Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Earl of Essex's Lifeguard pikes.

What it says on the tin. I painted these pikemen on and off during the week, and they're now based and ready for action.

Of course they lack the 'sleeves' of musketeers that form up on either flank, but they'll serve for now. It illustrates the problem of buying multiple figures in packs - there are always figures left over after the units have been assembled. I get around this to some extent by varying the number of figures in a regiment. It gives the randomness found in unit strengths of the period where recruitment was inadequate, and losses through battle or, more often, sickness had accumulated.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Lazy Sunday

A thoroughly disturbed night means I'm feeling too out of it to do much today, although I'd hoped to run a solo ECW game featuring my new Autumn coloured woods. Instead I dug out a batch of Pendraken Miniatures 10mm armoured pikemen left over from the previous painting session and set them up on the painting block.

These chaps will form the pike companies of the Earl of Essex's lifeguard. I don't have enough musketeers to form the requisite 'sleeves' of shot at the moment, but should be able to get them when I place another order in a month or two, all being well. In any case, once painted these chaps will go to reinforce the Parliamentarian army of General Temperance and Prudence Knott, stalwart champion of Puritan values against the dastardly Royalists under Sir George Mountebank.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Teasel Trees - Finished

'tis Labor Day here in the USA, and I'm staying out of the sun after suffering rather nasty sunburn on Friday. Instead of gardening I spent time putting the finishing touches to the teasel trees I've had under construction for a week or so.

Expanding foam is extremely sticky. I used it to bulk out the teasels and provide good adhesion for the flock. As an experiment I also used it on the bases to see if it would work there too, and it came out better than I hoped.

I flattened the foam down on the bases with a wooden splint and spread it around a bit before it began to harden. The foam still expanded after I shook flock on it, and provided an unexpected benefit when some parts began to swell up and look like rounded boulders. Once all was dried/set I painted the bases, and the final results are shown below.

Overall I'm quite pleased with them. I still have another nine large trees to complete, along with fourteen smaller versions which I may make into orchards.

Once everything is done I'll trot out the ECW armies of those perpetual foes, Sir George Mountebank (Royalist) and Temperance-and-Prudence Knott (Parliament) for an Autumn encounter action. Watch this space...

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Teasel trees - Experiments in Colour and Shade

A little more progress on the trees. I opted to use craft paint in the end as they give much more variety in colours and shading than spray paint. They also don't stink up the place, which is important since I have family members who are allergic to the propellants used in spray cans.

I used a variety of acrylic paint and mixed acrylic ink into some of them. A few times I wasn't too fussy about thoroughly washing the brush, so there would be some bleed-over of the previous colour into the foliage to give an extra shading effect.

The flock absorbed a certain amount of the first coats of paint, rendering them darker, but the next stage will be to wet-brush lighter shades on them to bring out the vibrant Autumn colours. The trunks and bases will be the last step.

I'm quite pleased with the overall effect, although the Woodland Scenics foam-covered versions aren't as good as I'd like. I'm going to try out a bit of acrylic inking to see if I can jazz them up.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Thistle trees - getting there

A bit more progress with the trees today. Several squirts of expanding foam and half an hour with the hot glue gun later...

The next stage will be to give them a squirt or two with light green, red and yellow spray paint and do the ground work on the bases.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Tree trials

Experiments with ways to create the teasel trees continue. The last time I made a batch of trees I had problems with finding a good strong adhesive to keep the flock stuck to the teasel. Spray adhesive was used, PVA was painted on, the things were even dunked in household latex paint, all to variable results. Mulling over the problem I decided to try expanding foam.
This stuff is for interior decorating and is used to fill cracks and gaps. Squirted into the crevice or cavity it expands to fill it within a few minutes. It is extremely sticky, sets quickly and reasonably hard. Note: Water kills the chemical reaction that causes the expansion, so keep the area dry when using this. I had bought a can to fill some gaps in our attic insulation, and tried it out on a teasel.

Squirting the stuff in lines up and down the teasel, I immediately rolled it on a flat dry surface until the spikes were entirely covered then rolled it again through dried tealeaves for the foliage. It was then left to one side to set. The results are not bad.

The foam filled the spaces between the spikes and hardened, rendering them less prickly. Once they're based and given a dose of yellow and red spray paint they'll look a treat.

Another experiment I'm trying is with the Woodland Scenics colored foam. I bought a pack of their Early Fall product years ago with this kind of project in mind. It survived years in storage and a house-move and I'm only now using it.

A note: If using teasels, bang the things repeatedly on a flat surface covered with newspaper or into an old Styrofoam tray like I did to get the seeds out. Do this for a few minutes, turning the teasel all the times. Do you think you have all the seeds out? Yes? Wrong. Do it again for another few minutes. Now do you think all the seeds are out? Yes? Wrong. Do it again. Okay, now the teasel's probably empty. Yes, there are that many seeds in the average thistle head.

If this stage is skipped, the seeds can germinate, resulting in odd, pale tendrils appearing out of your pristine model tree. This kind of thing might work well for games with a horror theme, but I'm not doing those...

The foam comes in a sheet form, is rather crumbly, but works when wrapped around a teasel. I applied PVA glue to the ends of the spikes and this should hold it all on without trouble.

The result looks... rather blah to be honest, but I think a judicious touch of a craft knife and red and yellow ink in places will spruce it up (pun not intended). More on the project later.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Of Books & Thistles

If I can beg the indulgence of the wargame blogging world for a few moments, I'm pleased to announce Olivia's Escape, the first of a series of YA novels co-authored by my Better Half and I is now available at Amazon.

Cool steampunk cover by the excellent Gwen Pfifer.

Olivia's Escape.

Seventeen-year-old Olivia Brown is abducted on her way home from a night out and wakes up to find herself imprisoned by a vampiric race in a dark city bathed in eternal night. Hernando, a handsome half-human slave, reveals what is intended for her – they want her blood for the upcoming festival. Together they escape, and find friends and allies in unexpected places.

Joining a resistance cell, they help plot a revolution and fall in love. Their group plans to take control of the Portal, a teleportation device that links Earth with the world of BloodDark. Getting into the City of Night is a challenge. A narrow window of opportunity opens - but what awaits them in the caverns located deep beneath the city?

Will Olivia and Hernando survive the battle? If she returns to Earth, will Olivia ever see him again?

* * * *

On to gaming...

Some time ago I planted thistles in our back garden. They have a triple advantage. The florets attract pollenating insects, the dried and chopped-up canes serve as refuges for useful insects to hibernate in over winter - and the teasels form the basis for N-scale trees. Good for a gamer on a budget.

I made a number of these in the past two years after harvesting the teasels, all in full summer leaf versions. Now this years' harvest is in and dried, I plan to make a new batch of trees in Autumn colours.

Dry teasels - some forty-odd, enough for a good size wood.

The seeds have to be shaken out. This can take some time as each teasel hold zillions of the buggers. Once emptied, I'll trim them down and put them on bases.

The general effect. A 10mm Parliamentarian cavalry troop shows the scale of the thing.

The photo above shows the kind of thing I'm aiming for, but picture it in the glorious colours of Fall. More photos as I make progress...

Monday, August 22, 2016

"Goodbye, my love, hello, Vietnam..."

My wife and I took a day trip over to Fort Jennings, Ohio this Sunday. The town is celebrating a bicentenary this year, and held 'Fort Fest' military display in a local park. The main theme was the Vietnam War, and a few veterans both human and mechanical showed up for the three day event.

First up we encountered a classic Jeep with a 75mm Pack Howitzer in tow.

Interesting enough, but my eye was immediately drawn to the Huey resting on the grass a short distance away.

The classic workhorse of the Vietnam War, the UH-1 served in many versions and variants, and is still flying today. This particular bird comes from the American Huey 369 Museum in Peru, Indiana. She began life as a UH-1D, serving as a medevac during the war. She had an eventful career, including having her skids shot off during one encounter with Charlie. One of the veterans told me a clever method was deployed to enable choppers suffering such damage to land safely - a deep and level stack of sandbags. The bird flopped down on the bags, the remains of the skids poked deep into the stack and the bird stayed upright, no problem.

She was later converted to a UH-1H model with the simple addition of a few pieces of equipment, went on to serve in the National Guard (Maine, I believe) before being retired then acquired by the preservation group. She's now in far better maintenance condition than at any time during the war.

One of her sisters gave air trips around the locality, taking off from the football field next door.

Coming up to speed...

A slight backward movement to gather momentum...
...then Whooosh! She was gone!
The classic whop-whop-whop sound of those big old blades biting the air filled the sky. The veteran told me it was quite something to hear forty or so Hueys spooling up for a mission. He also described the difficulties in cutting a landing place in thick jungle, the Huey having to slide down a virtual tube cut out of jungle growth with scant inches to spare - then repeat the process going back up. The ground effect works up to 20-30 feet, after that the chopper is riding on 'dead air,' reliant upon the power of its engine alone to take it up.

A couple more shots of the Huey on the ground, including that tiny cockpit.

Another Jeep, this one bearing the legend Wicklow. An Irish connection, perhaps?

Last up was a Sherman Easy Eight painted as General Creighton Abrams personal tank, Thunderbolt, which he used during WW2. This particular vehicle was one of 2,000 Shermans built at a plant in nearby Lima, Ohio.

The town also played host to the travelling version of the Vietnam Memorial Wall. Over fifty thousand names bear witness to the cost of that war. I managed to take a photo of the memorial just as the Huey flew over. Some of the men and perhaps women named on the Wall may well have flown on that very helicopter...

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Gunboat - Finished!

Yes, after several weeks the gunboat has finally rolled down the slipway into African waters.

I applied an overall wash of sepia and black ink to weather her, then followed it up with a rough strip of darker green ink around the waterline to represent times when the gunboat pushes through more stagnant waters. The ink I diluted with water and Future polish for durability.

Once the wash had dried it did appear a bit too dark, but on the other hand these were the days before pollution control and smokeless coal. I'm sure the average Victorian-era steamboat looked a lot dirtier!

So here she is, a hard-working and hopefully hard-fighting vessel of the Scotch class, the epitome of Victorian engineering and Colonial Might.

Now I need to work out some rules for gaming with her...

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Gunboat - Final touches

Another wet afternoon, and I took the opportunity to put the final touches to the gunboat.

At the moment she looks a bit too clean, so I might well weather her down with ink washes. The only thing to add now is a mounting tube for a flagpole on the rear deck so the nationality can be swapped with ease, and perhaps a pennant or two from the halyards.

During construction I idly mused on appropriate names for her. The Natural Environment Research Council's search for a name for their new survey ship generated a farce when Boaty McBoatface came out top of the online poll. It has subsequently been named RRS Sir David Attenborough, and quite right too!

I really didn't want to think in terms of Gunboaty McGunboatface, but that 'Mc' part of the name sprang an idea. Why not name the class for Highland Single Malt whisky? Although I'm no drinker, it's hard not to like names such as Dalwhinnie, Deanston, and Edradour, for instance. Perhaps the chap in charge of such things at the Admiralty has a 'whisky throat?'

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