This is the collected version of a series of posts I did over a weekend which details a step by step guide as to how to assemble a Vaxiss Ground Attack Leviathan model by Spartan Games as part of their Planetfall range of models.
In the guide I take you through step by step showing methods common to working with resin miniatures including pinning, bone pinning, filling gaps and bubbles. I also include tips and ideas specific to the fantastic Vaxiss model itself.
Left to right:
Brass bristled brush – invaluable for cleaning metal files after using them on resin/metal/greenstuff. Especially greenstuff will choke up files fast so a brass brush like this one will be very important if you want your metal files to keep working!
Metal file – used mostly to remove the waste on the bone-pinned joints.
Standard Greenstuff Tool – dull blade on one end and flat section on the other; a standard default basic greenstuff tool that can do a lot.
2 Colourshapers – I’ve more but these are the two I mostly used for this model, and honestly a vast amount was the cone headed tool.
Pinvice with drill attached and brass rod – for pinning work.
Toothbrush – for cleaning the model before assembly.
Scalpel. This is a Games Workshop one and I do like it over many scientific/standard ones as it does have a more chunky handle that makes it a little easier to hold at times. Blades are also a LOT easier and safer (in my view) to change in this than the “snap” fit ones typically found on most regular scalpels.
Finally along the top we’ve got a stick of greenstuff (yellow and blue stuff) and a standard tube of superglue.
Note shown – a pair of modelling clippers (on account I’ve missplaced mine!)
That’s what I’d honestly consider the basic tool-kit. You’ve got everything you need to work with to a good standard. Each tool has its place and function and tools are one thing you want to spend decent money on; good tools looked after will serve you well for years.
Get the box – open the box – take out all the parts and stare in wonder at your new model!
Ok staring over time to go through; this first stage you’re looking for a few things
a) That you’ve got all the parts; it helps if the model has an assembly sheet, although most Spartan ones don’t they are generally fairly easy to work out how they go together. At this stage you’re just looking to see that you’ve got every bit present and correct.
The Gunship has the following parts:
1 Abdomen (long chunky bit)
1 Thorax (short chunky bit)
2 Wing arms
2 Twin gun arms
1 Mounting slot (small bit of resin with a hole in it)
1 Small Dice
1 Small Dice holder
1 Flight stand and peg (clear plastic)
B) Checking for excessive flash, mould lines or bubbles/damage to details. Check each bit over carefully under good light for bubbles, lost details, flash and other aberrations. At this stage you’re looking to see if you’re unlucky enough to have any parts damaged beyond use and thus in need of replacement. You do this now because also inside the box is the packer slip which you can use when filling for replaced parts.
An example of some flash on one of the leg tips
An example of a mould injection point on the ball of a leg; this is the point on the model where the injection mould has the resin pumped into it. Sometimes its clearly evident, other times its subtle and not an issue.
An example of a bubble, in a minor location.
As you can see the bubble is in the toe of the left foot, its an area with minimal detail and the overall shape of the foot is still the same as one without. Thus repairing this is perfectly simple and wouldn’t require replacing the part (note some flash on the other toe).
c) Bent parts; metals will have the most risk of a bend, followed by resin and then plastic. For a model like the gunship which is all resin a bend could be possible, especially in the wing segments. Bends are not automatically a replacement need, depending on the nature of the bend itself.
If you do have a bend heat the afflicted part in very hot water for a while; this will soften the resin and lets you make small adjustments to its shape by applying pressure. Take it slow and carefully to avoid snapping. Thinner parts work easier, whilst thick chunky segments might be impossible to fix. Again if such is the case contact Spartan for replacement parts.
d) You might see some parts have a slightly different colour (shown below). This is perfectly normal for resin, sometimes it represents slightly different formulas for different parts; most of the time it simply reflects slight differences in the composition between mixes and shouldn’t have any effect on your model.
Ok so you’ve checked your model over and its all looking good now onto the next step. Most hobby models are formed in injection moulding and thus feature a mould line where the two halves of the mould are pressed together. What also happens is that there is often a resin/oil coating on the outside of the model which helped it slip out of the mould initially.
You don’t want this on your model (and many times might not even see nor feel it) because it will affect the ability of glue and paint to bond to the model.
To remove it is simple.
a) Get a small bowl and fill it with hot water and a little bit of soap (eg Fairy Liquid) – you don’t need lashings of soap, just a little drop.
B) I use a second bowl of warm (but not hot) water into which I put all the parts to sit (this keeps them out of the way and lets me work through the model start to finish easily – you can, of course, just leave the parts loose if you wish).
c) Dip each part into the soapy water and then, using a soft tooth brush, scrub the part down. Be careful when working with thinner segments and its only a light scrubbing, you’re not using vast amounts of force here.
d) Once scrubbed with soapy water I then take the part over and continue scrubbing under a flow of water from the tap. This helps you wash all the residue that you’ve loosened up off the part. It’s better than a rinsing bowl as it means that the water is always fresh and thus won’t contaminate the part.
e) Leave the parts to dry (tip if you rinse in warm water it will evaporate off quicker than cold). Some kitchen paper/roll helps otherwise just leave them on a cloth to dry.
NOTE 1 At no point in this are we using boiling water; hot from the tap not scalding from the kettle.
NOTE 2 Be mindful that models often have very small parts and thus I would advise keeping the plug in the sink or washing over a large bowl. Dropping a part down the plug hole is not grounds for free replacement parts so if you lose a bit its going to cost you to replace it.
NOTE 3 Generally speaking you should always wash resin and metal models. Plastic is generally safe without washing, but there are a lot of plastic-resin hybrids on the market now (often still sold as “plastics”). Washing won’t hurt so its generally safer to wash all the parts rather than find out you’ve got problems later on.
Once dry, lay out all the parts again, double check you’ve got them all!
Ok lets start fixing some of the problems with the model and clean it up ready to start assembling.
a) First you want to go over and remove any mould lines and flash from the model. Resin is soft and thus easy to work with a simple scalpel blade and you will do most work with this for cleaning off bits. Take it SLOW and scrape with small motions. You’re aiming to shave off a little each time rather than hack at the model. Believe me scraping will remove stuff very quickly and by taking steady motions you remain in control of the blade, thus saving your model and your fingers.
B) Thick segments of flash. Sometimes you will get thicker chunks of flash which are not going to scrape away, but which are positioned so you can cut them. Now if you use clippers they will work but you have to be careful because its very easy to cut and put pressure on a detailed area and warp it.
Thus you can cut with a blade instead.
First identify the area to be removed
Then line the blade up and saw with it slowly and steadily with a little pressure.
Don’t try to go through it all in one go as you can find your blade will jump at a point of weakness; or that you’ll suddenly put too much pressure and snap a part off. Instead work one side then the other, flip the part over. For some you can even work around in a circle around the segment to be removed. Removing a little from around steadily is the best approach and soon enough the part will come off.
c) During this process of preparation you might well find more bubbles and sometimes scraping away an area can expose an underlaying bubble. This is no problem. First use the tip of the blade to gently clean around the edge of the bubble, all you’re doing is exposing it more fully to fill (rather like a dentist giving a filling). Of course temper this against the area you’re working in on the model, sometimes you will want to keep the edges raised to protect another area.
Once cleaned you’ll have a bubble, like this on the left.
Now you can use greenstuff or even liquid greenstuff to fill this (liquid is basically a thick green coloured superglue good for filling tiny gaps easily). For this I chose greenstuff itself (note you can use any kind of fine detail modelling putty, greenstuff is just a standard popular choice).
Greenstuff comes in a stick of yellow and blue that when mixed goes green (hence the name). Once green you’ve around an hour to work with it before it goes tacky and then it will start to cure and harden (takes around 12-24 hours for a fully hard finish). As we are filling holes we only need a very tiny bit.
Note, you see the join between the two, that area is often hard and cured as the two parts react. So when cutting off a strip I tend to cut out a slither of the middle so that I get a smooth amount of greenstuff without a hard lump in it.
Then just knead the yellow and blue between your fingers till it goes soft and green in colour (it will also be slightly sticky too).
Once green roll it into a sausage shape, make it thin and then slice off a VERY tiny bit from the end. Rather like scraping away detail was done in small steps so too is adding greenstuff. It’s much easier to add a little more than take any away from an area you’re working on.
Remember when working with greenstuff it is a little sticky so it will stick to your tools. That is unless you wet them. Just the tip that’s working with the greenstuff; I use an old jam-jar lid filled with water. You can use vegetable oil as well which keeps on the tool longer (you have to re-wet every so often with either and more so with water); however you MUST wait for the greenstuff to fully cure and then warm soapy water wash the model again if you’re using vegetable oil otherwise it will mess with your paint and glue.
When adding the greenstuff I used a standard modelling tool which has a dull blade on one end and a flat surface at the other. Using the blade end I gently push the greenstuff into the bubble, adding more as needed in little stages till its built up.
I then used the other end to smooth over the greenstuff and shape it a little to the gap.
Finally I turn to a colourshaper (also known as clay shaper). These are silicon tipped tools that let you smooth greenstuff over much more cleanly and evenly than metal tools can. They are great to work with and come with a range of shapes; for this one as I had a flat surface I chose one with a flat head.
Just rub back and forth gently over and over to smooth over the greenstuff. At this stage if you’ve any excess you can gently tease it away with your tools. So long as you keep them wet they will work. A scalpel blade can be used to cut away any excess that won’t rub/smooth away with other tools.
Note that if you have a little raised area its not the worst, you can wait until its fully cured and then scrape with the scalpel (you can file it too but it will clog up your file fast so keep a brass wire brush nearby to clean your file; or use a disposable emery board instead of a file).
And there you have it, you’ve filled a bubble!
Phase 5: Pinning
Because of the size of the two main body segments I decided that it would be worth pining this join area in order to increase the strength of the join between the two. It’s also a very easy area to pin as both segments have a slot and pin design and within each is a pre-drilled hole from the mould. These are shallow and not deep enough for pinning, but mean that you can simply get a pin-vice drill and drill into the hole to deepen it; knowing that both will align up already. Very easy and very well planned of the designers to include this guide (wish more would do this kind of thing in models!)
a) First step is simple, get the drill and drill down into both of the holds on the join area. The resin is chunky here so easy to hold onto and easy to drill into. Apply some pressure and drill away, but don’t push too hard least you break the drill bit.
Remember once you’ve gone as deep as you want do a good few turns of the drill without any push so that you clean the hole out as much as possible; this removes debris from the drilling and makes it a lot easier to push the metal rod in.
B) A simple brass rod is pushed in and cut, leaving a short stump to go into the other half. I like to leave both parts of the brass unglued the first time. This lets you push the two parts together to make sure they both line up correctly and have depth depth to make a flush join on the resin.
Once you’re happy simple apply glue to one half of the rod and push it into the slot and leave to dry. Then repeat and push the two halves together.
TIP. For this set-up I left the join unfinished. There’s a reasonable amount of detail around the join area and I’m of two minds at present as to if I glue and greenstuff the join or leave it un-joined and paint before final assembly here (I suspect since its a shadowed area I will do the former so that I’ve a stronger joint).
Wing assembly. I decided to next assemble the wings because I wanted to get a real world feel of how big and heavy they were before attaching the main arm to the body. The wings are odd in this model as the detailed side of the wing arm is actually the joining surface as well (I suspect a minor error in design?).
Assembly is standard for resin to resin mounts:
a) Score the smooth surface of the wing – remembering to check the joining surface by holding the parts together first so that you score the correct side.
Showing the joining area and wing; note the wing will slide further on when attaching, but I wanted to show the underlying detail on the wing-arm in this shot.
Scoring, done with a simple scalpel/blade
B) Once scored simply put a few drops of superglue onto the wing arm and then simply press and hold the wing to the wing arm for a few moments. Note don’t use too much glue or it will go everywhere and that will be a pain if you get it on your fingers and model.
Start from the back and work forward on the wing although they are spaced out enough that it shouldn’t be too hard going either way.
Finally a sense of how big these wings are when assembled (head and gun arms also displayed for a sense of the overall final model.
At this point I’ve decided that the wing arms will be joined to the body with pinning and permanently. I did think of using magnets and a rod of metal to hold them secure; but considering the weight and angle and the small area of contact for the join I feel that it would be easier to play with with the wings fixed. This does make the model rather large for transporting, but not totally impossible.
Assembling the wings. This is possibly one the the more tricky areas of assembling the model and also one rather hard to photograph whilst doing it. For this though we can break it into stages like before – remember I also chose to attach the wing blades to the wing arms, you can use some blue-tack to hold a few wings in place and attach the wing arms without the wings fixed (have them with the blue-tack just to get the position right).
a) If you look at the wingarm joint and on the thorax where it joins you’ll see there’s a hole in both. The one on the wingarm will fit a 3mm magnet easily and the one on the body needs a little widening but will also take one. A 3mm magnet alone isn’t enough for wings like this, but you could go that way if you want (you will want to have a brass pin glued to one half with a slot on the other to prevent rotation around the joint).
If you’re not going to use magnets and instead will fix the wings permanently the first thing you need to do is use greenstuff to fill the holes on both. Simply fill them up and make sure the surface is flat on both.
Those astute of you will notice that I got a little ahead of my self before taking the photo; you’ll also notice that I took the time to fill the arm joints as well since I’m not using magnets on them either and thus have no need of them.
B) At this stage you “can” get impatient and break out the glue or you can wait for the greenstuff to cure and then use it. What I will say is that if you apply glue to greenstuff the greenstuff sets in seconds; it fast bonds the two surfaces together but the greenstuff itself is still soft inside and thus is a point of weakness in a join. It can ‘be a handy trick to use a little slither of greenstuff to help get a join to seal faster and hold itself together to free your fingers up (glue and greenstuff will both need normal amounts of time to fully harden).
c) If you get the glue out remember to hold the parts together for a good long while, I would also advise dry fitting the model into the flight slot so that you can see its flight angle as its rear is raised up very high (higher than you’d expect).
d) Tricky part is simple in theory; glue and press and hold and then do the other wing; making sure to line them up as best you can. Once the glue can hold itself set the model down (it will sit on the ground on its abdomen quite happy without the wings touching the ground).
e) WAIT a good half a day for greenstuff and glue to fully cure. This is important because the next step is going to involve a drill. Yep because if you’ve noticed we’ve got a rather weak join holding a heavy amount of resin and we didn’t pin it. The reason for this is that the wingarm has very little material to actually drill into to put a pin in. Therefore we are going to use a different method of pinning called “bone pinning.”
Regular pinning is internal, you never see any part of the pin and you fit it before joining. Bone Pinning is different but a very important method for joins like this or ones where the joining surface is rounded or otherwise hard to drill a straight line into on both halves.
Bone pinning won’t work every time, but where it can be used its a great method.
A series of shots to give an idea how I laid my wings out, you can choose different angles if you want; note the angle of the model and the importance of really seeing this in person; remember we are not glueing it to the base yet, that comes later.
You can see here there is greenstuff around the wings where they meet the wing arm. I chose to do this because some of the joins there were not as flush as the others (you can see this in an earlier photo if you compare the wing arms against each other). Thus a little greenstuff worked into the gap and smoothed over completes the effect as I desired.
a) Once your greenstuff and glue are fully dry (seriously WAIT or you’ll have to redo it all over again) select your brass rod and appropriate drill bit.
B) Drill into the shoulder point of the wing arm and keep drilling. What you are doing is going straight through the arm and into the body of the model. This lets you get the maximum amount of resin on the wing-arm supporting the pin and lets you put the pin right through the weaker greenstuff plug that we’ve got in both join areas.
c) Once you’re in a good distance to the thorax itself (drill in – hold your finger over the exposed bit of drill bit and then pull it out to get an idea how deep you have gone); clean out the hole as normal and then thread the brass rod into the model. Check it fits and then slide it out, coat it in some superglue and push it all the way in.
d) You might get some glue around the entrance which you will have to carefully wipe away. You will also have the rest of the brass rod sticking out, simply cut and then file the stub down to a flush finish with the wing arm.
e) Take your time with this one, drill slowly and check the fit. Once done you should have a nice strong join; don’t worry about the brass tip you can see, painting should cover that without any problems.
The Unplanned – it fell off – Phase
So you remember those fragile wings with the small joining area that we packed with greenstuff to help the bonding. Well as I was drilling the hole to put the pin in (using the bone pinning method above) I found that some of the greenstuff within the join was still uncured – despite me leaving it a good full day.
As a result it was a little sticky but no problem, one wing pinned perfectly and you can see below the result after I clipped the end off and filed down the exposed brass tip to a flat surface.
However one wing fell off. The glue itself held, but the join area was mostly greenstuff on greenstuff (which as we said isn’t always that strong and is why we are pinning to start with). No problem, these things happen with models from time to time and better that it happens now when we can easily fix it.
So I continued to drill out the hole into the model (removing the wing to set it aside as it had come off already). I then cleaned both surfaces of any glue so that we’d freshly be gluing resin not the old last glue (again a weaker bond). With the surfaces clean I threaded a little bit of greenstuff onto the brass rod, pushed the rod and threaded the wing on after. Then I put a little glue in the slot on the model and pushed the brass in, followed by the greenstuff and then the wing (pushing the greenstuff in just by pushing the wing on). Then held in place for a few moments and now its sitting there waiting to dry fully. I’ve not cut the brass off and will wait till the join is solid before doing so.
The two surfaces, note the plug fully pulled out of the socket. Both surfaces cleaned down flat and the holes drilled ready
Here you can see it just before I pushed it home with the glue. The greenstuff on the rod being pushed into the slot for a tight fit by the wing behind it. The rod already with glue on the end and pushed all the way in it would go.
This highlights the importance of the brass pin for this model and this wing area. Now I’ve got a pin in each wing that should give it a lot more strength.
Phase 8 the final!
So having attached most of the difficult parts we are left with the head, arms and legs to attach!
Note that before I performed this step I did an alteration to the model. I took small amounts of greenstuff and packed them into the small gap around the wing joints where they meet the body. I then smoothed this over with the colour-shaper tool (cone head). This was done to hide the “gap” between the peg and slot and because I wanted to smooth it over somewhat. This was purely a creative choice on my part so you can do likewise or not (see pictures just below to show what I did).
Head – this is a very easy part to attach, if not the most easy on the whole model. You might put a little greenstuff into the base (a small ball) just to fill it out a little to get a flush mounting to the visible parts. Otherwise a simple case of score the join areas and glue. Oddly much of the inner mounting area is detailed without need, but its no problem.
Arms – remember we filled the empty gaps with greenstuff before, now these are a little more tricky, rather like the wings the peg and slot don’t line up perfectly. However they are holding a lot less weight than the wings so pinning isn’t necessary, but if you want to you most certainly can. Just remember if you filled the hole with greenstuff you’ll need a long slot drilled to reach into the resin of the main body.
Otherwise score and glue.
Legs – here you have a bit of choice as the legs can be given to different angles. If you really wanted to you could even model the unit on the ground with the legs supporting it without problems. So the angle really is yours to choose. You might want to use a little greenstuff or blue-tack to hold the legs in place whilst you make your choice; then just score the socket and ball and glue.
Note for these I did put a small ball of greenstuff into each socket; I then applied the glue to the ball of the legs and pressed the two together firmly. I did this because the balls have detailing which makes them not perfectly round and if you adjust the angle a little you don’t get an even touch; so like the head a little greenstuff helps give a good even contact.
And there you have it! 1 Mighty flying beasty! Note the last phase of a magnetic flight stand will have to wait until another day (ergo when I’ve got the bits I need for that). However nothing can stop you from priming and painting the model right now.