Welcome to the first of hopefully many tutorials on my blog! By popular vote (big thanks to everyone who voted!), the first set of tutorials will detail how I approach - from conception to assembly to painting to basing - a Blood Ravens Sternguard Veteran. Now, seeing as this is my first attempt at putting together a tutorial, please feel free to include suggestions in the comments. My goal in doing tutorials is to help people in some aspect of the hobby in the same way I was helped by tutorials when I first started out. So, if my tutorials are hard to understand, lacking in detail, just plain unhelpful, tell me so and, with your suggestions, I'll try to make them better in the future.
Quick note: because I won't be using green stuff (I think) in this Blood Ravens Sternguard conversion, I'm left with merely trying to piece together a model from the existing bits I own. I hope the conversion will still turn out fairly characterful and different from the standard Marine. Maybe in the future, when I'm more confident with my greenstuffing abilities, I'll attempt a more radical conversion of a model using green stuff.
Before I ever put paint brush to miniature, I always invest a little bit of time into researching the look, feel, and fluff behind the model. The time spent researching obviously varies depending on whether or not I've painted a particular type of mini before, whether the mini is of an elite/ special type as compared to a rank and file type, and whether I plan on converting the figure very much beyond its original form.
The image on the upper left - courtesy of Games Workshop - is of their Sternguard Veteran Squad set. Pretty cool looking bunch, and I'll be using them extensively as source material for this tutorial on how to conceive, assemble, paint, and base a converted Blood Ravens Sternguard Veteran. I've also found a few other images of converted Sternguard scattered around the web which I've found pretty inspiring (here, here, and here). The first link to Weemen has been particularly helpful, especially his tutorial on how to convert standard pattern Space Marine bolters into specialized Sternguard bolters. The Sternguard conversions for the second link begin after the Honour Guard conversions, and I must admit, those Sternguard WIPs are absolutely stunning and pretty much blow anything I will show in this tutorial out of the water. Check them out; they're awesome.
Gathering the Bits Together
After doing the research, I began sorting through my bits boxes and relevant kits to find the parts to make the Blood Ravens Sternguard. Based off of the images I linked to above, I knew that my two biggest challenges in regards to this conversion would be: a) making the miniature grand and eminent enough compared to the standard Tactical Space Marine without making it look like an overburdened Christmas Tree, and b) converting its Sternguard bolter.
With those two thoughts in the back of my head, this is what I ended up with, parts-wise (see image on the right). The torso, leg, and shoulder pads bits come from the Command Squad sprue; the backpack, bolter, scope, and right arm come from a standard Tactical Squad sprue; the power fist and tabards come from a Sergeant upgrade sprue; the helmet wings and Mk. 6 beakie helmet from a Dark Angels sprue (I will file off the dagger design on the beakie helmet as best I can in order to better fit this model into the Blood Ravens image, but I'll keep the wings which radiate out from the dagger and along the sides of the helmet because the Blood Ravens do incorporate wing icons/ symbols into their chapter design); the small shield on the bottom right comes from a Terminator sprue; and the storm bolter comes from a Rhino kit.
My plan is to convert the standard pattern bolter into a Sternguard bolter by combining it with the storm bolter from the Rhino and the scope from the Tactical Squad sprue. I'm still undecided whether or not to use the helmet wings - seeing as he's a Blood Ravens Veteran, I think the wings will fit, fluff-wise. We'll see.
You'll also notice that the gathered pieces still need a lot of cleaning up of the mold lines and excessive flash. I won't bore you with the details of that step of the tutorial - suffice it to say, it's my least favorite part of this whole endeavor, as I've probably written about already. I do have one small bit of insight regarding the use of the file in cleaning up models: I've noticed on many YouTube tutorial videos that people tend to scrape their file across the mold lines in a saw-like, back and forth motion. In my experience, moving the file in one consistent direction (say forwards only) tends to result in more consistent and cleaner mold removal. I think this is because files are designed with the rough edges only going in one direction, but I could be wrong. I personally think the longer one is involved in this hobby, the more quirky beliefs one develops - even if those quirky beliefs have no basis in fact. Which is perfectly fine, of course. I'm firmly in the camp that believes this hobby of ours is a legitimate artform, and as in every artform, eccentric and personalized methods oftentimes work just as well as the "standard" methods, if only because they allow the creator to work within a comfort zone.
Assembling the Model
After cleaning as much of the mold lines and flash as I could possibly bear, I began assembling the model. I always assemble my models in the same order - 1) put the torso bits together, 2) glue torso to legs, 3) glue head to torso, 4) glue model to base. I put off gluing the arms (for the most part) and backpack to the model because I don't want them getting in the way when I'm painting the chestplate or the back of the model. In order to figure out for sure whether a particular piece of the model will obstruct painting, I'll use putty to dry-fit the extremities of the model together (see left). Well, looks like the bolter arm will for sure get in the way, so I'll leave it off until after I've painted most of the model. I might glue the power fist on because it looks like it's in the clear though. Also, eeew, looks like I missed cleaning up some of the mold lines on the arms and the helmet. Argh, back to the salt mines then with my tools of ignorance - the ever reliable hobby knife and file.
As this post is already getting a bit long, I will save the conversion of the humble Tactical bolter into a Sternguard bolter for part II.
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