Sunday, October 23, 2011

Parsley, sage, flock and time

Some folk just cannot seem to understand the joy of miniatures. For them painting little figures is just so repetitive and boring.
Last night I found myself using a diamond file to sharpen thirty odd spokes in a parsley shredder. Why? To shred foam and sawdust to make fine flock scatter, of course! It's surreal moments like these you often catch yourself in whilst engaged in this hobby that the aforementioned folk miss. Some hobbyists too- if you find yourself blindly laying down cash to solve problems without looking closely at what your buying and trying to come up with cheaper ways to solve the problem.

Hence my parsley mill, now adapted with all the glee of Gomez Addams sharpening his fence, solves the problem of nil resistance my budget coffee grinder foliage maker cannot overcome- once your chunks get to a certain size, they no longer shred because there is nothing to stop them moving out of the blades path. The chunks are perfect of tree foliage and bushes but for basing you need that extra find grind to turn it to flock.

The parsley shredder came to my attention in Canberra during the 1990's when my friends introduced it as the 'Mull-o-matic'. Though the herb they where shredding was not destined for scenery, it struck me as a nifty tool. I filed it in the back of my mind.

Teenage mutant ninja turtles!

 I grabbed one this week for ten bucks. Unfortunately the blades are more like lumps if steel- so it is no good for tough materials like foam, it jammed instead if sliced unless you put in more effort than I could care for.
Not any more.
Bwa ha ha.

Diamond files.  Fun for all the family.
After a hood hour of filing and contemplating the unusual nature of my hobby the blades where Dexter approved sharp and the foams resistance proved futile. In a few minutes I had a Chinese take out container full of grade A fine flock.
My timing is bad though- today is big object garbage collection day so all those thrown out backpackers couches will have been collected by the government to recycle into some other generations problem.

So foam shreds into perfect flock.  Leaves, too, shred nicely- though remove the stalks or you will wreck your shredder.  The funny thing about scale is that the resulting leaf scatter, which is made from real leaf scatter, does not look rich enough.  I look out my window and see the fallen leaves that I gathered the material from, but on the base it looks nothing like it.  So, I put a few drops of sepia ink and a squidge of glycerine (to help preserve the leaves) into a shaker pot and shook up a perfect batch of forest floor scatter in no time.


The AD&D battlesystem skirmish book from last episode has me all excited about terrain again.  All my feverish need for mounds of flock will be revealed in the Skulldred project, by the way.

Speaking of which, I fished through my collection and was pleased to find the Ral Partha stone giant and the rare Marid where in my possession. These both appear in the book and are lovely figures. I was tempted to sell the Marid, because it gets upwards of 50 pounds on eBay, but damn it's charming.
Strangely this sent me on a bit of a d&d spin. I was looking at some of the larger preprinted plastic minis by wotc last night for a good basis to repaint and convert some big classic monsters. The forums seem to think stripping them is nightmarish. May have to experiment. Some of them would be great if only they released them unpainted.
Strange business model. All the power of hasbro behind it and rather than look at the successful GW business model, they choose the prepainted plastic pokemon model and cut away a massive chunk of their market.
Imagine if they turned to making unpainted themed hard styrene dungeon packs instead? First level box of Kobolds, treasure, doors, skeletons, orcs and bugbears with swappable parts, scenario booklet and floor plans?
Instead you have to hunt down enough kobolds to... Oh wait, no... It's a githyanki... Damn, won't be able to play that scenario this week.... Hmmm, reaper do packs of five...Otherworld whole warbands...


Friday, October 21, 2011

Is it okay to steal someone elses nostalgia?

This arrived for me in the post yesterday, a solid chunk of old school goodness...

My new precious
The AD&D battlesystem's little punk kid skirmishes.  I grabbed a 2nd edition copy for small change, as I wanted to check out all the Skirmish systems out there and see how my pet project Skulldred was holding up.  The moment I started flicking through the book I remembered just how horribly technically over complicated AD&D was... even trimmed down for skirmish play, such horrors as thac0 (to hit armor class zero) and saving throw vs. petrification tables dwell within.

I am sure its fun enough, but it leaves me cold, and I never really liked the expressionless and stiff looking Ral Partha figures.  However, ten minutes in and I couldn't help but get nostalgic.  What??  How could I get nostalgic about something I never had or was into?  Is this sensation psudeoonostalgia? or some form of nostalgia reflex my brain kicks into when it sees something just a little bit crappy and old?  Hmmm.  Strange.
It may have something to do with the spray fixative I have been zapping my board with.

Anyway, if you see this book, grab it.  Not to play... oh heavens no... just for the chockablock old school looking minis and a vibe that's really 1980s (even though, somewhat embarrassingly, its a 1990's publication).  There is just so much charm oozing from the pictures, and there is not one illustration in sight... its all colour photos.
So here I am, inexplicably, drooling for old Ral Partha and full of inspiration for scenery and a fresher look at base decorations.

It has been just the ticket to set me back onto my righteous path of completing my skirmish board and wagon raid project... though at the moment its looking more like a game of 'nick the donkeys'.

Anyway, back with more painted old school goodness soon.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Don't Noch it... Or rather... Do.

Just glued down my Noch grassmat onto my board and was itching to update... It's awesome. Total board coverage in seconds- close to GW grass( though summer grass looked closer). The grass stands up and I have lots left after coating my 60cm square tile- certainly enough to do raised banks.

Wish I tried these ages ago.

Noch should pay me for advertising. :)


Having stuck down my mat I have a good tip - leave excess and fold it over and glue underneath, rather than trimming to the edge. This gives a neat transition between the panels and stops the edge lifting.

Noch grassmat and next project

I am getting a bit sick of painting pack mules and hunting for cool wagon carts online, so I am thinking of having a short break from my main 'caravan attack' project for a brief journey into the depths of the future.... Woooo cue spooky theremin music!

I just got my first Eldar pirates arrive in the mail today, and some Sulaco bases from Fenris- so it prompted me to tackle some of the backlog of rogue trader era 40k minis, paranoia figs and Judge Dredd goodness loitering in my filing cabinet of lead. I will need figures to playtest Stardred with.

Pack mules can wait a few days.

However not abandoning the project, no sir, in fact I armed up for more terrain board love today!
I had to pop into the city for passport photos, so naturally I gravitated toward the model store for some tickling of my credit card.
I came away with a Noch spring grass paper roll, which is destined to form the major playing field of my next board segment- and probably be the star of my next photo tute since folk seem keen to see how I did that board. Always happy to tute!

The Noch sheet has two benefits that I can immediately see. Fear and surprise. Surprise and fear... No, wait, four, four benefits... Fear, surprise and cheapness and sticky uppiness.
I picked up a roll at a major mall hobby store, so not the cheapest way to buy one, but at 12.50 it's still cheaper than a tub of glade grass from Greedy Weasleshop and covers more flat terrain, plus it stands up properly like grass. Man I really want a static grass sieve.... Really, really badly.

Not bad enough to pay for one though.


To help blend the mat into the board I grabbed Nochs matching loose flock which is soooooo much cheaper it's worth re covering most of my terrain bits to match.
Unlike the brilliant GW battlemat (a really good and well priced bit of kit) Noch mats are glued to paper, so it does not feel like blasphemy slicing it up. Mix pva with dish washing liquid to break the surface tension and minimize warping- slather it on, then press it in place with another board and some heavy books.
Before I do my next board I am going to glue a thin sheet of plastic wrap down with lots of pva and weight and clamp it- this should create a stretchy layer that should help stop the upper layers warping the wood. In theory.

Noch also charge like wounded bulls, but consider my shopping list so far....

MDF boards $30
Pva glue. -$5
Left over tea - (free)
Craft paints- $10
Grass sheet 12.50
Static grass 13.95
Cork chunks -free
Flex filler $14
Cheap brush (for making long grass tufts)
Other scatter $10
Wire $6
Foamcore $10
Foam from old chairs (free)
Coffee grinder (20ish)

I am floating around the 100 dollar mark, but of course most of this stuff I had spare or could replace with stuff found in bins- and I still have leftovers.

This gives me a pretty good board, complete with a near infinite supply of trees. I consider that a win so far...


Tuesday, October 11, 2011


Hello.  Hows your day going?  Mine was lousy.  I want to send it back to the manufacturer for a full refund.  Anyway...

Grenadier Orc... not its finest figure.

You know that one figure that lingers around your collection... not worth ebaying, but not really good for parts.  yeah, that one.  For me it was this Nick Lund Grenadier orc... to be fair, he probably knocked this one out really quickly to meet a deadline... I have produced some stinkers in my time under that ticking clock.  The studs are poked in with a tube, rather than raised, the weapons are little more than a square with the end cut off- nothing is finished or refined, the face has no character.  Perfectly acceptable for a mass army, but nothing to put it into a hall of fame like Ugezod's shaman, for example.
Anyway, off days in sculpting aside, I found myself experimenting with magic sculpt / green stuff mixes, and rather than risk a commission, decided to try the sculpt-ability out in a fun little sculpt along.

Grenadier Orc.  Somewhat converted.

So lets talk mixes.  This is a 1:3 magic sculpt : green stuff mix.  Make sure to mix the magic sculpt parts precisely 1:1 so that it sets, then mix it into the green stuff.  Magic sculpt tears raggedly when you bend it, but has the benefit of setting shore D hard (most resins set shore D for example).  Green stuff is shore A... rubbery.  Mixing the two means rather than tear, the putty bends.  The magic sculpt takes off a little of the stickiness of the green stuff, removes some of the memory and allows you to feather new pieces together without a noticeable seam.  You can further improve the mix with a tiny amount of super sculpey- which has a waxy texture that makes green stuff spongier and less sticky.
Mix up your putty, set it aside and go wash your hands.

Poke by poke putty poking
Start by shaving off the models face.  The key word is shave... only take off thin slivers of metal at a time using as little pressure as possible.  A rounded blade (see below) is best for shaving off metal, and it must be fresh and sharp- the blunter the blade, the more force you need to apply and therefore the more dangerous.  Only work with a fresh, absolutely sharp blade!  The usual disclaimers about being careful and cutting away from yourself and all the crap apply- look, if your too stupid to operate a scalpel you really should be in a different hobby.  Go sue your parents for giving you bad safety training, not me.

Rounded sculpting blade- stolen from another website for
illustration purposes, and you know, Winona Ryder style fun.

Okay, so the trick when first sculpting is to mass in, then refine.  In figure 1 I start with a blob, then use a little lube (I use KY, you can use vaseline, canola oil, spit, glycerine or whatever) applied with a finger onto the face.  I first pat the ball into the rough shape of a head, impressing in the jaw line, forehead, cheeks and so forth until it roughly resembles what I am after.
Once that is complete, I start suggesting the details lightly- if you squint at the subject your trying to copy, you will see the bigger details first- this is what you want to get in next.  The fine details sit ontop of that work, so don't worry about them yet.

For the mouth, I use the green stuff rubbery nature to best effect.  You can sculpt things bigger and then push and stretch them into position.  I started with making an open mouth, then press the lip up into position.

The eyes are really tricky to do and take practice, but don't loose hope.  It took me ages to get eyes happening.  For this guy I used a very simple technique.  Very, very gently, poke in the silhouette of the eye opening so that it appears faintly- about the depth of the eyelid.  Then stab a needle in either side, creating both the curvature of the eye, the tear duct and corner in one go. Again, this uses the rubbery nature of the green stuff to effect.

Easy eyes.  Gently poke outline, then stab twice.

For the nose I stab in a pin just above the lip, and pull up gently for each nostril.

Figure 10 shows how the teeth are shaped on the base before being picked up and placed using the back of the sculpting tool. Don't roll it on your skin.  Skin + epoxy = bad.  The teeth are then poked into holes I widened with a pin, once inserted I pushed the lip back into place.

Well, why not give it a go... and why not post pics :)  And why not send me money and miniatures.  Why not indeed?

Monday, October 10, 2011

Adventures with magic sculpt and the darker side of milliput

Putties!  I love putties!  I have dozens of them and mix them together in weird, blasphemous experiments that would curdle the blood and boggle the mind of mortal men.  Two more rocked up into my lab of epoxery pokery recently, and I thought I should comment on them.  Tis what I do.

Magic sculpt is cheap to buy in bulk, clean to handle, thins with water and dries to a solid finish that can be drilled and sanded.  If your used to milliput, magic sculpt feels 'airy', kinda lighter and fluffier, and will take a little getting used to.  The trick here is to wait for a bit before sculpting.  As a filler, its a killer.  Cleaner and less crumbly that milliput, with less of an acrid stench, if your filling gaps this could be on your consideration list.  Bulking out, weapons manufacture and other such goodies appeal, and it would be the first thing I reach for when sculpting scenery.

I have been using it to make some dead trees after I got a batch for free in an ebay deal.  I rate it.
One tip I picked up is to get some rough woven cloth, wet it and press this into the magic sculpt to produce a bark finish for trees.  Works nicely.

The downside for me is it costs the same to post as it does to buy- which cuts down the appeal somewhat for us Aussies.  The sculpting properties are not really going to replace my usual mediums, but I have to say that when mixed with green stuff it produces a killer putty- lighter in colour, less sticky, easy to blend into surfaces, able to form a crisp edge, yet with enough memory to make organic forms.  I have taken photos of an orc I have converted using this mix, and I will post it in a tutorial on my lunch break.

I rate it.  Now if I can only find a supplier locally.


The second putty I have been playing with is black milliput.  I poked some into a silicone mould of a modern lipped base and got a perfect base cast out- though its more fragile than resin- its a damn sight less toxic when casting as you can wear gloves and do not inhale anything.  If you saw my Grom goblin last episode, that's the base I made.  Shatters when force is applied, but you can reinforce it using some wire or mesh and its good.
The appeal of black milliput is that you can fill bases without needing to paint.  Great for under those slottas!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Bigger they come...

I love the citadel giant.  Its one of the best miniatures of all time, and a delightful model kit.  Yes.  Thats me... talking about a modern citadel product in good terms.

No, I am feeling quite well.

I also happen to think Jes Goodwin is hitting balls out of the park with his new look Cennobite/ Green goblin inspired Dark Eldaer... the most Rogue Trader looking things ever.  Shame they are "finecast" aerobars.

On my unassembled modern model pile is a set of aquatic trolls, Dark Eldar Wyches (what a kit!) and a plague cart.  I am soooo tempted to grab some more giant kits.  Love, love, love.

Citadel Giant and classic Elric (Jes Goodwin)
 Anyway, the problem with giants, as so finely demonstrated by all the undercoated but not painted giants at Cancon and MOAB, is that they scare the crap out of you.  How do you even begin to paint something that big?  That much detail?
My giant was assembled on my birthday, hours after I unwrapped it (bless my wife, having to go into a games workshop store and beat away the frothers and gawping depressed tweens ("look, a girl... in a game store... WHAT DO WE DO????").  Anyway, that giant, so hurriedly and lovingly assembled sat on my shelf ever since... grey and plastic and daunting.

Kaylee and Svala from Hasslefree (Kev White),
Jes Goodwin Elric, Chaos Champion.
Bob Naismith Chaos Champion conversion with head from modern Chaos Sorcerer
The trick to painting your giant is to pick up a brush and put some paint on it.  Before you know it, a few hours have passed and your done.  Ignore White Dwarf... their tutorials always focus on perfecting and shading each part before moving onto the next... great for teaching- but not for marathon paint jobs, psychologically and practically.  In the old days, the trick was to finish all your base colours first, then shade, then highlight.  That way, your figure feels like its progressing, and if you accidentally slip when slapping on the base colors, you don't wreck a nicely finished section.

I would go further and say before detailing, whack on some varnish... that gives you a few seconds to wipe off mistakes.  Plus, as the pictures in this blog attests, you can game with partially shaded models.  Most of the figures in these photos are just colour glazed over a grey undercoat thats been drybrushed white and hit with badab black.  Passable gaming in minutes!  Sure, I then go over the top with more subtle glazes and highlights, often repainting whole areas... but its super thin, so no build up of paint.

Anyway, got the giant to a gaming standard... which means I have to fix up a lot of details, but pretty happy with the fact I got through him.  It actually did not take much longer than doing a regular mini... you just need a bigger brush!
Now, I have that Tom Meier Forgotton realms beastie to tackle next on my 'big things that hang around my shelves for aaaaaaagggggeeesss.'  Remember Dave, just pick up the brush and start....

Skulldred mayhem!
Another Bob Naismith Chaos warrior needing to reload
Grom from Groms goblins guards in backdrop, about to be lynched by
a Perry Bros female chaos warrior
Citadel Fantasy Specials Dead Adventurer in foreground