18 September 2011

A Newbie Guide: Resin Bases

I've decided to start a series of tutorials for newbies – not necessarily newbie gamers, just newbies to the topic under discussion. These tutorials will be written purely from my own gaming/modelling perspective and experience so may not be the best or most effective, but will hopefully explain things in a simple and digestible way.

I've recently noticed a handful of people, some who have been gaming for a quite a while, have avoided the use of resin bases for their models. I always thought this was due to just not liking them. However, I have since discovered it was because they didn't know how to use them or were afraid to try and end up wrecking them.

As some of you may know I have created a series of resin bases, specially themed and cast up for each of my Malifaux crews. These will shortly be on sale to the general public after I received several enquiries about their availability. This tutorial will show how I prepare these bases and the models, and the process of sticking model to base. My gaming buddy Bull was following my instructions while I photographed him, so this is actually all his work!

Before You Start 
Please be mindful that resin dust can be very harmful. You should wear a dust mask whenever filing resin. You should also ideally wear gloves or certainly wash your hands before eating (or picking your nose). I would also advise not filing in the kitchen area or anywhere that food is prepared – this might be difficult if like me you live in a small house or flat, but the risks should not be ignored. I also like to wear safety goggles when drilling, just in case. You're going to struggle to continue with the hobby if you go blind from flying debris.

Continuing the "Safety First" perspective, please be careful. Drills and scalpels can slip and cut/stab fingers, allowing metal and resin under the skin – not nice! Don't rush things, take it nice and easy and you'll have no problems and no trips to A&E.

I would recommend washing the base in warm soapy water. Mould release agent is used when casting up resin bases and can leave a residue on the surface that may impede or affect gluing and/or painting, a quick wash with get rid of it.

Preparation: Bubbles
Because I don't have vacuum casting facilities at home there is an increased risk of bubbles in my bases. When you do find one there are a couple of options.

First of all you can fill them with greenstuff or, if really small, superglue. Once the filling material is dry, give the area a quick file to reshape accordingly.

The second option is to turn the bubble into damage, depending upon where it has appeared. In the case of the pictured base, I simply used a scalpel and file to reshape the bubble so that it looks like a bullet hole, axe damage, rotten wood or some other form of destruction.

Preparation: Underside and Edges
The bases are usually cast face down, so what will become the underside of your base may not be completely flat. As part of the preparation process I sand the underside of all my bases before sticking. I use a light circular motion over a piece of fine grade sandpaper and get the base truly flush with the work surface. I tend to do this outside as it can create a lot of dust. Keep a close eye on the base and make sure you don't sand the base down unevenly – you'll struggle to recover from that.

In addition it's also a good idea to whizz a file around the edges of the base to get rid of any unevenness or lines

You should never just glue your model straight to the base without pinning – it's a complete waste of time for something that will be transported and handled as much as a gaming miniature; it will usually fall off the base with the slightest knock and ruin your lovely paint scheme. Again there are two options, both of which I use on a situational basis.

First option is a more traditional pin. I will clip the tab off the bottom of the model (if it has one) and file the underside of the 'feet' flat so that it will sit flush with the surface of the resin base (or as flush as possible). I will then try holding the model in different positions on the base till I find one that works the best. I then mark the feet positions on the base in pencil and file away any obtrusive resin elements so that the fit is as flush as possible.

Once this is done I use a hand-held hobby drill (pin vice) to drill into the model – I don't use an electric drill for this as the drill bits invariably break. I use a drill bit that is a tiny bit bigger than the brass rod or paper clip that will be used to actually pin the model. This allows a little bit of wiggle room when you're actually sticking the model in place if the holes don't quite match up. If the model has two feet (rather than a single large area) I will pin both feet to anchor the model completely.

In the example above, the Seshin model only has a single 'foot' so I only use one pin. Once done I glue a length of brass rod into the hole, leaving approximately 5mm or a quarter inch protruding. Now I can drill a corresponding hole into the resin base, going all the way through more often than not.

Dry fit the model onto the base to ensure a good match before adding any glue. Adjust if necessary and when happy apply superglue to the underside of the foot and into the hole in the resin base. Hold both model and base firmly for 10(ish) seconds then leave to one side to dry thoroughly. Take into account that, if you drilled all the way through the base, superglue is likely to drain out of the hole and you can end up gluing your base to your tray or table – beware.

An alternative option that I use when models have very narrow or fragile feet is to clip back the tab underneath the model until only a triangle remains under each foot. I file any sharp edges off these 'pegs' to aid fitting. I mark the position and size of the pegs onto the resin base in pencil and use an electric hobby drill (it's quicker than a hand-held) to cut out the required areas with a larger drill bit. Throughout the process I will constantly dry fit the model until it sits snuggly onto the base, with none of the peg showing.

Whichever route you choose, once glued into position and dry, greenstuff will often be used to fill any gaps and re-create any elements of the base that were cut away unnecessarily.

And that's it. If you have any questions don't hesitate to ask them. Similarly if you know of a better, or alternative way feel free to comment.

Want to know more about these bases?

I would like to thank Bull for being my hand-model and guinea pig for the day!


  1. The "triangle tab" method looks very labour intensive! How long does it take to make holes to fit the left over tab? I can see it being a much stronger join compared to a pin, but I don't know if I'd have the patience!

  2. The first few I found a bit trial and error so took longer but now I've had some practice there's nothing in it, except maybe some additional greenstuffing time.

  3. Nice post: I found that a dremel tool or similar with a sanding head works really well and is nice and quick to get large holes done for the "triangle tab" method.

  4. Another tip I forgot to add.
    When using a single pin to attached a model to a base – as in the Seshin example above – if you drill at a slight angle rather than square on it reduces the risk of the model coming off or spinning once the glue has dried.

  5. Hmm I have never seen or tried the "peg" method of pinning. I might have to give that a try some time and see how I like it. Options are always a plus!

  6. As mentioned in the post, I find it a great alternative if the bit you're pinning looks quite delicate.