Completed Builds Scifi Warhammer 40K

Citadel’s Astra Militarum Taurox: Big Fun In A Small Package

Anytime I build a model, I usually look for some sort of reference photo. It may be to get an understanding of how a specific subject looked at a point in time, or perhaps just to get ideas about general weathering, staining, and so forth that can be applied to the model. Even if the kit is from the imaginary world, allowing the real world to inform the finish helps “sell” the overall look.

However, as I’ve talked with modelers over the years, I’ve realized that for the most part, the general view of military equipment is based on vicarious experience. No matter how carefully the photo is examined, or how many times the video is watched, it can’t fully impart the view that is gathered from long term, hands on experience.

I say that not as a bad thing… everyone makes their own career choices. Yet the reality remains. Having the perspective  that comes from working with military vehicles as a profession, even for a brief period, offers a very different view of the life cycle they go through.

So What Happens?

For weeks, it may sit in the motor pool, with only occassional drives to the range, or to a drop zone. In those times, it receives little more abuse that a car on a daily commute. There may be some mud and dust now and then, but rarely in great quantities. When we returned from those brief excursions, the vehicle generally went through the wash rack, which is essentially an oversized version of a carwash. Any mud or grime would be washed off.

And each week, while it sat in the motorpool, it would be serviced. In the US Army terms of my day, PMCS – Preventative Maintenance Checks and Services. Each vehicle had a manual that prescribed in detail what checks were supposed to be completed, and exactly how. Generally, the servicing was done thoroughly, because no one wanted to stay and do it again.

The service included things like fluid level checks, engine running for a brief period, maybe even a brief drive around the motor pool. The interior was cleaned, but not to the degree that a civilian car might be. The goal was free of debris – not spotless.

Sometimes, paint may chip on a vehicle. While there are depots that can do repaints, in my experience, most paint touch ups were done with a simple spray can of Krylon paint. We had two colors on hand most of the time… black and olive drab. If the paint chipping was in an area that was not the color you had, it didn’t matter. We sprayed black over OD, OD over black, and both of them at times over brown. No one was too worried about preserving a precise pattern. Preserving the paint, and reducing further chipping, was the goal.

Off To The Field

When we did go to the field – be it for a day of training, a weeks long exercise at another Army post, or a foreign deployment, the cycle was altered. While the vehicles would still be maintained, because they were in an operational mode, trips the wash rack were out. If you drove through muddy roads for half the day, it all caked up on the vehicle. Some effort might be made to knock some of it off, in order to maintain serviceability, but for the most part they became very, very dirty.

Through the mud, forests and everywhere else we’d drive our mounts… all the while picking up scrapes, dings, grime, and every other sort of abuse. Sometimes we’d be in a very hot, tropical climate, or perhaps a desert one, and that brought its own reality to the damage the exterior received.

Yet when it was all over, and we headed back to home, everything would get a full cleaning on the wash rack, and a thorough servicing, before being parked again in the long rows of the motorpool.

Getting It All Messy

I knew going into the final finishing process that I wanted the Taurox to be fairly dirtied up. Not “rusted hulk after the war” kind of dirty, but rather “been in the field for months now and no time for maintenance” dirty. In fact, I actually had a specific instance in mind from my own time in the Army. 

In the fall of 1993, we’d headed to a training area in Germany called Hohenfels. It was a large base, with plenty of room for vehicles to maneuver. We’d arrived in gorgeous weather, with just a bit of chill in the air. For th two days prior to going in the field, the sun was shining. 

But there was a saying we had… “if it ain’t raining… we ain’t training.”

The first day in the field, the skies opened up. The temperatures dropped. It never really got cold enough to snow, but for the next month, pretty much every day was temps just above freezing, and buckets of rain. 

Of course, our vehicles became literally caked in mud. Everywhere. Outside and in.

So my target for the Taurox was not so much the grim, dark setting of the 41st millenium, but rather a time in Germany, a few decades ago.

Lining And Chipping

As I’d covered in a previous blog entry, the Taurox had already been painted. The entire model received a gloss coat, and then I applied a shade (wash) to all the recesses, nooks, and crannies. For this process, I chose Citadel’s Gloss Nuln Oil for this. I tried to be somewhat precise in application, though I didn’t get too fussy about areas that went a bit out of bounds. Later weathering would cover up any errors.

In a few areas that I wanted heavier shadows, I let the first coat dry, and went back for a second application. This served to define detail better, and really make the shadows dark.

Unlike traditional models, Citadel’s Warhammer kits are packed with very sharp, very exaggerated detail. So if you’ve not built one before, you may really enjoy the canvas they provide for weathering. No “subtle surface detail” here!

Chipping was applied initially using a sponge, the color of choice being Citadel’s Straken Green. It’s a lighter green, similar to RAF Sky, though a bit brighter. While that color is “canon” in terms of Warhammer schemes, my primary reasoning was simply for contrast. While I could have used a darker chipping color, or a more silver color, I thought something that stood out would be more appealing visually.

I also let the chipping play a sort of “double duty”. Games Workshop paint style places heavy emphasis on edge highlight, using lighter colors that really pop. So by choosing this higher contrast color, and really focusing the chipping on all the corners and edges, it played to the style of the genre. I also like it because it helps all that raised detail stand out, and not be lost in a sea of green.

Streaks And Stains And Mud, Oh My

Over the top of the shades and chips, I added about half the inventory of Vallejo acrylic weathering products. Using various shades from their line of Washes, Weathering effects, and Pigments, I worked in the sort of “additive” process that favors acrylic products.

The Streaks

The first layer was to apply the streaks around the model. This process has the goal of doing what the dot filter method with oils produces. Instead of making dots of oil and then thinning and streaking them, however, acrylics are thinned and streaked directly on to the model.

I started with a lighter, tan color, and thinning it out with water, began random streaks all around the model, using a #0 liner brush. In some areas I was just placing random streaks, working towards what I guess could be described as “general streakiness”. A few areas received deliberate focus – places where water might run down for example. Most of the streaks were drawn from top to bottom, with the end of the stoke flicking off the model to avoid a pool of wash at the end of the stroke. Some places were deliberately placed, however, so that the end of the brush stroke left a bit of additional wash.  

The process was repeated with two darker brown colors. I didn’t try too hard to avoid previous areas of application, but instead allowed serendipity to drive the process. My goal was very subjective… I was essentially looking for the result that I’d have gotten from oils and a dot filter application. When I’d hit that point and it looked right to my eye, I moved on.

The Stains

For the stains, I started with the very same washes I’d used for the streaks. However, these were applied in a stippled fashion, and in a few places, deliberate splotches. Whereas the streaks were more focused on vertical surfaces, the stains featured more prominently on the horizontal surfaces. 

Additional colors were added using several oil, grease, and petrol colors from the Weathering Effects line. As with the washes, I thinned these a bit, using plain old tap water.

I also used these colors to add some staining to the vertical areas, seeking to simulate where fuel might have spilled, or oil leaked, and so forth.

Once I had all of this in place, a final touch up process repeated these steps, though in a more focused, refined fashion, using the products straight from the bottle. The goal at this stage was to build up and highlight areas. Clever use of weathering can draw the viewer’s eye to areas of interest, so I wanted to try and make good use of that process.

The Mud

Finally, I applied the mud. Because I had a real world image of my own vehicle in mind, it made this process rather easy. Using several earth colored shades from the Vallejo Pigments line, I started by applying the powders dry, using a wide flat brush. I’d cake them on quite heavy, and then using the brush, work them around. I wanted a muddy look, but not so muddy as to obscure all detail. 

One note – I find it very helpful to cover my work desk with newspaper or paper towel while doing this. Weathering powders go everywhere!

Once the powders were in place, I applied a thinned brown acrylic wash to them as an initial fixer. I didn’t go in heavy with it, but rather allowed capillary action to draw the wash into and around the details covered in pigments. After a few minutes drying time, I repeated the process using different colors.

Next I made a bit of a “mud slurry”. Combining pigments, wash, and a few drops of matt varnish in a well on my palette, I applied the mix to focused areas to simulate more caked on mud concentrations. Adding the matt varnish to the mix makes for a great fixer to hold it all in place.

Once all the mud was applied, I set the model aside to dry for about an hour.

Finishing Up The Taurox

With the weathering completed, I applied a few final touch ups. Some areas of the darker shade had been obscured by the weathering, so I applied small amounts of Nuln Oil to bring these back to the forefront. A few patches of silver chipping were added with a Prismacolor silver pencil, to simulate areas of deeper wear. Bolts and other projections were given some light rust effects. This was a departure from the reality based process I’d been using. I added them simply because I thought it looked cool. (The rule of cool always applies! 🙂 )

The final step was to give the model a very thorough coating of Vallejo’s Mecha Color Matt Varnish. This not only flattened everything down, but served to hold all the pigments in place.

I really had a lot of fun using my own experience to weather this model. A few areas were treated with a specific portion of my own vehicles in mind, just ot give it a personal touch. In the grand scheme of things, it really just looks like another weathered model, I suppose. But having fun was pay off enough. 😉

As a construction note, I left the rear deck of the Taurox loose, so the interior can be viewed. Hopefully the eventual buyer will enjoy being able to see both interior and exterior.

If you’re looking for a kit to get started in 40K models, I’d really recommend giving this one a try. It’s small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, yet is absolutely loaded with surface detail. A modeler much better versed in weathering could really make this kit shine! (Or, I suppose, not shine, as the case may be… 😉 )

I am glad that I was able to have all the fun of getting it dirty, but I won’t have to worry about taking it to the wash rack. This is one time it can go right to the “motor pool” covered in the grime of the field!

 

 

 

 

4 comments

  1. Service in VietNam? That mud is red lookin’…………………. Oh wait, it was the Mars Campaign! Regardless, it looks great Jon.

    1. Thanks!

      Yes, this kit is loads of fun. It has an great deal of weapons options, and is packed in and out with detail. Pound for pound, I think this kit is one of he most enjoyable I’ve ever built from any genre.

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