Thursday, 17 July 2008

Rated G

On Thursday, Matt left the relative safety of his White Supremacist Command Bunker and came round here so that we try our hand at casting miniatures.

I feel compelled at this stage to point out that this was not some sneaky attempt to save money on the cost of buying toy soldiers; nor was it a zany get-rich-quick scheme. No, as you might expect it’s far geekier than that. I decided that for a particular type of creature in my army, rather than use the standard model I would ‘convert’ my own, using parts of a current model, the majority of an older out-of-production model, and a bit of scratch-built putty sculpting goodness. The problem with this is that I need four of these beasts, and getting hold of that old out-of-production model (a Chaos Dwarf Great Taurus, if you must know) is both tricky and expensive – you have to wait until one turns up on eBay, and then be prepared to pay between £25 and £40 for it.

Whereas 1kg of mouldmaking RTV-101 silicone rubber only costs £20…

The mould itself was fairly easy to make. The complicated/exciting/hazardous bit would be the actual casting process, which is obviously why Matt was so keen to have some involvement. The initial plan was to use the uber gas barbecue that Dozer liberated from The Pub to heat our white metal in an aluminium watering can that was conveniently lying about. The watering can seemed like a sound move because it had a nice long spout, which would make the pouring of molten metal into the mould a bit easier.

We hit our first snag when the spout of our can fell off, it having been merely soldered on. Oops. Not to worry, we had a back up plan.

It is commonly understood that most problems can be solved with the careful application of a hammer; in this instance we used it to mash the edge of an old milk pan into a slightly more precise poury bit. Needless to say, by this point we were both quite intoxicated by the heady rush of barbecuing and metalwork, and were feeling quite exceptionally manly… but then it started to rain, so we had to retreat indoors before we had a chance to take our tops off and start doing weights.

The metal we used for the casting came entirely out of my bitz box – a kind of scrap yard of old toy soldiers, spare parts and offcuts. Matt insisted on checking through it all and removing the most choice bits of eBay fodder before it got melted. A tablespoon was used to skim the slag off the top of the liquid metal. I don’t expect this to be of interest to anyone; but I am a puerile engineering geek, and it pleases me to be able to use the word ‘slag’ so appropriately. I’m sure that dog breeders experience the same joy with the word ‘bitch’. The twats.

The mould was contained in an old soup tin, and the whole thing was then heated in the oven so as to prevent the metal from immediately solidifying on contact. It seemed as though all our efforts were in vain, though, when the mold started to brim over a bit sooner than we expected. We figured that a lump of metal had set in the mould and stopped the rest of it from filling, and dumped the whole thing into a sink full of cold water to let it cool off.

Because the mould had expanded slightly in the oven, we had to cut the tin away with clippers. Which is when we noticed that the channel cut into the bottom of the mould to allow air to escape had filled with metal… had it worked after all? We held our breath in collective anticipation.

With the tin cut away, all that remained was to carefully pry away half the mould, and see if our new toy had all of its fingers and toes, so to speak…

Huzzah! We had successfully played God, sinned against toy soldiers, infringed on copyright and made our own Dragon Ogre Bull Centaur Thing. Here is a poor photo of the final outcome, pictured alongside the original model (left), both in the shadow of the potently inspirational liquid that fuels all such manly DIY exploits.

All the green bits of the original were sculpted from scratch; the other colourful bits are just from where I was too lazy to strip the paint off of the various components that were used to construct this monstrosity. It still doesn’t really give a good idea of what the finished models will look like; arms, heads and additional bits of armour from more readily available sources will be added to finish them off. Perhaps I will put up photos of them when they’re done…

In other news:

  • I went to see Red Sparowes with The Boy and Zak earlier this week. They were amazing. Report to follow.
  • Charlie Cat came back to visit for a couple of days. We had an impromptu tea party in the front garden in her honour. She continues to rock, despite the photographic evidence of her wearing a tea cosy on her head which might suggest otherwise.
  • Dozer’s motorbike got stolen, and subsequently recovered a few days later by Joe and myself from an alleyway less than 100 yards from our house.
  • I caught Mouse eating a fly the other day. Urgh.

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