Modelling Methods

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Here are soem of the methods I've come across when scratchbuilding and converting models.

Bottle top connectors

Card prototypes

Constructing cylinders and cones

Cutting plasticard

Drilling and pinning

Making organic surfaces from tissue paper

Strengthening drinking straws

Using comapsses to construct irregular shapes

Bottle top connectors

To use a bottle cap as a connector you will need the cap from a plastic bottle plus the threaded end of the bottle itself, a short length of plastic rod and two metal pins.

The threaded bottle end should be affixed to one of the parts of the model.

The bottle top needs a small circular hole drilling through it, as does the other part of the model. Also drill a hole through the plastic rod and thread one of the metal pins through it before gluing it in place. Thread the rod through the hole in the bottle cap and then through the model.

Mark the rod where it emerges through the model and remove it.

Drill another hole through the rod were it is marked and then insert it back through the hole in the model.

Finally insert the second pin and glue it in place also.

The bottle cap should now be able to turn freely and screw onto the threaded bottle end on the other part of the model to join them together.


Card prototypes

Sometimes you may have an idea you want to try, but are reluctant to risk using up valuable plasticard. I have often found it useful to first construct a rough prototype from thin cardboard.

This not only gives me an idea of what a model will look like and if it needs altering, but also provide useful templates if needed.

This method can also be used for individual pieces of a model, making a card template to ensure that the plastic piece will fit properly.


Constructing cylinders and cones

The problem with relying on pipes and plastic rod for cylinders is that you are limited to what diameters you can source. Alternatively you can make cylinders from flat plasticard.

You will need some 1mm/0.040” and 0.25mm/0.010” thick plasticard.

  • To start with cut two discs from the 1mm thick plasticard. These should be of the same diameter as the cylinder you want to make.
  • Next you need to make a spacer to keep the discs the correct distance apart. Cut a rectangle of 1mm thick plasticard that is the length of the cylinder minus 2mm (to allow for the thickness of the end plates) by the diameter of the cylinder. Also cut two rectangles of the same length, but half the diameter minus 0.5mm wide.
  • Glue the end of the larger rectangle to one of the end plates so that it runs through the centre point. The other two rectangles are glued to the sides of this forming a cross that extends vertically upwards from the end plate. Glue the second end plate to the top of this. You now have a frame for the cylinder.
  • Cut a strip of 0.25mm plasticard that is as wide as the cylinder is long and long enough to wrap all the way around the frame.
  • Glue one end to the frame. I suggest gluing it over the ends of one of the spacing rectangles but not covering it completely. I also recommend using super glue instead of plastic glue for this because of it rapid drying time.
  • Coat the exposed edges of the end plates and spacers with glue (again I recommend super glue here) and wrap the strip of plasticard around the frame to complete the cylinder.


Cones and flat-topped cones can be made in a similar way. Simply make ends plates of the correct sizes and taper the supporting frame to match.

The strip of plasticard to be wrapped around the frame will need to be an arc shape.

  • For a cone determine the radius by measuring the sloping side of any piece of the frame.
  • For a flat-topped cone place a sloping side of the larger piece of the frame (the one that will have sloping edges on both sides) on the edge of a sheet of paper and mark where the side meets the edge of the paper.
  • Now draw a straight line that follows the other sloping edge, but continues until it too meets the edge of the paper.
  • Where this line meets the edge is the centre point of both arcs, and the two marks are the radii of the inner and outer edges of the arc.


Cutting plasticard

Thin plasticard may be cut with scissor and any thickness is easily cut with a craft knife. Score along the path you wish to cut using a metal ruler as a guide and then snap it. It is better to score the plasticard several times lightly than to attempt a single heavy cut. The thicker the sheets the deeper the score will need to be.

Cutting curves is slightly more complicated. I typically cut a straighter path outside the path of the curve before scoring the curve itself. Then I use cutters to cut from the edge to the scored curve to turn the single piece that needs to be broken off into many smaller pieces that are easily removed by hand or with pliers.

For an internal curve, unless you have a specialised hole cutter of the correct size you will need to keep cutting until your knife has cut through the plasticard completely. I have yet to find a quicker ort easier way.

After cutting plasticard can be filed and sanded for a better fit or finish, especially for curved edges.


Drilling and pinning

This is a simple method of strengthening a join between two parts of a model. Drill a small hole in one piece where you want the join to be, and then drill a matching hole in the other piece. Insert a short piece of wire into one hole and glue it in place. Then apply glue to the exposed length of wire and the area around it before placing the other piece of the model so that the exposed wire fits inside the second hole.

The model is now held together not only by the glue directly between the two pieces, but also the glue along the length of the wire, making it much stronger.


Making ‘organic’ surfaces from tissue paper

Coating flat plasticard with tissue paper can make an irregular, organic looking surface.

Coat the plasticard surface with watered down PVA glue and apply pieces of tissue paper until it is entirely covered. When this dries the surface will have a irregular textured appearance to it.


Strengthening drinking straws

A drinking straw can easily be strengthened to either allow it bear weight, or prevent damage if it is intended to protrude from a model, such as being used to form a chimney.

Simply take more lengths of straw the same size as the first and slice them open along their entire length. This allows them to be compressed slightly and inserted into the original straw to thicken it as required. They can then be glued in place if needed.


Using compasses to construct irregular shapes

Sometimes you may wish to construct an irregular shape where distances and angles between adjacent corners are not easily measured. This occurs when copying an existing shape or wishing to fill in a gap. I find that a pair of compasses is very effective for achieving this as follows:

  • Decide which edge of the shape will be your starting edge. Draw a line on the material you wish to cut longer than this and mark one end as your starting point.
  • Placing the compasses against you starting edge (on the model or object you are copying) set them to a distance equal to the length of this edge. Then place the compass point on your starting pointing on your material and use it to draw a small arc that crosses the straight line. This is your next corner.
  • Now pick another corner of the irregular shape that is adjacent to either of the corners of your starting edge. Place the compass point at either corner of the starting edge on the object being copied and set the distance to this next corner. Returning the compasses to your material place the point on the mark representing the corner you have just measured from and draw an arc. Now repeat from the other corner of the starting edge. Where the two arcs meet is the location of the new corner. Draw in the edge you now have.
  • Repeat this until you have your complete shape, taking a measurement from any two corners and drawing arcs to find the relative position of any other corner and filling in the edges as you go.
  • The shape can now be cut out.

Background image miniature design copyright Game Workshop Ltd

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