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Converting a Command Squad

So, I just recently finished my army's command squad, and would like to take this opportunity to talk about conversions in general, along with some tips about how I did some of the converting that you will see here.

The first thing you need to consider when doing a conversion is the style you're trying to get across. Do you want your models to look creepier than the stock models? More energetic? More stealthy? If there is no new style that you're trying to create, then there isn't much use in doing conversions, unless you want to do very small ones (like repositioning arms) just so that your models don't look all the same.

In this case, I was going for a style that was basically the same as my normal troops, but with a lot more additude. I wanted to create the impression that this particular soldier starts making steaks not by going to the store and buying the meat, but rather by going out back and glocking a cow.

As far as technique, this model is fairly simple. Everything is glued in as-is (except that the sergeant's marks were filed off of the sword hand sleeve), except for the arm holding the pistol. In this case, the arm is the one that normally holds onto a mortar with the hand (with the mortar) cut off. The hand was then cut off of the normal pistol holding arm, and was glued onto the arm that was once attached to a hand holding a mortar.

This method of "hand swapping" is very useful, as it changes the way that a model is interacting with what it is holding in it's hands. This can definitely change a style, and is easy to do, but it isn't the only way of converting a model in this fashion.

This is an example of what I just talked about, but with a little more flare. In this case, it was a more creative choice of arms, with the same hands.

This model couldn't be pulled off, though, with out the general feeling of imbalance that it has. This comes primarily from the way the legs are positioned. In this case, both of the feet were cut off (just above the shin guard) and then re-glued on at different angles (with greenstuff to fill in the gaps). This "foot swapping" is a very easy way to get a new, and dynamic pose, which can open up even more options above the waist, without needing any extra bitz or any other models.

This is an example of using these techniques to make a bold style statement. Without using greenstuff, or plasticard, or using anything that doesn't come from the same sprue set, we now have something that looks quite a bit different than your "standard" trooper from just position alone. In this case, though, the style of "I'm going to chop you!" had the final extension to this series of conversions: the leg swap.

In order to get the legs positioned as I wanted them, I first cut the foot off the forward leg, and repositioned it. Then, I carefully cut the back leg completely off (so that it was flush with the bottom of the shirt). Then, I glued the leg back on in a position that I thought was better able to get across the effect. Usually, this will involve chopping down the parts of the leg that flare out (to connect both sides of the pants together), as well as using greenstuff to get a smooth texture again.

So, by using leg and foot swapping, you can cause your model to be engaged in different types of movement (other than "standing there" or "leaning forwards"), and you can use hand swaps to complete the effect to make a wide range of simple, and somewhat subtle, but very real style changes in your soldiers.

In order to get things that look even more different, a variety of more advanced techniques are needed.

In this case, the model has some of the previously discussed techniques including a leg swap (in this case, a leg was swapped out for one from the heavy weapons sprue) as well as a hand swap for the hand holding the pistol.

This model, though, has extensive use of "plastic working". Plastic working is when you use parts from sprues and you modify them either to more properly fit the need, or to serve as a different need alltogether.

In this case, the powerfist (from the CSM kit) couldn't possibly fit on this model. Not only would it have been even huger than it already is, but it would have been lifted up somewhat into the air: a mighty feat for a guardsman indeed! To add the powerfist, I had to cut it in two just above the elbow. Then, I cut off the shoulderpad it was connected to, and glued the half arm to the shoulderpad to the side of the torso. This, of course, left a few large gaps, which were easily closed with greenstuff. To get a better feel for what it would have looked like otherwise, note that the armor on the upper arm was originally supposed to be the elbow...

As well, the pouches on this officer are different. In this case, it was an easy conversion of using an existing pouch, cutting the flap off, and adding a new flap with greenstuff (with a greenstuffed pin).

But these obvious things merely scratch the surface of plastic working. One example from this model is the antenna sticking out of the helmet. I didn't want something bendable like metal, so plastic was the way to go. In order to get the right diameter, I actually cut off the sight of a lasgun (the part between the front and rear sight braces). This provided me with a nice diameter antenna which, after gouging out a hole in the helmet, and fitting the gap with greenstuff, provided for the necessary end from an unexpected source.

Always remember to think of your spare bits not by means of what they are, but what they could become if you spend a little time with your hobby knife.

This model exemplifies two additional "scratch building" techniques. The first is to use prefabricated materials.

In this case, the standard is made from two prefabricated parts. The first is a chunk of a bycicle spoke that serves as the pole. The second is a couple of pieces of plasticard that provide the backing for the placard. Using these materials in this way is fairly easy. All you need to do is to cut the material to the right length or shape, and simply glue it on, using greenstuff to fill any gaps that this creates.

The second scratch building tool is to use greenstuff to sculpt things that simply didn't exist before. This is much more challenging, and takes much more experience to get a clean effect than other conversion means. Rather than writing a whole essay on the subject, I'll just point out where greenstuff was used, other than for the purpose of gap filling.

The first place is on the bottom of the flag pole. In order to get the most stability out of this model, I actually gouged into the base of this model and sunk in the bottom of the pole. In order to make it look like the pole was merely resting on the ground, I greenstuffed a base to it.

The second place is the placard. In this case, I put a thin border around the plasticard to serve as a place on top of which the letters would sit (to give it more depth). Then, I made a flat piece of greenstuff and let it dry (making sure that it was very level). Then, I was able to simply cut the letters out with a hobby knife and then glue them onto the placard.

The third major greenstuffing part of this model is the aquilla. While the face of this is a pair of icons from the tank sprue, there was a significant gap between the front and back icon. While this would have been cool, it was woefully structurally unsound, and needed to be made into a single unit.

Apart from this greenstuffing, you can also see a pair of hand swaps (and a little bit of plastic working to get the arms and hands exactly where I wanted them), as well as pieces from 4 different sprues other than the standard infantry sprue.

This is an example of all of the techniques shown in this article.

Firstly, this is an obvious case of arm and hand swapping to get the sword to line up just right. The only swapping not done was a foot swap. This allowed me to get the priest in the cool running pose.

This also has the use of plastic working both in the skull at the base (carved out of a random section of a sprue support) as well as the short sword (not visible, but it's made of two normal imperial guard knives) as well as turning two chainswords into one big chainsword. Note that the two parts of the eviscerator were "pinned" together. This means that there was a hole dug into both halves of the eviscerator with an actual metal rod (usually a straight pin) mixed in with the greenstuff and glue to hold it all together. There are times when I've had to pin hand swaps and other things that just don't seem to want to stay together.

As well, this model makes use of scratch building techniques. This priest has a book made out of a little square of plasticard with some greenstuffing for the spine, latch, and corner protectors. As well, there is a tabard made of greenstuff, as well as carapace armor, along with a new hairdo, and a moustache (which are very easy to make)

In conclusion, using the techniques of swapping, carving and sculpting, you can do an endless ammount of converting, from as little as style changes, and proper weapons, to major changes, to complete fabrications. Happy converting!