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.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Putting the cart before the... oxen

Working on a manuscript has kept me busy lately. Writing a synopsis is fun! (said no author ever). I've not had time or inclination to set to work on the gaming table yet, but I did fool around with some wooden strips, plastic grid and coffee stirrers to make a trio of carts for Dux Britanniarum gaming.

Almost done, and awaiting cargo and motive power in the shape of six oxen.
One of the scenarios for Dux B is Raiding a wagon train, a jolly jape whereby the Romano-British have to escort a trio of carts or wagons across the table before the naughty Saxons grab the goodies aboard and make off with them.

A study of archaeological finds and artists' impressions comes up with a basic boxy shape with solid, rather chunky-looking wheels. It's a rustic design that changed little over the course of a couple of millennia, and some examples can still be seen in out of the way places.

The base is a rough rectangle cut from a wooden tongue-depressor, and the sides are sections of coffee-stirrers, all glued into place with Aileen's tacky glue. The tops are cut from the plastic gridwork used by embroiderers, glued into place with E6000 adhesive. Plastic-to-wood bonds tend to be weak, so I hope these will hold. The yoke poles are cut from paperclips. I did intend to use mini-dowels but they looked way too big for the job, more like telegraph poles than a yoke-pole.

The wheel hubs are causing me problems, though. My first thought was to use 'puffy paint,' but it looks like the weeks in below-freezing storage has totally ruined the two bottles I had. I do have some small metal beads which would do the job, but they're still missing after the move. Annoying, but they'll turn up sometime.

Motive power will be three pairs of oxen. The highland cattle I made a few months ago worked out all right, so I'm going to try making oxen to pull the carts. I may even make the drovers/drivers as well, eyesight and patience depending.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Folding table idea

We're finally winding down the various little repairs and fixes around our new home - and there were plenty of them. The gardening season is yet to start, so since there's nothing pressing to do in and around the house, I can now turn my thoughts to getting my gaming table set up.

My first thought was for a permanent table base with storage racks beneath, similar to those used by model railway enthusiasts. After fixing shelves and such I found I have at least adequate storage space for figures and models, but what I don't have is much floor space. This will change a bit when the better weather arrives. I can clear the last of the junk from our garage and transfer some stuff from gaming room to there. Even so, the lack of floor space remains a problem.

So, after a hunt around internet sites like Pinterest I found a solution to the problem in the table design shown in the photo.

It should be fairly cheap and easy to fit retractable legs to my existing table boards. Four sturdy bolts and an eight feet length of two-by-four will do for making the four legs, and a couple of lengths of four inch wide plank will work for the cross beams. The casters I found during our move turned out to have bent shanks, but I scored four nice solid brass casters at the local Habitat store for $1 each - bargain! They'll allow me to move the table around when it's set up. When not in use it'll fold up and stand against the wall.

I have a two-feet extension piece that turns the table into an eight feet long version. It bolts to the rest of the board through wooden battens and should be strong enough, but I'd prefer it to have some kind of support underneath for those absent-minded moments when I lean on the table. I've yet to work out how to do this. For now I'll be content with a six-by-four table for a while.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

New Girls of the SWA

Real life got in the way at times these last two weeks, although it's always a pleasure to cook in my own kitchen after waiting so long for our place to become available. (Dutch-style brown bread is baking even as I write). I even like to do various fixes around our new home - obstinate bathroom cabinets notwithstanding. This weekend just gone we did get to attend Cleveland Concoction, a nice SF/Fantasy convention at a new venue in Aurora, Ohio, finding the place without trouble even though a sudden blizzard descended on the area. The 'Lake Effect' snow stuck around all weekend, but by the time we left it was in bright sunshine.

I did manage to finish the VBCW 10mm figures for the Socialist Women's Alliance (SWA) platoon today. Although I'm not the world's greatest figure sculptor and my painting skills seem to have atrophied over the last few months, I think they look okay.

From left to right, back row - Medic with patient: 2" mortar crew: Two Lewis gun teams. Front row, left to right - Four riflewomen: Boyes AT rifle.

The figures are crafted from Sculpey and the teams are mounted on fender washers. I covered these with liquid nails and pressed dry tealeaves into the soft glue, letting it harden overnight before giving it a blast of 'Holly green' aerosol paint and finishing with wet-brushing on lighter green craft paints.

This addition makes up the numbers to two full sections, ready to take on all comers.

Then there's this...

My sainted brother-in-law left a toolbox behind after one of his visits. He does that kind of thing. He's a nice guy, but he'll vanish over the horizon following a family visit and afterwards we'll find a few boxes, bags and other bits-and-bobs that he 'forgot' tucked away in obscure places. I suspect it's his way of craftily de-cluttering his house at the expense of our living space.

But I digress. During the move I noticed a toolbox stuck in a corner of our spare bedroom. When I picked it up it sounded like it had a few things rattling around inside, but I didn't have time to investigate, just sticking it away in a space on the van and leaving it in storage with the rest of our stuff. Yesterday I came across the toolbox in our garage where the moving men had left it. I opened it and - found another whetstone.

*Head Desk*

Thursday, March 1, 2018

UK wargamers - public service announcement


Due to local adverse weather the police have closed access to Newark Showground. Therefore Hammerhead has been re-scheduled for 28th April 2018. Please share.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

And then there's this

One of those perpetually irritating things about moving house is the way things can vanish in transit. When we last moved over five years ago, my whetstone disappeared. Hunt high and low as I might, I could not find the blasted thing. I always forgot to buy a new one when we visited the hardware store, so I've done without.

Yesterday, while moving a chest of drawers, the whetstone appeared. I swear I searched for it in that chest of drawers half a dozen times along with all my other Man Cave furniture without success. And here it is, all dumb and innocent.

It's a useful item to have, and cheap too. A drop of mineral oil or baby oil on the stone and a few quick swipes back and forth restores a Stanley knife or modelling knife blade quite nicely, extending their life and reducing the need to buy new.

So, I don't have to buy a new stone. Now, if I can just find my inks...

Saturday, February 24, 2018

AVBCW Sculpey session

A change of pace from Dux B now. My Sculpey had been in long-term storage along with all my other modelling stuff and I wanted to see if it was still usable. It is. What to sculpt? Well, I have been mulling over an idea for a Chain of Command ladder campaign based on a VBCW scenario located near my old home town. The stalwart ladies of the Socialist Womens' Alliance (SWA) are due to hold an area close to the River Bure which will see an attack by the local Flegg Fencibles LDV.

My current batch of SWA figures are based on 10mm Pendraken Miniatures SCW milicianas, of which there is only one pose. I bought a pack of ten, and converted two Home Guard figures to a female leader and standard bearer with judicious use of Sculpey and PVA adhesive.

The lack of poses posed something of a problem so I sculpted some additions for the force, making it up to two full sections with support weapons. Luckily the milicianas wear utilitarian overalls which are not hard to sculpt. The basic result is shown below.

From l-r, 2-inch mortar and crew, two prone riflewomen, medic with patient, Boyes AT riflewoman, two more prone riflewomen, and four Lewis gun pairs with spare ammo drums.

These are still a work in progress. The figures have been baked, and the next step will be to add some weapons, belts, ammunition cases and so on.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

The Armed Might of Gaius Menusius

Aaand we're done!

Comanipulari to the bottom of the photo, Milites alongside them, with the numeri/levy bringing up the rear.

Tribune Gaius Menusius leads the charge.
All the shield transfers are on and the Romano-British army is ready to contest the Saxon invaders' attempt to conquer their homeland.

For some reason there are sixteen round shield designs in the LBMS set, but only one round shield in the Splintered Light Dux B pack the transfers are intended for. There are not enough for the oval shields. Since I was short four transfers for the champions and nobles, I painted those freehand. Luckily a few Chi-Rho designs are a lot easier to reproduce on a 15mm shield than later heraldic devices! I gave the natty little targe-type shield to the standard bearer, Fred Heckmonthwaite the Red, Pride of Spagthorpium*.

*Spagthorpium: Believed to have been founded in AD79½ as a small colonia of retired legionaries in what is now Yorkshire. The site fell victim to reverse coastal erosion in the 17th century. Sighted heading northwest in the vicinity of Leeds in March 1922, its current whereabouts are unknown.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Dux B Shields - halfway-ish

More progress with the shields today. The levy/numerii are sporting theirs already. Now they can form shield wall, they're ready to take on the Saxon raiders in the brutal struggle for Britain.

So far the E6000 adhesive is holding well. It has good immediate 'grip,' and I was able to stand the figures up after only a few minutes. The label says 72 hours for full effect, so it should be fine.

The shields on the piece of card are drying off before the coat of gloss varnish goes on, which I'll probably apply tomorrow. These are the most colourful designs, suitable for the twelve Milites and six Comanipulari figures since they represent warriors with the cash to spend on fancier gear. I have seven shields left over, more than enough to equip the Lord, his sub-nobles and champion, but no transfers left to apply to them. At the moment I'm thinking of drawing the shield designs freehand. I could give the Lord the targe-like shield with the yellow design, but it seems a bit wussy for such a personage, so it could go to the standard bearer instead. We'll see.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Tackling the shields.

A bit of progress on the shield transfers from Little Big Men Studios...

The instructions do warn they can be fiddly to apply, and yes they are, but not unduly so. Each sheet is covered with a clear layer of plastic. After cutting out the shield transfer with a sharp craft knife this layer has to be removed, exposing the sticky surface of the transfer beneath. The holes for the bosses are ready-cut, which is a thoughtful move. It allows you to align the transfer sticky side down with the shield. I use dental picks, tweezers and the craft knife blade to maneuver the transfer into place before dabbing it onto the shield surface. A drop of water to moisten the paper, thirty seconds countdown and off the paper comes, leaving a nice neat shield pattern. Once dry, the next step is to give the shields a coat of gloss varnish followed by one of matte to protect the design.

Easier than painting the designs, I think.

So far I've achieved good results, with only one transfer going slightly wonky. This was easily covered up by a touch of brown paint. If it goes really bad, LBMS advise scratching the transfer off and trying a new one. Touch wood I won't need to do that.

I selected the more monochrome designs for the levy, with a couple of colourful ones to break up the pattern a bit. Another feature I like about these transfers is the artist has included battle damage in his design. Exposed boards, scratches and dents are distributed nicely across the sheet, allowing for a slightly beat-up look to the groups and formations.

The next step will be to tidy up the shield edges with a bit of paint, then they'll be ready to glue to the figure. Lacking anything else I'll use E6000 industrial strength adhesive. It's necessary. My previous record of gluing shield onto figures is not too good. My old Seleucid pike phalanx shed shields like Autumn leaves.

Now, if I can work out a way to hold everything in place while the adhesive dries, that'll be great.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Victor Milán, RIP

A break from my normal posts about gaming and such now. Some of my readers may know my wife and I are regulars at Archon, the Midwest's premier SF/Fantasy convention held in Collinsville, Illinois. Sadly, one of the towering personalities of the con, Vic Milán, passed away yesterday.

Vic was a friend of ours, a genuinely nice guy, prolific fellow author, and associate of George R R Martin in his Wild Cards series. A veteran of Archon almost from its first years, he served as MC for the famous Archon Masquerade, where his wit, patience and kindness to the contestants, many of whom are nervous at appearing on the public stage, are legendary. Vic always had a smile and a word for everybody, and we'll miss the many times we spent chatting around the table in the con's green room.

Our condolences to his family and friends on his passing. The world of fandom is the poorer for it.
* * * *
I'll post about my progress on the Dux B shields another day. 

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Dux transfers

Okay, so I wasn't exactly hovering by the mail box this last week, but I did keep a watch on it, anticipating the arrival of the shield transfers from Little Big Men Studios. They arrived yesterday, and very nice they are too, with beautiful detailing for both Romano-British and Saxon forces.

They came nicely packed with clear instructions for use. I can see I'll have to use my 'cheaters' (reading glasses) to work with them, but it shouldn't be a problem. Some preparation is needed on the shields themselves before the transfers can be applied, so I'll be working on that this next week or so. Hopefully it won't be long before the stalwart chaps of the Romano-British army are equipped with the stuff to make their famous shield wall from!

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Up on the wall

A milestone passed yesterday when I framed and hung the Dux Britanniarum map up on the wall. Featuring the beautiful artwork by Coral Sealey, it now has pride of place over my desk. Picturing doing this was one of the things that kept me going through the stressful times involved in the house move.

Alongside it is my wife's framed collection of Doctor Who photos autographed by the dapper Peter Davison, the lovely Colin Baker, and the late Anthony Ainley, and another by Ray 'Diamond Geezer' Winstone from his Robin of Sherwood days.

Sadly another casualty of the move was revealed yesterday when my wife unpacked a box of ornaments. This little teapot-shaped salt shaker, a family heirloom and an antique over a hundred years old, had broken apart. Its mate survived, and shows what the other looked like.

Obviously the best way would be to have it professionally repaired, but that's beyond the reach of our pockets. If anyone can suggest a good adhesive I'll attempt a repair myself. All these modelling and sculpting skills learned over the years should count for something...

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

What a difference a shelf makes

Now the move is over we're unpacking slowly. I put up a couple of shelves in the gaming room closet so the bulk of my figures and scenery are now safely up and out of the way of other stuff as it gets moved around. It also gave me the opportunity to examine some of the scenery for damage caused by the long spell in storage. So far the Dux Britanniarum watchtower is the only piece that needs some minor repair. Three months spent in often below-freezing temperatures didn't do the walkway much good, and it's looking rather sorry for itself. Replacing the wooden supports should do the trick.

Talking of Dux Britanniarum, I ordered shield transfers for both sides from Little Big Men Studios, and they're on the way. All being well I should have done enough unpacking by then to find time to sort out my Romano-British shields at last. I've also found a nice frame for the map that comes with the rules, and once I get some matting card for it I'll hang it on the wall of the gaming room. The next project after that will be to buy the Saxons from Splintered Light Miniatures, and to make some fortifications and even an early monastery for those rascally Saxons to attack.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Settling in

Slowly but steadily, progress is being made in the new gaming room. I managed to set up a desk so I can get back to writing, and I'm uncovering more of the floor each day. My favourite Paul Daly artwork is up on the walls. It'll be a while off before I get the gaming table set up though, but I found a batch of casters which will do nicely for the table legs.

Then there's this little lot...

The garage shelf. Two rubber snakes add a bit of menace to the scene.

The previous occupant left the garage literally piled waist-deep in stuff, all of which she declared of no further interest to her. After sorting through it, which took four days, we found a load of toys, games and stuff that soon got donated to local schools and charitable organisations. I also found what eventually amounted to a whole shelf-full of crafting materials.

The white and the nearer brown box are full of aerosol paints, most of which are white, black or pink (not much call for that colour in my repertoire, squire...), and spray adhesive. Three hot glue guns surfaced, two of which were salvageable, along with a bag of glue sticks. There's also a whole bag of craft paints, all untouched. Four LED tea lights popped up, which will eventually be turned into flame and smoke markers. I forget what's in the furthest brown box, there's been so much stuff.

I hesitate to call it all 'loot,' since it's legally ours, but that's what it feels like. Eventually, once everything's done in the house and better weather arrives, I hope to set up a work area at the back of the garage and make use of it all.

House moves are for the birds...

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

So then... I'm back.

The House-move from Hell is over. It took far longer to get into our new house than expected due to various shenanigans I won't go into here. Now we're well into the Marathon that is unpacking stuff from boxes, to the traditional cry of "why on Earth did we keep this?"

And I have a new game room.

It's cluttered with stuff at the moment, and the walls are a boring shade of beige (is there such a thing as an exciting shade of beige..?) but at least I can size it up and get an idea of where things can go. I have a little less space than the previous room, but it shouldn't be a problem. Once all the necessary projects like kitchen and bedrooms are done, I will get on with this.

For the boards I'm going to make a table support measuring 5 feet long by 3 feet wide out of 2x4 and 1x4 inch wood like that shown in the previous post. Martin had the good idea of setting it on casters so it can be moved around easily, which will be great for this size room. I'm going to add a gate-leg to the idea so it can support the extension piece when I want to use it. The whole kit and kaboodle will go lengthwise from the window. Hopefully it'll get enough light.

As for my figures... Ouch. I packed them well, but most didn't come off too good at the tender mercies of the moving guys. I see the need for a few touch-ups here and there. The best survivors are the Dux B gang who got rattled around a bit but are otherwise undamaged. Their village survived just fine, and is ready for them to occupy.

More news as it comes in. I've got a lot of boxes to unpack and flatten. :/


home page uniques
Fishing Rods