Finishing our Pieces

Glorious Twelfth original designs are available for purchase through Shapeways. For FAQ’s about our pricing, process, and etc please read this; for information about how to get the most out of each and every Glorious Twelfth piece, read on! 3D printed miniatures can seem intimidating at first but, truly, with a few tips and tricks they can be finished just as easily as any other piece!

First thing’s first: these minis are plastic. They’re not the exact same kind of plastic as, for example, the plastic used in a Chrysnbon kit but luckily for us they can be finished with the exact same materials. The same steps, in the same sequence, are also important: prepping, sanding, priming, and, finally, painting! But where Chrysnbon bedevils us with sprue, 3D printed minis arrive…sticky. This is as a result of the 3D printing process; Shapeways does a fairly good job of cleaning each piece before it’s shipped but we still need to clean them.

Your pieces, when they arrive, might feel clean but they’ve undoubtedly got some grime left over from the 3D printing process. This is why you’ll need to bathe them in warm (NOT hot!), soapy water. I use dish soap, along with a soft toothbrush. Children’s toothbrushes are ideal. After a thorough rinsing, leave the piece alone to dry for at least 24 hours. Most materials used in the 3D printing process are porous; some are more porous than others, but you should always err on the safe side. Otherwise, you might end up with poorly adhered, peeling primer or, worse, mould!

Some pieces, particularly those printed in Shapeways’ Smoothest Detail Plastic, can arrive a bit gooey. For them, I recommend a two step process: a soak in warm, soapy water followed by a scrubbing and, if that doesn’t work, a bath in food grade mineral oil. For the first, I usually let my piece soak for about ten minutes before giving it the toothbrush treatment. Sometimes, this is all the piece needs. Other times, either there’s a lot of goo or it’s really packed on. That’s where the mineral oil comes in. This goo is actually a kind of wax, used to support the underlying structure during creation. Oil works to de-bond it. I recommend food grade mineral oil, specifically, because it’s far more gentle than other choices. The cleaning process might take a bit longer, but you also aren’t risking destroying the detail hidden below.

I submerge the piece for an hour or two, then re-attempt the soap and water treatment. To the extent that there’s any goo remaining, we rinse…and repeat. As this oil is a bit spendy, after I’m finally done–whenever that is–I pour what I’ve used back into the container so I can re-use it later. I also, and this is important, mark it as for art use only!

If sanding is necessary, now’s the time. Generally I don’t sand details; they don’t need it (and I don’t want to accidentally destroy them!) Rather, I concentrate on any smooth surfaces the piece might have such as the top of the mantelpiece on a fireplace and etc. That’s where I tend to find ridges, which are yet another annoying byproduct of the creation process. I find that I have the best success with wet sanding, starting with 180 grit and working my way down to 1.000 or even smaller. I periodically give the piece a rinse in the sink, as with tough sanding jobs grit tends to build up in the crevices. I also, when I’m working, rely on my fingers far more than my eyes; a surface can look smooth, but still feel rough to the touch.

Once the piece is completely (as in has dried for 24 to 48 hours, depending on humidity) dry, it’s time to prime….UNLESS the piece is a multi-part piece, ie a sink and a set of legs, which requires gluing. In this case I strongly recommend gluing before you prime. Note please, here, that many glues–including glues for plastic–do not adhere to these pieces. The glue I use, and the one I recommend, is AK Interactive’s Magnet Ultra Resistant CA Glue. You can find it in most hobby shops, and on Amazon. I then let the glue cure before proceeding. Yes, that’s another 24 hours but waiting beats having your legs come off in the middle of painting.

Now, on to primer!

For airbrush primer applications, I recommend Vallejo. For spray bottle applications, I recommend Tamiya Fine Surface Primer. I do not recommend any brush-on primers. Craft paints, Gesso, etc, are gloppy and won’t adhere to your piece. One rule always holds true, though: two or three or even four thin coats beat one thick coat every time. Apply your primer in a clean, well-ventilated area and then, another 24 to 48 hours after that….

We’re ready for paint!

For piece-specific tutorials, please check out our tutorials page. This ever-expanding collection is full of techniques, troubleshooting, and inspiration. For even more inspiration, please visit the gallery and, of course, Instagram. We’re always a few dozen tutorials behind where we want to be, as we design faster than we paint; if you’re feeling impatient, please contact us with requests! We always try to prioritise what we know people want to see.

Happy mini making!

The “Kelvin,” a faithful reproduction of a cast iron kitchen range produced by Henry Thomas Ironmonger during the reign of Queen Victoria and available for purchase in 1:12 and 1:24 scales through our shop
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