No Hot Pants Allowed

As I mentioned in another entry, I had a 1:20 scale Tamiya pit crew figure that needed some fixin’. Basically, the guy was wearing short-shorts (because, apparently, that’s how some pit crew dresses somewhere?!?) and his arm was designed to stick straight up–waving to persons unknown. Well… That didn’t work for me. So, with Milliput in-hand, I went about fixing the problem.
First things first: For the unaware, Milliput is a two-part epoxy putty. Essentially, you get a box with two small wads of epoxy, which you then take (half) as much as you need, mix it together, sculpt it, and let it harden (which, according to the box, is 2-3 hours). If you fail to properly mix up the two parts of the epoxy–as I did–it doesn’t harden over a period of at least 48 hours. I’ll come back to that li’l stumbling block later.
So I mixed up the two-part epoxy. Prior to it curing, it has the hardness of something slightly tougher than Play-Doh, but slightly softer than that clay we always used in grade school when I was a kid. I used a styrene tube (1/2" diameter) to roll a chunk of it as flat as possible, cut one end in an even line (for the bottom of the pant-leg), and wrapped it around his leg. From there, I used my fingers, a toothpick, and the flat side of an Xacto knife to sculpt it into a pant leg as best I could. To help hide the seam/transition from plastic to Milliput, I opted to add cargo pants styled pockets directly over the seam. For those, I just made another flat chunk of Milliput, cut out a rectangular shape, and used an Xacto knife to carve in the details. It worked a little better than I’d hoped, but a far cry from perfect. It at least worked well enough that I added two more of these "pockets" to the front of the guy’s shirt, to give him some added detail. And, with some left over Milliput, I gave him a little circular "patch" on his right sleeve. I’ll paint something on it later.
For the left arm, I re-positioned it to where he’d at least be touching the Fireball with both hands, while the arm was still raised up enough so his raised left shoulder didn’t look odd, super-glued it into place, and then super-glued some small bits of styrene into the gap between his arm and his shoulder. After that had dried, I added some more Milliput into the gap. Just prior to that step–and before the Milliput on the legs had fully cured–I carved some "creases" into his pant legs with the Xacto. And this is the point where I ran into trouble.
After I thought  the Milliput had cured (a full 24 hours), I tried sanding it. I quickly noticed that the pant legs–from about the knees down–were very soft. And the sandpaper and sandpaper sticks were pulling up li’l bits of Milliput. And if I held down on the legs hard enough, it shifted the Milliput around. To make a long story short, the Milliput wasn’t cured which is probably due to it not being properly mixed. I was able to tear it off the right leg with my fingers and the left leg with an Xacto knife.
So… I mixed up some more Milliput. This time, instead of just trying to roll the two chunks of the two parts of the Milliput together, I cut the whole bunch into semi-tiny pieces and mixed everything together. From there, I repeated the process of flattening the Milliput–though I just squished it flat with my fingers this time–cut off an end (for the end of the pant legs), wrapped it around the legs, and attempted to "sculpt" it again. This time, however, I made two critical differences that hopefully will garner better end results. First, I wore a latex glove on the hand that was doing the sculpting. This eliminated the pressed-in fingerprint issue I was having previously. Second, I used a toothpick to carefully make the creases in the pant legs while they were still soft. They appear much, much smoother than the results I’d gotten carving them in with the Xacto knife. One other difference I made was to make "strips" of Milliput, rather than one giant piece with a straight line at one end. This allowed me to more easily fill the gap from ankle to above the knees without going overboard and having to uncover parts where I’d left the previous batch of Milliput. And with the few gaps that presented themselves that weren’t easily smoothed out, I just took a small piece of Milliput, stuck it in there, and blended it with my finger. Now, if my lucky stars are in balance, the putty will cure properly and will just need some light sanding prior to painting.

To complete the figure, I took some 1:35 soldier accessories (both German and Allied) and glued them onto his belt as small pouches. I noticed I still had a little bit of Milliput left, so I cut a smaller rectangular piece, put a part of a 1:35 knife under it, and stuck it on his sleeve. I then used the tip of an Xacto to make a stitch pattern across the top of it.

Lessons Learned:
  • Always make sure your Milliput is well-mixed before applying/sculpting it.
  • Wearing latex gloves will virtually eliminate the fingerprint grooves of sclupting with a bare hand.
  • Sculpting details (like fabric creases) is much easier to do while the Milliput is soft than trying to carve them in when the Milliput is hard. Not only that, but the results seem to look better, too!
  • Milliput is not an ideal epoxy putty for sculpting subtle details. It’s been suggested that I try a product called "Micro Sculpt", so I need to see if I can track that down in a brick-and-mortar store near me. Otherwise, I’ll need to order some from an online retailer.
Outside of that, I did some minor work on the Fireball last night. Mostly, I hit it with a gloss clearcoat and applied some decals. I also got the styrene for the base cut out and the wooden portion stained. For the styrene part, I cut out a circle of the simulated double diamond plate, cut out a same-sized circle of .030" diameter sheet styrene, and glued the two together. After that, I applied flat aluminum paint to the whole thing. Next, I’ll need to clear-coat it and give it some washes. And that should just about do it for the base.

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