Pete's Pumpkins

Friday, August 17, 2007

Sculpting Model Railroad Figures

I decided that now was the time to try my hand at sculpting some figures for the layout, as I needed to know what clearances were required when laying the track, and until my engine was done, and Pete (the engineer) was seated, I wouldn’t be able to start building. I did a little searching online and came across an outstanding article on, outlining how to create large scale figures using tinfoil armatures and polymer clay. I skimmed the article and decided that it was worth trying.

(I’m not going to bother detailing how I sculpted the figures, as thoroughly documents the process.)

Firstly, I used a wire armature for the body rather then tinfoil as it was more rigid and allowed my to pose the figure more easily. Using a proportional template ensured that the basic dimensions of the figure were correct. I systematically sculpted each detail starting at the feet, baking and re-baking the figure each time I added new details. The polymer clay tended to darken each time I baked it, so you can see how I started with the feet and worked upwards. Each time the figure was in the oven, I sculpted several heads in an attempt to come up with a suitable visage. By the time I had finished the body I had created about a dozen mediocre heads. I selected the best of the bunch, and attached it to the body with a bit of clay.

In the end, it took roughly three hours to come up with the figure, and I’m generally happy with it. The body is good, but the face is crude, large, and proportionally ‘off’. When I build my next figure, I’ll be sure to purchase harder clay, as the product I was using, Sculpy, seemed too soft and tended to melt in my fingers as I worked with it - which made modeling the facial features very difficult.

Oh, and I made some pumpkins…

(Please excuse the poor image quality)


Ed said...

Cool project! I've added a comment on your layout on my Model Railroading blog:

By the way, my son uses a mini-crockpot for baking the polymer clay. It works great and never burns. Just place the item on a sheet of wax paper in the bottom of the crockpot and take it out about 8 hours later. It always comes out perfect... Ed

Michael said...

Thank for the tip, and the link! As soon as I learn to be patient I'll be sure to try the crock-pot technique. I'm now finding that the overcooked bits on my character are a little brittle, so I'll be looking to refine my approach...