Tuesday, 27 August 2013

54mm Figure making accessories.

Fruilmodel Academy Figure
My plastic toy soldier painting has ground to a halt as I have become more and more interested in making my very own toy soldiers. To this ends a couple of little packages arrived at my home while I was on holiday containing some kits to help make the process of sculpting 54mm figures a whole lot easier.

Fruilmodel of Hungry and Andrea Miniatures of the Czech Republic produce little skeleton figures that act as a framework onto which you can apply your chosen sculpting medium - like Milliput or Fimo or whatever. The accurately proportioned armatures ensure you have the best start to your figure project and also help you turn out figures of a consistent scale.

In sculpture, an armature is a framework around which the sculpture is built. This framework provides structure and stability, especially when a plastic material such as wax, newspaper or clay is being used as the medium. When sculpting the human figure, the armature is analogous to the major skeleton and has essentially the same purpose: to hold the body erect. [Wikipedia]

Fruilmodel - 54mm Academy Figure
This is the simpler and cheaper of the two kits, consisting of a one-piece 'skeleton' and four heads. It cost 7 Euros, but had to be sourced from Frilmodel themselves in the Czech republic (so there were additional postage costs).

The skeleton is made of white metal has certain of the main muscle masses included (so it's not really a skeleton) and comes with five head options. Four of the heads are fully featured, with interesting expressions, and the final 'head' is really a basic skull which comes attached to the armature so you can sculpt your own head if you wish.

The armature allows you to bend the various limbs and the spine so you can create the pose you want. Even the hands can be clenched.

It's really quite a nice start to a figure sculpt and at 7 Euros (though drat those shipping costs) you don't mind too much using it as a base for slapping on your own modelling clay as it makes the price of an individual sculpt reasonable.

Fruilmodel Academy Figure 54mm heads
Not so many heads, but at least a good pair of shoes!

Andrea Miniatures - 54mm Converter Multi-pose Mannequin
The alternative armature that I found is made in the Czech Republic by Andrea Miniature, in fact they do a 1/35 and 54mm version. One of the things that initially attracted me to this armature kit was the great flexibility of the armature itself and the small selection of pre-posed hands that come with it.

While the Fruilmodel skeleton does allow for a degree of posability I am skeptical about just how much it can replicate the full range of human movement because of it's more solidly moulded metal construction. You may have to actually break off limbs to get a specific pose to work and to look natural (but I will have to test this to know for sure).

The Andrea armature, on the other hand, comprises of a novel flat brass 'skeleton' which while it appears to be somewhat flimsy compared to the Fruilmodel frame is likely to allow a far greater range of movement and therefore a greater range of possible poses. Still, when you consider the premium price for the kit of 16.30 Euros you do wonder if you got enough bang for you bucks.

From the Andrea Converter instruction sheet. You can get a sense of the
flexibility of this kit compared to a more solidly moulded armature.

But anyway, the Andrea kit is a well thought out and put together package and unlike the Fruilmodel kit it at least comes with a reasonably comprehensive instruction sheet. 

The disadvantage of this 'thin' method of frame is there is less structural hints for you to work with, less muscle mass and so you will have to judge how much 'flesh' to put on the frame.

Left: A picture from the Andrea instruction sheet which shows how you might start to pose and flesh out the skeleton. The musket is a third-party addition, but you get an idea at just how supple the thin armature is.

Well, for value for money I do have to go with the Fruilmodel product no question. It's a little less flexible, but on the swing side it does give you a better start with less of the actual body to model.

I have a feeling expert miniature figure sculptors might go with the Andrea kit, simply because - for anatomical variety - it offers the ultimate flexibility. For a beginner like me though the extra anatomical hints that the Fruilmodel armature provides - with the major muscle groups - will be useful and mean a lot less building up with your putty.

However, in my case I will not actually be using these armatures for their intended purpose (as a base framework onto which to sculpt a figure). Instead I will be using these as templates from which I will be making my own cheap armatures - like the wire one I have already made.

The commercial mannequins will provide a means for testing poses and will also provide a rule of thumb for scale. Also I will be able to check for position of the major body joints when making my cheap wire skeletons.

While learning - presuming that I will probably make quite a few mistakes to begin with - I don't really fancy expending a 7 Euro armature every time I make a figure (much less €17)!

So there you go. Two very good armatures which will ensure you have a good start to accurate 54mm figure sculpting. 

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