Monday, September 26, 2016

Massed Orc Unit

Per Dale's request, here are some photos of a massed group of Orc warriors.  They are not mounted for dungeon play, more for a wargame (2 figures to a 1.25" square base), but you can still get a sense for varied arm positions and painting variety that can be used for your dungeon orcs too.  Construction is identical to what I described before, with the exception that some of these troopers have spears (round tooth picks) and shields (I just used precut thin wood shapes similar to those used for the bases of the other figures, and in some cases altered the shape of them slightly by cutting them).
The banner is just a piece of copy paper that I cut and then covered in watered down white glue and then I shaped it like I wanted and let it dry, and then painted it.  The drum is a small thin wood precut round shape (its big brother is the one I use for the bases for the dungeon miniatures) glued onto a flower pot wooden shape I picked up at Michael's. 
I have some archers as well, perhaps I'll post about them next.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

One Hero, One Monster: Part I

I wanted to try and routinely make a post describing one hero and one monster that I have done so far (eventually I will run out of heroes and there will only be monsters to talk about, but whatever).  Unlike the female barbarian construction post I did, I don't plan on actually putting these guys together.  I already have them finished.  But I will show all the parts and give hints or discuss errors I made to help anyone who wants to give it a go on their own.

One Hero, One Monster:  Human Wizard & Orc Warrior

 Hero:  Human Wizard
I always try and get inspiration either from a movie character, or a drawing of some type (I'm a big Erol Otus fan!) but in this case, I really liked how the wizard was drawn in the "Torchbearer" rpg.  So I used him as inspiration for this figure.
The head is a rounded top plug (I think it is 1/2"), milk bottle (a little tougher to find, I get them at Michael's) for the body.  The standard 1" thin precut circle is used for a base, and again that comes in a big bag of several different sizes of thin, precut circular shapes at any craft store.  His magic wand side satchel is just a scrap piece of tile spacer cut to the shape and thickness desired.  The strap is actually painted on the body.  You'll need three 5mm tile spacers for the arms (they are a little thicker in their shape than the 1/8" ones).  Instead of cutting them I've instead blacked out the parts of the spacer that you would not use, showing you how to cut them with your knife to get the shape to match what I have.  In the picture, the arm on the far right is actually the figure's left arm (the one extended straight forward), while the two pieces more towards the middle make up the figure's right arm.  The top part is the shoulder down to the elbow cut on a 45 degree angle, and the bottom piece is the forearm and hand with the back part of the arm also cut at a 45 degree angle so that it will join with the upper arm piece.  One important construction point here is that whenever possible, especially with the tile spacers, if you can make it one piece instead of gluing together several pieces you are better off.  For example, I could have cut the right arm of the figure straight across making a sleeve, and then cut a hand and glued it on.  Far too fiddly and not nearly as strong as making the arm and hand one piece.  Also notice the angle cut close to the hand, giving the appearance of a large sleeved robe.  One final point, and this is easiest to see in the second photo above, instead of gluing the plug so that it is totally flush with the "bottom" side of the milk jug, which you could do because the diameter of the flat side of the plug and the "bottom" side of the milk jug are roughly the same, I shifted the plug forward a little bit so that it creates a "chin" look to the figure, as if his head is slightly forward sticking over his chest (which is the way we are!).  It also creates a back that sticks out more to the rear than the back of his head, which is also anatomically correct for a human.

Paint as you desire, but the general way I do it is to follow a similar procedure to how I paint regular miniatures.  With regular miniatures, I use three coats, a dark, medium, and light, but for these figures to stick with the simpler approach I use only two colors (a darker base coat and then the actual color I want on top of that, leaving a little of the darker base coat showing through).  So for his hat, there is a dark cream and then a lighter cream (this is hard to see in the photo), for his flesh there is a dark brown base color and then a lighter brown over top of that, leaving the darker color showing through in some places to show depth (easiest to see this with his hands, I didn't do it with his face because he has a beard so there is very little skin tone showing on him anyway on his face anyway).  Easiest to see the dark orange for his robe with the lighter orange on top, with darker showing through at the folds, and also his blue shoes.  For the eyes, I either do what I did in this case, which is paint black ovals on the face and then two white dots  allowing the black to show all around the edges (this look is good for monsters and also good for more "grizzled" heroes like this human wizard!), or I paint a white oval and then put a black dot in the middle.  Both work great, the second option is best for creatures like elves or more "young" looking heroes.

One Monster:  Orc Trooper
It took me a while to get the "humped back" look for this figure that I wanted.  Obviously, I'm inspired by the LotR movies for these figures.
The body is a shaker peg (I like the mushroom topped ones for armored orcs like the one in the picture), and the head is an axle cap.  You can't see it in this picture but the axle cap is actually somewhat hollow on the other side (so that it fits onto an axle).  Makes it very easy and perfect for gluing it onto the shaker peg and getting the head bowed forward look, creating a hunched back looking guy.  Same 1" thin precut wood piece for the base, and although I have the sharpened stick here for the sword, I actually cut a piece of scrap tile spacer into a blade shape and then cut part of it at a 45 degree angle on both sides creating a tapered blade look.  You can't really see it in this picture, but that's what I did.  It is easiest to see on the axes I do, and I'll be talking about them in a future entry.  But you could certainly use a thin sharpened stick.  This figure has two arms made from 6mm tile spacers, one bent and one straight.  Have some fun with this.  I have some orcs with two straight arms, two bent arms, arms glued on different angles to create different looking figures, etc.  The back of the head and the taper of the mushroom cap creates a nice little "socket" to hold the tile spacer arm at pretty much whatever angle you choose.  Again, I've blackened out the parts of the tile spacer that you would cut away to make these arms, using the white part left behind as the arm.  I tend to cut the spacers off straight where the figure's hands are because it makes it easier to glue on weapons, and even if I don't do that, you can paint a "fist" onto the figure much better.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Female Barbarian Construction

Although I know I'm in the minority, for me the best Swords & Sorcery movie ever made, barely beating out Beastmaster, was the first Conan movie with Arnold.  Truthfully, I thought the second one with Arnold was pretty good too.  I know, I know, most people hated that one.  In preparation for my fantasy game next weekend at Barrage, I wanted to make a female barbarian to go with my male barbarian I already have.  Hopefully, there will be some girls there who would like to play a female barbarian and I want to be ready!

I thought about doing Red Sonja, but I decided to do something different, and more consistent with my favorite S&S movie.  For my female barbarian figure, I decided to do the signature look that Valeria had when the trio (see picture below) broke into the Serpent Cult and stole back the King's daughter.

 At first I was going to go with a much larger figure.  The actress that plays her in the movie is quite the Amazon, but to provide contrast with my huge male barbarian, and because they will both have the same game characteristics, I thought it would be cool to have a female barbarian who was much smaller than the hulking male.

I thought it might be instructional to take you step by step through my construction process because a) you can see how I do it, but also because b) I've never done a figure like this before, so there will be a learning curve ... translation = I'll screw it up several times before I get it to look like I want it to.

The core figure itself is quite simple, as I've opted to use the shaker peg as the main body and head all in one.  This saves time, I like the look of the shaker pegs in general, and also given that she really wears little in the way of armor, the smaller shaker peg is perfect.  Also, she wears nothing on her head so the usual mushroom cap that I like to use for heads just wouldn't look right.  Great for helmeted heads, but not so good for bare heads.  Below is all that will be needed for construction, specifically a shaker peg with a rounded top (can be hard to find, most have mushroom tops), a 1" precut thin wooden circle that comes in a bag of a bunch of different sized precut circles (all useful by the way), three 1/8" tile spacers, and one thin pointed flat stick that also comes in a large bag of probably 100 of them in the bag (from any craft store).

The trickiest thing with this construction are her two bent arms wrapped around her body.  She is too small to use the split eggs and the split spools, which work perfectly for upper and lower arms respectively and also are easy to tilt so you can easily get the angle you need as it is wrapped around the body.  But, alas, she is too small to use these pieces.  Instead, I'll have to get creative with the tile spacers and cut them into bent arms that will work.  Before I even start, I've done several of these for other figures, they are not terribly difficult but you do have to pay attention to the angle of the bend that you want.  The tricky thing with her is going to be the left arm as it is at a tilted angle.  I'll never be able to replicate that, but what I hope to be able to do is to make it so that it can be glued close enough to the body so that it doesn't stick out too far.  Learned that one the hard way.  Made a guy once who looked like he was holding his shield out about 5 feet in front of him because the arm stuck out too far from the body.

Easy thing first, though, and that would be the sword.  Cut the pointed stick to the length you want and then take one of the tile spaces and us the middle part where all 4 arms come together as the hilt.  You will end up cutting off two arms that are opposite each other right up to the center of the tile spacer.  The other two will also be cut, but don't cut them flush up with the middle section.  If you do this, you'll create a rectangle.  Then cut that rectangle in half (it will be too thick for a figure this size's sword).  See picture below.

 Here is the only tricky part with a sword.  To give you a little help in understanding how this is all  going to come together so that you can see what it is we are trying to do, you are going to cut the tile spacer into one piece that is about 2/3 its normal width and the other piece that is 1/2 its normal width.  Do not cut it in half!  You need one of the "halves" to be thicker than the other.  Then cut a notch out of the 2/3 thick side so that the blade of the sword can fit between the tile spacer.  It's like you are cutting a hole out of the middle of the tile spacer, which I did with another figure, but that's way too difficult.  This way I'm describing now I find a lot easier.  Take the thicker piece and cut out a notch that is roughly the size of the width of the sword blade.  Don't fret it too much, too wide of a notch is better than too narrow because glue will fill in any gaps.  When you get finished, you should have something that looks a little like the picture below.  I couldn't get the thin straight piece to stand up on its edge, but you can see what I mean I think.

 Now you are ready to glue the sword together.  Glue the blade into the notched part first and then glue the thin straight piece on the other side of the blade opposite the notched part of the hilt, thereby sealing the blade inside the hilt.  Hard to see in the picture below, but it should look something like this.

Now time to do the dreaded left arm.  Let me just say that this first part I am going to talk about is a MISTAKE!  Don't do this one, but read it so that you can see my mistake and learn from it for your future projects.  In my mistake, I took a tile spacer and snipped off three of the arms.  This left me with another arm still attached to the center square piece which is fine, I will actually use this piece in the part below where I end up figuring out how to do it correctly.  Then I cut that square part off the arm but not flush, I moved down a little bit on the arm so that I ended up with that square piece and a little bit of the arm still on it.  Then I took one of those arms that I snipped off before because they will be a little longer than the arm I just snipped off, and I glued the small end on the arm creating a 90 degree angle. This was the mistake!  The 90 degree angle was too sharp and I was not able to attach it to the body with the angle and tilt that I wanted/needed.  The picture below is of the pieces for my error.
Okay, instead of what I did above, do the following.  Follow the same process as above until you get to where you have the one arm still attached to the square middle piece.  Then cut on an angle about from the square middle piece down the arm.  Just guess at the angle, but it is roughly 45 degrees.  Then get one of the other arms you snipped off earlier and cut roughly the same angle on it, creating a 45 degree joining angle.  See pictures below for the cutting and the joining.  Why this turned out to be so much better is because this angle is not nearly as sharp as the 90 degree angle from my first attempt above, and because it is not as sharp this arm is much easier to wrap around a round shaker peg body and position exactly where I wanted it while still maintaining a strong glue bond.

Now the other tricky arm, the right one.  Cut another tile spacer down to where you have the one arm still attached to the middle square piece.  Then take another of the arms you just snipped off and lay them at a 45 degree angle to one another.  This arm is flat up against the body and the arm bend is actually a little more than 45 degrees.  See picture below for starting point. 

Next cut the angle off the fore arm that you want.  You'll just have to guess (at least that's what I do).  It should look something like this.  Just so that you understand what is happening, the larger piece will end up being the lower right arm that will be glued to the body so that it is roughly parallel to the ground.

Now you'll need to cut the piece for the upper arm.  Tricky thing is, you want to use the rounded part of the arm because it looks like a shoulder, so you won't be throwing that part away.  But you have to judge the angle.  So take another arm that you trimmed off a minute ago and lay it so that it is at the right angle.  You will then be better able to make the cut on the upper arm piece at the angle you want.  After you have done that, you can glue it to the lower arm (all of this is in the next two pictures).
Don't worry to much about them not meeting up well, you can trim that after the glue dries.  However, DO worry about whether the shoulder is over the end of the arm/hand.  If it is, it will block the weapon when you go to glue it into the hands/arms.  Not good!  See picture below for one of my mess ups.  Notice how the upper arm on the left is over the hand/lower arm.  I couldn't use that one and had to throw it away.  I used the one on the right for the actual figure, and I will spare you the profanity that came out of my mouth when I went to use the one on the left and realized what would happen when I tried to mount the weapon on the figure.

Now we have all of our pieces done, the glue has dried, and we are now ready to assemble the figure.  Below are all the parts ready for assembly.
The first step is to glue on the left arm.  The angle for this one has to be exactly the way you want it.  Sometimes it is better to first glue the body to the base so that you can tell, but with a totally round figure like this, it's not as important.  This is not the best picture in the world, but I glued her left arm so that the shoulder was high and the hand/lower arm part was low.  This is will give the illusion that this arm/hand is lower than the right one, even though in reality they are glued so that the hand parts match up exactly so that the strength of the glue for the weapon is maximized.

Next I trimmed the handle of the sword (made it more narrow) because the hands of the figure will be closer together than the normal width of the sword's handle.  Not too tough once the glue is dried, just be careful not to cut your fingers.  Then I glued on the right arm so that the hand pieces of each arm come together to make a 45 degree angle but do not touch.  Use the sword's handle width as a guide for how closely to make the arms.  As before, a little to wide is a lot better than a little too narrow as glue will fill in the gaps.
You are in the home stretch now!  Glue the sword to the two hands.  I like to have the blade facing forward so it ends up that I glue the narrow sides of the sword to the hands.  Get as many contact points as you can, for example put glue on both the inside of the hands as well as the bottom of the hilt to increase strength.  Then you are ready to glue the figure onto the 1" round base.  The finished product is in two pictures below.
She may not look like much yet, but when she dries, she'll be ready for painting and we'll have some fun trying to capture her camo pattern and leather armor and boots.  I will cover painting her in a future entry.

-- Matt

Friday, September 23, 2016

Experimentation Day

Today I had a lot of time on my hands – what with all of the conference calls – and so I decided to play around and experiment with making new hats. If I have learned anything with gaming with 6mm miniatures it is that the hats make all the difference in the world in recognizing the soldier you are trying to portray. It is also the point of the figure closest to your eye so it is the most visible component of the model. A hat well represented can make a model.

One of the interesting things about making your own miniatures is that you can pick some subjects outside of the mainstream, where other manufacturers tend not to make miniatures because of their obscurity (and thus limited commercial potential). Because I like to game skirmishes I often only need at most a dozen figures on each side. (Well, at least until I decide I want one of each unit, but that is another issue.)

I work from home, so it is easy for me to grab some Crayola Model Magic and start playing around. I found this bag on sale from Hobby Lobby because it is both a garish color and it was starting to get old. The bright colors sometime helps as it can be easier to see when shaping. In the end, you are going to paint it anyway, so weird colors don't really matter. For these experiments I cut some of the material into thin strips while the rest was rolled into thin strings.

I started with my basic pawn (I bought 1,000 of them to get a discounted price and am not even close to putting a dent into them) a wrapped the pieces around the head in the shape of a turban. One one I started with a small flap, representing a piece of cloth tucked under the turban which will be exposed in the back.

The first turban I did was more the style I see with the Afghans in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Sort of a "coiled rope" style.

The second turban was an attempt at a more neat and tidy Sikh style, with overlapping left and right strips in the front. It actually looks more frumpy than the first. But I still like it.

The third is also a more formal style, which shows the flap hanging down in the back, but again it ended up a little frumpy and messy. The sharp inverted "V" in the front will have a patch painted in the middle. Hopefully it will look better with paint.

Finally I experimented with simply putting a piece of material over much of the head, using a craft knife to shape the edge and then impress the lines to give the appearance of a wound turban. I think it suffers from it being too close to the head and not bulk enough. Fortunately, there is a style of headdress like this, but it is more East Asian than Central Asian. Still, I like it.

Because my goal was to make a couple of figures for fighting a skirmish in the North-West Frontier during the Interwar period (say, the Third Anglo-Afghan War of 1919). I found this following picture – which was attributed to the Third Anglo-Afghan War – but I think it is from a different period.

Anyway, here is my attempt at that sun helmet. I think I got it pretty good, but it took some work. Like working with Green Stuff, you have to keep massaging the material slowly shaping it. Wetting your figures really helps smooth out the material and keep it pliable.

I look forward to painting test figures for these models. They should be interesting as well as showing how easy it is to use cheap modeling material to make headgear that would be pretty hard to replicate in wood.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Craftee Scale

Several folks have been asking questions about the scale of the Craftee Fantasy and Sci-Fi miniatures I make.  I decided that the best way to demonstrate scale is to put them in a picture with a standard 28mm fantasy miniature. 

From Left to Right:  Halfling Burglar, Human Wizard, Space Marine, 28mm Half-orc Fantasy miniature, Human Knight (notice the similarity in construction between the knight and the space marine), and Human Barbarian.

So, height wise, the Human Wizard figure is about 28mm.  The Space Marine and Human Knight are only slightly taller, with the Human Barbarian probably standing about 35mm tall.  Another thing that is easy to notice is that the Craftees are all far "bulkier" in appearance than the regular fantasy miniature.  I like that, but that's because I like the whole whimsical feel the figures have.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Sci-Fi Craftee Teaser

Hello Everyone,

I just wanted to post a quick pic of some of the sci-fi guys I've been working on.  These are going to be the human guys in powered armor.  I have some alien prototypes done, but not happy yet, and I have yet to tackle vehicles, but I hope to.  My original plan does not require vehicles, I was wanting to put on a game using the old Ral Partha Final Frontier rules.  But, this project is in the early stages and I'm sure things will change and I'll just have to do some vehicles.

Here they are ...

Leader in the front, private on the right side of the image in blue, heavy laser fellow in the rear, and a missile launcher guy in red on the left.  It's all wooden craft pieces for the bodies and the end of the missile launcher.  The guns are carefully cut tile spacers.  Then it's just paint and enjoy!


Monday, September 19, 2016

Molding Small Parts – Hussar Pelisse

Back in 2012 I wrote a post about making small, complex parts by using a product called InstaMold from Cool Minis or Not. In that article I made an modern automatic rifle for an AK47 game I was planning. In this article I will show the results of something I have been trying to resolve for some time: how to make and reproduce a Hussar pelisse (shown below).

As you can see, a pelisse is an outer jacket worn over the left shoulder. The way I created it was to use Crayola Model Magic to define the basic shape. (Unfortunately I cannot show that as I failed to take a picture before using it to create a mold. Creating the mold destroyed the master, which is a rather frail product.) To harden the part I covered the piece with several layers of white (PVA) glue.

I took that shape and made a simple press mold, where only one side is cast by pressing material into the mold. This took only a few minutes with InstaMold, but I decided to put the mold into the refrigerator in order to ensure the mold was hard. Simply press the piece into the mold, wait for the mold to harden, then pull the part as carefully as you can out of the mold. Note if you accidentally overlap InstaMold over the part you will create an undercut. This may require trimming the mold slightly in order to remove the part. Here is a picture of the trimmed mold.

Here are a set of quick-and-dirty instructions on making a press mold.

I mixed some Green Stuff and pressed it into the mold. After about four hours I was able to pull the part out of the mold without warping the part too much. As you can see there is a little bit of excess material around the edges. Press molding is rarely perfect because it is so hard judging exactly how much material needs to be used to make the part.

Note that there are a few cracks and pits. This can easily be covered with a thin coat of white glue. The gray spots you see are the remains of a failed attempt at using paper mache as the part's material.

Simply trim around the edges of the part and get rid of the excess material.

Looks great! The picture below shows a test fit of the part on the figure.

I can't wait to make the rest of the pelisses som I can finish the unit, which has been sitting on the workbench for a long time.

InstaMold works as advertised. Easy to heat up and create a mold. Easy to reuse the product when you are done with that mold. (Simply throw it in hot water and fuze all the pieces together again.) The great thing is that it is flexible enough to deal with minor undercuts, but not so flexible that the part loses shape when pressing material into the mold. The mold is also easy to trim to fix errors when making the mold (just a sharp blade is required). Finally, although some materials do stick slightly to the mold, it is usually not a problem getting the piece out. Model Magic is just a little too delicate though, so take those pictures of the master prior to using it to make the mold!



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