Tools of the Trade: Minis: Resin and Plastic

This week we’re talking about non-metal miniatures. It’s all about plastics and resin this week. First up resin!

“So what is resin and how is it different from plastic?”

Resin can hold a great amount of detail and is considered superior to plastic in that aspect. There are, however, many downsides of working with resin. If not cast properly it can cause bubbles on the surface of the miniatures causing loss of detail. It is also, in my experience, very fragile. If you are going to file resin to remove mold lines it is very important that you take great care with this. Inhaling the dust can be toxic, you will want to wear a mask while doing this. You may also file or otherwise remove mold lines while holding the mini underwater to avoid inhalation or other accidental ingestion. This, however, does not seem very practical.

While most plastic minis just need to be washed to be ready for primer and paint resin is a little different. Mold release may stick more firmly to the miniature. There are several options for cleaning that have proven to be effective. Before using any of these methods it is strongly advised that you test it out on a piece of sprue or a mini of the same material that you don’t mind getting ruined if the process does not work.

In my case I have found that if you soak the resin minis in white vinegar for a while, usually a few days for me, and then wash with soap and water it will generally remove the mold release. You may have to repeat the process to completely remove any residue. You may also soak it in Simple Green for a while and it should have the same effect. If you have access to an ultrasonic cleaner, one of those filled with some Simple Green will do it as well.

Once the mold release is removed thoroughly you can assemble and paint. As far as glue goes you will want to use an epoxy or super glue. Plastic glue will NOT work on resin as it is not a true plastic. For painting, you will still want to use a primer before painting.

There is one more thing that can be a downside of resin. It can be considerably more expensive than plastic and most metals. Resin casting is very labor intensive and the molds do not last as long as ones for plastic or metal. This results in a high cost over time. While miniatures made from resin can be inexpensive you have to remember a couple of things. First, the cheaper it is will probably speak to the quality you will be getting. Second, the larger the mini the higher the price.

Un-primed resin mini

“Resin sounds too fiddly and expensive for me, what about plastics?”

There are two big plastics, that we’ll talk about, used in making miniatures: ABS and HIPS.

Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene or ABS plastic is a fairly hard and smooth plastic. For reference, LEGOs and computer keyboards are made out of ABS. ABS is a thermoplastic which is a type of plastic that becomes liquid when heated to a particular temperature; it is generally colored while in liquid form before molding. As for cost, it is very reasonably priced. ABS is a very tough plastic so it can stand up to a bit of abuse. They can be tossed around and dropped without worry of breakage. Most ABS miniatures can be spray primed without much worry of melting or tackiness. Many board game miniatures are made of ABS because of durability.

High Impact Polystyrene or HIPS is, like ABS, a hard plastic. However it does not have the bendability that ABS or PVC (which we’ll talk about in a later post) have. It is truly a hard plastic and does not flex. For reference, a good portion of GW plastic miniatures are made from HIPS. Many spray primers work well on this type of plastic. Plastic glue works well on HIPS as well as ABS.

Most plastic minis do not need soaked in vinegar, some softer. I find that some dish soap, warm water, and a toothbrush removes the mold release well. As for painting, paint will not stick to it without a primer.

Primed plastic mini

Well that about wraps it up for this time.

“Wait, I’ve heard of something called Bones, what about that?”

I definitely didn’t forget about Bones. This is going to be the next topic! See you then!

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