+ inload: Stripping plastic from miniatures, and affectionately updating old models +

+ Directive: Refurbish and restore +

+ Sometimes the tail wags the dog, and I've always felt that the most organic, natural army backgrounds come from a mix of pre-planning and creative adaptation to events. Too formal and fixed a plan can trip you up when – for whatever reason – something goes wrong: you can't find a particular part, the scheme doesn't work on a particular model etc. Conversely, being too adaptive and led by events leads to a patchwork, unsatisfying army, lacking visual coherence. +

+ We looked at planning in part I of the 'Creating an army of your own' series [+noosphericinloadlink embedded+], and saw how those loose seeds developed into something of their own in a later inload [+noosphericinloadlink embedded+]. While I planned the broad strokes of the Gatebreakers early on, the details weren't fixed, and as a result, the process of painting informed the naming scheme. +

+ A similar process can happen with modelling, narrative, gaming events or real-world events: the important thing is to keep your eyes open to it. +


+ Fellow PCRC inmate Warmtamale gave me the incredibly generous gift of a Rogue Trader Land Raider recently. It got pushed up the queue for obvious reasons, and I knew I wanted to include it in the Gatebreakers. Not only is it an iconic model, but the idea of including scavenged and ancient gear fits right into their background as impoverished guardians of the outer dark. +

+ Now, had my army background suggested the force had been more well-supplied, or my model choices were only the latest stuff, I likely would have found another place for the gift, but this is an example of that wonderful serendipity that sometimes strikes. +


+ Theoretical: Bringing a tank up to date +

+ I'm usually unsentimental when it comes to older or limited edition material – at the end of the day, these are all toys; bits to be adapted and developed to better fit your vision of your army. Of course, if something goes wrong with such material, it's sometimes unrecoverable, so I do spend more time thinking things through than something easily replaced with an off-the-shelf kit. The old saw 'measure twice, cut once' is very applicable here. +

+ The first thing to do when looking at pre-built models is to assess them.
  • Is everything present?
  • What do you want the finished piece to be?
  • Do any modifications need to be made?
  • What processes will be needed to prepare it?
+ The following inload looks at my process in answering those questions. As always, it's not the only way of doing things, and you should always let your muse lead you where it wants – so if the following is helpful only in helping you decide what you want to avoid doing, that's also fine. + 

+ Hallowed relic – a more brutal weapon from a less civilised time! +

+ Eagle-eyed exloaders will spot that the kit's non-standard. Warmatamale had made a start on repainting the kit, many years ago (hence the red panels); but it was already second-hand, and the original owner had assembled it in an unusual way – the top panel had been reversed, so what was the front was now the roof, and vice versa. This gave the tank a taller, snub-nosed look. It wasn't a bad look, but I decided that if I could restore the frame, I would. +

+ With that decision made, I also knew I wanted to help the kit fit in with a mostly modern army. Citadel design and production work has changed since this kit was made. Whether you prefer the simpler, imagination-led and uncluttered aesthetics of the 80s or the rigorously designed and engineered modern approach, some concessions and adaptations needed to be made. I decided that I wanted to do some greebling – that is, add more surface details to break up the lines. +

+ With this decision made, I helped myself channel my planning towards an affectionate update of a classic rather than a literal restoration. I find such decisions important – if you're vacillating between maintaining and developing, you'll end up with an unsatisfactory halfway house. +

+ I find my mind works best when the broad strokes of a plan are in place, but I've left myself the creative freedom to adapt on the fly. Find a way that works for you. +


+ Practical +

+ What would this update involve? Once I had the model in hand, I made a start. Gently, then with increasing pressure, I tried to find weak spots in the seams. This was all initially done by hand – no tools. The tank proved to have some flex and give, and I managed to create a small gap that allowed me to lever off the top/front piece without any damage. With the additional access, I could pop the doors off, too. I wanted to remove the tracks entirely, but these had been more firmly secured, so I decided the risk of damage was too great. I'd have to work around this. +

+ It's worth noting that breaking down a kit isn't always necessary. Don't regard it as holy writ that second-hand necessarily means lots of modelling work. If the second-hand kit has been cleanly assembled (no sprue burring or mouldlines etc.), and the paint is thin, you can sometimes work straight over, treating the previous owner's work as a base coat. Here, while the assembly was decent, the paintwork was quite thick: I decided I needed to strip the paint back. +

Stripping infantry models is usually fairly simple, but a tank was going to be trickier. I was never going to be able to submerge the whole thing, so I approached it in stages. As described above, I broke the kit up into separate pieces, using a hobby knife to help me cleanly trim some areas. I ended up with the main hull, the top/front plate, the lascannons, the doors and an odd section of hatches and boxes that the original owner had used to fill a few gaps. This included a rather odd rubber box; which had the look of something from a radio-controlled car. +

+ Stripping the paint +

+ I used a 500ml bottle of Dettol Liquid antiseptic (the brown liquid type used for swabbing injuries) and the smallest Tupperware I could find that would fit the hull of the tank. This meant that there was little wasted space, and I could fill it up with Dettol to just over the halfway mark of the tank. +

+ I left this overnight, then turned it over and repeated the process on the top half. Once that was done, I used a toothbrush to remove the paint, which came away readily from most surfaces. +

+ A word of warning, when stripping with Dettol Liquid Antiseptic, don't rub it: gently lift the paint away with the bristles. The Dettol does something to the paint that makes it smear – something that I'd never seen when using the (sadly reformulated) Fairy Power Spray I used to use. Similarly, don't rinse it with water until you've got as much off as you can – the chemically-treated paint remnants bond with the water and form a sticky, jelly-like substance that's a real pain to deal with. +

+ I found that stripping the paint had weakened a few of the glue joins; too (I suspect it was partially assembled with superglue rather than polystyrene cement), so happily I was able to gently pry the side panels off, giving me access to the recesses. +

+ Re-assembly +

+ The fun bit! I glued the tank back together, and stepped back to admire it. I'd made an order with Zinge Industries [+noosphericinloadlink embedded+] for some hatches and bits, and attached these too. Warmtamale has since dug out the original hatch, but I'll save that. It may come in handy if I need to do something the other way – that is, if I need to convert a modern tank to look slightly old-fashioned. This is a good example of what I mean about integrating different aesthetics. Once you've made a decision, it's good to stick with it where you can. +

+ The Zinge hatch fitted nicely, and I think it works well as an example of the sort of variation that you'd get in the 41st Millennium; a minor tweak added by a particular Forgeworld, or owing to inferior replacement parts after battle damage was sustained. Adding such differences inherently personalises the kit and starts to suggest character and history. +

You can see the odd smearing remaining after stripping the paint (see 'Stripping the paint' above).

+ I would dearly love to add some modern sponsons, from the Sicaran or Land Raider Proteus kit, as I think the guns are the weakest part of the original design. Unfortunately I've thus far been unable to source any, so in the interests of getting on, I've retained the originals. If I do ever find a set for a decent price, I'll likely revisit the tank – another fringe benefit of being happy to work with second-hand stuff is that you tend to get a lot happier to treat your own work in the same way! +

+ The remainder of the process was simple. I pinned the notoriously flimsy and floppy lascannon sponsons, and drilled out the barrels. In terms of updating and greebling, I covered the other hatch hole with doors pinched from a Chimera, and added modern auto-launchers and a searchlight. +

+ The other obvious addition is the amount of stowage. There's no real plan for this, beyond deciding you want to do it. I looked at some pictures of World War II and Vietnam War tanks to get an idea of where things would go. The original kit has big spaces – presumably for stowage – on the front near the tracks, so I filled these (it seemed likely to me that the crew would use these first, after all) with some jerry cans and crates. Liking the look, I began adding more, placing the crates in places that seemed to make sense: on the front, where the kit provides primitive extra armour; and on the top. +

+ When placing the stowage, I was mindful that it didn't look too neat. That wouldn't fit with the impression I wanted to give – of a faithful old tank that has been heavily burdened with everything a strikeforce might need – and would also have read slightly oddly; as though the crates had been carefully placed, rather than heaved on top wherever they'd fit. +

+ There's also a consideration of realism. I'm never hugely slavish to this – after all, these are space knights – but you want things to have some verisimilitude. Would Space Marines really sling ammo crates on the front of their tank, or block a hatch with them? Unlikely – but I decided that the visuals outweighed that consideration. If it annoys you, then put it down to typical 40k ignorance! +

+ Speaking of the balance of realism, you'll probably spot the candles. I wanted to get some of the general 40k insanity into the build, but integrate that with the (to the 40k mind) very practical nature of spiritualism. The addition of little shrines to the machine spirits has some visuals in common with the Roman household gods – the lares and penates; and similarly with Shintoism. Since the Gatebreakers have a mix of Far Eastern cultural referents, this seemed to fit quite nicely, tieing in lots of different threads. +

+ The candles are mounted in three main places, representing different machine spirits. The principal space is the 'ruling spirit' of the Land Raider itself, and this is represented with the large cluster of votive candles at the front of the tank [visref: pictcapture above]. I picture this being directly above what we might recognise as some advanced form of fire control system. There's a smaller one, with fewer candles, next to the searchlight; to honour the simpler spirit of this addition. Finally, the engine block has a purity seal (I think of it as a grim, dark MOT certificate) and more candles. +


+ The result – the the future +

+ The finished Land Raider (barring the potential appearance of Sicaran sponsons) has been primed with grey, and I'll be using it to tackle the thorny issue of quartered schemes and tanks – an issue for a future inload. It's pictured alongside a fan-sculpted dreadnought that will also be joining the Gatebreakers. I had been saving this second one for my Blood Angels, but the decision to fold the Land Raider into this project just made it seem to fit. +

+ I'm trying to work out whether – and how – to bring the dreadnought into the modern era, as I have for the Land Raider. Stowage seems less appropriate here, so I'll have to have a further think. There are no modern equivalents of giant robot suits piloted by dead heroes, so it's trickier to find source material. +

+ The bikes are also on the painting table, and I've made a start on the riders, too. These will be made using my terminator-based truescaling techniques. +

+ A closing shot of the Land Raider alongside the Gatebreakers. I think it fits quite nicely already. +


Ragsta said...

My wife asked me what I was agreeing with - apparently I was nodding sagely to my phone while reading this article! I do enjoy reinvigorating old models. To me it feels like reactivating mothballed units to front line service, which is how I tend to write my fluff for them afterwards!

apologist said...

Ha, brilliant :D
Hinting at the real-world history of a model when drafting its in-universe background is always wonderfully fun.