Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Working with resin (What Forgeworld don't tell you)

Greetings one and all, a few posts ago I promised to share some of the insights that I have gathered over the course of making an absolute ton of Forgeworld models. Especially some of the little nuggets of information that Forgeworld don't tend to mention...

Before I get started I think I should say, I like Forgeworld for the most part. They give a pleasing variety to the 40k universe. But if you were to go on their online reputation you would think that they walk on water. People tend to treat Forgeworld as though they can do no wrong, often while bashing similar Citadel kits. I feel that people deserve to know exactly what they are getting into before laying out the kind of cash their models deserve. So I think the best way to do this is to present each little nugget of information and my attendant musings. The first thing that struck me was:

1) Do not expect instructions.

Seriously, one of the kits I was working on was worth £300 and had no advice, no assembly diagrams. Just photographs of finished sections.

There was going to be a photograph of the Warp Hunter instructions here but then Mulder pointed out that it was copyright material and sharing it would be... wonky.

The warp hunter kit was a particular annoyance. This is a hybrid plastic and resin kit. There is one photograph to assemble it by. One. There is not one page of help with assembling the plastic kits. Gods help you if you haven't made a falcon before. Now they do say that you need modelling experiance to make these kits. I have 33 years of experiance. I struggled in places. Is it unreasonable to expect instructions on kits that often cost a lot more than the plastic equivalents? I'm not asking for CAD diagrams. Just have a staff member assemble each kit, take a picture at each stage and write a sentence to expain each tricky bit. Sadly, there is no way for me to offer you a solution to this problem (unless some maniac buys one of every kit and then I'll freely make available a YouTube assembly guide for every Forgeworld model on the planet!). I'm hoping if enough of us pressure Forgeworld then they might make the effort. Anyway, on to:

2) Resin is lovely to work with but you really don't get second chances

Simple little point here but worth making. Resin is soft and easy to carve, saw, sand and glue. Trouble is, unlike metal which gives you a couple of seconds of superglue drying time. Resin grabs it that instant and never lets go. It isn't strong enough for you to brute force it apart. Check the fit of parts, dry fit and check the pose. Make sure that you are ready before you ever pick up that glue. Read this story of woe as a cautionary tale!

3) Bendy resin is bendy.

This is the perennial resin problem. I want to share my methods of fixing it!

This Hornet pulse laser is very, very bent. Forgeworld (indeed almost everyone) recommend using hot water to heat the parts to make them flexible and fix this. Trouble is, hot water is a bit of a sledgehammer to crack a nut. There are problems with it. It is messy, difficult to maintain a temperature that will heat the resin without scalding you and you have to be fast to get it to the right temperature that will move but not so warm that it will just droop in your hands. My solution?

First of all, if you want the part straight then make a splint. If the part is very bent you may need to coarsly straighten it out with fingers first or risk the part shattering. Note that I have achieved tension around the tank brush handle before looping just one strand of rubber band around the part. This prevents the rubber bands from exerting too much force and damaging the sculpting.

Next, a tool that recieves almost as much use as brushes. An elderly travel hairdryer. Travel for size and after all, you just need it to gently blow hot air. Weirdly the worse it is for hair the better it is for models! With this I dry off washes, cook primer coats and heat resin. In this case I heat the gun and allow the tension to do the work for me. Once you think it has gotten warm take the heat away and let the part cool. It will then be solid in it's new configuration.

More organic shapes need to be done by eye but if you need straight lines then splints are the way forward.

4) The quality of fit and casting is variable. Plasticard shims are your friend!

Seriously, I was surprised by this. Some parts are crisp and beautiful, some are soft and malformed. Forgeworld to their credit are fantastic at customer service and if you've got a problem they will fix it. But surely a few moments of quality control would cut down on the need for that excellent service? Anyway, how to fix problems, not bitch about them:

Some of the parts are just too thick or stiff to reshape with heat. There will be a gap. Yes, you could break out the green stuff and fill the space but there is a simpler way. First, you need a few different thicknesses of plasticard (I use strip stock for this kind of work) it is inexpensive and fairly easy to get hold of. Choose an appropriate thickness to bridge the gap, cut it to roughly the right shape and glue it to one of the parts. Then check the fit again, sand the plasticard down a bit if you need to adjust the fit.

Then, glue the remaining parts into place and with a brand spanky new blade on the craft knife, trim the plasticard to shape. Once primed you won't see even a little bit of this. Quicker and more certain than green stuff and will actually help the structural strength of the model.

This is ultrashim. A stacked pile of plasticard strips to bridge the gap between the top of the plug and the top of the socket. To easily determine the thickness needed just measure the depth of the socket and the height of the plug. Subtract one from the other and add plasticard to the required depth! When you are stacking plasticard like this use plastic glue to hold the layers together as it will fuse the stack into a solid plastic piece. Superglue will then bond this to the resin.

5) Tool tips:

This is regularly covered in other resin guides so I'll just run over the basics of my methods here:

  • Side Cutters - put them away! They are not resin's friend. Unlike ductile metal and plastic, brittle resin will not endure the sort of pressure that clippers exert. It will just shatter. Put them away and turn instead to:
  • Razor Saws - these thin braced saws are the daddy for this sort of work. They glide through those thick casting plugs and leave a perfect, straight surface. To clean it up you'll need:
  • Sanding sticks - essentially just sandpaper glued to foamboard. This is my favourite way to smooth the surface of resin. I generally use back scraping with knives on metal and plastic but resin gets sanded. Just remember to wear a decent dust mask because your lungs do not enjoy resin dust (resin isn't inherently dangerous, your lungs don't like any small particles in them).
  • Sharp knives - you need to avoid pressure on resin at all costs. A regular new blade in the scalpel might feel extravagant but 50p worth of knife vs a £50 kit? Stick a brand new blade in the knife and glide through that resin.
And that is it. My thoughts on working with resin and a few pitfalls that Forgeworld don't mention. I wish that they would get on top of the instruction thing. Its amateur hour. What I would expect from a garage casting operation, not a wing of a multi-million pound company. If they could just put a few "heads-up" type comments it would be a help. I appreciate that they don't want to make it look hard to use their kits - and it isn't all that bad - but it isn't working! I guarentee that a HUGE number of forgeworld purchases just sit in their boxes for years because of intimidation. Until next time folks.



  1. As always - Sage Advice.

    Resin is sometimes a right pain to use, and the biggest issue in my mind is that the quality and toughness of the resin is variable.

    Some suppliers have hard resin, more like plastic kits, others use soft resin that can have a structure more like hard foam.

    You comments about dry-fit are very well directed when dealing with resin; dry-fit, dry-fit again and then dry-fit again, before stretching for the glue.

    Finally, I also like to use accelerator with my superglue, so the bond is instantaneous - no chance for a second chance!

    Thanks for the post.


  2. Good advice, as you say it wouldnt be so bad if you were dealing with £10 worth of kit, but some of the forgeworld stuff is in the hundreds, thats a lot of money to waste.

    I do love some of the stuff that forge world put out, especially now that they are pushing in to fantasy aswell. But have always hated the way people talk about them as if they are some small independant company who only work for the love of the game, instead of what they really are, just another arm of the workshop...

  3. Great guide. Lots of usefull pointers concisely written. I love my iG Forgeworld bits n pieces, but as an inexperienced resin modeller found working with (small) kits daunting. I definately feel put off buying larger fw kits due to lack of instructions... they'd of at least had a malcador out of me now if I thought I wouldnt make a complete mess of it!

  4. I've found myself using pinning quite a bit with resin to help ensure good fits. Dry fit, drill, fit completely perfectly and stay in place forever. Or until I really mess that model up lol.