I don’t normally do tutorials of my crafts because I always forget to take pictures of the steps along the way. At some point I’d like to do a time-lapse video when I paint something for my Etsy store, but I don’t currently have the setup. When I got the idea for this little Discworld figurine, however, I reminded myself to document the process for anyone curious as to how I made a miniature model of the Great A’tuin, world turtle, from Sir Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series.
(Taken with my iPhone. Click any picture to see it a little larger.)
Every so often I go and blow a bunch of money on pieces of copper from Kit Kraft, a hobby shop in the valley. They sell copper in a myriad of shapes, including animals, and one time I bought a packet of flat copper turtles. I love sea turtles, and I’m sure Terry Pratchett is at least partially responsible. I knew at some point I wanted to try and make a ‘The Turtle Moves’ pendant, but when I got home, I started thinking about how I could make a necklace that looked like the Disc. I thought about using a second piece of copper for the disc and applying it to the top, but the Discworld sits on the backs of four elephants which in turn sit on the back of the great turtle. What about the elephants?
I eventually decided I was going to make a model instead of a necklace, and use charms, like the kind they sell in bead stores, for the elephants – providing I could find the right ones. After searching just about every bin at my local Bead Source, I got lucky.
So the first step was to paint the head, legs, and tail of my turtle. I buy all my enamel paints from Kit Kraft because I haven’t been able to find them anywhere else. They’re intended for model cars and planes, so a lot of them have names like ‘Interior Blue Metallic’ and ‘Stop Light Red,’ and they’re oil based so I use an enamel thinner to clean my brushes. I’ve found that the enamel paints are the best for painting on copper, even if they have a tendency to get goopy after awhile. Some enamel thinner added directly to the bottle and lots of shaking usually clears it up. For this turtle, I used Colors by Boyd ‘Lime Pearl.’
After I painted the arms and legs, I used Testors ‘Green M.F.’ (which I think stands for ‘metallic flake’) on the body. Sometimes these paints show the paint strokes, and sometimes they pool for a glossy, glassy finished surface. It depends on the paint and the surface. Whenever possible I like that glass look, and it’s pretty easy to get when not doing detail work. Bubbles happen. I’ve discovered that I either have to add paint to thin areas while the whole thing’s still wet, or apply a whole second pooled layer to avoid paint streaks. That can fix the look, but it takes forever to fully dry. Sometimes I get impatient and paint on top of it before it’s really ready, and sometimes that backfires on me. I’ve started trying to let one level sit out overnight before painting on top.
Even though a lot of it would be covered up by the elephants, I wanted to paint the shell of the turtle. One of the nice things about these enamel paints is that you can paint over a dark color with a light color, no problem. Once the main body was dry, I used the Lime Pearl paint to do the shell of A’tuin, and then it was a matter of letting that sit out for a day or two.
Then came the Disc itself. At first I was going to use an oval, but a quick search online and I decided to go with a circle instead. The circle measures 1″ in diameter and is the same basic piece I’ve used in many of my geek pendants. The Disc, of course, like Earth, is mostly water. So I used Testors’ Blue M.F. as the base, making sure to swirl it a bit so it looked more like waves.
Using this image as my reference, I added continents with Model Master ‘Afrika Braun ’42’ (what a name, right?) and painted it freehand onto the blue background. When doing detail work, I usually like to be as exact as possible, but in this case – especially considering there is no official map of Discworld – I decided it could be a little vague. After letting that dry overnight, I painted the underside with the same blue, just so the copper would be covered. It can’t be seen without turning the turtle upside down.
Once the continents were painted and the turtle was completely dry, I added my favorite part – the elephants. I wish I could take credit for making them, but my silver clay skills ain’t that good. (Also, they’re not real silver.) I forgot to take a ‘before’ shot of the original elephant charm, but all I did to alter them was remove the loop at the top with my wire cutters.
I glued them to the shell, facing out and on a slight angle, with my very sticky all-purpose adhesive. Then I added a drop of the glue to the backs of each elephant, and set the disc on top. The nice thing about this glue is that if the disc didn’t lie completely flat on the elephants (since that was where I cut off the loop and the edges were all a little different), it didn’t matter.
And here’s the finished product on my shelf:
There you have it. All I need now is a good way to display it. If you enjoyed this tutorial and would like to see others, let me know by leaving a comment on uGeek’s Facebook page.