Saturday, December 18, 2010
More splints were used to build the pilot house. I diverged from the historical prototype here as I didn't want the pilot house to stand higher than the upper deck. The short length of tube on the pilot house roof is for interchangable flagpoles.
One thing this build has taught me - basswood is prone to warping when it gets wet, such as from any paint. The only recourse I found is to weigh it down with something until it gets over the nonsense.
The completed vessel is shown below. Her funnel is made from a mascara vial my wife was throwing out. I sanded the smooth plastic surface down to remove all the lettering and to prepare it to take paint, and used increasingly fine grades of paper before washing it. Once dry it took acrylic paint well. I fashioned a steam whistle from a length of wire and a bit of plastic tube, attaching it to the funnel with impact adhesive and adding the brass band for looks. It should have a cord leading from whistle to pilot house, but this is a gaming model, not a faithful replica.
The glazing in the pilot house is clear packaging material, and the detachable roof is of basswood. Just visible alongside the structure on the corner of the upper deck is a green starboard navigation lamp. A red port side lamp is fixed on the other side of the pilot house, and a clear spotlight attached to the roof just in front of the flag holder. The flag is that of the Force Publique, but can be swapped-out for one of any nationality.
The passengers gaze at the passing scenery as Captain Conrad guides his vessel.
The deck railings are made of thin string painted white and glued into place. A photo of the Roi des Belges shows a very thin strand of wire serving the purpose, 'elf & safety not being a particularly high priority back then.
Judging from photos taken of steamboats in this era the flat tops of the paddle-boxes were used as additional deck storage space. The deck cargo seen here is cast from the Hirst Arts dungeon accessories mold. This includes all kinds of useful crates, boxes, sacks and pots.
So there we have it, a late-Victorian paddlesteamer, suitable for navigating the waters of any of the world's great rivers.
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
First off I cut the deck from basswood, making it five inches long by three wide. The underside edges were lined with basswood strip to form a shallow tray, open at what will be the bows end. Half-inch sections cut from plastic tube coffee stirrers served to make the receptacles for the canopy posts, and these I glued at set intervals of just over an inch apart. Since the middle post at the stern end isn't going to have an upright fitted I used a plain section of mini-dowel. While the glued dried I made up the basic frame for the canopy, again from mini-dowel with crossbars made from split bamboo kebob skewers. The photos below show the general idea, with a 25mm figure to scale.
Once the main deck was dry I returned to the paddlewheel. As mentioned earlier I only constructed a segment of the wheel itself as most of it would be hidden inside the paddle box. The next photo shows the wheel finished and painted.
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
The picture below shows the deckhouses in place and the start of the paddle wheel assembly. I took a thick card spool that once held carton sealing tape, cut a half inch piece from it then divided it into two half-inch segments. Two short lengths of wooden strip form the main spokes with a length of dowel between them as the axle.Short lengths of wood strip made the paddles themselves. I used a strong impact adhesive to glue these in place.
Monday, December 13, 2010
I began by making a template from cereal box card, which served to get consistent shapes for the hull and main deck. The hull is 7" long by 3" wide, and cut from .5" foamcore, giving the model a good freeboard. The deck is cut from 1/16th inch basswood which gives a durable playing surface for figures to stand upon. Planning ahead always helps. In this case the overall length of the basswood deck is 9", but I cut out a 2" rectangle from the stern portion as shown, leaving a .5" wide strip on either side. This is where the paddlewheel will sit.
I wanted a smooth finish to the sides of the hull, as well as a slight lip above deck level. For this I used more cereal box card, since it's thin and flexible, gluing it to the bows and sides and wrapping it around the stern. Ordinary pins served to keep it in place while the glue dried.
Next up, constructing the paddlewheel and on to the upper deck.
Sunday, December 12, 2010
This picture shows the spackle spread on the metal disks, the sand applied earlier giving it a keyed surface to grip. I gave the spackle a light spray of water from a plant mister then sprinkled the coffee grounds heavily on top and allowed the lot to dry. As some of the grounds were still loose after this, I followed up by giving the whole another spray, this time with diluted PVA with some yellow and tan acrylic paint mixed in. This fixes the loose grounds in place, covers any white patches of spackle showing through, and adds a more natural shading to the basic green color of the plastic plant strands. The edges of the disks were then painted a dun earth color to match my gaming surface.
Of course, plants in the wild don't exist in a vacuum: Other plants tend to compete for the same space. Once all was dry, I added bits and pieces of Spanish and reindeer mosses to the bases, along with small stones. The ferns were then bent outward to give a more natural pose.
The picture below shows scale compared to a Wargames Foundry figure. Even four bases of the foliage creates enough cover to hide a nasty surprise or two for gamers. On the whole I'm rather pleased with the result. It's miles better than my earlier attempt, and even with drying speed factored in, still took little time to make.
Next up, my steamboat project gets under way.
Saturday, December 11, 2010
Typically it comes as a kind of plastic houseplant with several strands attached to a central stalk by a simple plug-in method. Remove the strands and glue to a suitable base and hey presto - scale vegetation for the wargames table.
The term suitable base is the key here; the first batch of herbage I made I set on card, and it didn't come up to scratch. The card warped after the spackle basing was applied. So, back to the drawing board, and I think I've cracked the problem.
Pictured are the component parts of this new project. The metal disks are the end caps from a type of frozen fruit juice concentrate that comes in card tubes. I saw these ages ago and thought they'd come in handy one day. Of course, I didn't quite know what they would prove useful for, but since when has that stopped a model-maker from accumulating bits and bobs on the off chance?
The victim - er, basis for the foliage will be the potted plant, which caught my eye as it has fern-like leaves suitable for tropical/equatorial Africa. The main tool for the transformation will be the hot glue gun.Once all the strands are removed, I wound up with a pile of thirteen pieces.
I spread a good dollop of PVA/Gorilla glue around the disks and up the stalks a little ways, using a wet fingertip to help work it into position. Usually I'd dilute the PVA with water, but as the hot glue forms a relatively weak bond I wanted to be sure of a stronger hold on the strands. Be sure to cover the edges of the discs. Allow everything to set before moving on to the next stage. Have a cup of fresh ground coffee - you'll need it.
Thursday, December 2, 2010
Now, we know there's something in there...
The stalwart fellows shown above are Wargames Foundry from their Darkest Africa range, mostly from pack DA 3/8 - Allied tribal musketmen equipped with obsolete firearms, and are fresh off the painting block. These are versatile figures which can serve as tribesmen, poorly-equipped askari, escorts for exploration or hunting parties, guards for a civilian commercial concern, deserters from a Colonizing power's askari force, bandits, and many things besides.
I'm going to use them as a band of native mercenaries, headed by Sunny N'sher (the mean-looking guy in red). Guns for hire, they serve any who can pay - or could work on their own agenda...
I also picked up a military medical team and a number of camp cookhouse figures from the same lot. While not fighting troops per se, they will add color to the tabletop scene. Some rules sets allow for medical attention on wounded troops. A glance at the Sharp Practice rules from Too Fat Lardies shows that "Big Men" can be saved by medical attention to serve and fight again another day. Having an actual aid station on the table gives an objective to be reached - or blocked by an enemy.
Friday, November 26, 2010
Friday, November 19, 2010
The foliage is treated to a long soak in Pledge/Future/Klear polish and allowed to dry. It's then stuck to card bases using a hot glue gun, before the bases are covered with thinned down spackle with a bit of PVA mixed in. I'd prefer to use something like 1/8th inch MDF or mounting board, but this is by way of a trial run. While the mix is wet, I scatter sand over the lot and leave to stand. Once all is dry, I use a plant mister to spray the lot with thinned PVA containing some yellow acrylic paint mixed into the water to get that dry look. This helps fix the sand scatter in place and further toughens the needles.
It's surprising how few of these stands are needed to block lines of sight on the table and break up the emptiness in general.
Sunday, November 14, 2010
The exception - and Murphy's Law says there has to be one - is the African warriors. Barely one shield and spear in two survived still attached to its bearer (the picture below shows the sorry pile alongside the tribesmen) and a couple of bases were broken. Easily fixed.
Saturday, November 6, 2010
Friday, November 5, 2010
A wash of Vallejo sepia ink is applied to the thatch once the basic yellowish paint job is dry. I borrowed a technique from model railroad builders and diluted the ink in alcohol - the rubbing variety found in dollar stores, that is. Use a ratio of around 30 drops alcohol to one of ink. It gives an even coat and the alcohol evaporates completely leaving no residue but the ink. A word of advice - work in a ventilated area and leave no naked flames or other sources of combustion around when doing this!
Friday, October 29, 2010
District Commissioner Carstairs and His Lady pose on the porch of their residence.
*The thatch is an experiment that came off rather well. Basically it's a mixture of vinyl spackle, papier maché and PVA/Gorilla glue, layered on thick card stock previously prepared by spreading diluted PVA and sand over it. This gives a keyed surface for the mixture to grip onto. The base is two more sheets of thick card laminated together. I'd use 2mm MDF for a second version, but the card serves well.
The shell of the house is foamcore, one of the most useful materials known to Modelling Man! The porch is 1/8th" basswood, with uprights made of square-cut cocktail sticks, readily available from dollar stores and other outlets. Embroidery battening makes excellent trellis work and window lattice. Jo-Ann's fabric stores sells it at a mere 99 cents for a large sheet. It's a bit fiddly to cut, but is worth persevering with.
All vegetation is Spanish moss, with a layer of dried green tea leaves glued to the rambling vine alongside the steps and finished with spots of magenta paint to make nice bright flowers. Steps, support blocks and water barrel are Hirst Arts components cast in Hydrocal plaster. A dowel spigot was added to the barrel.
I follow Major General Tremorden-Reddering's advice for making wargames buildings in that I try to keep the footprint of the building as small as possible while emphasizing the height. The priciple being it gives more space on the average-size table for figures to deploy.
Next up, I'm thinking of building a steamboat suitable for exploring the great rivers and lakes of Africa. Watch this space...
Sunday, October 24, 2010
For 'alf o' Creation she owns:
We 'ave bought 'er the same with the sword an' the flame,
An' we've salted it down with our bones..."
Okay, the game I took part in didn't involve British Tommies, but it gives me an opportunity to air one of Kipling's wonderful verses.
Friday, October 22, 2010
A view over the African village I made this week, complete with kraal. It's empty at the moment, but the chief is plotting a means of filling it with prime cattle, the physical embodiment of wealth in the neighborhood. Quite what the plot entails nobody knows, but the signal drummer will soon be busy on his talking drum. Meanwhile his favorite wife prepares the evening meal in the traditional earthen oven. She's looking daggers at her husband's chief bodyguard, a nubile wench who may well replace her in his affections one day. The wench herself is content. She has her percussion-cap musket (on which she's a deadly shot) and her boss recently gave her a rather nice plaid skirt.
The huts were made using my usual method of cutting segments from a heavy-duty card tube of the kind carpets come on. A flat cone made of thin card on which some tissue paper was applied over diluted PVA adhesive made the roofs. The walls are spackled using general-purpose spackling paste, and everything painted using Craft Smart acrylics.
The kraal involved a different approach. An old CD glued to thin card discs cut to a larger diameter forms the center, Thin dry twigs were cut into sections between 1" and 1 1/2" length and glued using a hot glue gun around the edge of the CD. Thin cord made the lashing between the stakes. This is easily done by glueing one end of the cord to a stake and weaving it in and out in an over-under pattern, first the lower lashing then the upper.
The ground effect was built up using more spackle with a drop of PVA mixed in. After painting, more slightly diluted PVA was applied, and flocking scattered onto it in a dense layer. It's vital to allowed the glue to dry before the excess flocking is shaken off. To ensure the stuff stays in place and doesn't rub off easily, diluted PVA was sprayed over all. This has the added benefit of soaking into the twigs and preventing any splitting, etc.
All figures are Wargames Foundry from their Darkest Africa collection. The foilage in the background is Spanish moss, available by the bagful from most dollar stores.
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
(A photo of the kraal I've put together for sale with the next African village on eBay.)
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
I made this gruesome little piece out of an old CD and a Halloween plastic skull from a bagful of such bought from a local dollar store. The idol's head sits on several Hirst Arts blocks to give it stability and weight, with two of the Hirst wooden boards added for a sacrificial platform at the edge of the dark pool. The three grinning victims are from the Gothic accessories mold. Broken twigs and a few bits of Spanish moss add to the effect of desolation and hint at giant rib bones.
Monday, October 4, 2010
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
The rear of the vehicle, showing the spare bomb stowage.
The principal armament of the new vehicle comprises a 200 lb guncotton charge contained within a copper shell mounted on the end of a boom. This is normally kept raised for safety reasons until prior to making an attack, whereupon the boom is lowered to the horizontal position. The vehicle's gallant crew of driver, commander/weapon operator and two stokers then drive at speed toward an enemy landship with the intention of ramming the charge into its flanks. Detonation is normally achieved through an impact fuse on the nose of the charge. An optional cord-actuated detonator is provided should the fuse fail, or for assault demolition use against strongpoints.
The vehicle's builders provide a storage case mounted on the rear of the vehicle for a spare bomb, giving the crew the means to re-arm in some safe spot and return to battle. This of course assumes they survive the attack. A machine gun is mounted in the glacis plate for anti-personnel use.
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Such buildings can be found anywhere along the east coast of Africa as well as the Middle East. They could even serve as adobe structures in the Old West!
Again, I followed the patterns given on the Major General's site, using foamcore shells with a mix of spackle and PVA adhesive on the walls and roofs. Practice gained from the earlier versions meant these came out much better! The stalls are simple structures of mini-dowels and basswood, with Pledge/Klear/Future-soaked paper for the awnings. The goods are made from paper, beads and, in the case of the vegetables in the little bowl - green tealeaves!
I used my Hirst Arts molds to make the trade goods between the stalls and the stairway to the roof of the building on the right. Craft Smart acrylic paints were used throughout. My darling wife painted the African huts and these particular examples, the first time she's laid brush to model. With a few tips from me she's gotten a great result! (Check out her blog - she welcomes comments).
I'm currently working on another village in the same vein for my Africa Station idea. It'll serve as a center of activity for the nefarious Zanzibarian slavers and traders. I'm currently looking at Wargames Factory as a source for tribesmen. A mention on the excellent Lead Adventurers Forum says their hard plastic Zulu figures are easily converted. Does anyone have any experience of these?
Thursday, August 26, 2010
The jetty is constructed from Woodsies craft sticks cut into short 1.25" lengths, with 1" uprights from bamboo kabob skewers cross-tied with basswood strips. The boardwalk itself is 3/4" above table level. Ordinary craft glue was used throughout.
I made a few deliberate gaps in between the boards to give the impression of a rough-and-ready frontier structure. Acrylic craft paints were used on the lower ends of the supports and areas of planking to give the slimy appearance found on all wooden structures in wet areas. Since the jetty is new, I used a wash of brown ink to darken the wood instead of painting it bleached gray-brown.
The steam launch construction followed the excellent guidelines given on the Major-General's website. Essentially, it's a boat shape cut from two pieces of thin card using a template and sandwiched together for strength. The sides are two more sandwiches of thin card, again cut using a template for consistency. Her boiler is made of a hoop of thin card covered with a strip of the thick tinfoil used as freshness seals on jars of peanuts. Rivets were punched into the foil from the other side before it was glued into place with impact adhesive.
The funnel is a length of drinking straw with paper rolled around it for additional stiffness and because it takes paint better than plastic. Rope fenders came from the short lengths of string attached to individual tea-bags. They're ideal for this scale! A short length of tube from a coffee-stirrer makes a holder for flag staffs, enabling the gamer to swap-out flags depending on the nationality of the launch's crew.
Every part got an undercoat of Necrotic Flesh from The Army Painter and the outer hull was finished off with Craft Smart acrylic paints. A coat of Pledge/Future/ Klear sealed everything, and a wash of India ink over the boiler and funnel gave them a suitably grimy look. I did add a few splotches of pale green-gray paint to give the impression of verdigris on the boiler but it doesn't show up well on the photos.
Like everything else I make, the majority of component parts come from recycled materials.
So here we have it, a smart little steam launch ready to take intrepid adventurers in search of the unknown!
Sunday, August 15, 2010
Friday, August 13, 2010
"I say gentlemen, it's a jolly long way down..."
It measures a shade under five inches square at the base by a shade under eight inches tall. The top platform is three inches square; big enough for nine 25/28mm figures based on pennies or fender washers. It has a small footprint, which is valuable on the limited space of a wargaming table, while its height makes it really stand out from the crowd.
On the minus side the lower parapet is too narrow for figures, and it has just the one door in the base and one window. As a birdhouse it works fine, of course, but it'll need a little work to make it into a wargaming model.
To my mind it has a vaguely Arab-style appearance, which will go well with my Daftest African settlement idea.
At the moment I don't think I'll tamper with the parapet. It's in proportion to the rest of the structure and it'll work as a decorative feature. I'm also less than inclined to make the top level removable. I will add more windows of the narrow variety found on such towers, and fit a heavy door on the ground level. The stone work I'll cover with tissue paper soaked in PVA and give it a skim of spackle to make it appear more like natural stone. Some groundwork around the base will be needed, of course. To finish, I'll install a short length of tube on the battlements to take an interchangeable flagpole - for those satisfying gaming moments when the tower changes hands!
All this to come, once I clear my table of other projects!