Thursday 17 May 2018

Tantalus Two - The Tantalator

Since my last post, I've managed to get quite a lot of the remaining Tantalus build work done.  I'll go through my progress one stage at a time just in case anyone wants to follow the project in its entirety!

The Hull

I'm not going to lie to you - the hull has been really hard work!  I think having the blog to update spurred me on as this was a really tough stage of the build.  Having the Hobby beaver looking over my shoulder helped motivate me too...

To begin with, I cheated.  When I say cheated, I mean that I measured the height of the tallest ribbing and went on t'internet to order styrene strips of the correct height and width.

This saved me a huge amount of time and effort - having scratch built things from nothing but sheet styrene in the past, I know the toll it would have taken on my fingers!

A good example of this are some 1/6 scale phone boxes I built from scratch some time ago.  Every single strip was measured and cut from a single Styrene sheet.  I struggled to hold a mug for the following week while my fingers recovered!

Components from the two Phone booths with assembled back plates
Finished assembly
One of the booths in situ on a miniature street.  Convincing huh?

Anyway, once the styrene lengths arrived, I measured the blank areas on the underside of the hull then cut a ridiculous number of individual lengths to the correct size and painstakingly glued them in place taking care to space them equally for the ribbing.

I did noticed a small amount of spacing variance once I'd completed this stage, but as it was on the underside of the hull, I decided not to re-set all of the ribs as it took me a couple of hours to do it the first time!

Top tip:  Styrene and ABS are not like the standard GW grey plastic when it comes to creating a bond with polystyrene cement / liquid poly.  It tends to form a glossy surface bond rather than having a substantially deeper chemical reaction.  Keep this in mind as if you are gluing styrene, you will always need to use plenty of twisting motions to encourage the surfaces to adhere and achieve a solid bond.  Keying the surfaces prior to gluing also helps.  If you don't do this, you risk the parts separating neatly and destroying your hard work!

Once I'd got the ribbing in place and given it a little while to dry, I used a Sharpie to accurately mark out the areas where I would need to work on the styrene bars to bring them in line with the existing Raider contours.

The tools I used to sand down the contours were pretty straightforward, but I'll list them anyway!

  • Convex file
  • Emery board
  • Medium gauge sandpaper in little squares
  • Some round plastic tube cut to a convenient length

This final tool was actually the most important part as I specifically chose a piece which would help me achieve the correct curvature evenly across the hull.

Tools. Exciting.

I wrapped the sandpaper around the tube and used some tape to keep it in place.

Carefully sanding down the hull ribbing while watching Taskmaster on the telly.

You can see the contours slowly taking shape!
At this point, I'll refer you back to the aforementioned top tip.  It's so important.  I had several ribs detach during sanding and it was a complete ball ache to get them stuck back in place while covered in a thin layer of dusty plastic particulates.

Meanwhile on the topside, I used the tube and paper to sand down the outer plating which I had filled in a couple of days before with putty.  I used the file tip at this point to redefine the plate divides as they wore down a little during sanding.  The result is a nice smooth join between the plastic and putty.

Extended hull being sanded down and sharpened up
I like to use a putty mix for hard surfaces like these - it's 80% Milliput silver/grey and 20% greenstuff.  The Milliput in the mix gives a very strong surface for sanding once cured, while the green stuff removes some of the crumbly, tackiness from the Milliput while you're handling it.
I use silicon based hand cream on the surface of this mix while it's still curing to smooth it out.
I always tend to do bulk areas with cheap tough Milliput and green stuff then add surface details with Procreate putty.  Procreate is my favourite putty for many reasons, but it's more than twice the price of anything else, so I use it sparingly!
The eagle eyed among you will notice that the cannons at the front have been removed.  This was not intentional.  The bloody things snapped off several times until I decided to leave them off.  Once I'd finished all of the rough work on the hull, I drilled and pinned them in place.  Nothing short of a natural disaster will snap the little bastards off now!


Whilst I had the rudders prepped and ready for some time, I held off attaching them until I had worked out the base.  The reason for this was the relative fragility of the rudder assemblies.  After my experience with the nose cannons, I decided to hold off until the elevated stand was ready.  Putting the hull on a flat surface would snap the rudders off straight away and I didn't really want to have a rage fit in front of the kids!

First rudder in place, pinned to the hull.
Why take one rudder into battle when you can take three?!

The Sail

Given that the sail is quite large, I decided early on to make it from a single relatively thin styrene sheet and add the ribs as surface detail using semi-circular styrene dowel. This was actually more straightforward than I had anticipate as I carefully measured, cut and pre-curved the ribs before gluing them in place.

The connectors and point caps were more difficult to attach and did require a lot of pinning and patience as the main connector frame would be taking the weight of the whole sail at a fairly severe angle!  Taking my time on this section definitely paid off!

Final sail assembly complete!
The sail is attached to the mast with a small metal pin which goes down into the mast past the first knuckle joint.  For added strength, I also drilled up through the bottom of the hull and put another 2cm metal pin up through into the mast.

The sail finally in place!
Believe it or not, the sail is only resting on the pin in these pictures (it's not glued in place yet).  I see this as testament to planning the structure and strengthening the correct areas during the build!

The Flight stand

I'd been puzzling over the stand for days and eventually decided that the weight of the model and height required to make it look impressive (and avoid snapping bits off!) required more than just a standard flying stem.  A normal Games Workshop flight stand was also out of the question as the fulcrum would actually be right in the void between the double hull!

I settled on creating a tripartite stand using ball ended flight stems.  I angled two regular stems using the existing Raider hull sockets so that they met over the area where the balancing fulcrum should exist.  I then positioned a third longer stem and tested the balance.  Thankfully it worked perfectly to support the weight of the model!  I created a socket for the third stem under the hull where the mast connected, using some pure Procreate putty.  As this area had already been pinned, it was a no brainer for placing the third support!

Stupid fulcrum void...
I carefully drilled and pinned the three flight stems together then glued them to a length of plastic dowel.  I then 'wrapped' the whole connecting area with some Milliput to add extra strength.  I cut a hole through a large oval base and glued the dowel in place.  I then used some heavy slate rocks and more Milliput to add considerable weight to the base and strengthen the connection further.  This would also counter-balance the weight of the model to prevent it from tipping over!

Behold the ugliest flight stand at the ball!!

Tripartite stand holding the model. Thanks goodness for that!


Almost there! 

I'm now on the final stretch!

Structurally everything works and personally, I think it's looking amazing!  Surface detailing and adding the crew are next on the agenda.

I'll be adding the following finishing touches over the coming days...

  • Little spikes and chains on the hull plating
  • Haemonculus Coven Wrack crew including control panels
  • Rigging (which you'll notice I've already added the hooks for if you look carefully...)
  • Large-ish blade vanes under the hull
Following that, it'll be on to painting!

Final thoughts

Although I really love the Forge World kit, the reason I started this project was to make an original looking Tantalus which fitted nicely with my Coven.  This was partly driven by the fact that I wanted more decking for my models to be placed on as it'll mainly be carting my grotesques around and they have pretty large bases!

I've put some comparison pictures below - I'd love to hear what you think! :)

The lovely Forge World original
My Tantalus

Wednesday 9 May 2018

Tantalus Scratch Build

Tantalus Scratch Build

Today I wanted to share the progress I've made with my Drukhari Tantalus scratch build.  Although it's not the most complex or ground-breaking project I've ever started, the sweeping curves and unusual shapes have made this a unique challenge!

Previously on Kaiju Country...

In a previous post, I showed a picture of my Tantalus in its infancy.  Here's the picture again just in case you missed it!

Tantalus early WIP

Dark Eldar Cadillac

The Tantalus has now moved on considerably and is starting to look (in my opinion!) like it deserves to stand next to the excellent Forge World kit.

You'd be surprised how hard it is to get a decent top down shot of a Tantalus for reference...

Every Drukhari Caddy needs a formidable thruster array...

1. The cost of doing business

Although price is not the main driver for me when it comes to scratch building, I do like to keep my costs low as I'm not a crazy person with more money than hair follicles.

Always cost up the build in advance, taking into account the components you'll need and buying full kits rather than getting everything from a bits store as this normally works out more expensive.

You have to factor in the added value of extra leftover components as well!  I do use bits stores, but very sparingly...

2. Eyeballing Sprues

This is such an important stage for me in any new build project; one which I believe is vastly underrated!  It's now even easier to view components in isolation via the official GW site or a bits vendor.  I'd seriously consider it, especially if you think you'll need several kits.

With this build in particular, I took a lot of time over reviewing components before I settled on the parts I'd use to construct this beast.  This allowed me to paint a picture in my mind of how the finished piece might fit together with existing components and potentially cut out a lot of time consuming styrene and sculpting work.

If you're a complete nerd like me, you can even compare component sizes which tend to be on one of a few standard sprue sizes in order to ensure that the parts will match up when you start the build.

Examining sprues may sound dull, but there are several benefits.  For starters, it will give you ideas and if you look outside of your immediate range, you may also find some 'bridging' parts which remove annoying logistical problems in a tight build like this one.

You have to look past what the sprue components are, to what they could be.  Like when Simba looks up into the clouds and instead of rolling cumulonimbus, he actually sees the departed relative which he effectively led to his death.  (I suppose it's not really like that at all...)

For instance, the keen eyed hobby beavers amongst you will have noticed that I used some of the Dark Elf Cauldron of Blood components in this build.  Although they required a lot of modification, I knew from viewing the sprues in advance that the fit would be 'about right'.

Keen Eyed Hobby Beaver.  So much more terrifying than anyone expected...

3. Dry fitting

Endless dry fitting is often key to getting a coherent result when planning a big conversion.

I like to snip all of the key components from their sprues after sniffing up all of the 'new model' smell from the freshly opened box.  It's so much better than pencil case, but not quite as good as book.  What?  Nobody else compares new thing smells?!  Moving swiftly on...

Tacking things together with putty, small clamps, rubber bands or simply propping things up together then taking a few pictures for reference helps immensely once you're knife and glue deep into the build phase...

I feel like the beaver is watching me now.

4. Measure twice, cut once...

As you can see from the above pictures, the Tantalus is constructed around a few core kits; the step section, platform and struts from the Cauldron of Blood and two complete Raider kits (I did also purchase a couple of extra Raider engine nozzles and boarding planks).

In order to construct the extremely long hull, I knew I'd need to dissect the Raiders in a couple of key places in order to cater for the hull extension that I'd need to build.

It's an obvious point, but one that's worth mentioning; measure out what you're going to do before you cut components so that you can make sure it's the right cut to make.  A wise man once said; "It's easier to double check something than have to stick the bloody kit back together!"  I think it was Socrates or something...

In order to make the most economical use of the kits (and save work later) I made sure that the hull cuts I made did not sacrifice anything in terms of wastage.  The way to do this is... take your time and be careful.  I learned this while nursing bloody stumps.

In order to ensure I had the right dimensions, I made the Raider cuts then used graph paper to measure out a template for the hull extension - I measured the parts and laid them over the graph paper to ensure an exact fit.

I used two different styrene depths so that I could dictate the thickness of the skeleton and match up the height of the deck with the raiders.  It also allowed me to select the correct thickness and shape to slot into both ends of the Raider hulls to provide linear strength to this very lengthy model!

His eyes... and the teeth... *shiver*

5. Improvise

Improvising is not for everyone, but it is a key ingredient for most scratch builds.  Don't wing it on the measurements, but do keep a nice tray of bits next to you so that you can have a rifle around for something to fill in a gap or add a little flare to the project.  The Kurnoth Hunter scythe blades were a good example of this as they made awesome banister ends for the intricate stair case!

If I were to build this all over again (WHICH I WON'T!), I would probably have thought better of adding spikey parts like the scythe blades until the detailing stage (which I haven't quite arrived at yet...) as they can be equal parts delicate and very adept at causing impromptu puncture wounds.

Anyway, that's it for now - I'll post an update once I've completed the main hull build and sail assembly, which is proving to be a real head scratcher!

Just remember the golden rule of scratch building...




Wednesday 2 May 2018

Simplicity is the key

Sometimes it's easy to get wrapped up in a complicated project and overwork it, ending up with a contrived mess that ultimately might have worked out better if you hadn't tried to reinvent the wheel.

And while it is nice to add something special to your miniature projects, I sometimes find that going for a very simple result often works out best!

To demonstrate this, I'd like to share some pictures of one of my most recent projects - a Warhammer Fantasy Battle Age of Sigmar Griffon Griffin Giant Leopeagle (TM).

Fishmaid riding Leopeagle.  A thing of beauty...

Having had nightmares after visualising the image above, I actually decided that I wanted to make a Griffon without a rider so that he could be used as a wandering monster and a display piece.

This seemed like it would be an easy challenge until I got hold of the kit and realised how much of the armour and reigns were integrated into the creature's components!

What followed was an exercise in learning how to sculpt feathers and deciding that I'd rather not have to do it ever again.  Like, ever.  Until I remembered that I had the Island of Blood Griffon which I intended to complete the same exercise with in order to create a 'family' of Griffons to play themed games with.  Totally keeping it all simple...

Anyway; back on the original subject, after I'd finally completed embedding a life long aversion to sculpting avian plumage, I set to painting my Daddy Griffon and was very pleased with the final results.

 I'll update you on my progress with the Isle of Blood Griffon in a future post but for now; thanks for reading!

Tuesday 1 May 2018

The Return to Commorragh...

Seeds of Evil

Greetings and salutations!

Today I want to talk about my Dark Eldar Haemonculus Coven.  I built a small number of them some time ago for a one off event that I ran called the Blood Games which was a sort of gladiatorial games set in Commorragh.

With the release of the new Dark Eldar / Drukhari Codex, I thought I'd have a little ramble about my thoughts on the Codex and share some images of how I'm reviving the force.

My observations on the Codex are limited mainly to the Coven units and shouldn't really be taken as having any battlefield value as quite frankly, my tactical genius extends only as far as making a themed army that looks great as it's wiped off the table!

My approach to battle and regard for my men's safety was recently likened to Wellington...

"An extraordinary affair. I gave them their orders and they wanted to stay and discuss them..."
If you don't like your own fingers then Drukhari are for you.  Be safe in the knowledge that should you ever require a lethal weapon to defend your home, look no further than a Dark Eldar Raider...

The Drukhari Codex

Although I understand why the Indexes were produced, I still found that they sucked the life out of the armies, leaving them as dry and lifeless husks.  Much like the effect of a hot summer on the British.

Well, I was extremely pleased to see that GW have restored not only the former glory of the Drukhari, but also breathed some new life into them as well.  Where the Indexes reduced the races to very bland variations of the same core troops, the Codexes have restored what was lost, with the individual qualities of the Dark Eldar coming back to the fore.

The Drukhari are once again a fragile but deadly force with a very distinct style of play.  Much like a scalpel, they need to be used with precision and planning to get the best results.  Which is why when I play them, they tend to get bludgeoned to death by thunder hammers on turn 2 after being poorly positioned!

Having said that, they are an absolute joy to play with in 8th edition.  The new strategems provide really useful benefits which you can use in lots of different situations rather than requiring a contrived and overly complicated A-team style plan in order to use them...

Tau dementia is common - help your commander by placing him in familiar surroundings at just the right moment...

My favourite aspect of the new Codex is the fact that Incubi, Scourges and Mandrakes are now free agents, effectively allowing you to drop them into detachments without causing all of your other units to lose army traits and have some sort of existential / self-determination crisis mid-battle.

This free agent mechanic has led me to cast a slightly wider net when planning my Haemonculus Coven expansion.  As Covens traditionally don't do well against armoured targets (because it's hard to poison a land raider), I decided that I needed some mobile heavy weapons in order to dish out some anti-tank nastiness.  And to that end, I have created this bad boy...

Wrack Scourge with blaster and hideous humpy bone wings!
Eventually, he'll be part of a whole unit with two blasters and two haywire blasters. Tanks shall be nommed....

So what the hell have I been up to?!

As well as adding some more outlandish conversions, I've also been revisiting the original units and either touching up worn paint jobs or just expanding the units.  I have more planned for the force but it's mainly WIP at the moment.  My chosen Coven is The Hex...

Hex Then...

Utterly Grotesque

 Hex Now... 


Wrack Knight

And finally, I'd like to show you one of my more diabolical creations.  As usual, I started work on this some time ago and it's not finished yet although the new Codex has given me the foot up the arse I needed to get him painted!

In-game he's an Eldar Wraith Knight armed with a giant Husk blade (Wraith Knight Glaive), a Shadow Field (Scatter Shield) and Disintegrator Cannons instead of Eldar Starcannons as they cost the same and vary only slightly in their profile.

I played a game with him on Saturday and even though he doesn't benefit from any of the Codex rules, he's still an absolute beast!!

Concept Sketch
Magnus Body and Heavily modified Wraith Knight legs were the basis for this conversion...

Clearly having a dump
My hump, my hump, my lovely bony lumps
Slimmed down legs and reversed joints
...can we get ice-cream please dad?

Wrack for scale...
Building up the hump in layers was key to getting some nice detailing

First lick of paint! Plenty more work to do!
                   Just time for one last sneak peak of things to come...
Can you guess what it is yet?!