Lots of Casting in the Snow – Roomans, Star Ducks, and Power-Armored Frinx

This weekend was cold and blustery.  Definitely no golf!  Saturday was cold and rainy, and we got 5″ of snow on Saturday night, and 5″ more all Monday – kept me looking for Spring!

I took the opportunity to make a couple of more molds on Saturday.  I made another Rooman War Party mold of the smooth shield Rooman from Ral Partha 01-044 or ES-44 (1977 miniature).  I also made a new mold for eventual sci-fi play with Buck Surdu’s “Combat Patrol” rules.  This was a 1981 “Power-Armored Frinx” (2040) from now-defunct Archive Miniatures “Star Rovers” line.  From what I can see, a Frinx is a goofy reptilian biped.  He could be armed with a large gun or a flamethrower, or perhaps a blaster?  The figures looked cool and worthy of casting.  I made both of these two molds a little longer and less wide.

4 Archive Armored Frinx 1st mold half
Power-Armored Frinx Mold Half

 

Sunday came, and with it the miserable cold, wind, and snow.  Undaunted, I set up my operation in my unheated garage.  When the wind got too strong, I just shut the door- which was most of the day.

5 04032016 casting weather
Ahh, April in Massachusetts!  My casting operation is set up in the garage.

 

I also exclusively used some new alloy metal that Buck was kind enough to send in in support of my casting efforts.  It is 50% Tin, 39% lead, and 11% antimony from Castings (http://miniaturemolds.com/1-50-Tin-39-Lead-11-Antimony-10-oz-Ingot-CM3.htm) .

I was able to have a much lower melting temperature than my last efforts ( a range of 360-400 °F versus 600-650 F°).  The flow was better and more manageable.  As I got the hang of it, my castings got better, even with molds that I thought I might have damaged with the higher temperatures on my last casting.  With six molds, I was able to crank out 82 miniatures, which really was satisfying.

13 assembly of the new Regiment of Roomans front
A Regiment of Roomans

I had a total of 83 Roomans now, enough to complete my units, with a battalion for friends Dave Wood, Buck, and my daughter Ellen.  In the process of cleaning up flash and doing Quality Control, I ended up putting 8 into the recasting collection – but that just left me with the best of the Roomans left for myself, Ellen, Buck, and Dave.  Some were better than others – but all in all they should paint up nicely and could have a variety of weapons and not just their original pikes.

 

14 assembly of the new Regiment of Roomans front command
Rooman Regiment Close Up on Command Group

 

The Archive Star Ducks (2200) came from the “Star Rovers” line.  These were a challenge as their ray guns did not always come out.  I decided that the Star Ducks with truncated Ray Guns looked like and would be armed with submachine guns – and be just fine.  With some practice and the new alloy, I had greater success as the afternoon went on, and ended up with a total of 14 armed with ray guns with 8 with submachine guns.

8 Duck (Gurads!) with Ray Guns first 14
Star Ducks with Ray Guns
9 Duck (Gurads!) with SMG first 8
Star Ducks with Submachine Guns

I was very pleased with the Power-Armored Frinx figures.  The longer molds allowed me to get more details into the molds by tamping and rotating them after filling them with the molten metal.  I ended up with 14 of these Frinx, and I can’t wait to see them get the Surdu touch!

6 Archive Armored Frinx 1st 14 cast
Power-Armored Frinx

I had several key learnings from my efforts.

  • I found that longer molds are easier than wider ones for casting.
  • Using an alloy with 50% tin as described above was a lot easier than using plain lead, in terms of being able to use lower temperatures as well as better flow.
  • Each figure averaged 0.39 ounces of the alloy after recycling plugs and flash.  With that ratio, I could cast 25 figures from 10 ounces.
  • I think six molds is the perfect number for quality production and safety.
  • The Quick-Sil is a great material to make molds with, but you need to be prepared to have an Exacto knife to add venting gates and open channels.  Luckily, Quick-Sil is easily cut.  If the mold needs adjusting, do it with the Exacto knife.
  • After pouring, tap/tamp/bang gently and rotate the mold to get the metal into the details.
  • The use of a specialized thermometer  (mine is a Lyman that goes up to 1000 °F – http://www.amazon.com/Lyman-2867793-Lead-Thermometer/dp/B001TQ8Y6Q ) and allows for better control and better casting.  Temperature control is very important.  My crucible (a Hot-Pot 2 http://www.amazon.com/Do-It-Molds-1892-Hot-Pot-2/dp/B002QG3H9M/ref=sr_1_1?s=sporting-goods&ie=UTF8&qid=1459824499&sr=1-1&keywords=hot-pot+2 ) has no control other than on and off.  By watching the temperature and shutting the crucible off I was able to have a modicum of control.  Having extra metal ready and on-hand to add to the crucible to lower the temperature when it gets too hot is another good tip.
  • Safety is paramount.  The molten metal can indeed fly around, and it is HOT.  I would not even think to try this without heat-resistant gloves, eye protection, and a respirator (breathing lead fumes is not a good choice).  Having all of my skin protected is important, as well as anything that could get hot metal on it, like shoes, pants, long-sleeve shirts, etc.  Protect your workspace too.  I use steel sheets to insulate my work bench, which also has the advantage of making splattered metal easy to clean up and recast.

This was a fun project – and I am so happy that now I can round out any unit of out-of-print miniatures as long as I have one to mold and cast.