Customs: Scratchbuilding 101

Discussion in 'Creative General Discussion' started by Superquad7, Feb 26, 2011.

  1. Superquad7

    Superquad7 We're only human. Super Mod

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    Hey gang, I thought I'd be a bit proactive about a tutorial here. I've seen the demand for a scratchbuilding tutorial here for quite some time, but not a whole lot has been written or shared here about the process. I'd like to see some of you who are moderately or heavily into scratchbuilding to share some of your thoughts and steps, etc. about how your processes go. What sorts of things to you recommend/not recommend? What are some of your good sources for materials (I know that the yard sale signs are great for a source, for example)?

    That's all just a primer for discussion. If any of you have any questions, comments, ideas, suggestions, etc., feel free to post away. Also, photos are most helpful, especially with as much explanation as possible :) 
     
  2. Altitron

    Altitron Commercial Artist

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    Where are you, Brian?! BK? Encline? Zildjian? Anemis??? :) 

    - Alty
     
  3. Superquad7

    Superquad7 We're only human. Super Mod

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    Actually, my boy Jarrod immediately comes to my mind :) 
     
  4. Altitron

    Altitron Commercial Artist

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    That he does! Ninos, too! Wikkid? :) 

    - Alty
     
  5. Superquad7

    Superquad7 We're only human. Super Mod

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    Yep.

    Nemesis Predaking made a great Gatling Guns video as well recently.

    * * * * *

    So what have some of you guys found useful? Any particular projects, tutorials, or wip threads that were helpful?
     
  6. Altitron

    Altitron Commercial Artist

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    To be honest with you, I think the most helpful resource I've found to be is plain trial and error. However, working with styrene is not an elaborate medium. Like any other building project, be it a house or a part for a robot, it helps to have what you'd like to build drawn out beforehand - or a blueprint. To that end, accurate measurements help. :) 

    - Alty
     
  7. Treadshot A1

    Treadshot A1 Or just 'A1' for short...

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    Posting to say that even though i'm not one to scratchbuild a whole figure, i often do make weapons and accessories from styrene, my favorite being chemical tanks and flamethrowers.

    My only advice for projects like this? Don't measure anything. Seriously, to make a cylcindrical tank at this scale (we're talking smaller than WFC Soundwave's batteries), it's much easier to cap a styrene tube with sheets, and then just cut away any excess and sand down the ends with a Dremel to achieve a taper. Obviously this means that each one will be slightly different, but it's much more effective time-wise. Same goes for flamethrowers and, by extension, some guns.

    The bigger stuff i'll leave to the more experienced people (Anemis, spill it already! ;) ).

    Oh, and invest in a pin vise. Do it.

    EDIT: If it's small, just use Shapeways and be done with it. :tongue: 
     
  8. Superquad7

    Superquad7 We're only human. Super Mod

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    You guys using superglue as adhesive or another type?

    Honestly, I'm just throwing suggestions out here for discussion.
     
  9. Fishdirt

    Fishdirt Tin Toy Transformer

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    If you search for superglue here you'll get that info I gathered up.

    Also another scratchbuilder mentions laminating to increase thickness. That is stacking styrene sheets by gluing them together then gluing the seams and later sanding.


    abs/acrylic sheets are used a lot too.

    Though I haven't done it I am guessing a heat gun helps when shaping styrene. Using wood blocks in various shapes and putting the styrene on them then heating until it forms into the shape. Much like metal fabrication. I gathered this from various places I've read.

    Styrene does not need to be cut all the way. Simply scoring is enough to make a clean break for a certain shape.
     
  10. hXcpunk23

    hXcpunk23 The Chaos Bringer

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    I'll try to give a rundown on what I use and how I go about building certain things when I have more time (hopefully in the next day or so). Still busy trying to backup and save some things and fix my laptop.
     
  11. TGping

    TGping Well-Known Member

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  12. Fishdirt

    Fishdirt Tin Toy Transformer

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  13. Superquad7

    Superquad7 We're only human. Super Mod

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    I always enjoy reading your thoughts, man :thumb  Hopefully, things will settle down soon :) 

    *HUGS*
     
  14. Treadshot A1

    Treadshot A1 Or just 'A1' for short...

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    About the glue thing: Zap-A-Gap or die. ;) 
     
  15. Fishdirt

    Fishdirt Tin Toy Transformer

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  16. anemis

    anemis Well-Known Member

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    lol i,m here

    it,s a bit hard to know what to suggest when there,s no specifics...

    ask a question and i,ll try to answer it if i can... or someone else could...
    i would like to post videos of various techniques but i need time to do it... and that,s something i lack sometimes...
     
  17. Superquad7

    Superquad7 We're only human. Super Mod

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    I'll bite here:

    Since we design our tutorials section for the absolute beginner, what would be some things you'd recommend to someone starting out?

    What are some things you've learned over the years with your work?

    How does the medium you're working with affect how you go about the project in contrast to kitbashing?

    How much kitbashing do you like to do with your scratchbuilds? Do you prefer to create everything, or would you rather have a base to begin with?

    How does the size and weight determine how you go about ensuring against stability issues? Playwear?
     
  18. Bigbot3030

    Bigbot3030 Well-Known Member

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    Some things that I consider basics for beginners.

    1)Like treadshot said, invest in a pin-vise and a smaller drill set. Also, when drilling, start with a smaller drill size than you need and work your way up to the final size. it will make sure you have a clean hole, and that the drill bit didn't "walk" on you and is out of place.
    2)invest in a hobby(x-acto) knife and a 100 pack of blades. you get more bang for your buck then buying those 10 or 20 packs, and you'll need them. And then don't be afraid to toss a blade and switch it for a new one when it gets dull.
    3) invest in a metal ruler. you can buy a 6" long version, and I use that thing for just about everything. I have some longer ones, but the majority of work you'll do starting out is small. I'd shy away from the wood ones with the metal edge. I find it's more accurate to have the metal edge as close to the surface as possible, and those wood ones are raised.
    4) I would also strongly advise in investing in a needle file set like this
    http://www.micromark.com/12-piece-Swiss-Pattern-Needle-File-Set,6787.html
    they are cheap and it saves me so much time in the detail shaping/sanding area that I couldn't imagine doing without it. Don't bother with the diamond ones, styrene is so soft you are wasting your money.

    That micro-mark is a great single site for small tools, but i advise using that as research for what you might need. Search around the web for the best price for what you want, and don't get caught up in buying all these tools. I used to build some pretty cool models wiht a single x-acto, pin vise with three drill bits, and sandpaper. try to start out simple and find what works for you, but I now consider these things as my most basic in what I use everyday.

    Techniques are a bit harder to decribe, like anemis was tlaking about, but i'll try to write some things out.

    Randy!
     
  19. Superquad7

    Superquad7 We're only human. Super Mod

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    *looks at Bigbot's post*

    Ah, now we're starting to get somewhere :) 
     
  20. hXcpunk23

    hXcpunk23 The Chaos Bringer

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    Tools

    • Hobby Knife/X-Acto Knife
    • Metal Ruler
    • Leatherman Wave Tool (google it)
    • Pencil
    • Sharpie Permanent Marker (ultra fine point)
    • Dremel (w/drill bits, cutting discs, sanding discs)
    • Cutting Mat
    • Styrene (various sizes, including tubing and rods)
    • Loctite Super Glue Ultra Gel and/or Loctite Super Glue Control Gel
    • Fine grit sandpaper (I use the small sheets that Testors makes)
    • Q-tips (cotton swabs)
    • Sculpting/Filling Putty (such as Aves, ProCreate, Loctite, & even Mighty Putty)

    Cutting

    Whenever I'm planning out scratchbuilt parts, I reference a lot of artwork and even animation. Once I get a feel for the part I want to build, I do a rough sketch of it on sheet styrene (if it's a simple shape, I'll use the Sharpie--it rubs off fairly easily or you can lightly sand it off later). If I'm going for more detail, I'll use a pencil and metal ruler to draw it out.

    • Draw the basic shape of your piece you'd like (you can always sand it and fine tune it later)
    • Once you have your shape(s) drawn out on the styrene (and some of you may not even need to do this--it just helps at times), place the sheet styrene onto your cutting mat.
    • Next, use your metal ruler and hobby knife to carefully score the sheet styrene (you'll want to do maybe 3-5 good scores).
    • Once you have a couple of sides scored, you can grab hold of each side and carefully bend it back and forth until it "pops".
    • Continue until you have your piece cut out, then break out the sandpaper.
    • Sand the edges smooth (you will have some rough edges from the scores and break points).
    • Once your part is ready, set it aside and if need be, measure to make sure it will work.
    • Continue with each piece until you have all that you need. You'll definitely need to test fit pieces to make sure they fit together and that one isn't larger than the other (if they are two parts of a whole).

    Building

    Now comes the fun part, putting your parts together and building something cool. I use Loctite Super Glue Ultra Gel & Control Gel (the Ultra holds stronger on styrene, the Control helps you apply tiny amounts, instead of pouring all over). I apply the glue to one side, after roughing them up slightly with sandpaper, then press and hold the two parts together. I let them sit for maybe 15 minutes and they're usually good to go (you can probably let them sit for less time, but it's better to leave them for a bit to allow the glue to properly dry).

    If you're building onto an existing part or figure, do the usual cleaning and then rough it up just a bit in the area you plan to attach to (it helps hold better). If you happen to put too much glue on a part and it seeps out from underneath, you can use a Q-tip (cotton swab) to run along the edge and it helps clean it up and smooth it down around the edges.

    Sanding your parts before gluing is a good idea because once they are together, it will be harder to get into the smaller areas and grooves. I also use my Leatherman Wave Tool (it's a multi-tool w/knives, scissors, pliers, wire cutters, saws, screwdrivers, etc). It has a file blade that works great also (one side is very fine and the other is rough). It can help even out those pieces of styrene that don't cut as straight as you need them.

    Now if you plan to build up a part that is thick and large, you may need to cut more than one part from your sheet styrene and stack them to bulk up the part. You can also use very thin sheet styrene to lay over the parts you've build together or stacked and help cover some of those gaps or cracks. For other gaps or cracks in your parts, you may need to pick up some sculpting/filling putty. Once your gaps are filled in (no real need to go into details on how to do this--just fill the gap with the putty). Sand the putty flush with the part(s) and you're good to go.

    If you plan to build heads, you can go two ways.....scratchbuilding from styrene or using an existing head to build on. I use the latter in most of my customs. I find a head that has a good basic shape that I need, then I figure out what size and thickness of sheet styrene I'll need. I cut the parts a bit larger than they need to be, since I'll be doing a LOT of cutting and sanding to shape the head how I want it. The best tip I can give for the head work is to start from the inside out. If you want a cool visor for a character's eyes, do that first, then build the forehead, sides of the head, and nose areas around it or over it. It helps add depth and if done right, can make a very cool custom head. Use the same glue before and sand your parts. The only other advice I can give one head building would be to use tons of reference art and toy pictures. I tend to reference a lot different things, so my customs work and heads are usually a mix of the old school, the new, and even what some artists put into their 2-D work. I don't stick to G1-only or anything like that. I look at other styles and series and see what might look best for a more updated/modern feel (much like Classics/Universe/Generations has been).
     

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