Fort Grayskull Part 4

Continued from parts 1, 2 and 3.

After the quite time consuming process of sticking all of that stuff to the castle sections the last time, I set about painting them.

Anything made from silver plastic (the Hexagon stuff and the sprues) just got a load of black emulsion paint slopped onto it which I then wiped with a rag, removing most of the paint from everywhere but the recesses.  Anything else that was showing its original colour was then simply painted black.

It was at this point that I first realised how Masters of the Universe the whole project had become.  Regardless of how desirable or not that was it was too late to worry about that at that stage though.  Main priority: get it finished.  All other considerations secondary.

Some drybrushing of metallic areas was next followed by a big dirty wash of brown/black mix over the metallic bits and some of the red areas.

By this stage in the process I wanted to add just a little bit more junk and other stuff to the tower parts.  I couldnt face it though.  My enthusiasm for the project was waning and I decided that I would rather get it finished to the standard that it was currently at than get bogged down on more detailing.  If I still think that the towers are a little too bare once the whole thing is finished I can go back and do some more work on it at a later date.  Maybe.

Note the layout of the components in a city wall configuration. I hope to use that layout in a few scenarios in the future.

The next step Continue reading

Fort Grayskull Part 3

Parts 1 and 2.

After the previous days extended session, the following day I was lucky enough to have nothing terribly grown up to attend to (the first time for ages).  So I settled down for a nice long glue filled afternoon stint. Continue reading

Fort Grayskull Part 2

Continued from Part 1.

I am going to attempt to give some post-apocalyptic va-va-voom to toy castle components that look like those above.  Left to right is a tower, a wall, another tower and a gate section.   In total I have four gate sections, twelve wall sections and sixteen towers.

All of the pieces are made from expanded, beaded polystyrene and so are very light, but unsuitable for spray painting, which will melt that material.

As noted earlier, the parts were hand painted with a mix of black emulsion (latex) paint and some filler back in the mid 1990s.

The first step in 2011 was to decide what colour to hand paint the castle.  I didn’t want a pedestrian and realistic brownish grey as I wanted to remove the the look of the finished product from that of a real castle as much as practically possible.

Blues, greens, purples and the like would give a finish that looks a bit too fantasy for my tastes, a bit too concept album cover, a bit too “Heavy Metal”.

I considered a yellowish/brown but the board that I play on is black with a drybrush of Raw Sienna so I feared that the castle would blend in too much if it was the same or similar colour.  I also wanted to crudely “weather” the bottom of the castle walls with the game board colour once the fort was complete.  That wouldn’t work if it was the same colour to start with.

So after some indecision and in a weird bit of parallel evolution with the foam rocks that I chopped up and sprayed on the same day, I decided to go for a red oxide colour.  This rust like colour fit with some of the notions and references that I had in mind with a large amount of rusty scrap and wreckage materials involved in the forts imaginary construction.  I hope that it works out, but at this point it is too early to know for sure.

Therefore I overbrushed the whole thirty two sections with a Red Oxide acrylic.  I then mixed the red oxide with a little emulsion off white and drybrushed some of the upper areas a little, just to give a small bit of contrast.

I had trouble taking photos that show the colour properly.  Indoor, night time and artificial lighting made the whole thing look a lot more orange than it does in reality Im afraid.  Therefore the work in progress shots are all going to look a bit off.  Hopefully I will be able to get some halfway decent shots in once it is complete.

At this stage I took the cloth off the table and set up one quarter of the fort on the gaming surface, just out of curiosity to see how it looked against it.

The colour doesn’t look brilliant with the table I think, but I think that it is within acceptable parameters (plus it’s a crappy washed out photo).

Not that I had any choice at that stage: I was unwilling to to repaint the whole thing yet again.  The emphasis here had to be to finish a project that had been in various half finished states for years, by hook or by crook.

The look of the final model will hopefully be quite different anyway, between a wash or two here and there and the addition of some other elements to break up the redness.  Fingers crossed.

Also at this stage I set up all thirty two castle pieces as a perimeter wall with bastion.  I did this mainly because I think it looks cool and I wanted to see what it looked like now that it was brownish red.  If nothing else it should give readers an idea of the area that the fort occupies.  Due to the number of towers it reminds me a little of a shot from the Assassins Creed video game.

The table that the model sits on is 4 x 8’.  Also bear in mind that the little grey thing in the foreground is an EM4 plastic trooper.  Fully assembled the fort occupies approx 3 x 3’, which is quite big in gaming terms (as an aside I tend to think in terms of imperial measurement when looking at gaming tables and metric for everything else.  That’s Warhammers fault).

That was quite enough terrain work for one Saturday afternoon (as I made the foam rocks that day too) so I went to bed.

To be continued.

Fort Grayskull Part 1

I bought a toy castle in 1995 or so because I thought that it would be suitable for use in 28mm gaming.  I liked both its modular nature and its low price so much that I then went back and bought three more castles, just so that I could make one huge castle at some indeterminate point in the future.

Then like many other projects the castle then got moved to the back burner for some forgotten reason.  Since then it was dug out of storage twice.  In 1998 the entire thing had a coat of textured paint and some minor structural work done to it.  It then sat in a box until 2001 when I decided that I wanted to turn it into a pulp sci-fi space castle.  Progress on that was limited to an evening or two sticking somewhat unconvincing leftover kit parts to castle sections while a friend sculpted a face over one of the windows.  And that was as far as I got with that.

Fast forward through a decade of reality TV and iPods right up to fully socially networked 2011.

I wanted a post-apocalyptic type fort for a Mad Max/Gorkamorka style gaming weekend that I am planning in the summer.  Rather than try to build one from scratch (which would take ages and which I really just don’t have the patience for these days) I decided to post-apocalyptify my castle.

Some of the main influences were Mad Max II: The Road Warrior, the Buster Crabbe Flash Gordon serials and a bit of Masters of the Universe thrown in too.  Additionally these images from the GW Gorkamorka rules were in the back of my mind most of the time.

Disclaimer: There is no getting away from the fact that the model is a medieval castle and that it will look like a castle in the end, one way or another.  The amount of work required to remove all trace of the models castle-y nature would be huge and probably better spent building something from scratch, which I don’t have the time or patience for these days.  If that compromise of is something that will bother your aesthetic sensibilities, then I politely suggest that you don’t read any further 😛

On the other hand if compromising with available materials in order to get something amusing and functional ready for use with your toy soldiers in a reasonable timeframe appeals, then maybe you might enjoy seeing how this project goes.

This post is already too long, so I will include a shot of the entire thing as it stood at the start of the project.

To be continued soon.  Some zombies next if I can get suitable weather conditions for photos.

Foam Rocks

Possibly a bit of an odd post to start with after a while away, but the likelyhood is that anyone reading knows what to expect here anyway 🙂

What follows is a description of the rather haphazard creative process that went into making some quick scenic pieces for my pulp sci-fi and post apocalyptic miniature games.  I approached writing this as a description of why I made the decisions that I did regarding it.  That’s how I ended up with the finished article as it is.  I did it like this because I enjoy reading about those processes from other hobbyists, but if it isn’t your cup of tea then feel free to ignore the text and take a quick glance at the hastily taken pictures if you like 🙂  (the post is a bit long…)


When I got one of my rare bouts of motivation regarding model scenery making recently I decided to strike while the iron was hot and churn some stuff out, fast before the mood left me.  My post apocalyptic/pulp sci-fi terrain (AKA Planet Heck) looks quite consistent these days but it was still short some large pieces of “impassable” terrain.  I happened upon an article on the very enjoyable “the Unnamed Gorkamorka Site” which got my creative juices flowing and I started thinking about possibilities.

Over on tUGS they made their rocky outcrops from seating foam.  I worked with that material in college a few times in the mid-nineties and I have a reasonable idea as to what can and cannot be done with it.  So using the ideas at tUGS as a starting point I had plans to take my rocks in a slightly different direction.

First stop was to find out if there was an upholstery shop in the small town near where I live.  Moving to live in a rural environment from an urban one was one of the best decisions that I ever had semi-made for me, but one of the down sides is that locating materials for this sort of project can be difficult.

Not this time however.  I found a very pleasant guy working in his upholstery shop/garage on a back street on last Saturday morning.

I wanted to get a dark coloured, preferably grey foam so that I could skip some of the re-colouring steps used over at tUGS, but that didn’t work out.  The only foam that the guy had in a decent thickness was the familiar vaguely creamy-yellow stuff that likely fills the very thing that you are sitting on right now (as pictured above).  Its polyurethane foam I think.  I was charged €2 for the second hand couch cushion that he gave me, which was well within budget.

I have experience in dying that sort of foam and I really didn’t want to get into that: its far too messy and time consuming for my unfocused and easily distracted brain.

With many scenery items (and a lot of miniatures) I start with a black spray coat and work up.  That wasn’t going to work here.  As I was unsure as to how well the finished foam hills would take paint I needed to spray the foam something approximating the finished colour that I wanted them to turn out, rather than the colour of shadow on the pieces.

Therefore the next step when I went home was to cut two chunks of foam from the cushion, impale them on wooden barbeque skewers and spray paint them to test: one primer grey and the other red oxide primer.

I chose those two colours mainly because I had those two spray cans handy.  A grey set of rocks would have been fine, but maybe a little dull.  The red could easily be very gaudy but would also quite in keeping with a Martian desert or even with some of the very red soil that Max rolls his V8 Interceptor in The Road Warrior (to use a post-apocalyptic example).  More sci-fi looking in other words, which is just fine with me.  At this point I did pine a little for an airbrush, but as don’t have one and don’t plan to get one, I put those thoughts to one side.

I wanted to ascertain whether or not the spray paint would give enough coverage on the foam.  I didn’t want a patchy finish but I didn’t want to have to go through the very messy and time consuming step of sealing the foam with a PVA/water mix to aid painting later.  While sealing the foam would make it rigid enough to drybrush, I was trying to minimise the effort involved, unlike for example the industrious tUGS folk who chose to do the job properly.

While the skewered pieces dried I started cutting out the foam shapes.  Again, I differed from the tUGS approach here too.  Rather than pick at the foam, pulling pieces off to provide a texture, I wanted to cut the shape out in such a way that the cutting process itself would leave an adequate texture.  This would save time if it worked but this stage I really didn’t know what (if anything) was going to be adequate.  I also still didn’t know how I was going to paint the finished pieces or anything, so I was just playing around with the foam to see what I could get away with.

So I cut the stuff up leaving vertical lines on the sides from the cutting process ending up with something that looked reminiscent of the mashed potato in Close Encounters.  I was hoping that after spraying the foam it would make those ridges stiff enough to accept paint from drybrushing.  That wasn’t to be however, as demonstrated by testing on the skewered test pieces: drybrushing them had very little effect due to their spongy nature.

Also demonstrated by the skewered test pieces was that the red spray gave better coverage over the yellow foam colour than the grey did (although you wouldn’t know that from the photo above which was taken with the flash too close).  The yellow showing through the grey looked awful whereas any inconsistencies in coverage from the red oxide spray added visual texture rather than looking like the whole thing needed a second coat.  This determined for the first time the colour that the “rocks” were going to turn out: a big vulgar red colour.

Once the four shapes were cut out I trimmed some scrap to make pieces that I glued on the flat areas on the top.  Im no geologist but I know that the rocks and canyons prevalent in Westerns and in Road Runner have visible strata on their sides.  That is how I justified why all of the hills plateau at the same height anyway, you can decide for yourself whether you think that it works.

Once the glue had dried a bit (about an hour) I took the pieces outside and sprayed them red.  I then immediately sprayed the flat areas on top and the edges where the pieces meet the table black.  Finally I sprayed grey primer in quick streaks down the sides, about four or five streaks per piece and that was it: finished.  After letting the pieces dry in the shed overnight I brought them in and plonked them on the table to see if they would be ok for gaming with.

I quite like how they turned out to be honest, all the more so because they only took an afternoon to make from start to finish.

They definitely come from the “cheap set design” end of the modelmaking spectrum, rather than say the architectural model end, but that’s ok with me.  They look like something from a cheap Doctor Who or Star Trek episode to my eyes, which has a kitsch appeal.  I also reckon that they look like the sort of terrain that John Carter would have come across, if Barsoom had been visualised by Hanna Barbera.

I quite like the pieces, their boldness and overtly pulpy sci-fi look appeals to me yet I am sure that some people will turn their noses up at them, seeing as the “rocks” do look a little like the desecrated corpse of Elmo.  What do you lot think?

Invigorated by my fast progress with this little project I immediately went back in to the man cave and started working on a model post apocalyptic fort.  The first part of progress on that goes up tomorrow.

Dr Flint Leghorn

Dr Flint Leghorn

Dr Leghorns momma was one of the Standard Falls townsfolk but his pappy was a member of the Lab Rats tribe.  This gave Flint a unique perspective on life in and around the town and the wastes around it.  It has also contributed somewhat to his eccentric perspective.

Like Sir Reginald Beef Wellington O.B.E. (a close friend of the doctors), Leghorn doesnt live in the town itself but a couple of hours travel from it.  Nonetheless his unusual combination of tribal and scientific medical knowledge means that he gets visited by a lot more townsfolk then one might expect.

"Ahm afraid that there aint nothing ah can do. That there leg done have to come off."

Dr Leghorn is a Copplestone Casting from their awesome “Wasteland Desperadoes” pack, like Beauford X. Tinction.  Like every Copplestone sculpt that I have come across, it is of a very high standard.   I rate Copplestone and Hasslefree miniatures right up at the top of the industry standard.

I had some problems with the flesh tones on this figure, mostly because I decided to “fix” some of it while pissed late on a Saturday night.  After that less than successful evenings “work” the figure sat on my painting table for a few months while I painted other stuff, while I waited to find the enthusiasm to get painting it again.

Like the red stripes on Sir Reggie, I decided to try something that I hadnt done before on this figures trousers.  After doing a little bit of research into leopard skin print online I managed to get the pattern painted to a level that I was happy with on the first attempt.  Which was nice 🙂

Sir Reginald Beef Wellington O.B.E.

Sir Reginald Beef Wellington O.B.E.

Sir Reginald Beef Wellington OBE lives on the outskirts of Standard Falls, mostly keeping to himself.  He has a few friends in the area, the most notable being Doctor Leghorn.  His eccentric and slightly peculiar nature keeps him at arms length from most of the the towns inhabitants.

“Top hole! And rather spiffing too actually”.

Reggie is the first post-apocalyptic figure that I have painted for quite a while, probably over a decade.   As a child of the ’80s when post-apocalyptic movies were particularly in vogue I will always have a soft spot for the sub-genre.

Reggie is a classic sculpt by Mark Copplestone currently for sale from EM4 as “0041 Gentleman Scavenger. Stunbrella. Bowler hat. Morningsuit (tattered)”.  There is something  about the “stiff upper lip” gas mask and torn morning suit look that is very appealing.

Most versions of the figure that I have seen are painted to look like the figure is wearing a formal suit, usually black.  Just for a little variety I decided to paint Reggie in a “boating” jacket, for that Oxbridge look.   The figure always reminds me a little of Mr Bland (from Bland and Brass) in the Rogue Trooper comics from the 80’s.

Since I painted and photographed the figure I have tidied up the stripes on the back of Reggies left arm.  A few of them were a bit off.  I also put a teeny bit of lichen on the rear of the base, but thats really hardly worth mentioning.

I have a lot of post-apoc stuff in the pipeline, so more inhabitants of post-apocalyptic Standard Falls will be showing up here as time goes by.

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