Carving Polystyrene

Picked up a couple of 1200mm x 900m x 50mm polystyrene from Plastic Box. Might try borrowing Griff’s General’s Compendium for some inspiration regarding terrain. Spent an hour or so in the garage tonight and carved up a couple of simple hills for WHFB.

Hill 1 Hill 1 Hill 2

Based the large long hill on 3mm MDF with a bit of leeway so I can do some extra rock detailing around the base. Offcuts from the hill will be useful for this. The steel work desk I bought a while back still has a workable socket which is handy for plugging in the hot wire cutter (I disconnected the rest as they were in a block on top of the playable surface). Dug up the textured paint I bought from Resene a while back as well and painted an offcut just to see how it adheres to polystyrene.

Surplustronics Power Pack

After Ben’s suggestion and some pricing on the web I went with Surplustronics after all. Picked up a 9v/1000ma AC adaptor for $20. They had some dodgy looking old Sega 10v/1000ma adaptors for half that price but I thought I’d splash out. At least the $20 adaptor came in a snappy blue and white box.

The gruntier adaptor does the trick. The wire heats up quickly and easily melts through polystyrene. After some experimentation I realised I hadn’t quite made my first wire cutter large enough. So I jigsawed up some more 5mm MDF and created the mark II which has a much wider armature. Here’s the mark I and mark II with a 25mm Zombie for scale.

Hot wire cutter mark I Hot wire cutter mark II

Then I took to some old packing polystyrene and experimented. I carved a kind of half height hill and megalith then a little cliff face before I fled the garage and the stink of melted polystyrene.

Hill and megalith Mini-cliff

So for the grand total of $22.95 I have a useable cutter – want one Griff? That’s:

I’ve discovered a couple of things:

  1. Melted polystyrene sure stinks. Will crack open the garage door a bit next time I think.
  2. The heat cures the rough surface of even cheap polystyrene quite nicely. Gives it a smooth finish that hopefully will be resistant to chipping.
  3. I see why most store-bought cutters are based around a metal arm. This is to keep tension on the wire as it naturally expands with heat. This leads to a bit of slack in my crude home made cutter, but it’s not a big problem. Possibly a mark III built around a coat hanger?
  4. I wonder how long it’ll take before the AC adaptor dies? It certainly seems to warm up rather quickly. Possibly best to keep cutting times as short as possible.

Right I suspect a trip to Plastic Box this weekend might be in order. I think they’ve even marked down their big sheets of thick polystyrene recently.

Warm Wire

Threw together a hot wire cutter last night with a bit of cut 5mm MDF a couple of nails, the ni-chrome wire and an old Sony 4.5V/500ma AC adaptor that I seem to own for some reason. I can’t find the device that relates to it so I sacrificed it to the cause.

The AC adaptor is powerful enough to warm up the wire enough to cut polystyrene with a bit of force applied. However I need to grab a 9-12V/1000ma AC adaptor from Dick Smith to really heat up the wire so I can just slide it through polysytrene easily.

Cadian HQ Box

Picked up a Cadian HQ command boxed set from TradeMe for $20 over the weekend. Not bad considering these 6 metal figures usually retail for $55. I’m really only interested in the Cadian commander figure (that guy in the middle with the sword) but I’m sure I can find some use for the other guys. Pity the standard bearer is so explicitly Cadian. Wonder how hard it would be to file off some of the details?

Got totally dicked by Brent’s Khorne Chaos nutters over the weekend in Griff’s WHFB campaign. Back to the drawing board for me I suspect. Looks like I’ll have to horde up on Zombies and maybe add a few more Grave Guard to try and counter those damned Chosen Chaos Warriors.

Picked up some nickel-chrome wire in the weekend as well. Attempting to construct myself a hot-wire cutter.

Not a lot of time for modelling recently. Painting the living room ceiling at the moment. Looking forward to finishing it so I can start painting walls and stop ruining my back and neck.

Crikey this is a nice use of Hirst Arts molds.


Right these three Grave Guard are all I have to complete to make it to 500pts of VC Border Patrol. I seem to have had some mental block for the last month or so on these damned guys. However they’re slowly progressing again. Might even have them finished for the next game.

Grave Guard

I installed GIMP 2.0.2 only to discover the latest and greatest version doesn’t support all the custom Windows TrueType fonts I have installed from Cumberland Fonts. So I’ve gone back to GIMP 1.2.4 and will have to live with the older interface and the occasional crash.

I hate it when software ‘updates’ actually remove functionality.

Desiccated Rat Corpse

Assembled the new Stuart ‘Honey’ with a turned out tank commander. I’ll make this one the command tank for the armored support team. Went together very nicely…much better fit than the older model. Need to apply some stowage though. Started assembling second Humber Mk II armored car as well. Once the two AC’s are painted and the 5 Universal Carriers are finished I’ll have a couple of recce units done.

Started painting a couple of WHFB Zombies as well. Still experimenting with rotted flesh schemes.

Spend most of the night stuffing pink batts into the ceiling again. Found an extremely desiccated rat corpse up there as well. Vis-a-vis his metabolic processes had ceased to be. Probably explains the dodgy smell we had a couple of months ago that we thought was coming from the floorboards.

Modern Art

A couple of days ago an art gallery up on K-Rd installed a piece of art that interested me. Usually this gallery displays a lot of incomprehensible modern rubbish…you know, the usual giant doll’s heads etc. However this piece caught my eye for a number of reasons.

Modern Art

First, the yellow shapes are from a common plastic children’s toy – one my own child has in fact. Second, the shapes are on ‘sprues’ – suggesting industrial mass production. Third most of the shapes are removed from the sprues and scattered around except for two stars.

Not sure who the artist is or what they’re trying to say, maybe a comment on the uniform nature of children’s toys, are all kids having the same ‘mass produced’ experience? Are we raising kids in an industrial manner with day-care and working parents? Seems odd to me that the stars remain on the sprue…maybe the kids that excel in our society are expected to fit a certain pattern? Is the artist saying society favours a narrow fixed role for it’s ‘stars’? Oh hell I don’t know, makes you think though eh?

Wonder what the work is titled? That might give you a hint of the artist’s intentions.

You can see some more of the artist’s work in the back of the frame, although urinals on a plastic sprue just seems like a slightly wanky reference to Duchamp’s ‘Fountain’ to me… or are those toilet training seats?


Broke out the GW inks and inked/based/drybrushed the Stuart ‘Honey’ – came out quite nicely. Also progressed the 25pdr gun + carriage and another Universal Carrier. GW inks aren’t effected by the Clear floor wax and give a nice ‘hard-coat’ to paint over. Just remembered I painted some of those new Cadians with the French ink so will have to go back and see if they’ve bled/faded. Picked up another can of Helmar’s Matt Spray varnish from good old Warehouse Stationary in Newmarket. They charge $12.99 for a can and I’ve seen up to $19 at Paper Plus!

Picked up a Canon Powershot S50 digital camera from a parallel importers in the weekend as well. $949 for the camera plus 2 x 128MB memory cards. Amused ourselves most of the weekend by taking AVI movies of our baby boy doing various things (hand clapping, talking, emptying the contents of kitchen drawers). Haven’t tried it for miniature photos yet.

Painting competition on at GW that closes on the 28th. My wife reckons I should enter a few pieces. I’m only really interested in entering if there’s prizes of any sort. But might hand in a few spare painted figures I’m currently not gaming with out of curiousity. Oops! 28th is today! Ah well, maybe I’ll enter the *next* painting competition they run then…