Slightly later than scheduled, here is the return of Baffo’s Circle of Doom. It’s lateness is definitely nothing to do with the Editor being a forgetful eejit. No siree.
Greetings everyone! Today we will learn how to sculpt the ‘Screaming souls pattern’ characteristic of most Orgoth weapons and artifacts, so that in future projects we can apply it to anything we want…
Before we delve in deep, let us take a look at the tools I used first:
1. Ghetto custom tools – I mentioned these a few times in my past articles. These are just leftover sprues from Games workshop or Malifaux plastic kits with custom ‘tips’ carved out with my exacto knife (keep in mind that since these are plastic, they will dull and lose their shape with use, so you have to keep sharpening their edges and eventually carve new ones, but you can cut up basically any shape you need).
2. Lace knitting needles – these are some knitting tools I use to make round holes of various sizes (eye sockets, mouths, chainmail, etc…) in soft putty. Alternatively you could use smooth toothpicks, hard pencils (round down the point) or even ball point pens (without ink); you just need it to have a small ball at the end…
3. Silicon tipped clay/color shapers – I use these to smooth out flat surfaces (in this case I use them for the smooth finish on the blades’ edges) or softening the edges of organic shapes (like rounding the skulls angular outlines…).
4. Basic metal sculpting tool (not on pictures) – I have been using the same classic Games workshop sculpting tool for 15 years (I do have a Gale force 9 full set of more than 20 metal sculpting tools, but I still keep using that basic GW tool anyway…). I use this in the initial rough steps (flattening a fresh green stuff layer on the plastic base) and later when sculpting the blades’ edge.
Now, going back to my custom Ghetto tools. Above you can see the drawing of the three custom tools I used for this conversion specifically, but you can make any shape you need. For this project the most important tool is the Beveler, a tool I generally use to sculpt cobblestones, while in this case we need it to sculpt the outlines of the screaming skulls pattern.
Looking at the super-sized Fell blade I made for the Warpwolf from the last article, we can divide the ‘sculpting recipe’ in 2 major phases: 1. Making the Soul pattern on the flat area of the sword and 2. Sculpting the edge of the blade.
Screaming souls pattern:
Before I started experimenting with sculpting this pattern I’ve spent some time studying the concept art sketches of all Doom Reaver models and drawing the pattern on paper and I realized the individual souls reminded me of stylized skulls. I also realized the skulls didn’t need to be all the same size; actually it looked better if their size varied, since it made the pattern look more chaotic and gave me more options to stack them together…
The picture above shows how I press in the rough outline of individual skulls of different size. Keep in mind that the largest outline shown is 3 mm in actual size, while the smallest is 1.5 mm tall. I have two different ‘Bevellers’ I use for this: one is 0.8 mm wide (the yellow rectangles in the pic) while the other is 0.5 mm (orange rectangles). You are primarily limited by your tools in how small you can make these skulls. To practice I would suggest using Play Doh (or any other putty or clay that doesn’t harden) to practice pressing in these skulls, so you can gain experience without worrying about wasting Green stuff or drying times (with Green stuff you are limited to 2 hours of good pliability, after that it becomes kinda rubbery…).
Next comes sculpting these rough skulls in an interlocked pattern… As you can see in the picture above I start by placing my first skull in a corner of my green stuff ‘area’ and then push out the edges I already traced to start the outline of the next row of skulls around the first, and so on going outward until I fill up the area… Think of it like playing Tetris with skulls. Also keep in mind that you don’t have to keep them all straight up; you can twist them a bit and deform their shape (they are swirling screaming souls after all – no need to be too rigid about their exact shape).
Once you’ve pressed in the entire pattern, while the putty is still soft you have to go back and smooth out the edges and corners of your rough outlines, so that you give a rounder feel to the souls. After those touch ups are done you can start pressing in the openings for the screaming mouths (use the 0.8 mm Beveller vertically oriented), the nasal cavity (I just press in lightly the tip of the Splitter turned upside down) and the eye sockets (using my knitting tools). For the eyes first use a smaller point (0.3 mm) to press in the initial hole, then carefully widen in and use the bigger point (0.5 mm) only to round out the hole; if you press in with the larger point from the start you will have less control over where the displaced putty gets pushed, which will deform the shape of the outline you just finished.
The main challenge here is that the whole process I just described above has to be done in one sitting (so roughly 2 hours window, plus or minus depending on the putty you are using…), so do not try to cover too large of an area at once and let the putty cure completely before you go back to add the next layer of putty.
After you have covered the flat area of your Orgoth blade with the soul pattern and it has hardened completely, we can start giving the blade its edge…
Make a thin ‘rope’ of green stuff and stick it to the length of your ‘cutting edge’ (I use very small amounts of gel super glue on the plastic core to help the soft putty stick and hold it in place while I work on its outer surface) and then press it on the blade at an angle, using the ‘spoon tip’ of the metal sculpting tool. When you press the putty down, it will get pushed around and start ‘squeezing’ down the edge of the blade. As you are pressing slide your tool downwards, to drag more putty off the lower edge (this is a way to remove excess putty from the upper edge). Once you are satisfied with the angle and level of your blade’s edge, use the ‘knife tip’ of your metal tool to cut off the excess putty on the lower edge of the blade and finally retouch the surface and edges of the blade using the silicon tipped color shapers (since they are soft tipped they will smooth out any marks and dents left by the hard edges of your other tools). After you have completed one edge, let it dry completely before making the next adjacent edge, or you will mess up your previous work (unlike the soul pattern, here you have to be patient and wait between steps).
That covers the ‘theory’ behind sculpting Orgoth weapons, now let us see what can we do with it…
First let’s downsize our Fell blades from heavy jack/beast size to heavy infantry size. If you look at the original doom reavers, you will notice the fell blades’ length gets roughly to shoulder height of its wielder, so I generally use that as reference when making the different sizes of swords for different users.
To reduce the blades’ thickness I used 1 mm thick plastic card to cut out the shape of the sword; if you want to make it even slimmer (for small based infantry), you can use 0.5 mm plastic card, but that is much less rigid and you will have to cast it in resin to be able to pin it on anything, since the 0.5 mm plastic core is thinner than any pin you can drill into it…
The first version I made is a bit wider than the original fell swords’ ratio, since I wanted to have more space to make my soul pattern on. Holding it next to some Man-o-War models it looks the right shape (since they are bulkier models), but next to Tharn ravagers (thinner profiles) it might be too large, so the next one should be the same length but slimmer.
This thinner version seems a bit more appropriate for less armored medium based infantry like Tharn ravagers and Blighted ogruns; Trollkins could go with either version (especially Fennblades and Kithkars), depending on the owner’s preference.
Ok, but let say we don’t want everybody in the army using the same 2 handed cursed swords; there is also the issue of models holding assorted pole-arms (the arms are too far apart to repose them to hold a sword)… For such models we can make a smaller blade, keeping the same outline as the original blades, just shortened (looks like the blade of a Japanese Naginata). These could go on models like the MoW Shocktroopers, Gatormen posse and Cetrati (to keep their silhouette easily recognizable).
The alternative to the ‘naginata’ blade is to simply make Axe heads with the soul pattern on its flats. You might even try to emulate the shape of the original weapon of the model and just apply the soul pattern to it (in particular when making alternatives to unique weapons for Warcasters/locks).
On my Circle models I plan to keep the ‘classic’ Fell blade shape across most of my Orgoth blades (so I’ll be using the Naginata blade option over the axe heads), but that is just a stylistic choice I made for this project (to repeatedly drive home the Doom reaver visual reference), you don’t need to limit yourself to just these few shapes…
Casting resin copies:
Once you have sculpted a blade that you like, you have two options: a) Pin it on the model it is meant for and sculpt a brand new one for the next member of the unit getting converted or… b) Make a silicone mold of your custom sword and cast resin copies of it for the entire unit. Considering each blade can take between 4 and 8 hours of actual sculpting to make (spread across several sessions), I assume most people will chose the resin copies route (unless you are making a one-off weapon for a specific beast/solo/caster).
As you can imagine, to make molds of your blades you first need to prepare a ‘box’ to pour your silicone mix into… As a general rule I make my boxes so that there is at least 1.5 cm of ‘space’ between the blade in the middle and any side of the box. Another important thing is to place your blade oriented vertically, mainly because if you place it horizontally your mold will inevitably catch air bubbles in all the concave pockets (as shown in the picture above). Also, when you are pouring the silicone in, do it down the side of the box, never right over the blade (again to reduce the likelihood of getting air bubbles caught in your details).
Once the silicone is cured you can take it out of the box and then you’ll have to carefully cut the molds in half with a sharp blade (that can damage the master inside the mold, so be patient and cut in shallow ‘swings’). After you manage to split your silicone mold, you should do a ‘test casting’ with resin, to see where you get air bubbles caught up in the resin. Generally that happens in the narrower parts and on pointy ends and you will have to add venting canals from any point/edge where you got bubbles, by just cutting a V shaped canal in the silicone (in the picture above you can see how my molds look after this step).
Finally you can start ‘mass producing’ Orgoth blades of your own design with resin. I use a 2 component liquid resin mix from a local chem factory, that is liquid for roughly 2 minutes 30 seconds and is totally hardened in approximately 10 minutes (other options you get online might have different hardening times). Keep in mind that these resin copies will still have plenty of air bubble holes and flash to clean up, so you still have to carefully examine each cast and fill in holes, but it is still easier than sculpting every single blade for an entire unit… Enjoy:)
To finish off the article in style, here are a few sketches I made when brainstorming for designs for future Khador Orgoth themed conversions:
In the sketch I have numbered each weapon to more easily reference them in discussions on forums… The A1-4 are examples of Axe heads, the P1-5 are Polearm blades while the S1-4 are Fell swords for Doom reavers (I have been fantasizing for a long time about making several Doom reaver units, each with a differently shaped Fell sword, but that project is on hold until I find some models to convert into doom reavers that will allow me more than 4 poses across 40+ grunts…maybe Warhammer fantasy Marauders and/or the new Khorne Wrathmongers?).
That will be all for this second ‘episode’ of Circle of Doom. As usual if you have any comment or additional questions about the techniques shown in the article, check out this article’s thread on the Muse on minis forums – linky – (I am particularly curious about what shapes people find most interesting and any ideas for other Orgoth themed conversions in all factions)… In the next article we will tackle another Circle heavy beast conversion for my Circle of Doom; until then cheers, Baffo:)