Total Battle building project

I have written a few articles on the TOTAL BATTLE miniatures buildings and how much I liked them. Well I still like them and everyone who plays in my battles echos that along with my decision to go with 10mm buildings in 15mm games for a better look when representing towns and villages.

The slightly smaller 10mm buildings allow more buildings using the space that would only allow two or three 15mm buildings

Over the last year in between other projects I have been painting these buildings and occasionaly transporting them to games not at my place. I quickly realized that to prevent dammage to them I needed to come up with safe and easy way to transport them.  For years I have made an effort to bring innovation to wargaming with miniatures, especially when transporting miniatures and terrain. I dare say some of the things that are common today in the miniatures world where developed by myself and a few others. Bold statement? Yes but when I started miniature gaming people were slapping 3-4 colors on mini’s, gluing them on some painted cardboard, and transporting them to games in old pizza boxes!  Times have changed!

So this article is about finding a way to store and transport all my lovely Total Battle miniatures buildings easily and with out damage!  Recently I decided to change the way I store terrain at my place because overtime I found much of my terrain was getting dusty and dull looking even though it was stored in those multi level plastic storage drawers. The drawer system did a pretty good job but over time dust would still filter in especially since my gaming area shares the same space as my shop and terrain making area. The drawers were also not that convenient for transport. My career in the movie business had given me a lot of experience in storage and moving of equipment safely so I’m a bit of a stickler when it comes to this. I want a system that works quickly, easily, and most important does the job. I searched long and hard and finally settled on a plastic stacking box system from “the Really Useful Box” system. The system is readily obtainable, strong, and economically priced. In the US they can be found at Office depot and Office Max as well as tons of internet sellers, I’ll list the common sizes I use at the end of the article but the one used for my buildings box is the 17 liter box.

The beginning of the “new” system. Old drawer storage on right and new “Really Useful Box” system on left. Easy to see and grab what you need and the stuff stays clean!

Over the last year or so I have been replacing my “plastic drawer” system with the “Useful Box” system and had reached the point of finding a good way of storing my Total Battle buildings in one. I wanted to keep all the buildings in one box but I also did not want to use too big a box (length & width) so I settled on one that was smaller but deeper. This box would to hold most of the buildings in it on one level but required me to “create” a second shelf in the box for the balance of the buildings with a bit of room left over for a few other terrain items.

The next step was to figure out how to keep the buildings organized and secure in the box so to prevent damage as well as easily see that everything was there (useful when picking up after a convention/away game when your tired and may miss something. My first idea was to use some powerful Neodymium Magnets in the base of each mini and then line the box bottom and shelf with thin steel. This required drilling the base of a building and then gluing a magnet or two flush in the bottom. It worked ok but not perfect. If there was a jar or a lot of vibration to the box the buildings could shift and it would be a bit of work to modify all the buildings….I didn’t like it. Next idea was to go back to another tried and true method we use for camera gear and other delicate gear, foam cut to size. This too required some work but in the end was a better system and not that hard, it was the way I went.

The right tools always make the job easier, safer, and faster. Note the single sided razor blade.

I recommend getting a good piece of foam not the white or tan soft foam found in chairs and couches as that foam tends to age and deteriorate when not sealed up in furniture. Use the grey packing type foam, it’s stiffer, last longer, and cuts easier. You can pick up this foam at any foam supply cheap. I bought a 2’ x 6’ one inch thick piece for $12. This project would only use around 2-3 feet so plenty left for other projects! To cut the foam a RAZOR sharp tool will be needed, utility knife, xacto knife, or even the razor blades made for single sided cutting. I used all 3 types and found the simple razor blade to be the best. Blades will dull up and this project took three.

Measure the bottom of the box and cut a piece of foam to match. Make sure to get a tight fit. I cut a bit over size and then trim down. Next the buildings are laid out on it and using a fine tip permanent ink marker (this ink wont later rub off on buildings), one by one mark the buildings position on the foam. Turn on some music, take your time and cut out foam from where the buildings will sit. It’s important to make these cuts just right. Too tight and paint may rub off over time, to lose and your buildings will fall out. Take your time and watch your fingers.

My first attempt at spacing was a bit to crowded and would have required the foam to be cut to thin and then lose needed strength so after a bit or rearranging the bottom layer looked like this.

Now that I had the spacing to my liking it was time to cut the foam.

Check your arrangement several times and when you are sure it works its time to mark the areas that will be cut out. Use a fine tip permanent ink sharpie for this if you have one, other markers may have cheap ink that wont really dry and rub off later on your buildings!

Cutting foam or anything else requires careful attention to what you’re doing! First to prevent injury to yourself and secondly to make sure you get the cuts right! Take your time! There is an old saying about cutting “measure twice cut once, measure once cut twice!” and its always possible to remove more material but once a cut is too big your in trouble. I did all this building cutting and fitting with a single sided razor and used 3-4 blades since even foam dulls the blades.

When cutting I made sure I cut slightly on the inside of the line ensuring a tight fit and remembering I could always take more off if I needed to. Switching to new blades after abut 5-6 buildings made sure the blade was always sharp enough to be able to cut by simply pushing straight down using a slight side to side motion.

As with most of my projects and articles at a certain point I get so wrapped up in it I start forgetting to take pictures! When I finished the bottom section and started work on the second level that was the case for this project.

My top shelf will sit on these two wooden “runners” holding the top shelf just above the bottom buildings. For my project full length runners on each long side were strong enough to support the top shelf. Take care to make sure these are level and an equal distance off the box bottom on each side so the shelf sits correctly in the box.

The second level would be made of 1/8th inch plywood (luan) and sit JUST above the tops of the bottom level of buildings. The bottom level hold the biggest and tallest buildings, the top shelf the smaller buildings (height wise). Make sure you plan all this out at the beginning of the project!!! Be doubly sure that all the measurements and tolerances will work out!

The top shelf being 1/8th inch is easy to cut using a small power or hand saw, again cut oversize and trim to fit. A second piece of foam is cut for it and the process of layout and cutting in the buildings happens just like the bottom shelf. I haven’t yet but I may use some spray contact cement (3M 77 spray) to bond the foam to the top shelf.

As a final step I put a couple of flexible “tabs” on each end of the top shelf so I could lift it out and get to the bottom section. I started with couple of temporary tape tabs to allow me to get the correct spacing and balance for the tabs. Later I used some 2 inch webbing material pop riveted in to create a strap for this purpose. Don’t complete this step until you have arranged and cut in your buildings since the weight may not be balanced meaning your straps may need to be off set so you get level lift out of the box! Find the balance and center of gravity and adjust the straps to match this ensuring a level lift. Pop Rivet guns are cheap and a really useful tool to have around the house! Holes are drilled in the shelf insert and the strap where the rivets will go. I used a hot wood burning pen (a small heated nail will do!) to burn and seal holes in web strapping and a lighter to melt and seal edges of strapping after cutting.

Top shelf in and tabs just lay across the top. Some lose stuff has still not been cut in yet.

Finished box. You could drop this setup from several feet and have no damage to the buildings! the box may be damaged but the mini’s will not be.

All in all I think this project came out very nice and made my hauling these buildings down to a game easy and safe from any damage. It’s also going to do a much better job of keeping my terrain looking good for years to come!

The only fault I could find with these boxes is they do not give dimensions on the box except to list capacity in liters. Their website does give the dimensions as well as a picture that does a fair job of letting you see which ones match for stacking.
I’m currently using:
64 L, 33L (both stack) Big
32L, 17L (both stack) Medium the 17L was the size used for the building box.
9L, 4L (both stack) Small

 

Are your “Old Figures Washed up”

One of the first boxes I made over 20 years ago! Even in the cleanest conditions dust will accumulate over time!

One of the first boxes I made over 20 years ago! Even in the cleanest conditions dust will accumulate over time!

Over the years I’ve amassed a pretty large collection of miniatures. Recently I have been going through them and paring down periods and scales to stuff I’m really going to game with or at least build in my lifetime…. My buddy Steve and I used to be “Big” into American Civil War and built up large collections of 15mm figures for our then favorite rules Johnny Reb 2. Well over time you find other periods and scales and the figures find themselves on the shelf, disused for years.

 

Even in the case, and the case in a cabinet, dust manages to creep in over the years! The outline in dust shows were the first figures have been moved for washing.

Even in the case, and the case in a cabinet, dust manages to creep in over the years! The outline in dust shows were the first figures have been moved for washing.

Recently in going through my collections I took a look at my ACW collection, recalling all the fun times had playing with them I remarked to Steve “we should start playing these again” he agreed. I gave my figures another look over and noticed they just did not look as nice as I remembered them?Over the years a fine layer of dust had coated them, even stored in my custom cases dust had crept in. What to do? Well a bit of air and a soft brush might help but I have always found that it was tough to really clean them well that way as the brush misses a lot.

For almost as many years as I have painted and played minis I have pushed the boundaries of prepping and painting them. Long ago and before it was common or even popular I was priming with “automotive” primers to give the paint a secure “bond” to the metal, resin, or PLASTIC! Years ago I began gloss coating my figures before “Dull” coating to protect them from damage caused by dropping, pizza fingers, and normal wear during play.  I knew that since these figures were some of the first I had used that method on that it would be safe to WASH them!!! Yes wash them… put them under a “gentile” stream of room temperature water and brush them gently with a large, VERY soft, long bristle,  brush. I use either a cheap one from a craft store or better yet one of my wife’s “old” makeup brushes.

By having the water directly hitting the brush it will spread the bristles and push them into and across the figure.

By having the water directly hitting the brush it will spread the bristles and push them into and across the figure.

Gently drying, no het. I'm also blowing in an oppisite direction of gravity to help from blowing figures off to floor. this would be better done over a table with a soft clot below.

Gently drying, no het. I’m also blowing in an oppisite direction of gravity to help from blowing figures off to floor. this would be better done over a table with a soft clot below.

If you try this I recommend doing only a few figures at a time so you can monitor the effect of washing and if there is a problem stop before it affects your entire army. Gently work the brush around each figure as the water flows the dirt away.

You also will need to force dry your figures. Just letting them set and “air” dry is not recommended as you may get some “spotting” from the minerals in the tap water. I should mention at this point that ALL my figures use a magnetic basing system (some figures directly on magnets, some on metal, with either metal or magnet lined drawers). The magnet makes the process much easier since the figures will stick on the surface of the metal or magnet covered board I use to wash and dry them on. This keeps the water and air pressure from tumbling the figures off the board… If you have a distilled or water filter system on your sink use that.

Using air compressor (on low)

Using air compressor (on low)

So once you have washed your figures you need to dry them and you can do this several ways. I use air pressure (soft) just enough to blow water off and leave a clean dry figure. I have a air compressor in my shop with adjustable nozzle, but a small can of “Dust Off” (compressed air) or a hair dryer will work fine. If you use the hair dryer don’t use the “heat” just the cool air. Heat may damage the paint or basing material (some magnetic sheet material has a layer of plastic glued to it and heat may cause the glue to melt and the sheets to separate). You need to decide what works best for YOUR figures.

 

Those dusty Confederate figures cleaned and returned to their clean drawer. Its a bit hard to see the difference in web pictures but its very apparent in person. These figures need some re-flocking but I'm going to re-base them for "Fire and Fury" anyway.

Those dusty Confederate figures cleaned and returned to their clean drawer. Its a bit hard to see the difference in web pictures but its very apparent in person. These figures need some re-flocking but I’m going to re-base them for “Fire and Fury” anyway.

Another reason for “drying” the figures is that most of us are using regular PVA (wood glue) for applying our basing materials and this glue will break down when its wet to long. I get my figures fairly dry, no standing water on them and let them air dry the rest of the way. WARNING!!! all my basing is magnet, steel, plastic, or some combination of these “water” resistant materials, if you are using cardboard stock (dude it’s 2015 not 1972!) be careful as the water may/will damage your basing. I now gloss coat my basing materials after the figure is finished so its sealed along with the rest of the figure. (I’m sure my figures will last many generations beyond me!)

So trot out those old figures, wash them up, and give them a new lease on life!

Bill Witthans

Old Glory figures after their "bath"

Old Glory figures after their “bath”

 

The Building continues!

Set3

The “Homeowners association” in this Village is tough! Red Roofs only!

As a follow up post to the last one on the “Total Battle Miniatures” 10mm Buildings for the Napoleonic Wars in Europe I figured I would post pictures of all the buildings as I worked my way through painting them. Here are the next five I have done. In the “Total Battle” base system five buildings would be the number required to fill one of the “Village” bases and is a comfortable number to paint as a group, speeding things up as you can paint the same areas such as roof, walls wood, ect…at the same time. This set of five I did a bit different look for the roofs, using a red/orange color for the tiles and selected some of their buildings with a distinctive style “cap” to some of the roofs. This different roof treatment was treated as a “copper” sheet roof, not uncommon back then in Europe and other places. I gave it a weathered look to show copper as it looks after years of exposure to the elements. I also did a bit of house numbering as well and signage.

Set3dWhile these buildings are all painted with the same style and color palette they can easily be mixed into the other buildings as some towns had buildings that looked very different from one another. Painting this way however speeds up the process enormously and helps you to have a consistency when you want it.

Here's the whole set as ordered.

Here’s the whole set as ordered.

BasepaintWash

In the last post you saw this picture of the whole unpainted set. All the buildings need to be washed in warm/hot water with dish soap to remove any mold release. I was told no primer was need and a good acrylic craft paint would be fine. I used a combination of craft store paint with some Vallejo and washes.

Basepaint1I have several large old paint brushes picked up from garage sales and swap meets that I use for big projects. You want to make sure of complete coverage, push the brush in every nook and cranny.

Basepaint4 After a few base coats you can begin “texturing” in roads and details. This is a good look at the fluffy brush I use! Many people toss out brushes like this but they are perfect for big terrain projects.

All the bases done and detailed. I used no clear coat on them as I did not want any paint that might not take the slight bending of the base.

Basepaint5All of the Church buildings come with a couple of “dome” or “steeple” options and I was had pressed to select one so I decided to to make the different “steeple” options for the church’s secure yet ale to quickly be switched out. This involved a simple drilling enough space to insert a magnet in each piece and gluing flush. To do this you take a ruler and draw lines from on corner to the opposite corner giving you an “X”. Where the lines cross is exact center and where you dill your holes in the church steeple base and the “dome” top.

ChurchMagDo not drill the wholes any deeper than you need and be sure to check polarity of the magnets before gluing to keep their facings correct since one way they attract and the other they repel! When you glue in the magnets take special care to get them set in deep enough so that the dome sits flat or it will stick up looking silly. I was off on this one at first and you can see where I had to drill another hole to allow me to pop the magnet out and reset depth.

Tops1Some of the tools for this project, not shown are a drill motor (I cheated using a drill press!) Exacto hobby blade for flash, Drill bits (use a drill motor, Dremel tool, or even a hand pin vise) the Magnets are off ebay, I bought 25-100 of several different sizes just to have around the work bench. The dentist toll is just one of a dozen or so collected over the years (ask you dentist if they have a few old ones) a small ruler. You can see the “X” marked on the church steeple and the roof section.

Tools1Assembly line painting methods save time and money when doing large projects of even small projects where the pieces or miniatures all require a couple of the same steps such as priming, base color coats, washes, ect….For Resin buildings my “go to” primer is always Krylon Automotive Charcoal Grey (black) as it really adheres to surfaces well and is fairly unaffected by dirt, mold release, or other contaminants left on the model or mini, yep use this on my minis although I have just started trying Vallejo’s primer with very good results! It’s water based and allows me to use smaller amount in my airbrush (paints on with regular brush as well) saving both time, money, and the environment while still doing a bang up job! The Vallejo primer is also safe for plastics like the Perry and Warlord miniatures that the “Auto” primer would damage!

PrePrimePlease leave a comment if you enjoyed this article on these fine Napoleonic Buildings, I truly enjoyed painting and now using them on our battlefields! Here are a few more pictures, enjoy! Bill W

 

 

ZULU Nation

 

ZULUHospitall

Alphonse_de_Neuville_-_The_defence_of_Rorke's_Drift_1879_-_Google_Art_ProjectThought I would post a few pictures of an ongoing project of mine. Years ago at the “HISTORICON” wargaming convention I picked up the “Old Glory” 15mm “Rourke’s Drift” ZULUHospitall3set. It’s a great set with all the buildings and figures you need to do the classic battle of the ZULU war where around 120 British Soldiers held of over 4000 Zulu warriors. The British finally defeat them and force their withdrawal!

ZULUHospitall2

Well it sat on my shelf for over 10 years without me painting it! Just to many other shiny projects got in the way….well I finally decided I was not going to ever do it and offered it for sale! it was bought by a good wargming buddy John Curran. Unfortunately John then convinced me to paint it on commission, dang I sold it because I did not want to paint it and now I was…lol!

ZULUMain

ZULUMain2Johns a good “egg” and has given plenty of time so I thought I’d put up some pictures of my progress for him as well as let those of you thinking about buying the set see them out of the box and painted! Below are the “Cook house”, “Kraal”, and the “Redoubt”

ZULUKrallThe castings are all pretty good and require only a little work to make ready for paint. The roofs do need a bit of work and I installed some little balsa wood blocs to keep the roofs aligned properly. I also hand made the porch roof supports on both buildings. The colors are as close as I could determine from evidence and I painted it with a fair amount of weathering. The casting were all washed, primed with automotive primer, painted, and thumbs_rorkes_drift-0001then coated in clear gloss followed by some matte spray.

Cant have “Rourke’s Drift” with out “Zulu’s” here are a few “regiments” married and unmarried. The different “Zulu” regiments had different colored and patterned “cowhide” shields for unit identification.ZULUfig2a

ZULUfig1

For now they are being stored in a custom case made out of an old wine box. So we have four 24 man regiments.

ZULUfig2  ZULUbox ZULUbox2

 

 

 

William The Conqueror a Norman legend!

William1

So I have not been posting here as I’ve once again made the mistake of checking out a cool internet game….yes and like all they SUCK you in and you suddenly find huge amounts of time have vanished along with some cash! Internet games can be fun but they are also frustrating as they are built to keeping you reaching for that goal that once you obtain immediately opens another goal you must obtain, it does not end…. The part that bothers me the most is that when I turn off the PC I’m left with nothing to show for all my efforts, perhaps some good times, but still no tangible, material, items….. With Miniature Wargaming you have not only the fun but are left with beautiful miniatures that will be there every time you open their box!

Ok, so enough of that! Since I redid my site a few months back I have been putting up content both new and lots of “old” stuff from my previous site. I thought I had put this guy up but perhaps it was only on the Lead Adventure Forum “Dark Age Challenge”?

Nor113aa

Well either way here he is “William the Conqueror” or as his friends (not where he can hear them!) and enemies call him,

“William the Bastard” leader of the NORMANS and my favorite SAGA Warband. I took a bit of time on the Normans and wanted to have a real “standout” leader base. I decided to stay with a “Gripping Beast” figure for him to keep consistent with the other figure sculpts in this army. The “Gripping Beast” William figure is probably one of the better named characters, in the line and I had a few ideas for making him really stand out.

Nor113a

Well article writing is a funny thing since as soon as I think I have all the info and pictures ready I start writing and find I can’t “find” something! I can’t find the original picture of the “Gripping Beast” unpainted figure I used for William! I believe it is actually an “Odo” figure or one that could be used as either. I do remember than the figure came with a “Mace” and that would be correct for either William or Odo. If anyone has a pic of this figure please send it or a link! So any way I changed my figure to have a sword in his hand. I also modified his horse by cutting his front legs off the base and the also cutting out a bit of the rear legs to allow it to be posed in a rearing up/jumping position. Under “William’s”  saddle area was heavily cut and filed so he was leaning into the horse in a more forward position. This did two things, first he did not look like he was about to fall backwards off the now “rearing” horse and wit a bit of bending/cutting of his sword arm he looks like he is taking a swipe at a ground target.Nor113f

 

Now to give him a “ground” target I chose an extra damaged “foundry” Viking I had lying about. The Viking had a busted/miscast arm and after a bit of hacking away with a “xacto” knife I had him posed to appear as if “William” had just knocked him off a rock and was about to make sure he was finished. Many warhorses in the day were trained to stomp enemy foot troops and I have shown “Williams” horse doing this with terrible effect!

Nor113cShield is hand painted and lions are thought to have been a device used by him although the “shield” would probably been red I chose Blue/White to have better contrast with the rest of the figures colors (red cape)

The little “mini” diorama was fun to build and I think it came out rather well. It sure scares the enemy!

 

 

Dark Ages Terrain

I have a pretty busy life with work, family, and life’s other distractions so when I do paint or build I tend to be very, very intense and as such I have one bad habit that eventually causes problems for me while painting or building. The problem is that I tend to multi task or have several projects going at once in various stages…while that is not necessary a bad thing it can cause quite a mess on my work bench. Now before I start whining to much I must say I’m extremely lucky to have the work bench and tools I have since this is more than most miniaturist ever have, I’ve worked hard for years to put it together and I’m very thankful for it. This “gripe” is just about using it and that applies to all of us no matter how big small your setup is. So the problem in doing several projects at once or moving to fast through any “one” project is that I have a habit of just dropping one tool and picking up the next one, scraps, shavings, paint, and anything else is just pushed aside to save time, finish a project and get it on the gaming table….This leads to a work bench that although bigger than most only has a tiny space in the middle for working. I also find dust and scraps form other projects contaminating my current paint jobs! Well the other day I got fed up and decided to do a major cleaning and re-organizing of it and despite my initial unhappiness at doing it instead of actually painting something I soon got into the swing of it and actually had fun! I soon found items I had lost or forgotten, the barrel of a Russian T-26, the machine gun off a Russian JS3, half a dozen various minis in different scales and periods, a “new” bottle of glue, a long lost “favorite” paintbrush, and a dozen other little gems buried in the rubble of dozens of long finished projects. I cleaned and tossed large pile of old paint bottles, broken brushes, scraps of every type, pile of minis I decided I would not use, and on and on….ok long story short after going through the whole area including drawers and shelves and reorganizing them I had a work bench back that was 4 times the size I was working on, I had a spot that was organized and I could now be twice as fast as I was working in the “cluttered” space as before. I now did not waste time looking for things….”ah so much better!”

Ahh, the pleasant time I've spent here!

Ahh, the pleasant time I’ve spent here!

So after basking in the glow of a job well done I decided to rip into a new project that I had been putting off specifically because I had so little “working” room on that bench! Dark Age terrain and buildings.

The buildings as I got them off "ebay" the original owner had just given then a once over with brown paint....

The buildings as I got them off “ebay” the original owner had just given then a once over with brown paint….

I love terrain! Even badly painted miniatures look good on a nice bit of terrain! My latest foray in miniatures took me to a period I’m not very familiar with, the “Dark ages” and after buying and painting a few Warbands it was time to delve into some real “Dark Ages” terrain. A few scans of EBAY brought me someone’s cast offs, a couple of Saxon / Viking buildings (by Architects of War?), some Wattle fencing, and a couple of small fishing boats. These were either unpainted or just had a bit slapped here and there. In many games building and terrain need to be clearly defined to avoid disagreements as to who’s in and who’s out of it. In SAGA when troops occupy a building any enemy troops that come within “VS” (very short) or 2” must melee defending units or stay out side the “VS” range. This leads to lots of measuring and re-measuring, in some games. I like buildings with bases because it gives me a chance to better blend the terrain feature into my matt; the buildings I had bought had no bases. I decided to add my own and incorporate the 2” melee zone into them so that at a glance we could tell if a unit was in the zone or not.

First thing you want to do is find the proper basing material!!! I can’t stress this enough!!! Wrong choice here and all the rest of your hard work will be for nothing. I cry every time I see someone put their lovingly painted $40 building on a .50 cent base!!! “ok” you say smart guy “what should I use?”

You want a material that is;

1.    Is easy to work with and not to cost prohibitive. Remember though that going cheap here may cost you in the long run!
2.    Will not warp! (Art board, Card board, etc…bad choices) Plywood, MDF, and other materiel may work but HEAT and HUMIDITY affect these materials as well as the thickness you use. So consider local conditions and “chose wisely young Jedi”
3.    Is easily obtainable for later building projects to give your terrain consistency!

I have been in this hobby longer than some LAFers have been alive and one of the things I learned over the years was to base my figures and buildings well as this increased my (and others) enjoyment of them as well as later on if I decided to sell them they always sold faster and for a better price when the buyer realized he would not have to re-base!

Yes the plastic used in the base was also used to re-surface my workbench!

Yes the plastic used in the base was also used to re-surface my workbench!

I use plastic sheets (Styrene) from 1/8 to ¼ inch thick. Its easy to cut with many different tools and in a pinch can be just “scored” with a sharp knife and snapped in two. I having LOTS of tools available to me around the shop so I used a band saw but the same angled cut can be done with a “copping saw” (see picture) and they are handy and not expensive. A very good investment for the terrain builders work box!

Coping saws for fine cuts in wood or plastic. A great tool!

Coping saws for fine cuts in wood or plastic. A great tool!

The plastic used here is not from a hobby shop but direct from a plastic supplier. I can’t stress enough that many times we miniaturist need to think “outside” the box of getting all our materials from only “hobby” sources! Many times you can get your materials much cheaper from other sources, however you may have to purchase much larger pieces or quantities at first costing more, in the long run you will save a bunch! The sheet you see here came from a 4 foot by eight foot sheet!!! Yes and it cost about $50, but I had them cut it in half for transport and ease of working later. I have had and used this sheet for a dozen projects over the last 10+ years and saved $100s plus dollars it would have cost if I hard gone and tried to get the same stuff at a “hobby” shop and I still have another half sheet! There is also the fact that the largest sheets most hobby shops sell are 8”x12”!

The first cut of the bases showing clearly the contrast of the square base verse the roundness of the house. The base material is almost 1/4 inch thick. Not to worry it wont be very noticeable when we finish.

The first cut of the bases showing clearly the contrast of the square base verse the roundness of the house. The base material is almost 1/4 inch thick. Not to worry it wont be very noticeable when we finish.

Most projects I do I’ll think out a plan that gives me my general direction and most things are worked out in advance but since the miniatures hobby is visual there are many things that can change once you “see” the project develop in the flesh so to speak! On this one I was thinking of just have the bases square since I was having them determine specific gaming areas per the rules but when I looked at the base under the building I realized that the square corners would look way out of place on a “Dark Ages” rural battlefield! As far as the rules it would require to “fudge” a bit but would still be a clear definition of where your troops were.

You can cut bases perfectly square BUT I like to slightly curve and vary my edges on most base’s as this helps blend the base into the rest of your scenery since your eyes will tend to pick out straight lines as not being in nature. Of course the exception to this would be say in a town or fortification where it is man made.  I also like to “angle” the cut made along the base, at least a 45 degree angle to further soften the transition of terrain piece to game mat. Now some of you are saying “humph, I can’t be bothered with all that” well fine if that what you like but this hobby is all about the “visuals” and every little bit helps.

Base's re-cut with with a gentle curving pattern and the edges "softened" with the sanding block.

Base’s re-cut with with a gentle curving pattern and the edges “softened” with the sanding block.

After the base is cut I use some fine grit (220+) sand paper to smooth edges and also a bit on the top to give some “bite” to the surface to help the paint stick better. Wrapping the sand paper around a piece of foam to make a sanding block works a treat (they also make pre-made sanding pads) I then primer the base either before or after I set the piece to it. I use JB WELD (fast set version) a 2 part epoxy to affix my bases to the buildings as it make a very good bond (better than “super glue”) but any 2 part epoxy will work.

The bomb! one of my favorite epoxies!

The bomb! one of my favorite epoxies!

While we are on the subject of gluing with “super glue” I can’t stress enough about using GOOD glue!!! The cheap “super glues” you find at the super market just are not up to the task. Most people I have ever heard say they had trouble gluing figures together or have their models later drop pieces off have used CHEAP “super glues” Go to the local hobby shop or online and by the best cyanoacrylate glue you can find!!! After all it is one of the foundation items your miniature collection is built on.

2310 CyanoacrylateGlueNow many castings are not completely flat on the base so some work might have to be done to smooth it out so it sets flat on its new base. Don’t fret to much as the next step will hide any little gaps. I have been doing miniatures for quite awhile now (25-30 years) and have learned a lot from others in the hobby, I have also I think developed many ways of doing things on my own that over the years have gone out into the community and are now accepted practice. Yes I do have a bit of an “ego” about “raising the bar” for wargamers over the years and I have the trophies to prove it…lol…ok to the point…I learned a lot of build and modeling stuff from my father who was a great carpenter and all around builder of real stuff and also did some modeling and “train set” work. I was exposed to a whole world of materials and how to work with them that was absent from the “Wargaming” or “Miniature Painting” world. One of these items was wood fillers, a whole range of “putties” and fillers used to fill gaps in wood that I saw could be used in basing and modeling…yes parallel development that others around the world also see this over time, but I like to think that I was one of the first (ego creeps out!) and I’m certain the way I do it is unique to me (at least it was).

Always use "Quality" materials in your projects! This can of Durham's Rock Hard cost about $10 but contains enough for years of projects and NEVER spoils!

Always use “Quality” materials in your projects! This can of Durham’s Rock Hard cost about $10 but contains enough for years of projects and NEVER spoils!

I use “DURHAMS ROCK HARD” water putty. It’s a powder that you mix with water into a paste. Now by its self I found it works BUT is a bit delicate when put on thin and roughly handled as you might with your terrain. To toughen it up I add not only water but white wood glue in a ratio of about 65% water to 35% glue added to the Durhams powder. I mix this adding more water or glue until I get a mixture about the consistency of yogurt.

This little trowel is OLD and was found at a garage sale, used by sculptors of big statues it has a another end that is rounded, made in Germany its one of my all time favorite tools!

This little trowel is OLD and was found at a garage sale, used by sculptors of big statues it has a another end that is rounded, made in Germany its one of my all time favorite tools!

Basic baseing finished.

Basic baseing finished.

Using a small hobby trowel, butter knife, or even a wedge cut piece of card board I spread this onto the base, from the edge to the mini or in this case the building. The “filler” can then be worked smooth, rough, left high in some spots, or what ever you like.

On these buildings I also sprinkled broken sand and rocks to create rough spots as well as blend in the walkways from those on the original building casting to the “new” base.

Adding rock work and defining paths.

Adding rock work and defining paths.

I use a big medium stiff bristled brush dipped in water to move around and smooth the filler. Any of the additional materials such as rocks, pebbles, gravel, ect, can be added while the paste is still soft and wet to help it blend. Let the “Durham Rockhard” filler dry over night and then I prime the whole thing with “Krylon Automotive” black primer.

 

primed

Now your model is ready for painting, and finish details. I’m not going to detail my painting to much here as most of you are masters beyond me already. Questions will be answered of course…lol.

One thing I’ll mention is that for “terrain” I ofter use “cheap” craft paint for the big areas and save the good stuff for details. I also have a box of old paints that I try to use up on terrain when they they are replaced or deemed to old for first line use. The two bottles in the picture are the same color, the little Vallejo bottle is $3 for about 1/2 ounce (17ml), the big “Creamcoat” bottle from craft store is 8 ounces and $3.50. While I would not use the big bottle stuff on a mini as it just not near as good, it is fine for larger less important projects and will work fine generally it is so much cheaper!

Paint1

Then it’s on to flocking and such. Years ago I was able to pick up some stainless steel tubs in a few different sizes (flea market) and I use these when I’m flocking and applying terrain material it catches all the fall off and allows you to return excess flock clean to the flocking container as well as keeps your work area “flocking” clean!

Any kind of non-stick pan or tub is your best friend during the flocking process!

Any kind of non-stick pan or tub is your best friend during the flocking process!

I then let it dry over night. One step I will mention and it’s a good one you may not have thought of. To finish up I SPRAY clear gloss on the model as well as all the flocking, grass, bushes, and trees…. Why? Because it helps to “bond” the “flocking/brush” material more than the glue you used to lay it down originally. It seals the whole thing and keeps the flocking from not rubbing off from handling and game play. It also allows the gentile rinsing with cool water your pieces that gather dust over time. I use Testor’s in my air brush for mini’s but on larger projects I go with Krylon fast drying clear Gloss (in a spray can). The Gloss will darken the “flock/brush” a bit but it will lighten up a bit as it dries. Let it dry for a few hours and then you can DULL coat the entire model to taste! You now have a well protected model ready for some hard action!

I was toying with putting in a LED light and flasher to show the fire but this was deemed “overkill” since it would be seldom seen!

Here is the finished project, I was happy with it I hope you all enjoy it as well!

Bill W

My "Flemish Mercenaries" cant wait to plunder these baby's!

My “Flemish Mercenaries” cant wait to plunder these baby’s!

CLICK on photo for larger picture!

But wait there’s more!……One of the invaluable tools I use is a “hot glue gun” I use a bit of it on a nail of in the case of these larger building a short piece pf plastic pipe. This gives me a handle on the piece or miniature so I can firmly grip it and maneuver it almost 360 degrees in all directions with out touching it! I combine it with a few weighted upright “stands” to slip the pipe over, holding the piece upright while it dries.

RoofStands1RoofStands