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Anything new in the Grand Duchy of Stollen lately?

What's this ?  A company of O'Malley's Irish Grenzers has occupied Schpeckbova Farm, located just beneath a wooded ridge.

A fair amount has been going on here the last couple of weeks, including, of course, a flurry of painting on the final 18 (yes, 18!) Holger Eriksson dragoons.  But more on those in just a moment.

First, a copy of  Hans Bleckween's Reiter, Husaren, und Grenadiere arrived in the mail about two weeks ago after a circuitous journey from Germany.  This is an interesting little book all about the Reichsarmee of circa 1734.  Not exactly mid-18th Century, but pretty close and chock-a-block full of fascinating period illustrations of soldiers from the ten districts responsible for contributing troops and money to the formation and upkeep of the Reichsarmee. . .  The 'army' of the Holy Roman Empire.  If you are at all interested in the subject, track down a copy.  Even if you don't read German well (and mine is very rusty), there are enough illustrations to keep you busy for a while.

Next, a copy of the Wargamers' Annual 2011 turned up here (ordered early in December, well before Christmas) early this past week.  As with last year's initial outing by Charles Grant and Phil Olley, this annual contains all manner of interesting thoughts, ideas, scenarios, and etc.  I like especially the various how-to pieces on making abbattis and redoubts for use on one's tabletop.  One minor niggle, however, is that this year's annual seems a bit rushed and rough around the edges.  There are a number of typographical errors sprinkled throughout, which takes some of the shine away from what could be an otherwise topnotch publication.  But I suppose I am hyper-sensitive to these kinds of things as someone who attempts to teach the finer skills of writing to undergraduates.  Edit, edit, edit as the saying goes.

On another related topic, I have finally exhausted my supply of heavy gray cardboard that I use to make my houses and other buildings.  I have carefully scavenged and hoarded the former from the backs of graph paper pads since the mid-1980s, so this was something of a milestone in a way.  Fortunately, I found sheets of the stuff, called 'chipboard', at the arts and craft supply company known as Dick Blick here in the United States.  My mother, the real artist of the family, purchased all of her oil paints and brushes through them for many years.  The company stocks all kinds of useful things, and I urge you to peruse the website carefully.

But back to the heavy cardboard.  I've been asked to produce a small group of buildings that are similar to those seen here recently, so additional online research as to the type of buildings and the material with which to construct them were necessary.  I can't really say anything more about it right now, but watch for a few words here some months down the road.

Along with the two large sheets of heavy cardboard, I ordered a few tubes of oil colors: ivory black, Venetian Red and Light English Red.  The latter two are really reddish browns that will be used primarily for horses in future cavalry regiments.  I've had so much fun painting horses with a Humbrol undercoat and thin oil glazes lately, borrowing heavily from John Preece over at the Flanderkin Serjeant blog, that I have decided to do all future horses this way.  They really look amazing to my eyes.  I've also decided to bite the bullet and try painting an entire unit of 60 RSM Prussian musketeers -- as red-coated Hanseatic infantry no less -- using a white undercoat and mostly thinned alkyd oils.  But, I've got a unit of Minden Prussian hussars plus a couple of MiniFig cannon to finish first.

But what about to the Holger Eriksson cavalry figures?  The second squadron of nine figures is just about finished (only a few small items to paint yet), and the third squadron  is well underway.  Normally, I work on one subsection of a unit from start to completion, but I feared my 22-year old tin of Humbrol Rifle Green, which I have used for the coats and saddle cloths, might dry out mid-project.  Since I have no idea where or how to replace said tin easily, it seemed prudent to jump on my painting horse and apply some rather thick, goopy color to the final nine figures while there was still some life left in the old girl.  

Anyway, in the space of about 2.5 hours early Friday evening, I managed to apply fleshtone to these final nine figures, white to the wigs, green to the coats and saddle cloths, and khaki to the valises/greatcoats at the rear of the saddlecloths.  Now, this might seem unremarkable, but to yours truly, the paint almost seemed to apply itself to these wonderful old Swedish figures.  Each step went so quickly and easily that I thought, "Well, why not?" and continued with the next step.  The end result, is that I very well might be able to finish both squadrons (18 figures) in another week or so, barring any unforeseen complications.  And maybe it might have something to do with using a larger than normal brush?  Look for a few photographs right here once the entire unit is finished.

Finally, I have my table all set up to fight the "Vanguards Collide" scenario by Phil Olley, as set out in the pilot issue of Phil's Classic Wargamer's Journal last summer.  I've tweaked the basic set-up though, so that each side has one less squadron of cavalry but one gun and crew.  I've also turned both hills into wooded ridges with the addition of several trees, and complicated things somewhat by dicing to determine in which turn the respective commanders actually arrive on the battlefield to sort their troops out and attempt to make some sense of the rather disorganized action unfolding across the small valley.  The Battle of Inkerman from the Crimean war occurred to me here.  In any case, I plan to get in a couple of turns this evening after Young Master Paul has been put to bed and we have had dinner.

Otherwise, it has been rather quiet here recently though we did have dinner for about eight of the Grand Duchess' students last night.  One puzzling thing that's been on my mind though in the hours since. At what point in recent history did it become the norm for dinner guests to remove their shoes and leave them in a pile by the front door?  Definitely not charming.  It's not like people have to wade through acres of plowed fields, snow, or manure to reach our front steps either.  

I don't ever recall noticing this shoeless phenomenon as a child or young person at home whenever my parents and grandparents had dinner guests.  People arrived dressed nicely and behaved in a correspondingly pleasant way.  Strange.  I wish more people had a little more sense of, well, basic polite convention for want of a better term.  You need to be a tiny bit more formal and keep your clothes and shoes on when a guest in someone's home unless it's a backyard pool party, or you are at the beach during the summer.  But that's a subject for another time and place I suppose.  

Ok, back to the saltmines.  See you in a week or so with those Holger Eriksson figures all finished!

Monday, January 31st HE Dragoon Update!!!
Made a big push yesterday evening after dinner, following Young Master Paul's bath/bedtime, and finished the second batch of HE cavalry.  21 down, nine to go (and these are already well underway).  I even added brass and silver to ALL of the buckles n bits on the 21 horses' bridles and martingales.  These are added so quickly that it seems a shame not to add tiny details that no one will notice, but to my eyes they add that extra bit of icing to the cake.  If the Grand Duchess had not arrived home from her Sunday evening choral practice, I felt as though the dragoon painting could have continued for another  couple of hours at least!  It really is true. . .   The more painted figures you complete, the more you want to go on painting.  Now, pick up those brushes ladies and gentlemen, uncap those paints, and get going!


Prince Lupus said…
Thanks for the tip on the 1734 Reichsarmee I'll keep my eyes peeled for that one.

On another note my sister in law like shoes removed and left in the hall. Possibly due to the pale cream fitted carpets (very practical) and a working mom not having time to vaccuum three time a day. Personally I like my wooden floors.
Ed said…

The shoe custom is from the Orient. Your shoes, no matter how clean, have the dirt of the world on them. It is impolite to bring that dirt and pollution into the home of someone who has invited you.

At least, that is the condensed version of my half-Korean sister-in-law.

Congratulations on your figures, and the article in Classic Wargamers Journal. And do let us see the pics!

Ed v. H-F
MSFoy said…
Glad to see someone is insisting on standards being maintained. Lord knows they have slipped lamentably in recent centuries.

On the subject of removal of shoes - as one who lives on a farm, where it is a challenge at this time of year to keep the farm outside as much as possible, I have to say that we are firm believers in removal of outdoor shoes - people who know us, or have been tipped off, are encouraged to bring some suitable indoor shoes (as for protocol, these can be anything from carpet slippers to dancing patents, as occasion might require). If necessary (for example if our guests find they are wearing odd socks) we can lend some Turkish jobs which are rather fun.

I guess etiquette is to some extent a servant of necessity, and so it should be. We also tend not to invite people whose manners offend us, but that's a matter of house policy.


Thanks for your comments, men. In theory, no problem with shoes being left neatly by the front door, as I believe they do in Japan. . . But the haphazard heap of shoes left right in the traffic pattern of the front hall is a real problem that I've not encountered much in the U.S. until fairly recent years. When I was a small boy of kindergarten age in St. Louis, Missouri, I had a playmate of German-Yugoslav parents to whose house I was invited a number of times. Frau Maier had real oriental carpets in the house, so guests (as well as her own children Jasna and Thomas) were given Turkish slippers to wear, and the shoes were left neatly in a front hall closet. When I was a older in rural Pennsylvania, we took our shoes upstairs to our respective bedrooms where they were left, but when people were invited to dinner, and turned up "dressed", no one ever removed his or her shoes. For various guests to turn up for dinners now and discard their shoes when and where they feel like it with no prompting from us as the hosts, is a bit problematic, to say nothing of some of the table manners (poor to non-existent)I see on display routinely. Ok, I've asked for it. Let's get the Mrs. Bouquet Keeping Up Appearances jokes out of the way now, please.

Best Regards,

Fitz-Badger said…
I think the best thing for a guest to do is to try to honor the customs of the house. Sometimes the trick is knowing what the customs of the house are if you've never visited before. It's possible one person took their shoes off for whatever reason and the rest thought that's what they were supposed to do?

For several years now I'ved used bigger brushes than I used to in the past. I think if you can get by with a larger brush that holds a point well and carries more paint in a "brushload" for the majority of your painting it does make painting go quicker. Fewer trips to the paint pot or palette, for one thing.
Conrad Kinch said…

You have no idea how much it warms the cockles of my heart to hear you giving out about young people today.

As a professional fogey, I commend to you this endlessly diverting pass time.

Also congratulations on getting weaving with the cavalry.
Hello there Eamon,

Glad to help! ;-) Seriously though, and unintended stodginess aside, isn't observing a modicum of polite convention what makes us pleasant to be around as individuals. . . and be included as guests again? Wish I could say that it was only today's youth who are the offenders, but I see a lot of this same kind of thing in our friends and colleagues too, ranging in age from 30s-60s. My wife's theory is that somehow along with the loosening social conventions of the late 60s-early 70s, basic manners were also thrown out with the bathwater within many families. Fast-forward 40-odd years and, well, we've got the problem I grumble about.

Best Regards,


Here's a variation on John's horse painting method that several of us in the DFW area have been using for 20+ years.

Several of us in this area were taught this method by an old 54mm sculptor and contract painter many, many years ago. I also use it on large 15mm figures. Instead of the torn foam "chunks" that Steve uses (or the paper towels that John uses), I pick up small, very soft sponge pads in the make-up department at the local drugstore or WalMart. The are finely-tapered wedges that fit in between the legs nicely and are soft enough to not pull too much oil paint off unless I want to. And they are available in very large bags for a reasonable price. I've also tried some variations on the white primer, using a very light silver gray and a very light tan with good results.

marinergrim said…
I was brought up to ask the host whether or not they would like guests to remove their shoes or not. I quite like the habit.

On matters cardboard - have you found how much thinner the board backing of pads is today compared with ten years ago? I always remember the backs of notepads to be quite heavy, nowadays they are almost as thin as the paper sheets they support.
Bluebear Jeff said…

Growing up on the California coast I was unfamiliar with the "shoe removal" thing. . . . But now that we are on Canada's "wet coast" it seems that everyone here automatically takes their shoes off in the front hall.

If it isn't wet outside, we tell them they don't have to . . . but apparently the "training" that they got from their mothers holds and it is an automatic response.

Our solution is to keep a bunch of inexpensive slippers there for people to wear. (We have a bench in the front hall whose seat lifts up to expose storage for the slippers).

I look forward to photos of your table with its terrain as well as the Holger Eriksson dragoons.

-- Jeff
guy said…
Thanks for that tip on the Reicharmee book. I followed your recommendation and bought the Wargaming in History volume 2 on the WAS. What a cracking book. It has totally enthused me and now that I have finished my Revell plastic SYW armies I intend to raise French and Pragmatic Sanction armies but in metal - mainly using the Minden figures.

Re the shoes - this is not really an issue with me with the exception of builders clumping about my house. Everyone else keeps them on. However your comments on table manners and general behaviour did strike a cord with me. This is my Victor Meldrew rant.

I have drummed into my girls the necessity of good manners, sitting up straight and not slouching and generally behaving in a relativly civilised way at the table. If they want to eat like the chimps tea party then they can eat on their own in the kitchen.

With some people I know I really do question why I even bother laying out cutlery for them as I think one spoon would be quite sufficient for all courses as they shovel it in. We are talking here about adults as well as children. I should say that in contrast I recently met a school friend of one of my daughters from South Korea and her manners were immaculate and her posture would have done justice to a swiss finishing school.

Come to think about it perhaps I should give up separate courses and just give the offenders a tray as you see in films about army training with all the food just slopped on and mixed in together.

Rant over and back to plotting my WAS armies.


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