This week’s Workshop Wednesday is a review of Hirst Arts’ series of flexible silicone molds for terrain. If you’ve seen Hirst Arts’ molds you’ll probably know that they’re essentially legoblocks for terrain builders; molds to make any kind of bricks or details that you can use to build terrain for Miniature Gaming (Warhammer and Warmachine come to mind) or for role-playing games.
Is it a good idea to get these molds though? We walk you through some of the properties of the molds, blocks, and give you our opinion!
First up, these things look like they’re incredibly well made. Flexible and long lasting, they also have a REALLY wide range of molds at Hirst Arts for you to play around with. Just a small set should allow you to build quite a bit of things. I got 5 molds from the cobblestone series, and they allow you to build normal walls and houses, rounded buildings, spiral staircases and arches, not to mention doors and other fiddly bits.
They recommend using Hydrocal or the like, and I can’t emphasize enough how important this is. Yes you could cast things from plaster, but I’ve tried plaster before and you might as well make something out of wet tissue paper; it would never be able to stand up to repeated use. I ended up using Keraquick which you can get from Art Friend and looks like it has the same level of hardiness as hydrocal: a tile actually takes some effort to snap (although it’s still related to plaster so don’t expect that it will last forever).
I also recommend following all the other guides and hints from the Hirst Arts page; those walkthroughs will help you avoid most of the pitfalls that would befall a new mold-caster. Another thing to note is to make sure you scrape off your plaster properly. If you do it messily like mine you’ll have to accept that your bricks won’t fit together nicely (a nightmare if you want to build a proper house).
And how to the bricks turn out? Amazingly. You can see how detailed and varied a piece can be compared to a normal 30mm mini: any roleplayer or miniature gamer would be proud to have this in their collection of terrain. One problem though is the weight. They don’t seem that much at first, but when a small back of plaster is 5 kg, and you add water to that, it gets heavy quick. I’m worried less about carrying the terrain and more about it needing specialised shelves or containers to take that sort of weight; you can’t just lump a Hirst Arts building into a giant box of all the other terrain.
A second drawback is the logistics of brick casting; I cast about 7 sets of the generic terrain before I could get enough bricks to build a small-ish house. In order to speed up casting and building I’d recommend multiples of the important molds; at least two sets of the ‘generic’ mold. I’d also recommend a ‘ruins’ version of the basic mold if any exist; that allows you both the flexibility of having two different terrain types (normal and ruins), as well as being able to use the ‘ruins’ mold to cast extra generic tiles as well.
All in all, Hirst Arts is a great product, but at about $30USD a mold you need to make sure that you’ll make great use of it. If you’re going to cast up lots of buildings, bridges and towers, and you have the space to store them well I’d definitely recommend you get them. If not, it might be a better idea for you to buy the bricks online, or to look elsewhere for terrain, be it plastic or resin pieces out there.