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Building the Battlecrab

By Daniel McCann - images & text © 2003

Scale: Not stated - completed model has 20"/ 50.8cm wingspan.
Parts: 20 GRP resin
Instructions: 1 badly photocopied page
Decals: N/A
Molding Quality: 7 - some pin holes, lots of flash
Detail: 6 - good, but with some major structural omissions
Accuracy: 6 - basic shape is right but still there are errors
MSRP: 47.50 GBP (~ $74.21 USD/$107.96 CAD/ 68.29 EUR) available from Comet Miniatures
Overall Rating: 7; 9 if you can be bothered to do all the detailing.

[Click to enlarge]

Ahh, the Shadows - possibly the best alien races ever to come from the realms of sci-fi. These misunderstood creatures are part of an enigmatic group of beings called the First Ones.

The Shadows themselves are one of the most powerful races that make up this grouping, and their ships are no exception.

The first time I saw this ship I was immediately taken with her, beautiful, black and alive. This ship exists solely to put into practice the Shadows' belief system, mainly that "there is only chaos and evolution"

So you can imagine my delight when I first heard that a model of this wondrous ship was available, I immediately set about saving up for the kit and ordered it from Comet Miniatures. Unfortunately that is were my delight ended, once I received the kit I realised how horridly un-detailed and misshapen it was. The main issues I had were

  • one, the lack of any "veins" on the kit, it was totally free of any and all veins, these veins make up a substantial portion of the overall look of the ship and could not be overlooked in my mind
  • two, the numerous omissions in the actual structure of the kit, the second last spines on the kit are not accurate and on the top layer of the kit the main "lumps and bumps" are missing. The only model I have encountered to date that has this level of detail would be the Battlecrab produced by Kip Heart.

But on the balance these are minor omissions and anyone dedicated enough can overcome them.

And So It Begins ....

So, well what did I get you ask? It was all fairly basic: 3 main body pieces, and about 20 "spines". There was lots of flash, especially on the spines, and a bit of mould release, but on the whole it was in quite good condition. The instructions, however, where a different matter. A badly photocopied page was all I got, which was not very helpful as the drawings of the various spines were quite poor and I had to physically line all the spines up in pairs before I was satisfied. After all had been arranged into a semblance of order I began my labour of love. I started by washing all the pieces in warm soapy water to get rid of any mould release. Once that was done I began to sand of any and all flash, so I was left with nice smooth pieces. However most had large holes in them, so I grabbed a little muillput and soon all was well.

Next the painting began, and it was, at least in the beginning, a simple job. I used two main colours, Humbrol Metallic black and a local brand of dark grey for the veins. After all the pieces were covered in black paint, I began the first of the sub assemblies. I started with the top piece and its spines. I first sanded the area that was going to be glued on both the spine and the body piece to ensure better adhesion, then used some super glue and held the pieces firmly together for about 40-60 seconds. Voila - spine one in place. Unfortunately, this left a rather nasty gap between both pieces, so I got a little milliput in between the gaps around this area and smoothed it to taste. I had to repeat this action about 19 times - that's not counting the numerous breakage's and times it just fell off, or the time when it was stepped on by an annoying family member.

As a note of caution the spines get more curved as you go down the main levels of the model, so be careful not to wear anything that can catch on the ends of the spine.

Once the three major assemblies were completed, I painted over the areas were I had used milliput. Only in hindsight did I realise that I hadn't given enough time for the damn putty to harden, so I had several very weakly affixed spines. When they broke off I learned my lesson, so please do leave enough time for the hardener to take full effect.

Adding Surface Texture

[Needing Veins] After I corrected my mistake I painted over the areas needed and began to create the "veins". This was achieved with a small syringe and a tube of PVC glue (if you check out Kip's article on creating veins you will get the full story on how they are made). But for myself I began to slowly gently and create the veins. There is a trick to this, try to connect all your veins up, try squeezing out the glue in a "wavy" then straight pattern, then connect up all the veins together. This should create the desired effect. Also include areas of concentration of glue, like an inkblot from which all the veins seem to be coming.

Once you have gone over the model area once with glue you will notice than the veins lie flat and did not protrude as they should. The remedy to this is to go over the whole area again at least twice to get the raised vein feel. Alternatively you could use micro-balloons. If you make a mistake or decide that your first attempt at veins was crap-tastic, you can easily remove then with a pointy bit of a toe nail clipper. Simply stick it into the blot of PVC glue and gently pull, you should be able to remove a whole patch of veins in one go, if you have connected them together properly. This will usually rip off even the paint that you have put on, but it easily fixed by another coat. Then you can reapply the veins, and believe me the more practice you get the better your veins become.

Once the veins are all done on one or all of the sub assemblies, then the fun began. I took a toothpick and a bottle of mascol, and dipped the toothpick into the bottle. Once I had a large enough droplet on the toothpick I just simply dropped it into the pits between the veins. As you can see this was trying work and it can take an age to finish. Also do not overreach, just do one are of the sub assembly at a time;one spine for instance will be sufficient. Having covered one spine in mascol, I would then do something else like more veins on another subassembly. Once the mascol had dried I then would get a medium brush and just cover the whole (now dried) area with the dark grey paint. Now here is the trick, its best to remove acrylic paint when its still a little damp, if you leave it on to dry you could end up taking to whole paint off along with the mascol. So what I recommend to do is to wait until is gone slightly thick and then just peel off the mascol in bits. This will avoid undoing all your good work. Now you can leave the paint job to dry properly.

The next stage is more complicated. I originally tried to just paint around the veins, thick enough that the black underneath would still look good. It didn't, so I decided to use a similar technique for the black paint job as I did to apply the mascol. So I got my tub of black paint and dipped a brush in until a large blob of paint was on the brush, next I dropped it into the pits in between the veins on one side. I know this sounds very sloppy but it does work, you get the whole area filled with black and it gives an uneven level of paint in each pit so the irregularity of the veins work is accentuated. Now I would strongly recommend that you let this paint dry thoroughly, I usually did one set of spines and then let the thing dry off for a day. The reason for doing this is simple; I used a lot of paint that didn't dry very well, and although you will notice if you attempt this method, that the top layer of the paint will be dry, it will still be quite moist underneath this little skin. Moreover I would also warn you that when you handle the model be careful not to touch the barely dry paint job as you will leave huge fingerprints in the dry layer. Also the paint will have a tendency to "spill" out over the pit in the veins, this is normal and although it may ruin your grey veins, it is easily repaired with a little grey paint and a small brush.

Final Assembly

Once the paint job had been left to dry it was time for some touch ups. I began by buying the smallest paint brush I could find, I think it was an 000 type brush. Then I began the repair work, or as I call it super-detailing. I traced over the veins that were partly covered in black paint and connected them together. This also had the advantage of allowing me to control the thickness and thinness of each vein, something that was hard to accomplish with the syringe and glue. Once that was done for each major subassembly, I then turned my thoughts toward construction. This was achieved with the excellent advice of the Starship Modeler forum members, and Erin Lantz in particular. It was he who advised me to use small piece of coat hanger wire to reinforce the joints.

This level of construction is difficult, as I had to be careful not to damage the paint job. Still, with a little patience all was accomplished. I began by drilling a small hole in the smallest subassembly, to allow me to mount the model on a rather fetching brass rod. I made sure I dry fitted this rod so that I would not damage the model if I had to re-drill the hole. Next, on the other side of this subassembly I sanded down the two little holes on the model - the holes were still there, but the slight bumps were now no more. Next on the second largest piece, I sanded away the little "nipples" which were designed to aid attaching this piece to the smallest. Unfortunately these little nipples are no use whatsoever. They had to go, and once they did the whole area was nice and smooth. I discovered that I didn't need to reinforce this joint, as the surface area was large enough to adhere well. So Now I had two of the main pieces joined together, all that was left was the largest and final piece. This was more difficult as the surface area here is much smaller, so I sanded away the surface a little bit and I added a small tiny hole. This was done by hand with a drill bit and patience. I did the same on the second piece. Once done I added a a paperclip that I cut to size, and glued it to one of the holes. Next I added lots of super glue to both areas and place then on top of one another, making sure that the holes lined up. Once done I held the model firmly in place until it was completely glued together.

I noticed after this that the top levels paint job was a little damaged, all cover in fingerprints and such. So I got out my black paint and retouched the effected area. Once this was complete I had to mount the model on a base. I decided that I should decorate the base. I did this, rather fittingly I thought, in the runic language that the shadows themselves used. I downloaded the font I wanted from some obscure site, and away I went. I used a golden gel pen to write the letters on the base, it dries quickly so mind you don't make any mistakes. Once this was done a cut the brass rod to size and glued one end into the model and the other into the base. Oh and for those that were wondering the inscription on the base reads as follows: "With every light is born a shadow". I thought is was quite fitting - its a quote from one of the last technomage novels, invoking darkness.


All in all this kit was great experience, and was a labour of love. Not only did it allow me to finally have a battlecab model, but as this was my first resin kit, it gave me great experience too. I would recommend it to anyone.

Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the reviewer.
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