Sunday, January 16, 2022

Customizing Schleichs

Here in the United States, Breyers are generally considered the gateway drug. They are the models that got most of us into the hobby. That's not the case everywhere. In much of the rest of the world, Schleichs are king. In today's guest post, New Zealand hobbyist, Emily Heckler, gives us an overview of customizing Schleichs. Thank you, Emily!

The Basic Customization of a Schleich

by Emily Heckler

When I first started customizing, I knew nothing, zip, zero, and all the tutorials I could find were for - repainting aside - Breyers. Breyers are pretty hard to come by here in New Zealand, so the thought of chopping into one... well, it was out of the question. What I do have easy access to are Schleichs, and so with a hack saw and air drying clay my customizing began. I have learnt a lot through trial and error, and this NaMoPaiMo I thought I would put together some tutorials and tips on the customization of Schleich and similar models. In all honesty, this is mainly aimed towards beginner customizers. I hope it is useful to someone.

First and foremost you must choose your victim. If it is your first project I don’t suggest a nice new model, websites like TradeMe and Ebay have plenty of cheap second hand models that make good first victims. I took most of the photos that accompany this tutorial in one session using a bunch of models at different progress points. All of them cost me less than five New Zealand dollars.

Schleichs are made from a very soft plastic which has pros and cons when it comes to customizing. Seam lines and other imperfections are very easy to remove. My main tool for this is an X-acto knife. Most of the time I use the back of the blade to lift seam lines without damaging the rest of the plastic. It is easy to make deep cuts from a small knife slip. This is one of the cons of working with soft plastic.  

Two of my current projects, the one on the right has a lot of sculpting flaws (highlighted in green). I bought him as a factory second from my local toy store.
The soft plastic also throws a spanner in the works when it comes to repositioning joints. An advantage of it is you don’t need to break out a heat gun to move the plastic. Hot water does just fine. However, an issue I ran into a lot in my early customs was the plastic moving back over time. 

My current solution to get around this is to make two cuts in the model, one on either side of the joint I am trying to move. Then I drill holes in either side and attach a wire. This is set with baking soda and super glue. Then it is covered with epoxy and sculpted to look realistic. It takes a bit longer than just using heat but the end result prevents the plastic trying to return to its original shape.
This jumping pony has been an epoxy eater on my desk for a while, sometimes it is nice to have a long term project to smosh leftover epoxy onto.
Something else I have not seen in Breyer are these weird almost creases in the plastic.
Very obvious creases on the rump of this mare.
Not all models have these, but quite a few do. Another similar issue is seam lines that are into the model rather than sticking out, like a little trench rather than a ridge. I treat them both in the same way, with modeling paste. It sticks well to the plastic and is the best non-toxic solution I have found. 
I cover the whole area in modeling paste and leave it to dry. I don't mess with it while it's wet. I've learnt it's much easier to sand it smooth after it dries.
Another issue I will address is Schleich's charming, moulded on coats. Unlike Breyers, which are usually smooth, most Schleichs have hair texture. It can be really difficult to match this texture in the resculpted areas. I've found it's often easier to smooth out the whole horse. Sometimes, I can fill the hairy areas with painting and priming. On models with more pronounced texture or models I plan to paint with pastels, I will apply a couple of layers of gesso, sanding off any brush strokes between the layers. 
At this point you are pretty much into the standard sand and prime phase. I have found the Tamiya primers work relatively well, but I am not fully convinced they are the best. The slight bendiness of the plastic means the primer needs some bend as well. 
I hope this cobble up of tips and ideas is helpful to someone. Happy painting!

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