Friday, October 4, 2013

The Easy-Bake Oven of the Emperor

...okay, not quite.  But a few years ago I was fortunate enough to attend a sculpting class at Origins with Sandra Garrity - even if you haven't heard of Sandra, if you've accumulated any fantasy miniatures in the past 25 years, you probably own one of her sculpts.  Sandra had these very cool homemade "ovens" that she would put the miniatures we were working on into, that basically "cooked" them with a light bulb to speed up the curing process - you can see just the top of one of these ovens at the bottom edge of this picture of her:

(Picture from Jason Azze's web page) 

As I've been doing more conversion & sculpting lately, I decided to see if I could slap together my own version.

**WARNING** During this project, I'll be working with sharp tools, jagged metal, and building something that generates a lot of heat.  BE CAREFUL.  If you decide to build this and chop off your finger in the process or burn down your house with the finished product, I'm not responsible.  Never leave the curing oven unattended, and have a fire extinguisher nearby while using it.**

From what I was able to see, there were two basic components to the curing oven: a large can (I would say "a five-pound coffee can", but I don't think anyone has sold coffee in tin cans for years now) and a clamp on work light.  Since it was the end of gardening season, my wife was processing tomatoes into spaghetti & pizza sauce - she supplements the home-grown tomatoes with canned tomato sauce to make it go farther.  When I saw her picking up a few small cans of tomato sauce at the store, I talked into buying the six-pound can, just so I'd have something to use:

I measured the diameter of the can - it was just over six inches.  The next time I ran to Home Depot, I picked up an 8-1/2" clamp-on work light:

I also picked up some hardware:

...some small hooks & eyes, some small hinges, and some self-tapping sheet metal screws.  One more important ingredient:

JB Weld SteelStik - this is a two-part epoxy putty (similar to Green Stuff) but is specifically made to bond to metal, and to withstand higher temperatures.

I gathered some tools that would make this project easier:

A pop-rivet gun, rotary tool, and a pair of tin snips - of all the above, I would say only the tin snips are "required".  You'll also need a knife (preferably one with a stout fixed or locking blade, that you don't mind possibly ruining), and a can opener (preferably a "fixed" style, like a P38 or the kind on a Swiss Army knife - not a rotary or electric style).

Okay, first step: open, empty, & wash out your can.  Remove the label; you can clean off any glue from the label with some WD-40.

You'll probably have some jagged edges on the can: pull any large pieces off with pliers, then go all around the edge of the can & "smash" any sharp bits flat:

Next, we need to work on creating an opening for the "door".  We want to start a cut on the horizontal surface of the can, so you'll probably need to poke a small hole with a knife along the bottom edge of the can to get started.  Be careful - if you're using a folding knife (which I specifically told you not to do), it's going to want to try to close on your fingers.  After you get an opening started, use your can opener to cut the bottom of the opening:

You want the opening to be, oh, five or six inches long - long enough that you can comfortable reach inside to change the bulb without scraping your wrists on jagged metal.  After the first opening is cut, we need to start the vertical cut - you'll probably need to use your knife again to get it started:

Once you've gotten it started, you can get the tin snips in there to cut it the rest of the way:

(Don't worry too much about the warping, you can straighten it out later).  Obviously if you had a strong rotary tool with a metal cut-off wheel or an oscillating tool with a metal-cutting blade, you could do this much more cleanly - my cheap battery-powered rotary tool wound up being mostly worthless, so this is what I had to work with.

Use the tin snips to finish cutting the rectangle out of the can:

After the "door" is completely cut from the can, use your pliers as before to clean up the edge, and re-shape the door to fit the contour of the can as best you can.  (If you have a small tack hammer or ball-peen hammer, you can hammer along the edges while holding a small portion at a time on a hard surface, like a work bench).

Next, mark the location & drill pilot holes for the hinges:

I attached the hinges with pop rivets (you could also use machine screws):

After the door was on, I added a hook and eye to keep the door closed when it's in use:

Next, we can attach the light.  (You can remove the clamp; it's not needed).  I set the lamp on top of the can, then drilled pilot holes for a couple of sheet-metal screws:

I sunk a sheet-metal screw in each side, just to hold the lamp on while I worked.  Next, I grabbed some of the SteelStik and mixed up a bit:

NOTE: The SteelStik putty dries WAAAY faster than Green Stuff - it's only workable for about five minutes.  Work in small batches - the first time I mixed up way too much, and wound up throwing out a big wad of it.

I used the SteelStik putty to seal up all around the edge, where the lamp meets the can:

I also sealed up the vent holes at the top of the lamp (I figure there's plenty of gaps around the door), and put a wad on the back of the hook & eye screws to keep them from backing out later on.

After yet another re-shaping / de-burring of the door:

...and that's pretty much it - not terribly pretty, but workable for a first attempt.  As I said, next time I'll use my oscillating tool or a spiral saw to get the opening cleaner.  You'll have to experiment to find the best (and SAFEST) wattage bulb to use - keep in mind that a 100-watt incandescent bulb can reach over 200 degrees Fahrenheit and warp plastic, so I recommend starting with lower wattage.  I think I had less than $20 in this whole project (the clamp light & epoxy putty are the most expensive parts of the project).  

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Building the Colossal

So, I spent the first part of the year trying to get my hands on a Khador Conquest - My FLGS had one, but I never seemed to have the extra cash in the budget, and I went to both Adepticon & Origins with the colossal at the top of my shopping list and cash in pocket, but none of the vendors had one.  I finally resolved that it was going to be my "must-have" purchase at GenCon - but a couple of weeks before we left, I happened to find a seller on eBay that had the model for $20 less than my FLGS (which is usually 10-15% cheaper that MSRP).  As much as I love to support my local shop and the vendors at the cons, It's hard to pass up saving forty bucks on a model that's this expensive.  I ordered the model and got to assembling it shortly after we got back from GenCon.

My first order of business was to thoroughly clean ALL the mold lines, flash, etc., from every piece of the model - I had spent a lot of time lusting after this model, and a lot of money; I was damn sure going to build it to the best of my abilities.

Initially, I was impressed with how little work the three main body pieces needed - unfortunately, this trend did not continue:

It was a really poor choice to put the mold vents on a perfectly round area

The wide, flat expanses were the worst - some entire sections needed a skim coating of putty, which was sanded flush after curing to make it flat.  Liquid Green Stuff made this job a lot easier.

It was hard to tell if the leg joints were supposed to be flat, or the offsets were intentional - either way, they didn't work.  The whole area needed to be reshaped

Air bubbles on the shoulder needed to be filled

Lots of flash on the feet / rear legs.  Surprisingly, the metal parts of this kit were overall easier to work with than the plastic pieces

I actually ran out of heavy-gauge brass rod while building this model, and paperclips weren't gonna do the trick - to improvise, I sawed the heads off of some machine screws. 

This actually worked quite well, and was extremely sturdy!

After the legs fell apart for the third time, I added one of the machine-screw pins there, too

The legs falling apart required a lot of removal / re-shaping of the green stuff work I did previously.  The Testor's Sanding Films were a lifesaver here

Cutting the cork for the base - I had to dig out a big sheet of cork from my supplies for this project

Base layer glued down

Cutting smaller "rock ledges" to allow me to pose the legs more dynamically

Mostly finished base

Ready for primer

...needless to say, the kit was a bear to put together & finish to a decent standard.  I've never really worked with a 28mm model this big before.  I've heard that the Forge World Titans can be a huge pain to build, but I've mostly heard people attribute that to the age of the molds - Privateer Press really can't use that excuse.  I have some (albeit very basic) experience with casting, and even to a rank amateur like me, some of their choices on where they placed the mold vents puzzled me.  Also, this particular model could have used a bit more detail with the instructions than the included 4"x5" diagram - I built the arms wrong THREE FREAKIN' TIMES until I finally figured it out (the "collars" that the hands attach to are fairly plain, but have to be attached in a particular direction for the arm shields to attach properly).  Soon, I'll be painting this model using some techniques I've never tried before - check back soon!