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Showing posts from December, 2006

General Staff Surveys Town Center

Here, the Grand Duke Irwin Amadeus II and his staff of two survey the downtown market square, to determine suitable points of defense and channels of attack. It's deserted right now, but just hours ago, hundreds of citizens traded and bought their weekly wares from each other before puchasing a demitasse of Turkish coffee in the rose-colored cafe -- Der andere Schuh (The Other Shoe) -- just behind Irwin Amadeus and his aids.

Completed Town Buildings

Here's aphoto showing some three of my eight fully constructed and painted town/city buildings that I've worked on the last ten days or so. They won't win any modeling awards, but they don't look half bad either. Can't wait until I have enough troops painted to fight among them!

Converted Cuirassers Sieze Town Bridge

Here are a few of the much described and discussed cuirassier conversions (Revell SYW Austrian musketeer heads on Zvezda Napoleonic Saxon cuirassier bodies), taking control of the recently constructed town bridge. For the time being, these guys are in the rear of the painting cue. For one, I've only converted about 8-9 figures. That and I've got a regiment of dragoons to paint first, followed by the recently acquired RSM 95 figures, which will be painted to resemble the famed Erbprinz Regiment (light blue coats, red small clothes, breeches, facings, and turnbacks). However as you know already, my regiment has already been granted its own title: The 1st (Grand Duchess' Own) Loyal Grenadiers in honor of my lovely and amazing wife, the Grand Duchess Sonja .

Catzilla Threatens Town

Here's one of those once in a lifetime photo opportunities. A squadron of as yet unpainted dragoons race to defend the town against the giant pet cat "Rannveig." The fact that kitty sat still long enough for Sonja to snap the picture is amazing! And in the fine tradition of all of those Japanese monster movies from the 50s and 60s, Rannveig ate the clock tower on the town hall shortly afterwards, and stomped on all of the little stolenians as they ran for cover. She breathed her fiery deathray of catfood breath in the direction of the defending government troops, to keep them at bay.

Grand Duke Reviews His Loyal Troops

Here, the Grand Duke Irwin Amadeus II and his staff at right review a company of the 2nd (Von Laurenz) Musketeers as they exit the capital city of Schmitten via the main gate. Colonel Von Laurenz is on hand at left to make sure that his boys maintain precise alignment and cadence as they march passed their monarch. Ready men? Three cheers for the Grand Duke: Hip, hip, hip -- hurrah, hurrah, hurrah!!!

New Bridge Connects Both Sides of Town

Well, I've obviously been bitten by the construction bug, and the building mania continues here in the Grand Duchy of Stollen. But sometimes, you've got to roll with it, right? I put the bridge, at the center of this photo, together yesterday and noted all of the various steps involved since I might try writing an article about constructing one's own "old school" scenery quickly and inexpensively. We'll see. In any case, the bridge is based on one Ian Weekley built back in the 1980s. The article and photos appeared in, let's see, an issue of Miniature Wargames I believe. My model bridge here is in three pieces. To simulate a damaged/blown-up bridge, small piles of cork chips have been glued into place beneath each end of the middle section. You can't see these here, but I'll post some additional photos once painting is finished, which show the model "whole" and with the central section removed, revelaing the miniature piles of rubb

General Von Maur Reports

Hard to believe that a full year has passed since I began sketching the outline for what has become the Grand Duchy of Stollen project. But the calendar on my desk says it's so. Now maybe it's a bit odd (ok, maybe a lot) that a 40 year old "adult" would derive such pleasure from writing about an imaginary place like Stollen. But then this is similar to what legitimate authors do everyday -- create imaginary characters, places, and situations that we love (or hate) to read about. And sometimes we enjoy our literary adventures so much that we revisit the people and places within these books again and again. It's the same whether we are talking about current writers like Dean Koontz, Sara Paretsky, and Jonathan Kellerman or canonical writers like Tolstoy, Emily Dickenson, or Hemingway. When thought of that way, Stollen and its contentious neighbor, the Electorate of Zichenau, don't seem quite so bizarre after all. They're sort of my own private Wonderland -

The Grand Duchess' Own Form Up

Finally, here's a phtograph I couldn't resist including here for your viewing pleasure -- the (Grand Duchess' Own) Loyal Grenadiers in formation for the Christmas Day Parade. It was an unexpected and glorious spectacle to unwrap these fine fellows and line them up on the coffee table. A complete regiment of RSM 95 Prussian grenadiers. Just imagine how they'll look once painted!

Unpainted "Ruins"

Here is a better picture of the newly built town gate, its base and "ruins" along with the base and ruins a of the town warehouse, sitting on its side in the rear. While Charles Grant's and C.S. Grant's buildings clearly serve as the impetus behind my own recent building spree, the archtectural vision, research, style, design, and construction is my own. . . along with a nod to Ian Weekely as well. The materials I have used for almost all of my wargames real estate over the years consist of balsa wood, heavy cardboard (mostly scrounged from the back of paper tablets once all the paper has been used up), white glue (Elmer's), and acrylic paint (mostly white, browns, and greys) . Plus a little imagination and handiwork. All very cheap, readily available stuff! Who says you've gotta drop a bundle on this hobby?

Figure Comparison

Here, you see (from right to left) a plastic 1/72 Revell figure, a 25mm MiniFig, and and RSM 95 miniature. Slight differences exist between the three in size, proportion, and heft. But so long as the figures are not mixed within the same unit, there's no problem using them next to each other on the table top. And if you look carefully at the photos contained within Charge!, there are some variations in size between the Spencer Smiths on the one hand and the Stadden, Traditons, and WIllies on the other. Nevertheless, that's not really what catches your eye, right? No, it's the glorious and colorful big units that we notice rather than the precise height of the figures used. And that's good enough for me.

Marching through Town

This shot shows a company of the newly arrived 1st (Grand Duchess' Own) Regiment of Loyal Grenadiers marching through town -- No doubt on their way to the palace. These RSM 95 figures have a certain bearing even if they are not yet painted. Incidentally, this regiment is next in line for painting once I complete the regiment of dragoons languishing on the painting table. Then Stollen will have a nice little core army and I can begin work on the Electorate of Zichenau's forces. You can also see many of the now completed widows and some doors on the town gate and Rathaus to the rear. Instead of going for a letter perfect appearance, I strove more for impression (a la Charles Grant) than for precision and simply drew in everything by hand, using a couple of black Sharpie permanent markers. When viewed from 2+ feet away, the entire town looks really very nice. If you look carefully, you'll also notice that several buildings have had their bases and ruins painted variou

BUA's in Progess

This photo illustrates how I acheived a fairly nice roof effect using a cheap 1'' wide paintbrush and layered shades of red-brown, brown, and grey acrylic paints. You'll also notice that many of the building walls have been painted in a dusty brick color, white (to approximate stucco plaster), or an icy Baltic light blue and light green. Painting my buildings has been quick and fun. A nice break from painting soldiers, I must admit. Oh, and the chimneys are various pieces of balsa wood. Getting the angles to match the pitch of the various roof lines was sometimes complete trial and error -- kind of like a chimp learning to use tools in the jungle. Thank you Jane Goodall!

Staff and BUAs

Here's a recent shot of Grand Duke Irwin Amadeus II and his staff of two -- Really just an excuse to show the Charles Grant-inspired ruins that I recently cut out and put together for each structure during the run up to Christmas. And you have a much better view of Captain Von Schenker's lime green busby bag too, so it's a win-win situation for regular visitors to the Grand Duchy of Stollen blog!

The Grand Duchess of Stollen Comes Through Yet Again!

Just a quick note before Christmas dinner is served. . . Among my wonderful Christmas gifts from the Grand Duchess Sonja today was a small package from the Dayton Painting Consortium -- US distributor of the RSM 95 range of figures. Inside the carton were over 60 Prussian Potsdam Grenadiers, drummers, officers, NCO's, mounted colonel, and a few extras. Enough figures to create my own version of the famous Erbprinz Regiment from Young and Lawford's Charge! And the RSM are not out of scle wth my plastic Revell figures or MiniFigs either. What a Christmas it's been!!!

Merry Christmas from The Grand Duchy of Stollen

Merry Christmas to Jeff Hudelson, Paul Robinson, Greg Horne, Murdock, and to everyone else who regularly visits the Grand Duchy. The Grand Duke Irwin-Amadeus II and the Grand Duchess Sonja send all of you the very best wishes for the season, including good health, family, and hope for the coming year. Merry Christmas!!!

3,100 Visits to the Grand Duchy and Counting!!!

The tourist trade has been good in Stollen over the last few months -- Over 3,100 visitors to the Grand Duchy and counting! The Royal couple Irwin-Amadeus II and his wife Sonja are pleased. To celebrate your many visits, and with the Christmas season in mind, they offer you some more information on the German Stollen courtesy of Wikipedia . . . Stollen is a bread-like cake traditionally made in Germany , usually eaten during the Christmas season as Weihnachtsstollen or Christstollen . Stollen (originally Striezel ) was created in Dresden in around 1450, and the most famous Stollen is still the Dresdner Stollen , sold, among other places, at the local Striezelmarkt Christmas market. Stollen is a light airy fruitcake made with yeast, water and flour, and usually dried citrus peel (called "Zitronad(e)), dried fruit, almonds, and spices such as cardamom and cinnamon; the dough is quite low in sugar. The finished cake is sprinkled with icing sugar. The traditional weight is

And Introducing the General Staff

Here are the finished 25mm MiniFigs Prussians I'm using for Grand Duke Irwin-Amadeus II (at center), General Von Maur to his left, and their ADC Captain Rudolf Michael Von Schenker. Again, the shot is slightly blurry, but you get some idea of what these personality figures look like. I particulalrly enjoy Von Schenker's lime green busby bag. Without a doubt, Stollen's society ladies are in rapture over his uniform. Of course, rumors abound suggesting that he's already broken several hearts -- and he's still so young at only 25! The orange bows in the Duke's and Von Maur's hats are a nice touch too. Look really closely. If Santa Claus/Father Christmas happens to bring a digital camera with a macro setting, expect to see some better photos here in the next week or so.

The Finished Battery

In this photo, you can observe the now completed battery of artillery -- 1/72 plastic crew manning two 25mm MiniFigs cannon -- belonging to the Grand Duchy of Stollen. Painting the black metal work on the red gun carriages was time consuming but worth it. The gloss finish seems to make all of the colors richer. Except for some flesh tone by Windsor Alkyd Artists' Colors (an oil-based paint that dries in 24 hours), all other colors are acrylics produced by Games Workshop. Most of these have terrific coverage properties -- even over a black base coat.

Stollenian Jaeger Take up a Defensive Position

Here, a company of the Jaeger zu Fuss defends the main road into town, which has been deserted before it was even inhabited! OK, the figures are a bit blurred, but you get aslightly better idea of the my building dimensions. The Jaeger zu Fuss figures measure just over an inch tall. Most of structures in my town measure about 2 3/4" - 4 1/2" high, 2"-3" wide, and between 3"-6" long. Under scale but big enough so that the figures do not dwarf them. I've got enough buildings -- seven all togther -- for two villages or a larger town. As soon as I find some suitable phots of North German farm buildings, I'll add a farmhouse and barn to the collection. And that should do it for BUA's for the armies of Stollen and Zichenau to fight over.

Lots of Difficult Angles and Curves!

Although I love emulating Ian Weekley's work, and have done so with my models of Hougoumont, La Haye Sainte, and Papelotte, these will be fairly basic wargame structures without a lot of minute detail. However, this shot gives you a pretty good idea of the various and difficult kinds of cuts involved -- all done with a 2B artist's pencil (I like soft pencil lead), a metal ruler, and normal triangular X-acto "hobby" blade on one of those self-healing cutting matts. Oddly enough, I haven't yet chopped off a finger tip doing the curved gables. Why not is anyone's guesss!!! You can just about make out the church tower at the rear left of the picture. It was a major pain in the you-know-what to get those diamond-shaped roof pieces cut just right, so that all four would fit together flush on top of the church tower. But Mr. Weekley published an article in Miniature Wargames years ago, featuring a couple of photos of a model representing a medieval Saxon churc

Charles Grant Inspired BUA's

And for Jeff Hudelson, here are a few shots of the buildings I'm working on. . . in-progress. As you can see, still lots to do. Cutting the pieces out, fitting, and gluing everything together is the hard part. Especially the pieces for the church tower roof. Lot's of strange angles for that one, which took a few tries to get it right. I've now moved on to painting, which is decidedly more interesting. In the meantime, I've got to cut out and model the interior bases to represent the buildings after they've been "ruined" by howitzer and cannon fire. There will be some new photos of the BUA's here as they are finished in just a few days.

Here's one of the Grand Duchess of Stollen

OK guys, here's the photo you've been asking for. It's one of Sonja a day or so ago. She was putting the finishing touches on -- you guessed it -- a delicious Stollen!!! Here, she's concentrating on powdering the still-warm stollen with vanilla sugar and powdered sugar. So what is a "Stollen" anyway? One of the most famous versions of this German Christmas treat is a Dresdener Stollen . The stollen is in the shape of the mine shafts that were in Saxony, Germany very early in the 19th century. In German, "Stollen" can mean cake, tunnel, or as a specific military term, an underground shelter. As far as we here at the Grand Duchy of Stollen are concerned, Stollen is a spiced bread, akin to fruitcake (but better), that's baked and enjoyed at Christmas time. It's especially good with fresh coffee. In fact, I'm enjoying the two together right at this moment!

Trimming and Pinning Dragoons

Last night, I spent about two hours trimming flash from the next squadron of nine Revell Austrian SYW dragoons -- one officer and eight troopers. I followed by drilling tiny holes in the bottom of each figure (yes, yes -- ha, ha you cheeky money!) and a corresponding hole in the saddle of each horse before pinning the two together. The total ready for a layer of white glue and base coating is now 21 -- two squadrons of nine figures each and three regimental staff (colonel, guidon bearer, and drummer). Sonja, The Grand Duchess of Stollen , had a girls' evening out yesterday, so I had some extra time to fill afterwards. Naturally, my attention turned to the buildings that I've recently put together. I spent another hour or so painting white and various shades of Burnt Sienna acrylic colors onto the walls of several houses and the church. The latter makes a really nice shade of dusty reddish-brown when white is mixed with it -- perfect for a North German (or Belgian

I'm the ghost of BUA's yet to come!

Much like Greg Horne over at The Duchy of Alzheim, I too have been developing urban real estate for use in my imaginary campaigns over the last couple if days. So far, I‘ve built three houses, a warehouse, a large town hall, and a church, of which I am especially proud. Should have some photos of the basic structures in the next few days, but I can tell you now that everything turned out rather well. Each building has steeply gabled ends along with those “gingerbready” Dutch/North German flourishes. I added steps to the entrances of 2-3 of the houses and the town hall. The latter is large with an arcade and arches down one side. The church tower turned out pretty well too. And oddly, given the many different complimentary angles involved, the roof on the bell tower doesn’t look too bad either. This week, amongst all of the other necessary and/or fun things to do, I’ll build the “ruined” bases to place inside each structure along with some kind of bridge. And then ther

Buildings and Terrain

Yesterday, I ordered a couple of boxes of plastic spruce/fir trees made by Zvezda (item #8222) from the Michigan Toy Soldier Company. These look very similar to the plastic trees featured in all those photos in various works by Charles Grant, and I think they will help impart that “old school” feel to my table top. I also took a stab at my first Dutch/Northern German house (with gables) and had a basic structure all cut out of heavy cardboard and glued together in about 45 minutes. The structure is very basic (I’ll paint on the doors and windows) and measures about 3”x4” and about 4” tall. So, it’s slightly under scale but looks good next to the figures and won’t take up too much room on the table. Today, I’ll add a balsa chimney or two and cut a base on which to glue some blasa and cardboard "ruins". These will fit inside the house. Then I'll have the first of several planned buildings made in the Charles Grant style. Maybe I'll even add a coat of re

Hurrah, hurrah, hurrah for The Grand Duchess of Stollen!!!

Just a quick not to share some terrific news. Sonja heard earlier today that she has been granted tenure for her teaching, scholarship, and service to her university -- Illinois Wesleyan University. I'm so pleased for her that I can hardly sit still. She's worked so long and hard for this. What a wonderful semester Sonja has had. First her book and now tenure. Can the lottery be far behind?

Everywhere you look, it's dragoon, dragoons, dragoons!

Yesterday afternoon, I finished the three 25mm MiniFigs representing Grand Duke Irwin-Amadeus II, his second in command General Von Maur, and their mounted aide de camp -- the glorious hussar Captain Rudolf-Michael Von Schenker. Two coats of Future floor finish will ensure that my paintwork lasts, and it makes the figures nice and shiny, a look that I am really taking to. Don’t know why I avoided the glossy look for so long, since I used to love the appearance of Peter Gilder’s glossy figures in photos adorning various old issues of Miniature Wagaming and Military Modeling . Suffice to say, my three figures look great and photos are coming right here. Stay tuned! Then last night, I moved on to the dragoon regiment sitting on my painting/radio desk, made up of Revell 1/72 Austrian dragoons, drilling tiny holes into each trooper and horse with my pin vise, clipping staples to use as pins, and then pinning each trooper to his mount. A time consuming process, I can assure y

"And you'll love the lemony-fresh scent!"

Last Saturday (December 09, 2006), Henry Hyde hosted a game at his home, featuring his marvelous collection of Spencer Smith figures. The armies were augmented by a few 25mm MiniFigs too, illustrating how well the two ranges work together. Anyway, here's one photo of the proceedings. You've simply got to check the rest of Henry's photos out -- there are about 60 in all. Take a look at: As for me, I’ve just spent the better part of the evening washing Stollen’s as yet nameless dragoon regiment and its mounts in lemony fresh Dawn dishwashing liquid – “Dawn gets grease out of your way!” The dragoons smell nothing like horses -- we had a few when I was a boy – which is a good thing since I’ve got the 30-strong regiment lined up over on my painting/radio desk. This brings me to my next interesting, though useless, piece of information. ;-) The 41 meter band of the shortwave spectrum was finally quiet earlier this evening, so I was able to s

A Joyful Day

I spent all day yesterday working on Grand Duke Irwin-Amadeus II, General Von Maur, and Captain Rudolf-Michael Von Schenker. It was relaxing, fun, and a great break from painting these large units of the last several months. By the way, these three figures are almost finished except for one horse, which will get its coat of Grumbacher artists’ oil -- “Light English Red” perfect for chestnut colored horses – later today. In a few days, after the oil is dry, I'll give ‘em the Future treatment, and then they too will be complete. Then it’s on to the unit of dragoons and the cuirassier conversions I’ve mentioned here previously. All of the uninterrupted work on my general officers yesterday was great fun. But the best part of yesterday happened yesterday evening about 5:30 in the afternoon. It was dark, and many houses around the old square where we live had their white Christmas lights on, including us – just in time for the group carolers! We live on the third floor,

2500+ Visits and Counting

Thank you very much to everyone who has visited The Grand Duchy of Stollen 1768 blog!!! We’re now up over the 2500 mark, and it’s amazing how quickly this has happened in the last few weeks. Wow! Yesterday, I finished the painting touch-ups on the two guns for the artillery battery belonging to Stollen. I also hit the artillery crew with their coat of Future floor finish, and the guns await the same treatment over on the painting/radio desk right now. Photos will follow here in just a few days. Stay tuned! Best of all, I began the painting work on my two mounted generals and their aide de camp. These three figures will represent the Grand Duke Irwin-Amadeus II, who will resemble Frederick the Great, and his second in command General Von Maur. Their hussar aid will be Captain Rudolf-Michael von Schenker, who already has a lime green bag atop his brown busby. I’m going to enjoy working on these three figures later this afternoon!

And the Population?

Finally, we come to the populations of Stollen, Zichenau, and the surrounding principalities. In each of the territories, the rural peasantry consists largely of Slavs, Lithuanians, Letts, a smattering of Swedes, and isolated pockets of Germans. The large estates across the region belong, of course, to ethnic German families, who have inhabited the area since the days of The Teutonic Knights. Town and city populations are primarily German in character, either genuine or "germanized". Virtually all government, administrative, academic, clerical, and merchant positions are held by men of German, or in a few cases Swedish, background. While various European languages are heard in the merchant quarters of larger towns and cities, German is the de facto ligua franca among the educated and social elites. French and Latin have their places too among some of the more pretentious, overly educated young men, fond of turning nearly every discussion into a debate and peppering the

It's the Final Day of the Semester!!!

You know Christmas is on the way when the fall academic term FINALLY ends -- and today's the day for my wife and me to kick up our heels in celebration!!! I think this calls for a bottle of wine this evening. It hasn't been a particularly bad term, just long and busy (a four-course load this term). Too many hastily conceived and poorly written student papers and too much whining from too many young people much too old to behave the way too many still do. Sure, 10-15 % of the students I work with are great -- hardworking, nice personalities, eager to learn, and curious about the world. But then there's everyone else -- little to no work ethic, no discernable interest in anything, and flying endless holding patterns where their lives are concerned. What keeps me in the profession? Have to admit that I don't know. A bottomless well of optimism? Sheer determination? Pig-headedness? Stupidity? It's hard to say. Probably a combination. Once in a while, though,

Climate, Landscape, Etc.

Stollen, Zichenau, and the surrounding principalities have an inland Baltic climate. Winters are long, snowy, and cold while summers are short and comparatively warm. Mean temperatures range from about 14° F (-10° C) in midwinter to about 63° F (17° C) in midsummer. Variability is another facet of the climate. Mild maritime weather from the North Atlantic sometimes extends to Stollen and Zichenau. At other times, continental influences are predominant, giving periods of severe cold in winter and warm, dry weather in summer. Precipitation varies with weather type, averaging 20 to 24 inches per year. Cloudy weather predominates, and fog is most frequent in spring and early summer. Winds tend to be variable and do not usually reach gale force. July and August are the warmest months, but can also be wet. May, June and September are more comfortable months, while late June can be stormy. At these northern latitudes days are long in summer. Regional topography consist predominantly of ge

The Monetary System

The monetary system used in both the Grand Duchy of Stollen and the Electorate of Zichenau (along with the surrounding principalities) is tied closely to that of neighboring Prussia on whose system it is based, albeit with a few distinct features. Stollen and Zichenau’s current monetary system was created in 1528 when the territories were still an integral part of extreme eastern Prussia. Here is how it breaks down: 1 Silver Mark = 14 Thaler = 24 Groschen (3 Polish Gulden) = 60 Schillings = 360 Pfennigs; 1 Groschen = 3 Schillings = 18 Pfennigs; 1 Schilling = 6 Pfennigs. In the Electorate of Zichenau, there are some slight differences although this does not prevent a one-to-one parity that exists between the two. It is more usual in Zichenau to find Polish Gulden used rather than Groschen, and the Schilling is also rather more common. For large expenditures, i.e., defense budgets, the stock and commodities exchanges, etc., most amounts are calculated in Silver Marks and Thalers. Muc

Conversions Are Underway. . .

Just spent about two hours chopping the heads from eight Revell 1/72 Austrian fusiliers in the kneeling position and attaching them to the bodies of eight Zvezda Saxon Napoleonic Cuirassiers. I used my pin vise to drill holes into the necks and heads followed by bits of staples to pin each head to its new body. Once I was sure everything would fit, I finished by cementing the joints with Plastic CA, a thin cyanoacrylate glue made for gluing soft plastics together. The joints look pretty good and the glue seems to fill in any small gaps. I ended up using Austrian heads because they are somewhat bigger than the Prussian musketeer heads that I originally planned on. The Zvezda figures are BIG heavy cavalry figures, and they needed heads that would not look out of place on their bodies. I'm pleased with my first ever attempts at figure conversions. Just call me "Victor"!

Catzilla Strikes Again!

Happy December 1 st ! Both Sonja and I have an unexpected day off from school. Our respective institutions have closed due to the first big snowstorm of the year. “Hurra, hurra, hurra!” as they say in Norway . And it’s the first day of Advent. Christmas is coming, the pigs are getting fat. . . Anyway, it’s a beautiful morning here – A ski tour around the neighborhood looks like a distinct possibility this afternoon. That’s one of the big plusses of cross country skiing. You can do it anywhere there is about 5-6” of snow. No travel involved. No expensive lift tickets. No long lift lines. No annoying snowboarders. And the equipment is much less expensive than down-hill gear. Plus, you can learn how to do it yourself fairly easily. Finally, you get an amazing workout for your entire body and cardiovascular system, so you stay toasty warm, even when it's well below the freezing point. As a winter sport, cross country skiing has got it all. Did not