Dead End Projects

     A dead end project is when I have an idea for a kitbash or scratchbuild vehicle that I have a particular need for but somewhere along the way one of the existing manufacturers decides to produce one themselves.  The first project that has been overcome by events (OBE) that I would like to share with you is my conversion of GHQ Ferret Mk I turret-less scout cars into Ferret Mk II with the .30 cal MG turret.

     In 2010 GHQ published their production plans for the 2010-2011 product year and they scheduled a February 2011 release date for the Ferret Mk I.  This was excellent news!  I was working on early Cold War armies and needed some light scouts for the British Army of the Rhine (BAOR) and other areas.  The problem was I didn’t really need the Mk I version which was turret-less and open topped. 

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     What I wanted was the Mk II version with the small machine gun turret.

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     After doing a little bit of research I learned that the Saracen 6×6 armored personnel had an identical turret.

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     There is also an ambulance version of the Saracen which doesn’t have a turret.

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     Perfect!  I had some extra Saracens anyway so I decided to carefully cut the turret of the Saracen and graft it onto the Ferret after filling in the crew compartment with putty.  The ‘leftover’ Saracens would then become ambulances.  I didn’t need more than a handful of Saracen ambulances so this conversion process was never going to get me to the 40+ Mk II Ferrets I hoped to have but it would be a start.

     Here are the excellent Mk I Ferrets from GHQ with their crew compartments filled in with putty.

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  Here is the primed Mk II Ferret with its new turret ready for BAOR green and black camo pattern.

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     It was at about this point in the project when GHQ announced their production plans for the 2011-2012 product year.  They had a Ferret Mk II scheduled for release in October 2011.

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     Suddenly, there was no advantage to kitbashing any further Mk II’s.  I guess that was a good thing since it should have given me the time to work on other projects.

More Magnet Madness

     Well as promised I’m back with the IDF Magach 6B tanks from GHQ to modify them with rare earth magnets which should hold the turrets securely but allow free rotation.  Prior to my introduction to these magnets I had always glued the turrets of my tanks.  It wasn’t as visually appealing on the game table but it was a much more secure way to store and transport them.  Moving every couple of years to various far-flung military assignments that was an important consideration.  In fact these tanks had their turrets glued in place before I started this modification.  Here’s a cool tip I learned on the GHQ forums – if you use CA glue (crazy glue) you can weaken the bond to separate the turret by placing the miniature in the freezer.  It worked very well on these tanks and the Canadian Leopard 2A6AM tanks which will also undergo modification.

     The first thing you have to do is decide how you want to employ the magnets.  The GHQ forums have several different suggestions.  Some place the magnet in the turret peg and glue a piece of ferrous metal under the hull.  Some place the magnet under the hull and glue a piece of ferrous metal in the turret pin.  Others use magnets in both the hull and the turret.  That is the method that I will be using here.  As always it is critical to make sure you glue the magnets in place with the proper polar alignment.  Another important tip – while the glue for the magnets cure don’t move any other magnets anywhere near the model or it will cause the magnet to flip, fly out or otherwise dislodge itself.  Don’t ask how I know this.

     To use two magnets I decided to use 3mm x 1mm magnets in place of the turret peg and use 4mm x 1mm magnets under the hull.  Why those sizes?  Its what I had on hand.  Since this is my first attempt there are some lessons learned.  For series production I would choose 3mm x 1.5 or 2mm for the turret peg.  This would give enough depth of recess in the turret to hold securely while still providing some ‘peg’ to insert in the hole in the hull.  

     First step is to remove the existing turret peg and drill a shallow hole in its place to recess the magnet in the turret.

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     If you look close you can see the CA glue residue on the bottom of the turret.  I should have been more careful and removed all of it.  I learned in the next step that when gluing the magnet in place the CA glue bonds to the residue not the metal and as a result the magnet was not secure and took much longer to cure.  Of course cure time might be because I was using crap glue.

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  With the turret complete its time to work on the hull.  The hole for the turret peg has to be bored out to 3mm to accommodate the magnet serving as the turret peg.  I use a pin-vise drill with a 3mm Dremmel bit.  The Dremmel bit is meant for high speed operation so it doesn’t bite very deep and it takes a while to grab hold and drill into the turret.  This is actually a good thing as it gives you a great deal of control on how deep you actually go.  Test fit often to ensure the recess is deep enough to hold the magnet but still leave some exposed to act as the turret peg.  This is why I would use slightly longer magnets in the future.  Here’s the hull drilled out.

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     On the underside of this particular model there is a small depression around the hole as you can see.  Using 4mm magnets they just bridge over this gap to cover the hole but there is limited purchase for the glue.  If I had it to do over and I had different magnet sizes I would use 5mm magnets under the hull.  The GHQ forum members report great success just gluing a bit of ferrous metal under the hull.  I tested a couple of different items but found they were more trouble cutting them down to size than it was worth.  Your mileage may vary.

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     With the glue dry on turret and hull its time to test fit.  Turns out I didn’t follow my own advice and one of the turret and hull combos have their magnet poles reversed with respect to the others.  The turret and hull match each other but the turret won’t work on the other hulls and vice versa.  Maybe I’ll just make it a command tank or something like that.

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     The magnet to magnet bond is strong enough to lift the miniature by the turret or barrel but I definitely don’t recommend this as standard practice.

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     Here is the lot of them complete and ready for the paint shop!

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New Arrivals, well not completely new but…

I wanted to shift gears a little bit and go back to 1/285 micro armor.  I have some of the 2012-13 model year vehicles from GHQ that I would like to share.  Some I think are quite good and others just aren’t.  All of them are high quality and ultra detailed, which you would expect from GHQ.  But one in particular just seems too big.  So why not start with that one.  Before the reveal however, I want to say that I’m a huge Bundeswehr fan.  I have all the models currently available and have scratchbuilt or kitbashed numerous others.  So I eagerly awaited the release of the Puma, which is to replace the Marder in active service.  Unfortunately this has been a marketing nightmare for GHQ.  If you’re interested you can read all about it on the GHQ forum but in a nutshell here’s what happened.  Initial release have five roadwheels and the reaction from the forum experts was highly critical.  That’s the proto-type we want the real deal.  So GHQ called a do-over and released a model with six roadwheels.  But when the first ones reached customers hands the forum lit up and sales went to all stop.  This thing is huge!  Much larger than the Marder it is replacing.  Much larger than the Leopard 2A6 tank it will serve along side.  Debate raged over what the actual dimensions are and what the scale error is etc. etc.  The debate was complicated by the fact that no online sources had the same data because there are modular armor packages that change the dimensions considerably.  What is the real baseline height and width?  I don’t know and neither does GHQ but they’re sticking to their guns and aren’t going to change the design again unless proven wrong.  Well until I know how far off it is or even if it is off scale I’m not buying any more of these.  If you’re a Sci-Fi fan however these are fantastic.

Puma IFV - GHQ Miniatures

Puma IFV – GHQ Miniatures

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With this next item GHQ redeemed themselves.  Following the global trend of making lighter, easily transportable wheeled APCs the Bundeswehr has also adopted into service the Boxer.  This eight wheeled vehicle is broadly similar to the Stryker family of vehicles now in use in the U.S.  More of these are definitely on my shopping list.

Boxer APC - GHQ Miniatures

Boxer APC – GHQ Miniatures

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Staying with German manufacturers for a moment the next model is the Canadian version of the German Leopard 2A6 main battle tank.  I ordered this when it was first released but before any catalog pictures were available on GHQ’s website.  I had hoped that the additional slat armor was etched brass similar to the kits available for GHQ Stryker vehicles.  I was a little disappointed when I received the product and it was an integral part of the mold.  My main issue is how to paint it.  Can’t really show the camouflage pattern behind the slats so I guess I’m going to have to go with O.D.

Leopard 2A6M CAN - GHQ Minitaures

Leopard 2A6M CAN – GHQ Miniatures

 

Staying with the heavy metal theme I’ll move along to one of my favorite models of recent years, the Magach 6B Gal.  The Israeli army comes up with some wacky and wild upgrades to old favorites.  The designs show a healthy respect for the dangers of fighting in built up terrain, lots of reactive armor and machine guns for personnel suppression.  This M-60 upgrade is no exception.  These tanks will be featured in a future piece on magnets and rotating turrets.

Magach 6B Gal - GHQ Miniatures

Magach 6B Gal – GHQ Miniatures

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The last model I want to talk about is the Nayla RG-31. The RG-31 is one of many MRAP vehicles that have proliferated throughout the U.S. military.  GHQ has a large range of MRAP vehicles which I think are pretty cool in general.  The RG-31 is also a favorite for NGO’s and UN workers so maybe I’ll have to paint up a couple of these in UN white and blue.

Nayla RG-31 - GHQ miniatures

Nayla RG-31 – GHQ miniatures

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Flight Stands (Update)

     The flight stands worked so well I went through a frenzy of gluing magnets to my aircraft.  Here is another Raiden creation, a Mirage 5 or Nesher in IAF service.  I drilled out the hole and glued the magnet flush with the belly.  Once painted the magnet will be difficult to see.  Two of these models will be finished in IAF colors and an additional pair in Argentine colors for Falklands/Malvinas campaigns.

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     Some unpainted Raiden Skyhawks received similar treatment.  Six Skyhawks were prepared, two will go to the IAF, two for Argentina and two for USN service.

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     My existing IAF models, a pair of Super Mysteres and a pair of Skyhawks, both types manufactured by Raiden, were given the treatment.  Lighting on this shot of the Super Mysteres shows I need to pay more attention to cleaning the mold/flash lines, oh well.

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     For these shots I used one tall stand and one short stand for a sort of parade formation which looked even cooler on the table. 

     To balance things a little I made sure all three Egyptian MiG-21s and the three SU-7B, again from Raiden, have magnets.  Only one MiG is painted and was featured in the last post so no pictures of the others yet.  Then I started playing around with the few remaining magnets on my German Bo-105 helicopters from GHQ.  I like these little guys.  I must have ten or twelve of them half with the new brass rotor blades and the other half with the old plastic disc rotor.

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Of Flight Stands and Rare Earth Magnets

In my continuing quest to clear the decks of all the old, lingering, unfinished projects I’m going to show you how I make flight stands for 1/285 scale aircraft.  In the past I have used flight stands from various manufacturers and each has it own unique limitations.  Of those commercially available my least favorite are the AC Bases from CinC.

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The one pictured here is the medium base but the others are similar.  These stands feature a criss-cross pewter base and a pewter support.  These pieces are not strong enough to stand up to more than static display of your miniatures.  Even careful transportation and gaming use will cause these to bend and unfortunately your aircraft will crash.

The next rung up the ladder of quality is the Aircraft Stand (catalog # AC40) from GHQ.

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These stands have a thin steel wire which is inserted into a criss-cross pewter base.  Much like the product from CinC, in my experience the pewter support legs are not strong enough to stand up to gaming and transporting.  Additionally, the tolerances of the hole where the wire inserts into the base makes getting the wire to sit vertically is a challenge.  Large or heavy models will also tend to distort the hole in the pewter base over time.  On the plus side the thin steel wire is both strong and unobtrusive on the gaming table.  The miniatures look less like models on sticks than with the CinC option.

My favorite bases are the Flight Bases from Ral Partha although these can be a challenge to find.  These stands use a hexagonal pewter base and a thin steel wire as the support.  One of the cons of these stands is the hexagonal base can be too small for large heavy models making them prone to tipping.  The examples I have date from 2000 so there may be newer products available.  Here is what they look like in the package.

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In the past I used one stand per aircraft but today’s project will allow me to make a number of flight stands that will be interchangeable with all the aircraft in my collection.  I could accomplish this by not gluing the aircraft to the existing bases but where is the fun in that?  So, break out the tools its time to get to work!

In concept the new bases will have a support which will have a rare earth magnet glued to the end.  For the uninitiated the rare earth magnets are those tiny but powerful magnets that can be very difficult to separate.  The magnets on the end of the flight base will couple with a magnet on the belly of the miniature holding it in place while gaming but allowing you to separate them for storage and use fewer bases overall – at least that’s the plan.

To start with I decided to use nails of the same diameter of my magnets to act as the support for the aircraft stand.  Any steel nails will work fine I choose these in two lengths to represent helicopters and fast movers flying slightly higher.

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In order to accept a magnet on the end the pointed tip of the nail has to be removed.  My Dremel tool with cutoff wheel made short work of the nails.  Wear safety glasses!  Here’s the nail after tip removal.

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The next step is to prepare the base to accept the nail.  As mentioned above the Ral Partha bases are made to accept thin steel wire so the base has to be drilled out to the diameter of the nail.

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Most machine made nails are not quite perfectly flush where the shaft and nailhead meet for this reason the underside of the pewter base needs a slight countersink drilled out to accommodate the nail head.  Alternatively, you could machine down the shaft of the nail but since pewter is softer than steel I stick with reworking the base.  Here is the slight counter sink drilled out on this base.Image

Apply glue to the shaft of the nail at the nailhead juncture and slide it in place in the base.  Set aside to dry.  I prefer to use gel style CA or crazy glue.  The gel style has a slightly longer set time which allows me to correct placement errors.  It also works quite well as a gap filler.

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Once the glue on the nail/base has set the rare earth magnets can be attached to the tip of the nail.  Again, I use gel style CA glue for this.  Set aside to cure.

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Tip: Glue one magnet to the tip of the nail but keep a second magnet attached to the first to make sure the polarity is aligned. Mark the top surface of the second magnet a a reference mark.  This marked surface will be glued to the belly of the model.  If you drop the second magnet while attempting to glue it to the aircraft the mark will tell you which side to glue to the aircraft.

Here is the Egyptian MiG-21 that will be my test case.  I’ll have to remove a bit of the belly fairing on this model to attach the magnet.  Take the second magnet from the flight stand that was prepared earlier and glue the side with the reference mark to the belly of the aircraft.  If this model wasn’t already painted I would have drilled a hole in the belly of the aircraft to recess the magnet.  I didn’t do that here because I didn’t want to scratch the paint or decals.

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And here it is with magnet glued in place.

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And a couple views of the MiG on its stand.  The MiG-21 in these pictures is from Raiden Miniatures.  The decals are from I-94 Enterprises.

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All that remains is to paint the stand.  I managed to make eight of these in a little over an hour not including the time taken up by photography.  With this type of flight stand you’ll only have to make as many stands as you expect to have on the game table at one time.  Just make sure all the magnets that are glued to the aircraft have the correct polarity alignment with the magnets on the stands.

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Life is elswhere

So my discussion about Green Stuff inspired me to try a project of my own.  I’ve cleared my calendar of all the things I have to do and its time to do something I want to do.  Thinking about what would make a good first project I suddenly remembered one that has been languishing for four or five years.  I had constructed what would be a war monument intended to be part of a 1/285 scale city park diorama.  I was inspired for that project by this…

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The full tutorial for how this scene was constructed can be found here.  My monument featured a rectangular base, laminated pedestal and a GHQ 10mm Napoleonic figure on horseback.  All that was lacking was some suitable plaque/medallion on the sides of the pedestal.  Something like this in concept.

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In the past I’ve tried Super Sculpey, plastic card, and even considered trying to etch brass.  None of these produced a satisfactory result.

Green Stuff, however, looked very promising.  I went to the local art store yesterday and they had some Milliput two part epoxy putty in stock.  Excellent! I thought about what the medallion’s shape should be.  I watched videos on YouTube to learn more about working with epoxy putties.  I was all ready to finally finish this project.

Then I went to the storage room.  I can’t find the model.  In my last move I separated most of my 1/285 stuff from my 1/2400 ships.  1/285 stuff went to storage and the naval stuff came with me.  Somehow, I thought the monument was in the bits bin that came along with my hobby tools.  I haven’t found it yet.  Perhaps this project will have to wait another couple of years…

I have an idea…

  It usually starts with something simple.  Today the subject is Green Stuff.  I was talking with a friend who is a closet sculptor.  I think he believes most of his co-workers would stop talking to him if he came out of the closet.  You see men of a certain age are not supposed to play Dungeons & Dragons.  Actually he doesn’t play D&D he plays Call of Cthulhu and sculpts most of his own Great Old Ones, but CoC is a pretty obscure reference in this day and age.  [Full disclosure – I have played CoC in the distant past and I am a closet fan of H.P. Lovecraft but I can’t say I’m active in the genre at all.]

  Anyway, he was explaining his most recent creation and mentioned needing to go buy more Green Stuff to complete the project.  I have heard of the stuff over the years but never tried it myself.  At the risk of showing my ignorance I asked him to explain what it was and how it worked.  I’ll admit i was emboldened by the fact I knew his secret life and would threaten to out him to his co-workers if he even snickered at my ignorance.  As I found out, and you may know, Green Stuff is a two part epoxy putty.  One part is blue, one part is yellow.  Mix together until the compound is green throughout and mold or sculpt as desired.  It eventually cures into a solid model of whatever.  Cool!

  The other thing I will admit is that as he described to me how it works and what can be created with the stuff my eyes sort of glazed over and I stopped listening to him.  I was already off on my own tangent imagining what I can create.  Maybe some U-boat pens, or micro armor truck cargo, or a capsized ship hull, or a Maginot line fortification…  Sorry, I get carried away sometimes.  I need to go and see if the local hobby shop has some Green Stuff.