Saturday, December 18, 2010

Clock Radio Building

Pretty much every miniature gamer I know has a few pieces of styrofoam packaging inserts stowed away in their closet, saving them for some future scenery project.  I don't know what it is about styrofoam packing inserts, but the make great buildings!  However, the problem with the white-styrofoam is that it is really fragile, and can't be painted or sealed with any kind of aerosol spray, so they always have a short life span.  Last year, I received a new clock radio for Christmas, and it came with a packing insert made out of a strange, brown, paper-mache material -- THIS kind of stuff.  The shape and texture of the insert looked interesting, like a very weathered sandstone or adobe.  What's more, it was fairly sturdy, so I decided I'd try an experiment and see how it worked as a building.  Unfortunately, I didn't  get any photos of the insert before I started the project, so you'll just have to imagine what it looked like beforehand -- I promise I'll take some in-progress photos next time!

Anyway, this building is supposed to be a power station, sort of like a gas station for Landspeeders. The insert had a lip around the bottom, which I trimmed off with a hobby knife.  There were also some holes and such, which I filled with putty.  Once I had the basic shape ready, I sprayed it all with a sand-texture spray (the stuff the use on outdoor furniture), but the results were underwhelming.  On top of the already-rough texture of the insert, you could hardly see the fine sand texture, so I need not have bothered.  After this dried, I added a bunch of mechanical components from my bits box.  This included parts from the "Platformer" power station and pumping station sets, plasticard, a door from a Galoob Action Fleet playset, and the tops of some toy missiles.  The roof of the building had a big hole, so I cut a big piece of plasticard and glued this in, to make a place for models to stand.  The junk pile around the back was, well, a bunch of junk.  I'm planning on putting a ladder on the back as well, once I find something suitable.  Then, the whole thing was glued down to a piece of 1/8 inch tempered hardboard for the base.  Then the whole thing was painted and the base was flocked in the usual manner.

Christmas is coming, and I'll on the lookout for some more interesting packing materials hiding in the boxes!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Two More Landspeeders!

OK, here's a couple more of the landspeeders that I've just finished off.

The White/Yellow landspeeder is the Sorosub V-35 'L-Kamino'.  It's based on the same toy as the "Lars Family Landspeeder" (posted earlier on the blog), but I've made a few modifications to give it a different feel.  Just like our cars come in different models (convertibles, hatchbacks, etc), I tried to make this a slightly different model of speeder, with a glamorous bubble canopy, larger side-mounted engines, and cargo room in the rear.  I removed the plastic canopy from the original model and filled in the gap on the top where the hinge was, and replaced the canopy with a clear-plastic bubble that I cut from a 'Woodland Scenics" Fir Tree 5-pack -- the packaging was a clear plastic clamshell and the top of each 'tree compartment' was the perfect size, once trimmed with some scissors.  The side engines are from the Micro-Machines Action Fleet "Gain Speeder", they were originally its guns that fired little toy rockets.  I think they look better as engine pods, with some little circular bits glued to the front and back.  The driver was s spare from one of the many WotC "Flash Speeders" that I dismantled to get their round bases, I cut off his head and replaced it with the head of a Wizkids 'Ghostfinder" miniature from their defunct Horrorclix game.  No model is safe in my collection!  It was then painted and dirtied up with weathering powders for that grungy "used universe" feel of Star Wars, particularly the vehicles you see on Tatooine.  I'm pleased with the way this one turned out, especially the wacky little 'El-Camino' style cargo area in the back!  (Thanks for the idea, Lyle!)

The Magenta landspeeder is based on a little keyring of "Anakin Skywalker's Airspeeder" from Attack of the Clones.  According to the Wookiepedia, it is a "Narglatch Airtech XJ-6 Airspeeder."  The keyring was part of the "Force Links" series of collectibles produced by Tiger Electronics around the time that the Clones movie came out, and I was able to pick up a couple very cheaply as they did not seem to be popular, probably due to their hideous yellow/orange/green color scheme!  Unfortunately, they were a little too small, probably 1/72 scale, so I needed to make the them look a little bigger to fit in with the rest.  Basically, I extended the rear engines with plasticard and putty by about 1/3 inch, added larger head-rests, and added some sort of frontal steering or propulsion fins alongside the engines.  These were inspired by the fins at the front of the Speeder Bikes, I figure that since landspeeders are using the same technology, they might have similar components.  These were just cut out of some simple plasticard shapes, and I added some thin plasticard rods to make them look like they are firmly attached.  With all these add-ons, the model finally looked the proper scale, albeit as a compact sports-car type vehicle.  The last bit was to give it a suitably racy paint job so that it will stand out from the crowd.  My wife really likes this one, and has claimed it as her speeder in the upcoming races!  (The other 'keyring speeder' is currently parked in the garage at Spaceport Speeders with a blown coolant regulator -- the repair parts are being shipped in from Mos Espa, but it's gonna be a while!)

Both of them were mounted on plastic bases torn off WotC "Flash Speeder" miniatures.

Looks like we have 10 completed speeders now, I need to do is get some suitably hazardous rocks and terrain built, and we'll be ready to race!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Mushroom Buildings!

OK, so they are not really mushroom buildings, but they are made from mushroom containers...

For me, one of the most fun elements of building scenery is finding common, everyday items that can be turned into scenery and models.  This is one of those instances.

I was grocery shopping with my wife a few weeks back, and while perusing the 'fresh produce' isle I happened across a container of mushrooms.   I was struck by the unusual shape of their little plastic container, which when turned upside down reminded me of a building or bunker with structural supports along the walls.  So I purchased the mushrooms, and several salads later I was ready to turn their container into a Star Wars Tatooine-style building!

The problem with these containers is that they are made of very lightweight plastic, which would not hold up well to the abuses of most gamers, myself included.  However, since these are just vaccu-formed shapes, they can be easily used as molds for something more durable, like plaster.  I cut a slightly smaller shape out of styrofoam, so that the building would be lighter, put the shape into the container leaving about half an inch between the shape and the interior walls of the container, and then poured the plaster in.  The styrofoam floats on top the wet plaster, so I weighted the top down with some heavy books (wrapped in plastic, of course) and left it to dry.  An hour later the mold is done, and viola -- instant shape!  While the basic shape was still fresh from the mold, I cut the windows into the side (plaster is very easy to cut with a scalpel for a few hours after it comes out of the mold.)

(This photo shows the blue foam suspended in the plaster, for lightness.)
Next, I put a dome onto the top (half of a plastic Christmas ornament), and added an archway and door (I made made mine from putty, plasticard, and parts from my bits box, but there are LOTS of manufacturers who make similar sci-fi doors which would work great -- Armorcast, Scotia-Grendel, and Antenocitis Workshop all make some).  Once all these were put onto the basic shape, I filled in any gaps with some filler putty, and then textured the entire building with Herb Gundt's famous "Sandstorm Technique".  The chimney was a little part out of my bits box.  The whole thing was then mounted onto a piece of particle board and then painted and weathered.  Easy!

This was such an easy project, a welcome break after the long ordeal of Spaceport Speeders!  I've since discovered several other similar shapes at the same grocery store, all in the mushroom section (a slightly bigger container for the 'stuffing mushrooms', and a thinner, longer container that had the 'organic mushrooms'.  I'll be making a few more similar buildings with these in the future, once I get a little free time.  I've included a photo of some of the different shapes.

(some of the different shapes I found...)

Oh yeah, the grocery store is called Meijer, I think it is a chain all across the midwest.

Here are a couple more shots of different angles:

Front View

Rear view.
Overhead view.