I’ve been plunging back into painting miniatures after a break of many years. It’s been so long that I discovered much of my old supplies were no good anymore and naturally that’s the kind of discovery I make right at the moment I need that particular paint, glue, or tool and I’m forced to improvise.
My latest discovery came as I was getting ready to put fill around the bases of some Masked Minions (from Paroom Station) and discovered my normal modeling stuff had dried out. Rummaging around I found a tub of “pre-mixed sanded ceramic tile adhesive and grout” from a table-building project I’d done before. With a little experimentation and practice I discovered it makes a really good basing compound. It’s thick and spreadable, dries slowly and works as a glue for anything you set in it. The sand gives it texture so it makes a good dirt surface. To work it I use a plastic-tipped bobby pin and a flat wooden stick with one end carved to a narrow tip. It helps to keep the stick damp for smoothing — until it dries the grout is water-soluble. It’s really good at filling gaps in a base, covering large surfaces, and building up a thick layer. The only drawback is that it doesn’t carve well when it’s dry.
You can find ceramic grout/adhesive at any hardware store for probably $5 to $10 a tub. One tub should last quite a long time.