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Showing posts from December, 2013

A Little Christmas Week Tinkering and Thinking Ahead to 2014. . .

Supply Train en Route to Valley Forge.
We've had several nice, quiet winter days here at Stollen Central since Christmas Day, which have given me time to tinker with upcoming vignettes in preparation for painting and some online research with regard to suitable pieces for the long-planned supply and pontoon train.  As you might recall, the Grand Duchess got me off to a good start with the latter, presenting me with two each of the Fife&Drum powder wagons and pontoon wagons for Christmas.  

Besides, suitable horse teams, I will also order a third pontoon wagon, and see if I might be able to order an additional 3-4 pontoons by themselves.  I'll also look and see about what figures in the Minden Range SYW range might be suitable for conversion to pontoniers.  As many of you will undoubtedly agree, planning ahead constitutes a large part of the fun to be found in the wargaming hobby.

Where the rest of the supply train is concerned, I've combed the net and decided on several w…

Happy Feast of Stephen!

A suitably quiet picture this morning for Der Zweite Weinachtstag, the Second Day of Christmas.
I hope you had a quiet, peaceful, and enjoyable yesterday, whether you observe the Christmas Festival or not.  The Grand Duchess, Young Master, and I had a delightful, fun-filled day of gifts, treats, good food, and telephone calls.  Quiet and free of difficulty.  It was, the Grand Duchess and I agreed later that evening, one of the nicest, easiest Christmas Days we've enjoyed in several years.  Best of all, it truly was a toy soldier Christmas all the way around since both the Young Master and I presented each other with gifts of the toy soldierly persuasion.  As soon as I have had some more coffee, some breakfast, and a real chance to wake up, I'll be back to amend this particular blog entry with a few photos and a few more details of these toy solider gifts.  Stay tuned!

Later. . . 

The centerpiece of this year's Christmas must surely be this castle and the various red and blue …

Merry Christmas Everyone!

It is almost Christmas in the Grand Duchy of Stollen. . .

The ground is white with fresh snow east of the sun and west of the moon in the Grand Duchy of Stollen. Billowing, silvery drifts are piled throughout the country. The rivers and lakes are frozen solid. The woods are still but for the distant jingle of sleigh bells in the bracing air. The sky is slate grey, and heavy coal smoke hangs over the villages and towns. It is almost Christmas here in the far-off Grand Duchy of Stollen, somewhere to the northeast of Frederick’s Prussia, sometime during the latter third of the 18th century.  

Citizens of Krankenstadt bustle to and fro through snow-covered streets in the small capital city of the Grand Duchy, running last minute errands before the Christmas festival begins in earnest. The red brick North German Gothic storefronts feature special Christmas items and treats, and the happy faces of children peek in through the frosty windows at the cheerful seasonal displays. Street vendors peddle their wares in the tow…

Der Stollen ist da! / We've got Stollen!

Here's the finished product with a fresh pot of coffee all ready to go.
The Grand Duchess, despite a small cold, whipped up a stollen for us late this afternoon, and the Young Master helped her for the first time.  So, I think this year's stollen will taste extra specially good this year.  

Longtime visitors to the Grand Duchy of Stollen blog might recall that the name for this ongoing project came to me in mid-December 2005 one afternoon in our old apartment a few blocks away from the current Stollen Central.  The semester was over, final grades had been submitted, and there was finally time for daydreaming and note-making for a then as yet unamed fictitious mid-18th century campaign in the tradition of The War Game and Charge!

I mulled over everything at my desk as the Grand Duchess baked our very first stollen right across the hall in the kitchen, wondering what I might call the project.  Suddenly, it hit me.  The Grand Duchy of Stollen. . .  Yes, that's it!  And here we …

Another Vignette Finished!!!

The most recently completed figures here in Zum Stollenkeller, four shirking soldiers from various Pennsylvania regiments in the Continental Army, circa 1776.
Here are several photographs of the latest batch of figures, finished yesterday evening, four Continental Army figures by Fife&Drum, which have been painted to represent soldiers of various Pennsylvania regiments.  The drummer's blue uniform faced with red is conjectural, but goodness knows there were enough American regiments during the 1775-1781 War of American Independence that had uniforms in these colors, so it seemed like a fair guess.  Again, these figures were fun and fast to paint, and it was a pleasure to finish and get them into the quick and dirty foamcore board lightbox and snap a bunch of photographs.  All of these shots need cropping, but they don't seem too bad otherwise from my non-professional perspective.  


A second shot showing, unusually, what the figures look like from behind.  I dry-brushed the r…

The Next Batch of Fife&Drum Miniatures Underway. . .

A selection of the oil paints used this afternoon.
A pleasant couple of hours here in Zum Stollenkeller this afternoon as I began the next four-figure vignette, Fife&Drum figures that will be painted in pre-Continental Pennsylvania uniforms more or less.  Once again, I'm basing my brush work on John Mollo's Uniforms of the American Revolution and  Stuart Reid's and Marko Zlatich's Soldiers of the Revolutionatry War.

Splotches of the various paints mixed with 5-6 drops of Liquin Original. 

And the four Fife&Drum figures currently under the brush.  They don't look like very much yet, but they'll start to come around once various details and some additional lining are added.  They need to dry overnight though before I do anything else.

A Fife&Drum Command Vignette. . .

Not Doug Mason-Peter Gilder quality yet, but getting there.  Even on these 28-30mm figures, I prefer to leave the eyes blank and simply let the pigment settle into and around the eye sockets of the men and horses.  Attempts to paint in eyeballs and irises, I feel, usually end up looking overwrought.  In any case, the faces on these miniatures are just wonderful.
Freshly varnished, and the base terrained with a bit of stained sand and Woodland Scenics materials over top, here they are. . .  a Fife&Drum Continental general,  his aide de camp, and an errant infantryman looking for his unit.  Rats!  I see now that I have yet to paint in a gold sword knot and the spurs on the two mounted figures (shakes head in abject shame as face reddens).



A head-on shot of the same three figures.  With castings this nice, it's hard to mess them up or group them in a silly, unconvincing way.

I based these figures on the uniforms illustrated in plates 164 and 165 within John Mollo's Uniforms of …

A Snowy Pre-Christmas Saturday in the Grand Duchy. . .

Stollen Central on Saturday, December 14, 2013.  This peaceful scene belies flurry of painting activity happening in Zum Stollenkeller.
We've had about seven inches of snow during the night here in the Grand Duchy of Stollen, and there are still some intermittent flurries this morning.  After digging out our own house and the elderly neighbor's up the street, yours truly is taking a break with a glass of ice-water.  What??!!  Not the usual mug of coffee?  No.  Not when I'm this thirsty.  Whew! 

The Grand Duchess has gone in search of some new winter boots for the Young Master, who is in his room at the moment playing some age-appropriate game on his mother's I-pod.  Just slightly over four years old, and he's a wiz at it already.  Amazing how fast really young children pick up digital technology.  Anyway, I think, given our lovely snowfall, that there will be a trip to a nearby park for some tobogganing later today after lunch.  And naturally, some hot chocolate wil…

Fife&Drum Works in Progress. . .

The next two batches of figures in the painting queue: General officers and a group of wandering (marauding?) infantry.
Next up on the painting table, two small batches of Fife&Drum figures that were part of an order I made last January. . .  or even longer ago than that.  I think Der Alte Fritz might have tossed in a few extras with my order at the time.  And like the Large Mouth Bass that I am (or a hungry Walleye if you're from Minnesota), I took a big gulp of those shiny lures and was hooked!  Very much a case of "Oooo, look!  I must have some of those!"  And since these  are also 18th century figures, why not incorporate them somehow into my semi-fictitious Grand Duchy of Stollen campaign?  

The generals on the left will have a part to play in my games as commanders of a Stollenian brigade of infantry or one wing of the army.  The group of three infantrymen and a drummer on the right, by contrast, will simply be used to enliven some quiet corner of the table.  I&#…

Experiments with a Quick and Dirty Lightbox. . .

Here is the new lightbox in action, constructed with several sheets of very cheap foamcore board.    More experimentation is needed to get optimum results, but the lightbox does seem to diffuse and distribute available light much better than without it.
Some quick fooling around with a new (very inexpensive) lightbox, cobbled together from several pieces of foamcore board, and my Sony Cybershot TX20 this afternoon.  You will have seen the figures pictured in previous posts, but they were handy.  I think I need a third light, or a reflector/diffuser of some sort, in the foreground because I keep casting a faint but discernible shadow with the camera.  The focus is a bit iffy in other photos that I haven't shared here, but that would be solved by pulling out the Gun of Naverone that I mentioned in a post a day or two ago. . .  The Sony Alpha100 Digital SLR camera.  Anyway, the pictures shared here in this post are the best of this latest crop.  They seem to be brighter and much more …

Another Vignette Finished. . .

Here are three quick shots of the latest figures (a Minden Austrian hussar officer and an RSM Croat) finished here in Zum Stollenkeller.  Some of the smaller uniform details are a little off (ok, wrong), but the figures are part of imaginary armies, so I'm not too worried about it.  Next up, a vignette featuring three Fife and Drum figures, which were purchased early last January.  I'm also buying a few sheets of foam core board at the Dollar Store later this afternoon, to build a small lightbox for better photographs of the growing Grand Duchy of Stollen collection. . .  curated by yours truly!





"What do you use to shoot your figures?"

A Sony Cybershot like the kind I use here at home for all kinds of "Kodak moments" (remember those?) besides just the toy soldiers.
A good wargaming and writing friend in Ireland asked recently about the camera(s) I use to shoot my finished figures.  Never one to miss an opportunity to hold forth on any number of subjects about which I know little to nothing, in the now well-established tradition of the Internet, I thought I'd provide a quick and dirty guide to photographing your model soldiers this morning.

For the most part, I use a small Sony Cybershot DSC-TX20 just like the one shown above.  The great thing about this point-and-shoot camera is that it automatically flips itself into macro mode when you get close enough to the subject, making things almost foolproof.  Good for ten-thumbed, technically challenged guys like me.  As long as you have enough light, and the figures are shot against a neutral blue or green background, it's pretty easy to shoot reasonably g…

Saxon General and Officers Finished. . .

Three Saxon officers surround their Major General -- Not a Lieutenant General as reported wrongly yesterday.  Too much gold lace on that one! -- as he points to something in the distance. 
Submitted for your viewing pleasure -- or, at the very least an example of how NOT to go about painting your figures -- the promised Saxon staff and aide-de-camp.  The coats and saddlecloths look redder in these photos than is the case in person where they are very much more Alizarin Crimson than they seem here.  Likewise, the good general's horse is less orange that it appears in this series of photographs.


Another shot, this time made with a crane borrowed from the late Orson Welles.  Call it my own Touch of Evil moment.  Believe it, or not, this series of shots was done all in one continuous take.

And sometimes, nothing seems to go right.  As I was applying the Liquitex acrylic gloss varnish last night before bed, what do you think happened?  Yep.  Knocked over the whole darn bottle and spille…

I'm doing something, honest!

A selection of Minden Austrian officers painted in, more or less, Saxon uniforms.  This is where we stand at the moment.
Today is cold and gray with light snow here at Stollen Central.  A textbook December day in the Northern Hemisphere.  I've also started to relax and feel a little jolly, silly even, in that pre-Christmas seasonal way.  Best of all, I managed a painting session yesterday afternoon and another in the evening after the Young Master's bedtime.  Slowly getting there with those four Saxon officers in other words.  

In the photograph above, the chap in the middle astride the chestnut horse is a Major General while the others are officers of the Rutowsky Light Dragoons (right), the Garde du Corps (far left), and a member of the Aristocratic Corps of Cadets (center left).  Still some detailing to do on the men and horses, as well as the usual touch-ups, before applying two coats of acrylic gloss and the the ground work, but I'm making more progress than has been th…

A Large Infusion to the Stollenian Warchest. . .

Payment for a lengthy translation, completed last summer, arrived finally mid-afternoon today.  It's reasonably large as these things go, and I'm allocating it to fund future, and as yet unimagined, figure purchases for the Grand Duchy of Stollen project.  Very likely more Minden and Fife&Drum stuff, which is simply too tempting to resist.  For the time being, though, I'm squirreling away these funds and forgetting about them since there is already a respectably sized pile of unpainted lead in Zum Stollenkeller.  Best to see to those before I go crazy ordering new stuff.  However, the Grand Duke Irwin-Amadeus II and Hives are enjoying clay pipes of the finest Virginia tobacco this evening, along with drams of something medicinal, in celebration of this windfall.

Coming Soon: A Saxon General and Officers. . .

First off, here is a Saxon Lieutanant General, looking very dandy in crimson and cream with a silver sash, copious amounts of gold lace, feathers on his hat, and a walking stick. 
Classes have finally ended (Thursday the 5th) for the semester here at Stollen Central!  And while there will be the usual flood of final papers to collect and read through next week, I've finally got a few days, more or less, to myself for some fun stuff.  And then, there is a small vaguely Balt0-Teutonic castle to build and paint for the Young Master, to go with some two-inch high knights and Vikings that are on the way.  Might as well get him started down the toy soldier road now that he's turned four, you know.  That should not be too difficult since he is fascinated with Dad's own toys over on the painting table, especially the horses.  

Next, we have  a Saxon Garde du Corps officer.
So, it's high time to finish the ongoing work on a group of three Minden Austrians, which are being painted …