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Re: [GZG] Sculpting was: Re: 15mm Phalon vehicle recommendations?

From: Oerjan Ariander <oerjan.ariander@t...>
Date: Tue, 11 Apr 2006 18:53:34 +0200
Subject: Re: [GZG] Sculpting was: Re: 15mm Phalon vehicle recommendations?

Mike Stanczyk wrote:

> >and that's a completely different sculpting technique
> >from the styrene sculpting Jon has used so far.
>I'm interested in playing around with the same techniques
>used by Jon (and you I'm guessing).


>Where's a good place to start?  Have either of you done a
>web tutorial?

I don't know of any step-by-step tutorials (though there are several 
sculpting-related web sites and forae that ought to have them), but
Models' "Design Studio" section often has photos of work in progress or 
finished styrene masters where it is very easy to see how they were
(Once you know what shapes to look for it becomes easy to identify the 
components of cast-metal models too.)

Styrene comes in sheets of various thicknesses (the ones I have range
0.12mm up to 2mm) and in rods of various dimensions and cross-section 
shapes (squares, rectangles, round, semi- and quarter-circles,
hexagons, round hollow tubes etc., ranging from about .3x.3 mm up to
or larger). You'll also need a well-ventilated work area, styrene 
glue/solvent, a good steel ruler, and sharp knifes (eg. X-acto).

Not absolutely necessary but very useful to have are fine-grained 
sandpapers and/or needle files, a small mitre box and razor saw to make
easier to cut rods etc. at funny angles, a *flat* area (preferrably
where you can put glued-together bits to dry without having to worry
they'll stick to your work area (or rather where they'll come off
when - not if - they do stick...), and pincers to handle tiny details. 
(I've used a blob of blu-tack stuck to a toothpick instead of pincers,
that can get rather messy if the glue doesn't run where you expect it

The tools and materials can be found eg. in well-equipped railway hobby 
stores. Raiding old plastic model kits can also be very useful for
raw materials.

The sculpting itself is theoretically very simple: just cut styrene bits
appropriate sizes and shapes and glue them together into the shape you 
want. In practise, of course, it can be difficult both to decide what
want the finished model to look like and to figure out what sizes and 
shapes of styrene bits you'll need to arrive at that shape.

For me the biggest problem is to come up with an idea of what the
model should look like. Translating the idea into styrene bits is
but unless the basic shape I have in mind is very simple I make a 
construction drawing with measurements etc. of at least its basic
before I start cutting any styrene. (For fighters I usually include all 
details in this drawing since they're usually integral to the main 
structure of the model; for larger models where I can add surface
afterwards I usually only make a drawing of the main structure.) Complex

shapes can require quite large numbers of simpler bits (eg. the master 
sculpt for the ORC fighter, which is about 6x8x2 mm in size, consists of
separate bits of styrene), so it pays off to put some thought into the 
design before you start building it.

Example 1: FT-625 FSE Hydra-class DD. The core hull consists of four
of a sprue frame from an old plastic model kit cut at different angles
glued together. The sprue frame I used had a trapezoidal cross-section,
I got most of the shape "for free"; it also had lots of T-junctions and 
other bumps that I could use, so the round "dorsal turret" and the small

bit sticking out on the port side close to the bow of the ship were both

part of the original sprue while the "chin turret" was shaved off from 
another place on the original sprue and glued onto its current location.

The rest of the model was built from scratch; the wings consist of thick

sheet styrene cut into shape and filed down to give a solid connection
the core hull, the engine exhausts are thin slices of round styrene rod,

and the various hull panels were all cut from thinner styrene sheets.

Example 2: OUDF BCs and BBs (can't remember their GZG catalogue numbers
the cuff). These were rather trickier to build than the Hydra was, both 
because they are multi-piece kits where the pieces has to fit together 
snugly and because I couldn't get any of the shapes "for free" by just 
cutting styrene rods at weird angles. The hulls are built from square 
styrene rods and sheet styrene, sanded down to shape before the
was applied. The trickiest parts were the engines and the wells for the 
outrigger pieces - the engines because I wanted them to be nozzle-shaped

rather than just straight cylinders (in the end I cut them from a
tube and filed them down to shape), and the outrigger wells because they

had to be built into the hull structure from the outset (ie., I couldn't

first build the hull and then cut the wells where I wanted them) so I
to be pretty certain of where I wanted them to be before I started
stuff together :-/

Two more things to keep in mind if you want to sculpt masters for mass 
production is to avoid undercuttings and internal cavities as far as 
possible. Cavities will collapse during the mould-making, ruining both
master sculpt and the mould, so the master sculpt should be solid. 
Undercuttings can be handled to some extent, eg. by placing the model in
clever way in the mould, but if they are too big there'll be excessive
on the production mould; in this case it might be a good idea to make
model as a multi-part kit so each part can be cast separately without 
undercuttings. (Of course there are other reasons for making multi-part 
kits too, eg. if you want to reuse the parts in other models.)

Hope this helps,


"Life is like a sewer.
  What you get out of it, depends on what you put into it."

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