Scent of a Gamer

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The production line: painting miniatures in bulk, part 1: from sprue to assembly

Plastic miniatures have, in my esteemed opinion, been a massive boon for wargamers. They have enabled hordes of cheap, details miniatures to be easily collected. However the process of assembly and painting remains much the same as it ever was.

When you are painting miniatures in bulk (groups of 20 or more of essentially the same figure) it is a benefit to take a ‘production line’ approach where you divide the task of painting the miniatures into a number of sub-tasks, and complete the same task for each model at the same time.

In this series I will go through each of the major stages, taking us from models on the sprue, to models painted, based and ready for the tables. I will also cover some mistakes to avoid, all of which I have made myself at some point!

I’m going to use two box sets as examples for this series. These are the skeleton set from Wargames Factory, and the European mercenaries set from Perry Miniatures.

Part 1: from sprue to assembly

1.1 Check the sprue

This one is important. Some sprues are designed to make you match certain arms with certain bodies, or certain weapons. Before you start clipping, make sure you have spotted all these! This way, when clipping, you can keep pieces together where necessary.

Also check for anything out of the ordinary you may not have noted about the sprue and the way components are organised.

In this example, the Wargames Factory skeleton sprue calls for certain legs to be matched with certain feet. That’s right, the feet are separate (it works though).

Also look for the weapon options and combinations, and make sure you can do what you want with the sprue. The end of assembly is not the time to discover you are two crossbows short.


1.2 One sprue at a time

Assembly is something you can often do sprue by sprue. When cutting the figures off the sprue, do the same part for each figure. For example, but all the bodies off. Then all the left arms, and attach those. Then all the right arms and attach those. This approach minimises the chances of missing a step for one or more of your figures.

1.3 Clip carefully

Good quality clippers and/or a sharp modelling knife are a must for this stage. Make sure you aren’t bending the piece (or another piece on the sprue) as you cut. If the plastic starts to whiten, stop what you are doing. Try again from a different angle by rotating the sprue. Also make sure you aren’t cutting towards yourself, the plastic isn’t the only thing to take care of at this stage!

On mold lines, I recommend you do these as you do. For example, clip the right arms off a sprue, then remove any mould lines from those arms, and so on. This way, each you your pieces is complete before you move on to the next. It also means you can…

1.4 Assemble as you go

Piles of plastic are prone to getting spilled and lost. Starting with the largest single piece, or else the legs, as you clip, assemble. So attach the left arms to your bodies as they are done. This way you aren’t lust clipping, you are assembling too. In terms of preparation, this means you want your glue handy as well as your knife or clippers.

1.5 Heads last

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received about the assembly phase is to leave the heads until last. This way you have the opportunity to ‘line up’ the head by sighting it with the ranged weapon, or example, or having the head aligned with the pointing arms, and so on. So do the heads last.

Assembly complete

Once you have completed the steps, the contents of your box should look something like this

IMG_0418 IMG_0417

All present, correct, and ready for the undercoat.

1.6 Do it all

Assembly can be quite tedious, especially if you have 150 or more models in front of you. However I still recommend you assemble everything at this stage. The more you assemble, the faster you go, especially when you have multiple identical sprues of figures to get through. By the time you get to the 10th sprue, you’ll be doing it 10 times faster than you were on the first sprue. Or thereabouts. Just grit your teeth and keep assembling.

5.1 basing first or basing last?

Some people like to do their basing as part of the assembly phase, and this can have a number of advantages. For the purposes of this series, I’m going to cover basing on part 5.

Coming next: part 2: from assembly to undercoat.


5 comments on “The production line: painting miniatures in bulk, part 1: from sprue to assembly

  1. Fieldmechanik
    April 11, 2015

    Reblogged this on MEASURELESS EONS.

  2. daggerandbrush
    April 12, 2015

    Excellent tutorial. I think this will be very useful for beginners. Wished this kind of stuff would have been available when I was younger and grew frustrated wit some lizardmen…;).

    • davekay
      April 13, 2015

      thanks! I approached this by thinking of the tips I would have liked when I was starting out.

  3. Pingback: The production line: painting miniatures in bulk, part 2: from assembly to undercoat | Scent of a Gamer

  4. Pingback: The production line: painting miniatures in bulk, part 3: from undercoat to base colours | Scent of a Gamer

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This entry was posted on April 11, 2015 by in Miniatures, Painting & Modelling and tagged , , , , , .
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