Wednesday 30 September 2015

Cheap Repops and the Ethical Dilemma

There's an industry that's been around for a long time. It's an industry that sticks a middle finger up at 'the man', and provides us with unofficial versions of things we want: that Ralph Lauren shirt that you can't really afford; that Hermes handbag that you wouldn't dream of spending 5 grand on; that Narin Predator sculpt that you've been dreaming of for a decade, but don't have £700 to throw at an a garage resin kit. That industry is based on illegal reproductions - knockoffs, or repops, and they're slowly killing our hobby, driving costs of production higher and higher until it's not viable to manufacture a garage kit.

Repops are a great way to get hold of out-of-production kits, and affordable versions of short-run resin masterpieces. The quality of the products coming out of the Far East has improved over the years. I'm not sure if I'd be able to spot the difference between a vinyl knockoff of an old vinyl kit any more. I have in my stash a repopped Geometric Ripley from Aliens, a Predator of some description, and a Jango Fett from Star Wars Episode 2. In my defence, the repops I have were bought before I understood the subject and I haven't bought any more. It doesn't excuse me, and I should have binned the lot when I learned what they were. I haven't. That's on me, and that's what I want to talk about here.

It's copyright theft. Plain and simple. Somebody, somewhere owns the rights to a product, and may or may not license that to certain distributors or manufacturers. When we buy a knockoff, we're adding to that cycle of theft. When we then sell that finished work on eBay, we're then breaking the law - we're distributing and profiting from infringed material.

If the copyright holder goes out of business, the moulds languish, and the product becomes OOP. The copyright is still held by the owner, even if it's not in production. Only the copywriter owner and licensees have the right to make money (or not!) from the product. Look at the Halcyon/Aoshima/Dragon story for 'how to do licensing properly'.

At some point during the life of the product, an original will be bought and copied. Moulds will be made from the copy and sold en masse at a discount. eBay doesn't really police it like it should, and you can find a lot of knockoffs coming out of Thailand and China.

Usually the knockoffs have an obvious tell. The price difference is the first sign - I saw a Narin knockoff for £40 years ago, where the originals were £700+. That's a fair indicator that it's a fake. Other things to look out for are packaging and colour of material. My Geometric Ripley came bagged, not boxed, and is mounded in white vinyl. The original is mounded in a pinky-brown colour. It used to be that a 1st-gen copy was softer in detail than the original - you can do this at home with a press mould. Once you've made a negative impression (the mould), and then create a positive (the copy), you'll see it's not perfect. Make a neg of the copy, and the 2nd gen will be even worse in quality.

This is a debate that has raged for ages. I remember discussing it 10+ years ago on a modelling forum. "Is it okay to use your own repopped pieces to beef up a model?" There's no 'fair use' policy in the law that I know of, so officially the answer would be NO!

I used to collect AEF Designs' 1:35 Aliens kits. They were perfectly scaled to go with the Halcyon APC, and were great little models. The Eggs packs had 4-6 eggs in the bag. The kits were long OOP. I needed an egg field, so I popped my own copies to fill up the diorama. Illegal? Yes. Unethical? Yes. Did I finish it and sell it? No. No real harm done, then.

I just the other day finished the repopped Jango Fett resin figure. I've sent it to a Twitter follower, who at random hit a milestone subscriber number for my account. I'm justifying this as "it's a gift". "I'm not profiting from it." and all the other excuses you make when you've made an ethical/legal boo boo, but don't want to be judged for your actions. "It's a practice piece that I've rehomed"

To be fair, I've learned a few things building that kit - the quality was poor, the resin was a pig to clean up, and I've learned kinda where I stand in my ethical grey zone.

What are your opinions? What would you like to see changed in the law? Do you care about IP and copyright? I'd love to hear your views. 

Text and photography copyright 2015 MiniModelPaint Studios. All rights reserved.

*disclaimer: I'm not a lawyer. Anything stated above is my understanding of the law, and is subject to being totally wrong

Thursday 24 September 2015

Spruecutters Union - a balanced view on scales.

We're all talking about scale this month. Which is the best compromise between available detail and storage/display requirement? Which do I feel the most comfortable painting? Even the wargaming POV: how large a space do I need to field the right army?

For me it's 1/9 for figures, 1/48 for planes, 1/24-25 for cars and 25/28mm for wargaming.

But that's a bit simplistic.

For diorama building, sometimes you have to pull some tricks. To give a sense of altitude, a 1/48 Spitfire looks great above a base with 1/72-1/76 figures and buildings.

Forced perspective is the name of the game, and it's usually employed in set-building for movies (Gandalf and Bilbo were not having tea at the same end of the kitchen table in 'Fellowship'), but it's also useful for photographing your models - a half-sized background object will give the impression of double the distance between it and the foreground subject. Light it right, and use a shallow depth of field, and you'll have a great shot.

Wargaming dioramas have their own challenges, though, and even at 'heroic' 28mm scale, there isn't really a sense of difference in individual size. For instance, an 8ft Space Marine is the same tabletop size as a 6ft Imperial Guard, and although you can transport 10 loaded Marines in a Drop Pod, not a single one fits within the harnesses inside the vehicle.

This is compounded by True Scale figures - either through conversion or with 3rd-party components, you can make your marines more realistic - longer limbs and better weapons are a good start. However, these guys have NO chance to be modelled inside a troop transport, so would you even want to try?

To be fair, the compromise is logical - playing a battle on a 6x4ft mat, and using Line of Sight shooting rules, means not having scale scenery or vehicles: hills would be ridiculously large, tree coverage  would make moving troops impossible, and buildings would rise through the roof of your house. For years we've pretended that we're sniping from the roof of a highrise ruined administrator's office block, except it's only 4 levels up, each at 1-2 inches apart, which equates to a 30-40ft high suburban home. Not quite as epic a concept as the game wants us to buy into.

Still, it's just another minor compromise to deal with (or ignore) - and thankfully, any water, sand and fire we have to depict will never have to move in scale. Gerry Anderson certainly had that problem with Thunderbirds and related shows. He compromised on scale, and we didn't mind at all.

Thanks for reading! 

Thursday 27 August 2015

Painting realistic fire is hard. Painting magic fire is harder.

Holy Mother of all that is Glossy and Reflective! I think I bit off more than I can chew his time.

I volunteered to paint a mini for Dave (@docbungle)'s #waac Guild Ball charity event supporting Macmillan nurses. I'm occasionally charitable like that. He sent me a little metal chap who is, after a bit of online research, called 'Mercury'.

Part of the Alchemist's Guild, he is depicted in illustrations as a Lederhosen-clad, steampunk master of fireballs.

My instructions from Dave were simple: Paint Scheme is Macmillan Green. Don't do the base.

A bit more online digging gave me some indicators as to the Macmillan colours and style - no more than 2 of the 3 approved greens on a poster. Okay - a mini.

Standard prep - pinning and mould line removal, and mounting on a temporary base to hold while painting. Assembly will wait until the main body is done.

Primer and a tone wash to see what I've missed.

And then the start of the greens. Traditional, but with a twist.

I've decided to go with blue fire. Blue fire is magical, or alchemical. Regular fire isn't exciting enough. Also, the blue will streak nicely, making the greens pop.

Here's the twist on the traditional. These greens will look like Macmillan colours once blended. Also, the face is now more or less done. Trying to figure out the tones in the hair.

Shading is coming along. Steampunk goggles and some light emanating from the fire.

Of course, OSL glows across materials and skin. The blue streak down the shirt is in anticipation of the flame swoosh.

The flasks and phials are different colours. I assume Mercury has more than one fire in his skillset.

Here's the hard bit. Blue fire doesn't usually swoosh. How can I make it feel deep and powerful with a contrasting brightness and sharpness, without it looking like paint?

After several passes, I've settled on this. Not 100% happy with the flame swoosh, but I've run out of time! Very happy with the rest. Dave needs his figure finished, so time for proper photos and then in the post.

Here's the studio montage of snaps and some solos.

Dave is doing the bases for the squad. I'm looking forward to seeing them all together!

Please support #waac if you can. Here's the info:

And grab a T-Shirt!

Monday 24 August 2015

Spruecutters Union - Hidden Details

Do you bother with details of you know they're not going to be seen?

That's this month's question, and I think the 'across-the-board', unanimous answer is Nooooooo!

And I think it's mostly true for me, too. When painting miniatures, especially rank and file models for 40k, there are plenty of hidden areas. Sometimes I might paint a detail before I decide on the accessory to attach - for instance, the Space Marine backpacks, which have grilles and other markings in the space between the figure's back and his pack.

Is there any point in painting the detail? Not really- it's a dark, obscured area, but it could be good practice for new techniques, or other markings you would place elsewhere. If no one can see it, it's yours for the taking.

Other times, for instance when I'm building a diorama, and haven't planned it (60% of the time, every time), I'll detail something only to stick foliage around it.

But usually No. Life's too short.

Thursday 6 August 2015

Black Widow build pt1

There's been a lot of rumbling online, since the 2nd Avengers movie was released, that Scarlett Johansson's Natasha Romanoff, aka Black Widow, hasn't had the merchandising treatment that her male Avenger friends have had the fortune of enjoying.

Thankfully that wasn't always the case. Moebius Models released a slew of Iron Man 2 models back in 2010-12, one of which was Black Widow.

That's a great photo on the front. Designed to grab your attention, don't you think? I like that it's 'age 15 and up'. It's a simple plastic kit - 11 year olds could glue this together. Painting is another thing, but 15? That's a marketing ploy.

Anyway, check out the rear. Of the box.

Spot the difference? The model in the box is looking forwards, rather than head down, looking up - as a superspy temptress might actually look at you.

Some conversion work to be done, then.

Let's begin.

In the box you get a few flesh-coloured sprues. Everything is more or less halved, and has good locator pins for glueing.

The base is mahoosive, though. Start thinking about scenery now...

The detail is good, and the face looks enough like ScarJo that painting won't turn her into Arnie. One thing I'm not impressed with is that she has two right feet.

No, I didn't fit them the wrong way around - nothing I can do about this, so I won't draw attention to it too much...

Dry fitting the arms and head, I can see what needs to be done to tweak the pose.

The hand doesn't sit close enough to the belt, and then there's the head. Cut the head off at the neck, turn, tilt, fill and sand. Easy, right? At least that'll eliminate the centre-parting in the hair.

Now to start adjusting how the head sits.

But that's for part 2...

Wednesday 5 August 2015

Take a Hobby Sabbatical!

Talk to most scale modellers, and they'll likely confess to being terrified of painting figures. They love building and painting armour, aircraft, and sports cars. Many even love placing them on dioramas. Suggest to then that their scene will have more life with some figures, and you'll probably get some kind of excuse as to why it won't work.

I've always had an arrogance about me - there's no reason I can't achieve something if I really want to. Doesn't matter what it is. If I'm not naturally talented at it, I can work hard and learn it. Plenty of room in that spare 85% of grey storage upstairs after all!

Turns out there are a few things I just can't do. I suck at car maintenance, and am unable to keep a cool head while shopping for clothes.

What I have managed, though - and it was quite by accident - was to learn more than just the basics of miniature painting.

I have a 1:48 Spitfire in my stash. It's part finished, as it was my contribution to an abandoned office model-off (or group build depending on how competitive you are).

Definitely not out of the box, I upgraded bits to resin and PE, and bought a flight crew. And there it stayed. I tried a couple of figures, but they looked like a lot of attempts I've seen from casual figure painters. Truly, truly awful. Block colours, thick, blotchy faces with no features. No hope, then, but to make the excuses. "I don't do figures. I like 'accurizing' vehicles".

What a load of old bollocks.

My kid turned ten. He discovered 40k. I dug out my old miniatures collection, and we set out to revamp, expand, and learn new things. He liked the game, and I like to paint - so I taught him the basics of painting, and he taught me the basics of hitting on 3s. By the time he quit (he had enough of getting stick at school for being a nerd, and also being fed up of his 40k friends' lack of conversational range), my obsession with miniature detail had really grabbed hold.

I'm not naturally talented with a brush - past a certain level. I practice wet blending and NMM, because it's bloody hard! I've learned OSL and diorama composition, new basing techniques and airbrush methods. Lining, edge highlighting and the rest.

I found that I hadn't built a scale model in about 3 years, but in the meantime my skillset had grown considerably.

OSL on a spaceship? Yes please! It saves on wiring potentially unnecessary lights, when the illusion of light works just as well.

Edge highlights on engine parts? Thank you very much! Makes the dark areas really pop.

Hand blending small transitions? Saves getting the airbrush out and starting all over again.

Conversely, scale modellers have a lot to teach warpainters. Ever heard of dot filtering or bare-metal foil? I'm yet to try dot filtering properly as a weathering technique, but oil stains will look great on the Imperial Guard Chimera I have started.

So here's my point - if you're a scale modeller who is scared of figure painting, pick up a pack of imperial guard and a white dwarf mag (both nice and cheap on eBay) and get stuck in. Take a break from your Hurricane or Sherman and practice your skintones - zombies, vampires and dwarves all have different requirements - and they're all transferable skills. Check the forums, and follow YouTube tutorials. Totally worth it. If you can detail 28mm, you're onto a winner when you're back working in 1:6 scale!

If you're a warpainter, take a break from Orks and Orcs and build a clean sports car, a beat-up 1950s jet, or an Elizabethan ship. Pick up FineScale Modeller magazine. You'll find your skills being pushed to new levels. Source new ways to make the model special, and you'll find inspiration to up the quality of your wargaming pieces.

You never know, you may fall in love with new things you can do...

Friday 24 July 2015

Spruecutters reunite!

Nice to see that Jon's carnival of bloggers is battling on regardless. It's a great team, with varied insights across myriad aspects of a hobby with such a massive scope.

This month, we're revisiting an old topic - The Stash: Why so many kits?

A small corner of my garage

To be honest, looking at my Twitter colleagues across the world, my stash is poor. I only have 20-40 'ordinary' kits at most (maybe a load more in the way of Warhammer minis, but they're obviously separate, conceptually), and about 5 on the go at once. My wife doesn't get why I have 'so many' that I haven't built, or even that I have some that I won't ever build (and yet she occasionally buys me a new kit for the pile!)


If anyone reading this knows the work of Brad Hair (Twitter user @bhp99), you may know he has recently been posting regular weekend photos of a multi-trip move from a rented lockup to a new shed he's built in his yard. Literally thousands of boxes of plastic have been transported in the back of his pickup truck. Brad is a much more prolific builder and painter than me - he seems to have the commission thing sewn up - and I reckon he'll get through a bigger percentage of his giant stash that I ever will of mine.

If you can spot 3 WIPs here, you

There are a few kits I have in my pile that I have for sentimental reasons. The ERTL/AMT Batmobile from the 1989 Tim Burton movie is a clear winner - I picked my first one up with I was 12ish in Lancaster (The Rocking Horse toyshop), while on my way to a family trip to Plymouth to see my Nan. It cost a fiver (50% off at the time - win!). I remember dry-assembling it in my Nan's spare room, where I had a foldaway bed. I now have 2, and a couple of the send-away vaccu-formed cocoon shields. I'll definitely build one, but keep the other in the box. Just opening the box brings back memories of the smell of that room, and the excitement and anticipation of building it 'properly'.


The Halcyon Movie Classics Kits, for anyone who's ever read this blog, have massive nostalgia for me. As a teen, I hankered after all of the Alien sets - I wasn't allowed to buy them, or they were too expensive - but I did get the Back To The Future Delorean when I was 15. I built that as the flying Mr Fusion version at the end of the first film. And now I have 3 or 4 more. And a few 'too many' Aliens kits. I will always be tempted by mid-90s Halcyon kits. Thanks, eBay...

Aoshima re-released the Halcyon moulds - so these do count...

The Warhammer stash is, as I mentioned, an entirely different thing. It's a mild obsession, based on my habit of collecting things and needing to complete collections (see here for a cataloguing project for an 'investment' habit I managed to kick years ago). I don't play the game any more- I nearly got the wife into Lord of the Rings, but that was a non-starter. My stepson quit playing a few years ago, to pursue more interesting things like video games and girls. Fair enough, but who will I skirmish with now? More to the point, I'm stuck with armies and armies of part-started, and still-sealed models that are worth only a fraction of what I paid for them. Of course, they might pull in more money once they're all painted to decent standard, so I should keep them for that purpose.

Those Lock n Locks hold forgotten surprises

Excuses, eh? We all use them. Maybe it's easier to find BS excuses for our obsessions than to delve into 'real' self-analysis.

Boiled down, I think these things all represent bits of me: my past; my future. Things that a 'Kodak moment' can't always express.

Predator WIP is not a permanent fixture in front of the wedding pic.

BTW, if anyone want to come over and help me tidy my garage, I won't mind.

Saturday 13 June 2015

Oooh - first post in ages, and a commission!

I've been pretty busy of late - busy being an overtired dad, an overworked corporate puppet, and, from time-to-time, a modelly hobbyist. Too busy, to post here, although I have joined the forum for a specific group build, and force my hand to keep to a deadline.

I'm still working on the burnt-out Mk1 Esort, Halcyon Predator and resin (repop) Jango Fett - albeit slowly, and I recently painted a Space Wolf piece for Dave (@docbungle)'s #waac charity drive. I'll post separate builds for all of those soon.

So, because I'm too busy to be actively creative with my writing, I'll share here a post I wrote on Britmodeller. It's a verbatim copy and paste, but I don't think many people are following my threads over there. Quite proud of this build - more for the turnaround time than the quality, but it's definitely "fit for purpose".

I was asked last week to build a blaster prop for a friend. He's off to Secret Cinema's showing of Empire Strikes Back this weekend, and has been told he has to dress as a 'mercenary' - basically a Han Solo-type. He's got enough clothing to pull of the general look, but doesn't want to spend silly money on a prop on Etsy or eBay.
"Pete, can you finish it in 10 days?" he asked me.

Challenge accepted. A DL-44 Heavy Blaster Pistol. Not screen accurate, but more 'look and feel'.

First job - I told him to order a toy Mauser from eBay. £4.99 and quick delivery It arrived last weekend, so I only got it Monday.

Han Solo's gun came from a Mauser C96, and is quite distinctive. 


This thing makes a clicky noise when you pull the trigger. Cheap, plasticky rubbish.

Let me give you a quick rundown of my schedule. 10 day turnaround was a pipedream. By the time this arrived, it was already 5 days after the initial conversation. He's going Sunday. I work from home on Fridays, which meant bringing in a finished prop on Thursday. Which means finishing it Wednesday.

3 day turnaround.

First job on Monday night. Assemble the gun.
On my way out of the office, I asked the IT department if they had a PC graveyard I could defile. I got a couple of heatsinks and a knackered GPUfilled with capacitors and microchips. Win.

I also found a toy sniper scope - my stepson broke the scope off his toy rifle, and it had been sitting around for 6 months. He said I could have it


The batteries are flat, but I think there's a laser pointer (red light) in there.

Next - shave the unnecessary bits off the pistol


Glue the scope in place. JB Weld is strong, but takes a long time to set. Gaffa tape will help, and hide unwanted gaps. It's a prop, not a showpiece. 3 days, people - gimme some slack. I know, I know - gaffa tape.

Add some capacitors and other greeblies to hide the tape, and give some visual interest, and we're nearly there.


I even got some Warhammer on it.


The problem was the muzzle - although not a replica/facsimile of Solo's weapon, I wanted it to look as part of the same custom-built family. There are at least 5 different versions used in the films - some of the early production photos don't even have a scope! What they all have in common, though, is the flared muzzle-end - a drilled

I found the answer in the supermarket. A bottle of mouthwash had the perfect shape lid. Worth 65p, I think.


I drilled the muzzle holes and found a couple of other bottle lids to glue it to, cut the main barrel and attached. This was Tuesday night. I ran out of JB Weld as well, so Araldite was found in the garage recesses.

I gave it 24hrs to cure, and then set about painting. Mixed materials on the gun, so Alclad II lacquer primer and gloss black, and metals, and acrylic brown for the handle.





A few touchups here and there where the silver oversprayed, and it's done. 1am tidy up, but 3 days from start to finish.

Not quite up to Adam Savage's DL44, but it's was a fun little build. Next one will be tidier, I reckon.

Sunday 22 March 2015

Sprue Cutters' Union 32: Has the Aftermarket Taken All the Hard Work Out of Modelling?

There are a few strange arguments in our hobby, aren't there? Rivet-counters love to point out that your antennas are 0.5mm too short for the military force you've chosen to depict, that that *that* model of jerry can wasn't used until 20 years later. While I understand that accuracy is key - if you're making a museum piece or working on a period movie - but really for the rest of us the most important part of the hobby is expression, creativity and fun.

I'm not an active forum member at the minute, and wasn't even aware that there's any question about the use of aftermarket parts. Jon's posed this to us:

"Has the Aftermarket Taken All the Hard Work Out of Modeling?"

If you're only happy building an Airfix kit from the box without adding anything, are you only an assembler, and not a 'true' scale modeller?

If you choose to add resin parts, or photoetched extras to your out-of-the-box plastic kit, are you just an assembler and not a 'true' scale modeller?

How about this: if you use any prefabricated parts at all, you're JUST an assembler. The only truly 'true' scale modellers are those who scratchbuild from the ground up.


We all work at various levels of ability - from the beginner who lacks experience and won't consider anything other than an out-of-the-box build to the ultimate scratchbuilders, who frankly, blow my mind. I think most of us here live somewhere in the myriad in-between levels.

My particular (hopefully ever-increasing) level of ability mixes out-of-the-box models, aftermarket bits, and scratchbuilding techniques to achieve the wondrous works of art you see on this blog. </self deprecating sarcasm>.

Disappointing result

Many of my WIPs get stuck for ages because of aftermarket parts or diorama scratchbuilds - you may remember the Alien I finished last year that I originally started a decade before. I didn't have the inspiration or technique needed to realise the end product. What changed? Apart from a desire to finish something for a change, Games Workshop released their technical paint range. This made corrosion and patinas easy to achieve, without having to mix my own grit-washes.

Love this mess!

I have another project on the go - a Tamiya 1/48th Citro├źn Light 16 Traction Avant staff car - which I'm painting to look like my wedding car. I bought a load of resin and photoetch parts to upgrade it.

And I wish I hadn't.

The parts are brilliantly detailed, don't get me wrong, but when I started cutting and grinding plastic away from the original model, I didn't realise quite how accurate I needed to be. Cutting, bending and annealing the PE is an entirely different kettle of fish. Just getting the grille to fit without having to putty-fill the gaps is a talent that I don't have, and a learned skill that will come with time. It's not a scratchbuild, but I am having to employ scratch techniques to fix 'mere assembly' issues that have arisen. I'm not even attempting to fit an open door on this model - cutting the moulded shell to fit a better-looking resin lump scares the hell out of me.

What a mess!

My current "I WILL finish soon" project has no aftermarket parts. It's an out-of-the-box mk1 Ford Escort, which I've destroyed. On purpose, of course.

Recent test fit

I've melted bits, rusted bits, snapped other bits, and fitted it to a DIY resin base, with a baked tree branch (100˚C for an hour to dry out), chilli flakes and mushrooms made from putty. The car insides haven't been started yet, but will include plenty of scratchbuilt detail - beer cans, newspaper, broken glass etc

Again, I'm not cutting the door out - I haven't moved up to that level yet. Not in my mind at least.

I chose to go this route because the model itself needed so much work to build 'straight up', I may as well spend the time doing something silly with it (beware the Airfix beginner's kits if you want an easy build).

So back to the original question:

"Has the Aftermarket Taken All the Hard Work Out of Modeling?"


And using an airbrush isn't cheating, either. Stupid internet.