Saturday, June 4, 2016

Getting Started: The Tools

I assembled this post as a simple primer for people interested in getting into miniature wargaming/modeling.  The miniature wargaming hobby is a difficult thing to put down into simple words when someone asks about it.

In short, playing tabletop games with miniature figurines (normally built and painted).  Numerous people have purchased a cool looking box of miniatures at a store only to get home and realize they're in fact multi-part models (this is how I purchased my first box of space marines, thinking I was getting what was advertised on the box lid!).

For those considering beginning the hobby I've provided a list of tools which will aid in building/assembling/painting the figures you plan to put on the table.

Disclaimer: I'm a mediocre modeler and a mediocre painter, but this blog post is aimed solely at entry level gamers.  I paint my figures to a tabletop standard --- this means the figures are not entered in painting competitions and I don't spend 12 hours painting a figure's eyeball.  As such my tools and tutorials will reflect this!

Setting the Stage:  The bare essentials!

A "hobby" surface is highly suggested to save your table.  Some cutting mats like this Fiskar's product are available for very reasonable prices.  I used a glass sheet for many years.  You need something robust which will hand paint, razor blade cuts and glue, etc.  Best if it can be swept clean occasionally.

You'll want one or more white lights over the desk.  More important for painting than anything else.  A very well lit hobby area is a must!  I run two lamps, one on each side of the desk.  White light is encouraged as paint will appear much different under say a normal room "orange" lamp.

Task One: Remove and clean miniatures, prepare them for assembly.

When you purchase most kits now days you'll receive either a metal figure, a resin figure or a plastic kit with numerous components.  These parts must be cleaned, trimmed and prepared for assembly.  Plastic components will have to be cut and cleaned, resin and metal may have "flash" which is extraneous material still present from the mold --- tabs and injection locations which need to be filed/trimmed down.

Clippers are a fantastic and quick way to remove items from sprues and to remove chunks from miniatures.  A collection of tweezers may aid in placing small pieces, and hobby pliers are great for holding/placing bits. I use mine to dip figures!

Every modeler will end up with a couple of X-Acto blades.  They are used for trimming flash, removing parts from sprues (though slower and a bit more dangerous than clippers!)

After the bits are removed from the sprue and you've clipped any large bits of flash, it's time to use some files.  A handful of small emory sticks are great.  They can be hobby-specific or picked up in the lady's nail section at your local shop.  X-Acto and several companies sell metal files which aid in removing larger chunks from metal miniatures.  Note: White metal miniatures are very soft and can be filed using emory sticks as well.

Task Two: Assemble the miniatures.  This may depend on how you wish to paint the figures - I frequently use spray paint on various sections so I may paint mine separately and glue later!  Remember if you're going to glue painted surfaces, be sure to sand/file them down so that the base material is showing --- this is what the glue will stick to.
You'll be gluing a lot of components together, and you'll need three types of glue.  Luckily they're all quite cheap!

  • Plastic Model Cement: This is a fine liquid which is dispersed with a needle tip.  This is only useful for plastic-on-plastic.  The cement actually melts the plastic slightly and creates a chemical bond.  Use very sparingly.  Once fitted and dried, removing parts becomes impossible.
  • "Super Glue": Super glue is primarily used for gluing resin to resin, or metal to resin, or metal to plastic.  I highly, highly, highly suggest using a super glue gel so it's easier to control.  I use Loctite as pictured, and it is dispersed very easily and precisely via a small tip.  Important with any gluing surface, sand/file the surfaces so they are smooth and clean of debris/paint before gluing.
  • PVA/Wood Glue: Predominantly used on bases for attaching flock/gravel.  You'll see this stuff sold as "PVA" glue for $9 a bottle by some game companies.  It's white Elmer's glue!  Never buy this stuff from a gaming company.  They're cheating you.  I prefer using WoodGlue Max from Elmers as it is thicker, stronger and a little easier to work with.  

Task Three: Paint all the minis!

Over time you'll accumulate a variety of brushes.  Paintbrushes are an entire post themselves, and I'm barely qualified to make one!  You can buy great expensive brushes or cheapo brushes at the dollar store.  That's up to you.  Your material can be nylon/plastic/sable/etc.

A good ole mug you don't care about getting dirty will hold your water and if you're using dropper bottles (like the Vallejo ones in the back) you'll want a simple palette.  I use bathroom tiles.  They're easy to scrape or clean after use.  Some people prefer to paint straight from the pot (like GW pots).  I find a palette much easier as it allows mixing water with the paint as needed.  Google "wet palette" for some fancy tricks!

The other thing you'll need is a load o paper towels.  You'll use these for drying your brushes, wiping off excess paint, etc.
Extra Bits

Sometimes assembling large pieces of miniatures can be frustrating - particularly large metal-on-metal miniatures.  Many times people will drill into the opposing pieces and place a small stick of plastic/metal inside --- this is called "pinning".  If you're going to do this you'll want a small pin-vice drill or a small manual hobby drill.  Comes with several different size tips.  I use this drill to mount flying pegs/posts etc.

Used more for terrain than models, a larger metal hobby saw isn't a terrible idea.  Sometimes you need to hack through a big chunk of something!


Hopefully this post has helped provide you with an idea of the simple tools you'll want to assemble as you begin modeling/hobbying.  It may seem a little daunting but pick up a couple of tools as you go and find what works best for you.  Again, coming from a non-professional the above tools will cover 95% of what you want to do when starting assembling/building/painting miniatures. 

1 comment: