Creative Bases

Creative bases can be achieved which begin to approach dioramas, little scenes. A creative base can really make the figure. If you are using miniatures that are mounted on the slotted bases, you may need to cut the ridge off with an xacto knife to be able to mount the figure on other than the provided slotted base.

Various terrein can be achieved by glueing small rocks to the base on which the figure is to stand. This will give a more natural look. To add just a few rocks I like using coal spray primed with black enamel spray paint and glueing them to the base when dry with super glue, household glue, or two part epoxy if you need it to be durable.

If you want the figure to stand on the uneven surface, you may have to cut the figure from the base provided at the feet, taking care not to cut off a foot or leg, which is easy to do. Use a very sharp xacto knife for this. A jeweler's file can be use as a sort of saw as well, but is not recommended.

Once the figure has been detatched from its base, you can glue it to the uneven terrein with epoxy glue. If the slant will be such that the figure will not stand erect when you are done, you can VERY CAREFULLY bend the legs very slightly to conform to the contours of the terrein that you will be glueing it to. Sometimes you can have trouble in getting the figure to stick with super glue, so two part epoxy is suggested, which will give a better result in my opinion.

If the base that is provided in the case of slotted bases is too small to fit the rocks and the like on it or in the case of those figures where the base that comes with it is small (which you may have had to cut off to fit the figure to the terrein), you can use scraps of 1/4" plywood as a base. Cut it to size with a jigsaw or keyhole saw. You can bevel the edges with a wood rasp if you desire a more professional look.

Heavy Weighted Bases

Often one would like a heavier base for a piece. This is especially true with the increasing number of plastic figures that are being made, which tip over easily. This can be done by adding washers to the base.

If you are using other than Citadel figures (the ones with the slotted bases), you can purchase washers that are just larger than the base of the figure (assuming that it is roughly round shaped) to which you will glue the figure, small base and all with super glue.

In the case of the slotted bases, you can often fit a washer on the underside of the slotted base and fasten it there with super glue. You may have to trim off some of the length of the protruding ridge of the figure that extends down through the slot, as this can make it so that the washer will be too thick to fit in the space. If you have ever bumped your gaming table while playing with miniatures, the value of weithtier pieces is obvious. Wider bases will also help prevent the piece from tipping over easily.

Added Touches

Other things that can make for interesting diorama type scenes are additional figures, especially smaller ones that will not detract from the personality figure. For example, a wizard may be accompanied by a familiar. One can buy small cats, owls, etc. that can be attatched to the base. One can even attatch them directly to the figure itself, perhaps having an owl or hawk perched on the shoulder of a mage. If you are willing to get creative, your pieces will be all the more interesting.

If you want to use small details that you cannot find in your local hobby shop, you can often make them youself. A product available at craft stores is modelling putty.

These come in two varieties. The first dries on its own. This has the advantage of not having to "fire" the piece. It also tends to be more durable than the other option, something called Sculpey or Fimo.

These are brand names of modelling compound that when you get done sculpting, you have to bake in an oven to harden them. They have the advantage of you having as long as you want to finish a piece. Eventually exposed Sculpey (the stuff that I use) will dry out and become unworkable, but this will take a few weeks. If you are as slow at sculpting as I am, this will be an important factor on which to choose.

Sculpey is not good at things with thin strips and fragile pieces. It is just not that durable. For those things that you need very durable parts, the better solution is plumber's epoxy ribbon. This makes for very hard, fairly durable details, but any of these substances makes details that are not necessarily compatible with uncareful handling which often characterizes play with pieces in roleplaying or wargaming, though the epoxy putty is said to be the best. It comes in two parts of different colors, which you knead together until the color is uniform. You can sculpt the stuff for 20 minutes to an hour depending on the kind.

Regardless of what medium that you wish to use to make details with, modelling can prove challenging. Small skulls, animals, snakes, and countless other details can be sculpted and added to a piece, making it much more interesting. Often these details are not available pre-sculpted, so this buys you considerable flexibility to customize your piece to what you want.

I suggest a trip to your local library to pick up a few good books on sculpting. A book that gets raved reviews from modellers everywhere is "The Complete Modeller's Workshop," a compilation of articles that come from I believe it is Fine Scale Modeller. This is probably the single best source that you can get for information on modelling in general. It contains information on anything from making diorama walls to how to make rope for use in your pieces. It costs about six dollars, and is WELL worth the money.

In looking for books on sculpting, look for ones that detail how to make parts of the anatomy. Good ones will show you from the basic geometric shape of the body part to finishing details how to make each part of the body. I found this a very valuable source of information. Sculpting is unlike drawing in that proportion and other mistakes are harder to hide. It is very much an art of its own. The most important part is to be able to find smaller shapes within the whole. For example, to do a foot, you pick out the basic cookie cutter shape that you would need to make it, a right triangle. From there you find the little half ball shape that is at your ankle, and so on.

Developing this skill is the most important in sculpting, or drawing for that matter. Practise is the most important part once you understand the basics.

It is a good idea to get some sculpting tools before starting. Don't run down to the art store and look into artist's sculpting tools, as these will be much too big for much of what you will create.

The best tools I've found are dental tools, which can often be picked up at swap meets or tool shops. If you can't find them, ask a tool shop if they have or can order them for you. At flea markets they often go for around one dollar each. You might be surprised at the quantity of different tools available.

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The pick from a nutcracker set works fine as well. I use darning needles, the thick ones, to do some fine details. Nails and any other object that you think useful can be very good as well. You can make a good tool out of a paperclip and a wooden pencil. Straighten out the paper clip and cut off a piece about one inch long with wire cutters (if you don't have any, you can often use the very inside of a pair of pliers to cut wire with; it's made to do so; otherwise just bend the wire back and forth until it breaks). Bend this piece of wire double and poke the ends in the eraser of the pencil as far as you can. If the wire wobbles back and forth too much when working with it, shorten both ends of the wire and poke it back into the eraser.

The best tools for small scale sculpting are household items. You do not need to purchase expensive tools to sculpt well.