Sunday, March 19, 2017

A load of old cobble...stones.

(Stirring music begins playing softly beneath voice-over) After a blitzkrieg of tidying, the house is now unnervingly clean and clear of clutter, ready for viewing by potential buyers. (Music rises) Only a lone outpost of clutter remains, resisting the oncoming tide of cleanliness (Music rises toward a crescendo), its lone occupant fighting to keep the hordes of neatness at bay. And that isolated outpost, that solitary fortress of clutter is - my work table! (Music ends on a crashing, discordant note followed by a duck call).

Yes, with all the stresses and strains of selling a house I have to lapse into a bit of Pythonesque silliness sometimes or I'll go Doolally-tap.


Some modeling is still going on here in limbo. I decided to make as many master models for molding purposes as I could, since OOMOO30 has something of a limited shelf-life once opened. The next little project is a batch of cobblestone pieces for gaming and making bookends.

Someone on the Hirst Arts Facebook page suggested the use of a type of scrapbooking material for making cobblestone surfaces. The photos of the results impressed me so I sought it out for myself - and came up dry. My local branch of Hobby Lobby didn't have the thin pressed foam material (called Champagne Bubbles if anyone's interested). What they did have was a hinged plastic thingy by a company called The Paper Studio. It has a lot of dimples on one side with matching studs on the other. I gather this particular whatsit is used by scrapbookers to make embossed paper. A sheet of paper is placed between the two leaves and the whole thing fed into a device like a small old-fashioned mangle/clothes wringer.

I saw it would work equally well for making cobblestone-like impressions in Sculpey so I bought one. Once on the workbench, I rolled out a blob of Sculpey onto the dimpled plastic using two pencils to guide the roller and keep the thickness constant - in this case a smidge over a quarter-inch thick. Once rolled flat enough, the Sculpey picked up the impressions and I cut it to 2 inch and 1 1/2 inch squares. These were then baked as usual.

The results of the first pressing, baked and ready for painting.
These should take molding pretty well. The 2-inch squares will be used for roads and the display area of bookends (I have a Penny Dreadful/Ripper Street theme in mind for these. Just need to make a couple of old-fashioned gas lamps). The 1 1/2 inch square has a half-inch wide by quarter inch thick part which will take Hirst Arts blocks for walls and such. These will serve for dungeon set-ups as well as wargaming. There's a slight step which will make the join stronger once glued.

I'll dig the paints out again and experiment with a few colour schemes just to see how they turn out. Painted or not, it won't affect the silicone. 

Monday, March 6, 2017

Movement trays take 2 - 3

Packing up stuff for a house move is a chore and a half, but my wife and I are making progress and we'll begin looking at properties in earnest this week. I had a bit of spare time over the weekend so I worked on the molds for the Dux B movement trays and other items.

First off, for the base I used an off-cut of half-inch foamcore since this is nice and flat and rigid enough for the job. For the sake of experimentation I decided to make three molds in one fell swoop, as it might work out easier when pouring the silicone. The new mold box is on the left; each of the bays will hold different master models to be molded. The one on the right is a mold I made earlier which will be for a new type of bookends base.

One thing mold makers learn quickly - make sure the mold box is watertight. Silicone molding material is a tricky bugger and it will find the smallest gap to flow through, resulting in a gods-awful mess and a lot of pointed words from the Better Half if you get it on the carpet. Be told.

I used a hot glue gun to fix the partitions in place and to seal the ends and edges. It looked like it had done a reasonable job in sealing the boxes, but did I think it had done the trick? No. (See above comment re. silicone). I smeared a good dollop of Liquid Nails over every join and edge. Once it's dry I'll apply a good coating of Pledge polish around these as well as the master models. Do I think it'll seal everything? Possibly...

Next I glued down the objects I want to take molds from in the bays.

L-R these are: - #1 Five Zanzibar slaver casualties (which have been hanging around for well over a year waiting for me to remember to buy the OOMOO30 silicone): #2 The Dux Britanniarum movement tray, now nice and flat and showing none of the warping silliness of the earlier version: #3 Some scratch-made Hirst Arts compatible doors, diamond-paned window, and a pair of recumbent statues. The two black strips are rubber pieces I found in a parking lot. I think they had come off a car or bike. I like the chevron pattern and thought it would make good decorative columns and trim. Because silicone rubber sticks extremely well to silicone rubber I'll coat these in a layer of melted Vaseline. Everything else is made of Sculpey - useful stuff.

So, that's the lot so far. We'll be busy this next week, but hopefully I'll find some time to pour the silicone and see what happens. Watch this space...

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Movement trays take 2 - 2

I've not done much in the hobby lately. Work has been busy, plus our house is now on the market and I'm going to have to start packing stuff away ready to move out. Deep joy - not. Even so, I've made a little more progress with the movement tray for my Dux B. figures.

I've glued a layer of the trusty pizza box corrugated card on the bottom to bring up the depth, and smoothed out the edges and the insides of the cups with liquid nails. The next step will be to glue it down to a base and enclose it with foam core to make a silicone master mold from. The weather has warmed up to a remarkable degree so I shouldn't have any problems with the silicone.

Although nearly everything is going to be packed away, I'm going to keep going on this and a couple of other molding projects as-and-when. Who knows, I might clear my worktable enough to get a game in now and then.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Back to the drawing board - Movement trays, take 2.

Yeah, well, that didn't work...

My first attempt at making movement trays for my Dux Britanniarum figures didn't set my modelling world alight. The things warped and split all over the shop, so - back to the drawing board.

I decided to make a master of the tray using Sculpey then take a mold from it so I can then cast as many as I need out of resin. Now the weather's warming up it's possible for me to use OOMOO 30 RTV silicone molding material to make molds again.

First up, I made a flattened lump of Sculpey about 1/8th on an inch thick. A eighth of an inch is about as thin as it's practical to get for working with resin. I scalloped and smoothed-down the edges of the Sculpey to make it look irregular, then marked out where the recesses for the figures will go using a 1 cent coin. The six-figure base is standard for Dux B. I made the circles slightly irregular to reflect the relaxed formation-keeping discipline found even in elite troops of this period.

The Romano-British militia wait impatiently for their bases to be ready.
Once that was done I cut out discs of Sculpey to make the recesses. The stuff is spread on card, which won't be affected by the heat when it goes in the oven.

A militiaman tries the base for size.

Once it's baked I'll be able to make a mold from it. They'll get card bases and be finished off with flock and such to make them a bit different from each other. I'll need three such bases for the Romano-British Militia, two for the Warriors, and one for the Elite. When I get the Saxons, I'll make the necessary bases for them too.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Movement trays - 1

Moving 15mm figures en-masse can be a bit of a chore, so I decided to make a few movement trays for my Dux Britanniarum figures. These will be for the levy.

The basics are simple enough - a sandwich of liquid nails adhesive between two layers of stiff card, followed by more liquid nails on the top to create the shallow pits in which the figure bases fit.

First up, I marked out the circular areas where the figures will go by using a one cent piece. The bases are slightly smaller than the penny so I'll have a little space to play with. These movement bases are for the levy, which I assume will lack the ordered discipline of regular troops, so I made the placement of the circles a bit irregular to reflect their more relaxed formation.

Next, I smeared liquid nails around the circular marks without being too fussy about overspill. The main idea is to create areas in which the figures will sit and not slide off easily. 

I followed this up with a good dose of fine sand. The adhesive is nice and sticky so it retains a grip on the sand, and it sets hard without undue warping. 

The adhesive takes a few hours to set, but since I'm not in any hurry this isn't a problem. Once it's all dry/set, I'll paint it and apply a bit of dried tea in patches to represent rough foliage.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Dux Britanniarum Romano-British levy almost there

Progress with the new figures has been slow and intermittent these past couple of weeks, but I've almost finished the Romano-British levy. It's been a while since I painted anything over 10mm in size and it took a bit of practice to get back into the swing of things. My eyesight isn't what it used to be and my brushes are looking their age too. Even so, I think I've achieved a reasonable result.

I didn't bother with fancy decoration since these are your workaday folks called forth from field and workshop to defend their land against the Saxon invaders. When I get to the more prosperous men of the Teulu and Combrogi then I'll attempt more decorative clothing - eyesight permitting.

The shields are next on the to-do list. At the moment I'm thinking of ordering the decals made for the purpose by Little Big Men Studios. They'll save a lot of eye-strain. The backs of the shields will be a basic brown. One trick I found is to stick the shields to a strip of masking tape, as it'll hold them in place whilst they're painted. After that, the Combrogi will take their turn on the painting block.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Romano-British - Painting under way

Work has kept me busy these last few days but I managed to make at least a start on the Dark Age Romano-British for Dux Britanniarum.

These chaps are levy and Combrogi who would wear a lot of civilian clothing of various hues from natural dyes. Thanks to my archaeologist stepdaughter and her specialist knowledge of Dark Age fabrics and dying methods I know what colours to paint them. I gave them an undercoat of Vallejo British Army khaki - which seems appropriate - as this will make the best base colour. As usual I painted the flesh areas next. I'm not 100% sure how I'll base the figures, but I'm leaning toward using movement trays to reduce the wear and tear from handling.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Dux Britanniarum - Romano-British

My order from Splintered Light Miniatures arrived yesterday, and very nice figures they are too. They have lovely proportions and minimal flash, and come with separate shields. I now have the Romano-British starter army along with some Dark Ages civilians to populate the village.

The photo shows the new shinies. Top-centre is the command element of Nobles and champions, along with a priest, standard bearer, musician and a nice mounted figure. Below them are the six Comanipulares (elite troops), next the four archers, then the bulk of the force which consists of the eighteen levy. Top left is a pile of shields and an odd figure (far left) who appears to be a Saracen (?). Below them are the dozen civilians, including a nice village blacksmith. Below them at bottom-left are the dozen Milites/Combrogi, who make up the standard warriors of the force.

The next job will be to trim off what little flash there is and give them a good soak to remove any molding powder. A friend of mine swears by soaking figures in methylated spirits but I think I'll stick to ordinary detergent.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Dark Ages animal pen - finished

The animal pen moves on to completion...

The liquid nails has a tight grip on the plastic strip, and the sand scatter is firm. I used dark chocolate brown Rustoleum for the undercoat. It's intended for metal but works nicely with this kind of flexible plastic.

The drying process took longer than the stipulated 24 hours before the smelly volatiles had evaporated and it became touch-dry, such is the cold and damp here this weekend. In fact it's still a little bit whiffy. Once it dried, I applied the first dry brush of buff acrylic, keeping the brush almost parallel to the fence.

The dry brush picked up the weave pattern beautifully. Technically it's bigger than the size wattle-weave would be for this scale, but I'm not choosy, and it does give a good impression from a distance. Also due to the scale, I don't think the vertical posts in the weave would show, so I omitted them rather than mess up my aging eyes in trying to represent them.

Once the buff had dried I went over it again with antique white, applying it sparingly.

The first coat of grass green came next... 

...then a dry-brush of apple green on top.

I left the centre of the pen dark glossy brown like wet mud, since the ground within the enclosure would be gouged-up and trodden down by animal snouts and feet. There wouldn't be a scrap of vegetation left uneaten. A few smudges of buff to give a texture like drying mud to the ground and that's it - finished and ready for livestock.

Splintered Light make suitable pigs and rams in this scale, but I'm wondering if HO-scale railway animals would suit as well for a cheaper price. Dark Age cattle in particular would have been akin to the modern Highland breed, and those are available for railway modellers. Something to research...

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Dark Ages animal pen

So, having made the basics of a Dark Ages British farm, I need to add some details. First up is a pen for livestock, that staple of both diet and mobile currency of the period. I'll go with a circular form, which appears to have been a common configuration as backed up by archaeological excavations. Stone pens were used where fieldstone was available, and the remains of some of these are still in existence in places like Dartmoor and remote parts of the Yorkshire Dales. I'm going with wattle fencing, since this appears to have been the commonest type.

To begin with I took a battered old CD, and sandwiched it between two discs of card.

The bottom disc is a tad wider than the CD to give a chamfered edge. I covered the edge with PVA and sprinkled sand over it to hide the shiny CD and provide a keyed grip for the liquid nails when I come to it.

The fence itself is made from a strip of plastic packing tape. It has a wattled appearance which, with a bit of paint, dry-brushing and ink will look pretty much like wattling. This material is quite hard to cut widthwise, but is easy to cut lengthwise. It goes with its purpose, really, but it's convenient for me because I needed to cut it to a realistic scale height - enough for a 15mm Dark Age British farmer to look over the top of to check his animals haven't been stolen by a Saxon raider. It also serves for short lengths of general purpose fencing around the farm. Under the Dux Britanniarum rules farms and villages should have at least two of the buildings connected by between 6 to 8 inches of fence.

I washed the strips to remove any and all traces of dirt and fingerprints from the passage through the parcel delivery system. Experience has taught me the material needs some help to take paint at the best of times and a clean surface does this. 

The plastic strip has a natural tendency to curl, so I used that to my advantage. First up, I smeared some liquid nails around the sides of the disc where the fence will go, leaving three gaps equidistant apart for the hot glue. The hot glue will fix the strip in place while the liquid nails dries, which may take some time in the generally damp weather we're having here in Ohio.

The strip is now fixed in place, with the liquid nails smeared again to cover its lower edge. It's slightly off-centre - too much coffee this morning made my coordination a bit off! - but no matter. Two lengths of matchstick form the gateposts. I used the hot glue gun and some strips of trusty pizza box to make short lengths of fencing for the farm/village.

(Those figures at the top-centre of the photo are master models awaiting warmer weather for me to make silicone molds of. Amongst the items are Arab slaver casualties for Colonial games, and a door, window, two recumbent statues and decorative strips for my Hirst Arts-related projects. And yes, I will get to the Doctor Who figures eventually).

Next up will be to spread some liquid nails in a smooth layer around the interior of the enclosure, and more around the outside which will be sprinkled with sand. I'll do the straight fencing the same way. Because the pen is somewhat raised above the table level, I'll build a downward ramp at the gate. Once all that is done and dried, it'll be on to the undercoat using enamel paint. Hopefully the rain will clear up in a day or so allowing me to take it outside to spray.


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