Befreiungskriege 1813-14

Painting and modelling 28mm Napoleonic wargaming miniatures

Mould-making and sculpting masterclass

Posted by Martin on November 16, 2009

Peter F's von Rechten battalion

Peter F's von Rechten battalion

I spent most of this last weekend at Calpe Towers as Peter F’s guest. It was the long-planned opportunity for me to learn the basics of mould making and pick up some sculpting tips in readiness for my forthcoming venture into Frankenstien monster-like conversions of some Calpe Saxons. We covered so much ground that it’s hsrd to know where to start. So let’s just dive in.

On the Saturday, Peter demonstrated the art of mould making. The creation of a successful mould is indeed an art. Anybody can make a mould but it takes considerable skill and thought to make a mould that captures all the detail of the master figures and can survive repeated use without degradation or damage. I’ve learnt that the orientation of the figures in the mould, the way they’re sculpted in first place, the type of rubber, temperature, pressure and the duration of “cooking” time all make a contribution to the quality of the result. Even how you pre-warm the rubber beforehand makes a difference.

On top of all that, you need a bit of physics knowledge to understand how the forces affect the flow of molten metal into the mould while its in the spin casting machine. Plus, you need to bear in mind that the air displaced from the mould cavities by the metal needs somewhere to go otherwise you end up with trapped air bubbles. Hence the need to cut and drill vent holes in the mould after its been made.

While waiting for the mould to “cook” we started on my sculpting tutorial. Rather than actually embarrass myself, I was content to watch Peter work and listen to him as he described the tools and techniques he uses. He also took the time to explain how he designs figures carefully with minimum risk of gaps and unsupported parts that would result in easily torn rubber in the moulds. Peter also showed me the ingredients and proportions he uses for his mixture of sculpting putty and I ended up mixing up several batches as work progressed on several figures over the weekend. Mostly we focussed on an NCO for the new set of Saxon line grenadiers but we also did some work on some greatcoat wearing figures that will emerge in an exciting release some time next year (once some minor problems with production mould quality have been resolved).

In particular I learnt how to get a smooth surface finish on putty, add fine details of various sorts, add buttons, make shoulder swallows for musicians, create wire armatures for limbs and bulk them out with putty, create folds in clothing and make blanket rolls worn bandolier style. Phew, what a lot to absorb! Now I’ve got to go away and practice. If I do a good enough job, Peter’s offered to make up a mould so that I can cast off a few of my own diabolical creations. No pressure there then 🙂

The other job we managed to get done was a short photography session (you can see a glimpse of the output above) and hopefully some of the other shots will be of good enough quality to be used by Dan with my Wargames Illustrated Prussian article. If so, I hope that the article will appear in the next issue.


12 Responses to “Mould-making and sculpting masterclass”

  1. Rob said


    Those saxons look fantastic. If the rest of your pictures turn out half as well, we’re in for a big treat when the WI article sees print.

    Theres alot in your update that I’d love to hear more about… Peter’s work area, the status of the line grenadiers (still hoping for a 2009 release) and those mysterious greatcoat figures… but I keep getting distracted by the pristine yellows and whites in that von Rechten photo. Here’s hoping that you got some closeups of the unit as well!


  2. Alan said

    That was very interesting Martin, there’s a lot of work and skill goes into it that I, for one, was unaware of.

    About a year ago, or perhaps a bit longer, Peter wrote that he was going to produce an accurate French artillery range. Do you know whether that is still going to happen at some point?

  3. Phil said

    “some greatcoat wearing figures that will emerge in an exciting release some time next year”

    what a tease

    • Martin said

      Aha – that’s me. I could say more but I know that Peter F. doesn’t like to build up to much expectation because he’s been caught out in the past by technical problems that delay new releases. Calpe veterans will recall the great vulcanizer disaster of ’08!

      So I tend to respect Peter’s wishes and wait until things are fairly official before revealing details. And, as you know, this is almost always the first place that such things get revealed.

  4. Howdies Martin

    Good to see you back on the air/electron waves after a little hiatus. Of course nothing like my hiatus!!

    It’s also good to see a picture of Peter F’s painted Saxon battalion. Of course you know that one partial shot of the unit is not enough for the fans who are gagging for more don’t you?! 8O)

    Christmas is next month so I’m sniffing around for a present for myself. A Saxon grenadier battalion would be a good start even if mysterious great coated figures won’t be in Santa’s bag of goodies. Time will tell re the grenadiers.

    von Peter himself

  5. Peter said

    Amazing shading on figures esp the whites -please can we know the technique 🙂

    • Martin said

      Sorry Peter, how remiss of me not to have replied to your question. Peter Fitzgerald painted these so I’ll try to remember to ask him about the techniques he employed for you.

      • Yet another Peter here … didn’t Peter F. once do an article on quickly painting large units/armies? I think it was published in an Wargames Soldiers and Strategy, the Spanish magazine, a while back. I’m not sure if it’s available anywhere.

        I wonder if Peter F. has modified his technique since the article.

        von Peter himself

        • Martin said

          Correct. The article, entitled “Painting the Massed Battalions or How to become a Grandee”, appeared in Issue 4 of Wargames Soldiers and Strategy. And I think you’ve hit in the crux of the question – i.e. has Peter F. changed his technique? I know he’s been toying with the Army Painter dip product but I don’t know if he used it on these Saxons or continued with his usual approach. I’ll ask…

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