Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Custom Skimmer and Jet Bike Bases

Back towards the end of 3rd edition, when I bought my first  Tau Devil fish, I wasn't that far along into the hobby and did not know about conversions or making custom bases and such. Like most people, I assembled my model, painted it and then added sand and flock to the clear skimmer base and then I was ready to play with my new model. After a few games of playing with the devil fish, the tip of the clear plastic rod that inserts into the bottom of the skimmer snapped off inside of my devil fish. I  was forced to drill out the bottom of the skimmer base so that I could insert a new plastic rod but then that soon broke off as well. That's when I knew that I would have to come up with a better solution.

Over time, as I amassed more models and different armies, I knew I would have to figure out a better way to make my bases for my jet bike and skimmer units. Then I discovered magnets.

My first attempt at creating a custom skimmer base and using magnets came when I started collecting necrons. I had around 8 of those models and trying to get them to stay on the plastic rods was a nightmare during games. So I took air-hardening clay and created some ruins so that it looked like the necron destroyer was hovering over the ruined walls and rubble.

I glued a small magnet to the bottom of the destroyer and then I glued a small bit of metal to the top of the clay ruin and I was off onto my first step of making custom bases for my skimmers.

While the above method worked, I felt that the magnetic bond between the magnet and the metal strip was not strong enough so when I started working on some custom bases for my Wave Serpents I decided to glue a magnet into the top of the hardened clay where the serpent would be sitting. First I drilled in a small hole into the top of the clay with a grinder bit from my Dremel tool. Then I tested the depth with a magnet so that the top of the magnet would be flush with the top of the clay, then I glued the magnet into the clay and let it set. Then I glued a magnet to the bottom of my serpent, making sure that the polarity of the magnets were correct before gluing the magnet to the serpent. Always make sure to test the polarity before gluing both sets of magnets, otherwise you'll need to pull one off and reverse the magnets. It also helps to make all of the magnets in the bases set to the same polarity so that you can easily swap the bases with different ships.

The bonds between the two magnets was much stronger than the bond between a magnet and a strip of metal so I always use two magnets in all of my projects.

In my next example I was trying to find unique and different ways to create bases other than making rock/ruin formations. I had some old plastic chess pieces laying about and some plastic cake pillars as well. At the time I was working on some old-school Dark Eldar jet bikes and I wanted to make bases that looked like the jet bikes were speeding through Imperial ruins at a high speed. Rather than pose the models on top of a flat, even surface I wanted to make the jet bikes look like they were banking and weaving.

To achieve this effect I cut the chess piece into sections and I glued the base to the top of a plastic pillar. Then I filled in the hollow area with green stuff, but before I completely filled in the base I inserted a magnet into the soft layer of green stuff and then smoothed over it with the remaining green stuff. Once it hardened I smoothed it out with sand paper and then painted the piece up.

The nice thing about having the magnet embedded into the curve of the base means that I can position the jet bike in multiple poses so that it is not a static piece.

And you'll notice that the bond between the magnets is strong enough so that the jet bike does not sag down at all. In the above picture the nose of the jetbike can maintain its upward positioning indefinitely.

Last year a friend of mine asked me to make some custom bases for his wave serpents and I made a batch using the ruined building look as outlined above for my wave serpents. Recently he asked me to make some more clay bases for his Eldar jet bikes and I agreed. However, this time I wanted to make a different look rather than going with ruined buildings or rubble. I thought awhile on how I wanted to make this project stand out from all of my previous attempts and I kept thinking back to a project I did two summers ago when I created a custom aegis line for my eldar. So I figured I would attempt to make some bases formed to look like ancient Eldar runes falling into decline.

My first step was to roll out some air-hardening clay slabs to about 1/4 of an inch thickness and let the clay dry for about 48 hours.

Once the clay was dried I sketched out some Eldar rune shapes onto the clay to get some custom and unqiue looks.

Then with my dremel tool I cut the shapes out and grinded in the curves with a sanding head.

Shown is the initial base that my friend originally had.
Here you can see that I kept the clay shapes in proportionate height to the plastic rods.

After each piece was cut out, I carved in cracks and crevasses into the runes to give them an aged and ancient look.

I pinned the clay runes into the bases he provided me and then glued them into place. Once the glue dried I brushed on multiple layers of watered down wood glue onto the clay so that it would strengthen the clay and give it a protective coat from dings and scratches that come along with use. You can also see that I drilled small holes into the top of the clay to accommodate the magnets.

Here you can see how the jet bikes will look once they are magnetized onto the runes. (Note, in the above images I did not attach any magnets yet)

I then handed the pieces over to my friend who will fill in where the runes meet the bases, paint up the wraith bone runes and then glue in the magnets. Once he has finished working on them I will include images of the final pieces in a future blog post.

I hoped you enjoyed this post and that maybe it can help you think of different ways to customize your bases, not just for jet bikes and skimmers, but for other projects as well. If you have any questions, please comment below and I'll be glad to answer them the best that I can. - Grubnards