I made something of an impulse purchase at the end of February – an mdf Dock Crane by TT Combat. I was impressed by how big the kit looked on their website and thought it would be a nice centre piece for whatever game I was playing – an that it was something I could use in any of several games (Deadzone, Warpath and The Walking Dead:All Out War.
I’ve never built an mdf kit before and made a couple of rookie mistakes in the process, but more on the process later – I think it’s turned out alright in the end:
The Dock Crane is essentially four legs, a frame and a long boom that bisects the structure and protrudes the same length again out from it. At the rear of the structure are two gantries that allow access up to the cabin.
It was these gantries that cemented my decision to buy the kit. I liked the fact that miniatures can be placed on them and coincidentally, each gantry is pretty much a Deadzone cube in height, meaning it can function as terrain for that game.You can see a 30mm Mantic Plague model on the first gantry up to give you a sense of scale.
The upper gantry leads to the rear of the crane’s cabin:
Which fits snugly against the gantry as you can see in the photo below where the cabin has been moved slightly forward. I’m impressed y the details that are laser-cut into the mdf, such as the hinges, door handle and the logo and name of the crane company -“Poseidon Shipping”
And the vent you can see on the side of the cabin and bolts on the boom. (More on the necklace chain later!)
The crane comes with a hoist although the kit doesn’t provide any rope or chain to fix the hoist to the boom. (an observation, not a complaint; the diagrams of the kit on the TT Combat website make the actual parts very clear). I found some kid’s necklaces at Poundland and so for £2 had all the chain i needed to fix the hoist to the boom.
I originally pondered trying to built some kind of winch./pulley mechanism, so I could turn a handle and raise and lower the hoist. I soon gave up on this as just being too much of a faff (I’ve got plenty of other painting and hobby stuff to be getting on with) and so went for a simpler solution. I twisted two of the clasps from the necklaces to form hooks and fixed them to the rear of the cabin’s underside.
This means I can have the hoist lowered at full length:
Or I can loop the chain under the cabin and fix it in place so the hoist is suspended. I know this isn’t realistic in terms of how a crane works, and that leaving the chain’s clasps in place looks a bit crude, but I’m not fussed, it means I can have the hoist raised or lowered and the chains stay in place .
In the three photos below you can see the hoist and cabin flush with the gantry in the top image, midway across and fully extended.
Here’s the crane from the top down:
I assembled the kit in stages, so I could paint the hollow interior of the four legs and more easily handle the sub-sections of the kit to paint it. The kit as a wholé is preeeetty big and quite unwieldy to turn upside down and this way and that for painting. Here’s where I made my first rookie mistake.
I undercoated the bare mdf using black primer, which seemed to work just fine. But when I came to airbrush on the base coat, the mdf just drank the paint up. I’m used to airbrushing hard plastic kits, especially the Mantic Battlezones; and I wasn’t prepared for how much mdf drinks up paint. A text exchange with a friend and a quick bit of research showed me that I really should have painted all the bare mdf with watered down pva glue before applying any paint.
With my having covered all the pieces in black undercoat and most of them with a (quite pathetic) base coat of Vellejo Dark Yellow,I didn’t want to have to paint on watered down pva and wait for it to dry, I just wanted to crack on with painting this great looking kit. So I hand painted on two coats of dark yellow before I ended up with a satisfactory base coat. Doesn’t sound much, bt given just how much surface area there actually is on this kit, it took me the best part of that day’s hobby time.
Once that was done, I was able to get airbrushed paint to take without it being gobbled up and so applied a coat of Citadel Averland Sunset. I highlighted this with an old pot of Citadel sunburst yellow i still have and with that, the basic paint work was done.
I then carefully hand painted the trident logos on the kit in silver and the “Poseidon Shipping” logos in a suitably aquatic looking blue. I happily found that the laser cut edges of the letters help to guide bristles and keep them where they need to be. You still need a steady hand, though! Some dark grey for the hoist arms and black for the roller wheels on the cranes’s feet and I was then ready to weather the kit.
I edge sponged dark brown onto the edges of the kit (which again took ages – there’s a lot of edges!) and dabbed some rust effect here and there around the rivets. The rust effect didn’t seem to work as well on the mdf as it does on hard plastic, it’s just left one-tone smudges rather than the effect I’m used to; but I don’t think it’s made a mess of things. I airbrushed some warning hazard markings onto the end of the boom, too. See for yourself:
You’ve probably already thought that the kit looks a bit wonky here and there in the photos above. As I’ve glued the sub sections together to form the whole, a bit here has ended up not quite at a right angle to a bit there – in several places. I wasn’t lax when trying to assemble the kit, so I’m not sure what I could have done about this, but I chalk it down to my inexperience in working with mdf. Maybe assembling it as a whole to begin with would have been the way to go.
Still, I only find it mildly irritating. I think the kit is great. I found it challenging to assemble, but I think it looks very impressive. It certainly dominates a table top:
Miniatures can interact with it nicely:
And my Plague 3A General gets a good view of the Battlezone through his binoculars from up high on its gantry 😉
TT Combat separately sell a pack of three Intermodal Containers that are compatible with the hoist and which you can see in several of the photos above. More on these in their own blog post soon.
Thanks for reading! 🙂