Top-Heavy, Part I: The Nobodies

datetime April 9, 2020 7:00 AM

The Heavy

So as I mentioned at the start, before this was a Foreign Company project, it was very nearly a Varuna SCUBA Force project.

I didn’t go down that route because there weren’t quite enough Varunan character designs that I liked. However, one character that I DID find quite nice-looking in chibi scale was the ORC troop; the ORC has a pretty underwhelming set of in-game stats, but HOO BOY does that armour look badass. πŸ˜€

I liked how her proportions were so much wider than the other models to emphasize the bulk of her powered armour. Such a great silhouette. πŸ™‚

All of which turned out to be pretty fortunate, because ORC Troops are also quite happy to hire themselves out to my newly-adopted band of mercenaries. ^_^

One thing that’s going to be different about this model than the last two is that I’ll be modeling the model’s main firearm– a so-long-it-looks-silly Feuerbach. Now, it turned out to be quite difficult to get a proper reference photo of this gun– PanOceania currently only has a single Feuerbach available to the entire faction, attached to the ORC Trooper in the Varuna starter box. However, try as I might, I couldn’t find any reference photos of the gun from a perfect side view; all of the pictures of the 3D render and the final model that I could find showed the gun from a slightly rotated angle, and the weapon isn’t depicted on the ORC’s concept dossier.

So… whatever. I bought a Varuna starter so I could take a proper picture of it.. πŸ˜›

I brought the picture into Photoshop, and then traced over the contours and details with the vector pen tool. I didn’t worry about capturing every single detail; I just wanted to see where the major lines were placed to assist me in placing landmarks on my replica.

When I was satisfied with the design, I printed it out on paper at the scale that I guessed to be correct. I go into the process of choosing the scale for my weapons in more detail in Hannibal’s writeup in Part III; for now, let’s pretend I just have a natural instinct for these things and move on from there. πŸ˜›

I stick the paper template down to a block of wood with push pins, and then scratch the contour around it with a pencil to delineate the space my gun needs to stay within.

Now, I’m just going to get this out of the way: I kind of hate sculpting guns, swords, and pretty much any other type of hard-edged accessories for my models to hold. There are particular challenges to these accessories that I don’t enjoy struggling through, particularly the contradictory needs to provide enough support for the clay (which requires making the accessories fatter to fit the structure inside), and make the end result as thin as possible (which necessitates sacrificing support).

Like… I can do it, and it’s fine, but in this project I avoided accessory-construction wherever I could. With a normal-scale army it would look pretty weird for most of the models to not be holding their primary armaments, but the cartoon style of chibi lets me get away with it as long as I occupy the model’s empty hands on some sort of evocative cartoon posing. In the end, I managed to find excuses for fully half of the army to be empty-handed, and only three of the remaining models are holding actual guns, so I’m going to go ahead and call this part a resounding victory. πŸ˜›

Alrighty, I now have the contour of the gun traced out on my wood block. I get out some thin 24GA copper wire and twist it into the vague shape of the contour, leaving space on all sides to bury it in clay.

Just as with the models themselves, the clay on the weapons needs a putty foundation to stick to the metal. I wrap a bit of putty around the wire, and then lay shreds of clay over top of the still-soft putty and flatten it all together. Throughout the process, I’ll be continually watching the pencil contours to ensure that I don’t stray outside the weapon’s contours.

I continue adding small bits of clay and blending them to the outsides until I’m happy with the silhouette. Next, I look at the reference drawing I made and add in some of the interior details, pressing in small lines to define the clip and the… front… grippy bit.


The PanO Feuerbach’s details aren’t all top-down shapes; there’s some dimensionality into the Z-plane as well, with the panels around the barrel sloping upward toward the center. I add these by laying putty snakes down the center of the barrel and then smearing the clay downward toward the top and bottom. I do this in multiple thin layers instead of trying to get the perfect mass of clay all in one go.

I continue pressing in details until I’m pretty satisfied with my replication of the original gun. The entire process is done by pushing out basic shapes with metal tools and then smoothing with clayshapers.

The last step is to etch in the recessed detail– the alternating diagonals on top of the barrel, and various smaller holes and slots in the clip and the back part.

Once I’m happy with the first side of the gun, I bake it in my halogen oven.


Speaking of baking, I don’t think I’ve gone over the dynamics of Fimo yet, so let’s quickly cover that. Unlike Green Stuff putty that remains workable for about two hours, Fimo is fully pliable for about a month, and doesn’t start to become really resistant to detailing until about the three-month mark. So, you essentially have all the time you need to really fuss over the details; when you’re satisfied, you firm it up by baking it. My actual kitchen oven is kind of a junk heap with bad temperature control, so I bake my Fimo projects in a small halogen oven. Fimo wants to be baked at 250 degrees (seriously, ONLY 250 DEGREES), and the cook time depends on the thickness of the model; personally I bake thin pieces like these for only 6 or 7 minutes, while the chibis with their inch-think heads cook for around 11-12 minutes.

Once the first side is baked solid, I use a knife to carefully lift it off the wood block, and then I turn it over. I use blobs of Green Stuff to provide supporting pegs to keep it firmly level while I work on the reverse side.

The process for this side is largely the same as the other side– I smear a thin layer of Green Stuff over the silhouette as an adhesive, and then press shreds of clay into it and smooth the shreds together with metal tools.

The entire process is much faster the second time, as I can use the already-established edges of the first side to easily guide the placement of every piece on the flip-side. All told, the first side takes about four hours, and the reverse takes about two.

I do a bunch of cleanup, bake the gun, clean up the seam between the two sides with a sharp knife, and then see how it looks on the model.

Looks good! πŸ™‚

Alrighty, model time!

I sculpt in Fimo, which is a polymer clay available at most craft stores. Fimo doesn’t stick to metal on its own, so you need to apply a layer of Green Stuff putty over the armature as an adhesive layer. The Green Stuff is thinly applied using metal sculpting tools.

The first layer of Fimo is immediately applied directly over the still-soft putty. Once again, it’s pressed into place using metal sculpting tools; clean surfaces aren’t terribly important at this point, since many layers will be going on top.

Clay is added to the model in shreds and slabs to arrive at the desired thickness for each part. At this stage I’m still working entirely with metal tools, as the ability to quickly jam bits of clay together is far more important at this stage than getting clean surfaces.

You don’t need very much clay to bulk out an arm or a leg, but the sheer size of chibi heads mean that they’ll invariably require huge amounts of clay to be stuck on.

I keep applying bits and pieces of clay and blending them into each other until the model has the general type of physique I’m after. At this point, I finally do a smoothing pass using silicone clayshapers, which are able to achieve a much smoother finish than metal tools thanks to their pliability.

The ORC troop differs a bit from the two models you’ve seen so far in that she’s going to be significantly more THICC. The Zeroes are light skirmishers in spandex, but the ORC troop is wearing layers of padding, artificial musculature, and thick plates. We won’t be representing all of that to the thickness it would actually need to be to go around a human body, but I definitely want her to have stouter limbs than all of the other models in the army.

Once I’m happy with the basic body masses, I start adding clothes armour plates. I typically start at the model’s feet and work my way up. Thick garment breaks are added first, and then I add smaller surface details.

Armour plates are a bit different to build than cloth panels; cloth tends to follow the general curvature of the nude body underneath, but armour plates often stand quite far out from the body, modifying the silhouette to emphasize the amount of protection the outfit is providing.

It’s a common newbie trap to try to apply these plates in one big clay slab each; instead, apply small shreds of clay one at a time and blend them together as you go. Keep turning the model around to different angles, and slowly add clay anywhere the plate isn’t quite fat enough or where there’s an undesirable dip in the surfaces. Work with metal tools until the overall mass of the plate is right, then pull out silicone clayshapers to clean up the surfaces and edges.

The ORC’s armour has multiple overlaid layers. Once the toe and ankle plates are correct, I add more clay on top to form the calf plates, which themselves need an extra clay bit at the bottom to form whatever that rectangular block is supposed to be.

I keep building up the legs to apply the hip plates. I skip the knees for now, as they sit on top of both the calf and thigh plates.

Once the thighs are blocked out, I go back and add the kneecaps.

There’s a fair bit of additional detail to be added to the leg plates, but I move ahead to the torso for now as I really want to nail down the model’s silhouette before I start worrying about fineΒ  details.

When I’m in the mass-construction stage of sculpting a model, I make myself a “material pile” by tearing off small shreds of clay and just littering them around my vinyl mat. This lets me concentrate on forming the correct shapes, without continually having to divert my attention to going back to my clay wad to tear off more material. The size of the shreds depends on what I’m doing– if I’m building the head, the pile will consist of large flat slabs (5mm to 10mm on a side), while smaller areas will have me tearing off tiny snakes of about 1mm x 3mm. Whatever I’m building, I want to have the right size of materials ready to be pulled into service without much thought.

Hey look, it’s small clay shreds being placed along the underside of the rib cage. Neat!

More shreds go on until I have enough to form a suitably flat plate, and then I blend them together and use a metal tool to press the various individual plates into the larger surface.

Throughout the process, I keep comparing back against the first Zero to ensure that a contrast is maintained between the Zero’s light build and delicate movements and the ORC’s excessive bulk and stiff, heavy posing.

Alrighty, head time! My first pass around the heads is always too small, so I apply a few large slabs at the sides, top, and back to bring the head up to the full ridiculous scale.

I press in placeholders for the eyes with a piece of brass tubing.

The Zeroes’ eyes were intended to look soft and expressive, but I wanted the ORC’s eyes to look more like slits cut in a faceplate (which, yaknow, they are). Another interesting complication is the fact that the ORC helmet actually has two openings for each eye, to represent the advanced targeting optics built into the suit. I did some sketches to decide where to place the two openings; ultimately I decided to make the top slit much wider and place it over most of the eye, and then have a much narrower slit located somewhere over the cheek.

As I did with the Zeroes, I remove a bit of material from the edges of the eye slits to sink them in a bit, and then smooth everything over with clayshapers.

The ORC has a pretty heavy-duty power plant in her backpack. I start it out by applying what looks like the right amount of clay and packing it into a rectangular shape.

I break the single wad into the different components indicated by the concept art.

I use metal tools to press details into the backpack, and then smooth the surfaces with clayshapers. The detail is a bit soft at this stage, but will be tightened up later on before baking the model.

Next, I return to the head and start shaping the helmet. The ORC’s primary face plate goes about 2/3 of the way toward the back of the head, so I lay a snake across the head at that point and smooth it forward into the rest of the mask to create a ledge.

I use a round clayshaper to press the cone-shaped “trenches” into this plate. This displaces some clay off to each side, which I pull together and smooth into the mask to form raised blocks.

I then detail the back of the helmet using the standard panel definition methods.

The ORC helmet kinda has bunny teeth. *giggle*

The model’s coming together nicely at this point, but there are some areas of detail that still remain to add. First up I add some clay to form elbow pads.

These are pressed flat, and then I push details into them with various metal and silicone tools.

Next, I create the armoured suit’s artificial muscle fibers, which are only visible on the upper thighs and a small window on the arms. This follows the process I demonstrated in the second half of my Heavy Infantry Muscle Underlay video.

Actually, looking back now, it looks like I used the simple “ribbed hoses” method instead of the full “braided cables” method. I guess I was feeling a bit lazy that day. πŸ˜›


After spending a few hours cleaning the model up with clayshapers, the last thing to do before baking it is to plant the wires that will form the structure for the helmet’s rabbit ears. Each one is formed from a piece of thin copper wire folded in half, with a short hook at the end to stop it from twisting in place.

I cut a slot behind the ear circles for each one to slot into, then press the wires into place, and squish the clay back down to wrap tightly around the wire and hooks.

I then bake the model for 11 minutes at 250 degrees F. Once it’s cooked, I finally glue the gun down to the hand hooks, apply an adhesive layer of Green Stuff, and lay down some clay to form the hands. Hands gripped around an object are way easier to sculpt than open hands; I just split the clay into fingers, round them off slightly, and add the back-of-hand plate. Easy-peasy.

And then the other one. She looks so cool. <3

Alrighty, rabbit ears. Looking over the concept art, the antennae should be about as long as the faceplate is from front to back; I use my new set of $7 hardware store calipers to grab that distance on my model and mark it on my wire using a sharpie. I then clip off the excess.

I put green stuff around the wires, and then press Fimo scraps into the fresh putty. It’s all quite wobbly and hard to work at this stage, so I give the putty a couple of hours to set so that it will stop twisting every time I touch it.

It’s much easier to manipulate once the putty is set. As I’ve been doing everywhere else, I apply scraps of clay until the masses look about right, then smooth and segment everything with metal tools, and finally smooth it all up with clayshapers.

And… Heavy Soldier Lady is done! πŸ˜€

Let’s all rush over to page 5 and take a look at the final painted models. <3

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *