October Casting Projects – more 1977 Star Rovers!

I have been collecting various examples of the long-defunct Archive Miniatures Star Rovers line of figures from 1977.  This month, I have had some health issues that precluded being able to sit down (long story and a pain if you know what I mean).  Therefore, I chose to work on making molds and casting, focusing on Star Rovers, which is something I do standing up.

My overall goal is to create squad-sized units of these “lost” but very cool minis.  I want these to set up and play games of Buck Surdu’s Combat Patrol™, as well as to see if I can create a scenario using the Star Rovers figures that I have collected.  Combat Patrol™ was created as a WWII skirmish card-based miniatures rules set, but it has been successfully adapted to other historical periods as well as Star Wars™ scenarios.  To learn more about Combat Patrol™, click here.

Before I get to the figures and the making of the molds, I wanted to share information about my casting set up.  I basically use pewter and I use a Hot Pot 2 crucible with a Lyman pyrometer to measure the alloy’s temperature.

I also use appropriate safety equipment!

The Hot Pot 2 holds about 4 pounds of molten metal, and is used for making bullets, fishing sinkers, and miniatures.  Unfortunately, it comes with a tripod stand which teeters and is prone to tipping. Why the manufacturer did not use four legs on the stand for stability is beyond me.  After a couple of spills (where I dodged the 650° F contents and had a lovely clean up) I was determined to have a new set up.  Currently I have 1′ x 1′ steel sheets clamped to my old Sears Craftsman® work bench that I have had for close to 30 years.  My friend Jeff Smith came up with an idea that proved to be a great fix.  He had an old cast iron (heavy) Christmas tree stand he was not using.  I filled the large holder with play sand to raise the bottom up and put the tripod into the sand in the tree well.  This provided great stability and rendered the set up virtually spill-proof.  I clamped the tree stand to my work bench (after extending my bench depth about an inch).  This worked great and I am very happy with my new casting set up.

 

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My new set up in the garage – clamped molds on the right

 

 

 

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Close up of use of the iron Christmas tree stand to hold the Hot Pot 2, clamped to the workbench

 

Now I need to step back – I made four molds for five figures this month using Castaldo® QuickSil RTV Jewelry Molding Compound.  These Star Rovers figures were:

  • Archive #2064, Hurraku, Space Phraints
  • Archive #2075, Mark III Warbots
  • Archive #2020, Space Centaur Officer with Pistol
  • Archive #2050, Dragonspawn Advance Guard, Lizardaen
  • Archive #2052, Kneeling Dragonspawn Trooper

To learn more about the Archive Miniatures Star Rovers line click here.

I cannot find any reliable sources to buy these figures – I only find them sporadically on eBay.  This is why I recast them for personal use and for gifts.

My first mold in October was for the Space Phraints.  These are 9 foot tall emotionless insect men that were in the old Arduin game.  These are armed with huge swords and a ray gun.

I found a nice synopsis on Phraints from Saundby.com that you can see here.  The photos below show the original I got on eBay (the blue clay you see came from the mold-making process and is easily removed).

 

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Space Phraint front

 

 

 

5-space-phraint-master-back
Space Phraint back

 

Below is the first mold half set up for the Space Phraint.  I used an old metal mold plug to create my flow aperture along with some golf tees my wife gave me a while back for Christmas.  I also used toothpicks to create air flow vents and release points for better casting.  I also wrote a mirror image of the word “PHRAINT” on the clay.  The QuickSil is measured and mixed and put into the mold press for curing.  I generally wait 28 minutes for it to cure – and I use a hand-held hair dryer to warm the outside of the press to assist in curing the RTV (room temperature vulcanizing) compound.

 

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Space Phraint mold in the mold press – first half

 

 

 

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Removing the first half of the mold from the mold press before removing the blue clay from the RTV

 

 

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The first mold half of the Space Phraint mold

 

I then put the first half back into the mold press, applied a releasing cream to any wooden surfaces of the press that QuickSil would touch as well as the green set up rubber RTV.  I then measured and mixed more QuickSil and repeated the process.  After I made the mold, I cut out wooden backings for the mold from 1/8″ plywood using my scroll saw.

The Space Phraint mold was very successful and needed little modification during the casting process.  I was able to cast 42 figures from this mold.

 

6-space-phraint-in-formation-oct-2016-production
A formation of Space Phraints led by the original

 

The next mold is a Mark III Warbot.  As far as I can tell, there are no Mark I or II’s in Star Rovers!  He is clunky and retro looking, with a very cool ray gun/blaster.  He reminded me of Bender from Futurama, though he was created in 1977!

bender

 

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Mark III Warbot front

 

 

 

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Mark III Warbot back

 

I followed a similar process in making this mold as described above.

 

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Mark III Warbot first mold half

 

 

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Mark III Warbot mold completed

 

This also was a successful mold.  I cast 42 figures using it.

 

4-mark-iii-warbot-mold-october-2016-production-in-formation
A formation of Mark III Warbots led by the original

 

I then moved onto the Space Centaur, who has rocket packs on his back, but is only armed with a laser pistol!  This was my first try at making a mold of a four-legged creature.  The mold itself needed more tweaking during the casting process than I like in terms of cutting vents and opening up spaces.  I believe that I should have used more of a cone-shaped pour aperture for the mold.  Here I used a small hotel soap and golf tees to shape the pouring well – and I think that works less effectively than a cone.  I also had leaking issues with the mold initially.  I solved these with adding more C-clamps when casting.

I was able to cast 36 figures with this mold.

 

1-archive-2020-space-centaur-officer-with-pistol
Master Space Centaur figure

 

 

 

2-archive-2020-space-centaur-officer-with-pistol-october-16-production-in-formation
A formation of Space Centaurs, led by the original

 

The last two figures that I worked on were Dragonspawn Infantry.  There were actually three made by Archive, but I do not have the prone figure, only the crouching and kneeling ones.  My guess from these pictures is that they were originally painted but then stripped.

 

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Kneeling Dragonspawn Trooper, right side

 

 

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Kneeling Dragonspawn Trooper, left side

 

 

 

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Standing Dragonspawn Trooper, right side

 

 

 

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Standing Dragonspawn Trooper, left side

 

I tried a new mold design – two figures in one mold.  I wanted to see if this would be more efficient.  It was not, primarily I believe that the cone aperture design works better, especially a tall one.  Here I used another hotel soap and golf tees – and I had a lot of casting failures with this mold.  With some adaptations during the casting process (making the pouring aperture and tees wider), my success rate improved, but the overall mold leaked a lot and was a pain to work with.  At one point, some of the RTV came off in a figure, but this did not seem to be a major issue with subsequent castings.

 

1-dragon-spawn-mold-first-half
My attempt at a new mold design – less than fully successful

 

I was able to cast 24 good figures of each type, but I probably had a 50% failure rate overall.

 

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Two Dragonspawn formations with master in front

 

I cast 168 miniatures in total with the four molds.  Some I am giving to friends, while the rest I an putting into the painting queue.

 

3-october-2016-production
October production on the table

 

I learned some new things about the process, and got a new casting set up that is much safer.  My next casting will be in a few months – I really want to start painting now that the weather is turning colder, and get them into a Combat Patrol™ game!

 

 

 

 

 

 

After 33 years, I finally have an ORIGINAL Ral Partha Rooman War Party Troop! (ES-44 or 01-044) from 1977!!!

Some projects take a while – and this one was over 33 years in the making.  As background, my first introduction to tabletop wargaming was in 1983 at West Point.  My classmate Dave Wood (USMA 1984) introduced me to Buck Surdu (USMA 1985).  Buck had set up a fantasy tabletop war game on a gaggle of desks in the Department of Foreign Languages, and from then on, a whole new gaming experience was open to me.

Buck wrote his own rules, and he and Dave had units of all kinds for the game.  One type that Buck had was a unit of “Roomans”, which he referred to as “Beaks” as well.  They were of course of the marsupial macropod (large foot) persuasion – more or less humanoid kangaroos.  Of course, the word play of Romans/Roomans is evident as well.  They were armed with pikes, had great movement and combat capabilities, and overall were just pretty cool.  I wanted to get some, and every time I went to a hobby store in the 1980’s and 1990’s, I looked for Roomans.  I had hardly any luck.

Little did I know back then that Ral Partha had produced only one type of blister pack of “Rooman War Party”, with production starting in 1977.  The original numbering of the blister pack was ES-44, and in 1978 and later years that was changed to 01-044.  This set  was in the “Personalities and Things…That Go Bump in the Night” line from Ral Partha.  Each pack in 1977 came with one Rooman with a shield in front, two Roomans with shields on the side, and three assembled pikes on piano wire.  By this I mean that the 1977 pack had pikes that were in one piece with streamers rolled up under the business end of the pike.  Later, Ral Partha changed the pikes to a two-piece type, where the point of the pike had smaller streamers coming off and would need to be glued to a piece of enclosed piano wire.  This latter type was the most prevalent type made by Ral Partha.

Let’s get back to my search.  As time went on, I became very frustrated in my attempts to locate any blister packs of Roomans.  Today, I’d just look on the company web site or call them – but back then – well kids there was no internet – and that would be a very expensive long-distance toll call to Cincinnati (especially from West Germany where I spent most of the latter 1980’s in the Army).  Alas, I found just one blister pack of Roomans at a hobby store around 1986 or 1987 – and that was it!

3 01-044 package
The Only Roomans I Ever Found in a Hobby Store

I put them away, awaiting the day when I would find another blister pack – and then I could make a unit of 6 figures perhaps…that wait was indeed over 33 years.

Now I must fast forward to my getting back into the hobby in 2014 and discovering eBay.  Wow!  Surely I will be able to find some Roomans on eBay!  So, I searched and searched, and was able to find 18 loose Roomans either singly or in larger lots, plus one original 1977 blister package over the space of 18 months or so.  Most times, they were called Goblins or Orcs by the sellers.  Almost all had very bad paint jobs that needed to be stripped.  This left me with 24 original Roomans.

I have not seen any in quite a while except for a poor recast here and there.  Buck knew some contacts at Iron Winds Metals, and we inquired as to the status of the original molds, but unfortunately they were either lost or destroyed.  This was sad.  But I was able to get pikes from Melissa Morello at Iron Winds Metals that matched the post-1977 type as most of the Roomans I got on eBay either had the wrong weapon type or none at all.  (THANK YOU MELISSA!)  Of course, I also learned how to make gravity molds during this timeframe and now can make my own castings of the original Roomans for personal use.  Iron Winds Metals told me that they are bringing back Roomans under a new name “Rues”, but to my knowledge that has not yet occurred.

The Roomans I acquired on eBay needed a lot of work to clean and strip.  Some were painted with what appeared to be a tough lacquer.  I used a combination of several sequential applications of Simple Green, vinegar, hot water, and pewter polish to remove old paint.  I also needed to use a lot of toothbrush scrubbing and picking with a needle to get the old paint off.

In August 2016, I gathered up my 24 original Roomans – and decided that I could not in good conscience open up my vintage 1977 blister given the difficulty in finding Roomans (let alone ones in an old blister pack).  That left me with 21.  I had two 1977-type pikes as well as the ones from Iron Winds Metals.  I decided that I would incorporate the two old ones within the mob and use post-1977 style pikes to arm the remainder.  One would be a leader, and the other 20 would form the mob or troop.

Yes, I said mob.  A group of 10 or more kangaroos is referred to as a mob, a troop, or a court.  Females (who are the only ones with pouches) are does, flyers, or jills.  Males are referred to as bucks, boomers, jacks, or old men.  Of course the term joey for the young is more commonly known.  This means that my Roomans that have a shield in front are males (pouchless), while the rest are females (having pouches).  Of course, being marsupials, and hopping ones at that, they have many unique qualities.  If interested, here is a link:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kangaroo

1 Start of Rooman project
My Original 1977 ES-44 Rooman War Party Blister and those destined for the Rooman Troop
2 ES 44 package
Close up of the blister – note the 1977 pikes on the right

My first action was to glue the 19 newer pike heads to the piano wire with Scotch super glue, and the Roomans to 1″ steel fender washers with wood glue.  This size worked better as the Roomans bases were too big for a ¾” washer.  I used a slightly thicker 1″ washer for the leader.  I gently bent the arms of the Roomans and oh-so-carefully opened their hands to hold the pikes at different angles.  Some of the hands were not well-cast, and I fixed these with Aves Apoxie Sculpt (a two-piece clay that sets up hard as a rock in a day) https://www.amazon.com/Aves-Apoxie-Sculpt-White-pound/dp/B0013UFM7M/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1473111581&sr=8-6&keywords=apoxie+sculpt .

I then used the Apoxie Sculpt to cover the washers and create a sculpted ground around the figures (hiding the washers and the bases).  This was made easier by using a set of wax carving tools that I got that looks like a dentist’s tool kit – but really works well with the Apoxie Sculpt https://www.amazon.com/HTS-156W1-Stainless-Steel-Carving/dp/B01D56Q69O/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1473111766&sr=8-4&keywords=wax+sculpting+tools .

3a mounted on bases and pikes
The Pikes and the Roomans, note the Rooman Leader holding the older type pike
3b sculpting tools
My new sculpting tool set

After I let the glue dry and the clay set up, I primed the unit with Krylon “Ultra Flat White”.  I used Elmer’s white glue to lightly affix the Roomans to large popsicle sticks for painting.

4 Roomans primed
Primed and Ready for paint
5 Rooman leader primed
Rooman Leader Primed (front view)
6 Rooman leader primed, rear view
Rooman Leader, primed (rear view)
7 Rooman trooper newer pike side view
Rooman Jill primed, pike side
8 Rooman trooper newer pike side view shield side
Rooman Jill primed, shield side

Now I needed to have a plan on colors.  Buck always painted his Roomans green (he says that his are tropical).  I wanted to check out real kangaroos and see their colors.  There are two main types, the red and the grey, and the reds are larger.  Therefore, I went with a scheme based on the red kangaroo.

3c red kangaroo
Red Kangaroo (male Jack)

My first action was to use a light coat of Citadel “Agrax Earthshade” to the models.  I wanted a good reddish-brown, and I looked in my paint supply, and had a nice candidate  in the form of a 1996 bottle of Armory “Red Brown”.  I used this for the fur outside of the feet and the belly.  For the belly, I used Americana “Bleached Sand”.  I also used that color up to the jaw muscles and lower jawline to help accentuate the glare and demeanor of the figures.  I also used this for the eyes and for the ears.  I used another 1996 paint – Armory “Gloss Black” – for the noses and to finish off the pupils of the eyes.  For the feet, I went with Americana “Ebony”.  I also used this color for the tips of the ears.  The jack figures had two anklets, and the jills had one.  These I painted with Martha Stewart Crafts “Pale Bronze”.  I am not sure why the jacks had more jewelry than the jills!

9 Roomans base coated
Early base coating

As I moved on to the other metallic – armor, tail spikes, shields, and pike heads – I paused to think of a good color scheme and theme for the unit that would tie it together.  I particularly wanted a shield that would “pop”.  Looking at Greek phalanxes, one usually sees a bronze shield with a pattern upon it.  But these are not Greeks – they are Australians!  I decided to use the colors and symbols of the Australian flag for the troop.  For colors, I decided that the leader would have the red of the St. George’s Cross (in the Union Jack) on his pike streamer, with the rest of the streamers being evenly split between dark blue and white.  The shields would have a dark blue center circle.  There are a series of stars on the Australian flag. A seven-pointed star on the lower left quadrant represents the British Commonwealth.  The other stars (four seven-pointed stars and one five-pointed star) represent the southern cross.  I tried to draw a seven-pointed star, and that is nearly impossible.  Additionally, the ones that I would use on the shields would need no be 1/8″ from top to bottom.  My wife Lynn suggested I print them off from my computer.  Luckily, I found some seven-pointed stars on the internet, and shrunk them down to size, and printed them off.

Aus_Flag
The Flag of Australia

I used the “Pale Bronze” on the shields.  For the tail weapons, pike heads, gauntlets, and armor (on the jacks) I used Tamiya X-11 “Chrome Silver”.  For the shield straps and eyebrows, I used P3 “Bootstrap Leather”.  I wanted the pikes to look like a hardwood – so I painted them with Citadel “Dryad Bark”.

10 Roomans base coated shields
After metallic base coating – note seven-pointed stars in foreground

I then needed to move forward with my Australian flag color scheme,  For the leader’s streamer, I used Americana “Santa Red”.  The other streamers got either a blue or white treatment with another of my older paints.  For the dark blue streamers, I used Deka Lack “Dunkelblau”; for the white streamers I used Deka Lack “Weiβ” (Weiss).  Both of these date from 1987 when I bought them when I was stationed in Karlsruhe, West Germany.  I also used “Dunkelblau” on the shields’ centers.  I then used Citadel “XV-88” on the bases.

11 Roomans base coated shields with blue
Completed base coated troop
12 Rooman leader base coated shield with blue
Close up of Rooman leader after base coat

I considered using some dry brushing on the figures at this point but decided against it.  Basically, I wanted to darken the red fur and see if using a wash would do that and give some detail to the snouts and haunches of the Roomans.  I mixed a 50/50 mix of two inks – Secret Weapons Washes “Just Red” and P3 “Brown Ink”, and carefully covered all the red fur sparing the lighter fur.  I also used Secret Weapons Washes “Armor Wash”  on all steel armor.  I then added another coat of “Agrax Earthshade” to my sculpted bases to bring out the earthlike shapes of the ground.  These washes really had a great effect and made the figures look like I desired, as well as bringing out important details that I feared to dry brush.

13 Roomans after wash with inks
After base coat and washes – nice darker hues

Let us return to the all-important seven-pointed stars that I printed off!  I used my Exacto knife and carefully cut out 26 or so stars with the assistance of the 2.5 magnification of my Carson glasses.  I used the best ones for the shields.  I applied a light coat of Elmer’s white glue to the underside of each star with a Testors microsponge (this is a good use of this tool).  I centered each star and ensured that each point was glued down.

Once the glue dried, I applied a coat of “Weiβ” to the stars and touched up the “Dunkelblau” around the shield where the glue seeped out.  I then applied three coats of varnish sequentially – first Krylon “Clear Matte”, then two coats of Testors “Dull Coat”.

14 Rooman leader after star
The Rooman Leader (a Jack) after varnishing
15 Rooman after star
A Rooman Jill after varnishing

Lastly, I added some Army Painter “Wasteland Tuft” to give them the appearance of coming out of an Australian Desert.

16 Rooman mob after grass
Completed Rooman Troop, angled view
17 Rooman mob after grass front
Completed Rooman Troop, front view
19 Rooman mob after grass flank view
Completed Rooman Troop, flank view
20 Rooman close ups, front
Left to right, Rooman Leader, two Jills, and a Jack
21 Rooman close ups, males leaders
A Jack and the Rooman Leader
22 Rooman close ups, jills
Two Jills

I am more excited and happy with this unit than I had even hoped to be!  The unit looks positively awesome and the stars help it pop.  As I build more units with my self-cast Roomans I can incorporate the same color scheme (though I believe my 1980’s paint supply will run out!).

A final note of thanks – to Buck and Dave for getting me into this hobby – and especially to Buck for starting me on this Quixotic quest for a Rooman unit all those years ago!  I look forward to rolling dice and pushing lead with you soon!!

Minifig Halfling Battalion (World of Greyhawk 42 “Halfling Fighters”, with Grenadier Halfling Leader (Grenadier 2002C)

Halflings to the front!

Dave Wood was kind enough to give me an entire 24 figure battalion of 1977 Minifig World of Greyhawk (42 “Halfling Fighters”).  They are 25mm figures, so the photos below are enlarged.

Here is the link with the original package from Lost Minis Wiki:http://www.miniatures-workshop.com/lostminiswiki/index.php?title=Image:Minifigs-wogreyhawk-wog42.jpg

After checking with Dave, we are sure that I painted some of these in the 1982-1984 timeframe while we were roommates at West Point.  A fading memory of my painting the eyebrows and the furry halfling feet somehow was still kicking around in my brain.  This gift jogged that memory to life!  Back then, Dave had a lot of figures (well, some things do not change).  I offered to paint some and he was kind enough to let me.  These were armed with axes, hobbit swords, hobbit spears, short bows, hobbit daggers, and what looked like adzes or mattocks.  At some point later, Dave remounted the figures on flat steel bases and flocked them a yellow greenish color.

There was also a Grenadier leader that he had included with the group.  This figure originally came in a 1980 boxed set (Grenadier #2002 Halflings).  This set had 9 halfling figures in the box.  The leader was “C” Halfling Thief“.  He does look the leader type.  He was mounted on a small washer and similarly flocked. Here is the list of the figures that came in the set from Lost Minis Wiki: http://www.miniatures-workshop.com/lostminiswiki/index.php?title=Image:G-asfs-2002z.jpg

I have several of these in my collection from eBay.

Back in the 1980’s, it was easy for younger eyes to discern which one of the Minifig halflings had which weapon.  As those days are past, I decided to reflock the bases so that they would be easier for play on the tabletop.  I used a variety of flocking and grasses and meadow flowers to make them look slightly different from afar.

I did not want to do anything with the paint jobs except ensure that they were varnished.  I was unsure as to whether they were already varnished or not, so they got two coats of Testors “Dullcoat” after flocking.  I added all the flowers and tufts after the varnish applications were dry.  The results are below.

 

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Minifig World of Greyhawk 42 Halfling Fighters with daggers.  Bases are flocked with 4Ground “Copper Leaves” and Army Painter white “Meadow Flowers”

 

 

2-halfling-spear
Minifig World of Greyhawk 42 Halfling Fighters with spears.  Bases are flocked with 4Ground “Green Leaves” and Army Painter yellow “Meadow Flowers”

 

 

3-halfling-sword
Minifig World of Greyhawk 42 Halfling Fighters with Swords.  Bases are flocked with Army Painter “Grass Green” and white “Meadow Flowers”

 

 

 

4-halfling-axe
Minifig World of Greyhawk 42 Halfling Fighters with Axes.  Bases are flocked with 4Ground “Brown Leaves” and Army Painter “Wilderness Tuft”

 

 

 

5-halfling-mattock
Minifig World of Greyhawk 42 Halfling Fighters with mattocks/adzes.  Bases are flocked with Army Painter “Grass Green” and yellow “Meadow Flowers”

 

 

 

6-halfling-short-bow
Minifig World of Greyhawk 42 Halfling Fighters with short bows.  Bases flocked with 4Ground “Copper Leaves” and Army Painter yellow “Meadow Flowers”

 

 

 

7-halfling-leader
Grenadier Halfling 2002C used as leader for the battalion.  Base flocked with 4Ground “Brown Leaves” and Army Painter yellow “Meadow Flowers”

 

I thought the use of different colored flowers and tufts would give the unit a hint of their origin – a happy, peaceful agrarian Shire.  I think that this color scheme worked, and I really like the effects.

 

8-halfling-battalion
The Halfling Battalion

 

Overall, I am very happy to add this unit to my armies.  Thanks Dave!