Wednesday 31 August 2022

Work In Progress: Baroque Chateau

I haven't posted anything for a few weeks because I've been concentrating on building my second French chateau, the Baroque one. I've still got some unphotographed models to do blog posts on, but I thought I'd post some pictures of where I'm up to with this quite elaborate model. There's no intention of showing a particular stage or anything, it's just the point I happen to have reached. 

When I can post images of the completed model, I will give my customary ramblings about the Baroque look and the typical styles of French chateaus. For now I'll just say a little about how this is being made. The basis of the brick- and tile-work is the good old Wills sheets. There are a lot of cast bits where I modelled a master and made silicone moulds, and a (hell of a) lot of parts cut and shaped from styrene sheet and strip. The fourth significant material is wooden mouldings that are sold for dolls house work. The walls, windows and doors of the model are complete and I have started on the roof now. You can see the cast parts for dormer windows and chimneys, to be incorporated in the three-part roof, one bit of which is started. There are over 600 styrene parts making up just the quoins (corner stones), and I reckon there must easily be over a thousand parts in the whole structure. 
Hopefully construction on this will be finished in about a week's time, then it will take a couple of weeks more to paint. With a bit of luck it should repay the work that's gone into this model.


Tuesday 9 August 2022

A Mini Chateau

Having posted images now of most of the terrain I built years ago, here is my most recent effort, completed only a couple of weeks ago. It is part of a project to provide terrain for games set in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71. A sub-project within that greater one is to build several small chateau-type buildings. Most FPW battlefields had one or two such places, and they feature in the accounts as strongpoints being stormed at bayonet point. One battle (Coulmiers) actually had no less than six chateaus on it, but some of them were subsumed within villages so don't necessarily need modelling specifically. I decided three chateaus would cover things. Here's the first and I'm currently hard at work on the second.

I have long fancied making something in the French chateau line, as they are such nice buildings, deliberately intended to be pleasing and varied in appearance and in the larger cases impressive, with elaborate and stylish architectural features. Things being what they are of course, this desire rather clashes with the ground scale I tend to use, whereby a whole large battlefield is compressed onto a medium sized wargames table. For example in my FPW rules one inch equals a hundred metres, so a single building, even a big one, might scarcely be one inch square on its own! 

But where there's a will there's a way. Studying the layout of these places I find they come in successive layers. You have the actual chateau building, but that's surrounded by an area of stables and courtyards, which in turn is enclosed within a "zone" of walled orchards and gardens several hundred metres in area. The whole thing was fought over in reality. (An example most wargamers will be familiar with is the chateau/ farm of Hougoumont at Waterloo.) I decided that I could make a nice building in my usual "condensed" style, representing the whole zone without doing too much violence to strict ground scales. 

So off I went, starting with the smallest and simplest of the three chateaus planned, as something of a warm-up for the other two, which will be more elaborate. This one is in a gently neo-classical style, inspired by the Chateau of Duerckheim which stood in the village of Froeschwiller on the battlefield of that name (the one called Woerth by the Germans).  

The model has come out pleasantly enough, I hope, considering how small it is. It's made from all sorts of materials: sheet card and styrene, dolls' house mouldings, scratch-built details and parts that have been lurking in my bits box for decades.  It would take forever to describe how everything was made, but please feel free to ask about any of the aspects you are wondering about. 

In this second photo I have included a figure to show the scale. Not having any singly based Franco-Prussian figures at this point, it's had to be a 1940 one. The building is suitable for the late seventeenth century up to WWII, although the elaborate balcony railings suggest the nineteenth century onwards. Incidentally those railings are styrene 1/48 model railway details from the American firm of Grandt Line, now San Tuan Details. I reinforced the delicate castings with styrene rails on top and behind, and I think it should stand up to normal gaming use.

In terms of colour I decided to break away from my customary grey-brown stonework, and go for a pinky-brown sandstone. I used dark brown paint, highlighting up to a dark flesh colour. It makes a change at any rate, and goes nicely with the cream rendered walls.

From the back you can see the scratch-built doors more clearly. Front and back doors are identical, and it would have been a good idea to build just one and take castings. But I didn't have anything to make a mould with at the time I did this model, something that's had to be addressed for the next model. 

I painted a lichen effect on the tiles, which has come out OK if a bit understated. I'm going to go for a more drastic overgrown effect on at least one of the other chateau models.

Here we see just how small this model is, when placed next to the improved-MDF equivalent featured a few months ago. Of course both are strictly speaking more what the French would call a "maison bourgoise", or a "maison de maitre" rather than a chateau in size terms. But these are the compromises we have to make for wargaming purposes. The bigger one here is aimed at skirmish gaming, where a somewhat more "literal" scale of scenery is called for. 

And finally, the size contrast is shown fully here. If you look at the previous picture you will see that the height difference is quite small, in order for both to look acceptable with the figures used. But the ground area is very different. The mini chateau is just 90mm by 70mm so the area taken up is only a third of the larger version. In fact if you take account of the projecting areas the contrast is still greater. 

Monday 1 August 2022

A Basque Town and Farm

A couple of weeks back I showed a not-very-good picture I had stumbled across of buildings from the Basque provinces of Spain. Those models were amongst the "ones that got way" as I lamented back in December, ie the models I'd made but hadn't photographed and no longer had access to. Since then I had kindly been sent some lovely photographs of the nice German village done for Jonathon Marcus. And now I have some decent pictures of the Basque models, so the only thing still missing from the record at this stage is the Trojan setup once made for Mark Sturmey.

The new photographs came initially from my friend Simon Chick, who had photographed them during a demo game at Salute 2014. But knowing now what show it was, I was able to search for other photos of the game. And I found them on two different blogs, called History in 1/72nd and The Lost and the Damned. (I tried to contact the owners of both blogs to check they didn't mind me reposting their pictures, but got no response in either case, from which I conclude there's no reason anyone would be bothered. Of course if I hear differently I will act as appropriate).  Right, here we go.

My late friend Mark had eclectic interests in terms of wargames periods, one of them being the Carlist War of the 1830's, largely fought in the Basque provinces of Spain. Mark used to pay people to paint his figures, but was keen on building scenery, a skill he was learning quickly before Motor Neurone Disease sadly halted him. This town was therefore perhaps half my work and the rest by Mark or made and painted between us. A couple of rendered buildings to fill out the town were taken from my earlier generic Spanish buildings.

The centrepiece church was one element that Mark paid me to make on a commission basis. It is modelled on a Jesuit church of around 1700 which stands in one fought-over Basque town. As you can see it has the unusual combination of a rendered structure with an elaborate but slightly grim stone fa├žade.
In the north of Spain the typical rendered buildings largely give way to bare stone or half-timbered ones, sometimes infilled with brick. The roofs are still low-pitched pantiles in the Mediterranean style however. You can see all these elements in the model.

I built this cross to go with appropriate figures that Mark had sought out. Such vignettes add to a battle painting or a demo game. 

And here's another one, based on a typical local pattern of well.

As a present I made Mark this Basque farmhouse or baserri. It has the typical recessed portal, creating a work area useable on rainy days. Sadly you can't see them in the photo, but there are little scratch-built tools hanging up within!

Another present was this granary building in the local style, standing on stone "mushroom" legs to protect the contents from damp and vermin. A pigsty and muck-heap complete the farm.