Monday 30 July 2012

Skull Rock!

As you may or may not recall, a while back I came into possession of a plastic skull, and over the past week or so set about turning it into an 80's-Chaos-esque piece of terrain that would match my recently built generic rocky terrain:

Unfortunately I don't have any fantasy Chaos to stand on it to display it to it's fullest potential (although it's only a matter of time, I've been reading pdfs of the old relams of Chaos books, and rolled up a Path to Glory warband since I've got a couple of miniatures lurking in the bits box I could use), so you'll have to make do with some old converted Obliterators:

Right, on to how I made this -

First of all, I made a cup of tea, essential for any sort of terrain-building project. I also cut out a suitable sized base from thick card, and started arranging the skull and cork bark (£1.39 from a local art shop - my first time using this, I've seen it look awesome in other peoples' builds, but it largely just looks like bark for me.. hohum...)

I decided that I wanted to install a floor inside the skull, and that I wanted it to be slightly recessed. To facilitate this, those locating lugs had to go:

Attacking them with clippers got rid of a large part of the material, and my 'not-dremel' smoothed out the rest. Well, I say smoothed out, the plastic the skull was made from was so soft that even at low speeds the 'not-dremel' seemed to largely melt it's way through, but a quick scrape with a sharp knife was enough to tidy it up after. Then it was time to build the floor:

Crunched up newspaper gives a base to stick the floor on...

I didn't fancy trying to cut out a precise match of the shape of the interior of the skull, so I started with a rough piece of card that mostly fit...

And stuck it in place, then blended it in to the edges of the skull using ready-mixed filler (poundland).

Some pieces of thin cork were then cut to fill the remaining gaps, which were glued into place and then once again smoothed out with copious applications of filler. Rather than using specialised spreading tools, I largely used triangular offcuts of card to smooth out my newly installed floor. Also, truth be told, it took several passes with the filler to get the floor to a roughly flat enough state that I was happy with (it didn't have to be showroom flat, as I' be texturing the piece eventually anyway).

Once that was done, it was time to start thinking about the stairs that I wanted to go up the side of the piece. So, I made a highly scientific template of the area that the stairs would cover:

This template got scribbled all over (as plans... developed midway through the build), and was used to cut out all the steps used in the piece. Although I spent a lot of time calculating how many steps would be needed (handily the thin cork I was using is 1/8" thick, making calculations very easy) I will admit that several lengths of stair were done on the fly, going with what felt right, until the very end where everything needed to connect correctly!

For example, the first length of stairs was built by cutting out a bunch of steps and gluing them together (using poundland's finest 'Hard as Nails'), not being overly worried about how much space they were taking up:

At this point I wasn't overly worried by gaps, as I planned to go back over everything once the majority of construction was completed and attack it with filler and debris to busy it up a little. The main problem with the first length of stairs though was that it was a little wobbly, being that each step was a thin bit of cork, and balanced on a pillar when I wasn't having to hold it together while it dried:

(Apologies for the dodgy arty angle on that last pic). In order to make sure that the piece was playable, I decided that rather than my original plan of uninterrupted steps up the entirety of the piece, there should be a couple of landings where miniatures could (safely) be placed. Also, at this point I decided that rather than continuing to build the staircase as I had, one wobbly step at a time, I should build a couple of flights of steps as self-contained assemblies, as that would be a lot more solid! And so I built these:

A set of steps to go immediately after the first landing;

And a set of steps to connect to the final landing - note the curve, the template was a lifesaver for making sure everything went together! Also, in between making these two sets of steps, I also made the final landing and the landings that would connect the two sets of staircases, but I didn't take any pictures of those steps so you'll just have to take my word for it. The cork bark that would make up the rear cliff-face was cut to size and glued in place, as well as having a notch cut out of it so that the final set of steps would be able to slot in place.

But here's how it all looks stuck together...

Note the support columns that will eventually be hidden by the cliff-face, and don't worry, that random stack of cork providing additional support is only temporary!

Then it was really just a case of filling in the gaps with a cork cliff-face...

Layer by layer, with filler and Hard as Nails to smoosh everything together, filling any other gaps as I came across them...

Working all the way round...

Putting in a little look-out post, and covering a gap...

Until it looks like this! At this point, my housemate pointed out that I should have put lights into the eyes. Alas, having spent a couple of evenings elbow deep in various fillers, it was too late for that though...

Then, before beginning to texturise the piece, comes my usual advice:

Stick a record on and away you go! The textured paint was made the usual way, although after a first application I found that it wasn't sticky enough to properly adhere to the plastic skull, so I added some filler (as the type I was using is the very rubbery type, rather than the type that is more like plaster) and then it seemed to cover fine:

Next, comes a rather silly mistake:

First thing in the morning, and keen to make progress, I rush outside to spray it grey. Halfway through spraying, as I'm looking at the piece something keeps bugging me. And then I realise that in my keenness to crack on, I've skipped the step where I add rubble and whatnot to busy the piece up (and secretly, to cover any rough looking spots). Bugger. Thinking 'to hell with it', I finish spraying, and once that's dried do the step I missed anyway:

Not that it matters in the grand scheme of things what order I did it in, as I had to go over the piece with some Adeptus Battlegrey anyway to cover any patches that the spray missed, so the patches of texture were painted at this stage too.

Then, as per my other terrain pieces, it got a good splashing of Vallejo Smoke, before being drybrushed with Codex Grey, Fortress Grey and Bleached Bone:

See what i mean about the cork bark looking like bark? Oh well, it's interestingly textured at least...

Et voila, the finished piece looks like this:

Bammo. Something every self-respecting child of the 80's Champion of Chaos would be happy to fight over. Although my lady love did suggest building a barbecue and a hammock to go on top, to make it some sort of Chaos Summer Holiday home...

In other news, the tally recently took a hit as I received this little beauty:

This year's Frothers charity mini, a beautiful mini for a donation to a good cause. Also, it's made of Trollcast, Trollforged's new megascience miniatures material - when I saw that it came in just a baggie in padded envelope, I was prepared for the worst, but it was absolutely fine! If you haven't already, have a watch of the Trollforged Toughness video over on their site - based on just this single example that I own, I'm starting to think that all miniatures should be made out of this stuff (it's light, it's tough, and as far as I can see the mould-lines are almost non-existant!)

Which brings the tally to:

58 vs 90 = -32

Wednesday 18 July 2012

Generic Rocky Terrain... what I've been making. And thanks to the magic of post-production, this blog post makes it look like I've had an especially productive day, rather than having built it an hour here and an hour there over the last month (and a half) or so:

These were inspired pretty much entirely by a single photo of Mattblackgod's terrain, which kicked off a quest of epic proportions until suitable building materials could be found. Inevitably mine aren't as nice as Mattblackgod's, and various mistakes were made along the way, but they're done now and I present to you this step-by-step of how I made them:

Cork mats are the basic material for this build:

(Admittedly, I had some larger, thinner sheets too, but I forgot to take a picture of them before I started tearing them to shreds).

Keeping a couple of differently sized miniatures to hand at all times (so that you can check scale), mark out a number of interesting rocky shapes on your cork. I drew around miniatures' bases on several of the pieces in areas that I wanted to leave clear so that the pieces would be playable.

Using a combination of rough cuts and tearing by hand to get a nice craggy effect, cut out some chunks of cork (this part is pretty messy, keep a ziploc bag to hand for all the scrap bits that are left over, you never know when they'll come in handy)

Make ever smaller parts so that you can pile them up in some aesthetically appealing combinations (I worked from the bottom up, and often used the previously cut piece as a template for the next so that I could see how they would overlap and stack together). If this were a more professionally done job, I'd talk about how I researched erosion, and how all my pieces are inspired by actual strata occurring in nature, but that would be a lie. Truth be told, I winged it, and had a play, and did what looked right (ignore the triangularly based piece you'll see later, it's the one that really bugs me as after it went together it just didn't look right...)

Once you're happy with what you've got, glue it all together. These clamps (four in a pack from poundland) were an absolute lifesaver, as they meant that I could clamp drying pieces together and carry on with another piece while my enthusiasm was still high, rather than having to sit holding each piece for however long it took for the glue to dry...

And boom, you'll have something that looks like this. I started off making a couple of medium sized pieces, with a mixture of pillars and rough crags, before deciding to make a couple of larger 'hill' pieces, as well as a number of smaller scatter pieces that could either sit atop the larger pieces for a bit of variety, or make an area of rough ground on their own.

Stick them on hard card bases (cut from old signs from work) and you have the beginnings of a terrain collection. In hindsight, I probably didn't need to base them, I think I may have done it out of habit if nothing else...

Now starts the messy fun. As textured spray paint is so ridiculously expensive for how much you get, I tend to make my own. A mixture of cheap black paint, sand and gravel of various grades (what wargamer's toolkit is complete without several baggies of differently sized sand?), as well as some PVA glue and some ready mixed filler to give it some extra hold. Then just liberally slap it on every surface that needs texturising with a brush that you don't mind losing:

I coated the bases and plateaus of every piece, but also used this as a chance to cover up any rough bits that I didn't like the look of.

Once this was all dry, I added a few rough patches using left-over cork crumbs and gravel to simulate rockfall. Blah blah fake research blah I played with it until I was happy.

At this point, I gave everything a spray-coat of watered-down PVA to try and seal everything down. In hindsight, I should have used less watered-down glue, as the larger pieces took this opportunity to warp, despite my best attempts to squash them back into shape by squashing them under my young lady's sewing machine...

Before each of the next stages, I recommend sticking a record on, as they're generally repetitive and a bit tedious (the stages, not the records). Probably not ISHC though, as each side is only about ten minutes long...

Then begins painting (again, a poundland find. It stinks to high heaven, but hey, it's only a pound)

Ignore the Amera craters for now, I'll get to them at some point... Once everything was basecoated grey, I mixed up a batch of the original Liquid Skill, Vallejo Smoke:

We wuz using this before your grandaddy even heard about Devlan Mud sonny Jim... ;)

Douse each piece liberally in the wash, making sure it runs into all the nooks and crannies, and just generally makes it look a bit dirty (kinda like the 'crap water' technique used on the skankgame site)

In the midst of swooshing brown water around the terrain pieces, I noticed a few spots that the grey spray had missed, which I went back over with Adeptus Battlegrey (coincidentally a near-enough match to the cheap spray), as well as reglueing a couple of bits that had come loose (presumably where the coat of PVA hadn't protected it entirely from the wash seeping into some of the gaps...).

Then it was just a case of drybrushing with Codex Grey, Fortress Grey, and Bleached Bone, and we were done! Yes, I realise the folly of painting terrain with OOP paints, but I wanted it to match the basing of my miniatures...

And that's how I made this set of generic terrain that works for pretty much all of my projects:

Science Fictional types (if I ever get round to finishing painting the crashed Aquila Lander from the old Battle for Macragge box set it'll go nicely with these for Firefly search and recover games)

Fantasy type games (I've already started squirreling away materials to build a big old skull rock that will match this terrain set)

As well as the post-apocalyptic uses in the first picture of this post.

And handily (by accident rather than design) they all fit in a large shoebox procured for me by my good lady:


Saturday 14 July 2012

Scavenger Girl

When I've not been gesso-ing, I thought I'd ease myself back into the rhythm of painting with a couple of single miniatures, and the one that got finished was this:

A scavenger from em4. She'll be facing off against zombies, apes, and anything else the post-apocalyptic landscape can throw at her in due course. She's a nicely versatile little miniature, laden down with baggage as she is:

I especially like her Dead Man's Shoes-esque gasmask. I painted her with jeggings, as I thought that was a little more practical than going bare-legged while the world falls apart...

I've also received this lovely little bundle of joy:

Knight Models General Grievous and Magna Guard (I'd been watching a lot of the Clone Wars series when I saw these...). They're gorgeous, although the studio paintjobs are a little intimidating... I got mine from Wayland Games, great service and a great price!

Which brings the tally to:

58 vs 89 = -31

Once again, for each step I take forward I take several back. I'm tempted to set myself some grandiose challenge, like trying to hit 100 painted miniatures by the time I hit my 100th post, but I might settle for wrestling the tally back to zero (or dare I say it, into the positive...)