3D Space Hulk 003: Iteration

     I'd originally planned to buy the acrylic from a local source, as online dealers really ream you on the shipping. Unfortunately, the local source (A1 Acrylics) charges cutting fees now. They didn't the last time I was there, a few years ago. The only way to actually save money over buying online is to buy a full 48" x 96" sheet. Which is around $100, and way more than I need.

     However, one thing they have added since my last visit was a scrap bin, where everything is sold for $1 a pound. Which was fantastic- there used to be a Cadillac Plastics in town, and they did the same thing. I used to use acrylic a lot, but when they closed, I no longer had a cheap source.

     Black acrylic isn't as commonly bought, so they didn't have much in the scrap bin, but I was able to get enough to make two of the rooms and maybe a third to half of the corridors, for $8. If I'd wanted clear acrylic, I could easily have gotten enough to build every section for every mission in the game, for under $30. I'll probably go back in a few weeks to check for more. I'd go more often, but it's on the other side of town.

     I have made one slight alteration to the design. My main reason for wanting 1/4" acrylic was that it was thick and stable for the bases, and the glue surface was sufficient for the walls to be pretty solidly attached. However, I realized that since I am now gluing the walls to the side/edges of the base pieces, the walls can be made from a thinner acrylic. I'll still get a good 1/4" glue surface and a durable base, since that's determined by the thickness of the base now and not the walls.

With any luck, I'll have some time this weekend to start cutting parts.

3D Space Hulk 002: Iteration

I've made a few revisions to the design. The first one is the biggest change, though it's likely not apparent in the new renders. I began looking online to find a source for the 1/4" black acrylic, but discovered that these days, actual 1/4" acrylic is difficult to find. It's not uncommon for materials so be sold at a "nominal" size, indicating that while it may not be exactly the size listed, it'll be close. However, most of the acrylic sheet available is actually metric. It's sold as a nominal 1/4" sheet, but is in reality 6mm (.236 inches) thick. A few places do carry true .250-inch acrylic, but few carry it in black, and those that do charge significantly more for it.

     While I have no problem working in metric (despite being located in the US) I find it very difficult and annoying to mix the two. Unfortunately, almost all of the styrene rod, strip, and sheet sold in hobby stores is sold in inch sizes. Which means I end up cutting a lot of pieces with dimensions like "8.375 inches, plus 12mm", which is 8.8474 inches. Or 224.725 mm.

     I briefly considered using 1/4" MDF instead, but that brings in a different set of complications. All of the internal detailing would have to involve super glue or epoxy, and there would be a fair amount of finishing work on the exteriors of the sections. One (sort-of) solution would be to build the sections from MDF, then line the insides with thin styrene. I have many 48"x96" sheets of .060" styrene left over from a project I did several years ago, so it wouldn't involve any extra expense, and it would give me a nice glue-able surface inside the sections. But cutting all those additional pieces out of styrene is a considerable amount of extra work, and still means finishing work on the exteriors.

     What I eventually decided on was re-engineering how I intended to assemble the sections, in order to minimize the number of oddball measurements. Originally, I intended to glue the bottom edges of the walls to the top face of the base. This creates a lot of weird measurements, though, since the base pieces would have to be the interior width (in inches) plus the material thickness (in mm.) However, by gluing the walls to the sides of the base pieces, the base pieces can be entirely inch measurements. To maintain the wall height of 3.5", I would still have to cut the pieces 3.5" plus the 6mm thickness of the material. But since all the walls are the same height, I can just set up the table saw once, and cut a bunch of strips at the right width, which I'll later cut into individual wall pieces. There'll still be some odd wall lengths, but the way I intend to assemble them, I can just cut them to the nearest number on my table saw that's still larger than they need to be, and sand them flush after assembly. Another nice benefit of this is fewer visible seams on the exteriors, since many of them will now be on the underside of each section. The nice thing about acrylic is I can take a propane torch to the sanded parts, which will smooth the surface back to a near-polished look.

The second change I made was in how the doors and doorways work. I didn't much like the slot cut into the doorway squares, or the "unfinished" look at the tops. So I added a bar across the tops that will match the black acrylic exteriors, and a similar small piece to the top of each side of the open doors. This does present a slight problem, in that the open (and destroyed) doors will now consist of two pieces, since the bar along the bottom no longer has a slot to fit into. But this is only a minor nuisance, and I think it will look better. I will just have to number the open and destroyed door pieces, so that it'll be obvious which ones go with which. I could also paint or model each set uniquely, but I don't know that I like the idea of all the doors being unique. (I can't imagine every door in an aircraft carrier or submarine being a special snowflake.)


3D Space Hulk 001: Concept and Design

     A 3D Space Hulk board is something I've wanted to do since, well, forever. Probably about as long as I've owned a copy of Space Hulk, which was my first GW game, bought way back in 1989. I've (finally) taken the plunge, and begun working on the design.

     First things first- a big part of the inspiration for this project comes from the board designed and built by Nedius. I first saw this a few years ago, and it's really what rekindled the desire to start this project. Some of the details in his board are just amazing- the Librarium with AutoScribe is pure genius. (I won't sink so low as to copy the AutoScribe, but I'm totally stealing the bookshelves idea.)

My eventual goal would be to model enough sections to do any mission in the book. I will start with just making enough to do the first mission, and see how things go.

Design Issue One: Size

     The first thing I needed to do was figure out the size of the squares, as it would be the measurement from which most of the others are derived. Initially, I had planned on 2" squares, and started designing around that. However, when I went to get the mission book out of the 3rd edition set, I noticed that Mr. Lightning Claws terminator has his arms spread wide, making him just shy of 2.5" wide. While I had planned on putting extra space around they playable area, to give room for detailing, pipes, debris, and all the other cool modelling touches I have planned, I would have to be careful that there was always room due to this one terminator model. I had briefly considered buying regular Terminators and Genestealers, and assembling the figures for the game that way instead of using the ones from the 3rd edition, but the 3rd ed. ones are just too cool not to use. Also, I already own them, versus spending a another $150 or so buying more models. So, I upped the size of the squares to 2.5" to accommodate that one figure. It does make some of the larger sections quite a bit bigger (the 3x3 rooms are around 13" x 13") which means more expensive, but the extra width will also make the board more easily used for regular 40K games as well as Space Hulk.

     For walls, I've decided to go with 3.5" high, and 4.5" apart. This is tall enough to fit Cities of Death wall tiles, but not so tall as to make moving the figures around difficult. The width gives me an inch on either side of the squares to fill with details and little set pieces.

Design Issue Two: Materials

     This one was pretty simple- The "shells" which hold everything will be made from 1/4" black acrylic. It's a bit spendy, but styrene glue is compatible with it, so I'll be able to glue the acrylic pieces together easily, as well as glue all the detailing bits directly to it without having to rely on CA glue or epoxy. And because it's intrinsically colored, I won't have to paint the outsides of the sections to make them look nice. The savings in time and effort outweigh the cost. I have considered creating some sort of stenciled pattern on the outsides of the sections using a sandblaster, but we'll see. If I'm happy with the look of the plain shiny black, I'll probably just leave it that way.

     I'll likely also create some patterns for many parts, and cast them in resin. The square tiles are an obvious candidate for that, as I'll need a lot of them, and it's not so bad if they're all pretty similar. I will still likely create a few different designs, as well as some non-resin custom ones, to break things up and add interest. The walls will be covered in a combination of GW Cities of Death terrain pieces, styrene bits, and whatever other odds and ends I come up with.

Design Issue Three: Doors

     My ideas for doors have already gone through several iterations. My initial idea was to have slots modeled into the sections where needed, into which the door panels would be inserted. I would use magnets in the doors and the frames, so that when a door is opened by sliding it up in the frame, the magnets would hold it in place. However, once I started designing things, two problems presented themselves.

     First, some of the Genestealer models are pretty tall- over 3", as they are climbing up bits of terrain that is modeled onto their bases. Since doors straddle squares rather than fit between them, the top of the frame would have to be high enough for these figures to pass underneath. So, either the frames would have to be significantly higher than the walls, or the walls themselves would have to be much taller. I didn't like the way the taller door sections would look, and I didn't want to make the sections 5" deep, either.

     Second, I had a feeling that the doors sticking up above the walls when opened would mean they'd get knocked around a lot as you moved figures around. At best they'd just get knocked shut or knocked off; at worst, they might become broken.

     So, after giving it some thought I decided to just make them swappable. The frames are open at the top and have a span of material across the bottom which fits into a slot in the door section, so they don't interfere with figures. When a door is opened, you swap the closed door for an open door. This also opens up the possibility of modelling doors that look as they've been melted or blasted open for use when doors are destroyed, and welded-together doors to represent the jammed doors in the game. Since they are only held on the sides in this version, they only have to be slim enough on the ends to ride in the slots, instead of across their entire length so as to fit through the frame. This is a little more fiddly than just opening or closing the door, but it's not something that gets done so often as to become annoying.

     One other issue with doors is that in the game, they are little standup card doors, which can be put anywhere as the mission requires. Built in doors will limit where doors can be placed. I had to do a little figuring for that. The majority of the doors are at room entrances, so every room entrance will be built to hold a door. There are also a number of missions that include doors in hall corridors. I worked out how many sections and which types have doors, so that when I build sections, I'll be able to make any of the mission layouts. if the sections are needed for a lyout where they don't use doors the doors can just be removed. Which is another reason to have the doors be removable.

Design Issue Four: Ladders

     I'm still not completely sure how I want to handle ladders. There's only one mission that uses them. In the game, they are just separate tokens you place in the squares indicated by the mission. I suppose worst case, I can just do that. My second idea is to model the ladders off to the side of the square they occupy, in the space between the square and the wall. In missions that don't use the ladders, they'd just be part of the scenery. A third idea is to build additional sections that contain the ladders, for when they're needed. But that's a lot of extra work just for one of the missions. What I'm leaning towards right now, is magnetizing the squares on some of the rooms and corridors, where the ladders would be placed. They could then be swapped for special "ladder squares" that I would make. The main problem with that is if I did want to make custom scenarios, and I wanted to use ladders, I'd be limited to where I could use them, unless I magnetized every square, which I am loathe to do I could also make a Ladder token that fits on top of any square. It'll work well for the "up" ladders, but I don't know that the down ones would look very good. Still not decided on a course of action, though I won't have to make up my mind for quite a while.