Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Alliance Model Works Steampunk Submarine Build Part 03

Check out Part One and Part Two.

I have struggled to find the time to do any work on the submarine over the last couple of weeks, but finally I managed to spend a couple of hours on it last night.

Firstly I found that I had had a bit of a catastrophe. The lip of the conning tower had received a bash somewhere and a piece had broken off (and broken into two pieces). This is probably the most fragile resin part of the kit, as it is less than a millimetre thick, in fact it is so thin it is translucent! Being right on the top of the model this was going to be difficult to fix without leaving a visible repair. I tentatively approached it with a little superglue and a pair of tweezers. I managed to get the two pieces back in place and fitting almost perfectly. I did need to file the lip down a little. I am going to knife some putty into the cracks a and give it a light sanding down, but I think I got off very lightly with this one...

So, moving on to the the actual build. I tackled the deck ans hatch on the conning tower next.

Made up of only four, flat, parts this bit was straightforward.

Once this was in place it was time to add the brass filigree "hand rail/control console". This sits nicely on two little resin lugs.

After easing my self into this session with some of the simpler brass bits it was time to move on to the larger and more complex pieces. Firstly I assembled the main (upper) deck.

Still relatively straight forward, it was simply a matter of gluing the three deck plates to the under-deck support, then bending up the hand rails and bending down the supports.

Before I attached the upper deck I decided it was important get the lower deck in place, as this one seems to have a more defined location. This piece is best assembled in conjunction with the ram plate (for want of a better description - I am not a nautical type so I don't know if it has a more correct term) at the front. In this photo I have already glues the two halves of the ram plate together.

Before gluing any of these pieces in place it was important to make sure that the groove in the resin hull, for the ram plate, was clear. I took a fine saw blade and ran it up and down the groove, several times. Then I checked to make sure the plate sat in the groove well, and once I was happy with it I glued under part of the fore deck. I was quite surprised when  noticed that most of the cut out sections of this piece would be hidden underneath the actual deck!

The deck is probably the most complicated brass part of this kit. Before gluing the deck in place I had to fold up the railings on both sides and also fold the stairs into place, I wasn't quite sure how to do the stairs, but I muddled through and, with a little room for tweaking, it all seemed to go together very well.

At this point I also glued the ram plate into it's groove.

Now it was time to tackle the upper deck. This has to locate between the conning tower and the stairs from the lower deck. There is a little room for adjustment, but generally it sits in place very easily and ties the whole thing together.

Once the upper deck was glued in, I adjusted the stairs so that the lined up well with the upper deck and also bent and glued the deck supports in place...

I am very happy with this session and I hope to do some more very soon. As the kit comes together I am starting to plan the paint job. I have quite decided where I am going with it, but as I become more and more familiar with the details of the kit, various ideas are starting to take shape...

Friday, 31 January 2014

Alliance Model Works Steampunk Submarine Build Part 02

After cleaning up and assembling the main resin parts of the kit, it was time to move on to some of the more detailed parts.

Now, I can't actually remember the last time I used any brass etched parts on a kit, so this was an interesting, and somewhat nervous time. 

Firstly I decided to get the three exhausts done. These were fairly straight forward. I cut the brass pieces from the frame, rolled them around a rod (of approximately the right diameter) and then maneuvered them into their final positions. I didn't want to drown them in superglue, so I pored some drops of superglue out and used a fine needle to lift the glue and run it around the joints. The main thing to remember is to position the joints where they will be least obvious. The two taller twin pipes went on very well. However the piece of brass that runs around the "air filter" wasn't longer enough in a single piece and I had to cut and join the second piece to get it to run all the way around. I don't know if that was my misreading of the instructions or if there wasn't enough room on the brass sheet for a single longer piece. Whatever the reason it made fitting the brass to the air filter considerably trickier than it could have been.

 I moved away from the hull for the next part and decided to tackle the manipulator arms. Each arm is made up of 7 resin pieces and up to 9 brass pieces. On initial inspection the instruction sheet seems fairly straightforward, however, you need to be extremely careful to make sure you have all the correct parts for each arm (left arm or right arm), as it very easy to confuse them.

The resin pieces are all butted together and their are no locating lugs, so you have to be very careful to align the pieces properly when you are gluing them. The piece on the left in this photo (with the piston on the extreme left hand side) proved to be a real challenge as the three pieces, the main strut, the piston and the brass connecting piece, all had to be balanced together, so as to get the positioning correct, before the glue could be applied. A third hand would certainly have been useful at this point as it took two hands to hold the pieces, which made it tricky to apply the glue.

Next came the assembly of the two brass claws. This was the part that I was most concerned about as it involved folding the flat claws into their three dimensional forms.

I happened to have a piece of steel plate (actually stripped out of the inside of a faulty nail gun), that was jsut the right size and thickness, so I used that along with another piece to act as a vice and fold the brass over neatly.

This worked really well, and as it turned out was a lot easier than I had expected .

Once I had folded the two main sides over  I had to fold the outer wings over.

Yes, I know I should have done this first, but I didn't notice until I had got this far, and as it turns out it was easy enough to do, just using a couple of pairs of tweezers...

Once I had made up the brass claws I finished assembling the arms. There were a couple of times where a third hand would have come in handy again, and certainly, locating lugs would have made things a lot easier, but generally I was pretty pleased with the result. I am not 100% certain that I have done it exactly as AMW have designed it, but it seemed to go together fine and I am very happy with the finished arm.

I repeated the process with the second arm, positioning the claws slightly differently, just for a bit of variety...

I don't plan to attach the arms to the hull until the end of the build, as they are quite fragile and would get in the way. So I set them aside and moved back to the main hull. moving towards the aft section there are four small resin pieces that will hold the brass fins and tail section. I superglued these in place on to little flat irregular diamond shaped pads on the tail section. These could really have done with locating lugs. The are very small and due to the shape, very difficult to hold, so getting them positioned correctly was a bit fiddly.

While  was working at the aft i also assembled and attached the towing hook, this again involved some folding and attaching, possibly the smallest part of the kit, a little brass catch that was around 2mm long by a 1mm wide...

Finally for this session I moved to the hatch I attached in the first part. The instruction sheet shows three brass parts for this , and it appears they make up an alternate hatch. As I had already glued the domed hatch in place I discarded two of the brass bits and simply glued the handle on top.

Progress is moving fairly well and I am ready to get on some of the main superstructure now. I will look at that in the next part.

Monday, 20 January 2014

Alliance Model Works Steampunk Submarine Build Part 01

Alliance Model Works asked me to put one of their Steampunk Submarines together and slap some paint on for them.

These photos show the submarine as it can be seen on the Alliance Model Works website.

It has been a while since I concentrated on a decent display model, having been mainly concerned with wargaming miniatures which can often be complex, but are generally built on a more robust and simpler level than fine quality display models.

Also I haven't used brass etched piece to any great extent in the past either, so this is looking to be an interesting build.

I have decided to record my progress over several blog posts so that others can follow my build and either learn something from watching me build it or laugh in derision as it all goes horribly wrong (hopefully this is an extremely small possibility, but you never know...).

Now, rather than diving in feet first as I normally do with simpler models I have decided to take some care in approaching this build.

Firstly, I decided to remove all of the resin pieces from their casting sprues and tidy them up. There are quite a few small mechanical type parts and the cleaning up process would give me a good opportunity to become familiar with each piece and this should help quite a bit when I start the build.

First up we have the two halves of the hull. The model has been designed with a fairly substantial locating plug, so the removal of the casting tags should be relatively straight forward.

I decided the simplest way to take these off was with a piercing saw. Actually a razor saw would probably have been better, but I didn't have one to hand. I quickly removed the excess resin and then sanded them down. I highly recommend wearing a dust mask when you do this as the resin dust is really not very good for your lungs.

The two halves fit nicely together, although there is a little play in the joint so lining it up when joining it will be quite important.

On closer inspection of the two hull halves there are fine mould lines running down one side of each. These are really minimal, and for a wargames model I would probably have ignored them. The line of the front half of the hull runs over the plain underside of the hull and was easily removed with a fine half round needle and a little scraping with the edge of a sharp craft knife.

The mould line on the rear half of the hull was a little trickier to deal with. This one was on the top of the hull (so would be a lot more visible on the finished model). I managed to remove most of it in the same way that I did the front hull.

However, the line did run up underneath the two exhaust pipes where they emerge from the submarine, and this made it impractical to file them off. I found it far simpler with this bit to use a small amount of knifing putty (sometimes called model filler) to fill the line. I used a fine scalpel to smear the putty over the line and will it but was extra careful not to produce a rough surface that would need more sanding later. I must add that this area is very small, probably only around 5mm long and hidden under the pipes, so I was probably being a bit over careful in finishing this bit...

Moving on to the rest of the resin pieces, I slowly worked my way through each piece removing the casting sprues and tidying up where they had been attached. This photo show one of the pieces of the articulated arms. This is probably the most complicated piece of resin in the kit. As well as trimming off the back piece, there were also a couple of thing pieces in between the pistons, both probably to help casting and also to strengthen them while in transit...

As you can see, with a little care they clean up really well.

To give you an idea of the work involved I have highlighted all of the bits that need tidying up on these pieces. The cutting mat that they are lying on has a 1cm grid, so as you can see, these are all rather small parts.

A slightly closer view shows just how small they are. It was often difficult to hold them as they were so small. These pieces are about 1cm (half inch) across.

On some of the really small bits it is actually quite difficult to work out where the spruing ends and the part begins, best to air on the side of caution here and sand them down just a little. I can always do more later.

Once all of the resin had been removed ad cleaned up I decided to fix the basic hull parts together. As there was a little movement in the joint between the two halves of the hull, I decided I wanted to join then using a fairly strong bond, so rather using super glue at this stage I went for an epoxy adhesive (Pacer Z-Poxy). I normally prefer to use the 15 minute setting version, but I wanted this to set fast so that the two pieces didn't move while I was distracted, so I went with the 5 minute set. This gave me enough time to position the two halves adjust it a little and then prop it up so that it sat vertically on it's nose so that i could keep an eye on it while it set.

Next I glued on the conning tower. Now with the conning tower there are just two flat surfaces (the underside of the conning tower itself and the top plate of the hull), so positioning is really down to a good eye. I used 5 minute epoxy again as there is only very limited time for it to move around once in place.

The conning tower went on very quicly so I had time to use some of the spare epoxy to glue the front hatch in place too.

This is the main part of the submarine together, from here on in it is moving on to detailing.

This seems like a good place to leave it for now. From here on in it becomes a mix of resin work and brass etched pieces. See how I get on with that in my next post!

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Planning for 2014

I have been pretty quiet on the blog for a couple of weeks, mainly due to being extremely busy and trying to juggle several projects at the one time. Now seems like a good time to step back, look at some of those projects and plan ahead for this year.

I built some new winter terrain boards over the Christmas break and I will show you those once I have had a chance to take a few pictures. I also threw together the Renedra Ramshackle Barn that I received for Christmas (thanks Jeff) and will post some photos once I have finished adding some scenics to it!

I have also started preparation for putting together Alliance Model Works 1:144 scale Steampunk Coastal Submarine. This is a beautiful kit and seems to be very well made. I am going to run a series of articles following my build of this kit.

This is Alliance Model Works' own photo of the sub, I will post mine once I get it together.
 I am trying to finish off painting several steampunk miniatures at the moment, as my gaming group (that sounds rather grand as there are only the three off us, Jeff, Del and myself) are planning to start an In Her Majesty's Name campaign in a few weeks time. Once again I'll post some photos once i have finished them off.

I am also working on a couple of laser cutting projects, but I can't really go into them at the moment.

I had planned a grand scheme, where I would set a goal of painting a certain number of miniatures per week/month to achieve a better turnaround rate than last year (stealing the idea from Steve Blease), but with some pretty diverse jobs coming along, sometimes quite unexpectedly (such as the submarine above which dropped into my schedule almost totally out of the blue, and is going to involve a lot of work to really do it justice), it is not realistic to set myself paining goals that I have very little chance of keeping. I feel that I would be far better off setting more vague goals. So I have decided to aim to do an evenings painting at least once a week, hopefully more than that. I have also imposed a New Years Resolution on myself, that I wont watch unplanned TV anymore. No more sitting down and channel hoping until I find some distraction. If there there is nothing on that I really want to watch I will go and do something creative instead...

Friday, 20 December 2013

Eye Catching Sci-Fi Scenics: Crystal Spires

I was given a large bag of random shaped pieces of clear 6mm acrylic. There must have been easily in excess of a thousand pieces, all ranging in size from a couple of millimeters across to around 30mm. These pieces were the scrap left-overs of an architectural model that one of my students had been building. They were cut on the laser cutter and as such the edges were all polished, and to use a popular (Firefly) phrase “shiny”.  What to do with all this attractive looking scrap?

I knew I had a resource that was too good to waste, but I had no real plans as to how to use it. I had some samples lying around during one of my weekly gaming sessions, and while playing around with them we started to stack them up into towers, when the light shone through them they looked really interesting, so with that in mind I sat down to make some plans. 

As a science fiction gamer I am always looking for new and interesting terrain that can represent an alien planet. Also I have been building up both my 28mm pulp sci-fi range of figures, and my 15mm Critical Mass Games collection, so some new scenery for both of those was definitely needed.

Twinkle effect automatically added by Google!

Thinking about the stacked acrylic put me in mind of a crystalline asteroid, or possibly a strange crystalline forest. As well as simply stacking and gluing the acrylic shapes together I wanted to do something quite eye catching and so I decided to light them up from below. That was the full extent of my plans. From there I moved on into experimenting with the acrylic gluing it into towers, or as it became better known crystal spires. I turned out several spires, trying to make them in fairly eccentric shape but also with the intention of making them look as natural as possible. As well as the basic spires, I also added an arch and a temple like centrepiece that brought three spires together into one large and awe inspiring crystal tower. As all the acrylic was 6mm thick, that was one limiting factor that gave the spires a quite uniform shape. I also wanted to add a hint of colour to the spires, as the clear acrylic looked very ice-like, and I wanted to give a little more of the alien worlds look! 


I took some clear casting resin, added some transparent blue dye and then, sitting the spires on some polythene, sparingly poured the resin over them. This gave the structures a softer, slightly rounded shape that helped eliminate the obvious 6mm steps. It also added just enough colour to the spires that they really caught the eye. I had to leave them to dry for a good couple of weeks as the resin can be notoriously sticky for a long time, and I didn’t want to get any finger prints, or indeed dust on them, at a later stage. The UV light in the photo below is there to help accelerate the setting of the resin. For most of the time, the spires were kept under a box, to hide the UV light and also to keep dust off of them while they completely set. Just a a side note, try to avoid exposure to too much UV light as it is really not good for your eyes...

The next step was to decide how I was going to light the spires. I am no electrical wizard, so it had to be something pretty simple. Also, I didn’t want to make the pieces too complex, so I didn’t want too many hatches or lift off parts for light bulbs etc. The solution was a series of cheap torches that I picked up in a pound store. The torches have an array of nine LEDs on a small circuit board. They also contained a simple battery holder that would hold three AAA battery. It didn’t take much for me to work out that each LED array needed a 4.5 supply to light it up! These arrays were about 25mm across, just perfect to sit underneath the spires, and as they are “super bright” LEDs they give off a good glow.

The base boards I used for these terrain pieces were all cut from 6mm MDF, cut to suitably random natural shapes, designed to support the rock outcrops that the crystal spires would rest on. Once the shapes were cut I sanded the edges down, to give a smooth transition from wargames table to terrain feature. 

Next I took some scraps of 18mm and 25mm MDF and drilled a 25mm hole through them. These would be the locators for the LED arrays and also act as supports for the acrylic spires to sit on top. This led into the wiring stage and I spent some time wiring up the different LED arrays and working out how they would be positioned on the base boards. As I say my electrical knowledge is minimal, but I know enough to be able to work out a simple parallel circuit, which meant I was able to run two or three LED arrays from one battery holder. Clearly this would reduce the battery life, but from a little experimenting there seems to be enough life in the batteries to last a good few hours at least.


I cut some grooves through the bottom of each of the MDF pieces so that the wires could feed through them.

Here you can see I have added some extra bits to hold the switch and the battery compartment.

Once I had all the parts I was able to judge the lengths of wire needed. I soldered the circuit together and then glued it in place under the MDF. The wires running from one side to the other, were simple buried under the filler I used for the landscaping. The switch was hidden under a rubber cap that had, again, been salvaged from the cannibalized torches. The plan was to cover the rubber cap with PVA and sand, in much the same way as I would with the the rest of the model.The flexiblity of the PVA and the rubber underneath it, would allow me to press the switch, but it would mean there were no unsightly switches sticking out.

The black piece on the  right is the cover for the battery compartment. So that I I got a good close fit, I put the plastic panel into a plastic bag and the pushed it into the (two-part) wood filler. This meant that the cavity left in the filler, once set, exactly matched the panel, but as the filler doesn't stick to the plastic bag I was able to remove it after the filler had set!

At this point I was ready to do the first group test...

Really very effective under normal house lighting, and in the dark, bright enough to actually play night fight games - assuming you can see the dice results...

The landscaping was mainly done with ready mixed DIY filler, although I did also use some two part resin based wood filler. The two part filler sets very hard and is useful for the more critical parts of the models. The ready mixed DIY wall filler, takes longer to dry is a heck of a lot cheaper... Also, I wanted to take advantage of one of the properties of the ready mixed filler. Normally you have to be careful not to apply it to thickly as it can crack while setting, due the shrinkage that occurs as it dries out. I actually wanted some crackes to appear as it it would add to the naturally rocky look.

I left the filler to dry for a full week, one disadvantage of applying it so thickly. Then before I glues the spires in place I added a small piece of blue theatrical lighting gel (blue cellophane, but somewhat heat resistant) over the LEDs just to make them a little stronger blue once they were lit up. Then I glued the acrylic/resin spires in place, using Z-Poxy Epoxy adhesive.

The next stage was to add some sand over the filler. I left parts of the bare filler exposed, as these would be painted up as bare rock.

The central piece, or Temple Spire as it has been christened, had an extra lighting array added under the central part of the spire to adds some extra light to the top, combined, part of the structure. I decided that this would be a small round pool, of "magical" water.

I didn't want to pour clear resin over the LEDs in case it adversely effected them in some way, so I decided to laser engrave some water texture onto the a piece of transparent blue acrylic. It turned out to be surprisingly difficult to reproduce the ripple effect, at first I tried laser engraving a photo looking down on water and it just didn't look right. Eventually I found a texture that looked about right and work really well once in place. As it turns out it is virtually impossible to see unless you get right up close and have a real good look!

On to the painting! All through the construction process I had been pondering the colour scheme that I would use. I wanted the terrain to have a definite alien feel to it, and possibly reflect the adverse effects of the energies coursing through these strange crystal structures, however, on a practical level, I don't have an endless amount of storage space to build different terrain for different games, so they had to be versatile. Should I go with a wintery look, with frost or snow around the spires, it might reflect the glow nicely and add to the weirdness of the pieces? My initial decision was to use my normal tub of brown emulsion that I use for all my terrain.

The rock I went for a dry brushed gray, which helps it stand out from the brown.

That is more or less where I have left it for now. I have used the terrain in various games (mainly Sci-Fi), just with the brown/gray scheme. I am planning on dry brushing some more of a red-brown colour over the sand, to give it a bit more of a Martian feel (my recent Sci-FI figures have all been based with a red/brown Martian earth colour), although I hope to keep this reasonably subtle, so I can still use it with normal terrain too.

I am planning a new set of winter terrain boards for the near future, so I will also possibly add some snow, at least around the bases of the actual spires. If I keep it localized I will still be able to use the pieces with Non-winter terrain as I can put the snow down to weird effects from the crystals...

So to finish off this article here are a couple more photos of the Temple Spire, under slightly different lighting conditions. I hope you'll agree, my efforts have been worthwhile, and it certainly adds some interest to a gaming table!

Finally, here are some photos showing the Crystal Spires in use in 40K games.

When I finally get around to a adding some plant matter or snow I will post some more photos.
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