This article provides an overview of the tools and materials I use when converting minis. If there is something else you use that isn’t listed, or if you have any questions, I’d love to hear from you. For all prices mentioned below, please assume they are referring to US dollars.
List of Tools and Materials:
- Blue-Tac / Poster-Tac
- Hobby Knife
- Sprue nippers
- Needle-Nose Pliers
- Cutting Mat
- CA (Cyanoacrylate) / Super-Glue
- Brass Rod
- Brass Tubing
- Brass Sheet
- Plastic Rod
- Plastic Tubing
- Plastic Sheet
- Small metal chain
- Wire Cutter
- Tubing Cutter
- Sculpting Tools
- Petroleum Jelly
- Pin Vice
- Drill Bits
- Needle Files
- Moto-tool and bits
So, that’s a pretty long list, and I hear you saying, “All that seems expensive!”
In part, you are correct. Each and every item on that list, though most cost just a few dollars, can add up to a lot. The good news, is that:
1) You don’t need all of those things to get started, and
2) With just a few basic items, you can be modifying minis in no time.
3) Almost everything you buy will be good for several miniatures, so the cost averages out the more models you do.
The bare minimum items you should have from the list above are:
- Blue Tac
- Hobby Knife
- Pin vice with bits
- CA/Super Glue
- Pro weld
- Small Brass Rod or wire
The total cost for the above items should be around $30. The “big ticket” items being the pin vice (probably around $15 – $20), hobby knife and blades (around $3-$5) and Pro Weld, around $6.
What is Blue Tac? Also known as poster tac, Blue Tac is a gummy substance used for damage-free hanging of posters on walls. It is available at any Walmart or probably even dollar store, and is essential for every miniature conversion you will do.
Why? Because before (or sometimes after) you go hacking off weapons and limbs, heads, legs, and accessories, and before you go gluing carefully selected and tailored bits and pieces into place, you have to get an idea of how the mini will look. At the outset of each conversion, you will have a general idea of the base mini you are going to use, of the type of figure you are seeking to make, and the types of bits you will either remove or add to the model. Sometimes, though, a bit will not look the way you want, or fit with the mini the way you initially envisioned. In those cases, it is much better to use Blue Tac to pose and position your minis prior to pinning, gluing, and assembling your figures. Any changes you would want to make after a figure is glued become much harder and tedious to accomplish.
A hobby knife is a necessity for everything from cleaning mold lines to cutting off bits. You will probably use this tool more than any other in your workshop.
Pin Vice with Bits
A pin vice is a little gizmo which tightens and loosens to hold the tiny drill bits you will be using when assembling your figures. One of the most basic techniques, which I will cover in greater detail, is “Pinning.” Pinning is used when replacing weapons, positioning arms, and generally whenever plastic and metal, or metal and metal, are joined together with CA/superglue. (hereafter, when I say CA, it means super glue). Pinning makes your conversions stronger, and more able to withstand being transported and played with. You’ve put a lot of work into those figs, you want them to withstand the fun you’ll have with them!
CA is the most frequently used type of glue when joining metal to metal, or plastic to metal. You will use a ton of it and you can get it just about anywhere, like Walmart, convenience stores, and hobby shops.
Proweld is a liquid chemical used to bond plastic to plastic. It is useful for 40k minis that are all plastic, or for doing anything with plastic card, plastic rod, or plastic tubing. It is nasty stuff, so be careful with it and don’t get it on your skin. It literally melts both sides of the plastic together, creating an almost solid piece of plastic once it dries. You will find this almost exclusively at your local hobby shop. Ambroid and Plastruct are two brands that make it.
Brass Rod / Wire
Small brass rod is used primarily for pinning. You will pin arms, weapons, heads, figures to bases, and just about anything you can think of where you are joining two pieces together. Pinning makes the figs stronger and you’ll be happier for it. You can find brass rod at your local hobby shop. You can also use wire (available at Walmart, craft stores, or possibly the supermarket), but the diameter of wire tends to be a bit too narrow.
Larger diameters of brass rod are also used for modifying weapons and other modeling. There are times where you wish to extend the length of a hammer, or perhaps a polearm, and adding a length of brass rod, either as it is or possibly covered by sculpted greenstuff, serves the purpose nicely.
The list above will get you started. These basic tools will enable you to swap weapons, add accessories, change arms, legs, heads, and spruce up stock miniatures.
Customized figs make the game come alive. Similar to sketching your character or developing a back story, customization of your miniature gives you a unique character whose adventures will be unmatched.
Next post will be a more in-depth look at some of the other tools you can use, as well as some ideas on how to get started.