needed without affecting anything except drying time (within reason, of course. It won't do well if it's a homeopathic concoction). It dries to a light tan color and is quite durable from what I've observed. No pieces have chipped or flaked off with the exception of flash around the edges, which is to be expected, and I haven't been particularly delicate with them. Despite being a water-based putty, it seems to handle the moisture of paint and water well. The putty didn't lose its shape or slough bits off while I was painting, and dried quickly afterwards; I see no evidence of water being retained under the paint.
I've got two minor quibbles with Durham's. First, since you have to mix it thoroughly before pouring, little bubbles form constantly and almost every piece I did had some visible bubbles. I suspect my technique's the culprit here, and I'll need to experiment with more mitigation techniques to see if they can help. They aren't very noticeable though unless you're looking for them, and I think these are absolutely tabletop ready.
(You can see some of the small bubble artifacts in this rock outcropping)
My other issue with Durham's is that it's not really suitable for large pours because it starts to harden very quickly, which limits how much you can thoroughly mix. This may also be possible to remedy by measuring out the quantities of powder and water ahead of time, but it seems a little more difficult to overcome. Another final quibble is that sometimes, especially for larger pours, it takes quite a long time for everything to dry suitably; overnight or even several days. Not a huge deal, but it's something to keep in mind when planning in advance.
Overall, I like Durham's a lot. It hits a lot of boxes for me, and I think its issues can be mitigated with practice and patience. I don't think much needs to be said about the Woodland Scenic molds; they're high quality, very detailed, and cheap ($8 - $10 on average).
I used basic acrylic paints, nothing fancy. A layer of undiluted grey, and then watered down spots of browns, greens, and black to give everything texture. The putty takes paint pretty well, but especially on the edges and corners it's very easy to strip the paint off. I think this is partially down to my haphazard and hurried approach, since I did them in batches and wanted to finish quickly. Once all the layers dried, I did a light drybrush of grey. I did not seal these with anything.
(The left picture's a bit blurry, but you can see on both how the grey and tan underneath is peaking through on some of the more exposed edges)
Overall, these seem pretty sturdy! I'd feel comfortable having these out on a gaming table as scatter terrain or as part of a larger piece. There has been some minor paint chipping on a couple of pieces, but it's not very noticeable and again, these haven't been sealed and are banging around a tupperware. If they were sealed I don't think I'd have any issues at all. My only concern with sealing them would be moisture; if the putty isn't bone dry I imagine that could spell disaster later on.
(Last two; there isn't really any visible damage on these, just more wear at the edges)
They aren't made of diamonds and can be snapped without much effort, but unless somebody drops a heavy metal mini or spaceship or something on them, I think they'll hold up pretty well.
Thanks for making it this far! I'm proud of these experiments, and feel like I've got a good set of basic knowledge for actual terrain projects. My idea for these loose rocks is to turn them into bits of scatter terrain for some dungeon tiles I'm currently working on. I'll show them off once they're complete!