3.03.2015

Necron Obelisk

Look at that.  The Imperial Knight’s finally done and now I’m being super-cutting edge for the first time in... well, almost a year.  And, well, almost cutting edge. 

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a long time Necron fan.  I had a Necron army that went with the old Chapter Approved army list, when all the models were metal and damn near indestructible.  In all ways.

But I wanted to talk about new stuff.

The Necron Tesseract Vault.  Even before the new rules (which, arguably, just made it better) the Tesseract was popular with Necron players.  Past that, the next best part of this kit would be the Transcendant C’Tan.  Some folks might argue it’s actually first choice and the vault is second.

Why do I bring this up?  Well, since everyone wants either the C’Tan or the Vault (which is the entire kit) the non-C’Tan parts tend to be very cheap.  And all those parts add up to the Necron Obelisk.

As it happens, I found all those parts online for around $45—about 60% the price of the kit.  And that’s a bargain for any super-heavy vehicle.

Now, granted, there’s a strong argument to be made that the Obelisk... well, sucks.  Overpriced,  underpowered, and poorly armored.  But you know what? 

Change the rules. 

Talk to your gaming group about making the Obelisk cheaper or better armored.  If the people you play with on a regular basis have any interest in a fun game, they’re not going to let a cool model sit on the sidelines.  With the new corporate guideline of no models=no rules, most of us probably have a few Apocalypse-level items that have been left in the dust.  Make up some new rules that you can all agree on and forge the narrative, dammit!!

All that being said... here’s a few quick tips on how to put your super-cheap Obelisk together.

The Obelisk is kind of unique as a Games Workshop kit in that it really is put together with leftovers.  Because of this, a few things don’t go together... well, like they normally would.  For example, once the core’s together, you actually need to cut one of the tube/hose sections apart to get the pieces that stabilize the support arms.  Which means buying those component just to cut off a half inch piece.

Or... I cut some scrap plastic down to 3/16” and it worked fine.  They aren’t perfect rods, but the braced the support arms and made them solid inside the core.  And all of this is going to be hidden inside the Obelisk, anyway.

That’s the weirdest part of assembling this model.  The only other unusual thing is how a lot of pieces interlace rather than butt up against each other or fit into simple grooves.  It’s not a completely alien mechanic, but it’s kind of new for GW (I’ve never seen it before, anyway) and it’s probably worth dry-fitting a lot of the components together once or thrice—especially the top and the big side panels--to get a sense of them. 

I assembled the four sides individually and then the top.  I made a corner of two sides, building it right onto the support arm.  Then I added the top into that corner.  Once that was all solid I added a third side, making sure everything lined up, and then the fourth and final side went on.

Helpful Hint—The side panels on this thing are a pain to put together.  As I mentioned above, even the slightest bit of warping means some really bad joins.  I wrestled with it for almost an hour before I realized I could use my big clamps and stretch them diagonally across the entire Obelisk rather than side to side.  It meant I could only work on one seam at a time, but it let me get those seams rock solid.

After this was just final details.  The four arches/ prongs went on top.  Some of the “particle” pieces went on the bottom, all angled to hint at a bit of movement.  The tomb spider heads and claws.  And finally the gauss arrays.

There you have it.  The Obelisk.  A Necron super-heavy for under fifty dollars.  And, yeah, I got the flying stand with that, too, I just hadn’t assembed it when I took the picture.

Also, shameless plug, check out Corrupts Absolutely?-- the new anthology there on the right.  It’s tales of superheroes and superpowers gone bad, and I’m proud to say I have one in there called “Bedtime Story,” about parents trying to explain the new world order to their young son.  Plus there’s cool stories by authors like Joe McKinney, Cat Rambo, Tim Marquitz, and many more.

2.17.2015

Imperial Knights, Part XII (the end)

Okay, let’s talk about some final extras.  None of these things are necessary, but I think they’re a lot of those good little details that can really make a model pop, especially a Paperhammer model.


First up, my friend Marcus sent me a tracing of the base from one of his plastic Knights.  I copied this onto foamcore and cut it out.  Now my Knight was on an official-sized base.  I also painted/smeared a lot of glue along the foamcore edge so the whole thing wouldn’t dissolve when I primed it.

Helpful Hint—The big trick to cutting foamcore?  Don’t do it all at once.  Get a clean, sharp knife and cut halfway through.  Then go over the line again and cut the rest of the way.  It won’t pill up or tear this way.

Next up was... well, a bit mind-numbing.  Rivets, rivets, and more rivets.  I used my 1/16” hole punch and made about a hundred tiny discs.  The original templates had lots of drawn-on rivets, and I used these as a guideline for placing my actual ones. They went on the torso, the leg armor, the chainsword, and so on.  I highly recommend a long audiobook or maybe a few episodes of one of your favorite television shows standing by.  Rivets alone can be two or three hours of work on a model this size.  I watched two bad SyFy movies while putting all these on.

Another Helpful Hint—I didn’t put all the rivets on the Knight that were on the template.  This design is very rivet-heavy, like a lot of the older models, and the new GW one is a bit more streamlined in that regard.  This is every other one, for the most part.

Helpful Hint 2.2—Rivets add so much to these Paperhammer models, but there’s something worth keeping in mind.  You’re making a piece that’s not much wider than it is thick, so the cardboard  tends to “flake” a bit.  It’s not unusual for a rivet to peel apart into two or three sections of paper, only one of which is glued to the model.  It happens I’d say it happens to about one out of five.  Make extra rivets, use a little extra white glue so it soaks through, and be patient.

The shoulder pads draw a lot of attention because they’re big, relatively smooth areas. So I thought about what I could put there.  I decided to try to put an aquilla on one shoulder.  As I’ve mentioned once or thrice before, there are a bunch of Warhammer 40K fonts floating around the web, and you can probably find a few of them with Google.  Try searching for Marines, Imperial, and ChaoSquat.  Many of these have a version or two of the Imperial Eagle.  Using my word processor, I created one 3 1/2” long (105 points).  Once it was printed, I had a template for an aquilla.

There were still a few challenges, though. At this scale the aquilla was a little harder to cut our than the big one I’d used for the Thunderbolt wings.  The claws, the heads, the multiple sections... there’s a lot of work to get this exactly right.  I went for about 80% right and it was still a lot of work.  Much to my surprise, one of the easier parts was putting said aquilla on a curved surface once it was cut out.  I curved the body and wings around the handle of my knife and it sat very well across the shoulder pad.
 
Then it was time to think about purity seals.  It’s very easy to make Paperhammer ones with a pair of hole  punches and some scrap paper.  I liked the idea of a Knight being covered with the accumulated prayers and blessings of hundreds of years of service, so I wanted a lot of them.  They’re also great because they can go anywhere, which also means they’re a good way to hide small flaws, gaps, and so on.

I made about ten 1/4” ones and maybe twenty 1/8” ones.  I also made a few of them the extra-long-and-flowing type.  I put a bunch on the shoulders, especially on the non-aquilla pad.  Some went on the tabard, the heraldry shield, a few along the weapon housings, engines, and the leg armor.  I covered up some of the less-detailed parts of the aquilla.  I also used this idea to accent the two seals at the top of the tabard and give them some more detail.
My last detail was probably the trickiest one, because, to be honest... well, if I screw this up I’ve kind of ruined the model.  I wanted to give the Knight a face.  Something simple that would resemble the helmets on the GW model.  I played with it in my head for a while and came up with the idea of giving it two 1/4” hole-punch eyes.  Then I’d use two 1/8” strips to suggest a visor and a center ridge/crest along the Knight’s head.

To save time, this idea did not work.  Fortunately, it was clear almost immediately it wasn’t going to work, before anything was glued to anything else.  The head’s curved just a little too much to make the pieces sit in a way I felt good about.  If I’d done this right at the beginning, before things were assembled... maybe I could’ve made it work.

However, I decided I still wanted to do something here, and the T piece I’d cut out fit well on its own. It’s a small thing, but I think it cleans up the head a lot and gives it a more solid “eyeline.”  It’ll stand out even more when I paint it.

And with that... I think the Knight is done. 

This is a really great template that does a lot of very clever things.  If I had to fault it for anything, it’s that it relies a lot on printed detail over actual detail.  And even then... this is a pretty great template.

(and I just now found the page of the guy who originally created it--Jim Bowen a.k.a. Newobmij.  He's got a ton of amazing projects over there)

Total cost for this model, assuming I had to buy the glue, the bamboo skewers, and the foamcore for the base... about three dollars.  So that’s three dollars ($3.00) for Paperhammer versus $140 for the Games Workshop.  And if you build more than one, that three dollar price would actually drop to more like $1 - $1.33 a model, depending on how long your glue held out.  That's about 99% off retail price.  And that's pretty damned cheap.

I know this dragged on for about ten months here, but I think it’s possible to build this model in about three weekends.  Maybe a solid week if you had nothing else to do.  A lot of that is drying time, so I don’t know if you could cut it down more than that.  On the plus side, the template is simple enough that you could be building two or three of them at the same time.  Which means in one month you could have a very solid, play-worthy detachment of Imperial Knights (over 1100 points worth) for maybe five dollars.

2.04.2015

Imperial Knights, Part XI

So, I was getting ready to attach the arms when I realized my Knight needed another heavy stubber on the left side to bring it up to current GW specs.  Not really a problem.  I had a spare template that I’d printed up at the start (on the off possibility this project went very fast, ha-ha).  I just re-built the stubber that attaches to the cannon.

The way I’d assembled the upper body, there’s a slight difference between the shoulders and the torso.  It gave me a nice groove to set the heavy stubber barrel in so it could make a solid contact.  I also set it back a bit so only the front half was sticking out.  Once it was in place, I also added a small 3/8" square of cardstock on the back to block that end of the barrel.

Helpful Hint—Again, I made a point of keeping the seams down.  Half of it’s hidden, but I made sure the seam at the front of the barrel was as low-profile as possible.

With that done, it was time to assemble everything.  And unlike most of the big projects I’ve done here, that meant I actually had to take a moment to think about posing the Knight.  It’s much more a character than a vehicle, after all.

With some of the tweaks that happened during assembly, the Knight’s head does have a slight angle to the left.  I decided to use this and position the torso on the legs as if the Knight was moving forward and its body was shifting accordingly.  So I set the right shoulder back a bit until the had was facing straight forward.  This ended up working very well with the pose I’d set the legs in (with the right leg forward), but I have to admit that was more dumb luck than any planning on my part.

So... time to glue the torso to the legs.  I put a circle of glue on the hip/pelvic section and lined up the torso as described above.  And then I held it for about, oh, ten minutes.   Maybe even a little more than that.  I checked it every minute or so to make sure nothing had slid or shifted.  This needed to be really, really solid, and it was not a point in the project where I wanted to stop and rebuild something.  So... at least ten patient minutes. Which I spent watching Pacific Rim.  A deliberate choice.

Once that join was solid, I turned to the cannon. 

First things first—both the cannon and the chainsword have upper arm sections on this template.  I decided not to use them, because once I’d taken out the wasp-waist on this model (and shrunk it’s height by about an inch) extending the arms would give it very ape-like proportions.  And I didn’t want that.

I wanted to give the model a good pose, but I also didn’t want the cannon aiming off in some random direction.  I played with it for a few minutes and found a position that worked well, in my opinion.  It also set the cannon base slightly against the hip cylinder.  I decided to add glue there, too, and add to the overall stability/ solidity of the whole model.

Again, I waited over ten minutes for this to dry.  Extended weapons like this will always get tapped and bumped, so they need to be solid.  Patience (and a firm grip) is a must here.

Now the reaper chainsword. Thing is, I didn’t want it to be flush up against the shoulderpad.  I think that right-angle look works with ranged weapons, but a melee weapon is going to have a much bigger range of motion if it’s going to be useful, and I think that needs to show.  But, as mentioned, I also didn’t want to add on an inch of upper arm.

I decided to build a small piece that would let me give the chainsword an angle without adding any real length to the arm.  Maybe a 40 degree angle, tops.  I worried about how to make this practical but still look ornate and smooth, but then I took another look at the GW Knight and realized its upper arms are pretty mechanical-looking.

As it would happen, your classic 3-4-5 right triangle has a small angle that measures just under 40 degrees (about 36.9).  That means it’s easy to design a triangular block to fit the Knight’s chainsword. Yes, folks, it’s finally here-- today’s the day high school geometry finally pays off.

I attached the triangle block to the to the chainsword.  Then, for detail, I added four bamboo pistons around block.  One went on either side and two directly in the front.

Helpful Hint—Make sure none of the pistons stick out past the top of the block.  They can be flush, but they can’t stick out at all or they’ll mess up the seal when I glue the chainsword to the shoulder.

I gave all of this a good twenty minutes to dry.  Then I glued the whole assembly up under the shoulder.  I angled it in just a little bit to add to the dynamic look

So...main body assembled.

There’s also a tabard-banner in this template, and it’s a nice detail piece.   It’s made to be doubled up, under the assumption of all paper, so I cut off the back section and just used the front.  I bent this back and forth against my hobby knife to put a bunch of curves in it so it would look more like heavy fabric and less like... well, a piece of cardstock.  I even curled the bottom corners a bit to give it a little more “motion.”

That’s all the basics covered in the template itself.  Pretty damned impressive, really.

However, at the risk of making this project even longer...  I want to talk about some extras.

Next time.