Tag Archives: tips & tricks

Creative Spraying

Most models have a good handle- their tail sticks out, or they have a base, or something else easy to hold while priming, fixativing, or painting. But sometimes you have to get creative.

When my main projects are drying or otherwise on hold, I’ve been working on some of Maggie Bennett‘s awesome micro mini resins. They are super fun and I enjoy painting them in acrylics.

My current project is Maggie’s sleeping resin, Kahlua.

Because of her size and her pose, Kahlua doesn’t have a great handle. I needed to spray her initial layers with fixative, so I decided to get creative. The advantage to her pose is that she has a large area that won’t be seen- her belly and bottom.

So I grabbed my trusty dremel, picked just the right bit, and caaaarefully made a hole in her belly.

The drill bit I used was chosen to match the size of a toothpick. And thus…

Micro on a stick!

I made sure she was firmly on there…

…and then took her outside for an all-over spray of Dull Cote. Then I simply planted her stick in a glob of playdoh.

Easy peasy! She’s drying safely on the shelf next to her buddy Hazel, who also got a layer of fixative.

Hurrah! This will make the rest of my work on Kahlua much easier.

Freeing Hazel

Morgan Kilbourns Mini Hazel resin is cast with a base, which I am removing as part of this commission. She now has an acrylic rod in her front hoof to provide stabilization.

Removing a resin from an attached base is a time consuming process. It’s not terribly difficult, although I do recommend that you only attempt something like this if you are also confident doing small repairs and minor resculpting. Unless you have a way steadier hand than I do, you’ll inevitably end up having to resculpt a bit of hoof or fill in a gouge somewhere.

Hazel before- securely attached to her resin base.

Generally something like this would be done in the sculpting and prepping stage, so the resin would be blank. Here I’m doing it with the paint job largely done, so I’ll need to protect the finish. Even on a blank resin, these kinds of precautions can help keep your horse safe while you work on it.

I wrapped Hazel in several layers of cotton and then fleece, leaving only her back hooves exposed. I used rubber bands to loosely hold the fabric on while I worked.

For the next step, I got out my trusty dremel. I wanted to cut through the thick base around the hooves to get the bulk of the resin off before I worked more closely to the hooves. For something like this I often use a large drill bit and use it to gnaw sideways through the resin. A round cutting bit- especially a diamond bit- will also work.

A key thing to keep in mind with something like this is that you want to keep as much stress as possible off the parts you’re keeping- in this case, the legs. I was careful to hold the legs still to minimize the amount of vibrations from the dremel. This prevents weakening the important bits.

After some quality time with the drill bit, I had taken off the front chunk of the base and the middle bit, leaving little stumps under the hooves.

Now I switched to a diamond cutting bit (pictured above) and very carefully cut away the bulk of the stump, leaving a few millimeters of resin under the hoof. Again, be sure to hold the hoof stable and only let the dremel shake the part it’s slicing off.

You can see in the photo above that- like many resins- Hazel was cast with wire in her legs for stability. The wires go all the way into the base. As I cut away the bulk of the resin, I also had to avoid the wires. Once the resin was cut away, I snipped the wires down as far as possible.

Once both hooves were resting on just a bit of resin, I sat down with my carbide scrapers, needles files, sandpaper, and an exacto knife. I used the knife to cut through the thin resin around the hoof. As I got closer to the hooves, I switched to the carbide scrapers and sandpaper to remove excess resin without damaging the sculpted parts. I used the needle files to shave down the rest of the armature wire. Slowly I got the hooves reshaped and flat.

The last step was to add the acrylic rod to the front hoof so Hazel can balance. For this I used a small drill bit about the same size as my acrylic (1/16 inch). I carefully drilled straight up into the hoof, trying to go as far as possible without coming out the top (inevitably I failed, and had to patch the top of the hoof). Then I estimated the length of acrylic needed, cut a generous piece, and inserted it into the hoof. Then you just need to use the needle files and/or sandpaper to adjust the length, and glue the acrylic into it’s final position.

Ready to roll!

All done! Now I just need to give her a bath to get the resin dust off, and I can move on to more painting!

Repairin’ for Erin: Straightening a Bent Leg

My friend Erin is a dedicated and accomplished hobbyist. Among other things, she is a committed and skillful performance shower…

English Performance Champion at Breyerfest 2013

English Performance Champion at Breyerfest 2013

…and makes top quality western tack:

Pleasure saddle made in 2014

Pleasure saddle made in 2014

Erin has been wonderfully generous with her knowledge, helping me learn about working with leather and improve my performance entries. So I was excited to find an opportunity to me to use my skills to help her out in kind.

Although Erin’s short foray into oil painting was pretty successful, she doesn’t do any customizing or repairs herself. Being a clumsy person, I’ve inevitably learned to repair models. Earlier this month I was visiting Erin and found several horses to kidnap and repair. I figured I could do some mini tutorials as I went.

The first horse in need is a OF Stablemate Arabian Mare who was formerly a part of Erin’s mini show string. Alas, Miss Pinto has been staying home since she developed a bent foreleg.

Ouch! That can't be comfortable.

Ouch! That can’t be comfortable.

Bent legs are a relatively common problem in plastic models and can be caused by heat, pressure or a combination of the two. You can prevent bent legs by protecting your horses from extreme temperatures (e.g. never leaving them in a hot car) and packing them carefully for any transport.

Fixing a bent leg on a show quality model follows the same general practice as bending a leg while customizing- only you need to be much more careful about the finish. Overheating an area can cause the plastic to bubble.

To make this repair, you’ll need a heat gun, a wide bowl of cool water (big enough to dunk your horse into), and something to protect your hands while you shift the leg. I use an old pair of thick socks. The plastic will be hot when you touch it, and you will burn yourself without something over your skin. Trust me.

Curious cats are optional but encouraged.

Curious cats are optional but encouraged.

The key to this is to take your time. With your hand protection on, turn on the heat gun and wave it back and forth slowly over the bent leg, keeping the gun about 3/4″-1″ away from the horse to prevent damaging the finish. Move the gun so that every side of the leg gets heat. Bends are generally going to happen between joints. Pinpoint the place you need to manipulate to fix it, and aim to get that whole area warm.

Erins Arab Mare - heating area

The red block shows where I’m aiming the heat for this fix

After a minute or so, gently try to bend the leg back into the correct place. If it doesn’t move easily, heat it a bit more and try again. Once you’ve got the leg in the position you want, dunk it into the bowl of water. That cools the leg and (hopefully) keeps it in the new position.

Erins Arab Mare - cooling

Once the leg is moved some, check your horse again. Is further bending needed?

Frances is skeptical

Frances is skeptical

If the leg is being stubborn, heat and move it again. Something you have to do this a couple times to get it right, as the leg naturally wants to move back into the bent position. Be firm, and show the leg who’s boss… but gently and slowly, so as not to damage the finish.

The final result: showable once again!

The final result: showable once again!

With only about ten minutes of fiddling, this mare now has a straightened leg. She’s ready to go back out on the show table!

 

Timely Tack Tutorials

So I’ve had blogging on my to-do list all week and failed to check it off… I shall strive for betterment in that department. Meanwhile, other bloggers are sharing brilliant tips that I am carefully cataloging for future use.

I have been keeping my tutorials page more or less up to date, and trying to organize and list all of the best model horse tutorials out there. Two of my most recent additions are particularly awesome and deserve special notice.

The first is a DIY English stirrup tutorial from Ebb&Flow Studio. This tutorial is both simple and brilliant. The finished products look realistic and lovely, and are made out of simple materials that most hobbyists probably already have on hand.

I both rejoiced and cursed inwardly when I first read this tutorial- it was only a week or so earlier that I finally caved and bought cast stirrups! I am going to NAN this coming year (more on that in future posts!) and I need a new English set for Nightfox. I’ve been making my own stirrups, but I decided to pull out all the stops for my NAN debut. (After re-reading Dreamflite Design’s stirrups review, I went with the Horsing Around ones). But I definitely plan to use the Ebb&Flow tutorial for future projects!

Nightfox in English at NW Congress. Lots of things to improve before NAN!

Nightfox in English at NW Congress. Lots of things to improve before NAN!

The second tutorial that rocked my world this week is from Grace Ledoux (Stage Left Studios) by way of Anna Kirby of Dreamflite Design. Back in 2012, Anna wrote a lovely little tutorial about cutting lace for mini tack. She showed how she used double sided tape and a metal ruler to get very thin, very straight lace pieces. At the time, I was not making much tack and was not that motivated towards this kind of perfection. My loss!

I’ve struggled in past tack projects with getting nice pieces of lace, especially getting consistent widths of narrow lace appropriate for mini tack. When I saw Grace’s lovely thin straps at Sweet Onion, I was re-inspired and she said that Anna’s method was the secret to her lace. Then, last week, she posted a video tutorial showing the method.

I am so looking forward to using this method for my next tack project! Teeny beautiful straps will be mine!

Lovely wee straps on a Stage Left Studios bridle

Lovely wee straps on a Stage Left Studios bridle

 

So behind!

Yikes! Can you believe it’s already August? I mean, I can, I just wish it wasn’t. I could use another month to catch up on… everything.

One thing I’m very behind on is blogging. I have a lot of pictures and progress waiting to be shared. The other thing I’m behind on are my goals for the Rose City Live at the beginning of September. Here’s what I’m hoping to get done by then:

  • repair Nightfox’s finish
  • finish acrylic details on Hale resin- and name him!
  • sculpt, cast, and paint a rider for Nightfox
  • prep and paint Chryselephantine 2.0
  • repair and repaint Alpo

WIP herd 8-2-13

And here’s where I am on those goals:

  • Nightfox has some acrylic repair, but needs socking and pastel
  • Hale needs work on his hooves, eyes, and chestnuts. Also a name.
  • The rider is sculpted and awaits casting- more on this later!
  • Chryselephantine is just getting her first layer of acrylic, along with last minute details like veining.
  • Alpo has a new leg but still needs to be sanded and get his tail back on. Plus painting!

So I have a long way to go. Right now I’m waiting for Blick Art to open, so I’m taking the time to catch up the blog on my recent antics! For there are many.

As mentioned above, Chryelephantine is finally getting some paint!

Chrys - acrylic layer

I don’t always do an acrylic layer before pastels, but it can be helpful in speeding up the process. Plus, I’m trying to follow the basic steps I used on an earlier palomino that I really liked, and this is how I started. Also, this light color does a great job of showing last minute blemishes that need to be fixed before I move into pastels.

During this stage, I am also adding last minute details with modeling paste. To show the part of her mane that is shaved (as per Saddlebred show standards) I did a layer of modeling paste along her bridlepath to the forelock, with a bit of shaved-hair texture.

Chrys - bridle path

She also got added veining and some neck wrinkles. Next she’ll get a bunch of socking, and then it’s time to add pastels! I’m really excited to get her in clothes.

Lots more stuff coming… my first adventures in resin casting! Building a full-scale panel jump! General madness! Stay tuned :)

The Start of a Roan

I had planned on painting my roan draft stallion using acrylic paint to do hair-by-hair roaning. But after a couple sessions, I really wasn’t satisfied with how it was looking. At the same time, I ran across part one of a nice roaning tutorial by Amanda Brock (Rogue Horse Studio) and Caryn showed me her first roan (done with a similar pastel technique) who was turning out quite nicely.

Caryn's horse (in progress). Can you believe that's her first roan?

Caryn’s horse (in progress). Can you believe that’s her first roan?

Inspired, I washed the acrylic roaning off my resin and started to work on him with pastels and pencil. He already had a sealed blue-grey-brown base coat, and I started in on some white pastel using Amanda’s stippling technique. I also added some hairing detail with colored pencils. I was all ready to start doing some serious hairing with white charcoal when I dropped him on the floor. Sigh.

I was actually pretty lucky- all he lost was an ear. But it took me another few hours of work to get him whole again.

Building a new ear using Sarah Rose's super glue and baking soda technique

Building a new ear using Sarah Rose’s super glue and baking soda technique

After shaping his new ear, it took a few coats of acrylic to get it somewhat matching again. Then finally, using my white charcoal pencil, I started adding individual white hairs.

hale - hair roaning started

It’s crucially important when doing hair-by-hair roaning to a.) keep your pencil very sharp and b.) keep references handy. I’m using multiple hair growth charts (download them here) as well as close up pictures of flanks, armpits, and other tricky areas.

Keeping the pencil sharp enough to draw hairs on a stablemate scale resin requires a lot of sharpening. I used a regular sharpener plus sandpaper. You have to do it almost constantly, and that means you go through a lot of pencil.

When I started roaning, I had two full sized pencils.

When I started roaning, I had two full sized pencils.

Happily, there’s an art store within walking distance so I was able to pop out one afternoon and buy six more pencils to use.

hale - charcoal pencils 2

I’ve got a whole collection of nubbins now, but I’m done with the first layer of hair detailing.

Even with all the sharpening, it’s basically impossible to get all the little hairs quite right. To keep things from being too stark, I go over each section with a medium-stiffness brush, keeping with the direction of the hair growth. It smudges the drawn hairs slightly and takes off any excess dust, which softens the detailing in a nice, more realistic way. I seal each layer with Dull Cote before moving on to the next. As with pastels, the sealer “pushes back” the color a bit which also helps prevent any stark lines.

On his neck and shoulder, the hairs have been brush-softened and sealed with Dull Cote. The starker hairs on his barrel have just been drawn in with the pencil.

On his neck and shoulder, the hairs have been brush-softened and sealed with Dull Cote. The starker hairs on his barrel have just been drawn in with the pencil.

I’ve been finding time to do a bit of work every night, and by today the first layer of hair-by-hair roaning is done. I need to do a bit more blending in some areas, but I’m going to give him a break for a bit so I can come back with a fresh eye. I also might work a bit on his acrylic details so I can better picture how his coat color will look on the finished horse.

I’m still working on a name for him- I’d like to find something from French Brittany, since the Breton breed is from there. It’s an area highly influenced by Welsh and Gaelic language, which is always fun.

Martouf the Strawberry Blond

I’m continuing to work on Martouf as time allows. I was able to put in some really good time on him last weekend, and I can really see his body color coming together now.

martouf - 2-22-13

His mane and tail are a complex color. As a chestnut-going-grey, he’s got a whole bunch of tones in there. I was actually a little afraid to start working on the hair at all, but I got brave yesterday. My main reference horse has a reddish mane with greys around the roots and a lot of variation. I started out by gathering together a bunch of colors that might work. I used Jaime Baker’s brilliant tip about comparing to a printed reference page to find out which I really wanted to use.

martouf forelock - colors

Martouf already had a very thin light chestnut coat over his hair to help me visualize. I started adding in the other colors, keeping an eye on my reference and also on the overall flow of color in the sculpted mane. My technique was basically to keep adding color, in thinner and thinner lines. If there was a swath of one color that I could fit my brush into, that meant it needed another line of a different color added.

martouf forelock 01

Besides varying the colors, it’s really important to make sure you find and paint every bit of sculpted mane or tail. Sometimes it’s hard to get at, for example, the edges of a lock of hair, but it’s really important to maintain the realistic “weight” of the hair.

martouf forelock 02

Also, note the color of the shorter hairs where the mane meets the body color. Often those are the color of the body more than the mane. I used some Titan Buff to transition between the white/grey of his body to the reds and darker greys in his hair.

martouf forelock 03

In the last picture his forelock is about 95% done. I still need to add a few more bits, but I ran out of time. I’ll add that when I tackle the tail- but I want to wait til I have 2-3 free hours before I start that!