Sunday, November 30, 2014

Project Review: Death Watch Detachment

The Space Marine Death Watch is an organization that operates in conjunction with the Ordo Xenos, it is the elite anti-alien space marine group. Rather than recruit new marines from various worlds, the way most Space Marine chapters do, the Death Watch draws members from existing chapters to serve the Death Watch on a temporary basis. Because of this Death Watch combat teams tend to include individual members from several chapters. In this fashion a Dark Angel may find himself serving alongside a Space Wolf being commanded by an Ultramarine.

This particular project was as a preparation for an Apocalypse scale Warhammer 40,000 game I was going to be running. I really like the idea of the Death Watch and had wanted something that would allow me to field some representation of it on the board for a while. The idea of pulling from a variety of chapters to form a single unit gives me immense freedom for customization and convertion, but with out needing to be uniform in my approach. A Dark Angel robed body isn’t generally something that can be used alongside a Space Wolf’s legs for instance. When  Games Workshop released a datasheet for a Death Watch detachment I knew I had to make one of my own.

Actually planning the deathwatch team proved to be an interesting challenge, and of a different type than most of my conversion projects of the past it wasn’t enough to simply create 21 different marines and paint them all black. Rather I had to create 21 Marines that were from different chapters yet look like they were operating in the same unit. In order to address this particular challenge I used a different planning approach or the unit as a whole. Essentially I approached it more from a story perspective than from a tactical one. The detachment would be led by a captain that broke the detachment into two smaller 10 man squads. But in order for each squad to maintain its own flexibility, they would be as similarly equipped and outfitted as possible. Basically what this boils down to is I had to make 210 man squads that could be identified on the squad level but neither would be the “space Wolf” squad or the “ultramarine” squad.

I referenced the deathwatch role-play game books quite a bit in this regard, reading up on the strengths and advantages each respective chapter brings to a deathwatch squad in that game.  It took me a little while to really decide on the chapter breakdown of the detachment, deciding how many Marines from each chapter I was really I represent in the detachment. Finally I decided on a breakdown for the 2 squads. The entire detachment would be made up of a captain, to Imperial fist space Marines, two Crimson fist space Marines, two blood Angels space Marines, to space Marines from the Aurora Chapter, too dark Angel space Marines, two spacewalks, two Black Templars, two iron hand space Marines, three ultramarine’s, and finally one black shield space Marine.

A black shield space Marine is a concept I first encountered in the deathwatch role-play game. The idea is it is a loan space Marine that does not have a chapter to return to. He either has no chapter because he is the last surviving member of the chapter, yet or he has been excommunicated from his chapter and thus is not welcome in that chapter anymore. According to the game manuals black shields generally do not speak of their history so the exact reason that they are a black shield is generally something known to the game master and the respective player only. The idea of a loan space Marine that has no chapter to return to just really hit the court in my mind and I had to put in the detachment itself.

So with a plan in mind about what I was going to build, the first big step in this project was actually acquiring the materials to build them. For this project I knew I was going to be building individual diverse Marines I want them somewhat unified by their bases. Once again I turn to Dragon Forge designs, and ordered an assortment of bases from his ancient ruins series of bases; two sets of 10 of the 25 mm size bases, a 40 mm heroic base for the watch Captain, and a couple larger 60mm bases. I got the 60mm bases activity because I thought it will be kind of cool to have a deathwatch style dreadnought and I want to make sure I had the base on hand when and if I got around to building that model.

Next up I had to get the core materials to build the squads, and for that I made a trip to games I placed a order for two of the 10 man title squad box sets, the Pedro Kantor figure, three of the deathwatch conversion kits, the Imperial Fist/Crimson fist shoulder pad package and two of the iron hand conversion kits. Beyond these specific purchases I did a considerable amount of bit box diving and collected chapter specific iconography and bits for the rest of the detachment. In the course of the bit box diving I also found pieces from other sources that I decide to use, from Forge world.

Converting the watch Capt. was the first serious challenge to the project, due to the Pedro Kantor modeled being fine cast resin. The fine cast resin is a tickly light and soft material that if you are not cautious while working with can easily become deformed or damaged. The main reason I chose to use this model for my watch Capt. is because of all the space Marine special character models this one looks the least flamboyant. Unlike say Marnues Calgar, whose motto can practically be identified from across the room while you’re looking the opposite direction, Pedro Kantor’s model looks almost like any other captain figure you could build of the space Marine commander box set just have a little bit more bling to him. Thankfully the head of the model is separate from the body being it was a simple matter to replace the intended head with a head from the deathwatch conversion kit. The real challenge for this particular model was the wrist mounted storm Bolter on the left arm. The size of the arm on the model itself is actually smaller than a comparable shoulder pad should be from say the deathwatch conversion. The shoulder of the model also puts the arm in an odd position relative to the backpack which creates an issue because of the low enlarged shielding edge on the deathwatch shoulder pad. Ultimately what I had to do was cut off the arm and then segmented just above the elbow, replacing the upper segment of the arm with a plastic space Marine arm and then reassembling the pieces together redirecting the belt feed for the storm Bolter behind the deathwatch shoulder pad.

The next section of the project I worked on where the four heavy Bolter equipped space Marines. Initially the seem like it would be a simple shoulder pad swap operation, replacing the shoulder pad from the tactical squad With the chapter specific shoulder pads. There was just one thing that I overlooked; the fact that the plastic devastator heavy Bolter shoulder, shoulder pad,  and upper arm of for the heavy Bolter are all one piece, so I couldn’t simply replace one part of that single piece. In order to accommodate this I would ask a have to cut out the shoulder pad, and then mount the chapter specific shoulder pad in place where the original shoulder would have been while still keeping the heavy Bolter ammo feed going back along the shoulder line so that it would marry up with the heavy Bolter backpack once the Marine itself was built. For the black shield space Marine this was actually a non-issue since it meant I didn’t actually need to add a chapter specific icon to the shoulder. But for the other three it was a bit of a challenge that I had to go very carefully and very slowly with to avoid damaging the finished product.
the four converted Heavy Bolter Armed marines for the Death Watch Detachment

Monday, November 24, 2014

This year

So, it’s coming up on of November. This creates an issue for me, namely the fact that I want to continue working on my projects but I work in retail. As most of you are probably aware, at least in North America (I honestly have no idea if the rest of the world suffers like this, and I very honestly hope they do not) from about the 2nd week of November through the first week of January is the single busiest portion of the year for retail environments, and to be honest, the most hectic. Everyone is in a rush to get this item, or grab that gizmo, everything is rush for the last minute, and everyone wants everything right now, it’s just such a hassle. On the upside, it means more hours which means more money which means more resources for projects. On the downside, it means more hours at work during a more demanding period of time which means less hours for projects, and less inclination to undertake during the hours I’m not working or sleeping due to exhaustion. Seriously, trying to use sharp tools when you’re tired just isn’t a good idea. So what does all this mean? Well for the next 6 weeks I am not going to commit to working on any major part of a project . I will still be posting, but rather talking about projects I am currently working on, I will be reviewing and discussing my projects from the year up to this point. I’m also going to cut my posting schedule down to one post per week until January 5th where
I will return to my normal 2 post a week schedule.

So, here is the schedule of project reviews I will be doing over the course of the next month roughly:

December 1 - Death Watch Detachment
As part of my preparation for an Apocalypse scale Warhammer 40,000 game I assembled and painted a detachment of Death Watch Space Marines. This detachment consisted of 2 10-man Sternguard squads with 2 heavy bolters and sergeant each, and a Watch Captain.

December 8 – Project Thunderhawk
This is a biggie project, and yet is the simplest to explain: I am working on scratch building a Space Marine Thunderhawk Gunship based on a paper hammer template. I’m taking it a bit further by wiring it up with lights. I had originally wanted to try casting pieces I needed multiples of in resin,
but ultimately decided to just build the parts as needed.

December 15 – odd and Ends Warhammer projects
Less of a proper project and more of a catch all for various one-off projects for Warhammer I’d completed through out the year. I’ll be talking about the Trygon with Fibre optic eyes, the Jain Zar I converted from a Lilith model, and the Servo Skull tape measure I re-painted.

December 22 – Project Wing Gundam
This is really where I started to revamp my approach to this blog and began branching out into modeling beyond building Units for Warhammer 40,000. With my first return to GunPla modeling, I tried using new paints on what is intended to be effectively an action figure once it’s built.

December 29 – Project Heavy Arms Gundam
Project Heavy Arms was a very interesting project for me and really helped me shift focus from my normal approach to modeling. The overall objective of the project was to convert a 1/100 scale Heavy Arms Custom Kia model into a 1/100 Heavy Arms model, or at least something close to it.

January 5 – Project Gouf Custom
With this project I deliberately moved into using coloring pigments, a tool for model builders I had never used before. My goal was to weather the model based on the damage it took in the anime. Here I will be talking about what I learned about using with pigments.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Project: OZ-13MS Gundam Epyon Part 3

Battleship Libra, that is the topic of today post. More specifically the construction of a stand that is intended to represent a piece of the battleship that will act as a base for the Epyon model and provide a location to house the majority of the electronics for the finished product. Now previously I had a flat panel with some bracing and a pair of raised sections to house the switch and the battery pack for the Libra base.

The bottom of the base for the OZ-13MS Epyon Gundam.
The base for the Epyon Gundam.
So obviously the next big step is adding the sides for the base. The sides are made up of alternating sized triangles, the wide sections on the longer sides, and the corners being covered in a thinner triangle shape. So in theory I should just be able to cut out the 4 wide triangles, and the 4 narrow triangles, glue them together and call it a day. Right?

Well, in theory yes. That is what I would need to do. See, here’s the thing: Reality isn’t theory. Here’s a prime example of this  concept in action. When I cut out the shapes I used the measurements for the two-dimensional shapes, and I didn’t take into account the dimensions of the depth of the part. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing so long as I’m willing to do the work on the next stage. 

The problem the lack of consideration for the depth measurement creates is one of sides not lining up the way that you would expect them to in theory. 2+2+2= 6 yes, but 1.99+1.99+1.99= 5.97 and that’s where the problem comes in. This construct has 8 sides. 4 of those sides are supposed to be the same, while the other four are different from the first four. So using the previous example of 2+2+2=6, well now it is 7.0625+1+7.0625+1+7.0625+1+7.0625+1=32.25. Again, in theory.
 But lets say it becomes:  7.062+1.01+7.0725+0.92+7.0425+1+7.1625+1.09=32.3595.
A difference of 1/20th of an inch one way or the other on each piece amounts to more than a 1/10th of an inch of difference in sizes.

But remember, these are pieces that are being assembled into a three dimensional structure. Once the parts are attached to the structure, it’ll be really hard to cut the parts. So in this particular case, I’m advocating to take more off then leaving too much. Which is what brings me to this:

Building the Libra Starship base for the OZ-13MS Epyon Gundam. The pieces don't line up perfectly.
The Libra takes form.

In building the pyramid structure I was able to mostly marry up the edges in such a way that just a little bit of sanding will be needed to hide the seam. On this last facing however, this is where all those .02 and .01 inches worth of difference finally added up to close to a quarter inch of gap. I had to slide in an extra segment of sheet styrene to fill the gap and even then there is still a sizable space between the parts. So I will need to fill the space with a putty and sand it down.

With some advice from a friend at Hobby Town I picked up a tube of Tamiya Putty white and went to work filling the spaces. The putty is really hard on the skin, and it’s best to wear gloves when working with this stuff. Beyond it being best to wear gloves, using the putty is very simple and straight forward. Apply a portion of putty to the seam and then smooth it down with your finger tip. Let it sit for 24 hours so that the putty has a chance to cure and harden properly. Once it had cured I just needed to come in sand paper and sand it down smooth. I started with 200 grit sand paper and worked my way up to 1200 grit for a smooth finish.

The next step was scribing the lines of the panels . If you look at the image of the Epyon perched atop the Libra, you can see the divisions between the parts of metal that make up the surface of the ship. These are the panel lines.

The first step in this process was to mark out the lines. This sounds like it would require a lot of measuring, and in truth there is a lot of allowance for that sort of detail. But once everything is said unlike the process of building the pyramid itself, this really had no reason to be such a detailed process. So the only measuring I did for this part was the distance from the apex of the pyramid down the sides. I marked out lines with an interval of 1.5”. So 1.5” from the top of the pyramid to the first line, 1.5” from that line to the next and finally 1.5” to the next. I used a blue fine tip marker to draw out the horizontal lines that will be etched into the surface. I then went in and basically put in random vertical lines to mark out various sized plates.

After smoothing out corners with Tamiya white putty, I came back and marked out the panel lines for the Libra Battle Ship base for the OZ-13MS Gundam Epyon

Once I had the lines marked out, I came back along with label tape and lined the tape along the horizontal lines. The label tape is that plastic sort of tape used in those label maker guns. This tape provides a hard edge with an adhesive back to it that can be stuck on the surface of plastic. With the tape applied I then went to work with my scribing tool. I went for a depth of 5 passes with the scriber. This gives a really solid panel line. Once I had the horizontal lines scribed I went to work on the vertical lines.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Project: OZ-13MS Gundam Epyon Part 2

Creating the new beam saber. This is really the crux of this entire project. Most of the 1/100 scale GunPla models come with beam weapon effects molded in a tinted plastic, in the case of the Epyon it is molded in green plastic. But I want to be able to light up the plastic. I had previously tried to accomplish this by carving out a space for the LED inside the saber effect and mounting the LED at the base of the saber effect.

I initially tried cutting out a hole in the Epyons beam saber effect to put an LED in the piece.
I cut out a hole in the beam saber blade for a square LED.
 It does work… sort of. But it also brings up a lot of additional problems, the biggest being how do I solder the wires when the LED connections are practically on top of the plastic handle itself and the handle isn’t actually wide enough to survive being drilled through the length to pass the wires through.  So I decided to cast the beam saber effect, and the saber hilt in tinted resin. This way I can physically imbed the LED inside the part, rather then having to cut up the part to fit the LED. I can also pre-assemble the LED, resistors and lead wires before embedding them into the resin and then just pass the wires through the cable tube that actually comes with the model.

 Now, casting is a surprisingly simple process that can become incredibly demanding over very simple aspects. The Epyon’s beam saber with the saber effect when assembled is a design that emphasizes it’s lateral details while having relatively little vertical details. This is of relevance to the mold making process. The silicone rubber will fill in any space that isn’t sealed off. For instance, where the green plastic beam effect sits in the hilt, the hilt is raised away from the saber effect so if the mold is laid out width wise the rubber would encapsulate the saber hilt and fill that void between the hilt and the saber effect creating a wasted effort of a mold. It would be wasted because I would then have to cut apart the mold in order to remove the original part very likely ruining the mold in the process.

So there are 2 ways to make a mold for the Epyon sword, the first is make the mold with the hilt and saber effect mounted depth wise. This allows the lateral details to be taken very well. The second way is to mount the parts laterally and make a shallow mold. The challenge with this second approach is I have to make sure to filling any spaces that will cause the  rubber to encapsulate the original parts.
I made my first effort to create the mold by mounting the saber in the rubber depth wise.

Initially I made a mold for the Epyon Gundam's beam saber by mounting the saber deapth wise.
The first mold setup for the beam saber I made.
Well I ran into another problem with this approach, well 2 problems actually. First, it takes more rubber to make the mold like this. And by more, I mean close to 30% more. You really can’t make a silicon rubber mold that is narrower than 1” and with as long as the Epyon beam saber part actually, it’s close to 6” long with the larger saber effect; the mold really needs to be 4” wide, if not wider, in order to keep the blade straight. So making the mold depth wise simply didn’t work out and with that I needed to create a new mold this time shallower and wider.  I used some clay to fill in the spaces that would otherwise be filled by the rubber.

So 2 days later, I had a working 2 part mold for the Epyon beam saber that I can now cast in green tinted resin and embed an LED in it to create the light up saber for the mold. Things are looking good. So I mixed the resin, picked up a bottle of green dye, mixed in a couple drops of green dye to tint the resin green, poured the green tinted resin into the mold, put the LED in the base and then put the green tinted resin filled mold in the pressure pot, sealed up the pot, pressurized it, and left it sit for 6 days so the resin would cure. Yes, the resin I tried this with has a 6-7 day cure time.

This incredibly long cure time is actually a bit of a good thing in this case. When you mix epoxies like resin you tend to mix in air that create bubbles in the resin. With opaque resins this is a non-issue, but with transparent resin it create some visual headaches. So there’s 2 days to deal with this and in both cases it takes a little time and control of air pressure. The first option is to perform a process called “Vacuum degassing” where you put the resin into an air tight chamber and suck all of the air out of the chamber. This causes the bubbles of air in the resin to be pulled up out of the resin. The second option is literally the exact opposite, that is putting the resin in a reinforced chamber that is air tight and increasing the air pressure to between 50 and 60 PSI. The increased pressure crushes the bubbles out of the resin. So both approaches have the same effect, to force the bubbles out of the resin.

So, a week later I depressurize the pressure chamber, pop the top, pull out the mold, separate the two parts, pull out the part that was cast from green tinted resin and find… that it’s blue.

The first attempt at recasting the Epyon Gundams beam saber turned out blue... somehow.
So... how does it come out blue?
And has you can see it’s not even like a blue-green or a sea-green sort of dark green… no it’s blue. So… yeah. What the heck?

Friday, October 31, 2014

Project: OZ-13MS Gundam Epyon

The Gundam Epyon stands atop the Battleship Libra with its saber blazing as it prepares for battle.

The Gundam Epyon: the demon to the Wing Zero's angel, Trieze's ideal of chivalry. The Gundam Epyon was first hinted at only a couple episodes after the introduction of the Wing Zero but its’ true ability would not be revealed until much later in the series. A suit designed for dueling and engaging the enemy face to face, the Epyon was originally armed with an over charged beam saber and a segmented whip that could be heated and used to cut through even heavy armor. Like the Heavy Arms Custom Kai, I built this model years ago, and like that I'm looking back at my work then and thinking "Wow... I didn't have a clue what I was doing back then."

This project is going to involve several things and major phases. The first major phase will be the "scratch building" phase. If you look at the image at the head of this post, you can see the pose I’m going for with this model. Epyon, standing at the apex point of the Libra Battle station, with its beam saber powered on, its search eye activated and its eyes glowing. Since I’m going to build LEDs into the model I will need a power source. When I do lighting projects I like to have the battery pack accessible so that I can replace batteries as I need to. So, the battery pack will be placed on the underside of the base along with the control switch. To keep with the image, I’m going to be fashioning a base to resemble the Libra battle ship to house the majority of the electronic components.
Epyon is online, ZERO system active! The Epyon's eyes, search eye and Chest jewel will glow with the use of LEDs.
The Second phase will be the “casting” phase. One of my objectives with this project is lighting up the beam saber and the chest mounted combat eye/camera. To accomplish this, I’m going to recast the parts in green-tinted transparent resin. By being able to cast the parts, I can embed an LED in the resin and then connect those LEDs to a power source to illuminate the resin. That is my hope, at least. Time will tell if I am able to follow it through. With the base, the cast parts and the lights, I think the entire model will work well enough without the means to move the arms around. I think the trade-off will be worth it though.

The third phase will be about modifying the model to become a mono-pose setup. This is going to involve replacing the poly-vinyl joint caps with styrene pieces that will be glued into place locking joints into the configuration. The other part of this will be modifying parts of the model to accept the wires and LEDs. For instance, the head would normally use a poly-vinyl cup that would sit on the ball joint of the neck. That will be modified to be styrene, and thus not pose-able, so that I can pass the wires from the LED through the neck.

The last major phase of the project will be the assembling and detailing phase. In this phase I will be using pigment powders and paints to add details such as shadowing and panel lines. I’m going to use a sheet of decals from the master grade Epyon to add some additional detail to this model.
This project is really turning into the prototype effort for my Wing Zero project. I originally settled on this project with the intention of just lighting up the beam saber, then that turned into lighting up the eyes, which turned into lighting up the chest gem. The building of the Libra base was more a choice of doing something aesthetically pleasing, more than just building a box for the model to stand on.

So the first thing I went to work on was designing the base that will house the electronics and the batteries. For that I turned to a friend of mine who is an architect (helpful hint for modelers who scratch build: If you don’t know architectural design, become friends with someone who does).  I explained to her that I wanted to design a base that was effectively an eight sided pyramid with the even sides being small and narrow and the odd sides being wide. We exchanged a couple more notes and she came back to me with this:

the parts lay outs and size information to build the base of the Battleship libra for the Gundam Epyon.
While it’s fairly simplistic, it gives me the information to start work on the base with my own skills. After a few hours of cutting and gluing I came up with this:
The base that will serve as the bottem of the Battleship Libra to mount the OZ-13MS Gundam Epyon and hold it's electrical componenets.
The larger box in the middle houses a 4-AA battery pack, while the smaller box to the side of that box houses a single pole switch that will control the entire circuit in the model. This is a fairly simple circuit and anyone who has any experience with electronics can build it. That isn’t the real challenge for this project, however. The challenge is changing the model to accommodate these changes, and creating the new parts.

Next time I’ll be talking about creating the molds for casting the new parts.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Project: MS-07B3 Gouf Custom Part #4

 So, the weathering pigments. This is new stuff for me. I’ve read about them, I’ve seen videos, I’ve heard people talk about them, but this is my first time using them. Since this is a new modeling tool for me, I didn’t want to go down the “Hey, which brand is best?” question route. Rather than asking people on forums and such about pigments, I instead went online and watched several tutorials about using them. Then, I went to my local Hobby Town and saw that they had the Vallejo brand pigments on hand.  Okay, so I’m going to start with Vallejo brand pigments.

I mentally made a list of what sorts of materials and colors the Gouf Custom would have been exposed to during its’ battle in the series. So let’s take a look at some of the shots and see what the environmental conditions were that would leave marks on the Gouf.

One of the first shots of the B3 we see in 08th MS team is of it launching itself into the sky to engage jet fighters in mid-air with close combat attacks. To accomplish this, the Gouf uses its’ back thrusters to propel itself skyward. So some heat damage and burning materials on the back of the model. Some black soot.

We then see the Gouf land back on an outcropping. While the animation doesn’t show it, again for reasons of simplicity and time, we have to assume that such a landing would kick up a fair amount of dust and dirt. So need some browns for the dirt.

Later on we see the Gouf using its’ main cannon to shoot up a lot of dirt and dust to cover its’ advance up a side road using the dust cloud as a mis-direction, then cover until it was able to shoot out the beam rifle from Joshua’s Gundam’s hand. It then slammed into the Gundam, knocking it to one side and attacked the GunTank Joshua had been covering. Now the Anime shows the dust cloud to be brown, implying that the cloud was mostly dirt. However, if you look at the action itself you can see that Norris was shooting a road. Now roads are generally built out of concrete, and asphalt. Asphalt is a tar like material and doesn’t really generate much in the way of dust. Concrete on the other hand is mainly rock that has been pulverized into a dust, mixed with water and other chemicals, poured into a form, and then left to dry as the water and chemicals evaporate. So chances are much more likely that the dust would actually be the result of the concrete being shot up rather than dirt.  With this understanding I needed some white and grey pigments for the concrete dust.

So what color pigments did I pick up? Well, I picked up 73117-Rust Oxide, 73116-Carbon Black, 73113-Light Slate Grey, 73114- Dark Slate Grey, and 73.101- Titanium White. The Rust oxide is a brownish yellow, while the Carbon black is a solid black. The White is… well… white and the greys are pretty self-descriptive. 

So I began with the black pigment to fill in some shadows.

The first step in weathering with the pigments was to apply the Vallejo Carbon black. This provided a lot of shadowing effects to the model.

Here we can see the shield with the black pigments applied. Just a quick dusting makes a notable difference. As you can see it dulls the silver I put down in the bullet marks previously so I will have to come back and repaint them a bit.

For the concrete coloring I made a mix of the Light Slate, the Dark Slate, and the white pigments in a roughly 1:1:1 ratio. I added a dash of the black to give some shading to it. Then I applied this mixture to the model.

the concrete colored mixture then got applied all over the model.