Saturday, 3 January 2015

KYC = Know Your Custom tools :D


Happy New Year Everyone!!!

Its been a long time now since I first started making custom SICs and Kiwamis. About 2.5 years now? Of course there were gaps when I disappeared into my family or work life but it seems I always found my way back to this strange blank space in my life that screams to be filled with more custom figures.

Well, right now I'm in one of those gaps I just mentioned so there won't be a custom figure out for the next couple of weeks at least (loads of work and holiday season coming yay!)

So in the meantime, perhaps a recap of the stuff I used (which has grown 10 fold since inception) for my customs, how to use them and perhaps you guys can contribute by teaching me what else I can use or replace as tools :D

Alright here we go.

Rewind back to the time when I first started custom, I remembered all I have was epoxy putty, some toothpicks and custom rubber board (don't know what they called, those green checkered rubber board where its ok to cut into them instead of your table). Fastforward 2.5 years later, I have since misplaced that rubber board and replaced that with a cheap $2 mini chopping board (its heavier but I feel safer for my table). And a buttload of other stuff!

 If you look at all the stuff I use now, don't cringe. Coz really a lot of other customisers probably have 10 times what I have up there. What Im gonna do is to run over each of the items I use so that you won't be left scratching your head why the hell I need those clips on a stick for example.

First up, if you would grace your eyes on the photo right below you will see an assortment of blades and some wooden/plastic stick-like protrusions.

What I'm gonna do for every photos from now on is to describe the things that ranges from the left of the photo to the right or from top to bottom.

So, the left most side, we have a strange looking knife. This my friend (after 1 year of wondering about it myself back then since nobody taught me about it ;p)  is a hobby knife :D Now, you will be wondering, why I can't I just use a blade or some other kind of cutting tools. Well I can, but a hobby knife makes it so much easier. The reason lie in its blade's shape really. The sharp end of it allows me to reach corners, holes and wierd angles I can't reach using normal blades. Secondly, a hobby knife's rounded grip makes it a lot easier for me to move the blade the way I wanted it while its cutting up putty. It really helps and makes carving stuff easier as compared to a normal blade's  flattened grip. I bought my hobby knife cheaply at $6 from China, so it isn't really hitting my wallet anyway.

Next! Those weird wooden stakes and red plastic sticks. These are actually shaping tools. See those metal ends with shaped ends (round, flats, etc)? That's the part you use to make shape on your sculpts. Simple! However, its understanding how and when to handle these tools is the main challenge here. Practice is really the best way to understand how to use these guys. For example, you need to understand how each of he shaping tool's end points affect the putty at certain point in time of the putty drying period. Very small rounded tips will give you precise holes or very sharp grooves in putty that has just started drying. Bigger rounded tips or flattened heads creates nice smooth grooves if you run it on almost dried putty. And so on. You can get thee guys in hobby shops or at pharmacy coz rely they're actually dental tools ;p Some of these run up to $40 per pack! I feel that's mighty expensive for a set of pockey sticks so I bought mine online again for $10.

Right, onto to the last item on this photo which are those blades. These are the disposable types where you can switch out the blades from the holder and replace them with new ones. This I crucial. These blades too are used for shaping sculpts but mostly I use them to cut putty up I the shape I want them. The other usage is to use them to flatten certain putty portion into shapes I wanted or make small steps on putties. The reason why you need disposable types is because you will be cutting into wet putty and that will cause rust on the blade. So you will need to replace them every once in a while.

Since I started doing custom, I realised I need some heavy duty tools to make things easier for me. For example if you wanna cut hard plastics, its gonna take forever with a blade. So you will need a hand saw just like the one in the photo below.

Next, you need some pliers like the ones you see below, the ones with the red and black handle. They come in mighty handy when (1) handling, bending and cutting hard metal wires, (2) holding stuff steady while you are cutting, drilling or just painting on them and (3) the heavy plier makes a good hammer once in a while ;p

Now that leaves the thing in blue handle. If you are cutting stuff out of sprues it will take forever with your blade or it might cause distortion on the plastic if you yank them out with your hands. So you need one of them sprue cutter (the one with the blue handle). These are not tools that you MUST need in a custom work, but they make things really a lot easier.

Next, one of the most crucial tools you need for customs are of course Brushes! There are actually a huge variety of brushes you can use, each of them have their own unique features hence allowing them to create unique schemes on figures.

I'll try to list them out as much as I could. I am very sure I don't have them all down pat yet though.

Ok my description of brushes may not be of any proper standard since I never really learn from anyone how to use them and I mostly found their use via trial and error so bear with me ;p I'll list them down as follows:

1) Brush like brush with sharp tip:
- Great for small area paintings, diluting paint over certain areas to create shadows, dipping/stroking heavily thinner-ed paint over surface to create shadows. Sharp tip brushes are also good to make small lines such as tribal tattoos and mechanical details.
- Really small tipped brushes arevery good to paint small details including eyes, linings, tips, etc

2) Flat brushes
- Large ones: Great to paint over large areas with heavily diluted paint to create smooth painted areas. You will need to paint a few layers to allow the color to show especially for certain colors such as white, orange, etc.
- Small ones: Again, for painting over areas to create smooth painted areas but this time for smaller restricted areas.
- Useful for creating flakes like designs by dipping them into paint and then wiping the brush over a towel. Then use your finger to flip the brush tips over an area to create those flakes like designs (e.g. blood splatters, mud splatters etc)
- Useful to emphasize edges distinctness by dipping in lowly diluted paint and then wiping the brush over a towel. Then use the brush to slide over edges that has different paint color on them. E.g. the edges are painted black and your brush color is silver, creating distinct lines over the edges.
- Useful to create scratches, weathering by dipping the brush on lowly diluted paint and then wiping the brush over a towel. Then, do quickly stroking motions with the brush over surfaces to create scratches, wear and tear of paint etc.

3) Round flat brushes
- Useful to create unsmooth bumps and cracks etc on surfaces. Dip the brush over lowly diluted paint and then just 'chop' the end of the round flat brush onto surfaces.

There are many more brush types that you can use such as hard brushes for scrappings or creating crackly painted surface etc. I'm actually just touching the tip of the iceberg here and there is really a lot more to brushes I have yet to learn :)

Its now time for really expensive tools! See photo below:

Lets look at the left one first. It looks like a ... shit is that some lizard shit on the box?? gotta remember to clean that later on ;p Anyway it looks like a scalpel thingie. I bought it at SGD35 and it was the most expensive tool I ever bought back then when i first started custom. I thought it was used to cut shapes. Turns out I didn't really read that white on red print on the box ;p Its a line engraver of course >_> It is VERY useful. I tried to cut shape with it and that turned out real bad and left it on the shelf for a whole year until I realised its usage ;p Back then I don't get a lot of advice from other customisers who are mostly either cryptic about their customs or just don't like to share their techniques unless I plead them to teach me -_-" so be glad I'm writing all these for beginners for free! ;p

Anyway back to the line engraver, this one is a MUST have for customisers. Like its namesake, it engraves lines. Its a simple one usage tool but very effective. Some of you must be wondering "well I can just use a $0.50 blade to make lines". That is wrong! a simple blade wont have the force or aerodynamism to make clear distinct and precise lines you wanted! The shape of the engraver is what makes it useful from the grip to the blade itself. You will notice the blade of the engraver is like a hook with a sharp tip at the end. By positioning the engraver with the tip on the putty and pushing the engraver along the direction you want lines to be engraved on the putty, you will create distinch fine and sharp/curvy lines you wanted (with practive). The shape of the blade tip made it so that you can reach hard to reach corners etc as well. I have been using this line engraver for 2 years now and it never fails me.

Now for the tool on the right. Its a diamond drill. Firstly, the diamond part is a misconception. There ain't no diamond on the tip ;p Its just a reference to the tool. This tool is equally important in drilling pieces, acting as a sanding tool, making shapes, creating tiny holes and cutting shapes. There are other uses as well that I actually have not explored, for example replacing the tip with other shapes for other uses. I gotta try that out some time. It doesn't come cheap either, I remember I bought this for $26 I think.

And here are some odd stuff I used as ancilliary tools:

1) The chopsticks: useful to push stuff around while glueing it, pick stuff up from boiling hot water (which I use to soften up oyumaru resin) and sometimes to make shapes using its tip.

2) Holding hands : I created these using paper clips and pieces of wood I found from Daiso. These are used to grip stuff while I paint or spray paint them. And they are used to hold the stuff while the paint dry too.

3) Plastic spoons, those you find from buying packed lunches at the local chinese mixed rice stores ;p I use these for 2 purpose only (1) fill it with thinner and clean my brushes in them and (2) use it as paint cups when I run out of those tiny plastic cups where i mix and match paints.

Extremely simple tools but very useful.

Ok some more tools and custom materials!

Here are some more really useful tools and materials for customs:

1) Those grey colored double ball joints of varied sizes: very useful to act as replacement joints or joints to allow poseable accesories to be added on your figures. It also works as replacement joints to allow better movements for your figures or even horses (i.e. E&P Gouten's hip joints).

2) Those white or beige colored revoltech joints of varied sizes: same usage as per (1) above except these revoltech joints can be used to replace knee or elbow joints of figures and still look natural while doing it (as compared to those double ball joints above).

3) red small diameter wires: Very useful for (a) acting as skeletons for weapon sculpts (b) connecting parts for your sculpts (c) replacement antennas for your riders (d) designs on your figures (shape them into designs and glue them on your figure, more on this below) and using it as wire details for your figure or weapons.

As for 3(d) above, how you can effectively glue such shaped tiny wires on surfaces without causing all kinds of glue on your fingers or bending the wires out of shape is to first (1) drill a tiny hole at one end of the design on the surface you want the wires on, (2) glue one end of the wire into the small hole, (3) start bending the wires into the shape you wanted, (4) glue the wire onto the surface (the glued in end of the wire act as a leverage to make it easier to bend the wire nicely and holding it in shape when you glue it onto the surface) and (5) this is optional but you may drill another hole for the other end of the wire to be inserted into it and glued in place.

4) Finally the last item on the photo is also the MOST essential material for custom and that is epoxy putty. By now I believe my readers should know what the hell this is so I will not explain any further ;p

Sanding tools, useful to sand hard surfaces or even metal objects that sand paper will never manage to budge them. And of course sanding paper.

Ok I seriously am not sure what these are doing in my tool box o.O I do use that ear piece a lot when I do custom as I listen to music though.

The various plastic cups I use to mix paint and thinner together. As you can see I retain some of the dried paint in them cups which I could then use multiple times for more than 1 custom figures :) extremely useful. Where to get them? Buy from appliance stores or like me, go get them free by trying trial drinks offered by those nice marketing ladies found in super markets and then keep the cups (just don't do it too often and get yourself blacklisted -_-"). Something else I totally forgot to put in the photo but is equally as essential as paint is of course: Thinner. Without thinner you will never be able to paint ;p

Well, thats it for now! I do believe I have written tons in terms of materials usage for this post already. As usual should you have any questions about them or any other tools for customs, feel free to comment on this thread! Cheerios!!

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