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Showing posts from January, 2008

Paint That House Tom Sawyer!

Step Five -- Paint the House and Interior Ruins Typically, I paint the roofs of my buildings first with a shade of mid-gray or reddish brown acrylic paint. Here, the color was Liquitex Red Oxide. Apply your color fairly thickly and straight from the tube, brushing it from top to bottom. Faint brush lines will remain when the paint dries, which help suggest a shingled/tiled effect. For subsequent coats, lighten/darken the basic color with white, a tiny bit of black, or grey and brush it on in irregular, rectangular patches, to better approximate the look of a real roof with shingles or tiles of different ages and conditions. You can, of course, leave the basic colors untouched, but the dusty, “used” effect that comes through the gradual application of multiple coats and judicious drybrushing is pleasing to the eye. For chimneys and brick walls, I next used Liquitex Burnt Sienna mixed with a healthy amount of white, to approximate a dusty, generic brick color. I paint these are

This whole experience has left me ruined. . .

Step Four -- Cut and Assemble Interior “Ruins” on Base . This step in the townhouse modeling process can be a bit tedious since you need to get the dimensions just right, for the outer shell of the townhouse to fit snugly (but not too much so) over the ruined base. What I’d suggest is to measure the inside of your townhouse shell, and (I hate myself for suggesting this) use the METRIC side of your ruler, so you can get precise measurements down to the last millimeter. "Metric?" you sputter. I know, I know. . . I use ¼” thick pieces of balsa wood for these interior pieces because it approximates the look of nice solid foundation walls. By the way, these inner walls measure just under 1” high, so any 25-30mm figures placed in the ruins will just be able to peak over the walls in the heat of battle. But let’s get back to constructing the ruins. Isn't that a contradiction in terms? Anyway, cut any pieces that will form corners with 45 degree angles, using that ti

And now, the chimneys!

Step Three – Cut and Attach Chimneys. This can be a bit tricky since we are working with steeply pitched roofs at angles greater than 45 degrees. Unfortunately, it’s largely a matter of trial and error, which will see you uttering a a few choice words and throwing away the first few pieces of balsa wood that you cut until you have the angle just right. Then, your model chimneys should stand straight and tall (more or less ) . If you are lucky, you’ll get it right before too long. Here’s how I do it. Once the basic house is all glued together and thoroughly dry, I take a long piece of balsa, from which I’ll cut my chimneys, and stand it on end right up next to the rear gable -- the triangular, rear end – of the house. Holding it firmly against that gable with my left hand, I trace the angle of the roof along the piece of balsa with a fairly soft-leaded artist’s pencil. I now have a faint angled line across the piece of balsa wood that is complimentary (r

Walls, Interior Reinforcements, and the Roof

Step Two -- Glue the four wall pieces together. I usually attach an end piece to a side and the other end to the other side piece first (see picture above). Use a “jig” to ensure that your walls are flush with each other, perpendicular to the table surface, and dry firmly attached to each other. You can purchase small jigs through model railroad supply houses, but I improvise my own, using my trusty old tape measure. When these two L-shaped pieces are dried, glue the two halves of the exterior walls together (see photo below). Before moving on to the roof itself, reinforce the interior of your model structure with a couple of carefully measured and placed pieces of heavy card or balsa wood. While not entirely necessary, these interior pieces will add strength, durability, and stability to your model buildings, preventing later warping. You can see an example of what I'm talking about in the picture just below this paragraph. When the glue holding all of this together ha

Gentlemen, start cutting!

Step One -- Measure and cut out the end and sidewall pieces from the heavy card(board) that you have hoarded and transported from one residence to the next for 20 years. An analyst would very likely have lots to say about that, but I digress! Anyway, take care to get your angles correct on the gabled end pieces and make sure your pieces are cut square. This is where the small carpenter’s square and steel edged ruler come in handy. If cutting out any curves or arches, keep your fingers out of the way, cutting slowly and carefully, so you are pleased with the results. If all goes well, you should have the four basic walls and the base of your model cut out in 15-20 minutes. The dimensions of the pieces shown above are: End Walls – 2 ¼” x 5" Side Walls – 1 3/8” x 3" Base – 3 ¼” x 3" Cutout for Archway – 1 3/8” x 1" Although I based my various building models on the features of actual structures, I did not copy any one building exactly. Instead, go

Building Materials and References

The old German town of Soldau, located in present-day Poland. Building Materials I’m not a total packrat, but I have saved and stored a few boxes worth of stuff that is useful for wargaming scenery over the years. I’ve also purchased a few other inexpensive items when and as I’ve needed them. Here's a brief list of the things used to create my own old school "Grantian" buildings and houses: *Heavy card from the back of writing and artist’s sketch pads (I'm embarrassed to mention how much of this I've saved over the years). *Balsa wood *Elmer’s carpenter’s glue *Acrylic or poster paints *Steel ruler *Small carpenter’s square *X-acto knife and plenty of standard triangular blades *Cheap paintbrushes *Black Sharpie or Flair permanent marker of felt tip pen *A little imagination and handiness References The first thing you need to do is to find suitable photos of the building “type/style” you wish to model. Things like boo

An Old School House How-To

A modern photo of two old merchants' houses in Szeczcin (German: Stettin), Poland on the Baltic Sea . Background and Rationale When I began down to road that led to the Grand Duchy of Stollen, my fictitious mid-18 th century campaign, I decided that I wanted to construct buildings unlike any I could find commercially. Another influence on my decision to build miniature houses from scratch was the charming impressionistic style of those old, hand-made balsa wood houses that Charles Grant used in his battles all those years ago. We’ve all seen these in various photos from The War Game and other books authored by Mr. Grant. Charles Stewart Grant’s Table Top Teaser articles in Battlegames , and the recent refight of Mollwitz (in which Brigadier Grant participated), have also featured these now very familiar vintage pieces. Needless to say, I wanted something similar, but with a more distinct northern German/Baltic “look”, to fit my particular campaign setting and narrative. Sin
After sitting on my desk for a year, the final three Stollenian structures have been painted to completion. From left are: a formerly Lutheran church based on two still extent structures now in the Russian Kaliningrad region (the once German towns of Goldap and Eydtkuhnen right along the Lithuanian border), a single merchant’s townhouse detached from its ruined interior base, and two similar townhouses built as one piece. If you look closely, you’ll see the dates of construction (so common on old houses in the “old” sections of many cities across the European continent). You’ll also notice that the right most townhouse is also home to Der Traurige Krabbe (The Sad Crab), a favorite haunt of students at Stollen’s Krankenstadt University. I wonder if Immanuel Kant ever spent time daydreaming at that particular tavern? Finishing these stylized model buildings this evening has made me realize that I never did post a wargaming structures how-to here although one of you asked ab

Steady Spencer Smith Cavalry Progess. . .

Above, you will observe the first two squadrons plus regimental staff of Zichenau’s Grenadiere zu Pferd, led by Colonel Stein von Pilzenkopf, charging past the edge of Zollamtstadt where they are billeted for the winter. Rumor has it that the regiment was, in fact, not on maneuvers. Rather, they were racing to the other side of town to make the acquaintance of a gaggle of curious peasant girls from several nearby farms outside of town! Whew! I just finished a marathon session, putting the finishing touches on the middle batch of eight Spencer Smith cavalry as well as going back over the first lot of 12 to add some of the same details which I left out for expediency’s sake last month. Today’s work included the metallic colors (silver and brass) on the swords, sword hilts, scabbards, horse snaffles, and martingales plus a light brown on the leather bits – the girths that hold the saddle on the horse and pass beneath the animal around its ribcage and the stirrup leathers. T

Frigid winter weather and no appreciable snow mean that it's time for various indoor activities. . .

As I mentioned below, it’s been a busy week. Many odds and ends to take care of, concerning the new house. Lots of discussion and dreaming about how the Grand Duchess and I will set things up and arrange our belongings, furniture, and, indeed, our lives for the next 30+ years (at least), which has been taxing at times, but also a great deal of fun. Then there was the faculty talent show this passed Friday evening to raise money for research into autism, put on by the physics student honor society. Considerable, surprising, and interesting talent was on display at the hands of university faculty and staff: puppet shows, chemistry and physics demonstrations, Swedish and Irish fiddle music, and the like. And just how did yours truly fit into all of this? Well, I closed the show on my guitar with four old rockabilly/R&B tunes from the 1950s and early 60s, and managed to do it without flubbing any of the guitar parts or forgetting any of the verses, something I did during th

Getting There. . . Slowly, But Surely. . .

Well, it’s been a busy week. First and foremost, here’s the promised Rosca de Reyes (aka Kings’ Day Bread of Epiphany Bread)) recipe: Serves 8 Ingredients ½ cup lukewarm water 6 eggs 2 teaspoons of active dried yeast 2 ½ cups of all-purpose flour ½ teaspoon of salt ¼ cup of granulated sugar ½ cup of butter, plus 2 tablespoons of melted butter for glazing 1 ½ cups of candied fruit and peel 1 ½ cups of confectioners sugar, plus extra, for dusting 2 tablespoons of light cream Candied fruit and cherries to decorate Preparation and Baking Instructions 1) Pour the water into a small bowl, stir in dried yeast, and leave in a warm place until frothy 2) Crack 4 of eggs and divide yolks from the whites. Place yolks in small bowl and discard the whites. 3) Put 1 ¼ cups of flour in a mixing bowl. Add the salt and sugar. Break the remaining 2 eggs into the bowl, then add the 4 yolks. 4) Add ½ cup of the butter into the bowl, togethe

Second Batch of SSM Cavalry Nears Completion!

Many thanks to those of you who have sent your congratulations about the new house! The Grand Duchess and I are currently up to our eyeballs in various pre-closing details, like setting up house inspections, roof inspections, radon gas tests and the like. Gosh, the movies make it look so easy kids! Still, it’s a terribly exciting period in our lives, and although these things have taken lots of time the last several days, there has still been some room for some steady painting in the evenings. I’ve also heard from Randy Frye in Northern Illinois about the chance of a July or August game with him, Bill Protz, and Jim “Alte Fritz” Perky. Although the game will likely take place at Randy’s home, the possibly might also exist to inaugurate my own future wargaming room/table, which I have yet to christen with some kind of simultaneously silly, and yet clever name. Wouldn’t that be something? Sonja and I were bouncing ideas around a few nights ago after dinner. She didn’

Stollen Central Is on the Move. . .

The Grand Duchess and I signed the papers to buy a house late yesterday afternoon! Our closing date is in mid-March, and we will move just after April 1 st . The house is not, of course, the one pictured here, but it is what is known in the real estate industry as (a German) Craftsman style house, and it does have a bit of the same fachwerk exterior as this example -- though not to the point of appearing tacky. The house is actually rather unique, and it’s very fitting that my wife (a professor or German language and literature) will live in it. We have referred to it as “the German house” for several months. Here’s a brief rundown on the house. It was built in the mid-1920s, and has had all sorts of recent renovation work done inside and out (new kitchen redone bathrooms, refinished oak floors, etc.). Lovely front and back yards, three car garage, gardening shed, plus a large rodadendron shrub, which the Grand Duchess took as a sign! There are also two living rooms,

Your help would be appreciated. . .

If any of you Grand Duchy of Stollen regulars would like, please take a few minutes to send me you thoughts on several related areas. These include: * Reasons in support of imagi-nations * Wargame campaigns set in the 18th century * Figure choice * Assembling armies * Designing/painting uniforms * Building terrain and scenery * Fictitious Campaigns * Map/personality development * Wargaming on a shoestring * Assembling a wargaming library * Anything else you might think of when it comes to the hobby in general. If you have some well-lighted, well-composed, and focused digital/digitized pictures of your figures and games that you don't mind sharing with others, please send those along too. Credit will be given to all contributors. I don't want to give too much away, but I am interested in collecting and sifting through your ideas about the above and any related areas. You can drop me a line directly at: Thanks in advance for your interest an

The Grand Duchess Hits Another Home Run

Here is a photo of the wonderful Rosca de Reyes (next to a fresh pot of coffee) that the Grand Duchess Sonja prepared yesterday afternoon. It’s basically a sweet eggbread that is similar to Stollen but lighter and moister. It’s sort of the Mexican version of Stollen, typically enjoyed around January 6 th , to celebrate the coming of the Three Kings, following the birth of Jesus. Bakeries all over Mexico sell Rosca de Reyes in different sizes, and many Latino groceries in the USA take orders in early January. Fortunately, we neglected to place an order with our local Latino grocery store, so Sonja whipped out her new Latin American and Caribbean cookbook and got busy. Both of us remarked later that the result was even nicer than what we’ve had previously in Mexico . And the humorous side to all of this is. . . While we enjoyed the first pieces with coffee in the living room, ‘Rannveig’ the cat suddenly appeared with frosting on her whiskers and face. I suspect that

Leib (Grand Duchess Sonja's Own) Grenadiers on Parade

Today is the Day of the Three Kings in the Latin world! Since we cannot be in Mexico , where my parents have their retirement home, the Grand Duchess has been busy in the kitchen baking a Rosca de Reyes – a ring of sweetbread with candied/dried fruit baked into and on top of it. These are delicious with fresh, strong coffee and something we discovered a few years ago when we visited my parents in Merida , Yucatan over Christmas and New Year’s. On the soldier front, Stollen’s Leib Grenadiers (aka Grand Duchess Sonja’s Own) have gathered for parade in a handy town square somewhere in Krankenstadt. Colonel von Spasticus has ordered these maneuvers for two reasons. First, to honor and entertain his Spanish concubine, the ravishing and enigmatic Maria Ophelia de Cartege ñ a, on the Day of the Three Kings. Second, so that his entire regiment can drill together and prepare for the next time they meet Zichenau’s army in the field. Grand Duke Irwin-Amadeus II, his closest

Are those headquarters tents you spy?

Not much happening here in the Grand Duchy of Stollen today, but I did finish the two headquarter tents this afternoon. They still need a few careful touch-ups here and there, plus a coat or two of Future floor polish, but by and large, there you are. The Stollenian tent is on the left and the Zichenauer tent is on the right, each in national colors. ALso shown are the treacherous Zichenauer -- General Philip de Latt é -- and his immediate subordinate -- the Austrian mercenary General Paul von Gherkin -- to dress the scene a bit. I’ve also got another squadron of nine Spencer Smith cavalry trimmed of mold lines and all ready for a base coat of artists’ acrylic gesso, followed by the usual black undercoat. Maybe I can do the first step later this evening. Might I be able to finish the squadron by next Saturday? I certainly hope so, but we’ll have to see. The new semester is gearing up, and there are the usual syllabi to update, meetings, classes to plan, and so forth. Cr

A Lovely Thank-You Note from. . .

Thank you everyone for your delightful New Years wishes. It’s really very nice to be part of what is becoming a large circle of wargaming friends and acquaintances around the globe. Who knew back in late 1983, when all of this model soldier lunacy began, that I’d end up part of such a fun group of like-minded people? Likewise, I hope the new year finds all of you well and happy in wargaming and life in general. On other fronts, the Grand Duchess and I just returned from 3 ½ days outside of Waukesha, Wisconsin, where we skied like maniacs at the Lapham Peak Cross-Country Ski Area, just off of Interstate 94. 25 miles of groomed trails (and we explored/skied most of them), many of which are lighted after dark until 10PM! We are tired and a little sore, but we had a blast and each feel that our respective skiing techniques have improved somewhat. Finally, guess what was waiting in our mailbox when we returned? A small envelope mailed from Southampton , UK , containing a