04 April 2014

It's on the way!!!

Berliner Zinnfiguren Prussian FIeld Forge, item #207/PR95.  A hearty thank-you to Jim "Der Alte Fritz Purky" for steering me in the right direction in more than one sense.  Photograph swiped from the Berliner Zinnfiguren website.

Ahhh. . .  I've just place an order with Berliner Zinnfiguren in Germany for the above item, which will complete my transport/logistics and pontoon trains.  Ok, who am I kidding?  There are a couple of Perry wagons/carts that I want to add down the road, but for now, we'll call it done.

The current wagons and carts have been waiting patiently for some time over on the apinting table as I dig out from beneath various student assignments, planning for classes four days a week, and work I've been involved with in planning for this year's intitiation ceremony for the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi.  Rewarding once the day arrives, the ceremony happens, and it's done for another year, but a royal pain in the neck (some days) when it comes to planning, organizing, and endless rounds of e-mail back and forth with student invitees and colleagues involved in the planning.  

The end of the semester is just weeks away, when somewhat more routine hobby activities can resume, but it feels like years.  I'd love to just chuck it all and give myself a free weekend to paint wagons and horse teams, but my conscience hurts me at the mere thought of doing that.  Sigh.

-- Stokes

23 March 2014

All Based and Ready to Go!

All attached to their bases, the various wagons and carts await the attachment of a few final items, on the way from the Dayton Painting Consortium, and then their undercoats.  I plan to add additional pairs of horses/riders to the five Fife&Drum powder and pontoon wagons before long.  Model wagons this nice simply need four horses to do them full justice!

Making slow but steady progress getting the wagons and carts ready for base-coating and painting.  Yesterday (Saturday), the Grand Duchess was away at an all day conference, and the Young Master was good enough to desire playing with his Thomas the Train set-up for most of the afternoon.  So, Dad was able to spend a good little while -- really 2-3 separate sessions -- attaching wagons, horses, oxen, and drovers to bases.  Here is where things stand at the moment.

In the end, I ended up cutting out my own bases with a T-square, metal ruler, and hobby knife, which took a couple of hours and some careful trimming to get everything looking right.  I am reasonably pleased with my handiwork. . .  and no lopped off fingertips in the process amazingly enough.  All of the bases are a standard 2" wide, with lengths varying depending of the item(s) mounted to them.  For instance, pairs of horses are on bases 2" wide by 2.5" long.  Some of the larger wagons are on bases 2" wide by 4.5" long.  This approach seemed to make better sense than having everything mounted to one base, which might be 6"-8" long or more, prone to warping, and certainly more unwieldy.

Painting should go fairly easily given the large size of everything with the thinned washes and stains that I use so often.  I plan to divide it into three or four smaller batches, each of which will be painted to completion before moving on to the next part of the project.  The undersides of the wagons and carts, as well as the lower inner sides of the spoked wheels, will simply be painted with a very dark brown.  A few more visible details will be picked out elsewhere with some kind of acrylic based "gun metal," depending on what is available at the local gaming shop.  The most time-consuming part in all of this will be, I expect, the harnesses and straps on the horses.  Nothing for that, really, other than to roll up your sleeves, put your mind on autopilot, and get it done.  Speaking of horses. . .

As an interesting aside, even with this small model supply and pontoon train, you get an idea of the sheer number of horses (and oxen) an army required before the advent of motorization -- over and above those needed by the cavalry units -- when it went on campaign.  Hundreds, and perhaps even thousands, of horses from what I find in very cursory browsing online and through a few of my Napoleonic-era books.  The Grand Army's invasion of Russia in 1812 must have been mind-boggling when it came to the number of animals required, for example, for transport and logistics alone.  

As badly as the invasion of Russia ended for so many of the invading soldiers during Napoleon's retreat, it was apparently much worse for the horses.  For all of their beauty and strength, horses are surprisingly fragile creatures where their health is concerned with odd constitutions that are upset rather easily.  Physical hardship, bad forage, dirty water, to say nothing of extreme cold, wreak havoc with a horse's inner workings pretty quickly.  As a result, I recall reading somewhere that even by the late 20th century, horse stocks across Europe had never fully recovered from the carnage and waste that was Napoleon's Russian adventure.  

Returning to the mid-18th century for a moment, even those much more limited campaigns with smaller forces must have involved impressive numbers of transport and logistics-related animals.  Interesting stuff to mull over once in a while, and maybe something that ought to be reflected on more tabletops than seems to be the case.  But then there is the time, money, and painting involved, all three of which are considerations for most of us as we navigate that fine line between job, family, hobby, and (hopefully) keeping the three in balance.

On a related note, I decided, rather impulsively, to add one more thing to the mix late on Friday evening and ordered a vivandiere cart from Eureka Miniatures USA.  The price was too good to pass up, and the cart comes with a number of interesting provision/foodstuff items.  While her headdress is clearly French Revolution/Napoleonic, I might attempt some kind of conversion to make her a bit more suitable for the mid-18th century.  Of just leave it alone and paint her as is, depending on how the mood strikes me once the item arrives.  A few of Viviane the Vivandiere's wares, however, will be set aside for later use when I do a bit more with a sutler tent and table vignette that I'm planning.  

But that's, ahem, putting the cart before the horse a bit since there is a lot to get painted before that can happen.

-- Stokes

A vivandiere, her cart, and donkey are on their way from Eureka Miniatures USA.  I was powerless to resist her charms when I saw her, beckoning to me from the web with her sly, come hither stare late on Friday evening.  As Sinatra sang, "It's witchcraft.  Wicked witchcraft. . . "  Photograph swiped from the Eureka Miniatures USA website.

20 March 2014

Supply and Pontoon Trains Fully Assembled!!!

Breaker 1-9!  Breaker 1-9!  You got your ears on, good buddy?  The convoy in its fully assembled state.  Maybe I can find a 28mm Kris Kristofferson figure somewhere to head it up? 

The supply and pontoon trains are now fully assembled.  The various wagons and carts are from the Old Glory, Blue Moon, and Fife&Drum ranges by the way.  Although nothing is painted yet, I like the look of everything so much that I am sorely tempted to order a few more different wagons and carts later in the spring or early summer just to add some more variety.  Of course, the armies of Stollen and Zichenau "need" a vivandiere cart or two, don't they?  And then there is the Berliner Zinnfiguren mobile forge that I need to order soon, so the Grand Duchess can pick up and transport it home when she visits Berlin in May.

A few more Minden walking and seated drivers/drovers and some RSM95 limber horse riders are necessary to complete the picture.  Darn.  I thought I had figured everything correctly when I ordered all of this stuff weeks ago.  Still, I can get on with attaching thing to temporary painting bases and base coating the first four or five items in the meantime.

It's the darnedest thing what happens as one rushes to wrap up any sort of modelling project in which strong glues and/or epoxies are involved.  It's all too easy to become a little careless and sloppy, which can have unexpected consequnces.  For instance, I managed to get the toes my left foot stuck fast to my forehead with several misplaced drops of Gorilla Super Glue, and that makes sitting down to the computer to type this somewhat difficult as you might expect.  Without a doubt, my students will be amused later in the day when I assume my place at the head of the classroom.   

Kidding aside, the glue  I found most useful, least messy, and quickest setting in the assembly of these 13 wagons and carts was Gorilla Super Glue.  The allegedly thick Great Planes Pro-CA stuff from the local model railway shop was awfully thin, in fact, and took forever to set up and cure despite what the hype on the package claimed.  The Loctite Superglue Gel was the messiest I've ever used.  Tiny, web-like strands of the stuff everywhere each time I applied a drop, and it was so thick that applying a tiny bit whenever small parts needed joining was well nigh impossible.  It just simply refused to stop oozing from the tube.  I am not sure that I'll ever get all of it off my finger tips. 

Hands down, the most tedious items to assemble were this hay wagon and cart, which took several days, a number of redos, some choice words uttered quietly to myself, and quite a bit of breath-holding to get all of the tiny pieces glued firmly into place.  How we suffer for our hobby.  But they are all done now and, while not quite perfect, should look pretty good once painted and based. . .  a couple of well-used, slightly ragged pieces of farm transport made available for military service as the need arises.

Fortunately, the Grand Duchess came to the rescue once again (the story of my life).  For some undisclosed reason, she had a fairly new bottle of this Gorilla stuff in her special kitchen drawer of magical items, which I commandeered -- in the great tradition of the world's various military powers -- and used with marvelous abandon.  Funny.  They never tell you how handy spouses or long-term partners might be before you settle down and establish a household together, do they?  In any event, base-coating the first batch of wagons/carts is due to begin Friday evening.

Finally, this particular entry is also the 1200th post that I've made to the Grand Duchy of Stollen blog since August of 2006 when things got started.   Thank you to both regular and occasional visitors/commenters for being a part of things.

-- Stokes 

And as a treat, here is a greatly doctored version of an interrogation vignette that I painted last spring. These figures appeared in the 2014 Wargamer's Annual recently, but that version of the photo suffered from a variety of ills that I have now corrected using Photoshop Elements 9.  The version shown here features better cropping, sharpening, brightening, removal of colorcast, and one additional editing trick that escapes my memory at the moment.  It is now a photograph that's not half bad, and I wish I had submitted better pictures with the article a year ago.  Next time!  In any case, the figures in the little scene above are mostly Minden Prussian officers of one kind or another with a Fife&Drum English officer plus a Eureka Prussian grenadier for the sentry (guarding the chest), which was kindly donated by a wargaming friend in Belgium.

15 March 2014

Wagons Ho! -- An Update. . .

Most of the wagons and carts are now mostly assembled although there are still a few tiny bits and pieces to cement together on the two wagons in the background next to the Humbrol enamels and the two wagons in the foreground.  In addition, the two open-sided hay carts, drawn by the oxen, are due to have their 'ribs' (for want of a better term) cemented into place.  That particular step should be a huge pain in backside, so I'm avoiding it at the moment.

The pontoon and supply trains are taking gradual shape.  Since a brief adolescent foray into Revell plastic model car kits 3+ decades ago -- I went through a Chevrolet Corvette Stingray phase with I was 11-12 years old.  Farrah Fawcett Majors' "Foxy 'Vette" in silver-gray plastic anyone? -- I had forgotten how you've got to assemble multipart models bit by painstaking bit.  Which requires holding your breath, of course, as you carefully glue a few tiny pieces into place and back gently away from the painting table, so you don't disturb anything.  

And then, you must then go away for 24 hours or so, returning the next evening to continue with another phase of assembly.  Since even instant bonding super glues and gels take a while to cure and set fast, and that's if you don't get a minute wagon axle or something stuck fast to your eyelashes in the meantime, it's taking several days to get all of this stuff assembled for subsequent base coating, painting, glossing, and limited terrain treatment of bases.  However, I must admit that I am enjoying the journey for the most part.  

So, here is where things stand currently.  I have been, these last few days, interspersing work on another Norwegian to English translation of an essay by the late author Stig Saeterbakken (first draft finally wrapped up a short while ago) with the various stages of wagon and cart assembly.  A little cementing here, a little translation there, and so on, and so forth, ad infinitum.  Don't you just love Latin phrases?  

Thus far, things have gone reasonably well, and you'll notice very few superglue induced fingerprints on any of the parts.  That has, in turn, meant that the anticipated muttering and cursing under my breath has been minimized.  Jeeze Louise!  If I'm not careful, this could become a habit.  In any case, time for another late afternoon mug of coffee I think.

-- Stokes

13 March 2014

Final Two Single-based ADC's Finished. . . It's Wagon Time!

An RSM95 cuirassier officer -- Prussian or Austrian, I can never remember which -- and an RSM95 dragoon officer that comes, I think, from the French range of SYW figures.  The horses are by RSM95 too.

Alrighty!  I've now completed all eight of the singly based aides de camp, a mix of various and sundry RSM95, Fife&Drum, and Minden rider and horse figures.  Time now to dive headlong into the various wagons, carts, and teams now littering my painting area.  I've got a new bottle of thick, slower curing CA glue from the local model railway shop just for that purpose.

The figures shown here, at any rate, are based on the Saxon 'Von Arnim' Cuirrassiers and 'Von Leipziger' Dragoons uniforms worn by officers in these regiments as presented in Dr. Stephen Sommerfield's book on the subject -- The Saxon Army of the Austrian War of Succession and the Seven Years War (2011) along with the usual bit of artistic (??!!) license.  

These figures aren't the greatest work I've done, but they are finished.  The painting is a bit sloppy, and that wasn't entirely helped by the castings, which are a bit on the crude side, especially where the riders, and in particular the dragoon, are concerned.  While the poses are dynamic enough, the figures are a bit rough around the edges.  Still, they should look pretty good on the tabletop with hundreds of their fellows.  It is that mass effect and spectacle we are after regardless of our chosen figure scales/sizes and set-ups, right?

Most of the painting this time was done with thinned Citadel acrylic hobby paints although the basic horseflesh, black items, and fleshtone were done with my usual mix of Winsor&Newton Grifffin alkyd oils and Liquin Original.  Some lining was then added with my almost 20-year old 000 sable and watered down dark brown and black, to help define a few areas better.  I also actually gave them a hint of facial features too, they are officers after all, which looks kind of nice although I wouldn't think of doing this for a large cavalry or infantry unit of 30-60+ figures.  A bit too time consuming and nerve wracking.  Whew!  Talk about holding your breath and moving your fingers like a cardiac or brain surgeon. 

This evening, the Grand Duchess and Young Master permitting, I might just get back down here to Zum Stollenkeller, to begin assembling wagons and carts.

-- Stokes

A short while later. . .

Wagons ho!  Sounds like a bawdy sequel to Mel Brooks' Blazing Saddles or something.  Still, it looks like my work is cut out for me, but it will be a nice diversion while adding to the overall and ongoing Grand Duchy of Stollen project.  Once everything is assembled, though, I expect painting to go fairly smoothly.  The horse teams for the Fife&Drum pontoon and powder wagons are in the small ziplock baggies at left along with a number of Minden drovers and drivers.

09 March 2014

Tarleton and Marion in The Road to Guilford. . .

Banastre Tarleton (left) and Francis Marion (right).  Figures by Fife&Drum, painted mostly with Winsor & Newton Griffin alkyd oils, some details picked out with Citadel acrylics, and groundwork done with Woodland Scenics.

All good road movies need a duo of sorts.  Sarandon and Davis, Gibson and Glover, Martin and Lewis, Hope and Crosby, Abbott and Costello. . .  Tarleton and Marion.  Just think of the films those two could have made!  

Anyway, here they are, freshly glossed and terrained -- Banastre and Francis.  Not hyper-detailed, but enough to make me happy, and, most important, they are done.  They'll do fine at arm's length on the table.  Tarleton will serve as an officer in the Army of Zichenau, and Marion in the Army of Stollen where his dark blue and red-faced coat will fit right in.

-- Stokes

 Francis Marion, aka "The Swampfox" up close and personal.  You see here how, if things work like they should, the pigment settles in the eye sockets, just below the nose in the philtrum area, and between the lips, obviating the need for shadows and highlighting.

And here is "Bloody Ban" Tarleton all by himself.  I am pleased with the way the horsehair crest, sheepskin, and green feathers turned out.  No touch-ups required.  Sap Green (thinned considerably with Liquin Original) proved to be a nice, rich color for feathers, coat, and saddlecloth without being too dark.  However, he suffers from a pronounced overbite if you look closely.  Darn it!  Should've resisted the urge to pick out his teeth with a breath of white paint on that 000 sable brush.

Back in the Painting Saddle!

The recently added selection of wagons, carts, horse teams, drovers, drivers, oh, and the small but respectably sized (and organized) pile of lead here at Stollen Central.

Not much has happened during the last couple of weeks here at Stollen Central due mostly to professional and service commitments.  Sigh.  However, we are at the star our our nine-day Spring Break, so I'm making efforts to rectify the situation.  That's as it should be after all, right?

First, I've wrapped up the glossing on my Fife&Drum Banastre Tarleton and Francis Marion figures, who will have their groundwork finished this evening.  Depending on how I fell, I might just dust off the foamcore lightbox and camera to snap a couple or three photographs of the finished miniatures to share here.  

Next, I have started on those final two RSM95 figures, a cuirassier and a dragoon officer, which I'll paint, naturally, as a Saxon cuirassier officer and a Prussian dragoon officer in one of the early white uniforms, something I've always wanted to try.  Nothing worth sharing here yet, but the horses are largely done, and I've slapped my usual undercoat of tan all over the the riders, which will get its white highlight -- the typical method I use for white uniforms -- this evening.

Thirdly, as the photo above will attest, I've got everything needed now to model my generic pontoon and baggage trains, a mix of Minden, Fife&Drum, Old Glory, and Blue Moon items.  Most of the wagons and carts will be a nondescript brownish gray, although the Berliner Zinnfiguren mobile forge, which the Grand Duchess is picking up during her research visit to Berlin in May, will get its more or less appropriate shade of blue once she arrives home in late May or early June.  Can't wait to begin assembling and painting all of this stuff!  Much like the various civilians and vignettes I've been working on during the last 14 months, new and different stuff to paint once in a while gives one that much needed shot in the arm. . .  A remedy for that occasional bout of painting ennui that overcomes all of us from time to time.

In addition, I've been thinking ahead about cooking up various military camp scenes -- inspired by the work of Jim "Alte Fritz" Purky, Phil Olley, and Charles S. Grant -- at some point up the painting road.  While Perry has a recently released American War of Independence set with soldiers and female camp followers, which is the easy road, I'm thinking about making things a bit more challenging.  There are quite a few suitable male and female figures in various parts of the 30mm Willie range which are suitable for sutlers, vivandieres, and camp followers of less repute.  Moreover, it strikes me that there are a number of figures that might have some application in the Minden range too, for instance the civilian and military laborers and the drovers and/or sitting wagon drivers which would be very easy to have sitting around tents, campfires, or a small table and tent set up at the edge of a camp by an enterprising cantiniere.  I've already found a number of photos online of the kinds of things AWI reenactor groups do here in the U.S., which provide inspiring insight into how all of this might look.

And it would be remiss of me not mention a planned solo encounter that is coming up here in Zum Stollenkeller before too long, based on the Battle of Buena Vista, fought in 1847.  There was a very good article on the subject in a very early issue of Miniatiure Wargames way, way back in the early 1980s, and I've always meant to take a crack at it.  Looks like now is the time.  I will not be doing a straight refight, however, but will apply the scenario to my own forces and set-up.  One change I'll make though is to have rather less rugged terrain on my tabletop, which would not be in keeping with the part of Baltic region of Northeastern Europe -- corresponding roughly to modern day Lativa and Lithuania -- where the Grand Duchy of Stollen and its arch enemy the Electorate of Zichenau are supposed to be.  So, expect rather gentler hills and ridge lines than is/was the case on the actual battlefield in Mexico.  But there will nevertheless be a strong horseshoe-shaped position for one of the armies to assail and attempt to knock out.  It should be a fun exercise, and there will be photos and progress reports right here of course.

And speaking of Miniature Wargames. . .  I finally subscribed (digitally) yesterday, and it's a winner. Something many of you probably realize already.  Yes, I'm coming very late to the table since editor Henry Hyde took over the reins a year or so ago, to say nothing of my finally joining the 21st century and going digital, but there you are.  Anyway, if you too are a fan of the revamped MW with Battlegames, and have not already done so, you could do worse than drop Henry a line electronically and thank him for the delightful infusion of thought about, discussion, and dissemination of the hobby that the magazine clearly needed before he took over.  It cannot be an easy task assembling a polished magazine every month, so why not show our appreciation for something that clearly works on so many different levels?  Hats off to Henry and Miniature Wargames, say I.

Alright.  Time for another cup of java and then it's back to the painting table.

-- Stokes

25 February 2014

Painting Progress So Far in 2014. . .

Sadly, I was too wiped out to paint last night after little sleep the night before, followed by a long day on Monday.  But here is where things stand so far for the year.  

By the way, a nice little package arrived from Fife&Drum-Minden Miniatures yesterday, and in only two days.  Yes, TWO days from the time Der Alte Fritz posted it until it arrived on our doorstep.  Now, I just live downstate from Greater Chicago, but that's pretty darn good customer service and shipping/handling if you ask  me.  Less than a week between making the initial order and receiving the goods.  Fun stuff unpacking those extra pontoons, horse teams, drivers, and wagon/horse riders yesterday evening.  

Now, all that's needed is the arrival of the Blue Moon and Old Glory wagons and carts that I ordered last week.  In the meantime, here is a run down of what I've managed to wrap up so far and what's planned for the coming months at the painting table. 

-- Stokes

2014-2015 Painting Queue

Remaining Vignettes (RSM95 and Minden) x 4 – Done

4-pounder French Guns (Fife &Drum) x 2 -- Done

Single ADC Figures (RSM and Fife&Drum) x 8 – In-Progress (almost done)


Wagon Train (Old Glory/Blue Moon/Fife&Drum) (8 wagons, teams, drivers)

Pontoon Train (Fife&Drum) x 3 wagons, 9 pontoons, teams, drivers

Model Forge x 1 (Berliner Zinnfiguren – Pick up in May 2014 when Grand Duchess visits Berlin.)


20-figure Augmented Sapper/Pontonier company (Minden)

80-figure Battalion (60 Ernestinisch Sachsen, 20 Reichstadt Koeln) (RSM95)

32-figure Militia Battalion (Fife&Drum and Minden)

15-figure Croat company (RSM95 and Minden)

Later. . . 

I received a brief e-mail with a tracking number from the Old Glory and Blue Moon-US people in Georgia.  The wagons, carts, and teams are on their way!  I feel like John Wayne in some old movie or the young Clint Eastwood as Rowdy Yates on the old Rawhide TV series.

23 February 2014

A Little Sunday Painting in Zum Stollenkeller. . .

 Blobs of color on the piece of palette paper above include Prussian Blue, Yellow Ochre, Flesh Tone, Burnt Umber, Burnt Sienna, Black, and Sap Green.

A spot of painting here in Zum Stollenkeller this afternoon.  The usual oils and alkyd oils thinned with Liquin Original, so the air is subtly fragrant with that delightful aroma of pigment and the vehicles in which it has been suspended.  Among the four individually based figures currently under the brush include Banastre Tarleton and Francis Marion by Fife & Drum.  Eagerly awaiting the arrival of two packages that contain various bits and pieces that will become either the supply train or the pontoon train.  Exciting times indeed!

-- Stokes

19 February 2014

Wagons ho!!!

No exactly an 18th century Prussian, Austrian, or Reichsarmee supply train, but. . . 

While I have no figure painting planned for this evening, tonight's the night when I'll sit down to order the eight or so wagons, carts, and teams I've decided on for my generic 18th century supply train from Old Glory/Blue Moon here in the United States.  I'll also inquire about and/or order a few extra things from Der Alte Fritz over at Fife & Drum Miniatures to round out the pontoon train given to me this past Christmas by the Grand Duchess and Young Master.  Ordering things is almost as much fun as receiving, painting, completing, and later playing with them you know.  Of course, we try to resist materialism and not be shopaholics or hoarders, but when it comes to occasional new figures and books, the pull is awfully hard to resist.

-- Stokes


And now that I think of it, the fact that I'm building the supply and pontoon trains means that, sooner or later, I'll have to add gun limbers and horse teams with maybe a few caissons at some point.  You see what I mean?  It's a slippery slope indeed.

 There!  I've done it!  Old Glory and Blue Moon wagons and teams ordered, and Fife&Drum and Minden items ordered and one question posed to Der Alte Fritz.  That was satisfying.  I can now go about family business and supper this evening with a much clearer mind and free heart, happy in the life I have chosen.  ;-)


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