Thunderbolt Fighter


Everyone’s talking about fliers.  Games Workshop released some gorgeous ones, and I’m lucky that it happened right around my birthday, so my Necron Overlord now has two Scythes at his beck and call (thanks to Marcus and my lovely lady).  I still wanted to try to make something, though, preferably on the Imperial side of things.

It turns out Jeff Vaughn--the guy behind the fantastic Malcador and Baneblade models I’ve worked on--also did a template for a Thunderbolt which is available over at the BWC Archives.  Like his previous stuff, it’s a very solid model that isn’t cluttered with details.  Easy to understand, easy to build.

And let’s be honest—after Dan Abnett’s Double Eagle a good chunk of us wanted to field a full squadron of fliers.  Not one or two models that we call a squadron, but a full-on group.  A squadron that can rain death down on the battlefield or take out Matt’s Warlord Titan with a few passes.

Did I say that last bit out loud...?


So, for this post, I’m building three Thunderbolts side by side.

Be aware right up front, this template makes a Thunderbolt that’s about 2/3 the size of the Forge World model (which is about 11” wide (wingspan) x 10” long).  You need to enlarge it to about 150%, which will give you something almost spot-on to the true model.  If your printer lets you go big, you can get most of it going corner to corner.

Helpful Hint – I took my templates to the local Fed Ex/ Kinkos and used the photocopiers there.  They have oversized 11”x17” paper (they call it “tabloid-sized”) which will fit these designs perfectly.  I got three sets of 150% sized templates for just $1.70.  So that’s sixty cents per Thunderbolt.

Alternately, you can build it at the existing scale and just tell your friends it’s very high up in the air.  Just remember you’re doing that while you follow along and cut all my custom measurements by a third.

Because of the size, I couldn’t paste these pages to one piece of cardstock, so I had to cut the different elements apart in advance.  Then it was just some basic work with a glue stick while Iron Man played in the background.  I found the main fuselage went well corner to corner on a pizza box, and the secondary fuselage goes side to side.  All the other elements could fit with no real problem.

Once they were in place, it was time to start cutting.  I started with the main fuselage.  It’s big, but it’s also about half of the work.

This is one of those templates that looks intimidating because it’s got a single piece with a lot of sections in it on it.  Well, first off, the Thunderbolt fuselage only has thirty or so scores that need to be cut.  Total.  That’s it.  Second thing is, they’re almost all on the same side.  Praise where praise is due, Jeff Vaughn made a phenomenal and very easy to use template.

Before I did anything, though, I added a few tabs to the template at key points around the fuselage.  These can be rough, quick things—they’re never going to be seen.  They just need to be wide enough to hold some glue.

I’m not putting tabs everywhere, like I have on some previous models.  The tabs do affect the thickness and the folds at points, and I’m worried how that could work on some of the fold-heavy places like the nose.  So I’m going to try something new there, which I’ll get to soon enough.

This is Important—Remember when I said the scores are almost all on the same side?  These are a couple of the ones that aren’t scattered through this template, and I’ll try to identify all of them.  On the main fuselage there’s two lines in the nose structure and two along the tail.  Make sure these lines get scored on the opposite side.

The bulk of this went together without any real problems.  It took me about thirty minutes each to cut out the main fuselage sections (making three of these at the same time, remember), and then another twenty for scoring.  So call it three hours to get all three sections ready for folding and gluing.  Then I worked through and glued the tabs, rotating my clothespins from one fuselage to the next as I went.

Helpful Hint – Make sure your creases are good and solid.  Because a lot of these are shallow folds, there’s an instinct to go easy on them.  Go deep with the folds, because the card is going to straighten out naturally and the actual shape of the assembled fuselage will hold it in place.  Better to go too deep and have to push it out than too shallow and have no way to fold it deeper

Once all three were dry, I took a good look at the nose section.  I knew it was going to take a bit of work because there are so many fine lines that a score just being a little off could make elements not line up right here.  This is also why I didn’t want to be dealing with tabs for this part.

Instead, I cut a few strips of white paper (plenty of it leftover from the templates) and started using them like patches, or even paper mache.  I’ve used a similar method a few times before to cover small gaps and imperfections in models.  I held the nose sections in position, added a drop of glue, and pushed the paper over it.  I used a hobby knife to make sure the paper sat flat on the card and went into the corners.

Helpful Hint –the paper soaks up glue a lot faster than the cardstock and becomes soft.  As a result, you need to wait longer so this can get drier or those little pieces will pop apart like... well, wet paper.  This requires a bit of patience, but the results are fantastic.

Rather than do one whole nose, I’d do the same patch on each fuselage and work my way through, giving them more time to dry.  Each nose needed about four pieces to make it solid.  This probably took close to an hour and a half altogether, but it was worth it.  This let me straighten a few pieces and make sure everything lined up well.  If there are a few gaps, they’ll end up getting hidden by the lascannons.

Once they were done I put the tail section together the same way.  I put down a bead of glue and ran a strip of paper along the inside.  The hobby knife let me work it into position.

That gave me three pretty solid main fuselage sections.  Next time I’m going to work on the weapons mount and the secondary fuselage, and hopefully get the wings attached.


Shooting Phase

Okay, this really isn’t strictly a 40K thing, but I thought it was fantastic and needed to be shared.

I love getting good pictures of my projects and miniatures, but it’s tough.  My phone camera has a fixed lens, and even my digital camera doesn’t have a good focal length for such small subjects.  I usually end up taking very large, wide photos to make sure they stay sharp and then crop them down to show the subject.

Then my lovely girlfriend stumbled across this website and realized how well it applied to my work here at In The Grim Cheapness of the Future.

Go to your local 99 Cents Store or similar merchant.  Grab a pair of +2.0 reading glasses.  Depending on the frame, you’ll either be able to pop one of the lenses out or you’ll need to give it a little snip with a pair of clippers.   However you do it, get one of the lenses free and loose.

Now, step two.  Get some regular scotch tape and fasten that lens over the lens of your camera.  Try to center it as best you can, but don’t sweat the small stuff.  If you’re pretty close to center, it’s going to work fine.

That’s it.

Helpful Hint—Really, any magnification will work, it just changes your focal length.  If you can only find a +1.5 or so, it’ll still help, it just means you might have to hold the camera back a few more inches.

The best part is, your camera’s probably going to do 99% of the work for you.  Since the new lens is outside its system, it’ll just treat it as an incoming image and process accordingly.  You may have to play around a little bit to find the sweet spot for your particular camera or phone, but not much.

Check out these two pictures of my Kroot warrior who counts as a Ssslyth.  It’s one of my first attempts, but it’s much sharper and has better resolution.

Here’s the Cryptek I made a few weeks ago.

Try it out.  You'll be amazed how much it can help.  At the worst, it’ll cost you a dollar.



Orks, orks, orks...

I can admit (and have before) I tend to base my armies around a theme rather than a strategy.  My Orks, the Tekboyz, have always been themed toward the idea of Orky technology with a bit of complete feral violence on the side.  This was kind of a challenge with the previous codex because so many things were left a bit up in the air.  Where did Meks fit into the great Orky scheme of things?  Could you have a Mek-centric army?  Were Weirdboyz game-legal or just a bit of fluff that had drifted in from older rulebooks?
I had a Weirdboy and a few Meks that I’d made out of regular orks many years back.  At the time, there just weren’t any decent models for either of them.  Now that the new codex had firmed up a few things, and the new models had set some precedents, I needed to rebuild some of them at Nob-size, and on 40mm bases.

A great thing to do this sort of thing with is Black Reach nobs (get ‘em while you can).  There are lots of places online to find them cheap.  Plus, they’re the same size as the regular box o’ Nobs, so you can swap arms, heads, or just hands with no problem.  There’s a one-handed big choppa my girlfriend used on one of her Black Reach nobs, and we’ve used the arms to get a few different poses and looks for them.  You can even just swap out one of those raised arms for a power claw.  It’s a great way to add some good-looking muscle to an Ork army.

As for my oddboyz, though...

My Weirdboy—lovingly known as Orky Gellah (anyone?)—pretty much needed to be rebuilt from the ground up.  I took a Black Reach Nob and added a loincloth from the Nob set and some Kroot capes.  I had to trim down the ammo belts and pouch on his left side to make that cape fit.  When the capes are run together, they look like one long, ragged cloak lined with bones.

Gellah’s copper staff is made from the existing handle of his axe.  I added the barrel of a Kroot rifle, plus the head from an old Fantasy Goblin drumstick that had been kicking around in my bitzbin for a while. The top is an Ork skull and a thin shoulderpad detail from the Fantasy sets.  The idea was to imply the skull-and-halo motif that a lot of Imperial Psykers use, while still looking sturdy and haphazard enough to clearly be an Ork creation.  I added some bells from different Fantasy sets for structural purposes, and also because Weirdboyz are supposed to be covered in bells so everyone knows they’re coming...

Helpful Hint - The skull is actually a standard Ork head.  I trimmed the lips and ears off with my hobby knife, then drilled out the eye sockets (starting with a small bit and then going a little larger with each of two successive bits).  As a final touch, I filed the sides of the head just a bit to accent the cheekbones.  It took about ten minutes of careful work.  You can do the same thing with Kroot heads if you want to add alien skulls to your scenery or trophy racks.

Also, I needed a Dok for my team of Cybok Nobs—the Bork.  Games Workshop has a really beautiful Dok model, but I wanted to keep it cheap.  I added a bunch of knives, hooks, and blades all over him, scavenged from the Kroot and Ogre lines.  I also gave him a steel gob.  It helps sell his cybork nature.  I also knew I could paint it white with a messy red cross on it and it would instantly imply medic with a face mask.

Since he was going to be part of the Bork, Dok Krusha (I did mention the Trek references, yes?) got the circular saw arm from the Nob set.  This also matched up with the GW model.  For his other arm, I trimmed the muzzle off his slugga and attached three of the thin flagpoles from the classic Rhino sets.   They’re kind of needle-ish, and with the right paint job this will easily fly as his ‘urty syringe.  If you haven’t been playing that long, you could do the same thing with a straight piece of stiff wire, say from a paper clip.  Just drill a hole or two in the slugga as if you were going to pin something to it, but leave the wire exposed.

One of my major Tekboyz was Obryne (aside from their boss, Tiktok, all of my various Meks are named after Star Trek engineers—I’ve also got a Skotty, Laforj, and Blanna).  Obryne was the guy who held the kustom force field... but he was built on a regular boyz body.  With the new rules he really needed to be Nob sized, and on a larger base.

I removed the force field projector and the mek backpack from the old Obryne.  Then I cut off the projector’s two small antennae and added a trio of orbs.  They’re actually from the backs of the Necron Triarch torsos.  Each one has three spheres that look just as good in brass or copper as they do in eldritch green.  I built Lychguard, so that means I’ve got fifteen of these (now twelve) for future projects.

In my first attempt, Obryne was holding the force field projector up above his head on one of the solid arms.  While it works in the sense of Orks being superhumanly strong, it just looked kind of wrong to have a Big Mek flinging his precious equipment around.  I mean, at least the stuff that wasn’t intended to be flung.  So my plan is to do some cuts and snips and move it to his other hand so it’ll be straight out in front of him.  A few extra pouches should finish him up fine.

So, there’s a bunch of nob-sized characters made from the Black Reach nobs and spare parts.  Which means each one probably cost less than four dollars.

Next up, a return to my dirt cheap roots with a Paperhammer flyer.


Sand Castles of the 41st Millennium

I thought this was worth a quick mention...

I was at my local 99 Cents Store this morning and wandered through their summer/ beach aisle.  I’m always looking for stuff there that I can adapt to my cheapskate ways.  Fortunately my girlfriend likes to look for garden stuff, so my dawdling doesn’t get me in too much trouble.

Anyway, I happened to look at a bunch of beach sets they had with sand molds and noticed that some of them were for castle sections.  Walls, towers, and so on.  And some of the manufacturers had gone all out and put masonry bits and individual stones on the outside of the molds (none of which would be represented on the castle formed from said mold).

I was trying to think if I could do anything with it and then it hit me—I didn’t need to do anything with it.  The sand mold itself was effectively a one dollar, 20-25mm scale castle section.  It even had flat sections on top for models to stand.  It just needed some sandpaper to scuff the plastic, primer, and some drybrushing with whatever grays and whites I had sitting around.  It’s not Witchfate Tor, no, but it also isn’t eighty dollars.

Then I looked at some of the other molds and realized if I added just a tiny bit of detail they’d make fantastic bunkers or bastions—again, for just a buck each.  And with interactive scenery being all the new rage, who wouldn’t want a bunch of one dollar bastions spread across their war-torn battlefield?  Heck, most of us could probably dress one up with leftover chaos or Imperial bits and make it look real nice.

So whichever system you play, go check out your local discount store, browse their summer/ seasonal aisle, and see if there’s a solid chuck of scenery there for you.


Kroot Taste Like Chicken

I have to throw out one more shameful plug for my new book, 14.  It hit the top 30 bestselling books on Audible.com last week.  Not top 30 Sci-Fi or top 30 horror—overall bestsellers (#27, with a brief peak at #26).  Check it out.  Lots of people are liking it, and you can listen to audiobooks while you build and paint toy soldiers.

As for this week’s little rant... you want to know what I use all the time as “counts as” models?  Kroot.  Kroot really don’t get enough respect from a modeling/ gaming viewpoint.

As anyone who played with the old Kroot Mercenary army list knows, they are what they eat.  Fluff-wise and rules-wise, this means Kroot are one of the few units in the entire game where it’s completely acceptable for them to have a shifting stat-line.

What does this mean for the clever, on-a-budget hobbyist?

Between their mercenary ways and their shifting stats, it means you can introduce Kroot into a lot of armies as very solid counts-as models.  Which is very cool because a box of a dozen Kroot is relatively cheap and comes with a ton of accessories.  Heck, you can go to BattleWagon Bits and buy four of them on the sprue, or try the Bitz Barn.

(apologies for the picture quality on some of these, by the way—my camera’s getting old and acting up. If I can get some better shots later, I'll replace these)

In my Inquisition force, (yes, I’m one of those oddballs still favoring the Inquisition over the Grey Knights) Leviticus Gul is a big-time radical who employs xenos mercenaries (among other things) in his fight against Chaos.  So in his squad of henchmen, his death cult assassins are all Kroot Carnivores that were remodeled to have two close combat weapons (and a pile more strapped to their harnesses).  It’s very easy to do.  One of the Kroot arms already comes holding a knife.  There’s also an arm holding a rifle by the barrel, and once you cut off the weapon around it, that leather-wrapped barrel is suddenly a leather wrapped handle for whatever you want to attach.  Their Krull-looking weapons are just the bladed Kroot rifle stocks glued together.

Helpful Hint – Kroot have a double thumb.  From a modeling point of view, that means their left and right hands are identical.  You can swap back and forth to get whatever grip/angle you want on whichever hand you want.  With their different gloves and bracers, it’s easy to hide the cuts, too.
Gul’s Vindicare assassin is a Kroot, too.  He’s based off the metal (now Finecast) Shaper model.  A tiny bit of wire as a pin let me double the length of a Kroot rifle, and a few Ork gun sights made it seem like a suitable Kroot super-sniper rifle (reminiscent of the one in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen).  His Exitus pistol--most likely retrieved from some unfortunate assassin he ate--is an Ork slugga with the glyphs filed off and a Space Marine targeter on top.  It replaced the knife the Shaper had in his left hand.
Let’s peer at the Dark Eldar Court of the Archon for a moment.  Kroot can make great stand-ins for Sslyth.  After all, they’re mercenaries, too, and while they don’t have four arms they are known for being blindingly fast, fluff-wise.  Any oddities in the stat line can be brushed off as your Kroot eating a Sslyth a few months back. 

I call him Sirpenntarr
I built some Kabalite armor for this guy using shoulder pads from the Hellions and the Fantasy Lizardmen, then loaded him up with a bunch of spare knives, blades, and holsters from both the Kroot and  Dark Eldar lines.  I strapped a splinter rifle across his back to add to the mercenary feel and also help represent the shardcarbine. 

Sslyth come on a 40mm base, which looks a little large, but there’s so much extra Dark Eldar stuff (new and old) floating around in bitz bins it would be easy to make a mini-diorama with the extra space which would tie him to the Dark Eldar even more.  Maybe some vehicle wreckage or bodies of various Dark Eldar warriors who failed to kill this mercenary’s employer

Using this same logic, by the way, you could use Kroothounds as Ur-Ghuls if you wanted to.  Their stat line wasn’t quite as mutable in the game—they’re supposed to be an evolutionary dead end, fluff-wise—but if you’re using Kroot as Sslyth you can probably say “counts-as by association.”  I’d just paint the hounds a ghastly green or blue-white and say they ate something that didn’t agree with them.  Or maybe agreed with them far too well...

I’ve also been playing with the idea of building a Kroot model to serve as a “counts as” Guardsman “Sly” Marbo.  With nothing more than a paintjob a Kroot could match any Imperial Guard paint scheme, and it wouldn’t be hard to rationalize it as a lone, deadly mercenary the army had managed to hire.  With a few extra bits or the right paint scheme, a Kroot could even make a passable Predator.  And what army wouldn’t want the Predator on their side...?

So next time you’re struggling for a counts as model, think of the Kroot.

Next up, one last conversion tip with the Orks, and then it’s time for a new Paperhammer project.