Tutorial: Converting Hot Wheels for Gaslands

Gaslands is a post apocalyptic vehicular combat game from Osprey that uses Hot Wheel and Matchbox scale cars. These are all produced by Mattel, and they are everywhere. You probably had a bunch as a kid because they’ve been sold for 50 years, and if you have kids there’s probably a bunch in your home right now. They’re colourful, sturdy and come in a wide range of vehicle types, both licensed cars from real manufacturers like GM, Chevrolet etc. and fantastic creations from the Hot Wheels design studio. There’s buggies, cars, hot rods, muscle cars, vans, trucks and rigs as well as a few planes and helicopters. Hot Wheels tend to be more brightly coloured, and Matchbox tend to be more realistic, including a nice range of military vehicles like Humvees.

This is a quick tutorial about the steps I go through to convert a humble $3NZD Hot Wheel car into a Gaslands nitro-boosted war machine.

What You’ll Need

Here’s a list of what you’ll need for the tutorial:

– Cars! I’m using a Hot Wheels Gas Monkey for this tutorial. Get a bunch from your kids room, or the local toy shop or Warehouse.
– Bitz, lots of Bitz!
– A sharp hobby knife, and maybe a ruler.
– A pin vice and a small drill bit for detailing.
Evergreen plastic sheet and rod. 0.5mm sheet and 1mm rod is pretty handy.
– Some kind of mesh to cover the windows. Tea strainer metal mesh, fine netting, and leftover 3D printed ‘rafts’ all work well.
– Superglue.
– Primer, and hobby paints. I use Army Painter primer, and Citadel and Vallejo paints.

Here’s some optional stuff. Why these are optional is covered below:

– A Dremel or power drill and a 3mm drill bit.
– Two part epoxy.
– Household Paint Stripper (the nasty strong stuff).
– Household Bleach.
– An old toothbrush, and an old terrain brush.
– Gloves and eye protection (since we might be working with paint stripper and bleach).

Lots of Bitz?!

Cars and bitz are the most important ingredients. Raid your bitz box, and general hobby collection for parts. You’re looking for anything that might make a decent weapon or piece of armor. Here’s some examples of cars I’ve converted for Gaslands already.

The two middle cars are covered with Games Workshop 40k parts – all from the Astra Militarum (aka Imperial Guard) range because that’s what I happen to own. The flamethrower parts are obvious, and the red car has cut down Lasguns on the hood, Cadian mortar rounds on the back (as rockets), and GW WHFB shield skulls stuck on the rear wheels. It also has metal tea-strainer windows. Tau rocket pods and other weapons are very handy, and Ork shootas are great too if you have them.

The left and right cars have weapons lifted from a variety of 1:35th scale Tamiya and Italieri WW2 kits. German WW2 machine guns in 1:35th scale make nice weapons if you just cut them down to the barrels. That’s what the orange car has on the hood. The orange car’s window mesh is also left over 3D printed ‘raft’ material cut down. The green car has some kind of recoil-less rifle or bazooka jammed through the body. The rams, the windows, and body armor are all constructed from strips of cut up and painted plasti-card. The ‘rivet’ holes were drilled into the plastic with a pin vice.

Bitz can also come from Hot Wheels themselves! These toys are so cheap, you can always cannibalise a few for their parts alone. Popular parts to strip from other Hot Wheels are larger wheels, as a simple ‘wheel swap’ can give a car a different or more raised look. Many Hot Wheels also have exposed plastic or metal engine parts that can be re-used for scratch building.

If you’re looking fantastic inspiration it’s worth joining the official Gaslands Facebook group as people regularly post incredible vehicles on there, and share all sorts of tips regarding converting for Gaslands. The Gaslands website also has a ‘friends of Gaslands’ list of manufacturers you can buy resin parts for your cars from. You’ll see some of these below.

Step 1: Explode the Hot Wheel (Optional)

Let’s get started! This first step is entirely optional, but depends on a few choices you’ll have to make:

Q: Do you want to strip the Hot Wheel body back to bare metal?

Folks do this is because the Hot Wheels factory paint jobs tend to be pretty thick and can hide some of the molded detail on the bodies. Repainting a stripped car with finer, thinner hobby paints will leave those details showing. Stripping back to metal also gives you a better bond when super-gluing parts and armor onto the car. However, to strip back to metal you will have to take the car apart.

Another option is simply to lightly sand the original paint job to give the surface some ‘tooth’ and paint directly over it. Some folks simply retain the original paint job and weather it lightly with enamel washes. Overpainting saves you the hassle of exploding the car into parts.

Q: Do you want to armor the windows, and possibly remove some of the interior parts?

You can take the car apart to get inside the car and add details in the body or window spaces. You can armor over the normal Hot Wheels plastic windscreens, or simply repaint them for a cleaner look. It’s your choice.

Q: Do you want to change or freeze the wheels?

As we’re using Hot Wheels for a war game, we don’t want them rolling around the tabletop. A quick solution to this is simply to stick a blob of Blu Tack on the bottom of the car. A more permanent solution is to use super glue or two-part epoxy to ‘freeze’ the wheels in place, which is easier to do with the car in parts. Also if you want to do any wheel swaps you’ll have to take the chassis out to free the car’s axles.

If you’re now tempted to explode your Hot Wheel car for any of the above reasons, you’ll need a 5mm drill bit and either a Dremel or standard power drill and some eye protection as you’ll be making metal dust and chips. Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars are held together with one or two rivets you can see if you flip the car over. If the car body is metal, these rivets will be metal too. If the car body is plastic, they’ll be plastic (and the chassis will probably be metal).

These rivets can be carefully drilled out to let the car fall into several pieces. This is a bit of a dark art amongst Hot Wheels converters, both for Gaslands and in general. Googling ‘How to drill out Hot Wheels’ will get you plenty of videos showing how this is done.

You can see in the photo above I’ve spent five minutes and drilled out the rivets, to explode the car into the typical parts you’ll find in a Hot Wheel: the diecast Zamak metal body, plastic windscreen, plastic chromed interior, and the plastic chassis that hold the axles and wheels. It’s funny but some Hot Wheels contain interesting little interior details you’ll only see if you explode them like this.

Step 2: Strip It (Optional)

Once you’ve exploded the Hot Wheel you might as well strip the paint off the metal body. For this I use strong rubber gloves, and some horribly caustic household paint stripper (the “Diggers” tin shown above) from Bunnings. This stuff is dangerous so both gloves and eye protection are recommended. It will give you painful chemical burns very quickly if you get it on your naked skin (trust me on this).

Out in my garage, I hold the metal body with a pair of hobby pliers and paint the paint stripper on with an old wide terrain brush. After a few minutes, the paint job will bubble visibly and can be scrubbed off carefully with the same brush. Once most of the paint is removed or loose, I dump it into a container of warm water and detergent to neutralise the paint stripper, and carefully scrub it clean with an old toothbrush. Any remaining paint can usually be chipped off with a hobby knife if it’s trapped in cracks and fine details like grills.

The plastic chrome parts of a Hot Wheel can be stripped very easily with undiluted, household bleach. Just drop the chromed part into enough bleach to cover it and wait several minutes. The bleach will dissolve the chrome effect and reveal the black or white plastic underneath.

The photo above shows the exploded, stripped Hot Wheel put back together. Looks nice and shiny, doesn’t it? Notice how stripping the paint makes some of the detail clearer. In particular the rear gas cap is visible again, as well as some of the fine detailing on the bonnet.

Step 3: Swap or Freeze the Wheels (Optional)

As mentioned above, once you’ve exploded the car it’s easy to freeze or swap the original wheels out. If the chassis is plastic you simply have to cut a few of the teeth holding the axle in to get it out. A metal chassis is a little harder to work with, but the same principle applies.

Warning: the axles of Hot Wheel cars are made from some very strong metal. They’re a challenge to cut through with pliers and tend to fly off at dangerous angles when they are cut. Be careful if you’re trying to take the wheels off the axles for whatever reason.

If you’re just freezing the wheels, drops of super glue on the exposed axles and the wheel hubs should work. I tend to throw a blob of two-part epoxy in there myself just to guarantee nothing is going to move, but that can look ugly underneath because it tends to run while setting.

Step 4: Applying your Bitz

Right, this is where the real fun begins! The car is now ready for you to get creative with. Take your bitz and start applying them. I usually start with weapons for a Gaslands build, because if you’ve got the rules you’re probably building a list with a certain loadout for the car. I super glue all the parts and armor to the car, to get a really strong and fast bond.

Once the weapons are in place I’ll start adding things like rams, body armor, and other little details. For example here’s another Gas Monkey I’ve already exploded and built up again. From the bottom up the changes I made are:

– Original rear wheels are now the front wheels, and the rear wheels have been replaced with resin cast drag tires. These are from a reseller called Ken Overby, you’ll find him in the Gaslands Facebook Group.

– A simple ram has been added using trimmed down parts from an old, OOP Imperial Guard Chimera dozer blade that has been in my bitz box for about 15 years.

– The original exhaust pipes have been cut away and replaced with slightly longer pipes built from 1mm plastic rod superglued together. The pipes were drilled out with a pin vice too.

– The original engine stack has been hacked away with a hobby saw (and added to the bitz box), to be replaced with another, slightly more detailed resin cast part with an interesting air filter, again from Ken Overby.

– A 3D printed heavy machine gun has been glued to the bonnet, and an ammo feed created using a small piece of cut and bent plastic zip tie.

– The original windscreen has stayed, but the side windows have been ‘armored’ with a cut-down, leftover 3D printed ‘raft’. Metal tea strainer mesh or fine cloth netting would work just as well here. I just happen to own a 3D printer that produces an endless supply of this material.

– Another 3D printed fuel tank has been glued to the rear of the car, covering the back window which was first blanked off with a small piece of plasti-card.

Your imagination and your supply of bitz are really your only limitations. Feel free to indulge any crazy Mad Max, Deathrace, Carmageddon inspired insanity you can dream up. Experiment! You can build a team of unique cars, and then tie them together with a simple matching paint job.

Remember the worst that can happen is you might have glued too much stuff onto a $3 Hot Wheel car. This is one of the reasons I think Gaslands is such a popular game, the money you have to spend to get into the game is only the cost of a couple of cups of coffee or a takeaway burger. It probably helps that the game is great fun too!

Step 5: Painting

Once I’m happy with the car I’m working on, I give it a scrub in detergent and warm water to get rid of any finger grease from handling it, then let it dry before priming it with a spray primer. I’ve used Army Painter ‘Desert Yellow’ coloured primer on this car. I just prefer coloured primer to give me something less stark than black or white to paint over.

I paint the parts separately, and as you can see above I’ve Blu Tacked them down to old drink bottle lids for handling. Cheap but effective recycling! Once I’ve painted the parts to my satisfaction I’ll put them back together and varnish the finished vehicle. In the photos below I’ve also put the car back together to show the paint job.

As I’ve drilled out the rivets and exploded the vehicle to convert and paint it, I also flip over the car and apply a couple of drops of two-part epoxy back into the drilled out rivet holes to hold it all together.

Here are the steps I’ve taken this Hot Wheel through while painting. It’s not intended to be a strict painting guide, as everybody has their own style. Although hopefully it might encourage you to experiment with Hot Wheel paint jobs.

Step 5: Painting – Base Coat

Here’s the car parts after priming and base coating. This car is going to be an experiment with some new AK Interactive Rust Effects enamel paints I bought recently, so I’m trying to paint a weathered ‘beater’ look.

Muted earth tones were used for the body (and the air filter): Vallejo Game Colour 72.043: Beasty Brown. Vallejo 70.863: Gunmetal Grey was used on all the metallic parts straight out of the bottle, and then mixed 50/50 with 70995: German Grey for the undercarriage and ram. Windscreen, tires, and engine pulley belt were painted with an 80/20 mix of Vallejo: 72.045: Charred Brown and 72.051: Black. I don’t like to paint straight black on the tires because it looks too dark to my eyes. Finally, the extra range fuel tank and window netting were painted with Vallejo 301: Light Rust. That’s a mix of Vallejo’s Game Colour, Model Colour, and Panzer Aces colour codes on the car.

Step 5: Painting – Sponge Chips and Ink Washing

Once the base coat was dry I started adding the first layer of detail. I generally try to paint in layers and aim for speed more than a super fancy paint job. A ripped up piece of sponge (a pull foam finger from a Battlefoam vehicle tray) was dabbed in Army Painter: Filthy Cape (a light green/grey) and applied carefully to the body. Mainly trying to hit the areas that would naturally wear on a car’s paint job in the post-apocalyptic wasteland: wheel arches, front, and rear of the car and a little around the doors and roof. The sponge work was followed by hand-painted Vallejo Gunmetal Grey chips on a few of the high points of the sponge work.

Once everything was dry, all parts were given an ink wash mixture of two drops of water, two drops of Army Painter: Soft Tone Quickshade and three drops of Army Painter: Strong Tone. I tend to ink wash a lot of stuff I paint because it replaces the ‘black lining’ effect folks get by painting over a black undercoat. I’m not patient enough to do layers of paint over black so prime in lighter colours and try and get the same effect with a quick ink wash halfway through the painting process.

Step 5: Painting – Highlights

The ink wash flattens everything out and tends to blend colours together so the next step is to apply some highlighting. Vallejo: Gunmetal Grey is repainted on the metal parts, highlighting edges and trying to give flat surfaces a bit more body again. Most of the ink wash is left in the recessed parts, as this is just a highlighting pass. Another quicker set of highlights are done with a 50/50 mix of Vallejo: Gunmetal Grey and Vallejo 70997: Silver to really make the edges shine.

The other parts are highlighted as well. The extra fuel tank was retouched with its original colour: Vallejo: Light Rust. The body was given some edge highlights to pick on the panels and add some texture. Vallejo: Beasty Brown was lightened with Vallejo 70.819: Iraqui Sand and carefully painted on. I don’t use a pure white to lighten colours as I find an ‘off-white’ tone like Iraqui Sand or Vallejo 72.034: Bonewhite gives warmer, less stark tones when mixed with other colours.

Step 5: Painting – Rust Effects

This is where I started experimenting with new paints: the AK Interactive AK 4110: Crusted Rust Deposits set. This is a set of three 35ml pots of AK 4113: Light Rust Deposit, AK 4112: Medium Rust Deposit and AK 4113: Dark Rust Deposit.

I hadn’t used these paints before, so this Hot Wheel was an ideal model to experiment on. Gaslands Hot Wheels have pretty much become my test bed for all sorts of new paint techniques and supplies. As I mentioned earlier, if it all goes wrong the worst you’ve wasted is a $3 Hot Wheel car. This is much less painful than discovering you can’t get a technique to work halfway through painting an $80 Games Workshop 40k vehicle for example!

The AK Interactive rust effects were applied the way their tutorial suggests you should, and again I was trying to hit the areas of a car that would rust in real life.

To finish off the vehicle for varnishing, the windscreen was masked and spattered with some diluted Army Painter: Desert Yellow mixed with Vallejo: Bonewhite. The windscreen didn’t really work that well to my eye, but I can live with it. The ram was also highlighted with a little more Vallejo: Gunmetal Grey mixed with Vallejo: Silver. I didn’t bother applying any rust effects to the ram, because I imagine it gets kept nice and clean by well, being rammed into things!

Step 6: Complete

At this point I’m calling the car complete. I have several AK Interactive Dust Pigments (like AK081: Dark Earth and AK041: North Africa Dust) that can be used to add convincing road dust to tires and vehicle bodies, but if you’re playing Gaslands you handle the cars a lot and dust effects tend to wear poorly in my experience. The vehicle will be finished up with a dusting of Army Painter: Anti Shine Matt Varnish once everything is dry and then added to my Gaslands collection.

I hope you’ve found this tutorial useful, get out there and play some Gaslands!

Tutorial: Ruined Roads from Vinyl/Lino Tiles

Testing Lino Road Tiles I’m still working on building up my This is Not a Test terrain. The latest onto the table is a couple of experimental road tiles made from cheap, repainted, self-adhesive vinyl floor tiles. These turned out fairly well for pretty minimal effort, and a few folks asked for a tutorial so here it is.

Step One: Secure a box of cheap, 1′ square, self-adhesive vinyl floor tiles. Locally a pack of 36 tiles costs around $50NZ from Bunnings, which is a large home improvement chain in New Zealand and Australia. They used to come in smaller 12 tile boxes, which was a better deal, because you’ll probably only need a few of them. You may also be able to buy them separately. Make absolutely sure they’re vinyl though and not ceramic tiles because you want to cut them with tools.

You’re looking for textured tiles, preferably in a dark or grey tone – although that doesn’t matter too much since you’ll be painting over them. I believe the ones I used were called ‘granite style’. The faux stone texturing makes them easy to paint, and don’t worry about how glossy they are, because we will deal with that later. The next photo shows you an example of the tiles I used.

Lino Tile Road Supplies Step Two: Secure your tools. You should have most of these already in your collection:

  • A sharp Xacto and ruler for tile cutting.
  • Some cheap house paint or student acrylics to paint the roads. I have black student’s paint, a battleship gray and a white house paint test pot.
  • Masking tape and an old paint brush. You’ll use the masking tape to create the road markings, and the old paint brush to both dry-brush the roads, and stipple on the white markings.
  • Sandpaper (not pictured). I used a square of 120 grit. You’ll use this to prepare the road surface for painting, by taking some of that gloss off.
  • Lino Tile Road Tools Craft woodcut tools. You may not have these, they are used to cut and texture the lino tiles. You can find these at art stores. Locally I bought my set from Gordon Harris for around $20NZ. You don’t need a whole box, at the most you need two tools: a wide, ‘U’ shaped blade, and a sharp ‘V’ shaped one. Some art stores may sell you a handle and a set of interchangeable blades instead, which could be a cheaper option.

Lino Tile Roads Step Three: Plan your roads, and start cutting. I cut one of the tiles into three 4″ wide, 12″ long strips for these roads. That’s about the right width for a 28mm scale, narrow, single lane road. The photo shows a raw road, with a finished one next to it.

You don’t have to cut all the way through the tile, just score it deeply with your Xacto and then you can snap the tile along the join easily. You’ll then have to then cut through the backing paper as well, which protects the adhesive back. Leave the paper on though!

Step Four: Ruin the Roads. This process will take a little time, as you’ll use the woodcut tools to cut away the edges of the rectangular road, and cut extra details into the surface of the tile.

WARNING: ALWAYS CUT AWAY FROM YOURSELF. ALWAYS! Even cheap woodcut tools are as sharp as your Xacto knife when new. Also when cutting the tiles it’s very easy to slip and lose control of the tool. Always cut away from yourself, because if you don’t, you’re one slip away from cutting into your hand or stabbing yourself in the torso.

Lino Tile Road Edge Work This photo shows me using the tool with a wide, shallow ‘U’ shaped cutting edge. I’ve roughly sketched out where I want to cut with a Sharpie, and then trimmed and snapped the bulk of the corners off with the Xacto. I then use the woodcut tool to shave down the edges so they look more organic. I’m also cutting on a spare piece of MDF board, because the tool tends to cut through the tile as I work. You can see the cuts are also exposing the backing paper. I work my way around the whole tile, turning it and cutting away from myself all the time.

Lino Tile Road Edge Cracks Next, I grab the sharp ‘V’ shaped woodcut tool and start working cracks and breaks in from the roughed out edge of the tile. The goal is to make something that looks like cracked asphalt or concrete. It doesn’t have to be particularly realistic looking, it just has to suggest that the road surface is falling apart with age.

It works best if you cut from inside the tile out towards the edges, because then if you slip, the tool won’t leave a long gouge across the middle of the road. You also want to cut fairly deeply because you want a nice texture to drybrush over when painting. The ‘V’ shaped tool is also excellent for creating cracked pothole effects in the middle of the tile.

Lino Tile Road Back Once I’m happy with the texturing on the front of the tile, I flip it over and trim away the tattered backing from the edge with my Xacto, while also leaving as much as possible still attached to the tile. The adhesive isn’t that strong, and we’ll over paint the exposed edge to kill the stickiness later. You just want to expose as little of the glue as possible.

Step Five: Preparing for Painting. After cutting, your road tile probably still has a lot of glossy, shiny surface intact. You need to roughen that up to ensure your paint job sticks. This is where the 120 grit sandpaper comes in. I take a square of that and a sanding block and work over the whole surface of the tile to kill the shine a little and add some ‘tooth’ for the paint. You’re not trying to sand the tile down flat, because you want to save that nice surface texturing it comes with, just rough it up a little. You can also sand the edges you’ve cut up lightly to get rid of any loose material there before painting.

Step Six: Painting. For the roadways, I mixed up a fairly dark asphalt gray base tone and applied two separate coats using a wide hog bristle brush. Depending on the quality of your paint, you might be able to get away with one coat – unfortunately my cheap student’s acrylic didn’t cover that well though. I also base coat over the edge of the tile onto the back, painting over the exposed adhesive to kill the stickiness. I leave the tiles sitting on old sprues to dry, since the back is wet as well.

Once the base coat was completely dry, I drybrushed two coats of lighter grays over the dark base, making sure to hit the cut edges and cracks well, but also lightly drybrushing most of the tile to capture the texturing it was manufactured with. The trick with drybrushing is use a large brush, make sure there’s almost no wet paint on the brush, and to brush at a 45 degree angle to what you’re trying to texture. This means the roads were painted back at forth at 45 degrees, working down the length of the tile.

Once the drybrushing was completely dry, I used the masking tape to mask out a stripe down each side of the road, and used the same brush to carefully stipple the white road markings on. Make sure you avoid the cracks you’ve cut into the road as you go though, because the painted surface is meant to be gone there. I’m not entirely happy with the white road markings, as I think they look a little too bright still. I’m tempted to hit them with a very light ink wash to darken them down a touch.

Finally, depending on the quality of the paint you’ve used you might want to varnish the tile with some cheap spray varnish. Although house paints are usually robust enough to handle being war-gamed on, which is why I generally use them for painting terrain.

Tutorial: Post Apocalyptic Terrain with Mantic Red Brick

Mantic 20th Century Brick This tutorial describes detailing and basing a set of Mantic “20th Century Red Brick” terrain. Mantic Games produce these plastic terrain kits for a variety of their games such as Deadzone and Mars Attacks, and Mighty Ape stock them locally.

These kits are great value for money, and come with the pieces already removed from their sprues, with a bag of clever connectors which you can use to snap them together without glue.

In 15 minutes you can put a whole box together and create a collection of terrain ready for a game. The kits really shine though if you spend a bit of extra modelling time on them, which this tutorial will cover.

Step One: Dry fit a wall section and find a base

Take the Mantic Red Brick sections and dry fit together the terrain you’d like to build. Don’t glue anything yet though, because it’s easier to work on the separate parts as we go. For this tutorial I’ve put together a simple ruined corner from three pieces. For the base I’ve used a section of 5mm MDF which has been cut with a jigsaw and sanded down by hand. The straight edges on the MDF have also been sanded back so that they will fit against the sloped bottom edge of the Mantic walls.

Step Two: Fill the connector holes with a texture stamp

Green Stuff and Mantic Brick Walls The Mantic connector system is clever and allows you to build a variety of buildings from the same basic pieces. One unfortunate side effect of the system, however, is that there are visible connector holes all over the assembled terrain. To address this, we’ll patch the holes that aren’t filled with connector pieces. The easiest way to do this is to make a texture stamp, using green stuff and a little olive oil from the kitchen.

Smear the olive oil on a part of the wall to keep the putty from sticking, and then press a large pea of green stuff firmly against that area. After leaving it to set overnight, the green stuff should be easily removed and the olive oil can be washed off. I also cut notches in the set texture stamp to make it easier to align with the brick texture on the wall parts.

Mantic Brick Hole Textured To fill each hole, take a little mixed green stuff and push it into the hole, using either a wet sculpting tool or your fingers. You want to get the green stuff smooth, and as flat as possible against the wall. If you find you’ve put too much in the hole so it’s overfilled, remove it and try again otherwise you’re likely to end up with a bulging patch which is harder to paint.

Wet the green stuff in the wall, and then carefully line up the texture stamp and press down with reasonable amount of force. If you’ve lined everything up and the green stuff is wet enough, you’ll be able to lift the stamp away and find a nicely textured section covering the hole. You’ll probably have to tidy things up a bit with an Xacto knife or sculpting tool, particularly around the bevelled edges of the wall. With a bit of practice, you should be able to patch each hole in a couple of minutes! Once again, remember to leave the green stuff overnight to set.

Step Three: Cover the wall edges and corners with plastic card

Mantic Brick Wall Plastic Card Once everything is patched and set, glue the wall sections together with polystyrene glue. You might notice there’s still obvious gaps between the connected wall sections and on the corners. The next step is to hide those with a bit of cut plastic sheet or styrene. Mighty Ape stock “Evergreen” styrene sheet which is what I’ve used here. At this point I’ve also cut the broken ‘glass’ out of the original windows, as I plan to replace these with cut blister plastic in the finished piece.

To cover the corners, I used a piece of thicker Evergreen rectangular rod which has been cut down and lightly sanded for texture, before being glued flat over the corner join. It’s a quick and dirty solution but works well to hide the corner seam. To cover the joins between the flat wall panels, I trimmed some strips off a piece of 1.5mm Evergreen sheet, and then cut them down and glued them in place on both sides of the wall, into the triangular space made by the wall seam.

Step Four: Pinning the wall to the base

Mantic Brick Wall Pinning Now those seams are hidden, attach the wall to the MDF base by drilling three small holes through the bottom of the wall with a pin vise (or similar). Two of these holes are visible in the base of the long part of the wall in the photo. The tricky part here is you’ll have to drill the holes low enough that they can be continued into the MDF base behind the wall. I then pinned the wall to the MDF base using some cheap 0.9mm garden wire and a bit of superglue, using the Blu Tack method which I’m described on my blog in the past.

Mantic Brick Wall Pinning Here’s another photo showing how blutack can be stuck on the base and then wet slightly to guide the position of the wall; just press the wall against the blutack to show the position of the holes, then remove the wall carefully, before drilling holes into the MDF base at the points where there’s obvious nubs of blutack. Doing it this way means the holes in the base will properly align with the holes in the wall. Remove the blutack and then put everything together by gluing sections of garden wire through the wall and into the MDF with superglue.

Step Five: Detailing the base

Mantic Brick Wall Rubble Now the wall is built and firmly attached to the base, improve the plain MDF base with some simple detailing. I keep a mixture of beach sand, kitty litter and Woodland Scenics Railway Ballast handy for instant rubble. Using watered down builder’s PVA the mix can be glued around the bevelled edge of the base to suggest exposed ground underneath the ruined corner.

A simple trick when gluing rubble down like this is to apply PVA first, scatter the rubble over the base, shake off any excess, then take a large brush and some more watered down PVA and dab it liberally over the glued down rubble. That will help the PVA from underneath to “wick up” through the sand and small stones, gluing everything in place firmly (which is what you can see in the photo).

Once the PVA is dry, wait overnight, then start building up the base with a cheap, flexible plaster. I use Polyfilla for this, which comes in a tube with a handy plastic scaper attached to the back. The Polyfilla can be applied in two layers using the slightly wet scraper. The first layer covers the MDF base, and some of the glued down rubble. Polyfilla dries pretty quickly, so you can usually work on the second layer after a couple of hours. The second layer creates a smooth final surface. It’s easy to get Polyfilla on the walls while you’re applying it, but just clean it up with a wet brush while you work.

After the second Polyfilla layer has dried, take a sharp sculpting tool and Xacto knife, and cut and score the edges of the Polyfilla to try and make it look like cracked, ruined concrete. Dried Polyfilla is fairly easy to work with and cuts nicely. After carving the edge, I sanded the whole surface with a 120 grit sandpaper just to give it bit more texture for painting.

Step Six: Paint

Tutorial Final Plain Here’s the painted terrain piece. I’ve used several different products to paint it as follows. To seal everything, the brick work and base was primed with an Army Painter ‘Dragon Red’ spray can, another excellent product that Mighty Ape stock. Dragon Red is a rich, deep colour which is a touch too bright for real bricks, so it can be toned down considerably by lightly drybrushing a variety of browns over it, working from a dark earthy brown, up to a light tan which you can see on the edges of the bricks. The trick with drybrushing is to use a large brush and to drybrush at a 45 degree angle rather than straight up and down or side to side. The window frame was painted with Vallejo Game Colour acrylics, with a couple of layers of quick highlighting. I didn’t bother trying to paint the Mantic connectors any differently from the wall as I noticed they blend in nicely anyway.

The brick wall and window frame were further toned down by painting with Wattyl ‘Kauri’ Satin Polyurethane floor varnish. You can use an ink wash, but hobby ink is fairly expensive so I tend tosave it for painting figures, and use cheaper products from the hardware store for terrain. The varnish collects nicely between the bricks too, and has the added bonus of sealing the paint and making it harder to chip.

The Polyfilla base was painted in simple grey tones mixed from cheap student’s acrylic paints, with a few lighter layers drybrushed up around the edges. The rubble was painted with the same paint used to drybrush the bricks, and then the rubble and concrete cracks were washed down with watered down Army Painter ‘Strong Tone’ ink wash. Once everything was dry, it was varnished lightly with an Army Painter ‘Anti Shine’ Matt spray can. This is mainly to flatten down the shine left on the wall from the floor varnish, but also to seal the base further.

Tutorial Final Decorated Finally, to replace the plastic ‘broken glass’ I’d cut out from the original wall, some old blister plastic was trimmed, lightly varnished with the Army Painter Matt spray, and then painted with some thinned down AK Interactive ‘Dark Mud’ Weathering enamel wash. The idea here was to try and make the jagged glass look filthy. The painted glass was glued into the window frame using PVA, which dries clear and won’t add any frosting to the blister plastic.

Here’s the same terrain piece with some added props and a couple of 28mm figures on Games Workshop bases for scale. As you can see, the Mantic terrain provides an excellent base to create and build great terrain for a number of different game systems such as Bolt Action, Moderns, or Post Apocalyptic gaming.

Bolt Action: Magnetised Panzerfausts

Bolt Action Magnetised Panzerfaust I’ve assembled my entire Late War German Panzergrenadier army already, and having played a few games with them have decided it’s probably worth having more than one Panzerfaust in each squad. This excellent BoltAction.net article clearly states the reasons why you should do this.

Panzerfausts are one shot weapons, carried by a Panzergrenadier, and once they’re fired the soldier stays on the table with his normal weaponry. So I thought it would be nice to have removeable Panzerfausts. I was pondering how to do this after a recent loss at a friend’s place when Aaron (a spectator to that game) suggested I use magnets. Brilliant! Fortunately I recently picked up 160 more tiny ‘pill’ style rare earth magnets from Dangerous Magnets.

Taking the spare Panzerfausts I had from the plastic box set, I snipped the heads off every one. The haft (which in the real Panzerfaust contained the propellant) was replaced with some straightened, galvanized garden wire. I used 1.2mm wire for the larger Panzerfaust heads, and 0.9mm wire for the smaller Faustpatrone heads. You get a mix of both types of weapon in the Warlord plastic box. The Faustpatrone have the smaller, bell shaped cover on them. Although it’s not shown in these WIP photos, I also made a simple push mold of the folded down spring leaf sight from the original plastic hafts, and added that back to the metal ones.

Bolt Action Magnetised Panzerfaust Having given my Panzerfausts magnetic, metal hafts I proceeded to torture a bunch of my assembled plastic Germans by drilling massive 2mm wide divots in their backs, and super gluing 1mm x 2mm pill magnets in there.

This second photo shows my first experimental German equipped with a Panzerfaust being held in place by the magnet. They’re held securely enough to game with, but easily enough to remove from the figure in a second. More tidy up work was required of course, involving smoothing some epoxy putty over the wound to hide the magnet in the figure’s back.

The rare earth magnet is strong enough not to be phased by 1mm of putty over the top of it. They’re so strong you can actually hang a couple of Panzerfausts off a single soldier. This has no effect in the Bolt Action rules, but does look quite characterful. However I need to share out all the remaining Panzerfausts I have between my three squads, so carrying multiple weapons is verboten!

One thing you have to be careful about is how you place the magnet I’ve found. You probably either want it quite off-centre in the side of the model as shown, so the Panzerfausts tend to hand down. Alternately you could place the magnet dead in the centre of the figure’s back and they can carry Panzerfausts horizontally. Of course that’ll require a bit more sculpting to fix up the webbing you’ve drilled through.

Quick thinking by Aaron and an evening with a pin vice means I now have three squads of Gerry armed with 2-3 removeable Panzerfaust each. Now let’s see if that keeps the damn flame throwing Universal Carriers at bay…

Tutorial: Rubicon 1/56th Stug III Zimmerit

Rubicon Stug III Zimmerit I plan to use the Rubicon Stug III I built recently for a Late War German force, which will be fighting against my mates’ British and US Paras in Normandy.

Stugs in Normandy had Zimmerit because it was applied until late ’44. Stugs also had their own specific ‘waffle’ style Zimmerit applied by the manufacturer. If you’re working in 1/35th scale there’s all sorts of after-market brass etched kits you can buy to apply to specific Stug models. Of course 1/56th is a less common war-gaming scale so you’re obliged to find a solution yourself.

One common trick is to cut a texture stamp and use that on putty applied to your vehicle. That’s what I’ve done here, the first photo shows the plastic-card texture stamp and the first pieces of Zimmerit that were applied to my assembled Rubicon Stug. The texture stamp is a little over-scale for the Zimmerit being applied, but there were practical limits to how small I could cut the stamp. It’s also for a war-gaming vehicle rather than a scale model, so visual effect is more important than exact historical accuracy. Hopefully the rivet counters will forgive me.

Rubicon Stug III Zimmerit Front The Zimmerit was applied in batches, over a course of four evenings. The putty used was ‘grey stuff’, which is very similar to the usual ‘green stuff’, except quite a bit less tacky. It was rolled onto the dry body using the wetted end of an Xacto handle. The edges and corners were trimmed and tidied up with a sculpting tool. The smooth putty was then stamped carefully with the tool that was been dipped in water every few rows. The water is to stop the putty from sticking to the stamp rather than the tank.

I’ve tried to follow the historical pattern of application, with some limitations. Zimmerit was definitely applied to vertical surfaces where it was designed to stop magnetic mines from sticking to the sides of the vehicle. Looking at historical photos and it appears it was also often applied to the flat bow front and the roof of the cabin. I’ve avoided doing that for this Stug because it was unfortunately assembled before I decided to apply Zimmerit. That means the gun and mantlet are basically in the way of the bow top. The cabin roof was left bare because I didn’t want to work around the detail there. Some historical photos do appear to show cabin roofs without Zimmerit too.

Rubicon Stug III Stowage It was also wasn’t applied to the hull sides, because I’m putting schurzen on this model. Nor was it applied to the engine deck because I’ve covered at least half of that with stowage as you see in this final photo. The back of the cabin was done because fortunately I’d failed to glue the ventilator/antenna/rail piece on properly so it was easy to snap off. I then pushed it back into the setting putty, which seems to be holding it on better than the glue did. The metal stowage is from Ebob Miniatures, and the rather over-scale crate is from my own personal collection.

Overall I’m happy with the final effect an am looking forward to painting it up. These 1/56th vehicles are great fun to experiment on. The Rubicon models are so well priced I feel comfortable messing around with them too. If you screw up and it turns into a disaster you’ll only be down $46nzd or so.

Sculpting a 15mm Building Finished – Tutorial

15mm Building Facade Painted Here’s the second 15mm facade, based and painted. The base is an old CD which has been vigorously sanded for texture and then had the facade glued down to it with PVA. DAS air-drying clay was used to build up some ground around the building, and to help secure it to the CD somewhat.

Once dried the DAS was covered over with a mixture of various different Woodland Scenics model railway ‘ballast’ sizes, with a few pieces of broken balsa wood thrown in for variety. More balsa wood was used to detail the flat back of the cast facade, and build up some ruined floors. The small portion of brick wall you see is from a Linka mold which has been snapped and carved with a Dremel too.

15mm Building Facade Rear Painted The whole lot was then sprayed with a cheap black enamel spray can. This works nicely to seal the porous plaster of the cast facade. The ground and facade were drybrushed with acrylic house paint test pots and then lightly varnished with Army Painter matt varnish.

The German Panzer MK IV ‘Long’ shows you the scale is a little more Flames of War friendly than my previous facade which was three stories tall.

Tutorial: Star Wars X-Wing Cheap Star Field Mat

Star Wars Cheap Star Field Map Yes, I have inevitably succumbed to the allure of the Fantasy Flight Star Wars X-Wing game, after trying it out in the ‘Bigtop’ at PAX Melbourne earlier this year. As we’ve been playing a fair amount of it both with my wargaming friends and my young boys at home, I was looking for a star field mat as the wooden kitchen table we usually play on ruins the immersion somewhat.

There are plenty of commercial star field gaming mats on the market that all looked very nice, but also all looked pretty pricey, particularly once you factor in shipping all the way down to New Zealand – money that I’d frankly rather spend on board games, or more spacecraft for X-Wing. Fortunately my wife is a mad quilter and cross stitcher and was able to source me a meter square of flat black ‘cotton drill’ for the grand total of $12nzd.

I whipped it out to the garage, found a pot of white water-based enamel house paint and an old brush and literally spent two minutes carefully loading up the brush lightly and flicking it across the flat cloth from random angles and directions. I hung the resulting cloth up in the garage to dry overnight and the next day we tried a few games of X-Wing on it, and I was very pleased with the result.

At ‘tabletop gaming distance’ it looks enough like a star field to please the eye (see the photo), but is visually simple enough that it doesn’t get in the way of game play, and for the grand total of $12nz plus some house paint is a very economical solution. The water borne enamel is also very robust once dried and heck, if the paint wears off I’ll just flip the cloth over and create a new star field on the other side.

Sculpting a 15mm Building III – Tutorial

This post continues from the previous Sculpting a 15mm Building Tutorial post.

15mm Building Facade Mold Almost the end of January 2013! This year I resolved to knock some of the multitude of incomplete projects lurking in my garage on the head. This particular building facade was started as a tutorial back in late 2011. I made the mold and several casts back then but haven’t got around to doing anything with them until recently.

In the last post, you saw the completed master made from a plaster body with resin parts attached. Here’s the ‘Ultrasil’ RTV mold made from that master, using the one sided molding technique I’ve discussed here before.

15mm Building Facades Compared Once I’ve got a mold created and tidied up, the rest is really downhill. Large one sided molds like this are easy to cast with ‘Ultracal 30’, a hard casting plaster which will pick up the flat surface details nicely, with no shrinkage. I cast these molds using the ‘wet water’ technique and covered with a sheet of glass from cheap photo frames to ensure the back side of the cast is flat.

Here’s a cast of the mold standing next to my earlier, larger 15mm Facade which now looks a little over scale for a 15mm building. The older building is three stories, but I can’t see myself putting more than a couple of buildings this tall on a wargaming table as they’d probably be a liability while you’re gaming around them. The newer facade is a much more reasonable size for a Flames of War table.

I’ve based and painted a damaged cast of the new facade, which I’ll show in the final post of this tutorial.

Sculpting a 15mm Building II – Tutorial

This post continues from the previous Sculpting a 15mm Building Tutorial post.

Create Details

Early 20th century buildings typically include a lot of surface detail they’re built from brick with added stucco or concrete rendered details over the top. Building details are fairly repeatative so I usually create a few simple masters for pillars and panels, and then cast them in resin to add to the basic flat wall described in the previous post.

15mm Facade Details The masters for these building details are small and constructed from various thicknesses of plastic card, super glue and green stuff. You should be able to create these detail pieces in an evening of sculpting. The photo shows the only masters I created for this second facade, apart from my generic 15mm windows. There’s a basic pillar which is made from plastic card strips, green stuff and some resin details I cut off an earlier pillar I made for my first 15mm facade. There’s also a left and right decorative bracket which adds to the roofline. Again this is constructed from the swirl piece cut from an earlier pillar, a scrap of plastic card and some green stuff.

Mold and Cast Details

Once these details are mastered I mold them, using the technique I’ve discussed in another tutorial and cast them in resin enough times to cover the facade. Be aware that casting in resin with some molding rubbers tends to destroy the mold as it leaches silicone from the rubber, eventually making it brittle and your mold prone to tearing and losing detail. That’s ok though because for this facade I only needed around 10 casts of the pillar.

You can see the RTV rubber mold in the photo as well. For resin molding I typically dust the entire mold with an un-scented baby talcum powder which acts as a mold release for the set resin pieces. The talcum powder will also help the resin flow into small details and corners. I use a 1:1 clear mix resin product from TopMark here in New Zealand. For European and US visitors I’m sure you can find an equivalent resin product from a local supplier. I mix the resin and pour it into the mold, and use a toothpick to lift and air bubbles trapped in corners before the resin starts to cure and turn opaque. The mold is then covered with an old CD jewel case cover, which has also been liberally dusted with baby talcum powder. This is because you want the detail casts to have a flat back, but you don’t want them to stick to the CD cover.

Cast enough resin details, clean them up with some light triming and filing and you can start applying them to the basic wall. It’s often worth casting a few extra parts and storing them for later re-molding (if your original mold has perished from the resin casting), or for use in creating new master pieces.

Applying Details

15mm Facade Master Here’s the finished master for the 15mm facade. You can see I’ve applied a set of the cast resin pillars and added the roof bracket details as well. Two resin pillars were cut down to make the smaller pillars flanking the top window. The rest of the building detailing has been added using a variety of thicknesses of plastic card cut into strips. This is where the faded pen guide lines the basic wall picked during casting come in handy to keep everything fairly straight. It’s worth taking the time to make sure everything is straight because you want to cast a set of these. For example several of the pillars were glued down and then pried up and reseated to get them straight.

Unfortunately I can see several parts of this facade that are crooked, can you spot them? The bottom left pillar is crooked, the middle row far left window isn’t straight and some of the plastic card trim has a noticeable bend in it. However chances are you won’t notice these issues once the buildings are on the gaming table and you’re standing 2-3 feet away from them.

Also take some time to make sure everything is well sealed. You can see above I’ve used a grey epoxy resin to seal the tops and bottoms of the resin pillars against the plastic card strips. I’ve also brushed on a water based DIY gap filler product to seal the gaps around the resin window frames and seat them into the basic wall more smoothly. This step is important because you want to get a clean mold of the whole facade, and having gaps between parts will allow the RTV to sneak behind details, leaving you with some fiddly mold trimming to do.

In the final post, I’ll cover molding, casting and creating terrain with the complete 15mm facade.

Sculpting a 15mm Building I – Tutorial

15mm WWII Building Facade

I’ve created a couple of 15mm building facades for European style 19th century buildings for war games like Flames of War. The first of which you see to the left. I’ve just completed the second after a three year gap so thought I’d document the process here for future reference.


InspirationThe first step is to find a building that you want to render in 15mm scale. There’s plenty of World War II photos on the internet and a Google image search will find you a bunch. Unfortunately these are typically either aerial reconnaissance photos taken from great height, or street level photos taken after terrible bombing has occurred. At any rate they typically lack enough detail to work from. I just wandered around my local city (Auckland, NZ) looking for buildings that were built in the early 1900’s that I thought wouldn’t look out of place in a European city, or on a WWII war gaming table. My second 15mm facade was inspired by the building to the right. The roof line in particular looked European to me.

The Basic Wall

15mm Facade Basic Wall Mold I’ve created both the facades by starting with a plain 5mm thick wall of cast Ultracal 30 (a hard plaster) with voids for the doors and windows. Once I have a basic wall I’m happy with I add details with resin cast parts and green stuff patching.

So here’s the basic wall mold for my second facade. This has been created from a piece of white plastic which you can see has been measured up for 15mm scale high floors and gridded to indicate placement of the doors and windows. The important thing to remember here is that this mold is reversed. That’s because you want the smooth, face down side to become the outer facing surface on your final basic wall. The walls of the mold are build from cut plastic card and are held in place and sealed with masking tape. You can see a piece of foam board has been cut to act as a former for the curved roof detail. Cut foam board pieces have been glued to the backing plastic where the doors and window voids need to be.

Ultracal 30 is then mixed and poured carefully into this simple mold, making sure we go no thicker than the 5mm foam card door and window inserts. Once the whole mess has set you should be able to pop the backing plastic off the basic wall, push out the foam card voids and tidy it all up with some careful filing.

15mm Second Facade Basic Wall Here’s the de-molded basic wall, which has had the foam card spacers removed. You can see a bit of the foam card left around the large bottom window. Notice this is the face down side of the mold, and you can see where the Ultracal 30 has lifted the penned in grid lines from the mold above. That’s actually kind of handy as they can also act as guides while you’re apply details.

I’ve forced in some custom resin windows I’ve sculpted as well, unfortunately breaking the basic wall in half in the process. That’s why you can see a crack running across the bottom of each window pillar. Doesn’t look like much at the moment does it? That’s because it needs some details!

The next post I’ll cover sculpting, casting and applying resin details to the master.