An enjoyable part of miniatures wargaming for me is the modelling and creative aspects. I can’t sculpt for the life of me, so I have to buy my figures, but I’m lucky enough to be a fairly reasonable modeller and so I always scratchbuild terrain for my games.
This is just a short piece about how I go about making windows for my models. You can, of course, use this technique to make many other bits but since some buildings require a good many windows then it can be time-consuming and laborious to make individual windows over and over again.
In brief, what I do is make a single window, cast it, and then mould all the windows I need for the project.
And here’s how I do it.
The first step is to make the master. I use plasticard and styrene rod/strue. Take some time, because this is the one you’re going to be using to cast so any imperfections in this one will mean all the windows will be imperfect. Since you only have to do this once it pays to spend a bit of time.
I make the window on a piece of thin (1mm?) styrene. I then cut this out, around the frame, and then sand all edges and joints (using a bit of filler if you need to). When that’s done you then stick it to another piece of thick styrene. This is so the mould will be indented and gives a bit of slop around the edges and also something to get hold of.
Then on to the moulding. I use a product called Oyumaru modelling compound. Google it or have a look on Amazon (that’s where I got it). It’s quite cheap. Put this in a cup of boiling hot water for 10 minutes and it goes all sticky and tacky, like soft toffee.
You then take this and squeeze it around the master making sure you get it in all the nooks and crannies. Then pop it into the fridge for 10 minutes, the mould hardens (it’s still fairly pliable – like a rubber/eraser) and you can start casting!
So, what to use for casting? You could use plaster. But that would be far too brittle for a subject such as this. Plaster also chips quite easily. What I use is epoxy resin. You can use Araldite if you want, but that’s the expensive way. I use a similar budget brand (Wilkos or Wickes is what I go for) 5 minute epoxy.
Yes, gram for gram, there are even cheaper options. If you think you will need a gallon of resin then I am sure that would work out cheaper (gram for gram). But what I want is roughly a dozen or so castings and for £3 I can get that out of a pack of Wilkos rapid set epoxy. Just £3. You try buying that many lead castings for that price. You may be able to use car body filler in it. I don’t know, I don’t have any car body filler so if anyone does give it a go then please do let me know how it went.
It’s a good idea to colour the epoxy. I use a tiny (and I really do mean a tiny) blob of acrylic paint. It’s surprising how far a little goes. Colouring the resin is better because it shows any imperfections better than a clear casting. I also use a cocktail stick to push the resin into the corners and burst air bubbles.
It may be 5 minute epoxy but you are still using it thicker than intended. So, for something like a window, I’ll leave it for 30-60 minutes (depending on ambient temperature) before taking it out. Even then you will find the casting is still flexible. That’s OK. Lay it flat and by the morning it will be fully set.
Another note of caution. I have used it to cast some very thick things before and if you do it can generate a lot of heat! Be aware. For something like a window and door that’s not going to happen.
And that’s that – all done. If you can make multiple moulds then you can form a production line and in no time you’ll have all the windows you’ll need.
I tend to use this method if I have to make repeated items, especially if making them is going to tricky or onerous. The good thing is that you always have the master so you can make new castings for future projects. Here’s some of the windows and spare castings I have from previous projects.
The Oyumaru modelling compound is re-usable. So if the mould does get a bit worn, or if you you want to make a different mould, then just put it in a mug of hot water, let it soften and recast it. That simple. From a pack of 5 minute epoxy I can get 20-25 castings depending on the size.
– Stephen Tucker