Monday, March 19, 2012

My First Post...

Ok so I've started a blog...
My intention is to use this blog to support my hobby. Most importantly to share my projects as i work on them for shapeways.
Now if you haven't found me through my shapeways store you might not know anything about what my projects are.  So let me explain that a bit.  I'm an avid 40k player who makes 3d printed parts for miniatures games. I have a shop on the 3d printing site Shapeways.  the URL for my shop is  In order to understand what I'm doing I should speak to my motivation a bit.
About a year and a half ago I got really depressed after an arguement with a freind in my local flags.  I was lamenting because I wanted to make a unit of female marines but couldn't find enough of the female eldar guardian torso's to convert them. This other guy yelled at me because Qoute "there are no female marines!" End Qoute. He wasn't even involved in the original conversation but as some problem gamers do he just invited him self to join the conversion conversation. He was so vehemant about it that it galvinized me to turn what was going to be a small project to make 5 female warriors into something greater.  Almost a week later a friend purchased an out of production space marine terminator in exo armor as a birthday gift.  the model which has a fairly substantial rarity is amongst my favorit and I began hatching a plot to reproduce it since I could never actually find another copy.  Eventually these two ideas converged to make a unified whole.
For my female marines I started sketching ideas. These weren't sketches of how to use female guardians to make a male marine look female.  Instead they were studies of the core armor marks that make space marines distinct and how a female varient of each armor would look compared to its male counter part.  I have a background in art you see and this type of study is the first sign that i'm obsessed with a project.  I spent roughly 40 bucks on eldar and dark eldar female bits and milliput.  I began trying my hand at sculpting a mark 6 torso out of female eldar gibblets.
My exo armor terminator sat on my shelf for a good 3 months while I sculpted my female torsos.  It taunted me.  Looking down on my paint bench. It was the first copy of the model i'd ever seen in person.  I wanted so badly to paint it but what if I messed it up.  And even more it just looked small next to my 40k space marines and particularly tiny next to modern terminators.  Finally I decided to attempt something I shouldn't advocate to anyone, duplicating the model.  Enitially I considered trying to make a mold of the model.  But two part molds are hard to make, even of old lead models that are pretty much flat.  But the real issue was it wouldn't solve my scale problem.
My female torso's were only suitable for use as plague victims.  While I have won some awards for my sculptures in the past the tiny scale of the torsos defeated my sausage fingers.  I was forced to re-evaluate my project.  For about a week I was frustrated that I couldn't do my project but then I found shapeways through a freind.  My good freind The Nefarious Mr. Crow found shapeways when he bought a custom phone case from a seller.  He pointed me to the site and discussed the possibility of having miniatures 3d printed.
It first struck me that the 3d printing idea would work best with the exo terminator.  I figured companies scan objects in 3d all the time. I had a physical object if I could scan it, I could scale it and have it printed larger.  By trade I'm a Librarian, I spend my time getting paid to help with research.  As such a few jaunts into the internet turned up David Laser scanner.  Its a software that uses normal webcams and line lasers on spacially calibrated backgrounds to scan images.  A small ebay order and i was ready to test my theories.
The 3d printing idea didn't seem plausable for the female marines because I had no tangable product to scan.  But at the same time I also knew that if I could scan something I'd have to edit it eventually.  So I also started researching 3d design programs.  I tested a lot of different softwares. Mostly the free ones or software that had a free trial.  The worst I worked with was Blender.  I kept adding menus on the screen and couldn't get a model made.  It has a great features on paper but the learning curve was beyond me.  Eventually I fell back to the old stand by, google.  I expected Google Sketchup to be minimalist and not worth the powder to blow it to hell. And at first that held true.  Then I discovered plugins.  Plugins made the free google sketchup work like a breeze.  I made my first model, a sword, in about 4 hours and was off like a shot there after.
I spend weeks trying to perfect laser scanning. the problem is that to scan an object of an size you need precision.  A hand held laser pointer isn't the way to go to get precision.  My point clouds came out as blobs without any resemblance to the figure.  I played with it tweeking settings trying different lasers, even borrowed freind's webcams.  But to no avail.  Now I know maker bots have been building laser scanners for a long time but there came a point where you have to debate the project's cost.  I wanted to try something new and maybe save some money.  Instead I was wasting time and the only way to get it to work might be to spend 80 bucks on a 3d scanner kit.  As cool as the idea to scan my freinds and print heads for my space marine army was it wasn't 80 bucks cool.  I couldn't even garentee a good 3d scan if I did by the kit because after all, I was the reason the hand scan thing wasn't working.  So after a month or so I was forced to call the duplication project quits.  I had failed and my exo armor terminator would remain alone for the time being.
On the other hand I had already made a sword in sketchup and figured out how to export it and then upload it to shapeways.  I really didn't know how to make complex shapes so I stuck to the easy stuff. I made a staff that I thought was pretty shnazy.  It was just a rod with bigger rods on either end with some other rings for detailing.  I made a power axe and then a power sword. And kept making things just to figure out how to do it.  And each time I'd toss it onto shapeways and maybe order a copy.  Eventually I came to powerfists and played around and made my first really original design.  It took me a long time to make and I kept the template so I could pose it as I wanted.  At the time I uploaded it to shapeways I thought, "hey, I can finally outfit a whole unit with powerfists".  Of course the rules of 40k don't allow that but who cares, I was excited. I could make my armies match and save some money as I went.
Over time i dreamed of my exo armor's eventual return. I played in sketchup and made a mockup of the figure. Unfortunately the mockup was a bunch of spheres and cylinders that didn't really look like the model I wanted.  I played with laser scanning a couple more times.  there's an app for iPhone that laser scans. It just turns out a wierd backdrop and a whole where the model should be.  And then theres this webservice that you upload multiple pictures to and it makes a composite 3d model from it. that just made a big brown nebula like thing that didn't work as a point cloud.  Eventually I made a Dalek in sketchup. It took me countless hours of watching tutorials to do. It was sort of a bridge from geometric models into more organic designs.
The female marines started as geometric designs which I exported into a software called Sculptris.  Sculptris is a digital clay modeling software with that wonderful free price tag. It crashed a lot and had its problems but it allowed me to smooth the cylinders into arms and legs. Once I had a body form I posed it and imported it back into sketchup.  Then I added the more geometric metal plates onto the body parts.  Occasionally i'd find a piece would be lacking and run out to 3d model sites and find something I wanted to incorporate. That would lead me to beating my head against it until I figured out how to reproduce shapes and forms.  Finally I had something that resembled my goal and was able to upload to shapeways.
By the time I finished my first printable female body parts I was getting requests from a variety of people regarding bits they wanted.  I hadn't really intended to make custom bits beyond those I got the urge to make.  But really what's the point of a hobby like this if you can't share it.  So I made a few custom weapons. And that lead to custom shoulder pads. And that's occupied my time for a long while.  Eventually I recieved an email politely requesting me to reproduce a model.  Impressively enough the model was non-other than the exo armored terminator I had been trying to produce for ages.
Female marines took more effort than I imagined possible. The first revision was some 4 armor marks in 5 possitions. With seperate torso and legs that was 24 models.  The of course I started revision two and had 3 or 4 people asking if I'd make mark 2, 3, and 4 armor as well.  Inspired by people's drive to see my work done I obliged. Not just adding the MK2, 3, and 4 armor but adding 5 new poses.  Some 40 models.  But I needed all the support designs too I couldn't just make female bodies. I had to do arms, heads, backpacks and so on.  I had this entire background writen for a female chapter so I needed shoulder pads and special weapons, and cool new toys to assemble and play with.  You know, the sort of stuff this entire hobby is about.
As I close in on doing 3d modeling for almost 2 years I'm coming close to finishing my exo armor.  I built a basic body which I've made progressively more detailed.  The design has been cut appart and modularized to make it posable.  I eaven took the time to learn how to hollow the model out making it lower priced and easier to produce.  I've become a huge fan of the shapeways process and hope the projects I make entertain those who by them.  For my part my project list grows more than it shrinks. When I finished my marines I was already considering what the next step would be in that line.  this has become a hobby of its own with all the same appeal as wargaming or miniatures assembly and painting.  And its a hobby I proudly support.


  1. I know that this comment may be coming a bit late and you may already have finished your project on female space marines, I would suggest looking at the sisters of battle, since they are a female version of power armor I believe.

  2. I have a lot of sisters of battle figures but truthfully I fail to see them as analogs to space marines. Marine equipment is clearly designed after classical knight armor. Sisters of battle is designed off of corsets and hooker boots. It neither looks battle field effective nor remotely armored. They may as well go into battle in a spring dress.
    What I wanted, and made, was legitimate analogs for the traditional 40k power armors but which matched the feminine form. Sadly due to legal issues with GW I cannot sell them and will likely get threatened if I show pictures cause GW's like that.