Friday, December 24, 2010

As the expedition boards the steamboat, I'll wish everyone a peaceful holiday season. May all your projects - gaming and otherwise - come to fruition in the New Year too!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Someone's rockin' my steamboat - 4

Work on the steamboat progressed steadily this week, but as I had other projects running concurrently I only had time to take one photo of the model as it took shape. The photo below shows the basic construction complete. The upper deck is in place, the paddle-box is finished. Mini-dowels make useful supports for decks and awnings, and strips of wood bought from Michael's hobby store give the right effect for the wooden-sided paddle-box.

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

Someone's rockin' my steamboat - 3

Onwards and upwards with the steamboat project. While everything else dried or set, I began work on the upper deck. At this point I decided to deviate from the prototype which had a fixed upper deck configuration. As I want to place figures on the upper deck I opted instead for a removable canopy idea.

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.

I made the paddle box using two side sections of 3/16th" foamcore with a card back nearest the deckhouse and a basswood roof. Once this is done I'll panel the sides and part of the open rear with strips of wood. The photo below shows the general state of construction at this stage, with the upper deck held in place by the basswood sides.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Someone's rockin' my steamboat - 2

On to the next stage, assembling the paddle wheel. The Roi des Belges and other steamboats of this era often had large rectangular paddle-boxes over the stern wheels, which simplifies things from a modelling perspective. Everything within the box doesn't have to be constructed; only the pertinent parts that show.

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.

The whole was glued between the two lengths of basswood projecting from the main deck. Note the upward bias of the wheel segments to the stern.

Short lengths of wood strip made the paddles themselves. I used a strong impact adhesive to glue these in place.

The shot below shows the general effect, with District Commissioner Carstairs providing a sense of scale.

Tomorrow should see me onto the next stage - constructing the paddle box and the upper deck.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Someone's rockin' my steamboat - 1

On now to a model of a quintessential feature of most Colonial-era gaming - the steamboat. I've long had plans in mind for a vessel based on the Roi des Belges, a Congo River steamer of the 1880's-early 1900's. Typical of her type, she was a stern-wheeler and had a main deck, upper deck and a pilot house. In the early 1890's she was commanded by Joseph Conrad, who used his experiences aboard to write the novel Heart of Darkness, a book which later served as the basis for the movie Apocalypse Now.

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.

In the next stage I added two narrow strips of card along the sides, since the Roi des Belges featured something very similar. Holes were then drilled through the card, basswood and foamcore, giving a good solid foundation for mini-dowels which will support the upper deck. Five each side is quite enough for this job, and allows room to stand five or so 25-28mm figures on 2 pence piece bases.

Once all was dry I painted the deck a basic tan color and built two small deckhouses from foamcore. Thin card cut to shape and painted form the doors and windows. I cut louvers in the windows since these were a feature of steamboats of this time. The deckhouses will be glued onto the areas of bare basswood.

Although the Roi des Belges seems to be painted quite a dark color (indeterminate in black and white photos of course), I chose a spinach and cream color scheme, as it was one fairly typical of Victorian times.

Next up, constructing the paddlewheel and on to the upper deck.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Gaming foliage 2

And so to the final stages of making the foliage. I did mention the need for fresh-ground coffee in the previous post. This is where it comes into play! Clarence Harrison of Quindia Studios uses coffee grounds for ground coverage to good effect. I follow his example, as shown below.

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

Gaming foliage 1

Some weeks ago I made some terrain pieces taken from a dollar store buy. Floral Garden is a rather unprepossessing range of interior decor, typical of the "Made in China" crap flooding the markets these days. Even so, it does have merits.

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.

Getting to work with the hot glue gun, within a few minutes I had the result shown above. One thing to note (and you may already know this); hot glue isn't the strongest adhesive around. It does have the advantage of setting quickly, especially if the surface the glue is squirted on is cold, like the disks. The trick here is to poke the plastic stalks into the blob of glue and work quickly before it hardens.

A side-on view, showing how effective these pieces are already at blocking line-of-sight.

And on to the next stage, applying a layer of sand to the disks to give a keyed surface for the spackle to grip to. I use the interior decor sand available at most hobby stores. It comes in thin plastic bags, so to avoid splits and spills I transfer it to old peanut jars, like that shown. Use old newspaper or plastic sheets to cover the work area. This stage can get very messy!

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

New recruits!

Thanks to a purchase on eBay, I now have a few new recruits for my Africa Station campaign setting.

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

A little late, but -

A Happy Thanksgiving to all.
On the modelling front, I'm hoping to start work on a steamboat or two, plus I have a project in mind for an aerial gunboat, in the shape of the Aphid-class from Space: 1889. Gaming-wise, I may even be able to clear my table of clutter and try out the Sharp Practice rules, recently purchased from those fine chaps at Too Fat Lardies.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Whispering grass

Fall being upon us with a vengeance, I'm turning the season to advantage by using some of Nature's bounty. I decided to experiment with making a batch of elephant grass to fill up the terrain for Africa Station. The strands of grass are the tough needles from a species of pine that grows around here. As the season advances these can be gathered up by the bushel.

A clump of the grass, with some new bases to the fore awaiting spackling.

These hunters are wary as they approach the dense cover.

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.

Those green plants beyond the hunters are from a plastic plant found in dollar stores. As interior decor they're pretty naff, but pull the separate plastic stems from the main trunk and you get a nice bunch of usable foliage. I follow the same method for the grass by fixing them to the bases using hot glue before layering on the spackle and so on.

The lone tree in the middle is another experiment, this time using a suitable shaped twig and some medium green Woodland Scenics tree material. I found the stuff to be crumbly and difficult to work with, so resorted to using a rough oval section of mesh cut from a used fabric softener sheet used in tumble dryers. Attaching the mesh to the top using hot glue, I covered it with thinned PVA and applied the tree material a bit at a time. It took a while to do and was rather fiddly. Eventually I got a reasonable result, but I'm not sure I want to try making many more like it.
I see from the counter that the number of visits to this blog has reached over 2,500. My thanks to all who stop by, and I hope you find something useful here.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Marching in, travel-worn but alive.

A sizable percentage of my Darkest Africa collection made it across the Pond this week. These lads were well-packed and, apart from a few abrasions, arrived sound in wind and limb.

The Colonel looks on with interest from the veranda as the troops parade.

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.

Azande tribal warriors to the fore, German Seebattalion to rear left and Stalwart British Tommies to rear right. Colonial house and terrain scratch-built - and not entirely finished.

Okay, I hold up my hand and say I used cyanoacrylic/ superglue for the sake of quickness, but I'm loathe to spend too much of my time holding a shield and spear together until the glue decides to set. Superglue has its uses, but doesn't make for a strong bond. I am open to an alternative, and hear good things about epoxy adhesives. Would anyone care to give a recommendation?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Our new video catalog!

Hey! We just made our first video catalog! Check it out!

Friday, November 5, 2010

The village

After the successful trial of the new thatching method used on the colonial house I decided to try it out on the African huts. I think the result is worthwhile.

Chief Bubbalazi & Entourage

An overview of the village

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

The Little House on the...

...Savannah? I decided to attempt something a little different as a refreshing change from all the Arab-style buildings and African huts I've made recently. Here's a small Colonial-style house suitable as the residence of a District Commissioner or similar European official. It can fit anywhere in the world, from Africa through India and Burma to the Far East.

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

The Sword and the Flame game - WW1 East Africa

"Walk wide o' the Widow at Windsor,
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.

This was my first experience with the rules and they proved easy to pick up. The action involved an encounter skirmish between Belgian Congolese and German colonial forces somewhere in German East Africa during WW1. I played the Belgians, fielding a platoon of three Force Publique askari sections supported by two bands of native levies. Don took command of two Seebattalion sections and three schutztruppen sections. Blake supplied the figures and guidance.

Movement is decided by ordinary playing cards and dice, the card color saying who gets to move first, and three d6 deciding how far in inches. Difficult terrain requires two dice to be rolled, simulating reduced movement.

Quality was on Don's side, as under TSATF rules European troops have better firepower, with askari/schutztruppen next and native levies a long way last. Faced with superior firepower I decided to concentrate my attentions on defeating the two Seebattalion sections. I won the game handily as they and a supporting schutztruppen section withered under my combined fire with little loss to my force, leaving Don unable to contest the field.

Units reduced to 50% or less manpower tend to rout very easily - as is only right - with affected units moving the value of two dice rolls in inches toward the rear. One of my levy sections, reduced to just two men, performed the most leisurely rout I've seen on a wargames table - a mere four inches back! Not so much a rout as a case of "we're just going over here for a while, okay?"

All in all I enjoyed the rules, which gave a quick clean game of about an hour duration. If I have a quibble it's that they tend to be bloody, but I'll certainly play with them again.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Near the village...

...the peaceful village, the lion may be sleeping tonight, but the inhabitants are awake.

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

Fluffy takes a walk

Chief Bubbalazi discovers a problem when his new pet goes for a stroll...

"Dammit! A pooper-scooper isn't going to be big enough for this job. Signal Drummer, call the Ditch-Witch Doctor!"


(A photo of the kraal I've put together for sale with the next African village on eBay.)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Bone Idol

Somewhere beyond the outskirts of civilization stands a dreadful idol dedicated to the great deity S'mon Co'ell, Punisher of the Untalented. Many propitiate his favors but few succeed...

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.
Although I intended it to serve as a centerpiece for Daftest Africa games, it would suit just about any genre, especially fantasy. Does anyone have any other ideas for its use..?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Blimp over Egypt

It's early morning. Somewhere west of Suez an American blimp takes to the skies. It seems to be an ordinary event judging by the lack of reaction from the folks in the street below. My United States Aerial Cavalry Squadron Blimp No. 1 Bird Dog makes a reappearance, this time with her plucky two-man crew aboard. What adventures lie in wait for them..?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Spottiswode-Gallant Fast Steam Torpedo Vehicle Mk 1

The Colonel poses alongside the new machine.

The rear of the vehicle, showing the spare bomb stowage.

The vehicle shown with the bomb in the safe raised position.
A new product has rolled out of the Spottiswode-Gallant works in the shape of the Fast Steam Torpedo Vehicle Mk 1. Based on the same chassis as the popular Light Exploration Vehicle Mk 1, it's intended to fill the need for a light but potent weapon in landship fleets.

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

In a corner of the old Arab market

Here's a little something I made to sell on eBay, along with another African village. They're sure attracting a lot of attention. There are plenty of gamers out there who appear really keen on gaming in the Dark Continent!

"Rather nice produce they have here, gentlemen."
The Colonel, District Commissioner Carstairs and Commander Hardleigh-Worthit take in the local color.

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

Out to launch

Here are the first steps on the way to Africa Station, center of scenarios and mini-campaigns in my Daftest Africa setting. Since the settlement is situated on the mighty Ukrazi River, there's a need for some kind of jetty to handle boat traffic - and a need for a boat to go with the jetty.

Messing about on the river.

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

Amy and the Sunflowers

For those aficionados of the British classic sci-fi series Doctor Who, here's a few shots of a diorama I made recently. You make recognize it from the episode Vincent and the Doctor, which aired earlier this year. A customer over on my Etsy emporium commissioned me to make this particular scene where Amy Pond is surrounded by sunflowers, thus inspiring Vincent van Gogh to paint his famous picture. The figure is by Heresy Miniatures, who make a number of characters not a million miles removed from those of the Time Lord and his friends and enemies. I hope you enjoy, and if anyone wants a similar diorama made, let me know!

Friday, August 13, 2010

An interesting find

On our stopping by Michaels hobby store yesterday evening, Cindy discovered this fine little piece sitting alone on a shelf. It's one of those wooden birdhouse blanks people buy and decorate to their own taste. I'm not sure if it can withstand outdoor conditions as an actual birdhouse without a lot of weatherproofing, but at a price of less than $5, I can spot a wargaming bargain when I see one!

"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!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

On the street where you live

I've taken a leaf from Major General Tremorden-Rederring's book and made some Arab-style houses. Each is between 2.25 to 2.5 inches square and 1.75 inches high, with a couple like the mosque/tomb and house with steps somewhat larger. Construction is based on foam-core shells plastered with spackle then painted following the Major General's guidelines. The flat roofs are made of a double-thickness of card.

The photo above shows another neat idea from the Major General's school of architecture, where one building sits atop another to make a two-storey structure.

Commander Hugh R. Hardleigh-Worthit, District Commissioner Carstairs
and the Colonel take in the local scene.
These buildings are really just to try out the ideas for myself. They'll probably go up for sale on eBay and I'll build another set with some walls for my Daftest African settlement-to-be.

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