The first article I posted on MoM this year contained a bunch of conversion concept drawings; among them the most popular seemed to be the Iron Fang pikemen’s weapon swap to hammers, so this week I will explain the method I used to realize that conversion idea.
With this year’s Vienna masters to motivate me (I needed IFP Black dragons for 2 of my tournament lists), I managed to get the full unit assembled and green stuffed in time for the event and since the models performed well, I afterward used the impetus of the podium placing to paint them before jumping to the next unfinished sculpting project…
As I explained in the original article, stock IFP have several issues for me: don’t like the looks of pikes or spears in general, hate bendy white metal pikes on models and due to the pikes, the models are difficult to put into base to base contact (which they need for Shield wall to take effect).
The obvious solution for me has always been swapping the weapons for blasting hammers, much like what the Horgenhold Forge guard have (thinking back, the Rhulic mercs are likely the main inspiration for this whole idea) and the easiest way to get this done quickly (for people who don’t want to brass-rod and green stuff 12 metal models) would be to bits-order 11 Hammers from the Forge guard unit leader and pin them on; fairly easy. However, since I am a masochistic ‘unique snowflake’ I had to go with the more challenging path. If you are like me or know somebody like me, that can do it for you, here is my ‘step-by-step recipe’…
First lets take a look at what we have to work with. Normally you should get 3 copies of each of the 3 pikes on the left (associated with 3 bodies/poses) and one each of the 2 pikes on the right (for the unit leader and the officer). Looking at them the 2 leftmost pikes and the leader’s pike are perfectly fine to hold hammers, but the arms thrusting forward (3 for grunts and the one for the officer) don’t look quite right to represent ‘swinging a long hammer/pole-arm’, so I decided to completely file off the pike shaft attached under the arms and part of the original fists, with the intent of drilling the hole for the brass rod at a more ‘natural-looking’ angle for the new weapon and re-sculpting the fists holding the reposed shaft. Before you start cutting off the white metal pikes clean up mold lines and flash from the arm, blasting warhead and the butt of the pike (once they’re cut off they are too small to work with and clean properly).
When you cut the pikes be careful not to lose any bits (I just dropped them all in a small pot I generally use for PVA glue when basing models). Once you have all your arms cleaned up and the pike bits on the side, you will have to carefully drill trough the hands and 2-3 mm deep holes into the bottom bit of each spear; as for the blasting warhead, you drill your ‘pin hole’ into the side of the pike head, so that it will become the front half of the hammer head.
I advise using a hand drill, rather than an electric one, because it is very easy to mess up these (drilling trough or too off-center) and you have a rather small margin for error (if you use 1.2 mm thick brass rods, you will have a few tenths of a millimeter left around your hole). One little trick to improve accuracy is to first use a smaller drill bit (0.8 to 1 mm thick), to make a shallow pilot hole well centered, so that the bigger drill (most likely 1.2 mm) then won’t skid around and end up off-center…
Anyway, once you are done drilling the 37 holes required to brass rod the whole unit, you can glue on the blasting heads on top of your rods. Do not glue the hammers into the fists or the butts of the pikes on yet, until you finish converting the hammers. At this stage I also re-sculpted the fists of the 4 ‘thrusting arms’, to accommodate for the reposed weapon.
Making the hammers: as you can see in the pictures I green stuff-glued some small plastic tubes (I just cut up the stick of a Q-tip in 2,5 mm segments) on the back end of the blasting warheads and once that was dry, I glued on some slightly wider circles of plastic card (I got these by using a tool to make holes into leather belts), to make up something like a piston. Once I was happy with the overall length of the hammer heads, I used some green stuff to sculpt over the original pike head metal core and add more body and ‘weight’ to the mid-section of my blasting hammers.
I could not lay the freshly green stuffed hammers on their side, since that would inevitably leave a mark or smudge, so I prepared in advance a small rack of left-over plastic card to keep my hammers upright, while the putty cures.
With that the main part of the conversion was done, however I still felt the need to add something to the models to make them more unique. I planned to use these IFPs almost exclusively as Black dragons, but I haven’t got the upgrade kit yet, so I decided to add reptilian scaly hides and trophies for the ‘dragon’ theme of the unit’s name… I gave the whole unit the same irregular round scales pattern (so that if I ever decided to convert another unit of IFPs in this manner, I can give those another pattern to differentiate the two units).
The main problem with converted cloaks and coats is that looking at the models from the front you won’t see the conversions, so to make it more evident, you have to add some extra details on the front as well. Using the Great bears as inspiration I sculpted some extra smaller scaly hides on shoulder pads, as ‘loincloths’ and on the shields, also to add variation to models in the same position .
Next came the banner. I am not a fan of the stock UA’s standard (looks like Roman legion banner), while the Black dragon’s one is fine, but a bit small (when compared to other standards on less ‘elite’ units in the faction, like Winter guard), so I went searching trough my old Warhammer fantasy bits boxes, until I found some old Chaos warriors and marauder banners, that looked mean enough for Khador troops, but without too many chaotic details or engraved symbols on the cloth itself. I proceeded to clip off the spiky bits and demonic symbols and sculpted another scaly hide on the upper half of the banner, pretty much draw attention from the front on the conversions on the backs of the models…
Once the putty was cured and hard, I pinned the banner on the brass rod, pinned the Khador symbol from the original standard on top and finished assembling my Black dragon banner bearer.
With that done, I just green-stuff-glued the shields on the models (so they would be easy to pop off later to paint) and got the unit ready the day before we went to the Vienna masters.
After we got back from the masters, I decided to ‘reward’ the pikemen with paint (rare privilege, considering how slow I am at painting…) and I started with the usual spray undercoat ‘pre-shading’ (undercoat black, then gray from a 45 degree angle and white from the top), with the shields still on the models to get some more realistic shades in the area behind the shield:
After that I carefully took off the shields, marking on bases which shields belonged to which models, since the now hard green stuff allowed them to fit only the original owners. Right, what about the color scheme? Considering how much time, work and blood (you should accept cutting and drilling your own fingers as an offering to the dice gods, to bless the rolls of your models in the future…) it took me to convert this unit, I have no intention to convert another one until they come out with plastic IFP (they will still need to be brass rodded, but at least it is much easier to cut and drill into plastic than white metal). With that in mind I went with a ‘classic’ color selection of red armor and dark green cloth (just like my IF kovnik and the Great bears), so the unit could reasonably represent either the regular IFP or Black dragons (tie in with the scaly hides on the unit).
Anyway, I slowly started base-coating the unit (I hate this stage, since with my OCD I feel the need to go back and correct every smudge or minor mistake…) and it took me roughly 2 weeks and a half (2-3 hours a day) to neatly apply all the base colors. Next I added one more layer of slightly brighter/more saturated highlight only to the red, the greens of the scaly hides and the metals.
Once the boring part was finally over, I sealed the models with satin spray varnish (to protect the acrylics from the oil paint solvents I’d use in the next step) and set out patiently applying ‘oil washes’, swabbing off excess with Q-tips and feathering the transitions, to create all the shadows and smooth gradients. I left the models to sit overnight, to allow most of the white spirit I used as solvent to evaporate and the oil paint to set (after 12 hours it still isn’t completely dry, but it is dry enough not to cause problems) and then sealed the models again with spray mat varnish.
Now, the oil washes made the models darker (a bit even on the areas I swabbed clean), so I added a couple of layers of highlights on the metals (between oil washes and varnish the base metals usually lose their shine) and the reds. To avoid going overboard with bight highlights all over the model, I limited myself only to the helmet, shoulder pads, weapon arm and shield, deepening the gradients of color (makes the models pop more). The last touch was painting silver rivets and bolts and repairing any mistakes I could find.
Here you can see the steps of painting on the banner bearer. I kept the free hand on the standard very simple (just the Khador symbol, like the WGI’s banner), since the dragon hide on top provides enough detailing. I first outlined the symbol with black and then painted a few layers of white within the black silhouette, leaving a clean black border. Afterward I painted golden yellow over the white, used a light brown oil wash and feathering to get the shading on the yellow and lastly painted a few yellow accents to give the yellow a deep gradient like with my reds.
Here are some close up of the finished models with the shields on:
This should be enough for this article. Now that I finished this unit I will probably concentrate on painting a few solos or casters to ‘cleanse my palette’ (painting 10+ model units is quite draining) while I tackle my next conversion project (I want to convert the Nyss, since I don’t like the stock models, but we’ll see if I get around to it before the next tourney we’re planning on going end of April…). Anyway, cheers!!!