July 16, 2011
As they are often wont to do, Games Workshop once again recently shook up our industry with the announcement of plans to remove their entire line of metal miniatures to be replaced with their new Finecast resin. Why would the largest miniatures manufacturer in the world make such a massive change after the wild acclaim their products have garnered? In short, it’s all about the Benjamins. The rising costs of tin due to China’s metallic stranglehold has made the continued production of pewter miniatures untenable for GW. As well, they make more money on their plastic models, which are arguably the very best in the entire industry, and have been slowly pushing the metals out of the picture for some time. So why not convert everything to plastic? Well, oil is only getting more expensive, too, and the initial cost of making brand new plastic molds is enormous. And in walks Finecast. Pour it into the selfsame old metal molds and you’ve got some gorgeous new miniatures that GW claims will “revolutionize the industry”.
So what is it? To be honest, we’re not sure, as GW isn’t letting on. But we’re pretty clear that it’s some formulation of plastic-heavy resin with great flexibility and durability. It holds excruciating detail and is very easy to work with. It’s more expensive than metal for the end-user, though it undoubtedly costs less to produce. And it’s safe to use. Experienced modelers have always been instructed to wear a dust mask when working with polyurethane resin, as the particles can be toxic. And though they’ve stopped short of saying that their new product is non-toxic, they claim it’s been deemed totally safe by “a leading international toy safety testing agency. They identified no risks to health and recommend no special precautions”. Sounds pretty good, right?
Over the past few weeks, we’ve been getting a trickle of the Finecast models from all three of GW’s core games, and after a pretty lackluster launch, I decided to open one up and give it a go. DISCLAIMER: I am the world’s biggest Games Workshop critic. They’ve raised my ire in so many ways over the two decades in which I’ve dealt with them. I don’t play their games anymore, I am not impressed by their IP or game mechanics, and I think their hobby products are generally low-quality – perhaps with the exception of their newest formulation of washes. But they are a staple of our industry, and I need to know what to recommend to my customers and what I should tell them to stay away from. So in I went.
If you’ve never held Finecast before, the first time is a bit strange. Resins are normally extremely brittle and quite dense, with almost no give to them whatsoever. This stuff has the consistency of hardened chewing gum. It’s very flexible to a point, at which time it snaps cleanly. It is soft to cut and file, with very little dust left behind. This means that Finecast is an utter joy to clean and prepare for painting. There have been many complaints all over the Internet about miscasts, mold lines, and excess flashing. Some game stores have even refused to carry it due to poor quality control. Our experience, however, is that the shipments we’ve received have been pretty solid. Because it’s so easy to clean, any extra lines and flashing aren’t a big deal, especially for experienced modelers. And GW has the best return policy going; they’ll replace any defectives sight unseen.
And then there’s the question of heat. Soon after Finecast hit the shelves, there was a huge buzz on a number of prominent websites and forums about the resin material melting at high (or even normal) temperatures. Allegedly, even some GW store managers were commenting that the miniatures in their window displays were sagging and bowing under the hot lights. In the middle of a California summer, however, inside one of our upstairs storerooms within a building having no air conditioning, not one of our Finecast models showed any kind of structural changes whatsoever, inside the blister or out. And the impressive evidential result of Angora’s oven baking test pretty much stands on its own, as far as I’m concerned. Conversely, a warped Wood Elf greatsword was easily fixed by gentle application of a heat gun before a quick douse in cool water. Perhaps Finecast has its own sentience regarding heat resistance!
As for modeling and prep labor, there’s an immediate difference in the control you have with knife and file as compared to metals and even plastic. Nicks and dings to armor are easily added, and swords and spearpoints can be sharpened to the owner’s liking with little effort. There is a very low amount of dust created by filing, and the typical nasty smell of resin is favorably absent. Gluing with cyanoacrylate is a bit tricky at first. The adhesion is exceptional, but because of the textured surface of Finecast, it bonds incredibly fast. While superglues are meant to dry quickly, there is absolutely no time whatsoever for movement after the pieces are glued. The upside to this is that the bond is seemingly stronger than on metal and plastic. And this, added to the light weight of the resin, means less pinning (and less work).
GW claims that Finecast doesn’t even need to be primed, but my test below belies that claim. From left to right, I applied one coat of each of the following paints: Reaper Master Series Saffron Sunset, Vallejo Game Color Bonewhite, P3 Iosan Green, Rackham Arcavia Red, GW Foundation Mechrite Red, IWM Yellow. Bare Finecast resin is on the extreme right of the test piece. All of the colors adhered fairly quickly to the porous surface, and while each brand has variable coverage (with GW Foundation and Rackham being the thickest), all of them are somewhat translucent without a primer coat down first. As we continually recommend, then: ALWAYS prime your models.
After a proper primer coat, paint just loves the new resin. My first Finecast miniature was the Tomb Kings Prince Apophas, painted entirely with Reaper Master Series colors and Secret Weapon washes (forthcoming reviews on these lines!). I was blown away by the model’s detail both before and after painting, and I feel that the relief of the sculpting is truly optimized by the consistency of the resin that GW has formulated. Paint goes on smoothly, and as long as your coats are even, it doesn’t even come close to marring the sharp detail.
So is it revolutionary? Definitely. We’ve not had anything quite like this in our industry, at least not accessible in the same scale as GW is distributing it – and maybe not at all. They’ve solved a problem with a genuinely innovative solution, and one that fits in nicely into their current lineup of models. Added to their already-astounding plastic regiments and monsters, Finecast holds the detail that you would expect of a character model, army general, or HQ unit. In fact, you may never want to mess with metal ever again. And if you doubt that, prep one of each back-to-back and see what you think.
To sum it up: as much as I wanted to hate it, Citadel Finecast is amazing. It costs a bit more than those old metal miniatures, but your prep time and painting regimen will only benefit from working with the new material. In fact, the whole modeling experience is great, from first clipping them off the sprue to pinning them to a fancy resin base from Scibor or Micro Art after it’s all finished. Your results may vary, but this old cynic says to give it a try. If you have any further thoughts or questions, you can find me in the back of the store, putting together my Finecast models.
If you like: Wargames miniatures of all kinds
You’d definitely enjoy: Citadel Finecast
Produced by: Games Workshop