Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Monitor Oddity

Way back in the day I scratch-built a model of an American Civil War oddity - USS Ozark. A hybrid between the turreted Monitor-class ironclad and a conventional Mississippi steamboat, this odd duck was commissioned in 1864 and served in campaigns and actions along the Mississippi and Red Rivers.

Rather under-powered, Ozark often had to be taken in tow by other vessels when the river currents were stronger than her own engines could cope with. Even so, she packed a heck of a wallop. Her turret mounted two 11-inch Dahlgren guns, with a 10-inch Dahlgren aft chaser and three 9-inch Dahlgrens covering her beams. The turret itself sported six inches of armour plating, and more armour covered the first forty feet of her hull and the deck.

Ozark was sold after the end of the war, but she was still in service and based in New Orleans as late as 1874 when she took part in a police action against white supremacists. Her subsequent fate isn't known - which is where my alternate history idea comes in...

A European power wishing to expand operations in the Hidden Continent (my version of Darkest Africa) purchased the Ozark and refitted her for operations on the mighty rivers and lakes of that world. Such a 'ship of force' would be something to contend with, and would make even the mighty Royal Navy squint thoughtfully.

My original model is back in the UK, along with a lot of other gaming stuff I hope to retrieve some day. In the meantime I have the materials at hand to build a new version. When I have a bit of time I'll break out the hot glue gun and commence building it. Photos to follow when I do.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Putting the Table back in A J's Wargames table

So, with the exception of one more piece of hardware, the table's finished. I need another hook and eye combo to ensure the folding legs don't collapse while it's in use. It's one of those cases where I could've sworn I had two of the things but no...

The casters work a treat, but now I've got everything back together after our move, I can see how stained the surface is in places. It's a souvenir of water spilling from the plants we had over-wintering on the table at our previous house. I also miscalculated where the screws holding the leg mountings would go, which required a few touches of plastic wood to fill in the holes I drilled. The result's not pretty, so I'm thinking of applying a good coat of blue paint to the surface to hide the marks and make the table suitable for naval gaming, but I'm unsure how the paint would affect the particle board. Will it or won't it warp, in spite of the battening below? Inquiring minds would like to know...

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Table upgrade

It never rains but it pours. Drenching rain this weekend made any prospect of gardening a literal washout, so today I decided to make a start on fitting my gaming table with a set of folding legs. Being able to work in the dry comfort of the garage certainly helped.

I didn't manage to complete the project today - I discovered I don't have enough of the right particle board screws - but I made good progress. A couple of photos below show the general idea and how far I got. The pencilled rectangle in the top right corner of the board is a guide for where the screws will go to secure the blocks under the tabletop which will take the hinges. These are the type of screws I ran out of. Whoops...

The legs and the top of the table.
The legs are cut from a length of 8 feet by 2x4 wood. I sawed the wood into four lengths then drilled holes in the ends to take the casters, fitting standard door hinges to the other ends. To keep the legs square I braced them with cross bars. I intend to fit hooks to the upper bars to prevent the legs from folding when the table is in use, but I may add a removable strut to run between the bottom bars on both sets of legs to be sure they stay put.

I'll get the right screws sometime this coming week so I can finish the job. Photos of the finished table in all its glory will follow - then, with luck and a following wind, I might actually get some gaming in!

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Cart convoy

And so they're finished. A trio of carts ready for service with either the Romano-British or Saxon invaders.

The carts pass by a small settlement. The local priest emerges to bless them on their journey.
Following tradition an excited small boy runs alongside, with his mother yelling at him to be careful around those lumbering oxen.
They were a fun little project to work on, and it's satisfying to see them on the table at last, although I doubt the Fabled Perry Twins have much to fear from my sculpting skills. Next time I'll be scaling up a bit to 1:1 scale when I tackle the folding table project.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

And the cart project keeps rolling along...

By fits and starts, anyway. Work's been busy lately, plus I'm painting wooden latticework for a garden fence - which is a lot less exciting than it sounds. Still, I have made progress on the carts. The drivers are done and the bases are now underway.

Ieremius Clarksonius, Centurion Slowimus and Hamstericus wait impatiently for the course to be laid. No sign yet of Stigimus Maximus.

I did think of using plastic card for the bases, but James Wappel happened to be working on a road-making project which used wood filler. As he points out it doesn't shrink and can be worked easily. I have some wood filler handy so gave it a try using rectangles of basswood, and it works just fine.

I'm a bit further along than the photo above, but it's late and I'm pie-eyed from painting latticework, so I'll delay putting the anything more up until I have finished the lot.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Painted oxen

A bit more progress on the trio of carts. The oxen are all painted and dipped. I suspect my Pledge/Ink dip lost some of its potency in storage since these didn't turn out quite as glossy the way previous items did. Still, the satiny effect is in keeping with the real-life hides of these beasties, so I'll leave it at that. While I was working on them a paint bottle tipped and rolled down my easel, knocking off a horn on one of the oxen during its rampage, but missing and broken horns are also a feature of these hard-working animals so I'll leave it as a bit of character.

Lugubrius stares dolefully at the missing horn on the nearest ox and wonders if it's covered by insurance.
The yokes are attached to the draft poles. I've roughly followed a pattern found in archaeological digs which revealed a basic bar shape chamfered at the ends. Two loops pass under the bar and around the animals' necks.
I'll probably use thin 'tea bag' string for these loops.
Two more drivers are ready and undercoated. They're swaddled up in cloaks and hairy breeks, ready for a day's jaunt across the Roman roads and ancient track-ways of Early Medieval England. They'll be next up for painting, and after that I'll hook up the oxen to the carts. I'm not sure what to base the trio on at the moment, but I'm leaning toward plastic card. We'll see.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Of Oxen, Carts, and a grumpy Driver

A thoroughly wet and miserable spell of weather means nothing can be done in our new garden, so I took the opportunity to work on the oxen for the Dux B carts.

The armatures, a heady blend of florists' wire and Miliput, worked well. I worked the Sculpey in and around the shapes then baked it as usual. I did have misgivings about the way the different materials would react together when heated up, but luckily only one small split appeared which will be easily fixed. The results look pretty good, I think. At least they look like oxen and not refugees from the Island of Doctor Moreau.

Cedric the Smith and Ferdinand the Bull eye each other during a tense stand-off over right of way. Lugubrius the Carter has nothing to say on the matter.
From all the pictures I've seen, oxen have bulky bodies with surprisingly skinny-looking legs. I'll trim these creatures down and refine the looks a bit before making the yokes and painting them all. One of the animals is a bit too big, more like Ferdinand the Bull, so I might have to make another for a more balanced draft team.

Since I had a bit of Miliput left over during the armature phase I fashioned a carter. He's the hunched and doleful figure aboard the cart in the foreground. Silly me, I forgot how sticky Miliput is and forgot to separate him from the cart. Now he's stuck fast it'll be difficult to pry him loose without damaging the cart, so there he'll stay whilst I try to paint him. I'll make another pair of carters whilst I have the Sculpey out since I find it an easier material to work. More to follow if we don't get flooded out...

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Armature dramatics

A spell of building 1:1 scale scenery in the shape of a privacy fence (beginnings of) and laying out raised vegetable beds (ditto) in our new garden today gave way to something smaller in the shape of the continuing Dux B cart project. It took about this long for the Rustoleum undercoat to dry completely. Thankfully the weather warmed up and the air became dryer, or the stuff might be sticky yet.

The loads are now painted. They and the carts got a dry brushing of light grey to bring out texture and detail. The railings still look shiny, so I'll give them a coat of matte varnish to kill that glare. At least the carts now look suitably well-used and grimy.  

I decided a while back to make oxen the motive power for the carts, oxen being a common enough beast of burden and draft animal then and now. Since these particular animals would be a more streamlined, sporty version of their hirsute cousins which I made early last year - and hence have less hair to give the figure integral support - I thought the Sculpey would need something in the way of an armature whilst I worked on the forms. 

So, I set to work reducing a length of florists' wire to smaller pieces in the shape of those wretched hurdles we had to leap over in school track and field PE lessons. These I then fixed to offcuts of wooden tongue depressors (unused) with a hot glue gun to hold them in the position I want before setting to work with either soldering iron or Miliput to fasten the hurdles together ready for the Sculpey to be applied.

Cedric the Mighty Village Blacksmith contemplates the cattle. "I hope you don't think I can shoe those buggers?"
I have reservations about using a soldering iron, not having handled one in anger in all my years on this planet. The dramatics came in during the above session when I succeeded in inflicting a minor burn on my finger whilst wielding the hot glue gun. That'll teach me not to drink so much coffee before performing delicate work, but it bodes ill for my attempts with a soldering iron. I may just fix the armatures together with a blob of Miliput, although solder would be quicker and probably give a stronger join. We'll see.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Carts, undercoated

A session with the spray paint yesterday undercoated the three carts for Dux B. Something about the weather - cold, damp, reluctant to stagger above the mid-40's Fahrenheit - makes the Rustoleum paint take a geological age to dry. These were sprayed in my garage yesterday afternoon and they're still tacky to the touch, even after being brought indoors.

The paint soaked into the wood and the carts are now exactly the base colour I want. All I have to do now is give them a little dry-brushing and so on to bring out detail and texture. At the moment the contents look like heaps of manure, something no Saxon raider is likely to want to loot unless he's a really keen gardener. They'll be painted a lighter shade to make them look like sacking covering something more interesting. Next step will be to sculpt the oxen, a trickier prospect. 

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Carts - a little more progress

Some more progress on the Dux B trio of carts this weekend. I found the tiny metal beads I was looking for - no mean thing in itself. Six of them went to make the axle hubs. The next stage was to make the cargoes.

I thought over options for the loads the carts would bear and came to the conclusion making various sacks, amphorae, storage jars, etc is too much work. Instead I went for sacking-covered generic... stuff. It could be the sacking is covering vital food supplies for a stricken community, tax money or treasure bound for the king's palace, relics destined for some distant monastery, or the local magistrate's collection of pornographic scrolls. Whichever load the scenario calls for, the loads have it covered - pun intended.

A packaging peanut awaits its fate.
A packaging peanut - of which we have a lot after the move - was brutally sliced up to make the bulk of the loads. I cut it to fit the beds of the carts, then covered each piece in tissue paper soaked in PVA. The paper has a weave to it. Although the weave is probably a bit too big for this scale, it looks enough like sacking of some kind to fool the eye.

Trying for size.
Once the PVA had dried I gave each load a once-over with black craft paint. I intend to spray the whole lot with Rustoleum, so anything that protects the foam from the caustic effects of the paint is helpful.

Glued in place.
I used more PVA to glue the foam to the cart beds, and a smear of E6000 along the latticework to secure the loads to the plastic battening. Next step will be to apply the Rustoleum spray once the day warms up a bit. Winter is taking its own sweet time to let go here in the Midwest this year.


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