Friday, September 21, 2018

Tunnie's Terrain

A shout out now on behalf of my old friend Stephen Tunmore, of Tunnie's Terrain. This guy has taken on the mantle of the late Ian Weekley where it comes to producing superb wargames terrain set in multiple areas of conflict. I've had the pleasure of gaming over his scenery several times. An example of his work, taken from the North African battle of Bir Hacheim is shown below.

French Foreign Legion troops prepare to defend the settlement against the Axis forces.
If you're in the market for excellent terrain at reasonable prices, pay Stephen a visit here

With luck and a following wind we'll be heading over to England for a visit to family and friends in a few week's time. Stephen's promised to roll out the battlefield shown above at our club in New Buckenham, Norfolk for a game.
* * * *
In other news, I've almost finished the Early Saxon Geoguth (Warriors) warband for Dux B. It's been quite a while since I slapped some pigment on wargames figures, but it didn't take me too long to get back into the swing of things. Splintered Light make excellent 15mm figures and it's a pleasure to paint them up. This batch have just gone through the indignity of being dipped in the varnish/ink mix. All I need do now is let them dry, apply the matte varnish, then base them up. Photos to follow sometime this weekend.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

All wips* together

A peaceful Sunday morning was spent cleaning up the Saxon Dux B force and intermittently frowning at the 1/2400 Majestic class battleships.

Splintered Light Miniatures produce lovely clean, crisp castings so I had very little flash to remove. Once done I popped them in hot water with a few drops of detergent and vinegar to clean off my sticky fingerprints and any casting powder residue.

I'm frowning at the ship models because during the week the dark grey undercoat dried enough - at last - for me to give them a top coat of light grey. Now I have the same problem with the top coat of paint failing to dry completely even though it's been three days since I sprayed them. We are having a spell of humid weather again, so I suppose I'll have to wait another day or so for the stuff to dry. A bit frustrating, but I'll manage.

The time has come, the Walrus said, to speak of many things, of Saxons, Ships and Painting Blocks, and trash-filled worktop scenes.

*Writer-speak for works in progress. Exciting, eh?

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Battleship Row & Saxon Shinies

Construction of the Majestic-class battleships is finished, and I got a primer coat on them using Rustoleum grey. The weather has turned cooler and damper, so although I sprayed the models a couple of days ago the paint is still wet in parts. All very annoying. Still, they look okay.

They took a bit of cleaning up beforehand. Although the silicone works as a molding material, it starts to degrade after about the fifth casting, so I'm going to limit all future casts to that number of ships or fewer.

Much rejoicing followed when the early Saxons marched in this afternoon. I ordered the starter army plus a pack of Romano-British archers from Splintered Light Miniatures. They were mailed yesterday afternoon and arrived within 24 hours. Excellent work by the USPS!

I ordered a batch of archers, as reinforcements can reach the warlords or be hired by them over the course of a Dux B campaign, and archers/skirmishers are first on the table of extras in the rules.

So, I'm going to be busy for the next week or so painting Dux B figures as well as working up opposing forces for the pre-Dreadnought games. It's one of those times when projects seem to take ages to come together then everything happens at once. Them's the breaks...

Friday, September 7, 2018

Casting call

So, the silicone molds work after a fashion. I'm now able to turn out a number of vessels quite quickly. The castings are rough but I can work with them, cleaning up the rough areas, adding the main armament and building fire control towers and masts. Here's a photo of the results so far.

To the left is a trio of Apollo class protected/light cruisers, to the right a trio of Majestic class battleships. The Cressy class armoured cruiser mold... failed. I won't show the resulting cast - it's too hideous for sensitive souls to look upon, but I can cannibalise the bows part of it to make a sinking ship. I'll repair the master model, take a new mold from it, and see how it goes. I'd like to have at least four of these ships. The prototypes had interesting and all too frequently tragic careers.

My aim is to produce eight to twelve battleships for the Royal Navy, which will make two or three divisions of four ships each. There were nine Majestic class ships, but I think I'll make eight and the rest will be another class. I may stick at four Apollo class cruisers since these were dispersed all over the world and seldom operated together in great numbers.

The German navy built three five-ship classes of battleships - the Braunschweig, Kaiser Frederich III and the Wittelsbach classes, so I have a choice of making ten or fifteen battleships total. Fifteen ships might be a better match up for the two sides in a fleet action, since for some reason the pre-Dreadnought German navy stuck to guns of around 24cm calibre when other navies were increasing the size of their main armament to 12" or greater.

I'm still debating a campaign set up. The German navy wasn't large or powerful enough to challenge the Royal Navy of this era head-on, but a guerre de course campaign is a good prospect. Much like the Bismarck, Scharnhorst and Gneisenau of a later era the German navy faces the challenge of breaking out of the North Sea so it can launch attacks on Britain's huge mercantile fleet. The Royal Navy, of course, aims to stop them doing just that...

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

A qualified success

So, the mold came out okay after a fashion. It needed some tidying up and patching because the silicone is getting rather old. At this stage it's thickening and doesn't flow too easily into crevices. The master model also broke apart on extraction, but I expected it to happen and if necessary I can repair it.

Still and all, I got a result.

Majestic master model in the mold.

The shattered wreckage of the master model lies beyond a pristine (?) new mold.
It doesn't look like much, but believe me it's a good result. Once the patching has dried overnight I'll clean it up a bit more then try pouring some resin.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Making a battleship mold

The long Labor Day weekend gave me the chance to work on the next step of the nascent fleet -  creating a silicone mold. The Majestic master model is the first - and so far the only one - to go through the process. A technical hitch in the shape of a broken glue gun prevented me from doing the others.

Still, here's what I have so far...

To start with I coated the master model in diluted PVA to seal the wood and close off any tiny gaps and cracks between the layers. Since PVA this thin is near colourless when it dries, I put a drop of paint in it to show where I'd covered or missed bits.

Silicone caulking is viscous stuff, especially as it gets older. I advise using disposable gloves when handling it as it will stick to everything that isn't wet. Water will stop the setting process so keep the work area free of anything wet while working with the stuff, and wait until any paint/glue/whatever is dried on the master model before using the silicone.

Once dried, I glued the model to a rectangle of foam core. The sides and ends are cut out to enclose the model with about a quarter inch to spare all round.

To make sure all the undercuts and overhangs are filled I worked the silicone into them using a coffee stirrer. It's kind of like applying fondant or icing to a cake.

I then assembled the coffer around it using a hot glue gun. Quick and easy.

Majestic nestling within its box, awaiting the rest of the silicone. A host of destroyers lurk in the background.
Not long after I took this photo the brand-new glue gun decided to break under the moderate strain imposed by doing its job, so it's back to the store with it. The good part about the process is fresh silicone will happily stick to itself even when the first layer is dry, so I can pick up where I left off without problems.

Friday, August 31, 2018

From the Shipyard

It's been a busy week, full of ups and downs, skulduggery and shenanigans, but it's about time for a progress report on the 1/2400 pre-Dreadnoughts. This is a cheap and cheerful project and very much a homespun effort. Since I'm going to cast these I chose ships that had at least four vessels in their class. Here's the result so far. These are all Royal Navy vessels.

Front to rear ~ Majestic class battleship, Cressy class armoured cruiser, Apollo class protected/light cruiser, and a couple of generic destroyers. The latter are awaiting their funnels. In this scale the destroyer of the day is barely there so I painted this pair black to stand out. All detail on them will be limited. Since I intend to mold these models I've left off the main guns, masts and fire directors on the battleship and cruisers.

Next on the list will be their future opponents of the Kaiserliche Marine.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Moldable Majestic

A little more progress today on the Majestic class battleship in 1/2400 scale.

The process of making these ship models has been described as the 'sandwich method,' but I think it's more like a making layer cake, with each level built up to form the whole. Like any model this size it's not what to include that matters, but what to leave out. Some prototypical details are so small they won't be noticed or are near impossible to scratch build.

So far I have the hull, the two teardrop-shape main turrets and most of the upper works done. I've yet to work out how to represent the 6-inch secondary armament casements which took the form of hemispherical bulges along the top of the hull. I'll probably use Miliput to sculpt these. Part of the aft upperwork has also been left out since on the prototype the mizzen mast passed through it and the masts will have to be fitted separately in any case. I've also left out the main armament since these will be too thin to cast in resin. Instead I'll fit them later using cut-down pins or wire.

I'm going to use a method of making a mold from silicone caulking, which works out cheaper for a small scale limited-run project like this than OOMOO 30 or similar. I've avoided making too many deep undercuts on the model, although silicone caulking is surprisingly good at rendering these.

One of the most noticeable variations between this ship and others like her lies in the funnel arrangement. Majestic and her sisters had two funnels mounted side by side. Sometimes the arrangement was slightly different from ship to ship. Quite often as new and improved boiler systems came into being ships were refitted to mount a tandem pair. The Majestic's near twin Mikasa was one such. For this reason I've not modelled the funnels, leaving the basic form to give maximum scope for this kind of variation. The same goes for the ship's boats, which had a variety of positions.

Next up will be a Cressy class Armoured Cruiser.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

A Touch of the pre-Dreadnoughts.

A nice order of Early Saxons went off to Splintered Light Miniatures this morning. While I'm waiting for them to arrive I have another couple of projects in mind. One is to build a small late Roman villa for the Saxons to raid. The other is to make a batch of pre-Dreadnoughts in 1/2400.

Jim Jackaman over at Jim's Wargames Workbench has a series of Victorian Ironclad games and campaign ideas featuring the Franco-Prussian naval war between French and Prussian fleets, and a hypothetical encounter between Britain and France in the 1870s. Jim's entertaining accounts reignited my own interest in naval gaming, especially the pre-Dreadnought era.

Naval gaming lends itself to scratch-building quite nicely, so I thought I'd have a go at making a few pre-Dreadnoughts. The beginnings of a Majestic class battleship is shown below. I'm going with 1/2400 scale since it's compact enough for ships of this era to fight an action on the tabletop.

'We want you...' The appropriate chorus from Village People's In the Navy.
Basically, in the finest tradition of naval scratch-building it's a couple of lengths of flat bass wood glued together and sanded to shape. The join between them was concealed by wood filler then sanded again. The Majestic class had both 12-inch gun turrets on the same deck which makes things easier to build. Because the class was extensive in number I'm thinking of taking a mold from the basic shape and casting them in resin. That will make the models more consistent in size and shape, and allow for modelling the slight variations that happens between ships of the same class.

Nine of these battleships were built for the Royal Navy. They served in the Channel Squadron (precursor to the Channel Fleet) as well as the Mediterranean Fleet. During WW1 in many ways they had a more 'interesting' war than their successors, serving as bombardment ships in the Dardanelles as well as protecting cross-Channel troop convoys and the British coast from German raids. They were widely copied by foreign navies, including the Japanese Shikishima class and the battleship Mikasa, which served as Admiral Togo's flagship throughout the Russo-Japanese War.

For opponents I'm going with the Reichsmarine, that darling of Kaiser Wilhelm II who built it to challenge his grandmother's Royal Navy. There's scope for conflict between the two, beginning in January 1896 with the Kruger Telegram incident, and following from that German interference in the Boer War, then the Moroccan Crisis of 1905 which nearly started a war with Britain and France.

For rules I'm going to try the Quickfire set of fast play rules from War Times Journal. They look like they'll lend themselves to solo play.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Rumours of Saxons

This past weekend turned into a bugger's muddle, what with one thing and another. Still, with luck and a following wind I'm going to place an order with Splintered Light Miniatures for their 15mm Early Saxon Dux Britanniarum force within the next few weeks. Then I'll finally have some opposition for the Romano-British who've kicked their heels for all this time.

Now I'll need to make trees, a lot of trees...


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