Matt Gubser walks us through the basics of his Circle Boxed set conversions. Having taken a couple of sculpting classes from Matt at KublaCon, we can say, without a doubt, that he’s someone you should be paying attention to in this area. ~The BrushThralls
Unlike the occasional ‘jackless’ army you’ll come across, warbeasts are absolutely essential for Hordes and will make up the bulk of most armies. With that in mind, there’s a good chance that you will end up with duplicate models on the table. Fortunately the beasts by their nature are full of character and lend themselves to customization and individuality. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to get away with rods, tubes, and plasticard when it comes to your beasts.
Whenever converting figures, it’s generally best to camouflage the joints between parts by using natural breaks in the details of the figure whenever possible. Natural breaks are any change in the surface details. The end of a sleeve is a natural break. The edges of armor plates are natural breaks. A collar is a natural break. Natural breaks are ideal places to add new parts because the surfaces don’t necessarily have to be lined up perfectly.
Making things a little more difficult with the Orboros range are models like the Warpwolf, with large unbroken areas and few breaks where joins can be hidden. But there is hope. Seams between pieces can be covered with added straps, fur, or armor plates for instance.
Cloaks and Straps
Take a firm, flexible plastic sheet, like a card protector, and rub a small amount of Vaseline onto the surface. Wash the excess Vaseline off of your fingers. It’s important that the Vaseline doesn’t get on anything else, otherwise the strap may not stick to your figure, which pretty much defeats the purpose. Flatten a piece of putty down onto the now lubricated plastic and set it aside for about 40-60 minutes. It’s important that the thickness of the putty is relatively uniform. The exact time you’ll need to wait will vary depending upon the freshness of your putty, the yellow/blue ratio used, and the temperature and humidity of your working area. The object here is to allow the putty to set up long enough so that it stiffens up enough to retain the shape we’re going to cut it into, but not to wait so long that the putty loses its stickiness.
If you have some Brown Stuff sitting around, I recommend adding some in. The reason for the mix is to combine the properties of the two putties. Green stuff always stays a little rubbery, and since you may be putting more layers on top of this one, you’ll need a stable platform to work on, hence the addition of the brown. The brown putty is going to add hardness and stiffness once the mix is cured. Straight brown isn’t as sticky as green though. The use of green in the mix is to keep the stickiness and also to retain just the smallest amount of give. If you are going to be doing any cutting and scraping on the area once it’s cured, the added green will make it a little less brittle.
Once the putty has had time to set, cut it into the desired shape with a lubricated hobby knife. Don’t press down too hard or you may slice through the plastic as well. For larger pieces like capes, I recommend leaving a little extra on one end to serve as a handle. The extra material can easily be removed later with a pair of wet clippers when the piece is secure. Gently pry the piece up, starting at the ‘handle’ and lift the putty off of the plastic. If the plastic has been lubricated properly, it should come up easily. If the putty stretches and does not retain its shape, it’s still too fresh. Once it has been removed, the goal is to attach the piece to the figure without putting fingerprints into it or otherwise marring those nice sharp edges.
Place the piece onto the figure. The side that was pressed down against the plastic will be the side that is facing up on the figure. The unlubricated side, which was facing up on the plastic sheet, will be the side adhering to the figure. Once the strip has been placed on the figure, use a sculpting tool to secure it to the figure by gently pressing it in. A Colour or Clay Shaper is invaluable at this point as these tools will leave very minimal impressions compared to steel tools. In this case, I was able to use a hobby knife to pinch off extra material against Kaya’s hood.
After the piece is secure, you’ll need to gently manipulate it into the desired shape. Wire loops, Colour Shapers, and tweezers are the best tools for this. Be gentle and keep your tools lubricated to minimize tool marks.
When using this technique to sculpt big flowy capes, there can be a problem with support. Any putty will droop if unsupported, especially at the required thinness for a cape. The way around this is to either use a support wire pinned into the main body or arrange the figure in a position where gravity and any hanging cloth are going to be working in the same direction, as the bottom image demonstrates. This wouldn’t be something you’d cook though, because the putty softens under heat, making it more likely to lose its shape.
This same technique can be used to create different sized pieces of putty for use as straps, capes, loincloths, or even armor plates.
Fur is a fairly simple process. As with sculpting anything, make sure the area of putty that you’re working on is smooth and free of blemishes and seams before you begin to put in details or texture. If you’re having trouble with smoothness, a touch of Vaseline makes life with Green Stuff a little easier. I apply the putty to the figure to form the basic shape immediately after mixing. This is when the putty is at its softest, stickiest, and most malleable. Once the shape has been refined, let it firm up for about 20-30 minutes before returning to it to apply the texture. The added stiffness from the additional set-up time will minimize some of the smaller imperfections and generally make the sculpting process a little less painful.
Starting near the bottom, take a needle or thin bladed tool and drag it down towards the bottom. Pull down from what would be the root of the hair out towards the tips. Just next to it, do the same thing. Repeat all the way across. Try not to make the lines or rows too uniform unless you’re sculpting show dogs. When one row is finished, move up slightly and repeat the process. The ends of the second row of fur should cover up the ‘roots’ of the first row. Repeat until the entire area is finished.
Longer fur isn’t too different from short fur. The primary difference though is that the area can be broken up into smaller, triangular pieces that will represent tufts of hair. Those tufts can be quickly blocked out with a hobby knife and pushed around to appear less uniform and more natural. Once those tufts are defined, drag a needle from the roots towards the end, just like with the short fur, texturing the entire surface.
Spikes are even easier. With a pin-vise, drill into the area of the miniature that you’d like to put a spike and glue a wire in there of the desired length. Green stuff really isn’t the best option for sculpting spikes, because it doesn’t take too kindly to filing. If you have some miliput, Apoxie sculpt, magicsulp, brown stuff, or Tamiya epoxy, you’d be better off with one of those. Green stuff will do in a pinch though. With your fingers, take a small piece of putty and press it onto the wire and the figure. Lubricate your fingers with a small amount of Vaseline or oil and smooth the putty out, gently pulling the putty out into a taper on the ends. If you have too much material, dip your clippers in water and clip off the excess. Get the spike as perfect as you can initially. Here’s another spot where the Colour Shapers come in handy. Once it’s dry, hit the spike with a file and/or hobby knife if necessary to refine the shape.