Friday, 4 February 2011
Musings on the denizens of the Hellpit...
Today I'd like to be horribly unfashionable and talk a little about a recent release from Games Workshop. The model in question is the Skaven Hellpit Abomination. I'm not going to delve into it's usefulness on the battlefield or even talk a whole lot about the miniature itself. Suffice to say it's a big and ugly piece of work and falls squarely into the love it/hate it sector of the market. I rather like it myself but that's not the point of the exercise this night.
Put simply, the Hellpit Abomination is a marvel of plastic tooling technology. I'll not pretend to be utterly fluent in the language of injection plastic tooling but I know enough of the ins and outs of the process to know that this is really something special.
According to the box, the figure was sculpted by Seb Perbet who has done a great job of creating a biological mass of unspeakable horribleness which pretty much achieves what it said on the tin. What truly impresses is the ingenious level of how it breaks down into components and the ease of sticking it together. Everything fits with a near perfect 'snap' and cleanup required is retty minimal given the nature of the kit. The difficulty of a kit of this nature in plastic is the process of casting the model in a solid steel mould instead of the rubber moulds used for either resin or metal processes. This means that the plastic figure must be designed without 'undercuts'. An undercut is actually a fairly difficult thing to describe quickly but essentially it boils down to a component only having detail in one plane. Basically the front and the back can have detail but the sides cannot have any recessed detail or the figure would get stuck in the steel mould due to it not flexing like rubber. Look at a plastic figure and turn it sideways. Note how the detail basically vanishes or generally looks weird. That's due to the process of zero-undercut sculpting. It's something of a science and GW have a few sculptors who are superb at this process to the point where it is not overly noticeable.
Seb has done a spectacular job of designing a figure that has little in the way of compromise for undercuts due to the complexity of the way that the figure has been cut into components. I can barely imagine the head scratching that must of gone on trying to work out the optimum way for this figure to break down and exactly where the detail compromises could be made and where they couldn't. This is as near to black magic as sculpting gets and I don't envy Seb and the toolmakers task at all.
But I wanted to publically write of the astoundment I experienced in assembling this behemoth. In it's concept it's always going to be a figure that divides opinion but technologically? This, my friends, is art.