01 February 2008

You thought I forgot, didn't you?

Step Six – Add Windows, Doors, and Hanging Sign
Our final step is fairly simple, requiring only a black marker or felt tip pen, a steady hand, and some patience. Once you have finished painting the interior ruins and the exterior of the merchant’s townhouse, it’s time to add a few doors and some windows

So, take your pen and, with a very light touch, begin by adding some widows where you want them. Be careful not to place any windows in illogical places though, like where a chimney would obviously connect to a fireplace and hearth inside. That said, I’m sure I’ve made that kind of error myself in the 15 or so model buildings I've built in the last year, but there you are. The same caveat follows when it comes to any doors you add to your model structure
Now, remember that you are not trying to create all of the minute details of windows and doors, merely the impression of them. So, if your windows and doors are not all exactly the same size, or if some of the angles are a little “Caligariesque”*, don’t worry too much about it. One more thing, don’t smudge the black ink with your fingers or heel of your hand as you work. The paint on the surfaces of your model house will prevent the ink from soaking in/drying immediately, so exercise caution. After a few days, the ink will be dry to the touch.

Let’s add a sign to the front of the house, to provide a little bit of visual interest. This is also tedious given the small pieces of balsa wood and cardboard you are trimming and assembling. Ideally, you want to glue everything together without it sticking to your fingers! The sign shown here is not yet completed still needing some painting and a few little black squiggles to approximate lettering, but you get the idea from the photograph below.

Putting a sign or two on a few of your own houses means that they can also substitute as local taverns, coffee houses, or some sort of business establishment in the towns and villages you assemble for your troops to contest. This particular house will also double as Der Alte Fritz, a local inn and tavern, my tip of the hat to Jim Purky of Hesse-Seewald fame, who recently suggested adding some signs to a few of the model houses in my collection.

There we are. A rather whimsical North German/Baltic townhouse in the “Grantian” tradition, built and painted in just six easy steps. Repeat this same basic process a few times, and voila! You’ll have enough model buildings for a couple of villages or a larger town. Now, what are you waiting for? Start hoarding those pieces of thick cardboard!

As I noted earlier, my houses and other buildings are not strictly realistic. But they do look like what they purport to be, providing a little added visual interest and (dare I say?) charm to my imaginary 18th century armies. Moreover, houses like the one described in these recent posts are similar to those wonderfully old school houses featured in The War Game and other works by Charles Grant or Charles S. Grant, yet with my own particular stamp on them.

What about inspiration? Well, visit Phil Olley's War Cabinet site and look at his "Classic Wagaming" pages for starters. If you can, find and (re)read an article by C.S. Grant on fighting in built-up areas, which appeared in Miniature Wargames #6 or #7 many years ago now. Another inspirational article on making your own houses and village modules (for the SYW era) appeared in Wargames Illustrated in 1989 by a guy named Pete Duckworth. Finally, almost any article by the late Ian Weekley is worth a read too. These appeared in Military Modelling and MW with great frequency from the late 1970s to the early 1990s.

Each of these sources has inspired me continuously over the years, to make whatever I needed when it comes to wargaming buildings and terrain. It's a fascinating sidebar to a wonderfully rewarding hobby (more shameless hyperbole).

*A reference to the 1919 German expressionist classic film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, which features weirdly distorted sets.


tradgardmastare said...

Thanks for the architectural guide Stokes - we will see what the Grubers come up with .....
It would be interesting to see what our fellow Bloggers come up with too...
p.s I trust the coffee/hot choc was enjoyable post skiing...

Steve said...

Brilliant - well done! :o))

Fitz-Badger said...

I agree, your buildings do add a touch of charm to your games and game photos. Thanks for the peek into your architectural workshop!

Der Alte Fritz said...

Thanks for the step by step instructions on the buildings. I think that they are even better than Charles Grant's (God forgive me for my blasphemy).

BTW, is there any chance of you traveling to South Bend the last weekend of March for the SYW Assn Convention? I'd love to see all of your stuff set up for a wargame one day.

Bluebear Jeff said...


While I use slightly different building materials, I appreciate your description of how you do things . . . and I really like your buildings.

One suggestion that I'd like to make for others is to measure and cut out the walls of several different buildings at the same time (being sure to label them).

BUT . . . be sure that the "footprint" and wall height have slightly different dimensions from building to building.

This makes the buildings each look a bit different. You don't need a lot of difference . . . say a milimeter more or less in wall height; and perhaps one to two mm longer or shorter for each wall.

This really helps the variety of buildings.

-- Jeff

Stokes Schwartz said...

Thank you everyone for all of your positive feedback on the building how-to. I sure appreciate it. As far as the South Bend SYW Convention, well, that's the weekend before my wife and I move into the new house, so we'll be taking care of too many things here unfortunately. BUT the possibility exists to have a game involving those of you from the Upper Midwest (assuming there is interest) at some point in the near future to inaugurate "Der Stollenkeller". ;-)

williamspd said...

Superb! Highly inspirational process as well as results, thanks for sharing your methods. I'm now busy trying to track down some of those Wargames Illustrated articles you mentioned....

As soon as the dust settles at The Cottage (private retreat of Grand Duke Siegfried), Kitschberg may begin its own architectural renaissance!


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