28 October 2017

3D dungeons, part 2

Following on from this post...

It turns out that Frank is not just a modelling inspiration for yours truly, but also an open-handedly generous and helpful chap. Within a few daylight hours of me emailing him to ask how much silicon he'd needed for his mammoth project, I'd had two detailed replies and plenty of good advice.

First, it turns out he needed FIFTEEN kilos of silicon just to make the moulds (Side note - mold is the American spelling, mould the British - both are used for the black gunk that grows in damp corners AND the cavity to pour plaster or resin into. Fun fact!). Fifteen! A quick scan of ebay suggested that this would come to about £250. Gulp! Add in Frank's estimate that the resin needed to fill those moulds the requisite number of times (just over 25kg), and that's another £300. Or more. And that's assuming I don't make any mistakes, which is unlikely since it would be my first casting project, and without the cost of making the original masters.


Still, I've managed without Slaves to Darkness and The Lost and the Damned, so I'll just have to find another way to three-dimensionalise my dungeon that doesn't leave me like:

I had a further search and found a whole bunch of mostly unattributed images, some that were works of art, or at least beyond my skills/patience to execute:

By "fibretip" on the Ninja Division forum

Saved to pinterest by Lucas Ray

or relied on extensive (and expensive) use of Dwarven Forge as well as skill and artistry

Created by Ryan Devoto

or access to, and mastery of, a 3d printer

A kickstarter project example

or, and this was most common, thousands of variations of plaster-cast dungeons with walls shorter than the miniatures made up from cartoonishly large boulders or something that looked like sugar cubes. I quickly came to shudder at another Hirst Arts dungeon. Or, at least, until I realised that the identikit dungeons I couldn't stand (obviously taste varies, de gustibus and all that) were made from the wrong moulds! Those tiny but out of scale walls were made from a particular mould designed to replicate drystone field walls, and it turns out that Hirst Arts have loads and loads of moulds which can be used to make really impressive constructions.

and even

The brickwork really sparked my imagination. I had originally planned to "do a Frank" with brick wall textures for the walling, so I headed to the Hirst Arts site and found this on their first page:

I spy modular corridor sections, interesting and varied walls, archways that could easily be made to look like niches in a catacomb... Potentially perfect, especially as I reckon I can make it less 19th century looking without too much difficulty!

For those of you who've not encountered Hirst Arts before, they sell silicon moulds with a variety of different shapes and, as I now know, themes. As well as the fieldstone which had originally put me off, there is everything from gothic architecture to wood panelling or wattle and daub.

You simply fill 'em with plaster, let it dry, and then build them up like a lego kit to get the design you want.

In some ways, then its very similar to the project my mind was filled with after seeing Frank's Space Hulk set, except without the initial mastering phase (probably just as well) or the expense of "tall" moulds. Obviously having flat moulds means each board section will need to be individually constructed (the walls built up on the base), rather than just once for each shaped section, but that would probably take no longer than making the masters would have done.

What about cost? Well, if I follow the example above I'll need two moulds which I can get from their UK supplier for £65.50 delivered. Not cheap, but a lot less than the £250 for silicon I calculated at the top. And to fill the moulds? The top quality plasters run at about £2/kg if bought in bulk, adding a potential £50 for casting, assuming resin and plaster quantities and densities are similar. Not chicken-feed (£7.50 a sack, in case you were wondering, for my backyard hens), but about a fifth of the cost that scared me off earlier today. Maybe I will build a 3D dungeon, after all!

Any thoughts, advice, experience that I should keep in mind before asking Santa for a bag of posh plaster of Paris would be gratefully received.


  1. I had a post written out, but then closed the window... whoops. Anyway, Hirst Arts is a company I have watched for YEARS, but never taken the plunge on. The tutorials posted there are seriously useful for a number of things.

    Regarding the molds themselves though, you will have to consider your time too. Plaster takes a long time to set up. Even casting once a day with two molds will take forever to make much of a dent in your table. Secondary molds of common features (walls for example) can speed things along.

    There are companies (or at least have been) which sell "kits" of the blocks, which at the very least might expand your options (adding things you do not have).

    Also, you should consider buying directly. The shipping from the US is a bit much, but it is flat rate (for 1-6 molds) and you can get a bulk discount too. Worth a calculation anyway.

    1. Thanks for taking the time to rewrite your post, lgp.

      That's a good point about time considerations, although it was partly the non-demanding nature of pouring, demoulding and gluing that appealed. Sort of "slow geeking" for those days when I'm braindead but don't want to just melt in front of the tv or internet. I also guess if I make secondary moulds then I start to lose the cost advantages by spending on silicone. Hmm... I like the idea of picking up additional castings of pieces I only need a few copies of and had thought I might do that for the doors but set-dressing could be a fun thing to add as well. I also hadn't thought of ordering direct from the US, assuming postage would kill the deal. More research!

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