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.

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