Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Removing flash - in a flash!

(Been a couple of weeks since the last blog. Apologies - real life very rudely intruded. I do now consider myself an expert on rodent catch-and-release though...)

One of my principle hates with painting models is mould lines and related birth defects. I hate them. I hate them I hate them I hate them. They are a continuity error, the paint job equivalent of Billy's missing shotgun. As a result, I spend an inordinate amount of time trying to eradicate them, which was one of the factors in the cessation of my painting activities for such a long time.

When I first started mucking about with toy soldiers and everything was metal, I used files. This was ok but normally became obvious when washing or drybrushing - you either create a textured surface on a smooth surface or flatten supposedly curved / detailed surfaces. Grr.

I moved on to using a craft knife with the advent of plastic. This was a step forward; the blade is far higher up the Mohs scale than the plastic, so it whittles down real easy. But then you angle the blade to high for a fraction of a second, next thing you know you've carved the model like a Christmas turkey. Grr.

Step forward the Citadel Clean-up kit! Picked mine up a while ago but hadn't really given it a proper go until my current project.
In prison, it's a styling brush for when your cellmate is braiding your hair, and a shiv for when he tries to take it 'to the next level'.
Wow. I'm aware that the internet contains a significant anti-GW bias and part of me was wondering whether or not this would fall into the category of buyer's remorse. It definitely doesn't. The flash brush is nice and it's always handy to have something to scrub models down with to get rid of particulates before undercoating, but the scraping tool is possibly the single best hobby tool purchase I've ever made.
Why? Well for one, it isn't a blade - so even a significant lapse in concentration isn't going to result in losing extremities. It's a much harder metal and is quite at home on plastic and resin - even Privateer Press' weird quasi-plastic. Good on metal too, but not as fast as (surprise) metal is tougher to scrape!
It's also quite a large scraping surface; ranging from completely flat to both convex and concave curves, you can deal with most things with it. It produces completely smooth results on curved surfaces too, as well as handling more detailed parts of the model. It's not a one-stop solution though; you may still need the fine point of a craft knife to reach places it can't.

In terms of usage it's fairly straight forward, although slight differences may take a little getting used to.
You want to hold it so that the upper face of the scraper is perpendicular to the surface, as opposed to the normal acute angle for knives. You should also work toward the mould line, not over it. The tool will happily find its' own level and grind down the raised edge in no time. I would have loved to provide some photo examples with this but at this stage my photography skills and setup wouldn't produce photos that could display any difference.

(The brush is also dead handy here as, instead of producing swarf, the scraper just produces dust.)

Overall, the best thing I can say is that the preparation time for my minis using this tool set has dropped significantly. Like, by half. With better end results. I could have lived without it, sure - but now, when I pick up my station to grab a few minutes' hobby when I can, I feel less instantly bored and more...

Until next time!

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Making a Paint & Spray Rig

Another important aspect of painting is how you handle minis during the construction / painting process. There are many options, from painting on the sprue before assembly to full assembly before undercoating. Some use a mount to hold the mini while painting, some just hold the base.
It's all really a case of personal preference. As I'm starting from scratch for this project, I've put a lot of thought into it; and I have decided that the humble cocktail stick shall be my guiding light.
Not just for Martini™ olives or pineapple & cheese.
To make a home for these badboys, you will need;

  • Some wood
  • A marking implement
  • A drill. Hand is fine, electric is better.
  • A 2mm drill bit
  • Masking / coloured tape

When choosing a piece of wood for this, bear in mind what you want to use it for.If all you want is simply to keep your minis together, a smaller piece is fine; if you want to use it for undercoating, you'll need to be able to spread your minis out.
Formerly of our kitchen units and destined for the tip, but now a bright future lies ahead.
The coloured tape is simply to create a simple visual depth gauge on the drill bit; saves a lot of time. About a centimetre should be fine.
Weathering effect: model's own.
Mark out a grid of holes on your wood. Depending on how large you're going, bear in mind models obscuring things behind them when spraying so a bit of thought is helpful. Sub-assemblies can crowd more closely, obviously!
Remember to ask a grown up for help. You will find plenty in your local care home.
 Once you're happy, drill the holes. Remember to keep the drill as upright as possible - your minis will be anything up to 6cm or so above the board - an off-centre hole will just have things colliding. 

Mazel tov!
When mounting models on the rig, you may find you need to trim the end of the cocktail stick so that it sits flush. Wood will grip wood quite firmly. The cocktail stick should wedge itself in so that it doesn't wobble, but you can still remove it. 
If you can turn your rig upside-down without anything dropping out, you're all good.
So there you have it; I'll cover ways to attach the cocktail sticks to your minis in another post. In the meantime, revel in the glory of your manly manliness at shaping the world to your will!

Monday, 18 March 2013

Scout Squad Douma, #1

Duma(h) or Douma (Aramaic) is the angel of silence and of the stillness of death.
To get me started, I plumped for a scout squad. The logic was fairly straight forward - despite not hailing from the 4th company, they have a number of things going for them;

  1. Scouts are often the first units sent in, which provides a lovely poetry to my decision...
  2. It's a troops choice, which means I get to start playing (legal) games quicker.
  3. In a single unit I get roughly equal practice across all the areas I need to perfect for DA - Dark green, Beige/White, Red, Metal and Flesh - without risking a showpiece model.
  4. I bloody love sniper rifles.
I'm going with angel names for all my squads, so some trawling came up with Douma - the angel's epithet just seemed to fit the function of a scout squad perfectly. For this blog the 'explanations' for the units will be in the final entry for them. So, without further ado...


Thank God that camo pack is still intact. WYSIWYG can be a bitch.
First thing's first. Check sprues are present and complete, and you've checked you know what components are needed in what order. It may seem pedantic, but a little prudence at this stage has saved me some absolute howlers in the past.
Scouts are issued with loofahs as standard field kit.
After that, a little bath. Nothing weird - just warm water and detergent and a light scrub to get any release agent grease, then a rinse. Don't forget behind the ears.
Little off the top, sir?
Once dry, it's clippers and knife time; a quick, neat job - mouldlines and flash get dealt with later. I prefer to strip sprues in one go - which leads me to...
I can pay you next week bruv, honest...
Baggies are my friends. Not only do you get to pretend you're a weed mogul when you're buying them, but I find them invaluable. You strip the sprue, bundle up each mini's components together. Far harder to misplace than a tiny component such as the goggles. Especially useful when you're having to pickup and make use of short stints for hobby, and don't have a permanent station available.

So, with Sergeant Douma and his team bundled into their sleeping bags, time for bed.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Looks like a duck...

 "From this day on you are simply a Dark Angel - nothing else is of consequence. The Chapter is all that matters."
So the first step in collecting a force - deciding which one - had been taken; Dark Angels. The sons of the lion. The unforgiven. The Caliban conservation society, the Space Wolves' best frenemies, etc. etc. 2nd only to the Black Templars for taking the fun out of religious genocide. The inspiration behind the Astropath meme "GOT PLASMA?" (attributed to Logan Grimnar, Astropaths transmit mental images of Dark Angels with various comic expressions on their faces as their weaponry overheats).
They have an interesting background and an unusual organisation without going into shrivelled-balls-to-the-wall disarray like the Space Wolves or the turned legions, wrapped in a colour scheme that (to me, anyway) looks like an interesting job to paint. They also have a big drawback - tell someone you're a Dark Angel player and they expect to face this:
Where's Waldo? (DA Edition)
Spot the green? Yep, right at the back. Behind all the terminators and bikes. On the vindicators. Yeesh. Don't get me wrong, I love terminators and the whole imagery of the Ravenwing & Deathwing combined arms forces, but that's just it; the 'Greenwing' tend to be a sideline in their own show.
From a gaming meta view, people also get sick of seeing forces consisting entirely of elite or specialist troops. Some years ago a friend of mine ran an absolutely brutal Deathwing force that was beaten only twice in my memory. Both occasions involved greenskin hordes so vast that the termies physically couldn't pump out enough shots to fell them all before the choppa assaults began. He was a good player, but the get-out clause for his victory was always "what did you expect, he's using Deathwing".
So I figured I'd do a Greenwing force; at least to start with. I'm not interested in hamstringing myself for fluff reasons unnecessarily!

Ok, so where to start? That in itself was fairly simple; the 4th company. Dark Angels only have 3 battle companies, the 5th company is all mapped out thanks to Dark Vengeance and the 3rd company's heraldry is a crimson backslash. Meh. 4th company, they have no real background to speak of and a fairly neat device -
4th Company Heraldry
I like things to look polished (not literally - I'm a matt varnish kinda guy) so began looking into squad markings, moulded shoulder pads etc. so that I could get a proper DA themic force in place.
A conversation with a friend put paid to that when he stated - I've toned down the language, dear reader - that moulded decals were for beginners. Balls. So I will now be flat-detailing all my troops through a combination of paint and transfers.

So that's the plan.
Paint up the Dark Angels' 4th company and start gaming with it.
A Greenwing army. Like an army of ducks.

The first steps

Well, here goes.

My name is Paul, and I've been a tinboy for more than ten ... a long ... well - simply put, since my undead Bloodbowl team in my teens, I can't recall fielding a painted force in any game system I've tried.

I've done painting in that time, the odd model here and there. I have a daemon slayer somewhere of which I was particularly proud of the flesh tones. My problem was always that everything had to be perfect. This led to longer and longer prep times and paint times and it got to the stage where no amount of enthusiasm balanced the thought of spending months on a whole squad, let alone an army.
Fast forward to now.
My life is very different now to how it was years ago. Fatherhood, marriage, mortgage, blah blah. In a general mental exercise in 'sorting myself out', I began thinking along the (somewhat counter-intuitive) lines of taking my leisure time seriously. Planning it, even.

So here was the plan; instead of gaming first and painting second, I was going to switch it around. Collect a force to paint, then game with it after.
I'd been thinking this for a while, when two things made me think that now was the time;

  1. I mentioned to my good friend Mike that I quite liked the look of the new Dark Angel minis from GW. A week or so later the Dark Angel codex miraculously appears in my possession. Cheers Mike.
  2. My local gaming club started running a "Tale of 4 gamers" type event. This was an idea originally started in White Dwarf a few years ago as a cynical marketing ploy / demonstration of the hobby (*delete as applicable depending on personal taste) where a group of people start from scratch and build/paint/game with a new army, adding it over a period of months.
..and there we have it. This blog will hopefully chart my intent to Play It Painted from now on.
A quick audit of things I had lying around, a few favours from friends and some bits off eBay done.
Let's see, where are those clippers?