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Hirst Arts' Wizard's Tower

by Andy Slater

Hirst Arts' Wizard's TowerPlease note that this review of Hirst Arts' Wizard's Tower is a sub-section of my main review of Hirst Arts' moulds and is probably best read in conjunction with that main article..

According to the instructions at Hirst Arts, The Wizard's Tower requires that you cast the mould 18 times in order to complete the project. However, you can get started on the construction long before casting the last block and I seriously recommend that's what you do. I reckon that doing 18 casts in a row without seeing anything for your efforts would be pretty mind numbing and it's not like you can then sit down and build the whole thing in a single session. The blocks need to be glued together a few at a time (or you'll end up disturbing earlier blocks as you place new ones) so it's easier, and better for moral, if you alternate between casting sessions and building sessions.

The moulds I used are shown in the image below and as you can see, I cheated a bit because in fact the mould to the left is the Wizard's Tower mould (and is all you need to make it), but I used an additional mould (#100) so I could cast the basic blocks more quickly.

These moulds are relatively easy to cast from. Watch out for bubbles getting trapped in the corners of blocks but they shouldn't give you many problems and any that you do get can probably be placed in the construction such that they don't show. The gargoyles are more problematic so bend the mould back and put the plaster in with a brush to make sure there are no bubbles. You'll need lots of gargoyles so the fewer mistakes the better.

The big surprise with this mould however is the capping stones (bottom right of the mould). These look like they should be easy to cast but if you look closely you'll find that the edges are not vertical and the corners of these pieces are a real nuisance for trapping bubbles. After several batches where I got caught out I got into the habit of poking them with a cocktail stick to make sure there was no air in them.

Hirst Arts' Wizard's Tower

The finished weight of my tower is approximately 1500g so you should get one out of 2kg of powder even allowing for miscasts. However, keep an eye on the quantities that you are casting because while the mould will give you a complete window with each cast (two pieces top right), you only need 7 windows; so casting 18 of them is pointless. There's also a 3/4" brick (just below the windows and to the left) that you don't need at all for this project.

Now although I like the texture of the stones and anticipate using this mould for the construction of some tombs and sewer type settings for use with EscapePath, the Wizard's Tower itself didn't really appeal to me. Still, I wanted to do it for the purpose of reviewing the mould and had a few figures that needed a home so I decided to have a go anyway. I mention this because if you follow the instructions at Hirst Arts to the letter then you need to do 3 casting sessions just to do the floor. This seemed a little wasteful to me as most of it will be hidden inside. In fairness, the Hirst Arts instructions explain how to construct the tower such that the inside is accessible. As this was not an issue for me I decided to do a bit of jiggery-pokery: I still did the three casting sessions before beginning construction, but then I assembled the floor without gluing any of the blocks in the middle. Thus I was able to remove them when the ones I had glued were dry, and use them to get started on the walls.

Hirst Arts' Wizard's TowerI've actually cheated a little bit in the image to the right. Because I'd also cast a few additional blocks in Mould #100 (Basic Block Small Mould) so there are a few more blocks in place in that shot than you'd have with just three casts from the wizard's tower mould alone. Incidentally, that little mould is really great for using up any left over plaster when you've done your main pour (and it's always better to have a little extra than find yourself short).

Other things to note:

  1. The blocks that I glued together at floor level were allowed to dry completely before any attempt was made to remove the unglued blocks in the centre. Thus the image really shows my tower at step 2.

  2. The first stages of construction were done with the model on a piece of aluminium foil (so I didn't accidentally glue it to the work table).

  3. I've been using Lego bricks to line up the blocks.

Shortly after this you'll need to have done 7 casts in order to have the windows that you need. However there are a couple of upper floors that can be constructed at the same time and keeps the project moving along. The construction needs to be done slowly with thought being given to how it all goes together and everything being checked and double checked for alignment.

Hirst Arts' Wizard's TowerThings WILL run out of alignment. Take a close look at the pictures of Mr Hirst's tower and you'll see that even with his expertise, some joints are wider than others and the horizontal alignment of the two blocks above his doorway are out by a gnat's whisker. Shrinkage of the plaster and thousands of an inch variation in the thickness of the blocks (as a result of more and less enthusiastic scraping of the mould when casting) will all add up to cause imperfections.

So check, check, and check again so you become aware if anything starts to run out of alignment and endeavour to compensate for it as soon as possible. Use your brain and you'll be able to arrange it such that imperfections occur in places where they are less noticeable. You didn't even notice the flaws in Mr Hirst's piece until I pointed them out did you? Now go take another look at my finished piece and have a field day spotting flaws that you didn't notice at first.

The details add an awful lot to this model. The gargoyles were the last thing I added and they changed my attitude from "this is looking okay" to "this is actually rather nice". The caps on the merlons also help. There's an oddity in the Hirst Arts' instructions in that they make no mention of putting the caps in the crenels as well, yet they are clearly there on Bruce Hirst's finished piece. I actually used a piece from the mould for The Tomb (because I preferred their shape), but you could easily use the caps or leave them off altogether as you prefer.

Painting & Finishing Touches

I wish I could tell you that I simply followed Hirst Arts' suggestion and that it worked fine, but I guess I didn't apply it quite the way I should have and I lost count of the number of washes and drybrushings that I gave it before I was happy with it.

Hirst Arts' Wizard's TowerIt also has to be said however that a good many of those washes and drybrushes were done before it occurred to me that the model would probably look a whole lot better with a few additional colours. In the same way that the gargoyles add a lot to the model, so the door, base, and a few figures add colour to what would otherwise be a rather grey building. Keep some of those things to hand when you paint because I suspect that I did more washes and drybrushings than were needed in an attempt to achieve the vibrancy that was ultimately added by the additional details.

So, the finishing touches:

Doors - Made from a polystyrene foam pizza tray, scribed with the tip of a No.11 knife blade, and with hinges made from epoxy putty. It's a lot easier to do than it looks but if you really don't fancy it, check out the .pdf downloads over at Hirst Arts because they have a number of images of doors that you could print out and stick onto a piece of card.

Base - More polystyrene, cut, painted, and flocked with Javis No.19 flock.

Barrels - Are Constructo (model boat fittings) wooden barrels that I painted and to which I added metal rings using lengths of solder.

Cannon - Constructo again.

Figures - Games Workshop Bretonnian Sorceress and a couple of Bowmen.


I said earlier that The Wizards Tower didn't really appeal to me but now that it's finished I rather like it. It's not really my thing as far as terrain is concerned however it strikes me that with just a few alterations at the construction stage, it would probably make for a rather nice dice tower, trinket box, or desk tidy. I guess that means I'm going to have to make another one. Maybe two. Doh!

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