Thursday, March 10, 2011

Hobby: Green Stuff 101

For many epoxy putty (a.k.a. green stuff) is a difficult modeling medium to use. This was the case for me until I took a class at a convention on using green stuff in conversions. This class taught me three important concepts when it comes to working with green stuff. Once I learned these concepts, working with green stuff became a breeze.

The Mix
Green stuff is epoxy based polymer clay. It is typically sold in a thick ribbon that has a yellow and a blue half. Like all epoxies green stuff uses a resin and resin hardener. The yellow clay is the resin and the blue half is the hardener. You can adjust how firm your working clay is by adjusting how much of the yellow and the blue you add to the overall mix. It is important to note that too much of the resin or hardener will cause problems with your final product being too rubbery, or too brittle.

When I mix my green stuff I tear off a piece of each and roll them into small balls. If they are roughly the same size I will mash them together, and then work the clay until it is an even shade of green. At room temperature you will have about 2 hours of working time if you mixed at 1:1 ratio, so I have learned to mix small batches and work on small specific areas versus large areas.

The Tools
It may come as no surprise that your fingers are inadequate tools for shaping and working with green stuff. The real secret is that sculpting is tool marks made on a surface, which resemble objects found in the world. Therefore, the furry coat of a wolf is actually tool marks that when applied in a particular way look like a wolf’s pelt.

The sculpting tool that GW sells is a great tool to start out with. I used mine for years before I figured out that I needed some other tools. There are three other tools that will make your job easier, and they are easy to find once you are aware of what you need.

The easiest of the three to come by is the “point.” My first point was a large gauge sewing needle mounted in the handle of my pin vise. I discovered that this had some disadvantages-- piercing my skin was the big one for me. I then began hunting for a better point and came across a $5 set of dental picks in tooth brush aisle of my super market. These have served me well.

The second tool is a clay shaper. A clay shaper has a rubber or silicone point, which come in a variety of shapes, and are useful for blending green stuff. What I mean by blending is causing the seams between your green stuff and the surfaces of your model to disappear. They will also help smooth away wrinkles and fingerprints in your clay. The different tip shapes will facilitate different blends, and tool marks in your clay.

The third and final tool is a roller. I use a 4” length polyethylene rod as a roller. I got mine through a local plastics company. A roller is how you will get your clay into sheets that have an even thickness, so you can create cloth, armor, and anything else.

It is commonly known that green stuff will stick to your tools. The stickiness is something that you want because you want your work to stick to your model, but not to your tools. The most common lubricant that we hear about when it comes to green stuff is water, or saliva. It works ok, but it has a short work life that will cause you to re-lube your tools more often then you might want.

In my search for better lubrication I first turned to oil based lubricants, i.e. baby oil, Vaseline, and mentholated rub. These worked great, and I could work with them long after the clay hardened. Removing the substance afterwards became the real drawback. Isopropyl alcohol worked well in the removal of these lubricants, but I would never get it all off.

This caused me to search for a water based lubricant because before I prime a figure, I wash my figure in warm soapy water, and anything water based will always clean up with soap and water. Then one day I had an epiphany. I went to the drug store and picked up some water based lubricant, aka KY Personal Lubricant. This is now my favorite way to help my tools not stick to the green stuff. It has the thinness of water with the long working life of Vaseline. (I am sure come comment time there will be plenty of jokes about this, but seriously it works well.)

Remember that your clay mixture, tools, and properly lubricating your tools will help you find success when working with Green Stuff.

Hey Readers! Tell us about your mix ratios and tools that have helped you be successful with green stuff, as well your tips and tricks for those just starting off into thw world of scuptling.



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