24 March 2015

BIG Changes Underway at the Grand Duchy of Stollen. . .


"Well, Sir," as my maternal grandmother used to begin the occasional statement, good fortune has smiled on us again here in the Grand Duchy of Stollen.  Thanks to lots of hard work and crossed fingers, not only has the Grand Duchess been offered a plum position at a Big Ten University, but they have also offered yours truly a full-time lecturer appointment, which seals the deal.   Generous compensation, moving allowance, excellent schools for the Young Master, further opportunities for professional development, more interesting service possibilities, and so on, and so forth.  The kind of opportunity that does not come around very often you might say.

We will sell up, pack up, and leave our digs of the last seven years here in Central Illinois (where the Grand Duchess has been since 2001) come mid-June for snowier environs (and much better skiing conditions) in East Lansing Michigan where we'll both join the faculty of  Michigan State University -- following a teaching stint in Berlin at the Free University this summer for the Grand Duchess -- in mid-August. 

Lots to think about and take care of before then, however, including the current batch of Minden pioneers, but we are pleased as punch and terribly excited.  Giddy even, which is something to chuckle about given my sometimes rather dark Scandinavian soul.  Even I see the humor here.

That same giddiness is a good thing too.  It is daunting when we settle down for a moment, and then realize that an entire house will have to be packed up in about 2.5 months, movers arranged, the house put on the market, another one found at the other end, etc., etc., etc.  In the meantime, to the painting table!!!

-- Stokes


P.S.
Special thanks to Paul Robinson in the U.K. for his kind and encouraging words yesterday.  You were correct, Paul.  It sorted itself out.

20 March 2015

Slooow Progress. . .

Here's where things stand with the pioneers at the moment.

Things have been slow on the painting front the last month or so thanks largely to lots of student papers, conferences the week before Spring Vacation, and so forth.  You'd be surprised how much time it can take preparing for and conducting these post-Topic Proposal Paper interviews in which I try to coax most students through the process of actually narrowing their proposed topics and deciding what it is they want to say about them.  This particular task should have been accomplished and/or articulated within said papers, and there were explicit written directions circulated well in advance of the assignment due date, but there you are.

However, spurred on by General de Latte's own impressive recent efforts with a fine looking batch of SYW Prussians (???) at The Duchy of Alzheim, I sat myself down at the start of this week to get going again.  Enjoyed a couple of evenings applying oil glazes over my usual white acrylic gesso basecoat, and had visions of getting almost everything finished during this delightfully free week.  All well and good.  Some nice early progress made over two evenings when what do you think happened?

Yep.  First, the flu came on and knocked me for six as they say in Great Britain and, perhaps, elsewhere in the Commonwealth.  None of this should be a surprise, really, since the Young Master has been home from school most of the week with something similar, and I have been the one to care for him.  Sigh.  I'm only up long enough now to drink a glass of fruit juice and send a couple of documents on this computer to the Grand Duchess, who is currently at work in her office on campus.

Speaking of the Grand Duchess. . .   In more exciting news, she has had an incredible offer from a much larger university to assume a full professor/administrator position there in mid-August.  She has not given her decision yet, but the compensation they are offering her to take the position borders on the obscene. Naturally, we are very pleased and still a bit nonplussed.  Ok, dumbfounded even.  

While there is talk of a spousal hire for yours truly, it is not entirely clear what there might be for me to do however.  Looking through the current job postings online has neither yielded anything for which I am remotely qualified, nor anything in which, if I am frank, I am interested.  The examples of spousal hires I have observed from a distance here, with our current employer, so far have not always been ideal, so I must admit to some misgivings as well. 

In any case, it looks very like the Grand Duchess will accept the offer and things will need to be packed up rather quickly here for a June move.  Hopefully, once the influenza subsides, I can finish this current batch of figures and then think about how to pack up everything here in Zum Stollenkeller, so it survives the indignities of a house move two or three states away.  Ok, enough fever-induced prattle.  Back to bed.

-- Stokes

22 February 2015

Pioneers Finally Underway. . . Sort of. . .

The Minden pioneers currently in progress with one coat of white acrylic gesso applied.  One more coat, and the painting can commence.

Some weeks.  Sigh.  Started off with a nasty cold and fever, which came on Saturday night last week and required cancelling two days of classes last Monday and Tuesday.  As much as I wanted simply to pull the covers over my head, tell the world to go to hell, and sleep though, there were about 50 undergrad papers to read, consider, and assign grades.  Then, the Grand Duchess left town midweek for another conference, or consulting gig (I can't keep 'em straight anymore), which meant that yours truly became solely responsible for coaxing the Young Master through his daily activities, taking him to and from school, meals, etc., etc.  I already do quite a bit of this everyday anyway, but when one becomes the only parent overseeing all of this stuff for several days, well. . .   Let's just say that single parents have my deepest respect.

Which brings us to Sunday morning.  Still seven student papers to read and grade (agh!), which normally would be easy as pie on a Sunday afternoon.  But -- and there is always a 'but' lately -- the Grand Duchess, who was supposed to come home yesterday (Saturday) midday, has had flights cancelled not once but twice with very few other options available to get her from Phildelphia to Chicago, where she could at least catch the shuttle bus home (maybe), or rent a car and drive the three hours between there and here.  Everything is either overbooked already, or cancelled for one reason or another.  

In short, this means that her rescheduled 10:35am arrival this morning has come and gone.  She might -- might -- be able to get onto a flight that gets her closer to home by 5:30pm, or 8pm, or later this evening.  We'll see how that goes, since the airline is not being particularly helpful, the automated airline hotline keeps hanging up on the Grand Duchess each time she calls to attempt rebooking, and it is a Sunday skeleton crew at the airport in Philadelphia. Glad I'm not a businessman on the road each week since commercial air travel has deteriorated so much in the 30+ years since my maternal grandfather did this kind of thing when he worked for a large building materials corporation out of New York City.

Anyway, the worst of it is that the Young Master and I must attend, by ourselves, a (potential) kindergarten open house this afternoon at 2pm.  Fine.  There are much, much worse fates that many around the world are forced to confront on a daily basis.  I understand how cushy many of us in the West/ First World/ Developed World/ Global North have it, and how terribly spoiled we are.  I get it. . .  and see myself for the spoiled, overly educated jerk that I am, thank you very much.  

But these kinds of open houses are almost always excruciating to sit through and observe, and I don't relish time in the company of large groups of small children and their parents.  Nothing personal, you understand.  That's just not me.  Some people love that sort of thing, and while I enjoy my time with the Young Master one-on-one, large groups of small children and their parents are like hell on earth to me.  That's just how it is.  I am well aware of this huge flaw in my character and accept it.  Sorry for not being sorry about it, but there you are.  No nasty comments or e-mails, please. 

If public schools (not the same thing as in the United Kingdom mind you) in the United States were not so questionable, or just downright bad in many instances, we wouldn't worry about it and would send the Young Master to the neighborhood elementary school next August.  However, the Young Master requires some occasional extra attention and handling at school -- he is quite bright, but "spirited" -- which the much smaller class sizes and better pupil-to-teacher ratios of private schools permit. . .  if the price is within the realm of possibility, and an application is approved.  So, this little necessary trip for Dad and YMP will take a nice chunk out of Sunday afternoon that might be more pleasantly spent (reading and grading hastily written, less than coherent undergraduate papers).  Thus spake the Grand Duchess.  Sigh.

All of which is a long-winded way of saying that it seems very doubtful I will get the second coat of white gesso onto the pioneers above today given that I absolutely must finish the last seven undergrad papers, read and prepare for tomorrow's classes, and pick up the Grand Duchess somewhere in there.  For the time being, at least, the pioneers will have to wait given this most cruel interference by real life.  Calgon, take me away!

-- Stokes

13 February 2015

Ladies and Gentlemen. . . Start Your Engines!

The Corps of Pioneers, all ready for base-coating and then painting.

Well, I managed to get the various tools and things glued into the hands of the two dozen Minden pioneers yesterday, as mentioned previously, and I'll apply the white gesso basecoat (two thin coats) on Saturday.  With any luck, I might be able to apply green to the bases, fleshtone, and gray to the eventually black hats on Sunday.  The reading and preparation for classes on Monday is a bit lighter this weekend, so completing a bit more at the painting table is a distinct possibility.  We'll see how things play out.

Look very closely, and you'll spot those scratch-built facines in the hands of three figures in the right-hand company.  You'll also observe that I decided to give one company digging tools and the other wood-cutting implements.  Each company also has a wheelbarrow of appropriate 'stuff' to help set the scene whenever and wherever the Corps of Pioneers is deployed.  

The Crann Tara mounted officers in the rear are due to be painted in Hanoverian engineer officer uniforms, of which there is a very colorful example somewhere on the Kronoskaf: Project Seven years War website.  The mounted Austrian German officer to their right -- yeah, the guy whose head was inadvertently lopped off when I cropped the photograph in a hurry -- will be painted as, you guessed it, an Austrian engineer officer in the red and blue uniform worn by these men.  I painted a vignette of arguing Austrian engineer officers on foot and on horseback two or three years ago, and I've been a fan of the uniform ever since.

Finally, you'll also have spotted four of the six Foundry gabions that have been cluttering up the Box o' Bits for a couple of years off to the side of the picture.  Well, if you're going to paint up some pioneers or sappers, you might as well give them a redoubt or fl├Ęche to construct, right?  So, using a couple of Charles S. Grant how-to articles from the 2011 and 2012 Wargamer's Annual, respectively, as a guide, I will also take a stab at building something passable in modular sections to represent the gradual construction of the envisioned emplacement over a certain number of turns, or simply to have in place well before the opening shots are fired.

But I'm putting the cart before the horse as usual.  It's best to get the pioneers themselves painted up first before diverting my attention elsewhere.  Gotta keep those butterflies in check, you know.

-- Stokes

12 February 2015

Von Scheither's Freicorps Pioneers. . .

My Minden figures lack the dashing headgear worn by the fine pioneer fellow above, but the colors of his uniform are extremely pleasing to the eye.  When I came across this particular illustration a few evenings ago, I knew at once that I had found my inspiration as far as colors are concerned.  And by the way, the grenadier to his left also sports a most attractive uniform.  Hmmm. . .  I might just have to add a unit of those at some point.

Finally managed to find a copy online of the illustration, which I found originally in one of my books on Prussian and Hanoverian SYW-era freikorps, and on which I'll base the uniforms for my own two dozen Minden pioneers.  Speaking of which, I just spent an enjoyable hour or so carefully cementing digging and chopping tools into their hot little hands as well as a ladder, a couple of balsa "boards," and a few scratch-built facines in miniature.  

Yes, yes.  It has been a fairly idle afternoon here at home with not much of consequence achieved beyond a few mugs of coffee, a quick trip out to pick up some Valentine's Day cards for wife and child, picking up the Young Master from preschool, and finally making his lunch.  I am indeed a weak and filthy shirker.  A morally and ethically loose cannon. 

Kidding aside, fear not since I will be inundated with a fresh batch of student papers over the next few days, followed by another 10-day (or so) period of reading grading, and providing written feedback to the students in question.

-- Stokes

11 February 2015

The Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach Contingent Is Glossed!

 The halfway point, more or less, of the gradually mustering 80-figure regiment has been reached.

After various batches of student papers sucking up most available free time during the last couple of weeks or so, I have at last managed to apply the usual two coats of glossy acrylic varnish to the Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach contingent.  They don't look too bad if you'll pardon me saying so myself.  

But now, it's time to address those two dozen or so Minden pioneers for the next two+ weeks before returning to the monster 80-figure regiment and the third batch of 20 RSM95 Prussians, slated to become the white-coated (with red facings, turnbacks, etc.) Saxe-Coburg contingent that was also part of the Ernestinisch Sachsen Regiment during the SYW period. 

The Minden pioneers, for their part, are waiting to have various tools and implements cemented into their hands once I purchase a new tube of superglue gel at some point on Thursday, followed by the usual basecoat of white acrylic gesso planned for Friday evening and a second coat on Saturday morning.  With any luck, I can start the actual painting on Saturday evening or Sunday and get them done before too much time elapses.  

On that note, I've found a very pretty green, yellow, and tan uniform -- apparently worn by the pioneers of Von Scheither's Freicorps -- on which to base my own pioneers.  But more of that anon.  It's late, and I'm wiped out.  Time for some Z's following a glass of chocolate milk in the kitchen.

--Stokes

And here's a close-up of the completed and freshly glossed Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach boys.  I'm pleased with the way the drummer and his drum turned out this time.  A light touch and a steady hand enabled me to finish up both with very few mistakes to touch up later.  That's not always the case with musicians, as I'm sure you'll agree.

05 February 2015

Minden Pioneers Stand at the Ready. . .

All ready and waiting for their basecoat of white acrylic gesso. . .  two companies of pioneers and a mounted officer, complete with loaded wheelbarrows and a bucket!

Just  a bit of time this morning before getting the Young Master up for preschool and then getting to work on some student papers and admin stuff myself.  There might be some skiing with the Grand Duchess this morning too on the fresh, powdery snow we had yesterday, but my lower back is giving me trouble, so we'll see.  

Strained something yesterday morning while rinsing my face after shaving at the bathroom sink, and YOW!  It just goes to show you that even  with routine exercise and stretching, sometimes you turn or bend just the right way, and the unexpected pain takes your breath away.  It's much better this morning, but the skiing just might have to wait a day or two.

Anyway, I spent a couple of hours at the painting table yesterday evening, preparing the Minden pioneers for painting.  You know.  Taking a break from painting the Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach boys before the final push to complete the drummer and officer along with glossing.  The pioneers were stuck onto bases two evenings ago, so last night I concentrated on providing them with some tools and  equipment with which to perform their imagined missions, things like demolition, assaulting prepared defenses, digging in for their allied brothers in arms, clearing ground for and establishing camps along with related camp facilities, and perhaps giving the pontoniers a hand from time to time with bridging creeks as well as larger rivers.  

The final step before painting will be to super glue the various impedimenta shown into their hands.  I would have done so yesterday evening, but, of course, my remaining tube of super glue was dried up, wasn't it?  And naturally, there was no more to be found in the house.  Grrrr. . . 

-- Stokes

03 February 2015

The Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach Contingent: Painting Session #8. . .


Just about ready for glossing, here is where things stand this morning with the current batch of 20 RSM95 figures.  Nothing fancy, and far from perfect show-piece painting, but not too bad either.  More important, they are almost finished!

Sometimes, the stars line up and time spent at the painting table goes off without a hitch.  And that's how yesterday evening's two-hour session -- #8 for this particular batch of figures -- went.  Mostly.  I first touched up the rear of the shoulder belts where necessary after painting in the black ersatz pigtails and followed with a tiny, careful dab of white on the chests to suggest a bit of shirt peeking out from beneath the blue coats just below the red stocks.  

Then, it was time to hold my breath and carefully line the hats with white 'tape'.  Only two minor slops, which were easy to fix with some very thin black afterwards, but I think the point of my Cottman #1 round has seen better days, and the brush needs to be replaced.  As I moved through the painting process last night, I also attended to bits and pieces on the drummer at far left and the officer right next to him.  These both need a bit more detailing this evening, but then the entire batch will be ready for the usual acrylic gloss treatment.  But get a load of those shoulder wings!  I managed to get 'em right the first time with my tiny 001 sable spotter brush (20+ years old), which does not always happen.

So, what's next?  Well, I'll next make a slight detour and see to 24 Minden military laborers and a mounted officer, which I'll paint as two companies of pioneers.  I need to get these done so that the finished figures can be photographed and submitted with a piece I must write and send off in the next several weeks.  Hopefully, my pioneers will go as quickly as the previous two companies of Minden pontooniers did back in November of 2014.  

Besides the picks, shovels, axes, and adzes that come with the Minden laborer figures, I've got a ladder, a wheelbarrow, and some (balsa) boards to glue into the hands of a few figures prior to basecoating, so the finished unit should be interesting and varied in appearance.  Right now, I am mulling over possible ways to base them so that each base is a mini-vignette of two or three figures engaged in some kind of shared activity.  I might fool around with some potential configurations this evening following the Young Master's bedtime.

Anyway, it's then back to the 80-figure regiment, which will eventually consist of contingents from Kurmainz, Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, Saxe-Coburg, and Saxe-Hildburghausen.  And I'm really feeling like three squadrons of cavalry after that.  Maybe some RSM95 Prussian dragoons that have been in the leadpile for, oh, the last seven years or so?  Or perhaps the eight Minden Uhans de Saxe as escorts for General von Bauchschmerzen and his coach?  I'll know when I get to that point I suppose, but the journey and musing along the way is at least half of the fun.

-- Stokes

31 January 2015

Facing Tedium. . .

Here is where things stand after a Friday evening painting session (Session #5), another on Saturday afternoon (Session #6), and third on Saturday evening (Session #7).  Still a way to go, especially with the drummer, who lags a bit behind the other 19 figures in the batch.

The title says it all, but I managed to get through the red parts and most of the white parts on these Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach musketeers during the last couple of days.  Whew!  I might be able to finish them tomorrow, but if we get the snowfall predicted, I am afraid cross-country skiing with the Young Master and Grand Duchess will trump figure painting.  We don't get enough snow as far as I am concerned in our neck of the woods, so I've got to enjoy it when it comes.  We'll see what, if anything, actually falls in the night.  

Still, I must admit that I think these are some of the most attractive uniforms I've ever painted.  All primary red, blue, and yellow save for the white, black, green, and flesh parts, and the various colors used do indeed seem to blend together nicely.  Of course, it helps when the figures are as nicely proportioned as these Steve Hezzlewood designed RSM95, nee Pax Brittanica, miniatures. 

Next up, white lining on the hat edges, white hat tassels, hair/wigs, and a few touch-ups.  Then, before concentrating on the drummer, I'll call the rest of them done, gloss 'em, and begin the next batch of 20 in an evening or two.

-- Stokes 

The Grand Duchess and Young Master (plus Dad) enjoy a little Sunday afternoon cross-country skiing as the snow flies.  February 01, 2015.


25 January 2015

The Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach Musketeers after Painting Sessions #3 and #4. . .

Here's where things stand after a couple of nice painting sessions this weekend.  Time now for red facings, turnbacks, and various smaller details.

Moving along reasonably well with the current crop of 20 or so figures, which are being painted in uniforms worn by the Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach contingent of the Ernestinisch Infantry.  Drummers, according to a couple of sources I am referring to, wore brown laced coats faced red hence the rather odd color of the drummer at left. 


An old illustration from a packet of German cigarettes, I think, that matches pretty closely the written Kronoskaf 'Project Seven Years War' description of one possible drummer uniform worn by Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach drummers.


So far, I am not displeased with the way things are going, but my new bottle of Liquin Original is not imparting the flow qualities to my alkyd oil colors that I've become used to in the two years since I began using it.  Grrrrr. . .   So, it took rather a long time to work the thinned Prussian Blue onto and around the coats of the figures.  Might just have to visit the local arts and supply store and see if there are other brands of similar mediums available. 

Anyway, the figures still look rough around the edges, but adding red facings and cleaning up the shoulder belts should neaten them up a bit.  Time to begin painting a bit more carefully now.  Then, muskets and barrels, musket slings, cartridge pouch badges, and sword/bayonet scabbards, hair, etc., etc., etc.  Possibly, just possibly, I might come very close to wrapping these up during the week.  We are still early enough in the college semester that extra time in the evenings is still available although I get first papers from my various classes at the end of this week on Friday, January 30th.

On a related note, I've finally worked out a basing scheme for my line infantry units of 60-80 figures that will help speed things along on the table during those all too rare games.  It's a combination of Pater Gilder's basing scheme laid out in In the Grand Manner but adapted to work with the larger units from Charge!  Or How to Play War Games. . .   one of my personal wargaming touchstones for many years now.  Remember that in the latter, a company of line infantry consists of 19 figures. . .  16 enlisted men, an officer on foot, an NCO, and a drummer.  

Here's what I'll do to adapt that to Peter Gilder's basing scheme.  Basically, multiple bases measure 60mm wide x 40mm deep and hold eight figures each.  I'll have two such bases per company, with the officer stuck to one.  The two NCOs per company will remain singly based to form a third rank.  Drummers, of which there are three-four per battalion for units of 60-80 figures, will be based in pairs to occupy their place on either flank of the battalion.  That means that I'll need to paint up a few extra musicians at some point for my 60-figure units, divided into three companies.

The colors, mounted officer, Regimental Sergeant Major, and another foot officer will occupy a slightly smaller base that can assume it's place in the midst of a marching column, or in the middle of a firing line, or in the center of the rarely formed square.  I've tired to strike a balance between actual Prussian formations/drill from the SYW period and, as mentioned previously, Young & Lawford's approachon the one hand, and Gilder's on the other.  

I actually began rebasing most of my existing units in this general direction a couple of years ago, using In the Grand Manner dimensions and configurations, so it won't take too much occasional work to standardize things even more over the next year or two.  I've always liked unbased figures, mind you, but it simply takes too long to move multiple units of them around the tabletop, and time for games is such a rare thing anyway, so my plan seems like a reasonable compromise.  In any case, it should help immeasurably with set-up, play, and tear-down.

If all of this reads in a convoluted way, and I fear it might, the photograph of the current company above gives some indication of where things are headed.  Questions and comments from interested bystanders and more experienced wagamers are, as always, most welcome.

-- Stokes


P.S.

I also managed to tack down my Black Hussar 18th century Lutheran pastor and several Suren ladies of ill-repute to an irregularly shaped base yesterday in preparation for evenutal base-coating and painting.  I plan to call the finished vignette something like "Pastor Kurpjuhnait Confronts the Bawds" or something similar.  More on this at a later point.

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