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1999-2003. All rights reserved.
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Scratch-Building &
Modelling with Putty

Scratch Building a Figure

This is a difficult and timing consuming job. To fully build a figure from scratch will take about a day, and your first few are likely to be pretty poor. But don't let that discourage you. There is nothing more satisfying than being asked where you got a figure and being able to say breezily 'Oh, I just scratch built it.'

It is best to start by making a creature such as a goblin rather than a normal person. If you make any part of a human the wrong size or shape, particularly the head, then it will be immediately obvious but since goblins are all twisted and malproportioned anyway, it is easier to get away with mistakes.

Armature
The first step is to make a wire stick man to stick the putty around. I use thin, plastic coated electrical wire, it contains a single strand of copper, and the coated wire is just over a millimetre in diameter. It is easy to bend and glue, with just enough stiffness to give the required support. When making your stick-man, have a couple of figures handy to compare it to, so that you can check whether you have the correct proportions.  

TIP
(Bizarre but true)
The best place to get this wire is to find it. Just look at the bottom of lampposts or junction boxes in the street and there are likely to be little scraps dropped by electricians.

Making the armature
1) Twist the wire into a loop to form the head. Mark the wire off where the waist is, but continue it down to the end of the leg. Twist another small loop for the foot and leave about a centimetre sticking down out of the base of the heel.

2) Make the second leg by twisting another piece of wire around the waist. Glue it into position and then cut off the wire after measuring it down to the end of the first leg, remembering to allow extra for the foot. Also leave a small amount of wire sticking out of the bottom of the foot which can be used to stick the figure to a base.

3) Make the arms by cutting a length to make both hands, both arms and the shoulders. This will be about XXmm for a standard figure. Wrap the centre around the body and glue it in place. Then twist small loops for the hands.

Note: Use pliers to grip limbs just above the joint when you position the limbs. This makes sure you get a nice tight angle so that the figure doesn't have 'bendy bones'.

Roughing it out
If you try to make an entire body component in one go, you will find it extremely difficult to maintain the overall shape while modelling the surface detail. It is therefore best to model the entire figure as an approximate shape first before starting on the fine detail.

Start by modelling the following areas.

  • Head
  • Chest
  • Upper arms
  • Fore arms
  • Hands
  • Abdomen
  • Pelvis
  • Thighs
  • Calves/Lower legs
  • Feet

Leave a small gap between each of the areas mentioned above, so that the figure can still be bent at all the main anatomical joints.

Points to remember

  • Make the basic shapes small enough that you can still clad them in a layer of putty to create the finished surface of the figure.
  • Make sure that the shoulders and the pelvis of the figure are wide enough - this is a common mistake.

    Fixing the pose
    Wait until the putty has set before adjusting the figure into its final pose. The putty will ensure that your figure does not suffer from 'tentacle arms' as it will bend only in the right places at the joints between bones.

    The next stage is to wrap a small quantity of putty around each joint, so that the limbs become completely wrapped in putty and the position of the figure can no longer be altered.

    Adding the detail
    I usually start with the head, then move onto the torso, and then do the limbs one by one. Let each small section harden (if you are in a hurry then heat it as mentioned in the tips) before going on to the next. Keep comparing your figure to other models to ensure that you are getting the scale right.

  • Little Tricks & Tips

    Don't try to do too much at once
    Only work on small areas at a time, otherwise you will suffer the extreme frustration of accidentally crushing a freshly finished area, whilst working on another.

    Mixing the Putty
    Ensure that you mix the putty very thoroughly, or the setting time will increase dramatically. An easy way to do this with small quantities is to roll it into a sausage and then twist it. (This only works with green putty, Milliput is too crumbly).

    Gluing
    If you are having difficulty getting a blob of putty to stick to the model, then use a tiny dab of superglue in the middle of the area and press the putty onto it. You can then work the putty onto the model with the centre of it held firmly in place.

    Heating the putty
    Putty can take several hours to harden at room temperature, but if you put a normal desk lamp a few centimetres from the model, the heat will set the putty within about quarter of an hour. Great for impatient modellers.

    Making chain mail
    To get the inter-linked rings look, work across the area in rows, pushing the pin in to make little holes. On each hole, slightly drag the pin in the opposite direction to the one that you are creating the holes in. Each time you reach the end of a row, change direction for the next row. It should look a bit like rows of Cs, with alternate rows pointing in opposite directions.

    Making chain
    This is extremely difficult and time consuming, but this is how it can be done.

  • First roll a strip of putty and press it onto the figure.


  • Press it in with a knife to create a shape like this.


  • Push a needle tip into each wide section.


  • Stick a tiny ball of putty onto each narrow section and then drag the ends into the holes created in the previous step.

  • Working with Milliput

    There are a number of problems that
    Milliput has as a medium for creating figures. It is somewhat difficult to describe why, but if you use both types of putty, you will soon understand the difference. Basically Milliput breaks apart easier, is less stretchy, and also less sticky. However, it is not without its uses. It is good for:
    • Roughing out figures - it's cheaper than green putty.
    • Gently curved robes.
    • Weapons.
    • Large areas with little detail such as marine armour.

    Getting smooth surfaces
    Milliput tends to create a rough and grainy surface, but you can avoid this in two ways. First, when working the putty, damp your tools slightly to stop it sticking to them. Do this sparingly because the putty soaks up the water and will eventually become soggy and crumbly.
    When the figure is finished, take a very old brush and after damping it, gently brush the putty. This will smooth it and remove the tiny crumbs of putty that tend to collect on the surface.

    Making weapon blades
    Roll out the Milliput into a flat sheet, roughly the size of the weapon and let it harden. You can then use a sharp blade to cut and scrape it into the right shape. (Green putty is too rubbery to allow this to be easily done). Finally file or sandpaper the surfaces flat. This can also be used to make the basic shape of a gun, which can then be detailed by sticking on small bits of green putty.




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    1999. All rights reserved.
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