This week we’re getting back to my sculpting series, since I finished converting and painting the prototype of a long lasting conversion project, I started working on more than 6 months ago: elite Man-o-Wars.
I am a faction completest and an impulse buyer, so over the years I’ve been in the hobby, I have accumulated way more MoWs than I’ve ever put on the table (10 metal Shock troopers, 5 metal Demo corps and 5 Bombardiers), only 3 of which got painted up to now. I like the bulk and feel of the models, but I don’t use them much (like many other Khador players, I am still waiting on some uplifting solo/UA/elite cadre to make them more viable), so there wasn’t much motivation to get them all done. As an incentive to work on them (and to justify the massive money expense to my own conscience) I decided to heavily convert all my unpainted heavy infantry to look even cooler than the three stock shock troopers I have done years ago…
Sure, but what can you add to stem powered heavy armour dudes to make them stand out as ‘the veterans’ of the army? At that point I remembered seeing a Butcher in MoW armour conversion somewhere online and that sparked the idea of giving all my MoWs custom trench coats.
Obviously the first design was about turning the Demo corps into pseudo Butchers wielding axe-mauls and wearing pretty much the same fur coat as Kommander Zoktavir. Since their broad backs would look a bit boring just covered in fur I copied also Orsus’ furnace/boiler, to break the monotony of plain fur and sprinkled some skulls around for good measure.
Thinking about my other heavy infantry units, I didn’t want to give them all the same coat, so I started looking at other models with trench coats for inspiration and noticed several Khador warcasters and officers (both Butchers, Sorscha 2, Irusk 2, Harkevich, Griegorovich, ecc…) shared one specific detail on their ‘winter clothing’: studded leather with 3 rows of bolts at the base of their coats. With that in mind I themed each squad after a different caster that had that detail on its model.
Around that time I finally got my box of Bombardiers, so I started working on them right away. Fluff and rule wise Harkevich is one of the more ranged focused casters in Khador, so it made sense to centre the Bombardier conversion on him (plus I wanted to challenge myself a bit more with these coats). As such I made their boilers a bit more complicated (like the Iron wolf’s own arcane furnace) and used his anime-ish leather straps/belts overload as the defining feature, instead of the simpler fur.
Brainstorming with my brother I got some other ideas for Doom reavers in MoW armour with huge Fellblades and human skin coats (think Fabius Bile from Wh 40k), a coated second Drakhun wielding a cavalry mane (something like double sword staff) and some skull masked evil looking Shock troopers, but since I haven’t even finished my initial Butcher corps and had even more work with the Harkevich corps, I forced myself to finish at least one of the started units before lounging into more never ending projects (besides half of those ideas would require me to buy at least another unit of Demo corps and a second Drakhun).
Conversion from start to finish
So, the plan is sculpting a whole bunch of heavy coats with different themes, not to get too bored making these for 15+ models. The base for these coats is just a thin uniform ‘sheet’ of modelling putty (I just press it between two thick pieces of plasti card that have a 0.75 mm edge on all sides so it stays uniformly thick all around), cut it into a rectangular shape and glue it to the upper back and ‘arm pits, so it actually goes down the model’s hips, and while it is still soft, bend it into a wavy shape, using brush ‘butts’ to get the desired curves and flow… At this point you don’t need to be particularly accurate, since you will cover most finger prints and imperfections with green stuff.
Once the base for the coat is cured we can get down to sculpting… The main unifying detail for these conversions is the studded leather on the lower end of each trench coat, so I have spent a little more time refining how to make it. As you can see in the pictures, I first made an even smooth band of green stuff, pressed in the outer edges of the band (to make the ‘plates’ stand out), divided it into roughly equal rectangles and finally pressed the bolts in with a small metal tube (I use the needle applier from an empty Revel plastic glue bottle).
Here is where the more creative bit starts: the upper back. Since the Harkevich corps are visually more interesting (and I took pictures between all the steps of the project) we will go with them… First I sculpted the furnace, then some tubing to connect it to the main ‘exhaust pipe’, some lateral tubing going back under the coat (like on Harkevich’s model) and finally some leather straps and a fur collar at the top, to bulk it out nicely (btw I let the green stuff cure between each step, to avoid leaving marks on previous bits).
Since the space under the boiler looked kind of empty (and the Iron wolf has belts and buckles all over), I added that detail and finally got down to making the triple leather straps on the edge of the trench coat. After all those finer details were done and dry, I pinned and posed the arms so it would fit together (much easier to do if the model in question isn’t holding a two handed weapon) and sculpted some fur to cover up the gaps between the arms and torso and around the collar (keep in mind I didn’t glue the arms, so I could paint the model more easily).
With the arrival of huge based models like the Battle engines and Colossals (and me not having access to an air brush), some time ago I started experimenting with some new (for me) painting techniques involving ‘undercoat pre-shading’ and oil paints to speed up the process and get smooth gradients on larger surfaces and here I decided to try those out on medium based models.
The first step is to simply undercoat the entire model with black primer, go in with the brush to fill out any recesses that didn’t get paint, then take a grey primer and spray the model lightly from a 45-50 degree angle and finally spray it with white primer just from the top. That will create a natural shading effect on your model, before you even start painting. Another side effect of this is that the model’s surface gets a bit grittier, thus adhering much better to thinned out paint.
Next came the base coats. I use fairly thin paint (as many would say ‘consistency of milk’) and usually get the desired colour in 2 coats (where usually the second coat is a slightly brighter tone of the first). For example the red was a 60-40 mix of Gore red and Blood red (for those familiar with the previous colour line from GW) and the next coat was a 40-60 mix of the same colours. The grey areas are a 70-30 mix of Shadow grey and Chaos black, while the base for the gold is a 60-40 mix of Dwarf bronze and Scorched earth, highlighted with a similar mix of Bronze and Bestial brown (I paint my metals as if they were non-mettalic, because I prefer the control over the shade gradient).
After the basecoats are all neatly done you just seal the whole model with a gloss varnish spray (satin/matt varnish work as well) and you can safely use oil paint washes over that. Basically you just need a small amount of fine oil paint (I use just Winsor & Newton Burnt umber and Lamp black for all my shades), that you thin down to a wash with white spirit (or some other odourless thinner), apply it to the recesses and edges where you want your gradients to be the darkest and let it rest for 10-15 minutes (so that the thinner evaporates, leaving just the oil paint). Then take a cheap brush and poke around the ‘oiled areas’; that will spread the oil paint creating a nice ‘feathered’ gradient. If you spread it too much, you can just take a q-tip moist with thinner and clean off any excess (oil paints are workable for 1-2 days after the first application). Once you are satisfied with your shades you have to let the oil paint dry for at least 24 hours and you can seal it with satin varnish and make your final highlights…
Going back to the Butcher corps, here are a few pictures of the prototype for that unit (still a work in progress – haven’t decided yet if making their coats leathery/cream white as my pButcher or Dark angel’s green like my eButcher…), to give you an idea of how the concept sketch translates to the conversion:
I guess that will be enough for now. If you have any comments, suggestions or questions post a comment below.