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.

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