Painted 3D Printed 28mm Shipping Containers

Goodness, 3D printing is fun. I’ve been spending so much time printing parts, teaching myself Autodesk Fusion 360 and tinkering around with my Anet A8 printer that I have struggled to paint anything recently. However I have managed to finish the first batch of my 3D printed 28mm shipping containers.

Here’s a bunch of them stacked together with some of my earlier hand molded terrain and painted figures for This is Not a Test. The container ends are 3D printed, the doors and other details – while the main bodies are just made from hobby shop plastic card.

They were primed with Army Painter colour primer, either Dragon Red or Skeleton Bone. Fortunately 3D printed PLA filament primes just fine with Army Painter spray cans, and it also glues together well with normal polyester cement. The containers were then painted with a variety of cheap student acrylic paints, crudely highlighted, stippled with grey paint applied with a scrap of foam, and then brown washed with a variety of products.

Initially I started washing with cheap liquid shoe polish, but the polish ends up looking a bit heavy and patchy once it dries. The yellow shipping container above is an example of this. After a few containers I changed from shoe polish to my old standby: satin ‘Kauri’ pre-stained floor varnish. This provides a smoother finish, and has the advantage of being a reasonably good sealant for the paint job. The disadvantage is it takes about 12 hours to fully dry and requires Turpentine to clean up. The rest of the containers were treated with this, followed by a dusting of Army Painter spray varnish to dull the shine down.

These containers are the first piece of 3D printed terrain I’ve painted using my normal quick and dirty techniques. The 3D printing process does leave some light texturing on the parts, but once they’re painted and on the gaming table you don’t notice that at all. This second photo shows the finished containers a little better. For comparison the rust coloured container on the bottom left is one of my earlier hand built prototypes. It’s made from the same plastic card as the rest, but the doors were painfully hand assembled from plastic rod and stamped greenstuff handles. The 3D printed doors next to it look crisper, and have more detail, and are a breeze to print once designed.

If you discount the time spent designing the parts, these containers are very fast to assemble and get on the table. It takes roughly an hour and a half to 3D print the ends of each container, around 15 minutes to cut and assemble the plasticard, and around 30 minutes of painting time. You can batch assemble and paint them too of course while fresh ones are printing. It took me around a week of hobby time to hand make three containers, and about the same amount of time to 3D print and assemble three times as many containers. I’ve got another six on the paint table as well, which will give me a reasonably good collection for an abandoned shipping yard.

Cost wise they’re also ridiculously cheap. Assuming you have a 3D printer (the Anet A8 is $200 NZD), the hobby store corrugated plastic card is considerably more expensive than the power, or 3D filament used to print the container ends.

The only disadvantage these 3D printed containers may have is that they’re super light. My prototype containers were built around children’s wooden blocks so have a good heft to them. The 3D printed containers are hollow, bottomless, and probably don’t weight more than 80 grams each painted. I may resort to a little blu tack quietly applied to the bottom corners before I game over them.

I’m considering selling the STL design files for a few bucks to download. Would anybody be interested?

Anet A8 3D Printer and Creating Terrain

Kim from Kreative Scenery recently picked up an Anet A8 3D printer from GearBest.com and was getting very good results from it while printing 15mm terrain. At around $200 NZD the Anet A8 is a steal, so I ordered one as well. That’s my Anet A8 in the photo, assembled a couple of weeks ago, and with various printed parts added to the stock kit.

As a change from browsing Thingiverse for parts to print, I’ve also been learning to use Autodesk Fusion 360 to create original designs. Amongst the CAD and 3D modelling programs I’ve tried in the past I think Fusion 360 is by far the most powerful, and intuitive. Something about the way the project timeline and the browser feature work make it an ideal tool. I think it may be because the UI feels like an IDE such as Visual Studio. I also find the way you sketch things in different planes and then render them into 3D objects using a variety of simple extrusion operations really clicks with me.

My first completed, original design is a pair of simple frames that can be combined with cheap corrugated plastic-card into an almost instant 28mm scale shipping container. One frame holds a set of closed doors, and the other is a simple holder for an additional piece of plastic-card. I designed this because I want to build a post apocalyptic factory table for This is Not a Test. These frames were also easy to create in Fusion 360 and print reasonably quickly – so I won’t bother casting or molding them. Plus 3D printing allows you to use undercuts and back cuts that one sided molding won’t allow. For example the frames have a 1mm trench on the back that the plastic-card slots into for gluing.

Here’s the container quickly dry fitted, and next to an earlier container I laboriously built by hand around a kid’s wooden block. Mr Zippo is for scale. The painted container is one of a set of three I spent something like a week of hobby time building and painting. Thanks to the 3D printed parts I cranked out three more assembled containers in an evening this week, and they’re already more detailed and better looking than my hand made effort. I glue them together and then add a little more 3mm plastic trim around the edges for reinforcing. If you ignore the printing time, they take about 10 minutes to assemble and finish. The other advantage of just using the frames is I can vary the container length simply by using different lengths of plastic card. They’re pretty stable out to a 10-12″ long container. Being little more than hollow plastic boxes they’re ridiculously light weight so stack very nicely. The frames are designed with 2mm holes in the top and bottom, so could be joined together with plastic rod or pill magnets.

I plan to vary my original design to create an empty frame and a pair of free standing doors that will slot into holes, like a Lego door. That’ll give me the ability to model some open containers as well. I also plan to create an alternate end to represent a ‘reefer’ or refrigerated container. I’m then going to print and assemble around another ten containers and call that done. They’ll probably get bulk painted with a couple of cheap spray cans.

Even with this simple project I can see an almost endless possibly of custom war gaming terrain opening up. The only thing holding me back is finding time to design and print everything I want!

Test of Honour: North Star Painted Ronin

I’ve been playing a bit of Warlord’s Test of Honour recently at TCOW. It’s a fun little Japanese skirmish game that comes with a bunch of plastic figures in the box.

The box set is a great deal, but to be honest the plastic figures are all pretty similar. They’re fine for rank and file Ashigaru who are dressed largely in a uniform, but for the heroic character figures the Samurai plastics didn’t really grab me. Fortunately there’s a bunch of figure manufacturers that do historical Japanese. Perry Miniatures Samurai caught my eye initially, but they tend to sell large packs of similar figures, clearly for bigger systems than Test of Honour.

Instead I went for North Star’s metal figures for Ospreys’ “Ronin” game. I wanted a more characterful bunch of Ronin so grabbed the ‘Ronin Buntai’ box.

They’re well cast metal figures that only required the usual amount of filing and removal of flash to tidy up. They come with a set of separate scabbards for their weapons which are slightly to small to hold the weapons themselves, but you don’t really notice that on the finished figure. As they’re metal I also had some fun filing down the swords a little to give them a little edge.

They were painted up pretty quickly, and I had fun experimenting with different colours and light patterning to represent Japanese textiles. They also mix nicely with the plastic Warlord figures and the single Warlord metal I have from their Ronin box, which is pictured here.

I do still plan to paint up some rank and file Ashigaru to fill out their ranks with Spearmen, Archers and Teppo matchlocks, just to give me some extra options when building warbands. The Ronin look great on the table, and are a colourful bunch of figures both visually and according to the Test of Honour rules.

Test of Honour: Painted Scratch Build Village

I’ve painted the start of my scratch built Japanese village for Warlord’s Test of Honour. After some experimenting, the paint scheme I went with was a mix of cheap ‘dark umber’ student paint lightened with gesso, watered down and applied with hog bristle brushes. The stiffer brushes cover quickly and help work the paint into the balsa detailing. Once dry it was all dry-brushed a couple of lighter shades to pick up the balsa grain. After another round of drying everything was washed down with a 50/50 mix of water and liquid black shoe polish – again to help pick out the natural balsa grain. The paint scheme was to try and make the wood look sun faded and generally weathered.

The tree/rock pieces are an attempt at making some simple LOS blocking terrain. They’re MDF bases with chucks of garden bag limestone epoxied to them and detailed with some ancient model railroad plastic trees I’ve had in my garage for years. Originally I planned to try and make trees with foliage, but the material that came with the kit was so awful I’ve left them barren and autumnal looking. That also inspired me to throw around some of the leaves I’ve been cutting with my Greenstuff World leaf punch. That’s the little splashes of colour you can see on the building roofs. They’re glued down with PVA and add some nice detail to the roofs, while also hiding a few of the dress-makers pins used to hold the plastic tiling down.

I’m happy with the end result, and have the start of a good set of Japanese terrain to run Test of Honour games over. I need a few more larger pieces and some kind of 3′ x 3′ gaming mat to put it all on. The plan is to go with a quick and dirty drop-cloth and caulk style mat in a similar shade to the ground pieces I’ve already made. This is meant to be a fishing village so I’m going for a sort of gray volcanic sand look for the ground. I also need some more detail pieces like old fishing boats and maybe nets of some kind. Simple fishing boats should be pretty easy to scratch build out of balsa.

Now I have to get cracking on some Samurai and Ashigaru soldiers. Unfortunately the Warlord plastics aren’t really to my tastes – they’re quite low detail and a little unpleasant to paint. I’ll probably end up using the rank and file Ashigaru archers and spearmen, but have recently ordered some metal North Star ‘Ronin’ figures for my Samurai/Ronin heroes.

Test of Honour: Scratch Built Village

I recently played in a demo game of Warlord’s new Test of Honour Samurai game at TCOW (my local wargaming club). I enjoyed it enough to pick up the reasonably priced starter box from Mighty Ape. Warlord have a YouTube video un-boxing the starter set, which shows you everything you get in the full box.

The set includes several cardboard template buildings which you can get you playing the game right after assembling a few figures. However after years of watching Akira Kurosawa classics like ‘Seven Samurai’, ‘Rashomon’ and ‘Yojimbo’ something possessed me to dig out my scrap foam board and balsa wood from the garage and start scratch building. The photos show what I’ve built so far, in a week of evenings.

The first goal was to simply replace the cardboard template buildings with something equivalent in footprint. This means I’ve built a richer man’s two story house with a tiled roof, a small shrine building, and a simpler single level dwelling with a traditional wooden roof held down by stones. The buildings are meant to be clad in exposed wood, based on some turn of the century photos of Japanese houses. I don’t have any materials handy to make anything that looks like a sliding door, so opted for simpler doors and windows.

The larger plan is to build enough terrain for a 3′ x 3′ poor, coastal fishing village that has been infested with no good Ronin that a local Samurai needs to clear out. The next challenge is going to be coming up with a suitable paint scheme to represent weather faded wood.

This is Not a Test: Chemical Factory

I’ve been slowly adding terrain to my collection for This is Not a Test since I was introduced to it a few years ago. On a recent trip through the dustier parts of my gaming cupboards, I found several boxes of “Urban War” terrain from “Urban Mammoth” – both a game system, and a company that seem to have ceased to exist in the 11 years since I bought these kits.

As all of the terrain I’ve put together so far is single level, I was looking for something a little more elevated, so I built and based the “Bio-Toxin” plant.

This design is based on one of the possibilities illustrated in the very simple one page instructions: an elevated platform surrounded by tanks and piping. It seemed like the most interesting option because it gives figures a firing platform with a nice mixture of cover. It’s also high enough off the table that you can move figures around underneath it with some care.

The kit is rather painful to assemble because every pipe run has to be glued together from two halves, which takes quite a bit of prep work. However you do get a lot of piping, and that gives you plenty of options for building crazy pipe runs connecting the tanks.

I’m pretty pleased with the end result, which used most of the kit, but still left me with enough bits and pieces to building something else, or use as scrap for ruined terrain. The Imperial Guard Sergeant is for scale.

The assembled kit is epoxied down to a couple of pieces of cut 5mm MDF. The stairway is based separately from the main platform for ease of transport. I’ve also found that large pieces of MDF tend to warp pretty easily by the time you’ve covered them with PVA, gravel and over-painting.

To paint the main structure I plan to resort to either a can of Army Painter primer, or try to find a cheaper option like a plastic automotive rattle can. After that the usual weathering and ‘dipping’ with tinted floor varnish will be applied.

Bolt Action: British Infantry Squad #1


As we head into late autumn in New Zealand, I’m continuing to paint my Bolt Action British 1250 point army. Having painted most of the fun stuff first (possibly a bad idea), I’ve cracked down and finished the first basic 10 man infantry squad. This is a Bren LMG, 7 riflemen, an SMG and an NCO with SMG. I’m trying to pay a bit more attention to these guys than I would for normal rank and file, but even so you may notice none of them got eyeballs! The three foot rule applies to most of my tabletop figures…ie. if you can’t see it from three feet away on the war game table, I won’t bother painting it. I’ve got two more infantry squads and a Commando squad to paint to complete the core of the force. Everybody is regular apart from the Commandos, so that’s going to be a lot of folks to paint.

The figures still need a little more work in terms of basing. They’re meant to be a Normandy mid/late 1944 force, so I’m thinking of going with autumn basing of some kind. I recently picked up one of those handy leaf punches from Green Stuff World, so might go crazy with leaf scatter. This should be easy since the trees outside my house are dropping a collection of free leaves to hole punch.

Bolt Action: Cromwell with Light Burlap Camo

I’m still working on the Bolt Action British Army Starter box I purchased a couple of years ago. Latest off the paint table is the British Cromwell, which is the last vehicle I have to paint for the force. The Cromwell is a simple tank to put together and isn’t that detailed out of the box, so I threw around a little greenstuff to represent the common British ‘burlap’ camo.

If you look up period photos, you’ll see a wide variety of burlap + netting application on Crowmells in the field. To keep my life simple I just put some on the turret front facing and barrel.

The Cromwell also got minimal marking to represent a Guards Armored Division reconnaissance tank, which will be in support of my British Normandy invasion force. I managed to damage the “Normandy Star” transfer that comes with the tank while applying it, so these tankers get no air recognition markings…hopefully that doesn’t matter on the tabletop.

As with my other British vehicles this Cromwell has been painted with Vallejo Russian Uniform over gray primer. Then washed with inks and over-painted, edge drybrushed and weathered with AK Interactive powders on the lower body, and simply gray sponging on the top.

Bolt Action: Universal Carrier Recce + Radio

I’m still slowly plugging away at my Bolt Action British force, and recently finished painting my second Universal Carrier. Unlike my earlier Universal, this one appears in the force list as a Recce vehicle. So I wanted a way to set the two models apart. A bit of quick Google image searching and I came up with a few period photos of the Universal Carrier Recce, and the corresponding WW2 British radio sets they carried.

Most Universal Recce’s seem to sport a couple of side mounted antenna and the radio set seems to have been hung on the inside of the same hull wall. There’s no way I was going to fit a radio and a figure in the small space that way, so opted for a forward mounted radio set – which seems to be a less common option. It’s all pretty vague though, and even my copy of Osprey’s ‘Universal Carrier’ wasn’t much help. Ah well, guess I’m not a real rivet counter!

A few scraps of plastic-card, some nylon broom bristles and a touch of green stuff later and I’d added a couple of antenna and a simple radio set. One figure got to be the operator, kitted out with a beret from the plastic Warlord Commando box, a set of putty headphones and a microphone. The WW2 British mic seems to have been a bakelite ‘trumpet’ nicked straight off a 1930’s telephone from the look of it.

The rest of the crew was filled out with a few more cut up figures and arm swaps. The commander is (despite strict warnings otherwise) standing up in the cab with a pair of binoculars to hand. His feet were chopped around a bit to get them to fit in the cab space. The driver is stock, with a simple head swap, and the final passenger has his SMLE ready for security (although he’s a little hard to see in the photo). He was constructed with a simple shoulder cut and arm swap. I’m not entirely sure a Recce Universal would be that gunned up, but it got the standard AA Bren gun as well as a forward Bren.

The radio painted up quite nicely I think, and the Recee is definitely distinguishable from my other Universal on the tabletop which is handy. Here’s a shot of the rear with the operator removed, as I haven’t glued the back to figures in yet.

I still need to break out the weathering powders and dust up the tracks and lower hull a bit before sealing it all up. Unfortunately it’s super humid in Auckland at the moment, so varnishing might have to wait until late Autumn cools my garage down a bit more.

If you’re wondering why the ‘Normandy star’ is a bit off centre it’s because that’s based on period photos you’ll find on the web. More typically it was painted in the centre of the body I think, but my first Universal got an off centre star, so this one does too.

The Universal is a great little model, fun to assemble and paint, and it’s not a bad bit of kit on the table either. A cheap open topped ‘armored’ carrier sporting a couple of vehicle MGs to pepper enemy troop with. Two is enough for my force though, so its a Cromwell to finish painting next.

Westfalia Halfmen Kickstarter Painted

Westfalia Miniatures had a Kickstarter for a lovely looking set of 28mm ‘Halfmen’ that closed back in March 2016. I backed it for a bunch of figures which arrived late 2016 after a few production hiccups along the way with the casting process that was used.

The final figures are lovely little resin casts that are great fun to paint. They’re fairly light on detail, but not on character and really look like a bunch of pugnacious little Halfings ready to take on the world. They were also pretty clean casts, with only two slight miscasts in around 12 figures.

I picked up a fairly mixed bag from the Kickstarter: a Wizard and Apprentice, and several swordsmen, pikemen, crossbowmen as well as a command squad. I also got a bonus Goblin and couldn’t resist a female human swords-woman (she’s going to be Snow White in the warband). The figures are all available on the Westfalia website now if you follow those links.

I bought enough figures to run a large Frostgrave warband, although I haven’t played that system in a while! If they don’t get used for Frostgrave, they might be used for Song of Blades and Heroes. Regardless they’re lovely little figures and great fun to paint as a break from WWII or sci-fi stuff.