Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Blog 011 – My horror horde.

You've seen it mentioned, you’ve seen the carry case, so it’s probably time that I told you about it.
Years ago I bought some of the early Secrets of the Third Reich Zombie Germans by West Wind Miniatures, but was less than impressed with their separate heads. They were a trifle oversized and a little too cartoony for my tastes, although I loved the rest of the minis as well as the actual plug-in head system.
I decided that it would be a good idea to sculpt a single head as a replacement component for the entire squad and Steve Buddle was kind enough to say that when I’d finished it he’d add it to his next master-mould so that I’d have enough of them to go around. The problem was that I hate wasting any excess putty so I ended up using any leftovers from what became head number one to start work on a second head. When the first head was finished the second was only half-done and so the excess was used to start a third. And so on and on and on and on… I couldn’t stop. The bloody things multiplied like the brooms in “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” until I had nine of them and was working on the tenth. I actually had more heads than bodies.
‘Why don’t you just try sculpting the rest of the figures?’ Steve suggested in that infuriatingly reasonable tone of voice that he uses (he used that same tone when he said ‘Why not put his armour on top?’ when I was converting the Dreadnought featured in Blog 003). I wasn’t keen on the idea as I didn’t have that much faith in my abilities, but I gave it a go and was more than happy with the end results. The process itself was fun, instructive and therapeutic and I thoroughly recommend it to anyone even tempted to try sculpting. I ended up with five Zombie Nazis, each with two heads sprued to the base, which formed a part of Steve’s “Spyglass” range for a little while until the rights were sold to Brigade Games. If you fancy checking them out the greens are shown here at
Brigade Games also bought my next two sets of Zombies; four WWII Russians and a similar number of modern/near-modern civilians, all with interchangeable heads. All are visible on their site. [I also have some half-finished Brits too which are very much on the back-burner – but wait until you see the green that is the only true Buddle/Roberts co-operation]
As an aside, I rather like the fact that each of the figures is effectively a conversion since it’s the modeller’s choice as to which head he or she wants to use with which body – and at which angle and inclination they wish it to be glued. The shot at the head of this blog shows a representative group of these zombies (I call the civilian and Russian zombies with missing torso sections my “shark-bite specials”, though what a shark might have been doing on a battlefield I haven’t the faintest clue).
With the hefty box of castings I received from Brigade Games my horde had an excellent beginning and I started adding to it from my existing miniature collection. In the 28mm section there are two groups – monsters and humans – because you can’t have a bad guy without a good guy to fight against him so I’ll list them separately.
And one quick note about today’s photos. Some of the figures have unpainted bases and are unvarnished while some are just undercoated but I’m showing them anyway. The only ones that I haven’t taken pics of are those that are merely half-painted, but as and when I finish them the interesting ones will no doubt be seeing the light of day on this blog.

The Munchkins from Steve Buddle’s zO range (currently out of production, but coming back soon through another supplier) look like zombified children or midgets and have wonderfully haunted expressions. Conversion-wise I limited myself to repositioning and swapping the heads with the occasional feature or scar added for effect. I well remember the frustration of trying to add an ear that just would not work properly – so I scraped it off, started again and it worked perfectly the first time. When I painted the Munchkins I tried out different flesh techniques on each so that no two thus far have the same colouration. If you’ve seen these lovely little sculpts you’ll know how cleanly and crisply detailed they are and I found then to be an absolute pleasure to paint – I’m seriously looking forward to whatever it is that Steve is currently doing for GW in their design studio.

[Also from zO there are a couple of long out of production Scarecrows, and lovely they are too.]
Other Buddle sculpts co-opted into the horde include a clutch of his highly-detailed zombies (including the creepy zombie-girl he produced and a version of the fat-man that never saw general release) and two tiny little Imps from a Chaos Champion he sculpted for CMON. Two nude Succubi are also part of the Horde, one with wings and one without, because in my humble opinion you just can’t beat Steve’s mastery of the female form.

On the non-Buddle front there are several entries. The first is a Killer Klown figure from an unknown company which I modified by giving him a hand on a cane (his original hand was long gone but I seem to recall it held a pistol, a look which I never particularly cared for) and a better set of fingers holding the wickedly dangerous cream-pie.
There are three 25mm killer-robot types produced by Ground Zero Games known as Boomers (BU55 Combat Boomers if you want the full nomenclature). These guys were the antagonists from one of my favourite Japanese Animes, “Bubble-Gum Crisis” and captured my imagination as soon as I saw the show (I’ve been chasing after a 1/6th scale vinyl/resin version of one for years, but have had no joy as yet). These figures date back to the 1980s and formed part of the only authorised range from the animation – I’ve no idea whether they’re still available anywhere, but after so long I rather doubt it. I trimmed them off their bases and also extended/resculpted the lower legs of two of them (shown by the little red arrows) as they stood a bit short next to modern 28mm figures.

A handful of old GW figures now grace the Horde too. There’s a Shambling Mound that looks not a million miles away from the old Swamp Thing comic character, something that could have been a clay-golem (well that’s what it is now) and an old ghoul mini with a sickle. There’s also what looks suspiciously like The Hunchback of Notre-Dame – he was a chaos thug armed with a club which I planned to replace with a bell from the Empire Flagellants set, but in the end I decided I preferred an empty hand.
The final, and perhaps most notable addition, is the Rackham Zombie Werewolf conversion from Blog 008.

Some more Steve Buddle sculpts made an appearance in this category including a Buffy-esque co-ed with a stake, the current Dr Who (Matt Smith, just in case it changes while I’m sleeping) and two venerable looking monks of very different styles.
Foundry do several sets of thinly-veiled characters from the “Dad’s Army” TV series under the banner of Home-Guard Heroes. I don’t have many of them – just Mr Yeatman the Verger, Warden Hodges, Mrs Fox and Private Frazer dressed as a nun – but they are wonderfully characterful little sculpts and were a joy to paint.

From Artizan Designs I bought a large amount of WWII German and Russian soldiery, as well as a few characters from their Thrilling Tales range. Some reviewers have criticised them for lacking the crispness seen in other ranges, but I think that they’re delightfully distinctive pieces with bags of charm – if I didn’t I wouldn’t have spent good money on them. They came with integral bases which required removal using tin-snips, razor-saws and pin-files. Some of the feet were a little too small to conform to the proportioning conceits of the 28mm scale in the figures I already had so I snipped them off, pinned the miniatures to their new bases and started resculpting. Joking aside I didn’t do this lightly (that’s a lot of feet to sculpt), but I always feel that if a job’s worth doing then it’s worth getting stupid over. And by the end of it I was a dab hand at sculpting boots.

And finally, there’s the giant-killer-war-robot. Originally a 1:35 scale kit from a Japanese anime series that I’d never heard of and can’t remember (if it ain’t PatLab or Robo-Tech I just don’t care) I tweaked it a little by shifting the weapon to the left arm from the right, giving it dual ammo-feeds and extending the barrel so that it looks like a tank-busting long-gun in the process. Oh, and sculpting replacement hands from scratch. The base was constructed on a stack of three CDs super-glued together with the raised levels formed from balsa sheet and the texture-work was added using various types of plasticard, plastic-tubing and similar model construction materials. Like the Zombie-Werewolf I’ve tried to avoid adding anything that ties the piece too closely to a particular scale so that, while it’s roughly 54mm scale, it can still be used at 28mm. The only problem is that he’s far too big for the case.
A note on the painting of the bot. I spent ages blending the colours on the armour plates, making sure the shading was subtle and the highlights not too overbearing. And the matt varnish knocked it all as flat as a pancake. I might go back and reshade it at some point, but I doubt it – it took so bloody long the first time that I don’t think I have the heart to face it a second time.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Blog 010 – How to base a figure without having to drill through metal.

In one of the threads on the WAMP forum recently someone asked for advice on how to surface a base with textured plasticard and I thought that it would be a good subject for a tutorial. It’s something that can prove difficult at first sight, especially with metal figures on base-tags, but really it's simplicity itself, and one of those things that can be done in batches.
In the examples below you’ll see that I’m using a zO Munchkin from the Spyglass range of figure formerly produced by Steve Buddle. [As an aside I have to say I just love these figures. They look suitably grim and mindless and are a dream to paint with crisp, neat detailing.]
Step 1
I glued the base to the smooth side of the plasticard using a little liquid-poly. If the card’s texture has a regular pattern with a definite axis (as the one I’m using has) this is where care must be made to orient it correctly so that the front of the base will be in the right direction. All of my Horror Horde are oriented in the same direction as you’ll see in the examples below.
Step 2
I cut roughly around the base to leave a jagged shape. As you can see it’s far from circular at the moment.
Step 3
Using a pair of straight-edged nail clippers (the straight ones are for toe-nails I believe) I trimmed the excess away leaving a faintly jagged edge. A flat-faced needle file took these away leaving a smooth edge. Okay – not that smooth in close-up, but this is just a quickie base for this tutorial and is certainly fine for one of the numberless legion of my Horror Horde.
For plastic or resin figures this would be the point where I would glue the mini in place, but I want to cover a simple technique for mounting metal figures as well.
Step 4
Here’s the figure that will grace this base prepared for eventual attachment. Note how the remnants of the base tag are very definitely pointed with the top edge right by the Munchkin’s foot – this gives a cleaner punch through the base as well as ensuring that as little of the tag as possible remains visible. Note also the pilot-hole in the base goes into the gap where the slot is. There is a reason that I have left a tag on only one foot while filing the other smooth, but I’ll come to that later.
Step 5
A good, firm push so that the peg on the Munchkin goes about half-way through defines the edges of the finished hole and sharp and pointed craft-knife finished the job.
Step 6
The figure seated in place, ready to be glued and painted. It’s after the figure is secure that I add rubble and other details.
A final note here about posing and gluing. The reason I left just one foot pegged is that it allows me to turn it slightly about the ankle, bringing the figure closer to the rear of the base if it is too far forward. I use a two stage gluing process with this as well to prevent flooding the textured plasticard with glue. First I put a thin smear of super-glue on the flat foot (really, the barest needed to hold it in place) then attach the figure as you can see in Step 6. Turning the mini upside down the peg in its slot is then flooded with more super-glue which, when cured, locks the figure tight (I use a shot of zip-kicker to speed this process up). This way I get a really secure attachment without any glue covering details on the base itself.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Blog 009 – A different kind of conversion.

In response to Steve Buddle’s blog on what he does with his painted figures (itself based on a WAMP thread) I decided to show you what might well be my largest conversion. No, really. She’s got to stand more than 4 feet high and about 18 inches wide, which is a damned good size for a conversion.
“But, Neil,” I hear someone ask (even if it is just the voice in my head), “what is it that you’ve converted? What fresh insanity has gripped you?”
Well, many insanities have gripped me over the years – for instance, throughout most of 1993 I believed that I was the rightful Emperor of Thrace – but this bout of dementia was one of my favourites and involved love at first sight.
And zombies.
Hopefully you’re intrigued – possibly you think that I fell in love at first sight with a reanimated, female midget – but I’m betting you’re still reading.
A couple of years ago Steve was living in a picturesque house on Dominic Street in Truro (a blue plaque wil no doubt appear there soon) and to visit him I had to walk past a little music shop, one of those pokey little establishments that seems designed to drive custom away rather than entice it in. One day, as I passed the shop’s dusty windows, I saw that something beautiful stood behind the glass, something that called out to me with a siren song. I just HAD to tell Steve about this beautiful addition to my world and explain that, while I simply had to have her, I couldn’t afford her. His response was to commend the strength of my resolve, applaud the willpower to resist and then bet me that I’d have made a purchase in less than thirty minutes.
He was, of course, wrong. The little card machine was on the fritz so I had to get money from the cashpoint which took me an extra five minutes. But I managed to knock twenty quid of the price and acquire my little darling for less than fifty.
Back at Steve’s… First he claimed a moral victory and then he admired my acquisition.
Yes, I know I’ve not yet told you what it was that I bought, and it’s started to sound like I may be involved in the slave trade, so here’s a picture.
Isn’t she wonderful? A “Day of the Dead” hard-shell guitar case with a print of Bub on the front, although the photo really doesn't do her justice. Yes, she weighed a tonne, was a pain in the arse to carry home and was lined with revoltingly ugly purple fur, but hey – no love is perfect. That’s why I converted her.
First out was an internal section with an embedded electronic dohicky that a musician would use to tune his electric guitar. As it was cunningly glued and stapled into place I used a subtle blend of brute force, mindless violence and pliers to tear it out and put it in bin-bags. The battle was hard fought, and many lives were lost, but in the end I was victorious. Next came the fur lining. Pliers, bin-bag, done (although six months later I was still finding bits of purple fur all over the place).

All I had left at that point was an empty box with some frame supports glued in to stop it from splitting apart at the seams.
The next step was getting the foam inserts. First I crossed the road to the local hardware supplier/warehouse (it is quite literally across from me) and had two strips of lining foam cut to give me a flat base on the bottom of the case and a soft top to protect my minis when the lid was closed. I was also able to specify the thickness of the foam which gave me a precise set of internal dimensions, allowing me to order the appropriate sized trays knowing that they’d fit perfectly. The trays were supplied by the inconceivably helpful guys at KR ( after a discussion on the phone where I told the owner what I was doing, why I was doing it and where we both agreed it was a perfectly valid way to expend my time and effort. The advice he gave me was invaluable, so when the trays came through (two for my 54mm and monstrous 28mm miniatures and four for my 28mm minis) they fitted like fingers slipping into a glove. People of KR, you are stars.
And that really was it. Apart form filling the first of those little compartments with painted minis. The choice was, of course, obvious – zombies. And so the first members of my Horror Horde found their home within what I hope you will agree is a truly singular carry case.
As to the Horde itself, well that's a subject for another post.