Ok, you’ve ordered your exquisitely crafted Small Ox Miniatures from Shapeways, what happens next?
Shapeways will print your order and ship it out to you via UPS. Recently I’ve been getting miniatures in my hand less than a week after placing the order, but it is possible that you’ll have to wait a little longer if there is a lot of demand on the printers.
Inside your (overly large) cardboard box you’ll find plenty of padding, and packages like this:
The amount of packaging would have you believe we’re dealing with extremely fragile pieces here, but actually the miniatures are made of a reasonably flexible plastic and are quite robust.
Inside the bubble wrap your miniatures will look something like this:
The price of the miniatures is determined by amount of material they use, but there is also a fixed charge per part. By connecting the miniatures together in this way, the ‘per part’ cost is only incurred once which makes them as inexpensive as possible.*
You can see that due to the thinness of the connecting plastic it has warped a bit, illustrating the flexibility. Doesn’t matter anyway – we don’t want that bit!
Here are super close ups of one of the miniatures (this is 15 mm scale, so very small):
You can see that the material is pretty smooth right out of the packet. The front side of the miniatures is smoother and less glossy than the back because of the way the miniatures are oriented during printing.
Shapeways add some supports as part of the printing process. The little nubs you can see mostly on the back and underside of the miniatures are the remnants of these.
To get your miniatures ready for painting, simply cut the connecting plastic with clippers. A sharp scalpel will make short work of the remnants of the supports.
You can paint the miniature as it is, although I would recommend giving it a gentle scrub in warm soapy water before doing so, just in case there is anything on the surface that is going to prevent the paint from sticking.
Because I’m a tad obsessive I like to remove the relatively light print lines with sandpaper. I’ve found that 400 or 800 grit is good for this, but do be gentle with it! And of course be careful not to accidently remove any details.
After sanding I glue the miniature to a penny with superglue, and we’re ready to get painting!
* On the subject of price, for customers outside the US Shapeways recalculate the price on a monthly basis to reflect the prevailing exchange rate with the dollar. The plunge in the pound over the last few months has been bad news for those of us in the UK!