27 October 2014

A Long Delayed Painting Update. . .

The last few wagons and carts are just about done.

This past weekend has been one of those rare three-day periods (Fall Break Day today, so no classes) where things were relaxed, quiet, and just a real joy.  A nice blend of family time, alone time, and time with the Grand Duchess.  For instance, the two of us enjoyed a campfire in the portable firepit late Saturday evening.  Chilly, dry air, a slight breeze, and the spicy aroma of woodsmoke plus warmed apple cider flavored with cinnamon sticks.  It was a delightful way to end an otherwise delightful day.

On the painting front, I've also managed to sit down to the painting table for about 90 minutes or so the last couple of evenings to work on the drovers and drivers, which, as you can see from the photograph above, are just almost done.  The horses are finished too, although their harnesses and such still require a few judicious dabs of brass and silver to suggest buckles, bits, and baubles.

You'll also notice that a few of the horses have not had riders attached, and that is because I'm waiting to get my hands on a few of the new Minden Austrian and Prussian horse team riders with which I'll finish everything.  And, darn it, it seems like some new Minden Austrian and Russian ammunition wagons and carts are poised to hit the market before long.  And you know what that means?  Yep.  The supply and logistics train that I've plugged away at since the spring of this year will absolutely  have to have a few additions.  Models as nice as those that Der Alte Fritz produces just scream "Add me to the collection!"

I might be able to steal away for some painting this evening, but it seems doubtful.  "Why?" you might ask.  Well, the Young Master turns five today, and we'll celebrate with supper (he has requested pasta with a sage & butter sauce of all things), a cake, candles, cards, and gifts plus a bit of playtime before bed since he does not have preschool tomorrow.  I got him up, dressed, breakfasted, and off to school this morning, and clearly he felt special today.  The greeting he received from his teachers and classmates was also lovely to see.  I kissed his cheek and told him to have a good morning, but I don't really think he noticed me leaving.  It was one of those moments when your heart swells so much with happiness for your child, and a bit of pride too, that it feels like it will just burst.


 The Young Master and Dad fooling around at a local park on the Saturday just gone by.


Time is such a funny thing.  On the one hand, it seems like years have gone by since I brought the Young Master and the Grand Duchess home from the hospital a few days following his arrival.  And on the other, it seems like no time at all since we were in the midst of 11pm, 2am, and 4am feedings for a little, wrinkled, squawking bundle, who refused to sleep anywhere except on his mother.  The poor Grand Duchess had almost no sleep for the first two months, and it wasn't much better for Dad either.  But time marches on, and the Young Master is really becoming quite an interesting, funny, and even charming personality.  

For example, on Saturday afternoon, the three of us visited one of our local cafes for refreshments following a couple of hours at the park.  As the Young Master and I waited at our sidewalk table for the Grand Duchess to join us with the beverages, I began speaking to him in German, the language his mother has spoken to him since he was a newborn. Although he is effectively fluent in that language at this point, the Young Master answered with, "Dad, please speak in English."  

When I countered in German, reminding him that he and I can also speak together in German, plus Norwegian, he replied in a humorous yet firm tone just as the Grand Duchess arrived at the table, "Yes, but we don't want to right now!"  Sigh.  Young Master -- 50. . .  Dad -- Zilch.  Laughter ensued on all parts in any case.

That particular linguistic slap-down aside, I cannot wait for the Young Master to unwrap his brand new Ibanez acoustic guitar after supper and cake tonight.

-- Stokes

09 October 2014

That Boy Took My Love Away. . .

This model of acoustic steel string by Ibanez is on the way to Stollen Central!

A completely unrelated post here, but I'm excited.  At the end of the month when he celebrates his 5th birthday, the Young Master will receive a guitar like the one above from Ol' Dad.  Like many children, he loves music, often requesting Diana Krall for suppertime listening when we sit down at the table together.  Sting, Peter, Paul, and Mary,  and The Beatles are among his other favorites, and he enjoys listening to me play the guitar on rare occasion.  Yours truly first received a guitar on the day I celebrated my own 5th birthday way back in 1971, and it seems like a sound idea to continue the tradition.  I think he'll be thrilled when he unwraps it.  For my part, I'll certainly be thrilled to present a guitar to the Young Master on the big day.

-- Stokes

05 October 2014

Slower Than Molasses in Janaury. . .

The now finished Prussian Blacksmith vignette, which I call 'The Thrown Show.'  Figures are from the amazing Minden Miniatures range while the mobile field forge and tools are by Berliner Zinnfiguren.  The table was scratch-built using the ends of round toothpicks for the legs and a couple of pieces of white illustration board along with very careful cutting and gluing.  Holding one's breath is always extremely helpful with tiny stuff like this.

How's the painting coming along, old man?  Thought you'd never ask.  Slower than molasses in January to be frank.  The usual stuff associated with my courses and students I'm afraid, but I did manage to wrap up an article and send it along to the people waiting on it last weekend.  I also managed to finish, finally, the Prussian blacksmith vignette above (the table and tools), and take a bunch of photographs of various things completed earlier this year to send along with the article.  

So, while no painting occurred, Saturday was a delightful late morning and afternoon of miniature photography, followed with a bit of careful editing using Photoshop Elements 9 to brighten, sharpen, correct color cast, and crop everything. Hopefully a few of the pictures might be selected for eventual publication.  

Miniature photography is almost as absorbing a pastime as painting and wargaming.  Needless to say, it is fascinating to learn about how we might present our collections to their best advantage photographically speaking, and when I think of my early attempts at photography back when the Grand Duchy of Stollen blog started. . .  Well, let's just say that my pictures have improved ten-fold during the last year or so.  Still lots to learn and try, of course, but the rapid progress is nice to see.

With that in mind, I thought I'd include one picture from yesterday's batch of the blacksmith vignette for your viewing pleasure.  As for today (Sunday), I am taking some time for myself, darn it, and will sit down to work some on the harnesses and traces of those final half dozen or so wagons and carts.  They have sat idle and patiently behind me on the painting table for the last three weeks, but I want to get 'em finished because there is an 80-figure unit of RSM95 musketeers that I want to start.  

The plan for these is to paint them as the various contingents of Ernestinisch Saxon infantry, part of the Reichsarmee, with each of the four planned companies in a slightly different uniform.  That should help keep things moving forward without too much drudgery.  I don't know that I can again face the thought of painting 80 figures in nothing but white uniforms like the two such regiments that already exist in my collection as part of the Army of Zichenau.

In the meantime, let's harness up!

-- Stokes

21 September 2014

Still Alive and Kicking (Barely). . .

Here is where things stand with the final batch of wagons and carts as of mid-afternoon today (Sunday).

I am still alive and kicking, as the song went, but as you might expect, things have been a tad busy here at Stollen Central since the autumn semester began in earnest at the end of August.  However, this weekend has provided a nice lull before yet another batch of students papers floods over me Monday morning, and one more cycle of reading and assigning grades takes center stage for the next 7-10 days.

At any rate, I have been picking away, time permitting, at a few different wargaming-related things since the last post here at The Grand Duchy of Stollen blog in early September.  We are getting there, slowly but surely, with the last batch of wagons and carts.  The vehicles and horses are done, and now it's time for the usual dark brown on all of the collars, harnesses, traces, straps, reins, and the like.  Then, it's time to do the humans, followed by the usual gloss treatment and then groundwork added to the bases.

In addition, I've gotten around to painting a scratch-built table along with an anvil and few tools that came along with the Berliner Zinnfiguren mobile field forge that the Grand Duchess picked up and brought home to me when she visited the city for three weeks last May.  ONce a tiny bit of sand and Woodland Scenics grass material have been added to that, I'll finally have a rather large blacksmith vignette completed, which has been in-progress for only eighteen months or so.

Then, there are a couple of hobby-related articles I've been chipping away at as and when time has allowed, or the writing muse has found me.  With any luck, one of these should be ready to submit by mid-October, and another by year's end.  Naturally, there are lots of photographs that will go along for the editors' consideration.  Keep your fingers crossed, and hopefully both articles might appear in the next several months.

On a totally unrelated note,  I have also been working away steadily adding content to my other blog, The Average Guy's Guide to Classic Style.  I don't think I have ever mentioned it here during the two years it has been in existence, but have a look if you would like, and see what you think.  Classic menswear and polite behavior are not necessarily to everyone's taste, but both are things in which I have more than a passing interest.

Finally, there are some amazing new items forthcoming from the folks at Minden/Fife&Drum Miniatures here in the United States and Crann Tara in the (apparently still) United Kingdom.  Everything will be of interest to all 28-30mm mid-18th century enthusiast whether your interests lie with the War of Austrian Succession, the Seven Years War, or fictitious combatants in the tradition of the late Brigadier Young, Colonel Lawford, and the Grant family.  Click on the links above to have a look for yourself if you have not already read about these new and/or forthcoming releases elsewhere online.  

Looks like it's time to update my birthday and Christmas wishlist for 2014. . .  and maybe just go ahead and purchase a few things for myself without waiting for either occasion.  You know.  Just to tide me over.

-- Stokes

03 September 2014

Still Tick, Tick, Ticking Along. . .

The final (for now) six wagons and carts in various stages of incompletion.

Despite a busy couple of weeks with the start of the new college semester, I've managed to snatch a little time here and there to work on the various supply train vehicles.  An errant French Napoleonic limber also arrived from Ireland in the midst of everything.  

Never one to shy away from ahistoricity, I tacked it and its horse team to bases and applied the necessary base-coats, figuring it will go well with everything else.  Hey, if the late Brigadier Young could include Napoleonic British Royal Horse Artillery in his otherwise 18th century armies, then I can certainly include a French Gribeauval limber with my own quasi-historic armies of the 1760s-1770s.  

Next up, the various brown oil glazes for the horses and Mr. Entwistle, who pulls the hay cart in the third row at the right.

-- Stokes

23 August 2014

Summer has gone to the dogs around here. . .


Hey, these are the hot, steamy dog days of late August in the American Midwest, right?  Anyway, one of you mentioned a few days ago that it would be a good idea to add a dog to the vivandiere vignette that is taking shape (I'm still messing with it before gluing everything in place) on the ol' painting table.  To coin the Wooster twins, Claude and Eustace, that's an extremely sound idea.  So, I did some digging around and turned up a set of four, different sized mutts, which is available from Westfalia Miniatures for 4.00 British Pounds.  

I like the scruffy, animated look of these dogs, and think I'll add the set to my birthday/Christmas list.  Or maybe just order them myself before long.  Why put the onus, after all, on the Grand Duchess and Young Master if they present me with other gifts, and I'm unable to finish said vignette?  That said, there must be other 25-30mm metal canines to be had out there, but I've not had much luck turning up non-cute stuff with basic searches on the web.

-- Stokes


Later. . .

A nicely packed, weighty small parcel arrived in the mail earlier today all the way from a friend Dublin, Ireland, which contained all sorts of small goodies that I'd completely forgotten about due to all of the hub-bub around here this last week with preparations for the start of the new school year.  Needless to say, it was a really nice surprise to spy this in the mailbox on the porch when I checked to see if our mail lady had left us anything today.  Watch here over the next few weeks to see what else turns up.  Oh, and a very special thank-you to Mr. Kinch!

21 August 2014

Right on Schedule. . . Kind of. . .

The current and 'final' -- When in wargaming is anything ever really final where purchasing, painting, and collecting are concerned? -- batch of wagons and carts along with that company of Minden pontooniers.  I've added small (glued together) loads of balsa 'lumber' to the two Old Glory wagons in the foreground.  For now, at any rate, the lumber in the ox cart at the rear right is all loose.

The long summer break is, sadly, approaching its inevitable conclusion, and the Autumn semester begins in earnest on Monday next week bright and early with a 103W Academic Writing Intensive class for incoming freshmen at 8am.  Sigh.  So, it makes good sense to spend my last few, relatively carefree days preparing the final batch of wagons and carts as I wait for syllabus packets to return from Printing Services.  

While people on the outside might grouse about post-secondary educators getting long Christmas and summer breaks, we pay for it later by having more heaped on our plates with reading and grading student assignments, along with various other sorts of non-classroom, non-teaching professional commitments, than is (almost) humanly possible to wade through.  And you always bring work home with you, like it or not, whatever your initial plans might have been.  

Then there are the colleagues with their sometimes bizarre agendas, petty vendettas, near constant infighting, and vicious backbiting.  It's like a mountain village in Sicily!  So, before you think to yourself, "What's he moaning and groaning about?  I wish I had the entire summer off.  It must be nice!" let me assure you, the academy ain't a bed of roses all of the time.  At least not at the small liberal arts school level.  A single malt scotch whisky, or three anyone?

At any rate, base-coating this weekend, and maybe a start on the actual painting.  The original plan was to add only 15-16 such supply and pontoon vehicles to the armies of Stollen and/or Zichenau, however Black Hussar Miniatures and Westfalia Miniatures, darn them, have, or will shortly have, released some wonderful new wagon models that are simply too good to pass up although they are a bit pricey.  So, I may very well just 'have' to add a few more things to the transport pool at some point in the not-too-distant future.  

By the way, the Young Master begins preschool just after the Labor Day Weekend here in the United States.  He and I visited our local hair-cutter together yesterday evening for late summer touch-ups, so we both look somewhat more presentable for our respective first days of school.  Exiting times indeed!

-- Stokes

18 August 2014

Pontoon and Supply Train Addenda. . .

 The four recently finshed pontoon wagons with their tweaked balsa bridge timbers added.  I'll leave the balsa in its natural color and simply call them freshly hewn.  Sometimes, you've just gotta call it done and move on to the next part of the project.  In the background, you'll also observe the blacksmith's anvil and scratch-built tool table, which needs glossing and some terraining on the base.


Here they are, the threatened company of pontooniers (Minden laborers and a couple of Austrian artillerymen) with bridge timbers and a few tools glued into their hands and all ready for the usual white basecoat.  They turned out so well, that I might just add another company of twelve pontooniers with scratch-built oars and punting poles glued into their hands.  Blame Der Alte Fritz and C.S. Grant!


Finally, here is a close-up of the developing vivandiere vignette made of from a variety of figures and extra bits by Suren (Willie), Eureka, and another firm whose name escapes me at the moment.  Possibly Foundry?  The table and tent are, of course, scratch-built, but these are based on photographs, showing the set-up of some female AWI re-enactors here in the United States.

17 August 2014

Presenting the Next Batch of Wagons. . .

 Here is the cargo wagon with payload in place.  I toyed with the idea of  leaving the load of cargo loose but cemented it in place permanently in the end.  The fewer pieces of stuff to lose, the better if you ask me.

Ok.  Here  is the latest batch of finished wagons plus the cargo for the tw0-wheeled horse cart finished in early July.  Not super detailed, as usual, but painted to a reasonably neat standard that looks good at arm's length.  It occurred to me that afternoon, that I need a company of pontooniers to go with the pontoon train.  Luckily, I've got two or three packs of Minden laborers in the leadpile, so I might just take a painting detour with those before moving on to the final batch of five wagons, carts, horses and another lone ox.  I'll see how the mood strikes me though.  Onwards and upwards!  

-- Stokes


 Next, we have the two-wheeled horse cart, finished in July, but with the addition of its cargo.


Then, it's on to the mobile field forge with its two teams of horses.  As soon as the forthcoming Minden limber riders hit the market, I'll purchase a few and add a rider to the bay in the foreground.  I've just about finished the table of tools and anvil that came with this particular model to go with the Minden blacksmith and assistant that I painted during the winter-spring of 2013.


Here is one of two blue pontoon wagons with two pontoons and a load of balsa bridging timbers beneath.  The latter are more for display purposes than actual use.  I'll need to make some more practical bridge sections from balsa and card for actual gaming.


And finally, here is one of two dusty brown-gray pontoon wagons with similar accoutrements.  Once again, as soon as the new Minden limber riders become available, I'll add riders to these two models.  The RSM rider above is nice, but I'd like a bit more variety.  As with the first batch of carts and wagons, I've tried to approximate very minor roads and tracks on the bases, using creekbed sand, collected  from my maternal grandparents' place in SE Pennsyvania way back in the summer of 1984, and Woodland Scenics materials.

16 August 2014

Pontoons and Cargo in Progress. . .

 Once the wagons have been given two coats of acrylic gloss, it's time to do the pontoons.  Here they are in the midst of receiving two coats of my usual white acrylic gesso. . .  on both sides.

Things have been busy the last week or so around here at Stollen Central.  The start of another academic year has encroached upon my relatively carefree summer days of the last few months with the annual fall course syllabus revisions and the not required but strongly suggested (and mind-numbing) day-length professional development talks and workshops.  I've concluded that many PhD's love the sound of their own voices.  Hours of pontification and holding forth  without ever actually saying anything.  No wonder so many people (at least here in the U.S.) are suspicious of intellectuals and relegate them to the sidelines of public life.

Still, I've managed to find a little time here and there to continue work on the middle batch of six wagons as part of the in-progress supply and pontoon train: four pontoon wagons by Fife & Drum, a Berliner Zinnfiguren mobile field forge, and one supply wagon by either Blue Moon, or perhaps Old Glory.  Wagons and horse teams are all glossed and awaiting limited terrain treatment on their bases while I've spent a few hours over the last three evenings painting the eight pontoons and a load of freight.  

If the painting and modelling gods smile on me, I might be able to get EVERYTHING finished  on this batch of logistics and supply vehicles by Sunday evening and take a day or two off before applying base-coats to the last batch of five wagons and carts.  "Kryss fingrane dine!" (cross your fingers) as the Norwegians say.  Can you tell I'm listening to Radio Bø from Bø i Vesterålen in Northern Norway?   And the autumn semester begins on Tuesday, August 26th.

-- Stokes

 These Fife&Drum pontoons have been fun to paint.  Mindless and nothing tricky.  Same with the freight in the background.  I've used various browns, tans, grays, and a bit of white for a little variety after initial washes of dark brown over the white base-coat.  


Here's a close-up of the freight.  The meal bags need a bit more careful touching up with some white, but everything is basically done and ready for two coats of gloss.  The pontoons need another coat of gloss inside, and then they'll get flipped over for two coats on the outside.  The eagle-eyed among you will also spot a small vivandiere vignette taking gradual shape in the background.

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