Thursday, November 1, 2012

Modeling and Painting: Dire Wolves, Part 1

I've discussed how my dire wolf units have evolved into the current iteration. Here's how I go about converting the miniatures themselves. 

The first portion of this tutorial focuses on conversions using the classic metal Chaos Hounds. I don't think you can get these anymore, but maybe you can find some on Ebay. In the second portion I show a similar conversion using the plastic Fenrisian wolves, which might be a little more accessible for anyone trying to replicate this conversion.

Chaos Hound Dire Wolf Conversion

For anyone who doesn't know, The Stuff of Legends website has scanned copies of all the Citadel catalogues and pictures of models dating back to the early '80s (as well as other manufacturers' ranges. My go-to page is the 2004/2005 catalogue section, which in my opinion represents the height of the metal Citadel range (and the most recent catalogue TSOL has in its library).

There were five distinct sculpts for the Chaos Hounds, but I only use the three pictured below; the two with their mouths wide open and tongues hanging out didn't appeal to me. The calalogue page only shows four sculpts, however, and the wolf with its head lowered isn't featured (although his leg sprue is). I suspect a printing error in the original book.

Anyway, two of the models have ripped open faces and exposed skulls, making my job of converting them into undead wolves pretty easy. Their spikes and clubbed tails need to be removed (the red-shaded portions), and I also take off the ears on the really spiky wolf on the bottom for consistency.

Here are the models, spike free, with mold lines cleaned.

For the tails, I use the plastic tail from the old plastic wolf head sprue.

The tails get roughed up a little with clippers and pinned to the model. The legs are glued in place.

Next, the areas where the spikes were clipped away get fur sculpted overtop to repair the damage. I try to match the existing fur pattern on the miniature. (The fur sculpting is shown in a little more detail on the Fenrisian Conversion below.)

I also add some fur to connect the back hair to the tail, and add some on the legs. The ribs and portions of the legs are left bare to enhance the emaciated, mangy appearance of the wolves.

The ears are the trickiest part.  Originally, I would clip the ears off of the plastic wolf, shave the back of each ear into shape with my knife, and then glue them in place on the wolf's head.

My sculpting has improved since then, so I can simply sculpt the ears.

Either way, once the ears are in place, I add more fur around them to blend the parts together.

The completed Chaos Hound dire wolf conversions:

Fenrisian Dire Wolf Conversion

Now, I'm fortunate to have enough of the old Chaos Hounds to make all the dire wolves I'll ever need. But if I were starting from scratch today, I'd use the Space Wolves' Fenrisian wolf models over the current plastic dire wolf kit. I'm just not a fan of those miniatures.

The old metal Chaos Hounds came with a few extra undead heads, intended to turn a few of the hounds into double-headed creatures. These heads are perfect for a Fenrisian head-swap, and might be a little cheaper than tracking down complete classic Chaos Hounds.

Clean and assemble the Fenrisian wolf body, and super glue the metal head in place.

Because of the head's design, there will be a larger gap on the left side. Fill this with modeling putty and allow it to cure.

The wolf will still needs some ears, and if you don't want to sculpt them, the pointy ears are easily clipped off of the plastic Fenrisian head.

Clean them up and glue them in place.

To model the fur, begin by adding a roll of putty around the ear, and a small ball at the base of the head.

Beginning at the top, use your sculpting tool to press lines into the putty. Vary the thickness a little, and twist the tool slightly to create a wavy effect.

Work your way around behind the ear and press the fur lines into the ball of putty. Try not to flatten it against the body; you want the putty to add to the mass of the head.

Here he is from the front. Remember to match the style and direction of fur on the plastic wolf body. Let this putty fur cure before moving on so it doesn't get damaged while working on the next step.

Add a roll of putty around the head seam and along the join atop the wolf's back.

Just as before, press lines into the putty to blend it into the existing plastic fur so the neck seam and join along the back are covered up.

And he's finished!

If you can't find any of the metal Chaos Hound heads, you can just use the plastic Fenrisian wolf head, and add damage like I showed in the doom wolf tutorial.

Speaking of the doom wolves, I've converted two more using the plastic Thunderwolf models:

These five new models will join the other 20 WIPs (Wolves In Progress– Ha!) that I've been pushing around my painting table since I failed to finish them in GW's 2004 Iron Painter challenge. They'll finally be completed, totaling out the Doom Hounds of Marduk at three 12-man units, each with its own doom wolf!

Next up in part two, I'll go step-by-step through the painting process I use to mass-produce the wolf units.

'Til next time!


  1. I hate you, but I love you so much at the same time.

    One day I hope to model like you model :)

  2. Wow the Fenrisian Wolves are quite big! I am tempted to get some to add to my Chaos Hounds.

    1. The gigantic wolves in the final shot are Thunderwolves. The Fenrisian wolves are the more slender, "normal" sized wolves. They're not much larger than the Chaos Hounds.

  3. Can't imagine many things more horrifying than being chased down by a pack of undead wolves. Wolves would be bad enough, but undead wolves... You're pretty much screwed.

    Awesome models as usual, and very impressive sculpting work.

  4. Replies
    1. Almost. Just posted on Facebook about it, actually. I expect the painting tutorial to be up sometime this week.


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