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Working with Resin

Submitted By: Shas'Oink Date: April 12, 2011, 03:52:56 PM Views: 2657
Summary: A summary of working with resin model kits, including information on tools you may need and tips for preparation and assembly.

There’s no doubting it, Forge World (as well as a many other resin model manufacturers) have some of the most detailed, and frankly awesome miniatures likely to be part of your army! Many people are put off by the price tag of some of these, but generally speaking they are good value, and in some cases much better value than GW alternatives! Forge World produce a whole host of different models covering most armies, and other manufacturers produce models which can quite easily find their way into your force too. It won’t be too long before you want to add some of these to your own force, or simply to have as a showcase piece, and at that point it is imperative to understand that resin is a very different material to the plastic and metal that you will have become accustomed to.

This article will explain a little bit more about resin, resin kits and how to work with resin, as well as some of the tools or tricks that you will find useful. It is divided into two sections; the first will cover a little about resin, the tools you may need and your work area; the second section will cover how to go about tackling a resin kit itself.

Resin is essentially a viscous plant secretion that hardens once it's dry. It has a variety of uses, from construction purposes to museum preservation and even for as a bowling ball component. Resin models can use natural resins, but more commonly synthetic resins and vinyl mixtures are used to create the final product.

Resin is a specialised material that often needs some degree of special care and attention. It is important to know that some resin can contain carcinogenic chemicals which have been linked to cancer. Of course, it seems that everything these days causes cancer, but nevertheless it pays to be careful and it is never good to have fine dust particles in your lungs! We will go through ways to keep safe a little later.

Resin is easy to manipulate and form into molds, which allows it to achieve much finer detail that plastic and metal. This is why Forge World kits can have so much fine detail! Unfortunately, the side effect is that resin tends to be much more brittle. We will go through ways to work with resin later also.

Resin is also often used even by amateur model makers to cast their own models or make multiples of their very own conversions. However resin casting is a completely different subject and will not be covered in this article.

Resin kits
The type or size of kit you are working on may dictate the tools that you will need. The vast array of model kits can be broken down into three broad groups;

1: Add on kits
Add on sets are usually small pieces which provide variations or additions to a model - such as representing wargear items. Though similar sounding to conversion kits I generally consider only small sets within this category. An example might be Chimera side skirts or things like molded bases, shields or shoulder pads / guards. These sets tend to be a good starting place because they ease you into working on small quantities of resin.

2: Conversion kits
These are kits which are usually used to convert existing models. Whilst add on kits are also used to convert models, conversion kits as I see them are much more complex. Common examples include vehicle variants. Some conversion kits can be bought with the set they are meant to be used with, others not, so be sure you are aware of this when buying. The important thing here is that there will be a greater degree of modeling and skill required and that the final model will usually be made up of a mixture of resin, plastic or metal parts (sometimes all three!)

3: Complete resin kits
These models tend to be some of the more impressive and awe inspiring. They would include things like titans or monsters - but increasingly you will find all resin scenery as well. Of course, these also include complete resin armies, such as the Death Korps of Krieg - including all of their infantry, artillery and many of their vehicle sets! Complete resin kits should not be taken on lightly, particularly the larger sets such as the aforementioned titans as these will be time consuming affairs that may be likely to test your skills. Of course, the final result is usually more than worth the effort!

It sounds silly, but be aware of the type of kit that you will be making, including it’s scale, so that you can prepare a suitable work area, and gather the necessary tools etc.

What tools?
The following items will be useful for making resin models. This list is not exhaustive, and you may not need all of these items for every model. Over time, people will tend to find what works best for them.

Dust mask
A cleaning brush
Cleaning fluid: such as washing up liquid
A soaking pot: big, or small, but enough for the models parts
Sand paper
A range of files: and in different sizes appropriate to the model being made
A sharp craft knife with replacement blades
A cutting mat
A saw
Modeling putty (i.e: green stuff)
Sculpting tools
Glues: Epoxy, Superglue and sometimes even PVA
A drill: hand powered or hand held
A range of drill bits
Paperclips: for pinning parts together - find over sized paperclips for large models.
Magnets: as a way of being able to dismantle large models / parts particularly for packing.

Of course, you will need a clean and clear work space too, and this should be in a well lit area with ample ventilation. Be wary though, that you want to avoid a breeze as this will only serve to spread dust particles, which you want to avoid, particularly if you’re in the family home! Depending on the size and scale of the kit you may want to have some sort of dust extractor to help control the air flow, or keep a vacuum cleaner or dustpan and brush handy so you can keep the work area clean and as dust free as possible. On that note, if you can lock the work area when you are not there this will help keep others safe, particularly young, inquisitive children.

I know it sounds like a lot, but the most important thing when dealing with resin models is preparation. It is imperative to take the time and effort to set off on the right foot, failure to do so can sometimes lead to horribly disheartening results or effects (as you will read later). This starts with setting up the right work area, but extends into preparing the model too.

When you receive your kit you should check it for any major defects. Some things may be apparent, such as air bubbles and warping. Both of these are associated with resin kits and can mostly be rectified. However, sometimes a part might be mis-molded, or a particularly large air bubble may have formed across significant details. In those cases, you should first contact the supplier / manufacturer. As mentioned though, for the most part these molding defects can be resolved and we will go through these below.

This section of the article will first cover getting the resin ready for construction and then add some tips for actually fixing the different parts of your model.

Okay, When I build Forge World kits I tend to prepare some luke warm water to clean the different parts. Depending on how greasy they feel will depend on how much they need to be cleaned. This “grease” is the release agent from the mold, so the greasier a part feels, or shinier it is, the more release agent is present and the more you might have to go at them. This is where a cleaning brush can be useful. You need something with stiff enough bristles to remove the grease, but not abrasive enough to damage the model. A toothbrush should do the trick (though make sure it’s used only for resin models!).

I usually add a small amount of washing up liquid to the water in a bowl or container and leave parts to soak... sometimes overnight. Some people will suggest alternative cleaning chemicals, although to begin with at least it’s probably safest to stick to the above. It’s a good idea to concentrate your cleaning efforts around the very fine details and deep recesses. In very rare circumstances it can seem impossible to clean the release agent off and if you are having particular trouble then it might be a good idea to contact the supplier / manufacturer. One suggestion to help solve this may be to use a mild abrasive.

I cannot stress enough the importance of making sure that your models are clean and completely free of the release agent. I have seen paint literally peel off of a resin model because the owner had not got all of the agent off of the detailing. It is easier to spend time cleaning now than it is to go back and match in an awesome paint job later. With that in mind, if cleaning and brushing didn’t work the first time, or second, then ask for further advice and someone might be able to help decide on something available to you in your area.

Only once a model is completely clean and free from any release agent can you start to prepare it for construction safe in the knowledge that glues, green stuff and paint won’t have any trouble!

Working in your prepared work area you should assess the different parts that make up the model. As with metal, and plastic kits there will be a degree of flashing or excess as a result of the casting process. You need to work out what is not needed from each part and the best way to get rid of it. For instance, sandpaper can be used on large models to get rid of flashing or to smooth areas, a craft knife can also do this to a degree. Sometimes you will need a saw to get through particularly thick parts, other times you might just need to use some files to tidy up areas.

Whatever the need, resin can be brittle, so be careful when working with the parts. I tend to use a knife for most things, as you can normally shave slithers of resin away using one... but the most important thing is to use the tools you would usually use for other models (i.e: things you are comfortable with).

Resin can also be susceptible to air bubbles, and for the most part these can be dealt with using some modeling putty (e.g: green stuff). I find it quickest to carry out any filling once all the parts have been washed and clipped, filed & cleaned up etc. That way I can mix up the putty and push it neatly into the offending areas. Have a moist sculpting tool handy to work and flatten this, though it is good to remember that once dry you can file down green stuff anyway. This helps you to get a perfectly smooth finish.

Dry Fitting
Once the parts are all cleaned up you can begin to dry fit your model. This is where you check to see how the kit goes together (sometimes kits are supplied without instructions). This can help you decide the pose for your model or if some areas need some extra preparation to help them meet neatly. It will also help you see which parts may be warped. Whilst this is usually obvious on larger models (and more prevalent) it can be difficult to spot warped bits on smaller kits.

Things like Titans and Tau Battle Suits produced by Forge World have a high degree of pose-ability and dry fitting can really help you to understand the model capabilities and put together a dynamic character. It is a good idea to use some blu-tac (or local equivalent) to temporarily hold parts together whilst you work this out. 

When you do come across warped parts the process of reshaping them is actually fairly straightforward. Warping occurs when the molded part, having been removed from the mold, cooled at an undesirable rate. By re-heating the part, it becomes more malleable and you can bend it back. In some circumstances the part will spring back to shape on its own! (this has happened to me when re-heating a Vulture Gunship Canopy).

You should use warm water to heat the part up, too cold and it won’t work, but too hot and you can damage yourself and the resin. Put this into a suitable waterproof container, such as a small pot, bucket or Tupperware. Do NOT use boiling water, as you will want to have your hands in the water in order to bend the part back into shape. I tend to find that hot water out of a bathroom sink does the trick, and this tends to not be much warmer than 40 degrees (104 F). You will be able to feel the part soften up and will be able to manipulate its position slightly, you still need to be careful not to break anything of course. You will probably have to hold the part in place for a while as it cools in order to help it keep its new shape, and you may have to repeat the process several times for it to stick for good.

Actually physically putting the model together might, by this point, be a relatively straightforward process. You can use regular super glue or epoxy to fix parts, ensuring that you have dry fit all pieces first of course. When gluing large surfaces it is often advisable to score along both parts to create ridges which will give the glue more area to grip on to. As superglue can itself be particularly brittle once dry, I have even tried adding a little bit of PVA into the mix. I found this helped soften it up a little and reduce it’s brittleness. I would only really advise this when working with very large models (and to be fair by that point you would probably be better off using epoxy resin glue).

Larger models or parts will need a little more attention that just glue. Particularly when large heavy elements are involved and even more true when you are trying to push the boundaries of a dynamic pose. At this point you will want to pin parts together for added security. The process is exactly the same as when pinning other models and again is really the subject of a separate article. Whilst resin tends to be lighter than metal, it does still have a considerable weight to it and this is paired with it’s inherent brittleness. You don’t want a pinned part falling, only to break into more pieces! As such, don’t think that you can over do it!

For my Revenant Titan I not only used super sized paper clips for the pins, but put multiple pins to some of the connections and some of the pins were up to two inches long!

By now you should hopefully have enough information to help you get your resin models put together. You will have some idea of how to prepare both your work area and your model kit. You will hopefully also have a good idea of what to expect as well as what you may need. However, if you ever need any more help or information then there is a wealth of knowledge out there in the many other modelers that have gone before you. If ever in doubt, ask!

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