Basic conversion of figures

A common problem when working with figures is the modification of stock figure poses. This is especially seen in dioramas or vignettes requiring postures not available in commercial models. The solution for this problem is the conversion of the figures, and all that is required are some easy-to-find materials and basic techniques.


 Any conversion work can be divided in two phases. In the first one, all spare parts and material on the original model are removed. Secondly, the model is repositioned by working on those areas previously treated. The tools required for the first step are handled blades, files, several fine grain sandpapers and a mini drill furnished with tiny bits and accessories to plane or remove large areas. A very important point is the right selection of the tool according to the material we are working with: metal, resin, plastic, metal, or others. In a similar way, the careful study of the piece to be converted is highly recommended


Sometime a little cut with the blade or a file will be enough - i.e.: to bend a limb slightly. Other times the area to be treated could be much larger demanding the use of the mini drill. Notwithstanding, if the surface to be treated is not large enough it may be better to use files or blades in order to avoid some unpleasant surprises. If there are doubts to the outcome, it is advisable to make some trials on spare parts from our scratch box before facing the definitive work. When attempting phase number two: the remaking of the removed areas, we are going to need two-component model- ling putty, synthetic brushes, small modelling tools and fine sandpaper to polish and finish some surfaces once the putty has set completely.

There are several brands of two-component putties (base and hardener) on the market today. Most of them are work- able by mixing components 50-50 with the fingers until a uniform colour is achieved. It is advisable to make small amounts of the mixture to prevent it from drying too fast or losing its properties. The putty adheres well when still fresh, and is malleable and easy to work. Once the mixture is made, we will form a cord rolling with the finger on a clean, dry sur- face so that it will be easier to calculate the amount needed for each application. The putty is then placed on the piece we are working on and left to dry for about two minutes, to assure good adherence. Next, we begin to shape it with the modelling tools and a brush moistened with water that smoothest he surfaces. Modeling putties are in general low drying at room temperature. For a faster cure, a heat source such as a hair dryer, wax heater or just a working lamp is recommended. Once the putty has completely dried, it can be carved and  sandpapered to get perfect finishes. When working with modelling putty it is not advisable to treat several points of the piece at the same time, as it is very easy to touch accidentally a finished -but still curing- area, thus spoiling the work. In regard with modelling spatulas, they can be easily found in good modelling shops though alternatively they can be made using old brush handles, paper clips or steel pins. These items can be shaped as desired using a mini drill equipped with a sandpaper disk.

A basic conversion in four steps

For a better understanding of the above explained techniques, we have selected a Byzantine archer of the 13th century -a good figure from Athens Miniatures- to introduce some minor changes. It is a 54mm figure in which the original, rather static pose has been converted to a new, more dynamic one at the moment he is loading his bow.

Only the arms and the head have been touched by making some cuts with a file at the elbow articulations and on the shoulders to allow repositioning. Then the metal parts were simply and slightly bent to get the desired pose.

Next, some putty was applied on the joints to get the proper shape and finally, with a small spatula and a moistened brush some creases were modelled.  lt is very important to follow the design of the original creases and folds when making the new ones.

Different materials such as plastic sheet, lead foil, electric wire, brass, and steel rod can also be used in conversions. This is the case here when a brass rod was used to make an arrow. The bow only had to be bent in the opposite direction of the original casting to keep the left hand without any modification. Always be fully aware of the final result you are looking for and don't leave too much room for improvisation in order to save working time and avoid unnecessary repetitions.