Hello! Studio Dave again. Welcome to the second part of our in-depth exploration of how we made the awesome new hard plastic Abyssal Dwarfs. In yesterday’s blog I explained all about the early concepting stage and now we’re onto the good stuff: sculpting. Enough waffle, let’s dive straight into it…
After the concepts were finished and approved, this was all sent over to our supremely talented sculptor, Luigi Terzi. Luigi has worked on plastic kits in the past, so he has a great understanding of what’s required in order to have the parts work in that material. One of the major concerns that hard plastic has that since the molds are made from steel and the plastic doesn’t bend well, there cannot be undercuts – the mold has to close and open around the piece without going into it. This means that details on the side of the models have to be flat so that they work in the mold. This is different to resin and metal, which both have silicon or rubber molds that can bend around the pieces, so they can have details all over the place.
Using the concept art, Luigi sculpts the pieces for the sprue, adding details as he goes. Luigi developed ‘flames’ that appear as filigree on a lot of Abyssal Dwarf armour – so this became a visual staple of the range. The careful part of this process was ensuring that each piece fits on all of the bodies in the kit – so that any arm goes with any body. We had to add about 1/2mm of space to the shoulders on each side to stop the arms from hitting the legs too much and limiting the poses you could make. It sounds like a small change, but it makes a large difference when you’re working with the models. We also check with Luigi and on 3D prints that everything ranks up – this is a requirement of any units we produce.
One of the questions on the new sprue was why we’re leaning more towards ten-man (or dwarf, in this case) sprues rather than fives, or less. In the short run, it’s a larger investment for us, but in the long run it goes towards keeping the kits inexpensive for you guys and saves a lot on packaging (and thus shipping and the environment), too! Each time we do a new sprue, we work off what we learned from the previous ones. For example, one piece of feedback from the lovely Northern Alliance Clansmen Sprue is that they could do with just a couple of extra heads so you had a little more choice, rather than exactly the same number of heads as models. So, the new Blacksouls sprue comes with thirteen heads, one of which is fancy enough to use for a commander. We made sure to include some extra parts of the sprue so that you could build the leader point for using them in your games of Kings of War too.
We worked with the tooling company in China to fit all of the parts on a couple of frames. These are both inside the mold, so each time we order one, we get both frames of parts. There’s a lot of thought put into the size of this frame, as a small change in the measurements can stop it from fitting in the box! Ideally, a regiment should fit into one of our standard sized boxes. This is the ‘glamourous’ side of wargaming you don’t often see.
There are then lot of approvals and back and forth at this point as each file is amended to fit onto the sprue and then checked carefully at our end to make sure that they still do what they need to. Sometimes you have to compromise a little, losing a rivet here and there, to get the parts to work properly. The toolers had to add an extra piece to the mold (a slide core) to give one of the mutated mastiffs horns, for example. Plus, a couple of shields had to be taken off their arms to keep the detail on them when they cast. So these were spread out on the sprue and labelled, which means you can tell which part goes where.
All of this work – which at this point has taken several months – culminates in the test shot. This is the first time the mold has plastic injected into it and we are sent the results – the very first sprue. At this point, it was around October 2019 when we could hold one of these for the first time. These are built and checked (I swear it’s work, honest!) and were then sent off for painting. This is also a final opportunity to spot anything that’s not quite right and get it fixed.
Speaking of production, that’s the final step. It takes a couple of months after approval for the thousands of sprues to be produced and make it across the world to our warehouse in Nottingham. By the time this has happened, I’ve usually forgotten most of the work on the sprue and have been focused on seventeen other things since (which are squeakret, so shhh!). The Abyssal Dwarfs now being happily packed into boxes and will be on their way to equally happy players soon.