GF9 Sculpting Tools | Print |  E-mail
Written by Ed Jendek   
Monday, 12 March 2007
For his first article on Wargames @, Ed Jendek takes a hard look at the Gale Force 9 Sculpting toolset, and lets you know what you'll be getting into if you pick them up.

If you have not seen Ed's work, wander over to Dragonsfoot and check out some of his posts - he is rather good in the fantasy space... A good example is his carrion crawler.

Gale Force 9 Advanced Sculpting Tool Set � by Ed Jendek

About a year ago I began sculpting my own fantasy miniatures. After having spent nearly two decades painting and using figurines in my RPGs, building my own was a logical step in my progression as a miniatures enthusiast. That isn't to say sculpting has been an easy hobby to pick up, however. Decent "how-to" guides to miniatures sculpting are few and far between, and tools specifically designed for small-scale sculpting are even rarer. Needless to say then, I was thrilled to hear that Gale Force 9 had created a set of tools specially for the miniatures sculptor.

After examining my financial situation and the merits of both GF9's Basic and Advanced Sculpting tool sets, I finally purchased the latter online (from shortly after the Christmas holidays. The set retails for $39.99 and includes twelve stainless-steel tools in a canvas carrying case. Each tool is double ended, providing the user with 24 usable heads. To their credit, the folks at GF9 anticipated that some of their customers would have other tools within their sculpting arsenals, so they provided extra space for a few additions, allowing for a total of 14 tools in the case.

The tool case is a fairly handsome affair, constructed of navy-blue canvas with beige trim. Unfortunately, the case is not as durable as it looks. Within a week of moderate usage the stitching in one of the bag's corners gave way. I discovered the hole in the worst possible way: One of my finely polished (see below) tools sustained minor damage when it hit the tiled floor en route to my work space. I've subsequently re-sewn it, but am watching the stitching closely so as not to lose tools should other areas of the bag come apart. Whether this can be expected with all GF9's storage cases or my experience was an isolated incident remains to be seen.

When I unpacked the tools from their mailing container and began to inspect them, I was initially quite impressed. They're all nicely balanced, with relatively comfortable knurled grips, and have a nice 'solid' feel when held. However, after closer examination of the business ends of these tools, I was disappointed. The machining and grinding work on 80 percent of the heads was poorly done, especially given their intended application�the jagged edges and burrs on the work surfaces are sure to wreak havoc on any sculpt they are applied to. Shaping and smoothing putty would be very difficult, if not impossible, unless these imperfections were corrected.

Consequently, I spent several hours honing and polishing all two dozen work surfaces. I started with 200-grit sandpaper and worked my way up to a 12,000-grit polishing pad. Once the sanding was completed I polished the tools further with Brasso and a buffing wheel attached to a Dremel Tool before testing them out with some Kneadatite Green stuff. I was dissatisfied with the results of my trial work and went back to polish the tools further, first with Brasso, then with Mer car polish, again followed by buffing with my trusty Dremel. I finished the clean-up process by dipping each head in Future Floor Polish.

The extra work I put into these tools has paid off handsomely. Although I find them a bit 'stiffer' than the boxwood tools I had been using, the GF9 tools allow a degree of precision and control I could not have imagined attaining previously. The end result is that I've been able to create finer details and smoother surfaces. Although I've yet to fully employ all the tools, I've greatly expanded my repertoire of sculpting techniques with their aid. My only complaint on completeness is that GF9 should have included a ball-burnisher as one of the tools in the set, as I often find myself having to smooth out small areas surrounded by raised details.

Overall, I'm rather happy with the Gale Force 9 Sculpting Tool Set. It provides a miniatures sculptor with a very decent array of tools at a relatively modest price. With that factor in mind, I suppose the lack of a fine finish on the tools' work surfaces is understandable given the lack of expense. The time I spent carefully honing the tool tips would have increased GF9's costs significantly had the work had been done at the factory. I'm sure working times will vary, but it took me a little over six hours to fine-tune the tools to a point where I was satisfied with their performance. To some that may seem like a hefty investment in time and effort, and someone expecting to put these tools to work straight out of the box will be disappointed. But if you're serious about sculpting and have enough patience to refine the tools, I think you'll be pleased. I've found the investment to be worth the results this set has helped me produce.

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