Friday, December 4, 2015

Michael Kontraros Workshop at SMC

Long overdue review of the workshop held at Scale Model Challenge a while back. This one presented by Michael Kontraros on how to make unique bases.

This was a great experience to jump at as Michael is known for his fantastic basing and sculpting as a whole, and to learn another way of doing it would just be great to have in the arsenal of crafting for future projects.

Something like this base ( and ultimately the model ) were done with this technique.. and what is very cool about it is that most of his pieces look incredibly fragile ( and are to a point ) but the bases are apparently rock hard! Something that we would learn about and the why in the class!

Some of the materials that we would have on stand by for the class... Playdough clay, A socket with a screw in it, sculpting tools, cardboard, and gummy worms to keep the energy high!

In the description of the class it had mentioned things like aprons, and masks, etc... so I brought them all ( since I drove there I had the room for it all ) but after showing up, it was clear that it was not all needed. Still better than not.. Even the lamps were not fully needed due to the work we were doing was not uber precision work, and the room lighting was satisfactory enough overall.

The precursor to this class was very little aside from we would be making some very unique bases. And the end result was just that.. along with the technique.

What was the strangest thing, and something that many of us struggled at with at first, was that we were not sculpting a base. We were making a relief of a base, and then going to cast that relief. So basically, we were making the inverted copy of the base into our playdough clay, and then going to use some auto body filler to cast it in.

The Polyester Putty.. which in its natural state is just putty, but doesn't harden. Not unless you put the right amount of the hardener agent into the mix! The small tube is supposed to be able to be used for the entire tub!

This was the second thing that threw us all.. as the amount hardener that you put to the putty it changes the working time available. Too much it will harden in your hands and be unusable. Not enough, and it will never really harden at all. The right amount gives you about 5 minutes of working time available.

So with all this.. what happened?

Well.. first off we got to watch Michael explain it a bit more via his display pieces.. and his biggest piece of advice was always.. don't try to sculpt something that already exists. You cannot sculpt better than mother nature, so use wood to represent wood.. or stones to represent stones.

One thing that Michael had that we didnt though was a silicon mold that he could use to mix the putty with. Something that it would not stick to, but he could handle easily. The rest of us at cardboard, which worked, but then you had to throw it away after a use or 2. The silicon was reusable quite a bit.

As far as seeing the actual steps we took.. it was not much there aside from the fact that we were using our sculpting tools to press into the clay. Michael would come around and keep reminding us that we were doing the inverse of the sculpt, not the sculpt itself.

So if we make an indent on the clay it would be an outcropping on the base. Trying to keep this in mind at the beginning was very difficult, but after a while it began to really click, and you could begin to think in that manner.

Many times I have to flip my piece upside down to think what it would look like to keep that focus going.

This was my final result once we applied the putty. Which was simply, mixing it up thoroughly, and then applying it to the clay, with the mentality of pushing hard enough on it to cover the gaps, but not so hard as to ruin the shapes/details in the clay. Honestly it was pretty easy.. and then we began to watch the putty dry.. which for some was a very long time due to wrong mixtures, and others it still held the stir sticks in them :)

For applying it to the base we had the screw in the socket. At first I was not liking that mine was off centre, but that was due to previous thinking of needing it centered due to being shown at the end.

Here, it really does not matter. As we then took more putty, and covered the screw/base from the bottom with it. It became the strongest hold you could think of due to the fact that this putty is typically used as a car body filler. So needs to be tough! Can be sanded down ( dunno how easily ) but won't break with the odd bump or such. Still would not recommend throwing it against the wall, but if it survives the wall might not ;)

We were then given an idea of what to do for the bottom of the base as well.. be it smooth ( as in the photo above on the right ) or with stalagmites ( like on the left there ). Which was again.. super simple. Apply a dollop of putty, and then take your sculpting tool to grab some, and pull down.. and repeat until satisfied!

This is what the bottom of mine looked like at the end as well.. I went for the crazy cave styled one instead. Smooth I can practice on at another time, but the stalagmites was something that I would like to see also not how to make, but how safe they would be after made. How strong they are.. and to be honest, they are quite strong!

At the very end, while we were looking at some of our left over putty sections, we were told to begin to cut it up a bit while it is still a bit soft. Cut them into really tiny pieces, medium sized, and try to avoid the larger ones. Reason being again was that these can be used as rocks and rubble! Which was then spread and scattered among the bases overall as well.

The aftermath of the mess that was made from the workshop. What was the best part of it though was that the entire process, even with teaching, was super quick. I think all in we spent 2 hrs working on the pieces, along with a majority of that being the teaching and sculpting into the clay.

I have to say that I am super inspired from it, and have spent a bit of time looking to see if I can acquire the Polyester Putty in the UK here.. however it seems it requires some online ordering to be able to acquire it. That being said, I already have a big idea to use it with.. so here is hoping I can get it after the holidays!

Sorry again for the lateness of this.. but expect more articles very soon as I play catch up here on the blog!


  1. It sounds absolutely fascinating, a great skill to have in the armoury!

    1. It was really cool.. highly recommended to anyone.. I can see it working for gaming bases as well if you wanted to then cast your own from some of the designs.. mmmm now that I think of it.. :D


If you liked the post, become a follower, comment or email me at
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...