I have, on occasion, written about how I look at other flavours of the modelling and painting hobby to find ideas and inspiration to bring back to improve my own work. Quite often, it’s involved looking at the activities of large scale (54mm and above) figure painters but every once in a while the idea comes from even further out. In today’s instance, I’ve decided to experiment with something that I found when watching some videos made by a member of the gunpla (or gundam plastic) modelling community. If you haven’t come across it before, gunpla is a niche modelling community that devotes its energies to kits depicting the mechas, vehicles and characters of the fictional Gundam universe by Bandai. It’s extremely popular in Japan and South East Asia but has spread to Europe and North America. Which is handy for me because the videos I’ve been watching have English narrations!
So what’s it all about? If you were paying attention at the end of my last posting, I mentioned that I’ve been getting to grips with my (now not so) new airbrush. Without getting ahead of myself, one of the most productive uses I’ve found for the airbrush is priming figures. But I’ve run into a slightly messy problem with the way I mount figures for painting. Until now, I’ve favoured blutacking the figures to plastic bottle tops and this has had many advantages – it’s cheap (we have lots of spare bottle tops passing through our house), it’s easy and the grips on the bottle tops are a neat aid to twisting and turning the figures when I’m painting.
But when I’m handling figures mounted that way and using an airbrush instead of a conventional paint brush, can you guess what happens? Yep, I’ve been getting a lot of primer on my pinkies. Sure, I could buy disposable plastic gloves but that’s another expense and I suspect it would actually be pretty fiddly when it comes to removing the gloves. And that’s where this video came to the rescue. I love how people are creative with re-purposing common objects for something different. In this case, look what you can do with some crocodile clips, a few wooden BBQ skewers and a bit of of polystyrene packaging.
Since seeing this video, of course, I’ve come across this idea being used already all over the place, particularly by aircraft and military vehicle modellers. So you probably knew about it before me. Still, you’ll be seeing plenty more of those crocodile clips on sticks from me in future – so you’d better start getting used to them.
The fringe benefit of this way of holding figures is that is avoids a seasonal problem I’ve observed with the blutack method. During warm Summer days, I’ve noticed that the Blutack softens and, mainly on heavier figures like horses, its grip on keeping the figure securely attached to the bottle top becomes tenuous. I’ve had a few pieces gradually keel to one side in slow motion necessitating a pause in painting to firmly reposition the wayward figure.
There is one footnote to this idea. While we all have easy access to polystyrene packaging and BBQ sticks are sold in almost every supermarket as soon as the Summer arrives, getting hold of crocodile clips takes a bit more effort. Especially if you want to get a lot of them at a reasonable price. Frankly I was shocked a the prices charged by some big name high street retailers – and the meagre quantities in the packs. Those of you in the United Kingdom may be amazed to learn that Halfords charge £1.69 for a pack of two and Maplins charge £1.59 each! Prices correct at the time of writing, as they say. Alright, both come with plastic sleeves but I don’t need those. So instead, I turned to searching Amazon and eBay and was quickly able to source a pack of 20 for the princely sum of £6. A unit price of only 30p.