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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.