Tuesday 30 November 2021

The last of the AWI buildings

 Here's the last two of the series of AWI buildings I made for John Ray. There's not much to add in terms of how these were constructed, but a couple of details might be worth mentioning. 

The church windows owed something to the "industrial windows" from the Wills range. The dome was made by overlaying the cast tiled dome of the same shape with styrene sheet, then adding joins/ribs to represent a lead sheet covering. I had struggled earlier to find a way to add a cross on top of a dome or spire that wouldn't be vulnerable to the first knock. The solution shown here relies on a teeny bit of metalwork. You start with a long rectangle of brass sheet, about 1mm thick. Put it in a vice then cut the four corners out with a fretsaw (aka coping saw), finally tidying up with a square-section file. Sharpen the bottom arm and superglue into a drilled hole, and you have something suitably sturdy.

The brick house involved a lot of Wills brick sheets, predictably enough. The "wrought iron" gate was made from cutting out segments of 1/12 scale dolls house ironwork. It's in a tough plastic, ABS or something, so sturdy enough for gaming use.

Monday 29 November 2021

Mediaeval City Walls

This is a set of mediaeval city walls I made for my friend and customer Simon Chick, some time during the 2000's. I've called it French, but it would work for a swathe of Germany, the Burgundian lands or Switzerland during the 15th century, as well as northern France. Simon took the photographs himself, and put them on his own blog years ago.

Simon had supplied some good drawings and period artwork for inspiration as well as a set of the Hudson and Allen fortifications as a "raw material"; they were to be very heavily reworked and added to. I think altogether there was the gatehouse section and three towers, each with a wall section, plus a breached wall section (not in these photos, sadly), a breached tower, a "guard house" by the gate and an extra palisaded outwork. The round tower roofs were added by Simon, so I'm not responsible for the "relaxed" way they fit the towers! He more than compensated though by posing the model with his lovely Burgundian figures in really convincing scenes. 

There's not a great deal to say about the building techniques or materials. As ever I used foamcard, Wills sheets and lots of parts cast in resin from my own masters. The hoardings were made from balsa. The "gothic" ornamental thing on top of the gatehouse was a doll's house part. The finials were made with ornamental beads from the craft shop threaded onto brass rod. 

The final photograph is from the demo game of the Battle of Verneuil which Simon and friends put on at the Salute 2011 show. It wan the prize for best Demonstration game that year.

Sunday 28 November 2021

Thirty Years War Castle

Today we have a larger model and one of my favourites. It was built during the 2000's for Scottish gamer Dave Imrie, of League of Augsburg and Claymore Castings fame. Dave wanted a mediaeval German castle but as it might have stood during the 17th century. There are many contemporary engravings which show this kind of structure. Away from the epic battles of the Thirty Years War, local campaigns went on across The Empire for loot and regional control, often resolving themselves as small-scale sieges. In this case the defences have improved by constructing a large artillery redoubt lower down the hill on which the castle stands.

In design terms, I wanted something that would be impressively vertical, without exaggerating the individual components. You can see it rises in stages from the hill to the castle yard, then the main building and finally the tower. 

The building techniques have mostly been described in earlier posts: foam card, Wills rounded tile sheets, cast details, the cliff from cork bark segments. The hill and redoubt were made from polystyrene foam, with a thick skin of filler, PVA and sand. The top of the tower with it's pepper-pot turrets was actually something I had made for my own walled town project years before, but decided it was never going to get used for that and would go nicely as part of this model.

The figures posed in the redoubt are Perry ECW, painted by my friend Garry Broom.

Saturday 27 November 2021

AWI Tavern

Once again an AWI building based on a real example, today's model being a tavern with a little smoke-house in the back yard. Both buildings are freestanding from the base so can be used in different ways.

This was made in the same ways as before, though obviously it is a little bit larger and more involved than the houses you've seen over the last couple of days. The roof was done with the Wills plain clay tile sheets. The dormer windows are all castings from a master model I built. The fence is hand-made, which must have taken me a while. I also hand-painted the sign "The Swan", based on researching 18th Century pub emblems. I was concerned to protect the hitching rail and sign at the front from accidental damage, so they are set well in from the edge of the base and heavily reinforced with brass rod.

Friday 26 November 2021

AWI Burcher House

 Another American Revolution-era house today, this time the all-wooden "Burcher" house. To this day I don't know whether that name indicates the style, or if the original was owned by someone called Burcher. You will see that there are actually three model houses of the same design but with green, pale blue and grey details respectively. The first was made for John Ray, but two other customers wanted the same thing for their games. 

Wood for the shingles and the clapboard was made from thin balsa sheet textured by brushing along the grain with a brass-wire suede brush. This strips off the softer grains, leaving a more deeply textured surface to be dry-brushed. You texture quite a big sheet ready to cut into strips. Don't try to texture both sides, as the flimsy material will fall apart. I find it's useful to scribble over the untextured side with a bright marker pen, so that when you end up with hundreds of little rectangles for shingles you can tell the textured side from the plain one at a glance.

There's a tool called a balsa stripper specifically for cutting identical strips quickly, although I find it fiddly to use, so you may be just as happy with a steel rule and scalpel. For shingles you cut strips first and then cut those into individual rectangles. I use a great tool called a "chopper", a kind of tiny guillotine, the original one being by a model railway firm, North West Short Line. The shingles are glued on a row at a time: apply a line of PVA or wood glue, then pick each shingle up with the point of your scalpel to position it. The trick to getting a realistic appearance with this is to apply the shingles slightly irregularly. Don't overdo this, as is commonly done with fantasy buildings. I think that looks a mess, and it wouldn't keep the rain out! 

Thursday 25 November 2021

American War of Independence (AWI) Stone House

Over the years 2001-2 I made a series of models for wargamer John Ray, all to go with his games of the American War of Independence. The original here was built of stone with a roof of wooden shingles, which is an unusual combination. Each building model had a little garden or at least a tree, some bushes and what-not to set it off. 

The walls here were made of Wills stone sheets and the chimneys of brick sheets by the same company. The roof was covered in individual shingles of textured balsa sheet. The windows were metal castings, which I think John provided. Normally I would make windows with a transparency and something dark behind, but John asked for this blue "sky reflection" look. The doors were my castings which I had ready from the Wild West town project.

Wednesday 24 November 2021

 Here's some images of a large German-style church I made for Scottish gamer Brian Phillips. Currently it's in the collection of David Imrie. 

The techniques are my usual ones: Wills stone and tile sheets, plus cast door, windows, buttresses and steeple parts. The steps are carved from styrene sheet. The stained glass windows, which you can see in the fourth image are from a transparency of church stained glass made for model railways. The statue of Mary was something I found at a doll's house exhibition. I think the cross on top of the dome was a metal one found there too. And that's your model for today- hope it is of interest.

Tuesday 23 November 2021

Big Hills

Here's two very similar wargames hills I made for customers. The first image is from 2000, the others are of a similar piece I was asked for by someone who just wanted the same thing. In both cases some trees are modelled as part of the hill and there were other freestanding ones which could form a wood on top of the hill or be placed elsewhere.

The main body of the hill was made from white soft polystyrene insulating foam in multiple layers, the "cliff" end being made from cork bark and the whole thing based on a sheet of mounting card. There was no such thing as a static grass applicator at this time and so the grassy effect was made from grass mat, carefully tailored to fit the 3-dimensional shape.

Monday 22 November 2021

Architectural Miniatures

So, I left Hertford Uni in 2000, promised a big part in Foundry's ever more ambitious plans to take over the wargaming world. I built two "terrained" gaming tables for their shop, working with the stalwart Sean McLoughlin and staying with him and his family in Bryan Ansell's stable block. Then I did plans, parts and prototypes for what was going to be a beautiful Wild West town (you can see the two prototype buildings under the America label in the right-hand column) . But in early 2001 things at Foundry got mad, then reached critical mass and exploded. All the sculptors left: Mark Copplestone, the Perrys, and the half-dozen more then employed, leaving the company with nothing but a back-catalogue ever since. Foundry decided they'd never wanted a Wild West Town and I actually had to take them to court in order to get paid for the work I'd done. Legal papers at dawn, bang bang! I got most of what they owed me.

I realised I needed to be working for people who appreciated my efforts and became a properly self-employed modelmaker, 95% of what I did turning out to be wargames terrain. My friend Mike Siggins gave me a review plug in Wargames Illustrated and set up a simple-but-tasteful website where I could show my work and attract business. It was called Architectural Miniatures and ran for about ten years from 2001. As a quid pro quo I made Mike a building and some trees. The trees are already under the Terrain label. As for the building, Mike asked for the one in the Dutch painting "The road to Middelharnis", and here it is, slightly simplified. I loved researching the Dutch "genre painting" of this era, which combines intricate detail, domestic scenes and beautiful light. Sadly I have only this one photo of the model and it's hard to see the housewife sweeping the floor which I incorporated into the model.

Sunday 21 November 2021

The Italian Job

 I never much liked the Michael Caine film, and I certainly don't like puns, so I really should have thought have something better to call todays post.

This will pretty much wrap up showing you the models I made at Hertford Uni. I had decided I was going to massage whatever task we were given into something relating to wargames terrain. So when we were instructed to "do a period of work experience with a modelmaking company", that became doing a range of  buildings for one of the (then) many manufacturers of resin buildings. The company was based near Hull in Yorkshire, but to my shame I cannot remember what their name was; though it involved a very nice chap called Nick something(?) whose day job was as a firefighter. It was agreed to master a range of specifically Italian buildings, in fact central Italian buildings, because they are different again in the South and in the Northern plains.  The company marketed my efforts as generic "Mediterranean", and it was later sold on a couple of times. I don't think these are commercially available now.

The range comprised six structures, a tower house, a palazzo-style city building, a house a farm, a barn and a church. I only got the first one painted up properly. All six were given a basic paintjob and "thumbs" taken for the website, only that of the palazzo surviving. One shot of the tower house was in the first blog post here, which was something of a trial run.

Part of the deal had been that my pals Adrian Hussey and Mike Siggins got a set of the castings each as reviewers for Miniature Wargames and Wargames Illustrated  respectively. I got one set and the masters back, but mostly cut them up to incorporate in variant buildings which never got done. I suppose I would have the means to make up villages if my wargames interests ever took me to the land of the poplar tree.

The masters were made of foamcard with cast "bits" added. The roofs are sheets of proper "Roman" pantiles which I sculpted and cast.