Wednesday 23 October 2013

Basing with the Bat - Part I

This is an article that was originally published in Wargames, Soldiers and Strategy Issue 64, which explains my approach to basing miniatures, and which I've reprinted here with their kind approval. It is an extended version of a very old post on this blog.

When I started gaming back in the early ‘70s, wargaming was generally conducted with un-based miniatures, and the few bases one came across were rudely cut from a cornflake packet, and painted with lime-green gloss enamel. In these more complicated times, bases are precision cut from a wide range of different materials, often magnetic for storage reasons, and are textured and covered in more foliage than you’d see at the Chelsea Flower Show!

So why do we base, today?  I believe that the principle reason is that, as armies have got larger, bases (and recently bigger Impetus bases) have been required in order to deploy our regiments quickly from storage and onto the table. Other reasons include the usefulness of basing in supporting rules systems, so that strangers can game equally against each other, the need to protect miniatures both in handling and in transport/storage and, finally, the fact that good basing makes great miniatures look twice as nice!

In comparison with most gamers, I’m unusually fussy about my bases. They must all be exactly the right size, standard colour and finish, flocked and highlighted, matt varnished, magnetic and without any hint of warping. Nothing else is acceptable! In this article I’ll describe the tools, materials and techniques that I use with my system.

Some of the tools and materials you’ll need for great basing:-
  • Prepared bases, with magnetic strip underneath
  • A palette knife
  • A small Palette knife or old brush
  • A steel baking tray
  • A good wood glue
  • A tub of pre-mixed dry basing “gunk” (a mix of plaster, sand, grit and possibly pigment)
  • A small tub of Static grass and a puffer bottle
  • Lots of tufts of different sizes and colours, including weeds and flowers
  • A pair of tweezers; these will get glue on them, so best not use the wife’s!
  • A pot of medium earth-shade acrylic paint, such as Games Workshop Steel Legion drab
  • A pot of Buff Titanium acrylic paint
  • A bottle of Testors Dullcote and a tube of Raw Umber oil paint, or alternatively a matt acrylic varnish, such as Windsor and Newton Galeria
  • A peaty-coloured ink, such as Games Workshop Agrax Earthshade or Windsor and Newton Peat
I make my own bases from card and magnetic sheet, in big batches. They are magnetic underneath, and sealed with spray paint on the top and sides, which helps to avoid my deadly foe, warping. I also often use laser cut ply and MDF bases, especially the circular ones, and sometimes the excellent Renedra plastic bases.

It is particularly important to invest in a decent palette knife, with a springy tip that comes to a fairly fine point, than can get right between the feet of the miniature. Do please clean it carefully after use, and don’t leave it in water, or it will rust! Ideally you’ll also have a smaller palette knife or old paintbrush to work the basing gunk into difficult-to-reach corners. A spare, clean brush comes in handy in case you need to wipe away any gunk that gets onto a miniature, rather than onto the base.

I keep a large pre-mixed tub of what I call “BigRedBatGunk”, which is a mix of plaster and sand/small grit/railway ballast, with added pigment, of my own devising. This provides an instant base coat which saves a good deal of time later on, at the painting stage.  

I also own a tub of static grass, a trusty Noch puffer bottle applicator, and a dozen or so different sizes and colours of Silflor-like tufts and also the weeds and flowers which I find add a lot of interest to the bases.

To be continued...


WarRaptor said...

Looking forward to the rest of the article!

DeanM said...

Your attention to all of your work is readily apparent, Simon. You indeed do go that extra mile - and it pays off well. Best, Dean


Hi Simon, I've always been an admirer of your basing. It is so much better than my sand and grit efforts - though perhaps more time consuming.

BTW, will you be going to Fiasco this Sunday?

BigRedBat said...

Hi James, I think your basing looks brilliant (and I bet it takes half the time of mine!).

Alas I'm not at any more shows this year. My next shows are Salute and Partizan, and I have a lot of modelling to do before then! Will you be at either? It would be nice to meet up.

BigRedBat said...

Thanks Dean, you are too kind! Simon

Sean said...

Very interesting. I also look forward to part two.


Hi Simon, Partizan is a possible. Salute is out of the question because my wife sees any possible excuse for a London trip as too 'shiny' to pass on. The last time I went to Salute (as a guest) I spent less than £100 at the show but the trip cost over £1000!!!!!

BigRedBat said...

LOL! The non-wargaming shopping opportunities in Newark are happily somewhat limited, by comparison with London. ;-)

Barry Lee said...

Surely not Gunk, Simon? Big red bat "Guano" :0)

Monty said...

Great start, looking forward to the rest. I might have to try the BigRedBatGunk.

BigRedBat said...

Bat guano, LOL!

Monty, the gunk will be shown "in action", in part 2, tomorrow.

Best, Simon