The first step in any miniature project is to inspect the figures, clean them up, and start the assembly. An old adage that painters come to know states that preparation is half the battle. Miniatures are a little different because of the fine detail used during the painting process, but the importance is certainly the same.
Applying incredible painting techniques on a poorly prepared model will cause mediocre final results. Luckily, preparing a default configuration is very straight-forward and won’t take too much time. Today, I prepared the plastic Space Marines and unboxed the metal Finecast model.
Space Marine Unboxing and Inspection
The first thing I did was take the SM sprue out of the package and do a visual inspection to make sure all the components were included in the package. I then focused on inspecting each element in the sprue to be sure there were not any quality issues such as bubbles, deformations, or breaks in the pieces. This may seem trivial, but be sure to look over the pieces closely because small defects can make correctly assembling the model impossible without heavy modification that can add a lot of bother to the process. This step is especially important for metal figures because of GW’s memo to retailers regarding possible defects in Finecast figures.
As we can see, this is a very basic sprue with each SM model only consisting of three pieces: A body, backpack, and gun. Even with so few pieces, it is still very important to check for fitment before final assembly.
Sprue Removal and Cleaning Mold Lines From Space Marines
Removing the pieces from the sprue can be accomplished in numerous ways. However, I have found that using a side cutting wire cutter or side cutting jeweler’s cutter is the best way to quickly remove the figures. “Side cutter” means that the cutter’s blade is smooth on one side, so it will cut cleanly from the side facing the model. Check the pictures to see what I mean.
Flat surfaces can easily be cut with the cutters, but curved surfaces such as the shoulder on a Space Marine will need to be cut further back and then the excess material should be removed with a razor. Never, never, never, twist the sprue away from the miniature. This can cause large chunks to come out of the miniature and totally ruin a model. If you don’t have a side cutter then you can carefully use a razor.
It is imperative to at least do a quick leveling of the mold lines that are inherent in the manufacturing process of all of GW’s miniatures. The mold for these figures consists of two metal plates with the mold etched into them that press together. Holes in the mold allow molten plastic to be pumped into the mold. The plastic cures and the mold is separated to reveal the sprue. Even though GW molds are some of the best, there are still small lines were the two plates press together when forming the mold. This creates mold lines that need to be cleaned.
As we can see from the images, there is a lot of material left over because either the cutters could not get a flush cut or the surface was curved. We now use a hobby knife (blade number 2) to clean the mold lines and trim the excess from the model.
The technique used consists of gently trimming the large bits by cutting directly through the material. If you are not handy with a hobby knife then always cut away from your hand and body. Once the excess material from sprue cutting is dealt with, then we can attack the mold lines and smooth the surfaces of the sprue connection points by rubbing the blade of the razor against the plastic model. I took my time and did several passes. It is important not to rub the same exact spot multiple times. Attack the lines at different angles, especially on curved surfaces such as on the shoulder pads. You will know that most of the excess sprue material is gone and the connection point is level once the color changes from white to dark gray.
For those that don’t know, the purpose of removing these lines is because they will definitely stick out in the finished model through shadows cast on the figure. What’s worse is they will also collect wash, which makes the problem even worse! With more detailed models, I usually sand the surface as well to get an even smoother finish. However, these SM models are not very detailed, so I’m not going to spend too much time prepping them.
Lastly, I used my finger to rub over the lines to remove the dust and debris from the trimming process. Be sure to rub them down a bit to make sure all the excess trimmings are out of the cracks. Don’t worry about getting finger oil on them, they will be cleaned with alcohol before the base coat.
Initial Assembly and Fitment
I’m not going to fully assemble these models before paint. Some models are okay to glue before painting, but I usually do not glue until the very end. These SMs fit tightly, so they will hold in place without glue while they are being painted. This also allows for me to take the gun and pack off to reach the SM’s back and chest. Otherwise, it would be harder to get a brush in there.
Always check for fitment first. The guns on the marines had some trouble going together and called for some extra trimming to get the hand to line up correctly. If you don’t check for proper fitment now, you could have to cut into a paint job later.
I did glue them to the base, as this gives me something to hold onto while painting. I may attach a toilet paper roll to the bottom to ease my grip.
Ready For Paint
After inspecting, trimming, and checking for fitment, I super glued the SMs to bases and attached their gear for one last fitment check. I will be removing the equipment before spraying them to insure an even coat. Notice the hand on the SM in the middle. Sometimes there is no way around getting poor fitment. To remedy this problem, I would need to use modeler’s putty. I later noticed that the gun from the trooper on the right fits better in the hands of the middle figure, which ended up fixing the problem. Be sure to swap weapons and packs around before making any major modifications.
Captain Lysander Unboxing
I went ahead and took Captain Lysander out of the package and inspected him for any blemishes. He looks like a great cast. I was hoping for his head to be separate, but I will just have to deal with that as it comes up. As you can see from the images, prepping metal figures is a lot more intensive than the plastic ones. The same techniques apply, but files and sand paper are usually needed to get a neat surface.
That’s it for today. Tomorrow and the next day bring in warmer weather, so I am going to get Lysander prepped tomorrow to take advantage of the great weather window to lay down a spray base of black. Check back for more progress!