Thursday, 5 November 2009

The Joys & Pitfalls Of Home Casting.

Finally I managed to clear the decks enough to crack on with some casting.

Now home-casting with Prince August moulds is not that hard, but it's dangerous if one is stupid, and on top of that one really has to understand the different moulds and what works best for each, if one doesn't want to waste a lot of time.

Some moulds want to be clamped tight. Others want a looser clamp, possibly with a stout elastic band or two around the boards. Some moulds want the clamps to be placed just so. With others you need to allow a bit of flash to creep in, if you want it to fill properly. Some others might need venting, and I use a Dremel with a very tiny bit, to make a hole through the hot mould at the end of the extremity that is refusing to fill.

I actually have fairly extensive notes concerning each of the moulds and how they like to be clamped. If I didn't, I would never remember the details and it would be a matter of trial and error until I could get it right again, which is not ideal.

Even so, there're some sessions when moulds which have worked fine suddenly refuse to play and leave a foot or a leg or a head or a rifle missing. Sometimes I get a 100% failure rate on a mould, days after knocking out a 24 strong unit from it with no hitches at all. Hard to know what causes it. Mainly I think it's the metal; it's not the purest quality.

This is what happened today with one of the Officer Advancing, "round" moulds. I got two useable castings, and another 12 that went back into the pot. That's far too high so I gave up on that one. My guess is a vent has got blocked, but without the drill (now packed) I had to leave it.

The Artillery crews also presented their usual headaches. Now, in spite of ventng and experimenting with different combinations of clamp positions, these crewmen figures have always been a major pain for me, with a far too high fail rate. These moulds are the later ones, the "rounds" made to replace Holger Ericsson's ageing original wood-carved master moulds.

Odd that PA warns people that the new "rounds" are easier to cast than the early original semi-flat moulds, which they claim need a lot of work to cast a good figure. My experience, after casting a fair few figures from both new and early moulds, is that the opposite is true. The newer figures require more venting, are more sensitive to clamping issues, produce a MUCH higher rate of duds, and the castings need more cleaning up, than the early semi-flat ones.

It's for this reason that most of my moulds are now the early semi-flats.

But the Artillery, being problematic, needs a decision. I can stuggle through and spend the rest of my lfe casting them up, or I can give up on using the moulds for the artillery, and just fork out for some Irregular Miniatures 42mm Malburian Guns with crews. Much less work, and they are nice figures and won't stand out too much from the rest of the army. As I have also decided to use Irregular's 42mm figures for the Generals on both sides, I feel happy with this idea.

Today I concentrated on command figures. This makes sense, as I know how many I need (and a few for spares), and as I have no intention of building the armies further after reaching the OOB already outlined, I can sell on the moulds once I have finished.

I also knocked out a unit of Light Infantry (still minus a bugler), and did a few test castings of the Grenadier, Marching, Shouldered Arms. Not bad. Only one dud went back into the pot. One figure came out with the bayonet missing, but that's inside my Back-In-The-Pot guidelines, which basically states that only major faults will be re-cast, and a missing bayonet does not come under that heading. Missing head, yes, missing foot, indeed... but the odd short scabbard, sword or bayonet are fine.

So not a bad couple of hours work. A failure rate of around 20% was acceptable....

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