When we’d moved to a new house in my early teens, it had a wonderful feature I’d never been able to enjoy before – a fireplace. A large firebox, framed by a very substantial brick fireplace, dominated our family room. Our first winter there, as soon as the weather was cold enough – we had a fire.
And I loved it. I threw a blanket on the floor in front of it, and just laid there, basking in the warmth. I felt as if I could look into the fire, listening to the gentle crackle of the oak logs, for the rest of time.
At some point, however, my dad intruded into my daydreaming.
“Come on outside, son. I need to show you how to chop wood.”
I’m A Lumberjack…
Of course, I thought that sounded quite cool. Very manly manish. I already had a heavy plaid shirt and jeans on. I pulled on my boots, and went outside with dad, to swing axes and cut down trees and tell tall tales.
Dad grabbed up a piece of the oak wood he’d purchased… a nice, seasoned log about 18 inches tall, and maybe 10 inches across. Setting it on a pine stump, he explained that all you needed to do was identify where the log’s natural grain split, give the axe a good swing, and if you did it just right, it would split in one shot. Demonstrating this, he swung the axe high overhead, bringing it down in one fluid, swift, yet powerful motion. The sturdy oak log obligingly split apart with a resounding crack.
He did a few more, giving me some tips and pointers. I listened as I usually did… meaning “not at all”. I mean – what is there to know? Set the log up, swing the axe, cut it in twain. Mankind had been splitting logs for quite a while. It was ingrained…, to go with the wood metaphor. 🙂
Handing me the axe, he set up a log, and said “OK, you try.”
There’s The Pitch, and The Swing
I took the axe in my hands, hefting it around as though the television cameras were watching. “Bob, it seems he’s getting a feel for the axe. His mastery of it is certain!” “Ted, I agree. He’s coming into this wood cutting season off of a great championship run last year, but when I interviewed him, he said ‘keep an eye on me this year – it’s championship city for me!‘” Oh, the dialogs that went on in my young teen mind… 😀
I brought the axe back as I’d seen my dad do, swung it high over head, and brought it down!
Missed the oak log.
Missed the pine stump.
Buried it about 8 inches deep into the dirt next to the stump.
How did this happen? How did I miss? Surely the stump must’ve moved.
Dad chuckled. “You have to keep your eye on the log the entire time. Don’t try and swing hard. Swing accurately. The weight of the axehead will do the work.”
I tried again. And again. And again. Eventually I’d dug a pretty good trench around the stump, battered it’s pine surface, and knocked the log off of its perch several time. Finally, I managed to hit it. Right in the middle.
Only I’d not hit it with enough force, or in the right place, and now the axe head was firmly stuck. To the point dad had to help me get it loose.
My budding career in the ultra-manly world of lumberjacking seemed to be in jeopardy. While I’d not seen any rules, I was pretty sure “Hit the log” was close to the top.
As I stood staring at a giant pile of uncut oak, my heart sank.
“Get to it, son. We need firewood.”
Dad headed into the house, leaving me to figure it out.
Rally Around The New Pawn
As I’d detailed in a previous blog entry, this new Rally Pawn has gone through two paint jobs. While the first was a fun experiment with hairspray chipping, I felt like the end result left little more to be said in the “story” of the model. It was heavily chipped… but no amount of later weathering, I felt, would be able to overpower how that one technique had taken over everything.
So a reset was in order. Prime, paint, gloss coat, and decals – this time in a more traditional fashion. Weathering the model was all that was left. Easy. Right? 😉
For some reason, weathering this model was a bit like chopping wood… I fully understood the motions, but the swing of the axe seemed to just glance off of the log every time.
I started at a typical point for me, that being adding a wash. Because the model had been gloss coated for decals, I opted for Citadel’s Gloss Nuln Oil. This would had the benefit speed, due to the fast drying time of acrylics, yet kept a fairly neat appearance because of the low gloss-on-gloss surface tension. While any errors could not be wiped away as oils or enamels could, careful application avoided that problem. And half an hour later, I could move on to the next step.
The Theory Of The Chipping
For the chipping, I wanted for it to be a bit on the heavy side, though not nearly as much as I’d had on the suit for my hairspray chipping effort.
While aircraft, armor, Gunpla, and any other genre that seek to model military type vehicles will all show some degree of chipping, this suit had a bit of a different twist. Unlike those others, this is essentially an exoskeleton that a man is wearing. And while a tank may roll through trees and rubble, a plane fly through a debris, and two Gunpla bounce off of each other as angsty teen boys (one of whom MUST be wearing a mask 😉 ) discuss world peace, the chipping is fairly predictable. Less so on a tank perhaps – but it’s still a large vehicle.
The armored fighting suit struck home with me though. While I’ve never worn anything quite like it, I have worn body armor… in combat, and in training. I’ve crawled through debris, ran through brush, jumped out of the way of gunfire, and generally thrown my body into all sorts of contortions with one simple goal in mind – don’t get hit. Such gyrations tear your uniform, scrapes your equipment, leaves bruises, scrapes and cuts, and generally roughs up the body pretty well.
So while a Maschinen Krieger Armored Fighting Suit may be fiction, the reality of how a human shaped object would get dinged up in combat is firmly grounded in the real world. A world that, for better or worse, I was once familiar with.
Letting Theory Drive The Model
The decision was made to use the sponge chipping technique for this iteration of the suit. I felt it would produce scale-appropriate sized chips in both light and heavy application. A multicolored chipping approach was not used, thinking that at this size, it might seem a bit too contrived.
For the color, I chose Ammo of Mig Chipping color. I like this color because it is a multi-duty color. It can give the appearance of a dark rust layer, stained metal, or even some form of composite material. And while I’ve not been completely enamored with brush painting Ammo paints, the Chipping color does seem to work very well when sponged or painted on. It has just the right opacity and flow to make application easy.
I started with fairly light chips, distributed randomly around the model in the most logical places. (Well… logical to me… 🙂 ) This is done to prevent focusing too much on one area, which tends to lead to “over chipping”. By moving the model around, and touching various places with the sponge in a more random fashion, the effect is able to be viewed “holistically”. Further chips can be added to tell the story as it emerges from the random, chaotic placement. (You know, Nietzsche says, “Out of chaos comes order.”)
Heavier chipping was concentrated around areas that were likely candidates – feet, joints, armor plates. I’d also made some areas look as if they had battle damage, so those spots received additional chipping. (Oddly enough, those very same spots resembled how it might look if a 50+ year old man carved plastic with a file and hobby knife… strange. 😉 )
The final step in chipping was to take a look around the model and add any final chips that were needed. Here and there I found areas that just looked odd. While I wanted it to appear random, it also needed to be logical. If a section of the suit scraped against a piece of concrete rebar, that would create a definite pattern. Gaps in patterns could make it look less realistic.
In the end, I was rewarded with… something that looked like a model that had chipping applied. It wasn’t bad, but it also wasn’t stellar. But… I did have fun. Good enough.
All Your Stains Are Belong To Us
In looking at other Ma. K builds posted online by other modelers, it was very obvious that the genre loves stains, streaks and lots of grime on the armored fighting suits. I wanted do the same – it looks kinda cool – but I didn’t want to make it too heavy. My reading told me that this particular suit type would be used on the Moon, so while there may be dust, and fluid leaks, there would not be any grime and streaks from mud, water, rain, etc.
I started using the typical media – oil and enamels. However, about this stage I began to feel a sense of urgency.
While I was enjoying the build, and felt like I was learning to work in this scale and genre, my mind was already thinking about the next build. Frankly, I was ready for the New Rally Pawn to be the Old Rally Pawn.
Thus, I really did not want to wait several days for oil and enamel staining to fully dry. I wanted to get ‘er done, to quote a famous redneck comedian.
This need for speed coincided with a growing curiosity to try more acrylic wetarhing products. So I picked up a couple of staining products from Vallejo’s Mecha Color line, headed to the Tubes of You for a brief period of instruction, and got to work.
One difference that immediately was apparent – and the videos had made this evident – was that the use of acrylic weathering products must be approached as an “additive only” process. It’s very easy to add them on, but one one, because of the quick drying time, they’re generally on. Trying to wipe away excess turns into smears. Thinning them down helps, and having a cotton bud or extra paint brush around to wick away excess really helps.
The two colors I’d chosen from the Vallejo Mecha Colors series, were Oil Stains Gloss (69.813) and Petrol Stains GLoss (69.817). I place a few drops of each color on my palette (plastic – not wet), and then mixed a few drops of each to get a mid-tone. Immediately apparent was that each looked almost identical in color to Citadel’s Nuln Oil and Agrax Earthshade. However, the Vallejo product was a bit thicker. This was a handy piece of info to have, as the Vallejo version was cheaper. 🙂
Adding a drop of water to each color, I began to apply the color right to the areas I wanted stained and streaked.
You Mean You Didn’t Experiment on Something Else?
No. Here’s why.
Experimenting and testing and all of those things certainly have their place. Going through a trial and error process on some throw away plastic can save loads of grief down the road. At some point though, you must get to a point where your materials knowledge is sufficient to evaluate a product, and get on with it.
I knew this was essentially a highly thinned acrylic paint with a gloss medium added. It would not interact negatively with the products underneath. The gloss element would reduce surface adhesion, and because I already had a gloss surface, this would reduce tide marks. The way the color looked was apparent – whether it was 11% lighter or 14% darker when applied to the model didn’t matter to me. I knew if applied thinned, allowed to dry, and the process was repeated as needed, I could get the color built up as desired.
So I went straight in. The problems I’d face were far less likely to the be inherent to the paint product. The potential problem would far more likely be my choice of placement, the precision of application, and simply my eye for making it look right.
Getting that part right requires experience. And experience comes through one thing – building models. And messing up a few. Now I’m certainly not the most experienced modeler ever, and far, far, far from the best. It’s a constant chase. So I walk stright ahead, jump out the door, and hope the ‘chute opens.
Yet I quite often see modelers that seem to be getting less out of the hobby – including the basic enjoyment of it – because they approach so much of it with a bit of fear. Fear of how it works. Fear of falling short of perfection. Fear of messing it up.
Before stepping off of my soapbox (which I am about to do 🙂 ), I’d like to offer a gentle suggestion. Stop it! 😀 (Said with a smile, of course…)
It’s a hobby… yes, if you’ve never used a type of product, or applied it to a particular material, and you do have concerns, test away. Ask questions. Search the Googles. I do it all the time.
But growth as a modeler comes from building models. No other way. Yes, I’ve messed up a few. And I will do so again in the future. That is how experience is gained – through success and failure.
Yes, Yes. Fine And Good. Get On With It
I added a few drops here and there, in some hidden places, or in areas that I could easily redo with products I was more familiar with. I only touched a added some dots at first, to see how the opacity looked, how the products clung to the surface (or didn’t), and to get a grasp on how quickly they dried. All looked good, so I began applying it in all the areas I thought there would be fluid leaks.
Very quickly I saw that this stuff works very nicely. While the process is different, getting the hang of it came easily. In a way it was quite exhilarating. I was already thinking ahead to current and future builds, and how I could make this work. (Secret disclosure: I hope to one day be almost exclusively acrylic in my model paints and other sauces… the speed is just too attractive.)
And my initial observation about how much these Vallejo washes looked like Citadel Shades was borne out in use. Further application will help, but I don’t see any reason at this point I could not switch brands, and save a bit of money. While the savings on one bottle is minimal, at the rate I go through product in a year, the net result should be fairly significant, assuming the math works out based on cost per milliliter. But that’s another blog post, I suppose… 😉
With the stains added, I decided it was time to call it finished. With any model, there is the opportunity to keep adding a bit more, here and there, almost without end. However, as my aim is to have fun – I look for a point that the fun peaks, and the model is at a point I can call it completed. The New Rally Pawn was there.
I gave the entire model a good coat of Vallejo Mecha Color Matt Varnish. The masking was removed from the clear visor, and a bit of thinned matt varnish was dabbed on around the edges. I didn’t want the visor to retain the ultra crystal clear look, yet I didn’t want it so grimy that you could not see Mr. Spock inside. I built it up a bit, and after a few applications, declared it “good enough.”
Eventually I became quite handy with the axe. I could not only hit the logs where I was aiming, but I was able to get fairly precise with my splits. Logs that had been difficult to split in two were now being divided into three and four sections – each with a single blow. I was splitting kindling into section no wider than your finger. (Though thankfully I did retain all my fingers in the process.)
And while my initial efforts had been frustrating, the simple enjoyment I got from spending time outside on a cool day chopping would far exceeded those early roadblocks. In fact, looking back, I think it was those very roadblocks that made the later success so welcome. The bad made the good shine that much brighter.
It’s the same way with our hobby, I think. Frustration will happen, even for experienced modelers. Building and finishing this New Rally Pawn, my first Maschinen Krieger completion, reminded me of that. Yet as I took the photos of the little model, and really gave it a critical look, I began to enjoy what I was seeing.
Not because the result was worth noting really, but rather for the satisfaction from overcoming, learning, and getting through it with an eye on the next Wave kit. The effort and frustration was worth it. I know know a few new ways to weather a model, and a while lot more about how not to do it.
Enjoy the hobby – even if it means taking a risk.