Right about now, I should be writing about the (non-interior) paint job of my Thunderhawk Gunship. The trials and tribulations I faced, what I learned, and so on and so forth. I am sad to say that, this time, that is not the case.
You see, about a week or so into painting my Thunderhawk Gunship, I started to notice some issues emerging with the paint. In a few locations – primarily on the Turbo Laser housing and on the centre engine piece on the underside of the rear fuselage – the paint looked to be.. wet? At the time, I had figured this was simply an issue of me not being thorough enough in washing off the mould release, so I pressed on. I figured that if I could not sort it with varnish, then eventually I would strip away the uncured paint, clean it up with some soap, reprime and paint over. Unfortunately, that was not what happened. It would never work itself out, and paint would just wipe off until the bare resin was visible. Once the paint was off, no matter how much I scrubbed at the resin with soapy water and a toothbrush, any further primer didn’t seem to want to take. It would dry initially, but a few hours later both the primer and any paint layered on top of it would start to liquidate once more until it was a thick sludge that would once again wipe off to bare resin.
I tried everything to fix this, from simple solutions like cleaning the resin several times through to more extreme measures like filing and cutting away the surface of the resin. When cutting away the surface failed me, I knew something was terribly wrong. At my most desperate moment, I even tried to seal it with a thinned down layer of epoxy, but nothing worked. Whatever I tried, the paint would continue to melt whenever I put it down.
I was shook. I tried pretty much everything, and nothing worked. Searching online for solutions online did nothing to assuage my fears, but only cemented them. It seemed that the resin was likely to be from a faulty batch, that it wasn’t fully cured and was going to ‘sweat’ like this indefinitely.
There was nothing else for it – I had to get in touch with ForgeWorld Customer Service. In truth, I hoped that the might yet have some expert solution for me here, but in reality I knew that I was going to be looking at a return and exchange. This was.. Well, utterly heartbreaking. I had been looking forward to building and painting this miniature for years. I had poured weeks of my life into the build and the paint job, sacrificing sleep in favour of edge highlighting and even used a set of (now out of production) Space Wolves Land Raider doors on the model (which had to be mangled and installed with green stuff to fit, making them impossible to remove without ruining them).
ForgeWorld Customer Service have a bit of an uneven reputation among my fellow Horus Heresy enthusiasts, but in my personal experience they’d been nothing but helpful – oftentimes resolving missing parts by shipping out whole replacement kits. They’d been quick, responsive and polite. Unfortunately, this was not my experience this time.
On this occasion, I received a curt response interrogating me about the type of glue that I used to construct the model before offering me the option of a return or refund (provided I ship my faulty model to their Customer Services department). When I expressed surprise at having to return the faulty model and stated that I wasn’t especially keen on it (a dumb reaction admittedly, but bare in mind I was still processing losing tens of hours of work), they then suggested that the problem must not be as big a deal as I was making it out to be if I didn’t want to send it back.
This upset me, so I called them out on this unusually hostile attitude and for their curt responses thus far. I was already in a position of having weeks of my time and having poured considerable amounts of resources such as paint, glue, pins, magnets and even out of production ForgeWorld bits into a faulty product – yet here they were accusing me of wasting their time. At this point, the representative who I was dealing with apologised and asked to start over – explained that often times, issues like these are caused by unset epoxies (hence why they went straight to asking about the glue that I used), why they needed the model sent back (to investigate the resin issue) and more sympathetically reiterated their hands were tied by policy. Partially because I was happy to be treated like a human being again and partially because I’d had longer to process the initial crushing disappointment of the situation, I agreed to send back the faulty Thunderhawk in exchange for a new one, stating that I had exhausted all attempts to fix and correct the issues myself, including cutting away at the resin and sealing it with an epoxy. The representative was happy that I was being amiable, and we began the returns process. A UPS guy came by to pick up my Thunderhawk (which I had to box up and pack myself), while the representative had a new Thunderhawk kit sent to the customer services office. The plan was for them to hand check every part in the kit to ensure it’s of good quality, and ship it out to once my returned Thunderhawk had arrived. At this point, the representative who I had been dealing with had went on annual leave, and left me in the hands of another colleague that they believed was up to the task.
The weekend went by, and I received an email from the new customer service representative, who said that they had checked the new Thunderhawk kit and found faults with 6 of the pieces, that they would request these replacement pieces get recast for me before sending it out. This process could take up to 3-4 weeks. A little shocked at this delay, I emailed back to say that I wasn’t complaining but politely asked if there was no way that they could take the parts off another kit in the warehouse (and have the newly cast pieces fix this kit). It seemed baffling to me that the would delay this process further with this long process. A day or two later, they got back to me with a very.. perplexing and somewhat suspicious email.
First off, they gave me a stock answer that they don’t cannibalise warehouse kits (because reasons) – this was entirely expected, and in no way a surprise to hear. Fair enough, I suppose. They then gave me some good news that the parts were to be cast that week, and hopefully they could be added to my replacement kit and sent out the following week. That beats 3-4 weeks – so far, so good. What followed, however, was just.. really weird.
The representative said that my returned Thunderhawk had arrived in the office this morning, then claimed that after ‘carrying out checks’ they found no issues with the resin or mould release agent. They said that what ‘appears to be the issue’ was that the ‘epoxy used to glue it together’ was a bad batch or not mixed properly, causing it to clump and for the paint not to want to adhere. He then went on to offer me a £100 gift voucher for my choice of Games Workshop or ForgeWorld, to help cover the costs of the materials used in the construction of the kit that was sent back to them.
At this point, it seemed like I was finally getting what I had been after all this time – a replacement kit, and some good will gesture to compensate me for the bits and materials that went into building and painting the model. Between that and the apologetic response I received from the first representative, I had finally received what I thought would be the minimum requirements for the company to ‘make this right’ – an apology, a replacement kit (or at least the promise of one) and a good will gesture to cover my wasted time and resources. Not wanting to push my luck until I had my replacement kit and virtual voucher in hand, I simply grit my teeth and said ‘Thank you, that’s very generous. I’ll take the ForgeWorld voucher.’
With that said, without wanting to sound too much like a conspiracy nut, this email was not sitting right with me. First of all, very little epoxy was actually used in the assembly of this kit. As I mentioned in Part One, I used JB Weld epoxy in only two locations – on the bottom end of the tab that strengthens the front and rear fuselage connection, and around the pins holding on the very heavy resin wings on the model (to give it a little extra muscle). If the JB Weld was the cause of this issue, how would that explain the paint melting on completely separate pieces like the rear vent of the turbo laser housing? Nothing but superglue had been anywhere near those areas, the same stuff used throughout the rest of the construction with no issues.
Now, of course, I have the benefit of having had first hand experience building and painting the model and seeing the issues as they emerge – and admittedly, I was worried about this exact accusation coming up when I sent the model to ForgeWorld. I mentioned this earlier, but when the paint issues first emerged, my initial thought was that I had missed some mould release agent. When rubbing the paint off and cleaning up the area didn’t fix the issue, I even tried slicing off the surface of the resin on the problem areas – in some areas such as the bottom of the wings, I took as much as a full millimetre off of the surface of the resin to ensure that any contaminants would be removed – yet the resin still persisted to sweat. When this failed, I attempted to seal up some of the detail by ‘painting’ a layer of JB Weld over the surface in an attempt to seal it in with an epoxy exoskeleton, but the resin managed to sweat through this as well.
I had a feeling that this would cause some confusion for the team examining the model, but there are a couple of reasons why the claim that the epoxy was to blame still doesn’t hold water. Firstly, a quick look at the photographic evidence that I supplied should make it clear that something was wrong from the very beginning. Even if my epoxy was faulty, I have photographs of several locations where the paint is melting on the surface of the resin that is nowhere near anywhere that the epoxy was used during construction. In particular, the rear turbo laser exhaust is particularly damning – being a wholly separate piece from the rest of the model, attached with super glue and with sweating issues in places nowhere near where glue or epoxy would make contact. The second is that the sweating seems to persist throughout the resin, not just on the surface. All that was needed to thoroughly test the resin would be to cut the surface off of the turbo laser housing – remove the layers of paint and epoxy, heck, remove another millimetre of the surface of the resin itself. Then apply some primer over this now clean surface and watch as the issue resurfaces, proving that the resin was faulty. There would be the conclusive proof of the faulty resin, but either the ‘checks’ done have been no more than a cursory glance, or ForgeWorld are simply lying. It’s certainly convenient for them to blame the presence of epoxy here, given that this was what they wanted to place the blame on in the first instance.
So, if pretty much any amount of examination of the evidence – either the photographic kind from earlier in the process that I supplied or actual examination of the model that I returned – proves that the issue is in fact with the resin and not the JB Weld, why are ForgeWorld claiming to the contrary? Furthermore, if they genuinely do think that I’m responsible for the paint job failing in places, why are going ahead with the return – better yet, why are they now offering me a good will gesture of £100 in virtual vouchers? It seems like a bizarre thing to do if ForgeWorld are not themselves at fault, especially when they were being so stingy and claiming they couldn’t offer anything other than a replacement for a return before. The first representative even claimed to have spoken with their supervisor about this.
I don’t want to sound like a tinfoil hat here, but it seems to me that ForgeWorld have determined there is a fault with their product that I returned and – after this drawn out exchange – want to sweep it under the rug as quickly as possible, offering me vouchers while simultaneously telling me the fault lies with me. It would be pretty generous of them to give me a do-over AND a 20% rebate if it was me that mucked up a perfectly good model, right? Who would have a bad thing to say about ForgeWorld Customer Services then?
I dunno. The whole situation kind of stinks, and I’m not happy about how much I had to put my foot down to get something as simple as an apology, a replacement and a good will gesture for a company wasting my time, money and resources with a faulty product. Even when I finally received my replacement kit and a virtual voucher, I still had to bite my tongue as they attempt to gaslight me, telling me that I messed up a kit that was conclusively faulty. I’ve built and painted a lot of ForgeWorld models in my time – I know what works, what doesn’t and what to look out for – and the epoxy that I used in two internal locations was absolutely not to blame for the paint melting on completely unrelated locations.
At the end of all of this – over a month of lost work and a lot of stress later – here I am roughly back at where I started – with a brand new Thunderhawk kit to build and paint1. It’s going to be a lot of work, but.. hey, how many people get a trial run at a model like a Thunderhawk? It’s might be fun to compare how the two of them turned out.
Before I get into any of that, however, I need a bit of a palette cleanser. This project has already consumed over a month of my spare time, so I think I need something a little less all-consuming before I start from scratch again. Maybe it’s time I finish the retinue for Witch Hunter Tyrus.
Until then, thanks for reading and happy wargaming!
1 Albeit without a set of Space Wolves Land Raider doors and no means to buy another legitimate set for anything shy of £80. That still stings – I’d been holding onto those particular doors ‘for my future Thunderhawk’ for a good couple of years.