One of the mammoth projects undertaken in 2015 was the Thunderhawk gunship, it was a labour of love that took close on three months to build and paint. probably two months for the model itself than 1 month for the diorama base and transport case. See photos I’ve taken of the construction with the internal support structure redesigned to hold those massive solid resin wings straight.
Construction & Painting
I received some airbrush stencils from Fallout Hobbies early December 2015 and had them designed specifically for the use on this model. This was to make it specifically Dorns ÆTOS DIOS custom made Thunderhawk.
I still need to copy a void shield generator and fit that somewhere, but at the moment it’s got some more
I’ve pinned the upper gun wings so they can move. The photos on the internal construction will show how reinforced this model is. I’ll have them up before I’m finished. The Thunderhawk cannon and the turbo laser are both interchangeable and held in place by two magnets. I decided the undercarriage should be less conspicuous to the rest of the aircraft so it got a solid black paint job with a light airbrush of grey and metallic finish.
The two wing-mounted heavy bolters are also held on by two magnets I counter sunk them slightly into the wing and moulded some green stuff putty around them to make sure they will stay put.
I didn’t document anything before the painting of the inner sections. Since that’s where the project started to come together.
This void craft was to be heavily used and the interior needed to reflect that as much as the exterior. To make that effect work I undercoated with Vajello Negro Black then dry brushed a mixture of chainmail a bolt gun metal and steel onto the surfaces. I followed this with some harsh weathering using powders from Forgeworld and AK Interactive both dried dirt, fresh mud, medium and light rust colour pigment powders. The results are a bit messy but it wasn’t mentioned to be perfect.
The pilots were initially the 40k design however since this is for the Heresy timeline i butchered their torsos and used some spare parts from my heresy bits box to rebuild them to the corresponding MKIV armour. I used an additional recon squad head for one as i like the scope for advanced night vision / targeting sensors.
The Thunderhawk pilots come as one solid piece from the legs to the heads with the control arms and shoulder pads as separate bits to attach. i cut through the torso and reshaped the top of the legs with a nail file. this kept the legs intact in the seated position, i just had to make sure i put the new torso back in the same place as the old one. Lots of time was spent on small details, but I’m happy with the final result. As for the head choices, I opted for helmets over the previously unprotected heads.
I like to think that the pilots would have extra sensory information wired into their battle gear for critical flight and targeting data. Another thought was in the event of taking battle damage and explosive decompression the pilots aren’t scrambling for helmets. One pilot got a spare recon squad head Whilst the other got a standard MKIV trooper head. It was only once both pilots were glued and painted that I found an additional Nuncio-vox (comms) head which would have suited my idea of the fluff perfectly.
Pinning the wings
On inspection of the parts, the wings seem to sit on some thin areas. the raised areas you see in the image below are also hollow for the landing gear. I had two stainless steel rods that suited the job perfectly. Unfortunately, I didn’t take any photos of the wings attached without the top hull in place but as you can imagine the two steel bolts spread the stress from being localised to the external fixing positions and thin resin side walls.
This pinning means the wings will remain straight and hold its shape without potentially sagging under the weight of the wings. I can also pick it up by the wings without fear of stressing the joints past the breaking point. I opted to have the landing gear retracted. Partly because of the Space Wolves kamikaze style planet side landing in the book the Thousand sons but mostly because the pins for the wings wouldn’t run through the landing gear neatly as they are not square to the wings and the wings.
My first idea for the internal flight stand support structure was to use 20mm plumbing poly pipe and have that secured with epoxy resin. After visiting my local hobby store Stanbridges and having a good chat with one of the hobbyist employees around defending the flight stand. His advice was that the weight of this plane will break the epoxy bond over time and it would be best to encase the whole pipe in a solid resin block. So that’s exactly what I did.
To accommodate this change of design I moved the internal detail wall forward and remade the roof section from a 2mm thick piece of plasticard, I then crafted side walls around the poly pipe to hold the resin in place whilst it cures. An added benefit to this resin block was that one of the wing support rods passes through it. Rather than fix the support bar in place during the resin pour, I used hollow plasticard pipe. This kept the hole clear and being a firm fit on the support rod spreads the weight of the wings throughout the solid block as well.
Rather than having the pole from the flight stand pressing straight against the resin I used a 15mm rubber stopper cut to fit the pipe firm and glued it in place. This rubber stopper gives the model some degree of suspension and stops it jarring when put down hard or if the stand is ever forced in place. I added another layer of support in the form of a bent piece of metal over the rubber stopper. This goes back down into the resin block on both sides so it will spread the impact and weight stress of the flight stand.
Once the resin block had cured and my 1-foot inch thick clear acrylic rod arrived this was testing out my handiwork.
Posable Lascannon Wings
As the main wings were pinned in place with solid metal rods there was no need to glue the lascannon gun wings down for that extra support, instead, I decided to pin them so they could be pose-able. This was a bit more of a headache but one that proved rewarding once completed.
FLIGHT BASE DIORAMA
The flight stand base is a solid piece of Jarrah hardwood. After jigsawing a circle and using a sander to smooth off the rough edges, I set to work carving channels and grooves so the clay would have deep channels to fix into. This provided a solid foundation for a ruined cityscape battle zone. Before I applied the clay to the base I did a little surveying with a permanent marker mainly so I could properly visualise the storyboard of the piece beforehand.
My ruined structure in place if you look closely at the factory floor it’s been given a custom double diamond checker plate pattern. This was a great tool that I picked up from Green Stuff World and I’ve made a stack of great bases for my other marines using this technique also. Over time, I’ll get them all up here eventually but the apothecaries have them so go check them out if you’re interested.
This diorama took close a month to complete although a lot of that time was waiting for the air dry clay to cure. I bought a heavy muddy set of weathering paints from AK Interactive a while back and the first use was for this project. It’s looking impressive and has added a new depth to the existing colours.
With the size of this flying base, my thought process at the start of it was all around building a narrative that does not need explaining. Whilst making this diorama I’ve always come back to what is the story is I’m trying to portray. Fair enough there are not too many ways to get it wrong it’s a bloody war-torn base with dead guys on it, and a busted up building but with art there’s always room for personal interpretation. The most time-consuming part has been making the casualties for this diorama I’ve opted to add four Iron Warriors and suitably mauled them. With the hatred between the Imperial Fists and the Iron Warriors, they seemed like a great choice for a scene of ruthless carnage.
I bought some iron warriors shoulder pads, especially for these guys.
Transport & Storage Solution
This model is very large, it’s wingspan is 440mm and its length is 48033. It’s height without the landing gear is close on 200mm. The mission to find a storage case that will provide adequate sidewall protection, whilst be compact enough for easy transportation and stockpiling.
I found a guy selling some pelican cases on my local Gumtree site and went out to inspect them for suitability one turned out to be a good fit for this so I took that off his hands. They all had custom foam inserts for professional camera equipment but that stuff got promptly pulled out and replaced with a much softer impact friendly foam. I would have liked to get this custom measured and either laser or water cut but that a good couple of hundred to shell out for so I went with the electric knife option instead. After planning the best fit Thunderhawk and accounting for the base, acrylic rod and extra weaponry this was the chosen layout.
The base is 100mm tall at its highest point so this had to be stored upside down, it does cover part of the wing. The back of the Thunderhawk is the tallest part so to counter the front bouncing up and down in the excess space when transporting there needed to be some foam glued to the lid foam insert. It’s not shown in the image below, but I added two foam squares, one firms up the base when in position as I cut that a little deeper than I should have and the other sits over the front fuselage of the Thunderhawk.