One of the most common issues with pewter miniatures is bendy weapons. They’re awful! The shafts the sculptors use were probably brass rods or tube, which is fine, but when that is cast in pewter (or white metal), it just doesn’t hold up. The easiest way to fix this is to spend loads of time trying to carefully bend these weapons back into straightness. The harder, but better looking option is to cut up the weapon and do as the sculptor did – use a brass rod or tube as a weapon shaft.
Brass Rod Weapons
That’s what this tutorial is about. It’s asked loads of times on the forum, and it really isn’t as difficult as some people make it out to be. Don’t get me wrong, it’s tedious, painful and repetitive, but the results are most definitely worth it.
A while ago, I picked up a few Iron Fang Pikemen arms from the PP bits store, so I’d have one or two to ruin before going onto my entire unit. For this tutorial, I have a standard grunt weapon arm, as well as an officer’s arm, which is far more complex than the grunt’s.
The first step for me was to take these to work and throw some calipers at them. I needed to measure the pewter shaft’s diameter so I knew what size rod / tube to use. I measured them to be 1.5mm, or about 0.059 inches. I decided I’d much rather go smaller with my shaft replacement size since that leaves me more material around the holes I’ll have to drill. I found some 3/64 inch diameter brass tubes by K&S Engineering at Hobby Lobby, which is about 0.046875, or about 30% smaller than the stock size. Good!
Note: I chose tube rather than rod, because tube is far more rigid. Rod is solid, and essentially a wire, which means the only extra rigidity you get is in the material properties. The tube, however, has structural rigidity as well as being made of a stronger material. The metal has to rip before the tube will bend, which is not the case with the rod – it’ll bend almost as easily as the pewter! So, the tube is much better.
The first thing to do is cut a length of brass tube. Since no tube cutter can handle stuff this small, I had to emulate what a tube cutter does with a knife and table. Essentially what you need to do is hold the knife on the tube, apply pressure and then roll the tube back and forth under the knife blade. This will score the tube and then cut through.
The next step is to cut up the pewter arms. I cut off the weapon head and counter-weight, and then cut the leftover shaft from the hand. Here’s what’s left:
So, now comes the hard part – preparing the pewter bits for the rod. I used a file to flatten the parts where I cut the pewter. It’s much easier to locate and drill the center of a flat surface. Once flat, I used a pick to put a dimple into the center of the flat area, and drilled in.
For the hand, I drilled through the pewter rod with a much smaller drill first. Then, I use that as a pilot hole for the bigger drill. Once through with the bigger drill (same size as my tube), I trim off any extra pewter (remember, my replacement rods are 30% smaller than the original, so there’s a bit left over after drilling).
I had to use a slide clamp to help hold the small bits since my hands are a bit big. I found that clamping too much actually bent the little rivets on the bit, but too little and the bit slides around and it’s annoying.
Once all the parts are drilled, it’s assembly time!
For the officer’s arm, the pole doesn’t actually go through the hand, so I glued the head and counter-weight on first. Mainly because then I could position the arm where I wanted.
Here’s the two finished weapons: