For a nine-year-old kid, few things are as exciting, awe-inspiring, and anticipated as Christmas time. Such was the case with me, of course. The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas seemed to be drawn out into a weird time warp. “Will it ever get here?” The days moved as though coated in molasses. The calendar plodded along as if having lost all sense of purpose and time.
It was enough to drive a goofy kid crazy. And goofy kid I was.
That year would be a special Christmas. While we typically spent Christmas morning at our house, and only later in the day traveled to see grandparents, for reasons lost to time it was decided we’d spend Christmas with my maternal grandmother. My grandfather had passed away a few years before, so Christmas was a time she especially liked to have us around.
And of course, in my eyes, nothing could be better than Christmas spent at grandmas – we grandkids called her “Ma”. No travel involved. I got to sleep in the big old bed in my uncle’s childhood room – the room filled with history books! Ma always made plenty of tasty goodies, too. And she had orange juice, which was a luxury rarely seen in our home. I loved me some orange juice. 🙂
Getting To Bed – And Back Up
As Christmas Eve drew to a close, my parents made sure to threaten me with having a word with Santa if I got up anytime before 7:00 AM. Seems I had the habit even then of rising at 4:00 AM, at least on Christmas day. But they didn’t want me to wake Ma. Off to bed I went.
And I don’t know that I slept a bit.
I was imagining the toys Santa would leave behind. More directly – the model airplane he would leave behind. I’d dutifully done as my parents said, and marked all the things I would like to get in the Sears catalog. For some odd reason Santa’s procedure for “wish lists” had shifted from just writing a letter. It probably had to do with administrative efficiencies or something at the North Pole.
There were two models airplanes I marked. Either of them would do. Monogram’s 1/48 F-86 and Mig-15. Both were shiny and silver and cool looking. And I figured that I could use whatever Christmas money came my way to later purchase whichever kit I didn’t get. (After a bike ride to the local Woolworth’s, of course.)
I watched the clock until my eyes burned. I tossed and turned, and turned and tossed. Counting sheep didn’t help. Singing quietly to myself didn’t help. And to make matters worse, my little brother, all of 18 months old, slept soundly in a crib across the room. Didn’t he know the significance of the night?
Finally I saw a bit of light breaking. The clock on the wall said 6:47 AM. (I actually remember that detail precisely for some reason…) Reasoning that Santa HAD to have already come by now, any protestations my parents made to the North Pole Child Complaint Department would have to be dealt with in the next year’s gifts. I could deal with that later. Today’s mission was GO.
Time To Get Up
Rising from my bed, out from the covers I shook,
Making sure not to wake brother – quite an effort that took!
Across the room, I carefully stepped,
Open the door, and out the door I crept.
I spoke not a word, but snuck through the house,
Tip-toeing as I went, quiet as a mouse.
And arriving in the room, with the grand Christmas tree,
I caught my breath, at the wonder I did see.
For what sat there, nestled beneath the lit pine,
Were two shiny airplanes – both were now mine!
Side by side they sat, looking ever so big,
The sleek silver Sabre, and the squat round Mig.
But What About The Warhammer Thingy?
Glad you asked… was getting off into Whoville or something there… 😉
I’d finished the skeleton of the beast already, and had set the armor aside to work on separately. As I did with most things Warhammer, I primed all of the armor in black. I’d like to say it was for some trendy blackbasing reason, or to impart a grim, dark appearance to it. But frankly, I like using Badger’s Stynylrex Black Primer because it just looks so cool. I know that’s not a really good reason, I suppose, but it is a fun reason. 😉
Most of the parts would be blue or red, with a few white bits. All would be trimmed in gold. I decided to airbrush the red, white and blue colors, and then hand paint the gold.
The blue was airbrushed on with my trusty Badger 105 Patriot, equipped with the .5 nozzle. I started with Vallejo Game Color Imperial Blue, giving the blue parts a good coat of that. Next I did just a bit of highlighting with thinned Vallejo Mecha Color Electric Blue.
When that had time to fully dry, I masked off the blue areas, and painted the parts that were red. (Well, they weren’t red yet… 😉 ) Vallejo Game Color Scarlet Red was used for that, and then some highlights were added using Vallejo Mecha Color SZ Red.
More masking, and a few bits were painted with a mix of Tamiya Flat White, mixed with Just a touch of Tamiya Deck Tan. Highlights were added with heavily thinned Tamiya Flat White.
Chess Or Checkers?
The art in the box showed the forward part of the right pauldron with a cool looking checkerboard design. Unfortunately, no decal was provided. I’d tried checker patterns before, and failed miserably. But I really, really liked it. So grabbing my tape, hobby knife, pen, and ruler, I cut out lots of little squares.
Applying them to the shoulder section was an exercise in frustration. I finally decided that the privates assigned to paint the pattern on the Knight had been called in on a Saturday, and were still hung over from Friday night. So they’d not done the best job in the world.
Having accepted that the masking was less than perfect, but hoping it was better than bad, I airbrushed on some Tamiya NATO Black, with just a touch of German Gray highlights.
Holding my breath, I removed the masking, and….
It. Looked. Awful.
Those guys must have been really hungover. Or still drunk. Stupid privates… can’t trust them to do a thing.
After I thunk on it a bit, and then thunk some more, I decided to try to brush paint the corrections. using Vallejo Model Color Black Gray and a #0 liner brush, I very, very carefully began to straighten edges, connect corners, and generally try to un-mess the mess I had made.
In the end, it looked pretty much like a middle-aged balding fat man with a shaky hand tried to correct his poor masking job with a hacked up brush paint job. (Which is never the result I want, but for some reason is the result I get quite often.) I didn’t despair, though. I simply removed my glasses.
Looked pretty good. If a bit blurry. 🙂
An Unfortunate Schmelting Accident
Next came the goooooold….
For this, I used Citadel’s Retributor Armor. I applied some to my palette, and thinned it with just a little water. Using a small layer brush, I applied it, well, to the parts of the model that needed to be gold. (When I wasn’t sure what should be gold, I just looked to the box art for reference.) I did make sure to apply the paint in multiple thin coats so as not to clog up all the detail.
I do like using Retributor Armor. It is easily the brightest, shiniest, most punchy gold color I have ever painted with. It covers reasonably well, especially after a few coats, and looks great.
Of course, if you’ve looked at photos of an Imperial Knight, or ever built one, you know that there is a LOAD of bling to paint on this thing. It was certainly enjoyable, as I’ve come to find brush painting very relaxing. But it did take a while.
Once all the gold was on, I went back and neatened up a few areas with the other colors.
To prepare for the decals, I applied a 50/50 mix of Future and water to the parts where the decal would be placed. Normally I’d just give the whole thing a gloss coat. However, for the weathering steps, I wanted more of a satin/matt finish. So instead of glossing it all up, and then adding another layer to matt it back down again, I painted on the thinned mix of Future. That gives a surface glossy enough for good decal adhesion, but retains a bit of a satiny finish to allow for later weathering to be applied with some “grip” to the surface.
Citadel’s decals are beautifully printed, incredibly thin, and with very little excess carrier film around the edge. The only drawback is that they will fold back on themselves with even the slightest misstep, so for a ham-fist like myself, I had to be very careful. Fortunately they are also durable, so I was able to (somehow) unfold a couple that crumpled into a mess. How I was able to do so is still a mystery to me. The method involves making sounds like Yosemite Sam, and stabbing at the decal with a hobby knife, tweezers, and a toothpick, for 10 minutes, until it’s sorted out enough to be acceptable. (It’s a method.)
Mounting The Armor
I glued a few of the armor pieces on, and others I only temporarily tacked in place. My criteria for deciding between the two came down to how much having it permanently affixed would affect the ease of applying weathering. I do recommend carefully scraping away the paint from the mating edges before gluing. All of the parts have good connection points, fortunately, so excellent joins can be achieved. I did not follow the Warhammer TV suggestion of using super glue, however. I used Tamiya Extra Thin – applied carefully. This would give a good, strong, welded bond, and that should hold up much better to possible handling by the eventual owner.
With all of that in place, I was finally able to look at my Imperial Knight as a whole. I really love the look of the beast. It’s quite a comical mix in my mind… an almost grotesque, Terminator like skeleton, covered in sleekly curved armor – all brightly painted in primary colors. The mix of elements is quite fun, I think.
Of course, right now it is in a “factory fresh” state. Much more work will be done to add loads of weathering. That’s when the fun really begins.
Back To That 70’s Christmas
I was quite dumbstruck. Santa had left both airplane kits. This was unprecedented. Not only did I get to build both of them straight away, but I’d be able to use any Christmas money I received to buy a third kit. (The stash mentality develops early. 😉 )
While I’d received model kits as gifts before, and would receive more in the coming years, standing there in Ma’s house – which turned out to be the last Christmas we had there – with my two models really moved me. While I was certainly excited, I also recognized this was special. My dad had once hinted that Santa did send a bill after Christmas, so I knew that getting both kits was a big deal for our family.
Of course, I was a kid, and reality hit me. I had to show this to my little brother!
I ran down the hall, making such a clatter,
It was a wonder I did not fall with a terrible splatter.
Grabbing my sibling up out of his slumber,
I tossed him on my shoulder, and away I did lumber.
Arriving in the tree room, I planted him on the floor,
But he just stood there, blinking, doing nothing more.
He finally laid down, right there by the tree,
And went back to sleep, quite puzzling to me!
Building these two (yes – this is just the first one!) Imperial Knights has left me with much the same feeling as I had that wonderful Christmas morning. They’re kits I wanted to build, but could not afford to. To have the chance now is really something special. And though they are not a Christmas present, in my own mind I see them as quite a treat anyway. A fun treat.
So to everyone I say, keep building your kits,
But don’t get frustrated, or break out in fits.
Focus on the fun, let that be your song,
Because trust me – otherwise – you’re doing it wrong!