Sculpting 101 by Phil Lewis

Sculpting 101

By Phil Lewis
Originally Published in Forge Magazine #1
So there I was, working away Queen Live at Wembley’86 blaring away in the background, when the phone rang.  There was that slightly hollow sound on the line that told me it was that was Bob Watts, calling from the other side of the Atlantic. After lulling me into a false sense of security with the usual pleasantries…

‘Have you still got your camera, Phil?’ he asked.

‘Yeeeees?’ I replied cautiously, wondering what was coming next.

‘How do you fancy taking some stage-by-stage photos of making a miniature for a magazine article?’

There was an initial feeling of panic. Could I remember which bit to look through? Had the cars been using the camera case as a dirt tray? Did I know where the bits were?  

‘Yes … no problem,’ sez 1, ‘I’ll give it a go.’ As it happened, I could remember which bit to look through, the cats hadn’t disgraced themselves (for once), and the close-up attachments weren’t hidden too badly.  So, over a period of about a week, I alternated between modeling and clicking away as I worked on some new figures for Earthdawn.

It’s difficult taking pictures of something of this size which hasn’t got the wonderful colour contrasts that a well-painted miniature has, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that you’ll be able to see what I’m talking about over the next page or so. The prints I’m looking at are fine-honest!

First of all, don’t be fooled into thinking, every miniature designer works to this specific method.  Although there are similarities in the way many of us construct a model, there are also many variations of style and technique. With luck, we’ll be able to show you some of these in future issues of Forge.

This is the way I set about it:  




1) The initial armature, made from three pieces of wire, is soldered together. The only careful measurement at this stage is for the gap between the ‘hips’ & shoulders’.  Obviously, for a larger figure such as a Troll, the gap would be increased accordingly. I try and keep a record of all the different sized armatures I use – this saves time and ensures consistent sizes.    

2) The wire armature is now bent into shape. The lengths of the ‘thighs’ and ‘shins’ are marked on the side and a thin skin of putty is worked onto the figure.

The positions of the knees and waist are marked onto this skin.  

It’s quite possible to ignore this stage and go straight on to step


3) where the figure is bulked out and ready to go.  You’ll have noticed that the arms have been left up and uncovered.

This keeps them out of the way while the legs and torso are modeled. 


4) Time to start on the miniature properly, as the boots and trousers are roughly formed over the model’s legs.



5) Creases and folds are worked into the putty. The tops of the boots are added and creased as well. 


As the picture of Garlthik I’m working from shows lots of stitching, I’ve decided to give his trousers some similar detail. Lines are pressed into the putty with the sharp edge of a modeling tool. Small holes are pricked into the putty on either side of these lines and, finally, some very finely rolled pieces of putty are cut and pushed into the holes. Although you in can only see the stitching around the figures groin I’ve also added some down the seams of the trousers as well.     

6)  With the arms lowered, the jerkin is put on as a rough shape with an indentation to mark where the belt will go.


7)  Creases and detail are added to the jerkin. Once the putty has dried the arms are measured, cut and bent into shape. The hands are flattened with the aid of a small hammer prior to being bent into position. A thin skin of putty is worked onto the wire.  Finally, the neck is chopped down.


8) On with his head!  There are simple ways of doing faces as well as rather complex ones.  Garlthik’s is one of the more complex, and I don’t think space will allow us to go into much detail for now.  Suffice to say that, underneath the detail, the face is a ball of hardened putty whose shape is roughly halfway between a sphere and an American football (that’s almost a Rugby ball for the dozen people in the UK who’ve never seen American football).    


9) Now for the sleeves:-  As before, the putty is put on as a rough shape and then worked to model the creases.  More stitches are added to the jerkin where the sleeves emerge.     

10) One of the simplest jobs for this figure – adding the hair. This simply entails pressing a small amount of putty into the desired position and texturing it with the edge of a modeling tool.    



11) & 12) Not far to go now!  A short piece of brass tubing is soldered into position to be used as the core of his tankard.  Detail and the hand are added. The sheath of Garlthik’s knife is cut out o hardened putty and stuck into position.     


13) & 14) ‘His fang’s too small,’ says the wife … curses, she’s right! Garlthik’s tooth is enlarged with a tiny amount of putty shaped over the top of the original. Lastly, detail is added to the knife’s sheath and the right hand is modeled.     
All that’s left to do now is remove the miniature from the cork and put the tab under his feet.  
Right, Bob….. what’s next?


So there you have it. A quick guide of how a miniature is made.  Now I’m sure there are many of you reading this article who wish we could go into even more detail.  After all, we’ve barely been able to scratch the surface of how a figure is designed. Let us know if there are any parts of the article you’d like us to expand on and, if space permits in the future, we’ll do our best to help you out. 

If you decide to try your own hand at miniature designing, remember there are two things that you’ll need that no amount of anatomy book, modeling tools, etc. will help you with: Practice and patience.

Good luck!  


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