Sunday, December 20, 2015

Dipping Deeper

I've completed 31 figures using the "dip method" in just over a week, which includes 24+ hours for drying the dipped figures. I never had that kind of productivity before. Suddenly painting a lot of figures seems easy and I'm pleased with the results—almost more I am with my traditional, slow method.

The second batch of figures I did were some Thirty Years War officers and sergeants along with the two Renegade ECW test figures. All were in buff coats with riding boots and some kind of armor and sashes. As an experiment after my first batch, I wanted to use a gloss or satin coat pre-dip to see if the less toothy surface reduced the amount of "grime" that comes from the dip.

For the officers/sergeants I used Krylon polyurethane satin. I've used it before as a penultimate coat before the final dullcote. The polyurethane is a great protector of the painted figures. However, it's proven to be a bad pre-dip. It took a long time to dry. The can says that it dries in 15 minutes, but it still felt a bit tacky to the touch after 48 hours. It seemed to hold a lot of the stain rather than slough it off to the crevasses (more on that below).

Second batch of officers/sergeants - a bit darkish
The next batch was more musketeers and some drummers. For this batch I used Rust-Oleum satin enamel as the pre-dip. This turned out much better than the polyurethane and dried quickly hard and smooth.

I dipped both batches at the same time. The first thing I noticed is that the stain seemed to be more viscous than when I'd brushed it on the first figures I did. The can had been resealed well, I think, but it had sat in my cold, cold garage since I used it first. I'm no chemist, but it might be that the cold affects the viscosity of the stain. It seemed to flow and ooze less well than before and wicking/drawing off the excess with the brush didn't seem as effective.

The result is that these last figures had a bit more puddling and, for the polyurethane coated figures, a bit more of the stain stuck to the surface. However, I think the result was mostly good. I let the dipped figures dry for more about 35 hours and then gave a them a spritz of dullcote yesterday evening. With the sheen taken off, the colors came out nicely. Set side by side with the musketeers from the first batch, they don't appear to be different.

First and second batch musketeers side by side
To offset the viscosity problem with the stain, I'm keeping it indoors for the winter. I also transferred it from the can to an airtight mason jar. In resealing the can last time I discovered that my "tapping" the lid with a hammer to seat it fully was bending the can. I don't know my own strength apparently.

On the painting table are the first batch of 16 Imperialist pikemen which are just about ready to spray with the satin enamel for dipping later tonight. I've also got 8 artillerymen and three guns. And adding more clutter to my too cluttered painting table is a batch of 5 Renegade ECW pikemen, an officer, and an ensign. I like how well the two test figures turned out, so I'm going whole-hog on getting my batch of Renegade/Bicorne ECW painted for skirmish gaming.

ECW dullcoated and bases flocked
For now, I'll use the ECW for playing Smooth & Rifled from Dadi & Piombo. Eventually, I hope to use them for Dan Mersey's upcoming Pikeman's Lament, which is his pike 'n' shot variant for Lion Rampant. Alas, the wait will be a long one; Osprey won't publish it until late 2016 or early 2017(!).

I made another raid yesterday on the remnants of The Assault Group figures at The Panzer Depot. At 70% off, they're a great deal. I managed to get another 16 artillerymen from the ECW range (not at all distinguishable from Thirty Years War) as well as some more command figures and musketeers.

Also, in yesterday's mail arrived the two falconets I'd ordered earlier in the week from Old Glory. I already have two that I'm using a battalion guns for the 1672 French.

French falconette (old painting method)
They're very nice models and I want my big tercios to have some light gun support—two can play at this game, Gustavus Adolphus!

The transformative nature of this method kind of astounds me. Some gamers call it the "miracle dip" and I can see why. I spent so much time trying to get subtle shading and highlights in my figures and I look at my quick 'n' dirty dipped figures and like them better. Seeing the figures in macro photos, the smoothness of the shading in the dipped figures is much nicer than my awkward brush strokes. Viewed at table-top distance, my old method looked a lot like solid colors; you couldn't see the effects of the shading unless you looked closely. The dip looks good close and far.

Why, oh why, did I wait so long to join the dippy revolution?

My fear now is that Minwax will discontinue the Tudor stain color. It's already impossible to find in stores. I had to order my can from Amazon.


  1. It is good to see your progress on this project. The use of the satin pre-dip is something I'll have to look at. I usually bring my stain in from the garage for about 24 hours before I plan on using it. That has seemed to keep it at a good consistency (I think the can has a recommended temperature range that I read). I was able to find the stain locally at Ace Hardware stores, no one else carries it. But I haven't looked for a can in a while, so that might not be true any longer.

  2. Ace is the place that will have it—if it can be had. The bigger store, like Lowe's and Home Depot, don't have it. I got a 1/2 pint can from Amazon and I figure it will last me a while. I dipped some pikemen this morning with the enamel satin pre-dip and house-warmed stain. The viscosity seemed the same as Saturday's dip. I'll try thinning it a bit, but not too much. It's hard to tell with the stain still wettish and glossy, but the pikemen look pretty good. I used a second brush to draw off the excess stain, but it seemed too viscous to be drawn off easily.

  3. Great results on some fine figures, David. A period I've not gotten into - gaming/painting-wise, but one I admire nonetheless.