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"Hiring for mold-lines and assembly work - Interested?" Topic

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R Strickland Fezian Inactive Member31 Oct 2015 2:29 p.m. PST

Has anyone given significant thought or had success either in hiring for this kind of work or taking it on yourself?

I'd like to hire someone, preferably local (San Francisco bay area, or failing that in California) and am thinking it might be easy, low-stress work for a teen hobbyist, student, or anyone who wants to earn a bit while watching tv or movies/listening to audiobooks, etc.

Full disclosure I'm very picky about how things are done. I paint to a high standard and believe you can't have a good end product unless each step in the process is done just right. No mold-lines visible. Flat surfaces such as blade edges are never perfectly flat due to pressure of the mold making every surface concave, and I need blades, etc filed perfectly flat. I do the same with bases, slottabases or any kind, the edge has to be flat and not concave/edge too sharp. Most parts need to be pinned, there can't be extra glue, there can't be but small gaps. Some companies that use too much pressure and/or a grainy metal I brush the figure with an steel brush to polish it, or in some cases take a brass dremel brush to it. Mold lines across areas like faces or important details need to be treated carefully.

I don't mind doing greenstuff work on multi-part figures myself on and don't mind doing finishing touches or doing a final pass to satisfy my overly picky nature. But I need to feel the figures are in the hands of a craftsperson. The person would need to be good with their hands.

A perk of the job would be I could share what I've learned over many years of painting and collecting. Depending on how well we get along and dedication of the contractor to his/her craft it could have a component of apprenticeship to it. I ran a successful high-end commission painting service for several years and at my height, and I say this to establish my credentials, I'm usually fairly modest, but at my height I eventually brought home best in show from the largest west-coast game convention competition, Kublacon (2009 I believe).
You can see my work on coolminiornot (mostly commission work), flickr (mostly my own collection on display) and blog (same).

Painting for myself I'm more laid back and don't add bells and whistles just because, but in a few ways I'm even more particular as I need for the figures to give me a certain something that drives me to it in the first place. They need to be touched off just right.

When I think of the perfect candidate, I think of a younger version of myself. Fitting in this work with my friday/weekend hours working at a game store would have been perfect. It would be a plus if the candidate is a strong beginning/intermediate painter wishing to grow.

There wouldn't be any strict deadlines and I could pay per part anytime there were enough to make a delivery worth while. I have a great hobby space and am centrally located in the bay area, and-provided we get along-I may be able to host some hobby time weekend afternoons. I like to listen while I work to metal (black and doom mostly) and audiobooks (history, military history, very old literature (think epics, knightly romances, adventure) and nonfiction I find on librivox. In fact, the way I justify the time I spend is to say that I'm reading as the primary goal and the figures are the secondary goal.

My collection is very, very large and varied, and spans from 1975 to the present day. Nearly all of it is metal. A sizable majority is lead. Tons of fantasy, good amount of historical medieval, big new 18mm french indian war, good amount of 40k, much of it Rogue Trader era, and lots, lots more. Admitting a fair degree of hubris, I plan to paint all of it, possibly with help as I'm able to afford. All year I've been undertaking a huge project to clean, organize, prep and prime figures. The ability to appreciate figures from any era regardless of how closely they conform to the style in vogue today is pretty much a requirement for the job. :)

Please let me know if think you'd be a good candidate or you have a relative/acquaintance in mind and how to contact you. If you know a promising teenager in your local game store or circuit maybe mention it it to them. Let me know if you have particular experience with types of figures, fantasy, historical, building tanks, multi-part plastic models, etc.

Please also let me know if you're on the other side and have had others prep figures for you.

Please let me know what you think is a good price for a basic, one piece, 25mm/28mm human size figure to help with a baseline. I expect then to factor in a premium for my higher standard and for cost of living in my area. I know one way to do the math is to start with the hourly wage, but since this is low-key work where the expectation is you've already given your best hours to work or school and you're doing this along with watching the tv/movies you already do, and it doesn't demand every ounce of your attention, and there aren't deadlines etc but you fit it in around the edges, I think that alters the perspective.

Thank you in advance for your input, it's much appreciated!

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP31 Oct 2015 7:33 p.m. PST

Good grief.
"I am a fanatic with exacting standards with which you must comply. However, don't expect to be paid much."

R Strickland Fezian Inactive Member31 Oct 2015 7:43 p.m. PST

Good grief is right, where did you get that? I said I'd like to start with what people think is reasonable per piece, and add a premium for my higher standard and the higher cost of living in my area. Read before posting insulting comments. Commission miniatures work is always on a per piece basis. And name a job where there is not a standard that needs to be met.

Timmo uk01 Nov 2015 1:43 a.m. PST

As a young teenager I used to do this kind of work for a traditional 54mm toy solder maker. I got paid peanuts but enjoyed it. It didn't help me further my skills one bit I already had them and I couldn't have done the work otherwise.

I was paid by the hour but if paying as piece work I think you'd need to carefully work out degrees of complexity for different pieces. I also think you need to be prepared supply said worker or workers all their tools (that might need to include a powered modellers' drill and stand depending on what you have in mind) and also pay them for cleaning white metal swarf out of their needle files that alone takes up a lot of time.

As you say you are very particular about your models how will you cope or adapt if your co-worker thinks that certain parts or limbs are glued on at slightly different angles to those you choose? I'd say you'd want them to work with you until you so you are on hand to advise at the outset until they are ready to go solo. Think about how you'd react if they bring you back a box which to anybody else is perfect but to your critical eye is only 90% of what you wanted.

I can't advise on price as I have no idea what your cost of living is like but I'd say if you paid slightly better than other types of jobs that students typically take then for the right person it would be a great way to earn some cash. Give them a pay rise when appropriate eg. if they improve or they worked with you for 3/6 months. It's generally boring work to do so you have to keep them motivated.

However, I'd suggest you might want to work with them and pay by the hour so you can both establish what is possible in a hour to work out a piece work rate. I have no idea what your laws are like in the USA but here you might fall foul of the law if the worst happens and your helper slices the end of their finger off with a scalpel and misses an important exam or something equally daft. It sounds stupid to say that now but these things can and do happen. Equally in UK if you are working with young persons then you need to go through certain checks again that might be our laws and not yours. Also consider that there might be very capable people who aren't students who would do the job well, retired, unemployed, night security with time to kill etc etc

I tried to use a student about ten years ago who professed to being a budding painter. His work and prices were quite good except when I sent a first commission it became apparent to me that he couldn't follow written instructions for colour references, in fact I'm not convinced he even read them, so although he was capable it just wouldn't work.

I wouldn't pay anybody to do this sort of work for me though as I'm fastidious like you say you are and I know I couldn't afford to pay somebody their time to spend that amount of care per figure. I think you may need to expect to be disappointed or spend some time trying to find the right person only for them to give up after a few weeks. In other words the recruitment and learning effort might take more time than sitting down and just doing the job yourself.

Personal logo Ditto Tango 2 3 Supporting Member of TMP01 Nov 2015 4:59 a.m. PST


whitphoto Supporting Member of TMP01 Nov 2015 6:58 a.m. PST

I also got the same impression as Winston. Although you don't quite come out and say it, my impression from the post is that your standards are so precise that I could not imagine doing this work for you. Either it would take way to much extremely detailed work to be worth the per figure fee or one would have to charge too much for it to be worth it. You make a point of saying they would have to file the swords down to be even on all sides, which is way beyond most people's standards…

Personal logo jeffreyw3 Supporting Member of TMP01 Nov 2015 8:35 a.m. PST

Do let us know how everything works out…I'm very curious.

R Strickland Fezian Inactive Member01 Nov 2015 9:18 a.m. PST

Thanks for your thoughts Timmo. I had been thinking of starting with cleaning single-casting figures and perhaps it would never move beyond that. That would be fine with me. 90% of my collection are single-piece figures. And for big multi-part figures having the parts cleaned and glued is a big step forward. This way, there's a risk that too much would be filed or details would be missing, but beyond that the main risk we're talking about is the job wouldn't be fully done. As I said I don't mind doing another round over them to satisfy my standards. Things like what I want out of the swords could also fall into this category, I could do them.

BTW, maybe I'm more optimistic that you, but if I think about three factors quality of work, price, and following directions, that third one seems like an obstacle communication could overcome, whereas the other two seem like something the hiring party has far less control over. When I was a commission painter it made my job easier when customers were specific about what they wanted. I always spent time finding reference pictures, so it someone provided them it was less work for me. You know the extenuating circumstances better than I do so I imagine it likely for your case there was something that clued you in it wasn't worth trying overcome, but generally speaking, I think I could work with someone missing some details the first time around. :)


As for pricing, a fair per piece price allows the person to set their own goals in terms of hourly rate. After I've put in a full day at the office I'm perfectly content to spend a few cleaning mold lines, but my output is probably not going to be the same as if I wake up and that's my job for the day, and I give my best hours to it.

Also, a set price for the standard of work per piece allows a person to earn more per hour over time as skill improves. The primary skill in cleaning mold lines is seeing. That might not seem obvious to everyone, but it's true. As you learn to see, your experience working with miniatures changes dramatically. Degrees of perception and speed are closely related.

Please realize how ridiculous the attitude that cleaning mold lines to my standards is impossible to achieve or should be a nonstarter for people. There are 7 billion people in this world. I can pay someone to carve a bear for me with a chainsaw. I can find someone I trust to take care of my infant. Do a reality check. We're talking about filing off mold lines on figures. It's not that complicated.

Another way to look at it is this. People here have no qualms offering advise about going rates for painting a figure. Painting a figure involves cleaning it, priming it, painting it, basing it, and sealing it, AND never forget customer communication. We all know that's a lot of work, and I usually find the going rate is more than reasonable. Remember, I ran a painting studio for several years so I know the ropes.

What percentage of time is spent cleaning (and a much reduced time cost for customer communication) vs the other tasks? Then, like I said, add in a premium for a higher standard and cost of living. Seems 100% reasonable to me.

If I'm looking for a high quality painter I can review their work online. Since people don't tend to show off pictures of their mold-line work, I don't have that luxury, and so I'm setting expectations so I don't waste people's time who don't think it's a job for them. I think of that as being up-front and courteous.

Like I've said, I've done commission work and with that comes added compassion and understanding for commission hobbyists. Honest work for honest pay. Again, what do you think is reasonable?

Timmo uk01 Nov 2015 11:50 a.m. PST

As skill increases time doesn't necessarily go down it might even go up as they become more of a perfectionist.

Why aren't you doing this yourself? You say you can and have the time and you're only painting single figures, what's the point in having them cleaned up to 70% of your standard only to have to finish them yourself and then wait to get round to painting them some day never. Prep half a dozen then paint them and repeat as desired.

In my case I wrote 'breeches any dark colour' except not 'x' they come back painted colour 'x'… That rendered it a pointless exercise to continue with.

As mentioned are you going to buy them a full kit of tools up-front including the Dremel you mention?

I'm pretty pedantic about mould lines and I still miss them until get some white primer on the model then any bits I've missed show up. How do you deal with this. Cleaning up the figures gives you a chance to look them over and think about how to paint them not with big batches but I mean with individual figures.

It's impossible for us to state what's reasonable as you have written how precisely you want the work done. I think it might take me 20 minutes a figure to get to that level. Then if I'm having to file swords down evenly add 15 minutes. Five to do the job and ten to clean up the file afterwards. So that's 30 minutes for one figure… may be more

Pinning joints takes me rather longer let's say an hour prep for some figures, more if it goes wrong and I have to reset the arm to meet your stringent standards. In the UK that equates to something like $6 USD based on our minimum wage for young persons, not that I'm a young person anymore.

Then you get another figure, let's say a Fife & Drum AWI, I'll spend five minutes looking at it for you but I can't find anything to clean up. You put primer on it and it shows up one tiny feint line that you have to remove, being a perfectionist. If you like I'll look at hundreds of them for you but until you put primer on I'll not find anything as they are so well cast, at least those I've seen have been. However, I'm still going to charge you the 'x' bucks per piece for looking at them.

BTW I've put myself in the job of being your clean up employee negotiating a price with you however, there is no way on earth I would undertake this boring loathsome task for anybody for less than $100 USD an hour, on second thoughts make that $200 USD an hour.

Joking and being daft aside I honestly think you are better off doing this yourself. I think any other way would lead to a lot of frustration on your part and I honestly think you'd be in a position of wondering what it was you'd paid for. I also don't see it as a terribly interesting part-time job it's devilishly dull to do, all the more so as your employee doesn't get to do the fun bit of throwing paint at them so I don't see anybody sticking it for long.

CeruLucifus01 Nov 2015 9:08 p.m. PST

A friend hired a student to assemble some GW figures for him. (Lizardmen plastics in 7th edition days.)

He later said it really wasn't worth it. He had been hoping to get figures he could just start painting but found he still had to do quite a bit of cleanup on them.

R Strickland Fezian Inactive Member02 Nov 2015 7:28 p.m. PST


That's ok, you're not qualified anyway, way too slow. ;)

In my area people looking to pick up extra part time work do Uber (non-union taxi with your own vehicle) and grocery/food delivery (many stores and restaurants partner with 3rd party services), Instacart is a popular example here. Wages seem low and conditions seem awful. I wouldn't have the energy to do this as a first job, much less as a second job when I get home. Yet there is no shortage of drivers.

On the other hand, I listen to audiobooks as I work with miniatures, and that makes even cleaning mold lines one of my favorite activities. I also enjoy stripping minaitures for the same reason. In another life I was an assistant to an artist and made the individual components she would use to make sculptures. It was the same repetitive motion to do make the same part over and over. I enjoyed every day of working there. It was honestly a wonderful, meditative experience.

If I imagine myself in the position of having to take a second job, which am I going to go for? There are so many advantages to working in your own home, at your own pace, and being able to make money with any spare minute you want to give to it.

I don't know how you clean your figures, but I have a big smile on my face reading your description. I have never cleaned a file that I use to clean miniatures with in my life. I have "used up" exactly two files in the 25 years I've been at this hobby. The three I use now I have been using for six or seven years and work absolutely perfectly.

And downtime after each figure? The to-file box on one side, the filed box on the other. Several chapters later, reload, eat a snack and back at it.

The reason I'm outsourcing is not because I don't want to to it or am not used to dealing in numbers. I have taken thousands of figures through many prep steps this year alone. Rather, as I get closer to the numbers and apply project management principles to it, the more it becomes plain that outsourcing tasks someone else can do is perhaps my best means of "taming lead mountain" or whatever you want to call it.

ced110617 Nov 2015 4:17 p.m. PST

How about contacting a painting service (eg. overseas) and asking them only to clean up mold lines? Sounds like they'll do what you're looking for.

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