Friday, May 22, 2009


Headed out for a good sized and much needed vacation . I'll be out and about the mid-west for about two weeks. The blog will be on sparse updates, if any at all, for that time.

Bye for now.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Other Side of the House - Severe Weathering Warning

Goddamn, I love puns.

Moving along...

Josiah writes:

John, I'm flattered that you have taken off in this direction. I'm over at my folks house this weekend, and I'm going to show your article to my father. He and I have been talking about spending a little "father son" time together doing modelling on the weekends. I have 4 unpainted rhinos, 4 unpainted speeders, and 1 dread to paint before my 1850 list is complete. I suspect I will learn a great deal from him along the way. I'll keep you posted if he points me towards any really good tips for any of these projects. I am thinking about painting my Marines in the "Iron Knights" scheme. I dig on baremetal finishes. I know how to do the mini's already, but as you probably know, slopping boltgun paint across the side of a rhino looks anything but good. My father is REALLY talented with baremetal finishes. He has done everything from paint to powder coats to actual sheets of specialized aluminum in order to achieve the polished aluminum effects so common in military aircraft prior to about the 80's.

No prob Bob. The whole point of this blog is to share. I can't, in all good conscience, ignore useful information. I figured I already had a decent airbrush and had already started playing with various new techniques, time to push it further. In any case, thanks for the suggestions. Your idea gave me a new and very large area to consciously experiment with and write about.

Now, on to my sagely advice (related to bare metal finishes).

As fantastic as using an airbrush is , the techniques used by military modelers to create realism are the most attractive aspect of military modeling for me. They're generally easy to learn and easy to employ, which are big bonuses.

Someday I'll go into more detail on my favorites, but there are a ton of books out there that detail these techniques. For now, I just want to give you some advice to keep in mind when employing military modeler weathering techniques:

Keep in mind how the model is going to be used when considering a weathering technique. As a general guide, ask yourself: is this technique going to look okay when sealed? Can I seal it? Am I prepared to handle the model with kid gloves if I can't?

There are a ton of neat military modeler things that you can do to add some zazz to your models. But keep in mind that you 40k models are most likely going to be functional. That means they're going to be used in a game (duh). You're going to be storing, transporting, handling and probably knocking them over at some point. This is why gamers seal there miniatures with some kind of spray varnish - protection from the things that are inimical to your paint job.

And that's the rub. Many of the techniques employed by military modelers don't like to be touched or, hell, even sealed. This limits their use for your gaming pieces. An example:

Weathering Powders
As much as I love these things (I have 9ish of the Mig Productions' brand), many of their applications are just plain unsuitable for a gaming piece. You can't just brush them on like so many military modelers do. All you're really doing is adding colored dust to your model. It WILL rub off. Plus, you can't seal them because the air blows the powder off and the sealant soaks up the remaining pigment.

The common practice of brushing the powders on and then wetting them down with paint thinner or water is also compromised. The sealant will still blow some of the powder off and ruin the color to a degree.

This is not to say they're of no use, however. I've had luck with heavy layers - each sealed with a spray varnish. This takes a while though, and its hard to get the same effect. I've had better luck mixing the powders with paint and then applying it that way.

Generally Speaking
Many weathering techniques work because they AREN'T sealed. The texture and various visual characteristics make the effect work - they are often very dependent upon the contrast between flat and gloss finishes. You may have to figure out a workaround or abandon it all together if you want to play with your model AND maintain the effect. Sometimes, you just have to settle.

I've begun to conceptualize my use of military modeler techniques as a result of the functional use of the end product. I think realism is a great touch to add to any modeling project. But seeing as how you may be painting a hover tank, feel free to play with it. You're model isn't being judged for total realism - you have a bit more room for aesthetics.

Advice for Josiah:
I can't claim to be an expert on the various methods of achieving amazing and realistic bare metal finishes, but I still have a few suspicions that I think I should share. From what I've been reading and from what you've described, many of the bare metal techniques you've mentioned seem unsuitable to wargaming. Specifically, because it seems like they don't work as well once you've sealed them and don't react well to fingerprints if you haven't. So, be careful when you select one.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Project Thunderbolt - Update 1

Enough Nazi bullshit for the time being. It's time for some updates about my Thunderbolt.

I've actually been making a lot of progress on it. I just haven't had much time to share.

Here are some shots of the repair work I had to do.

Some of the parts had some filing and shaving done at a time prior to my ownership. It was kinda sloppy, so I had some work to do. Just some minor filling and sanding here and there. You can also see where I drilled a hole for my mounting rod.

The thing in the middle is one of the flaps from the wings. The flaps were just a bit too small for the wing - probably due to shrinkage when the part was cast. In order to make it fit, I had to cut of the hinges. The flap and the door to it's right are parts I had to repair to my own mistakes when i was being a bit hamfisted.

Handy hint: take you're goddamn time.

For the most part, I used green stuff and some color shapers to fix dings and scratches. But on the end of the fuselage, there was considerable damage that would eventually sit flush against another piece. For this I used some Milliput I had left over from my slate bases. Milliput is a little hard to get and even more expensive than green stuff. But, it drys harder and is sandable.

This is a shot of the reinforcement I added to my mounting hole. Since I'm going to be playing with this model, I wanted it to be extra sturdy. The metal thing is some pipe fitting piece I picked up at a hardware store.

Here's some detail of the landing flap modifications I'm making. The flaps didn't have a single dimension that fit the wing, so I really had to play with 'em. Here you can see me adding some plastic strips to raise the flaps to be flush with the under-surface of the wing.

Speaking of adding spacers, here's a shot of some sprue chunks I glued onto the fusalage to get the landing gear doors to sit right. It turns out they're shipped ready to be build in a down position. Some modification was necessary.

Lastly, some shots of the construction. This is about as far as I've gotten. I've started painting some of the details and such - the engine hoses and the pilot. Overall, asembly took a lot longer than I had anticipated. The model had a ton of gaps and damage to repair and green stuff takes 24 hours to cure.

Nest stop is painting and final assembly.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


Couple of late comments:

First one can be found on this article.
The fuck is wrong with you? None of his models have any 'nazi' on it. and WWII Germany was only ruled by a madman, that does not mean every german was a nazi.


I wont get into a protracted history rant that no-one will respond to. But here is a short, pictorial versions because this bears explaining but I don't think highly of your reading comprehension skills:

I never said every German was a Nazi. But that doesn't change the fact that it was called Nazi Germany. The guys in the tank may not have been National Socialists, but they probably had a swastika on there anyway.

Second comment from this article.
I dont know about you guys, But I think hes a pretty cool cat. He went off and did something the media (GW) said was impossible. But of course Die-hard GW Fanboys will hate anything they cant understand. and... THEY'RE GODDAMN TOYS! relax my brothers.

You are an idiot and you are not my brother.

My suspicion is that this is the same "anonymous' in both comments. Both have about the same level of intelligence & reactionary bullshit in them and they came within 4 minutes of each other.

This one is my favorite of the two. Apparently I don't understand why giant boobs on everything is cool. I guess Dr. Thunder is anonymous' everyman here - fighting against the odds to make giant space-trannies. In your face, GW!!

I also love the weird slam/protest against "the media". Sounds like someone has a some problems with the liberal and/or conservative media that may, or may not, be controlled by the Jews.

I understand this is an opinion piece in the first place, but I try to keep mine informed and intelligent. I ask you to do the same. You may also want to re-read the fan fiction in the thread if you:

a) can stomach it
b) are unclear as to just why the whole concept is retarded

Friday, May 8, 2009

Project Thunderbolt

I got a decent tax return this year. After paying off some credit card debt, I had enough left over for something frivolous and expensive. I ordered a Thunderbolt from Forgeworld.

It just came in the mail, so now I can finally start playing with it. My aim is to document the process of building it as part of on ongoing series called, imaginatively, Project Thunderbolt.

Que Top Gun theme.

I'm incredibly excited about this project. I get an excuse to use my airbrush, I get to apply some new techniques I read about and I get to work with a large resin model kit for the first time. I also get a totally rad airplane out of the deal. Fun.

The resin kit part is something still new to me. I've never worked with resin on this scale before. I've bought some upgrade packs and the like, but never a whole model. A lot of interesting things to take in to account with this project.

Before I even got the kit, I did some research. I needed to review some of the extra steps I would need to take in order to complete this project. Forgeworld has a pretty solid primer on the subject. It can be found here.

I also stumbled across a GW article that details the actual assembly of the kit. This was extremely handy as the directions included by Forgeworld are of dubious quality. This extemely handy article can be found here.

Once the kit arrived, the first thing I did was inventory the parts. The Thunderbolt kit has a fairly large number of parts. Most of them neccesary for construction. Due to the nature of the resin model making process, it is much easier to misplace a piece or two when packing it up. Forgeworld included a parts list and I found that nothing was missing.

It is also a good idea to inspect the various parts for damage or miscasting defects at this time. Keep an eye out for bubble holes, damaged detail and warping. The kit I got seems to be of high quality and all I had was the odd warped piece. Warpage is pretty much par for the course with resin kits and extremely easy to fix.

Here are a few shots of the parts:

...and some parts I won't be using. Specifically, the landing gear, some stowage details and a flying base (it's too short for a totally sweet airplane).

Preparation: Washing
Resin parts will probably need to be washed for the same reasons as metal parts: to get rid of mold release agent. If present, the stuff the use to keep the parts from sticking to the mold will play hell with your paint. While this step is not necessary, it is best practice and I did just spend 125 bucks on a model.

Washing is easy. Dilute simple green with warm water in a container large enough for your parts. Soak parts for a few minutes. Scrub with a toothbrush. Rinse. Dry.

At this point it's also expedient to begin bending your warped parts (see details in the forgeworld link). Keep in mind that bigger pieces may need multiple warm water soaks.

Note 1: be careful when bending your pieces. Try not to bend the parts without first softening them up. The smaller ones may snap. This is the voice of experience.

Note 2: Resin gets pretty malleable when hot, so it is very easy to bend. Be careful when bending larger pieces that you don't bend something that you didn't want to. If possible, only soak the area of the piece that you need to bend.

Note 3: Luckily, resin is forgiving. You can always re-soak and try again if your bending doesn't turn out. In addition, you wont have to worry about fingerprints.

Moving Forward
At this point, my parts are clean and bent into shape. Its not time to start removing all of the mould lines, gate, vents and flash. I'll update as I make progress

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Other Side of the House – the Airbrush

Now, if you recall, military modelers are extremely concerned with historical accuracy and realism. The dedicated modelers will spend a large chunk of their time doing research – pouring over pictures (both black & white and color), visiting museums and reading. They spend time comparing the kit they have with all their accumulated info and then make changes as necessary. Again, the aim is realism. They can’t afford to have large brushstrokes or thick, detail-hiding paint fucking up the illusion.

To that end, they make heavy use of airbrushes. For today’s discussion I will be focusing on the very basics and some things I’ve picked up along the way. There are a lot of complicated things you can do with an airbrush that I will talk about at a later date.

Airbrush Basics
While this relevant article on Brushthralls is a good base to start with and focuses on wargaming applications, it isn’t particularly detailed. For the purposes of this article, I will assume you have read it. There are other articles out there as well, and a ton of advice to be had on military modeling forums. Also keep in mind that airbrushes are used for all kinds of applications, so be mindful of this if you hit the web looking for more info.

A Cautionary Tale
ArkenTyre mentions getting the best airbrush you can afford. LISTEN TO HIM ON THIS ONE. I didn’t. I went out and got a cheap, single-action airbrush and some canned air. I now have two airbrushes. The one I bought first trying to save a few bucks, and the good one I bought once I realized that the single-action brush was shitty.

The reason I ended up with a second airbrush? Imperial armor Model Masterclass Volume I. I got this for Christmas and then realized that my cheap-o airbrush wasn’t really capable of doing nearly all of the techniques detailed in that book.

Mission: Save money
Status: failed

One good airbursh is cheaper than a good one + a bad one (that you never use)

Some Notes On Your Air Supply
I understand that $120 bucks is a lot of money to spend on something. Try the air if you like (maybe as a low cost test), but if you get serious about your airbrush, get the compressor.

Anywho, canned air will cost you more in the long run at $12 a can. A compressor will also give you a much more constant pressure. Ever had a can of spray primer that’s close to the end of its life? It sprays unpredictably and erratically, doesn’t it? Now imagine that, only while you’re trying to do something detail oriented or trying to lay down a base coat. It happens and it’s super crap-tastic. Better yet, get a compressor with a pressure regulator. With it, you gain even more control over the paint.

Paint Thickness And Surface Preparation
When you use an airbursh (correctly) to lay down a coat of paint, it will be very thin - measured in microns thin. Imperfections on the surface you are painting will be extremely visible. Scratches, glue blobs, hair – everything will show up. Your primer coat and model construction become very important because of this. This is one of the downsides of an airbrush – it’s very unforgiving this way.

In military modeling circles, seems and other imperfections are ruthlessly eliminated from the surface of the model. As much care is spent building the model as is spent painting it. Nothing ruins the illusion of realism quite like visible mold lines and seems. In wargaming land, thankfully, it’s not nearly so cardinal a sin, but still, be mindful.

A Breath Mask May Be Necessary
With regular old spray-paint, you can spray whatever, very quickly and then leave to avoid the fumes. An airbrush will often require you to pay much more attention to what you’re doing. As a result, you’ll be up close and personal with what you’re working on. Inhaling paint is bad, so is inhaling your thinner. Be careful

I admit, getting your paint thinned for an airbrush can be tricky. It’s also completely necessary. At some point, you will decide that there is only one blue for your Ultramarines and it probably won’t come in an airbrush ready form.

There are many liquids you can use as thinner for airbrush applications. The old hats might tell you to use isopropyl alcohol. For some paints you can use regular old water. I haven’t had good luck with straight alcohol. I found it made things a bit grainy. This is partly due to the fact that some of the paint was drying before it hit the surface. I’ve now switched over to Tamiya’s house brand thinner. It’s basically isopropyl alcohol with a drying retarder added. I’ve had great results with it, with only one real downside:

Do not thin Vallejo paints with Tamiya thinner.

The drying retarder reacts chemically with the paint and ruins it. Not dangerous, but not usable either. I’m told that Vallejo paints will thin just fine with water.

Mixing Paint
As far as how thin to go, the old pros will tell you to thin the paint until it’s about the same thickness consistency of 2% milk. This is not as helpful as you might think. I don’t know about you, but I don’t often paint much with milk or pay that close enough attention to it in the first place.

What I found useful was to get some of the aforementioned Vallejo Air paints and then compare their consistency with what I was mixing. I grabbed a toothpick, dipped it into the paint and then wiped it on a piece of paper. As I was mixing my own paint, I would periodically so the same until I was at the right spot. You can also do small test sprays to see if the paint is behaving correctly. It shouldn’t run, but it also shouldn’t have globs in it.

Lastly, when mixing your paint, put the thinner in the container first and then add the paint. This will help avoid getting a lot of sediment at the bottom of your container. This is especially important if you mix directly in the paint cup like I do as the paint feed starts at the bottom of the cup.

I’m Still New At This Myself And Yet It’s Still Totally Worth It
Using an airbrush is tricky business. There tend to be a lot of variable and it tends to be a skill most of us still don’t have practice with. I have some info to share, but I’m still pretty much an airbrush noob. My base coats have the odd imperfection – overspray, the odd paint glob and cat hairs are just a few of the things I still contend with. Not too good with the whole precision use of the tool either. But damnnit, it beats painting tanks by hand.

Just last week I got two Rhino hulls painted in under 30 minutes – including clean up paint mixing. Even with my noob mistakes, the base coat looks better than if I had spent a few hours doing it by hand. After that, the other things I can do with the tool are just a bonus for me.

Well, that’s about it. Bottom line: airbrushes are mega-sweet but there’s a learning curve and some expense.