Review By Steve Crofts
Well to put you in the picture, this review came about after I was chatting with some of the lads on the Forums section of this site, we were talking about model buildings ect… when one of the guys mentioned Hurst Arts and gave us a link to view the website, my initial reaction was of awe and inspiration, my second were the bad memories of the old Linka moulds, praying they wouldn’t break when popping etc…
I then thought no more of it, but found myself drawn to the site on a regular basis.
It was John the Editor who set the ball rolling in earnest and approached Bruce the manufacturer about possibly sending some review material over the pond, it was here I took over, we had a chat and I chose a couple of moulds that I thought would be useful to most gamers of the Historical, Fantasy and Sci-Fi genres.
I chose the Church and Church Tower moulds, plus Bruce was kind enough to throw in a basic block mould so as to speed up the casting process, (I feel I must point out here that it is a good idea to order one of these moulds, it does save a lot of time, and is really useful).
On arrival, I took the moulds out of the package, a mixture of apprehension and longing came over me as I opened the packaging, Joy of Joys…. Thick moulds that were very flexible, block moulds that really look like they can be popped without breakage.
Also inside was a set of plans for the Church and also a set for the tower, both to scale. I could see that this would be a good set of moulds from here on in.
The material that the moulds are made from feels funny to the touch, it is like a slightly oiled rubber, hence the, “no need to powder”.
Just seeing the depth I was all fired up for the big test but, due to other reviews it had to wait.
The flexibility of the moulds is a very useful asset to start with, there is nothing worse than a mould that impairs the popping, another asset which I’ve also mentioned is that with these being what they are made from, a sort of pre-oiled rubber, (but you don’t get oil on your fingers), is all I can explain it as, you’d have to touch a mould to understand what I’m talking about, means that you don’t need to powder the moulds and also cleanup after casting is also quick and easy, under the tap a quick rub with the fingers and then dry off with a towel.
It is only when the first blocks are cast that you can truly see the detail within the moulds, each has an excellent degree of depth and is so easy to paint and highlight with dry brushing, painting the model will be a real doddle.
The finish that can be achieved with the detail is one of depth, richness and a professional finished look to the model.
Each of the blocks are an average 1”x ½” x ½”, (this is the measurements of a basic building block, obviously some are smaller and larger).
Once you get the constancy right casting the blocks is easy, pour in the plaster and then let it set, I averaged 2-3 casts a day, when it was warm, plus Bruce has a tip on his site for popping the blocks and then baking them to dry them off thoroughly, (unfortunately my missus wasn’t having that one so I couldn’t try it!).
All the details of this and other valuable tips are, like I said, on the Hurst Arts website.
I soon realised that my fears that these moulds would be like the old Linka moulds were stupid, these are nothing like them and it is a rare occurrence for a block to break. There are different plaster compounds that can be used, including dental plaster.
Being used to scratch building this was a lot quicker, although you do have to spend time making sure the bottoms of the blocks are square and sanded flat.
I should also point out that following the instructions is a very good idea, I didn’t totally follow them and I made a couple of silly mistakes!
But as another pointer, if you play around with the blocks first and build a few small items before starting the master project you should be able to quite easily learn the basics of building with these blocks.
The blocks are so versatile that you are only restricted by your imagination as to what you can build, I have a few ideas already up my sleeve as to what to build next, (soon as I get a chance!!!), just to point out how flexible the blocks are, I’m actually thinking on the lines of a half stone/ Tudor style building and I’ve also had an idea for some stone built shops with a fancy arched front and balcony, and this is from just the three moulds that I have. Obviously the more moulds the more flexibility in building projects.
Again initially I had been put off by previous experience with those Linka moulds, these are nothing like them!
I used wood glue to bond the blocks together and this proved to be strong enough indeed, I reckon to break the model I’d have to whack it with a hammer! Obviously the plaster will be only as good as you make it but I think that in the model I’ve made that it has plenty of strength and should take quite a bit of use.
As I have already mentioned Bruce’s website: http://hirstarts.com/
has everything you need, an extensive mould list, free downloadable plans, hints and tips you name it!
The Gallery is to say the least inspirational, the models on there are superb, all are sent in by happy customers who have purchased moulds
I took the opportunity to ask Bruce a few questions about his products and on future plans….
1. Having such a multitude of different moulds which can be used and interlinked, it must be hard to come up with new ideas, obviously some customers may have ideas on moulds that you may not have thought about, do you like to receive customer feedback regarding new moulds etc... and do you put any into your ranges?
Coming up with new ideas is easy. Making these ideas into blocks that are easy to build with and look good is the hard part.
I always appreciate getting ideas from customers. I keep track of the suggestions given and how strongly the idea is wanted. However, much depends on having a good plan for what the pieces should look like and what kinds of projects you can build with the mould.
For example, I had wanted to make a pyramid for some time, but I was never sure how to make the blocks easy to build with, while also getting the pyramid angle exact. The answer came to me while working on another project, so the pyramid mould was finally able to be made.
Many people have wanted a cavern mould for their dungeons, but I still haven't had any ideas for how to make the pieces (at least ideas that I have been happy with). The trick is to make the walls look natural, yet easy to build with. If I do find an idea that I like, then that will be one of the next moulds to come out.
2. I have been through your mould list on numerous occasions and do find it awe inspiring, the only thing I have noticed though that is missing an that is moulds for brick built models, these I would deem be an excellent idea especially for WWII skirmish games etc... have you any plans on making any such moulds?
I may eventually. Once again, it depends on how badly the moulds are wanted, and if I get good ideas on how to make the pieces easily usable. Large brick slabs would seem like an easy idea until you want to add windows and doors in certain places.
Also, the back side of these slabs would be smooth, so you wouldn't see the brick texture on the inside of the building either. It's building problems like these that need to be solved before I start making pieces for a new mould.
3. The Idea of not having to "powder" the moulds before pouring, this to me was excellent as it made the job a lot simpler, and not having to make sure that the moulds were bone dry before the next cast, did you make the mould with this idea specifically in mind?
I didn't plan for the moulds to work this way, they just ended up working like that. Plaster materials have a lot of advantages to them. You don't have to clean the moulds, the material is fairly inexpensive, and when you break the blocks, the texture looks like broken stone.
4. Have you ever had a case of a mould ever wearing out or going brittle?
When I first started out several years ago, I had run into mould materials that would crack. The mould rubber I currently use (and have used for the last 3 years) hasn't had any problems with cracking. As long as casting materials that mix with water are used, the moulds will last for years.
5. The downloadable plans you have on your site, do you have any plans to expand this area, ie using your own and customers designs to give more ideas for their use?
I always try to make a few different building plans for each mould. If you don't see plans on the downloadable section, then there will be step-by-step instructions on the site somewhere else (most likely under the "Projects" page).
Building plans are much more difficult to make than you would expect. Customer submitted plans usually have lots of problems. The building steps wouldn't be clearly explained, photos would be blurry or too dark, and there would not be enough detail for others to easily duplicate the project. It would take as much time to work over their building instructions as it would to just make them myself from scratch.
Time is the real problem. I could spend 2-3 weeks completing building plans for a project using the current moulds, or I could spend that time making blocks for a new mould instead. Most customers prefer that I make a new mould instead. I try to have project instructions for every mould I offer. At lest this give customers some idea how the blocks from certain moulds can be used.
6. Overseas orders etc... how long does it usually take?
I send out order the day after I receive them. I usually tell customers that it will take 7-10 working days, but many have received their moulds in as quickly as 3 days. If the package gets held up in customs, it can take up to a week longer (but that rarely happens).
7. Do you have any plans to have a retailer stock your moulds in the UK or Europe?
Because of the high cost of the rubber I use, I'm not able to offer retailers the discount they need. Even with those difficult circumstances, there are 3 overseas retailers who offer the moulds for sale anyway.
This is really top stuff, if you have played around with Lego this is the next step and I don’t think you’ll be at all disappointed with the results.
The key to Bruce’s products is your imagination, look at the moulds and think about ALL the different things each mould can make, don’t just think, “oh that builds a church, how many churches do I want”, look beyond that and what else you can make.
The moulds are the building blocks and you are the builder.
Bruce, top stuff, I really am impressed with your work, the things you have made are stunning and I know with a little more practice my models will be as good as that is the key.
I really do hope that you can sort out the mould for brickwork, as it will open up amongst other things, WWII and near future buildings.
Check out his website: http://hirstarts.com/
Please remember to mention Wargames Forum when contacting traders!
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