Thoughts on the painting of, and playing with, toy soldiers.

Hobby

My resolution for 2014: no new models

51K1Od+SYdLLike (I suspect) a lot of wargamers, hobbyists and collectors, I always feel a twinge of guilt when I fork out for shiny new toys. You don’t have to be in this hobby for too long before you end up with a backlog of unpainted models, sitting in their boxes, getting progressively less shiny and new as time goes by*.

As I am sure you know, I recently bought myself a Reaver Titan. These are not cheap: the body alone is £425 (US$695) and the weapons are £54.00 each, so you’re looking at a cost of £587 (US$959), not including painting and modelling supplies.

Splurging that amount of cash on a single (albeit fully and totally awesome) model triggered a certain degree of introspection on my part, which was further fuelled by my wife’s (accepting but skeptical) response when I told her how much I’d spent. Of course we all realise that if we keep buying more than we can paint, the pile of unpainted models is only ever going to increase. This time, however, I’ve decided to do something about it.

I’m not going to buy any new models in 2014.

(more…)


Battlestar Galactica

20130920_174603

While my hobby activities were in limbo waiting for the house move, I decided to take a sideways step into scale modelling. I’m pretty sure that I was building scale models (mainly Star Trek starships) before I got into wargaming, but I’ve been doing both for so long that I don’t really have a clear memory.

I went into my local Modelzone during their closing down sale and picked up the model kit of the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica for less than twenty quid.

After assembling the main sub-assemblies, the model was sprayed with Army Painter Army Grey primer. After this, it was highlighted with several different shades of grey mixed with Army Painter Chainmail, starting out slightly lighter than the basecoat and getting progressively brighter.

Then, the armour panels were given a semi-drybrush with a lighter shade of grey (about 2/3 Coat d’Arms Mid Grey to 1/3 Slate Grey). I used Citadel Scab Red to paint the stripes, and then applied gloss varnish to the areas that would have decals.

Once the decals had been applied and sealed, I added battle damage using a brybrush to create scorch marks, and then applied a generous amount of Forgeworld Black Soot weathering powder to add texture to the model and soften the edges of the scorches. Then the weathering powder was sealed by spraying the entire model with Army Painter matt varnish.

The base was sprayed black and then drybrushed with Tin Bitz and Gunmetal.

More pictures below the fold.

(more…)


Unboxing the Dreamforge Games Leviathan Crusader

Having boxed up all my hobby stuff in anticipation of an imminent house move, and having generally avoided spending anything on my hobby since the new year, Salute 2013 turned into a session of Retail Therapy! I bought a bunch of Critical Mass stuff, and a KR Multicase system for my Epic knights and titans, but my biggest purchase was a Leviathan Crusader kit from Dreamforge Games. These seem to retail only at about £85-£95, but I picked mine up for £65, which sounds like a pretty good deal. Most of the retailers at Salute were selling the kit at about the same price.

This is a big kit – the box is about the size of a couple of shoe boxes, and it’s full of plastic sprues. I thought I’d take some pictures of the unboxing, because apart from the coolness of the model itself, I’m also rather impressed about how neatly it’s all been fitted into the box. The sprues are designed to stack on top of each other, and the empty space is filled with foam, which means that the parts of the model are very well protected in transit.

The kit is relatively simple (I’ve built much more complex kits, and its sheer size means that there aren’t any especially small and fiddly bits) but it looks like there will be dozens of sub-assemblies that will need to be painted before they can be put together, so this is going to take quite a while to complete. My plan is to paint it (and use it on the table) as a Knight Paladin in the same colour scheme as my Epic knights. Fortunately there are (unofficial) rules from Bell of Lost Souls.


Cleaning brushes with Dettol

Dettol is well known as a very effective stripper of acrylic paint. Its active ingredient is chloroxylenol, which breaks down the acyrlic medium and allows paint to be removed from miniatures.

I’ve just discovered that it’s also quite an effective brush cleaner as well. Late last year I bought some Winsor and Newton kolinsky sable brushes, and to my great shame they have quickly become clogged with paint (I am not especially diligent in cleaning my brushes after use). Yesterday afternoon, as an experiment I put one of these brushes into some Dettol along with some other miniatures.

This morning I took it out of the Dettol, rinsed it out and gave the bristles a quick rub with some handwash (any liquid detergent would also work). The bristles are pretty much back to normal, with no paint clogged up at the ferrule.

So if your brushes are looking a little tired, and you don’t want to fork out for new brushes or brush cleaner, then Dettol may be the ideal alternative.


How to make dragonscale with green stuff

Here’s how I made the drakescale loincloths and banners for my Fire Drakes.

(more…)


Jodrell’s Guide to Perfect Decals

Decals (or transfers, or whatever you want to call them) can, when done properly, bring a lot to a miniature. But for whatever reason, following the instructions that come with them is guaranteed to result in a really crap result that looks awful.

By process of trial and error (mostly error) I have worked out what I think is the best way to add decals to your miniatures. For anyone who’s built a model kit or wargaming miniature and been really pleased with the paint job, only to have it ruined by crappily finished decals, here’s my guide to doing them right, enhanced by my laughably amateurish diagrams.

(more…)


Citadel Finecast, First Impressions

Imhotek

Here’s the first FineCast miniature that I’ve assembled and painted. I recently took my step-daughter and her friend to one of my local GW stores for one of their “hobby tutorial” sessions (which was actually great fun) and we each bought a miniature to paint after. The kids both got Huron Blackheart and I got this, Imhotek the Stormlord.

Overall, I’m not especially impressed with Finecast: of the three miniatures, mine was the only one that didn’t have major gaps left by bubbles in the mould. Imhotek’s staff was quite badly warped (although that’s easy enough to fix), but the absurd number of injection sprues meant that getting the model off the frame was pretty risky, and I ended up breaking off his thumb, which I promptly lost, and had to replace with a piece of sprue. His foot also broke off and I had to reinforce it by adding some cork pieces to the base (which actually turned out quite well).

I was probably foolish in believing what I’d been told about being able to paint directly onto the resin: when the kids tried this with their miniatures, the paint refused to adhere and I had to give them a quick blast from a spray can to prime them.

Here’s a few more pictures of the finished Overlord. I think I am going to avoid Finecast miniatures whenever possible, and stick to metal miniatures if I can: thankfully a lot of the stuff that’s now Finecast only is still available on eBay.

I’m still pretty impressed by the new Necron stuff. I bought a box of Immortals/Deathmarks and these plastic minis are pretty fantastic.


Quick tip: future-proof your bases

It’s been a while since my last post. After a few weeks of very pleasant weather, which made it possible for me to undercoat and varnish a huge pile of stuff, the Traditional English Summer has put in an appearance and it’s been raining for the last few weekends, so I haven’t had much to show off.

I wanted to share a quick tip which might make your life easier in the future: I have decided to rebase all my 40K scale Necrons, as I wasn’t happy with the appearance of the basing material I was using (a very coarse saw dust). I quickly realised that this would be a particularly tough challenge for my plastic Necron warriors.

I was a scale model maker before I was a war gamer, so for as long as I can remember, I’ve always used polystyrene cement (specifically Revell’s professional liquid poly) for assembling plastic miniatures. As I understand it, a lot of miniature hobbyists use superglue instead, but using polystyrene cement welds the plastic parts together, meaning that you can shave and file the join down until it’s invisible.

So naturally, when assembling my Necron warriors, I used liquid poly to glue them to their base. I’ve now realised that if I’d used superglue instead, it would have made the job of rebasing much easier.

So: always superglue plastic miniatures to their bases, even if their bases are also plastic! Here endeth the lesson.


I can’t do faces :-(

One of the reasons I like 6mm is that there are no faces to paint: I like to think I’m not bad at painting things like titans, but frankly I’m useless at skin and eyes. Case in point is this miniature, a 40mm scale female paladin from Hasslefree:

Tiriel

You have my permission to laugh.

Even a tutorial from Mike McVey couldn’t help me :-( Oh well, back to titans.


Taking Better Photos

Until last year I was able to take reasonably good photos of my miniatures because my painting station was right next to a south-facing window, allowing for plenty of natural daylight, which offers the best conditions for taking miniatures with my simple point-and-shoot digital camera.

But last year I moved my painting station into my newly refurbished basement, so now all I had was a 35 watt halogen bulb to take pictures by. Hence the darkness of some of my recent photos.

To rectify this, I spent some money on eBay and Amazon and bought a couple of 100 watt daylight bulbs (for about £3) and a fold-up photo tent (about a tenner). I’m pretty pleased with the results: here are some photos of my infamous warmonger titan. These have come straight off the camera, with no post-processing at all:

Letem Eminus (Ruin From Afar): Warmonger Titan of the Legio Pantera (Black Panthers Legion)

Letem Eminus (Ruin From Afar): Warmonger Titan of the Legio Pantera (Black Panthers Legion)

Letem Eminus (Ruin From Afar): Warmonger Titan of the Legio Pantera (Black Panthers Legion)

Letem Eminus (Ruin From Afar): Warmonger Titan of the Legio Pantera (Black Panthers Legion)

Letem Eminus (Ruin From Afar): Warmonger Titan of the Legio Pantera (Black Panthers Legion)

Letem Eminus (Ruin From Afar): Warmonger Titan of the Legio Pantera (Black Panthers Legion)

Letem Eminus (Ruin From Afar): Warmonger Titan of the Legio Pantera (Black Panthers Legion)

Letem Eminus (Ruin From Afar): Warmonger Titan of the Legio Pantera (Black Panthers Legion)

Here’s the set-up:

My photo tent

My photo tent


Building a Building

I’ve been working on kitbashing some 15mm scale buildings for use with my recently painted Critical Mass Games miniatures. I’m using the excellent Urban Mammoth Platform Builder: it’s so versatile that you can build almost anything you can think of. Here’s my first attempt:
15mm building made from the Urban Mammoth Platform Builder

15mm building made from the Urban Mammoth Platform Builder

15mm building made from the Urban Mammoth Platform Builder

At £12 for 13 sprues (which would be enough to make several buildings like the one above, the Large Platform Builder box is great value. I will definitely be buying more!


My first wet palette

Wet Palette

Wet Palette


Wet palettes always seemed like a good idea, but I never managed to get around to trying one out, until today. My palette is very simple: the packaging from a packet of tomatoes, some kitchen roll and greaseproof paper. So far it’s worked out very well. You should try it yourself!


Inside a miniatures factory

I guess most hobbyists have a theoretical knowledge of how miniatures are made: someone sculpts a master or “green”, from which a mould is then made, and miniatures are cast from metal, resin or plastic using the mould (sometimes spun in a centrifuge, or pressurised to get rid of bubbles). But until just now I’d never seen what a miniatures production line looks like.

Here are some pictures from Purple Pawn‘s visit to Iron Wind Metals, manufacturers of BattleTech miniatures (among others):

Inside Iron Wind Metals

Inside Iron Wind Metals

More pics here (scroll down to about 1/4 from the top of the page).


Hobbyist fail, Dettol win!

Last year I posted about a test Necron warrior I painted, to see how easily I could make the process a “production line”, to get my planned 40K Necron army painted as quickly as possible. My plan was to use Plasti-cote silver spray, followed by Citadel ink washes (click on the link to see the results).

The experiment was a success (I can get the amount of time required to paint an individual miniature down to about 45 minutes), but also a failure (note the “last year” at the beginning of this post!). However, I have now finished my first squad of Necron warriors, and a Necron Lord:

It’s not all good news, unfortunately. I built three Necron destroyers, but managed to screw up the spray coat of silver: either I didn’t shake the can enough, or the air was too wet, but whatever the reason, the destroyers came up covered in a thick blobby coat of silver, and looked awful.

Necron destroyer

Necron destroyer

So based on recommendations from my friend Mark, I performed an experiment: I gave one of the models a week-long dip in Dettol (a British household detergent):

Dettol bath!

Dettol bath!

After a wash and scrub with an old toothbrush, the final result was an – almost – stripped model:

Stripped destroyer

Stripped destroyer

There is still a silvery coating on top of the bare plastic, but the lumpy crud has gone, and it should be good for another coat, and painting.


Forge World Weathering Powders

These look great:

Order here, instructions here.


On the Manufacturing of Dice

Something that most gamers take for granted is the idea that all dice are created equal. But they’re not! Here are a couple of videos where a true master of salesmanship explains why most dice are crap:

The video cannot be shown at the moment. Please try again later.


The video cannot be shown at the moment. Please try again later.


Casting a Titan foot using Green Stuff

I’ve been trying to get my hands on an old-style Mark II Warlord Titan for quite a while. This miniature, made for only a couple of years from 1995, is the “transitional form” that links the old-school “beetleback” warlord titans from Adeptus Titanicus to the current Mk. III “Lucius” pattern Warlord titan, and I’ve always really liked the design.

I was finally able to get hold of one from eBay, and for a pretty good price. Unfortunately, the reason was that one of the titan’s feet was missing. Ever the optimist, I decided to turn this problem into an opportunity, and have a go at making a duplicte of the foot using Green Stuff (aka kneadatite, basically two-part epoxy putty optimised for miniature modelling).

The first step was to take the foot piece that I did have and glue it very lightly to a piece of plasticard. I used a very small amount of superglue, as I wanted to be able to separate the foot from the card:

Then I made up a large chunk of Green Stuff — more than I probably needed, but that’s better than not having enough — and covered up the foot. It’s important to push down firmly when applying the Green Stuff, as you don’t want creases, voids or bubbles. I applied the Green Stuff a small piece at a time, slowly building it up so that it covered the entire foot:

I waited a couple of days to give the Green Stuff plenty of time to cure. Then I removed the plasticard backing to expose the original, embedded in the Green Stuff mould:

The conventional wisdom is that you should use a “mould releasing agent” to prevent the Green Stuff from sticking to the original, but I’m a physicist, and I had a more elegant solution: heat. When heated, different materials undergo thermal expansion at different rates, so all I did was run it under the hot tap: the Green Stuff and the lead original expanded at different rates, and the foot just popped out:

The next step is to make up another load of Green Stuff, from which the casting would be made. Since I’m using the same material as the mould, I can’t use my heat trick to remove the casted piece from the mould, I had to use a release agent this time: once I’d made up the Green Stuff and rolled it into a ball, I dipped it into some olive oil, and pressed it down into the mould:

After leaving it for a few hours to cure, I was able to remove the cast from the mould very easily:

I waited overnight for the Green Stuff to harden, and after giving it a good clean to remove the oil, I then used my trusty razor saw to remove the foot from the rest of the Green Stuff, and hey presto:

All it needs now is some cleaning up and trimming, and it’s ready for painting.


Razor Saws


Dear Lazyweb, I am thinking about picking up a razor saw, to help me dismantle the carcass of the Imperator titan that I mentioned in my last post. The titan came (poorly) assembled and I want to break it up into its component parts without causing too much damage.

That basically means that the thickness of the blade is key: if it’s too thick, then the blade will excavate too much plastic and it’ll deform the two resulting pieces. Looking on Google, it seems that the most common blade thickness is 0.2mm (about 1/150th of an inch for you septics): is it possible to get razor saws that are thinner than that? And do you know what thickness the blade of Games Workshop’s razor saw (pictured) is?