Wargaming Tradecraft: Mini Torches


Mini Torches

Here's a toy tool for modelling that comes in handy from time to time. 95% of the time I'm using it to build terrain, and usually working with styrofoam.

As with any use of fire, keep away from flammable things, outside if possible and to keep some water or sand nearby in case you need to need to put out flames that get away from you. (Also, do you know where the fire extinguisher is in your home?)


You can probably find them at hardware stores or smoke shops. The butane fuel will also be available at these places. This article refers to a small torch, great for hobbying, rather than a large one which would be unwieldy and too powerful or a bbq starter which doesn't have a directed flame.

When you're choosing one, make sure it's refuelable. Another useful feature is having an adjustable strength so you can create a smaller or larger flame. (Helpful depending on the size of your projects) If it's got a starter built in - bonus; otherwise pick up a lighter and maybe even a candle.

When you're buying the fuel, look for one either specifically made for your torch or find a generic one with multiple tips. Off brand will probably be cheaper and fuel is fuel. The key thing is having a tip that will fit into your torch's fuel socket without spraying all over. (It's _very_ important that your fuel fit properly into your torch.)


These are butane powered and will require refueling from time to time for small jobs and often during larger projects.

Always read instructions for the torch and fuel completely, this is a general overview.

If your fuel container wasn't made specifically for your torch, it should have multiple tips. Find the one that fits into your torch's socket best. The tip's hole should cover the socket's smallest hole (fuel line) while fitting snugly inside the socket. If the tip's hole is too small, it won't cover the socket's fuel line, and will spray fuel into the air. If it's too big, it probably means it won't fit around the socket either - this will also spray fuel into the air.

  • Attach the proper tip to your fuel container.
  • Turn the fuel container upside down.
  • Press the socket of the torch against the tip of the fuel container.
  • Gently apply more force to the connection - this will open the valve on both ends and allow the fuel to flow from the container into the torch.
  • Your torch and/or fuel container should include directions on how long to hold the connection open.
If the connection isn't made properly, you'll hear a hissing and may see some of the fuel spray out. It evaporates quickly but will be very cold. (And your hands will probably be within spraying distance) Holding a poor connection together longer in hopes it'll still work is not only dangerous but bad connections usually won't be refueling at all.
NEVER refuel while you have an open flame going. (for example, a nearby candle)


If your torch has a starter, great. Use the starter to light it, following any instructions that comes with the torch. (there may be a safety switch) Otherwise, simply turn it on in front of a flame. You can use a lighter, though I tend to like using a candle so I can turn the torch on and off as I please.

If your torch has an adjustable strength, you'll need to use the medium setting. Too low and it might not light, too high and you'll just end up blowing the flame around, still not lighting.


There's plenty of times when you may want to use a torch for some directed heat, rather than just a candle to melt stuff. Use a torch like you would a pen. You're drawing / sketching the fire over surfaces.

Plastic melts easily, but most of the miniatures we work with are so small that it's nearly impossible to direct a little flame to a small area. (Heating up sculpting tools is a good alternative, just don't burn yourself picking up a hot tool) Large things like vehicles and walkers may be more appropriate if you're working with plastics.

Most of the time when I'm using the torch, I'm sculpting styrofoam to create terrain. (Standard safety reminder: these are toxic fumes, use in a well ventilated area, use a fan, wear a face mask and NEVER use blue/pink foam, which is _highly_ toxic and being phased out of many places)
  • Use a smaller flame to carve detail into walls/floors
  • Use a larger flame to create texture over a big area. Just quickly sweep the flame over the area - you'll notice you don't even have to get too close. To add more texture, just make more passes.
  • You can pvc/white/wood glue together a large piece of terrain, and the glue won't melt with the styrofoam. (unless you use a huge amount of heat) This allows you to carve, texture and detail the base as a whole, creating a natural look, rather than a pieced together look.
  • After cutting styrofoam, you'll get lots of little balls creating a mess and falling off. A quick pass of flame will solidify the cut.
  • Instead of creating a mess by cutting styrofoam, burn details in. Examples would be riverbeds, trails, explosions, ditches, etc.
  • Bringing the flame close and quickly removing it will carve as well as light bits, creating more of a plastic surface - if done right, this creates a surface that can be spray painted without melting.

You can also do some basic welding using a mini torch.
I won't go into detail here, that will come in a later post - if you're not familiar with what I'm about to describe then wait, rather than attempt it yourself.
If you're familiar with these terms/techniques:
  • Buy some thin brass/copper. (from hobby or hardware stores)
  • Use a candle/torch to heat them to the point that solder will melt when it touches the metal. (The solder has to be melted by the metal, not your flame, otherwise it will pop off)
  • Since you want the metal to melt the solder rather than the flame, you'll have to use the flame somewhere on the metal away from your join, where the flame's heat won't melt the solder - the problem with this is other places you've already soldered could melt... I didn't say it was easy.
  • Since so much of the metal will be heating up, you'll want some other tools to prevent yourself from burning your fingers. Pliers and a vice will help a lot.
  • You can apply some liquid flux to the metal to help the solder attach.
When creating my Khorne standard, all the joins were made using a high end soldering iron that gets hot enough to heat the metal to the point it'll melt solder. The joins were messy though, so I used my torch to slowly heat the joins part by part and smooth the solder out.

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