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


  1. Awesome. Love the detail on the arm construction. This figure is going to look great.

  2. Thanks Dale. This ended up taking far longer to do than I thought it would. I need to just do videos from now on, if I can figure out how to do them.




Popular Posts

Labels I Use in Posts