Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Learning to cast but loosing the muse....

Hello folks..

So not really sure that this post will live up to the previous three.. 

A few weeks back I offered to host an up coming summer 40k skirmish game at my house .. its a new house to me having only lived there 6 months compared to the past 17 years at my previous one.. I thought it might be a chance to make some new scenery.. all my previous builds were at the dining room table of my old home but this new place has a basement for such things.. oh what luxury ;-)

Bromholme was going to be the muse A Inq28   Dalthus sector shrine world PDH  devised with a little input from me partly inspired by the sombre works of beksinksi

Its a scenery challenge I have been looking forward to for a few years...( I originally intended to make all the worlds in the phrellian sub sector   but only every managed to complete the ice moon fellixus IV I think it could only be realised by hosting a game in my own home thus negating any large scenery travel plans. ;-)

I started feverishly gathering styles and a visual language.. I recorded some of this process and thought it might prove insightful or useful to others ..

A grave yard theme seemed appropriate..and having just converted and painted up a replica skull to inspire me i was off to a good start..

The muse is a fluid thing.. and although I started off thinking about Beksinski cathedrals and tombstones..I was soon consumed by the 40k Blanchean aesthetic ..

These images in particular sum up the pyramidal bone middens I was going to try and recreate..
I know 40k can often be accused of going skull heavy .. but to me that is the underlying reality of life in the 40th millennium.. life is cheap .. all of humanity not only space marines are its greatest resource.. millions or is it billions of worlds.. countless soldiers dying in huge swathes .. the rements of these souls a useful building resource.. as depicted in the wonderfully gothic third edition of warhammer 40k..

These images were the muse now I just needed to create a convincing gameboard reality to game on from them..

Part 2 The build

One of the most enjoyable aspects of the hobby for me is researching new things in an attempt to learn how to understand or make something. In this case I was going to enjoy learning all about gothic architecture  , human bone churches..animal bone crushing factories.. and how industrial  compounds like coal salt or iron ore  form the pyramidal or conical shapes they form when gathered together.. oh yes and medieval  pilgrims , reliquaries, desert anchorites . stylites  . Dutch weigh-men, weighouses monasticism and the paintings of Byzantium saintly halos..

I wont bore you with the details... but i would say to those based in the uk who are reading this .. the BBC I player has some wonderful documentaries on the  Gothic subject at present.

Warhammer 40k third edition is the most ecclesiastical version of 40k i have seen..  and i was hoping to bring some of that aspect into the board..

To achieve the often grand yet detailed scale of 40k i decided to learn how to cast...

if I could create my own masters i could replicate the details infinitely and at a much lower price to buying .. cost is always going to be an issue with the hobby and terrain making..due to the scale needed. in the past i have bought stuff at full retail price ..just loads of it.. like for the ygg board .. but times change and this board needed to be done as cheaply as possible..

If i wanted ruined cathedrals and  lots of skulls .. casting with a casting plaster was the only viable  option.


This is not intended as a tutorial on how to cast with plaster.. there are loads of far more usefeul tutorials on the net about that ..  rather an exploration into it...

Now i  am quite new to  casting ..  in the past i have press molded green stuff to make scarabs

and I have used woodland scenic's rock moulds and clear resin for ice effects

but I have never created a mould for plaster.. or resin for that matter.. its quite a precise operation not something that I excel in .. but I persisted..

I started off by picking up some re-mouldable  putty

 which is quite fun and quite cheap .. its very similar to using green stuff as a mould but its is non sticky which is  a huge bonus plus hot water returns it to its gelatinous state that allows infinite numbers of remoulding..  it even allows plaster to be cast into it.. it lacks the absolute details of a silicon rtv mould though..  i am not sure if it can take resin .. but i doubt it as the resin i used before got very hot when curing.

next up  i tried making a rtv mold using lego plastercine and rtv silicon bought from here :

expensive delivery but only took two days !

 I had already cast up some  plaster skulls from a smaller mould and wanted to increased the cast-able area with a bigger silicon rtv mould to reduce the amount of time i spent casting..

 60 skulls

around 600 skulls

Just to be clear : any GW bits or anything else for that matter , that I cast .. were only for my personal gaming requirements.. so I can create repetition of parts for effect.. I do not condone recasting for profit.

As you can see the casting at this stage went quite well .. I learnt its better to keep a boarder around the thing you want to cast ..for easier de-moulding.  I now had a viable mould for casting the plaster into and potentially creating a lot of skulls..

part 3 casting plaster

At this point my energy for the project was still high .. I  was still learning new things ..everything had potential..

casting plaster is messy .. I new that before I started ..its not something I generally would do for the hobby ... plaster absorbs paint and it chips.. not a great wargaming material.. I have seen little to convince me otherwise.. but... its very cheap - comparatively to resin and I needed a lot !

I could not see  another option.. hirst arts has long being the mainstay for wargaming and plaster..I made use of  a lot of information from hirst arts tutorials on the website and through youtube videos..
and learnt early on that the cheaper plaster of Paris would be less good for casting than  an Alpha dental plaster.

in the UK Crystacal R alpha casting plaster seems like a good option and that's the one I decided on.
a large 25kg bag can be picked up on ebay for around £27.00

 So like this post .. the whole process of building a shrine world bedecked with 100.000 skulls had started to take its toll.. like most hobbyists I have the attention span of a newt when new shiny things come out to play .. and the new ad mech stuff I can resist no more.. ;-) so as much as I enjoyed this project .. its consigned to the back burner for now.. the chore of  constantly casting and demoulding  has taken its toll on my desire to see this this gameboard come to life.. plus i really dont think i have time to create a master mould for a ruined cathedral and then cast that up along with all the details that bring a 6ft by 4ft board to life.. in its stead a 40k alcohol/synth drug distillery/ pumping station along with Jes Goodwin inspired rogue trader long rifle bootlegger trenchoat bandits.. using the new pipe system seems much simpler and more practical... but before i go.. it would be a shame not share some pics of the conversions i started for the project..  and for those of you that read warhammer visions..

I have it on good information that the confrontation tech gang and the beautiful game miner i created for some games a warhammer world are in this months edition of Blanchitsu ! many thanks to John and the guys that put it together.. I am really very proud.. ;-)


  1. Great update. I've been thinking about how to create skulls and bones en masse myself for the Throne of Bones, the way you have made skulls looks great to me but if you aren't feeling the cathedral idea then maybe do something different with them. Cathedrals and ruins seem to be the mainstay of 40k scenery projects anyway - how about more ash wastes with all these skulls buried under ash?

    I've been trying to figure out how to get lots of bones cheaply, any ideas for that? I want to be able to scatter them all over... I was thinking of bones from small mammals but it's surprisingly hard to buy clean mouse bones in bulk quantities!

    As ever, your half finished models and odd things in the background are more interesting than most completed projects. The cardinal type character is totally brilliant, I love that head, I think Cerebalerebus used it on a Nurgle Lord many moons ago. The cardinal needs a walking stick I think, like he is frail despite his enormous size.

    Painting numerals on all those skulls will take you a while.

    1. Hey Bruticus.. Your probably right about the ashwaste stuff.. I have an anchoring to see Rad Dunes and half buried lost and forgotten golden expansionists settlements revealed .. stc's for taking...

      Geiger apparently used animal bones to create the alien world the ship crashed upon.. when making Alien.. Not really sure what to suggest .. there are some model basing suplliers that focus on bones as opposed to skulls.. i will upload the images to the gimme bar later.. you could just cast up toy dinosaur skeletons.. i myself have a few resin taxidermy model animal skulls picked on ebay.. and i knwo there is a pirates of the cacribean finderbone dice game out there on amazon because i was going to pick it up for this game.. depending how much you need maybe toys .. but most likely casting will be the best option..

      thanks for the compliment on the cardinal .. I am glad it comes across as such. that is the third conversion based on that model i have done ! a staff is what i going to give him too ! a shepherding crosier.. that is the guy who was going to be my papal bull btw

      ninethousand ninehundred and ninetynine...

  2. I read this with my hand over my mouth, astonished at the sheer ambition of this project, and its morbid beauty. This really is an aesthetic of excess and death.

    1. Cheers dapper .. alas it was over ambitious.. although i learned a lot ..

      Alle Fleshe is grasse...

  3. That was quite an undertaking - the results so far look amazing though. Don't count it out; it may be a long-long-term project that's worth keeping around.

    I do really like the idea of the bootleggers band.

  4. This is really impressive, Neil! Can't wait for more pics. :D

    1. Cheers Logan.. You might be waiting a while for the mojo come back though..;-/

    2. *sending a lot of mojo thru the aether to you* :)

  5. Thanks Odie.. I feel i have done too much to count it out completely but i also know its difficult to come back to a project when that initial drive has diminished.. i guess its a case of wait and see..

    I am really feeling the bootleggers nothing too fancy inspired by the beautiful ad mech figures the harlequins releases as well as certain Jes Goodwin Illustration featuring criminal desperado Myron jubalgunn ! ;-)

  6. Very nice, reminds me of some bone churches I saw when I was CZ and Verdun.

    1. Yeah those bone churches are rather ghoulish ..impressive but disturbing equally.

  7. Cheers Mate.. hopefully it will get the finish it deserves..

  8. Absolute bloodi genius. I'll have to send you some photos of my plane of bones I started years ago that I was telling you about in Manchester. In fact, you'd be welcome to them all should the muse return - about 6ft x 6" of skull road and 6-8 skull mounds (about 35mm high.

    Please finish the abyssinian cardinal! He looks Amazing!

    1. Wow i hadn't realised the road was so big mate.. please do email the pics ;-)

      i do like that cardinal..not sure what colour he should be though ..purple & gold maybe.. or possibly white and green..?

    2. Dirty white and green sounds good. Bit of old gold detailing. By the way, is he wearing Hector Rex's leg as his hat of office?

    3. Aye it is..blumming leg pinching imperialists !

    4. Hahahaha! Absolute genius :)

  9. Don't have anything more constructive to add that has not been said but I understand that such a massive undertaking took the motivation out of you.

    Not directly related to this board - the fantastic ice planet board. What did you use for all of the snow if I may ask?


    1. Cheers Big Boss.. The ice planets build was documented here :

      but to answer your question .. it was woodland scenics soft snow flake mixed with pva- white glue. unfortunately because i painted underneath the snow acrylic white .. the very white snow flakes eventually started to yellow with the paint beneath . there is probably a better way to achieve the realistic snow affect imo..although i dont know it ;-)

  10. Wow, what an impressive project!

    The imagery in Warhammer 40,000 was the first thing that drew me into the universe and hobby. Many of the pieces in the 2nd and 3rd edition rulebooks made a big impression on me. The prevalence and depth of the blacks always stood out to me (sort of a shame they are shifting more towards full color with a lot of their artwork). Some of Wayne England’s work, like the one of that bone scrivener (shown in your post), are simply unforgettable. He has a wonderful way of making twisted and sinister facial expressions and his stylized skulls are chilling.

    The mountain/pyramid of skulls has always been lingering in 40k imagery (and I think everyone dreams of making a skull covered gaming board at least once, ha ha). I have never seen someone realize the imagery in model form so closely, achieving the same spirit as the artwork. I have seen some cases where a flat surface is covered in skulls (GW’s realm of battle board does to some extent), but I feel such things simply looks childish and forced. It is only when the skulls are piled up, into middens, that it really becomes 40k, the grim practicality of the Imperium. You have actually hit a primal vein of the 40k ethos.

    1. Aye up Mr Wier ,

      Thank you for the compliment ;-)

      I agree whole heatedly with what you say about the black and white stuff of 2nd and 3rd when i first saw the colour reproductions of some of that art I was slightly deflated .. as impressive as the artwork by Dainton and kopinksy is in colour .. i think the editorial or financial choice to show most artworks in black and white was a brilliant one.. it unified all the artists and gave a singular dark vision/tone that really suited 40k - its not that I dont appreciate art work in colour - how could you not ..

      I really like Wayne England's 40k work both he and Carl Critchlow really elaborated on that Comic book style..

      Yes a skull board is all of our to do lists ! i think..this is my second attempt actually years ago i made a tiny pyramid using clay but it look crap and got binned.. i was hoping to elaborate on that with the thing i have learned over the past five years..

      cheers mate

    2. I agree wholeheartedly about GW going back and colorizing most of their old black and white art. In most cases a lot of the depth and atmosphere of the pieces was tarnished with the addition of color. Part of what made a lot of the art compelling was the strong use of blacks and white, adding to the grim and hopeless universe being depicted.

      On top of this they now no longer acknowledge the artists by name in their publications, instead listing something like the Games Workshop design staff. And what I have found even more egregious that the simple colorization (and lack of credit given to the artists), is that in many instances they actually modify the original images, adding or removing wargear to better reflect model changes. This I remember was rampant in the Dark Angels codex where they edited in some of the new landspeeders and plasma weaponry… In nearly every case it felt to me they were cheapening the integrity of the artist’s original work. :(

    3. I always assumed the artworks were in colour but just presented in black and white.. probably a case of both.. I didn't know about the art retcon though its not something I came across myself..

      Following the artists work by name was a wonderful aspect of the early warhammer.. in particular Illuminations in white dwarf always captured my imagination.. the fact that the works were so esoteric / ideas driven and 40k had yet to be nailed down was also part of the attraction...

      I freely draw upon any era of 40k for my inspiration or gaming desires.. there is a lot of stuff out there and each edition adds something interesting to the mythology ..

    4. Yeah, I am not too thrilled with GW's shift to crediting their "reprography" team, rather then the artists that created the pieces. In a lot of cases they seem to blur out details to make it easier to color. It is a credit to the original artists, that a lot of the time they still look good despite the changes. I loved how most of the older artwork was not made to just look like a model, but instead the artist was allowed to show their vision of the characters in question. Now much of GW's art is so bland and uninspired, mimicking but not capturing greatness like Blanche or Kopinski.

      I wrote something about the Dark Angels and Dark Eldar Codex books when they were released, comparing some of the artwork changes side by side if you are interested in seeing some of the more remarkable changes:

      Moving past GW's questionable art decisions, your new board is coming together fantastically! The way you continuously create such stunning battlefields is truly an inspiration. It is one thing to create a cool model or two, but to create an entire battlefield with just as much character and charm is quite another. Just looking at the battlefields you have created, conjures up so many stories instantly in my mind. It is certainly a joy to see the grim Blanchian mounds of skulls from the 2nd and 3rd edition days in model form. They hold a special place in my heart, and it is great to relive those days staring at your world come to life!

    5. Hey Eric , Interesting links mate.. I agree with you about all that.. although it doesn't bother bother me too much because the last codex I bought myself was demon hunters.. ! the new stuff doesn't really do it for me either. I think for those of us who were brought into 40k with those brilliant creative visionary artists of yesteryear ,there is very little the currant GW can do to satisfy our refined artistic pallet.. I think we were spoiled !

      thank you for the kind comments regarding the scenery .. hopefully the new stuff wont remain unfinished for too long

  11. Wow, this is so 40k.

    I have just recently gotten back to the old 2nd and 3rd edition books, re-reading the background story and rediscovering the great artwork, so I think I can understand where you're coming from with this...

  12. Cheers mate.. weirdly enough i never had the 2nd edition .. i have it now though and am thoroughly enjoying what i missed.. .. but it was rogue trader 1st for me then the third then i came back into it during the 5th for a toe dip.. and fully back with the 6th

  13. Neil, I love you mate!! This is absolutely incredible. I saw your muse the other day and sent her back. So expecting more genius sooner than later.

    1. Thanks Migs ..that is very kind of you ;-) I have to say all the positives are kinda uplifting.. so the muse coming back doesn't seem so unlikely now..

  14. Utterly stunning work Neil. The Hector-leg as a cardinals hat is pure brilliance (great find Fulgrim). The sheer amount of work and personal talent blows my mind every time you post - but this is over the top - need a cup of strong coffee now :)

    The undead horse and watchman on the plain of bone is wndrfl!

  15. Aye up Stefan , Glad you like the update i had been wondering weather to bother showing stuff if I wasn't going to finish it.. .. It was enjoyable to learn new stuff.. although I didn't master - getting rid of air bubbles in the casts..The Cardinals Mitre is the second attempt at a ecclesiastical hat .. the first was one of the space marines captains legs on a lowly bishop last year..

  16. you need to sell these man (id buy casts!.... so good. :D

  17. Completely amazing! I'm so glad you shared everything, finished project or not. Even when unfinished your projects are always such an inspiration.

    Those pyramids of skulls really are such a striking 40k image. Have you seen the Capuchin Crypts in Rome? A must-see if you're in Rome, and maybe worth a trip from England (plenty of other amazing things to see in Rome of course)!. The Parisian catacombs and general Roman Catacombs are amazing too but the Capuchin tombs are have much more playful, decorative bone-work:

    Even the casts with air bubbles or unfilled areas are perfect for broken, rotting fields of bones. Very clever. You make me want to try casting! Sticking to one-sided molds that you cast flat building blocks out of is a clever approach that bypasses registration issues.

  18. Cheers Weirdingway.. that is very nice of you to say.. ;-)

    I have not seen the capuchin crypts in person .. having never been to rome.. although my sister in law has just returned from Rome and and brought back stories of the crypts..

    Thanks for the links.. i did come across some bone church images whilst researching but most of them are new to me.. the decorated aspect was something was going to draw upon for the cathedral.. but not too much. o thin utilitarian skull work would be more in-line with sombre vibe i was trying to capture.. I still need to upload my research findings to the gimme bar .. not grisly stuff as i find that a bit much for my tastes these days.. i came across a play that used hundreds of cast skulls and the scene from lord of the rings return of the king.. where Aragorn meets with the Dead Men of Dunharrow was quite inspiring..

    yes the bubble casts are not too troubling with skulls .. ;-) one of the reasons i felt i could get away with using plaster was that its so naturally resembles bone.. although it would be painted also.. negating that advantage i guess..

  19. Nordic here: About airbubbles in casts: Just as you've filled your mould. tap it repeatedly until it sets. should get rid of a lot of bubbles. maybe not all of them but a lot

    1. Cheers Nordic ! i read somewhere that folk can build there own vibrating machine to get rid of unwanted bubbles.. i doubt i will ever need to cast enough to warrant that, but finger tapping is manageable..

  20. Brilliant work - looking forward to seeing more


    1. Cheers Warburton... i am hoping the board will get some love towards the end of the year.. it would be a shame for it not to get finished after all the effort i put in..
      maybe a on a smaller scale though..