The Doomsday Device

It struck me that with a lot of the random projects I've been starting and planning, none of them really applied to my main army, the Alpha Legion. And they could use some heavy firepower, especially in the two or three Apocalypse games I get to play each year. While I was paging through a bunch of datasheets, one such thing caught my eye-- The Doomsday Device.

The big thing with a doomsday device, of course, is it has to look ominous. Yeah, you could just use a black box or something but that'd be boring. You want something awe-imposing and scenic on the table, not just a big marker. The coffin-shaped one on the Apocalypse sheet set a high bar because that shape is very imposing and also gives an automatic sense of age and history. Tough to beat.

Inspiration finally struck while watching a Doctor Who epiode, the one with the Daleks and their giant cosmic engine--the Reality Bomb. Something about that huge brass dome with all the pipes and cables coming out of it struck a chord, and over the next few days of casual thought I figured out how to do it.

I also figured out a way to tie it right into Warhammer 40,000, but I won't say how. See if you can figure it out as we go along...

I gathered up some supplies, all of which were junk or scrap (this is going to be the cheapest Doomsday Device ever built). I knew I wanted it to be larger than a dreadnaught, but not building-sized.

Helpful Hint--I've mentioned this before. One of the best ways to make cheap, oversized bases is just to glue three old CDs together. Most of us probably have a few dozen AOL discs kicking around, discs that didn't burn right for some reason, or things like that. Even if you don't, look at the check-out aisles of your local department or grocery 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.

The bottom of the device itself is the top from a plastic jar of cat treats. The next section above that is the upside-down screw-top to a small spice jar. Both of these lids had raised rings on them, and they nestled together perfectly. A bit of superglue made them rock-solid. The final section, the dome, is half of a plastic Easter egg, the kind that pop open to put candy and such in. It nestled right into the spice jar lid, and some more superglue made that solid, too. A few quick measurements got the whole thing centered on the CD base. Another bead of superglue and it was all one solid piece.

Now I needed to add power cables, conduits, and some structural pieces. I liked the idea of implying there's far more to this device than we can see, that it's just the tip of some vast, technological iceberg. So some of these additions run straight off the base and others end at nodes or terminals.

I started with just four big struts that reached out to the edge of the base. They're made of strips of plastic and sprue scraps. The one thick leg is two of the ammo/ tool boxes from the old Rhino kit.

Helpful Hint--The ribbed cables are guitar strings (a .053, if you care). I bought a pack of inexpensive ones years ago for less than ten dollars and I've been using them pretty regularly since then. I think you can even get them at Toys R Us these days. They're awesome for cables and hoses, and there's about four feet of each string. So on 40K scale it's almost an unlimited supply.

Well, until we get to the stompas and titans, anyway...

Once these were done I wanted to add taller elements to keep the whole thing looking three-dimensional. I put one between each of those long struts, and these didn't reach out to the edge. That way the overall design of the device has some variety and doesn't seem too repetitive. For some of those bent conduits I used the rounded sprue from that tank model that became the Skullhamma. It makes great pipes and tubes. I glued two together side-by-side because it gives them a bit more heft (one alone is a bit skinny) and also makes it easier to balance and position them for gluing.

I also liked the idea of it having this one large, almost Tau-looking vane with an antenna. Does it disperse heat? Absorb positrons? Check wind speed? I have no idea, but whatever it is I'm sure it serves an evil purpose. And it keeps things from getting repetitive again.

Plus, all of this helped with that link to Chaos I mentioned up above.

I added a few details around the base of the device. Just odd bitz and scraps that had been kicking around my project board forever. I used some angled plastic I had to make two little nodes on the shorter, "inner" conduits. I had some other scraps so I made one large node, too, and put that on one of the struts that ran to the edge.

I briefly toyed with making the big "outer" node be a control panel (something cut our from a spare Rhino or Land Raider interior panel). In the end I decided against it. There's something more ominous, I think, in the idea that the doomsday device just sort of controls itself with some malign intelligence.

Note that none of the pipes, cables, or other elements go higher than the base of the dome (the antenna just brushes it). That way the dome's always the dominant feature, and it keeps the model from looking too busy. Featuring the dome also gives the model a sense of solidity despite all these pipes and cables. No one wants a Doomsday Device that looks skinny and frail.

Just before I primed it I wanted to deal with those little dimples on the dome. (they were part of the Easter egg manufacturing or casting process). I put a very small drop of superglue in each dimple, then carefully siphoned off tiny amounts with a paper towel until the drops were flush with the dome itself. Once that had dried, I primed the whole thing black because it was going to be mostly metallic.

The bottom section went green to help tie it to the Alpha Legion, and so did those guitar-string cables. The dome was tin bitz with copper, shining gold, and burnished gold drybrushed over it. The pipes and conduits got various amounts of gunbolt. I may repaint that section below the dome to stright tin bitz, or maybe even black, to give a nicer contrast to the dome.

There you have it. The Reality Bomb. A doomsday device guaranteed** to lay waste to Baneblades, Titans, Stompas, Trygons, or anything else your opponent wants to throw at it.

And if you've been picturing all this in your mind or following the design on paper, you've probably figured out how the Reality Bomb is an unquestionable tool of Chaos. But I won't ruin it for you right now if you haven't.

** Not a guarantee. Not all Doomsday Devices perform the same. Your results may vary.


The Malcador Heavy Tank, Pt II

My brush with fame--my girlfriend just won the WarStore celebrity contest with her Mr. Rogers endorsement. The big downside is her Ork Waaagh --Freebooters uv Da Blak Purl-- just got some new reinforcements...

Anyway... back to the Malcador. All the basic sections were done on the tank. There was just one challenge left, but it was going to be very time-consuming. This is my only complaint with Jeff Vaughan's models. They are absolutely amazing in almost every respect, but...

He never does tread assemblies.

The templates have the two sides, but no instruction on how to put treads between them. There's a suggestion of how far apart they should be, but that's it. Sooooooo... you need to figure out one of the most visible elements of the tank on your own.

(This would also come back to haunt me months later when I tried to build his Baneblade model)

I ended up downloading every picture I could find of the Malcador off the Forge World website. I wanted to see just how the treads sat in relation to the sides. Did they line up? Extend past? How far past? As it turns out, the treads line up with part of the side (the top and sloping back edge) but extend past everywhere else. I decided to try making treads the same way they were done on the Mk I Land Raider. Those came out great, so... I'd hope for the best.

I won't bore you with how long it took me to get all the measurements or how I calculated them. Let's just skip to what you want to know-- how to make these things I'm going to call tread bases (because they're the base the tread is going to go on).

Measure out a couple long strips of cardboard strips. Vaughan suggests 7/16" wide. I pushed it to 1/2" because it's never bad for a tank to have a little more heft. Plus I wanted easier measurements when I got to the treads themselves. You probably want to go 1/4" past that to make tabs. You won't make notches for your tabs until you mark out the lengths of each section.

This Is Important--these measurements are in millimeters, because I wanted to be as accurate as possible and I didn't want to mess up dealing with fractional inches. So width is inches, length is millimeters.


So, from the top and moving forward, the tread bases need to be...

82 (the top)--20--7--50--122 (the bottom)--7--7--7--7--72 (the sloped back)

It worked really well to break the bases into two lengths. The first four sections fit into a 159mm length, the rest into 222mm.

Once these were set and scored I cut out the tab-notches I was going to need. I also did several dry-runs to make sure there weren't any overlaps, especially around the 7mm pieces which would be at tight folds.

I glued the bases to the inside section first. If there were going to be screw-ups, I wanted them happening on a simple piece, not the one with four layers of detail on it. I began with the top section. The 82mm length starts right at that back corner and goes flush along the top. Note that it's going to extend out past that raised ridge on the top. It got lined up glued, and clamped. Once it was dry I stared working my way forward, gluing and clamping each section. I eyeballed it to make sure the bases extended out the same distance from the sides all around.

Once that first tread base was done I did the second one. This time I started with the 72mm section, the sloped back. It was on top and it'd be more visible, so this one needed to but up against the 82mm top nice and clean. Then it was the same thing--line up, glue, clamp. Eyeball it the whole time to keep it even.

With the treads fastened to the inside section, I cut a few zig-zags for stability. They're just strips of cardboard 1/2" wide (the same width as the tread bases, that got folded back on themselves into consummate V's to make the treads more solid. Make sure they don't interfere with that big open space where the side sponson's going to go.

Now I glued the opposite tabs and lined up the detailed outside piece. I wrapped it in wax paper, checked two or three more times to make sure nothing had slipped, and stacked a few Stephen King hardcovers on top of it. Then I sat down and did all this again for the other set of treads.

Helpful Hint--In retrospect, there's one other thing I could've done that would've made for killer detail. I should've used a dime or the inside of a CD or something that would've given me some small circles I could cut out of card. These could've been at every fold of the tread base so you'd see "wheels" inside instead of the tabs for the tread bases (look at the sides of Mk I Land Raider as an example). If anyone else tries this, that's what I'd recommend. If I make another one of these (for Marc or myself) I'm going to try doing it that way.

So, the two sides were done, the hull was done, I could finally assemble these parts into something resembling a tank. I did few more eyeball measurements from the Forge World pics and made some pencil marks so I could line things up. The upper hull holds the center section pretty stable, so it wouldn't involve too much wrestling. I glued the tabs on the hull, got the sides right, then set the whole thing very carefully on its side and balanced another hardcover on it. Once this was dry, I had something that resembled a Malcador.

While it was drying I built the sponsons from DWGMAL 305. The central tube was more of the same piece I bought for the demolisher cannon. As you might notice, this is a delicate piece with very slight connections, so I decided to make it a bit more solid. I made a slight alteration to the templates...

Helpful Hint- rather than cutting out the inside of that rectangular frame for the sponsons, make an I-shaped cut instead. This will give you two flaps that fold back. The sides of the sponson can get glued to these and make the whole structure much more solid. The flaps may need to be trimmed a bit, but it'll be apparent where and how much once it's together.

The tube got trimmed, glued, and superglued. I wanted it rock-solid in there. Once these had dried, I glued them into the sides.

Now... back to the treads.

Here's how I did it. First cut some long strips of card that are 5/8" wide. Then cut this into (sorry again) 7mm lengths. Make about 200 or so of these.

When that's done, cut some more long strips that are 3/8" wide. These are going to be 5mm long. Cut another 200 or so of those.

Soooo... now you're legally blind.

I took the 7mm pieces and glued them to the tread bases. They should extend just over the base on either side (by 1/16") and they should have about 1/16" between them (you can use the edge of a spare piece as a spacer). I start at one of the 7mm tread base sections and worked out from there. This is another eyeball job, so take your time. Once it's done, give it a little time to dry and to give your eyes a break.

Now, take the 5mm pieces and glue one of them centered over the gaps between each 7mm section. You should have 1/8" on either side and about 1/16" between them again. As before, take your time. This is the most visual element of the tank.

Believe it or not... it's pretty much done at this point.

I had a spare front hatch from a Chimera hull which was almost a dead match for the one on the Malcador, so I filed down the ridges on the back and glued that on next to the demolisher cannon. I also had side hatches, which would've been a some more great detail. Alas (or perhaps, fortunately) I remembered at the last minute Marc was probably going to use this with his Traitor Guard army. A Chaos tank wouldn't have too many Imperial eagles on it. Of course, now I had nothing to put in its place. In retrospect, I could've cut a cardboard hatch and decorated it with a Chaos-font star (a process I shall describe in good time), but at the time nothing occurred to me, so the sides behind the sponson were bare. Really, there's a ton of tank bitz that would all be perfect for this.

Marc wanted to do the weapons himself, so that's the only thing not here. I mentioned the magnet for the turret in the last post, and it'd be pretty easy to put them in the sponsons.

I used some acrylic black paint to seal the edges (especially the edges of all those treads), let it dry overnight, and primed it first thing in the morning.

All credit to Jeff Vaughan for the parts that look good. I'll take the blame for anything that looks crude or clumsy. I'll throw up some more pics once Marc puts on his weapons and paints it.


The Malcador Heavy Tank, Pt I

As I mentioned back at the start, this whole 40K-on-the-cheap phase started for me because of a financial crunch. Of course, one of the big downsides to any such crunch isn't just that you can't do anything for yourself--you can't do anything for friends and family, either. Last Christmas, I was feeling that aspect of the crunch most of all.

My best friend is also a 40K player, and I happened to know he'd had his eye on the Forge World Malcador heavy tank. Fortunately, there was an existing template for the Malcador, and it's a great one by a guy named Jeff Vaughan. I asked my friend if he'd be open to a Paperhammer tank, he said yes, and I threw myself into it.

Alas, I don't have some of the early stages of construction documented because my camera was on the fritz. Vaughan's templates are pretty much perfect, though, so there's very little I need to say about the bulk of the construction. In fact, there's only a few points I want to address.

One is on the first two pages, marked DWGMAL 302 and 303. On each page are three layers that need to get cut out and stacked to form a very detailed side. You're also going to need two copies of that top panel. The second one is the inside of the tread, the part that butts up against the hull. Check out the picture at the bottom and you'll see.

Helpful Hint--When you have to cut out a thin frame (like that third one), start with the inside details. Most people (myself included) have an immediate instinct to cut the whole shape out of the sheet of cardboard and then try to cut the details out of that smaller, more delicate piece. Don't do that! Do the exact opposite-- cut out the details first (while it's still a big sheet of cardboard) and then cut out the shape as a whole (so you're cutting it out of a big sheet of cardboard). This was a random inspiration and I was stunned how easy it made this part of construction.

These three layers got glued together very slowly so I could make sure nothing was going to slip and mess up an edge. Once they were together, I folded them into a piece of wax paper and stacked a few hardcover books onto them. Again, very slowly. I didn't want the weight making anything slide, even just an eighth of an inch or so. After about an hour under the books these tread sections were very straight and solid.

Helpful Hint--Okay, back when I made the SkullHamma I talked a lot about using plastic rod to make rivet details. With Paperhammer, there's an even easier thing to use-- a hole punch. Yep, a 99-cent hole punch will cut through cereal-box card with no problem and make perfect 1/4" disks you can use for detailing. Like that oversized wheel hub at the back of the Malcador.

I went out to my local hobby store, splurged a bit, and got a 1/8" punch, too. That made the smaller hubs along the base of the treads (and the ones all over the Mk I Land Raider). Probably going to grab a 1/16" as well because it'll make for great rivets. The smaller ones cost around eight or nine dollars, but they help give an amazing level of detail to a cardboard model.

Assembling the hull is pretty straightforward, too. Again, Vaughan designed a fantastic model. However...

This Is Important-- There is one small mistake in the templates. If you look at DWGMAL 304 you'll see the major section of the hull. At the bottom of it are two short "legs" which become the rear of the tank. These must be reversed. You need to cut them off and rotate the pair of them 180 degrees so they are short at the bottom and tall at the top (the wings should stay on the outside). Once you do this the hull will go together perfectly, and those wings will force everything to line up at the correct angle. If you don't reverse them, your Malcador will look oddly skewed and chisel-nosed in the front. I just snipped them off and used two extra pieces of card as scabs to hold them together.

(This my have been fixed in later versions of the templates. I'm using the ones from the Golden Bolter website)

It's also worth noting that you need to cut your own tabs onto the hull. I just made half inch strips all along the edges and cut a wide diagonal notch at each fold. When you have to cut your own tabs always check them first to make sure they don't overlap. You want all the tabs to be able sit perfectly flat against whatever surface you're gluing them to. Just spend a minute, fold them down, and trim the angles a little more where you need to.

After that I put the upper hull together. Because I was making a lascannon variant, I didn't cut out the side ports and put a sloped edge to the front ones. Eventually that front-center strut will get cut out so the lascannons can pan back and forth, but for now I left it to give a little more structural support to the upper hull while I was assembling parts.

One other thing. Before I glued the upper hull to the main hull, I went from corner to corner of that top panel and found its exact center. On the underside of that point, inside the model, I glued a rare earth magnet. Yes, I use them, too, although nowhere near as much as some crazy people...

The point of putting one here was it would give me a pivot point. The main cannon could go on a magnet itself, and now it would be held in place but still be able to turn inside the upper hull. Plus it could be pulled out for painting or upgrades.

I also added the front demolisher cannon at this point. It's just two pieces of plastic tubing, one inside the other. The smaller piece I already had, the larger one I had to buy (bringing my expenses for this specific model up to a stunning $4.25 at this point). I filed them nice and smooth on the edges (cutting a clean edge is tough at that size), glued them together, and fastened that piece to a little cardboard wedge I'd made. Then I took some doubled up card, traced a dime on them, and cut a pair of "pivot guides" to go on either side of the cannon.

With all this, it would seem like the Malcador was just about ready to assemble. Alas, it was not to be. There was one troublesome element left, as I shall detail next time...