((Jakob recently flew down to Australia from his homeland of Sweden, to play in the BAMA Bolt Action Tournament. He brought a host of awesome converted vehicles with him, some which you may have seen in the Warlord newsletter, and we were so impressed we asked if he could discuss them with us. So sit back and enjoy! - Anf))
Having done a few conversions for my Bolt action armies, I was recently asked if I could write up an article about the subject. Naturally I said yes, so here goes. First off I figured I'd take you through my approach to the subject of converting models from start to finish.
STEP 1: CHOOSE YOUR PROJECT
I'd say there is mainly two ways to go about this;
1. Grab whichever 'Armies of ...' book that catches your fancy and find that unit you really want to field but which unfortunately doesn't have a model being produced for it and voila you have your project. In my case, the 15cm SiG 33 (sf) auf Panzerkampfwagen I Ausf B "Bison" that I have done is a good example of this approach.
The Panzer I Bison ready to deliver some bad news!
2. Google image search World War 2 until you stumble upon that one weird or cool unit that you just must put on the table! This is usually where I get most of my ideas for projects from, for example this is how I got the idea to make my Flakpanzer I.
Flakpanzer I ready to engage ground targets with it's 20 mm auto cannon
To me half of the fun is actually to just search the internet for all the different WW2 vehicles and tanks that are out there. I especially enjoy finding the different and often wacky prototype vehicles that were dreamed up by the various nations of the era. These vehicles are also many times good opportunities for conversions since they most likely will never be made into 28mm models by miniature companies and because they are usually quite unique and make for an awesome centerpiece in any army.
STEP 2: TOOLS AND MATERIALS
Now, what tools and materials you want and need, is to a large extent, mostly down to your own personal preference. Even so I will try and list those few things that I have come to find the most useful. Apart from your standard tools, like the hobby knife, hobby clippers, files and so on which every self-respecting gamer should have, I have found that the most essential tools to have are some solid wire-cutters (the kind you'll find in any normal toolbox), a pin vice and a precision saw. The wire-cutters are for cutting through harder materials which if you try and cut them with your hobby clippers will deform the clippers and render them useless. An example would be the humble paper clip which can be used for a number of things when it comes to conversions, but which will wreck your hobby clippers if you were to try and cut it with them. The pin vice is pretty obviously for drilling holes and the precision saw for sawing stuff off in situations were your hobby knife or clippers just won't do the job. This actually happens quite frequently.
When it comes to materials my recommendation is that you get yourself a good variation of plasticard in different shapes, sizes and thickness. You simply can't have too much of this stuff. Greenstuff is also very useful to have around. Also remember that different shapes and variants of plasticard can be cut and used in different and sometimes unexpected ways. So never be afraid to experiment.
STEP 3: PLAN YOUR BUILD
When I have decided upon a project and I have the tools and materials I need, I move on to the next step. Planning out my build. I usually start by figuring out what existing parts I can use in my conversion. The more parts you can find which are already being made by the model companies out there the better, since it saves you the time and effort involved in trying to scratch building them yourself. So spending some time browsing through the various online stores is a good thing to do and usually time well spent. For example I used a Warlord Games Komsomolets tractor as the basis for my Zis-30 conversion upon which I then mounted a slightly modified Warlord Games Zis-2 57mm anti-tank gun. Luckily for us, there are already a good number of different vehicles being made by different companies which means that it's usually quite easy to find a good model already made, upon which you can then base your conversion. Sometimes a conversion is even as easy as just simply swapping out the turret of a tank for the turret of another one as I did with the soviet T-26-4 prototype tank for example.
The Zis-30 is in the foreground and the T-26-4 visible just behind it.
It's is also a good idea at this point to decide upon what level of detail you want to go for. Most of the time I go for a more simplified version since it's a gaming model which most of the time will be looked at from a distance and hence, rarely will be closely scrutinised like a display model would be. But in the end it's up to each individual to decide how much time he or she is willing to spend on his or her project.
Furthermore this is the time to start scouring the internet for reference pictures if you haven't already done this in the first step. It's through these images that you will get at least a rough idea of what it is you need to do in order to make your conversion become a reality. Sometime it can also be helpful to sketch out or even cut out some of the diffrent shapes needed from a piece of paper in order to help you visualise the different parts needed to put your conversion together.
STEP 4: GET STARTED
This is when you start prepping the things you've bought, around which you've planned to build your model. Then it's simply a matter of cutting away the parts that shouldn't be there and adding the ones that should. This sometimes means trying to get certain things to look a certain way or maybe to line up in a certain way, as such be prepared to get things wrong a few times. Patience is key!
STEP 5: FINISH IT
Probably the easiest part. Just make sure all your ducks are in a row and then slap on some paint and you'll have something that no one else in this fine hobby has. Then your ready to go out there and put it down on a table and push it around while going pew pew.
I thought I'd end the article with a short paragraph about the conversions that I have made this far and how I decided upon making these. Personally I find a great deal of joy in trying to find out what odd, weird and derpy tanks there are floating around the internet. I especially enjoy finding the really small tanks with absurdly big guns mounted on them. The more bizarre the vehicle or tank was/is the better. The Panzer I Bison is an excellent example of this, as is the T-26-4, and I have a fair few other of these little weirdo vehicles planed for the future. Apart from the bizzaro vehicles, I just like to find and make unique vehicles such as the Flakpanzer I. There is just something awesome about how ad hoc the whole thing looks. Simply put, I just love tinkering with these models and building as well as being able to play with something that is completely unique.
One of the derpiest tanks of all, the Soviet T-26-4 prototype artillery tank.
Finally if there is anyone who is interested in a more detailed account of how I have made each of my conversions, then just head on over to Warlord Games website and search for 'conversions' and you will find articles detailing each of my builds as well as a few other conversions made by other talented people.
And so I will leave you with the following sage advice: Don't forget that all your dreams can come true if you just 'belive' in yourself!