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Grim’s Modelmaking Tips 2: Another 10 Cheap or Free materials for scratchbuilding

11 Oct

It’s me again, here with another installment of my model making tips for low cost or free materials to use in your various projects. Here I will give you some more ideas for stuff you may not have thought of before. Remember, this is not intended for the more experienced scratch builders out there, but hopefully even some might find the information useful in making your models!

  Cotton Wool

This material can usually be found around your home (especially if you have infants) or picked up from a cheap source (such as a poundshop/dollar store. Many of you may already be using whifty pieces painted with a bit of black/grey and flame colours to simulate vehicles or buildings on fire, or even as smoke grenade markers. The use that you may have overlooked for this stuff is as a DIY modelling compound. By taking a piece of the cotton and soaking it in a little PVA white glue, it becomes malleable and almost like a kind of putty. You can then use it to create things like tree roots, tentacles, add to interior and exterior walls to add texture or patterns like alien spaceship corridors, create rope effects, even terrain formations can be achieved with this method. Get some and give it a go and experiment with it. Just remember to allow it to dry 100% before attempting to paint and varnish it, as if there is any moisture remaining, it will discolour the coating and will react, spoiling the desired effect. My gold dragon model has many bits made from this method.

Textured Wallpaper

Cheap and cheerful naturalistic plain wallpaper can be put to great use added to the bases of large models. simply cut your piece to size and apply with PVA. Once dried it may added to with paint, basing material, varnish and more to blend in to your model. The humble woodchip wallpaper may be seen as drab and outdated, but can be efective when covering large areas with a natural looking texture. Battleboards and gaming tables can be covered quickly and easily, depending on the effect you want, sometimes all you need to do after is give it a lick of paint and a heavy drybrush with an large paintbrush. A roll of such woodchip wallpaper can be bought cheaply for as little as 50p, or free if you or someone you know has a spare roll or part roll lying around. There are a lot more patterns of naturalistic finishes available, although these can be a tad more expensive the better design. A great way of getting some for free is to visit your local DIY/decorating store and checking through the ones available, just pretend you are browsing for some new wallpaper, this way they will often give you a large piece from their sample roll to take home free, you will be able to get several samples if you are lucky and they should last you a while. Another way to get some free samples is by requesting them from online wallpaper outlets, although most will only allow 2 or 3 per customer and all the pieces will be A4 size, which is fine for smaller terrain bits, and if you go to several different suppliers, you can obtain quite a few this way. If all fails, just go out and buy some woodchip wallpaper as it’s cheap enough!

Plastic Sprue

Most of you will have access to waste plastic sprue from various kits or multi-part figures. Many of you probably will know this already, but for  the benefit of the more unexperienced modelmakers out there, I have included this a a top free material. It can be chopped up and used as anything from ruined buildings, industrial junk, crashed vehicle parts, lamposts, girders, fashioned into bricks, used as skeleton parts under structures, and many, many more wonderous parts. When melted slightly it can be bent and twisted into chaotic tentacles or the base to model trees. The only limits are your imagination as any experienced modeller will tell you!

Artificial flowers and plants

Quite often I aquire these at car boot sales or flea markets for next to nothing. I find that almost all of a decent piece can be used for modelmaking, even though it may look as if the leaves or flowers are far to large, a crafty maker can utilise even these bits to great use. If you want to find something a little easier to make with, try your local supplier/craft shop/florist etc. They make almost every kind of shape and size, and they tend to cost only a couple of pounds for a decent bit. The plastic and metal stems are very good for using as the base  for scratch built trees, and adding a few choice bits of modelling moss, sponge or layers of flock can create great cheap trees. The leaves are often textured and can be cut down to size and glued together to make bushes or plants, as can the flowers if you do the same. The Squog rider model has an example of a bush made from bits from an artificial leaf.

Polystyrene Packaging

Not the most environmentally friendly material that one can use, this kind of packaging can be put to great use for making terrain pieces like ruins, starships, scifi buildings, interiors and so on. It comes in a wide variety of shapes and sizes and it would be impossible to try and list a complete guide to what can be created with it. It can be cut with a sharp blade, hot wire cutter, melted with a soldering iron, or just ripped to bits to achieve the effect you want. It is important to note that when glueing pieces together you should use a rubber based contact adhesive as many of the glues available can melt and actually set fire to the styrene, so superglues, poly cement and other types will act as if they are caustic, so beware. It is also advisable to remember that certain types of celulose paints, such as car sprays and such will act in the same way, so always give the material a few base coats of water based paint or emulsion before you paint it. once it’s coated well, you will then be fine to spray with your choice of paint. Thinner and more packed cell styrene is also a great material (I’m using styrene pizza bases to use as a large UFO at the moment) but all the rules still apply with the paint and glue. Sometimes it can be an advantage to use the caustic melting abilities to create effects, experiment with any waste bits before you commit to doing it to your model first!!

Cigarette filters

Ok, no one is suggesting you actually start smoking, nor that if you are under the legal age in your country you should go and get these from a shop! But if you want a great building material that’s very versatile, you can’t go wrong with these things. they are great for using as such things as chimney pots, decorative small columns, posts on sections of balstrading, connector points and in fact anything you might need a small shaped cylinder for! They usually are about 1cm long, and between 3-5mm depending on the size you buy. they are usually around £1 for a hundred. Very useful as you can slice them up however you like. A word of warning, while they will glue fine, they can have a tendency to react to superglue, so best use other types when bonding to surfaces. You will find many used in the Tank model I made here.

Cheap Kids Plasticene

Ok, how’s he going to suggest here, surely he’s is not going to tell us to sculpt terrain with kids clay? (Although I do know a few tricks to make stuff out of it more “permanent”, it won’t be today!) This cheap modelling clay is found in everything from stationary shops, cheap/pound shops, newsagents and toy stores. The reason I mention it here is that it can be used  to produce recyclable custom moulds for plaster casting. Just mix a load together so you have plenty, roll it out with something as a rolling pin to a thickness of about 2cm, then get some things you’d like to replicate in parts for your models. begin by pressing them into the clay to leave a nice clear impression in the clay. When you are satisfied with the impressions, make up some plaster with water and pour in to the plsticene mould. You can use most types of plaster, however stone plaster is best, although wall filler is a good cheap alternative, as is plaster of paris softer types, these can be prone to breaking if your not careful, but the beauty of this way is that after the plaster drys and you carefully take it out of the mould, you can start the process over again with the plasticene to create a new mould! I will do a fully illustrated tutorial soon, detailing a few ways with methods like this later, but that’s the basics of the method. I recommend that you experiment a bit to see what you can do!

Dried plants, flowers and Potpourri

A trip down to a florist or craft shop can get some decent dried flower and plant  bits, they are usually used in floral displays and crafts, but for models and scenics they can be very useful. Poppy seed heads and other types of pods can be gotten easily and make great alien  plant flora. The twigs and stems from other types can be put to good use to make the start of trees and woodland debris. Potpourri is an excellent way of obtaining a mix of good dried vegetation, sometimes it can be quite an exotic mix of parts, but the only drawback is the pungent aroma from the scents and essential oils used in the manufacture. It can be quite overpowering so it will probably make your model stink, even when you use old potpourri, it tends to still smell, but who knows? You may actually like the smell!!

Clear plastic film packaging

Why go to all the hassle of paying for sheets of clear thin plastic, when you can get it free? Lots of different packaging nowadays has either a panel of sturdy clear plastic film on the front, or lots even are 100% made from it. You should get it at every opportunity when its a nice flat piece with no creases or imperfections. Cut them down into nice flat sections to allow easy storage and to keep them safe from getting bent or folded, and sometimes scratched or melted (Radiators are a pain for this, if you leave them accidentally near one!!) The main use for these will probably for windows on buildings or vehicles, but slivers and off cuts can be effective as broken glass in ruined terrain, or glued over textured indents for water features, ponds and rivers. shaped clear plastic packaging is also good for oddly shaped futuristic windows or cockpits of vehicles. The curved plastic ones can be ideal for bay window shapes, pop bottles can be used to do the same if you have trouble getting hold of any suitable plastics, but somehow I don’t think you will have any trouble getting something to fit your bill! Many of the windows on my zombie town street uses clear plastic this way.

Superglue tops and nozzles

what to do with that spent tube of superglue? Do you just throw it away with the trash or do you rescue the top and nozzle? I have found that the nozzle especially is useful for making futuristic guns, conduit connectors, radar parts, and exhaust tubes. Just try saving some the next time you are about throw a used tube away. Even if it’s bunged up with set glue, it usually comes off with a little persuasion to reveal a nice clean nozzle underneath. The top of the tube is a good part too, I have used them for the end of guns on tanks, to cutting them down and making rubbish bins and bowls,  you can cut the ends off as well if you need a tube of that size for anything. Take a look at my Black dog salvage co. HQ, there are several superglue nozzles and a top or two in that model.

Well, I hope that you might have been enlightened or maybe you’ll take something new from this article! If you have a few examples of low cost or free scratch building materials, please let us know and I’ll put them up here so everyone might benefit from your knowledge!!

Later people!

Read: Grim’s Modelling Tips: Free Artificial Grass freebies!!

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5 Responses to “Grim’s Modelmaking Tips 2: Another 10 Cheap or Free materials for scratchbuilding”

  1. bluecloud2k2 October 1, 2015 at 4:49 pm #

    Reblogged this on cloudcraftsite.

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