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!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Zombicide - Vehicles!

In preparation for the Zombicide 3D terrain I have planned, I tried to round up some vehicles that were close to the right scale.  I first looked around at the local train store since the Zombicide figures are close to O-Scale, but the selection was limited and what they did have was very high priced.  I was, however, able to find several options on eBay:

1/42 scale Police Car
The Police car is a little too big for the figures, but definitely close enough to look good on the board. The front doors open which is a nice touch.  The only issue is that it has a pull-back-release mechanism inside that works a little too well.  It is cool to blast through unpainted plastic, but I wouldn't want it running all over the board banging into painted minis and eventually buildings.  Nothing a drop of super-glue won't fix...

1/42 scale Helicopter
Although the scale is the same as the police car, the helicopter looks closer to the right size for the game.  Both large and small side doors open which is pretty cool.  This isn't exactly the same type of helicopter that is in Zombicide - this one is intended to hold more passengers.  I like that though because the whole team can fit and arrive on the scene of various scenarios.  The Helicopter also comes with a plastic stand that it sticks onto which should allow it to "fly" though the streets.

1/43 scale Passenger Van
While not an official Zombicide vehicle with a cardboard template, I wanted something that could hold more characters for some custom scenarios.  I really like the look of the van and it will look even better with some gore hanging out of the grill.  Only the back doors open, but it is a little small to actually stuff the figures in.

1/48 scale FedEx truck

I thought this truck would work great in a couple scenarios I have in mind.  The plan is to run this game at a local gaming convention and I think the players would get a kick out of running around the board in a FedEx truck.  The scale is pretty close and it still fits in a single road section.  The back door opens and figures can fit inside, but I plan to make a cardboard template to keep on the side of the board for characters to 'sit' in.

I received the vehicles below off of eBay.  Compared to the police car, van, and FedEx truck they look a little small.  Alone with a character miniature they do look acceptable.  The beetle looks a little larger than the scale the other two cars are, but again, looks ok with just a figure.

1/50th scale VW Beetle (Hippie Mobile)

1/50th scale Cadillac Coupe (Pimp Mobile)

1/50th scale Dodge Challender (Muscle Car)

No idea if any doors open on any of these, but the scale should be good.  As with all of the vehicles, I plan to keep the cardboard templates that come with the game off the board (probably in front of the player who is the driver) to keep track of who is where.  Unfortunately magnets don't stick to Die Cast metal so the characters (and Zombies) can't just be stuck to the tops & sides of the vehicles...

I do not really care for the official vehicle rules so I took the encouragement from Guillotine Games and made up some house rules.  Here is a link to the PDF if you are interested.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Zombicide - Storage

After deciding to paint the original Zombicide game, Prison Outbreak, Toxic City Mall, Rue Morgue, and a couple Zombie box expansions, I thought to myself "How am I going to store all of these painted figures?"...  Throwing them in a ZipLoc bag isn't going to be good on the 'ol paint job and storing them in the original formed plastic containers just takes too long to put back in - not to mention half of them wouldn't fit anymore due to modifications I've made to them.

All of the miniatures I've painted prior to these are metal and there are far fewer of them so I had just bought hard-case foam like this.  I would have needed at least six hard cases plus something special for larger figures such as abominations.  After spending so much on the figures and paints already, I really didn't want to spend another couple hundred on foam cases.  I also looked into BattleFoam and other foam tray solutions, but they aren't cheap either.

Fortunately, a friend of mine who is extremely organized in everything he does showed me his solution for the various games he plays.  He buys jewelry trays from Gems On Display as well as a case which holds six of the trays stacked on top of each other.  Six trays and the case - including shipping - turned out to be $36.69 - close to the same price as a single hard foam case!  Make sure to verify the title of the product page for the trays is "Plastic Stackable Jewelry Tray-Full Size-2".  The "Leatherette" wrapped wooden trays do NOT work well as they do not lock together and slide all over...I learned the hard way...

The trays then needed to be lined with metal.  You can buy "Flex Iron/Steel" metal sheets that perfectly fit at Dave's Baggage Train, but since I was trying to do it on the cheap, I went to Home Depot and picked up a 24"x36" sheet of galvanized steel for under $10.  To cut it, I needed a tin snips anyway so I'm not counting that as a dedicated cost to the project... ;)  The metal was cut to fit nicely inside the tray and glued in with Liquid Nails caulk.  Another important lesson learned was to apply the Liquid Nails in lines and do not spread it out all over the bottom of the tray.  Apparently the adhesive softens the plastic of the trays a bit and causes them to sag...  You can really apply the adhesive fairly sparingly as it won't take much to keep it in place.

The third components are tiny magnets 1/8"x1/16" (3mm x 1.5mm) to put in each figure's base.  I already had a Dremel, but needed a 1/8 in. Shank High Speed Multipurpose Cutting Bit.  It is special compared to a regular 1/8" bit due to not having a large taper on the front which would have cut through the base before making the hole deep enough.  Thank you very much to Magnus Rydin for the great tutorial over on Board Game Geek!

To avoid losing my mind trying to cut the proper depth, I made a jig using the depth guide on my Dremel combined with a piece of wood with a hole drilled out about twice the diameter of the bit.  I was then able to extend the bit through the board to the right depth.  It was then just a matter of visually aligning the miniature's base and pushing down the base flush with the board.  It resulted in a perfect-every-time hole that only occasionally required an Exacto Knife to clean out a stubborn piece of plastic.

I then placed several magnets on a scrap piece of sheet metal.  A small drop of Loctite Gel Control super glue was then applied to the hole in the base (a bottle of that stuff is good for hundreds of miniatures).  One of the magnets was then slid near the edge of the metal and the miniature's base can be pressed onto it.  Now, the metal can just be set on top of a paper towel covering some scrap wood and the miniature can be slid off of onto the paper towel with magnet embedded.  The paper towel did a good job of wiping off the excess, but I still laid the miniature on its side until the glue had plenty of time to dry.  Slide the next magnet over to the edge and repeat the process.
Rare Earth Magnet counter-sunk into the plastic Zombicide base.

This whole process may sound a bit confusing and complicated, but it was really simple once it got going.  I did about 300 of them in about an hour once I got the process down.  If anyone is interested in more details, comment below and I'd be happy to go back and add a few more photos and describe anything else in detail.  For now, I'm just recording what I did as an outline so I can remember the steps I did after a few months pass.

Here are the current trays filled with all the Zombicide figures I have thus far:

Not counting pre-existing tool purchases, this is a very economical and compact technique to store a large number of miniatures.  It is super-quick to access and put away the miniatures which really relieves the drudgery of setup and tear-down of the game.

The figures stick very well to the metal allowing the trays to be turned upside down and tapped on without any figures falling off.  Even fatties and abominations have no trouble with moving around or falling off.  Only the A-Bomb from Rue Morgue posed a problem - it is taller than the 2" tray depth.  Thanks to the flexible nature of this solution, I just used some Liquid Nails and glued a small piece of tin on one of the vertical sides of the box.  Now the A-Bomb sticks to the wall like Spider Man.  Out of paranoia, I did put three magnets in its base, but that was total overkill.  You can see the A-Bomb clinging to the wall in the bottom left tray in the picture above.

Each tray is capable of holding 96 miniatures which means the six-tray case can hold a whopping 576 figures!  That might not be enough to hold every single miniature included in all of the base games, expansions, and Kickstarter exclusive content, but by my calculations it will hold everything I hope to buy at some least until Zombicide: Black Plague comes out!