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Monthly Games Talks: January 2016

There are a lot of different pieces of kit available to the hobbyist. Saws, pin vices, files, there are a multitude of tools that can be used to fulfill certain roles in assembling or converting miniatures.

However there is one fundamental, one essential, tool that all hobbyists must possess. The hobby knife. Technically, there is no such thing as the hobby knife. What is commonly referred to as a hobby knife is actually part of the utility knife family. Utility knifes were originally fixed blades, used for tasks such as cutting and scraping hides or cleaning fish.

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The modern utility knife refers to fixed blade knives, as well as folding or retractable blade knives. However, for many the term ‘hobby knife’ has come to represent a certain type of utility knife which sees a lot of use throughout hobby and craft activities. Hobby knives are usually made up of four key components; the handle, the sleeve, the chuck and the blade.

The blade fits into the chuck, the chuck fits inside the sleeve, and then the remaining segment of the chuck screws into the handle. As you tighten the chuck and sleeve into the handle the chuck compresses, securing the blade in place. Because the blade is removable, it can easily be replaced when worn out, or a new blade type inserted for a particular job.

There are a multitude of blades available, from the traditional scalpel-like triangular blade, to flat chisel blades, curved blades and oddly shaped blades for performing particular cuts and techniques or for cutting certain materials. Most good quality hobby knives are manufactured from metal.

Cheaper knives often have plastic components, like the chuck. While these are also perfectly acceptable, plastic components wear out and break much easier than their metal counterparts. There are also a number of handles available, from standard metal handles to cushioned grips. It is recommended to try out some different types of handles and select one that feels most comfortable to use.

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There are a few basic universal safety rules when handling a hobby knife. Always cut away from yourself. Many people take this to mean to cut directly away from your body, but that is physically impossible when doing small or delicate work. What you should actually do is make sure that no part of your body is in the cutting path.

For instance, if cutting a piece of plasticard, hold the sheet at the top or the side, not the bottom where your knife is cutting towards. Where possible, use a cutting mat. Usually you should be able to, as parts of miniatures can be prepared separately and then assembled.

However, occasionally a piece cannot be easily accessible on a cutting mat. In these cases it is best to either proceed with extreme caution, or attempt the cut with a more appropriate tool. Use an appropriate sharpness blade for the job you are doing. When cutting through something, like plastic or card, a sharp knife is recommended.

The blade should glide though the material, rathobbyknife03her than saw or rip its way. You should also make guide cuts, lightly running the blade along where the cut will be made. This allows the surface to break, and your knife to gain purchase in the material.

Once the guide cuts are made you can make two or three more forceful cuts to complete the job. You shouldn’t have to press to hard. The harder you press, the less control over the blade you have, and the more disastrous any mistakes you make. Dull blades have their uses, too. These can be used to lightly scrape away mould lines and unwanted detail. Always put your hobby knife away, or in the very least, attach a protective cap when finished using it.

Many single knives come with a protective cap. Knife kits do not usually have a cap, instead offering moulded indentations to insert handles into and magnetic strips to attach blades too. Lastly, if you are a younger hobbyist, it is best to perform any cutting with a hobby knife under the supervision of an adult

Scenery Workshop: Bring boardgames to the next level

cropped-SceneryWorkshop_logo_transparantPainting your miniatures is a fun activity and greatly enhance your board games visuals. I have “invested” (if we can call it an investment) into some modular workshop system found on the website of Scenery Workshop. This Dutch webshop has really all what you can dream about to establish the perfect your work-area.

I bought the Hobbyzone Benchtop Organizer (WM1) for under 50 euros. It’s big enough to hold all my material (cutters, scissors, holders, glue, pencils, …) together in the handy drawers.

IMG_6877In addition to store all my paints (I have a mixed collection of both Citadel paints and The Army Painter, Vallejo, Rackham, etc..); I bought 3 extra elements to have a good visibility on all my paint colors :

You can see them on the picture over here:

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To be complete, I also have the now indispensible LightCraft Triple Tube Pro Task Lamp – LC8015 – that allows me finally to paint also when it’s dark outside. The usage of this lamp is just amazing. I could not do without it anymore.

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Last but not least, I had a little problem with one of the neon lights in my lamp who broke down after a few hours of usage and Patrick from the Scenery Workshop went to extreme length to get me a replacement (free of charge) that he sent over to me.

The after-sales services is just great with a practical ticketing system you get answer to your questions in no-time.

I highly recommend this webshop because good prices, selection of goods and service is just excellent !

They push the hobby to the next level !

Monthly Games Talks: October 2015

Everyone, whether they just paint models or only play games, loves a nicely painted force. There is just something impressive about the skill and dedication it takes to produce such an inspiring site. Not to mention, when arrayed on a battlefield or placed into a displayed, they just look so cool.

What is it about a fully painted collection of miniatures that we find so engaging? I really don’t think that there is a single answer. For me there are a number of things that make a collection of painted miniatures interesting.

Colour choice and model selection are a huge part of it. Miniatures that are well painted always cause a certain amount of awe for the least amount of work, probably because you get such a striking first impression for just choosing and applying a handful of colours really well. Models too are a quick way to impress me, by choosing a selection that not only gives a uniform look, but also introduces variation to create visual interest.However, while these two aspects create a good first impression, they don’t always hold my attention when brought to close scrutiny. So what really impresses me? What makes me remember a collection of models? Above all else, what I always look for is a story.

A lot of people mistake what a story within a collection means. They seem to think this involves having a detailed knowledge of the background fiction, adding minute details from the background and being accurate to the world. This is not the case. Not at all. To me, the story is the element that binds all the miniatures together. Something that takes them all from individual pieces and makes them say “we belong together”. For me, the story means I can look closer at each miniature and see a common thread that ties them all together.

This doesn’t have to slap you in the face, either. In fact, I love it when a story is quite subtle or implied. Being told the story of a force directly is one thing, but I relish those miniatures that I can look closer at, find common elements and construct a story myself. There are a few regular tricks I look for when trying to find a collections story. A feature colour is always the first thing. Is there a colour that has been used to pick out a certain feature, and how has this been applied? This can be as obvious as the general model and his guard having the same colour shields, to as nuanced as patterns recurring among certain models. Another thing I look for is conversions, or use of unofficial models. Swapping out one set of models for another, or altering them, is a good way to create a unique visual that contributes to the story. Like replacing knights that are usually quite ornamental for ones that are more dour and drab.

When creating a collection of miniatures it might seem like a hassle to stop and think about introducing a story. However most people are injecting a story right from the start, whether they know it or not. Normally the models we choose and how we paint them instinctively creates a basic story to bind them together. The challenge is to consciously develop this visual fiction to introduce multiple layers. When you do this you take a good collection and make it really great.

Monthly Game Talks: June 2015 !

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Read on for the “Monthly Game Talks” post of June 2015.

I believe that pretty clean and organized around the house. I don’t like to have things laying around and make sure that each item has a spot to put it away. When you live in an apartment, you’re kind of obliged to work that way if you want to keep your interior clean. That said … if you ask my wife she’ll probably tell you that I’m all the time leaving some gaming “stuff” in the living room.

Let’s clarify the word “stuff” and be more specific: admittedly, I leave my miniatures, brushes, paint material in a few boxes (= mostly game expansion boxes converted into temporary storage boxes) in the open.

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Why is it that I leave them around ? Well, aside from the fact that I do like to look at them because after all – I did spent some money on it – it also reminds me that eventually I have to paint them. When you have the entire collection of Zombicide, Imperial Assault, Arcadia Quest, Talisman, Cadwallon City of Thieves, Dark Darker Darkest amongst others .. that gives you a whooping 1000+ mini’s to paint !

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So most of them are actually already with a white/black primer coat. That was the easy part (right!); spending a few hours outside, spraying them with 3 or 4 cans of Army Painter. Now, I’m actually at the base-coating step for almost all of them. Ah, if it was so easy to have just a magical spray to base-coat them too !

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I recently acquired a few extra different paints from Citadel – I went for a bit of everything from the dry-brushing products (for which I’m not that convinced to be honest) to the glaze products (which are really a big plus ! Go for it). Citadel has a package with all the dry-brushing paints into 1 box for a price about ~30€ . Based on the advise of a friend, I took them home .. but found out they are really “dry” in the pot and I get on my pencil a cluttery “blob” that I end up anyhow wiping up on my tissue. So probably I missed something out there on the usage of those. For now, I’m really not convinced at all.

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So we’re playing at my place regularly and my friends see those mini’s hanging around in their boxes and ask me how it’s going forward (or not) with the paint job. I start telling them that it’s going pretty well (ok maybe I’m not really on track with my initial schedule, true …) and I hope to finish off soon.

The truth is that I also needed to invest in the right material – yes, it is costly to do some painting – if you want to have an “easy life”. You will go for some extra shades colors and ready-made washes, not because you have to, but because it’s makes it easier and speed up your painting process. I just bought the Warpaints Quickshade Ink Set and I have to see this does wonders. I really encourage you this investment to avoid having all the time the same dark effect on your miniatures.

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Some of my friends who are not painting at all ask the question; but once painted do you still dare to take them in your hands to play them ? And what about the storage, do you buy special foam inserts for your boxes ?

My answer is pretty upfront and I tell them; games with miniatures are exactly fun for that purpose; being able to manipulate the miniatures over the board ! Hell, otherwise I’ll go for a good euro-style workers placement game with wooden cubes and carton tiles. So, to protect them, I apply a varnish transparent layer (matte or shiny depending on which effect I would prefer) with an Army Painter or Citadel spray can. I actually also bought some transparent varnish from the hobbyshop that works pretty well too.

It’s at that point that we start the discussion about the dreaded Dullcote Frost problem that most of you painters must have experiences sooner or later. Spending hours painting to end up with an ugly frostly look at the last step of your painting process is just an awful miserable experience that will haunt you for days !

Well, not anymore … because looking around on the web, I found on the blog of Nice manners for a thief an eye-opener life-saver post.

His explanation over there stands in 5 words: Usage Of Olive Oil Spray. Read on the excerpt:

Take that ruined mini and spray it down on both sides.  It doesn’t take a lot, but you want it coated for best results.  I recommend doing it over the sink for easy cleanup. […]

Once you’ve coated the model, rub it down with a soft cloth or shammy.  You can just use your fingers, but a cloth will allow you to easily get into the nooks and crannies.  You’ll see the color start to return immediately.  You’ll also get that glossy shine back – like before you sprayed it. […]

At this point, you might decide, “screw Dullcoting it.  I’ll take the shine over frost,” and I wouldn’t blame you.  After all, there’s nothing like rework for taking the joy out of a task.  However, you can absolutely re-apply Dullcote once the oil has a day to dry, and it will work as intended.

I can tell you that this neat trick is worth gold and took away my fear of screwing up my painting last step ! Although his blog has not been updated since a while, take a look around and check out the pictures of his painted figurines. Really nice job done !

You’ll find on the web many articles about proactively avoiding this frosting effect once you’re done applying the varnish layer. Basically, people will tell you to place your miniatures under a hot (desk-) lamp or use your hairdryer. That is certainly also a good preventive action to keep in mind.