Cheap Jungle Plants

We were told by our landlord that we had to clean the garage out this weekend, so a lot of work did not get done on the Thunderbolts.  However, we swung by our local 99 Cent Store for drinks and I saw this little piece of cheap scenery goodness which I thought should be shared.

One of my many armies is a Catachan force, so I have a love of jungle scenery and some of the great gaming tables Games Workshop has made along those lines.  Even though I don’t play fantasy, I also love the Lizardmen in their steamy Lustrian home.

When GW released their Jungle Plants a few years ago, though, I couldn’t help but feel a bit cheated.  Over twenty bucks for what were essentialy aquarium plants?  I decided to stick with my old plastic palm trees.  I was pretty sure another option would present itself.

Sure enough, my local discount store ended up with a whole shelf of “fake grass” in their gardening section.  It’s a good sized square with about sixty-four tufts on each one.  There are two different textures, with thinner blades on some and wider ones on thers that would be broad leaves in 40K scale.

Each tuft pops off so you can mix and match textures.  Or you can attach them to bases or other scenery pieces.  You could even pull off all the tufts in every third row and suddenly this square’s become a farm with crops growing in rows.  Set up four of them like that with a river and you’ve got a verdant agri-world just waiting to be defended, devoured, or pounded into the ground.

All for less than five bucks.


Thunderbolt Fighter, Part IV

An extra post to make up for the lack of post a few weeks back.

So,when we last left the men of Aquilla Squadron they were trying to fill in a huge gap around their canopies that would’ve all made them all decompress and explode... which would not serve the Emperor’s will.

I’d just filled in a bit in the front.  Now I needed to do the same thing on the sides.  I cut two strips of card 2” x 3/4” (one set for each plane), and then scored them so I had a 3/8” section, a 1/8” section, and a 1/4” section.  For the record, the 1/4” sections are the outside, and the 1/8” piece is the top.  I cut one end of both sides at about a 30 degree angle, giving me kind of a lopsided-arrowhead shape.  Once it was folded on the creases, it looked a bit like a narrow chisel.

This piece went on the inside of the cockpit on either side.  The outside of the chisel glues to the inside of the cockpit.  The chisel end sits against the sloped piece I put in last week.  I used a few patches to make sure these extentions met the slope and there weren’t any ugly gaps.

If I’d Known Then What I Know Now... – All of this could’ve been dodged right at the start just by leaving some extra material on the template around the cockpit.  I could’ve made the folds with that rather than trying to glue on pieces to extend it out.  I highly recommend it so your cockpits can be a lot cleaner than mine are.

At this point I also added some fine detail to the fuselage around the cockpit.  To be honest, figuring out all this gap-filling stuff was a bit frustrating and I just wanted to see some more progress.  The Forge World model has two large rivet-like shapes behind the canopy on either side, plus a large circle that looks suspiciously like a gas tank lid.  I used discs from the 1/4” and 1/8” hole punch to make these. 

Next, I wanted to put in a bracket to help hold the rear engine in position.  I wanted something that would have a little bit of play but be solid enough to support one end of the engine.  Once the canopy’s in place it’ll be very tough to work inside the fuselage, so I decided to add it now.  It’s just a 3/4” strip of card (some leftovers from above) cut at 3” long.  I scored it every half inch and folded it into sort of a chevron shape.  I glued the chevron into the tail of the plane, about an inch back from the rear opening.

Now I was in kind of a dilemma.  I wanted to be able to reach back through the cockpit to position the engine, but I needed to put the canopy in place to help shape the tail section.  This made for another pause while I considered options.  I decided to get everything ready to go so I could put the engine in place and then add the canopy while the glue was still wet in case I needed to adjust things.

And I’ll show you the results of that next time.


Thunderbolt Fighter, Part III

Very sorry I missed last week.  I had a deadline and my fun bar suffered for it.

In a related bit of self-promotion, I am completely stunned to announce that my book 14 has actually hit the top ten bestsellers over at Audible.com.  God knows how, but for the moment I’m beating out Dean Koontz, two of the Hunger Games books, and even Stephen King.  Please check out the free sample, if you’re so inclined.  Heck, feel free to buy it or spend a credit on it.  After all, audio books are just books you can read while you’re working on little toy soldiers...

Speaking of which... Okay, so the bulk of the template is done.

I wanted to put the tail section together and finish off the template, but after some thought I decided I needed to have the rear engine/ thruster in place before I assembled the tail fins.  I didn’t want to do the fins first and then wreck them trying to get the engine in place.  So first thing to do is build an engine.

I cut a piece of card 3 3/8” wide by 2” high.  Then I made a series of scores on it 3/8” apart, parallel to the long side, so when it’s done I had a piece of card with nine sections measuring 3/8” wide by 2” long.  Just like I’ve done before, yes?  The last one is going to be the gluing-tab, so I cut the corners to give me something to work with.  I folded it and glued the tab.  I did this three times (one for each engine).  This is going to be the outer cylinder. 
Then I cut a second piece (ready for this?) 2 13/16” wide by 1 1/4” high.  This one got scores 5/16” apart.  Same drill as above.  This was the inner element.  Also as above, I did this three times.

While those were drying I cut three strips 1/2” wide and about 3 1/4” long.  I say about because this is one of those measurements you may need to tweak a bit.  I wrapped them tight around my hobby knife (you could also use a large marker or round pencil or something like that) so they got a good curve to them.  Then I wrapped them around the edge of the outer cylinder(s), trimmed where/if appropriate, and glued them in place.  If the cylinder looked better from one angle than another, I made that the underside and put the seam over it.

After that I did two more strips—one at  2 3/4” wide by 1/2” high, the other one  2 3/4” wide by 1/4” high.  These got curled and glued on opposite ends of the inner element.  The 1/2” piece can be a bit messy because it’s going to be completely hidden (as you’ll see in a minute.

Helpful Hint—The lengths on all these wrapped strips is a bit vague because it’s a tricky measurement.  Depending on depth of scores or how a tab was placed, your cylinders may not be exactly the same size as mine.  Check it, mark it, cut it.  Always cut small- you can take off more, but you can’t add it back.

Once these pieces were dry, I used a little glue and slipped the inner element into the outer cylinder.  I used pictures of the Forge World model to get a placement that looked right to me.  You might go for a different one, or maybe change the width of a few strips to get different effects.  I also added a few rivets with the 1/16” hole punch because I knew they’d be a pain to place later.

Helpful Hint—I used the edges of the outer cylinder to line up the rivets.  Uneven rivets just look strange.  Except on Ork stuff...

This is Important -- I had a sudden realization as I was getting ready to install the engine.  The cockpit is a solid piece that will actually shape the rear section of the fuselage.  It’s going to need to go in before the engine. The moral of this story—don’t stop thinking.

So, the order is cockpit, engine, fins.

Now, here’s where things start to get a bit rough.  On Jeff Vaughn’s template the cockpit is pretty much free-floating.  It just hangs there and sort of shows off all the empty space inside the fuselage.  I wanted to make it a bit more solid and also add some detail at the same time. 

This took a bit of thought and work, and some more study of  those pictures on the Forge World site.  The canopy definitely sits “inside” the cockpit, but the cockpit also needs to be built up a bit so there aren’t big gaps.  As it turns out, all this can be fixed with just a few very simple additions.

First, I added a “bow tie” to the back of the template (because bow ties are cool).  The the tie’s “knot” is going to match up with that small 3/8" section right at the front of the tail.  The two “wings” of the bow tie lean down so they’ll fit in the downward-sloping tail.  I also added a little tab on the front by extending out the lines of the front.  This is going to serve a double purpose, and it should be scored on the outside so it bends in/ under the canopy.

None of these have to be exact, by the way.  They'll all be hidden once everything's assembled.

Helpful HintI’ve mentioned this a few times before.  If you need to do a lot of fine-detail cuts, always start with the smaller, inner ones first before cutting the whole piece out of the sheet.  It’ll give you a lot more stability.

Okay, now, to help keep things simple, from here on in I’m going to be referring to the template piece as the canopy and the open space in the fuselage as the cockpit.  That’s a little closer to the correct terms anyway, and it lets me keep them straight.

I put the canopy together with the patch method.  It took a little work, and it’s impossible to clamp, so I made sure I had a movie in (or an audio book to listen to—wink wink, nudge nudge).  Make sure all the scores are good and the creases deep for this.  I folded them against my straight edge to make sure I got a sharp edge that wasn’t bending the framework of the canopy.

Once it was together (although you could do it before and it won’t make a difference), I glued a few discs from the hole punches onto the forward tab.  I used a 1/4” one in the center, and then some 1/8” and 1/16” around it.  They should be on the inside of the canopy.

Next I needed to add a piece to the front of the actual cockpit.  There’s a forward-sloped trapezoid at the front of the cockpit.  I held a piece of card in place there and traced the edges.  It’s a bit awkward, but it’s easier and quicker than trying to do a lot of math and angle measurements, even if you have to do it twice.  Then I double-checked the lengths to be sure and added tabs to the top and sides.  This glued right into place.

With all the different folds and angles in the fuselage, I had to do this individually for each Thunderbolt.  The variations are tiny, but they add up and make a difference.  Since this is the cockpit, it’s going to be the focus of attention (this and the weapons) so it need to look great.

Helpful Hint--If you want to (I didn’t) you could cut a piece of card to fit inside the fuselage between the two sides.  It would give some extra structure and make the cockpit seem much shallower.  The other advantage of this is you could take an Imperial Guard tank commander torso (one of the ones made to just be poking out of the hatch), slap a Cadian vox head on it, and you’d have a pretty passable pilot to set inside the cockpit under the canopy.  I did something similar back when I made the Hellblade.

And explaining all this has taken a little more space than I intended.  So I’m going to stop for now and maybe finish the cockpit and add some more details at the start of next week.


Thunderbolt Fighter, Part II

When we last left the men of Aquilla Squadron...

So, last week I got all three fuselage sections pretty solid.  This time I needed to build the other two major sections of each Thunderbolt—the weapons mount and the secondary fuselage (which also gets the wings).  Going in order with the templates, the mount is first.
This Is Important--The weapons mount is pretty simple, but it does have a number of backscored lines.  Some of them are pretty easy to do, but some you’ll either need to measure or do what I did...

Helpful Hint--  Get a ball point pen or fine-point Sharpie, preferably black.  Put a dot on each edge of the card, right where the line ends.  When you flip it over, you should just be able to see the two dots and run a straight edge between them.

Because this is a bit finer, I decided to use the patch method I used on the nose of the main fuselage.  It worked fine here, and all three of these took me about twenty-five minutes to assemble, from cutting out to final patch.

I decided to hold off installing this piece in the main fuselage because I think it’ll be easier to put weapons on it while it’s out.  More on those in the next two weeks.

The secondary fuselage got a quartet of tabs.  It also has two lines that need to be backscored. They lined up very easily with a straight edge.
I made sure the folds on the engine casing were very tight.  As I made each fold I tried to slide them into position and make sure everything was as snug as possible.  This took a little longer because I clamped them and double and triple-checked to make sure they didn’t slip or shift.  I gave them a little extra drying time between tabs, too.  It probably took close to half-an hour of work on each one, even though they’re pretty simple and straight-forward.

Next up was the wings.  These were going to be a little tougher.  At first, I wanted to do them double-thick to give them some stability and make them look solid.  I also needed a way to connect them to the fuselage that will be structural (since a single edge doesn’t give me much.  I studied the picture in the Apocalypse expansion book and tried to get a sense of the details and such.

In the end I decided to keep them single-thickness.  If I doubled them up I worried the cardstock would start to warp, plus I was just worried they’d look kind of funny and rough on the edges.

As for attaching them, after some thought and planning (and a few discarded ideas), I fell back on the oldest card-building idea there is.  Insert tab A into slot B.  In this case, slot B is that open space past the engine.

Tab A should fit right under that extended part of the engine casing.  Check your own measurements to be sure.  This tab should be backscored so it folds up.  I glued it in place, clamped it, and made sure the front of that edge was butted up against the engine casing, too.  A gap in the front will be far more noticeable than one in the back.

Helpful Hint—I found this was a great, simple way to get the wing to sit flush.  I let the secondary fuselage hang over the edge so the wing was upright.  Then I clipped a few clothespins to the front edge of the wing and let gravity do the rest.  A glue bottle helped keep it steady and perpendicular to the engine casing.

Now, believe it or not, at this point the template is about 90% done.  I just need the tail sections and the cockpit.  I wanted to add a few more details, though, and also fill in some Paperhammer alternatives for the engines and weapons.  I started with the wings, because these details could also help keep the whole thing structurally solid.

I cut four strips 2 1/8” long and 3/4” wide for detail work.  One of them went on the underside of each wing along the front edge, butted up against the fuselage.  It makes the wing look thicker and helps give a little extra structural support, too.

Then I measured out four more at 3 11/16” by 3/4” wide.  At first I thought about taking the 1/8” hole punch to them to create that circular pattern on the Forge World model, but a few attempts convinced me I wasn’t going to get them all to line up right (at least, not without a heck of a lot more effort than I was willing to put into this).  So for now I glued this strip on top of the wing.  As below, I butted it up against the fuselage for more support.  I had a light score in it that lined up with the score in the wing, and gluing them together helped hold the wing at the angle I’d created.  I clamped this down to keep it from warping.

Once that detail strip was kind of solid, I glued a line of 1/8” discs back in place.  I flipped them over so the beveled edge from the punch became a new level of detail.  This isn’t quite aerodynamic, yes, but how many things in the grim darkness of the future really are...?

Last but not least, I wanted to add something big and showy on one of them to mark out the squadron leader.  There’s no rules for him, but I’m hoping my gaming group would be fine with a flying ace who follows the same (well, slightly modified) rules and points of a tank ace (a.k.a. Commander Pask).  We can hammer out the fine details later, but if we can’t, well... hopefully it’ll still looks cool.

There are a bunch of Warhammer 40K fonts floating around the web, and you can probably find two or three of them with a simple Google search.  There’s Marines, Imperial, and ChaoSquat off the top of my head.  Many of these have a version or two of the Imperial Eagle.  Using my word processor, I opened up and created one that hit 6 1/2” long (I think it was about 185 points, size-wise).  Once it was printed up I essentially had a template for an Aquilla (an idea I’ve tossed out a few times but never shown here). 

It took a little under half an hour to cut out the claws, heads, and all the individual feather/pinions.  Once I had it, I lined it up on the cutting board and split it right down the middle.  Half went on each wing of the squadron commander’s Thunderbolt.  I think it looks fantastic.

Next time, some scratch-built engines, weapons, and a few more details.