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Rebasing Miniatures for DND, Pathfinder and more

Rebasing Mage Knight Minis

There are a lot of older and out-of-print RPGs out there, and with the explosion in popularity of DND, Pathfinder and other systems, a lot of newbie DMs are getting into the hobby for the first time. This means that there’s a lot of players with a certain expectation of how the game is played. Now, a session zero is outside the scope of this guide, but it’s a vital thing to have. You can help manage your players expectations and learn exactly what game they want to play. They may not always want to play a fantasy romp—maybe something dark and cyberpunk.

But one thing that any player can agree on is that GMs with a good amount of prep and style are a great thing for the hobby. As a DM, that often involves spending time or money leveling up your ability to run the game, in a sense. One of the best ways to level up your play is through the use of miniatures. Battle maps really come alive when players can see their characters outside of their own minds, minis can also help sell the terror of a powerful boss or challenging battlefield.

But branded miniatures can get very pricey, very fast. And that’s why the hobby of rebasing has become a cottage industry unto itself. Rebasing is simple: you take miniatures from one game or set, and repurpose them for another game. Mage Knight miniatures, in particular, will be the focus of this guide, as they have a lot of versatility, and are very common. This guide will help you learn the process of effectively rebasing mage knight miniatures so that they last for years to come.

Acquiring Minis and Supplies

In fact, you can find lots of them in mixed bundles on Ebay. The one caveat to this approach is that you’re taking a risk in not getting minis that you want. Particular sculpts or miniature types may be hard to find, so you’ll have to do some hunting. Check listing photos and inspect closely for any damage to minis before buying them. Also, contact sellers and ask how they ship their models. I’ve been burned buying MK bundles before and the seller didn’t adequately pack them; resulting in some seriously damaged models. Luckily, most Ebay sellers are accommodating with refunds or other compensation. And it’s not all bad. Although getting damaged minis can offer spare parts for kitbashing or other customization, it’s an added pain for the newbie model maker to deal with.

It’s also a good idea to invest in some cheap plastic minis to practice painting as well. You can get models for as little as $0.50 per sculpt or less. Another good reason to use MK minis over other premade options is that sculpts exist for firearms, golems mages and more, adding both steampunk and fantasy options to your repertoire. Once you’ve got a supply of Mage Knight minis, it’s time to gather your tools.

Tools of the Trade

When you have your minis, whether from Ebay or not, it’s time to get to work. But like any job, you need to right tools. I’ve been doing this little gig for a while, so I’ve refined the process a bit. The process of rebasing miniatures can be a bit labor-intensive, but it’s very worth it. The money saved on rebasing miniatures can be put back into your game in other ways. There’s a bit of investment involved in the process, but it’s still much cheaper than buying minis outright. Also, you can learn some useful tricks about customizing and repairing models for future use if you find the hobby fun.

Tools for Rebasing

Tools for Rebasing

As for what you need to get going, here’s a quick rundown.

  • Model/Plastic Glue – An absolute must for this process. You need to use PLASTICS CEMENT. I use Revell Contacta Professional for most of my rebasing.
  • Model Drill and Bits – Very helpful for pinning large models and keeping them attached to bases. If you’re getting into model customization, pinning will become second nature.
  • Isopropyl Alcohol – This is vital for releasing minis from their original bases. Add a spray bottle or some Q-tips to make application to the minis easier.
  • Bases – You obviously need something to put your models on. 1-inch round and square bases will work for all but the largest or most-awkward miniatures.
  • Hobby Clippers – Clippers will be vital for cutting the minis off of your bases.
  • Diamond File – FIling the “feet” of your minis before rebasing ensures better contact and curing.
  • (Optional) Lighter – Useful for clearing clogged glue needles.
  • (Optional) Needlenose Pliers – When glue needles get clogged, the best way to clear them is to put a little heat to them.
  • (Optional) Paper Clip – Use cut pieces of paper clip to “pin” large or broken models for a more secure bond.

Once you have all your supplies, it’s time to get started.

Steps to Rebasing Mage Knight Miniatures

The first thing you need to do is to get the minis off of their old bases.  Dab or spray a bit of Isopropyl alcohol onto the point where the models and the old bases attach. Be sure to try and avoid getting too much on the painted sections of the models as the alcohol can damage the paint job. Let the treated models sit for a few minutes, then it’s time to cut them off. They should come off with very little effort. In a lot of cases, the glue is so weak after treating with alcohol that minis can be popped off with no cutting. If you want to re-treat the bond to weaken it further, go right ahead. Be very careful when cutting to not dig into the plastic above the joint, you don’t want to accidentally cut off the feet of the miniature you’re trying to salvage.

Unsticking Old Glue

Getting a mini off its old base

Once their old base has been removed, it’s time to move on. That brings us to the next step, filing. You will really want to file away the base layer of plastic which you’re applying glue to. A rough, but even, surface offers more areas for the chemical bond between the two plastics to form. The combination of filing and even mounting pressure is key to getting a solid mini when rebasing.

Filing down the plastic “foot” of the models is key. You will have old glue and brittle plastic left over after the cutting process that needs to be removed. Doing this step will ensure a more even and secure bond when cured. Run your diamond file over the bottom of the miniature in multiple directions. The aim is to get a fairly flat surface that doesn’t have any plastic burs, old glue, paint of other obstructions. In many cases, you will be able to see unpainted plastic when filing is finished. When you’re done, you should be left with a flat model with an intact base to begin remounting it.

Wear some kind of particulate mask when filing minis down. You really don’t want to inhale microplastics.

Be sure to wipe off any excess plastic bits on your hands or the models off before handling plastic glue. It’s a good idea to do this process in stages. File all your models first, wash your hands, then glue them.

Glue prep for rebasing mage knight miniatures

A miniature ready for gluing

Here’s a great hobby tool kit a beginner can use that includes both clippers and files. Grab that and you’re ready to take this process. into its final stages.

One thing of note about rebasing mage knight miniatures, is that they come in a few different styles. The image below shows a few different types and you may notice something about them. The older and larger minis often come with no base except the modeled foot of the sculpt. A lot of newer miniatures instead mount to small plastic discs, then to their original base. When rebasing, you will want to take care to remove these plastic discs with the rest of the miniature. Prepping and gluing this more stable section of the model will give you a much firmer mount. Whether pinned or not, your models should be ready to move to the next step of the process.

Be aware when gluing to NEVER use super glue. You don’t want to accidentally glue a base to your finger when holding the miniature down. Genuine plastic glue will only react with plastics mated together, and not skin.

Midpoint of rebasing mage knight miniatures

Various types of minis

Once you’ve wrapped up the prep work, it’s time to begin gluing. Gluing should be done carefully and not too liberally. Applying too much plastic glue will melt and mangle the base, making for a messy look. Apply a small dab of glue to both feet of the model when lightly pressing it into place. Hold firmly on the feet of the model and keep it in place for 60-90 seconds. Make sure you have a good even point of contact between the base and the model. The better the contact prior to curing, the more secure the bond. Make sure not to bend the model or bow its legs with too much pressure. You want the base and the feet to be in complete contact if at all possible.

Also, when gluing larger minis like the four-armed Troll pictured above, larger bases and/or pinning are a must. You could also weight-down the bases with a metal washer glued to the bottom to add stability.

NOTE: If you’re pinning a larger model to a base, dab a bit of high-contrast paint on the paper clip, then test your model placement. The paint will leave behind a mark you can drill into when pinning.

You usually have a bit of working time before the glue begins to set. Take a few seconds to ensure you have the proper placement and you like the look of mini before gluing, but you can shimmy the model around a bit once it’s on the base if you have to. Once you’ve glued them, it’s time to let them rest. Curing time will vary by the brand of glue used, but I generally wait 5-7 days before putting a mini into action. Once they’re cured, they’re ready to use for many games to come.

That’s all there really is to rebasing mage knight miniatures.

Some Final Tips and FAQ

What is Pinning? – Pinning as mentioned in this guide refers to using a “pin” to secure models together. When dealing with large or heavy models you can often pin their limbs to the bases or other parts to ensure a more stable hold. In short, it means you drill two holes in each side of the bond you’re strengthening, then mating them together with something, like a small section of paper clip.

What Size Bases? – The size and type of base will vary based on the models you’re working with. Any large models, or those with wide stances, would be better served on a larger base. If you want to stick to 1″ bases, go for square bases over round ones when dealing with larger or awkward models. This will give you more surface area to work with when gluing.

Should I Repaint? – Rebasing mage knight miniatures is just the start, as talented DMs can often use the opportunity to customize and repaint models. If you’re going that route, there are a few considerations to be had. If you’re getting into painting, be aware of how heavy-handed you’re being with primer and paint. Older miniature sculpts often lack detail, and too much paint or primer can cause a real loss of definition for a mini. Although if you’re just getting into painting, there’s no better time to practice than on cheap models from older games. Also, you don’t often need to prime MK models, as the model paint of today is pretty good about sticking to the existing paint layer.

I Damaged my Model, Help? – Accidentally cutting a model or slipping and chopping off a limb of your new Necromancer sucks. But it can be fixed. The handy thing about rebasing mage knight miniatures is that you have the name of the mini on the old base. You can simply google around to see if you can find a replacement mini. You could also get lucky and find another damaged mini for cheap, and use parts from the two to create a functional variant. Damaged models can also be kitbashed together to change their look.

My Glue is Clogged, Help? – This is where the lighter and pliers come in. Remove the needle from the bottle and take it, the lighter and the pliers outside. Hold the needle in the pliers at a downward angle. Run the flame over the needle and you may notice liquid glue or vapors come out of both ends. Once you’ve run the flame over it a few times, let the needle cool down. Put it back into the bottle and it should be cleared. Be sure to tightly seal your glue when finished, and always rest it so that the needle drains any residue back into the bottle.

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