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    Default Modelling Tools: A Guide for Newbies

    Hey there. If you're reading this, hopefully it's because you're a newbie who's looking to make some exciting new models. This article is for you, the new teenager who has just picked up a box of Space Marines and are only just learning about how much the older gamers hate you for daring to be both young and interested in what they like. Now, while I'm about to talk about myself a lot, please don't think this article is about bragging, humble or otherwise. Yes, I've got twenty-odd years of experience in making toys for 40K, and I have made models I'm proud of, but I'm certainly nowhere near the level of other members on this forum. Seriously, go look at the gallery here and you'll see what I mean.

    However, twenty years lived in a fume-soaked haze does mean that I know an awful lot about the equipment necessary to the hobby, and every time I see Games Workshop release a bunch of new tools it sticks in my ******* craw like you wouldn't believe. In particular I have been motivated to write this because the latest release of GW tools is so blatant (and morally disgusting) a cash grab it almost makes me physically sick. Overcharge me for models? Okay fine, they're really very nice and I can't get them anywhere else. But selling snake oil to youngsters who don't know better yet? For shame.

    So, if you're one of those youngsters, here I offer my relatively condensed wisdom about what you will need and what you won't need.

    Craft knives:
    Absolutely essential. I use two main types:
    http://www.toolstop.co.uk/stanley-0-...ife-18mm-p6511
    This is the exact knife I use, and it is an absolute workhorse. It will do anything you want, from fine sculpting to general oddment removal. The angle of the blade is one which I find far more useful for cutting, and the fact it's an inch thick means you can apply more pressure more safely, which is much better all round when cutting through things like thick plasticard. Oh, and by-the-by, the mold line removing tool is the biggest con GW has going. In twenty years I have never needed one, on account of this magnificent beast. It removes mold lines with perfect precision.

    "Oh, but YorkNecromancer, that blade is clearly way too big for delicate sculpting. I need a finer blade than that."



    I used this very knife to sculpt the face of the Wraithknight you see here. Yes, I used other tools too (I did the teeth with a sharpened pencil tip, and made the eyesocket with the back of the same pencil) but the vast majority of the sculpting was done with that knife.

    So, do you need a smaller blade?

    Absolutely you do. But not one of Games Workshop's overpriced pieces of crap.

    http://www.hobbycraft.co.uk/hobbycra...fe/566764-1000

    This is my fine detail knife. I use this when the big-*** blade you see above is perhaps a little too big, which is actually less often than you might think. However, I use this knife all the time. What for?



    Rivets, baby. I use it for rivets. The picture above is of my Imperial army's MALP; I use it as an objective in games. It's scratchbuilt, and a big part of scratchbuilding tanks is rivets. I like to use styrene rod, and that's incredibly easy to cut up and apply using a tiny craft knife.



    Check out all those rivets!

    Now, you should note that both knives together come up less than £5. That is important because you MUST always use the sharpest blade possible for safety's sake. It cuts better, and thus with less pressure, as well as leaving a smoother edge to the cut (which looks better). Given that GW is charging approximately three times this (and for only the one blade), I actually think their sales strategy verges on being irresponsible.

    What I'm saying is: use the money you've saved to buy fresh blades. Your skin will thank you, as will your arteries. Seriously, don't **** around with razors; accidents with these bad boys are awful.

    Next on the tool list: the pin vice.

    http://www.hobbycraft.co.uk/model-cr...op/570267-1000

    Yes, it's the most expensive tool on the list, and it's also pretty non-essential, but it is incredibly useful. I use it for drilling out bolter barrels and for pinning older metal models. That's something you youngsters won't really have to worry about as much as we older gamers did, but nonetheless, a pin vice is a helpful tool to have. You can use it to add bullet-hole damage, as well as making things look more 'science fiction-y'. Look at the back of Master Chief's gloves to get the idea.



    Next comes clippers:

    http://www.screwfix.com/p/diagonal-c...0mm-6-in/84670
    http://www.hobbycraft.co.uk/modelcra...er/569366-1000

    These are the cheapest I've found online. The current pair I have cost me £1.95 from Barnitt's in York. These things are not expensive to acquire, which is a theme I hope is coming across. They are absolutely essential for removing model pieces from sprue; yes, you can use a craft knife, but I wouldn't recommend it (because, again, safety)

    If you buy a more sturdy pair, they can also cut through things like guitar wire. Some clippers tend to be made of a cheaper (and thus softer) alloy, and won't go through the wire, but the wire will happily leave your clippers with a little dint where a nice sharp edge used to be. Just something to be aware of.

    Then we move onto needle files:

    http://www.hobbycraft.co.uk/set-of-1...es/561535-1000

    These are often quite expensive to get hold of, but that said, you can sometimes find these things in pound shops if you shop hard enough. They're alright, but frankly I just used my blades for almost everything that these do. You'd be surprised how smooth an edge you can get if you're just patient and take your time. If you're new, I really wouldn't waste my time with these things.

    Then we move on to modelling putty.

    My favourite is Milliput yellow:

    http://www.hobbycraft.co.uk/milliput...ty/569176-1000

    And just so's you know, the link above? This is an expensive price. I normally pay about £3 to £4 for that amount. Milliput is awkward to work when soft, but beautiful when hard, because it carves up a treat:



    This guy's cape? Made of Milliput which I just sort of roughly pushed into place, and then carved into this shape when solid.



    Same with the door logo I sculpted for this. The rivets were applied with superglue that I dotted on using a cocktail stick (the rivets themselves were applied to said glue with the mini-knife above).

    Milliput is available in other varieties. I've never tried them, on account of I don't see why I should pay more when the cheapest stuff does the job perfectly to begin with.

    Now, yes, Green Stuff (Kneadatite) is good too. Just don't buy it from GW. Go onto eBay. I bought 36" of the stuff for £6.35.

    Apart from your desk light (which is somewhat beyond the purview of this article), I would argue that for a beginner, any other tools are pretty much a waste of time. I'm not saying it won't be useful (with the exception of the mold-line tool, which is frankly an insult to the hobby) but probably of so unbelievably specific a use that unless you need it for that, it's just not worth having it. Rotary tools (Dremels and the like, for example http://www.hobbycraft.co.uk/rotacraf...it/569223-1000) are great, but I use mine maybe once or twice a year, and I'm modelling for a couple of hours almost every night.

    In conclusion:
    So, I hope this has been useful, and as a final piece of advice, always get your tools from real shops rather than online - they're almost always cheaper there. Aim for individual hardware stores as much as you can; they tend to undercut the competition. And don't forget to check your local poundland. It's amazing the stuff that shows up there.

    Oh, and always buy your poly cement glues from the local model train shop and your superglues from the local hardware store. GW overcharges for its glues too.

    And as for what they charge for PVA?

    http://www.hobbycraft.co.uk/hobbycra...va/567251-1000

    £5 for a litre. And if you shop around, you can get it cheaper.
    Last edited by YorkNecromancer; 04-21-2014 at 09:33 AM.
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  2. #2
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    I use a rotary tool a lot, *but* it's one of the rechargeable battery ones, the "Dremel Mini-Mite", the reason it is awesome for modelling tasks is that it spins at a much slower speed that the plug-in models, which is important if you want to carve on a model instead of melt it into slag.
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  3. #3

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    I use Milliput, but I guess I'm doing it wrong... (Not that I really try to sculpt much.)

  4. #4

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    I have green stuff but its a pain in the butt to use (liquid green stuff is also annoying as it clumps) and sticks to your fingers like faecal matter to a blanket.

    I read somewhere (I can't take credit), that you can use blutack / poster tack and once molded / arranged, covering in superglue. THIS WORKS. I KID YOU NOT.

    I wouldn't use this for fancy icons (like the "I" above, nice, by the way) but for skin on Flayed Ones, capes and cloth, it works a treat.

    Click image for larger version. 

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  5. #5
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    Milliput vs Greenstuff depends a lot on your favoured sculpting style. Milliput is better at 'subtractive' modelling, where you refine it by sanding or carving once dry. Greenstuff is better for additive sculpting where you smooth it on the model while still wet. It makes the former better for armour and the later better for organics, provided that you're of equal skill in both.

    Honestly for someone just starting the hobby they're mostly going to use it for gap filling and unless you have a large gap the liquid greenstuff GW sells is probably the easiest product to use. Does anyone know a non-GW source for liquid greenstuff?
    Kabal of Venomed Dreams

  6. #6

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    Milliput vs Greenstuff depends a lot on your favoured sculpting style. Milliput is better at 'subtractive' modelling, where you refine it by sanding or carving once dry. Greenstuff is better for additive sculpting where you smooth it on the model while still wet. It makes the former better for armour and the later better for organics, provided that you're of equal skill in both.
    This is absolutely true. I was going to include this, but it felt like it could easily turn into its own article, so I left it out. I'll probably end up writing it later.

    Does anyone know a non-GW source for liquid greenstuff?
    Liquid Greenstuff is not Kneadatite based; it's literally just very thick acrylic paint. You could make your own by simply buying up some cheap green paint and leaving the lid off for a bit, coming back to check eery hour until it's the thickness you require.

    All paint follows the following basic formula:

    pigment + base.

    Pigments are the colours - those powders MIG and Forge World sell. The base is usually a liquid of some kind. In oil paints, it's obviously oil. In watercolours, it's the water you add yourself. In Acrylic, it's water and plastic in solution; as the water dries away, the plastic hardens, and forms the coloured surface. (And yes, I am aware there's a lot more going on chemically, and it's more complex than that, but at its core, that's all paint is - remember, this is for absolute beginners, not people who are planning to go out and make their own paints from scratch, although that is totally doable). And again, very generally, the more pigment, the thicker the paint. The more base, the thinner.

    All Liquid Greenstuff is, is Acrylic paint with a much higher concentration of pigment to base. They just colour it green so it matches the green Kneadatite they sell.

    If you're wanting to just use it to fill holes and you're careful, you can use gel superglue, or thin superglue dotted into the gaps with a cocktail stick. If you use cheap superglue and take your time, you'll save a fortune.

    I read somewhere (I can't take credit), that you can use blutack / poster tack and once molded / arranged, covering in superglue. THIS WORKS. I KID YOU NOT.
    I don't mean to be judgemental (well, not too much), but it also looks like crap. Poly cement works by chemically dissolving the microscopic polystyrene structure of plastic miniatures, so as the glue dries out, the two bonded parts melt together permenantly. Superglue doesn't. This 'trick' works because superglue is a resin, and it works by forming itself into a very quick, very hard piece of dried resin which holds two pieces together because when it was a liquid it seeped into the microscopic dints and grooves of the model. That's why it breaks more easily on metal models - fewer indentations. It's also why you were always advised to lightly sand any two metal surfaces before you bonded them, the better to artificially increase the number of indentations.

    The 'blue-tac as modelling putty' idea operates because the blue-tac is relatively firm, and so when you place the superglur over the top, what it does is form a shell - like a Smartie or M&M shell over chocolate. Now yes, you can use this for modelling, and it'll work... but you're better off just investing in real Kneadatite considering that if you buy from eBay you'll make a saving over what the blue-tac will cost you.

    However, blue-tac expands a little after modelling, meaning any fine detail will be lost; even more so when you consider you just filled those detailed lines with superglue. Not to mention that Kneadatite or Milliput won't smoosh when the shell on the blue-tac eventually cracks accidentally.

    I don't favour this 'trick'; it's lazy and counterproductive, not to mention that getting the horrible cocktail off your model when you want to change them/sell them is a ****ing nightmare.
    Last edited by YorkNecromancer; 04-22-2014 at 12:04 PM.
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  7. #7
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    Yorkie

    An excellent post. My Dad, a master modeller, taught me from the get-go (1990 jeez) that you don't need GW's own brand of anything. This sums it up well. I think there is a counterpoint of what they do well - I am loving the new technical paints. Their modelling tools ain't though.
    I'M RATHER DEFINATELY SURE FEMALE SPACE MARINES DEFINERTLEY DON'T EXIST.

  8. #8

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    think there is a counterpoint of what they do well - I am loving the new technical paints.
    That is something I would absolutely agree with. They really are superb. All GW's paints are very good. I know a lot of people think Vallejo Paints are just as good (and I've never tried P3), but i never feel ripped off buying GW paints. I will say that MIG pigments are much better than Forge World's - they have a wider and more naturalistic range of colours than what FW puts out, all of which is fine, if a little bland (MIG Rubble Dust, Industrial City Dirt and Old Rust in particular are superb, plus their Pigment Fixer is incredibly useful). But I do love me some GW paint. And like you say, the new Technical stuff is excellent, particularly Lahmian Medium, which is just amazing.

    I like how even the exclusively historical wargaming modelling magazines I occasionally peruse will always grudgingly admit that GW's metallic paints are the best on the market too.

    But yes, their tools are overpriced tat. Especially the craft knives.
    Last edited by YorkNecromancer; 04-23-2014 at 02:46 PM.
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  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by YorkNecromancer View Post
    If you're wanting to just use it to fill holes and you're careful, you can use gel superglue, or thin superglue dotted into the gaps with a cocktail stick. If you use cheap superglue and take your time, you'll save a fortune.
    A fortune? Really? Maybe if you value your time less than some others then yes, otherwise no. How long does a pot cost? And how long does it last? So long and so cheap that by even taking the time to write this I've have removed any financial advantage in not buying a pot.

    As for the tool article - it's great article, really, thank you. Useful for those who have the time or the inclination to read a long post, do some research and order from 5 different shops. Or even go to the shops.

    For others, maybe those buying a present for a hobbyist or those just starting out with nothing, the new GW tool set is awesome. It has everythign they need, the tools are more than good enough, it folds away nicely and you know you have everything you need.

    Arguing about the price of anything, let alone GW stuff, is a fools errand. Products are worth what people are willing to pay. Some people will buy this set and leave the shop very, very happy. Good for them, they have the money or friends/family who do.

    Quote Originally Posted by YorkNecromancer View Post
    the latest release of GW tools is so blatant (and morally disgusting) a cash grab it almost makes me physically sick
    Really? No hyperbole here? The civil war in Syria makes me sick, cruelty to children makes me sick - a craft knife for a tenner? No I think I'm ok.

    Quote Originally Posted by YorkNecromancer View Post
    But selling snake oil to youngsters who don't know better yet? For shame.
    It does what it says on the tin, it is fully functional, good enough quality and not a con at all.

  10. #10

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    How long does a pot cost? And how long does it last?
    In terms of time, in my experience, filling holes with superglue takes no longer than with GS or LGS. It's advice GW themselves used to give out, before they had products to shill. You simply have to be more careful because cocktails sticks are sharp.

    In terms of price, you can buy ten or so tubes of cheap liquid superglues for a pound from almost any poundshop in the land. A box of cocktail sticks will set you back the same, often from a different aisle in the same shop.

    So cost in money is significantly lower, cost in time is roughly the same. Believe me or don't. I suspect "don't" will be the one which applies in your case - your tone so far has been both dismissively arrogant and unnecessarily rude.

    No hyperbole here?... cruelty to children makes me sick
    Consider the following.

    As I said, this guide is not for those of us who are older, have jobs, have been in the hobby a long time. This is for newbies. The teenagers, kids aged 11 to 13 or so who have no real idea what they're doing yet.

    There is a recession on, and there's less money to go around. In mu experience, fewer and fewer people can afford Games Workshop. I know this because since 2009 I have seen a steady decline in the number of teenaged players in the school Games Club I run. I have conducted survey's why, and the answer is money. That means money is an issue. Fewer young gamers now means fewer gamers in the future, and that's bad for the hobby (although that's by the by).

    The reason I call the prices of these tools immoral is because it's a safety issue. I didn't want to get into it, but you've been so witheringly sarcastic I feel I must.

    Blades are dangerous, especially if you're young and inexperienced. It is a simple fact that when you're a teenager, your brain is still developing, and you don't have the hand/eye coordination yet. Blunt blades don't cut as well as sharp ones. That means to cut with a blunt blade, you need to press harder. Pressing harder means you have less control. Less control means more slips. Taken together with a youngster's inexperience and naturally fluctuating hand/eye co-ordination, this means that there is a significantly higher chance of injury to a youngster using a blunt blade. That's just empirical fact.

    Combine this with the high price of Games Workshop goods compared to the low personal income of most teenagers relative to other hobbyists, I find most teenagers tend to invest in new models rather than new blades. Put simply, if it's a choice between £16 of craft knife and a £16 box of models, they'll go for the models every time and take that risk.

    Modelling tools can be sold at a profit and for lower than GW does. But, of course, teenagers are loyal to the brads they choose because they're on the very start of their personal journey to define their identities, and there is a certain drive to view GW tools as 'better' than the cheaper alternatives, despite the fact they aren't.

    All of these factors combine to mean youngsters will save their money for models, all the while using more and more dangerous blades which they lack the finances or inclination to replace.

    Now, if this isn't your experience Tetsugaku, bear in mind: this is MY experience, based on seven years of running an in-school Games Club, and yes, I have seen the injuries and given this advice to youngsters face-to-face. I didn't write this article for you. You can clearly take care of yourself, and good for you for doing so.

    But yes, I view Games Workshop's pricing of their tools as immoral, because if you're going to game, tools are a necessity, and it's a real, genuine safety concern that tools used by children should be functional and safe. Higher prices preclude that, because of the simple nature of the world.

    Charging higher prices for things like craft knives, given the danger that blunt blades pose to the youngest of us, who can least afford it is, in my opinion, only, immoral.

    Just because bad things are happening elsewhere (your Syrian example) does not mitigate this opinion. As a human being, hopefully capable of intelligent reasoning, I would assume we were all more than capable of holding more than one idea or opinion in our heads at a time. I have more than enough anger in me to be cross about GW's prices, the treatment of women, the Syrian situation, the way the educational system is run in this country, a lack of respect from teenagers in my local community, a lack of services for said teenagers, unpleasant comments left on an internet forum, and a hundred other things besides.

    My anger is a well that never runs dry.

    It does what it says on the tin, it is fully functional, good enough quality and not a con at all.
    Functional? Sure. Does what they're supposed to? Sure.

    The prices are disproportionate to the rest of the market, but most youngsters don't really know about tool shops or comparative prices. How do I know this? Again, seven years of experience running a school games club. As I say, if you do know this, great. I didn't write this article for you. I wrote it for newbies.

    As for the tool article - it's great article, really, thank you. Useful for those who have the time or the inclination to read a long post, do some research and order from 5 different shops. Or even go to the shops.
    And thank you for your backhanded compliment. It's nice to be damned by faint praise. No-one forced you to waste your clearly precious time reading it, and if you don't like long posts because there's too many words, well, there's always Twitter. Your sarcasm and distaste is noted.

    As for taking the time to shop around, I'm on a limited income in the middle of a recession. As you say, if you're lucky enough to have someone with money to burn buy you presents (I'm not) then perhaps the tool kit is what they would get me. Most of my Club's members are significantly poorer than me, and their parents less inclined to spend money on luxuries than they. Would that we all had the luxury of sufficient money that we didn't need to spend time being thrifty.

    Would that it were so.

    You are a privileged individual, and you might perhaps remember that the next time you decide to declare your personal experience a universal one we all enjoy.
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