Sunday 22 December 2013

Forcing Hobby Time

We're told that a hobby is something you make time for, not something you do to fill spare time.

So what do you do when your spare time is taken up with other things, and you actually can't create a rift in the continuum to slot in some quality painting time?

You take your models to work.

This week was the perfect time to wind down at the office. All the important stuff was done well in advance of the new year, so rather than watching a Christmas movie, I brought in a box of paints and some hobbit minis to progress.

I don't have a decent daylight balanced lamp at my desk, and the work top height isn't perfect. And there's the issue of my office phone line never not ringing.

I gave it a go anyway. An hour's-worth of work produced some mediocre results at best

Not happy with this Bilbo so far. Especially not the face - he looks positively psychopathic! The colour range is almost right, but everything is a bit thick. The office air-con dries out the paint palette really quickly, and even acrylic medium didn't help.

I had to try again, so after lunch, and amidst the whole world wanting a piece of me, I laid some base colour onto a LOTR metal Arwen. Just the main dress material, and it's going to get layered up to a teal green when I have a balanced light.

I'm already happier with this. The paint has gone on thinner - it was more a case of knowing when to stop rather than forcing 'just a bit more' like I did with Bilbo. He's not a lost cause in any way, but I won't be trying that level of detail at the office again. Maybe just prep and assembly, and possibly some base colour work.

Nothing fancy.
Nothing forced.

Thursday 19 December 2013

Sprue Cutters #22: For a rainy day

Jon asked us to show off our kitchens and dining room tables last week (weird) in the hope that some decent workbenches would pop up. Some did. Some were awesome. Others were dining room tables...
This week, we've been asked to air our dirty laundry and show our stash of unbuilt kits; our collective investment in the future of our hobby; our obsessive need to have new, shiny toys: this is the stuff our wives won't understand.

Thanks Jon.

I think I should point out before I jump in that very few models on my shelves are unstarted - almost all have been opened, and had one bit clipped from the sprue, or almost finished and abandoned for the next bit of Hobby ADD.

First up- in the garage on the Ikea shelving, alongside car parts that will get as much use in the near future: warhammer boxes - classics from the 90s, like the 4th edition fantasy box set and a lead Rock Lobber. 40k stuff- ork and space wolf battleforces, and a load of single minis. Lord of the rings stuff - an olyphaunt that I started and abandoned. In the orange bag, there's 40k 25th anniversary models and pin badges and in the black bags, there are a couple of copies of Dreadfleet. In the Ikea box there's stuff. I have no idea what - possibly some scenery and terrain parts.

Cupboard 1:
Some cool projects I might have started or just opened to have a look - the Aliens APC is an eBay rescue and repair job waiting to happen.

Cupboard 2 part 1:

Deloreans. Obsessed with these I am. Likewise the Batmobile from Tim Burton's first movie. Beautiful car - good memories of the first one I built when I was 11 or 12. Bought it in Lancaster and started assembling it at my Nan's in Plymouth. My first 'road trip' plastic. These are all mint.

Cupboard 2 part 2:
Behind the kiddie car seats lie some monsters. I always wanted the Halcyon PVC Aliens kits when I was a kid, but couldn't afford them. Then eBay was invented, and I had money to spare. There's more you can't see as well...

Boxes above the tumble drier:
A 40k case, a camera case with Hobbit scenery and LOTR projects, an unfinished Alien3 walker (soon to be done, honest) and a few boxes of scrap building stuff.

Cupboard 3:

Cupboard 4:
Tools and things.
It's what's above it that's even more scary - more unfinished nik-naks.
Note the fire extinguisher in the bottom RHS...

In the loft there's another Ikea box of Star Trek models from my teens - ships and figures - actually mostly unstarted - apart from an Enterprise D which I spent 2 years hand drilling windows to fit optic fibres. It's not the optic fibre kit - I bought a few metres of that to light the ship, as well as making LED-lit nacelles. Didn't quite finish it....
It'll all probably stay there until I have a workplace of my own.

You kinda know that one day my headstone will read:

Here lies Peter Brown
Husband, father, finisher of nothi

Check out some other Sprue Cutter Troll-hoards below:



More here when they get posted!

Thursday 12 December 2013

Sprue Cutters #21: space: a theoretical construct

This week, we seem to be posting lovely pics of our workstations.

I had one of those once.

It was not tidy.

I've been a hobby nomad for a while, taking up temporary space in a room until someone tells me to move it.

When I was a kid, I had a cool set of shelves and a workbench in my parents' utility room.

When I was an adult (?), my wife let me use the freezing cold conservatory for a while. Then we moved.

I'd love to set up in our garage, below the flat, but there's a space and tidy issue. Lots to throw out; nowhere to put new things.

So, instead, I blag a bit of space on the dining room table, or the kitchen work top, or at my desk at work (like I have the time...)

In the kitchen, the oven extractor hood serves as a half-decent vent when I airbrush, and the window sill is a nice place for things to dry. My wife disagrees.

She'd love me to set up in our garage, below the flat, but there's a space and tidy issue. Lots to throw out; nowhere to put new things. Maybe she'll help...?

Other workstations to check out:

The Migrant



Tuesday 10 December 2013

Sprue Cutters #20 - the Christmas wishlist

It's a simple, and yet difficult thing to say what I'd like for Christmas, as I want everything, and have room in my house for nothing, so I'll keep it short and sweet...

4. An airbrush spray booth - one of those nice portable systems with a powerful fan that will ventilate my airbrushing area (kitchen) - something like this:

Spray Booth

3. Some MIG weathering pigments - I've always wanted to have a go with powder and turps. Or their new Mud looks awesome

Muddy gunge

2. New Hobbit models - the Barrels out of Bond kit is a beautifully sculpted set of figures

Floating Dwarves

1. A hobby shed. I could escape for a couple of hours every now and then, and also get all my stuff out of the house!

This guy has the right idea, even though it's not a shed

I haven't actually asked for any of these things, and my family doesn't tend to follow my blog, so should *any* of it arrive, I'll be truly impressed...

don't forget to read the other union posts:

Typhus Corrosion: a video review

From Games Workshop's recently released set of 6 Citadel Technical Paints, Typhus Corrosion is a grungy wash (with micro bits in it) that, when dry, simulated damaged, corroded metal, or dried gritty oil that's leaked out of a bad seal. 

Here's a video to show you how it works

Saturday 7 December 2013

Agrellan Earth: a video review

Games Workshop recently released a set of 6 new Citadel Technical Paints. The most useful is the brilliant Agrellan Earth. It's designed primarily as a basing paint that cracks when it dries, but you could just as well use it on stoney-textured characters, like the Fantastic Four's The Thing.

Here's a video to show you how it works

Wednesday 20 November 2013

Sprue Cutters #19 - The modelling gods strike


That 'Eureka' moment. That moment of genius. That time someone put a gorilla behind a drumkit.

Inspired chocolate advertising

We all want these moments - while we're building our models, while we're painting them and while we're figuring out how to display them. The first inspired moment, though, has to be when we choose what our next subject is.

When I'm building aircraft or cars, my choiceflow is simple: Coolest wins.

It's got actual metal bits

I would love to build this Tamiya kit - the write-ups were great when it launched, and it's not too expensive (compared with the GW prices I've got used to recently). It's also a multimedia kit - metal lower parts to give it weight, and plastic uppers, with etched brass details. Heaven.

I'll probably never buy it.

You see, amongst many other things, I have a few of these:

The coolest of them all

I bought one when it came out in the 90s, and had a teenage stab at it. Not a bad effort, but painting stainless steel with a size 2 brush will never look great. I then bought a whole load of them a few years ago - one from each film, and a spare, rare BTTF2 version to keep forever (and then sell to buy a house).

I have been planning for a few years to recreate the poster from the second film - I have drawings, electronics and a big block of foam somewhere to make this:

Shivers happening right now

For the minute, though, my inspiration for 'what's next?' comes from the armies I'm working on in the 40k and Lord of the Rings universe - and they're mainly special characters.

I'm on a sort of wizard binge - I finished a Gandalf figure a couple of months ago, and I then straight away started on a Saruman figure - similar robes, but a different feel. I also started working on a different Gandalf figure. Obviously, when I finish those, I'll start on one of the two Radagast figures I have in the stash. Once the wizards are done, I'll do some Hobbits.

Similarly, I'm working on some Orks for 40k (as well as Tau and Space Wolves), and once the current WIPs are done, it's more likely to be a greenskin than anything else.

I think my choice-inspiration is often governed by the most fun thing I've already bought and stashed away. Even if it's 'important' to do a particular figure, or squad, if I'm not in the mood then it won't get done.

I think Jon's analogy of a meal menu is very fitting. I concur wholeheartedly.

Currently, there's only Jon's post listed for me to link to (but there'll be more soon, no doubt)
Don't forget to subscribe!

The Combat Workshop

Saturday 16 November 2013

Sprue Cutters #17 Go Big or Go Home

I've been thinking about this week's question for most of the week, rather than diving right in.

If I devoted the next 12 months to a single project, would I do it, and what would it be?

My first thoughts hinged on dioramas - I'm currently building a complicated 40k vignette for Golden Demon. I've been building it for a couple of years, actually - but I haven't devoted enough time to it.

Based on a mission that Mikey and I played at Games Day a couple of years ago, it's titled 'Deep Strike Mishap'

The inspiration for the scene
The whole thing must fit inside a 1-foot-cube to be eligible for entry. There's a kitbashed Drop Pod stuck on the edge of a cliff with its 10 Marine occupants getting out in various ways. Overhead, though is an Ork flyer dropping some nasty payload.

Scope for lots of great little details, but I haven't project managed it well enough to get it done. The terrain is still a glint in my eye; the Imperial Fist Marines are 95% built (conversions on each and every one), and mostly base-coated, but no detail painting yet. The Drop Pod is finished on the inside, and only about 50% done on the outside. The Ork flyer is 80% finished, although I haven't figured out how to mount it to the terrain.

There are lots of technical engineering issues to overcome - how to make the Jet look like it's flying, without using a base, and without it waggling on a wire. The same goes for the men - some are abseiling from the Drop Pod, but I don't want them swinging around when it's on display.

Transportation is another issue - how to get it to the show once it's finished without bits falling off it mid-transit. Do I build it rock solid, or make it modular and re-assemble at the venue? The ostrich in my mind is pretending these issues don't exist, and is happy to carry on with other jobs...

Then there's the Armies on Parade competition. On a 2ft Square board, I'm supposed to showcase an army - figures, vehicles, terrain. Make it eye-popping, make it memorable. It has to win the heat at my local store, and only then is it allowed to go to the show. Mikey and I started collecting Orks for this very purpose last year - before the hobby cooled off for him - and it's a good idea for an epic job. Lots of repetitive stuff, sure, but loads of variety in the minis to paint, and a bucketload of creativity for the scenery.

But can I be bothered to do it? Probably not. I've just looked at what pieces I've actually finished this year. I might make it to 5 or 6 by Christmas if I don't keep getting sidetracked with new things.

Maybe I should aim to do that, then...

Other Sprue Cutters have joined in the discussion:

Jeroen Vantroyen
Fill and Sand
The Migrant's Wanderings
The Eternal Wargamer
The Combat Workshop

Saturday 9 November 2013

Sprue Cutters Union #16 - Brushing up

This week the Sprue Cutters have been tasked with spotlighting our brush preferences - hairy or airy, brushes are the most common way to transfer paint from the pot to our models.

As always, let's start from the beginning:

When I was building Airfix kits that I'd find in my local newsagent's, I quickly discovered that I'd need a brush. Luckily, the same shop sold Humbrol enamels and every size of brush - the owner used to fly English Electric Lightnings for the RAF, and I think he had a soft spot for scale models.

If I still have any of those brushes, they're not in any good state for painting - probably in my collection of stirrers and terrain bits. As an avid hoarder, recycler and re-user, my brushes have a cycle of use. I try not to bin them if I can help it.

Fine detail work
Stirring and mixing
Scenery spares

The scraggier they get, the less I want to use them for front-end paint work! (I wrote a post a couple of years ago about brush care which might help to slow down this cycle)

These guys don't wet blend

Anyway, these Humbrol brushes were never top of the line to start with - they were a little better than starter-set quality, but not much.

I still have a couple of Citadel brushes, but these are drybrushes at the very best...

this one started life as a drybrush, too!

Last Christmas I was bought a couple of sets of Kolinsky Sable brushes from Creative Models. These, along with my Army Painter detail brushes are awesome. The sable hair pushes paint around better than synthetic, or generic hairy brushes. They're soft, easy to clean, and seem to hold their shape well, without too much work from me!

Sizes 4-10/0

Insane detail, Detail, and Masterclass

I recently bought this brush. I haven't used it yet, but it was relatively pricey, so I'm expecting it to make me a coffee while it's painting the models by itself.

Newest - can't wait to use this one...

Then there's my airbrush. A birthday present last year - a Harder & Steenbeck Infinity - at the time it was a recommendation from a Japanese acquaintance of mine, who has since been sponsored by Badger, and doesn't go by H&S at all!

Gorgeous airbrush, with 2 needles and 2 cups

The Infinity is nicely weighted, is easy to take apart and maintain, and hasn't caused me any major headaches. I used to have 2 no-name hobbyshop gravity-fed dual action airbrushes and, and a cheap single action siphon-feed from Badger. I threw them all away earlier this year in a fit of rage - too much clogging, bubbling and spitting. It was probably my fault, but I blamed my tools and they paid the ultimate price. No regrets.

I have two compressors - a small, noisy desktop compressor, which I use all the time, and big 20L thing, which I really want to use, but haven't the room. I bought the big so I could respray my old car. I haven't done that, either. It has more reliable regulators and moisture traps than the desktop compressor, and is (in theory) much quieter once the reservoir is filled.

Have a read of what the rest of the Union are saying about brushes:

Wednesday 30 October 2013

Sprue Cutters Union #15: What makes an outstanding model?

What makes an outstanding model?

It's always disheartening to receive lacklustre comments about something you've spent time, effort and money on. CMON ratings of 5 or 6 from modellers who are technically lower down the food chain than you really suck. Let's not even mention the feelings of failing to make the cut at the Golden Demon or similar contest.

Peer reviews are often like family critiques - well-meaning and offence-free, but not usually useful in terms of progression and direction.

I'm starting to look at my work differently - not with just a sense of pride for having completed it to a decent standard - models need to perform well, too.

3 Rules:

1. A display model must be 'on display'
2. A well-painted model will photograph well
3. Any techniques used should be proficiently presented

These can, in part, be translated from musical performance or stagecraft;

1. Don't break character, and be idiomatic.
2. Don't blame the lighting crew for your dull performance.
3. Be well rehearsed - don't practice in front of your audience.

Let's start with this goblin. He's painted to a decent standard. Or is he?

1. He's on display. The base is fitting, if a bit simple.
2. He doesn't photograph well - too dark around the face. Not a lighting issue, but a painting fail.
3. Techniques are okay - he doesn't look like anything had been tried out for the first time.

Gandalf. Very proud of this figure. Let's apply the rules:

1. The display is too simple for subject. Needs to feel more epic.
2. Photographs well enough, but highlights brushwork on horse and clothing.
3. Some techniques, like blending, look like they were rehearsed on this figure.

Everyone's a critic, right? So it's important to think like them when building and painting.

Here's a photo by Dan Quirk (@filmcorai) of a Blood Raven sergeant:

1. The base is good. Doesn't obscure the figure, and the colours contrast nicely.

2. The photo itself isn't great, but the subject photographs very nicely. The face is a clear focal point, and the weathering stands out enough.

3. The range of techniques used were mastered elsewhere- not practiced on this figure!

I like this figure - the model 'performs', and does it well. Do yours?

Here's a different angle from a fellow sprue cutter:

Scale Model Workbench

Wednesday 23 October 2013

Sprue Cutters Union #14: the worst part of the hobby


The worst bit of the hobby.

Worse than drilling, pinning, filling, sanding or gluing.

It's a complicated thing - I love painting, but also dread having to committo colour schemes, trying out new techniques and generally showing off 'me' to everyone online.

I'd like to think I'm pretty good with a brush - air or bristles - and looking at other's work, I'm certainly not at the bottom of the skill roster. But being a perfectionist and a bit of an egoist, I want to be the best! When I'm not, it knocks me for 6 - and that's in anything I'm involved in: music, work, baking - anything.

So you can probably imagine that putting a finished model on show for others to comment on/judge not only brings out the idiotic competitive monster, but also the insecure child. The anticipation of that daft situation is also what stops me from finishing projects, or sometimes even getting past the assembly stage.


I love painting. I hate painting.

I'm currently available for commission work. Contact me below.

Other spruecutters are suffering from 'worst bit of the hobby', too. Check 'em out here:

Fill n Sand

Eternal Wargamer

A scale Canadian

Jay's Scale Model Adventures

Sven Harjacek's blog

Jason Vantroyen's blog

Wednesday 16 October 2013

Spruecutters Union #13 - preparation

A few years ago, a workmate and I joked about having a 'model-off'. We both bought the same 1:48 Tamiya Spitfire mk1 kit, and got cracking.

First thing I did was some web research: I wanted to kick his butt with a super-detailed kit, so I needed to see what inaccuracies would foul this model if built it straight from the box.

The cockpit, the canopy, the prop, the wing-weapons, the wheels, the rudder and all control surfaces were details that could be improved. Resin, etched-brass and vacu-formed plastics from various aftermarket sources soon quadrupled the cost of the build, but would eventually make it look amazing.

A Haynes manual of the Spitfire also found its way onto the hobby shelf: obsessive reading and trawling the web for close up photos, and triple-checking the correctness of the details was how I spent many evenings.

I started the project, and got a decent way into it, but then had to put it on hold for a while, and then shelved it for much later, and then moved house, and now I don't remember what any of the aftermarket bits are for.

When I do start it again, it will be awesome, but I'll have to obsess about it again, and to the same level as before.

My workmate, sadly, got divorced, and I don't think he finished his model, either. If he did, it was probably only an average attempt ;-)

I've had a similar story with a Halcyon Aliens Dropship (detailed, kitbashed, but not finished) and a paintjob on a Suzuki Whizkid - finished for a commission. Hours of checking details and finding methods of getting them scaled down - over the last 10 years I've learned how to make my own decals, how to use an airbrush, how to cast resin, make moulds, and how to make my own etched brass parts.

Bottom line? These days, for the majority of my 40k builds, I'll read backstory for continuity, and check the codex and online sources for reference pics, but rarely will I go totally nuts for super-details.

Which is why my Space Wolves terminators have resin torsos, my Tau have fancier decals, and my tanks will have brass and resin upgrades.

And they're all still WIP.

Here are some other union posts you should read:

Kermit's Bench

Sven Harjacek's Scale models

Fill 'n' Sand

Tuesday 8 October 2013

Tutorial: Decals, in lieu of freehand

We're not all great freehand painters. Model kit makers have known that from the beginning, so they've almost always provided us with water-slide transfers, or decals, so we can super-detail our work. You'll regularly see 'no step' and 'jet exhaust' decals for military planes, and sponsors' logos on race cars.

In our little corner of the hobby world, GW provides us with decals to detail shoulder-pads, armour plating and weapons, depending on the kit, and will sell us special variants for different factions or chapters. Forgeworld, similarly, will sell us super-special versions for little-heard-of units, mostly based on the more popular fluff from novels or video games.

What all transfers/decals have in common is the method of application: soak in water for 30sec/1min, move into desired position and wait to dry.

If only it was that simple.

Decals behave differently depending on the manufacturer. Some are soft; some barely change shape; some tear really easily. Knowing what's what is often a case of experience, 'local knowledge', or a trawl online for answers.

A little help has come from a few companies in the form of transfer solutions: Gunze and Micro Industries are just two of a small handful. The stuff Gunze makes is, by accounts, great for older kits, or Japanese kits, where the transfers are hard and brittle. MicroSet/Sol don't work so well on those - I've read that they react badly. But they do work very well on most other types of decal, which is why they are in my toolbox, at the top.

Fundamental to success

The principle behind these products is two-fold: pull the transfer closer to the model surface, and soften it so it conforms to whatever shape is underneath. MicroSet is a softening adhesive - it's water-soluble, which gives you some repositioning wiggle-time. MicroSol is a conforming solvent. It softens the decal, allows it to take on the underneath shape and texture, and burns off the carrier film around the edge, which would otherwise leave a silvery sheen, thus spoiling the effect.

Basic tools

Tools needed:
X-acto knife
Clean cutting mat
Small bowl of warmish water
Gloss varnish
Paintbrush (nothing fancy)
Matte varnish

The correct way to apply the products is as follows:

1. Prepare the surface- paint it and then gloss-coat it. Decals don't like matte surfaces.
2. Once dry, paint some MicroSet where the transfer will go.
3. Closely cut out the transfer and soak it in tepid water for 30sec or more - until it begins to move freely from the backing card. Use a Q-tip or toothpick to test it.
4. Position the transfer on the model. Carefully move it around if you need - avoid tearing by using the Q-tip or toothpick instead of your brutish mitts. You have little time to do this
5. Use some paper towel to dab off the excess water. Allow to air dry for a couple of minutes.
6. Paint on MicroSol over the transfer. Watch as the decal begins to wrinkle. Panic a bit, but realise that it's the normal reaction, and it will smooth out when it's dry.
7. Wait many hours before touching the transfer. Repeat MicroSol application if you're not happy with the result.
8. Seal with matte varnish before weathering.

Here's a side-by-side comparison of the old-skool method with just water, and the more modern, chemically enhanced system.

We'll be using done really old decals from GW, c.1996

£3.50 for all that? Great value now, it was a rip-off then

First, the surface:

GW paints are quite glossy, so let's not gloss varnish the shoulder and see how it goes.

Finished painting.

Cut the transfer

Cut nice and close to the image you need

Soak the transfer

Leave enough space on the card to hold with tweezers

Apply the transfer

Rolling the Q-tip works better than prodding

See how circles don't conform to curves at all well. Rectangles have a similar issue.

Geometry will get you before rhythm.

Try again - cut a triangle out of the bottom of the circle. It'll join up later...

...kinda. The transfer doesn't move well on the shoulder pad, and still doesn't conform perfectly.

Next, the knee pad. This has had gloss first. Better, but not great.

Now the Set/Sol method:

First the gloss

Soak up the excess with paper towel

Then the Set. Soak/apply transfer and position with brush/Q-tip

Wait a little while and paint on the Sol. Wait.

Wait some more.

After 30 mins, the transfer is looking a lot better. Another coat of Sol, as these transfers are ancient.

Sol has conformed decal to all the bumps in the plastic

After the MicroSol has dried and cured - 12-24hrs should do it. - a coat of gloss or matte will seal the transfer on the plastic, allowing you to go nuts with overpainting, freehanding and weathering.

And that's How for now.