Tag Archives: model making

John Blanche inspired flying galleon

A few months ago, I was moving my office/dungeon/work area around and started thumbing through some of my artbooks. One of the books I opened up was my copy of ‘Ratspike’ which is a collection of the work of John Blanche and Ian Miller. I’m a huge fan of both artists, Miller for his detailed line art and mythos inspirations, Blanche for his bright, powerful images that fuel much of the Warhammer universes.

One image drew me, the flying galleons which sometimes appear in the background of his picture and theres one picture with one of them as the main focal point of the image.

As I haven’t made any one off models for a while, I took the inspiration and decided to try and make something similar.

The build

Guessing the basic shape of the hull, I sketched out a couple of rough profile plans to try and establish the dimensions. There’s a lot you can get away with in 2D that you can’t when you translate it to 3D, so there was a couple of things I had to add or change to make the shape work. What I was left with was a set of loose paper templates and some vague ideas of the shape. I didn’t want anything too set in stone, simply as I knew I’d be making stuff up as I went and sometimes that looseness helps.

The basic shape was blocked out with plastic sheets which I skimmed in places to smooth the shape, then glued coffee stirrers over the surface.

To get the bendyness into them, I soaked the stirrers in water for 24 hours. This made them more flexible so they followed the shape I had made for the hull.

Details started to be added like the ramparts, beams to simulate support struts, the rudder and pencil marking out locations for the mast. The square hole in the starboard side is the mounting point. I used a square one so it wouldn’t spin or roll in place. This is a similar technique used for mounting models when filming them, the mounting points are hidden in different places to allow it to be filmed from different angles without the camera seeing the supports.

In this case, I only wanted one mounting point but its in a hidden enough spot to give the idea the ship is flying. Next came the sculpted prow and bow faces.

I blocked them out and then sculpted in Aves Apoxie Sculpt.

At the same time I did something I said to myself that I wasn’t going to do. I ordered bits, lots of bits.

I originally wanted this to be built using only materials I had on hand but quickly gave in to my weakness for buying extra parts. An anchor, a ships wheel, ladders and different dowels for the mast and rigging.

oh and…

Barrels and minis to convert for the crew. One of my first ideas was to use some of my old minis, but balked at the idea of cutting them up to convert so ordered some plastic Empire troops to use.

The mast went in, I started to pile in the detailing as well. Rivets, planks, sculpted ends to the mast, the crows nest and anything I could to add little details to the hull.

Speaking of the hull…

I started carving more details onto the woodwork as I wanted to exaggerate the grain. Unrealistic I know, but this is a flying ship. The rule of cool applies here.

More details are added, including the spars at the back for the rigging.

And then its time for some paint.


Once primed, I started to paint it with different browns as well as washes of reds, greens, blacks and blues to give weathering effects.

The rest of the ship slowly gets covered in different paints and washes.

Next up is the details like barrels, wheel, anchor etc…


Then onto the crew. I wanted to theme it around a crew from the Empire, so painted each of them as having uniforms from different regions.

We have the powder monkey, captain, a young deckhand mopping up after the monkey, the first mate who is watching out from the aft and a lookout with his oversized pipe up in the crow’s nest. Each of them is converted in some way as well. The captain has a peg leg I carved from some dowel. The deckhand wields a mighty mop sculpted from Green Stuff along with a bucket I made. The lookout has his pipe. While the first mate had some parts cut from him and his hands replaced with different ones. Even the powder monkey had one of his tails removed as the model comes with 2.

You’ll see the flag in that last picture as I was working on the flag and sail at the same time. To get them to hold in place, I thinned PVA glue and soaked them both in the mix before leaving them to dry.

I had to spend quite a bit of time getting the rigging in place for the sail. It was fiddly but I’m glad I took the effort as it came out well. The flag was based on a design from my copy of the Empire Army book from the 4th edition of WFB. I wanted to keep with the Empire theme of the ship so found something which fitted. The sail in the painting has a huge figure painted on it but my freehand skills are not great. I bottled out and left it blank if a little stained.

The rock

The last part to complete was the background. For this, I wanted to have a rock as if it was floating, the same as the picture. I carved up some foam blocks and glued the shape over the wooden support.

First, it was given a thin mix of paint and PVA as a base coat. This mix makes the foam quite tough, and helps to fill a few of the seams where I had glued the foam together. The rest of the painting was just lots of shades of grey, brushed, dry brushed, washed and stippled over the surface.

I did consider adding a few trees and houses like the original painting but thought it would be enough as it is.

Flock and lichen came next along with a small waterfall made from clear silicone sealer and a few rocks scattered around. The plants got a thin spray of different shades of inks to break up their colours and help to blend them into the scenery a little better.

And lastly, the base, I didn’t want to paint it as I liked the wooden texture. I thought it matched the ship nicely so a couple of layers of shoe polish worked to stain it.

Shopping list

A few people have asked me over the course of the build where I was getting stuff from, so here’s a list.

Wooden coffee stirrers, scrap wood and plastic card for the start of the build, came from somewhere. The bottom of my materials box mainly.

The miniatures (Empire State Handgunners and freeguild) as well as barrels came from Element Games

The foam, flock and some modelling bits came from 4D Model Shop

The anchor, chains, ladders, tackle blocks and ships wheel came from Hobbies

Everything else pretty much came out of what I have kicking around the house.

Nuclear waste clock

Just before Christmas I was contacted by Paul over at Bad Dog Designs who wanted me to put some of my own skills to use on one of his nixie clocks. The theme? A nuclear waste dump, complete with glowing barrels, barbed wire and some nice gloopy toxic waste.

Well… who wouldn’t say yes to such an interesting theme. So, heres how I tackled this slightly unique request.

Firstly Paul sent me a sketch with some rough layouts and we chatted about what the client wanted, the wire, barrels and some toxic goop, beyond that I had a fairly loose brief.

The starting point

Over Christmas I got some floral wire and set about making the barbed wire by twisting two strands together and then wrapping other strands around it to make the barbes. It hurts by the way when you stab yourself with it, a lot.

After the New Year, Paul sent over the wooden box and I popped by my local makerspace to make use of a pillar drill to drill out some of the resin barrels I have. I then broke up a few up to look damaged and battered about. I then roughly placed them where I thought they’d look good while making sure they didn’t block the spot the tubes would go. To give that space some detail, I added some barrels chopped up to look like they’re on their side and stuck in the mud.

It was around this time I started messing with mud. I bought some Modeling paste and mixed it with sand, paint, grit and tea. Yes I bought a load of tea leaves (green and black ones) and settled on a nice mix of brown paint and tea as my mud. Getting the right balance between texture and smell was interesting. My cellar smelt like a cup of tea for days as I mixed and tested different amounts to see the outcome.

At my local craft shop I found a perfect paint for the toxic goo and it had a nice gloopy texture when mixed with PVA glue. This was going to be my nuclear waste.

Time to start laying down some paint. The whole thing had a spray of black, then a coat of silver, finally the sides had a coat of olive drab. Once the olive was dry I scratched it with wire wool to simulate wear to the outer layer.


Now comes the fun. Weathering. As a model maker, nothing makes my heart sing more than covering a model is grime, filth and rust. Truly, tis an art. The barrels had layers of red sponged on to simulate their original paint. Then they had Typhus corrosion over parts, before Ryza rust was drybrushed on. Once dry, silver was drybrushed in places where the metal may not be as corroded such as newly broken spots or part that may have been worn away.

The trick with weathering is it must tell a story. Rust will build in certain places such as around the bases or where rain will fall on it. You can’t just throw effects at something without it making sense.

The olive green had some weathering as well as I coated it in a few different colours of oil paint. After 20 minutes it was wiped away. Leaving smears and discolouration, simulating the grime built up over it.

Next came the nuclear waste goop, dribbled on carefully.

You’ll notice I also started to get the barbed wire in place. The posts had been drilled beforehand and I fitted the posts in before adding the mud.

As I went along, I was adding more details to the base. Rocks made from cork (a good way of recycling all those ones from Christmas). A broken pipe made from aluminium tubing which I bent and mangled before glueing down. There’s a metal plate half sunk into the base. Some small tubes made from rolled green stuff. Tufts of brown mangy grass and a one cheeky little face, peeking out from behind a one of the tufts.

I’d been trying to tell small stories as I went along with the barrels as well. Theres a half melted one which I thought would be going straight down. A few had cracks and holes in them which is where the nuclear waste was oozing out. Some had their lids on but only just. The barbed wire even had some weathering thrown at it with rust, dust and blood smeared over it. Not real blood obviously, I’d cleaned that off after stabbing my thumbs so often while making it. I used a few drips of the ‘Blood for the Blood God’ paint across parts. I did other bits with inks, washes, weathering powders and some careful painting.

Finally, the LEDs. Paul supplied a few for me to fit and they had a quick test before being hot glued into place. To simulate some of nuclear waste bubbling in the barrel, I used small plastic beads which then had a liberal coat of paint to ensure they’d look nice and toxic.

Big finish

And that was my part. I packed up the finished piece, crossed my fingers and sent it off. Fortunately, the postal gods smiled that day and it arrived without any damage allowing Paul to do his magic.

The final piece has switches to light up the barrels, a geiger counter sound effect and the bulbs in the middle which not only tell the time but the date as well. You can see it in action on his YouTube channel.

A full gallery is available in my Google Album.