News and random musings from the Sculptdude.

Monday, September 15, 2014

X-wing Conversions

As if I have so much free time on my hands, I figured I would dip a little into this community of X-Wing mods. There seems to be a relatively large portion of hobbyists who enjoy converting and/or repainting some of the models from Fantasy Flight's X-Wing Miniatures Game.

The first time I ever saw this image was around 1977 when Topps released the 5th series of Star Wars trading cards with the orange border. Even at that time I wanted a collection of models painted like the original studio set. I got about as far as 3 of them with the original issued MPC 1:48 scale model kits.

It is no secret that the reason I am working as s professional sculptor in the miniatures industry is directly related to seeing Star Wars for the first time when I was 10 years old. Now, 37 years later, I just may be able to complete my project - but in 1:270th scale!

I have started by attempting to strip some of the plastic models of their horrendous factory pre-paint. After tooling around the interwebs and heeding some well intended suggestions, it seems like 93% Isopropyl Alcohol is the clear winner, thanks to Mr. Justin of Secret Weapon Miniatures.

Although the alcohol hasn't removed ALL of the paint, it has stripped it enough that a fresh coat of primer and color will not obscure the fine details.

In a related project I nabbed an extra YT-1300 just to make some "special modifications myself". Never fear, I still have two more in pristine Falcon condition.

This is the large pile of plastic bits I started with to kit-out the modified engine module. Most of it is leftover tank parts from Tamiya and GW kits.  The white cylinders are plastic tubing from Evergreen and Plastruct domes.

Here is the module all blocked out. The next step will be to detail it out with some micro parts using styrene strips and clippings. I still need to make some sort of afterburner insert which may have been easier to do before I assembled all of this.

Now that the modified engine module is assembled I dry-fitted it to make sure the silhouette was what I wanted for the ship. The front fork is filled with another length of plastic tubing where I will later attach the original cockpit.

Next, detailing out the engine module.

COUNTERBLAST™ Illustrations

It has been a LONG time since I've done any 2D art but working on the rulebook for COUNTERBLAST™ necessitated that I fill in a few gaps. I was really inspired by the other artist's clean digital work and tried to emulate the stuff they were also turning in for the book on some of the character designs.

Check out more about COUNTERBLAST™ here.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

GenCon Events for 2014

Sculpting Classes and COUNTERBLAST Creators!

GenCon badge registration has opened. Event registration opens May 18th and we will be hosting three events this year. I will be teaching two introductory sculpting classes and we will be having our first Counterblast creator’s panel on Sunday. Check out the details at the links below, you will need to be logged into the GenCon web site in order to view them.

Come learn the fundamentals of figure sculpting with Patrick Keith. A wide range of techniques will be covered starting with making a wire armature for your figures, poses and anatomy, and textures like fur, chainmail and more! Tools and supplies will be provided but feel free to bring your own.

MHE1453862 - Introduction to Sculpting Miniatures - Friday 2pm

MHE1453863 - Introduction to Sculpting Miniatures - Saturday 2pm

See the process involved in creating the COUNTERBLAST: Adventure Battle Game, learn what is involved in production, the Kickstarter project, and fulfillment from the creators Brett Amundson, Vicky Morgan-Keith and Patrick Keith. Upcoming releases, concept art and other surprises will be offered along with Q&A.

SEM1453861 - Counterblast Future Past - Sunday 2pm


Aces of Painting

Bombshell Miniatures is very proud to sponsor the GenCon Aces of Painting Event as the manufacturer contributor providing Babes models for the charity auction. Aces are all award-winners and international competitors with a large appeal to collectors.  Each year, 10 painters from the group volunteer, miniatures are received and prepped in secret, and everyone prepares to fight it out in the Arena!

Sculptor Patrick Keith will be on hand to co-emcee the event and taunt the participants.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

My Memoirs of Kickstarter

Ordinarily I don't write editorials and this blog is really about the miniatures hobby and my professional work within it. But, as you can see from this post date and the previous one, there has been a six-month gap between my posting here and the diversion I engaged in to fund my idealized projects. Over that time period the physical and emotional strain of working on the projects has caused my professional work to suffer, drained our savings, and damaged many of my personal and professional relationships. I am extremely grateful to all of our supports and enthusiasts who have contributed to these projects and participated in making them a reality. The main focus of this op-ed is mainly an observation of the community at large. The temperature of the community has seemed to have changed since the launch of our first project.


I love being a freelance sculptor and ever since I was of grade-school age I dreamt of being some sort of a professional artist making a living from things I have crafted. It has taken me thirty-five years since then but now this is how I make my living, just like any other trained professional from electricians, to plumbers, to doctors, to mechanics. It is service oriented like the previous occupations listed but it is more like a lawyer who drafts a contract for a client or a carpenter who builds a fence on your property, there is a tangible item as a result, the sculpt. While these other professionals have a much larger service base, lots of people need or want their services, my area of expertise is very niche and luxury-based. The items I produce are for entertainment and the smaller market within that is tabletop gaming. There are only a handful of people in this industry who do what I do, and an even smaller amount who do it well. But at the same time, the audience for my work is also very small by comparison. Providing these services to clients is one thing. Making and selling produced goods is another.

The things I am about to share are my opinions and observations about crowdfunding, specifically from the angle of the tabletop gaming category of Kickstarter and the community that surrounds it. I have launched four 'successful' Kickstarter projects in order to fund my own line of female character figures, a special release kit, a vehicle release resin garage kit, and a tabletop battle game with supporting line of miniatures called COUNTERBLAST. And while most of these previous Kickstarter projects funded, the final project did not and was relaunched in order to make a more attractive project to backers.


I started developing the idea for the game many years ago. I had pitched the concept to another miniatures company in 2006 and even sold them several of the concept models for them to produce. Since nothing materialized with the game part, I stashed the concept until another opportunity presented itself. When Kickstarter became poplar as a opportunity to fund indy gaming projects, it seemed the ideal venue to present my game idea. So, over the course of time, we launched the other projects intending each to be stepping stones along the path to build the game project. We put together some initial pieces and ran demos at many different venues including GenCon. Reactions and feedback were always positive and we got lots of encouragement from the start that it was fresh take on the genre, even though it was retro in flavor.

Our first version of the COUNTERBLAST funding project was assessed at a $60,000 goal. Now, while this may seem high it takes into account many things behind the scenes that have to happen to launch. Rational thinking told us that we had 1100 backers on the Babes project, so if half of them returned to back this that would be around 550. If the “sweet spot” of items offered was in the $100 range, as most other game projects, that would be $55K making it very close to that funding goal. We were out of pocket for concept art, advertising, and professional services fees but had to take into account the addition of all of the projected costs that manufacturing the items would need, like cover & interior art for the book, printing, molding, casting, and shipping. The professional services included rates for our writers to make the game material and sculpting fees for all of the models shown on the project.

We launched the initial COUNTERBLAST project for thirty days where over the course of a week it met it’s apex and then stalled, failing to attract any additional backers over several days. We discussed the cause of this at length. We had a critical window for delivery so each day that the project sat there unable to attract any more backers, we lost valuable production time. Do we spend more money on banner ads? How can we get the word out to even more potential backers without it looking like spam? I was even accused of usurping free advertising on one Facebook group and subsequently I removed my posts there.

The more we watched the trend, the less likely it looked like it was going to fund at all. Do we just leave the project as is and hope for the best? Is that fair to the backers who have pledged early to let it languish for three more weeks only to have the funding fail at the end? So, looking at the recommendations from our backers and assessing what we could feasibly do, we addressed these three areas:

  • We offered an initial rulebook as a PDF and not in print
  • The Faction Core sets were too small and not a good enough “deal”
  • Not enough “freebies” were offered


So, after rebuilding the project from the graphics on up, I took it upon myself to cancel the first project in order to relaunch and reduce as little downtime as possible. Our existing backers seemed amiable for the most part, however I was completely taken with shock at some of the vitriol that was posted about canceling the first version of the project.

These were taken from a prominent gaming forum:
“I like the ruleset, but have just lost the enthusiasm for this project that I had before it launched. Unfortunately Drake and Dreadball have all my monies now. Good luck with the relaunch though!”
Another Forum poster added this.
“What I don't get is why you pulled out of a campaign with 30k of 60k funded and 28 days to go. No, you don't get my backing again. That project was in all likelihood going to fund, and if it didn't you could try again. Instead, you pulled out without giving it a chance. What am I supposed to expect, that you thought you couldn't raise another 30 grand in 28 days? If you're not willing to commit to the project, you can get my money via retail, not up front with me shouldering your risk. There are more deserving projects on Kickstarter.”
Part of my response was this:
That may be the case. But can you explain how the merit of the material has changed simply because we want to restructure the funding project to add value to it? Has the writing or rules changed somehow? Is the sculpting of less quality now? Have the art or designs changed? It evidently hasn’t because you feel willing to purchase it retail afterwards.

I all likelihood it was not going to fund and looking at the Expected Projection tab on Kicktraq for a project does not predict what a project will do, only what the potential would be if every day was exactly the same as the actual completed days. To prove this, you can watch a project's Expected Projection drop every day the "Pledges per Day" and "Backers per Day" drops. This provides a completely skewed expectation in many backers’ estimations of a project because as the next graph shows, there is a distinct opening and closing rush to most every project.


So, we relaunched the project with a $15K goal and most of the existing backers migrated over to the new one. This allowed us to fund the project quite early, within the first day, and then offer new items as additional funds were pledged.

What was pretty clear after the first week of the 'new and improved' project was this was going to be all of the activity the project was going to get. It also confirmed that the first version would not have funded at all, anyway.

This particular pattern in the above graph of the revised project does not seem to be unusual. Looking at similarly structured projects to ours and comparing their pledge trends to ours it seems similar, too. It takes into account the psychology of many backers in the community. Why there is now a trend towards abandoning most projects in the final third of the funding period is very confusing to me. And this is not a psychological study, merely an observation.

This has happened on other projects that were similar in scope to ours, Pulp City: Extreme Edition and Empire of the Dead: REQUIEM. In a recent conversation with Dark Sword Miniatures owner Jim Ludwig, we discussed these trends at length. Is it that the projects run for such an extended period that there is not enough growth to offset the backers who will inevitably drop out? Would the answer be to run shorter projects? I can’t say. In running a shorter project you limit the exposure of the funding period and many who would want to back it may miss it, but then there is no sense of urgency to prompt backers to pledge early that the shorter project may offer.

So, in essence we netted about half of what we really needed in order to make the project viable. This statement is not intended to imply we will not deliver the rewards. We will still produce all of the items and fulfill all of the backer rewards on time, or as close to it as possible, as we have done on our other projects. But what would have allowed a bigger margin to develop more new models and get more art for the book are just not there.

How were we able to offer the same amount of stuff with less money? If I had to hire another sculptor to produce 25 models for a project like this it would come to well over $12K or more just for models alone. Plus all of the really cool interior art we had budgeted for the rulebook out of that $60K initial funding goal got cut. Our writers didn't get paid for any of the work they did. Also I have basically donated all of the existing sculpts to the project and will not get paid for the ones that funded that have not been sculpted yet.  It would be the equivalent of your boss coming to you and saying, “Hey, we have this new project we want you to work on. We can’t afford to pay for the work on it so we’ll need for you to work for free one week a month for the next three months.”

Well - this is fun, right? You love your job so that's it's own reward, right? Please see paragraph two, above. I'm sure many other professionals love their jobs, too, but will their lovin' pay their bills?


There are some really important things we learned on this project, as on the ones before. These impacted the look of the product shown in the project and hurt the excitement we could have generated to cultivate more backers to want the game:

  • Our customers had been neglected since the Babes project so the backer level was less than expected
  • Talking head video, backers want to see creators
  • We had no book art nor card mockups to show
  • Our models were not painted
  • A very limited amount of concept art was produced
  • We had no gameplay video at the launch, as it’s to fund a GAME!

Going forward, these are certainly things we will address. Our main focus now is fulfilling our backer's rewards while cultivating and growing our community of Bombardiers. The game has yet to be released to the wider market and the next few months will be extremely important to raise awareness and show how cool it is which will hopefully generate even more interest.

Will I return to Kickstarter to fund future projects? I don’t know. But in a conversation with writer and game blogger Tom Haswell (Second Class Elitist) from the League of Extraordinary Gamers, he mentioned something that we had already discussed here at the Bomb Factory. From a Kickstarter project with limited freebies and a non-40K clone to boot, 300+ people bought *our game* with the intention of playing *our game.* (300+ backers because some of the higher pledges are group or club pledges)  That's not a bad start out of the gate.  Given a small, invested player base a really tight product with great post-production values, and they'll play it with their friends.  Who will then buy models to play with more friends.

~The Sculptdude


Thursday, August 08, 2013

Sculpting Linna - Hair

Here I will be sculpting hair for the Linna Babe™ for Bombshell Miniatures.
Ordinarily I use the same method for each figure I sculpt. They may be shaped differently but it is essentially the same process.

In this instance I had a bit of putty left over from the previous session so I added it to bulk up the back of the hair and then cured that under my putty lamp.

I mixed a fresh batch of ProCreate and then formed all of the masses for the hair.

It is important to get the volumes correct at this stage. All the forms must show the correct weight of the hair and it must flow in a consistent manner to the direction of the movement. Here again. reference is good for this.

All of the forms of the hair must be smoothed. Any seams that run across the direction of the hair flow will be impossible to work out.

Using the rounded tip of my Spoon Shaped Putty Knife I add a tiny amount of Vaseline to the tool and wipe the excess off on the side of my thumb. I begin to block in the general direction of the hair flow lightly. If the smooth motion of the tool starts to drag, I will clean it if it has putty stuck to it, add more Vaseline from my thumb or the brush and then continue.

It is possible to use water for this as a tool lubricant but it dries very quickly and you continually have to add it so it takes longer.

After setting up the basic flow and direction of the hair, I go back over this adding smooth curves and flowing strands with the #64 Scraper Tool. I use Vaseline the same way for this process too. One the hair is done it's time to move on to finishing up the figure with whatever final details are left and to add either a base or tab to the feet.

Sculpting Linna - Drapery

Here I will be making drapery for the Linna Babe™ for Bombshell Miniatures.
Ordinarily I use the same method for each figure I sculpt. They may be shaped differently but it is essentially the same process.

Here I have mixed ProCreate putty with the same amount of Aves Apoxie sculpt. This 50/50 mix creates a much stronger and stiffer putty once it has cured and will hold its shape better under the molding process.

I let this mix sit for about 20 minutes as a I work on something else. When you first combine the two different putties the mix is very soft. allowing it to sit for a few minutes allows it to cool from the mixing process and firm up a bit.

I flattened out a section of it using the plastic sheeting to keep it from sticking to my flattening block. It is trimmed to shape and folds are scored into it.

Using the edge of my #64 Scraper Tool, I flick the edge of the putty wedge to pop it off of the plastic divider. This takes quite a bit of practice to do properly without marring up the surface of the piece. It is placed agains the back leg of the figure and pressed lightly into place with the chisel shaper tool.

The putty is carefully positioned by the edges using the chisel shaper tool.

Using my scalpel blade I cut the excess putty from the back of the leg.

The edge of the cloth is blended into the figure.

It is carefully rounded a bit using the chisel shaper tool.

I check the profile of the draper ti make sure it shows from all angles.

Another wedge is cut from a flattened slab of putty.

This wedge is then smoothed out by pressing on it with the plastic sheeting.

It is now smooth and rounded.

I peel this wedge off the plastic divider and apply it to the back side of the leg the same as the first one.

It is feathered along the back of the leg as well using the chisel shaper tool.

Small folds are added to the top of the drapery since this particular piece will be visible on the final model.

Here the first session of the basic draper is finished. This is placed under the lamp to cure it in a short amount of time. The model is positioned so the putty will not sag under the heat of the lamp. Once this part has been cured it will create a form to add the rest of the draper over.

After the first section has cured fully, I repeat the same process adding wedges if putty to fill out the draper over the existing form. these wedges are then scored to add folds and wrinkles. The putty that I use for this session of the process is ProCreate with a tiny bit of Fimo added to help blend it into the cured areas.

On the back side you can see I covered a section of the existing drapery with more folds.

After the drapery has cured. I slice a belt from another flattened slab of straight ProCreate. Over this a bit of armor and decoration is added by layering more flattened and trimmed slabs. Once these slabs are in place they are textured using the tip of my #64 Scraper Tool.

This all goes into the putty oven for curing again.

In the next segment I cover Sculpting Linna's Hair.