I've only backed a couple of Kickstarters in my life so far. This isn't because I'm against the concept - far from it! Rather, I have so much hobby stuff already that it takes something a bit out of the ordinary for me to become really enthusiastic about committing to something that probably won't arrive for the best part of a year.
Last October, I did indeed see a proposed project that grabbed my attention. This was Basius II, from Wargames Bakery. I paid up, held my breath and waited. Just before I went away for my summer holiday this July, I received my 2 pads.
Mine is by no means the only blog article on Basius pads, but here you will find my own initial reactions. For other opinions, a quick, somewhat arbitrary search reveals these other reviews:
The Basius II Pads
So, what are Basius pads? They're inverse relief push moulds for making bases. You prepare a base by putting some form of putty on a firm backing, push it into the mould, pull it off again and let the putty harden. Sounds simple, right?
Each pad is a resin rectangle just under 7" (18cm) square. They come in a number of different themes (19 in total, such as Forest, Victoriana, Plaguelands...)
|Basius II pads: Urban and Dungeon (the "clean" sides).|
and they are double sided. It seems that every pad has one side that is relatively clean & tidy, whilst the other side is much more cluttered. This gives a huge range of options for the model-maker; the number of unique bases which can be cast is effectively infinite.
|Basius II pads: Urban and Dungeon (the "busy" sides).|
Experiments in Basing
1. Milliput, used immediately
So, I dived straight in without giving it much thought. My first attempt was to use a layer of Milliput on a steel washer. I wet the moulds slightly (with water) and pressed the bases in.
|Milliput bases, pressed immediately. Note that part of the bottom, right base stuck to the mould and had to be repaired with Green Stuff when it had hardened|
Interlude. Release Agent
At this point, I wondered if the sticking putty was due to my use of water on the moulds. Instead, I ordered some release agent and waited for this to arrive. Release agents such as this are readily available from online suppliers; they're widely used when moulding pottery and many other things.
|Big bottle of mould release agent.|
A liquid release agent is very simple, I believe. It's a solvent (such as white spirits/turpentine) with paraffin wax dissolved in it. You paint the release agent onto the mould, the solvent then evaporates and a thin coat of paraffin wax is left on the mould surface. The casting material won't stick to the paraffin wax, or at least that's the theory!
2. Green Stuff, used immediatelyFor my second attempt at basing, I used most of my very small supply of Green Stuff. Once more, I pressed the moulds immediately and even though I had used the new release agent, I still had difficulties separating the new base from the pad.
|Green Stuff bases, pressed immediately. Note the mark on the edge of the left hand base where I used a tool to separate it from the mould.|
The detail on these is even softer than on the Milliput bases and the bases were hard to remove. Again, this method is not recommended! At least it didn't leave putty all over the mould.
3. Green Stuff, left to cureWhilst contemplating my lack of success in the first attempts, I actually went and found some instructions online. These suggested leaving the putty to cure for quite a while before attempting to press it into the mould. The timing of this is really a matter of judgement; the aim is for the material to have lost all stickiness, but still be somewhat malleable.
|Green Stuff base, left to cure. It's a pity that I didn't have enough putty to make the entire base!|
Several hours later, I returned from the computer and realised that there was a little bit of already-mixed Green Stuff left over from my earlier attempt. I thought it worth an experiment, so I slapped it onto a 25mm washer and pressed it (again, using the commercial release agent). This worked pretty well, though there wasn't enough material to make a complete base. OK, now we're getting there!
4. Milliput, left to cureI was now out of Green Stuff, so I decided to try Milliput again. As well as having some to hand, this is a much cheaper putty; if it worked then it would be great!
|Milliput bases, left to cure for ~2 hours before pressing|
After leaving the Milliput to harden for quite a long time, I prepared the moulds with release agent and went to press the new bases. This worked much better than the first attempt; the putty came away from the mould more easily (and therefore with less damage to the moulding) and the detail was reasonably crisp. It's still not perfect, though: there wasn't quite enough putty on some of the bases to reach the very deepest parts of the mould.
I think I'm getting the hang of this. Basius pads (or indeed, any press moulding) takes a bit of experimentation and practice to find the best combination of materials and technique. It's not quite as easy as it might seem!
So far, I've only tried quite small (25mm) bases and I've only used parts of the pads with relatively little depth of relief. I suspect that changing either of these parameters will make the task more difficult.
However, despite the apparent negativity of that last sentence, I'm actually pretty excited about having these pads. Yes, they're quite expensive and yes, they'll take some getting used to before I can produce perfect results. But I'm up for it; the creativity that such terrain pads could unleash is considerable and I'm sure that the technical hurdles aren't really that great. For someone like me who builds a lot of models, these could be very useful!