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.

1 comment:

Bluebear Jeff said...

A good project which I will follow with interest . . . and perhaps copy too.

-- Jeff


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