Kevin L. KitchensUnited States
"Drivers, start your engines..."
Wow. I feel like I've just done 500 miles at Daytona (or watched them all at the very least). But after months of planning and weeks of execution, my Thunder Alley miniatures are done and on the track.
When I last updated, I was in the midst of doing the body painting on the cars to set up an assembly line process of all the little details. The Gesso primer worked perfectly (Canvas Primer? Surely You Gesso!) and the pink paint went on with very little effort.
I did make one mistake in that I tried to do an ink wash in the channel around the car hood. This basically resulted in a bold black line that really didn't fit. Race cars start out all neat and clean and shiny, so this bit of detail didn't work. So this required a lot of overpainting of that area to reduce the effect. There really aren't a lot of "high areas" to do a standard wash and highlight effect like you can do on action figure type minis, so I went with just a solid body color and let the shape of the car create its own shadow detail.
So then the assembly line began:
168 wheels in metallic silver
168 tires in flat black
84 windscreens (front and back) x 3 effects per (top darker, bottom lighter, light effects).
42 spoilers (or what's left of them) in accent color.
42 touchups of body color where I "slipped"
42 bottoms and non-car side areas in "pavement" color.
(Listening to Mark Levin replay made the time pass by here!)
Murder By Numbers
Creating the numbers for the cars was going to be fun. I already knew I would use stickers (mailing label sheets) to create the numbers. But there was no way I was going to print them and then have to cut them out. I didn't want to use clear labels either, because they always show and how would I print "white" anyway. So I turned again to my Silhouette Cameo to do the heavy lifting here.
The roof area where I could put labels was 6x5mm so these numbers would not be large, but not too small either. However the side area didn't seem to be quite so tall, so I reduced them to about 3.6x3mm. I did what's called a kiss cut on the numbers (cut the sticker, but not the backing) and a full cut around each team's set to make sticker sheets. Unfortunately, this was not within the tolerances of the sticker paper and when they came off the cutter, the smaller numbers had all been pretty mangled. The larger numbers however we mostly intact. Back to the drawing board, I deleted all the smaller numbers, spaced each number of a car a little farther apart to prevent snagging and then duplicated each team to two sets of numbers so I'd have one as a backup. This, with some minor issues, worked fairly well.
Two teams have white numbers, two are yellow, two are black, and one is red. So for the colors, I took each team's sheet and used dry erase marker or highlighter to give it the color on the white label. The red didn't turn out as well and ended up a little orange, but that was only after it faded on the car, so... oh well. I also didn't notice that the teams had different font types for their numbers until after and they all ended up being the same, so... oh well.
Then came the tedious task of applying the numbers to the tops of each car. Using tweezers and an X-Acto knife for placement, I get the number roughly in position, adjust as needed and then press it down to the car (sticker paper!!!). When I finished the tops of all the cars, they just seemed to be missing something. Not having the numbers on the left them looking too empty. Because I'd made two sets of each number as a backup, I went ahead and tried out the larger roof numbers on the car doors (on one side). Darn, they looked that much better! So back to the Cameo and cut another set for each team, colored them, and went through all 42 cars and added numbers to both sides as well. If I'm going to do it, I might as well do it. Glad I did though, as they do look more finished.
Don't Forget Your Coat!
In the painting process I'd dropped cars more than once. I knew the resin was pretty durable, but there was no way I wasn't going to put a sealer and protector on these babies. For this purpose I chose ModPodge Gloss Coat for several reasons.
1. To keep the stickers down. As I learned making the Memoir '44 - Blocks That Work Better Than Miniatures the sticker paper won't always stay put, even when sprayed with a clear coat sealer. Mod Podge is a decoupage medium so it's a glue, sealer, and protector in one.
2. To seal the paint. After all that work, I don't want the paint to flake off from use.
3. I wanted the cars to shine. Normally I choose a matte finish, but a race car is going to be waxed until it glows, so I wanted to make sure the cars reflected the light appropriately and give the glass of the windscreens a glossy glassy appearance.
Mod Podge goes on white like glue, but then dries completely clear and doesn't yellow with time. I just painted on a heavy coat to the top and sides with a brush and let it sit for 20 minutes before touching. I could do extra coats, but I plan to hit them afterwards (all over) with a regular spray sealer too -- as Mod Podge is not waterproof.
42 Car Pickup
Of course I just had to test the durability, so in a stroke of genius (actually a stroke of sheer klutziness) I decided it would be fun to bump the valentine box holding the miniatures at the paint station, completely knocking all of them to the floor.
They all survived just fine.
On the Track
Here's a few shots of the car now on the track. I look forward to finally playing Thunder Alley again especially with the new Thunder Alley: Expansion Tracks now that my mission is completed.
Postmortem - Lessons Learned
Thanks for reading this far. I hope you've enjoyed the entire process and series. Here's some final random thoughts about what I learned in this.
1. Wish I'd taken better care making the molds. I'd have prepped the cars a little more, filling in some void areas. I'd also figure out a way to make the bottom of each car a little more uniform.
2. Figure out why the casts were different. Many have weak spoilers, some distorted areas, etc. I would have cast more and picked out the best ones, but the molds were breaking down after 12 uses.
3. Perhaps try the polymer clay in the molds. However, I'd played with something else in polymer clay and dropped it and it broke in half, so that made me rethink this. Though perhaps the Mod Podge and paint would help with that.
4. Very happy still with using craft paints vs. dedicated miniatures paint. The price difference cannot be ignored and for the few mini paints I've used, the quality difference is almost none (if at all). There is a difference in the brand of paints however. Folk Art tends to be very thick. Apple Barrel as I recall is ok. But my preferred brand is Ceramcoat. It's already at a good consistent consistency and I only thin a little with my floorwax water mixture. All of the above are simply acrylic paints.
5. Since I painted the bottoms anyway, I wish I'd primed in white. White tends to make the top colors brighter and it is covered easier by lighter colors.
6. Very happy that my sharing of this actually inspired Jeff Horger, one of the designers of the game, to want to do the same. That's pretty darn cool in my book when that happens.
7. I would love to see GMT Games add a P-500 of car miniatures. Given that they are all the same in terms of form, it seems like a set of 42 miniatures should be easy to mass produce. If they wanted to be really fancy, they could cast them in each of the seven colors to make a set. Wouldn't hurt for a P-500 attempt. If there weren't enough interested parties, then it just wouldn't make the cut.
8. That said, I'm shocked someone else hasn't produced a set of cars at this scale for the game (and others). I looked for other alternatives, including 3D printing, but found nothing at a reasonable size or cost.
9. These came to about $0.36 each to make. I think about $9 for the mold making material. I made several iterations and wasted a bit, so let's say $6 spent on the molds. 11 of 32 oz of the resin = $6.18. The car I cloned was I think $3.50. So $15.69 all totalled for 44 cars made = $0.36 each. Then of course, painting, etc... but those I have on hand already.
So while these are not the greatest miniatures in the world (some look good, some look odd), I'm thrilled that I was able to pull off my vision from start to finish and for the most part achieved what I wanted. This also was a good test for molding and casting in general and gave me a new craft in my rather small arsenal. And I can look at them and for now at least know that my copy of the game is very unique.
Thanks again for all your support and encouragement along the way. It's been fun.
Full Series Index
All the entries for this series.
1. Send in the Clones - DIY Thunder Alley Miniatures - Part I
2. I'm Certainly No Earl Scheib, But I Don't Charge As Much Either
3. Slow and Steady Wins the... (ahem) Race?
4. Canvas Primer? Surely You Gesso!
5. Let the Good Times Roll
I am almost exclusively a solo gamer and look at the gaming scene seen through those eyes. I also literally like alliteration. TWITTER: @onesuponagame
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