This week I talk with Itar from Itars Workshop: http://www.itarsworkshop.com/catalog/index.php. He has some pretty cool and pieces for very reasonable prices. If you need to fill in some gaps in your terrain or don't have much of a budget to buy a large set of pieces all at once he is definately your guy!!! He has also given some helpful insite to the world of terrain manufacture.
[Itar] We've been open since January 2009. So 3 years.
[TP] What do you use for the inspiration of your pieces?
[Itar] I find inspiration everywhere. If I'm doing a line of products, say torture equipment, I will Google whatever it is and use pictures of medieval torture equipment as a starting point. I've also stopped and looked at the building at my day job and thought "that would make a neat looking building in 6mm". Inspiration can strike anywhere, at any time.
[TP] What types of materials do you use for your pieces?
[Itar] I cast all my pieces in some sort of resin. I will occasionally use Hydrostone plaster for my personal custom pieces and for sculpting.
[TP] Are there any special suppliers you get your materials from? Any suppliers that have perticularly good service?
[Itar] I get a lot of my specialty resins from Smooth-on. I also get supplies from Sil-pak and Aeromarine Products.
[TP] What is your favorite terrain piece?
[Itar] From the ones available on in my store I love the Egyptian line. I don't know why, I just like them even though I don't play any game at all that uses them.
Of my custom pieces my favorite is the working Roman Treadmill crane I entered into HADD a few years ago. It was a lot of fun figuring out how to make it work.
[TP] Looking through your site it appears that all the pieces come unpainted? Are you planning on offering painted pieces? If not, why not?
[Itar] That's something I go back and forth with. I would love to sell pre-painted terrain but the amount of work to do one would be a major pain. I will probably do some pre-painted terrain at some point. I still have to figure out how to produce it in a mass production environment
[TP] Are your pieces all solid cast or glued from original bricks? If they are solid cast how did you go about creating the casts? What did you have to consider before making a cast?
[Itar] All of my pieces are solid cast. I think I only have one that requires assembly by the customer. A lot of my pieces require 2 or 3 part molds to cast solid. To do so I have to consider how I'm going to get the resin into every part of the mold and be able to demold it easily. I also have to be able reliably produce the piece on a daily basis. If there's any problem spot that tends to collect bubbles then it doesn't make it into the store. I usually make a mold of a single piece and cast that a few times to make sure it'll work before making mass production molds.
[TP] I am curious how you do a 3 piece mold? Never heard of doing that only a 2 piece molds.
[Itar] Here's an example of a 3 part mold. This one casts the Egyptian Pylon as a single piece that is hollow inside and about 1/8" thick. To make the mold I had to glue the master pylon down and cover half of the piece with clay and pour silicone. Then take away the clay and pour the second part of the mold. Once that is done I rolled out clay to the desired thickness and put it inside the 2 parts of the mold and poured the last part of the mold. It's cast by filling the mold up to the required level and then placing the 3rd part inside (similar to the plate method of casting) and displacing the liquid resin until it slightly overflows
[TP] Any plans to offer sets of pieces that go together
[Itar] Nope. No plans to do sets at all. There's plenty of great people out there that do sets so I don't need to.
[TP] Are you seeing much of a profit in creating this terrain?
[Itar] The first couple years everything we made went back into the business. We're making a nice profit. Not enough to retire from my day job but enough to pay my gaming expenses and then some. It keeps growing so it'll get there eventually.
[TP] Which wargames do you play? Which one is your favorite?
[Itar] I have played Warhammer 40k, Flames of War, Battletech, and any number of RPG games. Right now I'm only playing Battletech on a regular basis. Battletech is probably my favorite game. I've been playing it since the late 80s and I've always really enjoyed it.
[TP] Any special terrain techniques you use when creating terrain?
[Itar] I use plaster pieces to sculpt masters. I use a wire brush against balsa wood to make a nice wood texture. Sometimes I just make it up as I go.
[TP] What is your favorite material to work with?
[Itar] I really don't have a single favorite material. I use all kinds of materials to make my pieces. I've used balsa wood, polymer clay, plaster, and once some paper towels I swiped from the bathroom at work (it had a great texture).
[TP] Tell me about a mistake you made in creating terrain and what you learned from it.
[Itar] When I first started I made this really large stepped pyramid model. It looked great but after I poured the silicone for the mold I realize it was just slightly too big to fit in my vacuum chamber. It made it difficult to make duplicate molds. In the end I just discontinued the piece and I'll have to remake it later. I learned to measure my mold boxes BEFORE I pour the silicone.
[TP] Any final advice or thoughts?
[Itar] Never pet a burning dog. All kidding aside. If you're going to start a business then be prepared to eat, sleep, and breathe terrain for the next few years. It's possible, but you're going to be working hard and you're not going to get rich. On the up side it can be really rewarding.
As a hobbyist. Always try something new with each project. It may not work, but you're bound to learn something from it