Category Archives: How To

Turn Signals on a Land Raider

(Title tribute to the much-missed web-comic)

Seeing as I’ve got too many painting-projects on the go at the moment, I have decided to resurrect an old idea I had: Adding some electronic circuits to my 40k vehicles, for keeping track of their in-game status, and, just for fun, some sound-effects.

Land Raider

God Hammer pattern Land Raider from the Dark Angels Death Wing

For those familiar with Warhammer 40k, I started off with a Land Raider Crusader, destined for the Death Wing of my Dark Angels army. I already have a God-Hammer, so some anti-infantry fire might be useful (translation: tank with lots of machine-guns!). Initial thoughts included a switch to indicate speed, LEDs to show remaining Hull Points, and lights and sounds for the guns and engine.

After brushing the dust from my 20+ year old electronics box, and realising there was very little worth salvaging (I think the resistors are still OK, and a few unidentified transistors), I headed to Electronics Point to get some advice. The very kind people there talked me through the relative merits of Arduino microprocessors, and I plumped for a Nano 3.0 clone (£3.50 from e-bay, rather than £15 from Maplins). I then needed to start figuring out how to program it, and design a circuit.

Several false-starts later, and a visit to Bits Box, I have a breadboard stuffed with components, and some code that lights up LEDs by pushing buttons! 🙂 And I only blew up one Arduino!*

Breadboard of electronic components

Breadboard full of worky-gubbinz

Features include:

  • Speed switch lights appropriate LED.
  • Hull Points start with all 4 LEDs on. Buttons record Damage Taken and repaired, altering display.
  • Status Lights: Tank may be Shaken, Stunned and/or Immobilised, with a button toggling each.
  • While Immobile, Speed is set to STOP, no matter the position of Speed Switch.

I’m using Resistor-ladders (Voltage Dividers) on Analogue pins for the inputs, reading the voltage levels to determine which buttons are pressed. Outputs to the LEDs are done with two 74HC595 Shift-Register chips. While I’m a little rusty with C++, the code is relatively simple, once you get to grips with the Arduino-specific stuff (defining pin-Numbers, remembering to set them as input or Output).

For testing, I’m powering from my PC’s USB port, but for in the field, I’ve got a 4x AA battery holder, and designed (by which I mean Googled!) a Voltage regulator circuit (7805 Chip) to drop the 6V down to a stable 5V. I can build this on a small piece of veroboard that fits onto the end of the battery holder!

I am now waiting on several things, to progress. The Audio circuit is taking longer than I expected to design/get advice one/send for parts/build. It is based around a LM386 op-amp chip, powering an 8 ohm speaker. The sound quality will not be brilliant, as the Arduino can’t cope very well with hi-fi sound. But it should be good enough. I also have to rig up an SD card reader, as I am hoping to use several files for each sound effect, and randomly choose which plays (e.g. the “Gun” sound might be a long burst, or a few short bursts.)

Amplifier circuit

Amplifier circuit

A friend has access to PCB etching, so I am am learning ExpressPCB to design the boards I need. So far, so frustrating! Just about got them built though (subject to expert advice). The Main Section consists of the Arduino that will not be on a board, the Shift Registers, and wires leading to LEDs/Switches (with associated resistors). These will be built into the top plate of the Tank.

Early prototype, with Land Raider.

Early prototype, with Land Raider.

Top Plate

Top Plate of Land Raider with LEDs and buttons.

So, there you go!

There will be more updates as I go along, and more detail can be provided if you wish. And I may even add Turn Signals! 🙂

For now, I am going to start painting it, before loading in all the circuits, or I’ll just get paint over everything!

*(Pro-tip: Do not short-circuit the 5V pin of an Arduino directly to the GND pin!)


More Pencils

Several packs of pencils, a Dremel and some PVA later, I now have the basics of my Giant’s Causeway! There’s still a long way to go, but I can see how it will come together.

I have expanded each section so that it is just larger than a standard model base, and looked at how to include all the pencil points.

Individual Hex-Pieces

Individual Hex-Pieces

These pieces will fit together to form a larger piece, that will then be glued into place. It’s just going to take a lot of cutting up of pencils!

I did get some longer pencils, so I’ll  have less points to deal with, as I’m not over happy with how they come out. Maybe a spray with rough-coat will take the edge off them?

Beginnings of a Causeway

Beginnings of a Causeway

Once I’ve got enough to cover a square (hex) foot or more , I’ll glue them all in place and paint them up. For now, more cutting. And filing down the rough edges. And clearing up all the sawdust. And finding somewhere to store them all.
Oh, the hardships of being a model-terrain builder!


To expand on the hexagonal buildings I have made, I picked up a bunch of cheap pencils. 48 for £1. Can’t say no, really.


Pencils. 48/£1. What’s not to like!

The first step was to cut them to various lengths. Harder than it looks, when you don’t have the right tools! Making do with a junior hacksaw, I managed to carve up a dozen or so:

Short pencils!

Short pencils!

I’m planning on incorporating the pointed ends, but to start with, I’ll just be making some hexes from the flat-ended pieces. The cuts needed sanding down, and my file is too small and too blunt (due to years of use and abuse), so I invested in a foam sanding block (£1.70 from Wilkos). This was a mistake. I have ripped most of the rough surface from it already! Not the right tool. I suggest a metal file.
But I now have a bunch of hexagonal bits of wood. Picking seven of roughly equal length, they are glued together into a larger hexagon. Rinse and repeat.

Hex of Hexes!

Hex of Hexes!

These hexagonal pieces can then be linked together to form a larger landscape. Some of the later pieces will have ‘spikes’ in them (sharp pencil-ends!), and hopefully it will stretch to at least a square foot (~300mm x 300mm in new money).

Linked Hexes

Linked Hexes

So there you have it! A Giant’s Causeway type effect, and the only real effort is cutting up the pencils. I’m not sure if power tools are the way to go for cutting them, as you could easily end up with them flying all over the place, or ripping sections off. So hand-saw it is.

Obviously, it will need a lick of paint, and some flock scattering about. More pics when I’ve got to that stage.


A friend was clearing out his attic recently and came across some books he thought I might like.

Based around the idea of making models and scenery from household items, I jumped at the chance to widen my repertoire, and learn some new techniques. We arranged to meet up, and he handed my a carrier bag, which I eagerly took, and started to look through. Imagine my delight when I realised what he had brought me! Three classics from Carousel’s Craft Range! While the first of the series was missing, it would be a simple task to fill in the gaps!

I have not fully read them yet, but a quick skim-read has given me some great new ideas, and I shall be sharing my progress with you as I work through them.
So without further ado, The Books:

More Models From Odds And Ends

More Models From Odds And Ends

Dinosaurs From Odds And Ends

Dinosaurs From Odds And Ends

Making A Model Village
Making A Model Village

So, armed with my new literature, I am finding whatever time I can to try out the enclosed tips and tricks!


Quality CD Tower

As previously mentioned, I have a new project. The “Quality CD Tower”:

Quality CD Building

Quality CD Tower

The current plan:

  • Glue the two pieces together, and find an appropriate base.
  • Spray with Rough-Coat.
  • Affix some Imperial Buttresses and other accoutrements.
  • Add a level of battle damage
  • Repair battle damage with Ork Tek (welded plates, painted with glyphs and Klan Symbols). Corrugated cardboard makes good metal sheets, and lolly sticks for wooden planks.
  • I’ll then need to add some details/bitz/decoration. I’ve got a few barrels and crates in my bitz-box, and should be able to knock something together for a comms dish on top.
  • Extra Credit: I’m considering turrets on the side, either just as gun-ports, or big enough to hold a model or two.
  • Distinction/Project Two: A ruined version (either before the Orks repair it, or more likely after the Forces of Chaos (or Tyranids, depending upon which Army my friend plays next!) have bombarded it. I’ll be using GW’s Dreadstone Blight fantasy Tower as an inspiration for this.

There will be a Work-in-Progress report on the project as it unfolds, but it may take a while to fit it into my schedule.

One Step At A Time …

The Main Site now has a step by step guide to building cocktail stick barricades, with detailed instructions on each technique!

Aimed at those people newer to modelling and scratch-building, it walks you through each stage, explaining the techniques, and reasons behind them, so that you will end up with a useable piece of scenery, and the skills to build your own!

You Will Need

Things you will need

Barry and the Barricade

Checking the height of the barricade

Nearly done

Nearly done …


Finished Piece

Finished Piece




Whether for placing at the start of a battle to represent the war-torn terrain, or for replacing pieces destroyed during the battle, craters are a useful addition to any gamer’s collection.

While there are many shapes, styles and sizes available to buy, making your own is not only easy, but also fun! You can customise them to fit the rest of your scenery, and decorate them to look like particular pieces (see also: Ruined Pill Boxes).

There is a new tutorial for how to create your own craters from paper mache, which walks you step-by-step through the process.

Starting Materials

Starting materials

Finished Crater

Finished Basic Crater

This simple technique, using recycled materials, can provide you with plenty of craters for your table, and somewhere for you soldiers to hide!

Sprue Hut by Dr H

Modellers tend to have lots of left-over sprue (the plastic frames that miniature soldiers come on, as part of the moulding process). Often this is thrown away, but Dr H has found a great use for it!

Sprue Hut

Sprue Hut

Sprue Hut

While this looks like an advanced model, the techniques used are relatively simple, although time-consuming.
Dr H runs you through the building process step-by-step, with many pictures to check your progress.
Also included are several general modelling tips that you may find useful. I particularly liked the idea of using old, dried paint for adding texture to bases.

So, if you’ve got plenty of sprue lying around (and who hasn’t?), and some spare time, why not have a go at putting one of these huts together! Or take the ideas and see what you can design!

Don’t forget to let us know how you got on!

Sprue Hut