Saturday, December 29, 2012

Master of War - Finished!


At last, Master of War has been completed. For such a small vignette I am surprised it took me nearly a month to complete. Of course, with a wife and three kids, attempting to model during the busy Christmas season can be an exercise in futility. An hour or two of modeling here or there is all I can expect.

Any how, if you're just joining me, this is a vignette using two action figures from the popular Halo 4 video game for XBox 360. The two main characters you see are a vanquished Elite Zealot, and the ever victorious John-117, better known as Master Chief.
I decided to call this piece Master of War because of the word play associated with John-117's rank, as well as the fact that the Master Chief is truly unbeatable.
After undergoing Spartan II augmentation procedures under the UNSC Naval Special Warfare Command, his reflexes were faster, his strength was greater, eyesight enhanced, and his bones nearly unbreakable. Since then, he has survived the battles and hardships of nearly thirty years of active duty service, becoming a hero of the UNSC during the Human-Covenant War, and is one of the most decorated warriors of the United Nations Space Command. He is a salty old, die-hard Marine.

Enough said. Here are the final pictures. What I've tried to depict is the Zealot in his final moments. The world has crashed down around him, enveloping him in rubble. Such a large and dominate figure is the Zealot that he must be thinking how could this happen? When through the dust and smoke emerges Master Chief. Standing tall and unshaken, looking down on his defeated opponent. The Zealot can do nothing but grope in defiance, and look upon the masked figure of John-117, the last thing he will ever see.....






And with that I leave you with the theme song for this build.....



Friday, December 28, 2012

Meng Model Video Reviews

Aside from building my own models, I take great interest in watching what other modelers can do. There is a lot of talent out there, and I find it inspiring and motivational. Plus, it is easier to understand a tip or a technique being described verbally, and visually on the screen, as opposed to reading text from a scale modeling publication. So I am always appreciative whenever a useful video is produced.
I have two video reviews for you today. Both are detailed build logs for two Meng Model kits: The Merkava Mk.3D and the A39 Tortoise.

Let's start with the Merkava.


Meng Model 1/35 Merkava Mk.3D Guidance Video

This video has been around for nearly two months now, hitting Youtube on Warfare in Scale's channel back in October. It has gotten plenty of views since, but has only recently endorsed by Meng Model, which isn't much of a surprise since they have only been posting videos on their channel for a handful of months.
The video is just over thirty-five minutes long, or long enough to view on your lunch break...
We are introduced to Juan Carlos Carmona, host and modeler throughout the video. He speaks Spanish throughout the video, but for those of you who do not understand the language, take heart, there are subtitles. The video does not show much of the building process, giving me no feel for the actual kit itself. Instead, Juan concentrates mostly on painting and weathering. One of the finer techniques used in the video describes how he creates the non-skid surface common to modern day AFVs.
He deals exclusively in Vallejo paints and products, and relays exactly what colors he is using for each process. I believe most newer modelers will find it useful to see a pre-shade technique in action, which Juan shows quite well here. However, his use of color modulation was difficult to make out on such a lightly colored subject. Never the less, the viewer is treated to nice examples of weathering using dot filters, replicating chipped paint, and how to produce convincing yet subtle dirt and rust streaks.
To round out the build, Juan paints the markings with a PE mask, and compliments them with some kit included decals. Finally, a wash is applied with an airbrush - a technique I've never witnessed - and finishes with dust, and spattered mud.
The only downside to this video was the sound track. Often loud and distracting, it didn't seem to coincide with what I was watching, and at other times, dead air left something to be desired to stem the awkward silence. Despite this, the video was informative, and the end product is stunning. I enjoyed watching Juan intricately place his paint and weathering with a purpose. The video concludes with some great close up shots, really show casing Meng's product and Juan's work.
I would have liked to see a bit more of the model itself, in terms of parts and detail, but overall the video was a good watch.
But don't take my word for it!
Watch the Meng Model buidling guidance video for the 1/35 IDF Merkava Mk.3D for yourself!

And now for the A39 Tortoise!


1/35 A39 Tortoise Heavy Assault Tank Video

This video was produced again by Warfare in Scale and covers another Meng Model subject. This video is fairly new, posted on December 24th while most of us were celebrating Christmas Eve. Its barely shy of thirty-five minutes, and a clean shaven Juan Carlos Carmona returns to regale us with his modeling splendor...in Spanish, of course, but with the ever appreciated subtitles.
This video gives me a better grasp of the kits details, and even gives a glimpse of the instructions. Juan includes a bit more technical advice in this video, offering pointers for priming as well as replacing the kit's grab handles with bits of wire. In similar fashion to the Merkava video, we are informed of every color being used, all while more terribly distracting music is played. 
I found this video to be more visually interesting as Juan varies the color of the Tortoise using far more rust effects, and weathering techniques to replicate an abandoned piece of British armor. One can see exactly how pigments are used and placed, how a pin wash is applied, and how different aspects of weathering blend together to form a beautifully realistic model.
In the end, Juan uses Vallejo Still Water to create a wet appearance, implying a recent down poor, or morning dew, in the often rainy environment of England. He then compliments the Tortoise with a factory display base, showing how the vehicle was abandoned at the end of World War II. I would have liked to see a bit more of the detail that went into creating the base but it is understandably left out as the focus of the video is the model, not its surroundings. 
Again, aside from the weird choice in musical accompaniment, the video is informative and showcases the model and Juan's skills quite well. 

Thoughts on the videos.
I found both videos interesting, and short enough not to devote a great deal of time to watching but long enough to include enough detail. They are not necessarily "how-to" videos but they do visually relay some good points and techniques. In the end, you can see how an impressive model is made, from start to finish...just don't watch them with the sound on...

Thursday, December 27, 2012

New Pre-thinned Acrylic Paints from Testors


Testors has produced a line of paint that will compliment their Aztek line of airbrushes. This new airbrushable acrylic paint will require no thinner and should be able to shoot through any airbrush on the market, which is good considering I use a Paasche.

The new paints come in a wide variety of colors, 40 to be exact, but with names like Pearl Green and Florescent Magenta, these colors may not be ideal for the military modeler. No where do I read Olive Drab, or Russian Armor Green on their paint chart. Despite this, there are some relevant colors and the range of transparent hues can come in handy for tinted canopies, or vision blocks.

I am curious to see how they will stack up against other Testors' paint products like Model Masters or Floquil. And at $5.99 for a 2oz bottle, they are fairly priced, but without enough pigments geared toward the military modeler, it may be a while before I give them a shot.

Meng Model's AMX-30 Main Battle Tank




Meng Model has released another addition to its series of unique armor subjects in 1/35 scale - the French AMX-30B Main Battle Tank. It is a fine looking tank that hasn't saturated the market in scale, and resembles a mix between a Leopard and an M-60, which is no surprise since it was preceded by the M-47 Patton.

The Kit:
There are plenty of moving parts on the completed model - both the main gun and the 20mm cannon are able to elevate independently; the commander's cupola will rotate 360 degrees; the running gear, torsion bar, and shock absorbers can all be articulated, along with the workable tracks, to provide plenty of options for modelers who would prefer to display this monster on a finished base or a diorama. The kit even includes an elaborate little tool to assist in the assembly of the tracks, and allows the included photo-etched parts to be bent to the exact shape - a priceless little addition if you ask me.

The majority of the kit is molded in green plastic, but there are also brown sprues, as well as clear parts. Decals and two color options are also available.
For more details and photos visit Meng Model.



Wednesday, December 26, 2012

New Additions to the Workshop

I hope every one had a great holiday, but now that Christmas is over its time to get back to the workshop! Santa was good to me this season as three new kits were added to my modest stash. A 1/72 F-16CG/CJ Fighting Falcon from Academy, Revell's 1/72 scale Panzerhaubitze 2000, and a 1/48 Stuka also from Revell.


I can't complain about any of these kits. For the first time in our twelve year history together, my wife purchased a model for me without my knowledge. The Stuka, which she picked from the shelves of the local AC Moore, is a common kit but one I have never built. The F-16 is particularly exciting because it is the aircraft I work on as a member of the US Air Force, and for some one who models within the limited space of a dining room table, 1/72 is the perfect scale for modern day jets. Lastly, the Panzerhaubitze is a mouthful to say and a very unique subject; a nice digression from the aircraft I typically build.

Also under the tree for me were nine Star Wars action figures which will look fantastic in several large scale dioramas I have planned for this year.


So, 2013 bodes well for the Workshop, and I would love to chat a little bit more about what else I got for Christmas, but I've got some building to do!
Happy holidays!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Master of War - Part V: Ground Work



This project is nearing an end with one of the final steps being the ground work for the diorama. This is a fairly small base so finding a way to creatively place two larger figures on it where it wouldn't look terribly crowded was a small challenge. If I couldn't expand outward, I would have to utilize more elevation. If I was to add ground upward, I would need a frame to contain it all.
Doing so was fairly simple. I cut out two retaining walls from picture frame matte material and glued them to the base.



 This way I could easily build upward without it spilling over the sides. Once the walls were up, I had to figure out the correct placement of the Zealot. After he found a comfortable position, crumpled up tissue paper filled the gaps around him, building up the retaining walls. All of this would be a filler to support the celluclay that I would lay down on top of it.





Blue painters tape was used to secure the tissue
paper and seal it from the moisture present in the celluclay that would soon be applied. It also gave me a nice visual as to how the finished product would look.








Making this base was simple. The wood plaque was purchased for only around $3.00 from Michael's Arts and Crafts. To create the rubble effect, I would use a celluclay base, mixed with white glue, some gray acrylic paint, and cat litter. On top of that I used some crumbled dry wall for the larger chunks of rock and stone, and compliment that with some pieces from an old resin church kit I purchased a long time ago.

The finished product produces a convincing look of rubble. I wanted to portray the Zealot as the defeated opponent, which will soon be clear once Master Chief takes his place. Before that can happen though, I need to finish painting the ground work. After giving it a day or so to dry, it will be ready to accept some paint. I hope you are enjoying this so far! Stay tuned for part VI, the final product!



Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Master of War - Part IV: Painting Elite Zealot


Welcome to part IV of this project. Its coming to a close very quickly. In tonight's installment, I have completed painting the monstrous Elite Zealot. Much like his adversary, the Master Chief, this Zealot is an incredibly detailed representation, and he was fun to paint.

I started again with a flat base coat of grays for his skin and brown for his armor. I used the tried and true acrylic paints from Vallejo that brush paint beautifully onto most surfaces. This time I was not concerned with applying a wash as I felt his skin and armor bore grooves that were deep enough to provide enough shadow naturally, and applying a wash might have been too stark a contrast. So once the base was down, I dry brushed lighter browns and grays across the grotesque alien.


Once I was satisfied, I added some saliva by applying some hot glue, which I thought came out pretty well but didn't photograph as well as I would have liked. But it adds a nice alien-esque touch, and my wife was creeped out so that was a plus as well.


Then I detailed his helmet for good measure.


 Beyond that, there wasn't much else I needed to do. I feel like the dry brushing really added some great texture to his skin and armor, and the drool gave him a bit more realism.
Next up will be the ground work and then final assembly! Hope you're as excited to see the finished product as I am.
Thanks for reading!

Customer Service That Doesn't Stink!



Often times it can be difficult to find quality service from today's retailers and industries. Whether it is a delay in answering emails, trouble delivering products on time, or the inability to return a damaged item, it is easy to be confronted with obstacles in the consumer world. Well, today I bring you a story that is a sweet departure from the world of outsourced call centers, and obstinate corporate heads.

This story begins around Thanksgiving Day when my dad found a kit I must have left at my parents house after I moved out. Truly, I couldn't believe that I would do a thing like that, and to this day I don't remember ever having Monogram's 1/48 Messerschmitt Me-109G in my possession.


When I looked inside the box, a receipt was still in it, dating back twelve years to only three days before my birthday. It was likely a gift that I had forgotten amidst the interests that arise during the high school years. Upon further inspection, I realized that the clear parts sprue was missing. The canopy and windscreen were not there at all.
Not to be deterred, I jumped online about a week ago to see what Revell could do for me. To be honest, I was a bit skeptical, not knowing how they would treat an older kit that isn't even on the market any more. I was pleased to see that Revell makes ordering parts simple, with their Request Form on their Parts and Service page. All I had to do was provide an address, the kit number and part number, and hope for the best. I hadn't expected the parts to arrive for maybe a month and a half, if not more. They showed up on Monday!
My windscreen and canopy were in a small plastic bag, contained in a protective cardboard box. A lot can be said for hassle free, no cost customer service, a characteristic that is hard to come by in some places. So, hats off to you, Revell, for making the reunion between modeler and long lost kit even more enjoyable!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Model Maniacs


What I love about modeling is that there is no limit to what you can do. If you have the time, the money, and the motivation you can build as much or as little as you want. I mean, if you want a complete navy made out of matchsticks then go for it. If you want a mechanically functioning 1/16 scale aluminum P-51 or F-4U Corsair, or even a model made entirely out of leftovers, nothing should keep you from fulfilling your vision! Me? Well, my vision doesn't include me going crazy so I'll stick to my modest stash of plastic models.
Happy modeling!

For more info on those large scale planes, check THIS out. The mind boggles.

Workshop Headlines - New Release from Master Box Ltd


I appreciate dioramas with a flare for the dramatic, and Dragon Models USA has announced the impending release of several boxed figure sets coming from Master Box Ltd that fit that category.
The one that intrigues me the most is the 1/35 "Vickers Machine Gun Team" pictured above. The kit includes four figures: a two-man British Vickers machine gun team, and two fallen DaK German figures. They were generous enough to also include the machine gun.
I have never built a kit from Master Box Ltd but this one is compelling enough to give it a try. It could build up into a nice little vignette or diorama.



You can check out this kit, and the other upcoming releases from Master Box Ltd here. Look for these items to hit stores in January 2013.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Master of War - Part III: Painting


The Chief's New Clothes
In this part I move on to my favorite part of any modeling project. Painting. Applying layers of color gives the model, whatever it may be, new life and character. The paint scheme of a model tells the story; where the person or vehicle has been, and what it has done. This is implied visually, through the careful application of paint, accentuating highlights and shadows.
You may be wondering why I should waste time painting a figure that already has sufficient color and character. To that I say why limit myself to what the manufacturer provides? To me, the original action figure is very one dimensional, no changes in tone, no color variation. I like to change that.

To start, I gave the Master Chief a base coat using Model Color acrylic paints by Vallejo. Vallejo acrylics, in my opinion, are some of the best paints to use on figures. They brush on very well, unlike Tamiya acrylics for instance.




Now Chief is looking pretty factory-fresh. Not a bad look really, but I want to add some depth to him. So I gave him a wash using Artist Oils burnt umber. It penetrates all the nooks and crannies in his armor and allowed the raised detail to pop. The great thing about this figure is the detail. It reminds me very much of painting a tank.
After the wash, I applied several layers of dry brushing, using consecutively lighter applications of the base green color mixed with yellow.

 







Once completed, the Master Chief looks a bit more dynamic. He also looks like he has been immersed in the thick of battle, rather than just standing around looking good. The shadows contrast the highlights nicely, and the detail stands out well. Some may say I'm a bit heavy handed with the dry brushing. Perhaps I am, but I really like how everything is defined. 

I will add some weathering effects, like chipping, mud stains, and whatever else accumulates on armor during combat. Of course, that will all come later as I tie in the ground work to the figures. For now, the Master Chief is complete and it is time to move on to the Elite Zealot.

I hope you enjoy this so far, and thanks for following along!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Master of War - Part II: Figure Prep Continued...

Don't look at it! 

After giving these two action figures a much needed bath, it was time to turn them into something more realistic and less, you know, action figury...
One of the biggest barriers to realism on an action figure are their fingers. In most cases, the fingers do not articulate, and for good reason. Why should they? They are meant for holding guns, and spears, and a cold beer after a long battle. They don't need to be making peace signs. However, if one needs to make a figure look as life-like as possible, certain things need to be altered.
As the picture shows above, I've taken a sharp blade and separated the index finger from the ring finger. It is a simple process, just a steady hand is needed.


Once I did this, I needed to form his hand and finger to accept his weapon in a more human fashion. I filled a small cup with hot water, and another cup with cold water. Then I dipped is trigger hand into the hot water for about 30 seconds, until it was nice and malleable, making his index finger easier to position. After repositioning his finger I dunked his hand in the cold water, helping to set it in place. I was quite pleased with the final result.


You can see that his weapon fits, and looks better in his hand now that his trigger finger sits snugly where it is suppose to...on the trigger.



I performed similar steps on the left hand, opening it up slightly, because no one walks around with their hands ready to grip large cylindrical objects.


Once the hands were formed to my liking, I moved on to filling seams and joints. It is a harder task than I would like to admit. Tedious and time consuming, and for a time, I thought of abandoning the process altogether. I carried on, with fair results. For this step I first attempted to use White Putty, which was useless for this venture, as it was too soft for such large gaps. I quickly swapped the White Putty for Milliput, which is a two compound putty that when combined solidifies within several hours.


Milliput was easy to shape, and softens slightly when you apply a dash of water to it. I spread the putty around, shaping it as necessary with a tooth pick dipped in warm water. These action figures have many points of articulation, so this was definitely a time consuming project.



You can see that a lot of putty was necessary, just for one joint. Never the less, it turned out quite well, especially given my initial distaste. The same treatment was given to the big Elite Zealot. 
I'm glad that figure preparation is complete and we can now move on to bigger and better things, like primer and paint! 

Hope you enjoyed this installment of Master of War. Stay tuned for Part III!

Workshop Headlines - NECA to Release 7" Dutch Schaefer


To ring in the 25th Anniversary of the film Predator, NECA is set to release Predators Series 8 featuring a 7 inch tall, though no less muscular, Arnold Schwarzenegger who played Dutch Schaefer. He will come in two versions in this series: Jungle Extraction Dutch and Jungle Patrol Dutch (seen above).
NECA produces some of the finest, and most detailed action figures on the market, and they certainly continued the trend here. Along with Dutch, the collection in Series 8 includes the Masked Jungle Hunter Predator and each figure comes with an assortment of weapons.

There is no way this figure does not make the perfect character for an even more perfect diorama. If I don't do it, some else do it. And if it isn't called "Get to da choppa" then you should rethink your life choices...



For more looks at this figure, check them out HERE!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Master of War - Part II : Figure Prep


Bathtime!

Prior to doing anything to them, it is important for the Action Figures to have good hygiene. Not only will a bath eliminate all that foul body odor (Action Figures tend to sweat after countless hours of saving the universe), but it will hopefully allow the paint to bond with the figure when it comes time to apply the paint. Why is that, you ask? Well, if you read up on your Action Figure anatomy, you would know that most action figures are molded from plastic resin, known as acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, or if that is too much to say, ABS will do. The trick here is that in the manufacturing process, once the resin is set in the mold it can be difficult to remove. Therefore, a lubricating release agent is used to remove the resin. This lubricant coats the figure in a thin layer and is often resistant to paint. Giving my little friends here a bath should solve the problem.


As you can see, it is a simple process. A small Tupperware will suffice, filled with water and some dish soap. Since neither of them threatened to drown the other, I let them soak for several hours, or until their fingers were nice and pruney...After that, I rinsed them off in the sink and let them air dry over night.

Now that the bath is complete, tonight I will move on to the next step - gluing joints and filling seams! Its a bit tedious, but necessary to achieve a life-like appearance.
Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Master of War - Part I : Composition

Composition is arguably the most important element in any diorama, or any work of art for that matter. It is the way all the elements are combined to form the whole. It is how ideas, and words are combined to form a well written essay. It is how ingredients compliment each other in a delicious culinary master piece. Without proper composition, the work suffers.

A diorama can be used to depict a three-dimensional, full sized or smaller scale scene or model. The word originated in France in the 1820's and means "through that which is seen". Most people should be familiar with the large scale dioramas on display in natural history museums which often exhibit stuffed exotic animals posed in their natural habitats. In a diorama or a vignette, one simply takes a model and displays it in its own environment, using elements like ground work, vehicles, or other figures to create a scene.
In scale modeling communities, it is accepted that a diorama is "a story-based display of figures or figures and vehicles on a landscaped base". Vignettes, on the other hand, do not have to tell a particular story. They can simply be a brief window of time, capturing a single image. For instance, my Micro AT-AT would be considered a vignette, as it includes ground work but no additional features to give it a story. One could argue that my more recent Yoda in the Hood is also more of a vignette than a diorama. It all depends on how you define a story
Either way, if a diorama is to be story based, then you can see how composition is imperative. The characters, whether it is a vehicle, or a figure, must be displayed in such a manner that the story line is clear and visible. Random placement of objects on a base would be like incoherent rambling on a college paper that is due the next day. Everything must blend together, to leave no questions in the viewers mind. What is he looking at? Where are they going? What is that vehicle doing? Query's like that should not have to be voiced, the answer being immediately clear.

I have done several dioramas in my day. Not with action figures, but with 1/35 scale military figures. I was not skilled enough back then (or perhaps it was a question of will) to modify the figures to fit my needs. Instead, I based the composition of my dioramas on the poses the kit figures already had. If a guy was firing a rifle, I had to find room in my story for a guy firing a rifle, and so on. Action figures can be posed in many ways, depending on the quality of the figure. This has enabled me to change the position of the characters in my scene, very easily, without compromising the story I want to tell. 

When I get a hold of an action figure, I already start to think about what I can do with him. What story can I tell? The composition starts to form, and the action figure can bend fluidly with every change I make. Then I decide on the other ingredients, like the ground work, and other figures, and it all starts to take shape. When I have decided on the final story line, I will configure the characters in the positions that I like, glue the joints and fill the seams, making them appear more life-like. Then the process of building the diorama can begin until the full tale is revealed.

Last night I spent around thirty minutes fiddling with the Master Chief and Elite Zealot, ensuring that their poses were just right, and the way they would play off each other made sense. The Master Chief, looking larger than life, standing tall over a fallen Zealot. The Zealot, reaching up in defiance. I hope you will enjoy how this one turns out!

Now, I can begin sealing and repainting these two combatants. Thanks for reading!



Monday, November 26, 2012

Coming Attraction...

So, now that I have completed the scene for Master Yoda, it is time to move on. After doing two relatively small vignettes featuring very little compelling action, it is time for a change of pace...and subject matter.

Enter, Master Chief.


Master Chief Petty Officer John 117 is the protagonist from the fictional Halo universe. He is probably one of the most recognizable characters in the video game industry over the last couple of years. He is an icon, and I will admit, he is probably one of the coolest looking characters I have seen...second only to Boba Fett. He looks as if he will win every fight, every time. By himself.
To be clear, I can not stand the video game...can you fault a guy for hating a game he sucks at? No. Don't judge me. But I find the look and mystery of his character intriguing and a good subject for my first in-depth build.
Every good protagonist needs an antagonist.

Enter, the Elite Zealot.


 The Elite Zealot is a high ranker member of the Covenant, whose size, armor, and weaponry makes for a formidable opponent. In this case, he will be pitted against the Master Chief himself. 
Both of these figures are readily available, and fairly inexpensive for the quality that they are. The whole Halo 4 series set is also available online, like HERE.
This will be a challenge to fill in all the seams and joints, repaint them, and present them in a fashion that I will be happy with. I hope you will follow along, and enjoy!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Yoda in the Hood


What I've done here is clearly tongue-in-cheek and I'm sure there are many a Star Wars loyalist that would be up in arms about it. However, I'm hoping you have at least a small sense of humor, or at least an appreciation for the unique.
I wanted to re-imagine the experience of Yoda as he escapes the fall of the Republic and retreats into exile. The movies do not cover Yoda's life between Episode III and when we are reunited with the Jedi Master in Empire Strikes Back. In fact, I did not even know what was written about that time period in Yoda's experience until reading about him on Wookiepedia the other day.
In the version depicted here, after being forced to leave Coruscant, Yoda attempts to hide out on a remote planet in the Outer Rim territories known as Earth - a backward planet no one would ever think to look. There he took up residence in the back streets of a bustling urban center, volunteering at a soup kitchen while schooling disadvantaged youth in the evils of the Empire and galactic gentrification or some such. When the bounty on his head grew larger, it wasn't long before the Empire realized his whereabouts. Prior to fleeing to the comparably unbearable mud hole that is Dagobah, Yoda would leave his mark. Here I have caught him in the act...

For as simple as it is, I quite enjoyed this. Much of what you see here, with the exception of the little Jedi, is made of material you can find in your house - cardboard, foam core, a jar lid, wire, to name a few. I hope you enjoy it!




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