So, where do we start when it comes to assembly (and no, I don't mean by reciting "Good Morning The Burning Eye, Good Morning Everybody").
No, what i mean is what do we do first? Personally I like to tear off the polythene wrapper from the models and take a good deep breath - it's not quite the 'newy newness' of a new car, or the frankly delectable smell of opening a boxed game for the first time (accompanied of course by the requisite 'box-fart' as the air gets into the box as you lift off the lid for the first time) but still, the smell of fresh plastic is an odour I enjoy!
Ok, that's the weirdness out of the way. Tip up the box and watch the sprues tumble out, along with the assembly instructions (I remember the days when these didn't exist and you were left to your own abilities), transfers (bin them, hand paint everything!) and bases (gah, bloody things!).
Next up of course is to try and figure out if you can see how the model goes together just by looking at the sprues. Did I say weirdness out of the way? Sorry, I guess there's a bit still left hiding in there somewhere.
Somewhat seriously though - familiarise yourself with the parts and have a quick flick through the instructions - some of the kits out there have very similar parts that will not match up if you don't use the correct accompanying bits so don't cut anything off the sprue until you're confident you won't have to spend ages trying to fit a particular gun arm to a holding arm (there's a lot of potential combinations believe me!)
This is the point where you should wash the sprues. I'm lazy when it comes to the plastics, because they are generally ok without doing this. Resin is more of an issue though, I've had forge world stuff that I didn't wash and the paint just keeps flaking off, it's frustrating, particularly when you know you should have sorted it first up.
Now personally I like to clip as much off the sprue as I can when building squads, then work with it all from a box in front of me, keeping only the necessary parts on the frame (I've even been known to bag up and label gun arms when assembling stuff just to make sure they don't get mixed up). There's nothing wrong however with working one part at a time, clipping and cleaning it up as you go along - the assembly stage seems slower but there's less prep time this way, and it's usually the way I work on single models.
There are two key parts to this stage though:
1. Don't clip too close to the model - if your clippers are even slightly blunt (by which I mean you've used them) then they won't just cut the plastic, they'll deform it as well and you can end up with chunks taken out that shouldn't be. Clip slightly away from flush to start with, then you can clean up either with clippers when the frame won't cause these marks, or just sand it flat (hint - slow!).
2. At this point, remove any mold lines that happen to be visible on the parts - where the two halves of the mould join there's likely to be a raised edge. Just get a file and file it flat at this point - it'll save you loads of grief later on trying to do it on an assembled model or not realising and ending up with a mold line showing on the final painted miniature. You can also remove these lines using GW's official tool (which might quite possibly make you a tool for buying it) or just scrape the blade of a knife along it, which is usually good enough.
Following the instructions in the box will usually get your model assembled nice and simply, and they also often set things out in sub-assemblies, which is a good thing for painting - if you're worried about getting your brush into the little nooks and crannies on the model then painting in sub-assemblies is a good idea.
|Sub-assemblies for the Tau Ghostkeel|
These little magical things can make codex updates (and more importantly, weapon changes) a breeze. Ever thought that your meltagun equipped marines would forever be useful? Welcome to Mr Grav. The circumspect gamer never underestimates the ability of GW to change our minds over what weapons we want to use, so magnetising those guns is an extremely sensible idea! Once you've got the sub-assemblies put together, have a think about how you want them to be placed so that they give your model the pose you want. Are you likely to want to change the pose later? Perhaps turning a torso piece might be what you're after (attack bikes are a prime example, they're a great opportunity for the magnetised gunner).
I'm going to use two examples here however, both relating to the guns - this is the key part of assembling the model, because you're only likely to want to change the guns if you're planning on gaming with the model, since if it's a display piece you just pick the best looking weapon.
The items I'm using to illustrate my point are my new Tau Commander, and my Tau Ghostkeel.
In both instances, I'm likely to want to change what guns they carry based on what effect I want to achieve with them in a game, and whether they're taken in a formation or not, so it's vital that I can change their loadouts. It's also important that both of these guns use a little sneaky technique to prevent them from moving around too much - it would be very easy to simply stick a single magnet on and watch as the weight of the piece causes it to sag on the model, and the finished unit looks poor. So for both of these units, the magnets are placed away from the parts that are usually glued in to hold the piece securely.
Let's look at the Tau commander. The guns he carries can be attached in a couple of different places, though I favour the outside of the arm rather than the underslung look. The guns are normally secured by gluing the rectangular lug into the slot on the arm, the shape of the lug meaning that the gun won't droop. I can retain that stability by drilling the magnet hole elsewhere, and using the rectangular lug to secure the gun in its intended position. In this case, I chose to drill the magnet hole further back on the arm, as further forward the curve of the armour meant that the gun would either twist inwards, or you'd see the magnet projecting out from the armour. You'll obviously need to drill a similar hole on each of the weapons you might want to attach, but that's fine because you won't see the place where the magnet goes. I actually went a little over the top with this model because I magnetised the jet pack thrusters on his back too, meaning they can be attitude adjusted if I want. Of course, I'll want more weapon options than just the ones in the box (they're actually a bit stingy, and don't give you two of anything) so I got all excited and magnetised a pair of every weapon he might conceivably carry (thank you, bits box!).
Similarly with the ghostkeel, the standard method of attaching the weapon gives you a great place to magnetise it, whilst holding the gun secure so it doesn't spin or droop. In this instance however the magnet can be contained within this area rather than having to attach it elsewhere.
The principle is the same though - don't make the magnet the only point of contact for the guns, unless you have to - if you keep the original contact method and magnetise elsewhere it will stabilise the connection.
One other point about magnets - make sure you keep your polarity consistent if you're doing a squad! And double check it first! Yes, I've been that guy who's magnetised an entire squad's worth of jump packs only to realise they were all on backwards and every time I tried to attach a jump pack to a model it pinged off across the table. In my defence I was watching tv at the same time, but I still should have checked. One method I now use to make sure of this is to glue the first magnet into the core of the model, drill the hole for the next (for example in the arm) then attach a magnet to the torso magnet, put glue into the arm and then press it onto the protruding torso magnet - this way you know for sure it's the right way round.
Ok, that's pretty much it for this article really, once you've got your sub-assemblies built, all you need to do is figure out if you'll be able to paint them once they're attached together, and glue any that you can whilst leaving off the rest (gluing sub-assemblies together is much easier before they're painted, so you have to strike the balance between being able to paint everything you want to reach, and not having to assemble too much of the model once it has been painted (this can result in smudged paintjobs, or immensely frustrating periods of holding the model together as plastic glue doesn't work as well over painted parts).
Till next time (when I think I'll go back to some more on background) - keep hobbying!