Sunday, September 9, 2012

First completed figures of the challenge, and a look at the Trollforged goblins

Here's my full unit of goblins from Trollforged, not quite completed yet, but the painting is done. They still need their bases detailed, and the standard bearer needs a standard attached to the pole he's toting around. They also haven't gotten their final matte varnish yet, but I had a little free time to take some pictures and write a post, so here they are, almost done.

The four command figures are conversions. The Trollforged plastic/resin/whatever-it-is material is easy to cut and takes well to superglue, making conversions a snap. The standard bearer is my favorite of the bunch - the terrified look on his face is perfect for a goblin going into battle, in the front line of his unit, with nothing but a big flag to defend himself with... I snipped off the halberd and drilled into his hand, then inserted a standard made from wire, putty, and a skull that's been kicking around in my bits box for  at least twenty years. I think it was originally attached to an undead centaur. Also, I cut off the horns on the sides of his helmet and repositioned one of them on top of his head.

The leader got a sword made from a bit of a large packing staple, with some putty for the hilt. He also got the leftover helmet horn from the standard bearer. The champion is probably my least favorite of the four converted models. I tried repositioning his arms a few different ways, originally intending to give him two weapons, but nothing really looked good and I finally just glued part of an old GW plastic skaven arm and weapon to him. Not the greatest, but it'll have to do.

The musician got a pretty extensive conversion. Part of his right arm was cut off and repositioned, the arm below the elbow was sculpted from putty, as was the horn. Finally, his face got some putty as well, to make him look like he's giving a good blow on that horn.

The paint job is very basic - blocked in colors followed by a magic wash. I was going for decent tabletop quality, not display pieces, and besides twenty finished figures is a good start on my self-imposed painting challenge (More on that below).

And now, my thoughts on the Trollforged figures, having painted and converted them. The sculpts are fantastic, more Jim Henson than GW-style goblins, which in my book is a good thing. They ooze character, and at a buck a figure everybody should have a unit or two of these guys in their fantasy armies. 

The not-so-good-stuff: The material used is not nearly as strong as Trollforged's YouTube video implies. I had one broken weapon when they arrived, and two more broke off when washing the figures to remove any mold release residue. Another one broke at the ankles when I tried to remove him from his base - Several of the figures sat oddly in their bases the first time around, and had to have bits removed from their tabs or feet to stand properly in the base. Fortunately, these are all easy fixes.

With most resin castings there will be some bubbles and other issues, and these guys are no exception. Some of them were missing fingertips and such, and while that too is a fairly easy fix with some putty, I figured the hell with it and counted on paint to hide the casting flaws.

Even with the casting issues, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend these figures. In fact, I think I might need another ten for this unit - "The Goblins of the Red Shoes" - and maybe another ten to convert and otherwise fiddle with. They'd be great for a dungeon encounter, and converting them would be an interesting project...

So now we come to my painting challenge. I've committed to paint 300 figures before the Reaper Bones Kickstarter loot arrives next March, which might not seem like much of a challenge to some painters, but it's a pretty daunting task for me. Here's the first, painted before I got stuck into the Goblins of the Red Shoes.

He's a Grenadier magic user circa 1982, stripped of his decades-old paint job and re-done in much the same colors. Again, the base is not finished, for two reasons. One, I'm giving myself some leeway on basing for the challenge. I know, I know, it's not done unless the base is done, but I'm also not sure where I want to go with basing my figures these days. I'm growing increasingly dissatisfied with the ubiquitous slotta-base, and I'm looking into and thinking about various alternatives. I prefer a base that sits closer to the ground, like the pennies I based my hobbits on from a few posts back, and one that can be detailed on the edges as well as the top, helping the model blend into the table a little better. Finally, I'm thinking of splitting my figures into two groups, those used for wargames and those used for RPGs. Most of my fantasy RPGs are old-fashioned dungeon crawls, so I want to base those figures appropriately with stone or rock floor details, while the wargames figures will have dirt, grass, etc.

The challenge so far: 21 figures painted, 279 to go...

Monday, August 27, 2012

First figures of the challenge

As I mentioned in the last post, I've set myself a challenge to drastically reduce the number of unpainted figures in the house before the Reaper Bones Kickstarter loot gets here in March. Here are the first figures I pulled out of the pile of old lead - a Grenadier wizard from 1982, and two late eighties / early nineties Ral Partha female fighters.

A Reaper vampiress, with the bit of scenery and demon bat familiar she came with. These are fairly recent, 2006 maybe, but I neglected to look at the bottom of the base for a date before blue-tacking them to bottle caps, and now I can't be bothered to take them off and check.

Finally, an early eighties Grenadier demon and a fairly rotten plastic orc from Zvezda. The orc is part of a cheap box set I bought a few years ago, figuring they couldn't be all that bad, but I have to admit they're pretty dire. This guy is only the third I've put together, and the second fell apart almost immediately, so he's the only one assembled and unpainted.

This is the chieftain of the set - He actually painted up pretty well, but no paint job can truly save a sculpt this bad...

And a back view - the crappy iPhone pic doesn't show the shading very well; the paint job is much nicer in real life. I normally don't paint orcs green, but the Zvezda models are obviously going for the GW look, so why not?

Sunday, August 26, 2012

White Ape Painted & Based

I haven't had a lot of hobby time the past two weeks, thanks to a hectic time at work - the usual summer issue of too many people being away on vacation at once. leaving those who remain to pick up the slack. My wife is in a similar spot, so we've both been working late, getting home late, and usually we're both too worn out to do anything more strenuous than eat dinner and watch a few episodes of Doctor Who on Netflix before retiring... 
In spite of all that, I did finally manage to paint up the white ape I mentioned a few posts back, a bronze casting of an original sculpt by my brother Tom. I went relentlessly old-school with the paint job, relying on a black undercoat and a lot of drybrushing, otherwise he might still be languishing in the pile of primed-but-not-painted models. He was primed with black gesso, basecoated with Reaper armor grey, and drybrushed with Coat d'Arms light grey and white. I picked out the eyes in yellow, and the mouth in pink for the tongue and gums and ivory for the teeth, washed with Devlan Mud, gave him another round of drybrushing, matte varnished and finally gloss varnished the eyes and mouth. The base was finished with the usual sand and PVA, painted and drybrushed, then given patches of static grass and a couple tufts. 
So a pretty simple job, but it works well enough I think. Here he is with a Ral Partha 25mm figure and a Reaper 28mm sorceress for scale. He's not large enough to be an ERB white ape in either scale, but he looks suitably threatening next to the Ral Partha figure, and he'd be perfect for 15mm Barsoom games. The size issue is my fault; Tom asked me what size, and I told him something about 28 to 30mm being the standard these days, without elaborating that it's the standard for man-sized figures, and therefore the white ape should be a fair bit bigger... Ah well, I still like the sculpt, and I think he painted up well enough. And maybe seeing the painted model will convince Tom to do a few more of these guys.
A side view. Why not?

Hobby Expenses... And a Personal Challenge

For the most part, painting miniature figures is a fairly inexpensive hobby. Once we have our initial set of paints and tools, it amounts to little more than replacement paint, blades, brushes and the like. I probably spend less than $75 a year on supplies, and with the huge backlog of unpainted figures I have from childhood, supplemented by a few eBay bulk lots and the occasional new set of figures (Usually because they're too cheap to pass up in my case), I usually don't spend much money on the hobby, and almost never in a big lump sum.

Well, that all changed yesterday - Reaper's Bones Kickstarter ended at 6pm, and when the dust cleared I suddenly realized that in the excitement my pledge had made it all the way up to $500. Now, that $500 is going to eventually result in a package of around 250 figures arriving at my door, plus several figure cases (I'm still not completely decided on what to pick for my last $75), so it's undoubtedly a good deal.

But I'm still a little bit in shock. That's by far the most I've ever spent at once on miniatures, and I won't even be seeing the vast majority of them until March of next year. So, I've now committed to two things of my own. Number One, a complete and total moratorium on any hobby spending for the rest of the year, with the sole exception of things like glue, paint, and the like, as I'll need those for Number Two: I'm pledging to make a serious dent in the unpainted lead pile before the Reaper loot arrives in March. I have six months to paint and base at least half of the unpainted figures in the house to make some room for the new arrivals.

 I don't have all the details worked out yet, as I just decided to do it this morning, but I'll be going through the lead pile and sorting out groups of figures, goals and deadlines very soon. I'll be posting everything here, as incentive to keep at it and as a record of what I've completed. There will be all sorts of strange old models, and some new ones, being painted over the next half a year.

Wish me luck... It's going to be an interesting six months!

Sunday, August 19, 2012


There's not been a lot of hobby time the past couple of weeks. Craziness at work coupled with a visit to the in-laws in PA this weekend pretty well scuppered any chance of painting miniatures over the past two weeks. I'm off tomorrow, though, and hopefully I'll be able to get a little mini-painting into the schedule.

On the table: There's my brother's Martian white ape that I introduced in a previous post, the Grenadier Orcs of the Severed Hand boxed set, about 100 AWI plastic British 20mm figures, and maybe a dozen far-future SF pirate types that will probably turn up in a Rogue Trader game in the near future.

I've also bought twenty Troll-forged goblins,which are spectacular. I'll be posting my thoughts, and my experiences converting some of their standard troopers into a command group, shortly.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Slime Beast!

Just a quick post today - Meet the Slime Beast! This is an original sculpt, done in Milliput and green stuff, then cast in resin as an experiment/learning experience. The sculpt was inspired by the classic D&D adventure, "Night of the Walking Wet," by Paul Jaquays, and by way too many man-in-a-rubber-suit monster movies...

This is the first cast out of the mold, and since this is all new to me, and I therefore made some mistakes, he came out missing his right arm below the elbow and parts of his left hand, along with a few bits of his feet. After sculpting in new bits to replace those lost, I stuck him to a base improvised from a button/pin/badge/pin-back part and painted him up. The paint job is very basic, as you can see... Black undercoat, dark green basecoat, drybrush, detailing, and all finished up with a coat of Future floor wax, my gloss varnish of choice. Normally I use a matte varnish after the Future to kill the shine, but in this case, I figured he's a slime beast and most likely shiny.

Here he is with a Reaper sorceress for scale. I'll be writing about the mold making and casting process soon; what I did, what I did wrong, what I learned, et cetera. Comments welcome...

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Some old stuff from the lead pile... And a Martian white ape

Here are some more old figures - Custom Cast LOTR Hill Trolls from the mid-seventies. While I really like the figures, they don't have the height or mass to be convincing trolls at 25mm. Maybe 15mm would work... They usually saw use as goblins, bugbears or orcs in my games.

As you can see, the paint job on these guys is a pretty slapdash affair. They've been consigned to the jar of Simple Green on my kitchen counter to strip off the old paint, so these pictures count as the before shot of a forthcoming before-and-after post.

Another old model; a medusa from Superior, which I painted with Testors enamels in the mid-eighties. The mid-eighties to the early nineties was my most productive miniature painting and gaming time, but the years and poor treatment have taken their toll on a lot of my figures from back then, and I'm currently stripping and repainting scores of old miniatures. Most of them will probably turn up on this blog sooner or later.

Into the Simple Green with her! She's sharing the jar with the hill trolls, a bunch of Citadel dwarves, some Citadel Nightmare Legion skeletons, and a handful of other old figures. 

And now, for something completely different...
This white ape was sculpted by my brother Tom, at my request. Tom usually sculpts larger, fine art type things - You can see some of his work at (Watch it though - His subject matter tends towards the bizarre, and some of the images are definitely not safe for work).

Tom sculpted the original in Super Sculpey, his medium of choice. I can't stand the stuff, personally... It's like sculpting with bubblegum, and I don't like having to bake the pieces to harden them, but lots of people swear by it, and I suppose the non-hardening aspect becomes important when working on larger pieces.

Anyway, once the master was done, he had a few cast in bronze, his usual casting material, and gave me one to paint up. This is the first time I've worked with a bronze miniature, and it took some time to get the figure ready to paint. 

As supplied, the ape had no base, tabs or anything to attach him to a base, just rather small areas of his feet filed flat. Bronze is heavier than white metal, and with the figure so top-heavy, i didn't trust glue alone to hold him to a base. Pinning was the obvious answer, but in addition to being heavier than white metal, bronze is harder as well. Out came the Dremel tool, and two drill bits (and a lot of patience) later, I had two holes drilled deep enough into his feet to accept some heavy wire. 
The base was built up on a commemorative coin I got in the mail from a charity I donated a few dollars to, using a mixture of Milliput and green stuff. I stuck the pins into the soft putty, then removed them and let the stuff dry before attaching the ape with five-minute epoxy.

He's currently undercoated in black gesso, and I hope to get him painted this week.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Some old hobbits

I'm not sure about the little guy in the blue cloak, but the other two are Custom Cast LOTR figures from the mid-seventies. These guys were all painted about a year or so ago.

Three more of the Custom Cast hobbits. All of these figures are based on US pennies, and were painted with cheap craft paints... I painted them just before ordering the Coat d'Arms paints I'm using now.

I have six or eight more of these little guys in the unpainted lead pile, which I'll probably get painted up soon. A hobbit warband might be fun for a skirmish game...

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Well Drakken Completed

Well, here he is, in all his glory. The base was started with wall spackle, as shown in the last post, with the broken cork rocks glued on. I followed that with a coat of white glue and brown paint mixed together, then dipped the base into a box of sand. Various shades of brown were applied once the sand dried, then patches of watered down glue and flock. 

The cork "rocks" got a streaky, thin wash of gray paint, which allows the various shades of the cork to show through and made for easy, realistic rocks. Glue and flock (a different shade this time, to make it look slightly different than the ground cover) took care of the moss on the rocks, and small patches of static grass help break up the look of the ground.

The pool of water was scraped out of the spackle right at the beginning, and I painted the bottom and sides in various dark browns and greens. The reeds are model railroad tall grass, trimmed, the ends dipped in white glue and allowed to dry to a tacky state before sticking them to the bottom of the pool. The water is 5 minute epoxy, mixed carefully to avoid bubbles and dripped in one drop at a time using a toothpick.

And that's pretty much it for the old guy. In spite of what I said in my last post, I have a feeling this model's gaming days are over. There's too much scenery on the base for him to look right on the table, at least in my opinion. He'd be dragging a couple of boulders and a pool of water around with him wherever he went, and that strikes me as a little silly...

I'm happy to have him looking this good, though. Like I said, I really love the sculpt, and if I decide I want one of these for the game table, there's always eBay.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Ral Partha Well Drakken 1983

A few pics of a current work in progress, Ral Partha's "Well Drakken" from 1983. I've had this model for years, and for most of those years it wore an unflattering dark blue paint job. Here it is stripped and repainted, with some work started on a scenic base for the old boy. I just love this sculpt; reminds me of Brian Froud's artwork...

The base is a slab of wood built up with wall spackling compound, with bits of cork glued on for rocks and a couple spots gouged out to create pools of stagnant, brackish water. My plan is to go for a swamp look for the base, with lots of vegetation and wet areas. I may even try my hand at sculpting some water plants similar to those draped over the figure itself to place over one or two of the rocks and tie the base in with the model... We'll see.

The base might, at first glance, seem a little large for gaming purposes, but I figure with arms that long this guy has to have a hell of a reach.I'm particularly pleased with the look of the vegetation on the figure... It looks appropriately filthy and nasty...

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

First Post

The first post to a blog is usually a pretty tedious affair, introducing the blogger and maybe discussing some plans for what the blog will be about. I suppose I could buck the trend and jump right into a post with some substance, but why break with tradition?

My introduction to painting miniatures came at an early age. I was about five years old when my parents bought me a set of lead dinosaurs, which puts it at around 1980. The set came with a starter paint set and brushes, so I dutifully followed the instruction sheet that came in the box and painted them up. As I recall, I followed the suggested colors for the bulk of the models, but got creative with the tyrannosaur and gave it a brown and gray mottled pattern. I still have a couple of those models today, although most of the paint has long since worn off.

I had a few Dungeons and Dragons books then, although it would be a few years before I was able to grasp the concepts of the game. By the time I was eight or nine, though, I was a D&D junkie, a condition that worsened and persisted until my late teens, with a few recurrences through my twenties. Along with the One True Game, I played lots of other fantasy and SF games, most of them of the role-playing variety but several miniature wargames as well.

I've only recently come back to the hobby, if one discounts the occasional figure painted for kicks. Some of my musings may seem hopelessly out of date to younger hobbyists or to those who never left - The only edition of Warhammer 40K I'm familiar with is the first, for example - but hopefully you'll find something of interest here.

My main areas of interest are fantasy and SF miniatures, and I'm most drawn to older figures (pre-1990 in the main). I have a couple of projects in the works right now, including building a few different fantasy and SF armies which range in size from modest warbands for skirmish games to huge armies which will ultimately consist of hundreds of models. I'm also working on painting all of my old, unpainted figures, touching up and basing those models which are salvageable, and stripping and repainting those that are not. So there should be lots of stuff to read on here as these progress, assuming I can maintain the energy to document and write about all of this while I'm doing it!