Right now our Circus lady is curing, we’re waiting for parts for the animals and wheels, and we need to start getting the main body assembled. Since this is not a tutorial on assembling the kit, I am going to skip any steps that are just “follow the instructions”. So we will focus on deviations from the instructions. The first thing where we’re going to deviate on the main kit is with some magnets. Magnetizing components allows for rapidly changing them out, and is often applied to weapons options. We won’t be magnetizing the weapons. We will be using magnets however. The key to magnetizing is pre-planning. Where do we want to be able to attach and detach other components at will? Two places. We want to be able to swap bases between the diorama and a scratch built flying base. We also want to be able to attach and detach the Circus lady at will. So we need two sets of magnets.

The first one is rather easy to place. Using the already magnetized base from the other model, I can hold the magnet in place until I affix it properly. How do you affix these internal magnets? There’s glue, but I had leftover Green Stuff, and with those channels in the floor, it will hold pretty darn well. Plus, being on the bottom of the model, it won’t be in as much danger of shifting due to gravity. So that one was the easy one. The other place we want to magnetize is the left headlight assembly. We want our Circus lady to be able to stand on the corner of the vehicle and motivate her beasts to haul. Initially I planned a line of three small magnets with the same polarity so we can have a few options as to where she stands. There was just one problem with this – when you get two magnets close to each other, they tend to act of their own accord. After a lot of frustrated fussing, I realized I wasn’t going to be able to do it at the present time. So I cut down to the two magnets on the ends, which were far enough apart that I was able to get them into the notches I cut in the back of the headlight assembly. Once I had glue in, I promptly entombed them in Green Stuff – I was not going to do that all over again.

Some assembly required

The magnets on the outside are there simply to help hold the inside magnets in place while the Green Stuff cures, and to remind me that there are magnets in there. Oh, and ensure polarity of the interior magnets. I know that once the interior magnets got entombed, there wasn’t much chance of them shifting, but I really don’t want to fight with the fiddly little magnets any more. So, we go back to textbook assembly until we get to the turret. Thankfully, I already decreed we were not magnetizing weapons, so that is out. So what am I doing to the turret? First off, I’m going to drill out the bore of the machine gun. No one will notice if you leave the bore the solid slug of plastic that it comes out of the box as, but that little added touch of detail helps. I don’t do it to every weapon, or even most weapons, but when I’m already going to all of this effort, I’m going to drill out the bore of the projectile weapons.

The second point of deviation is that we’re going to leave the turret as three subassemblies. The gunner, the pintle mount and the turret proper. Why? Because there are a lot of tight corners in there and trying to prime, let alone paint, all of those nooks and crannies is asking for trouble. So we’re going to paint them separately and press-fit them together. This requires not gluing the layers to each other. The second thing we’re going to do is to swap out the arms on the gunner. We need a pose that says “Drive me closer, I want to hit them with my sword.” And to do that, we need to give the guy a sword. So it’s back to the Bitz Box. Swapping out weapons arms is easy, right? Well if all you want to do is make sure he’s holding the weapon, sure. But we want him posed properly for the meme-reference. So we need to take a saw to some arms. For the left arm, we have a chainsword that’s just a hand, so we can just find an arm pointed in the proper direction and take off whatever’s in its hand. Too many of the arms are posed to hold something close in to the torso, which is the opposite of what we want. For the right arm, the pistol I want to give him has the wrong type of shoulder pad, so I have to swap it to an arm that is compatible with the correct ones.

So we apply a little saw to the arms and do some more part surgery. Why didn’t I use the saw before? Because the female parts were not as bulky, and wouldn’t deform as much from clippers where they were more than the knife could handle. The saw is slow, but it does less damage to the surrounding part and can cut through an arbitrarily thick block of plastic. Once cut apart, we reassemble the parts we want and we have one enthusiastic gunner who can’t wait to get into melee range. Nevermind the fact that he’s sitting behind a minigun…

So what’s next? Well, we need some parts to be delivered, and we need to look at what’s wrong with our Circus Lady’s backside.

That didn’t work out exactly as intended.

So what happened was that gravity caused the green stuff to slump against the front loincloth. And the upper part is still a mess. So lets cover the rump with a pistol from the Bitz Box. Yes, the pistols are gratuitously oversized. But with ammo packs, the holster hides most of the worst errors. We also have to attach a magnet to the heel of that boot. So far I’ve been using thin plastic glue. (Thin being a measure of viscosity.) But plastic glue works by chemically reacting with the plastic to cause the pieces to fuse to each other. It does not work so well with metal. So as I cut a notch from the heel of the foot to fit the magnet, I had to find the cyanoacrylate, more commonly called Superglue. I hate superglue. It sticks to anything but itself. So I end up having to hold the pieces in place for far too long before it sets and pray I didn’t get any on my fingers. If I did, I would get glued to the piece while waiting. This is more than a little annoying.

We’ve got a ways to go.

Almost as annoying as getting glued to the piece is realizing I don’t have magnets small enough to hide in the foot. So what am I going to do about this oversized lump of metal in her heel? I’m still thinking about that. So what is there to do now? We need to wait for the pieces I ordered online, but that doesn’t mean work has to stop. What can I do while waiting? I can paint. My preference is for spray primers and to paint light on dark. There are a few simple techniques to ensure a good primer coat that doesn’t wipe out details. First off is to remember that you can always add more primer, but taking it off will be difficult to impossible. Especially around the fine details. So short bursts in gentle sweeps will do well. You need about sixteen to twenty inches of separation from the spray nozzle to the piece in order to have the best dispersal of pigment. Don’t try to get the whole piece in one pass. Coast from one direction, so you have a dry face for the model to rest on. Let that layer dry and spray the other side. Repeat from as many directions as needed to remove pale spots and get a uniform coat. A bright penlight will help provide alternative lighting to check whether or not a given pale spot is the underlying plastic or reflections.

Oh, and whatever you do, make sure you spray prime in a well-ventilated area. Most sprays use hydrocarbon-based accelerants that will cause issues if you breathe too much. Plus the pigment, which you don’t want in your sinuses. No matter where you work, there will be droplets of pigment that float long enough to dry and form colored dust. You will begin to notice this if you use the same spot long enough. It can be wiped up, unlike a direct spay that will stick to whatever it hits. Last tip, put a backdrop behind the piece to catch as much of that loose pigment as you can. A simple cardboard box will suffice, provided it’s big enough.

Wherein we apply the base coat.

Right now we’re priming in eight pieces, three layers of the turret, the Circus lady, three weapons mounts, and the main chassis. This will allow the structure to have more posability, and allow us to paint it properly. If you notice the walker in the back, the one on the left, it’s not just there to look pretty, it’s a color reference for the vehicle. So we start with some base coats. The primer counts as our first base coat, because there are large areas of the model that will stay black. On our Circus Lady and the gunner, we have one model that has a lot of exposed skin and one completely encased in armor. His coat will be more uniform, mostly dark red. The base coat for the skin and hair will be leather brown, and while we’re painting it, we’ll paint the holster and ammo pouches. We need to be careful not to paint over her shirt. That one gets based in dark purple, the loincloth in pale gray and the metal in a lead hue.

A time-consuming, but vital step

While I could leave that as her skin tone, I’m not going to. These intermediate layers do two things – one they reduce the number of layers required to cover a pure black base, and it subtly influences the character of the final color layered on top. Most of the brown will be covered up, except for the holster and ammo pouches. Though the red is the final color of the gunner’s armor. Since I’m basing the Circus Lady’s armor, I’ll hit the metallic parts of the main chassis and weapons. Because there are so many “metal” components across my collection, this particular silver hue is one of my most commonly used pigments. There are two painting techniques I have to discuss when applying these patches. First is what is typically thought of when mentioning ‘painting’. That is evenly applying pigment to coat the area. This is used for things like gun barrels and antennae. The second is drybrushing. Drybrushing is the use of a limited amount of pigment (the ‘dry’ brush) to scrape over the prominent details of the model. This gets useful for grates, vents and simulating wear on mechanical components.

There are some people who would advise diluting your pigment. I have only once ran into a time when I needed to add water to paint – after a pot had all but dried out and needed to be restored to working order. This is because I find diluted pigment doesn’t cover well, and refuses to stay where I put it. You will typically get this bad advice online when you gloop it on. More appropriate advice would be to use less paint. As with primer, you can always put more on, but taking it off is not so easy.

So we start layering on other colors. With a few details, the “very undone” look of freshly primed pops to something looking closer to completed. For this reason, I try to pick primers that represent as much of the base color as I can. This is not always practical, and for individual characters I will just suck it up and paint it all, such as with the Circus Lady miniature here.

All gussied up and painted