It’s poetic that the first build I post on my new blog is the 250th Metal Earth model that I’ve built. And, having built the Silver Dragon for the 150th build, I thought it only appropriate to follow suit and go for a Dragon again. And boy is this one a beauty. Of course, I’m a bit biased because (a) I just built it, and (b) I LOVE DRAGONS!
It’s also rather amusing that for the first build featured in my new blog, I forgot to include LEGO Chewie for scale in the first photo. *facepalm*
Unfortunately, when I started building this beast, I wasn’t sure I was going to finish readying this blog by the time I finished the build. So I decided, instead, to recorded and share the full build on Instagram. I timelapsed each step so it would fit into a one-minute video (the length limit on Instagram).
Well, partway through the build, I’d gotten more done on the blog than I thought I would. Back injuries can really shuffle your schedule. So I figured those videos would go nicely in this blog post after all. Don’t worry, I won’t be posting full builds very often. However, for embedding in the post, I decided to bundle up each Instagram post into a single YouTube video. Nobody needs a post with sixty-odd YouTube videos embedded in it!
Build Post #1, Steps 1-10
The first post consisted of the first ten steps. Yeah, I wasn’t really thinking and used the limit of the number of photos/videos you can post at a time to Instagram to determine which steps to include, rather than breaking it up by what I would be building in the video. Also, I wasn’t super-great at keeping my work visible to the camera (I got better as I went, but never got great at that).
These steps are quite repetitive as you work your way down through the segments of the neck. Nothing too terribly hard, just a lot of [uneven] cylinder forming. Okay, so maybe getting the unevenness worked out is a little challenging, but I’ve kinda gotten used to that by now, so it’s not so scary anymore. A good set of drill bits will definitely help you out here, though. After completing the first few segments, I finally realized that it was a lot easier to attach the fin segments to the back of the neck before closing up the cylinder.
It really picks up at Step 9, though, when you get to start assembling the sections together. This can be frustrating, as sometimes the tabs are hard to reach, but Fascinations did us a favor and reduced the number of tabs joining the segments by one (from the Silver Dragon). Though these steps did get sped up quite a bit, you might notice that I spent some time fixing one section of the fin because I attached it backwards. Oops. I also spent a bit of time trying to ensure that each fin segment was “inserted” into the fin segment of the previous neck segment. I think this helps it stay lined up and looks nice.
And this one finishes off with a teaser: attaching a single piece of the head to the neck. It’s kinda guess work on the angles here, but you can (as you’ll see me do in the next video) use the other pieces of the head to get some guidance.
Build Post #2, Steps 11-21
The next post covered the next eleven steps, because I combined two steps (20 and 21) into a single video. The exciting part of this video is building the head, followed by another block of repetitive steps as you build out the segmented part of the tail. Oh, and I forgot to mention that I had deleted the original video files from my phone and had to download these first few posts worth from Instagram, which has a 480p max resolution. So… sorry about the quality.
Forming the head is possibly the most complicated part of this build. Of course, I may have made it extra-challenging because I tried to give almost every element of the head a little bit of a curve. I tried to give the frill at the back of the cheeks a compound curve, forming a dish kind of shape by curving each extremity toward the center point, rather than all at the same angle. On the beard and what I think of as horns, I tried to apply a recurve, where it starts curving one way, and then curves back the other way. It’s a lot of extra work, but the result is really worth it.
Amusingly, the next most complicated part of this whole build was attaching the head to the neck, at least for me. And, again, this is probably my fault. I strayed from the instructions a little on this one, and decided that I really wanted the tab at the front of the chin on the inside, which meant that I had to close that up before connecting the head to the neck. Getting all the tabs into the slots after that was a bit challenging, especially on the back of the head. Unfortunately, that caused me to scratch off some of the paint, so I ended up using a blue sharpie to “hide my sins,” as Adam Savage would say.
The rest of the video consists of building out the tail segments and joining them together. These steps feel a lot like the construction of the neck, except that you attach spikes rather than fin segments.
Build Post #3, Steps 22-27, 29-31
Putting this post together was really confusing. I was still trying for ten videos/steps per post, but one of the steps (24) was really long, so I split it into two videos. So when I reached Step 30, I figured I was done with the videos for the post… except I only had nine videos. Turns out that the instructions don’t have a Step 28! Anyways, the videos for this post cover the completion of the tail, building the wings and the first segment of the main body, as well as attaching the wings to that segment.
Oh man, do I hate building the last tail part on these dragons. I have (if you can’t tell from the videos) giant sausages for fingers. And the way the last part of the tail is formed, you have a lot of small, rounded rings that are placed close together. Not only that, but you have to line up two tabs with slots inside a tight space. All without mangling the ring-like shapes that you are attaching. Needless to say, that’s difficult for me. But this time, they decided to make it even more challenging, by adding nano-spikes to the rings.
Now, don’t take me wrong here. I like the way those spikes look in the finished project. But I really didn’t need another delicate thing to try to work around here! Not only that, but I stupidly assumed that the spike (which is attached by a long, thin segment of metal so you can bend and place it in the middle of the back of the ring) was actually just a piece of metal that didn’t get fully cut off during manufacturing. So I clipped it off the first piece while I was knolling out this build. Then I saw the same thing on the second piece. *facepalm* Luckily, the model included extras of this piece, so I was able to recover easily.
The wings are gorgeous. Not as gorgeous as they were in the original “coming soon” design, where the webbing between the bones was actually part of the raised bones pieces, rather than just etched on the wing-material pieces. I really liked that design, but I believe they had to dial that back to fit all the pieces on the sheets. Still, they are beautiful as they are. The texture and webbing look amazing. And they are pretty straight forward to build, though they added a bit of dynamic shaping to the edges of this model (over the Silver Dragon model).
Last but not least for this section is building the body segment and attaching the wings. Another big change from the Silver Dragon is right here: the wings actually attach to the same segment as the front legs, and the attachment is much more rigid. I like this change, because the wings are supported better, but at the same time, I can see how some people might miss the ability to position the wings at whatever angle they want. Personally, I prefer this method. Unfortunately there wasn’t a lot of guidance on how to properly shape the connecting part of the wings, but I found that curving the upper and lower parts of each wing outwards (away from each other) at the end seemed to match the diagram and was visually appealing.
Build Post #4, Steps 32-36
It was at this point in the build (or more specifically, upon finishing Step 36 and looking at the subsequent steps) that I decided it made more sense to break up the posts by subject matter, rather than by video count. Of course, I still had to keep it under ten, but that was easy enough. So this time around, we have only one real thing being accomplished: finishing building the central body / torso of the dragon.
Nothing too terribly difficult here, unless you don’t like rounding / curving – in which case I think you are building the wrong model. Like in the last segment of the torso, attaching the shoulder/hip rings is fairly easy due to the size of the torso segments. The most challenging part of it was forming the rump segment in Step 34, as the piece itself it just weird. The two lopsided cylinders connected together but at an angle… it’s just a bit confusing to form, and a little challenging to get the gap closed up well.
One thing I haven’t mentioned yet, and probably should have, is how I dealt with folding tabs in the tight spaces when joining segments together. You may have observed it, but I tend to use my hobby knife to help guide the tab to fold the direction I want it to. If I have the room, I like to fold it inwards, as it’s less visible that way, but sometimes you have to fold it out. Either way, having a thin but sturdy tool to convince the tab to start folding one-way or the other as it passes through the slot can be very helpful.
Build Post #5, Steps 39-44
So these next four videos are the real reason I decided to break up the posts by subject matter, rather than video count. Each video covers the process of building a leg, which takes six steps. That doesn’t break up well over ten-step posts, especially with the last post being five videos already. So each one would get it’s own, and the previous set would stand alone. And due to similarity, I would drop all four of the leg posts on Instagram at the same time.
Well, hips don’t lie, and these hips aren’t easy. In my Instagram post, I referred to the half-dome pieces as shoulders, but really I should have called them hips; dragons have legs, not arms. Anyways, a dome shape is possibly the most challenging form you will run into with Metal Earth models. Flat metal does not like curving in more than one direction at once, and that’s what domes do. Lucky for me, I have some tools to help with that.
Originally, I used marbles for this sort of thing, which sorta worked. It also resulted in me stabbing my fingertips with tabs a lot (glass is slippery). Then I saw a video where @animateorange talked about fondant shaping balls, which I found and ordered off AliExpress. I used them for a while, and they are great. But then animate orange allowed me the honor of testing a prototype tool he designed. That dome-shaping tool is now available on his Etsy store, and I highly recommend it. That prototype is what I ended up using in these videos. I still keep the fondant tools around, because sometimes their sizes match better, but I prefer the grip on his tool.
Anyways, I’ve rabbit-trailed enough about the tools. This hip-piece is an extra challenge because it’s a half-dome attached to a half-pipe attached to a tapering cylinder. That’s a lot of fun, right? Well, I’ve had some experience with the type, as it’s used in both the Silver Dragon from Metal Earth, and the Dragon Flame from Piececool, so it wasn’t too bad for me.
The shin, or lower leg section seems pretty straight-forward as a simple tapered cylinder. Well, as simple as tapered cylinders can be. You should be a pro at those by this point, right? Well, it’s not simple, really. Because of how these parts attach to adjacent parts, you have to take extra care. In particular, you need to pay attention to how the openings at the end of the tapered-cylinders are shaped. They will tend to form oval openings at the end (when viewed perpendicular to the opening). But you really want this to be a circular opening. Use a cylinder shaping tool to open it into a more circular shape. Trust me, you’ll appreciate this later,
The next challenging part is what I call the knee cover. This devil is formed during Step 42 for this leg, and is a challenge for the same reason… compound curves. This one involves a bit more guess-work, as it’s not dome shaped. And if you shape it fully before attaching it, you have to spread it open to fit it over the knee, then close it back up. Even then, some of the knees, like this one, it doesn’t line up / close completely in the end. This can easily lead to scratches, as it did with this leg. Blue Sharpie to the rescue!
Finally, you come to the foot. So many folds along such a long and skinny piece. I strongly recommend underfolding the folds around the toes, attaching the claws, and then finishing the folds. They sort of show this in the instructions, but I pre-fold it even less than the instructions show. After attaching the claws, you can finish shaping the toes. As you move on to the back of the foot, you’ll probably find that the back doesn’t align very well. You can add a gentle twist along the side sections to fix that. Before you attach the top of the foot, you’ll want to bend some tabs to align straight up. Specifically they three tabs above the toes and the one on the heel. They don’t look like they need it, but it will make it much easier.
Last step in this section is attaching the foot to the leg. This is where the effort to round out the openings on the shins pays off. You see, the attachment point on the foot is a circular shape, not oval. If you’ve prepared, it shouldn’t be too hard to get those tabs through the slots and twisted. And viola, you’ve made a leg!
Build Post #6, Steps 47-52
This video covers the back left leg. And since it’s so much like the front left leg, I’m just going to skip going into details. But I’m going to include it anyways; the shapes and angles differ slightly, due to the leg being positioned differently. However, I don’t really have much commentary to add with it.
Build Post #7, Steps 54-59
And the front right leg. And skipping the commentary again.
Build Post #8, Steps 62-67
Yup, you guessed it! The back right leg, with no commentary!
Build Post #9, Steps 36-37, 45, 60, 53, 61, 68
Yeah, so I guess you probably noticed that I skipped a few steps between videos when I ran through the legs, and they all ended up here! That’s because I built this model as I do most models: across more than one sitting. As a result, I’ve taken to looking ahead and executing the instructions out of order. This allows me to leave my models in a more stable state between sittings. That’s definitely true with this dragon. And it worked out well with the video series, allowing me to finish off with a bang!
The only part of this build sequence that really needs mentioning is attaching the legs. At this point, you’ve got pretty much everything else attached, and that makes it hard. Everything gets in the way of twisting or folding the tabs that attach the legs. Unfortunately, I think a lot of that took place out of frame in the video. Because finding the correct angle of access is downright difficult. Of course, I made it harder on myself than it needs to be, because I always try not to twist any tabs on the outside of a model.
That being said, the front legs were extra difficult to attach, because there didn’t seem to be enough clearance. It seemed that I couldn’t get all three tabs seated fully at the same time. I ended up having to fold two of the tabs with the third tab merely aligned. Then I was able to use extreme prejudice to convince the third tab to fully seat and fold. It wasn’t pretty. And it resulted in at least one scratch (blue sharpie time!). But it got done.
And the Blue Dragon was completed. And now I’m done with this extra long post! I’m thinking that this will probably be the longest post for quite some time. Most build posts won’t be this long. Surely.
Alright, I lied. I’m not done with the post. Right now the videos in this post have no audio, because I record without audio. I’m thinking that I should put some sort of royalty-free music over the videos, but I’m not sure what kind. My first thought was to go classical, maybe Tchaikovsky? What do y’all think? What type of music should I use for these videos and potential future videos?
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