Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Been busy, but actually used my time wisely...

Been pretty busy since my last post. We moved from the suburbs to the City, drove down to Austin, Texas for a week’s vacation and started new jobs.  Living in Chicago is great, so much to see and do. I also like the fact that I can walk to the grocery store, liquor store, library and restaurant. Did I mention there is also a small brewery about four blocks away? Just too good to be true!

I did manage to finish three Scotia Grendel Dungeon Creatures since the move. I picked them up sometime in the 90’s (I think?). They’ve been primed/painted/stripped several times. I wanted to paint something fantasy based but am trying to steer away from the really small stuff. They’re cast in a grey resin, surprisingly well detailed and even though they’re game based pieces, they’re not tiny.  Their latest paint job had been at the hand of my son when he was maybe six or seven. I put them in a zip-lock of Purple-Power All-Purpose Cleaner and once stripped of paint, primed them with flat black and started painting.

Once I got into a painting groove, each creature only took me a night or two to complete. I then used JB Weld two-part epoxy to attach them to a small section of finished oak and went to town on the groundwork. I think they turned out pretty good.
I also tackled a Scotia Grendel "Lesser Goblin Horde". I bought this around the same time that I bought the three Dungeon Creatures and its nothing but a big-chunk-of-resin. Like the creatures, it had a few false starts followed by a numerous baths in oven cleaner. Anyhow, I finally decided to give it a go. 
To be honest, it was a pain-in-the-ass to paint. The shields weren't too bad (just a freakin' ton of them!), but the goblins drove me crazy. They're everywhere and some are sculpted well and others are half-assed. At first, I was going to paint them green, just like everyone else does. This is the Games Workshop influence on goblin painting. I got real geeky and Googled "goblins" and was rewarded (odd term, but it works) with images from GW and "Lord of the Rings" (LOTR).  The LOTR goblins looked just right: disgustingly putrid. 

The GW goblins look clownish, I wanted something that would reflect the goblins true nature—sneaky, cowardly and prone to bouts of excessive theft. Now, it’s impossible to portray these attributes with paint, but the flesh-like colors I used did a better job than green (or something like that).  The kit came with a couple of spears and swords that were intended to be sticking out of the mass. Of course I misplaced them, so I had to come up with something to fill the holes. One is a banner made from plastic rod, wire and lead foil and the other is just a piece of plastic rod fashioned to resemble a sharp stick. I’m not 100% happy with the way the paint job on the banner came out — I may go back and redo it. 

I put it on a base, used tile grout/adhesive for the groundwork, covered that with fine sand, added sections of dilapidated fence plus some dried plants and it was done. Now on to other things...


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Finnish FT-17 and Alpine Russian Tank Commander – Part One

About 15 years ago (give or take a few years), a friend sent me a copy of a fantastic book on Finnish armored vehicles: Suomalaiset Panssarivaunut 1918-1997 (The Finnish Armoured Vehicles) by Esa Muikku and Jukka Purhonen .  This book is superb, it has both black and white and color photo's along with several pages of color plates. If you like your armor outside the box, track this book down, you won't be disappointed.

Back then, I was just an obsessed armor builder and this book was a great addition to my reference library. Anyhow, one of the pictures from the Winter War always intrigued me—it’s a photo of a FT-17 dug in as a bunker/observation point.

The Finns had a couple of companies of FT-17’s during the Winter War.  Very few saw any action — the Russians captured most of them in February 1940 — they were still on the railcars that had transported them to the front. The few remaining tanks that weren't picked up by the Soviets were dug in as strong-points with the main guns removed.  Over the years, I’ve searched to the point of ridiculousness trying to find another picture of a dug-in FT-17 in Finnish service. I’ve seen one or two, but they were tourist style picture taken in 1942-1943 during the spring/summer/fall (no snow on the ground).  So, I finally gave up my search and decided to plunge ahead and build a small vignette with a dug-in FT-17 and a Russian officer standing nearby. I used RPM’s FT-17 and Alpine’s #35039 Russian Tank Commander.

I used the RPM FT-17 because it was cheap—I paid about $10.00 for it.  It’s pretty basic as a kit with not a lot of parts and decent detail.  Perfect for what I was going to do. All I needed was the upper hull and turret—everything else is buried. The turret is completely empty — the guns (from what I can tell, all of the FT-17’s that were dug in were armed with heavy machine guns) were removed prior to being dug in. This made things much easier for me, all I needed to do was paint the interior flat black and I was good to go. I also had to add rivets to the turret using my Waldron punch and die set. It was mildly dull, but came out pretty good (and yes, I forgot to take pictures of the unpainted turret after I added the rivets...oh well).

In the picture, the right rear engine deck has been opened and the engine is exposed. I used some Evergreen plastic structural shapes to cobble together a basic interior and then went to the scrap box for a radiator and engine. The radiator is from a long-gone Emhar German A7V (WWI German tank) and the engine is from Tamiya’s 1/35 Jeep.

I added a bunch of “engine looking” stuff to beef up the look of the engine. I found a ton of pictures of Renault engines on the Internet, so I had something to go with. I never intended on building an exact replica of the engine, just something that looked “good” once it was painted/weathered and in the engine bay. I used a section of guitar string to replicate the radiator hose (which is broken/disconnected).

Stay tuned (or whatever we call waiting for some lazy-ass to post on his blog) for the ongoing saga of the Finnish FT-17.


Thursday, February 21, 2013

Drying plants for groundwork

Nothing represents a plant on a figure base like a real plant. Unfortunately, most real plants have the tendency to dry-up and crumble after a few days, if not weeks, when glued to a base. In the past, I had a pretty good collection of dried plants in my groundwork stash, but time and several moves have taken their toll. I now find myself completely out of dried plants and I’m too cheap to order them online. So, what’s a cheap-ass like me to do? Dry my own plants! I live in Northern Illinois (western suburbs of Chicago to be precise) and the small plants that can be picked and dried for the sake of groundwork are minimal. But, by a stroke-of-luck, I found these funky little fern-like things growing in by backyard between my garage and storage shed.
My first adventure in plant drying/preserving was with glycerin. Picked up a bottle at CVS (and damn if it wasn’t expensive, something like $9.00).
Picked a bunch of plants, filled the container with a mix of water and glycerin and then dumped the plants in. I let it sit for a few days and then pulled the plants out of the mixture.


The glycerin turned the plants into a bunch of curled-up rubbery blobs. Back-to-the-drawing-board. I went online a Googled “drying plants.” It amazes me on how many articles there are on drying reefer. After skipping past the drying your own dope sites, I found one that suggested using sand to dry the plants.


I had plenty of sand; in fact, I had some sand that was drier than the floor of Death Valley. This was sand that I’ve has since the mid 70’s. It’s very important to use sand that is totally dry. If not, you end up with a mess similar to the water and glycerin experiment. Over my many years of modeling, I’ve collected various sand samples to use for groundwork. I had an empty water full of sand from a beach in California while visiting my brother seven years ago. You’d think it would have dried out by now.


Ruined another batch of plants on that one. Then, I had a bag of “decorative sand” and I thought that this was dry too. No such luck. It must have some chemical in it that attracts moisture-when I removed the plants from the sand, I ended up with something that looked earthworms coated with sand.

So, after destroying numerous leaves, I went with the extremely dry sand and the results were much better. Here’s what I ended up doing:

Pick plants
Leave a bit of sand on the bottom and then add a layer of plants and then cover with sand. If there’s plants and sand left, add another layer of plants and cover with remaining sand. Remember, plants must completely covered so all the moisture is wicked out.
Make sure the container has a secure lid (especially if you have nosy pets) and set it to the side for at least 10 days. I put a Post-It with the date on the lid so I can remember when I put the plants in the sand. After the 10 days or so, pour off some of the sand and using a pair of tweezers, gently remove the plants from the sand. 
After that pulling the plants out of the sand, a light misting of medium green paint and you’re good to go. The paint gives them a bit more strength and adds some depth in appearance. I have a couple of cans of Testors spray paint in various shades of green that are perfect for this. There is no need to bust out the airbrush (unless you’re just like that), the paint from the rattle can will do the job.

So far this is the only type of plant I've dried in the sand. Everything else in my backyard looks too big. This spring/summer I'm going to explore some of the nearby nature preserves/parks and see in I can find anything of interest. 


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

So the work on the Orc continues…

I haven’t been diligent in my postings for this SBS. A combination of work, getting a new dog and being lazy have all contributed to my lack of posts. Anyhow, I did manage to work on the Orc and move things forward a bit. It's Halloween and I've been tasked with candy duty, so I figured I post something. This is Lila, the new dog. She's part black lab/beagle/daschund. About a year old and fairly high energy. Rather high energy, she keeps life interesting.

I tackled the shield first.  I cleaned up all the seams, added wood texture to the back (I used a small X-Acto saw and scraped the metal to represent wood grain) and then used a sharpened dental pick to add a bit more detail. The front portion was sanded smooth and thinned auto-body filler (I thinned it with Testors Liquid Cement) was liberally slathered all over to fill in the many pits that covered the shield. Someone suggested to me that the pits would look good—like battle damage. Unfortunately, they looked more like a moonscape and I decided to fill them in. Battle damage will be added with a file and a motor tool set on a low setting. I’ll also use paint to simulate wear and tear. The shield had big rivets encircling the outer edge. I sanded them down and replaced them with rivets punched from lead foil. When I was in high school (late 70’s), I worked as a lowly dishwasher at a nearby Italian restaurant and was able to score quite a few sections of lead from the wine bottles. It’s real lead, not the plastic covered foil they use now. Even though I hated that job, I consider myself lucky for being able to horde a decent stash of lead foil.

The sword also needed some work. After I spent an inordinate amount of time cleaning up the sword, I wrapped the handle with some fine copper wire and secured with a few dabs of super glue gel. I then cut two thin strips of Tamiya tape and wrapped the scabbard. This was going to be a dry run (stuff never works right the first time) but everything turned out good, so I let it be. The tape is held in place with it’s own adhesive—the ensuing primer will hold the tape tight. I need to come up with some type of strap or belt so the sword just doesn’t attach directly to the belt. Maybe a few strips of lead foil will do the trick.

 So, that's that. Lot's more to do on this beast including the teeth and lower body armor. 


Sunday, July 8, 2012

Squadron Man-Orc of the White Hand S-B-S

Some of my fondest modeling memories are from the 70’s when I was growing up in the Detroit area.  Starting when I was 13 (1974), visiting the local hobby shops became a part of my weekly routine. Some where within bike riding distance, others I had to con my father into driving me. On a semi-regular basis I’d visit West Point Hobbies, Nankin Hardware & Hobby (before it was remodeled and had some cranky old lady always watching us) and Walt’s (the dinky place on the corner of Michigan Avenue and Telegraph).  Perhaps three of four times a year my father, brother and I would make the pilgrimage to the eastside  and hit the Squadron Shop. This was the dumpy storefront on 9 Mile Road where rumor was that Jerry Campbell kept Don Greer shackled to a desk while he cranked out color art work for Squadron Signal.  Anyhow, around this time Squadron decided to get into the 54mm figure business and then proceeded to put out a varied (quality and subject matter) stable of figures. I bought a few, but during this time I was an armor geek and most of the stuff didn’t garner my attention. Okay, now it’s 2012, I’m much older (but not much wiser) and while wasting time on EBay looking for figures I’d never paint, I came across a 54mm Squadron/Rubin Man-Orc of the White Hand for $6.

 I had wanted this figure so bad when I was kid but never got around to buying it. Without even thinking about it, I put it on my watch list and patiently kept an eye on it (actually, I checked it several time a day to make sure that no other lunatic besides myself would show any interest in it). When the time came (like one minute left), I placed my bid and chewed my nails while the seconds ticked away. No one else had the poor judgment I had shown and I won the figure. A few days later Mr. Mailman delivers my figure and I’m a happy boy.  So after opening up the bag and looking at what I had spent my six bucks on, I decided that I’d do an S-B-S on trying to bring the Man-Orc up to snuff. This is what I started with:

The figure itself bears a strong resemblance to Fleagle from the Banana Splits. The casting is heavy, with mold lines everywhere, serious flash issues and pits galore. Like I expected anything else? So I jumped in and started to clean the beast up.

 The shield is cool with a big ol’ hand on it. Unfortunately, it’s mildly out-of-round, has some serious pit issues and the rivets look like Stevie Wonder placed them.

 The sword leaves a lot to be desired. A bit of work is required.

The axe looks pretty good. Not sure if I’ll get crazy and replace the handle (probably will).

The helmet needs some work – seams and pits. The horns will be replaced with something shorter and from plastic.

The massive base will be hacked away. Hacked away is the only way to describe this dreaded operation.

Then there are the arms. You get two pair - one for the dude with the axe and a set for the dude with the bow. I went for the axe, I just can't picture an Orc with a bow and arrow.

 So this is what I’ve gotten myself into…