23 February 2018

Planning for the Weekend Ahead. . .

 Ok, maybe not quite this formalized, but you get the idea.

Having dug myself out from under the first stack of student papers and team projects at last, my mind can turn to a long overdue open weekend!  Our snow here in mid-Michigan is now gone, replaced by flooding from recent heavy rains and snowmelt (no more skiing for now sadly), so free time this weekend can be spent down here in Zum Stollenkeller.  What's on tap then?  Glad you asked.

1) Apply any final touch ups to all of those replacement infantry standards and standard bears.

2) Apply two, or possibly three, coats of acrylic gloss varnish to everything.

3) Cement the finished figures and flags into the spaces left for them back when I rebased everything in September of last year.


The Grand Duchess and I also have plans for dinner out Saturday evening, following the babysitter's arrival, at a place that is supposed to be quite nice.  Might that actually mean tablecloths and actual place settings in a quiet, non-cavernous setting with waitstaff who actually know what they are doing?  Oh, perchance to dream! So, dress pants and shoes, navy blazer, and necktie are in order given the rare occasion.  

A jazz concert, for which the Grand Duchess purchased tickets in late November, follows.  We have not been out alone for an evening by ourselves since, oh, maybe last summer for our June anniversary?  But I really cannot remember with any degree of certainty.  I generally have a good memory, but smaller details like when we were last out alone tend to get lost in the daily hubbub of family life. 

Fortunately, I have student learning team-led discussions beginning next week just ahead of Spring Break (something akin to the half-term break in the U.K. I believe), so there is no lesson planning or class preparations to take care of Sunday, which means I can finish whatever I don't get to this evening or Saturday afternoon/evening where hobby activities are concerned.  Watch for some photographs in the next several days.  I feel a small parade coming on.


Otherwise, there are a few cavalry standard and guidon bearers to add next to my existing cavalry regiments, and then, as I have mentioned here before, I can return to that mass of unpainted cavalry purchased in late 2016, to see if I can make an appreciable dent in it.  I wouldn't exactly say the lead pile here is huge, but it grew somewhat when said cavalry castings were added, and then in February 2017 I purchased a bunch of unpainted Minden Prussian and Austrian infantry castings from a friend in Belgium.  

Besides sorting these into batches of 60 or so privates, officers, ensigns, and musicians and putting everything carefully into plastic parts boxes with little compartments inside (60 or so figures being the size of my line  infantry units), I have, obviously, done nothing more with them.  A plan of some kind is necessary for getting all of this stuff painted in the next few years.  All of these figures won't paint themselves.  Sadly. 

Maybe the answer is to plan some sort of tabletop encounter?  A specific target to aim for in other words.  This seems to be the answer rather than waffle and wallow endlessly without getting much painted.  Sadly, that has been the case for a litany of reasons, let's call it "real life," during the last three years.  The problem is that real life has never let up in all of that time.  Grumble, grumble, grumble. . .  

But it's high time to get off this seemingly endless boulevard of interrupted wargaming dreams and take a more direct route to hobby nirvana.  And if not hobby nirvana, then at least reducing the number of unpainted figures in the drawer to my left.  


One final thing.  I have managed to track down issues #13-24 of Miniature Wargames, at very reasonable rates, from sellers here in the U.S. and in the U.K.  These are winging their collective way to me from their respective points of origin as we speak.  

Why on Earth whould I do that?  Well, and I am speaking very generally here and from a reader's point of view, it seems that the first dozen, or maybe two, of any wargaming magazine are the most focused, most interesting, key issues.  Battlegames was largely great throughout its run being consistently interesting (most issues) with lovely photography throughoutMiniature Wargames with BG, during Henry's tenure as editor, breathed life once again for a short while after years at sea.  

The current rendition of the magazine is hit and miss in my view.  Given the editor's strong fantasy focus over the years, I have always felt like he was not quite the right fit as editor of a magazine ostensibly about historical miniatures wargaming.  Just my two pennoth.  MW ain't Dragon Magazine, The White Dwarf, or whatever the current Games Workshop or Citadel monthly advertorial might be.  I lack the facts, of course, not being part of those conversations at the corporate level once MW was again purchased a couple of years back, but I do have my suspicions as to why this particular decision was made.  Take that as you might, but no hate mail, please. 

But back to wargaming magazines.  Most of the first three years of so of Wargames Illustrated weren't bad under Duncan MacFarlane's leadership, but the magazine lost something under subsequent editors as we moved ever further into the Grunge and Goth inflected 1990sThe first dozen issues of Practical Wargamer that I have procured are quite good, but much (though not all) of the photography therein is poor, harking back to what you might see in the late 1970s and very early 1980s.  Small, black and white, in other words, and not always in sharp focus.  The articles themselves were top-notch.  Stuart Asquith nailed it with every issue in my view, whatever the particular focus of, or variations between, the different articles within might have been.  And I say that as a confirmed 18th and 19th century, horse and musket man.  Sounds like a song by The Kinks, doesn't it? Or maybe Iron Maiden.

Again making very general observations as someone unfamiliar with the (hobby) magazine publishing industry, just a reader mind you, my thoughts are this.  The overall focus, tone, and quality of a hobby magazine are affected by and changes gradually (or abruptly) due to periodic shifts in editorial personnel, publisher demands and dictates placed on an editor, the quality of article contributions, ever more space devoted to advertisements, in some cases articles that read more like extended advertisements for a particular rule set or line of figures, etc.  How is that for an overly long, almost academic German-style sentence?  Sadly, I was unable to think of a string of verbs to tack onto the tail end, which might change the meaning of everything that came before though.  That's a grammar nerd's joke.  Sorry!

The point is, all of these factors, and presumably others too, take a toll on whatever a publication was at the outset when it first appeared on the shelves of our local news stand, hobby store, or in the mailbox, many years ago until it becomes something it never was way back when.  The past is a different country, or something like that.  A realization that might be old news to you, but sometimes it takes yours truly a while to formulate a coherent thought.  Decades even.  You know.  Slow normal and all of that.  Or as my maternal grandparents used to say, with a chuckle and a wink, about as sharp as a mashed potato sandwich. 

But once again, I digress.  Back to the subject at hand!  Although now well over 30 years old, the very early issues of Miniature Wargames nevertheless continue to hold up well, in my view, and as such have been my hobby magazine touchstone for an equally long time.  It was never quite the same after Duncan MacFarlane left to start Wargames Illustrated in 1987 though.  I'm eager to see how the second dozen issues of Miniature Wargames compare to the first twelve once they arrive.

Ok, enough blog blather.  Time to touch up some flags!

-- Stokes

20 February 2018

The 1750s, 60s, and So Much More!

Prussian infantry at the Battle of Kolin.

Are you tired?  Rundown?  Feel like you've lost your wargaming mojo?  

Well, there is an easy cure for what ails you.  Broaden your gaming outlook, historic, and hobby knowledge by dropping by the Fife & Drum Discussion Forum 

While the core interest has to do with the warfare of the mid-18th century as well as the delectable Minden, Fife& Drum, and Crann Tara ranges of miniatures, the forum has grown by leaps and bounds since its inception a year ago to cover much more besides the wars and soldiers of Maria Theresa and ol' Frederick II.  

In fact, the Fife & Drum Discussion Forum has become a veritable community of the current wargaming illuminati and cognoscenti from around the globe, who routinely share their thoughts on subjects as diverse as figure sculpting, scratch-building tabletop scenery, painting, basing, flags, uniforms, and tactical doctrine of different historic eras plus a host of other topics, many of which have to do with other periods, theaters, and armies besides those of the 1740s-1760s in Central Europe.  Drop by for a chat and a helping of hobby inspiration.  We'll leave the light on for ya.

-- Stokes

18 February 2018

Falling Standards?

The last two Hessian standards 'borrowed' into the Stollenaian Army.  They will take their place at the head of the very first line regiment (Revell 1/72 tall, thin plastic Prussians) completed way back in the late summer of 2006.  These Minden figures will stick out a little less sorely than the single, rather squat MiniFig first assigned to the regiment way back in '06.  The flags are also certainly more colorful than the original.

Well, despite the coffee catastrophe yesterday morning, and the trip out to replace the keyboard, I managed to have a fairly balanced day.  Balanced in terms of mostly hobby tinkering with rules and plowing through the remaining half dozen papers for one of my classes this semester yesterday afternoon.  Mercifully, the latter were pretty good to, in the case of two, excellent, so I was left with time for other things.  The Young Master even managed to prepare most of his science fair project on the Space Shuttle unsupervised.  Happy sigh.

All of that meant that I had about 90 minutes following The Young Master's evening routine, which lately also includes one or another of the Geronimo Stilton novels, the current favorite, for bedtime reading.  Once back down here in Zum Stollenkeller at about 8:35pm, I got to work on the flags picture above.  I had no orange handy, so flew by the seat of my pants and mixed my own using a GW/Citadel red, yellow, and then some white for highlighting plus a later blue and green for the central details around the Hessian lion.  

Not too bad if I might be permitted to say so.  As with the last pair of Hessian flags, I've painted over the areas of main color but will leave the detailed wreath and crown alone.  Simply too complicated for me to attempt, but by painting in the main colors and then adding a few highlight washes here and there, the style now matches my figure painting a bit better than if I had simply printed out the flags, attached them to the poles, and left them as is.  

Only a few minor touch-ups left to do, but I'm pleased with the 90 minutes' work overall.  I did mess up one blue corner ray on the flag at right, obliterating the smaller wreath and crown in a corner of the flag almost entirely, but is is just about made invisible by a furl near the flagpole, so I'm not going to mess with it any further.  C'est la guerre as they say!

The next step is to reexamine all of these replacement infantry standards and bearers for any final and necessary (??!!) touch-ups, and then slap two or three coats of Liquitex acrylic gloss over everything.  I can then attach the standard bearers themselves to those nifty replacement Litko bases onto which I stuck everything else last September to make the appearance of my armies a bit more consistent given the various figures used thus far and minor differences in size and sculpting style.  

From this point forward, however, anything that might be added to the existing combat forces will be either RSM95, Minden, Fife&Drum, Crann Tara, or Eureka, with, just maybe, another unit of Holger Eriksson dragoons at some point.  But that is putting the cart before the, ahem, horse.

Next up, I must add a few standard and guidon bearers to my existing cavalry regiments, and then I can return, in good conscience, to all of those unpainted cavalry castings purchased in the run up to and just after my half-century mark in the fall of 2016.  In the meantime, another dozen student papers this afternoon as well as some lesson planning for Monday morning's class.  Happy Sunday everyone!

-- Stokes

17 February 2018

Coffee and Keyboards: Ne'er the Twain Shall Meet. . .

Not my own image, but you immediately grasp the point of today's post.

So there I was.  Saturday morning about 11am.  Still in my pajamas and back down here in Zum Stollenkeller after breakfast upstairs at the dining room table with the Young Master.  I returned to my chair here at the computer, second large mug of fresh French press coffee in hand, meaning to return to typing into my ever evolving mid-18th century rules a revised version of Mark Clayton's morale rules from Miniature Wargames issue #7.

I was about two minutes back into this activity when I reached for said mug of coffee, without really looking at what I was doing, and, of course, it slipped from my grasp.  The contents spilled all over my keyboard, some papers nearby, a box of paperclips, and my non-functioning Swiss pocket watch that I've been meaning to take to the jeweler for repairs.  Needless to say, I turned the air momentarily blue with muttered curses, took the steps upstairs two at a time to retrieve a roll of paper towels from the kitchen, so I could return asap to start my own version of The Pepsi Syndrome clean-up.  

Miraculously, the two old issues of Miniature Wargames sitting to my right (#6 and #7) managed to escape the caffeinated carnage inflicted on so much of the rest of my desktop.  I don't know how.

At any rate, shortly after mopping up everything, my keyboard, into which I had just installed a fresh battery earlier this morning, stopped responding.  Nothing.  Nada.  No way.  Now how.  Of course, that meant an unplanned trip out to find a replacement was called for.  Sigh.  Back upstairs to shower quickly, dress, brush my teeth, and head out

However, there are those rare days when the stars line up, and things go more rapidly that you fear they might.  I was in and out of Best Buy in under ten minutes with a new Logitec wireless keyboard-mouse combo, for a very reasonable price.  I even managed on the way home to fill the car with gas at a good price, drop a pair of pants off at the dry-cleaners, and pick up a few items at the supermarket (remarkably quite for late on a Saturday morning).  In under an hour, I was home again and setting up the new keyboard-mouse combo.  As Peggy Lee once sang, "Yes it's a good day. . ."

Now, if only I can get through a short stack of five or six student papers, I might actually be able to return to the painting table for some actual work on infantry standards for the first time in a couple of weeks.   Still cold, but we had a thaw midweek, so the remaining snow is icy, crunchy, and not, according to the Grand Duchess, good for skiing.  So, we're staying in today to combine a bit of work with a bit of leisure while the Young Master works on a Space Shuttle science fair project for school.

-- Stokes

12 February 2018

Gone Skiin'. . .

The Young Master and Dad having hot cocoa in the warming hut (with woodstove) of a local ski area Sunday afternoon.

Not much time at the painting table the last week or so I'm afraid.  We have accrued a rather impressive amount of snow on the ground here in Mid-Michigan, and so any free time has been taken up with cross-country skiing.  Yesterday, Sunday, afternoon we suited up and hit the trails in the woods around Lake Lansing, and it was amazing.  Great traction, fantastic glide, ideal temperatures (about 20 degrees Fahrenheit), and quite a few other skiers and snowshoe enthusiasts out enjoying the day.  

The Young Master has really come into his own on skis this winter and has become quite a daredevil on hills (he takes after his mother, who was part of an alpine skiing club when she went to high school in Reno, Navada).  These family outings on skis are always, in my view, some of the nicest times the three of us have together.  Very special hours together doing something that all three of us enjoy.  What more could you ask for?

-- Stokes

03 February 2018

Thank Goodness Someone Worries about Keeping up Standards!

The latest batch of replacement infantry standards.  I figured the Hessian flags at front right had details large enough that I could risk letting them show and have a crack at actually painting them.  Seemed to work reasonably well.  

Plugging away this (Saturday) afternoon and late into the evening here with another two pairs of replacement infantry standards.  Some obvious touching up tomorrow to clean up a few lines as well as a few remaining brass buttons and neck stocks to add on the ensigns (in light blue coats) destined to join shortly Stollen's Leib (Grand Duchess Sonja's Own) Grenadiers, but we're getting there.  Not perfect, by any stretch, but rather pleasing to the eye in any case.  Only one final pair remaining after these, but I need to pick up some orange paint before tackling those.  It's after Midnight here, so it's time to hit the sack.  Nighty night!

-- Stokes

Sunday Morning. . .

For those who might be interested, I am using synthetic #2 and #3 rounds (with good points) to apply my thinned colors, washes almost.  The white areas are first given a light gray undercoat and then highlighted several times (until everything looks right) with successive washes of white to facilitate better blending.  Other thinned colors (reds, blues, etc.) are then carefully applied, and a thinned highlight is added later.  I apply metallic colors and leave them as is. 

The complicated wreath and crown designs on the Hessian standards, which will be presented to the Grand Duchess Sonja's Own, look good enough without any further dabbling from me, so I have decided to leave well enough alone there.  The gilt finials and cords get an undercoat of dark brown and are then damp-brushed with gold, the usual Citadel hobby acrylics.

Finally, we seem to have picked up a few new followers the last several days, so welcome to each of you.  Please feel free to leave the occasional comment, observation, or suggestion and join in the fray that is the Grand Duchy of Stollen blog. . .  A blog about nothing.  Not that there's anything wrong with that.

The GREAT Battlegames Lives Once Again!!!

Forgive my fanboy ravings, and I am getting to this a bit late, but, like a phoenix from the flames,  the much missed Battlegames magazine with noted wargaming author and hobby personality Henry Hyde at the helm is poised to make a return.  The late magazine rises again as a digital venture of sorts with the help of a growing list of patrons around the globe.  Perhaps, I'd best let Henry explain in more detail though.  Visit Battlegames on Patreon forthwith and become part of this exciting development in the hobby virtual press.  Henry has also retooled his blog to reflect this venture, and you can read all about that by visiting the Battlegames Blog.

-- Stokes

02 February 2018

Useful Tools for Making Tabletop Buildings. . .

 A magnetic gluing jig available from Micromark.com.  Micromark. . .  The small tool specialists!

A quick post this Friday morning, before I begin the great sport of playing telephone tag with several area contractors. . .  to line up someone to take care of a few home improvements for us here at Totleigh-in-the-Wold this summer.  Hopefully.  

If there is anything more mind numbing than work-related meetings, similar gatherings at your child's school now and then, or time spent in the waiting rooms of doctors and dentists, it surely must be transmissions into that vast black void, otherwise known as voicemail.  So many waking hours in our terminally "wired" and connected era seem to be taken up with calling and leaving messages on people's phones never to hear back from them.  Without three or four follow-up calls on your part over the next several days that is.  Ground control to Major Tom?  Major Tom?  Major Tom?  It doesn't strike me as the way for service providers of any kind to do business.  But what do I know?  

I always think of Cybil Fawlty's nemesis Mr. O'Reilly in an early episode of Fawlty Towers (The Builders?) whenever I must go through the machinations involved with trying to line up a plumber, furnace man, electrician, etc., etc., etc.  If you find someone who is at all conscientious about getting back to you, who provides rapid, quality work, and who is reasonably priced, be sure to give that man -- for they are almost all still men in 2018 in my experience -- ALL of your future business.  The trick, of course, is in sorting the fine grains of wheat from all of the chaff.   

The garage for occasional work on the car, on the other hand, seems to be of a different breed.  More like Mako Sharks in a way.  They always get back to you quickly with a day/time to take the car in to look things over.  Cah-ching, cah-ching, cah-ching. . .  The old sound manual cash registers with their bells and change-filled drawers used to make before going digital in the late 1970s-early 80s.  Remember when?

Anyway,  today's post is an addendum to last week's showcase of several recent Baltic German town buildings.  On further reflection, it seems like a good idea to share  some information that might make others' tabletop construction efforts easier.  Here are a few specialist tools I like.  

The first is a magnetic gluing jig for getting your walls assembled at precise right angles.  A circle cutter is very handy for those times when a cardboard toilet paper tube just won't do, and you need to produce either cylinders or rounded parts for church towers, smokestacks, water wheels on the sides of old mills, and the like.  A metal protractor with a ruler attached helps immeasurably -- Groan! -- with getting the angles on gable end walls just right.  And, of course,  a small, self-standing machinist's square has all sorts of uses and applications. A plastic burnishing tool, available in many big box arts and crafts stores, helps with burnishing the edges of your cut-out pieces before assembly begins.  Doing so makes everything look a bit more nicely finished even before painting takes place.

Along with the usual photographic references, heavy cardboard (aka chipboard) or foamcore, balsa and basswood strips, hobby and craft knives (with sharp new blades), a metal ruler, a cutting mat, glue, and some assorted bottles of acrylic craft paint, these items are extremely helpful in the construction of your own tabletop real estate.  Their use makes the process relatively easy and relatively quick while also minimizing wasted materials and frustration.

Three final tips that might be of some assistance.  One, keep your hands clean, which prevents annoying fingerprints (in the glue and/or paint) and smears as you assemble and later paint/finish your buildings.  You may occasionally need to wash your hands halfway through a workbench session.  

Two, have a look at one or more books on the design and construction of architectural models and theatrical scenery.  Both are fascinating subject areas in their own right, and from which you are bound to glean lots of interesting ideas, tips, and tricks not necessarily found in the pages of books on the construction of tabletop scenery for wargaming and model railroad use.  

Last of all, and as with so much else, when you get tired and/or make a mistake, stop.  Clean up your work area, and put things away.  Come back to your project the next evening with a fresh mind, hands, and eyes that aren't quite so tired.  You'll thank yourself later.  

Now, what are you waiting for?  Time to get started building your own Tuileries Palace in 28mm.  Selectively compressed of course.

-- Stokes

A heavy duty circle cutter, which can handle, among other materials, cardboard and leather.  Available from Amazon.

A special protractor with a ruler attached, perfect for getting the angles on those gables, and subsequently roof lines, just right.  Also available from Amazon.

 A 4" or 5" steel machinist's square is very helpful for ensuring that everything is squared up as you glue the various sections of your outer walls together and stands at 90 degrees relative to your table surface.  Available from both Micromark and Amazon among other suppliers


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...