Sometimes, you can make the best of a bad situation if you just change your perspective a little. Like this mod, which was conceptually born as I went through and assessed the damages from a shelf full of Metal Earth models collapsing onto another shelf full of models, which subsequently fell down. I was able to fix, or make passable, all of the damaged models, save two.
I’ve already redeemed, restored, or replaced (in the case of BB-8, who I accidentally stepped on when I found everything) all the models in the shelf collapse, save this one. Because it was destined to become this mod, but I wasn’t really sure how I would accomplish it. And so I figured one part out, did that, and then set it aside for probably about a year now, waiting for the proper inspiration or revelation on how to do it justice.
Which came to me not long ago, and was perfect timing, seeing as I’m not supposed to be spending long sessions with my neck bent forward, and this needed to be accomplished over several short sessions. And now that it’s done, I’m mostly pleased. I’m a little worried that I ended up burying it a little too much in the snow, but I can’t do anything about that now. Anyways, I really thought I would have several photos to share with you, showing the process… I remember taking “photos,” but as I went back through my google photos, I was only able to find one state from prior to my most recent work. My apologies. Here is what the model itself looked like, post collapse, the position of which I did not really change at all.
So, the first thing I did was try to find some cheap platform that I could “sculpt” into a hillside that the AT-AT had collapsed on. This ended up being a “cylinder” of floral foam, which was probably not the best choice. It’s very messy and very difficult to paint. But it did present some benefits later on.
I proceeded to “sculpt” this floral foam with a hobby knife, and soon discovered that I am not a sculptor. But I just kinda muddled through it and created something that resembled a hillside. It was a bit weird, cause the hill just kinda came up, and then sloped off, thanks to the cylindrical nature of the foam block I used, and not wanting a hard edge. Then, once I got it cut into the basic shape I kinda wanted, I just used my fingers to rub the foam away, smoothing out the hard edges left by the hobby knife. Which resulted in a bunch of statically charge green foam dust all over me and my work surface. That was fun to clean.
I then started working out how to position the AT-AT onto this hillside, which was where I discovered the biggest benefit of the floral foam – If something didn’t really “fit,” I could just push at the spot with a fingertip, and it would collapse in at that point, making room. Furthermore, once I’d started that, I found I could just press the model itself into place. This was great!
Then I started painting it white. Well, more accurately, you might say I started saturating it white, cause that foam just sucked up the paint like there was no tomorrow (especially in those softened / collapsed sections that I had pushed in). I can’t remember how many coats of paint it took before it started actually looking whitish, rather than just a slightly lighter green. It also took forever for each coat to dry. Painting floral foam – bad idea! But possible, in the end.
And I let it dry, then realized I had no plan for how to properly “bury” the model in snow. I could get some fake snow stuff, and sprinkle it over it, but how would I fill in the nooks and crannies around it. And how would I make it look natural, as if the snow had built up over time. I’m not a “create-from-scratch” artist. I can be inspired by something, and try to recreate it from reference, but not come up with something completely out of the blue! And so this is where the model stalled for a good long time. I considered filling in the crannies with Elmer’s Glue, Hot Glue, etc. None of them seemed very feasible. I kept returning to it, and taking a stab at thinking of something… and nothing.
Until just the other day. But first, I forgot that I did do one other thing in the interim. I realized that I needed some cabling wrapped around the AT-AT’s legs. Because of course! So I stripped a couple of sections of spare braided wire from an old AC-adapter (I’d previously harvested some from it for making the wire’s in a droid’s shoulder for another mod). Then I spent some time twisting it up as much as possible. Did it twice, cause I wasn’t sure how thick I wanted it to be. And then those sat on my desk for nearly half as long as the carved and painted foam sat on my shelf, waiting for the inspiration.
Anyways, back to the other day. I realized two things. I needed a sifter and some very thin super glue. Because I realized I could use baking soda and super glue to create a “cement” base for the snow. And not only that, I could use a sifter and a box-fan-driven “breeze” to create a natural build-up of baking-soda “snow.” I found a sifter / strainer in the kitchen drawers and ordered some super glue off amazon.
Then I made a giant mess. Set up a folding table with my staged model sitting on the carved and painted foam on one end, and a box fan on medium speed at the other. Then I dusted the model with scoops of baking soda shaken free of the strainer and blown across the foam platform. I ended up having to rotated the foam/model a few times to get good coverage / simulate changing winds. Once I felt like it looked good and natural, I realized I needed to glue it. And so I got some wax paper and slid it underneath, and then re-dusted the model to fill in the spots that had collapsed off the sides due to being picked up. Really should have thought of that from the beginning.
Thus I moved on to the glue phase. I got the thin CA glue because it would wick into the baking soda powder, which has the added benefit of causing the glue to cure faster (though it does get hot). Be careful if you ever get thin CA glue, it flows easy. I got a teeny tiny hole open in the top, smallest I could make, and I still didn’t even have to squeeze the bottle to get it to come out. I slowly worked my way around the model, dripping the glue on the baking soda as close as possible, trying to cover every spot of visible baking soda (including on the surface of the model itself). You can see the results here:
I let that dry, and proceeded to gently scrape the super glue off my fingers with my trusty dulled hobby knife. Yeah, that works. At least when you can manage not to glue your fingers together, which I was successful at avoiding this time. Please note, I said scraping, not slicing. And gently. Don’t read this and be stupid and cut your fingers off trying to remove super glue. Anyways, when I was done, I went to shake off any loose baking soda. And ended up emptying a ton of baking soda out of the numerous holes around the edge. The glue had not wicked in quite as far as I thought, and had instead created a thinnish shell of “concrete” in the basic shape. I figured I could fill in the small holes around the edge later, and set it aside.
Well, when it came time to fill in those holes around the edge, I realized they weren’t just at the edge, there were some in the middle. So I ended up having to slowly spoon baking soda into those holes until the filled up enough that I could apply CA glue to the surface and fill them in. I also decided to fill in the “undersides” of the exposed feet so there wasn’t just big cavities where there shouldn’t be. This took a long time, and a lot of “tip and shake and see if baking soda is pouring out. I worked around, filling all the holes I could find, save one on the side. Then I shook out as much baking soda through that hole that I could, and then gently filled that hole in and glued it. And then I cleaned more super glue off my fingers. Because thin CA glue is messy.
I let that dry overnight, and then tried to clean up the surface in a few places where the drops of glue had fallen from higher than I meant to, and had created craters of concrete. That involved scraping / cutting at the crater walls with my hobby knife, and in some cases spreading a little baking soda over it and applying some more super glue carefully. One nice thing about the thin CA glue is that it dries fairly clear (except where mixed with baking soda), so anywhere that it wicked onto the model itself, it just looks like a bit of ice buildup.
For the final step(s), I used some Scene-A-Rama snow and spray glue. I went over it, trying to spray and sprinkle snow just where it should be, and prevent buildup where it shouldn’t. Had to do several coats to get the seam between the base white paint and the super glue concrete to disappear, but it turned out all right. I did have to go in with the hobby knife and scrape some snow off surfaces where it didn’t seem like it should be, though I left some on the cabling, as it kinda makes it stand out a little more. After that, I proceeded to do several coats of glue spray without adding any more snow, as it suggests for “sealing” the snow on. Several coats. But it’s still shedding like crazy. Oh well, it looks great!
And that’s it. I don’t really know how to end this post, cause it just suddenly came to an end. I didn’t make a video of any of the process because it was sporadic and unpredictable, and some of it didn’t happen at my build desk. But I had a lot of fun making the best out of a bad situation. And I’ve sorta made a habit of that with my failures or less-than-ideal results when building these models. I find ways to turn those negatives into a creative opportunity, and I hope that, by posting this, I might inspire others to find a creative option when things go unrecoverably wrong.