Quick Modeling Tip: Sprue Makes Great Greeble!

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Quick Modeling Tip: Sprue Makes Great Greeble!

Many of us who do any sort of modeling–scale modeling, kitbashing, F/X modeling for film, and modeling for tabletop miniature gaming–know about the wonders of greeble. What is greeble, you ask?

Make a spaceship out of cardboard or plastic card. It can be the coolest shape, the best fabrication job, but with nothing but smooth surfaces, your ship will not be very interesting looking. Add some additional panels on the surfaces with more card and you’re starting to add some much-needed detail and complexity. Now, add all sorts of interestingly-shaped scraps of paper, plastic, and any sort of miscellaneous do-dad, and your ship starts to look more authentic. Paint and dry brush all of this busy detail and you have something that looks purposeful and real. This material, added to convey the external complexity of a spaceship or other piece of futuristic hardware, is what’s known as greeble.

Sprue material, the frame that holds cast plastic model parts in place, is something that many modelers like to keep around as useful building material. You can cut it up to look like brick and rubble, you can heat it, stretch it, and make it into things like door and hatch handles, and you can use it to look like exposed beams and rebar in ruined buildings. I have a giant box of sprue. It’s hard to bring myself to throw any of it away, even though I only ever use small amounts of it. That might all change after watching this video.

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In this video, from YouTube dungeon crafter, Wyloch, he shows you how to build two really cool-looking Void Shield Generators for Warhammer 40,000 or other gothy or steampunky tabletop sci-fi game. He builds the first generator from little more than scrap cardboard and some brass gears he bought online (the second one includes 3DP’d parts and LED light strips).

But the really eye-opening part of the build is his rather indiscriminate use of sprue material as greeble. Rather than try and make these piece make sense, he cuts and glues them on in a rather random fashion. They don’t look all that great unpainted, but once he primes, quick-brushes, and then dry brushes all of the surfaces, it all starts to look purposeful. And the finished generators look fantastic.

This video inspired me to think about sprue in a new way and I now expect that my giant box of the material will actually get some justified use. Regardless of what type of modeling you do, I hope this might similarly inspire you to think about sprue material in a more promiscuous way.

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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. His free weekly-ish maker tips newsletter can be found at garstipsandtools.com.

View more articles by Gareth Branwyn


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