Monday, 26 September 2016

Taming the Pegasus

One of my next projects is the Pegasus Tactical Vehicle and trailer from Puppets War. It's a sci-fi truck that offers you a choice of different configurations for the final model. 

I originally started working on this when the parts arrived last year, but only got as far as building the sub-assemblies. (For a rough guide to prepping resin models take a look here.) The reason I didn't get any further was because I liked most of the final versions of the truck and didn't want to commit to a single one. In a situation like this you would usually just magnetise the model, but there's something strange about the kit, that immediately brought my progress to a standstill.

Puppets War models are renowned for having pre-moulded holes to take magnets. But this kit, with all its interchangeable parts, didn't have any. The holes would have to be drilled by hand. And in this case it meant quite a few holes, all drilled into the finely detailed resin kit, with a drill bit nearly big enough to put up shelves.

And not just that, but the individual sub-assemblies are fairly heavy, so multiple magnets would be needed for each piece, and some of the sets of magnets would need to attach to multiple other pieces. Thus their polarity and the question of whether they repel or attract would need to be carefully considered.

So – although it doesn't look like much progress – in terms of blood, sweat, tears, and the sheer amount of mental energy I had to expend, this job felt like hard work. Long, involved, hard work, but fortunately still quite enjoyable. Maybe even more enjoyable than normal, seeing as my tiny, shrivelled brain also got a little exercise.

The first thing to do was source the magnets. Remember, when working with these powerful little blighters, to keep them away from electronic objects like mobile phones and iPads. You don't want to find the cost of the project suddenly sky-rocketing from an impromptu trip to the Apple Store.

I bought my magnets a while ago, so can't remember now, but I think I probably got them from somewhere like Element Games or Etsy or maybe even Puppets War themselves. If you always buy circular magnets with the same diameter this will help you when it comes to the next stage. This is because you will need to find a drill bit exactly the same diameter as the magnet, so:

One size magnet = only one drill bit needed.

You can check your bit is the right size either by comparing its carefully recorded size with the carefully recorded size of the magnet, or, if careful recording isn't your thing, simply let the magnet attach itself to the shaft of the drill bit and see if they look the same.

Okay, so this looks like a picture of a felt tip pen, but look closely and you can see a magnet attached to the shaft of a drill bit

The next thing for me was to find a tool that will hold the drill bit. I was lucky enough to have been given a Dremel a few years back, and even luckier that it was the right size to hold the bit.

Drill bit, Dremel and Pegasus seen here with superglue that's just itching to stick my fingers together

The three basic pieces of the model are the two trailers and the truck – all of which are sub-assemblies. Once these are in place all the other bits attach to them. For full customisation these three basic pieces need to connect to each other in a couple of different configurations. The two trailer pieces are identical, so it would also be helpful if they could both individually attach to the truck – to save you from having to work out which one is which.

This therefore left me with a problem of three-way connectivity – where every north polarity side must face a south polarity side, but all three pieces must be interchangeable with one another.

To remedy this I drilled two off-centre holes into the connecting edges of each of the three basic piecesThe off-centre holes will help solve the polarity problem and also offer up a little extra strength. 

I've put together a diagram to explain what the hell I'm going on about.

It will make more sense when you're actually doing it.

When all six holes were drilled I went about glueing the first magnet in place. But only the first magnet, as the north-south polarity problem starts to intensify right about now.

A drop of superglue in the first hole. But only a drop, and only the first hole

Push the magnet firmly into place with the end of a paintbrush.

Because the wooden paintbrush isn't magnetic

Then let that first magnet dry. A little patience here will save a lot of frustration down the line. Once it's completely stuck fast, you can let another magnet attach to it. Through magnetic attraction, that is. Don't use any glue! This effectivity tells you which way round the second magnet must go. Liberally mark the back of it with paint or ink.

Hence the felt tip pen

The second magnet will then need to be prised away from the first one, being careful not to wipe off all the ink. It can then be placed in the corresponding hole in one of the other two pieces. If you make sure the ink side isn't visible then you know you've put it in the right way round.

Mark up another magnet in the same way and place it in the third sub-assembly. When the two new magnets are dry, use them to work out which way round the other three magnets need to go. Again, this will make more sense once you have the pieces in front of you.

Once the first six magnets are placed, each of the three basic pieces should connect in every configuration 

I then repeated this process, or at least parts of it, for all the other connections. In the photo above you can see I've started to mark the position (and then, d'oh, in some cases, re-mark it slightly to the side) for all the remaining magnets. I tried to use a minimum of two pairs of magnets per piece, figuring that they'll not just hold everything firmly together, but will keep it all level too. 

Getting the holes drilled and cleaned up, working out the polarity and gluing all the magnets in place was quite fiddly and time-consuming, so I'd advise setting aside a few hours if you want to do something similar.

Once all the magnets were safely stuck in, I mixed up some grey stuff to fill any untidy holes that might be visible on the final model. I originally thought I'd skip this stage through careful drilling and gluing, but with something like 22 holes in total, I just couldn't keep it all neat.

While letting the grey stuff dry on all the other pieces, I used a piece of plasticard to cover the bottom of the container, thereby hiding four magnets in one go and giving the model a nice, smooth base. Once everything was dry I smoothed the grey stuff and plasticard with a file and made all my alterations as tidy as possible.

After this there was only one job left to complete the task. The tow hook that connects the container to the truck needs to be easily removable, but there is very little space on the truck to house a magnet. So for this last connection, I drilled out the hook and built a corresponding area on the truck's undercarriage out of grey stuff. From most angles it will remain hidden, so it didn't need to be brilliant work.

And it wasn't

With that dried and filed smooth (ish) I was able to move on to the undercoat stage. The best part of a can of Games Workshop's black primer later and the whole thing looked like this.

And so I was finally able to put the truck together to see some of those different configurations I was so keen on.

All that's left for me now is to work out a colour scheme that keeps everything together, and then try to paint it.

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