Pinning Large Models

This piece was written as part of the ongoing Black Templar’s Warhound Titan build.  Check out that (long) post for examples of how this technique was put to good use.

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For pinning large models that will have serious stress on the joints from the pose or weight or both, I recommend using large pins placed in offset positions. Using more than one pin prevents rotation that can cause CA glues to fail. The pins themselves should be approximately the thickness of a pencil lead and of a metal that is (just barely) bendable by hand. I use heavy-duty paper clips (gem clips) designed for holding large files and stacks of paper. These are just soft enough to be cut with clippers.

I usually dry fit the pieces together before drilling and then drill through one piece and into the adjoining by at least half the thickness of that piece. This will sometimes, depending on pin location, require you to use some greenstuff to patch the pin hole. On a large piece like the titan, many of the pin positions will be in places the will not be visible on the fully assembled piece. Planning before drilling will reduce the amount of patching you will have to do.

As stated previously, I recommend pinning each major joint at least twice. For the Warhound this means ankles, knees, hips, hip sockets, gun shoulders, gun elbows, and body shoulder mounts. For smaller joints like the toes, and gun barrels I will use just one pin – though it will be as deep as I can make it. This will be enough reinforcement for pieces that have less stress and plug-style joints.

To get good depth without wearing out my hands, I use a small electric hand drill. Sometimes these are called moto tools. Dremel is the brand I prefer to use because they are inexpensive, easy to find, can take a huge variety of bits including ones for cutting, polishing, grinding, sanding, drilling and more. I got mine at a local home improvement center. The model I currently own is 11 years old and going strong. My grandfather’s Dremel was bought in the early 80’s and still works great. The only maintenance other than cleaning is to replace one $7 part about 2 years ago. I haven’t tried one of their cordless models yet.

If you do not have access to one of these small drills, I do NOT recommend using a power drill. The bits are too big and they are hard to control. Use a pin vise / hobby drill. Your hands will get tired, but the work needs done if you want the model to be durable enough for play.

To get the proper length of pin, insert your uncut pinning wire into the assembled pieces. I tend to cut off the excess wire as it is sticking out of the hole. This keeps the bit you need from flying off to some random location around the room. However, if the hole is one that will need patching to repair the finish, back the pin out of the hole 1/16th to 1/8th of an inch before cutting. This will ensure that after installation the pin will be slightly recessed giving you room for a perfect repair.

When gluing the pin into place, you should apply glue to both pieces being fitted together first while making sure to get some glue into the pin holes. A spare piece of pinning wire is good for smearing glue down into the hole. Spread a little glue onto 3/4ths of your cut pinning wire. In most cases you will insert the glued end of the pin through the outer-most hole and into the next piece. Since your pin is cut to length, you will know that everything is lined up perfectly when the pin goes all the way in. In joints that will receive 2 pins, allow this first joint to cure before drilling the second pin location. This just makes the alignment process MUCH easier. Once seated in your desired position, let the piece set for an hour. Unless you have access to a glue accelerator, just leave it alone. The rest will give the joint time to cure.

Probably too much information on pinning. I hope that it helps though.

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