Thursday, 26 February 2015

Open Channel 'D'

As long term readers will know, I don't just do miniature painting. More and more I am building physical props and costume. Every now and again I make something cool enough to share here, today is one of those days. Let me take you to a place and time where you could battle THRUSH without sniggering, where a Russian's accent is optional, it's time to find out what Archer is referencing so much. Welcome to the world of the Man From UNCLE...

Or more specifically one particular prop from the show:

Yep, it's time to whip out a seemingly innocuous pen and convert it into, well, a Spy-Fi cell phone really but this was 1964, with the immortal words "Open Channel D". Has the ugliest ringtone in human creation but is otherwise very cool. I've got a dear friend who was going to a 60's themed LARP in the guise of one of the shows stars, David McCallum's Illya Kuryakin, and wanted a communicator pen to round off the costume. I obliged:

This was a prototype for me so there was a lot of fiddling to get the design practical for home construction. The process started from getting some shots of the original pen from the series:

pics on left result of google search, on right, the sketch I did for the client
As you can see from the picture above (the sketch I sent the client to explain my thinking is on the right), I was trying to figure out whether it would be preferable to have a more authentic remove and reverse microphone end or to just pull off a cap and palm it. The second option would have been much, much easier (just cut and bodge a pen) but we both agreed as much authenticity as possible was better. After a little while longer I realised that no modern pen under £50 was constructed in the way required to pull off the project. I'd need to scratch build out of metal tubing.

Two sizes of steel tubing (12 and 10 mm) from B&Q later and I had the body of it. Steel is a bit of a bear to work with but at 1mm thickness you can cut it with a regular pipe cutter and file away the indented sections. The 10mm tube was selected to telescope within the 12 so a short section of the 10 with a little collar of 12 made for the reversible microphone end. Irregularities in the pipe had the bonus of allowing the sections to lock and unlock by twisting.

More steel tubing - this time 2 and 3mm tubing from Albion Alloys was used for the antenna end. Much easier to work with the Albion stuff, no irregularities, proper quality control. Lovely. The pierced metalwork tube of the microphone caused me a problem but foils from an electric shaver provided an acceptable option. They're not perfect though so I'm continuing to search for a better option. The "pen" end is non functional, it's just a steel cone.

Some finagling with bits off've real pens provided the last of the furniture and there you have it. Perfectly ordinary pen by day, spy-fi cell phone by night. As with all prototypes there are thing's I'd change if doing it again (if I can find a source for pierced metal tubing of the right size - 8mm diameter I'd like to make some more). The microphone needs to change, problems attaching the pen clip mean I'd sandwich it between two layers of the 12mm steel, a few other tweaks... but that's the curse of the perfectionist/obsessive - delete as appropriate. Mercifully there was a deadline so I could just say: "it HAS to be done. It is done."

Hope you've enjoyed this little foray into my other work. More if I get it :)


Monday, 23 February 2015

Dwarf-Hating Gobbos

Hi folks! This weekends hobby has yielded two lean, green, stunty-hating machines:

Yup, the last two characters of my night goblin army are done. Just squigs and artillery now stand between me and 2500 points of black cowled nutters. Nice! Respectively these two are one of the few remaining GW big bosses and an Avatars of War model called Skrig Dwarfmocker. A name so brilliant I am nicking it wholesale. Skrig is a wannabe boss, a buffoon who nonetheless sees himself as important and apes the Dwarfs that all Night Goblins hate in an effort to become as hard as they are. Sadly, Gobbos do not make disciplined shieldbearers and so Skrig's life is a series of embarrassing falls, recriminations and mild head trauma. Still, at least there's always a big shield handy when the going gets pointy. By contrast his colleague Bodgit Bonebreaker is that most dangerous of creatures: a quiet, clever, insanely violent goblin. He claims to have fought with Skarsnik below Karak Eight Peaks and from the collection of Dwarf scalps, skulls and beards he displays he might be right. Or he could have tripped over a picnicking Dwarf family and slaughtered them for trophies, who can tell? Regardless, of all the underlings in the horde, Rhagat has his eye on Bodgit as the most likely to challenge for leadership. Bodgit's taciturn countenance though is giving nothing of his plans away. Rhagat will have to sleep with one eye open...

We'll Start the painting talk with Bodgit as he is just splendid. One of my favourite goblin models, there's just such an air of menace about him with the tiny comedy touch of the pointy helmet poking through the tented hood to make him "goblin". The trophy rack also helps him stand out from the herd of ordinary gobbos. Painting started with the usual block-in-each-bit-of-cloth-a-different-dark-colour method, in this case Val German Camo Black-Brown and German Grey. Regular readers will not in any way be surprised by those choices, they're my go-to for black. :) Frankly, the method proceeds exactly the same as for the normal gobbos from the link. I just add extra highlight layers. The wolf pelt on his shoulders was Stormvermin Fur washed black and drybrushed with Longbeard Grey. Makes a nice natural mid-grey wolf tone. The skull with hair gave me pause for a little while, skulls don't keep their hair y'know. But after a while I realised I could paint the upper part of the skull as decomposing skin, as though from a badly preserved shrunken head. Eventually the scalp will part company with the skull and so will the hair, for now. Still Timotai Zombie. For reference, the bearded skull is just a severed beard stuffed into the skull to keep it on the pole so works perfectly.

Loved painting him. Worked a treat. Then...

I really, really wanted to love this model, I really did, the character of the piece is wonderful. I think it's great when alternative providers rock up and hate having to tear into them when they get it wrong. I'll be as gentle as I can. When you go to Avatars of War's shop they are still showing the green sculpt, not a finished, painted model. I now know why. You don't get the green from the cast. I don't know if it is a sculpting, cutting, moulding or casting failure but somewhere along the line it went wrong. The shield is not a nice dwarf ancestor head but an almost smooth thing that looks more like an Averland sunburst than a Dwarf device. The "knotwork" border isn't knotwork, the lines never cross but just waggle up and down one on top of the other. Oh, and change thickness around the border. The head is cut from the body to leave no neck, you need to sculpt one in. The arms attach badly, the fabric looks like lumps of green-stuff not cloth (from the only angle they don't show you on the store)... yeah. I'm stopping there. Functionally, there is nothing too wrong with the model. It oozes character and is a great concept. I just wish that AoW had taken the extra care to make it's quality match it's concept. I was disappointed to say the least.

All that being said, I did my best with the painting to minimise the problems with the shield. Ended up painting it Stormbourne colours with lots of rusty paint on top to give it some age, couldn't do too much chipping as that would draw attention to the design rather than diminish it. The rest of him was Standard Goblin with the addition of the shiny shiny crown slipping over his eye to draw the eye to the actually quite nice face. The torn, raggedy suit of chainmail under his robes is a nice touch too. He's going to make a cracking buffoonish boss but doesn't have the quality to be an army general. Never mind.

As I mentioned earlier, I'm now getting scarily close to completing phase 2 of the project. I've got all but seven squigs and hoppers sourced for the big unit of Deep Road Toads (mixing hoppers with regular squigs because awesome and variety). I've got three Roman Scorpion bolt throwers from Warlord Games that are going to get a mild goblin-ing and some converted crew and am in the process of scratch building the rock lobbers. I'm going to have one operated by the Skull Pass troll like the old Warmaster one but with the extra detail that 28mm scale can bring over 10mm. After that, probably a few more Dwarfs to finish off the Stormbournes:

Then I'm free and clear for the Rivver Pikeys and Averland Empire. Feels weird coming to the end of such vast projects. The Dwarfs are close on 5k, the Night and Spider gobbos together are 3.5k. These are not tiny projects! But that's all for today.


Thursday, 19 February 2015

More men in blue and a Tank Commissar

Hi folks, last time we were showing off a couple of Death Korps in their WW1 French/Belgian-inspired scheme (blue grey). Today we have better photos and another pair have joined them!

Eagle-eyed readers will have noted the deliberate mistake from last time. The green sash that has been a unifying spot colour across a lot of the guard I've painted for this client were absent. Oops. Meant to do that obviously. Fixed now. The remaining two DKK are minor conversions of the command packs from Forgeworld and more evidence for me that DKK really are the way to go for Imperial Guard if the wallet will bear it. The faceless thing means that twinned bodies impact far less than in other armies. Just swap out the arms and you have a new feel of model.

Truth be told, there isn't a lot to say about these that wasn't covered in the previous post. One thing I forgot to say last time though was about the choice of the grey areas. I could have used two separate greys - German Grey would have been a great choice for the darker areas - but by using the same grey and just darkening and lightening it for the two areas you get two apparent colours without having two different hues. This doesn't matter much but it helps if you are going to introduce a strong fourth spot colour like the green. Technically the eye sees the four different colours and should be starting to twitch (three is pretty much the limit before you have to be careful about clashes and garish-ness, totally a word). Instead, the eye sees two shades of the same hue and two other colours. Much happier. This is a finicky thing but an example of the kind of oft unconscious thought processes that go into making colour choices when you have a decent grasp of colour theory.

In a similar vein, this tank commissar was driving me nuts. The gas masked face was simply not working in the same rubberised fabric as the others. It just disappeared into the other black tones (note the Val German Grey uniform and German Camo Black-Brown leather trenchcoat). Frustrated, I ignored it while I worked through the other areas of the model. Finally it was finished and I had to face facts that the face wasn't working. The whole thing was just a null area. Then I remembered seeing a photo of WW1 German storm-troopers who had painted stylised skulls on to their respirators. The mask was kinda skull shaped anyway so I went with it. Really helped. Finally he had a crude face and a point of interest in the model. Plus, y'know, an actual death's head will help his terror-cred no end, right?

That's all for today folks


Saturday, 14 February 2015

More Death Korps, and this time, they're blue

Hi folks, another quick update today (the commission I'm working through is several small groups of Imperial Guard officers). This time it is once again Death Korps of Krieg (becoming something of a specialist, them and Legio Astorum titans) only this time, rather than their normal drab khaki, they're a rather fetching blue:

I've said it before and I'll say it again, I love the Death Korps models, they're an example of Grimdark done right. They're whole vibe is so hopeless and faceless and yet simultaneously the models are characterful and most importantly the overall impression is of a professional, regular army. So many IG regiments looked like irregulars or ridiculous peacocks. These and the steel legion that undoubtedly inspired them are soldiers. Not ultra-gothic walking cathedrals, not wild; fanatical desperadoes. No. Just an army. Heck, they've even got backpacks. Love 'em. Were I ever to do another guard army it would be DKK. Although probably a mechanised one as doing a whole infantry horde at those prices? Shudder. Anyway, enough of that, painting:

First up is the lovely radio operator. Colours were taken from a photo of the client's existing army (always tricky to match exactly, so they're kinda "Jeff-matched" colours). The main coat colour is The Fang (blue-grey, #stupidpaintnames), shaded with Drakenhof Nightshade to give it a more blue tone and then rehighlighted first with The Fang then with a couple of mixes of The Fang and Russ Grey. The lining and the trousers both start with Mechanicus Standard Grey. The trousers get a bit of black mixed in to darken it. The coat lining gets highlighted with Dawnstone and the trousers just come back to Mechanicus Standard Grey. The armour is the same as the trousers. All that's left really is the rubber mask (Ammo Rubber and Tires) and the leather (Val Leather Brown shaded with Agrax Earthshade and rehighlighted) and he is done. On to the officer.

This pose is absolutely awesome. The flying - gorgeously sculpted coat - the purposeful stride, the drawing sword, the totally absent face... wait what? Yeeeeah, I don't know if this is a) a miscast, b) difficult to sculpt/cast face in the tiny area available, c) uh, dunno, but there really is not any features under that cap brim. I tried faking it but in the end just minimised it with dark skin and a suggestion of eyes. Ignore the face, ignore it. Another time I might have tried sculpting in the top half of the gas mask to obliterate it. I'd recommend you all do so. But anyway, otherwise lovely model, same paint treatment as the rest of it with the pseudo NMM braid and done.

Hope you enjoyed this whistle stop tour of DKK, more coming soon.


Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Highland Bling

(Don't hate me for the title, it just happened...)

Hi folks, a fun one today, these three have been a blast:

must stop painting hard to photograph brown tones...

These are a the latest commission and are a mix of the new plastic Scions and Victoria miniatures kilt legs and pith helmeted heads. The combination works really nicely I think, something about the anachronistic helmets and the ornate armour is fairly "40k-bonkers". I had completely free reign on the colours for this one so had to think through the feel and balance of the models. The kilts were going to be tartan, the helmets "pith canvas" so there were already colours there, the armour would have to either complement all the colours in the tartan or be a more neutral tone. In the end, I figured that painting the gothic armour in bare steel would be neat. In fact, the whole thing cried out for Victorians in Spaaaaace vibe. So I went with it.

love the stowage on these guys

The rest of the uniform was a either Val English Uniform and Val Khaki. Because everything else was so uniform on them I felt they deserved some individuality, so each got their own tartan on their kilts. I'd like to give some form of full tutorial on the tartan but it really is a matter of fiddling back and forth until you get the result you want. Tartan is created through intermixing coloured threads during weaving so can look very complex, we just use paint so the thought process is different to the weaving and it's one I am still getting to grips with. I feel I can, however give you the basic theory behind getting tartan looking right:

Start with a solid base colour of the background, shade the background in any creases as you won't want to later. Make a mixture of the background and whatever colours you want the squares to be until it looks like it's a 50:50 mix. It won't be, it'll be more like 3:2 or even 2:1 depending on the strength of pigments. Paint these in a broad grid over the tartan, trying to keep the spaces even, you want the gap between the lines the same width as the lines themselves. Then paint the pure colour you wanted into the squares formed where the lines cross.This gets you the basic shape of the tartan.

Now you need the stripe colours, these can be all sorts of colours but here I'm using black. Very, very thin lines (thinned paint and a decent point on the brush here) and paint through an area of the pattern, chose either in the stripes or crossing them. Both will look messy. Real tartans often have multiple lines but we're dealing with 28mm men here. It'll look fine by this stage but you may want to kick it up one more notch and darken the edges of the stripes where they meet the background. Helps the finished look.

Animated .gif! PVP, now with awesome mid-nineties technology...
Look through the tartan patterns on line to get inspiration. Though bear in mind that some patterns that look cracking on people will look utterly horrible on a miniature. Use good plaid judgement folks.

With that, I am off. Happy painting folks


Wednesday, 4 February 2015

What I did on my holidays

Hi folks, as I intimated in the last post I was away all last week. Well, as is usual for me it was something of a busman's holiday and took the opportunity to finish once and for all the core of the Goblin army. As a result the pirates progress counter jumped by a cool seventy models and we have stuff like this to show for it:

First up are the Bonechewer Boys, one half of what was formerly planned as the third horde of fifty. Frankly, three 50 strong units was a bit unwieldy so I broke the last into two to act as gobbo detachments. They've still got nets, expensive in a unit this small but damn do they save their bacon against halbardiers, and only really suffer in the longevity stakes. Well worth making the change. I had decided that the smaller units would be unpopular goblins who the hordes wouldn't tolerate. The Bonechewers are a unit of cannibals. All gobbos will eat their own in times of hunger but the Bonechewers are... a bit fond of the taste. Units camping near them tend to post guards and sleep with one eye open. But even the Bonechewers are popular compared to the next lot:

This small ragged lot are the Disciples of Joodee. Now follows a brief recap on the subject of Joodee: Joodee was an unremarkable, unreliable 2nd level shaman in the Bitter Moons, until one fateful night when a ritual (an RPG scenario) went wrong and a miscast at exactly the wrong moment left Joodee possessed with a demon. Yup. Demons wearing goblin skin. The other lads didn't mind Demon Joodee as the burning eyes made it easier to find him in the dark and despite the spooky voice he had good and funny ideas. Unfortunately, Rhagat was in need of more Archnaroks (they tend to die a lot) and so got Pappow his Shaman Lord to burn the demon within Joodee to force grow more from their eggs. Joodee went back to being a normal shaman. But some of the lads really missed him. They have formed a quasi religious cult around restoring Joodee's "true nature". The champion dresses like him (yeah it's a quick conversion) and their shields and banners bear the burning eyed gobbo. Their standard even bears a replica of the puppet that Joodee believes is the real caster of his spells. Suffice to say: A bit odd. Just another one of those cool things that can develop over a long narrative campaign. Oh, and the banner is a skaven clanrat one to keep variety across the army.

Now to be fair, the spiders were a bit of a cheat. I'd all but painted this regiment and had started the other last year before all motivation left me. They are a complete sod to paint in this semi-realistic stripy scheme (I counted, eighty stripes per spider, 800 in the unit o.O). So these sort of belong half in this year and half in the last.

The second of the units was the box set spiders rather than skull pass so a bit more variety in spiders and weaponry/command. I can't tell you how glad I am to finish these. They were ruinously hard to stay motivated through. But the end result is so, so worth it. Not to mention that I now have a full thousand points of nothing but spiders and spider related units - The Blackhead Tribe. This arachnophobiac's nightmare gave Charlie's Empire a near-run kicking at the weekend to blood them and though they are a bit glass hammer in action they work nicely. With all of this work all that is left of the Bitter Moon army to paint is fun stuff like rock lobbers, squigs and characters. Hurrah!

Oh, yeah and a whole other goblin army but that's just because I'm a glutton for punishment. Well, I'm back to work this week so more shinies soon :)