Bob Naismith talks more things Ghouls

Last time I wrote I spoke a bit about the ghouls – this time I’d like to elaborate if I may upon some of the design issues that we faced in their making.
I am a sculptor and as such my main interest is in the 3D world around me – its shapes, textures, spaces and scales. The ghouls commission was a chance to explore some of these sculptural notions albeit on a very small scale.
First and foremost was the discussion that we had in order to set in our minds the way that the ghouls would behave on a wargames table and the game effects that they might have. This step is crucial – what is the point of having great looking miniatures if when you, the customer, get them to the table you find them unsuitable. This could be because they don’t function physically on the table, i.e. maybe they don’t rank up together! – or in the case of the ghouls that they might not ‘look the part’ or be distinguishable from other undead troop types.
So once we had that vision in our heads we then had to look at the external constraints – the most obvious one being the size of the frame that holds the ghoul mouldings. To try and make the best use of the space available to us we made more pieces than we actually used – which means that rolling around the mantic offices somewhere are extra legs and heads etc that never made it past the ‘cut’.
The many years that I have spent making plastic masters has taught me how to make best use of the medium. Plastic moulds (or ‘tools’ in the trade) are made of hardened steel and are utterly unforgiving of undercuts or excessive demands upon their design. They can carry high detail however and once made can produce plastic figures by the million. Traditional metal figures are made using rubber moulds which flex and can cope with undercuts all over the surface of the figure.

Wait a minute I haven’t explained what an undercut is! Sorry if you already know but it seems sensible to explain.
Most figure moulds are made in two parts that open up in order for the casting or moulding to be removed. In the case of metal figures in rubber moulds the two discs that make the mould are opened up manually and flexed in order to release the metal castings. In this way complex and detailed figures can be cast and removed without damaging the mould or the metal casting.
With plastic tools it’s a bit different. The two pieces of the mould are opened up by the moulding machine that houses them. The two pieces of the mould are steel and therefore inflexible. This means that any fine detail formed by the steel which traps the plastic figure will stop it being released from the mould. These tiny traps are called undercuts. They can be very hard to see and it takes the expert eyes of several people to trap enough of these flaws in the design to make the tool work properly in the end.
Ok, so here we are, thinking about making the ghouls models, they have to rank up, look good, be great value, be mouldable and not have any undercuts in them – see what I mean about it being complicated?


(next time – Zombies…now there’s a story! ED)

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