Archive Miniatures Frinx on Glyptodon – Resurrection!

I have long been searching for the Archive Miniatures Frinx on Glyptodon (#2042) from the Star Rovers line.  This three-figure kit was made in 1978, and was composed of two power-armored Frinx riding a glyptodon.  So what is a glyptodon?  A glyptodon is basically a prehistoric armadillo – and the size of a small car.  Its a quirky kit, reminiscent of a Tusken Raider riding a Bantha in Star Wars.

At long last, my good friend Buck Surdu acquired one kit at exorbitant price on eBay.  The plan was to create some Frinx recon sections for use in retro-sci-fi games using the Combat Patrol™ gaming system by recasting.

 

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The original kit in unopened bag

 

 

0a in bag
Archive card in bag

 

 

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Contents of the kit

 

The kit itself held two glyptodon halves, two rear feet, two bridle bits, one metal reins set, one forward facing Frinx, and one Frinx facing right.  Clearly, I needed to consolidate in order to effectively cast this set via gravity casting.  My first decision was to abandon any idea of casting the metal reins.  I wanted to use the bridle bits, and use some string or similar material for reins when I paint the kit.

The bridle bits were very small as you see below.  I used a small pin vise and drilled out a place for the bits on the glyptodon.  I secured the bits with super glue, then filled in around them with green stuff.  I also opened the bridle bits up, for if I left them closed they would not been locked in by the Quick-Sil and would not have cast well.

 

4 bridle bits on fingertips
The small bridle bits

The other challenge was that the original glyptodon figure was not well formed or cast.  There were large seam lines and gaps on each side.  My concern was that this gap would wreak havoc with molding as the Quick-Sil RTV that I use would easily expand into every crevice.  It also would look lousy.

 

 

5 glyptodon showing gaps and seams
Good view of the gap between the glyptodon halves on the right side

 

 

6 glyptodon showing gaps and seams no feet
Similar gap issue on the left.  Note the rear feet are unattached.

 

 

11 glyptodon interior
Interior view of the bottom glyptodon half – note the Archive 78

 

 

12 glyptodon interior top
Top half of the glyptodon 

As you can see, because the glyptodon was in two pieces with a hollowed out middle, I needed to address this and the seam issue.  Therefore, I decided to fill the middle and the gaps with green stuff.  I then affixed the rear feet with super glue, followed by adding green stuff around the gaps there as well.

 

 

13 glyptodon interior and bottom with green stuff
Green stuff to the rescue

 

 

14 glyptodon top with green stuff and bits
Nice view of the modified bridle bits

While I smoothed out the seam lines, I still had unsightly lines that would show up on every cast.  I decided to use more green stuff to add a band of tiny armor plates around the base to smooth out the seams – and it worked.  I thought that I should keep the figure as original as possible, so the additional plates were left as a lower band, and not over the whole figure.

 

 

15 glyptodon repaired with green stuff and bits
The glyptodon with its new armor plates added, left side view – no unwanted lines!

 

 

16 glyptodon repaired with green stuff and bits rear view
Rear view after adding armor plates

 

 

17 glyptodon repaired with green stuff and bits right side view
Right side view after adding armor plates

 

I then moved on to the riders, and was surprised to see the beginnings of lead rot under their saddles.  This discovery made me very happy that I was going to preserve this kit through cleaning and ultimately recasting.  I did my best to clean off the oxidation with soap, water, a toothbrush, and an aqueous pewter cleaner.

 

18 rider with rot on bottom
Lead rot begins…before cleaning

 

 

 

19 ready to cast
Ready for molding

 

I made two new mold designs – one for the glyptodon and one basic type for the two riders as shown below.  The major concerns that I had with the glyptodon mold were easy flow of alloy, adequate venting, and adequate cooling with so much molten metal.  With the smaller molds, I had the same, but I really just wanted great details.

 

20 glyptodon mold first half
First half of the glyptodon mold 

 

 

22 front frinx mold 1st half
First half of the front Frinx rider

 

 

23 back frinx mold 1st half
First half of the rear Frinx rider

 

 

24 all molds
All three molds completed

 

All three molds worked well, with small modifications to ensure good casting.  I was able to successfully cast 14 sets (42 total figures).

 

27 day 3 production
14 sets!

 

You can see below a comparison of the recasts and the master figure.

 

28 side by front
Frontal view of recast and modified master figure

 

 

29 side by left side
View of right side

 

 

30 side by rear
Rear view

 

 

31 side by right side
Left side view

They are officially now in my painting queue (which has grown a bit long so I will wait to cast more figures until I have painted some).  Overall, I am pleased with how they came out – please let me know your thoughts in the comments section!

 

 

 

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Retro Sci-Fi Sphere Tanks – from a Callaway Golf Ball!

I am happy to begin the 2017 blogging season with a very complicated project.  While I began work on this project in December, I had been thinking about it since last May.

So what happened in May 2016?  I was traveling for work, and sat down in a Cracker Barrel in Connecticut for breakfast (Uncle Herschel’s with a sweet tea of course).  For those of you who have never been to a Cracker Barrel, there are always old photos and curios all over the walls.  I looked to my left, and saw this on the wall:

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What started this journey

I was amazed at this and wanted to dig in more and learn the date of this issue of Popular Science magazine and see what the article said.  The article was just a paragraph with another picture – here is the link and a shot of the July 1936 article on page 37.

1a-popular-science-article-july-1936
The page 37 article

The concept of the “tumbleweed tank” tank was one of two outer shell halves rotating independently on rollers over a solid stationary sphere.  More or less, the outer halves acted as the vehicle’s treads.  I do not believe that anyone ever tried to build this as a combat vehicle, but I still found the concept fascinating and worthy of a project.

During the intervening months, I conceived of an idea that I could make a model of the tank, build a mold,  and cast it for tabletop wargaming.  As I have been building units of Star Rovers figures for sci-fi Combat Patrol™, my first thought was to make a retro-sci-fi tank, probably for the Frinx.  I was not enthusiastic about the weapons design as shown in the magazine – machine guns alone would make this a very boring retro sci-fi tank.  I also considered making it modular – so that I could adapt different weapons for it.

While thinking about it, I wanted to have a great sphere – and my sculpting experience is at best weak to nonexistent.  I have seen a few blogs that I follow where folks are sculpting their own figures, and that helped to inspire me.  As I also cast – this was a chance to go from beginning to end with the project.  But what to use?

The answer came easily to me as a golfer – a golf ball!  That would be an easy thing to work with and would afford me a chance to see what works.  I had an idea that I wanted it to be armed with ray guns in the side sponsons.  I had not decided on the main weapon, when I had a brainstorm – 1953’s War of the Worlds Martian Heat Rays!

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1953 movie poster
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The Martian ship

So with this plan, I went forward to try to create my new Mark 1’s (what else to call them!).  I thought that I could learn from the project (and I have).  I used a “Line ’em Up” golf accessory to create lines on a used Callaway golf ball, and drilled a ½” hole in the side of the ball on two sides.  I like the Callaway for this as it has hexagonal dimples.

 

 

5-first-cut-on-ball
First drill hole into the Callaway

 

After this, I used a Plastruct 2mm x 4.8mm styrene strip to size up the gap between the ball halves.  I used my Dremel to cut the outer surface of the ball – it ended up being messy and needed a lot of Exacto knife work.  The Dremel cutting blade tends to melt the outer ball cover – another lesson learned

 

6-ball-ring
After cutting the chassis ridge with my Dremel

 

I then needed to create the tread ridges.  I used an Exacto knife to carve small channels along the lines for the treads.  This took a lot of cutting!  Using some old plastic membership cards, I cut out each tread, sized them to the holes, and glued them in with super glue.

 

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Tread ridges cut from plastic membership cards

 

I then drilled a ¼” hole for the attachment of a main weapon –  which I would cast separately with the sponsons in a single mold.  To build a base for the model, I used three 1¼” washers, and glued them together with wood glue.  I then covered them with Apoxie Sculpt, leaving a hole to mount the ball to the base with a wood screw through the washer.  This ended up being a base that I feel in the end was a little too tall, but usable, and castable.

 

8-ball-ring-treads-installed
A Callaway golf ball converted into the tank chassis 

 

I originally was going to use Milliput or Apoxie Sculpt for the sponsons – when I discovered these ½” Button Plugs from Lara’s Crafts – which were the right shape and fit perfectly into the holes on the sides (got lucky here).  I bought a set of Niji woodcarving knives (which I wish I had when I was carving the treads and the middle gap!) and used them to make the sponson shells.  After trial and error (where I learned the hard way that I needed to wear a cutting glove with these very sharp knives), I carved two sponsons and sanded down the middle slots.

 

10-sponson-start
Making the button plugs into sponsons

 

I initially thought that I needed to smooth out the golf ball dimples and the tread cuts, so I first tried with Apoxie Sculpt, with poor results.  My next attempt was with Citadel “Liquid Green Stuff”, which was better, but I think was an unneeded step.

 

11-sponson-fitting
The master figure and sponsons mid-project

 

I drilled a 1/8″ hole in the sponson shell, and mounted a short piece of Evergreen Scale Models strip styrene 1/8″ tube.  For the ray guns, I turned to the use of model airplane parts.  I used two Dubro products – a 2mm socket head cap screw with three 2 mm flat washers superglued to it.  To line up the washers evenly, I found that using toothpicks on both sides and underneath to define the gaps and make the washers relatively parallel worked well.   I inserted the guns into the ends of the styrene, after coring out the ends of the styrene rods for a better fit.  Eventually, I primed the sponsons black with Citadel “Imperium Primer”, as I wanted there to be less tackiness to the Quick-Sil from the wood.

 

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Nice view of the ray guns in the sponsons

 

 

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Another view of the ray gun sponson

 

I then moved onto the main weapon, the heat ray.  In the 1953 movie, the heat ray was rectangular, leading to the distinctive head.  I eyeballed the length, and designed the head.  I sculpted it in two stages, with the “eye” section being attached to the neck, which itself was on the Plastruct strip styrene.

 

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Designing the heat ray – this worked!

 

 

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Initial heat ray sculpt on styrene strip

 

I cut the styrene strip to size, and used more Apoxie Sculpt to make a mount that would fit into the main weapon recess.  After it hardened, I saw that I would have to bend it in my mold, or otherwise I would have a very turtle-like appearance.  As the styrene is flexible, this was not a problem.  I made two two-piece molds with Castaldo Quick-Sil – one for the chassis and one for the weapons.  I also tried some new innovations with venting with the use of some more model airplane parts – in this case flexible fuel lines that I cut for venting.  As you can see below, I bent the heat ray in the mold to my desired shape.

 

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Weapons mold before Quick-Sil

 

 

20-first-mold-half-weapons-mold-mark-1
After first half molded

 

 

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Chassis mold before Quick-Sil

 

 

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Chassis mold after first half molded

 

In the end, the mold for the weapons worked very well, needing little work on the finished weapons.  However, the chassis mold had a few issues.  First, I knew as a golfer that golf balls compress when struck.  What I did not realize was that there would be a strong interaction of the flattish sponson holes and the pressure exerted by the curing Quick-Sil on them at 90° angles.  As a result, the cast ball would be visibly compressed somewhat.  Additionally, the flow was not perfect – leading to my needing to add Apoxie Sculpt to the finished models’ chassis.  Lastly, because the mold for the chassis was thick, and the casting was large, it took a long time to cool, and used a lot of metal (see phots for weight below in the blog).  Unfortunately I discovered this when I opened the mold once and the metal flowed out!  I will incorporate these lessons learned into the Mark 2’s.

 

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The master and the molds

 

 

23-mark-1-chassis-cast-and-master
Shrinkage!  Was he in the pool? (Apologies to George Costanza and Jerry Seinfeld)

I managed to successfully cast two chassis, and decided to use the master as well as I already had the mold.  So I cast three sets of weapons, and assembled three tanks in total.  I used some Apoxie Sculpt to fill in the gaps in the back where flow was less than ideal -and this worked fine.  Next, I mounted the assembled tanks to a 1 5/8″ steel washer for magnetic storage in my gaming boxes.

 

 

25-mark-1-tanks-before-priming-front
Assembled tanks

I then primed the tanks with  Citadel “Imperium Primer” – I must say I like this as a brush primer – it’s a nice product.

 

 

26-mark-1-tanks-after-priming-front
Primed tanks

 

After priming, I moved on to painting them.  Painting these proved to be challenging, especially the fully-cast models, due to the weight of the models.  The metal ones weighed about 14 ounces, while the master weighed in at 4 ounces!

I used Citadel “XV-88” on the base and the chassis gaps.  For the chassis and the heat ray, I based with Tamiya “Gun Metal”.  I used several light coats and had a shiny finish to deal with – but a smooth one.  The trick with Tamiya is a wet brush and a lot of shaking and shaking again.  I then used another Tamiya metallic, “Chrome Silver” to paint the sponsons, the tread ridges, and the business end of the heat rays.  I painted the tips pf the ray guns and the “eye” of the heat ray with “XV-88” and Citadel “Gehenna’s Gold” in anticipation of future colors.  The base I gave an application of Americana “Ebony”.

 

27-mark-1-tanks-after-base-coating
After base coat

 

I then used my new Citadel Technical paints.  Remember that the Martian craft had orbs that were glowing green.  To recreate that feel, I applied two coats of Citadel “Waystone Green”  to the sponson tops and bottoms, the tread ridges, the chassis gaps, and the main portion of the heat ray.  I also painted the first and last rings of the ray guns with this technical paint.   I wanted the slot of the sponson to be a bit darker – and Secret Weapons Washes “Armor Wash” helped me to achieve that look.  For the tips of the ray guns and the “eye” of the heat ray, Citadel “Spiritstone Red” gave a nice focal character to the weapons.

 

28-mark-1-tanks-after-base-coating-and-mid-highlighting
After highlights

 

To accent the green, I shaded areas around the “Waystone Green” with Citadel “Nuln Oil GLOSSY”.  As I was going to dull down the overall shiny paint job, I thought this would work better – and I think it did.  I drybrushed the bases with Citadel “Mechanicus Standard Gray”, and then applied a light flocking with Army Painter “Ash Grey” on the washer alone.

 

29-mark-1-tanks-before-varnish
Ready for varnish!

 

I was now ready to varnish, and for the first time I used Army Painter’s “Anti-Shine” matte varnish.  This is an aqueous varnish.  I liked it, and am excited as varnishing in New England in the winter is always a logistical challenge.  I uses 2 parts varnish to 1 part water, and applied with a fan brush lightly.  It came out nice and smooth.  After it dried, I sprayed the models with Testors “Dullcoat” is my cellar bulkhead after I got it warm enough.  This enabled venting of the fumes outside after I was done and kept my wife from killing me when she got home!

To finish the models, I needed to deal with the elevated bases.  Using a lot of Army Painter “Wasteland Tuft” applied with white glue, I was able to create an image of the tanks plowing through grass.  They are heavy though, but sturdy.

 

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This is a heavy model!!!  In English and metric units!

 

 

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The master weighs a lot less!

 

Here are some close up photos of the final product.

32-mark-1-tanks-completed-front-view

 

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Run!

 

 

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Convoy!

 

 

35-mark-1-tanks-completed-angle-view
Nice group shot

 

I am very happy with how these came out.  If I get enough interest, I may offer some for sale as kits.  Certainly, these are my first real creations from conception to creating to molding to casting to painting.  I learned a lot, and I am sure that my next iterations will be better.

They will be an  excellent part of my Frinx forces for Combat Patrol™!

 

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A bad day for these Aphids!!!

 

 

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).

 

4-space-phraint-master
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.

 

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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.

 

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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!