Well, the kit containing the animals arrived. It was made by the same folks who made the main model, but is an older kit for their fantasy line. It’s supposed to make a chariot that can be pulled by either horses or lions. Since our IFV model is far, far larger than the chariot, we’re going to use both horses and lions. They did recruit the aid of a traveling circus after all.
Ragnmar: “Um, won’t the lions eat the horses?”
Dorian: “We just put the horses in front. That way the lions motivate the horses and the horses motivate the lions.”
Circus Lady: “I told you earlier, they’ve all been lobotomized, and had override chips implanted. The controller is built into the handle of my whip.”
Dorian: “Sure, spoil the fun.”
Ragnmar: “You’re a dick, Dorian.”
The chariot kit also has a heap of bitz that will be perfect for adding character to other pieces. My army in the actual game has a lion’s head ensign, so it won’t be hard to find homes for the lion-themed decorations from the chariot. Lets clip all of the animals off the chariot sprue and assemble them. I specifically picked the chariot because the animal were posed to be pulling, and had an attachment point on their harnesses where a simple loop shackle could be fitted. We will eventually attach our chains to these shackles, but we’ve got to get them made first. The base model had the animals attached to a yoke, but has only one yoke in the set. To provide consistency, I want all four to be attached by a similar system.
My first idea was to drill into the attachment point and fit these staples. The loops of the staples proved to be too wide for the model as built. I’d made the mistake of buying the staples before I had the chariot model, and guessed wrong. When I tried to squeeze it narrower to fit the model, I started to realize it was going to be a good deal of work to get it to fit. Not only that, but in the end, it was going to be rather ugly and not fit properly. Oh well, $1 lost. Not really, since the staples are still perfectly serviceable in their original function.
An alternative came along when my first shipment of plasticard pieces arrived and it turned out I’d ordered the wrong size. I’d been buying axles for the main carriage, and these pieces of tubing are way too narrow for that role. But, if I can bend them into a hundred an eighty degree turn, they would fit almost perfectly as shackles for the chains to attach to.
So now we get to our first piece on working with plasticard. What is plasticard? In short, it’s high density polystyrene. Yes, the same material they make styrafoam from, only without the foamy airspace. I have straight tubes of the stuff and I need to bend it. Best way to do that is to apply heat. We’ve ventured into something I’ve never actually done before, but I’m too far down the rabbit hole to stop now. So, the first source of heat I tried is hot water. I took my Japanese kettle, set it to boiling, filled a coffee cup with hot water and rested a plasticard tube in it. I got a gentle bend in the part of the tube in the water after quite a few minutes of waiting. This did not make me happy, as I needed a rather severe bend, and I’m an impatient sort. So I dumped the now cooled water into my brush-washing bin and went to get my hairdryer.
My hairdryer has never been used on hair. I got it when I first needed to put plastic up to the windows on my house. It has only ever been used on plastic, and today would be no different. Now, if you do the math, there is probably more energy trapped in that cup of hot water than I’ll be getting out of the hair dryer. But the problem was, it wasn’t conducting into the polystyrene, but evaporating away with the steam. The hot air moving past it at high rate of speed will transfer more of its heat into the polystyrene than the water did. One thing to note with as thin a work piece as I’ve got here – the airflow out of your standard consumer hair dryer is not even in temperature. There are hot spots directly downwind of the heating elements. These hot spots are what we are looking for, as they will render the plasticard the most malleable. There may be some trial and error involved in finding these spots, but in the end, I got a loop. With the air of pliers and a mandrel, I was able to refine one of those bends into a shackle shape. Some trimming and cleanup later, and it glued neatly to the attachment point on the first horse. That’s a second benefit of switching from metal to plasticard – we can glue it and paint it using the same glue and paint as the rest of the model. The day is saved, we can now get our draft animals modeled. Sadly, as always happens, I get the technique perfected on the last shackle I need to make.
They will need a base, as they were not balanced to stand without being attached to the rest of their original kit. I can get some bases from the game store when I pick up sheet plasticard for something else I plan to do. Fast Forward a Week, and we have a plethora of plasticard options. Except there’s still a problem. I underestimated the diameter of the plasticard tube yet again. On the bright side, the new tubing is of the perfect diameter to serve as an axle for the wheels. So, I’m going to adjust my mental plan for the design. Not by much, mind you, but I had originally planned the MDF axles that came with the wheels and pinning them to the tubing, which would have required tubing wide enough for the axle to fit inside. Did I just say MDF? Yes. When wheels I got are Medium Density Fiberboard. While I can’t glue them to the polystyrene using plastic glue, I can paint them using the same paints.
I’m going to be perfectly honest. Scratch-build is new ground for me. So I’m going to start with a proof of concept and put together a caisson. Since there are multiple definitions of ‘caisson’, lets be clear – I’m talking about the two-wheeled cart for hauling ammunition. The wheels came in packs of four, and I only needed six for the main build. So I have a pair free for this proof of concept. I also have in my bitz collection a great many ammo boxes and fuel cans. As such can build the caisson and heap it with appropriate cargo without any additional investment. Is this a part of the main kitbash? Well, yes, it’s simply going to be towed behind the vehicle.