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woensdag 23 augustus 2017

Zombicide Machine Guns, part 2

Woohoo, here's part 2 of my Zombicide machine guns build! In the first part, I built the guns out of foam and plastic. Now it's time to paint them!

Materials and tools
  • Foam primer (book binding glue/acrylic gesso 50/50)
  • Wood primer
  • Spray primer
  • Acrylic paint
  • Paintbrush and -roller
  • Masking tape
  • Paper towels
  • Varnish
Like the previous part, I made a video of this. Again, way too much footage. This one is a lot shorter than the first one. I'm getting better with the video editing software, it didn't take as long as the first time. But for future videos, I should really invest in proper lighting and a good microphone.


The start of any paint job is a good primer. For foam props, I use my glue/gesso mixture. This does a great job sealing the foam and providing a smooth surface. In this case, however, I used several other materials, so the foam primer alone wouldn't do.
But first, the foam parts. I thinned my primer a bit so I would get a smoother surface, and used a foam brush to avoid brush strokes. On my axe, I used a paint roller, but that only works for large even surfaces. I gave each gun three layers of primer, and then let them dry overnight. For the MDF parts, I used a wood primer.

The next day, I primed the guns with spray primer, so all the plastic parts would get a base coat. Three layers of primer, with about 30 minutes between each layer, and then curing overnight.

I plan to experiment a bit with other types of foam primers in the future. One type I'd like to try is Flexi Paint, wich is both a primer and paint developed specifically for EVA foam.

Chipped paint
To make the guns look old and used, I first of all wanted some chipped paint. This is surprisingly easy to create! I painted some silver spots where I wanted chipped paint, and after it had dried, I masked it with liquid latex. After the base color is painted over these spots, the latex is peeled off, revealing the silver below. This looks very realistic, because, well, it IS chipped paint!
I had to wait for the base color to fully dry before I saw the result of this trick, but I can already say I went a bit overboard. After peeling off the latex, I painted over some silver areas again, because I overdid it and it looked a bit fake. As for more effects, less is more!

Base colors
Before I started painting, I mixed a good base color. I couldn't find the right color in a spray can, so I had to mix it myself and use a brush. Funny thing, I do have an airbrush lying around (borrowed it from my brother, who doesn't use it anymore), but I need to get the right type of paint first, an adapter for the air hose and, most important of all, learn to use it and practice a lot first. So, for now, the good old paintbrush!
The base color is gray, darkened with some black and then a bit of blue. Guns usually have a blueish-gray color. I tested it first on a piece of foam, and waited for it to dry before checking the color. On acrylic paints, the color always changes a bit as the paint dries, and I didn't want any unpleasant surprises.
I wanted to avoid brush strokes as much as possible, but a paint roller wouldn't get into every small detail, so I used a brush first, and then went over it with a foam roller. This did a great job of removing the brush strokes.

After it had dried, I took my base color and darkened it a bit with more black. This was used for the grip, the bottom of the magazines and the forward grip on the big gun.

Details and weathering
Allright, so the paint had dried, and I had peeled off the latex that masked the silver spots. The next thing I did was drybrushing a bit of black on the handles and the exhausts on the muzzle brake. On the small guns, I painted a recessed area on the front of the guns white first, followed by orange. I painted it white first because the orange didn't really cover up the gray very well (yes, I tried). After the orange had dried, I used masking tape for fragile paint to make some black stripes. Orange and black hazard stripes are frequently used in Zombicide manuals and artwork, so it's a nice reference to the game.

But next came the most fun and messiest part: weathering! This turns a shiny, clean new prop in something old, worn and dirty. The first step was drybrushing white paint over all edges. This lightens them and makes them look a bit worn. This wasn't the messy part, but the next part was: washing!
I used a wash in most of my props, so I have explained it a lot already, but for anyone who's new to my blog, here it is again. Basically, you paint your entire prop black (or any other color you want to use) and then, while the paint is still wet, you wipe most of it off again with a paper towel. Paint remains in some areas, especially cracks and recesses, so it looks like dirt.

The black was ruined my white drybrushing job for the most part, so I had to repeat it. I should have known this would happen, but luckily the drybrushing didn't take long.
After all the weathering was done, I added a few final details. On the big gun, I added a kill count with red paint and a pen. And finally, I put some pale green dots on the sights on all three guns.
The only thing left was a protective clearcoat. On the magazines, I masked the exposed bullets with some masking tape and then gave everthing a few coats with matte spray varnish.

It took me a while to finish them, but my first foam firearms are finished. Using textured floor mats and small pieces of foam isn't the best way to build these, so I plan to buy large, smooth sheets of foam for future projects. I should also learn to use an airbrush, and finally get the accessories I still need to get going.
As for the guns, they will see their first use next Elf Fantasy Fair, along with Tiff's Axe. Before that, I'm going to build a box for transporting them safely. I would hate to arrive in Arcen, only to find out my props got damaged in the trunk of my car.
Speaking of safety, it goes without saying you should use some common sense when travelling with realistic looking prop guns. Although these guns are fake, I can imagine not everybody would notice it and think they are real. So if you build stuff like this, keep them out of sight while on the road. To quote Harrison Krix from Volpin Props: "A convention is a good place to show off your work, a post office isn't"!

maandag 14 augustus 2017

Flanged Mace

My last melee weapon, Tiff's Axe, was designed with a specific character in mind. This weapon, however, is a completely random design. I wanted to try out a new technique for making blades out of EVA foam, here's how it turned out.

  • EVA foam floor mats
  • 2mm thick EVA foam
  • 3mm MDF
  • Contact cement
  • Hot glue
  • PVC glue
  • 32 mm diameter thick walled PVC pipe
  • PVC coupler for pipe
  • Foam primer (book binding glue + acrylic gesso)
  • Acrylic paints
  • Oil paint
  • Matte varnish
The design
Okay, so what's this new technique I mentioned? First of all, the design of the weapon. I did a lot of sketching and came up with a hexagonal central shaft, and six blades arranged around it to form the mace head. It's the blades I wanted to try something new with.
If you want to make a blade out of foam, you need to sandwich a few layers together, and if you use floor mats, this means you'll have to remove the texture from one side. This is a tedious and very messy process. Even with a shop vacuum hooked up to my bench sander, it still makes a lot of dust.
Except very small blades (such as daggers), you usually need some sort of core to add some support, or else you end up with a floppy blade. For Tiff's Axe, this wasn't necessary because it consisted of four layers of foam, but my first Battle Axe has an MDF core. This gave me an idea.
Instead of sanding away the texture, I wanted to try glueing it with the textured side to an MDF core. For the blade edge, instead of sanding away foam, I made some beveled cuts and used strips of foam to create the edge. A band saw is a must have for this!
I did some sketching and doodling before I got started. I almost never let anyone look in my sketchbook, because there's so much ridiculous, stupid crap in it, but for this once, I'm giving you a peak inside. The notes are in Dutch, so there's a good chance you won't understand it.

My first attempt was polyurethane wood glue. This stuff expands a bit as it cures, and I hoped it would fill up the texture of the floor mats. Too bad, it didn't work out, the glue hardly binds to the foam. I tried a hot glue gun instead, this worked much better. It only needs to be glued down in a few places to keep the core in place.

The blades
For the blades, I made six MDF cores. They have the same shape as the blades themselves, but I also made a tenon on the side that will be attached to the central shaft. In the shaft, I'll cut a groove so it will form a strong connection.

For each blade, I cut two large pieces of foam, wich were glued to the MDF core, and strips for the edges. This requires some care with the angles of the cuts to make it all fit nicely together. Like I said, a bandsaw with a mitre gauge is a must have for this.

Turned out quite ok! I rounded the tips a bit with my Dremel, because otherwise they would get damaged too easily. The result is a light, rigid blade with a cutting edge without any sanding!

The central shaft
The central shaft consists of six strips of foam, glued together around a piece of PVC pipe to form a hexagon. On one end, I glued a PVC coupler to the pipe, for attaching it to the handle.

The ends of the shaft are made by sandwiching a few layers of foam, cutting into shape, and in the case of the lower end, cutting a hole for the handle.

Next, I cut slots in the handle for attaching the blades, a bit like a tenon-and-mortise joint in woodworking. The blades were glued on with more contact cement.

And finally, some decorations with thin, colourful craft foam!

The handle
For the handle, I used a piece of thick walled, 32 mm white PVC pipe. These come in several wall thicknesses, mine is 3 mm thick. I wanted to make it look like wood (part of it), for that I used a very simple technique. All it takes is sandpaper, a wood rasp and oil paint. The pipe has to be white for this to work!
First, I sanded the entire pipe with #80 grit sandpaper, and then I used a wood rasp to carve a wood grain into it. Just some random, deep scratches. After that, I sanded again with #80 grit sandpaper, and then worked my way up to #400 grit.

To achieve the wood color, I put some dark brown oil paint on a sponge and rubbed it on. I used this technique before, but with acrylic paint. The downside of acrylic is that it dries too fast for this. You have to spread the paint really thin, and acrylic almost dries instantly when you do that. Oil paint stays wet much longer, so you have plenty of time to get it right.

It took about three days for the paint to fully dry. After that, I made some foam decorations on the handle. One half of the handle will be wood, the lower part (where you hold it) will be wrapped in leather. But first, painting!

Painting and finishing
The paintjob started, as usual, with my foam primer, a mixture of acrylic gesso and book binding glue. I added a bit of black to the mixture to get a grey base coat. The mace head and foam decorations on the handle were treated with this.

As for the painting itself, I didn't take much pictures of that. Most of it was done at a local arts faire, and I already had more than enough stuff to drag along, I didn't want to bring a big heavy camera. I did take a picture with my phone, so forgive me the crappy quality.

So, basically, here's how it went. After the primer, I sprayed on a gray base color with a spraycan. Next, a black wash (that's what's going on on the picture above), followed by white drybrushing. The drybrushing made all the edges and ridges really pop. It already looked like metal without any metallic paint!
I sealed this with matte spray varnish, and then drybrushed a very thin coat of silver. I put the metallic paint on top of the clearcoat, because with my battle axe and 12-sided mace, the clearcoat kind of ruined the metallic effect. Here's how it turned out:

For the handle, I cut a 5 cm wide strip of vinyl leather, put on contact cement and folded about 5 mm on one side, to hide the edge where I cut it. It then got wrapped around the lower part of the handle, the final bit got glued on with super glue. All that was left then was put the head and the handle together!

It turned out quite good, but my wife had a few ideas for improvement. First of all, the wood color is too bright, next time I should use a more grayish color. Second, the weapon looks too new and unused. It should have some cracks and dents in it, so it looks like it has seen some action. I'll keep it in mind for next time!

woensdag 2 augustus 2017

Hammerfall Sketchbook

Here's another post about a sketchbook I made! I don't do posts about every book anymore, since it's more or less always the same, but this one is a bit special.

One of my favourite bands is Hammerfall. In the music video of their song "Hearts on Fire", a skeleton arm holding a book pops up at around 15 seconds into the video. This book has been on my to do list for a while, so here it goes!

  • Daler-Rowney A4 sized sketchbook
  • Carboard
  • 3 mm MDF
  • PVC foam plate
  • Kraft paper
  • 180 grit sandpaper
  • Acrylic paints
  • Book binding glue
  • Super glue
  • Gilding wax
  • Matte spray varnish
  • Red felt 
  • Leather straps
Gilding the paper edges
In the past, I have tried achieving a gilded paper effect using acrylic paints. It didn't work very well, because it more or less glues the edges together. This time I tried something different: gilding wax. It took me a few attempts to find the right method, but here's how it's done.

The most important thing is to work in thin layers. Thick layers will flake off easily. I clamped the book together and brushed on a thin layer of wax. Next, I took away the clamps and flipped through the book, to make sure no pages stick together, and let it dry for 24 hours. This is repeated until the desired coverage is achieved (about 3 layers). After the final layer has dried, the book is clamped again, and the gilded edge is buffed with a cloth. 

The logo
The Hammerfall logo (an H and an F combined) is made from cardboard, PVC foam and 180 grit sandpaper. I first cut out the letters using a hand saw, and then rounded the edges with a knife, files and sandpaper. The disc is made from cardboard and sandpaper for the texture, and the edge around it is also PVC foam.

The painting started with a few coats of primer, followed by base colors. The inside is burnt umber, the outside and the letters are raw sienna. To add some variation, washes of black were applied to the inside, and burnt umber for the letters and edge.

Next, metallic bronze was used for the entire logo. A thin coat, so the underlying color shows through. The letters and egdes were lightened by an additional drybrushing with gold, and the inside was darkened with a black wash.

The book cover
I studied the video carefully to get a good picture of the book cover. The video is quite low quality, and the book only briefly shows up, once at the beginning, and then again at the end.
The cover is pretty simple. A panel with the logo recessed in it, a beveled edge all around it, and two leather straps that wrap around the spine. Shouldn't be too difficult!
The panels are made from cardboard, and the edge from MDF strips. The inside of the edge has a 45° bevel. Since I finally own a bandsaw, this was easy to make! I cut some MDF strips with a 45° bevel on one side, and made a frame around the cardboard panel.

In the front panel, a hole for the logo was cut, and both the front and back panel had slots for the leather straps cut. Next, the panels were glued to the book and the entire book was covered with wrinkled kraft paper.

Painting was done the same way as my previous books. Black followed by a mixture of burnt umber with a bit of red, next a thin coat of raw sienna and finally a metallic copper drybrushing and a matte clearcoat. I have been experimenting a bit with different color combinations, and I hope to finally start making something else than the standard brown leather color.

To finish the book, I cut two straps from the pile of scrap leather I have lying around and glued them in place with super glue. The logo was glued in place, and the inside of the covers was finished with a piece of red felt.

And here's the final result!