Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Hae ye seen ma hairy coo?*

One of the scenarios in Dux Britanniarum is for the cattle raid, where those naughty Saxons try to make off with the British peasant farmers' livestock/portable cash. The rules call for three bases of two cattle each. It's generally thought that the cattle found in Early Middle Ages Britain resembled the Highland cattle of today. Archeological excavations seem to bear this out. 

Not having any cattle I looked for suitable models online. The only matches I could find were those intended for model railways and they are expensive, so I decided to make my own.

A truculent looking fellow - has he heard the rustle of Saxon raiders in the bushes?
bit of Sculpey and some work later and I had six bovine beasties...  

The lowing herd wanders slowly o'er the lea - and Crapulus Maximus is right there to collect their offerings for his vegetable patch.
I gave them a lick of ordinary acrylic craft paint and a dip in varnish/ink mix. This was followed by mounting them in pairs on the metal caps found on Pilsbury dough cannisters. Liquid Nails sprinkled with sand made the ground effect, with coffee grounds for strategically-placed piles of manure, the whole being finished off with more craft paint.

On the whole I'm pleased with the result. The photo was taken under fluorescent light and it made them look far more orange than they are in real life. Now all I need do for the Dux B Project is make the church and buy some Saxons.

*Have you seen my hairy cow? as rendered in the Scottish Highland dialect.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Cook, the Priest, his Wife* and her Mother

In other words I've finished the civilians, the rustica populus - those good folks that expensive army led by the Dux Britanniarum is paid to protect.

The small village of Oprobrium goes about its daily round.
These are Splintered Light Miniatures, and the nicest 15mm figures I've had the pleasure of painting. There is a round dozen in the set. They have clear features and some lovely detailed touches.

Father Superfluous points out the site of the future village church to his admiring family. 
In the Dux Britanniarum rules Lords who have gained sufficient wealth and status may add religious leaders to their retinue. These confer moral benefits according to rank. The priest figure will fulfil this role when needed. The next item on this project will be to make a proper village church for him. 

So, there's the end of the Romano-British side - for now. Other units may be added later, time and funds permitting. Hopefully I'll get the Saxon invaders sometime before the end of the year.

For now I'm taking a short break from gaming to make a wedding cake topper for two friends. Something a little different!

* Yes. The Catholic church of this time allowed married men to be ordained provided they oberved the rule of celibacy afterwards (no fun for their wives, I feel). It wasn't until much later that the general ban on married priests was enforced - and even then it proved sporadic. Here endeth the lesson.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Lords, Leaders and Champions

The Lords, leaders and champions have been on the painting block for several weeks now, but I finally finished and based them up.

I used the metal cap from a tube of Pilsbury dough for the command base, featuring the trio of Lord, standard bearer and horn blower. Liquid Nails formed the groundwork, smeared around the figures' bases and painted once dry.For the paint stage I began with a dark green, infused some earth brown into it while still wet, followed it with more earth brown once the green had dried, then finished off with two successive goings-over with lighter shades of green. A few pieces of pea-gravel added to the scenery and broke up the regularity. Sturdy card discs with more Liquid Nails made up the bases for the subordinate leaders/champions.

And then there are these chaps...

I'd forgotten the light infantry component of the Romano-British army. The figure on the right is another Comanipulares who got mixed up with the civilians (the perils of packing stuff away in a hurry prior to a house move which didn't come off). I think the Romano-British skirmishers are supposed to be javelinmen under the Dux B rules, but it doesn't really matter. I take these chaps to be woodsmen, hunters, and/or blokes who just happen to be tasty with a bow, out to persuade the Saxons to go elsewhere.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Completed Comanipulares

And so it goes. After several weeks I finally finished the Comanipulares (apart from their shields, which will come later). Here they are, based and ready to take their place in the line of battle.

I have half a dozen Lords and champions to finish off, then it'll be on to the civilians.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Still b*ggering on...

It doesn't look like our house will sell any time soon, so I'm pottering away with occasional painting sessions. The Comanipulares are about done. I used a little black ink to bring out the chain mail and then dipped the figures in clear varnish. I did this rather than use my usual ink & varnish dip, which is a bit too thick and would obscure details. One coat of matte varnish to go then I can base them up.

I'm currently reading Correlli Barnett's The First Churchill: Marlborough, Soldier and Statesman...

It's not a period I'm familiar with, and my interest was piqued when some of the members of my club in the UK played a WSS game recently. The book is a good read and shows what a remarkable man John Churchill was. As a consequence I found myself looking over Pendraken Miniatures' rather nice 10mm range. Yes, I'm suffering a bout of "Wargamer's wants..."

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Lords, Comanipulares & Champions

We're still in a state of hurry-up-and-wait with the house sale. A flurry of interest in the past two weeks came to nothing, so...

In the meantime I decided to get on with painting the Comanipulares, the elite troops of the Romano-British army, along with the Lord they fight for and his champions.

It's a bit blurry, but it shows I'm making progress.

The majority of pigment is on. I just need to put a few more touches here and there. Because they're wearing chainmail I'm going to forgo using the dip on these as it'll cover too much detail. Instead I'll apply a black ink wash over the armour then clear varnish.

Because the paints I use have settled over time I'm getting a sprained wrist shaking the pots for long enough to mix the pigments. Thinking I could use a mechanical means of shaking up the paint pots I looked online and found a few useful devices -including this one!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Milites on the march

An outdoor event we went to yesterday afternoon ended much earlier than expected due to thunderstorms, so with a clear conscience I decided to finish off the Milites for Dux Britanniarum.

Trying for size.

The dip has turned a bit syrupy over its time in storage, but seems to have worked just fine. A coat of matte varnish over all finished the job, although I noticed the (supposedly dry) red ink used for the decorative trim on the tunics bled into the varnish a little. It's barely noticeable and I put it down to the vegetable dyes used during the period being less than colour-fast. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it...

The figures are lacking shields at the moment. I intend to get some decals when I can and will wait until then to fit the shields.

Once dry, they were ready for basing. I used discs of cardboard, with Liquid Nails sprinkled with sand for the basing material. It doesn't shrink or warp, allowing me to use the cheap/free card. I'm on a tap-water budget here.

Almost ready to go off to war against the Saxon dogs.
The spacing is perhaps a little bit too wide. I think it'll be less noticeable once the figures have their shields attached. In any case, all my figures for both Romano-British and Saxons will be based the same so there's no major gripe against it.

Next up on the painting block will be the elite warriors of the Roman-British, the Comanipulares, and the Lord and nobles to command the army.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Milites on the painting block

The edits on my next book are in the final stages, and another book has been accepted for publication - always a good thing for an author! More hurry-up-and-wait as far as the house sale goes, however. To get away from things for a while my wife and I attended the Marcon 52 weekend in Columbus, OH, which was... okay. Numbers seemed way down from last year, which may be due to the event falling on Mothers' Day here in the US. By contrast the gaming section had been moved to the main floor and seemed packed. Go figure.

Back home, I resumed painting the Milites, the twelve-figure mainstay of the Romano-British Dux Britanniarum forces.

These are 15mm Splintered Light Miniatures, and rather nice they are too. I haven't much left to paint now - just the hair, leggings, shoes and bases and decorative trim - before highlighting and dunking them in the varnish and ink dip. Once these are done I'll move on to the Comanipulares, the elite troops of the Romano-British army, along with the nobles and champions. After those it'll be on to the civilians, the long-suffering taxpayers all these armed and armoured fellows are paid to protect from the Saxons.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Limbo, limbo...

So, our house is back up for sale. The buyer had to back out for various reasons, leaving us in a state of limbo with much of our stuff packed in boxes.


Yeah, it's frustrating.

I've got book edits to do, and I might as well get something growing in the garden. Hobby wise, I'm going to get my paints and brushes out again and work on the Dux Britanniarum figures. The new resin bases are all painted and ready for them. Buggered if I know when I'll get a game in again. We'll see.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

ECW casualties

I spent much of this morning getting the garden tidy so we can leave it in good condition when we move out. It's a little depressing, seeing all the plants we've established in the time we've spent here coming into full healthy leaf and knowing some will be left behind - especially when we suspect the person buying the house isn't a gardener. We will be taking a number of plants with us, and hopefully we'll have time enough this year to establish a garden in the new place. Fingers crossed...

So, enough of that. On with a bit of modelling stuff. Having some time off this afternoon I thought I would paint up the 10mm/N-scale ECW casualty figures I cast recently from resin. The pieces have been washed thoroughly and have had plenty of time for any remaining volatile vapours to disperse.

Top two rows, from left to right: Sir Alan Apsley's, Earl of Essex's Lifeguards, Bolle's, Montagu's, and a quartet of Parliament cavalry. The bottom four have yet to be assigned.

I painted up two figures for each of my current foot regiments, and enough for the (eventual) two regiments of Ironsides. Royalist cavalry casualties are to follow.

In the Victory Without Quarter rules, a casualty marker is placed if a unit suffers three hits from firing in a single turn: It represents a significant amount of metal tearing through the formation. Once the number of casualty markers equals the number of bases in the unit, that unit is destroyed. Since my foot regiments have three bases, any markers over two are redundant. In a similar vein my cavalry regiments have five three-figure bases, so any casualties over two are a major depletion in strength and the regiment is destroyed.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Dux Britanniarum bases

I'd forgotten what a pain in the posterior house-hunting can be. It's a tiresome case of hurry-up-and-wait, with some jewels among houses to look at - and some I just wanted to close the door on right away. I'm also pretty sure I'm not the only gamer in the world who eyes up rooms and basement areas as potential gaming rooms?

After a hectic round of days spent viewing and packing I found a few minutes to spare, so i dug out the paints and finished off the first batch of the Dux Britanniarum movement bases.

The first photo shows them after a light wet brushing with an eclectic mix of Miniatures Paints and ordinary craft acrylic paint. I used a bit of chocolate brown in the cups to show where men have trodden after the casualty has been removed.

Second photo, with the bases occupied by the peasant levy. Note that I've yet to fit the shields to these since I'm waiting until the house-move malarkey is done with before buying some shield transfers.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Bases and Casualties

Our house is all but sold, and we will now need to pack in earnest. At least the weather is warm enough for me to paint, so I took the Dux Britanniarum bases and ECW casualties outside and gave them an undercoat.

I used the same dark brown Rustoleum spray paint that I undercoated the livestock pen with earlier as I find it sticks better to the resin. The coverage is patchy - the nozzle decided to clog up partway through the session, but at least they're all covered. The next step, whenever that will be, is to do the grass effect and so on for the bases, and paint the uniforms for the casualties.

I'm really not sure when I'll be able to post again, so I'll sign off for now. 

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Resin casting frenzy

Well, not exactly frenzied, quite leisurely in fact, but I managed to cast a lot of stuff in quite a short time.

First up, six Dux Britanniarum movement trays for my 15mm figures.

The middle one of the bases in the bottom row cracked as I got it out of the mold, but this won't pose a problem. A dab of epoxy adhesive and a base of thin card followed by a bit of flocking and it'll be good to go. I now have enough bases/trays for the main infantry component of the Romano-British army. There are four archers attached as skirmishing infantry, so what I may do is modify one of the bases so it has only four compartments. Once I get the Saxon army, I can turn out trays for that in short order whenever required. 

Next, some Zanzibari slaver casualties.

These have given me some problems, mainly due to the elderly resin I'm using. Beyond a certain age the resin turns a bit... odd (so do we all, I suppose). It has a tendency to foam up if stirred too much and this of course produces bubbles in annoying places. Another flaw is the arm on one of the figures. I didn't notice the excess silicone that needed to be cut away from that part of the mold, so the arm didn't always come out until I fixed the problem. Still, a bit of judicious patching and filling here and there followed by a forgiving layer of paint and all should be well.

Finally, the ECW casualties.

These aren't that distinctive in the photo, but they come out nice and crisp. I sculpted a trio which represents pretty much everything to be encountered on an ECW battlefield.

The weather has turned colder with a perpetual drizzle falling this afternoon. Snow is expected tomorrow - whoopee. So, I'll need to wait until things warm up again before pouring the second half of the lamppost mold. In the meantime I'll clean up all these castings, give them a soak in detergent, allow to dry then give them a dose of chocolate brown Rustoleum spray. Results to follow soon.   

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Showing moldy results

Success! The new molds came out with few problems worth the name. First up are the wargame-oriented molds. From left to right we have the Dux Britanniarum movement tray, the three 10mm ECW casualties, and the five Zanzibari slaver casualties.

The next is the 1/56 lamppost mold in its freshly-molded form showing what I call the "nougat" bar effect where the silicone met the Sculpey...

 ...then the separation of silicone mold half and Sculpey, showing the master in the mold and the lugs which will keep the two halves aligned. The next stage for this will be to clean up the Sculpey residue where it's sticking to the silicone before installing it in a new box. I'll put another plug of Sculpey in the recess at the base to form the pour funnel. After that I'll brush Vaseline over every part of the new mold half with the exception of the master. As I mentioned before, if this stage isn't done the next pouring of OOMOO30 will stick to the other half and it'll be a helluva job to cut them apart. I speak from hard-won experience...

Last up is the pair of molds which I'll use mainly for decorative items, although the doors, window and column can be used for making buildings for gaming. On the left is the new bookend base, and alongside it is the decorative piece mold.

The latter is the only one so far that has any appearance of bubbles. These lodged in the two chevron pieces on the left of the mold. They won't really be a problem since they're proud of the main surface of the piece and can be trimmed off.  You'll notice some of the OOMOO30 flowed under the diamond-pane window piece bottom-right, but this will trim off without any problem.

In fact all the molds now need to be trimmed in various ways. Silicone tends to climb up the sides of the mold box through capillary action, making the base of the mold uneven with a detrimental effect on the casts. Trimming this off even to the point of beveling the edges solves the problem. A few of the Zanzibari slaver casualties will need cleaning up as the OOMOO30 flowed under some of them. A couple of the masters also broke up when I popped the new mold off, but this is par for the course. I shouldn't need them again.

After all is clean and trim, I'll pour some plaster and/or resin. Results to come!

Monday, April 3, 2017

Going moldy

Yes, the planets finally aligned and the temperature's about right, so I went ahead and poured the silicone for the six molds made so far. I say the temperature is right - it's within the silicone's working parameters but at the lower end of the scale, which means the mix is a bit stiffer than optimum. In any case, it worked.

Top - left-right, dungeon/diorama items, Dux B. movement tray, Zanzibari slaver casualties. Bottom left-right, bookend base, 1/56 lamppost, ECW casualties.

I had to mix three batches, measuring out the two parts of the OOMOO30 in disposable cups each time, to fill all six molds. Even with this (fairly) accurate measuring system there's still a bit more of one part than the other, hence the colour variations in the photo. Really, it doesn't matter that much. Problems only arise if there's a drastic disparity between the two liquids.

It pays to vibrate the table when the stuff has been poured to force air bubbles from the various tiny nooks and crannies in the master models. If you have a vacuum chamber it's all the better - they can be made relatively easily and cheaply. I use an old electric razor since the vibrations are hard and rapid enough to do a good job.

It takes around six hours for the silicone to set. I'm going to leave them overnight and see what's what in the morning. I have another couple of molds to make, but they'll come in time. Tune in soon to see the results of today's session.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

A couple of mold boxes

I had a bit of spare time this past weekend so I made up mold boxes for the ECW casualties and the lamppost.

The bottom box with the lamppost will be used vertically, so I made the lantern end slightly broader than the top so it'll stand up better during the pouring process. The photo shows half a dozen deep dents made in the Sculpey in which the lamppost master is embedded. These are so the two halves will match up perfectly and prevent slipping when in use. That bulge emerging from the brown base will eventually form the funnel-shaped pouring hole.

The next stage will be to pour the silicone. Once set I'll carefully remove it, flip it over, and build another box around it. With two-part molds, it's essential to coat the surface of the first part with Vaseline before pouring the next batch of silicone. Without it the silicone will stick to the previous layer and be impossible to separate.

While I was at it I sculpted a couple of gutter pieces both for gaming use and for diorama-style bookends. These will be molded too and match up with the cobblestone pieces I made earlier. The small square piece on the metal plate at the top is the corner for the gutter and is ready for baking. I need to trim and sand some areas of these pieces for a better fit.

I think I've now made all the pieces needed for a good mold-making session, so once the weather warms up a bit I'll have at it.

For those who may be interested, Bruce Hirst of Hirst Arts is currently designing small brick molds which will be extremely useful for buildings and sewer/dungeon systems. I suspect I'll be sending an order for them one of these days.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Leaning on a lamppost

This afternoon I took a breather from the process of clearing up my man cave to make a few more odds and sods for molding. The weather's warming up to the point where I can pour the silicone and have it cure in reasonable time.

A recent discussion on another forum about casualty figures reminded me I needed a few for my 10mm ECW collection, so I made a trio of generic Civil War types. These'll replace the poker chips now doing duty in my games, which do the job but lack visual appeal.

Alongside them is a lamppost of the traditional type, this one in 1/56 scale, which is intended for Pulp/Victorian games and also for bookends along with the cobblestones I made earlier. A more complicated piece, it'll be made into a two-part mold. I'll cover that part when I come to it.

The pole is made from the inner tube of a ballpoint pen, and the brown base is a wooden bead. The top part was constructed from four pieces of basswood cut to shape and glued along the edges, then capped by a square of basswood and a plaster component from the Hirst Arts small pipe mold. I used Puffy paint to fill any small gaps along the edges, building it up to form the frames for the 'glass.' The crossbar is a bit larger than it would be in this scale so resin can flow into it. As it is, after pouring the resin I'll need to gently squeeze the mold to persuade any air bubbles to escape.

More on the whole molding thing later when I get time.

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.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The Four Doctors

My wife and I are big fans of Doctor Who. Like many Americans her 'first Doctor' was the Fourth, played by the great Tom Baker. I go back slightly earlier to the end of the First Doctor in William Hartnell's tenure. We have a number of 28mm figures of the Doctors along with some of the Companions, but lacked four of the Doctor's incarnations along with two familiar recurring characters.

This lack has now been rectified.

From l-r, First, Second, Fifth and Seventh Doctor. Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart keeps a wary eye on the sneering Master.
These are Black Tree Designs sculpts. I took advantage of their winter sale to order the four missing Doctors, along with the formidable Brigadier and the dangerous Master. Black Tree's excellent service saw my order taken on Wednesday to arrive on Saturday. Good stuff!

The castings are clean and crisp, with little flash. The sculptor did an excellent job of capturing the faces, from Hartnell's cunning smirk through Troughton's frown, Davidson's cavalier charm and McCoy's inquistiveness. The Brigadier is the essence of Nicholas Courtney's military alter-ego. The Master is perhaps the weakest rendition, looking more like a vampire than Roger Delgado or Anthony Ainley.

I'll clean off what little flash there is, remove the Slotta bases (which I don't like) and give them all a good soak before painting. Once done I'll glue them to bases of clear plastic.

Just before Christmas I took the plunge and ordered the 15mm Romano-British starter army from Splintered Light Miniatures along with a set of twelve villagers. All in all, a busy start to a new painting year.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Happy New Year!

Yes, the cartoon pretty much sums up my attitude to the old year. Here's to a new and better year full of hope, promise and wargaming goodness!


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