Using Cork Stoppers As Model Painting Handles

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When I first discovered Les Bursley’s (unspeakably awesome) AwesomePaintJob videos, it struck me that he’d always attach the base of whatever model he was working on to an empty GW paint pot using some poster tac. These expedient model painting handles enabled him to manipulate his work without actually touching it and, potentially, ruining painstaking and delicate effort. Having wrecked enough of my own work by prematurely handling a not-quite-dry-yet model, I resolved to try this out.

Unfortunately I found that Les’ method isn’t to my taste, because it more or less requires me to base the model prior to painting. While it’s theoretically possible to use the model’s feet as the attachment point, as a practical matter feet don’t really have enough surface area for poster tac to adhere to, and so the handle isn’t stable. But the poster tac doesn’t do a great job of adhering to the smooth bottoms of the Secret Weapon resin bases I use, either, and basing the model before painting it makes it harder to paint the base (the model’s feet and legs get in the way). Substituting other adhesives (for example, low-temp hot glue or rubber cement) for the poster tac definitely improves the bond strength, but that cuts both ways (it’s harder to detach the model from the handle without damaging it or the paint job), and I’m still left with the challenge of trying to paint the base around the model’s feet and legs.

What I wanted was a solution that would provide a relatively stable handle for an unbased model. That way I could paint the model and the base independent of one another, and then pin them together just before adding any other scenic elements to the base (flock, ballast, field grass, etc.) and calling the work done.

The pins (12 gauge wire) I was sinking into the feet of my models, to attach them to the resin bases, turned out to be my path forward. By lengthening them a little bit, to about ½”, they made for nearly perfect little push-pins, which enabled me to sink them into cork. I’m now using inverted cork stoppers from WidgetCo as my model painting handles: size 14 for models that use 25mm bases, and size 24 for models that use 40mm bases. While the setup was a little expensive ($30 plus shipping for 20 of the former stoppers and 10 of the latter), the corks are lightweight, comfortable in the hand, and nearly infinitely reusable.

It’s to the point now that I’m even assembling and priming my figures on the cork handles.

The other nice thing is that I only ever attach a model to the cork once. If I’m working assembly-line fashion, I don’t have the constant handle-swapping (finish painting one model, detach it from the handle, set it aside, attach the next one) I’d have if I used Les’ method. Since I’m sinking pins into the feet of the models anyway, the only real change to my workflow is that I initially make the pins a little longer than I used to, and then I trim off any excess length just before basing the model. When I’m ready to work on another model, I just… pick it up, and go.

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