I had a good long chat with Brian Nelson at Games Day today. He clearly knows his onions… or Super Sculpey anyway. I asked him mostly about choice of putties, sculpting eyes and hands and making armatures.
It seems to be the case that most of the Design Team use Super Sculpey for three ups, Fimo for 30 mm and Duro where they need the putty to hold detail, the main exception to this rule being Aragorn Marks, late of Rackham, who seems to solely use his own blend of Fimo Soft and Mix Quick, and the sculptors who specialise in CAD (or CAS?), who use a computer! This is particularly the case for sculpting eyes. He said that he will normally sculpt the head with Super Sculpey but leave the eye sockets as two depressions and then cook it. Next he fills the sockets with Duro and then leaves it for fifteen minutes or so because the reaction between the resin and the hardener is exothermic and so will cause the putty to expand which will soften or round any details already applied to it resulting in the need to rework areas. He also recommended using Duro in thin layers where possible in order to reduce the effect of this expansion. I mentioned during the conversation that I’d had trouble with Fimo cracking with multiple cookings and he suggested trying the same thing. Thinner layers should have less contraction, so it might work.
When it comes to hands, I mentioned the problems I’d had sculpting the open hands on my Wood Elf Blood Bowl Catcher and he gave me an interesting solution. It’s easier to sculpt a hand which is gripping or resting on something because this gives you something to press against so he suggested finding a round object to put the hand on in order to sculpt the back of it and then to remove it from this when cured and then sculpt the inside of the hand. Doing this will also give a more natural shape to the hand; a round object for an open hand or a cylindrical object for a relaxed hand. This has now given me the idea of sculpting a Blood Bowl team each with hands in a position where they can actually hold the ball, rather than placing it on the base. This might not look so good on the Linemen though. He mentioned that he’d tried to make an armature for an Orc hand once using a piece of metal tube and cutting slits in the end to splay out for the fingers but it was fiddly and he reckoned he wouldn’t bother doing it again.
Lastly, he told me how they make their armatures, which is quite different to how I’ve been doing it. I’ve been following Jacques-Alexandre Gillois’ method, which, I believe, was taught to him by Mike McVey. For this you take a piece of wire and fold it in half. The fold can be bent slightly and will become the neck and head. A section is left doubled up for the spine and then separated by folding out double right angles to create the hips and legs. Another piece of wire with a jink in it is then attached to make the collar bone, shoulders and arms. The GW Design Team take a much simpler approach and put one piece of wire into a cork. They then solder two concentric arch shaped pieces to the first piece, the smaller one at the bottom and the larger one at the top. These also meet the cork. They then snip the whole lot from the cork and turn it upside down and bend the limbs in the opposite direct. This gives arms and legs. The neck, which was the bit in the cork, can then be hooked over to hold the head and there is a tail, which can be snipped off for humans or, presumably, left on for other creatures, making this method a bit more versatile too. Additionally, I’ve been using paper clips for most of my armatures but they can fatigue and snap from being bent and rebent too much but he said that they use tin coated copper wire, usually 0.9 mm for 3 ups and 0.5 mm for 30 mm figures.
Definitely lots here to have a try at in the next year.