I felt pretty good about the sun helmet I made, but after I hand-made nine others, I could see clear differences between them. (By the way, even though I made ten helmets by hand, three were so bad I just scrapped them and decided to cast the best.)
Hand-sculpting more than two or three copies of the same item is fraught with issues. The mold for the hussar pelisse I did was more for convenience, as it was a complex item. But given that the item represented a piece of clothing draped over the shoulder, individual deviations are not only acceptable, but probably desirable. But a hat – especially a hat made from a rigid material – should be uniform, so making a mold is not only convenient for reproducing a complex shape, it is almost a requirement for appearance's sake for a unit.
I started by taking the best example of the sculpt and, after wiping away a tear (because I knew that making the mold would destroy the master given the material I made it in), I took the entire figure (which had the hat stuck onto its head) and pressed it into the hot Insta-Mold.
The sun helmet has a prominent shape in the front and back, so it is important that the mold material overlaps the edge of the helmet slightly. This will create an undercut in the mold. (This is why it destroys the soft material of the master when you extract it from the hardened mold.) With undercuts you usually have to use stronger materials for casting. In this case I use Green Stuff putty, which you can pretty much find in any hobby shop and most hardware stores in the US. After 4-8 hours of hardening in the mold the putty is still flexible enough that it can be extracted from the mold without damage, but hard enough that it will not lose shape.
In order to pack the material into all of the crevices of the mold I simply put a ball of putty into the mold, wet the head of the model, pressed it into the putty and squished it around. Spinning the figure back and forth gave the inside of the cast a nice half-sphere indentation which will later allow the helmet to fit nicely on the figure.
The picture below shows a figure, a finished cast of a helmet, and the next cast in the mold. Note that I have a bit of excess material that will need to be trimmed away once it has hardened and pulled out of the mold. Don't be stingy and try to minimize the amount of putty; that excess material will allow you to get a grip when extracting the cast from the mold.
Here are the rear, side, and front views of the cast sitting on the figure. As you can see there are a few little blemishes that need to be cut away with a sharp knife or sanded down. I am not so worried about the blemish on the front unless it shows on every figure.
Now that I have a mold I can start cranking out helmets, enabling me to consider expanding this project from being skirmish-sized (up to 10 figures a side) to multi-unit-sized. Being able to reproduce the figures quickly and easily is key to increasing your game time and minimizing your build time.
Expect to see more British in the future!
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