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Advanced Miniature Construction Techniques

Article by Paul Nortness

Meet Farallax. He is a young ice dragon. Farallax enjoys cruising dungeons, freezing knights and gathering hordes of treasure. But before he can do all those fun things, we must build him.

In this tutorial, we will be learning an advanced building technique called "pinning".

We will also learn how to make seams disappear using Green Stuff. In order to build our dragon friend, we will need snips, a pin vise with drill bit, a thin metal rod, emery boards, a fine metal file, CA glue and Green Stuff.

Farallax is actually a "Silver Dragon" from Reaper Miniatures. He comes in 6 pieces, head, body, tail, arm and two wings. This is a decent size model and CA glue alone will not give a strong enough bond for the larger parts. In order to strengthen the joints we will insert small pins between the two pieces being joined.


Let's get the tail out of the way first. As you can see in the picture, we have a small gap to contend with. What you can't see in the picture is that I have to hold these two parts together using a fair amount of pressure. The first thing I need to do is file off any deformities from the casting process. This will help with the gap and make the fit better. Doing this will also help the glue bond to the metal as well. Once I have filed both pieces, it is time to grab the pin vise.

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This is a pin vise with a very small drill bit.

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It works wonders for projects like this. This tool is also very handy for drilling holes for weapons pylons on aircraft models, or making holes for ignition wires on engines of car models. I want to drill a hole right in the middle of the tail where it connects with the main body. Once I have my hole drilled, I need to get my pin. For most projects, I use good old paper clips. Just a little snip should do it. Now that I have my pin, it's time to put it into the guide hole. Pick it up with a pair of tweezers (these little buggers can be squirrely) then insert it into the hole. It should be about half-way in.

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Now, I will need to drill a hole into the main body where the tail connects. I dab a little black ink (paint will work too) onto the end of the pin and line up the parts. This gives me a reference point so I know where the pin will be. Now, I will just drill until I feel I have gone deep enough. Then a quick test fit, and repeat if need be. One thing about using the pin vise is to make sure you go slowly! Going too fast can damage the drill bit. It is very easy to bend these little drill bits because of their size.

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The picture above was taken prior to glue. The only thing holding the tail in place is the pin. Pretty cool, huh? Now I will glue the tail in place using CA glue. The extra strength the pin provides will be enough to keep the tail in place. Now I need to repeat the same process with the arm. Now that the main body is built, I want to go through and gently smooth out any mold lines or blemishes. Mold lines are formed where the two halves of the mold meet in the casting process. They are typically pretty small, but can ruin the look of a miniature if not addressed.

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OK I have addressed all the mold lines and blemishes, it is time to attach the head. The head is a relatively small piece and has a large contact patch with the main body so I won't need to pin the head. I just apply CA glue and attach it.

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Looking fierce, Farallax! Next up are the wings. The wing needs to have the mold lines removed as well. These lines appear on the edge of the wing, so I will file the edges to remove the line. I will also cut away any blemishes and round down the spikes on the wing tips with the file. Now that the wings have been prepared I am ready to attach them. Because of the slot and groove used to attach the wings, pinning will prove difficult. So I will turn to 5 minute epoxy to attach the wings. The epoxy is thick so it will also work to fill some of the gap left inside the groove.

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The epoxy will take some time (5 minutes to be exact) to take hold, but when it does it will be there for good so I need to make sure the wings are positioned perfectly. You may be asking "if epoxy is so strong, why not just use it for the entire model instead of pinning?" Well smarty pants, the answer is simple. First off, if I did that I wouldn't be able to teach you all how to pin your miniatures. Furthermore, Epoxy is very hard to control and get precise applications. It's also a much thicker glue so it doesn't work well for the smaller parts.

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Hey, look out Harstov! There is a giant dragon behind you!

Once the glue has dried and all the parts are secure, we can begin filling the seams. This is pretty easy with Citadel's new Liquid Green Stuff. Just apply the Liquid Green Stuff with a brush and dab off the excess with a paper towel. This will keep the detail around the seam while leaving the putty in the seam itself. Let it dry and repeat as necessary. Once your seam is completely filled you are all done and ready to prime and paint! Now go forth young Farallax!

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Have fun and happy building!

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