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.