Winter is always a tough time to complete miniature projects in New England. I like to prime my figures, which involves spray paint, and I like to save and protect my paint jobs, which involves spray varnishes. Unfortunately, both of these are sensitive to cold and humidity – if only I had a heated garage! I did get lucky his month with the help of Jeff Smith who let me use his workshop to prime, but more on that in a bit. Work travel impacted production as well for me.
I needed a few “large creatures” for Wizards to control for my fantasy war game rules. I have a few that I got on eBay that are in progress, but I did not want a month to go by without any production at all.
Maybe because of the passing of David Bowie last month, I had “Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars” echoing through my head. I really was a big fan of Bowie, and was lucky enough to see him one time back in the 90’s. It was a great concert. So, with a nod to the Spiders from Mars, I focused on two spiders I got on eBay. The first one was the smaller and older of the pair, called “Huge Spider”. It was made by Grenadier in 1980 as part of 5004 “Tomb of Spells” boxed set for AD&D. The second was a larger Ral Partha figure that came in 3 pieces and looks like a tarantula. It was made in 1995 for TSR’s AD&D 2nd edition Monsters series. It is 11-515, and according to Lost Mini’s wiki it was called “Spider/Steeder”. I will deal with each in turn.
The Tomb of Spells set had 20 miniatures in it (pictures of box and insert below from Lost Mini’s Wiki). Originally, the Huge Spider had only 6 legs, but subsequent versions were given 8 legs. The eyes were not those of a spider and more akin to the compound eyes of an insect.
The figure itself was painted black, and thickly so. A few days of soaking in Simple Green and scrubbing with a stiff plastic brush and a push pin got the vast majority of the old paint removed, but not all as seen below.
I wanted to prime them, but the weather was around -5° Fahrenheit that Saturday. Thankfully, Jeff Smith was working in his wood shop up at Bay Path Golf Course. I took advantage of his kind offer to work there and prime several miniatures. He had a nice turntable for me to use which helped a lot. I primed the figures with Krylon Ultra-Flat Black at a safe distance from his roaring wood stove with the door ajar. Most of the vapors got sucked right into the stove which was a great solution!
I then mounted the figure on a #8 stainless steel washer and then used the washer to mount to a popsicle stick for painting. I used my scroll saw to cut a hexagonal 2½” base out of 1/8″ plywood for a permanent base. I learned from previous projects that a beveled base would hold flocking better, so I set my saw up to have about a 85° (instead of 90°) slope. I glued several zinc coated steel #8 washers to the bottom of the final base to provide a way for the model to attach to magnetic sheets in my storage drawers. My plan was to have the spiders be dark in a field of grass. To help make flocking easier I used some Deka Lack satin green (from 1987 and still good) to paint the final base. I then went back to painting the Huge Spider itself.
I gave it a nice light coat of Americana “Lamp Black”. When that had dried, I used Special Weapons Washes “Heavy Body Black” on the figure. I then applied a dry brush of Citadel “XV-88” all over the figure.
I then washed the figure again, this time with Special Weapons Washes “Red Black”. For the mandibles, Armory’s “Gloss Black” gave a menacing glint. Lastly, the eyes deserved menace, so Citadel’s “Wild Rider Red” was my choice.
As for mounting and finishing, I used wood glue to mount the figure to the hex base. Being careful to avoid the legs, I used toothpicks and small brushes to apply white glue for the flocking around and under the figure. The flocking base material was Army Painter Battlefields “Moss Green” which worked well with the underpainted green base. I sprinkled some 4Ground TSM-122 “Loose Foliage – Green” around to alter the color a bit and create depth. I sealed the entire base flocking with a slurry of diluted white glue which I let dry.
Back to weather and conditions challenges for varnishing – still too cold! And my wife really does not want varnish propellant in the house – I’ve pushed that before and will not again. Besides, it really is a health hazard. Traveling with the figure to Jeff’s workshop seemed too burdensome as I did need the usual two coats (Krylon Clear Glossy followed six hours later by Krylon Clear Matte). I also did not want dust or bumping the miniature to affect the varnish.
I came up with a nice solution using my cellar bulkhead. I opened the inner door to heat the stairway of the bulkhead from the cellar. Once warm, I affixed a couple of magnetic battery-powered LED lights for illumination on the interior of the outer bulkhead door. I put on my respirator, and shut the interior door, and used the spray varnish under the LED lights to coat the figure in a clean cardboard box with cutaways that was set on the stairs. I then opened the outer bulkhead door to vent the fumes, and quickly went back into the house from the back door with the figure before it got cold – and it worked!
After the second coat (Matte) of varnish, I used a combination of Army Painter Battlefields “Wilderness Tuft” with a few “Wasteland Tuft” and some “Battlefield Rocks” to create a more 3D effect.
Now I shall discuss the Ral Partha Spider/Steeder. It was made for TSR’s AD&D Monsters line in 1995. It posed some new challenges, as well as some of the same as the Grenadier model. The first was assembly. It was not immediately clear as to how to put the creature together – especially the middle. Additionally, the rod at the back was supposed to go into all three pieces, but it was not anywhere near long enough to do that. I tried E600 epoxy, and it became clear to me quickly that I needed a structural solution. Hearkening back to my Engineer days, I went to rebar and concrete – well, sort of anyways!
Using my pin vise and my smallest bit, I drilled 2 holes, one in each major end. I then cut off small pieces from a large paperclip and shaped them to go through the holed in each. I had some Milliput that I had never used before. It comes in two cylinders, and when you mix them in equal proportion, it goes from clay-like to rock overnight.
I combined the two types (and used more than I needed as it turns out). I then worked it into the cavities and around the paperclips, and braced it overnight. It held up great! The model was structurally sound. I sanded and filed the excess off and went on to prime the model and prepare its final base. The only differences here from the previous spider’s was that the base was larger (3″) – everything else was the same (paint, washers, bevel). I also had previously primed this model at the same time at Jeff’s workshop before assembling with Milliput and paperclips!
This figure had not been previously painted. I mounted it on washers and then mounted to a popsicle stick. As with the other model, I gave it a base coat of Americana “Lamp Black” followed by Special Weapons Washes “Heavy Body Black”, and a dry brush of Citadel “XV-88” all over the figure. The Milliput was not visible.
This figure was more akin to a tarantula. I used Citadel “Mechanicus Standard Gray” on the pads on the legs.
I used Armory “Gloss Black” on the eye cluster, the fangs, the mandibles, and the leg tips. The eyes themselves were dots of Citadel’s “Wild Rider Red”. Another wash with Special Weapons Washes “Heavy Body Black” rounded out the painting as you see below.
I then mounted the figure on the hex base, and followed the exact same procedure as the Grenadier model as to basing, flocking, varnishing, and finishing with grasses and rocks.
Overall, I am very happy. The figures look menacing and will be great for the Wizards to control, or as autonomous monsters…Scary Monsters…another David Bowie reference if you are paying attention!