Thursday, October 4, 2018

Intermodal Shipping Containers

Intermodal shipping containers are all over the world and the thought of dozens (or hundreds) of them together on one gaming table sounded pretty awesome to me...  So I started considering options:

Buying O-scale containers or other commercial options are a bit cost-prohibitive as well as would need a bunch of work to get them weathered.  

Another option would be to scratch build the containers using conventional means with card and styrene, but that was quickly discounted given the extreme effort required as well as likely having to sacrifice some level of detail.

Although there is certainly a bit of upfront cost, I went the route of 3D printing my own.  I'll go into more detail about the Phrozen Make resin-based printer I bought last year in another post, but suffice it to say that it is an excellent device which I used to print the containers you can see here.  The Make has been replaced by a newer version called the Phrozen Shuffle, but the quality is about the same from what I've heard.

One part of the original Thingaverse 3D model
To do a quick proof-of-concept, I went out and found an existing 3D model of a container which contained a sufficiently high enough level of detail.  Here is a link to the original model I found over at Thingaverse: Original 3d Model.  I'll skip posting all the other pieces - check it out on Thingaverse if you're interested. 
Plate Laid Out in B9 Creator
I printed out the pieces separately with the intention to simply glue them together at the end.  After messing up the scale a few times, I finally got the pieces to all print out.  Unfortunately, large flat objects printed with resin (at least the resin I used) tend to warp a bit during the curing process.  I took the model into ZBrush and proceeded to join the main body pieces into one model.  As you can see in the screenshot, the main body is printed vertically with the end and doors printed separately next to it.

One problem with the model that I spent a lot of time fixing is that the insides of the pieces are all flat.  By flat I mean the corrugation pattern is not carried through to the inside and instead is just filled with material.  Expensive resin in this case...  Corrugating the insides cut the amount of resin required by half.

The model had other issues as the door was a bit low-resolution as it was intended to be printed on an FDM printer.  I ended up rebuilding the entire door from scratch within ZBrush.

The yellow container pictured above was my prototype.  The steps below are what I ended up with after some experimentation described below.

Here is a photo of a printed body section.  It has been cleaned with isopropyl alcohol via airbrush.  The resin I use is a bit sensitive to submersion in alcohol and tends to split apart if left in a bowl of it for too long.  I've found that 'power washing' it with the airbrush is the way to go.
The end still warped a little bit during curing, but it was easily persuaded to fit together together with the help of Gorilla Glue and some clamps.

The following steps document the painting process I used.

After the back is glued on to the body, I primed in a flat gray spray-can automotive primer.
Next, the second step is base-coating in Burnt Sienna.

Next, areas of Orange Iron Oxide pigment mixed with Burnt Sienna paint were painted on with a sponge brush.  I can't say enough how pleased I am with Earth Pigments.  Very reasonable prices on a great set of products and non-toxic to boot!  I guess wearing a mask is still not a bad idea given any small particulate is not great to breath in.  Anyway, I highly recommend them.

The pigments give some texture to the rust areas.

Here are the primary Earth Pigments I use for adding a rust weathering effect.  Natural Umber, Orange Iron Oxide, Burnt Sienna.

I'm utilizing the 'hairspray' method as I've described in previous blog posts to weather these containers.  After the rust layer has dried, a clear gloss coat needs to be applied.  This is applied via standard rattle-can and allowed to fully dry before proceeding to the next step.  It is important that the clear gloss coat is oil-based to prevent later steps from damaging the rust effects.
The next non-pictured step of liberally spraying the containers with my favorite '80s hairspray: Aqua-Net.  I have the 'regular' and not the 'all weather' version.  I've not tried the all-weather so it may work, but if they made it waterproof in any way, it could cause problems.  Fortunately I stocked up when it was on sale at Walgreens.

Next, after the hairspray has dried, I airbrush 'primer gray'.  It really isn't primer - it is water-based and just called that because real things are often primed with this color of paint.  It is important to airbrush rather than brush this on as the technique won't work if the hairspray gets too wet from the paint being applied over it.

Once the gray overcoat is dried, it is time to get it wet again.  I spray the whole container with water and let it set for a couple minutes.  The water will soak through the gray paint and dissolve the underlying hairspray.  Using a combination of cotton swabs, stiff brushes, dental picks, and scraps of balsa wood to scratch off the gray paint to reveal the rust painting underneath, the desired level of weathering can be achieved in a nice naturally chipped fashion.

I added some additional weathering using the same paints and pigments as above.  In addition, adding a dusting of Natural Umber gives things a 'dusty' look.

After the weathering is complete, it is time for decals.  This was my first real experience with applying decals (other than with a model airplane or two decades ago).  For this, I used a Inkscape to create the graphics and printed them on decal paper made for my laser printer.  I carefully cut them out from the paper and used MircoSet and MicroSol setting solutions to affix them to the containers.

Here are a couple photos after the decals have been applied, but not yet weathered.

I learned a lot about what all of the numbers & letters on the containers mean and utilized the algorithm to produce 'proper' numbers that the check-digit works for.  Each container I made has a unique serial number to track it.

Finally, here is a fully weathered version of the container - including weathering of the decals.

There is still quite a ways to go before seeing 100s of containers out on the game board, but this was a fun and interesting project which resulted in a neat detail to add to my existing games.  So far I've completed six containers and they worked great.

They cost less than $5 each for supplies (primarily resin) and I think the detail is pretty good, but there are a lot of steps involved which adds up to quite a bit of time to complete each container.  For now I'm not going to fire up the production line and pound out 94 more of them.  ;)

I do have plans to work on a shipping yard so perhaps I'll be motivated to add a few more containers if the need arises...

If there are any questions on techniques or tools used, please drop me a message.  I'm always happy to share & discuss!

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Miniature Sculpting - "Big Guy"

Well, I have been taking a break from the Walking Dead terrain for the past several months.  I do intend to finish it, but I've been busy working on another large project.  There will be some more posts on that later, but for now I wanted to show one aspect of the new project - sculpting custom miniatures.

For the project I'm working on, I needed some people for the players to rescue.  This one, nicknamed "Big Guy" is one of them.

I primarily used ZBrushCore included with a Wacom tablet to digitally sculpt this miniature.  This is one of my first digital sculpts and it was a lot of fun to work on.  There are lots of other programs I used in the 'workflow' to get this done, but I'll save that for another post if anyone is interested.

Once sculpted, I sent it off to Shapeways to print.  For the material, I selected Frosted Ultra Detail.  It has a very fine texture, but overall painted up fairly well.

Although not overly apparent in this photo, I tried doing some layering rather than my usual basecoat + wash painting technique.  I've still got a long way to go, but it produced results about as good as my usual technique.  It did, however, take about twice as long...  It was good practice if nothing else.

Here are a few screenshots of the digital sculpt:

I've got a few other sculpts as well and will likely post them at some point.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Greene Family Farm - Barn Roof Painted

A couple months ago I finished painting the roof of the barn, but hadn't gotten around to posting it until now.

Below are the paints and pigment I used.  Using a sponge brush, I applied the various rust colors including Burnt Umber, Brown Iron Oxide, and Burnt Sienna to the tin and tried to leave some un-aged areas in similar spots to where they are on the actual barn.  As a bit of an experiment, I mixed in a bit of Earth Pigments Orange Iron Oxide to add a little texture and help blend the colors together.  I highly recommend these pigments by the way.  They are reasonably priced and can add a lot to a model.  I've just barely started to learn to use them, but see they have great potential.

I'm not exactly sure why the raw tin areas exist on the real barn, but I'd guess they recycled some tin from other buildings and the less aged areas were previously overlapped by other tin pieces.

Here is one side of the barn.  It still has a little shine to it which I'll mute with some flat clear coat after I get all the wood painted.  Waiting until then will avoid over-spray which would seal up parts of the wood resulting in inconsistent paint absorption. 

Here are a couple more shots from different angles.  Depending on how the light hits it, the colors look quite a bit different.  Once everything is finished, I'll take some photos in better lighting.

Just as a point of reference, here is a shot of the roof from the Walking Dead Season 2, Disc 2 BluRay.  Once I get around to painting the wood, it should bear some resemblance to what is on film.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Greene Family Farm - Roof Tin Done

After a couple weeks of no progress, I found some time this weekend to really move the barn forward.  First, the awning was built out to support the tin and serve as a starting point of roofing.

As you can see, the animal pens have yet to be finished, but now at least all of the roofing sections are now fully prepared to take on the tin.

Below is a photo of the completed awning.  It so happened that the width of the roof sections is evenly divisible by the width of a piece of tin.  There was only a little 'stretching' needed for the upper full sections, but overall it really worked out well.  The glue I used can be seen at the right of the frame by the way.

Here is a close-up of the glue.  It is Gorilla Glue Gel and it is the first time I've used it.  In other tin-roof projects I have used regular Gorilla Glue and I must say that this gel variant really works well.  It gets 'tacky' much more quickly than its regular counterpart and sets up strong soon thereafter.  I remember the regular Gorilla Glue taking longer to set up and be more of a binary thing - either wet and not sticky at all or rock solid and immobile.  It was nice take advantage of the few seconds adjustment time that the gel offers.

Hopefully it is equally as strong in the long term, but I guess only time will tell.  So far it is looking quite promising.

It took about an entire bottle of glue to finish the roof.  I think it was about $3 at Wal-Mart so not a terrible cost to complete a fairly large roof.

The photo to the right is the peak section of the roof.  

Here you can see my little friends - the clips.  I found them in a Home Depot several years ago and while the little grips have been torn up a bit by stray blobs of glue, they are still an invaluable tool to do roofing.  The limited height of each roof section really lent itself well to the size of the clamp.  All three of these are working together to hold down the top, middle, and bottom of the section of tin.  

As soon as I get the glue applied for the next piece and put the tin down, the glue had set up enough to just move the clamps down the line.  

All sections of this side of the barn have been roofed.  The peak of the loft access still needs some work, but otherwise is ready to go.

 Here it is again at an angle.

I guess I was in the groove and didn't bother to take any other in-progress photos of the other side.  Here are a few photos of the entire roof complete.  

So far the barn is shaping up fairly nicely.  While not an exact replica of the actual tin sheets used, I think what I came up with captures the spirit of the architectural element.

A bit more wood-work for the pens, doors, and ladder for the loft access and it will be ready to paint.  I'll also need to do some level of ground cover before painting the ground-floor wood, but it should be fairly straight forward as I plan to use the trusty ol' Sculpt-A-Mold...  Until next time!

Oh, one more thing to add - my estimate of tin needed was only off by 12.  I'm glad I had enough as I wasn't really looking forward to going back to the tin mill. ;)

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Greene Family Farm Barn - Tin Roof

Since the beginning of this project, I have been trying to crack the riddle of how to get the tin for the roof the barn to look similar to that of the actual Green Farm barn.

I've done corrugated tin in the past for other projects, but if you look closely at the roof of the barn, you'll see that it is a bit different.  The photo on the right is similar to what was used on the barn.

Using actual tin from pop cans has its pluses and minuses.  On the plus side, it is very sturdy and is easy to make look worn in a realistic looking fashion.  On the minus side, it can be a bit difficult to get into the desired shape and can be very difficult to replicate fine details such as the double-ridge on the edges of the real thing.

After several rounds of trial and error at trying to make shape the metal, I was about to conclude that I'd need some other specialized tools to make the form itself.  Fortunately after some prayer the night before, I woke up last Saturday and easily threw together what turned out to be a very simple form that turned out to work wonderfully.

You can see the form to the right taped down to the base plate of the embossing machine.  It is basically a thin sheet of polystyrene with a two pieces of polystyrene rod glued near the top and bottom edges and a piece of half-round polystyrene glued down the middle.  It took some careful positioning and gluing, but the whole thing was put together in about 5 minutes.

Below the form is a 'blank' piece of sheet metal from a pop can.  It measures 4" long by about 1" wide.  More on the various steps in the process below.

Below the tin is the shadow of my hands and phone taking the picture...I was too lazy to crop...sorry.

Here is a photo of the "evolution" embossing machine.  It basically has some steel rollers that applies pressure to a sandwich that you crank through it.  It isn't exactly inexpensive, but it can be used for all sorts of other crafts that other family members enjoy working on.

The embossing machine basically puts a lot of pressure on the tin and forces it to form over and around the polystyrene rods.  

There are several steps in preparing the tin, but before that, let me introduce you to the next indispensable piece of hardware...

The paper cutter!  It turns out that it can cut tin cans quite well.  I'm pretty sure the whole process would have taken 10x longer and really not looked very good if the trimming were done by hand using scissors.

I'm not sure if there are any long term negative effects on the cutter, but it seemed to cut the tin without any sweat and seems no worse for the wear after making hundreds of tin cuts.

Now to go through the various stages of tin preparation.

Starting with a standard 12oz soda can, I used a kitchen shears to cut off the top and bottom.  I then cut a line down the seam to end up with a flat rectangular sheet.  I then used an random orbit disk sander to sand off the branding markings and all of the paint on the can.  This also roughs up the surface so it looks a bit more weathered.  In addition, I sanded the inside to take off the slick coating to allow the tin to be glued together later.

To initially measure the width of the tin strips, I used my trusty triangular engineering ruler which happens to be about an inch wide.  I was able to just draw a quick line on the tin, rotate the ruler one turn, keeping one edge in place, and then draw another line which is perfectly parallel to the first.

This is a photo showing a couple early stages of tin.  From the sanded rectangle, three 8"x1" strips of usable tin can be obtained.  There is a bit of waste, but most of the cans I used didn't even offer the 5 cent refund so the cost of the raw materials is basically nothing.  The 8" strip on the left is then cut down to two 4" strips using the paper cutter.  

This cutter has very handy measuring marks so I was able to skip all the time consuming manual measuring and marking steps before cutting.

I then use a bit of painter's tape and tape one of the 4"x1" strips down to the form to secure it in place.  The rubber layer and top plate are then laid on top to finish off the sandwich.  I taped the form on the first quarter of the sandwich so I didn't have to roll the whole sandwich through each time.  These stacks of tin are all freshly pressed and ready for the next trimming step.  

There are two stages to trimming.  First the excess is trimmed from the two long edges.  Thanks to the paper cutter, this job was not only made much easier, but it is also much more consistent than using a hand-held cutter.

The second stage to trimming is cutting the 4" section (which is actually just over 4") down to exactly 4".  Next the 4" section is cut in half to provide two 2" sections which is the final dimensions of a single piece of tin that will be affixed to the roof.

Here is a finished specimen all trimmed up and ready to go.

I lined up ten of them with an edge overlapping as they will be placed on the roof and found the length of them to be roughly 6".  Given the length of the roof is just over 11", it will take roughly 20 to complete one course.

In short, I calculated the number of pieces to finish the roof, awning included, to be 180 which seemed to be a lot, but actually didn't take long to complete once the process was rolling (bad pun intended).

Behold!  Over the course of three evenings and with the help of one of my kids, 18 stacks of 10 pieces each are all lined up and ready to be attached to the roof.

Overall, I'm very pleased with how smoothly the process went.  I was concerned that the project was going to get shelved due to coming up with no solution to the roof.

Although the miniature version of an individual piece doesn't exactly match what is pictured above, I believe that when assembled together they will provide a convincing reproduction of the real barn that was down in Georgia.

Next Step

The next step will likely be to glue the ground floor down to a base and then finish some of the woodwork of the various animal pens.  I'd like to jump right into gluing the tin on the roof, but need to figure out exactly how the awning is going to be attached. It may be fixed to the base or it could come off with the middle layer of the barn.  On one hand it would be more sturdy if left attached to the base, but it may look better and be easier to move miniatures in the external pens if the awning came off.

Until next time...

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Greene Family Farm (The Walking Dead)

Happy Easter!

The recent Kickstarter by Mantic Games featuring their new miniature game "The Walking Dead: All Out War" triggered my building itch.  The iconic barn filled with walkers at the Greene Family Farm is what I decided to started with.

The barn will be 28mm scale measuring about 11" x 11" primarily built from balsa wood.  The roof will be constructed of tin from pop cans.

To allow for placing miniatures inside and moving them around on both the ground floor and hay loft, the barn will come apart in three pieces.

I actually started this project a few weeks ago, but didn't get around to writing up anything until now so this post is a bit long and has a lot of photos of the progress along the way.  To the right is a photo of the start of the balsa frame of the ground floor.  I initially thought I'd base it on a 12"x12" 1" thick foam glued to a piece of 1/4" MDF, but I think I'll put it on a 12"x24" base instead.  It just looks too crowded on the smaller base and it will be nice to add some grass and driveway area in front of it.
 All of the ground floor walls have wood on them at this stage.

You can see a close-up of the walls below.  The wood has been distressed with the great little tool called a Distressing Pen.  It basically amounts to a little wire brush with controllable length of bristles.  It produces a texture that does a pretty convincing job of looking like old weathered wood.  Perfect for this project.

To the right is a photo looking in from the main doors up through the hay loft.  The hay loft is on and the second floor is starting to be framed.

The top floor and roof peak have both been framed up.  All that is really left as framing goes is the awning that goes out the side.  I'm holding off doing that as well as the inside ground floor posts and fences until I glue it down to a base.  

Here the roof peak has been removed to allow miniatures to be placed in the hay loft.  

The back of the barn has wood siding attached.  The siding consists of 1/16" thick balsa which I cut into strips about 1/4" wide.  I initially looked for the pre-cut strips, but it turns out 1/16" thick balsa strips are fairly hard to find.  I suppose they would have a pretty high breakage rate given how thin and soft balsa wood is.  Fortunately, a very helpful guy at my local hobby shop Hobby Haven pointed out this very useful little device called a Balsa Stripper.

To glue all the balsa together, I've been using Loctite Gel Control.  It is a bit expensive for what I'm using it for, but you can find it on sale at Walmart for $2-3.  I could use Elmers or other much cheaper glue, but this stuff dries quickly and really allows fast progress to be made.  To glue all of the wood together I've used about three bottles of the stuff.  It doesn't take much to glue each board down, but with hundreds of boards, it kind of adds up...

Below is a pretty cool photo of the hay loft looking in through the yet-to-be finished wall of the barn.

Below is a photo of about where the barn is as of this afternoon.  All the major wood work is done and it now awaits tin for the roof.

The tin has proved to be quite a challenge.  The texture is different than the regular wave pattern I've done in the past.  The next post will have more information on my various experiments with forming the tin and the process I will use to cover the roof.

Well, that is all for now.  Hopefully the photos have been interesting and my descriptive text has been somewhat clear.  Please let me know if there are any questions or comments using the mechanism below.

Thanks for taking a look!