Friday, 25 July 2014

Head for the Huey

Not quite up to tackling the three-figure merged group so I will do the guy with the M79 "Blooper". I thought this was an excellent pose when I first saw this set but by angling the body a little, I may be able to add a little more dynamism.

This is where we are so far, bits are just tacked together with blue tack to get an idea of what fits where and I have started my usual undercutting and scribing of the detail to enhance the figure. Masterbox plastic is noticeably softer than say, Dragon, so you have to go a bit easier with the pointy blades. Replaced the MB head with a Hornet one and as you will see he has the pronounced neck muscle indicating a head turn.

To show you how much difference it makes when you start refining seams and undercuts, here are a few pics to show side-by-side my altered figure and what you get as standard out of the box.

As you can see, it makes a massive difference to the crispness of certain parts, downside is that it does take a long time to do. Thus far, I have been working on this figure for about four hours. Hopefully I won't need to tell you which one is which !! (Apologies for the slightly out of focus pictures, I had to use my phone)

As you can see, I have removed most of the detail that I am going to be replacing; buttons, straps and such; and I have started to add some buttons to the trouser pockets using sliced sprue, gently sanded.

Moving forward then, now that I have scraped the be-jezuz out of this, it is now time to start adding the details back in. This is going to have to be painted in sub-assemblies I think, mainly due to the amount of gear this guy is wearing. I'm going to try to explain some of the gear as I go along just to add a little interest (I hope).

I originally wanted to paint the ERDL, (Engineer Research and Development Laboratories) camo on this but the cut of the uniform is more suited to one of the Tiger Patterns. I've done it before using Humbrol enamel with a some success, so I wanted to try this out with acrylics. There are subtle differences in the cut of the uniform, mainly in the pocket details, and as far as I know the ERDL pattern wasn't used on this type. I'll cover this in a lot more detail when I get to the painting so don't despair, but in the meantime, this is the ERDL pattern;

And this is one of the Tiger Pattern variations;

That isn't me by the way, I found these online.

The main feature that I have started to detail is the vest specifically made for troops armed with the M79. This vest is a mesh with pockets to hold the rounds at the front. Found these pics on the internet too.

If you look back at the model pictures, you can see I have tried to add in the re-enforced edging and the adjustable rear strap.

Added the press-stud buttons with the nutter, although they look a little large in this shot.

Next up is the lightweight rucksack frame, and the M1956 Combat Field Pack, affectionately known as a"butt" pack for obvious reasons. It did take a while to clean up the frame, and for a split-second I thought about scratchbuilding this from brass wire, then decided life was too short.

I need to re-do the "eyes" on the fabric cross-members as I was a bit sloppy placing these but you can see how it works. I will post up some pics of a real one soon, so you can see how various bits are attached.

Anyway, as you can see, there is no way I can make a decent job of painting that vest with the rucksack frame glued on so all these bits will be left loose and added along the way.

I mentioned above that I had already done the ERDL pattern in Humbrols, this is the said figure. Cobbled it together from Dragon bits back in 2009 and there was no extra detailing or scribing done here. My painting style has changed somewhat, don't you think !

So, I mentioned the rucksack frame earlier. These are a couple of shots showing an actual frame from the front and back;

As you can see, there is a great amount of detail in this little item and in plastic it is a very fragile piece. I still have a lot more to add (and remove) on this frame to make it look halfway decent so I fully expect to break it several times. 

Thursday, 24 July 2014

US Airborne Normandy - Painting

Mainly just blocking in the colours here to get some idea what the final tone and palette will look like. At this stage it is easy to modify the colours on some parts if it is not working out quite right.

Ordinarily I wouldn't usually bother with this as I pretty much know how it is going to look (certainly when I paint German stuff). The problem with this one is that I haven't painted this uniform before and all of the items, jump suit, webbing, packs etc are all of a very similar colour, so I just wanted to reassure myself that everything would work together yet remain slightly different colours.

It is not easy to pick up in the photo's, but all of the items are different variations on the same khaki palette. By using differing shadow and highlight colours to neighbouring items I should be able to keep that difference noticeable.

Worked up the helmet a little more and it is pretty much done, I'm not 100% happy with the way the netting has come out but there was no easy way to paint this properly so I had to drybrush it (which I don't like doing). I think if I do this again I will try and paint the netting prior to applying it to the helmet.

And last but not least, face has been basecoated and the whites of the eyes blocked in.

Base colour for the jump suit was mixed from 2 parts 988 Khaki, 2 parts 821 German Camo Beige,1 part 819 Iraqi Sand and a small touch of 889 US Olive Drab. I made a start on the chest area using more Iraqi Sand to highlight and US Olive Drab to shade. For the final shadows I added some 822 German Camo Black Brown. Be very careful with the shadow colour, you only need the smallest amount to change the tone.

Light tan colours are notoriously difficult to shade and highlight, it is very easy to end up with a muddy mess. You may have noticed that both the highlight and the shadow colours are present in the base mix, this creates something called colour harmony. Basically, if the colours already exist in the mix, by adding more and changing the ratio you keep the overall tones harmonious (i.e, you are not adding another colour and changing the tone).

A good case in point is the elbow and knee pads. The colour for these was mixed from 50% 830 German Field Grey (dark colour) and 50% 821 German Camo Beige (light colour). By changing the ratios of these colours we can create shadow and highlight colours from the same base mix.

You can see how the whole of the chest area has lightened considerably, this is why I deliberately kept the base colour (midtone) on the darker side. Another good point to note is that the area I have painted is pretty much all I can comfortably manage in one sitting, with acrylics the paint will be starting to go off too soon (I will be mentioning wet-palettes later in the blog). By trying not to do too much at once, I concentrate more on the selected area and don't rush because the paint is drying.

Worked up a little more of the jacket and the right arm.

As I said before, I used a 50/50 mix of 830 and 821 for the elbow pads and the bellows on the pockets. Increasing the amount of 821 for a highlight colour and adding more 830 to shade. For a final highlight I added a touch of 972 Light Green Blue just to give a slightly faded appearance.

Couldn't resist adding the stars and stripes while I was at it, this is from the Archer set (Like I'm going to paint that on !), I just gave it an overall wash with a very thinned application of the midtone just to lessen the brightness.

Still a few more bits of equipment to paint but this is where we are at the moment.

All of the webbing and belted equipment is now done. I tried to use various colours from both Lifecolor and Vallejo and mixed it up a little by using different shadow and highlight colours for each piece to try and separate them from their neighbour.

The entrenching tool handle is not done yet, too much danger of getting paint on it when I do the trousers so it is still in the base colour. I also managed to get the trousers and reinforcement patches blocked in so I can finally see how this is going to look.

The metalwork is a very simplified NMM (Non-Metal Metallic) technique, I don't like using "real" metallics too much. I paint the item with Vallejo Black Grey 862 and then add highlights with 990 Light Grey, starting off with thin paint then the final highlight is more opaque. I think this forced highlight tricks the eye into seeing the item as metal reflections. Obviously easier on biggish parts but works really well for buckles.

Painted up the trousers and finished the boots, these Corcoran jump boots were highly prized by the Airborne and I would imagine were fairly well looked after. Base colour is 875 Beige Brown with a touch of 872 Chocolate Brown, I added more 875 to highlight and more 872 for a shade. For the final highlights I added a little 876 Brown Sand. Once dry, I went over the boots with a wash of Chestnut Ink from Coat D'Arms (they used to make the paint for Games Workshop).

This ink layer ties all of the colours together really nicely and imparts a slight sheen which looks quite nice. The soles were then picked out with 862 Black Grey. I haven't weathered the boots yet, this will be done when I base this guy up.

Yep, still have to paint the entrenching tool handle but nearly done for this bit methinks.

For the flesh base I use 804 Beige Red and then add a little 941 Burnt Umber for shadows. For the highlights I add 955 Flat Flesh to the base then for a final highlight I then add 815 Basic Skintone to the mix. To add a little colour to the cheeks I mix equal parts of 804 Beige Red, 814 Burnt Cadmium Red and 981 Orange Brown and apply very transparent layers to build up some redness.

The remaining bits were painted up in pretty much the same way I have already described and all that remains is to decide on a suitable backdrop for the base. The figure will be weathered at this point but I haven't decided what the groundwork will be yet so I generally do this last.

So, enough of my old waffle, on to the big reveal;

Friday, 18 July 2014

US Airborne Normandy - Construction

This is one of Dragons early figure sets, 6010 and I must have had these a while because they are still in the old orange plastic, not the grey they changed to later. I decided to go with the guy carrying the bazooka, mainly because it is the least contrived and most natural looking pose (don't be fooled by the boxart).

I made a start by blu-tacking the major bits together to get an idea of the pose and then proceeded to refine the moulding using various scalpel blades to further refine some detail. The photos below show about where I am up to at the moment - most of the torso and the left leg have been done, just need to finish up the other leg, the arms and the boots. You can see in this shot how the chest pocket detail and the left leg pocket really pops out now, this prep work really is worthwhile on plastic figures but it can take ages.

As you can see, I replaced most of the webbing equipment with the superior Tamiya items. Dragon do usually give 100% with their German equipment and weapons but some of their allied equipment really is rubbish. I have also replaced the head with a Hornet one and have made a start on the helmet.

So that is where we are to date, rather than show the "ready for paint" item, I thought it would be interesting to see the figure progress in the "modelling" stage first.

One of the limitations of injection moulding is that the two halves of the mould have to be pulled apart perpendicular to each other (I'm not going to go into fancy slide moulds or anything). What this means for us is that moulding net on a helmet, or ears on a head for example, are pretty much impossible to do properly. Hence my experiment here trying to improve the netting appearance.

First step is to attach said helmet to a length of sprue to give us something to hold onto. I used another orange one to make it easier to see. (If you look closely you will see the moulded on net detail on the helmet, I didn't bother removing it)

Next up, pull a piece of stocking over the top ensuring that the mesh is square and even. Once you have this, "lock off" the piece of stocking with some fuse wire to stop it moving;

Next, continue winding the wire towards the helmet. What this does is pulls the edges underneath the rim;

All you need to do now is glue it. I used Rocket Hot thin CA just on the underside of the rim and on the inside. When this is dry, you can trim the interior bits so it just leaves the mesh turned under the helmet rim. I also brushed Tamiya thin cement over the entire helmet just to remove any nylon fuzz ad that was that.

So there you go, easy eh ?

But be warned. If you get thrown out of Victoria's Secret for fondling the lingerie, I don't know you. It wasn't anything to do with me.

The limitations of injection moulding mean that there is usually a soft edge at the base of most detail, mainly to allow the mould halves to release. Generally the older the figure, the worse it is. However, we can easily enhance this detail using tools you will probably already have, or can get cheaply.

The process is very simple, it just requires all of the base edges to be scraped to some extent, I generally use two different scalpel blades for this. Here are the weapons of choice; a No.6 blade, a No.11P blade and some scotchbrite. I will always start off with new blades for each figure because the edges really do have to be sharp for this.

The curved No.6 is used for most of the work, this one is great for recreating undercuts and refining the points where dissimilar items touch, (belt to jacket, jacket to trousers, etc), and most general stuff.

The second blade, the No.11P (Not a standard No.11) has a very acutely angled tip which is perfect for recreating seam lines and detail around webbing and buckles. This is usually held more perpendicular to the surface so you are only using the very tip of the blade (I suppose you could use a needle for this instead). Downside is that this blade will lose its’ point very quickly and it will need replacing most often. You are lucky if you can complete one figure with the same blade.

The key to the technique is to use very little pressure when scraping, you don't want to remove too much material or leave blade marks in the plastic. Just take your time and work your way around the part methodically, making sure you don’t dig the blade in too deep. What you are trying to do is make a sharper edge around parts, not plough furrows, so be subtle. If you press too hard you are also more likely to get blade “chatter” where it jumps along the line and this leaves unsightly marks which are very hard to get rid of. Remember, it is easier to go over an area again than it is to repair it if you have gone too far.

The dodgy 3D image below shows the process and roughly the angle I hold the blades at.

Very rarely it is necessary to gently sand the area afterwards with some fine wet & dry, usually a rub with the scotchbrite is enough to smooth everything out. Finally I paint the area with a very small amount of Tamiya extra thin cement to remove any plastic fuzz that may be left over - be very sparing here otherwise all of that detail you just created will melt back into goo.

This shot of the right leg pocket is what you get from the box, you can see the edges are very soft and the joint between the pocket and the leg is undefined.

This is the left leg pocket after I have refined it a little, the detail is sharper, seams and joints are more defined and it just looks a lot better.

You can see here in the overall torso just how much this process enhances the moulding around the pockets and webbing.

Now you may not want to go down this route, and to be honest it is a very time-consuming process, but hopefully you can see that with a little work you can really lift basic plastic figures to another level. You will also see a major benefit when you come to the next stage, it makes it far easier to paint !

One of the main things that lets down plastic figures is the boots. Detail is usually very soft indeed and the lace area in-particular can be very poor. This is the OOTB boots;

Once I tidied up and re-scribed the boots, I removed all of the lace detail and scribed a line to represent where the front would come together over the tongue. (I'm sure there is a technical term for this bit but I have no idea what it is, so here are some pictures instead).

Makes a big difference doesn't it ?

In the past I have "laced" the boots with fuse wire (which is usually over-scale) or stretched-sprue (which takes forever to do and has a tendency to melt if you use liquid poly to glue it on), but discovered a far better and quicker way of getting a good looking result.

Get hold of a piece of diamond pattern mesh of a suitable size - I use aluminium because it is soft, but brass will work just as well - and then cut a line of X's off the edge. (You might need to trim it a bit).

All that remains is to glue this onto the front of the boot and hey-presto, laced-up boot.

Even if you don't go to town on the re-scribing of the rest of the figure, I think adding some detail to the boots really does make a big difference.

Put together the Plusmodels bazooka - very nice piece of kit and a definite improvement over the Dragon offering. Still need to add the trigger guard and the carrying strap but here she is; (and yes, that rear guard was a nightmare to do.)

Did a bit more to this over the last few days, cleaned up and added the musette bag (rucksack) and glued the arms on in the correct positions. There will be a bit of magicsculpt work here to blend them in a bit, as well as a few gaps to fill but here is big gun guy so far..

The right hand is just held in place with blutak at the moment, this will need a lot more work to make it look convincing but now the arms are locked in position, it will be slightly easier.

In the meantime, I cleaned up the rest of the equipment and added a sling to the M1 Carbine. I usually make sling buckles by bending a piece of fuse wire around an old piece of etch fret (so it is a smaller, flatter profile) and leave one end free like the letter q. I then drill a very small hole (0.3mm) in the weapon to insert the buckles. The strapping is ordinary paper, stiffened with some thin super glue.

So, invigorated by my progress I exercised some spending power and got these;

And these;

So there we are about ready for painting, just smoothed over a few areas with the 'ol magicsculpt and had to re-build the right cuff area from foil to suit the hand position.The M1 will be painted and added later as it will be a nightmare to paint in-situ.

Anyway, enough waffle - on with the pics.