A “CRASH COURSE” TO VINYL KIT CONSTRUCTION AND PAINTING,
ALONG WITH A REVIEW OF HORIZON’S “STEEL” FIGURE
REVIEW OF HORIZON’S “STEEL” FIGURE
Now that I have explained the basics of vinyl kit construction and painting, I can talk about building STEEL.
For those of you unfamiliar with this character, STEEL is a DC Comic Superhero. One day, an Afro-American construction worker named John Henry “Irons” was working high in the sky. A fellow construction worker directly above him slipped, and John reacted by swinging from a cable and snaring the guy. Unfortunately, after John threw him onto a platform, John’s cable slipped, and he began plummeting to the streets below.
Several seconds later Superman swooped down and caught him, saving his life. When John told Superman “I owe you my life,” Superman responded back with “then make it count for something.”
A short time later the famous/infamous “Death of Superman“ occurred. John, deciding it was time to pay the debt, created a suite of armor, and hence STEEL came to be! (I’m sure you-all just “had” to know this, right?)
Horizon released this kit back in 1994. It is currently out of production. However, there are still enough kits lying around making locating one not all that difficult. The kit is in 1:6 scale, containing 17 vinyl pieces molded in medium gray, along with a clear acrylic rod (the hammer’s handle). The parts are very, very highly detailed. From the very finely sculpted muscle tone to the numerous natural looking folds in the cape to the individual rivets on the armor, the fine workmanship which went into sculpting STEEL is quite obvious.
(Sub-Assembly Construction and Painting)
There are a total of five sub-assemblies to the kit: the head/cape sub-assembly, the two arm/hand sub-assemblies, the three piece hammer and the boots/lower/upper torso sub-assembly. I pretty much worked on each sub-assembly as a separate model, gluing, puttying, sanding, priming, (and completely painting in some instances) each individually, until all were combined together at the end. Super glue was used to attach the parts, along with both super glue and Testor’s Modeling Putty used for gap filling.
The cape/head sub-assembly was first worked on. This ended up being the most labor-intensive part of the project, primarily due to the four piece cape. Much time and effort was put into removing the excess vinyl and existing gaps, blending the four pieces together to look like one, smooth piece of cloth.
A hair dryer was used to soften the pieces, which then cut like bud-da. After much additional trimming, puttying and sanding, it was finally ready to be primed.
I used Horizon’s acrylic paints for all priming. I decided to prime and completely paint the cape at this point, due to the complexity of masking and painting the cape once it was attached to the body. First, I hand brushed a diluted Horizon flat black onto the head and neck area. When dry, I saw that the paint had not gone on uniformly. Since I planned to finish STEEL in various Model Master enamels, this protective barrier was fine as it was.
Next, I brushed a diluted dark red onto both sides of the cape. When dry, M.M. dark red was then air brushed onto the cape, both sides, evening out the color. With the many folds in the cape, this dark red nicely accentuated the shadowy portions of the cape.
I then went over the cape with M.M. regular red, avoiding the folded recesses, concentrating on the intermediate to high areas. Next, I mixed some orange in with the red and lightly misted it onto the highest areas of the cape, (i.e., those reflecting the most amount of light). When this was dry, I lightly applied another coat of regular red, blending the dark red and orange red areas together. Afterwards, I took most of the sheen off the glossy colors with a couple coatings of M.M. Dullcote, giving it a more realistic cloth look.
Next, I went onto the other sub-assemblies. The pieces for the hammer and arm sub-assemblies were carefully trimmed and glued in place. The boot/lower torso sub-assembly was then constructed using the previously described plaster filling/gluing technique. I ended up using both brass rods and aluminum tubes, since I wanted the figure to be removable. When complete, the side “fuel cells” were attached. The upper torso (minus the arms and the head/cape sub-assemblies) was then attached to the lower one.
The gaps on all the sub-assemblies were filled with super glue in some cases, putty in others, and sanded smooth. (The super glue filler ended up sanding down nicely, leaving the surrounding areas unscathed). The main torso, arms, and hammer were then all primed with the Horizon’s acrylic flat black, and all offending areas cleaned up.
Since STEEL’s body would be finished in steel and silver enamels, the flat black was a good choice as a base coat. It would nicely bring out the metal finishes by giving the steel and silver colors a good dark base coat to shine off of. After the flat black was dry, the arms, hammer, body, and a masked off head/neck area were all air brushed steel. When they were dry, all silver armor areas and the hammer’s head were very carefully masked off and painted silver.
The head/cape sub-assembly was then attached to the main body torso, along with the arms being attached next. The adjoining areas of the neck and arms were carefully puttied with Testor’s putty and sanded smooth. The hammer was then slid into place. Unfortunately, much of the paint of the hammer’s handle ended up being scratched and scraped off in the process, causing me to have to go back and sand and air brush the steel on again.
Once this was done, there were only a couple final touches left before the figure would be complete. I very carefully hand painted gloss black onto his eyes. Since I wanted STEEL to have a somewhat inhuman/cyborg look, both eyes remained black, (with no irises painted).
With many of the silver sections becoming scratched and scuffed in the final assembly, I ended up masking off all of the shiny armor portions again and repainting them. Various paint touch-ups were done afterwards.
(Weathering/Extra Detailing with Paints)
A couple weathering suggestions for STEEL’s armor were given in the instructions. The first dealt with STEEL’s darker armor areas, along with the rivets found on the armor’s silver sections. This called for drybrushing the steel color over the flat black base colored areas, (instead of just air brushing the entire area the color steel). The same drybrushing was suggested for the rivets found on the silver colored armor sections. It was stated that a more “natural” look could be achieved by doing this.
The second technique suggested was to lightly air brush the color steel into the nooks and crannies of the silver portions of the armor, along with air brushing it onto the downward facing areas, adding a more “shadowy” effect to them.
I decided to skip both techniques, since I was satisfied with how STEEL’s steel colored armor sections turned out, along with not wanting to detract from the shininess of the armor’s silver portions.
The last item remaining was the circular wooden plaque that would serve as the stand. As previously mentioned, I had inserted brass rods into two drilled holes. The entire upper surface of the stand was lightly sanded with a fine grade sandpaper, washed, and painted several coats of flat black. When this was dry, the figure was attached to his stand. An aluminum nameplate (with “STEEL” on it) was then positioned in front. STEEL was now complete.
This had been my first vinyl kit built. I had initially been somewhat hesitant about jumping into such a new, unfamiliar modeling realm. However, the excellent detail I had seen in many of Horizon’s vinyl kits, along with a desire to take a break from my usual modeling topics finally pulled me in.
There were quite a few new techniques learned and applied on this modeling project. Surprisingly, building this kit turned out to be a whole lot easier than I originally thought it would be. In addition, I had a whole lotta' fun along the way.
For anyone looking for a break from their regular modeling subject(s), or figure builders looking for an excellent kit to build, I highly recommend getting their hands on STEEL, and having some fun with it!
Copyright © 2010 by Anthony I. Wootson. No material may be reproduced without permission of Anthony I. Wootson. Unauthorized duplication is prohibited.