The Paper Rhino

About a year ago I discovered the joy of Paperhammer. I'd understood the idea before that, but hadn't realized there was a whole mini-cult of people who enjoyed making elaborate (and sometimes not that elaborate) templates for a variety of Warhammer 40,000 vehicles and units. There are templates for old and new versions of many tanks, and even a fair degree of ForgeWorld stuff. There's a fellow named Jeff Vaughn who's done an absolutely amazing set of diagrams for a Warhound Titan.

We'll be getting to those eventually, don't worry...

Anyone who's even slightly interested in Paperhammer should probably swing over to The Golden Bolter Society, where they've got a great archive of templates. I'd also recommend just doing the 60-odd Meg big batch download and get everything. Easier to deal with, plus a few of the individual links were having problems at one point. There's also the BWC Archive group at Yahoo.

I decided to take my first steps into Paperhammer with a Mk.I Rhino. One reason was a bit of nostalgia--it was the first 40K vehicle I ever owned, so there was something nice and symbolic in starting with it here. It's also a pretty easy template to follow. There's a lot of detail elements on this template, but the core form is a mere five pieces. Hull, two sides, two tread bases. Simple and straightforward.

Plus, I think it's pretty tough to argue the Rhino is one of the most versatile vehicles in the game, from a modeling point of view. There are four separate armies that can use them (five if you count Orks using them as looted vehicles). The Rhino's also the base for another six tanks (Razorback, Whirlwind, Vindicator, Predator, Immolator, and the Exorcist). If you've got access to free (or extremely cheap) Rhinos, you've got a lot going for you. Even if they're the older ones.

So, an empty raisin bran box gave up its existence for these five parts. I applied them to the cardboard with a cheap glue stick from the 99Cents Store (four for a buck, really). It's so cheap, in fact, the templates tend to peel off once you're done cutting, which is a plus. I also use an old credit card as a squeegee to get them on the cardboard as smooth as possible, with no wrinkles or odd bubbles.

As I said, the Rhino's an easy template to follow, and the unknown creator (please speak up and grab credit) even included tabs for gluing. On this very first attempt, I used a straight edge for every single line and let stuff dry extra-long, but even so it only took a little over an hour to do all of this.

Helpful Hint--You can save a bunch of time by just cutting these things out with a halfway-decent pair of scissors. If the tab edges aren't perfectly straight... so what? They're going to be glued inside your model where no one can see them. Save the time-consuming straight edge and blade for scoring the long, straight folds that are going to matter.

It's probably worth noting that I didn't put on any of the wheel or tread details that are supposed to cover the two tread bases. I toyed with it, but they didn't seem worth the effort considering these elements are almost completely hidden by the hull. What I finally did was cut out four of the "wheels" that were included in the template, cut them in half, and then trim them down to fit. So if you wanted to do that, it would boost the five-part rhino up to nine (or thirteen, if you get nitpicky about the halves).

When you put it side-by-side with this handy Thousand Sons Rhino, you can see they're almost spot-on identical as far as proportions go. With the addition of just a few little details (most of which are probably already in your bitz collection if you ever had a few Mk.1 Rhinos) and a coat of paint, they'll be almost indistinguishable from a plastic kit. Final price... barely $2, unless you want to count price of the raisin bran. Then it's closer to $3.50.

That's just the first taste of Paperhammer, which is going to be a recurring theme here. In a few weeks I'm going to show a few different pictures of what I ended up doing with this particular Rhino and a few more I built. I'd like to get them dressed up and painted a bit first, though, so you can see how they'll fit into different armies.

Next time I'm going to tackle something a little bigger and more complex. And spiky, if you're into that sort of thing.


The Skullhamma, pt. III

So, when we last left the Skullhamma, I'd built a ton of components that needed to be added on. This is how they all connected together.

Running down the left side I placed the sponson, the armor plate, and then two more armor plates custom-made to this side. All four of them fit up into that slot on the hull I mentioned before (where the model's actual side skirts were supposed to connect) and also rest against the wheels. Their all good and solid. The brace on the back of the sponson is from a Basilisk model, if memory serves. Note one of the plates is "broken" to give a good view of that mismatched wheel.

The other side is the same, but different. The replaced wheel is in a different position, so my broken plate is, too. It's probably worth noting, too, that in the GW Skullhamma model the two big shoota sponsons are both on the same side of the tank. Seriously, go look. I like silly Orkiness as much as the rest guy, but I'm not going to openly handicap my super-heavy from the start. What I did instead was mismatch the two sponsons--the port one is half an inch farther forward that the starboard. This actually worked really well with the different armor plates, and it's a nice Orky touch that takes people a few minutes to notice.

It was also about this time that I glued a ram from the old Ork Trukk kit on the front. This was just a random thing I did for more detail, but it turned out to be a lifesaver. If you look at GW's model again, the big skull in the front has two huge tusks that give it a real savage look. I spent hours figuring out how to mount some on my model, because the underside of the hull has a really steep slant. In one of those "right in front of you" moments, I finally realized I could just mount them straight to the ram. They're made from the side-skirts of the actual tank model, cut and trimmed a bit rough with an X-Acto knife, and detailed with a few rivets, of course.

I glued the four smokestacks in the back. I played around with the placement a bit first to get the maximum randomness, if that makes sense. It's also hard to tell in this shot but I used some of that rounded sprue from the T 74 model to create more tubes and hoses in the back. I was actually tempted to build a small boiler and have grots shoveling coal into a furnace, but I think I might save that idea for later.

So, barring a few last minute details, the model was pretty much done at this point. You can see how it measures up with a Land Raider and a Rhino from the Alpha Legion. As I said at the start, it's not quite Baneblade-sized, but big enough that someone would have to be a bit of a jerk to challenge using it as a super-heavy. Fortunately my friends and I don't invite any jerks to our Apocalypse games.

There were still a few last details. A big skull and crossbones banner from the old metal Nobs box set went up on the back of the turret. The poles are more whittled-down sprue. A few random handles here and there for transport purposes, and some spikes from an old plastic Rhino. I also took a leftover piece from those side skirts, heated it over a burner--

(Helpful Hint - kids, always get Mom or Dad's permission before melting plastic on the stove)

--and that let me bend it over the muzzle as another armor plate. And a few more rivets. I decided to put them on the big skull, too.

An old metal Predator hatch fit really well in one of those turret-sockets, so I didn't even glue it in place. Plus somewhere down the line I'd love to replace it with a Stompa mek-captain, who I think would look very nice on top of the Skullhamma, especially with his cap.

In the other socket I used the spyglass grot from a Zzap Gun set. I dug around and found a large square fantasy base with a diagonal slot. It took a bit of wiggling, but I got the grot up through the socket from the inside. His base fit against the inside of the turret and glued right in place, and I braced it with a cut-down piece of sprue just to make sure it was rock solid. I also tossed on another grot (made from a very old Warhammer Fantasy snotling) with a hammer on the back near the engine, so he looks like he's doing random (and perhaps unnecessary) maintenance.

There you have it. A very passable Skullhamma tank, more than intimidating to Terminators or even a Dreadnaught. I'm probably going to paint it with a lot of red (for speed!!), blue to represent the Deathskull origins of my Orks, the Tekboyz, and a fair amount of bare metal and rust. Expect pictures sometime after I pass my next work deadline.

Now I just need time to play a game with it...


The Skullhamma, pt. B

When we left off, I'd taken the first big steps in converting a 1/35 scale T 74 tank into an Ork Skullhamma I could use in Apocalypse games. Continuing on...

With a lot of that big stuff done, I moved onto the treads. The T 74 model had some beautifully detailed tread links. Lots more than you got on the old Chimera or Leman Russ sets. A bit of a shame, because I knew I'd be hiding a lot of that detail with big Orky plates and rivets. Of course, it'd be more of a shame if this had been a $100 Baneblade model. This is also where I hit the first real headache. If you remember last time, I mentioned...

Helpful Hint--When you're putting together any model, even one you're kitbashing like this, make sure everything gets assembled correctly. Like those toothed rear wheels. Because if you mess those up, it'll come back to haunt you.

This was that haunting time. Turns out the toothed wheels had a bit of play in them when they're assembled, so they hadn't dried with the teeth lining up on either side. So when I went to put the treads on they wouldn't sit right or line up with each other. There was much clipping and cutting and filing to get them more or less where they were supposed to be. At least it was mostly in the back and would get hidden by more Orkiness.

Once I had the treads on, I started adding a series of "Mek's improovments" on top of them. These were just strips of plastic, and the bolt heads are just thinner strips cut into squares. Putting these along the bottom also raised the model another 1/16 of an inch or so. Not much, but every little bit makes it bigger, especially in 40K scale. And in the back they helped hide the mess the treads were around the toothed wheels.

While these were drying I started assembling some more detail bits. One of the most distinctive things about the Skullhamma is its gigantic engine and the forest of exhaust pipes it has-- smokestacks, really. The model came with two barrels, and I had some spare ones from Warhammer 40K Battlefield Accessory packs. Using them as the bases, I made four exhaust pipes. One's a spare Leman Russ battle cannon I found in the bitz bins (it's amazing what some people throw out). Another one was marked and drilled out with the pin vise the same way I made the kannon (mentioned in the last post). The bent one was cut at a slight angle and then the pieces were rotated 180 degrees to each other--a perfect match. If you try this, remember the bend angle's going to double when you rotate the parts, so make it a small angle when you cut.

I also used this time to put together two big armor plates for the side skirts. The model has a groove under the hull where its own side skirts were supposed to go, so I left a little space at the top of these when I was adding on rivets for detail. The rivets are just a thin plastic rod that I cut into discs. It takes a few tries to get the thickness down, but then you can make piles of rivets for everything you're working on. I also tossed in a few of the same square bolts I used on the treads for variety.

Next up was a challenge. The sponsons. I knew I wanted them to be able to pivot, so I poked around for a bit on this one. Turned out (no pun intended) the solution was right in front of me. I had two leftover wheels from the treads because I'd used Ork wheels at points. Even better, unlike the sharp, angled sprue GW models come on, the sprue for the T 74 model was round and smooth. I had an axle for my wheel. For the twin-linked big shootas I just used a pair of shoota barrels from the regular Ork Boyz set.

It's also worth noting that when the sponsons are all together they've got the same lip I left on the armor plates. This way they'll fit snug in the above-mentioned groove and the glue will have more to bite. Then I added on more rivets, some old goblin sprues, and some small armor plates that were from... heck, I'm not even sure. I think they might be from Gorkamorka. You used to be able to buy a sprue of ten or twelve of them.

One other thing. The Skullhamma has the option of arming itself with a few supa-rokkits. I knew right where I'd put them (along the back port edge) but I had no parts at the moment to built a little gantry/ missile rack for them. I fell back on that geekiest of things, the rare earth magnet. I ran a few tests to make sure one would be strong enough, then glued it to the underside of the hull right about where I wanted a gantry. Now somewhere down the line I can build the supa-rokkits as a separate piece (and with their own magnet) and add or remove it as I like.

With all those details done (and checked repeatedly), I glued the top hull to the bottom hull/ treads. While this was drying I tossed on a few more rivets and expanded the platform bit. It is kind of the joy of modeling Orks that more rivets can make anything look better. Even so I debated putting them on the big skull. There's a point where you can go too far with almost anything, and at this point I didn't want to cross that line.

I spun the model around and built up an "engine" of sorts. A few extra boxes, bottles, and tanks from various models, linked with some more of that great rounded sprue from the tank model. Before it was an axle, now it's pipes and hoses. One easy detail was the service hatch. It's just a rectangle of plasticard with two pieces of rod for hinges (the same rod I use to make rivets). Then I used the legs from a Warhammer Fantasy goblin. The goblin set comes with--or came with, maybe--walking legs and wolf-riding legs for every model. I've used them on several models to show grots diving in to make repairs, which can either be a fun detail or you can use it to represent the Grot Riggers vehicle upgrade.

Then back to the turret. The Skullhamma Kannon just wasn't imposing enough. I added some more rods and bits along the length, and also wrapped it with about four inches of chain from a set of cheap necklaces (all those accessory stores in shopping malls can be a great place for chains, jewels, and the like). I also added a box behind the blast plate and some more pieces all around the turret to help make it look repaired and/ or armored in a very patchwork way. And rivets, of course. Lots of rivets.

One last post for assembling all these parts and putting on some final details.


The Skullhamma, pt 1

Orks have always had a special place amidst my shelf of 40K stuff. They are, hands down, an army for people who just like to have fun. Fun with the models, the fluff, their randomness on the battlefield. If you're one of those players who wants to calculate the optimal army for competitive play... you don't play Orks.

Apocalypse presented the idea of fielding huge swaths of Orks and some of their giant, infamous war machines. The Stompas are nice, but the one that caught my attention right away was the Skullhamma, with its ridiculously oversized cannon and towering smokestacks. Granted, it was just the Games Workshop guys doing a big customizing job with their new Baneblade model and making up rules for it but still... it called to me.

What didn't call to me was the $100 price tag for a Baneblade kit. It's a beautiful model, but that's a lot of cash. Plus, in all fairness, there's so much Orky stuff layered on top of that vehicle... would anyone know if it wasn't a Baneblade under there? I started prowling Toys R' Us, looking at the tank models and trying to find something big enough to pass for a Baneblade, but cheap enough that it was worth taking this alternate path.

I'd been keeping a casual eye out for almost a year when Marcus decided to clean out his closet and, knowing of my search, tossed me an old model for the Soviet T 74 Main Battle Tank. It was in 1/35 scale, which meant it was a bit smaller than a Baneblade (most notably in width) but definitely larger than a Leman Russ and even a Land Raider. I decided to use it as the base for my Skullhamma.

The first step, to bulk it up a bit more, was to build a platform for the turret using some scrap plasticard I had. The hull had a nice square panel on it already, so I built my platform around that for some extra stability. I also took this opportunity to trace the slotted socket the turret fits into, copying it onto the top of my platform. Then I went around it with my pin vise and drilled about two dozen holes. Once it was perforated, it was easy to cut out the matching shape with an X-Acto knife. I filed the edges a bit to smooth them, but didn't worry about it much--all this will get hidden by the turret itself. The important thing was I'd still be able to turn the turret and remove it either to show damage or to pack it for transport.

Next up was the lower half of the hull and the wheels. One key thing I knew I wanted to do here was have "replacement" wheels. It wouldn't be very Orky if everything matched, so I dug around until I found the two most inappropriate wheels to repair a set of treads. One's from an Ork Zzap Gun, the other one's from a Warhammer Fantasy Orc chariot. I also was careful about placing them, because I knew I was going to be adding armor skirts down the line and I didn't want to put the wheels on just to hide them later.

Helpful Hint--When you're putting together any model, even one you're kitbashing like this, make sure everything gets assembled correctly. Like those toothed rear wheels. Because if you mess those up, it'll come back to haunt you.

...but we'll get to that in a bit...

With the basic top and bottom of the hull done, I assembled the turret. This was pretty straightforward. I did clip the tip off the barrel because it seemed a bit long. Really, it was just there for support for when I assembled the Skullhamma's oversized cannon.

Now it was time to start layering some stuff on. The first thing was that big skull across the front of the hull. It was easy enough to sketch a simple shape on some plasticard (those are half-inch squares, if you care) and then use the pin vise again to drill out around the eye sockets. Spent a bit more time filing these down and making them pretty. But not too pretty. It is an Ork vehicle, after all.

Once I had the skull, I could use it as a template for where to drill a hole on the upper hull. The Skullhamma has a regular kannon sticking out of one eye socket, and I needed the two to line up. I put the skull in place, marked the hull, and then the pin vise went to work yet again. This hole could be a bit sloppy since the skull would be covering it.

With that hole was done, I glued the skull to the front of the hull and added some detail. More scrap plasticard became brow ridges and teeth for the skull. Most of them I cut and trimmed with clippers to keep them looking rough.

I also built the kannon. It was really easy and only took about fifteen minutes, start to finish. Two plastic tubes, one slips over the other. Take the larger one and mark it with alternating holes. Just make Xs with a dot at the cross and at the end of each leg. Then make another X and another one, all building off the first one, so you end up with an even pattern of dots. Now use the amazing pin vise with the largest drill bit you've got. Voila! You've got a cooling vent over a barrel. The body of the weapon is hidden inside the hull (really, I built it all and it looks fantastic) so... that's done. If you've got the tubing, you can use this method to add detail to just about anything.

Next I went back to the turret. I put some of the containers from the actual tank model on the back. Another piece of plastic tubing became the barrel of the Skullhamma Kannon. After digging around a bit I found the perfect muzzle--the cap off of an old magic marker. It even fit the tubing perfectly, so a few drops of superglue made it rock solid. The blast plate is doubled-up plasticard so it will look like heavy armor, and I pieced it together so it would have... well, a pieced together look. The two support struts are just pieces of sprue I whittled down until they were a bit more rounded. Then I threw on some extra bitz and gubbins to bulk the barrel up even more. That cannon is supposed to be ridiculously oversized, after all. The green piece near the center? That's part of the original gun barrel I clipped off.

Helpful Hint--I know it seems like I jump around a lot. That's deliberate. I've found when I'm scratchbuilding Orks or Chaos it's easy to concentrate too much on one area and build up an excess of detail. I end up constantly re-balancing details so the model doesn't seem awkward. Shifting around lets me build the whole model up at the same time, so I don't end up with a hull that's at 8 with a turret that's dialed up to 11.

So, at this point I could pause and do a rough assembly. Set the hull parts together, put the turret in place, and see how the whole thing looks so far.

Not bad for being at the 1/3 mark or so. But this is pretty long right now, so I'll put the next stage of construction in the next post.


Statues and Objectives

I love scenery. One of the things that's always appealed to me with Warhammer 40K is the images of miniature landscapes--especially cityscapes. It drives my friends nuts sometimes because I love to lay out buildings on the table so there are clear streets and boulevards. When the Cities of Death building packs came out I thought it was a dream come true.

Still, you can't have just buildings. Real cities have parks, plazas, monuments--all that stuff that looks great with little . And I wanted a few statues that could work as scenery or objectives. So I started digging through my jars of bitz.

(Yeah, I keep all my bitz in washed-out peanut butter jars. Space Marines here, Chaos here, and so on. Takes up a lot less space than leaving them on the sprue.)

One of the first things I came across was a really old Sanguinus model I'd discovered a while back at my local store's bitz bins. I'm not a Blood Angels player, and my friend Matt (who is) already had the newer version. So I had the centerpiece. I decided to use a few of the really old snap-together Space Marines, too, and make a large victory memorial.

Helpful Hint--One of the best ways to make cheap, oversized bases is just to glue three CDs together. Most of us probably have a few dozen AOL discs kicking around, discs that didn't burn right for some reason, other things like that. Even if you don't, look at the check out aisles of your local departments store. They've usually got a few free discs hanging there waiting for someone to take them. Three discs glued together is almost the precise thickness as your standard 40K model base. They're great for small scenery bits like statues, rubble, or large clusters of plants.

For the statue pedestals I used square bases from Warhammer Fantasy. I've got a bunch from making plague zombies for the Death Guard, and some more from Chaos Daemons. If your own local store does some sort of bitz bins/ exchange program, you can probably get a bunch cheap. I used little strips of plasticard to make tabs on the bases so I could assemble them into cubes, then decorate them with smaller bases.

The statues themselves got a few nicks and bullet holes to add to the weathering. One of the three Marines I had was the old missile launcher model, so to make him match I cut away his viewfinder and scarred up his chest. Now he looked like a half-smashed version of one of the others, and some rubble at his feet (cut up sprue) completed the image. I didn't even have a fourth Marine, but a large pile of sprue-rubble and some "damage" to the pedestal worked fine.

At this point I hit the whole thing with some textured spray paint I had left over from my prop kit. It's a bit pricy (eight on nine bucks a can) but you can get a lot of life out of one if you're careful with it. All you ever need is a single light coat. Whenever you're done, flip the can upside down and spray for a few seconds to clean the nozzle out.

Helpful Hint-- To keep the statues themselves clean, I just made little covers out of paper. Take a piece of paper about twice as high as a Space Marine, fold it over, and tape the sides. Now cover the figure with it. The base and pedestel gets textured but the models don't.

Once the texture was dry I primed the whole thing with gray spraypaint. The bargain-basement stuff from Osh. Then I took my large drybrush and went over the whole thing with shadow gray, fortress gray, and a very light dusting of skull white on the Sanguinus model to make sure he stayed the center of attention.

Voila. Total cost, with bits, sprue, extra bases, old CDs, and one old metal model from the bitz bin... about two and a half bucks. That's factoring in the paint, too.

I'm currently working on something similar and of a more Chaotic vein, loosely inspired by the tales of the Relictors during the 3rd War for Armageddon. It uses an Epic-scale model of Angron (also cheap from the bins) on a tall plinth made fantasy bases, another three-CD base. Currently it's waiting while I gather more and more skulls. I'll toss up some pictures of that once it's closer to done.


Starting Out

I got into Warhammer 40,000 a little over ten years ago, in kind of an ass-backwards kind of way. My best friend, his wife-to-be, and a few other mutual friends all played, and I knew it as "the sci-fi toy soldier game." I thought a lot of the models were really gorgeous, but the game... well, the game was a bit ridiculous.

Y'see, because they were deep in the Armageddon world-wide campaign when I first tried learning about the game, I was suffering from a grave misconception. As I understood it, you painted up your little guys, battled, and when someone died you put them up on the shelf and never used that model again. You even emailed your results to England, so everyone would know you could never use that model again.

What kind of a stupid, money-sucking game was this? I mean, it explained why Marcus needed so many of the little soldiers, and always seemed to be painting new ones. But still... all that work on a model and then you never use it again?

Anyway, about the time I started to figure out my mistake, Games Workshop decided to sell off a bunch of their older, snap-together plastic models in cheap little packs (very similar to the ones they're marketing again these days). One was the "alien attack" box which came with four old-style genestealers and four of the smaller, old termagants. I thought a few of the 'stealers would look cool around my computer. Than I bought another box. And a third. Soon I had about thirty-odd genestealers and a pile of termagants, too. So I started learning the rules, and... hooked.

The Tyranids fell aside. To be honest, I have still never fielded my Tyranid army, which continues to get more than a few laughs from my friends. Looking at the early Chaos Marine codex, the Alpha Legion soon became my true love (years before the rest of you hopped on the bandwagon because of Dawn of War or Dan Abnett's Legion), and remains my largest army to this day. Like most people's first Chaos army, it split off and I ended up with a usable army for all four of the major cults as well, including a Thousand Sons force I still use and a Death Guard army I'm quite proud of. Then there was an all-bike White Scars army. A good-sized Ork Waaagh with a faint Star Trek theme called Da TekBoyz. A White Dwarf article convinced me to start a Kroot Mercenary army. When Codex:Daemonhunters came out it not only gave me a nice little radical force, but also spawned my new loyalist army, the Relictors, who now stand as my second favorite-army behind the Alpha Legion.

What can I say? I like the gray areas.

Alas, it wasn't all that long after this point in my career as a 40K general (and warboss and hive mind and shaper...) that I decided to give up my day job and become a full-time writer. And unless your name is Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, or Richard Castle, being a full time writer doesn't pay as well as most people think. It wasn't a completely ridiculous decision--I had been making a fair degree of money at it--but it still meant about a 70% pay cut, so a lot of my disposable income was... well, disposed of. Warhammer 40,000 went from being the thing I could drop a sixty or seventy bucks a month on to the thing I might get to drop sixty bucks a year on. In all of last year, I bought the new Imperial Guard codex. That's it.

So I started getting good at customizing. I couldn't afford new Terminators for the Relictors, but a bit of plasticard, a sharp knife, and a spare assault cannon from a plastic dreadnaught still gave me a bigger, bulkier Terminator. Daemonhosts? Scratch-built those, too. It made sense that the cult legions would till have older Rhinos, so those got shifted around and converted as well.

Also in 2009, however, I stumbled across an article at The Golden Bolter about Paperhammer. It included links to about a hundred templates for vehicles and scenery, ranging from simple cardstock Rhinos to elaborate Titans of all classes.

And y'know what? I'm still having fun with Warhammer 40,000, even on a tight budget. So here's a random record of all the stuff I've been building on the cheap, along with a few helpful tips on stuff I wish I'd known from the start. Like instructions for some of these templates...

If I can save someone else a few bucks along the way, and get them a kick-ass new Warhound Titan... my work here is done.