Tuesday 26 May 2020

Conga Blue & Imperator Build Progress

Conga Blue

In my last post, I hinted that Conga Blue was nearing completion.  Well, he's finally done and I'm really pleased with the finished result!  Conga Blue is a heavily converted Knight based on the Questoris Preceptor with Forgeworld Knight Magaera carapace and shoulder plates.

More than any other Knight in the Court of the Fisher King, Conga Blue has a very specific purpose on the oceanic world of Corbenic.  He is clearly designed for underwater mining operations, with a huge las impulsor, a giant anchor shaped pick axe, twin las cutters extending from under the carapace and a gaping grinder maw which even houses an inner rubble disintegrator.  The shoulder mounted torpedo launchers provide this already formidable engine with the power to demolish bedrock with targeted explosive force.

To provide Conga Blue with increased manoeuvrability, his main engines have been modified to power two huge propellers, allowing his streamlined carapace to cut through water like a submarine!

My intent was to create a solid looking mechanical beast that's striding through waves to reach deeper waters
The Las Impulsor was used 'out of the box' with the minor addition of some hanging mines
From this angle, you can see the propellers and rudder array which help Conga Blue move quickly through the ocean depths.  I removed the main exhausts and a large chunk of armour so that I could install them into the rear of the Knight
Once I'd finished the transparent resin water casting, I added some heavily textured paint to the water to simulate frothing water swirling around Conga Blue's legs as the water churns in his wake
Conga Blue even sports a pneumatic cutter where his crotch plate would normally be located...
As with my other Fisher King Knights, Conga Blue is heavily weathered and chipped; you can also see seaweed tangled on the Knight here and there - I think it adds to the feeling that he spends a lot of time submerged, picking up bits of detritus along the way!
It may appear simple, but this pick axe took a considerable amount of time to carve and sculpt from scratch.  I did quite a few sketches before building it as it needed to look imposing rather than comical.  I was pleased with the final heavily rusted look, along with the barnacle shells which are attached to the tip
You can't go wrong with a precision drill mounted on a mechadendrite for those hard to reach places!
Conga Blue's iconography includes two black bone tentacles on his left shoulder plate - this could represent family heraldry, or a very specific kill marking; maybe even both...
Adding tiny decals to maintenance hatches is fiddly, but I think it makes the miniature look more grounded in reality
The shoulder mounted torpedo launchers will function as a carapace weapon in game terms
Eat your heart out Pacific Rim!
Deep inside his grinding maw, you can see a rubble disintegration device at the back of Conga Blue's throat

 Imperator Progress

Just a quick update on the Imperator build this week - I've been sketching out some ideas for designs such as the legs and the Starshatter Plasma Annihilator.  I've built the main structure of the feet and am now working on the basic shin stricture.  I'm building the leg superstructure then will sculpt the main leg armour separately as this will allow me more freedom when I get the the detailing stage.

Early Starshatter Plasma Annihilator sketches - I'm trying to incorporate elements of the original Imperator Plasma Annihilator and the newer Sunfury design.  This will be one of the final elements of the build, so it's still really just at the planning stage while I work out how I want it to look
These leg sketches give an idea of how I want the legs to looks and how they will function.  It's important that I can actually pose them rather than build them in a really static pose, so I'm planning to build the core components then add the mechanical elements such as pistons once I'm happy with the final assemby
This was my first mock-up of the feet - as they're supporting the rest of the miniature, the bottom layer is 10mm MDF, which will prevent it from becoming too top-heavy and unbalanced.  The feet will be screwed into a base for the final assembly for extra support
Multiple layers of foamex were screwed and glued onto the MDF foot plates.  Next, I will be constructing the rest of the shin structure then it will be on to the thighs, pelvis and hip joints while I wait for some heavy duty filler to be delivered!
I'll post updates on the Imperator as frequently as I can, but expect them to come only when I've reached a significant milestone.  I'm always happy to hear from you guys - let me know what you think of the build so far in the comments :)

Tuesday 19 May 2020

House Raven Knight Preceptor Rygan

Preceptor Rygan

In my last House Raven progress post, I showed a WIP image of the House Raven Preceptor I had next on my painting table.  Well, now he's finished, so I thought I'd show him off and give an update on my TOC Walk progress!

Armed to the teeth and sporting a mean looking face plate, I think he looks like a gladiator! 
When I constructed Rygan, I wanted to show that his Las weaponry required a lot of reactor power, so added numerous cables - they look great but were fiddly to paint!
I re-used the buzz-saw arm which I removed from the Kodiak when he got his upgrade.  It's actually a real rotary tool saw blade - I think it works perfectly!
I used a spare Atrapos Lascutter to make the Las Impulsor for Rygan. I think it works really well despite being a little larger than a standard Questoris class weapon
The right-hand side of Rygan's carapace, shoulder pad and weapon shield have the trademark House Raven chevrons which I managed to line up across the top plates
Getting the chevrons straight on the gun shield was... challenging.

 Here's how my force readiness currently stands:

Venator Light Titan Maniple:
Reaver Titan - 100% complete
Warhound Titan - 100% complete
Warhound Titan - 100% complete

Acastus Knight banner:
Asterius - 100% complete
Porphyrion - 100% complete

Cerastus Knight Banner:
Lancer - 100% complete
Lancer - 100% complete
Lancer - 0% complete (Optional)
Acheron - 0% complete (Optional)

Questoris Knight Banner:
Knight Errant - 100% complete
Knight Preceptor - 100% complete
Knight Paladin - 50% complete
Knight Gallant - 50% complete
Knight Crusader - 50% complete
Knight Warden - 50% complete

In other news...

Although I still have 6 knights left on this list, I am taking a short break from House Raven to work on the outstanding elements from The Court of The Fisher King as I need to make sure that they're completed within a similar time-frame.  I'll also be putting aside some more time to work on my Imperator Titan build, but progress on that mammoth build will be coming to another post in the near future!
Conga Blue has now been weathered and is ready for his panels to be painted.  Once his body is complete, I'll be setting him permanently into his resin base.  Stay tuned for another update soon!

Monday 11 May 2020

Conga Blue and Imperator Progress

 Conga Blue

Striding knee-deep through the ocean comes Conga Blue!
It's been a while since I posted an update on my progress with Conga Blue and that's entirely down to his base.  Initially I tried out a new technique using tinfoil to create waves, which I've seen used to great effect (see this video for more a good example).  Unfortunately, it was a very time consuming process and I didn't like the way it turned out.

As with a lot of techniques, I found that the limitations of the foil just didn't give me enough freedom to produce the shapes I wanted and the colours and opacity just didn't work alongside the other Knights in the Court of The Fisher King.

So I went back to a more complicated and expensive method which I'm comfortable with - my old friend resin.  I used a similar method to Trench Runner's base, but with some slight alterations to the process which were more to do with available materials in lock-down than their physical properties.

The main issue I faced was a lack of silicone (possibly the single most expensive material).  As we're still in lock-down because of the Covid-19 Pandemic, getting hold of raw materials can be quite difficult, so I decided to press ahead anyway and find a way around any issues as they came up.

Instead of using Sculpey and baking it to create the wave shapes, I used a cheaper Plasticine clay which I bought specifically for making clay walls during mould making.  I feel this was a mistake as I hadn't anticipated the difficulty of removing it from the silicone mould.  I marked Conga Blue's final position on the base then sculpted the waves straight onto it, leaving gaps so that he could be test fitted before making the mould.

Once I was happy with how it looked and that Conga Blue fit nicely (not too snug as resin shrinks a little when curing), I mixed up my remaining 150ml of Silicone and painted it over the wave's surface to capture the detail before pouring the rest to create the rest of the mould.

Again, I made a mistake which made life more difficult as, in my eagerness to get the mould done, I forgot to seal the base to the bottom of the container which I was using for the mould walls.  The silicone bled under the base and wasted about half of what I had left which equated to about £6 down the drain!  As it cured overnight, I hadn't noticed how much the silicone level dropped until it was too late.

Once the Silicone had cured, I found that it was far too thin at the wave tips to actually fill with resin unsupported (as it would deform), so I had to create mould cupping around it.  Normally I would use plaster, but in this case, the overhang was too great and would make it impossible to de-mould in resin.  As an emergency fix, I dug through my garage to find some left over polyurethane foam from an old project over a decade ago.  Thankfully, even though it has a shelf life, the PU and catalyst still appeared to be ok, so I mixed up a batch and poured it directly onto the back of the silicone.  As it expands to 5 / 6 times its original size as it foams, it was perfect for supporting the thin silicone skin.

Once it was cured, I cut away the excess and removed the master from the silicone.  This took ages as small pockets of Plasticine were stuck in the very thin (because of my earlier mistake) silicone skin of the mould.  The skin tore in several places, so I used some air drying latex to patch the mould and also to stick it permanently to the PU foam.  I would never normally do such a botch job, but with limited supplies and only needing to use the mould for a single pour, I took some shortcuts.  It just goes to show that not doing things properly never really saves you any time!

Anyway, as I still wasn't 100% confident in the integrity of the mould, I used some clear UV resin in the areas which I suspected would be compromised.  As it was a really sunny day, this cured almost instantly.  I did a normal resin mix and pour over the top - I wasn't sure whether the two resins would bond, but it worked out perfectly in the end.  The only niggle was the difference in coloured and clear resin, but I fixed that with some transparent paint once it was de-moulded.

I had just enough resin to reach the level of the base lip in the mould.  Phew!  I also sprayed Conga Blue gunmetal silver which I was at it!
I painted the base dark blue then used a transparent glue to stick down the resin wave block 
From above you can see the sculpted waves and the holes where the legs will eventually be set into the resin

Imperator Titan Progress

It's been a while since I wrote about this project and a lot has changed since my original post.  I've grown as a designer and I think you'll see how this has translated into a more thoroughly researched and planned creative process. 

Body Building

I recently decided that, alongside completing my Knights, I would try and make some serious progress of my 28mm scale Imperator Titan.  My previous attempts never really got far beyond the initial stages of the build.  There were a few reasons for this, but the main one being weight as I was building the whole thing from plastics and that meant it would be extremely difficult to produce a miniature (said loosely...) which could support itself.  If I had continued with plastics, it would have been extremely costly and I would've had to make a lot of concessions with the design in order to make it structurally viable.

Thankfully, I discovered a new material which is used mainly for signage and architectural mock-ups.  It's called Foamex and it's completely amazing for building solid lightweight structures.  It's also far easier to cut than styrene, so my fingers won't become gnarled twigs before the end of the project!

I salvaged the carapace from my previous attempt and decided to do a lot of new design work to get the Imperator structurally sound before adding detail to it.  I based my designs and measurements on the original plastic epic miniature - as it turned out, I could scale it up by exactly ten times the original size, so 1mm would equal 1cm in the new scale.

I painstakingly measured all of the original dimensions and decided which areas would need re-scaling and / or reworking.  Taking a 120mm model and making it 120cm is nowhere near as straightforward as it sounds.  I not only had to design something which could hold its own freestanding weight, I also had to make it recognisable as an original Imperator but with a lot more of the modern titan aesthetics.

I filled a small sketchbook with different ideas, picked the ones I liked, then started to draw up some blueprints at full scale on graph paper so that I could start to plan the foamex build.

A small sample of my sketches
Head sketch based on the original epic titan faceplate
I decided that the best idea would be to work out which parts of the structure I could build in foamex to form the core of the body, leaving room to add details, curved panels (as foamex doesn't bend like styrene) and eventually, the dreaded compound curves (armour plating).  This was basically a case of stripping back anything superficial and looking to record only the main shapes.

The body showing only the main structure 
Translating the body components into Blueprints, referring to the original miniature and my notes to ensure I get the size exactly right
Once it was complete, I firmed up the blueprint with Pen and turned it into a working template
I used the front and side view templates to start drawing and cutting out the shapes in Foamex.  I used 3mm thickness and had to account for this in all of my measurements
This is a picture of the carapace structure in progress - I built this simple reinforced plateau to support the carapace 'city' which I savaged from the original build
The Carapace plateau with part of the 'city' to test fit

The foot template which will be cut from MDF to give stability and weight to the feet of the model.  You can also see the base measurements although I will probably reduce the size if possible
The basic shell of the body
The rear support struts are extremely long to support the carapace structure
A test fit with the carapace mocked up
Even at this early stage, the structure supports the weight with no problems at all
I had to prop up the back as although it's strong enough, the weight is not yet balanced.  Once the arms and head are in place, they should counterbalance the heavy rear towers
The secondary rear supports were built and fitted along with the complex reinforced rib area
The front support struts were the most complex to design and build - cutting the components correctly took a lot of measuring and test fitting

The basic structure is now complete. The curved sections will be made with styrene during the detailing stage
The neck socket was a cylinder I cut from a ball cock which I then fitted into the foamex then capped with another circle to hold it firmly in place
The key to getting the getting carapace steady is keeping it level - this was a major concern when fitting the support struts
The body section already weighs as much as a Warhound titan and I haven't added any detailing to it yet!
The rear of the body has plenty of room for detailing, including an entry hatch and a small balcony like the one on the  Forgeworld Warlord titan


Finally, I wanted to share some images of the Princeps who will be commanding my Imperator.  I wanted to make a unique Princeps and originally went with the idea of an amniotic tank much like the one in the Helsreach novel.  Once I'd constructed the Princeps, I decided that she didn't need a tank; she would instead be suspended from the ceiling with a large mechanical arm!

I went with a female Princeps who looked thin and delicate despite commanding the most powerful war machine in the legio's arsenal!
The support arm which will suspend her above the bridge command crew 
And finally, a little detail which amused me greatly, representing the divine touch of the Omnissiah!