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"Your cheapskate tricks of yesteryear, and other hacks" Topic

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1,986 hits since 10 Nov 2017
©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
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4th Cuirassier10 Nov 2017 7:16 a.m. PST

…I used to prime plastic figures in silver to kid myself I could afford metals (it didn't end well).

I used to "mend" broken bayonets and weapons with blu-tack.

Any odd bits of white metal that I trimmed off figures or models went into the scrap metal stash to be melted down for Prince August 25mm figures.

Bases were made from beer mats and textured with PVA glue mixed with sugar. Mud to adorn tanks and other vehicles I made by mixing up talcum powder with paint to give it a nice gritty texture. My tanks looked baaaad but they smelt gooooood.

I don't have many cheapskate tricks any more as I run out of time to paint stuff log before I run out of money to buy things to paint. I steal coffee stirrers from coffee shops and I blu-tack figures to them to have something to hold 5 or 6 figures by. I buy car primer paint as it's cheaper and seems to do the job.

What bits of cheapskatery do you get up to and what time-saving hacks do you know of (I don't know of any!)?

HappyHiker10 Nov 2017 7:31 a.m. PST

Probably all the obvious ones but..
1p coins for magnetic bases.
Builders sharp sand for covering figures stands when gluing to bases instead of expensive model stuff.
Acyrlic paint from art shops instead of posh model paint(best for scenery not minis).
Old CD's covered in pva and sand and painted for Scenery bases.
Buying individual sprues from ebay to make up full strength battalions(cheap way to stretch Perry 36 figures to 2x24 battalions)
As you say Car Primer Paint !
And Ebay Ebay Ebay cheaper than shops even with postage, even a single paint tube is cheaper to get delivered.

Marc33594 Supporting Member of TMP10 Nov 2017 7:52 a.m. PST

Like this one!

Some fast food restaurants have small plastic cups with snap on plastic lids for condiments to go. Excellent for mixing paints, storing small parts, mixing glues and resins.

I wear disposable contact lens and I save the plastic cases they come in for paint containers while painting or mixing up small batches of resin. With each lens in its own case and new lens every two weeks gives me an abundance of these handy devices.

Various plastic and wooden stirrers to serve the same but for paints/glues.

Am sure will think of others. And not cheapskate, frugal!

Personal logo StoneMtnMinis Supporting Member of TMP10 Nov 2017 9:14 a.m. PST

"1p coins for magnetic bases"

Are you saying these coins will stick to magnets?

Chalfant10 Nov 2017 9:33 a.m. PST

Hair spray to seal painted miniatures.


Personal logo Dances with Clydesdales Supporting Member of TMP10 Nov 2017 9:42 a.m. PST

Using baling twine(from hay bales) for scenery grass, comes in green, tan and various shades of brown.
Old coco matting for same.
Have used heating duct cut and flatted for metal bases.
Actual rocks for bases and scenery, instead of resin/plastic/metal.
Use actual twigs for tree debris on bases.
Use old CDs for tree basing.
use old paintbrush handles for stir sticks.
cut pieces of scrap carpeting for terrain.
many more I'm sure.

uglyfatbloke10 Nov 2017 9:47 a.m. PST

Stone mountain…yup; most UK 2p and 1p coins are magnetic.

Andy ONeill10 Nov 2017 9:49 a.m. PST

Uk and euro copper coins have a steel sabot inside them as steel is cheaper than copper.
Both will stick to magnets.
Uk pennies are 20mm diameter meaning they are a good sizefor bases.

wrgmr110 Nov 2017 10:07 a.m. PST

Sand from the beach for basing.
Real rocks glued to a base.
I've used lots of craft paint over the years, in particular the really cheap stuff from dollar store for terrain.

ZULUPAUL Supporting Member of TMP10 Nov 2017 10:10 a.m. PST

Bingo chips for 15mm individual bases (my Mother in law was a huge Bingo fan)
Still use CDs for terrain bases
Use craft store acrylics mostly.
Save all "interesting" looking plastic junk, some have been turned into 15mm terrain pieces (on CDs).

Palewarrior10 Nov 2017 10:13 a.m. PST

OMG so many of these are familiar, I can recall scouring the woodlands for twigs & roots that had a "gnarly" look. My brothers thought I'd lost the plot :)

I would always offer to help with the lifting if family & friends had just bought a new TV, microwave, cooker..etc Just to get the polystyrene packaging.

Footslogger10 Nov 2017 10:22 a.m. PST

Before self-hardening putties like Green Stuff existed, I used plasticene "set" with a coat of nail varnish. I had to ask my Mum to buy it. There was no way I was going to go into a shop and ask for it myself.

Footslogger10 Nov 2017 10:23 a.m. PST

For dungeon expeditions, spaceship etc. my brother and I used pieces of wooden parquet flooring as "walls".
We could have painted them, but didn't.

Today, I'd be using Jenga.

ChrisBrantley10 Nov 2017 12:02 p.m. PST

Dried tea (from teabags) and/or coffee grounds as basing texture material.

Large spice containers with shaker tops used for custom flocking blends

Wide head roofing nails as figure painting stands…just PVA the figure to the nail, then stick it in a block of styrofoam for storage as you paint a units worth.

Thin insulated electrical wire scavenged from around telephone switch boxes when updated (contractors tend to be pretty messy and leave clipped wire debris all over the work area)…which make great wattles for fences and walls in camps and other scenics.

Tree bark as large stone outcroppings.

Food container (microwavable black tray with clear plastic top) used when flocking bases. Leave flock in tray and snap on top for storage until next use.

Carpet samples from Home Depot (and big box home improvement stores) used to represent ploughed fields.

Cut up coconut straw (coco coir) doormats to make wheatfields.

Visits to the fabric store bargain bin to find suitable materials for game mats and terrain.

Timbo W10 Nov 2017 2:40 p.m. PST

Cheap green scouring pads cut up and flocked to make hedges.

Foreign small change, eurocents, US cents etc for basing.

Seriously considering using dried hydrangea flower heads to make trees, with rubberised horse hair of course.

Cat litter (unused) as rubble for fibua.

Random tourist ornaments for fantasy giant eagles, bears, lizards etc

Sweeping brush offcuts to replace broken spears etc

Sand as roads, just pour it out onto the gaming cloth then shake it off when done.

Piles of old war-games illustrated and miniature war-games as hills under said cloth

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP10 Nov 2017 3:07 p.m. PST

Am I allowed the use of real mud from Waterloo to base all my figures?

(OK it has to be mixed with PVA glue and it dries to the colour of the Libyan Desert, so still needs painting anyway)

My bases are operating microscope covers. Brilliant. Scrub staff know that I want this disc (crystal clear plastic) after every ear I do!

I love Plasticine with nail varnish. Takes me back too. Indulge me, was there something called banana oil that you mixed with it? This is going back to 1965/6……

HappyHiker10 Nov 2017 4:17 p.m. PST

I also use an ice cream tub, kitchen tissue and baking parchment as a cheap wet palette.

And yep, 1p coins will stick to magnets. I always put her maj's face down so not to cover her in sand, seems disrespectful.

Fred Cartwright10 Nov 2017 4:59 p.m. PST

Banana oil was the traditional way of hardening plasticine for figure conversions on soft plastic figures. I also remember using a mixture of talcum powder and cellulose dope for filling the grain on balsa wood used to convert plastic kits.

Pat Ripley Fezian10 Nov 2017 8:16 p.m. PST

Thanks Andy ONeill that explains their use. i hadnt realised they had a core

Footslogger11 Nov 2017 3:09 a.m. PST

I'd heard of banana oil but never found out where you got it from. Still don't know.

Dagwood11 Nov 2017 3:29 a.m. PST

Only recent 1p and 2p coins are magnetic, earlier ones weren't (aren't). But they have been magnetic for a few years now. Try them on a magnet first !

The Tyn Man Supporting Member of TMP11 Nov 2017 6:21 a.m. PST

I still use beer mats to base my 15mm figs… have done so since the mid 80's.


ordinarybass Inactive Member11 Nov 2017 3:38 p.m. PST

Great stuff here!

I don't know that it's truly "old school" but I use :

-Hardware store spray paints for most everything.

-Minwax Polyshades for dipping

-A wide variety of resale-shop toys, toy bits and kitbashed toys for my terrain

-Maybe not as cheap as sand and dirt, but "Sand Mix Cemenet" is an amazing basing material for rocky soil. The combination of Cement, sand and small grave looks great. Not a bad deal either at $7 USD for 40 pounds.

-Craft store paints and brushes.

-pennies to add a bit of weight to non-stotta 25mm based figures.

Marc at work11 Nov 2017 4:18 p.m. PST


Your wish is my command

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP12 Nov 2017 2:59 a.m. PST

That's it…banana oil does still exist. A real blast from the past!

Andy ONeill12 Nov 2017 3:23 a.m. PST

When I first started using pennies there were quite a few were still bronze.
It's quite unusual to come across them nowadays.

The penny has been copper plated steel since 1992.

mysteron Supporting Member of TMP12 Nov 2017 3:24 a.m. PST

Yes modern 1p coins are magnetic. The Royal Mint started some years ago to put a steel core in copper coins as it got to the stage whereby the coin was worth more in metal than its actual value,

davbenbak Supporting Member of TMP13 Nov 2017 9:46 a.m. PST

roof shingles for roads (free)
ceramic tiles for bases
paint stirs for measuring sticks (free)
carpet samples for fields (free)

All can be had at a deep discount at your local Home Labyrinth. Find an open bundle to shingles and ask for a few for free for matching purposes. The tiles usually come in a sheet. Find a sheet with one cracked tile and ask for a deep discount.

evilgong13 Nov 2017 3:15 p.m. PST

I had an old green T-shirt that when no longer serviceable as clothing was cut up to make forest shapes for terrain.

Some of our first games (in the 70s) had all the terrain drawn on the board with chalk, because we didn't own much terrain yet.

More recently I've harvested advertising fridge magnets to make up mag basing on figs or buildings.

David F Brown

ROUWetPatchBehindTheSofa14 Nov 2017 3:22 p.m. PST

Bases cut from the card in old ring binders or the board books for small children and in one case from an old clip board. Also die cut pieces of card salvaged from kids board games.

Dried tea leaves for basing.

GW gave me a free army – bits of sprue turned into 2/3mm sci-fi tanks, MICV, APCs, ADA, etc and based on the above card.

And I once tried hair roller armies a very long time ago…

And Ebay, while sober, with patience, a following wind and quite a bit of luck. I managed to furnish myself with over three hundred 15mm sci-fi figures including Traveller casts for probably less than £100.00 GBP Though I wasn't fussy and I probably spent £20.00 GBP on Dettol!

Plastic bottle tops and caps can be put to a wide range of uses with a little imagination.

spontoon17 Nov 2017 2:04 p.m. PST

@ Happy Hiker, et al.;

You realise that using coin of the realm as anything other than currency is a felony?

Rubbsalot17 Nov 2017 4:22 p.m. PST

Some of these posts made me chuckle, thank you!

I also recall mixing flour with paint for mud on tanks in my teens.

Also, I remember turning up on my first ever visit to the local Club with freshly based Airfix French (took a lot of boxes to cream those marching poses) with them based on corrugated card flocked with tea. yes tea.

Mum wasnt impressed, neither was my son when i handed them down with much ado many years later.

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