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!


  1. Love, love, love that Princeps! Amazing pose and the idea of having her suspended is quite unique!

    1. Thanks matey - took me a while to decide on what to do with the Princeps and I'm really pleased with how she turned out! Looking forward to designing the rest of the bridge too :)

  2. Beautiful base, and GREAT GUNS and IMPERATOR! That looks superb... shouldn't the divine touch be wearing PPE Gloves ;)

    1. LOL - The rest of the bridge crew are standing 2 metres away! :)

  3. Don't forget the benis gun