Sunday, 16 April 2017

Making Rivers - large ones for a change!

Like many of you I have frequently used rivers in my wargames but they have invariably been quite small and represented with rather crude strips of vinyl, plastic or even painted card. Recently I decided to change all this and up the ante by making a really large impressive river! What I had in mind was something which would grace my jungle terrain and do justice to the 28mm armies that I had made for my Ten Years War in Cuba project. I was also intrigued by the idea that something made for 28mm models could later be used for smaller scales such as 20mm or 15mm and would then give a really spectacular feel to the terrain.

I had various pieces of thin mdf and fibre board lying around in the garage and I decided to take a selection of lengths and cut them to a standard 16 inch width. Once that was done I marked out the course of the river leaving roughly 3 inches on bank on each side and a strip of water down the centre which would then be 10 inches wide. I also wanted a curved section and I marked out the board being careful to keep the strip of water 10 inches wide to match up with the other boards:
With the boards marked up I began the job of painting them. I used acrylic paint (great big tubes from one of the cheap shops!) and applied a thick coat of dark green:

Once the  chosen area was covered I blended in streaks of blue and even a little brown in the centre of the river where the colour is naturally darker:

When the boards were completely dry I began the job of adding grass to the river banks. I decided to use Gaguemaster Scenic Mat opting for the GM20 shade of spring green since this most closely matched the rest of my jungle scenery. The mats are available from model railway suppliers and come in several different shades, a roll of 75 x 100 Cm typically costing about £8.00. (If you can't obtain this stuff or prefer other options you can of course use pva glue and flock or even pva glue and sand which can then be painted.)
I cut the mat into strips making the actual riverbank a little irregular and then glued the pieces into place with pva being careful to maintain my 10 inch strip of water down the centre.

I also cut the pieces with an extra inch and a half or so around the edges so that I could fold them round the edge of the board to give a neat finish; I did this by cutting the corner at an angle just like you did when you backed your school exercise books with wallpaper (guess I am giving my age away now!)

Finally I used gaffer tape to tidy up the edges and keep the mat firmly in place:

Once the pva was dry I could begin work on adding a little detail. I ran a thick streak of pva down each bank and then sprinkled sand into the wet glue

At one or two points I added large blobs of glue and placed into it a few pebbles or pieces of fine grit to add a bit of interest:
Once the glue was dry - I left it for 24 hours - I was able to shake off the excess sand and grit and begin varnishing. I applied a thick coat of gloss varnish over the area representing water and I also ran it over the sand and pebbles. As soon as the varnish is applied the rather dull colour of the paintwork springs into life and the whole thing begins to look much better:


I applied three coats of varnish in total to give a deep gloss finish and I highlighted a few spots with brilliant white paint to represent waves and foam.

As you can see in this view I made one section which contained a ford made from sand, grit and pebbles glued in place with pva and also heavily varnished. This section was livened up with a couple of twigs to represent driftwood and the area was also highlighted with white paint:

When everything was properly dry I took a few pictures with my Cuban cavalry charging across the ford so that you can see how the finished article looks:

Overall I am really pleased with the result and think that it was well worth the effort. I am off now to consign all my old bits of vinyl and card river sections to the bin!


Thursday, 13 April 2017

Making Tall Jungle Trees

Making Tall Jungle Trees

When I was on holiday and when I have visited tropical botanical gardens I was struck by how high some of the jungle trees can be. Many of them seem to grown straight up with little or no foliage until they breach the jungle canopy where they then sprout into growth. Whilst I am very happy with the jungle terrain that I have created I wondered how I might produce a small number of such really tall trees to bring a real sense of depth to my terrain. So, here is how I went about this project.

Raw materials were several sprays of plastic plants form the local garden centre and a number of lids from empty jam and pickle jars. As you can see from the following photograph I was after plants or sprays which had little or no foliage but which also branched out at the top.

The next step was to strip off all the flowers and leaves which were put to one side for other projects. This just left the bare stem which was to become my tree trunk:
I then punched a hole through the centre of a jam jar lid and threaded the stem through it. One it was through I made a right angled bend in the stem, this would be used to help glue it in place later:
I now took two short lengths of thick wire and made right angled bends on one end - again to help gluing the trunk in place - and wound them round the trunk to hold it upright:
Once I was happy that the trunk would stand upright I moved on to the glue gun and squirted a liberal amount of hot glue on to each of my two right angled bends to hold the trunk in place:

Finally I squirted another good blob of hot glue inside the base to hold the right angled bend that I had made on the plant stem:

That was the first stage of the process completed and I retired to the garage to start the messy process of filling and painting the bases.
I used ready-mixed polyfilla and simply filled each jam jar lid with the stuff and then left them to dry. As the layer of filler was quite thick it took a couple of days to dry out completely; I could them stand the tree trunks up and spray paint them:
Once they had dried I was able to set up the hot glue gun again and attach chunks of reindeer moss in a random pattern and the job was done:

Here are a couple of views of the finished product surrounded by some of my jungle stands and set off with a suitable backdrop:





Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Gun Running to Cuba! (Part two)

Having finally completed building my model ship, Anna, for gun running scenarios in the Cuban Ten Years War I needed to find a crew for her. I was unable to find any suitable naval type figures in 28mm scale and eventually settled on these four characters:
They are from Steam and Steel's Steampunk range and are described as Pinkerton Detectives. Steam and Steel do not seem to have a website but they do have a page on Facebook; I obtained the figures through Ebay which the company seems to use quite a lot for their marketing.

Whilst they are not particularly nautical the figures painted up really well and really look the part of the shady characters who would have been engaged in smuggling and gun running for the Cuban rebels.
I also needed a cargo for the ship and built some munitions cases from scrap wood left over from modelling the ship: 

To these I added some barrels, packing crates and bales from a variety of different manufacturers but all sourced via Ebay:

When I put the ship, crew and cargo together the effect was exactly what I had in mind when I first thought of adding smuggling operations to my Ten Years War game. Here are a few pictures of the finished models:

Cargo strewn on the beach and guarded by none too trustworthy characters waiting for their meeting with the insurgents.

Overall I am pleased with the result. All that is needed now is for these shady looking cutthroats to hand over their contraband to the very needy Cuban rebels!

Monday, 26 December 2016

Gun Running to Cuba!

For my Ten Years War in Cuba project I needed a ship of some sort to smuggle guns and ammunition into the country for the rebels. The rebels suffered a chronic shortage of munitions throughout the war from 1868 to 1878 and most of the major shipments that they were able to organise from the U.S.A. were intercepted. However they did manage to smuggle smaller consignments of weapons into the island from neighbouring countries and I decided to build a smaller ship that might have been involved in these operations. I eventually settled upon a Chesapeake Bay Flattie which I spotted in the sales at   Hobbycraft.


Opening the box was a surprise for someone more familiar with building 20mm plastic kits and 28mm figures since I was presented with two sheets of plans, a pile of wood, bits of metal and thread!

Once I got over the initial surprise I read the 42  page construction manual, which contained 164 separate steps, and started! The hull took shape fairly quickly:

Once I had sanded everything down and checked that all of the joints were sound, particularly where the timber had been curved and moulded into shape, I added some of the more detailed parts. When that was done I began work on the mast, spar and gaff. (See how quickly I began to lapse into proper seafarers jargon!)

At this stage the manual recommended painting and varnishing. I opted for the simplest suggested paint scheme:

As you can see in the photographs I also added the ship's name, Anna, which I printed and then fixed in place. I wanted to add a port to the stern on the ship and after looking at a map of Florida I opted for Boca Raton, a very minor port in the keys. Again I typed and printed out the text, glued it in place and varnished it.
Next task was constructing the mast, adding blocks for the rigging, and then making and attaching the mainsail along with the gaff and spar:
Once that was done the mast and mainsail could be fixed in place along with the jib and further rigging which, although tricky to complete, was well worth the effort as you can see from the photographs of the finished model:

And here she is, the gun runner Anna setting sail for Cuba with a cargo of eagerly awaited munitions:

My next, and much less challenging, task is to make something to represent a suitable cargo and then crew her with suitable figures.