Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The long overdue light-up Marine

I actually finished assembling this guy almost a year ago (according to the dates on the photos), in fact I primed him at the same time as my first light-up model. I guess I was a little burned out on Space Marines as I haven't painted any since these scouts, and they don't really count as they aren't even wearing power armour. I was pretty burned out on trying to put lights in my models too, as I'd been working on it for ages by that point.

But as I mentioned in a previous post, I've made great strides in making powered bases recently, so I thought I'd finish off the last of my old prototypes. Plus I really liked the model as I put a fair bit of work into the conversion, so I thought I might as well paint it. Fair warning, this is going to be a REALLY long post as a LOT of work and experimentation went into this guy - if you count this then I've been looking at lighting up my minis for well over three years now - and I wanted to write about it for my own benefit.

I was building an assault squad back in 5th when vehicles were everywhere and it was traditional to put a "hidden fist" in every squad to give it punch. As I'm not a huge fan of the aesthetics of power fists, I opted for a hammer instead. And just to give him that truly heroic resilience, I added a shield as well. The way wound allocation went back in fifth, I could have allocated any low AP attacks to him instead of regular attacks, meaning I could allocate wounds in such a way that his survive-ability wouldn't be affected but that of his squad would be greatly enhanced. I reckon it's still how I'd run an assault sergeant in sixth to give him some punch in challenges.

I call him Daedalus. When you say "Icarus" people think "Flew too close to the sun: wings melted, died". Well, Daedalus was his father, he built the wings, and he didn't fly too close to the sun and didn't die. In other words, he was the one who knew what he was doing.

I tried to put an LED in his hammer, but I just couldn't fit two cables down the shaft without taking out too much material and compromising the strength. In the end I decided to leave that for another model and just put an LED in his jump pack.

However, just to make things harder on myself, I decided to make the jump pack removable. Well, OK, it was to increase his versatility and it also didn't sound much harder at the time, but it turned out to be quite frustrating to get it to work. Still, the result is a more versatile model.

To do this I used two magnets which served to attach the jump pack and carry the current. Now, you can't really solder a wire to a magnet without destroying, or at least weakening, it's magnetism. So what I did was solder wires to magnets, then let that stick itself to the back of the actual magnet that formed the connection. Even without magnetism of it's own, it would still be ferromagnetic allowing the second magnet to attach to it. The second magnet would then be glued in place in the model, and the same arrangement would be repeated on the other piece.

I wanted the pose to be very dynamic, with his whole body twisted back and his arm drawn back to deliver a crushing blow with the hammer, his other arm holding up the shield to block incoming fire until the last moment. It took a little work to pose the arms (Space Marine arms aren't usually posed held too far out from the body as it can interfere with the pauldrons on the shoulders (let's face it, those things aren't designed for letting the wearer do anything as unnecessary as raising his arms), but it came out OK in the end.

I don't like the two-piece GW thunder hammers, I just wanted a single massive block of hammer (like the Coteaz or the Master of the Fleet), so I made one out of greenstuff. The arm/shaft was a Sanguinary Guard axe arm (I may have had to file some gems off, not really sure). The shield was a Celtic Shield from Scibor Miniatures.

What with the big old hammer and decorative shield, I wanted him to look "knightly" and gothic. However I also wanted to keep his armour as utilitarian as possible - on planes and race cars every ounce counts, I figured a guy who goes flying through the air for the Emperor would value every bit of speed and range over ostentatious un-aerodynamic decoration. And purity seals? Flappy bits of paper that would get torn off in the rushing air or sucked into an air intake or something? Forget about it! So I used the simplest, plainest parts I could - the weapons being the exception.

I was using Black Templar heads on the rest of the squad, so I wanted his head to look a little different. I took a Grey Knight head and filed the front down to make it less pronounced, then filed some new "air" holes in the front left side. The result looks about halfway between a Grey Knight and a Black Templar helmet. This model was from the first batch using my new shoulder pads; I take plain shoulder pads, file off the rims to make them a little smaller, and fill any details. I did give him a slightly more "archaic" torso than the standard assault marine, and greenstuffed a shield across the front to replace the existing symbol (I think it may have been a Black Templar symbol). Of course I sculpted the Sentinels Eternal symbol on his left pauldron. A standard jump pack would not have left room for his hammer and would have blocked his view, plus I would have had to use 2 LEDs instead of one, so I used a Sanguinary Guard jump pack (sans wings) instead.

I wasn't sure what I was going to do with the model except that I wanted to paint him in metallics. I've already got a Grey Knight and I'm hoping to paint a bunch more eventually, and I already have a bronze marine, so I decided to go darker on the body with bright details for contrast. I basecoated him in Calthan Brown then Tin Bitz. Some details were painted up to Dwarf Bronze, and most of the decorations were brought up to gold. I washed him with Devlan Mud, but that just dulled the Tin Bitz without adding any shading or contrast, so next time I won't bother. I then edge highlighted with one shade higher so Tin Bitz was highlighted with Dwarf Bronze, Dwarf Bronze with gold, and gold with a mix of gold and Mithril Silver.

At this point there wasn't any contrast on the brighter metals, so I carefully painted Army Painter Quickshade strong tone onto the bronze and gold areas. I ended up giving the shield a couple of layers to really create contrast, then carefully touched up the gold on the raised areas.

I hadn't sculpted anything onto his right pauldron as I didn't have any ideas, so I decided to leave it smooth and paint something on. While painting I came up with the idea of putting lines of "text" across it to make it look like he had scripture engraved into his armour. The thing is, once I had done that (in Mithril Silver for maximum brightness), the rest of his armour looked really boring. I think it might have been fine if he was in brighter colours, like gold or silver, but as it was my original plan to keep it plain was backfiring. So I went ahead and just painted "scripture"across every bit of armour large enough for me to scribble a line across.

I think that turned out quite well actually; it makes him look very devoted as the only decoration on his armour is his chapter symbol and his holy texts, plus it's a rather unique effect (I don't remember seeing it used to this extent before anyway). The size and quality of the "text" is highly inconsistent, but it's the best I could do over so many different hard-to-reach areas, so I'm happy with it.

I originally considered painting the hammer head in gold to match the shield, but I wanted it to stand out, and the idea of white marble really appealed to me. I found a tutorial written by Abaroth on how to paint various shades of marble, and while there's still room for improvement in my technique, I think it came out reasonably well in the end.

I used this piece of wall to practice painting marble; each section is slightly different.

I varnished him in 'Ardcoat as it brightens the colours a bit and I figured he would look good shiny. I used a Vallejo brush on matt varnish for the base and hammer shaft. It's the only brush-on matt varnish I've found that actually works, and it works really well and dries quickly.

Of course, it was always the lights that took the most work. After trying a number of different approaches, I settled on making a completely new base from breadboard and plasticard. This allowed me to make it a bit more spacious by not sloping the sides, create cut-outs in the sides for the battery and switch, and to save room by not needing wires. Soldering was a whole lot easier, and it made it much easier to fashion a terminal / battery retaining "spring" from a paperclip soldered into the existing holes. On the down side, I was still figuring out liquid greenstuff at the time and I didn't to a very good job of filling the holes in the top to a smooth finish, but luckily a thick layer of paint and good matt varnish seem to have done a good job of hiding the problem.

I tried using a disc cutting saw on a pillar drill to cut the breadboard disc, but it created a large hole in the middle, which was a problem. I found I could get a smaller hole when I just snapped a roughly circular disc out of breadboard, attached a small screw through the middle, and used the drill to file away the outside against a large file until it was the right size. You can see it on top of a standard base in the third photo:

I used a circle cutter to cut plasticard discs. When I tried to cut into the plasticard using the blade in the typical fashion it took half an hour of finger-blistering effort to cut out a disc. I mean that literally; it took half an hour and I had blisters afterwards. And the edge was a bit of a mess too. The problem is that the blade got wedged into the the thick plastic and it was very difficult to continue to exert downwards force. However, when I tried spinning it the other way, I found that the back of the blade carved neat little strips of plastic off the top, and within five minutes I had a clean disc of plasticard in my hand.

After assembling the inner components of the base, I put a ring of plasticard around the outside (with channels cut right through for the battery and switch), filled it with milliput for strength and weight, and capped it with another thin disc (with cutouts around the magnet and "spring" in order to keep the thickness down). The result is a functional powered base of the same diameter as a standard GW 25mm base, and only a millimetre or two thicker.

I forgot to take a WIP picture of the components, but here's the finished base.

This base took a lot of effort to make, with careful positioning of component on the breadboard, scratching off sections of copper, and shaping of breadboard and plasticard necessary. The result is not the same shape as a standard base, it looks a little rough, and the switch and battery slot are visible from the outside. It's also very vulnerable to scratches around the switch and battery slot. My new bases are much better and I'm finding them easier to make, but more on that in my next post.

As a parting shot, here's a picture of my first successful lit model, but with a new battery (unfortunately it seems the battery I used when taking pictures for the old post was a little run down and the pictures didn't end up as impressive as a result):

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