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Before I got sucked into the science of chalky faces (again, due to a post by Willen and my obsessive mind) I was curious if anyone had any experience with the Hirst Arts Molds. I ran into the name over on the Massive Voodoo blog, and think it may be something I could really use to Make More Awesome! bases and dioramas... especially with the "Be A Spaceship Superstar!" contest coming up. Does anyone have any recommendations for which molds, plaster, tools, etc. to get? I know the local Hobby Lobby has a couple of cartons of Woodland Scenics Mold-A-Scene Plaster on sale. Suggestions? Comments? Experiences? Inquiring minds want to know! (and get back to the creative process before the SCIENCE comes again.... *shudder*)

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Oh, yes. Yes indeedy.

 

Actually, this forum has the most active community of Hirst Arts builders I've seen, outside of the HA Forums.

 

I, sadly, lack personal experience outside the small tower and two bags of tiles one forum member - whom I'm pretty sure will see this thread and be all over it - sent me in an exchange, but they're nifty as anything and I wish I had the time/space to indulge.

 

There's even been talks of doing a Hirst Arts seminar/demo at ReaperCon next year. Just talk. Don't hold your breath. But very interesting talk...

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I just bought the wizards tower mold (think its mold 50) last night.  Was going to get a few of them to get the discount, but decided to just get one at first to see if I would even enjoy it.  

 

Will probably get early next week.  If all goes to plan, I want to build that chess set he has plans for, but that takes 6 molds and a lot of castings.

Edited by Duze
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This recent thread may be of assistance. 

 

The boards on the Hirst site have a ton of info and you should be reading those, as well as the tutorials on that website. Even if you're not making the molds being shown, there are a lot of tips about casting and prepping the blocks buried in the directions. 

 

You don't really need much to get started. Some disposable plastic cups and spoons for measuring and mixing, a spatula or scraper, and an old cookie sheet to dry blocks on.  Get one of the dental plasters that will be suggested.  Get a mask so you don't end up breathing it. 

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I was curious if anyone had any experience with the Hirst Arts Molds.

 

Step 1: Search the forums for threads about Hirst Arts. Like this one. Also, pretty much any thread about a fantasy dungeon/cavern terrain KS at some point side tracks to a discussion about HA.

Step 2: Come back to this thread with specific questions.

Step 3: Profit!

 

EDIT: Also, you might want to visit Terragenesis.

 

~v

Edited by Shakandara
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A lot of us here do indeed have a great deal of experience with Bruce's stuff. Still, it's odd to me that people want to rely so heavily on this site for that sort of info. Why search through barely-related Kickstarter threads on this site, hoping for off-hand tidbits when you could just spend hours searching through the Hirst Arts forums:

 

Go here, you silly people.

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I've just started getting into these myself, I ordered the fieldstone walls, cracked tile floors, and the cavern accessories.  Accessories are a huge pain with normal plaster, they break easily, especially really skinny stuff like doors.  Some of them are just impossible without the dental plaster.  But for just bricks and walls, regular old plaster is fine.  And never buy woodland scenics plaster.  Go to your local craft store and get a 10lb bucket of it for less than $10.  If you have a sculpting or dental supply store nearby, you can get the better plaster that dries MUCH harder, and won't break nearly as easily.  It has a million trade names, Hydrostone, Excalibur, Hydrocal, Merlin's Magic, etc.. But the product itself is usually referred to as "dental stone" or "die stone".  It's only very slightly more expensive than normal plaster.  I don't have any of it myself because the nearest place that sells it is an hour drive, and shipping a 50lb bag costs ten times the price of the product, but if you can get it, it's apparently really good.

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Wow! Thanks everyone! I had no idea... I'll look around and figure out what I'd like to order. I'm guessing something involving flooring and/or walls. I'm mainly using this to build dioramas as I don't game. Then again, I keep threatening to build some sort of large Munchkin board as we've been using minis instead of the tiny guy with chainsaw pieces. These would make a fairly wicked (if large and bulky) Munchkin board. At any rate, my main idea to to use these for dioramas and such... I've got a few ideas, and should probably just match the molds with the ideas. LOL!

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A lot of us here do indeed have a great deal of experience with Bruce's stuff. Still, it's odd to me that people want to rely so heavily on this site for that sort of info. Why search through barely-related Kickstarter threads on this site, hoping for off-hand tidbits when you could just spend hours searching through the Hirst Arts forums:

 

Go here, you silly people.

But...here is where I know the crazy...I don't know the crazy there. What if they're the SCARY crazy?

 

:D

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HA Molds are good for terrain, not so much for bases (except display bases).  IMNSHO, use green stuff and happy seppuku basing stamps.

 

Also, don't get the Woodland Scenics plaster for HA molds.  It's really too course. 

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I've used hydrocal and it really dries to be surprisingly tough.

 

I also use HA for bases, but they make for a very thick base with very large, exaggerated detail. It makes a nice, stable and really quick base for my Bones. I own the fieldstone and a couple of floor moulds and recently got the ruined fieldstone mould; this because my only COMPLETE project was using the fieldstone to make ruins for sci-fi wargaming.

 

So then I bought ruin moulds, and am now trying to make whole buildings, beca SQUIRREL something something ADD.

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 Why search through barely-related Kickstarter threads on this site, hoping for off-hand tidbits when you could just spend hours searching through the Hirst Arts forums:

 

Posts 2 and 4 both mention the HA forums. Is there something wrong with offering additional suggestions for resources? :;):

 

~v

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Bruce's 4" circular tower mold was the first thing I ever bought over the internet, way back when.

I used to do a ton of casting, but got out of it for a while at the same time I got out of painting.

I did my first castings in years last December to finish my base for my Wyrmgear diorama.

It's a lot of fun. Kind of like playing with lego except you get to cast the lego and glue it together and paint it, and if you run out of a piece you can always make more.

 

I haven't bought a mold in years, and there are a large number of new ones I want...so I tend to stay away from his website....

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A friend of mine has most (!) of the Hirst Arts molds, and I've done quite a bit of casting at his garage set-up.  (He has a clever setup with a back-massage device set up to vibrate the table the molds are set on, to help work bubbles out of the recesses for clean casts, and careful organization for all the cast pieces and molds -- I'm not NEARLY so organized.)  

One thing right off: Don't use just "plaster" from some hobby store with these molds.  You'll likely end up with something that will barely survive being pulled out of the molds.  I use Hydro-Stone gypsum cement; however, I should note that I am fortunate into that there's a Reynolds Materials suppliers within long driving distance of where I live, so I can make a pilgrimage out there every once in a while to get a big bag of the stuff (and stock up on Apoxie-Sculpt and mold-making materials and such).  Also, the Hirst Arts site has a number of articles on proper care of the molds, ways to properly cast blocks, etc.  I've tried taking shortcuts because of the work involved, and in the end I found: It works a whole lot better if I actually follow the instructions.  ;)  Casting the blocks can be quite a tedious process, especially if you're impatient to get building.  

 

It really works best if it is something where you set up your work area (in the garage or somewhere else where you don't mind a bit of cement-dust getting around before you can clean it all up properly), and you just plan on it being something where every now and again you go out to empty out your molds, sort out the pieces, clean the mess, mix a batch of Hydrostone/Hydrocal/whatever, pour the molds, scrape off the excess, and then just let it sit while you DO SOMETHING ELSE.  To make a project of any appreciable size, it's going to take a LOT of casts, and furthermore you're really going to need to let the pieces properly DRY before you start gluing them together, let alone painting them.  When the blocks are freshly cast, they still retain a lot of moisture, and if you just rush to try to use them without letting them dry first, you can end up with a real mess on your hands.  (Glue will take longer to dry; paint may not bond properly to the surfaces, depending on what kind of glue and paint you're using.)

 

While it is *possible* to paint Hirst Arts casts directly with acrylic paints, most casting materials really soak up the moisture, and they'll positively eat up expensive paints.  The recommendation for "sealing" your Hirst Arts creations is to apply a layer of latex house paint.  You can get custom mixes at any paint store for whatever shade you want, so you could get your paint in your own custom mix of "dark dungeon grey" or "moldy green-grey" or whatever you want to start with.  You might react in horror with the idea of painting miniatures with HOUSE PAINT, but this is for the blocks, not for game minis, and the details are not THAT fine for Hirst Arts blocks.  (If they were, you'd end up losing lots of the detail to bubbles in the recesses anyway.)  Once you apply at least one layer of house paint, you can either go with the Hirst Arts recommended methods of "dry-brushing" with successive layers of house paint to get shadowing/highlight effects quickly over a large area, or using shoe polish, etc. -- OR you can do some interesting things with spray paint or airbrushing.

 

I would recommend using cheaper craft acrylic paints when doing Hirst Arts terrain, rather than the higher-quality paints you'd use for miniatures.  You're going to be covering a lot of ground, after all, and the costs of trying to use miniatures-gaming paints for Hirst Arts terrain would quickly dwarf all the other expenses involved.

 

As for choices of molds, I personally think that the various fantasy building blocks for making traditional "dungeon" type structures are the best for starting off.  One of the problems is in getting bubbles out of the molds, but if you're casting cobblestone or "gothic brick" pieces, the occasional bubble in the cast will be easily enough hidden by that sealing layer of house paint, and it'll eventually just come out as another chip in the stone once you do the detailing, dry-brushing, etc.  Also, if you don't get all of the molds perfectly filled and scraped off, multiple layers of the blocks might not sit together as well, resulting in irregularities.  If you're making a "dungeon ruin," or you're just making dungeon floor tiles, that's not going to be a big deal -- a few irregularities there just "add character."

 

The various "techno" sets, or the "furniture" type mold sets are a bit more demanding in terms of details.  You'll need to be a lot more diligent in making sure that the bottoms of all the castings come out even, and that any bubbles are shaken out of the molds before the casting material solidifies.  Finer details mean that bubbles are more likely to take out something important.  SMOOTH surfaces (such as the various "station builder" and other sci-fi/techno molds) mean that any irregularities are much easier to spot and look more obviously like flaws rather than just part of the intended structure.

 

If you're planning on making towers and entire buildings, that tends to work best if you're going to use these structures for tabletop war gaming, or for the occasional "scene-setting" pieces.  However, if you're going to do old-school dungeoneering, I've found that some of the original Hirst Arts "dungeon" pieces as shown on the site look great on the shelf and in photo shoots but are impractical for actual gaming.

 

If you've got dungeon pieces with walls that are, say, 1.5"+ high, and your miniatures are about 1" high (aside from the occasional upraised sword or helmet horns poking over the top), then you're going to have some trouble SEEING the minis populating your dungeon.  I, as the GM, may be standing up and moving the minis around and thus able to get a commanding view of the layout, but my players are camped around the table with their bags of chips and their character sheets and dice and iPads and other distractions, and can rarely be moved to actually get UP from their chairs to take a look at the table.  Thus, I get frequent complaints of "I didn't see that!" when a monster comes around a corner, or there's a token that was set on the floor.

 

For instance, here is a sample from the Super Dungeon Explore boards I worked on with my friend Chris Stadler.

 

2012-04-01-super-dungeon-explore-lava-bo

 

 

Note that in the foreground, there are some "short walls" -- from Stone Arch Wall Mold #88.  Those are IDEAL for making "dungeon walls" that make it clear that there's a wall there, and there's more detail than just "solid rock," but without blocking line of sight unnecessarily.  (Of course, you could just LEAVE OFF the wall sections, and have "floor tile only" squares that represent the FLOOR, and any space of your table that's left bare is IMPLIED to be solid rock or wall -- but I like this sort of compromise for aesthetic reasons.)

The cavern wall pieces are from Molds #81 through 84.  While they work nicely enough for a "centerpiece" work such as this (i.e., a large area), they are tall enough that it gets to be a problem if I want to have "cavern corridors" flanked on either side by them.

 

 

Thus, with great sadness (because I made a LOT of those Hirst Arts dungeon corridors with the raised walls!), I've come to the conclusion that for RPG purposes, it's probably best to just make "floor tile" segments: e.g., flat or nearly-flat collections of floor tiles with the occasional "cut-away" wall section that's no taller than maybe 1/2" above the floor itself.

 

Here's an example of one of my "dungeon" arrangements (for a game of Interface Zero 2.0), using Industrial Edge Mold #325 for the "walls."  Note that the "walls" are very short compared to the minis; they won't be blocking line of sight for the players.

 

2013-05-18-iz-05-firing-offense.jpg

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Dang! So it looks like I've opened Pandora's box on the bottom side of miniatures... Literally! I suppose I should post what got me started on this whole thread anyways! It was this thread from Massive Voodoo...  I've been looking at the molds and such and have some really great pieces that I'd like to use in future dioramas, so I'm not looking at moving them around too much. 40,41,45,52 and 201 or 205 are what I'm thinking, although it may be a while as they're kind of expen$ive. Anyone want to sell anything or trade for a 40K Rulebook or Space Marine Codex I'm trying to get rid of? I purchased those when just starting to look at minis last October and will most likely never use them... LOL! Seriously though, I'm just looking to play around with a few things and make interesting dioramas. This is some awesome information! Thanks to everyone who's posted! 

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