Silver Towers of Tzeentch, Pt. II

Okay, last week I built the flying island base.  Now for the towers themselves.

Looking at the classic model, there are three main towers—the tallest, most prominent ones—and two shorter ones in the front.  I’m going to stick to this basic design, although I’m going to tweak the style a bit.

Because that central tower is so big, I’m going to put it together a bit differently than I’ve made cylinders in the past. I built it in two halves so I’d be able to make it from my existing cardstock (big cereal boxes).  One piece was 6” x 11” and the other was 7 1/4” x 11” tall.  Then I made a series of scores on each one 1 1/4” apart, parallel to the short side.  This gave me one piece with four sides and one with five.  Each one should also have an extra inch to be the gluing-tab.  I marked the tab with a couple X’s so it’s easy to keep straight.

And, yes, these towers are going to have nine sides each.  It’s important.  Really.

This is Important—Make sure the tab is on the same side for both pieces.  It can be to the right or the left, but they both have to be on the same side or the tower won’t go together correctly.

Now, I drew a line across the card 2 1/2” inches from the top.  Then I went through each section and drew two lines so I had a row of triangles.  On this scale they’re going to need some bite, so I also put a small tab on each one.

Once that was done I scored that original cross-line and all the lines for the long sides. This was also when I trimmed the corners on the tab—it’s going to be an inch shorter so it’s beneath the triangles. Then I connected the two sections.  Because it was so big, I put clothespins on each end and used my fingers to keep it pressed flat in the middle.  The tab itself is pretty wide, so I made sure the inside and outside edges were flat.  Once this was one big piece I could work with it just like any of the others.  Speaking of which...

Helpful Hint – Before cutting out any triangles or assembling the towers, I drew two or three horizontal lines across each card.  Once they’re assembled, this will give me a good level-line to use for fire points, banners, and other details.

The other cylinders I could build in my usual manner.  I made four more, and on each one I varied the height of that cross-line to give me a few different looks for the towers.  I ended up doing three towers with 1” sides.  One was 9” tall with a 2” section for the top.  The next one was 8” tall with a 2” top.  The last one was only 6” tall and had a 1 3/4” top. The final tower had 7/8” sides.  I made it 6” tall with a 1 1/2” top section.  This shouldn’t be much of a spike, but almost flat, kind of like the vats on the Plaguereaper.

I glued each tab so the cylinders were complete.  It’s a little tricky working around the triangles at the top, but not that difficult.  I used a pencil to push on the seam for the smaller towers.  The short ones I could reach a finger in, and the central tower’s large enough to put my whole hand in.  Because they're so large, I triple-checked that everything was lining up right.  On this scale, a crooked line could make a real mess.

Once the cylinders were dry, I started working on the tower-tops.  After building the vats on the Plaguereaper, I’ve found it’s best to join two triangles together, let them dry, then add the third, let it dry, and so on.  Because I’ve got five towers, I can clamp one, move on to the next, and by the time they’re all done I can start moving forward again on the first one.  This also helped to even out the cylinder-tower and make it even all the way around.

Helpful Hint – When you start doing the tower tops, make sure all the corners are sharp and the scores do all the way from edge to edge.  If they don’t, there will be odd gaps and wrinkles where the folds don’t sit right.

I finished up by dropping a bead of glue down into the tip and moving it around with gravity.  This gave me a solid point.  Although I’m debating if these points are tall enough, going off the original model.  I may decide to cap them.

While the towers were drying, I cut a few long strips of cardstock.  I did three at 1 1/2” wide, ten at 1”, and five at 3/4” wide.  I wrapped each of these around a spraypaint can to give them a good curve.  These are going to be detail at the top and bottom of each tower.

But that’s for next time.  Or, to be more exact, next year.


Silver Towers of Tzeentch

Yep.  It’s time to dip back into Chaos and into the Apocalypse-sized side of Warhammer 40,000.

Back when I was finishing up the Baneblade, I was struck with a sudden inspiration.  These cylinders I keep making for weapons and engines and pivots... what else could they be used for?  Was there a way they could be even bigger?  I was making the pivot for the Baneblade’s main turret and it struck me that if I cut the edges of the “flower” on the other side, they would all fold in and make a point.  But what could I do with that?  Large spikes?  Missiles?  Towers?

And then I remembered a datasheet that GW put out a while back...
First, I needed to build the floating “plateau” the towers stand on.  Foamcore’s nice and cheap for this sort of thing.  If you look around, you may even find people throwing out sheets of it.  The stuff I used had been cue cards and signs.  Even if you have to buy it, one three or four dollar pack will give you more than enough.
I measured out a rough square about 10” x 10”.  Then I measured two more shapes at about 10” x 9”, and another one around 9”x9” or so.   Any time I ended up with scrap pieces I’d cut those into squares, too.  Or as close to square as I could get.  This worked down until I had a pretty good sized pile.

Helpful Hint - I did all these by eye, just using the ruler to get quick measurements.  I knew I was going to be cutting and chipping this to make them rough and uneven, so there wasn’t much point in being precise and straight to start with.  It was also a lot faster.

I went over each square and cut down corners and edges.  I glued the 10”x9” shapes on either side of the 10”x10” one and set them under a book to dry.  I wasn’t that concerned about them lining up or being straight.  My only concern was that the smaller ones were within the edges of the larger one..

Once this piece was done I set it down and started using all the other shapes to build up one side.  I ended up rounding them even more and split it into two small towers.  One big one would work, too.  Whatever appeals to your personal “flying island aesthetic” will work.

Helpful Hint - You can mix some cardstock in there, too, if you want.  It would give even more  variety to the layers.  You could also use tissues soaked in white glue to coat everything and make smoother rocks.  I kind of like the layered look, though.  It’s as if some sorcerer ripped the whole complex out of the ground and we’re seeing the strata of stone.

I coated this whole thing with black paint and glue.  The goal is to make sure there’s no exposed styrofoam anywhere.  As the GW scenic guys have pointed out many times, spraypaint and styrofoam do not mix (the aeresol eats away at the foam).  So I took my time, made sure the edges were covered, and let it dry.

Once that was done, I took this piece outside and flipped it over, so it’s resting upside down (on the side the towers will attach to).  Now I hit the whole thing with some textured spray paint.  I happen to have two cans of this stuff left over from a job I did.  It’s a little pricey, so you might not want to buy it just for this.  You can get the same effect by buying a bottle of white glue, painting the underside, and then just dumping some coarse sand on it—it’ll just take a while longer.  You could even leave it as is, basecoat it black, and just drybrush it with a lot of different grays.  The goal is to make it rock-like, so again that’s whatever your personal preference is.

Helpful Hint – You can also use all these steps just to make a nice hill for your game table.  If you decide to, though, I’d measure out the open spaces and make sure you’re leaving areas large enough for two or three models (or one large one).

Okay, next bit’s a little tricky.  I needed to find the balance point of this little flying plateau I’d built.  I flipped the piece over so it was flat-side down and put it on my hands with both fingers out.  The object is to get as much of it on my two fingers as possible.

Then, very slowly, I slid my fingers together.  Through the wonders of science—namely physics—the plateau moves and shifts so my fingers end up at the balance point.  I marked that point and then did this a few more times from different angles.  It’s not going to be exact, but it’ll be pretty close.  Close enough for what I’m doing.

Last but not least... some power tools work.  I used my DeWalt and very carefully put a hole through the center mark of the plateau.  I took my time with this and also used a square to get the hole as close to perpendicular as possible.

This Is Important--   Power tools are no joke, and I’ve seen a lot of people get hurt by them.  Yeah, everyone says that but I mean it.  I have seen lots of gouged thumbs.  On the off chance you’re under twelve and you want to try this—or even if you’re an adult who’s never used power tools before (it’s okay, there are a lot)—ask someone for help.  Dad, Mom, your older brother or sister, a friend, somebody who knows how to use the tools correctly.

At which point I need to stop and go apply my paper skills to wrapping presents.  But I’ve got the week off so expect the next update in a couple days.

Merry Christmas and a Happy Holidays to the six or seven of you who read this.  Hope you've got all your shopping done.


Pure Paper

Okay, the Doom Scythe is dead.

I’m shelving it indefinitely.  And when I say “indefinitely,” it’s like when you asked your parents if you could go to Disneyworld and they said “We’ll see.”  Everyone knew what they really meant.

Let’s be honest.  It was moving at a crawl, and with the extra stuff we all have to do around the holidays that meant it was insanely slow.  In another two months the real model will be out and a bunch of very talented engineers will put out spectacular paperhammer models that my scratchbuild won’t come anywhere near.

Plus, to be honest, I didn’t have a lot of enthusiasm for the project.  It was just something I started to capitalize on the current Necron popularity.  And there’s just too many other ideas that I really want to be working on for me to be mustering up fake excitement in the hopes of getting one or two more followers here on my geeky blog.

So next time I’m going big with another Apocalypse-level unit.  Inspiration came to me while building the Baneblade/ Plaguereaper.  More on that later.

For now... a detail tip.

I don’t know why, but purity seals have always sort of embodied Warhammer 40,000 for me.  Maybe it’s the idea of prayers and devotions being bound up as physical things.  Maybe it’s the stark contrast between science and faith.  Or maybe it’s just the fluttery ends.

Regardless, purity seals are a great piece of detail that make any model look better.  Even paperhammer models.  So when it struck me how easy it was to make them... well, I had to share.

I took my 1/16” punch and make a few holes in a piece of card, leaving a bit of space around them.  Then I took the 1/8” punch, lined it up over the 1/16” hole, and punched.  End result—a 1/8” disk with a 1/16” hole in it.  If the hole’s not perfectly centered, don’t worry about it.  As long as it doesn’t look drastically off it’ll be fine.

Helpful Hint- You need to do it in this order.  If you try to punch 1/16” holes in 1/8” disks, you’re just going to end up with disks impaled on the punch.  And you’ll shred them trying to get the off.  Start small and work out, not the other way around.

I made up about half a dozen of those and then made half a dozen straight 1/8” disks.  These got paired up with the “donuts” so I had a disk with a depression in the middle.  If there’s a little extra glue on this, that’s okay.

Next, I got some plain paper.  If you’ve got any scraps of typing paper from templates it’d be great.  If you’ve got something a bit heavier with a bit of  a grain (some junk mail comes on really nice paper), that’d be perfect.  I cut out a thin strip (under 1/8”) about an inch long.  If you want to be clever, you can cut a piece like a tall, thin hourglass, but make sure the narrow bit at the center is under 1/8” wide.

I crumpled the paper and carefully smoothed it back out.  This gives it a little more texture.  Then I folded it in half, but not perfectly.  I want the crease at a bit of an angle so the two “legs” hang a bit apart, like an upside-down V.  I put a very tiny bit of glue inside the crease, too, to keep it folded.

Then I just glued the paper to the flat side of the donut and voila.  Purity seal!

If you want larger seals for dreadnaughts, tanks, or scenery pieces, use the 1/8” punch to make the initial hole and a 1/4” punch to make the donut around it.  You could also make the paper longer (for either size) and try twisting it or putting waves in it.  There’s a good chance such things will show up next year when I try making a few Imperial vehicles again.

If you’ve been playing with the card “flats” that have had a run of popularity lately, this is also a cheap and easy way to bring those 2-D models a little more into the third dimension.  Cover the purity seals printed on them, or add extras.

All for now.  Next time... something big and very classic.  And probably following my usual leanings.


The Doom Scythe 1.1

Hopefully everyone had a nice Thanksgiving weekend.  I’ve got one bit of shameless self-promotion and then we’ll get back to the Scythe.

My publisher’s doing a big sale for the holidays he’s calling Black December.  The ebook versions of ten best sellers and new releases are marked down to a mere $2.99 for the whole month.  That includes my own Ex-Heroes (available over in the right hand column here).  He’s also a couple ebooks for free.  No strings, no tricks, absolutely free.  Books he’s just giving away.  Go check it out. 

Oh, and the ebook version of The Eerie Adventures of the Lycanthrope Robinson Crusoe isn’t part of the sale, but it’s still marked down to half the paperback price.  Just saying...

Now, the Scythe.  Again, I’m not doing templates for this, so I may over-describe some steps a bit to make it easier to follow along.

I had the upper and lower hulls, and I needed to combine them.  The artwork shows a thin, recessed section between them.  I thought about foamcore, but that’s not something people necessarily have on hand and I wanted to keep this cheap and easy.  Then I thought about building an elaborate framework, kind of like the consummate Vs I sometimes recommend, but that seemed like a huge amount of work and not too stable.  What I finally hit on was plain old corrugated cardboard.

I cut up an old box and traced my crescent-hull on one piece.  Then I went over it and drew a second line 1/8” inside that outline.  I made about three or four dozen measurements and marked off the distance, then slowly and carefully connected the dots in a smooth arc.  Going 1/8” in makes up for any “enlargement” you get tracing around the crescents and also shrinks it enough so it will be recessed between the hull sections. 

Helpful Hint – Don’t use scissors when you cut this out.  The lever-action of the scissors will crush the corrugated board at the edges.  It takes a little longer, but just use a sharp hobby blade.  Take your time and plan on two passes—one to cut through each layer.  This gave me a much smoother edge to my shape.

I glued on the crescents one at a time so I could be sure they were positioned right.  It took a fair amount of glue and also a lot of fidgeting.  It took about five minutes to get the crescents-within-crescents lined up to a degree I felt comfortable with.  I used the front prongs as my main guideline, and I didn’t worry as much about the back.

Also, I didn’t use the gigantic books I usually do to hold things flat while they dry.  I didn’t want to crush the corrugated cardboard. 

While that was drying, I went to work on the rib for the hull.  The beveled look is very prominent in the artwork, and I wanted to bet it right.  At the same time, we’re talking about combining angles and curves which could lead to a lot of stress.  Mental stress, not structural stress.

I decided to only put the angled armor on the top of the Scythe, for three reasons.  One, more people will see the top than the bottom.  Two, the tesla destructors are going to draw a lot of the attention on the underside anyway (look at that picture up top).  Three, this is supposed to be fast and cheap.

I cut two strips of regular cardstock (not corrugated) 1” wide and 9” long.  I marked each one at the 2” mark, then drew a line from that point to the corner, giving me a long, thin triangle.  Make the two strips mirror each other when you do this, so the triangles are heading in opposite directions.

Next I used a small 1” x 4” piece to scab the two triangle strips together into a single 1” x 18” strip that tapered down on either side.  Make sure the long edge of this piece is as straight as possible.

I let this dry for a few minutes and cut some scrap into 1/2” strips.  Then I took the long piece and curved it around a soup can.  I want to give it a good bend but not crease it, if possible.  Because of the scab, it’s better to work in from each end.  If the double-thick section int he  middle doesn’t get much of a curve, that’s okay.

On which note I’m going to wrap this up.  I’ve actually got more done, but I’m waiting for stuff to dry before I take photos and the post is already overdue.  So I’m going to toss this up for now and do more—maybe even finish this thing—in a day or two.


The Doom Scythe

Well, fine.  If everyone else is going to scratch-build Night Scythes and Doom Scythes, I might as well, too...

First off, this isn’t going to be spectacular, so if you’re looking for something on par with the Plaguereaper or the Rhino fleet, I’m afraid this won’t be it.  It’s a safe bet that Games Workshop is going to put out an actual Doom/ Night Scythe model when the next big Necron release happens, and a few weeks after that there are going to be a ton of great templates by people much more skilled (and with more free time) than me.  I’m looking to make something that will be a quick, decent stand-in for now.

And, as usual, I want to do it cheap.

I’m not doing templates for this, so I may be over-describing things a bit to make it easier to follow along.  Also, for most of this post, I’m just going to call it a Scythe.  We can get particular next time when I do details.

Let’s start with the basics.  I decided the outside edge of the Scythe was probably close to an 8 1/2” circle.   How did I decide this size?  Well, someone over at the Bell of (LINK) Lost Souls cleverly pointed out that the Scythe sprues would have to fit in the existing boxes.  The inside of your standard Chimera/ Rhino/ Monolith box measures 11 1/4” x 8 7/8”.  I’m also going off the assumption that the hull is going to be mostly one piece (maybe a top and a bottom section).

I drew two diagonals to find the center of a frozen pizza box.  Then, using a compass, I drew out an 8 1/2” circle.  I also drew a line that went straight through the center point.  This is going to be a front-back reference line for the model.

Helpful Hint – The model is going to need four of these shapes.  I found it was easier to do all four at once for each step, because it meant less resetting the compass.  Your results may vary...

Next, I measured down 1 3/4” from the center point and made a second mark.  Off this, I used the compass to make a  4 1/2” circle inside the first one.  Note that they don’t quite touch.  I also marked the center point.  The compass leaves a mark, but I wanted it to be clear because I’m going to be using it as a reference point. It may seem obvious, but this is the empty space “inside” the Scythe or between its wings, depending on how you view it. 

Right at the front, I went out 1 1/4” from the centerline on either side.  I made a few measurements and then made two short front-to-back lines parallel to the center line.  These are marking off the end of the wings and the gap that stretches across the front of the scythe.

Now, going off the center point of the smaller circle, I drew lines extending out over the hull and wings at 45 degree angles.   These are going to help me place the sloped armor on the Scythe.  I just want to do all the marks while this is big, flat, and solid.  Cutting’s the last thing I’ll do.

I also did a pair of lines that were 30 degrees off the center line.  These are for the cockpit section and the smaller armor sections at the front. 

This Is Important – Remember, none of these angled/ radiating lines are cut lines.  They’re just a reference for later

Once I had all this, it was time to cut.  Also, I was careful to save the center sections—they might be useful for the cockpit.  You’ll notice the Necron Warrior gives us a good sense of scale, and you can compare him to the codex art-image of the pilot up above.

Helpful Hint – These circles are big enough that you can cut the whole thing out with a good pair of scissors.  I just took my time and went slow.  It took about three minutes for each one.

Once I had all four sections cut out, I checked which pairs lined up best and glued them together.  I double-checked that they were lined up right, wrapped them in wax paper, and set them under a hardcover copy of Under The Dome and a few other Stephen King epics to make sure they stayed flat.  I let them dry overnight.

And for now, that’ll be it. 

No post next week because of Thanksgiving, but I’ll probably do two the week after just to get this done.


Commoragh’s Bargain Basement

So, while I was off not finishing the Baneblade/Plaguereaper, what else did I miss over the past year or so?

Grey Knights and Dark Eldar.  And I expect the Necron templates to start showing up any day now.  Releases that have gotten everyone I know pretty darn excited.  Well, Matt was really excited about the Blood Angels, but the rest of us weren’t.  Especially when he had the gall to start using those new rules with his army...

Anyway, I wanted to prattle on real quick about the Dark Eldar.  A lot of my friends and I had dozens of Dark Eldar sitting around,  The older, straight-backed ones that came with the third edition set.  And many of us had tried--really tried--to make a solid army out of them.

It never worked.  Yeah, I’ve seen the mathhammers and win-crazy guys argue that the old Dark Eldar worked fine as long as you make this list and do this and get these rolls.  Personally, I’ve always thought that any codex which only offers one viable army list is a failure.  That’s why I can’t wait for the new Chaos Legions Codex.

But I digress...

Here’s the cool thing.  The new Dark Eldar Kabalite sprue comes with tons of extras.  Two heavy weapons, two special weapons, and enough options for two or three different Archons.  Plus extra heads, knives, blades... tons of good stuff.  It is, in all fairness to Games Workshop, a spectacular set.  You can make ten Dark Eldar from the set and still have enough arms and heads for six more warriors.

So... guess what?

All the new arms fit on the old bodies.  No problems, no tweaks, nothing.  Take a pair of clippers to the head and carefull snip off the ball that fits in the neck socket--now those fit on the old bodies, too.  Alternately, use a sharp knife and a drill to make a tiny socket for the head.  And the spare back accessories like the flag, trophy rack, or grenade launchers?  Just file down that little nub and they’ll glue onto an old body just fine.  You can even use some of those extra daggers for more detail.  Essentially, it you’ve got those older bodies—you know, the one everyone was selling for pennies on the dollar or dumping in their bitz bins—you can get sixteen Dark Eldar out of each Kabalite ten pack.  And once they’re mixed in, they’re pretty much identical.  This photo is three Dark Eldar.  An all-new Kabalite.  One old body with new arms, head, and accessories. One’s an old warrior with just his head replaced.

You can also use the old splinter cannons, too.  I put matching blades on both the old and new cannon as an additional link-up between them.  With that and the overhand grip it’s pretty obvious they’re the same weapon.  Add on one of the new heads and it looks great.

Your old Raiders can get dressed up the same way.  Again, two easy head swaps and a dagger make the crew match your shiny new army.  Spare chains, blades, spikes, rifles--they all go on with no real problem.  I like to say my archaic-looking Raider is Urien Rakarth’s personal transport, but it would also work for any senior Dark Eldar--an Archon or a group of Trueborn, for example. 

Speaking of which, I also used the new Kabalite Warriors to make an all-plastic Archon for the army.  I used the Drachon helmet and trophy rack on a body with a splinter pistol and power sword.  Then I used the skull-cape from the Fantasy Chaos Marauder sprue.  All I needed to do was cut the very bottom point off the trophy rack and  file the center of the cape a tiny bit to make a deeper "drape" in it.  I glued a plastic dagger in front to match the metal (now Finecast) Archon, and also added some skulls-on-chains from the new Raider sprue.  A few tiny notches and pits in the sword will make it a fine huskblade once it’s got a bone paintjob.

The old bodies also made for fine Wyches.  I’m not too sure I’m going to use Wyches in my army, to be honest, but I figured I had the bodies so why not.  A few of the old Dark Eldar torsos are definitely female, and some of the leg sets have a bit of motion to them.  Bend them a bit and you’ll get even more.  And the old sets already come with the double-bladed punch dagger.  Some of the heads are leftover Kabalaite ones.  Some of them are from fantasy High Elves, I think (I found them in the bitz bin at my local store).  And a few are from my friend Jeff who bought two boxes of Wyches for himself.  The Hexatrix’s shoulderpad was from a Hellions set my lovely lady got me for my birthday.

And while we’re on the subject, lets talk Beastmasters.  All metal?  Dear God, a squad of these guys and their beasts will run you fifty bucks, minimum, and could hit $200.  For one squad!  Just use Hellions for Beastmasters.  That’s what I’ve done.  You’ll get five of them to a pack, and half of the Hellion heads already have monstrous-looking rebreathers on them.  Leave off the shoulder pads so they’re showing more skin, add some body paint, and they’ll be fine Beastmasters.  You can trim the blades off the hellglaive and just say it’s a big spear or animal-prod.  You could also add on a few Kroot or Ogre accessories so these guys can have random chunks of meat hanging from their belts.

I love the Clawed Fiend, but for a single model it’s just too expensive (money vs points).  I dug around in the bits bins at my local store and came up with the body and tail of a Fantasy Cold One (also available at BitzBarn).  I happened to have some of the old Cold One heads, so look at that.  Add on some Tyranid armor plates, an unusual color scheme, and I’ve got an alien velociraptor with a collar.  If that’s not a fine stand-in for a Clawed Fiend, I don’t know what is.

You can pay $15 apiece for Khymera or around $25 will get you ten Dire Wolves, which look like big zombie dogs.  You can even buy them individually online (BitzBarn again).  Replace their tongue and tail with Skaven tails, give them an alien paint scheme, and they’ll make for a fine pack of beasties.  Or just use them as is and tell your opponents the Beastmaster got them from Space Wolf nightmares.

Alternatively, there’s also a mention of “blade-legged Helspiders” in the Beastmaster entry, and there are tons and tons of spider models kicking around the Games Workshop lines.  Some of the larger goblin ones would make great counts-as Khymera (fast scuttling spiders could rate an invulnerable save).  Or, if you’ve got smaller spiders, you could also say the Helspiders are counts-as Razorwings.  They are blade-legged, after all.

For my own Razorwings, I used some old plastic bats I’ve had kicking around for years.  I think they’re from Warhammer Quest or something like that.  I altered the angles and heights a bit for variety and gave them another alien paintjob, trimming the wings and claws with boltgun and mithril.

Oh, and last but not least... pain tokens.  I saw a very cool article on the GW site about using piles of skulls or brass tubing and helmets.  All awesome if you can afford it.  I just used old Skeleton shields from the fantasy line.  They’re pretty much tokens already, and they’re marked with one skull, two crossed bones, or a skull and crossbones (three).  I dug up over a dozen of them, which means I can use them as either individual markers or accumulated counters.

So, tons of stuff for about $70 worth of new Dark Eldar (thank you, Neil at the WarStore) and a bunch of stuff I got for maybe $10 from the bits bins of my local store.

And sometime soon you’ll get to see my all-plastic Grotesques and Wracks.


Roads and Rivers

I caught a virus at ZomBCon that’s been kicking my ass (no, seriously), and it’s put me behind on a bunch of stuff.  Sorry I haven’t posted anything.

Anyway, in the interest of putting up something, this was a random thought that hit me the other day.  I’m not sure if I’d ever do it myself, but it might be worth thinking about.

Games Workshop sells a roll of Urban Roads.  It’s a 6” x 10’ strip of vinyl printed with some cool graphics to help represent roads.  It’s also twenty-five dollars. 

Go to your local Home Depot or Osh or whatever they call the hardware/ home improvement store in your town.  You want the tile section.  The stuff you want to get is the cheap tile, often called composite tile, and it feels a bit like dry rubber.  You can usually pick up one of these tiles for a little over a buck, so five or six of them shouldn’t hurt your budget too much.  I use them a lot for big scenery bases, because they make great city blocks.        

Once you’ve got your tiles, sand the hell out of them.  Use the coarsest sandpaper you’ve got.  Get both sides good and scratched up.  This is going to give the tiles a bit of texture, which is good for looks and also gives paint and glue something to grab.

I’m going with a six inch wide road.  It’s what GW used, and I think it’s a good number.  At six inches most models can run across a road in a single turn.  It’s wide enough for pretty much any standard vehicle, even Land Raiders and Monoliths.  Yeah, a Baneblade’s going to hang off the edges, but think about what a Baneblade would be in the real world.  It’s not designed for rush hour traffic and carpool lanes.

And, most important, six inches lets me save on materials.

Let’s say you bought six tiles.  Take five of them and cut them straight down the middle.  You should end up with ten 6” x 12” pieces.

This is Important - The tile is resilient and a hobby knife isn’t going to cut it.  You need to use an actual tile knife or a matte knife at the very least.  On the off chance you’re under twelve, ask someone to help with this.  Dad, Mom, or your older brother or sister.  This is very tough material and its easy for the knife to slip and hurt you (said as someone whose right thumb has a lot of scar tissue in it).  Make three or four shallow passes rather than trying to go through the whole thing at once.  If you get 2/3 through, you can probably even get it to snap in half with a clean edge.

The last tile’s a bit more challenging.  Measure off a 3” square in each corner.  Cut them out so you’re left with a large cross.  Or, to be more precise, you’re left with an intersection.

Spray paint all these parts flat black.  I’d do two coats and give them time to dry.  If you want to add a bit of detail, you could drybrush a bit of Codex Grey along the sides or on any particularly rough bits left from your sanding.  You could use pencil to mark off a center line and then add a yellow line down the middle.  Maybe even use some big aquillas if you’ve got them left over from a tank set.  Let’s face it, the Imperium puts an eagle on everything.

What did that take—two hours?  Half of which was waiting for paint to dry?  Two hours gives you eleven feet of road, including a four-way intersection.  All for well under ten bucks.  Plus the tiles have a good weight to them, so you don’t have to worry about them sliding too much.  You can use a piece of tape on the underside to connect them if you want it to be really solid.  Even if you don’t have much else for scenery, these road pieces and a white sheet gives you a nice supply road through the arctic wastelands.  If you’ve got a tan tablecloth, it’s a highway across the ash wastes.  So you’ve made a whole landscape off this and a trip to the linen closet.

Here’s an easy tweak to this.  Suppose you want to make a river for either 40K or Fantasy.  Be honest with yourself—you’ve always wanted to use that Amphibious rule for Chimeras and you’ve never had the chance, have you?

Take a few tiles and cut them in half, just like above.  Texture the long sides of each 6”x12” piece.  Go about 3/4” in at the most.  You can use superglue and rocks or a bit of putty.  Hit it with some sand or textured paint, too.

This is Important -  Make sure you’re consistent with these textured edges so the sections will match up with one another.  Don’t go 1/2” in on one piece and 3/4” on another.  An easy way to do it is to cut up a bunch of cardboard strips at the chosen width and superglue them onto the tile.  Now just texture the cardboard—which you can do with white glue (much cheaper).

Now spray paint the whole thing with glossy blue.  Once it dries paint the “banks” green or brown and maybe use a few touches of flock—whatever matches most of your scenery.  Maybe do a few streaks on the water with Enchanted Blue and Lightning Blue.  You could make a four foot long river for just five bucks—and that’s including the spraypaint.

Want to add a curve to your river?  It eats up a bit more material, but it’s still easy.  Just mark off the edges of a tile at the 6” mark and connect accordingly.  You can make a little jaunt or a full bend.

You could combine the road and the river with the tablecloth, add in a few stones, and look at that.  A very solid and logistically challenging landscape for under twenty bucks.

The only other thing to remember is that this tile can settle and bend over time, so you need to be able to store these flat.  Even if they do bend, just set them out on a hot day and they’ll flatten right back out.

Next week, I’ll get to those Dark Eldar for sure.  And then I think I’ll have a couple more cool scratch-builds to show you.


Skull Rock

Hey, a quick post for whoever’s interested in cheap scenery...

It’s Halloween again, which means your local discount stores probably have a ton of cheap skulls, bones, and other odds and ends that can be used to great effect.

For example, check this out.  My local 99 Cents Store had a couple dozen skulls like this.  A seven-inch skull for a buck!  There are a lot of uses for such a thing in Warhammer 40,000 or Fantasy.  Enough that I figured it was worth reminding people to keep their eyes open for such things.

However, I was inspired by a post I’d seen at the Bell of Lost Souls.  Brent showed how he made a really nice, inexpensive skull monument with the Halloween skull he found.  And he posted it on the internet, which is pretty much akin to smacking the whole world with a gauntlet (in a good natured way).  And I found myself thinking, “heck, I could make something faster and cheaper than that...”

So, I headed out this morning to put my money where my mouth is...

11:55 – I arrive home from errands with my new plastic skull.

12:10 – With groceries put away, I scraped off the big mold line running down the center.  I also figured out the three points where it makes contact when it sits.

12:20 - I superglued it to a CD base.  A plastic plate would work well, too, and the 99 Cents Store has tons of those, too, if you wanted to go a little bigger.  I also added a few wedges of foamcore and card that I had kicking about.  I trimmed a few of them to give it more of an uneven, rocky look.  I also piled them high, because I want this to look like one big chunk.

Honest Disclosure – Okay, the CD base is a bit of a cheat because I’ve got three or four of them sitting around waiting for different scenery projects.  If you’re building one on your own, it’ll probably take an extra hour for that glue to dry and cure.

Helpful Hint – I didn’t do it, but it probably wouldn’t be too hard to put a few small lumps of green stuff or chunks of foamcore on top of this thing as “balance points.”  They’d make it look a bit more rough and uneven at first glance, but actually create a level spot where you could stand figures.

12:35 – Union-mandated lunch break.  Well, not really.  But I did need to give everything some time to dry and I hadn’t eaten yet.

2:00 -  Once the glue was dry, I hit the whole thing with some textured spraypaint.  You can buy it at Home Depot or Osh.   It’s a little pricey, so you might not want to buy it just for this, but if you use it for the right things it’s worth it.  I’ve had two and a half cans of it kicking around for a while from an old film job.  

You can also get the same effect by buying a bottle of white glue, painting the whole thing, and then just dumping some coarse sand on it—it’ll just take a while longer.  You could even leave it as is, basecoat it black, and just drybrush it with a lot of different grays.  The goal is to make it rock-like.

4:30 – Done.  The textured paint takes a while to dry, but in the hot sun it did just fine.  In less than an afternoon I have Skull Rock for less than two bucks (less than three if you went for the larger plate-base).  A perfect scenery piece or an objective.  I almost hit it with a coat of gray spraypaint and some drybrushing to make it look more like granite, but I’ve decided to go with this basic, sandstone look.  It fits the desert tabletop my lovely lady and I tend to use at home.  I might do a little work around the edge of the base, but that’s it.

If you’re a Fantasy player, it might even work as an Arcane Fulcrum, yes? Although it may need a few magic symbols painted in blood or some such thing.  Not really sure how those work...

Later this week... well, I’m going to miss the rest of week, to be honest.  I’m one of the guests at ZomBCon up in Seattle.  Maybe I’ll see some of you there. 


The Plaguereaper, Part IX

Hmmmmm... I seem to have been kicked off the BoLS blog list.

On a related note, a lot of the blogs on the side seem to have fallen on the wayside. Anyone got a favorite site they could recommend? I’ve got one or two of my own, but I’ll probably be editing that list later this week. Please speak up if you think being listed here would help your site in the slightest...

Anyway... Time to finish off the Plaguereaper once and for all...

(I wonder how many Guardsman have died saying that...?)

First off, I needed hoses. I thought of a few different options and came up with this... I went to my local 99 Cent Store and bought a little four-foot Edison extension cord. My clippers took the ends off with no problem. Then I used an old hobby blade to cut between the two legs of the cord. The cord came right apart into two lengths with about a 3/16” diameter.

I used my drill to make two starter holes in the surface of each vat. I wanted the holes by the side I’d designated the back. Then I used the hobby knife to slowly widen the holes, just scraping it back and forth, until they fit the cord with no problem. Once that was set, I put some corresponding holes in the turret base. The corrosion patterns I made in the armor help with this, because I can hide the holes a little better.

I also just came up with a wonderfully twisted idea. There aren’t any tall pipes on the exhaust system I built on the engine block. It’s easy enough to take rolled-up paper and make those, if you wanted such a thing. I’m going to put two holes in the back of the turret base and run hoses from the engine back into the main hull, as if they’re either mixing the exhaust into the pus cannon spray or maybe just pumping it right into the crew compartment. Either way, it’s a very Nurgle idea.

With all those holes cut and sized, I glued the vats on behind the sponsons. It’s not a perfect fit, but there’s enough on one side of the vat for them to grab. I raised them up a bit higher than the sponson itself, but not higher than the lascannon turret. Once these were in place I held them for about ten minutes to make them solid.

Next, I cut off six lengths of the cord about 5” each. Because of the wire inside it, this will hold a curve pretty well on this scale. I bent it into angles that worked well and attached The extra amount can go into the hole on either end.

Helpful Hint – You need to use superglue to get the rubber-coated cord to stick to cardboard. Use more than you normally would, because about half of it’s going to soak right into the card.

I started with the back exhaust pipes to give the vats a little more time to dry. I got a good sense of how I wanted the hose to sit and glued accordingly. Then I did the vats. I was careful to make sure the front-most hoses didn’t impede the lascannons’ movement.

Next up was the turret itself. Keep this next bit in mind, those of you who are feeling bitter and perhaps a bit betrayed that this became a Chaos project. I figured out how to build and assemble the Baneblade cannon and the gunshield just for you people reading this. I didn’t need it. I could’ve had a toilet paper tube in there. But I didn’t want to screw over anyone who was hoping to get an Imperial tank out of this.


I used the drill again to make starter holes and used the knife to enlarge them. I knew a lot of the turret’s front was going to vanish under green stuff, so I tried to set these holes a little farther back. I also made sure there were seven of them.

You know why.

I cut the cord a little long this time, because I knew I’d be using it to help bulk out the pus cannon. Starting at the top, I bent the cord to the shape I wanted and glued it along the barrel of the Baneblade cannon. Then I worked down each side. I tried to make sure each hose had a different bend and hit the barrel at a different place. I wanted this to feel very organic—grown, not manufactured.

Next I built up the muzzle and the base of the barrel with some tinfoil. I wanted the base to be more rounded and for the muzzle to be a bit more... well, also organic.

Helpful Hint—When we do stuff with tinfoil, there’s sort of this instinctive desire to crush and compact it. To cram it into ever corner. Don’t worry about leaving it a bit loose. It’s a frame, and not even a structural one.

I started at the muzzle and put the green stuff on in all small patches, the size of a marble at most. I used my sculpting tool to carve some thick ridges/veins into the green stuff. This pus cannon should match the one I built for the Plague Tower, and that one had a creepy, muscley look to it. I also wanted all the hoses and cables to still be visible under the “skin” of this thing, so working with smaller pieces let me make sure I kept the basic shape.

This Is ImportantIf you’ve worked with green stuff before, you know you always want to use some agent like water or thin oil on your tools. Be very careful doing this when you use green stuff on a paperhammer model. A few drops of water could make a panel warp or swell—not in a good way. Keep a paper towel handy and make sure your tools aren’t any wetter than they have to be.

I let the front half dry overnight and then started working on the back half. It ended up still being tricky because we’re in the middle of a heat wave. Using more little marbles and peas of green stuff, I worked the muscle-texture under the tubes. This helped create the effect that the hoses are running into the pus cannon’s barrel like capillaries. Once I had that I worked it back up onto the turret itself to give it a solid base and add to the organic look.

Helpful Hint—One thing I realized after the fact—the turret is now very front-heavy. It’s not immediately apparent, but it does lean forward a fair amount. In retrospect, I should’ve thought about putting some sort of counterweight in the back (I still might). Of course, then that doubles the weight of the whole turret and I need to consider structural integrity. I shall post notes if this goes horribly right or wrong...

There were three Nurglings in my jar o’ Chaos bits, leftover from my Death Guard army. I drilled holes just like I did for the hoses and glued them onto the Plaguereaper at a few key points. I may add more if I stumble across them.

I used a few more threads of green stuff here and there to give the whole model some more texture and also to shore up a few points. It’s pretty (in a Nurgle sort of way) but green stuff is structural, too. I also dropped in a few last rivets here and there to make Nurgle icons.

Alas, I really wanted to have it painted for this last bit—at least a basecoat and a few details—but as I mentioned we’re having a bit of a heat wave and I am in the desert. It’s that ugly kind of heat where primer dries in the air between the can and the model and you end up with a coarse base. And after all this work, I didn’t feel like risking the Plaguereaper would end up all... well, wrong. You know what I mean.

So, for now, this model is done. Although I’ll definitely link over to Atomic Warlords when it’s all painted up and on the field melting Jeff’s Space Wolves or Matt’s Blood Angels. Some final thoughts...

I think this is a fantastic template, despite all the extra work for the treads and weapons. To be honest, there was a lot of hand-wringing about whether or not I wanted to convert this into a Plaguereaper. But, in the long run, I think it’s better that the mess-ups happen on a model that’s going to look messy anyway. Maybe somewhere down the road I’ll build a loyalist Baneblade using what I learned off this one. If you ever wanted a Baneblade and couldn’t afford it, download this template by JSVIronFurnace and start printing.

How much did it cost me in the end? The cardstock was free—harvested from boxes for cereal or frozen pizza. I bought one bottle of glue, that extension cord, and used about four dollars worth of green stuff. So if I round up, financially, this model cost maybe ten bucks (not counting eventual paint). Timewise, I’m going to err on the side of caution and say I spent maybe fifty hours on this altogether. That includes some drying time, too.

Completely worth it, in my opinion.

Next time... something different. Finally.


The Plaguereaper, Part VIII

Yes, I’ve been lying to you about so many things. The dread powers of Chaos have had me in their sway all this time. I’m so sorry you had to find out like this.

So, we’ve got about 4/5 of a solid Baneblade here. More than enough that any loyalists in the audience could continue on their own if they liked. There’s a great Fortress of Arrogance here with just a few more details. Ork players could probably make a decent Skullhamma from this point, too. And if you’re of a similar Chaos mindset, you could even just make a traitor-legion Baneblade.

I, however, am bowing to Papa Nurgle.

And for you purists out there (you know who you are) I so desperately wanted this to be Part VII, but there was just too much work to do.

So, one of the first bits I worked on was the armor plates and side hatches. These were one of the first things I cut out and could’ve been attached months ago. Alas, I’ve been planning this little bait-and-switch (bait-and-infect?) all along, so I held off as long as possible.

You’ll notice that a lot of them have a corroded look to them. I did this the same way I did on the Nurgle Defiler, by using two different sizes of hole punch (1/8” and 1/16”). On two of the key ones, I even used the 1/4” punch to work a Nurgle icon into the rust and decay.

I did these holes on both the side hatch and the plate beneath it. This gave the corrosion some real depth and made it look like it was sinking in. If I’d done this from the very start, I might’ve put a hole or two into the tread guards to make it really deep. I’m happy with how it turned out, thought.

I also did a little decay on the armor plates around the turret base. I didn’t do anything too elaborate, though, because I knew the pus cannon would dominate this area of the model. I wanted it to look good, but I also knew it wasn’t what people would be looking at. There is one more Nurgle icon worked in there, though.

One of the big features on the Plaguereaper are the two vats behind the sponsons. I got the idea for these back when I was building the shaft for the main turret. It struck me that if the scores were all done on the same side, I’d get a closed tip. Not only will this make nice vats, it’s got me thinking of another big project you’ll probably see a few weeks from now...

But, sticking with the Plaguereaper for now...

I cut a piece of card 5 5/8” wide by 4 1/2” high. Then I made a series of scores on it 5/8” apart, parallel to the short side, so when it’s done I had a piece of card with nine sections measuring 5/8” wide by 4 1/2” long. Then I cut the whole thing in half down the center, giving me two pieces 5 5/8” wide and 2 1/4” tall.

I drew a line across each card 1” from the top and then marked and measured the center of each section (5/16”). Then I used my straight edge to cut that top inch of each section into a “spike”.

Helpful Hint—Don’t bother with that last 5/8 section. That’s going to be the tab, so the top 1” is getting cut off altogether and the bottom will get the edges cut.

Another Helpful Hint—As you cut, you’ll end up with a bunch of triangles that are scored down the middle. Hang onto those.

Once this was all set I scored the horizontal line that was the base of the triangles and folded everything. The cylinder section came together as normal. I glued the spikes together two at a time, and used the scored triangles on the inside to help connect them. The score goes on the seam between the two spikes, and I could just reach in with a finger and press them together.

Now, when the spikes were together in four set of two, I took the remaining scored triangles and cut off their corners. I used these on the outside of the vat to hold the sections together. Their irregular shapes made them look like great scrap-metal patches on the tank, and a few paper rivets helped, too. At this point I also added a few bands around the cylinder section and put rivets on those as well.

This is Important—I’d already picked one face to be the “back’ of the vat—the side that would attach to the track guard behind the sponson. I didn’t put any detail on this face. It wouldn’t get seen and it would just make it difficult to attach the vat.

I also traced the top of each vat onto a piece of card and cut out an octagon to drop down inside. This gave me a surface to build body parts, goop, and so on with. I was really generous with the white glue on these, especially around the edge, so I know I got a sealed surface. Finishing this will be one of the last things I work on.

A few well-placed triangles gave a Chaos slant to a lot of the armor trim. Again, this is what I did on the Defiler to give it a bit more detail. And, yes, there are about a hundred more rivets on the model at this point. I also put another Nurgle icon on the engine block, in that conspicuously blank space where the Mechanicus shrine would normally go.

Now, I’m afraid I have to deviate slightly from the all-cardboard nature of this project to build the Pus Cannon. It’s going to need a bit of green stuff, which also means I need to get some green stuff. And an extension cord. Possibly a Nurgling or three. So, please stop by in a few days to see the last of the Plaguereaper.