Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Tau Utility Building from Cookie package

This article is more a "How I did it" than a "How To"...hopefully, it will inspire you to reconsider your grocery packaging...
As any gamer I know will tell you, the main groups of approved snacks when miniature gaming are: nuts, m&ms, pretzels, veggies (without a dip) and cookies...these are "approved" as they generally don't leave a greasy fingerprint on your minis or get your dice all gummy.  In my house, cookies are king!  However, since I'm lucky enough to have family that loves to bake, I don't come across very many package opportunities.  Well, I scored a few weeks back!  I was craving ginger bread cookies and so, I was rewarded!  The tray disappeared over the course of a couple of games and soon I was off to convert it!!!

So, the first step was to look the tray over and get an inspiration...this one was pretty obvious: SHIELD GENERATOR!! though I decided on a generic title just so that I don't put any preconceived notions out there and limit the scope. 
The next main step was to decide if I wanted a ruin or intact building and how much of the package I was to use.  I decided on intact and to just use the bottom half...saving the lid for something else...maybe a landing pad!!

After cutting the parts apart and trimming off the ridge, it would just get in the way for my vision, I marked out a pattern on some 5mm foam board to act as a base.  I don't like using foam board for a base on intact buildings because it curls over time...but I wasn't feeling like waiting around to get to the shop to have some board FB for now.

Because these packages are typically vacuum formed, they will be somewhat fragile and wont survive some gamer leaning on it as they get a better reach for their minis. So, you'll need to brace the structure from the inside...I used 5mm foam board and constructed a simple T brace with supports.

These were glued into place.  White glue works well enough for this as they will just need to be held stable until bonded to the base.
As you can see, the structure supports the plastic form well enough to endure at least seven pound patio stone.  

Now to hide the seam between the plastic tray and the base...If this was a ruin, I'd just use the typical debris and ground cover to obscure the seam...however, since I decided to build an intact model, I'll need to use something else...FENCING!!  

The photo shows progress a few steps's all I'll give you my technique...  When working purely from inspiration and no plans, it's best to start your barriers from the corner of the model.  As you can see in this photo, I cut a section of foam board into a strip about half an inch tall and long enough to round a corner.  Now curving foam board isn't too easy, so here's a trick:  remove the paper from the side of the FB that will be inside the curve!  That's it.  Practice with removing the paper will produce better results.  You can wet the paper with water to soften it up or just have at it with a fingernail until you get a corner going.  Again, once the corners were in place, I custom fit the straight bits to finish the perimeter then custom fitted some posts to again hide the seams...well...sort of.

To give the model some points of interest, I cut some squares from FB and slotted it to receive card stock fins to act as a radiator...not sure if the Tau use such things, but I like the look and it breaks up the surfaces.

Additional detail came in the form of some panel lines cut into card stock to be fitted to the tops of each half of the model. The easiest way I find to do this is to draw out your pattern then, using patience, a metal straight edge and a hobby knife, make shallow cuts along those lines.  Afterwords, take a sculpting tool with a fairly blunt end and score into the cuts, widening them slightly.  I glued these panels down with PVA and then ran a bead around the seam to seal the edges of the card stock to keep it from flaring during painting.
After I glued the cookie tray to the base, added the walls, radiator fins and roof panels, I scored some lines along the perimeter of the base to indicated slabs of concrete and again, break up the simpleness of the model.  Now for priming...I use clear acrylic glaze or gesso to cover the foam parts...even if it's under paper.  I tint these so I can see where I've already sealed and get an idea of how well I sealed.  This is important if you plan to use spray paints as they will eat up the foam pretty bad.
Once all that has been done, I got ready to paint....Primer was Skull White from GW...I like the smoothness and it bonds pretty good to most of the materials I use.  Be sure to give a solid, even coat and don't linger when you spray as you'll get what is called "draping" and runs.  So use several light coats and let them dry a bit between sprays.  Now that priming is out of the way, off to painting. For my Tau, I reference a lot out of Star Wars, especially Tattooine.  I wanted to build an atmosphere that the building is part of a quickly built up outpost on some nearly barren world...good for it's resources and current strategic significance.  So I use a lot of Vomit Brown, Bestial Brown and Scorched Earth for deep recess and Bleached Bone, Skull White and Snakebite Leather for details and raised surfaces.  When making several buildings for a table, try to use some colors throughout them that are helps to tie things together visually and looks rite polished besides.
And here's the finished Utility Building!
Some additional details may include Cadre specific markings, maybe an aerial or perhaps a input/output panel...None of my works are ever truly finished as I'm always thinking of ways to improve them...