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.

14 August 2014

Coming Soon. . .

The next five finished wagons and horse teams along with terrained bases, plus a couple of small surprises.

-- Stokes

08 August 2014

Just a strapping lad. . .

The various straps, harnesses, collars, bridles, and reins have their wash of dark brown.

Whew!  Well, I juts finished all of the straps, harnesses, etc. a short while ago on the horses for the second batch of wagons.  

This must surely be one of the most tedious processes involved with painting any sort of horses for a pre-20th century tabletop army, cavalry or transport animals, but it's done.  I actually used a rather large, new #4 round brush wih synthetic bristles and a good point to do all of this and did not make too many mistakes that needed cleaning up.  Luckily.  

But now, it's on to the white markings on the equine muzzles legs, and ankles before continuing to the small metal bits and pieces.  Oh, and that stack of pontoons lurking in the back needs doing, but they should be fairly straightforward.  Then, comes the varnishing stage and finally the groundwork on the bases.  

And then finally -- ha, ha, ha -- the last batch of five transport vehicles: three wagons and two carts along with their horses and an ox.  Slowly, but surely, the pontoon and supply train is taking shape.

-- Stokes

30 July 2014

Summer is in full swing. . .

The current crop of wagons after some dry-brushing and washes with light gray to weather them a bit.

Captain's log. . .  Stardate 30 July 2014.  Summer is in full swing here in the Grand Duchy of Stollen as it no doubt is for many of you in the Northern Hemisphere.  July has been delightfully unusual in our little part of the galaxy this year.  With the exception of a day or two here and there, it has been unseasonably cool and green, something that is not typical for this time of the year in the midst of Central Illinois.  Usually by this time, it is hot, dry, and the grass is uniformly brown most places.  Hopefully, August and September will continue in a similar temperate and comfortable vein.  Cross your fingers and toes!

At the moment, I am listening online to Norwegian State Broadcasting (NRK), Program 1 out of Bergen on the west coast of Norway, a place where I spent a lot of time in a previous life about 15-20 years ago.  The program features a pleasing mix of chat and a wide array of music from the last 40-odd years along with an announcer who speaks with a delightful Bergen accent.  

Playing at the moment is There She Goes from 1987 by The La's, a tune that always reminds me of my wife since I used to hear it quite a bit on the radio during the winter and spring of 2000-2001 when the Grand Duchess and I began dating while in grad school at the University of Minnesota. . .  although neither of us realized just yet that we were becoming a couple.  It was all still pretty innocent movie festivals and coffee afterwards along with occasional late-night telephone calls during the week about non-romantic, work-related stuff.  Or so it seemed at the time.  And I've never really worked out which of us was pursuing the other though I suppose it hardly maters now.  Funny how life works and good things sneak up on you when you least realize it.

Anyway, I'm still plugging away at the current group of five wagons for the supply and pontoon train.  The vehicles themselves are about done now, and it's time to turn my attention to the horse teams and drivers/drovers.  We're getting there, slowly but surely.  It is taking a bit longer than planned to work through these, but I am enjoying the modelling and painting, so no complaints. 

I should be able to wrap these up in the next several evenings, take a break, and then start on the last five or six wagons and carts and make inroads there before the autumn semester begins again in about four weeks.  Sigh.  I received one of those emails yesterday morning, inviting me to a day-long professional development seminar on August 11th.  Not mandatory you understand, but I feel like I ought to attend since it has been two years since I last did so.  And just when it really began to feel like summer!  Well, at least it will be time to dress up for work/teaching again, so there is that one small plus I suppose.

Here is the 30mm field forge from Berliner Zinnfiguren after a bit of free-hand lettering, in German no less, which means something like 'field smithy.'

In other areas, I've managed to read through a couple of detective thrillers during the last few weeks too.  Field of Prey by John Sandford and before that Breakdown by Sara Paretsky.  Next up is one of the Harry Hole thrillers by Norwegian author Jo Nesbø whose title escapes me at the moment.  I've also been working slowly through The Powers of Horror by Julia Kristeva, a somewhat less fluffy bit of feminist nonfiction that deals with the concept of abjection.  

While terribly interesting reading, Kristeva's work is not necessarily something you want to breeze through in just a few nights before you drift off into la-la land.  And then there has been the fascinating book on the Art Deco movement, given to my by the Grand Duchess for our anniversary at the end of last month, which is really a collection of essays on the architecture, interior style, and clothing fashions of the 1920s and 30s.  And of course, we've been working our way through the Midsomer Murders series via Netflix streaming, so it has been a busy five weeks or so.

Ah. . .   The house is still at almost 4pm in the afternoon, the Young Master is having his daily Quiet Time, and the inside temperature with the windows open is ideal for an afternoon nap, so. . .   That is where yours truly is headed next.  A supper of fresh tomato sandwiches (courtesy of the Grand Duchess and her vegetable garden) along with fresh sweetcorn off the cob and iced tea, sweetened with sugar and flavored with fresh mint from the garden, will follow.  After the Young Master's bedtime, it's back down here to Zum Stollenkeller for 90 minutes of so of painting mid-evening.  School might start in four weeks, but for the time being, it's still summertime!

-- Stokes

20 July 2014

Better Cart and Wagon Photographs. . .

 A large two-wheeled cart -- its load of freight is yet to be painted -- by Blue Moon, I think.  The driver is of course from the wonderful Minden line.  No attempt was made to model the reins between the driver and his horse since I wanted something that would stand up a bit better to handling, especially when the Young Master is a wee bit older and I indoctrinate. . . er. . . um. . . introduce him to tabletop wargaming.  You know, one of those many compromises all of us make in one way or other with our painting and modelling. 

You know, some mornings, just nothing goes right.  For instance, after a difficult and challenging breakfast with the Young Master, who clearly got up on the wrong side of the bed today, I retreated to the relative safety of Zum Stollenkeller with another mug of black coffee for some much needed time away from wife and child.  And to take some nicer photographs of that recently completed first batch of five wagons and carts.  

Here's a photo, especially for Ross, of 'Margarethe die Marketenderin' auf Deutsch, or Margaret the Sutleress in English.  She, her mule, cart, and supplies therein are a small set available from Eureka Miniatures.  The figure comes with a French Napoleonic forage cap.  I changed that to a three-cornered officer's cap with ostrich feather trim, by means of a fairly simple conversion (Off with his head!!!), which seemed only right and proper for the mid-18th century.

No sooner had I taken three reasonably nice pictures before my little Sony Cybershot TX20 informed me that its battery was out of juice, and then it promptly died without further ceremony.  Arrrrggggh!!!  I will not tell you what choice words I muttered below my breath in reply (you can probably guess), but after the breakfast episode, there were several as I plugged the camera and its charger into a handy power outlet.  So, three more hours or so before I can continue with the pictures.  Hell and damnation!

Finally, here is a close-up of Fräulein Margarethe, presumably on her way to hawk water, wine, perhaps a sack of coffee or flour, and a bunch of green onions to a platoon or two of hungry Stollenian infantry.  Unlike a full unit of 25-30 hussars, her dolman was actually fun to paint since there was only one. 

As usual, the painting on these was completed with a mix of very thin alkyd oils (Liquin Original is a huge help here) and washes of acrylic hobby paints over a white basecoat.  The horses and mule received an intermediary undercoat of orange, yellow, and brown Humbrol enamels before glazes of brown oils (mainly Burnt Umber and Burnt Sienna) were applied during a subsequent painting session.  

The bases are carefully cut and trimmed 1/8" card, terrained with sand collected from my maternal grandmother's creek bed in the summer of 1984.  This was tacked onto the bases with Liquitex acrylic flat varnish.  When that was dry, it was given a wash of very thin dark brown acrylic paint.  The Woodland Scenics grass scatter material was tacked down with a bit more of the flat varnish the next evening, and the weed clumps were stuck on with dots of superglue gel the evening after that.  I might add just a smidgeon more of the grass material down the center of the wagon track, but I haven't made up my mind quite yet.  

Friday evening and Saturday morning, I got busy basecoating the next group of five wagons, teams, and drivers/drovers, but they aren't anything special to look at just yet.  In the meantime, tune in again later for a few more photographs of the finished models.  Once that blasted camera has recharged itself of course.

-- Stokes

Later. . . 

Ok.  Camera charged up and a few more new photos to add.  Here they are:

 The first of two Fife& Drum powder wagons.  This one has a large barrel glued into its wicker basket extension at the back.  The rider is part of the RSM9 range.  These models are almost nine inches in length, so I need to nail down better depth of field, so everything is in focus, and then I think my model photography skills will be reasonably good.

The second of my two Fife & Drum powder wagons.  This one has a large bundle, from Foundry I believe, glued into its boot, to customize things a bit.  I used a 2B (soft lead) artist's pencil for labeling the canvas cover before the two coats of gloss were applied.  Reasonably straight, reasonably centered, and reasonably weathered.  I was, you might recall, after a weathered and ramshackle look for my wagons and carts, and it looks like I did pretty well.  More dry-brushing might have been in order though.  I used a light gray and tan for most of that, but white for the canvas covers and the Foundry bundle here.

 Last of all, here is an ox-drawn hay wagon by Old Glory (or perhaps Blue Moon?), along with a Minden drover.  Once more, I left the harness and tether to the imagination (There's that word again!), opting instead for a model that might stand up a bit better to handling, especially once the Young Master is invited to command the other side in ol' Dad's occasional wargames.

So, there you are.  Not exactly hyper-detailed models like Gilder's and Mason's, with all sorts of soldered extra bits, for example, but they'll look nice enough on my tabletop.  They are painted to a neat, rather subdued  wargaming standard that doesn't look half bad to me.  Most important, they are done.  That's my new painting mantra: large, neat, and finished.  LARGE units, painted to a NEAT standard that looks good deployed en masse on the table, with everything FINISHED in this lifetime.  Or at least before failing eyesight becomes a real issue.  There now.  What an extremely liberating "aha moment" to have.  Perfectionist tendencies be damned!

16 July 2014

Presenting: The First Batch of Wagons and Carts. . .

Here they are, the first batch of wagons and carts all done except for a bit more Woodland Scenics foliage material to masquerade as clumps of weeds along the edges and down the middle of  each base.

Ok, I'm calling them just about done, barring a bit more tinkering with foliage material from Woodland Scenics this evening after the Young Master's bedtime.  What I was aiming for with the ground cover on each base was the impression of very minor, unpaved, and narrow roads, paths really, with grass and weeds along the sides.  

I recall reading somewhere in the last 20+ years of so -- perhaps in Jac Weller's Wellington at Waterloo? -- that prior to the mid-19th century many so called "roads" on the continent of Europe were rather vague and neglected.  As a rule, many were not paved, they could be 10-40 feet in width, depending on importance and proximity to population among other things, poorly defined and maintained, and treacherous in rain or winter weather.  

My own road bases still look a little too manicured to my eyes, but hopefully the addition of a few weed clumps here and there will help things to look a bit more off the beaten track and hinterland-like.  Otherwise, it's on to the next batch of five wagons, carts, teams, and driver/drovers.

By the way, the Eureka vivandiere above had her unmistakably French Napoleonic forage cap lopped off back in April or May.  It was replaced with a general's tricorn following the lobotomy of an unidentified 25mm early 18th century figure of unknown manufacture.  After some careful trimming and filing of course.  

The poor officer who lost his head to this fetching young marketenderin (an old-fashioned German word that meaning something akin to sutleress or vivandiere) was part of a large batch of primarily RSM95 figures.  If memory serves me correctly, I purchased these secondhand some years ago, and the good general's hat seemed about the right size for the young lady in question.  One of the many reasons to have a well stocked box-o-bits handy.

Anyway, now that she has been painted, glossed, and based, I'm somewhat happier with my conversion handiwork, which looked decidedly odd in bare metal.  Head and hat swaps are still difficult if not downright problematic for me.  However, it just goes to show that a reasonable paint job can hide a multitude of modelling sins.

-- Stokes


By the way, these five wagons, carts, and teams were painted at a fairly leisurely pace, in twenty sittings that lasted between 30 minutes and two hours at a time, from May-July 2014.  If I'd been more diligent with the brush, things would have come together at a much faster rate. 

Finally, here's the next batch of five wagons with horse teams, riders, and drivers/drovers.  Just ignore the pile of freight and the two mounted offers at left for now.  On deck are four Fife&Drum pontoon wagons with a slew of pontoons, the delightful field forge model by Berliner Zinnfiguren, and a flatbed wagon, which will have its stack of freight painted and added later, is by Old Glory.  Or perhaps Blue Moon?  I never remember.  The riders are RSM95, the drivers/drover on foot is from Minden, and most of the draft/draught horses are a mix of Fife&Drum and Minden.  Base-coating tonight if the evening goes well.


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