I recognise this post is probably coming 5 months too late… but now that no one can really do anything I hardly have an excuse not to give this peek behind the scenes of Purge the Pit.

So for those of you that didn’t see my post on the event, Purge the Pit was a small, free, community organised event at Warhammer World on December 7th 2019, which you can read more about here. I was one of the organisers and in addition to a goody bag of Black Library books organised by Dave (who came up with the event), I took it upon myself to try to make some small trophies as a bit of surprise for the winners of the event and for Best Army. So this is what happened…

So with a few months notice I chatted to the other organisers and knocked some ideas back and forth. I was largely left to my own devices as far as the trophies would go so I got to work doodling some designs. Andy, who was providing some narrative background for the event had made a logo, it was way to complex for me to incorporate into an object, at least in the time frame I had. So looking for other inspiration I turned to some of the Renegade Knights we would surprise people with at the event.

I took qualities from the faces of Dave’s knight, the crying eyes, and from the Knight I was bringing, the large canines, to draw a simple design I could cut into the surface of some wood.

From there I worked on one trophy (as we were only going to have one table and one winner at the time…) and then when it would be apparent we would need more trophies I already knew the process and just had to make 3 more over the next few weeks.

The basic process for anyone who might be interested was to rout out the design by hand, then to chisel out any corners the router wouldn’t fit into. I I cut the shield shape out of the piece of wood and then took all the edges off on a flat bed sander. I then used a blow torch to burn the inset design, and then pushed the face into the flat bed sander to take off any burned material on the surface. from there I cut the pieces for the base and glued or screwed things together. finally I just give it all a rub down with wood wax. The pale wood is ash and the darker wood is oak…

These were the trophies for the winner of the games on each of the 4 tables we were running. Along side this i was also doing a trophy for best army, which I wanted to be something special because as a narrative event we wanted to show we really appreciated someone bringing a nice force contribute to the atmosphere of the game with.

This was one of those situations, where I had an idea that seemed elaborate but I wanted to try, then I started trying it knowing that I had never done this before and that it wouldn’t be easy, committed hard… ran out of time to do an alternative if this failed and literally finished it the day before I was due to make it to the event.

At the time of the event I was going to a blacksmithing course in the evenings, I’m not a proficient at blacksmithing by any stretch of the imagination. Until that point I had made a letter opener, 3 pairs of blacksmithing tongs, 1 pair of coal tongs, a poker, a bottle opener… these are all relatively simple and intentionally so. They are things that you learn early on to learn basic techniques in the introduction to blacksmithing course I was doing that is only 2 hours, one evening a week for 10 weeks. The good thing is you are welcome to repeat the course and do new things. THIS was very new though.

I wanted to make something that was both related to creativity and painting, but also reflected the dark nature of the narrative and also the awesome brutality of the 40k universe. Because I was on my 5th repeated term of blacksmithing I was generally left to my own devices as the tutor had to help the fresh begninners… so I started with something simple, a Metal Paintbrush

After that, with still no opportunity to get significant help from the tutor I tried to do as much as I could without his help and decided to carry on with the rest of the design, what I came up with was a sort of bestial skull holding the toothbrush. How would I make it? I didn’t really know. I figured I could maybe make a lower jaw though, so I looked up the jaw of a Tyrannosaurus Rex. The jaw is a single, long ‘U’ shaped piece of material, which is something I considered achievable. When I started this there was a stand in for the tutor that week that had the cool idea of my trying to make it out of an old horseshoe, so that’s what I did. The following week When I could speak to the Tutor again I discussed the No Man’s Land of the upper jaw… something I wasn’t sure where to start. He suggested I try out repousse, a technique where you have a flat sheet of metal and then push and fold that into a the three dimensional form you want. The first step was trying to make a prototype out of Lead so that I knew what shape to cut the original piece of steel into. So I shaped some roofing lead to fit the beginnings of the jaw that I had, slowly cutting away parts until it looked close enough to my idea. In the background you can also see the teeth that I made to weld onto the lower jaw.

Once I attached the teeth to the lower jaw (and replaced part that I burned off in the forge) I continued to refine the lead into a more accurate representation of the upper jaw…

This skull design was based very loosely on an illustration I found of a generic fantastic beast. I just wanted it to keep it far enough away from a dinosaur as to just be representative of feral danger, not an actual dinosaur head.

What I had to do that was the obvious next step but felt no less weird. After putting all that effort into shaping the lead into an upper jaw for the skull, I then had to flatten it out! That was so that we could use it as an approximate sort of guide to cut out the starting shape of the actual piece of metal from steel. After doing that I then bent the lead back into shape again so that I could try to it as a guide for shaping the steel. Here you can see the beginnings of the shape being formed out of the steel.

You will notice, that its not quite the same shape yet. That’s because while I was able to shape the lead in a single lunchtime at work… steel is considerably harder than lead. I mean… it was hard work. Not physically so much as difficult. Its easy to work if its hot enough, but one of the problems working with a large sheet of steel is that it is thin and has a big surface area, meaning it cools down quickly. You have to heat more than the area you want to work, storing a reservoir of heat to help you form it. This results in turn, in me feeling like my eyeballs were going to evaporate out of my skull every time I took it out of the forge. or like my hand was going to catch fire as I held a punch over the metal.

Anyway, I persevered and it was WAY closer than I was comfortable with but I finally finished shaping the skull. I use a cut brush and grinder to finish the surface of the metal on all the raised surfaces, almost like drybrushing a mini… if your mini was steel and your drybrush was loads of stiff metal spikes spinning over 5000 rpm. Using a blowtorch and a bucket of water I put some temper colours on the tip of the paintbrush I made and I sanded the ‘ferrule’ of it. And this is how it ended up looking…

I couldn’t have been happier with how it turned out since it turned out anything remotely like what I wanted it to look like. I had pretty low expectations of this one, but the closer I got to the end the more possible it seemed and the more horrifying it was that I might not finish in time! It was all good in the end though and thankfully I remembered to take all the trophies with me the following day… a very real concern I had as my memory is utter garbage.

I know this wasn’t a mini post but I’m currently working on a secret project for someones birthday. That should be coming to an end very soon though so hopefully more fun plastic to look at that REAL men and women do and non of this boring metal work that well strong and able bodied nonsense people waste their time on.

~Pandora’s Bitz Box~

About the Author Pandora's Bitz Box

i have been collecting/playing Warhammer 40,000 casually since the early 2000's. now have a varied range of models spanning Tyranids, Chaos, Grey Knights, Inquisition, Ad Mech and Eldar. You can also find me on Twitter @pandorasbitzbox where i discuss works in progress.

9 comments

    1. Thanks very much! I don’t know, I felt resposible as an organiser,asking people to come all this way. The didn’t expect trophies but wanted them to know we appreciated them making the effort to come. Without the participants, no event.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Nahh, we will just wait until this is all over. The next time we were hoping to do it was going to be after summer. We played at Warhammer world last time which won’t even be open if COVID is still a problem.

        Liked by 1 person

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