Note: I apologize in advance for the delay. The family took an impromptu vacation last week among other responsibilities that have cropped up.
Before I begin I have to say that I never expected to be doing any type of tutorial on my website. As time has gone on my interest in this hobby have gone from purely painting to “forging a narrative (collective groan here).” Building my own miniatures from bits and sculpting elements of them, giving them stories and developing each of them, has really amped up my enjoyment of the hobby. Much more than any codex or model that Games Workshop has released of late.
As a person who offers commissions I think some people feel that sharing hobby knowledge with the
unwashed masses of the internet potential customers goes against every sane business decision. Why give when you can sell. However, I believe that the core of my business is comprised of people who simply don’t have enough time. The bulk of my customers are avid gamers that just want their armies to look good when they get an opportunity to play a round. If they had the same type of passion for the hobby as I do (not discounting passion for the story or overall game), they would be doing it for themselves as much as me. Because that experience is personal.
I don’t feel bad sharing these tips and tricks with everyone. I don’t want to make money on this type of thing unless some simply can’t do it with their skill set or simply doesn’t have time to learn. We should be expanding the hobby, particularly in these types of fields, because we WANT Games Workshop and others to notice what we really want out of our models and our games. We want them to change some of their design practices. We want them to considering being something more than the same thing they’ve been in the past.
Sorry for the tangent, I just wanted to express that growing the hobby and taking ownership of it in your own way is what this should truly be all about and my site and blog will reflect that accordingly over the coming weeks.
In the last article I came up with a shopping list of all the kits, parts, and components we would need to complete a ten man squad of true scale space marines. Hopefully in the break between these articles, if you are following along, you’ve had an opportunity to pick up those items and you are ready to get started.
[ Now I recommended the clay shapers, they aren’t 100% necessary, just… like 99% necessary… look, you probably should have gotten them. ]
I purchased the tactical squad in its entirety from a great ebay seller who has the absolute rock bottom prices for this stuff. I recommend getting the entire kit because we will need everything but the legs to complete our figures. They don’t send the box to save on shipping costs, which is free to you in addition to a nice discount. I already own the vanilla terminator kit, which is
shit lackluster (Don’t get excited, the new ones are shit shit too), so I opted to buy just another set of legs and torsos from a reputable bits dealer on ebay for a total of ten legs and torsos.
If you are working on Blood Angels, Dark Angels, Space Wolves, etc. you might have some extra work cut out for you. I’m making an Ultramarines army because, internet be damned, I love them. Most of the more advanced kits will be the same, except for maybe the sergeant figure having a loin cloth or a toga, but if you follow the instructions and cut around those elements as best you can, leaving them intact, they should be excellent details for your new marines.
I had Aves Fixit, clay shapers, and the Evergreen 1mm card in my studio already.
For the bulk of the work you’ll need a small selection of standard tools. All of these can be picked up at a local hobby store or a Hobby Lobby. I have a few Games Workshop pieces from my ignorant earlier days in the hobby, but they still serve their purpose. Their are “generic” versions of all these items. Don’t get suckered into paying for the Games Workshop nonsense unless you can get a nice discount.
Cutting Mat – I have an 18″x24″ Mat and as you can see it is well worn. I have bled with this mat and we have vanquished many a miniature to Sto’Vo’Kor on her gridded surface.
Rigid bristle brush – from the defunct citadel mold line clean up kit. Came with a really poor mold line remover and this handy dandy brush with plastic bristles. I use it to clean the plastic feces from the crevices of the model after i sand, cut, whatever. Creating true scale marines is a dirty job, so we need to keep the miniature clean.
Exacto knife – Get a standard one with a comfortable grip. Get the #11 blades. You need a few fresh blades for this project. And, please, be careful. This is the primary reason I have bled “with” my mat.
File – A small, flat file from a standard set or a flat “jewelers” file is fine.
Sprue cutter – a strong sprue cutter, particularly the large one from the jewelry making section of Hobby Lobby will make plastic its bitch.
Seam Scraper – This piece is optional and kind of specialty. As far as i know it can only be bought from micro mark for an exorbitant price. However, i use this tool everyday and couldn’t do my work without it. The price is worth it if you use it nearly as much as I do. When it gets dull, run your flat file over the edges to sharpen it back up.
Cork Backed ruler – Essential. Pick this up at hobby lobby near the drafting supplies. I use the six inch version. For miniatures you rarely need more than a six inch cut, however because of my art background I have the entire line. You will need this for scoring styrene sheet in a straight line.
Razor/ “Bone” Saw – This is the citadel turd saw. Luckily, it’s no longer made because i guess Games Workshop doesn’t believe you’ll ever want to cut up there
monopose awesome miniatures. Just get a hobby saw with a metal or wooden handle and interchangeable blades. We will be using this to hack the legs apart at the shins. The amount of debris this creates is why we need the plastic brush.
Glue – Not pictured, but i figured this was obvious. Since we are going to be gluing to putty, cyanoacrylate type glue is best. Preferably one with a precision applicator. An accelerator is your call but I recommend against it in this case.
This is a process that requires patience. You are working with sharp tools on a figure smaller than your thumb. Just take your time. These figures won’t come together overnight. The kits are expensive and ruining an element, particularly a leg or front torso from the terminator kit, is the end of your progress until you can source a new piece. Observe your work before you cut. Make cuts slowly and purposefully (away from you). Overall, be safe!
I’ve got my five terminator legs in front of me. Each of them look like kids straining not to shit themselves. I hate Games Workshop posing if you haven’t gathered that from my angry rants in every article I write. I’m going to start with the fourth set in the picture, the walking legs, for this tutorial. I think these are the most versatile and have a good mix of elements I can discuss about removing.
1. Remove Mold Lines
You will have to remove the mold lines at some point. Now would probably be the best time to do that while the model is wholly intact. This is pretty self explanatory. If you are trying to create true scale marines I’m assuming you have some moderate hobby knowledge. But, for the sake of completeness, I’ll include this.
I use the file to remove the sprue connection points after cutting the element free. Gently grind those down to the surface of the miniature. You don’t need to push much. Use the brush to clean up the debris.
I use my seam scraper to dispatch the mold lines quickly. You can use your tool of preference. Most use a sharp hobby knife (front or back of the blade) or a file. Whatever works for you, do it. I find the micro mark seam scraper, with its pointed blade, gets into details and tight areas really nicely without sacrificing “handling.” I can use it to quickly resculpt or chisel out details too.
2. Remove Knee Detail
Because these are terminator legs they are festooned with all sorts of 1st company and veteran markings. Unless you are creating a 1st company unit, command squad, or veteran sergeant, all these markings need to be removed.
To remove large amounts of plastic, I like to cut down the area with my sprue cutters. Remove small chucks of the icon bit by bit, whittling the icon down roughly to the surface of the knee pad. Make sure you observe the surrounding areas to properly gauge how far you should be cutting away. The cutters can easily get away from you in this situation and you’ll find yourself cutting into the knee.
When you’ve removed the bulk of the icon, use your file to slowly sand away the remainder of the plastic around the top and edges. Observe carefully and round out the kneepad to bring it to an unaltered state. Look at the contour of the opposite kneepad and use it as a guide to help shape it up.
Referencing other parts of the model closely can help you make determinations about how something should look when it comes time to clean up. Checking for accurate cutting and cleaning depth, as well as checking for accurate measurements are all things you’ll find yourself doing repeatedly during the true scaling process.
3. Remove Purity Seal
This model has a sculpted on purity seal on one of the right thigh armor which I want to remove. Because purity seals can be attached separately I don’t believe these types of details should ever be sculpted on, but that is my personal opinion. Sculpted on details like purity seals can lead to reduced details in other areas, such as joints that are part of the core model, which is why I think these types of things should be separately applied.
To remove this one, I take my sprue cutters and lay the flat side of the cutter on the thigh guard, using it as a straight edge to make a straight cut. I sheer off the bulk of the purity seal in one, slow cut.
For the remainder of the ribbon I’ll, again, lay the flat side of the cutters against the bottom of the the thigh guard and trim away the ribbon pieces. What I can’t completely remove I’ll delicately remove using an exacto knife.
Smooth the surface of the thigh guard slowly with a file, careful to round it out like the other. I use the seam scraper to gently clean up the surface marring the file does to the piece.
4. Remove Knee Bolts
I like removing the armor knee joint bolts because I think it really brings home the tactical armor feel. They can be left on for a chunky, more mechanical look if that is what you are going for and it is used to good effect on other true scale projects. On chaos space marines i might leave them on to show the armor is older.
Using the sprue cutters, remove as much of the bolt as possible. Like cutting the purity seal, use the flat side of the cutters as a guide and you can usually remove the entire bolt, more or less in one cut. Once removed you’ll have a surface that looks integrated into the knee pad covering the exposed joint between the shin and thigh armor. Just clean the surface with a file and seam scraper.
Unless you are an experienced sculptor you may want to simply leave the joint alone at this point. Because of the plastic casting process the bolt detail rises from the surface of the joint. This means that if you wanted to remove the entire bolt down to the joint, you would have to dig out that plastic, reshape the knee pad, and possibly resculpt the entire rear knee joint. Not an impossible task, I’m just not entirely sure the results are worth the time and effort necessary for the first time modeler, plus you risk mutilating the part if you don’t have experience which can get costly after one or two of these terminator components becomes disfigured.
5. Remove Ankle Hoses
Some Space Marine tactical squad figures have ankle hoses on them, so you can leave these on, but i personally don’t like the way they look. I don’t think they are practical either. Having exposed hoses, containing whatever valuable fluids, hanging loose to get snagged in a war zone, probably isn’t the smartest idea. Off they come.
Use the sprue cutters, flat side against the shin armor, to make a straight cut and remove the hose. You’ll be left with part of the hose sculpted into the foot. Do the same to remove most of the hose there too. You’ll need to observe how the shin armor should look and carefully remove the hose remnants with a knife or seam scraper.
6. Remove Belt Buckle
The last component we need to remove is the belt buckle. Terminator belt buckles are usually veteran themed. Eventually we will replace this with the belt from a tactical squad front torso. Depending on the torso and the pose you are going for we may have to modify this later, but for now we’ll just remove the buckle and a bit of the belt around it to make room for the wider tactical belt.
Just use your hobby knife to slowly make a cut about 1mm wider than the actual buckle itself on either side. The buckle on the tactical squad kit is 4mm wide, so you’ll need an opening wide enough to accommodate. If you cut to much out we can always use some putty resculpt that area. Following the picture above cut into the belt towards the torso on either side of the belt like indicated on 1.
Because we are cutting into something that we can’t cut in a straight line we’ll have to cut the belt away at an angle. Look at 2 above. Cut one side, starting at the outer edge and cut at a slight angle towards the opposite interior side of the buckle, careful not to cut the torso. Do this on the opposite side to remove the bulk. Because of the cuts you made in 1 the belt material should come loose. Use the knife to cut away the rest and create a smooth surface. You can go over it with your seam scraper to smooth the surface down.
Now we’ve cleaned the miniature and removed all the details. Doing this now, before we make large cuts or we begin sculpting, will make the job much easier.
7. Making Cuts
We’ll use the razor saw to make two cuts, one on each leg. Because we are using a razor saw and not an exacto knife we will be cutting away material from the legs. That material will be destroyed in the cutting process, removing height if the components were glued back together. However, the razor saw is extremely thin and we’ll be inserting a 1mm plasticard spacer in between the components to actually replace the lost height and then some. Not an extremely noticeable amount, just enough to elongate the shin armor in a natural way. If you wanted a shorter marine you could vary up your forces by not cutting the legs. I think it makes the marine look more natural.
Secure the legs and use the razor saw to cut into the shin armor. Be as straight as possible. Don’t push down on the saw because this could cause it to wobble and mess up the straightness of the cut. If the cut is not straight the component could look odd, or the foot may not be straight when the pieces are put back together. Cut in an area that doesn’t affect details. If you have sculpted on details you will have to work around those as best you can.
In the end you’ll have three total pieces.
The spacers for the legs are created from 1mm plasticard, better known as styrene sheet. I use the Evergreen scale models brand personally. There is also plastruct. I don’t recommend buying styrene from a hobby supplier brand like gale force nine because they charge you the same amount for about one quarter the amount of styrene. Get into a hobby store that sells plastic model kits, except hobby lobby, and you should find what you need. The shops that sell trains are a very good place to find what you need.
Cutting this styrene out doesn’t need to be an exact science, but you do need enough to cover the entire surface area of the legs. I tend to cut mine a bit larger because when you join the legs together you’ll find that the angle of the legs causes a gap.
Get your cork backed ruler and nice, new, sharp #11 exact blade and get an approximate width. Depending on where you cut the leg you’ll need anywhere from 5-8mm wide. Again, you don’t need to be that precise. Hold the ruler down and DO NOT try to cut through the styrene. Run the blade along the surface with gentle pressure. You want to score the surface with two or three even pressured strokes. Cutting through the styrene is the wrong approach and will yield terrible results. Once the surface is scored, simply bend and snap the styrene at the score and it will break free easily. Do the same to cut out your squares from the length. I recommend you cut the squares about 1cm wide to make sure you have enough surface area to cover any weird angles.
You’ll need to cut out a total of four for each set of legs. That’s forty pieces for a ten man tactical squad. Two will be inserted at the shin where we cut the legs apart. The other two will be applied to the feet to add a bit more height to the marine.
Once you have your squares cut, lightly file the surface of each square on both sides. You don’t have to take a lot of material off, you’re just looking to remove the smooth surface and create a slight texture. You want to file the leg pieces as well where you cut into the shins and file the soles of the feet. Lightly scratching the surface strengthens the bond of the glue when the legs are reassembled.
Glue the spacers to the top of the removed feet first. You just need a dab of glue. With a small bit of pressure the glue will spread and should grab fast with the surface area marked up. I don’t think an accelerator is necessary. Plus this will allow you a bit of time to center the styrene. You want to center the styrene over the surface where you have some overhang all around, particularly in the back where the angle of the leg can cause gaps. I do the bottoms first because this is more likely to be the largest surface of the shin and eliminates potential for gaps.
After a few moments of waiting for the glue to dry add another small dab of glue to the top of the newly attached styrene and get ready to attach it to the severed upper legs and torso. When you reattach the legs you need to make sure you are looking around the entire leg because there will be alignment issues due to the goofy leg angles. If you aren’t careful you’ll miss a side and the leg won’t stand up properly or the line of the shin armor won’t properly align.
Now you just want to glue the spacers to the bottom of the feet. Make sure you center the styrene squares where you have some overlap on all sides. Give everything time to dry before doing anymore work to allow the glue to bond.
10. Blend the Styrene to the Plastic
After the glue has had time to set use your clippers to trim away as much of the over hanging styrene as possible. Like before lay the flat side of clippers against the model to use as a guide. Go around all the styrene on the model and whittle away as much as possible with the clippers. Don’t cut any of the plastic. When you’re done you’ll have something like the second photo on the left.
After you’ve trimmed the bulk away you can use your file and gently file the styrene to meet the surface of the plastic. Remember not to push too hard because you are looking to only sand the styrene, not the model. You want a seamless transition between the two materials when you paint so they look like they were like this all along. Go around the model until everything is nice and smooth, the shins and the feet both. Take your time here and don’t get into a rush, this is where patience will pay off.
If you are sanding down and you notice a gap, don’t worry. We can fill this area up with putty when we do all the sculpting (Those clay shapers will help enormously… *hint hint*). Eventually you’ll have a smooth set of legs.
That’s it for building the legs! Don’t get discouraged if this seems like a lot of work, it is. I know this process is time consuming, but the reward are well worth all the effort. I’ve completed a prototype marine and I can’t live with the normal marines anymore. The Primarchs are even in scale now! You’ll never be able to go back once you’ve created your first.
In the next tutorial we’ll build the torso for the marine. In the meantime you can work on perfecting the leg technique by building the rest of your squad’s legs. If you have any questions don’t hesitate to contact me.