Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Soviet Steel

I finally went back to my X-Men miniatures. I figured Colossus would be quite quick to paint, and he would have been if I'd had the time and motivation to actually sit down and finish him. Sadly, lately I've been lacking in both.

The other reason I elected to paint him next out of my superhero figures was that I figured he would be a good model to test out an idea I had. You see, I've been focusing on painting smooth gradients across organic shapes (that is, comic book style muscles) when painting my Knight Models minis. So far I've been painting each gradient with a single colour, however with some miniatures - such as Pyotr here - there's instances where a single shape (muscle) requires painting in two colours. This would mean trying to match the gradient when painting two different colours at two different times.

This sounds challenging to me, so I wanted to see if there was an easier way. I've read in the past about shading in greyscale then applying colour on top; this sounded like it could solve my problem, so I decided to try it here.

I painted the metallic skin first, trying to get smooth blends from darker to brighter metallic shades the same as I would with normal skin/spandex (I believe this is similar to "true metallic metal" techniques). Then I painted the rest of the model in various shades of grey (I purchased several new greys specifically for this; I think I have around 8 different shades now, and I still think I need more sometimes), building up my gradients as before using heavily thinned paint mixed with medium and drying retarder. Finally I applied a wash of Badab Black over both the metal skin and the spandex costume. I think the first wash was watered down, then I applied straight Badab Black into recesses such as the lines across his skin for extra shading.

I then glazed the different areas of his costume with Badger Minitaire Ghost Tints: Fresh Blood and Yellow. Finally his hair was Vallejo Black-Grey drybrushed with Mithril Silver (I think). His eyes were just dots of Scale75 Speed Metal.

The whole experiment didn't work as well as I had hoped. The colours came out darker than I had expected - especially the red. Meanwhile the raised areas (which were also the brightest highlights) weren't as saturated as I had hoped - you can see the red is quite pale (without necessarily being overly bright) in some areas, especially around the legs and shoulders. The gradients don't look as good as I had hoped either; they look a bit flat to me overall. Perhaps I could have avoided that if I had added more contrast in the greyscale stage, but I think I will try painting the next "dual-colour" costumed model more traditionally, and just try to match the gradients manually.

Having said all that, I think he looks decent overall. Not one of my best to be sure, but certainly table-ready.

One of the better Knight Models casts I've had, although some of the muscle striations were lost and I had to try to carve some back in. As usual I tried to add a bit of variation to his base.
You can see his card in the background, which I was using as a reference.
I named him Ivan Danko, after a Russian character played by seven-time Mr. Olympia winner Arnold Schwarzenegger. I think it fits.

Friday, October 6, 2017

This bed is too small

I wanted to build a bed extension for my CNC machine. First of all, this would allow me to move the clamps a little bit farther back, giving me slightly more practical working area. Second, it would theoretically allow me to use the CNC machine a little like a pillar drill, since the milling head can actually extend slightly beyond the end of the aluminium bed.

After carefully measuring the CNC machine, I designed the bed extension to bolt onto the end plate, making sure to allow for the existing screws etc. In order to bolt it on I drilled two holes through the end plate, using the existing grooves to help me maintain a consistent height.

Now that I could take the final measurements (to make sure I wasn't off on the position of the holes I had cut), I generated the g-code and milled it out. I used my new 90 degree V-bit to cut the large grooves.

Finally I bolted the first plate to the machine, and the second plate to the first. This way I could grip something between the two like a vice. It all fit together quite well.

I haven't actually tested it yet; but of course I can always cut a new one if needs be. The only real issue that I see is that the mill head might not extend far to use it the way I would like; I believe it would be possible to extend the distance that the mill head can reach if I was willing to dissassemble the machine and take some material off from the beam the crosses under the bed, but I really don't want to have to do that, so fingers crossed that I won't need to.

Monday, August 28, 2017

JUG·GER·NAUT (noun): a huge, powerful, and overwhelming force or institution*

I loved the little Juggernaut model, and I loved the idea of actually putting him on the table in a game. But he needed a suitable base. Eventually I hit upon the idea of using a wreck marker to show that he might be small, but he's not to be underestimated! After ah-ing and uhm-ing about which faction to throw under the bus, I settled on good ol' Cryx. It helped that the sculpt had a suitable surface for the little guy to stand on.

Here's a shot with the old metal Juggernaut for scale:

I tried to paint the Cryx jack in slightly darker and more neutral colours while using bright shades for the little guy to help him stand out; I probably could have thrown on another wash or two on the base, or used darker highlights, but overall the bright red does the job. I wanted the wreck to look like it was lying in an expanding pool of oil that was soaking through the snow, like a fresh corpse in a pool of blood. You know, really sell the scene.

I used watered-down Anthonian Camoshade for the oil, which I let seep through the snow flock, then applied less diluted layers closer to the body to try to get a gradient. I applied extra at the mouth of the pipe, to show it leaking out. After it was dry I drybrushed a little bit of white on top, applying it more heavily farther from the body, to try to make it look like the oil was seeping along the ground and soaking up from under the snow.

The mini-Juggernaut model is quite nice, but the truth is it lacks detail compared to the full-sized model - totally understandable of course. Painting that detail on was difficult, but well worth it. Pretty much all the details on the upper body - the bolts, Khador logo, handle, and panel lines, as well as some other details such as the screws on the arms and bolts on the leg armour - are all just painted onto a smooth surface. To give them a bit of extra depth I tried to add a bit of darker red underneath each detail to suggest subtle shadows. The work is actually quite rough (as I discovered from looking at the photos - I can't see this well in real life) as this is pretty much past the limit of how finely I can paint, but I think it looks pretty good in person (unless you have AMAZING eyesight).
The bolts, logo, handle, and panel lines are just painted on.
The screw is painted on. The axe glow is rough, but then it's a very small axe...
Another painted screw. Shading and highlighting is tough at this scale.
I wanted the eyes to look dead, but still have a bit of a glassy lens look.
Oil seeping through the snow.
Oil leaking out of the cut pipe.
I named him Joe Green, after a real-life strongman who performed under the name The Mighty Atom. Interesting guy, I recommend looking him up. Anyway, this was the first time I tried to paint such a small scale model, and I'm very happy with how it turned out. Especially seeing as this is the first model I've finished in many, many months. And hey, in MkIII you can never have enough Juggernauts, amirite?

"Who's next?"
*From Google.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

A Dusty Boot For A 4030 CNC

I've been trying to figure out the hang of CNC machining for a while now. I quickly decided that I would need a dust boot to contain all the wooden particulates of various sizes that the machine kicks up. However, the few models that looked like they would work with my Chinese 4030 CNC machine did not impress me. So I decided to make my own.

My first design used a two-piece boot that would be magnetised. A plate would be attached to the gantry using an existing hole and some screws to clamp to the outside (so no new holes would need to be cut). A wooden beam would connect the two. A screw would press a tensioning piece against the beam to tighten it up. The design looked like this:

I ordered some strips of nylon bristles and cut two pieces of the appropriate length, trimming the bristles to the desired height.

I then glued and screwed the two strips to the outsides of the two halves of the boot.

Once it was dried the magnets held them together well enough.

Finally it all went together.

Meanwhile I was sorting out a dust collector. I bought a vortex dust separator and screwed it onto the top of a bucket, after cutting a hole out of course.

Unfortunately that didn't work out as well as I'd hoped. It turned out the bucket wasn't strong enough; it compressed somewhat under the pressure, eventually cracking.

So off I went to buy a stronger bucket. Fortunately this one stood up to the force of suction just fine.

I soon found out that wasn't the only problem; it turned out the dust boot wasn't rigid enough. As the gantry moved the hose started to apply pressure in different directions, torquing the whole assembly and causing the boot to simply fall apart.

Clearly the magnets weren't strong enough and the assembly wasn't rigid enough. So it was back to the drawing board. After stumbling across an interesting design from someone called "Pointy", I started working on a new design that would be simpler, smaller, and more rigid.

You've heard the old adage "measure twice, cut once"? Well, let's just say I had to carve the boot several times as I kept making mistakes with my measurements or numbers. And in the middle of that, my Y-axis suddenly stopped working.

I was very dispirited at this point and had to distance myself from the whole endeavor. Eventually though I came back and tracked the problem down to the actual cable connecting the controller to the stepper motor. Fortunately I was able to fashion a crude replacement.

At last I was able to cut the design and start to assemble it. The plan was to use a plastic pipe to connect the boot to the plate; this would mean a smaller boot with less force being applied directly to it. The tube would be clamped in place, and the clamps would be bulked up with additional layers of wood for rigidity. The boot itself would be one piece, with a channel along one side that would allow it to pivot with the bit in place.

In it's brief trial run the large size of the first boot prototype caused me some issues, so one of my goals with this new one was to reduce the size of the boot itself. To that end I decided to cut a groove in the underside of boot for the bristles, rather than gluing them to the outside. While working on this, I ended up putting together a jig that would help me cut the bristles to even lengths.

Fortunately that did the job, and I was able to get a fairly even skirt of bristles. When finally assembled and put to the test, I'm happy to say that the new boot worked quite well. It's not perfect, but it does do the job.

It took a lot more time and effort than I would have liked, but it does make the machine much easier to use. I wrote the gcode using a custom python script. All the parameters such as the connecting tube size and screw diameters are variables that are easily changed, so I can cut new boots to fit different parts should anything need to be replaced. If anyone would like to get the gcode so they can cut a boot for their own 4030 CNC machine, you can leave a comment and I'll contact you.

I'm thinking about trying to cut a clear acrylic boot to replace the wooden one someday, but I reckon it will be a good long while before I can be bothered. My next plans include an improved spoil board, a sort of bed extension/clamp, and a new controller box to house the upgraded components I'm using. I really hope they don't take as long to make, or give me as much trouble, as this dust boot did.