Home Casting Minis

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Home Casting Minis

#1 Postby VonDan » Mon Apr 30, 2012 3:34 am

Jordan Peacock wrote:
By comparison, the technology for casting pewter minis with rubber molds is such that I can do it in my garage (and have done so), and it takes a lot less time to get rolling once you've made the "masters" for a new mold.

The trouble is that pewter costs more, is heavier, is more trouble to work with, and the rubber molds have a far, far shorter life span than the dies used for plastic figures

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I have done some home casting of lead minis. In had a catalog that was nothing but rubber molds for home casting figures of a 1000 types. I got a set for casting a chess set, as i could make a chess set and the same figures could be fantasy minis as it had knights on horses and archer pawns and priest

My problem was I was cheap (to cheap to buy metal minis in the first place) and rather than buy special casting lead, I tried various things. First i tried chopped up tire weights and fishing weights. From work I bought lead for 10 cents a pound that was lead sheeting out of a remodeled x ray room and the lead bottles for holding nuclear pellets. I never could find any cheap bismith or cadmium to mix in with the lead to lower the melt point and viscosity.

None of that gave me the detail I wanted and I'm an experience caster with a year of experence in aluminium and bronze

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#2 Postby Jordan Peacock » Mon Apr 30, 2012 11:29 am

I have a mold-making set from a company called (simply enough), "Castings." I'll have to take some pictures of the setup later on, since it'll be easier than just trying to explain in text.

I got some casting metal from the same company, the main advantage being that it had a lower melting temperature than pure lead. Like you, I have a few ingots of lead from melting down spare tire weights, but regular lead doesn't work very well for casting figures at the temperatures I can manage to heat it up to; basically, the casting lead or pewter will quickly drop in temperature in the casting process, so it's essential to have a metal that I can easily heat up to a good point PAST its melting temperature, so even as it cools while going into the recesses of the mold, it won't prematurely solidify.

The best and cheapest source I've found for suitable pewter is scraps from metal miniatures. That is, some figures have metal "sprues" for accessories and pieces; I save those. Also, if I cut off base tabs in order to put a figure originally meant for a "slottabase" onto a customized base (or saw a figure from a molded-in base so I can put it on a different base), I save the scrap metal to melt down for later.

Professional miniatures makers -- at least, around the time that I got into trying to sculpt and cast my own minis -- use a spin-caster to get the metal into the recesses by force of gravity while the metal is still molten.

I did a quick check on Wikipedia, and sure enough there's an article on spin-casting. It even goes into the rough costs involved in spin-casting (pewter) vs. plastic injection molding.

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#3 Postby Vinzent » Mon Apr 30, 2012 3:01 pm

I don't know how cheap it runs but a friend of mine once used solder to cast a d6. I wonder if it could be used for figurines?
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#4 Postby VonDan » Mon Apr 30, 2012 4:40 pm

Now that i think of it I did get ok detail results from chopping up and melting a pewterish goblet from goodwill. But it still had some air bubbles in spite of the molds built in dead end sprews.

A work neighbor makes the frames for dentures and he made a spin caster from an oil drum and some spinny thing. He heats the crucible with a blow torch and then pours the mettle into the mold that is clamped inside one end of the spin caster and gives it a spin by hand

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#5 Postby The Dread Polack » Tue May 01, 2012 9:44 am

I dabbled in sculpting a couple years ago. I plan to get back into it eventually, but I learned a few things on some sculpting forums. I don't have a lot of details, but I know you can get metal ingots from McMaster-Carr. It's costly, like a lot of hobbies; you can afford it if you do it right, and it's mostly setup.

Someone said that you can cast with solder. They said it was good for testing out a mold, but it's not a very material for a gaming mini.

If you can find a bin full of cheap unpainted pewter/lead minis, that might be a good source of metal, but I haven't seen one of those at my FLGS in a long time. Maybe someone is selling off an old lot on ebay...

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