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Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Modeling Tutorial: Rangers in Cover

The goal of this conversion is to make a unit of Rangers themed on their use of cover.  Some of the postures available in the Ranger box are more suitable to the conversion and have benefited more from it.  Others will be left more simple.  The intent is to balance unique addition vs. visible miniature detail.  Cover will consist of a wooden fence, a wooden fence with barbed wire, a tree and tall grass.

Tools Used

Hobby Knife
Needle nose pliers
Tweezers (2)
Frayed copper wire
Basing sand (large grain)
Modeling tool for green stuff
The needle of a compass for detailing the green stuff (though I've since bought a tool for that)
Pinning tools (vice and paper clip)
Wire cutters
Excess sprue plastic
Modeling tall grass flock
Liquid super glue

Part 1 (a) - Wooden fences

First, find some trash sprue that is roughly the shape you want to make the fence in. Use a sharp hobby blade to shave it down. This will give a natural, fence-like texture.

Make notches where the pieces will glue together. If need be you can putty them to clean them up later. I considered dental floss as binding at the intersections, but it was too late at that point.  Maybe next time.

The assembled fences.

Part 1 (b) - Barbed wire

Frayed copper wire that we will use.  First, make a long one by twisting two frays together.  I use pliers to hold them at the point where they're twisting.  Move the pliers as you twist so you don't overstress one point and break the wire.

Wrap and glue like so.

Now wrap very short segments onto the long double one.  It's okay if they're too long, you can trim it (pic below).  You'll need two of these for each barb in order to make it look right.  Tying these on is where the pliers and tweezers come in handy.

Trimming the barbs.  I used needle nose pliers to hold the barb where I want to cut it, then pressed against the pliers for leverage.  Be careful though, it's easy to slip and cut yourself doing this (luckily that was learned the easy way).

Both fences completed.

Part 2 - Tree!

Making this tree took a good deal of stop-and-go putty work. I tried to balance it's size for such a small base.  The segment of frayed wire I used was 12cm long. I then split it at the top for 2 main boughs and trimmed them to my own taste. I glued the excess to the point where they split so I would have 2 more boughs without wasting more wire (less \ spent on materials is more spent on figs!)

For durability, I drilled through the base and
bent the tree trunk into it with pliers.
Many double and triple twists for smaller branches.
Glue twists in place before sculpting.

The entire tree will be coated with green stuff for durability.  Trees can be made from just wire, but I don't trust them not to break or flake off my paint when they bend. I also don't like textures that are easily seen for what they are. I want stuff to look believable.

Here is what not to do. I tried to put a thin layer on the wire and then carve into the GS with a sculpting tool in order to get a bark-like texture. The effect I got was horrible. It looked like a cactus and not even a good one at that. Not using enough GS means you don't have enough material to give the sculpt depth and you can't exaggerate any of the shapes.

Close up of exaggerated shapes. Work was done in stages,
sculpting one area and letting it dry so as to not ruin previously done putty.

Here you can see how I wasn't shy with the
amount of GS I used. When I detailed the limbs, I
failed to take pictures but the final pictures give an solid idea of what I did.  I let the GS cure  a little bit (probably less than most people do, as it was still quite pliable).  Then I used the end of a math compass to poke lines in wood patterns.  Again, exaggerate.  You don't have to draw too many lines because the brain will fill in the blanks as long as the texture looks about right.

Bonus! A hood!

I made this hood because I already had another unit with this same model in it. I like that figure, so I wanted this guy to look a little different. The hood was made with a small thin patch of green stuff that I draped over his head and pushed into shape.


This is a bag of tall grass I bought in the model train section of a handicraft store. There may be better materials for getting this effect, but this is what I have used so far. It is a hassle to handle the way it comes in the bag. The strands get every where and getting them all going in the right direction takes a lot of patience.

Glue a lock of the grass at one end. I used liquid super
glue this time, but since then I have been using regular
 white PVA glue. It takes longer, but is easier to work with.
Along the lock of grass, place glue at intervals
approximately as long as the tufts you are looking
to make. Cut the grass when dry.

Finally, use a very, very small amount of super glue to bend the grass for wind effects. I feel that this was the strong point of my method, but that overall I was dissatisfied with the grass. I had made many tufts of grass. Even though grass does grow like that in nature, it is hard to achieve an effect like the models are wading through grass this way. Then there is also the practical problem that if you achieve that look, you might as well only build the top half of the model because you won't see the bottom. If you like the figures you have and want to see them, it is something of a waste.

A few words of caution:

The tree took a lot of time and a lot of green stuff.  It probably added $4 in materials and it took like a week of daily here-and-there work to get it done.  I much prefer it's look to the wire trees though.

After using super glue on the grass for this unit I used regular PVA glue on a different one. That time I didn't do wind effects, but I expect there is a way to do that with glue that isn't as caustic as super glue. Doing the grass in this tutorial was not particularly good for the skin on my fingers, to put it lightly. Be careful if you try it this way.

The painted conversion:
The whole crew together.

The two guys with fences.

"There's nothing creepy about watching...just a little."

"What do you mean you can see me hiding back here?!"

Thankfully my painting has improved since I made these guys some years ago, but I still like the basing and I still use some of the things I learned from making these guys.

Hope this is helpful. Thanks for having a look! Cheers!