Grim Skull Miniatures – Chaos Egypt Sons Terminators Conversion set

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OK, there are a lot of minis lately. The reason is now I have about two hours a week, mostly in the evenings, to do hobbies, and I try to do things that are not involving toxic things, such as plastic glue or oil paints, since I prefer to stay close to my daughter.
So now is the time to finish all those older projects, and more importantly, learn new techniques.

I’ve featured a lot of Grim Skull stuff before on this blog; I do like the aesthetics of their models, and some are actually cheaper than the official Wargaming minis.

This particular set features the Thousand Sons Terminators. The latest WG Scarab Occult terminators look great, don’t get me wrong, but these guys rock. The whole Egypt theme is taken to the limit with the intricate embellishment of their power armor, and more importantly, the animal-head helms. Even if I did not like the back story of the Thousand Sons this would be a must-have set.

 

I used a set of Forgeworld WH30K Cataphractii terminators, I grabbed cheap on Ebay for the conversion, but I think any terminator would work. (The WH40K Tactical Dreadnought Armor looks a bit different, and I think is slightly larger.) The arms were from a big bunch of spares I also got from Ebay for cheap. (Keep an eye out on parts; you can get a big box of everything for almost nothing, and these provide endless sources for conversions. Ironically I suspect some of the weapons are from a Space Wolf Terminator set.) You will notice there are only five figures instead of six- one of the guys I gave to a friend to play with. (Here’s someone using both WG terminator and Grim Skull sets together for size comparison. The Forgeworld Cataphractii Terminators are noticably smaller.)

They were painted the Thousand Sons cobald color (which is not really cobald), and used AK Interactive’s True Metal gold and brass to paint the gold parts. The intricate patterns meant lots of fixing errors… I chose not to paint the tabards. I don’t particularly like the idea of loinclothes on a power armor, plus I was getting to the end of my ropes with the figures. Nevertheless I might come back later and paint them.

Again, my skills as a figure painter are not exactly stellar, but here you go. At least there’s a lot of room for improvement.

Grim Skull Miniatures – Master Of Crusade (Abaddon the Despoiler)

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There is a cottage industry providing models for tabletop games; they look similar to the original characters, but not too similar (or have different names) so that copyright law is not breached. I personally applaud these companies; they provide models and conversions that are unavailable for a more reasonable price. (The new Abaddon miniature by Games Workshop is over 40 GBP… a small sprue for the price you can buy a 1500+ part plastic model.)

Competition is good is what I’m trying to say here.

Abaddon is the one character that has not been treated well by Games Workshop and Forgeworld. There is one old figure which is both ugly and tends to lose his arms, resulting in the “No Arms” meme. And pretty much that’s it; since the early 90s Abaddon was essentially deserted by GW; only now are they issuing a new model.  There is a Heresy-era figure of him as the First Captain of the Sons of Horus by Forgeworld, but it is not yet Abaddon the Despoiler, just an angry guy in a terminator armor with a top knot. There is also a heavily OOP version of him, which can be bought for about 1200GBP, so I think we can safely ignore that. (If you see this model featured here you will know I won the lottery.)

The name itself of the character is full of meaning; Ezekyle (Ezekiel) and Abaddon are both important characters in the Bible.

Since I’ve read The Talon of Horus by Dembinsky-Bowden I actually wanted to have a decent Abaddon figure. The book does a really, really good job describing him as an interesting, three dimensional, complex character you can actually relate to, so obviously I wanted to have a miniature of him. He also seems like a swell guy, just like that other one. What makes him compelling is that he is the ideal Astrates: charismatic, ruthless, master strategist, fearless -it’s just he fights against the Imperium. I think he become this ideal after he followed his primarch into his rebellion and then took up a bit of soul-searching. It took him a lot to grow up into this person, and not many loyalists have the opportunity to do so. I think the space marines who rebelled and survived (without falling to one or the other chaos entity) actually walk the same path as a person growing up from childhood, and hence they do become much more mature, nuanced beings than their “for the Emperor!” buddies. Failure, disappointment in your idols, choice, the will and ability to determine your fate -these things are needed for you to become a well-rounded personality. (Unless, of course, you get possessed by a daemon and grow penises and horns on your face.)

 

Enter Grim Skull Miniatures. They first came out with a 28mm model who is not Abaddon, of course, but fits the archetypical Abaddon image with the Talon -the power claw of his father, Horus-, the daemon sword Drachn’yen, and his usual topknot that he is known for. A 54mm version of the miniature features a Mohawk instead of a topknot, and it is substantially larger… had it been issued when I bought “my” Abaddon, it I probably would have bought that instead of the original version simply because of the amazing detail comes out better in the larger figure. (It is on my wishlist, but I’ll probably have to pass on it; after all I just had a daughter. The days of spending on hobbies are behind me.) I’m not sure why this Abaddon features this hipster haircut. It is possible that Grim Skull realised something  about topknots writers and artist should have at Black Library long time ago: you can’t shave the skull and have a large topknot, as Abaddon supposed to be doing. All that hair has to come from somewhere; and unless he has exceptionally dense hair, it is not a realistic option to have the rest of his head shaved.

 

The power armor is incredibly well detailed, and only someone with much better skills than mine can bring out the maximum out of it. The ornamentation is well done, the armor has a lot of cracks and battle damage…It perfectly re-creates the various artworks of him as the Second (and true) Warmaster. The facial expression is pretty good, too; he looks “changed”, he looks intimidating, but not totally twisted; his features retained enough of his humanity not to make him look like a simple screaming monster.

The daemon sword looks very much like the pictures of the weapon on various artworks; painting it to look good is not an easy exercise in layers upon layers of glazes.

He has a loincloth for whatever reason, which is an incredibly impractical thing to have on an armor (alongside the tabards various Astrates chapters prefer). Besides getting caught in, well, everything, it gets dirty very fast, and it will also get destroyed in the first few seconds of action. (I tend to leave it off in my figures for this reason.) Replacing it must be a constant choir, but I’m not going to judge his fashion sense.

The trophy racks on his back sport skulls (but no helmets); all in all, the figure is an excellent rendition of the Abaddon we see on the paintings.

Painting black armor can be a challenge, since an uniformly black surface is not exactly interesting to the eye. I used Abaddon black (surprise) as a base, with a black ink coat after; the edges were carefully highlighted with midnight blue, and very bright blue in smaller amount. (Yes, highlights are everywhere.) Abaddon’s skin was painted with a rotten flesh base with a couple of light brown filters; the flesh on his head was done using red and brown glazes. I added a few patches of necrotic skin using Vallejo Engine Oil…

The eyes were painted gold (since his eyes were supposed to be bleached gold for staring into the Emperor’s light), but this does not really show well on a figure; the skin is too light for that, and the eyes are too small -there is not enough contrast. It would look better on the larger figure. The bronze edges were done using AK Interactive’s True Metal gold.

The sword was painted using various shades of purple and blue in thin glazes. The trimmings on the armor were painted in various shades of gold and bronze. I positioned the sword in a slightly different angle – it makes the pose look a bit more natural than if he held all his weapons at a chest height.

All in all this is an excellent miniature.

And finally: Eisenhorn facing down a bunch of heretics:

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Let’s talk about rust

Take a look at these photos

A manhole cover which as been in place for over thirty years (at least), a green metal door exposed to the elements for 19 years, and a skip that has been banged around for at least two decades.

The point is: they are rusty and faded- something we like to represent on our vehicles. However, real life is not as interesting as the models we build.

When you look at a tank, or a truck, you will very rarely find chipping paint, and rust and rust streaks in the degree we depict it on the models… even derelict vehicles kept outside for decades don’t tend to accumulate this much weathering.

Except for the US tank collection in Maryland… The fact that it was left outside to literally rust away is pretty sad; but the point still stands: they -and similarly abandoned vehicles around the world- are the only tanks I’ve seen with comparable level of rusting we build our tanks with. (The last photo of the BMPs were taken in the Exclusion Zone in Chernobyl – and the amount of rusting since 1986 is not exactly massive, either.)

So the fact is we overweather our models. (I’m not going to put in examples from other, better builders, since it is a contentious area about model building, and I do not wish to fan the flames further with posts that can be seen as picking on others.) You can find plenty of rust on this blog.

There are several reasons for this. One is that combat vehicles rarely lasted more than a couple of years in wars- if they were lucky. That means Panzers, T-34s, and Shermans tended not to have the time to seriously rust, even if they were not maintained. Which they were. Not to mention the whole war lasted 6 years altogether, which also limits the time massive armor plates had to rust, even if a tank managed to get through the war from day 1.

In peacetime, even older equipment is meticulously maintained. Maintenance was an important part of combat troops as well, by the way; you really did not want to have fuel stains, rust, dust and other environmental damage affect your vehicle’s survivability; not to mention your superiors would not look at you kindly if you let your standards drop.

The point is: if you weathered your tanks and other vehicles the way they actually looked like, they’d look quite boring, and well, unrealistic… I think we add the weathering as a way to depict metal, wood and canvas, as a representation of the real thing, and not as an imitation of the real thing. (This is why I don’t like figures that much added to vehicles. A model of a Panther is merely a symbol of what a Panther is.) By overdoing it, we convince our brain that what we see is a solid metal object that has been through heavy use, it tells a story. This way we do not just see just a piece of plastic, even though the real thing has never looked battered, run down like that.

 

 

PS: Since I have now a little, eight week old human living with us, my hobby time has seriously been reduced to one or two hours a week. (If I’m lucky.) Posts will be rarer from now on I think.

Artel W Miniatures – The Captive Unleashed (Cherubael)

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Since the Eisenhorn trilogy is one of my favorite WH40K books, when I saw this miniature coming out, I obviously bought it.  I was already trying to think of ways to modify some minis to looks like a daemonhost, but Artel W made my life much easier. (I bought these guys to serve as a basis.)
Cherubael is one of the main characters of the book – the nemesis, later servant, and even later the last remaining ally of the titular Inquisitor; he is just as a fascinating character as Eisenhorn himself.
The pose of the figure is especially good: the demon caught in a human body trying to break free of the chains -and spells- binding him. The fact that the figure is actually floating (kept upright by the chains) is an especially great touch.

The miniature is 28mm, and has an incredible level of detail- much better than my skills can give it justice for. Regardless I did try. (What is especially galling that the mini looks actually OK by eye. I thought I did the blending on the skin quite well until I saw the photos.)

Now Eisenhorn will have a friend to play with finally.

(The company has been issuing different characters from the Eisenhorn stories; lately the chair-bound Ravernor was released.)

ICM 1/24 1913 Ford Speedster

 

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“I will build a car for the great multitude. It will be large enough for the family, but small enough for the individual to run and care for. It will be constructed of the best materials, by the best men to be hired, after the simplest designs that modern engineering can devise. But it will be so low in price that no man making a good salary will be unable to own one – and enjoy with his family the blessing of hours of pleasure in God’s great open spaces.”

Henry Ford

I admit I do not have much experience with ICM. I’ve built their Panther-based artillery observation vehicle years ago and found it to be an excellent model; I was really curious how this will build up.

The Model T was introduced in 1909, and was affordable for your average working family at a price of $450. It was in production until 1927 (!), and millions were sold during these two decades. It is a truly iconic vehicle; it was the first mass-produced, easy to maintain and reliable car sold.

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ICM has already issued several versions of the Model T. This version is a stripped-down and modified version of the trusty family car, built for speed by independent companies as an alternative for the expensive, custom built race cars of the era. And when I say they were built for speed, I mean 80km/h, according to the sources I found (and the short history section of the instruction). It may not sound much, but it is actually terrifying if you look at the car. It has the bare minimum to work: an engine, suspension, wheels, seats and a fuel tank. It lacks such luxuries as a seat belt or even a proper body. (Although there were versions with streamlined bodies available.) You really had to love racing (and had to be slightly mad) to drive this car at its top speed. The Speedster versions had other modifications, too: the chassis was generally lowered by four inches, and the wheel bases extended. The car got “wire wheels” instead of the stock (and heavy) wooden wheels. The engine got a RAJO Overhead Valve Conversion (OHV), a hot cam, balanced crankshaft with pressure oiling, and side-draft or up-draft carburettors. I have not seen the other T model kits by ICM, so I cannot comment if all these changes were replicated in this kit or not.
The model is quite simple, and has only hundred parts. There are some extras provided which are necessary for other versions, and we get a nice set of white rubber tires as well. (I’m still on the fence on rubber tires in car models. I think there’s a good argument for full-plastic ones.)

The engineering is very “traditional” (or old-school if you like); there are several round parts (prominently the fuel tank) which need to be built from halves, necessitating the filling and sanding of seams. It’s a less-than-ideal solution, but something that we were all very used to until recently with all the manufacturers spoiling us with slide-moulded parts.
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The quality of moulding is excellent: the detail is sharp and there is no flash to be found. The fit of the parts is also very nice; I did not have any issues during the build -it may be old-school, but it is an excellently made model. ICM really did well designing and producing this model.

The assembly is quite quick and simple. The instructions have 55 steps, but this is quite deceptive, because unlike most manufacturers ICM’s instructions show (almost) every single individual sub-assembly as separate steps. (So gluing parts B1 to B2 will be one step on the instructions.) They are clear and very easy to follow; this model will not be a problem even for a beginner.

The assembly took me about two hours; it really does not take long.

The mounting of the front lamps and the two headlights is a bit of an issue. If you first glue the mounting brackets/holders in place, and add the lamp/headlight bodies later, you will have alignment issues. The best advice I can give is to attach the lamps and headlights to their holding brackets, and glue this whole assembly to the chassis to make sure that they line up correctly. I did not do this with the headlights (because I prefer leaving larger sub-assemblies off until I finish painting and masking), and you can see that the car is somewhat cross-eyed as a result. The lamps on the side, as mentioned, have similar problems: the holding arms tilt up if you fit them into their corresponding slot on the chassis. You will need them glued to the lamps before attaching them to the car if you want to make sure they look straight.
The build itself was quick, but I had trouble choosing an attractive paint-scheme. The green-on green is quite traditional, but I’m not particularly fond of it, and was not looking forward to painting the raised lines on the mudguards. I found a really good-looking black-yellow option, but the tires of that particular car were black, and I despise painting yellow. The red also looked nice, but it resembles a fire truck (also available from ICM by the way). In the end I asked my wife which scheme she liked best and went with that.

The chosen paint scheme also required black tyres, and fortunately the rubber took the black Vallejo metal primer well. I sprayed the whole model black, using this paint, and after masking I sprayed Vallejo gold on the appropriate areas. To be honest it would be better painting these parts before assembly, but I wanted to have photos of the assembled, unpainted model for this review so I had no real choice in the matter. The red further complicated matters; it’s just not an easy color to spray (similarly to yellow…). I ended up using a brush and Khorne red by Citadel mixed with Lahmian medium in several layers. The gold was touched up using AK Interactive’s True Metal gold paint; while it is still not the perfect metallic paint (there is no such thing in my experience), it is extremely good, gives a smooth finish, and moreover it is very easy to use. It’s wax based, so it’s quite thick, and has a very good coverage. With a fine brush I managed to paint the thin raised lines on the mudguards; any mistakes could be easily cleaned up with a brush moistened with white spirit (or ZestIt, which is a friendlier alternative). I used some Citadel black ink on the black areas to make them even deeper black and give a shine to the model, and well, that was it. The model looks really nice, and frankly it really stands out from the usual green and brown tanks on my shelf. Absolutely recommended even if you are not a car enthusiast.

 

 

 

Filters with Tamiya transparent paints

This is just a quick review of the technique.

I read a while ago someone mentioning using Tamiya’s clear paints for modulating the base color of tanks, and the idea stuck in my head for a while.

Since I was painting the V-4 Straussler, I thought I’d give it a try. The technique is dead-easy: you stir the paint, load your airbrush and shoot away. (I’m sure you can use a brush as well to accentuate individual areas.)

The transparent green deepens the color and is best used on the lower part of the chassis. The transparent yellow gives it a bit of a depth – makes the green paint look warmer.

 
Tamiya Smoke can have a good use for simulating shadows. Will have to try.

All-in-all, it’s something to keep in mind.

Making rust p.5. Rust colored pigments/actual rust

I’ve done a couple of experiments/tutorials on how to do rust, and left the easiest to the last: you can use rust you can buy as pigments.

Previous parts:

Part 1 Life color’s liquid rust
Part 2 using rust
Part 3 the sponge method

Rust -iron oxide- comes in different colors; in fact it is used very widely as cheap pigments in a lot of applications from food coloring to arts and makeup.

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You can buy these pigments (essentially powdered iron oxide) online. They can be mixed with each other, or with other pigments; they can be added to paints, and, if you’re brave enough, they can be airbrushed mixed with some sort of carrier or varnish/paint. If you mix them with paint or varnish, they will obviously stick to the surface; if you only mix them with a carrier (like white spirit, alcohol, even water) nothing will hold them onto the surface, so they will be quite easy to remove.

The method is simple: once you primed the surface with a dark primer (preference), you dab your brush into clear, matte varnish, dab it onto a paper towel to remove the excess, dab the brush into the iron oxide powder, dab the whole thing into a paper towel again, and now you have a brush loaded with a varnish/rust mixture you can use to gently deposit onto the model. You need to do it in several layers, and slowly build up the effect you are going for. You should start with the darker rust colors, and only use the bright reds/yellows sparingly; just check photos of rusted equipment for reference. (Come to think of it, you can go the other way around as well; just keep in mind that the bright rust colors tend to be somewhat sparse, limited to thin metals, edges and protrusions.) The surface you get this way will be suitable for depicting a very, very rusty metal surface: the metal plates of a derelict, burned-out vehicle, for example. (If you are going for mild, light rust, painting is your best bet.) Obviously there is always going to be a combination of rust effects that will bring you the best, more realistic results.

These pigments can be used suspended in white spirit or other carrier solutions as washes as well; they form a thin film on matte surfaces behaving more like filters, and they run into crevices on glossy surfaces behaving like traditional washes.

The colors can be further modulated using oil washes and paints; a dark wash will obviously darken the overall hues, and tie the different rust colors together.

The T-62 is a good example of the results.

Artel W Miniatures – Witcher

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The sadly out of production 28mm Witcher figure from Artel W miniatures. If you haven’t yet played the Witcher games, you really should – incredible stories in an interactive form.

Assembly is about two minutes, painting is probably six hours… such is the life of a figure painter. I have always struggled with faces and skin tones, so I was real happy to achieve a realistic tone at all, but Gerard is an albino, so his skin should be much paler. I did manage to replicate his signature scar over his left eye with a 00 brush. His armor was painted in multiple shades of brown (since most of it is leather) with a black oil wash to bring out the fine details, and the metal parts were painted with True Metal Steel, and washed with Nuln Oil.

I put him on a round base, and he was finished.

Dnepromodel 1/35 Straussler V-4 part 2.

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First part

I mostly used acrylic paints and Vallejo weathering products because due to a small human cohabiting with us since the end of December, I need to limit the usage of stinky, dangerous stuff in the house. (I do make sure there is an appropriate separation, but one can never be too careful.)

 

I wanted to depict a brand new prototype after a long day out on the proving ground -so lots of mud, but not much rust and fading.

I used Vallejo’s primer to prime the model, and a mixture of Tamiya greens to give the base color. (I don’t really know of any accurate color reference charts of pre-war Hungarian colors, so it’s a free-for-all.) I used Tamiya’s transparent green and yellow as a first round of filters (wanted to see how they work ever since I’ve read about them a while ago).

 

I also used several of AK’s filters on various parts of the hull to create hue differences. I used different oil colors as well for filters (dot method), and blending -you can see the results on the back hatches especially. All this helped to create visually interesting differences in the otherwise uniform green finish.

 

Instead of turpentine or white spirit I use Zest It as a diluent; it’s still not ideal, but better health-wise.

I bought a bunch of Vallejo’s weathering products: industrial thick mud, dust and oily mud washes, mud splashes, etc. They have the undisputed advantage of being water-based, so I can use them without worry to anyone’s health. I used the mud as a base, and stained it with pigments and paints, applying them in layers, and washing them back a bit with a wet brush to adjust the effect. (There are several mud colors, but I only bought one because I’m cheap.) A Tamiya mud weathering stick added some more hues of mud. (Just dab on, and adjust with a wet brush.) I used a silver pencil to bring out the details on the tracks, and to highlight the edges of the superstructure.

 

Overall this is a nice model. It is by no means perfect, but the result does look good, it’s not overly difficult to build (this is my first 1/35 resin model), and it is quite an unorthodox little vehicle which is relatively unknown and has an unique look. I really enjoyed the build, and since the tank has an intriguing history I am quite happy to put it on my shelf.

Scale model building – amateur style