Keeper of the Forge, pt. 1
“Aye, Nove Shendak cost me half of my body. But in the end, those injuries were what let me keep all of my wits, and for that I will always remember that blasted hellscape with a certain …fondness.”
If you’ve been following this blog for a while (or have at least taken a peek at the Dramatis Personae tab for my World Eaters), you’ll realise that I try to come with characters rather than mere playing pieces. Hence my addiction to building Chaos Lords, I suppose: Instead of building one model with magnetisable arms for maximum flexibility, I’ll just as likely build one separate model for each equipment choice, doing my best to transform each of them into a character in his own right. After all, some of these guys have been around for about ten millennia — they deserve a little characterisation, don’t you think?
By the same token, ideas for characters will often spring from something I see online or from a piece of fluff I come up with: For instance, long before the option to use a Warpsmith was introduced by the sixth edition Codex, I had the idea of a techmarine for the 4th assault company, who would construct and maintain much of the company’s wargear and who was likely also the driving force behind most of the warmachines and daemon engines deployed by Khorne’s Eternal Hunt. And while there was no obvious way to field such a character back then (except as a regular chaos lord), I was sure that building a model to represent him would turn out to be a challenging and rewarding hobby endeavour somewhere along the way. So the character started to appear in the background I wrote for the army, mentioned in conversations between characters or actually making an appearance himself. And that was the birth of Huntmaster Deracin, Keeper of the Forge.
I kept toying around with several ideas about how best to represent Deracin on the table: I considered converting a loyal Techmarine, but while I love the model’s design, I didn’t really want to go through the trouble of cutting apart a metal model. Then I planned to base the character on the model for Huron Blackheart, since Huron’s extensive bionic implants seemed to be a nice fit for a techmarine. But none of these ideas ever quite got off the ground.
Then the new codex arrived, and with it not only an army list entry for an “evil tech,arine”, but also a dedicated Finecast Warpsmith model.
Again, I made several attempts at building a model to represent Deracin, yet in the end the results always fell short of what I had envisioned. I also considered just using the Finecast model, do a headswap and call it a day, but that didn’t feel like a true solution either: I wasn’t really sure how straight I could possibly hope to get that axe handle on a Finecast model, for one. And it also seemed like a bit of a cheap cop out, in any case.
My attempts at kitbashing didn’t really work out either, because they usually ended up looking too much like a regular Chaos Space Marine. I realised that the servo harness the model would need to wear would always look funny and overwhelming on a standard sized model. So I would need to build a rather imposing body as well as kitbash a servo-harness and then pay extra attention in order to make the overall effect work out — quite a challenge!
But all setbacks notwithstanding, I decided that I absolutely wanted to kitbash a model representing Deracin that would
- look suitably like a World Eater,
- look suitably like a Techmarine/Warpsmith,
- would be all plastic.
The breakthrough came when I started messing around with some parts from my bitzbox, among them a body from the Skullcrusher kit. I realised that the torso was quite a bit bigger than that of a Chaos Space Marine, so it could probably work for my plan. I only needed a pair of legs to go with it, but they couldn’t be Terminator legs, since Warpsmiths wear “regular” power armour. Then I recalled the WFB plastic Chaos Lord I had already used on my custom Dark Apostle, and I suspected I might be able to put the legs from that kit to good use…
I also gathered all the cables and tech-y bitz I would need to kitbash a servo-harness for Deracin. Quite a daunting task, really, but after seeing that I had some Necron limbs in my bitzbox, I just went for it.
So with the basic parts for the conversion decided and acquired, I built a very early mockup of the body:
As you can see, this particular combination of legs and torso already made sure that Deracin would be quite an imposing fellow (the WIP Terminator on the right is another one of my ongoing conversion projects, and was only included for scale). I also tried a head with extensive bionic implants from the GK Terminators, and really liked the result. And some wayward armour plate (probably from the Dark Elf dragon kit, although I am not perfectly sure) was used as some kind of codpiece, both to emulate the heavily armoured look of the Warpsmith model and to make the legs look more different from those of my Dark Apostle.
The next step was to add the arms. I already knew I wanted to have Deracin hold a huge axe or wrench in one hand, both as his primary CC weapon as well as a sign of office. Instead of cocking a puny bolt pistol in the other hand, though, I though Deracin should be holding something that cemented his function as a mechanic of war. By lucky coincidence, I still had a right hand holding a rather impressive looking auspex. Deracin’s arms were built by using arms from the Chaos Knight and Skullcrusher kits:
I realised that the main challenge on this project would be to make sure that the different parts of the body and the additional appendages from the servo-harness wouldn’t get into each other’s way, so I started to experiment with the servo harness at this point. Looking at the bitz available to me, it became clear that the servo-arms would end up looking more like those of a loyal techmarine and less like the Warpsmith’s mechadendrites. I chose Necron limbs for the basic construction, and a GK Interceptor backpack was picked both for the nicely sculpted reactor on its back, but also for the rods emerging from it: These would be used as points of attachment for the different servo-arms. Here’s a look at a very early mockup of the harness:
The weapon was spliced together from the Chaos Terminator Lord’s staff, an old, OOP plastic chaos halberd and some additional bitz. Some teeth from a chainsword were carefully shaved off and glued to the axe, making the weapon look like an especially ostentatious chainaxe — this guy is a World Eater, after all! I also added a gargoyle head from the chaos vehicle sprue to make it look like the weapon could perhaps also be used as a tool. Here’s a mockup of the finished weapon:
As you can see, this first incarnation of the staff still had a rather huge mace head added on top. I rather liked the effect, but an artist I respect very much told me that this feature actually drew attention away from the model’s face. This was a problem, of course, so it was with a heavy heart that I got rid of this visual element.
It took quite a while to get the model’s pose right, by the way, especially since nothing was permanently attached at this point: For most of the construction phase, the model was basically held together with lots of modelling putty and goodwill…
The best moment was when I had finally worked out a solution for all the different elements, so I could start to carefully glue certain parts together. The torso and lower body were already glued together at this point, while the servo-harness was painstakingly assembled arm by arm and piece by piece.
i knew that I would need a flamer and meltagun, since they are part of the warpsmith’s profile. For the other two servo-arms, I chose some suitably brutal looking implements. After many, many revisions, the servo-harness was finished. Take a look:
The flamer (bottom right) came from the new Raptor kit, while the meltagun (top left) is actually a combi-melta from the command tank sprue. I simply liked the chaos decorations and dangling ammunition so much that I chose to use the piece, even if it wasn’t strictly WYSIWYG. For the remaining arms, I went with a sentinel chainsaw and a vicious looking claw (constructed from one of the Heldrake’s “chicken feet”). The arms themselves were constructed from Necron arms and legs, combined with additional cabling and a few bitz from different sources. This might actually have been the most fiddly conversion job ever, and it was made even more nerve-wracking due to my enormous lack of patience 😉
The one part of my original plan I had to abandon was to add some “smokestacks”, like the ones on the stock Warpsmith model, to the back of the harness. This would have been a cool detail, but the backpack was already busy enough as it was, and to tell you the truth, there actually wasn’t any space I could have comfortably put them.
So I called the servo-harness completed at this point and dryfitted the model with it:
I was already reasonably pleased with the outcome. But then fellow hobbyist Igandris over at Dakka pointed out that Deracin’s chainmail-armoured backside was a little distracting, and he was right with that 😉
So I used an earlier idea in order to fix that particular problem and added some dandgling chains to the backpack as some kind of cape. This was also a nice way to put a World Eaters spin on the cables ususally dangling from a Techmarine’s/Warpsmith’s backpack, due to the importance of chains in the XIIth legion’s inconography.
So after lots and lots of fiddling with small plastic parts, the model was finally completed. Here’s a look at the finished conversion:
I was really happy with the model so far, although the prospect of having to paint Deracin at some point made me just a little afraid. I decided the best course of action was to face my fears and get him painted as soon as possible (because the alternative would probably have been to never work up the courage to begin painting in the first place). So the model was carefully taken apart, and the different sub-assemblies were carefully cleaned to get rid of all the modelling putty and any grime that may have built up. Here’s a picture of the different parts of the model, laid out to dry and awaiting undercoating:
So, in the next update, look forward to getting a look at the finished model! Until then, let me know what you think in the comments section. And, as always, thanks for looking and stay tuned for more!