15 February 2011

Cannon, Cavalry, and the Odd Book or Two. . .

Remember these guys?  These were finished during the late fall of 2010 and have been waiting patiently for their guns to arrive ever since.  Army bureaucracy you know!  The figures are Prussian artillery from Garrison by the way. 

A few different things happening here in Stollen Central the last week or so.  First, I have been slowly getting those last two MiniFig guns painted to go with the crew shown above.  Still some cleaning up to do before the usual two coats of glossy varnish, but overall I am fairly well pleased.

The barrels of the guns were painted with GW Dwarf Bronze, given a very thin wash of alkyd oil-based Burnt Sienna, and then the bronze was touched up on the upper-most parts of the barrels.  This seems to add a bit more depth, texture, and visual interest to these relatively plain castings, though that is kind of hard to see in the photograph below.

So, here are the two MiniFig guns in question.  Not quite there, but just about.  These have been painted using a combination of acrylic hobby paints and very thin washes of Winsor-Newton alkyd oils (Burn Sienna) on the gun barrels.

As far as carriage color goes, I decided to go for a  uniform light grey this time around, which I believe was the color of French gun carriages during the very early part of the Seven Years War before the introduction of red and, eventually, olive green, familiar to anyone who dabbles in later French Napoleonics.  I think the guns will go nicely with their crew when all finished.  There's an unintentional pun there I think!

There are more detailed and expensive 25-30mm gun models available out there (Hinchliffe anyone?), but the MiniFig 25mm cannon only require a minimum of assembly before painting.  That point, to my mind, makes them more durable given the amount of handling wargaming figures typically get.  That's my rationalization at least for not purchasing the best and most expensive model guns on the market, though that may change as I gradually add to the collection.
 Here is a close-up of the Minden Prussian hussar officer in question whose sword was cut away and his hand bored out to accept a flagpole and guidon.

Next, I managed to get all 30 of those Minden hussars attached to their respective mounts and bases (and started applying a basecoat to the first dozen).  I used some spare artists' illustration board that was taking up space here in Zum Stollenkeller for the bases, which cut easily with a fresh hobby knife blade and a metal ruler.  The bases, incidentally, measure 15mm x 46mm, providing just enough added stability to keep horsed figures from toppling over every other move, causing possible damage to their paintwork.

You'll also notice that the Minden figure above is now equipped with a hussar guidon.  Not strictly accurate as I noted in last week's post, since many, if not most, hussar regiments seem to have left their guidons behind before they went into battle.  On the tabletop, however, standards and guidons really add something to horse and musket-era troops in miniature I think.  

The conversion, if you can call it that, took only a few minutes of careful trimming away of the officer's sword, followed by drilling the remaining hand out with a pin vise drill and tiny bit.  It was then a fairly easy thing to slip and glue the flagpole/guidon assembly into his doctored hand for later painting.

For my standards and guidons, I usually just find interesting stuff online, save it into a file, re-size, and print it out.  I then cut it out carefully with a sharp hobby knife and a metal-edged ruler before attaching it to the flagpole with plain old white glue (Elmer's) .  I use a small paintbrush handle to add some curls and furls to the standard or guidon and set the entire figure aside, so the glue has time to dry.  Later, it's simply a matter of painting in my own colors and central designs over the patterns already on the paper.  

Of course, there are several really good historical "stick-on" decal-type lines of flags on the market that you could choose.  But these have never looked quite right to me.  That, and a lot of wargamers never bother (or manage?) to disguise the white edges that inevitably show after they stick their flags onto the poles of their flag-bearers, something which can spoil an otherwise top-notch painting job on the figures.  Far better to take another few minutes and disguise these edges with an appropriate shade of paint.  Or simply make your own flags.

Incidentally, the Minden castings are so clean that little to no preparation with a hobby knife is required before you can apply your basecoat and begin painting. How far things have come in just the last 25 years, to say nothing of the last 40!  As I remarked to an acquaintance yesterday, Mindens are a bit pricey, but worth every penny given the high quality of the sculpted master figures and the castings these yield.  Even if your wargaming pocket is not particularly deep -- and mine is not at the present time (funny what  child or two will do to that!) -- treat yourself to a few of these delightful miniatures at some point.  Maybe some mounted officers and a few more on foot for a vignette of mid-18th Century generals?

Here they are, ready to join their cohorts on the tabletop!

In addition, I took a few evenings to finish applying two coats of Future/Klear acrylic floor finish to those 30 Holger Eriksson cavalry, shown above in their completed state.  I'm really pleased with the way these have turned out.  One coat of shiny varnish is nice, but two coats really bring figures to life, providing additional contrast and a vivid richness to the various colors of paints you use in a way that flat varnishes don't.  

I read somewhere during the last two-three years that the late Peter Gilder tried to achieve a porcelain figure-like appearance through his painting and (shiny) varnishing methods.   It's doubtful, of course, that I'll ever approach Mr. Gilder's, or Doug Mason's, level of skill with the brush, but it's what I have in mind whenever I sit down to the painting table these days.

Speaking of cavalry and, more specifically, horses, every wargamer who paints figures larger than 2mm-10mm should have at least one good reference book on the beasts in his or her library.  One that I have found invaluable in the last five years has been Horses (1993) by Elwyn Hartley Edwards, part of the Smithsonian Handbook series.  Very briefly, it contains all kinds of information on the various recognized breeds of horse around the world, their history, breeding, development, anatomy, and -- significantly for painters -- high quality photographs, which provide accurate representation of the true colors and shades of the horses' coats.  Moreover, Edwards' handbook is a convenient size to use at your painting table, measuring just 15cm x 21.5cm.

 The book I'm blathering on about at the moment, currently available for just US$ 12.95 from Amazon.com

There are many other books on the subject available, but these suffer from two ills.  First, many are coffee table-sized, which means they are large format.  While this is in no way is a bad thing, it is difficult to use such books comfortably while you are seated with a bunch of primed figures and open containers of paint lined up on the painting table before you.  Second, many other horse books are clearly aimed at that peculiar subset of the female sex, the horse-obsessed girl under the age of twelve.

Now, there is NOTHING wrong with that.  And in fact, my own sister suffered from the same affliction for a few years.  Keep in mind, we actually had a few horses at the time, but my mother and I were much more responsible for the considerable upkeep they required.  It's a hell of a lot of work caring for horses!  That's another story though.

Returning to the subject of books on horses though, the kind I am talking about in this second instance don't necessarily provide the same kind of information useful to wargamers, or serious equestrians, beyond some of the photographs contained therein.  So, if you are in the market for a handbook on equines, you could do worse than Horses by Elwyn Hartley Edwards (Catsmeat Potter-Pirbright anyone?).  The price is right too,  It currently retails on Amazon.com for just US$ 12.95.

Keeping to the subject of books, I received the Pengel and Hurt volume from the Grand Duchess yesterday evening, entitled The Reichsarmee: Organisation, Flags, and Uniform Supplement 1756-62 (1983).  This was, depending on your point of view, either a very late Christmas gift, or a Valentine's Day gift.  In any case, fascinating reading, though there are several cross references made to other Pengel and Hurt titles, which means. . .   That I'll have to drop a few more hints as the next birthday and Christmas approach much later in the year.  Oh, the pain, the pain. . .  the unmitigated pain of it all!

One final book-related note.  I've got a spare copy of the late Ian Weekley's Buildings for the Military Modeller (1989).  If anyone out there might like it, it's yours for US$ 25.00 + shipping and handling, payable via Paypal on a first come, first served basis.  Just contact me offline if you are interested.  Serious inquiries only, please.  Thank you.

Have a good week everyone.  Like a jug of milk well past its sell-by date, I'm off.  Now, what are you still reading this blog for?  Get yourself to that painting table now!  Those figures won't paint themselves you know.


Paul´s Bods said...

I really like those guns.
I´m off to do some painting now ;-D

Bloggerator said...

I believe that young Mr Crowther has got a nice line in shinyness.




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