Thursday, June 10, 2010

New Players FAQ Part 1


I'm relatively new to this hobby: Rediscovering Warhammer 40K last year, after a twenty year hiatus. I was always drawn to the 40K side of the Warhammer universe due to the Space Marines and their fanatical worship of their ancestral Man-God, The Emperor. These monastic, super-steroid warriors trace their walk across the stars through countless battles and wars with all those who oppose the God Emperor. These warriors are divided into a thousand chapters as diverse as the players who enjoy this hobby.
I have been slowly amassing and building one such chapter, the Blood Angels Space Marines, inspired heavily by a very enthusiastic wargamer that goes by the handle, Jawaballs. Recently, many of my friends have jumped (or fallen) into this hobby as well. So, I wanted to compile a FAQ for my friends and people interested in Warhammer 40K (and table top war gaming in general) that have little to no prior experience with the hobby.
Information can be found all over the internet; such as necessary tools and supplies for your models, game rules and equipment (dice, templates, etc.) and a plethora of tutorials covering everything from building a model, to painting it, to finally fielding it in a game. Unfortunately, these sources are rarely found in one centralized location, rather, they are scattered all over the digital place- sometimes in very obscure locations. I will attempt to consolidate all of that useful information that has helped me enjoy this hobby.
Chapter 1
Think of this FAQ as a living body- a work in progress. It is not all-encompassing, rather a tome I will add to and improve upon as time permits. Educated hobbyists are happy hobbyists and any additional time saved searching for answer(s) to your question(s) may be further invested in building, painting models or improving stratagems for your armies.
Before deciding what army to play- before you purchase any models, consider this: Most models that aren’t purchased used, or pre-built will require cleaning and assembly. Some kits, such as the Land Raider Crusader/Redeemer for example, come with enough parts to facilitate multiple load-outs. In such cases magnetizing certain parts will allow you to switch weapons and equipment on your models as strategy and conditions demand.
There are three or four supplies that you will need before building a model:

Building:
  • Hobby Knife- A knife or blade with disposable tips. Hobby knives come in different shapes and sizes, however the most common have a triangular shaped tip. Various hobby companies sell their own knife (usually at an inflated price). I prefer a knife with a thick or rubberized handle, and I suggest it for anyone with large hands or that sweat a lot. 
  • Adhesive/Glue- I use a Cyanoacrylate (CA) based adhesive on my models and kits. CA adhesives such as (Zap-A-Gap and Krazy Glue) rely on moisture to form a bond and harden two surfaces together. Beware: CA adhesives will bond skin together, almost instantly. Polystyrene Cement is another adhesive used on plastic models. It is a solvent that dissolves a thin layer of the plastic it is applied to in order to bond to an adjacent piece. I prefer a non-solvent glue for my model building- the reason I "stick with" CA adhesives. Polyvinyl Acetate (PVA), or “white glue” will also come in handy for figure bases (“basing”). Elmer's is one example of PVA glue. Hobby Town has a great FAQ on different types of adhesives and I suggest reading it. 
  • JB Weld Epoxy- Sometimes, you need a bonding agent stronger than glues', or adhesives. When I put together my Bastion, I had some real trouble bonding the four primary seams together. Kwik Weld made the process a lot easier; bonding the seams together in just under 5 minutes. I also use JB Weld to fill gaps and seal pinned pieces together. You can sand JB Weld down once it has cured, but remember, it is toxic- wear a mask and discard the particles when you're done.
  • Clear Parts Cement- When adhering clear plastic to a model (such as cockpit, or window), one must avoid using CA adhesive, as it has a tendency to 'frost', or fog the clear plastic. Enter Clear Parts Cement by Testors. This adhesive not only avoids damaging clear styrene, or plastic pieces, but it also doesn't yellow over time. Micro-Mark also makes an adhesive, Watch Crystal Cement.
  • Micro Flush Cutter- These precision clippers are great for separating model parts from plastic sprues' and trimming excess flash. You can purchase a pair for 9-17.00 dollars from a major hobby company, but I prefer the 2.00 set found at any Harbor Freight.
  • Cutting Mat (or cutting board, or some other surface you can safely cut on.)- This will not only protect you, but it will protect the desk or table surface where you plan to assemble your model(s). I prefer cutting mats' with grid lines and measurement(s) on all four side(s). I use a 12 x 18 hard cutting board that I've had since art school. It is slightly warped, now, but it get's the job done. You can find cutting mats' online, at Michaels craft store, or even Wal-Mart. I also purchased a plastic table for sixty bucks from Lowes with a self-healing surface- perfect for model building, modding, and painting.
  • Precision needle file set, or fine/very fine sand paper- I purchased a set of precision needle files from Harbor Freight for six bucks. The set includes files that are flat and round with varying degrees of surface. Sanding files are used to smooth down flash (a bi-product of the molding process) and other imperfections on models and kit(s) before the painting process. Sand paper is great for large, or relatively flat surfaces, whereas a precision file is better able to get nooks and crannies when dealing with small, complicated surfaces (such as 28mm figures). 
Painting:
  •  Airbrush Stencils: Brush 4 Hire offers pre-cut airbrush stencils compatible with 40K. These stencils will seriously cut down on the amount of prep time otherwise needed to mask off designs/patterns.
  • Wet Palette: Wet palettes extend the life of acrylic paints by keeping the working area cool and moist. If you have ever worked with acrylic paints, you can appreciate just how fast the paint will dry after it is removed from it's container. Wet Palettes can be made by simply adding a damp sponge to a piece of tupperware, then laying a sheet of parchment paper over the sponge. Use the parchment paper as a palette,  which will further the life of your paints due to the damp sponge. I used this method for quite some time until I was able to purchase a wet palette. I found a 12 x 7-ish at our local big-box hobby store (Michaels) for 5 bucks.
Below are additional tools and supplies that are not required for model building, but come in very handy:
  • Micro-Mark Seam Scraper- I just ordered this tool, and have no personal experience with it, however, I have read a lot of good things about the Micro-Mark Seam Scraper. It can be sharpened, and has a longer lifespan than the x-acto knife I currently use to remove excess flash on a model. I go through a lot of blades as a result, so this should prove a cost effective alternative. There are other seam scrapers available, however majority of hobbyists say they prefer the Micro-Mark.
  • Pin Vise- A pen-shaped tool used to hold very small drills. I would be lost without my pin vise and I strongly recommend purchasing one. I use this tool for modding and to securely fasten and anchor model joints. Two suggestions: Purchase a pin vise that has a thick or rubberized surface and purchase extra drills- they are very small and will break easily.
  • Epoxy Putty (Also known as Plumbers Putty, or Green Stuff)- Epoxy putty comes in two parts: the putty and a hardener. Once the two parts are kneaded together, the putty hardens in about three hours and cures in approximately 24 hours. Epoxy putty is great as a bonding agent, for filling in gaps and connector joints, or sculpting modifications to an existing figure. You are only limited to your imagination when it comes to epoxy putty. A word of caution: combined putty can irritate skin.
  • Rare Earth Magnets- Magnetizing your models and figures is a great way to utilize different equipment and weapons. Small (size) disc magnets work great for appendage joints, doors and weapon turrets. Many 40K players adhere to the What You See is What You Get (WYSiWYG) rule and magnetizing troop choices is one way to facilitate that rule while moderating cost and space. Who really wants three variants of the same character or troop-type because they have three unique weapon choices? There are many vendors and retailers that sell Rare Earth Magnets- I prefer Amazing Magnets: Great prices, fast shipping and discounts on bulk orders
  • Paper clips- I use paper clips, cut to size, to secure and anchor appendages and attachments to the trunk of a model. Using a pin vise, I drill a small hole in the base where the appendage will be attached, and in the appendage itself. The paperclip is reinforced with epoxy putty and a little CA adhesive. The CA temporarily holds the piece in place, providing time for the putty to harden and cure.
  • Acetone (or acetone based nail polish remover)- I use acetone based nail polish remover to weaken existing glue from models and parts.
  • Sculpting tools (and dentist's tools)- Indispensable when working with epoxy putty.
  • Toothpicks- I use toothpicks for a multitude of different things including shaping and sculpting epoxy putty, removing old paint out of nook and cranny, Applying/mixing paint, applying glue or adhesive...the list goes on. Make sure you have a few around!
  • Cotton Swabs- Another house-hold item that can be indispensable when crafting.
Organization:

Kanban Board:
When I jumped back into this hobby, I had a few model kits to my name. I played a few games, came up with a few lists, and before I knew it, I was up to my eyeballs in models and kits that required assembly and paint. One of the best ways to fend off the 'gray tide' is to organize and put into action a plan to tackle your hobby loot. Carl from the Independent Characters podcast suggested a fine tool that can be used to organize and maintain order to one's hobby- to one's life. Following is a link to an article I wrote about my Kanban board, and a free program available online.

Workstation:
It doesn't matter what you call your workstation; your room, an empty closet or even a portion of the dining table from 5-7...your workstation is an important component to this hobby. First you need enough space to work and you need adequate lighting to work by. The more comfort you can provide yourself while you labor over your miniatures, the better you will enjoy it! Organizing your workstation to make the most out of your space is important, too. If you devote an hour to your hobby a night, you don't want to spend a fourth of that time rummaging for supplies and tools, right? I place all of my hand-held tools in a tin coffee mug that sets upon my desk. I keep basing supplies in a specific drawer in little tuperware containers labelled accordingly. I sort and organize my model bits and miscellaneous stuff in a drawer cabinet (Akro-Mils has a decent selection).

Lighting:
Make sure you have adequate lighting. A fully assembled tank, plane, or soldier is still only a MINIATURE. Which means the kit's relative pieces are even smaller! Make sure you have a reliable light source for your workstation. If you plan to paint, then consider investing in one or two fluorescent desk lamps. For instance the Balanced Spectrum desk-top lamp provides cool, clean light. I picked one of these lamps up at a local Fred Meyer for 22 bucks. Likewise, you can find the Normande GP3-193 13W PL Desk Lamp on Amazon.com for about the same price! When assembling and especially sculpting and painting having strong, clean light that you can manipulate is a requirement. 
For Christmas, my Wife surprised me with the Daylight Triple-Light lamp. It clamps onto a desk, or table, and provides such amazing light- perfect for painting.  Though not cheap, I strongly suggest this lamp for anyone that is serious about painting miniatures.
Final thoughts: I fell back in to this hobby after a very long break and although I had many of my old art supplies to rely on- I didn't have it all. In fact there were a few items I listed above that I lacked, which forced me to halt a project until I was able to acquire them. Budgets' are tight, right now, so I suggest checking Craigslist- especially the free section for equipment and supplies on the cheap. Likewise, there are online stores such as Harbor Freight, DickBlick , Amazon.com, and Ebay.com that offer competitve prices. Don't forget your local art, hardware supply, and Local Gaming Store (LGS). Small businesses are some of the best sources for great deals and, when you shop at a small or privately owned business you're supporting your local community! A few minutes of conversation and face time can open doors of opportunity- get to know your local small business owners and operators!
In the next chapter I will cover 40K game supplies necessary to play!

Chapter 2: 40K Game Supplies










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