Monday 21 November 2022

Bohemian Houses

I'd like to thank people for the kind comments encouraging me to keep going with the blog after I had a moment of doubt. Both the blog's "regulars" and a number of previous "lurkers" took the trouble to post something, which I very much appreciate. 

After a little delay, caused by real-world things as well as by work on my Franco-Prussian War rules, here's the second installment of the set-up built for the Austro-Prussian War of 1866, most of which took place in the land of Bohemia. I made these about 12 years ago, and enjoyed researching what the rural environment of this unfamiliar area looked like. Here's what the houses of all but the most prosperous folk were like, at least in the north-western corner of the land, where the main battles of 1866 happened. Of course this was also where some of Frederick the Great's campaigns had taken place, so the set-up would work equally well for the Seven Years War. Bits of the Thirty Years War too, I suppose. Nor would the houses look out of place for parts of Poland and other parts of eastern Europe.

As this was a hilly, well-wooded area, timber was plentifully available and naturally served as the main material for vernacular building. The construction method here was a variant on the common "log cabin" method. It's called Blockbau in German sources. The logs are roughly squared off, and lock together at the corners by means of three-dimensional dovetail joints. Sometimes the cracks between logs are filled with daub, which is whitewashed to produce a characteristic "zebra stripe" effect. The Blockbau look was hard work to model; I could think of nothing faster than laying balsa logs individually and cutting the joints more or less as in real life. 

The gables were planked, sometimes in decorative patterns, different on each house.

The house on the left shows a couple of the variations you see: the roof is hipped in shape and the walls whitewashed. 

A closer view of the veranda feature.

Two more of the common variations. On the left we have a house where one end is built of rendered stonework and the other of Blockbau. On the right is a house with a shingled roof. The little "bonnets" over the gable ends are another local thing, as are the turned wooden finials, a tiny influence from Baroque style. The thing on the back wall is a fire ladder. If your roof was set on fire by a spark from the chimney, you wanted to get up there quickly and pull off the burning part before it spread. 

Two houses are posed here with the latest unit I have done for my 1866/ 1870 gaming. It's the 7th Prussian regiment, the King's Grenadiers. I've recently done a couple of units with the Perry plastics. I was impressed with the flexibility of the parts, and the accuracy, even if those skinny plastic bayonets look awful vulnerable for gaming.

Thursday 3 November 2022

Blog Anniversary - A Church in Bohemia 1866

It was exactly one year ago, 3rd November 2021, when this blog got started. Twelve months and seventy-two posts have passed. Now we have the start of a final series of images of my past work, which will show the buildings and scenery made for the Austro-Prussian War of 1866, and some of the figures which battle over them. 

It's been a fair bit of work doing the blog, but overall a rewarding experience. It is widely said now that blogs are a dying medium for showcasing one's work and have been for some years really. The main reason being that if you post pictures on Facebook and other social media then fiendish algorithms will herd viewers and "likes" towards your efforts, which doesn't happen really with a blog. Another factor is the sheer overkill in numbers terms: the Blogs Of War site unbelievably lists over 1500 wargames-related blogs(!)  But many of them are abandoned or only intermittently updated now, even some that were recently vibrant, which I find rather sad. People especially keen on grabbing attention now combine social media with webcam videos, never mind blogs. Fair play to those who are sufficiently tech-ey, and hungry enough for views (or sales), but that isn't me.

The straight facts are that each time I make the effort to photograph my models and carefully write an accompanying text, I like to think I am putting something unique and informative out into the hobby world. And maybe 80 people view it and half a dozen make any comment, which is a bit underwhelming to be honest. So I have had a good think about whether it's a sensible use of my time. But on balance I think it's still worthwhile. There is something satisfying in bulding up a proper chronicle of the modelmaking work I've done over the decades, and that would only be ephemeral on social media. Secondly although the numbers aren't large, the quality of interaction I've had with fellow hobbyists has been nice. Some of it has been via email rather than visible on the blog. I do very much appreciate your comments and occasional questions, and always reply to them. Several people have sent me pictures of their own modelling efforts, more or less inspired by mine. And I have made a couple of  pals from this who I now see in real life, which is great. 

So after this little bit of introspection, on we go! The plan is that once all the Bohemian stuff has been shown (half a dozen posts?), there will only be my latest models to post, as I produce them. However I will then try a tutorial or two, the first being step-by-step how to make nice trees. Hopefully that will spark some further interest. 

Anyway, here is a typical Bohemian church, posed with the commander of my Austrian forces, Feldmarschalleutnant (Lieutenant general) von Gablenz.

Gablenz was the best of the Austrian corps commanders in 1866. A dashing, dandified fellow, his soldierly qualities were too much for his Prussian opponent at the Battle of Trautenau, the only clear Austrian victory of the war. The Austrians suffered four or five times as many casualties against the Prussians' breechloaders, but hammered at the the latter until they gave up and retreated all the way back out of Bohemia. Here Gablenz wears his campaign dress as colonel-in-chief of an Uhlan regiment, and I was able to model him with the exact medals and orders he posessed at this date. Next to him is his chief of staff, and an Uhlan aide in the new-style light blue uniform salutes before galloping off with orders. In the foreground is X Corps' artillery commander, colonel Eisler, and a battery trumpeter. These figures are all heavy conversions, starting with North Star metals and Perry Napoleonic plastics.

This is the version of baroque style which prevailed across central and eastern Europe from the seventeenth century to the present, in the form of churches, official buildings and larger dwellings. 

The curly ornaments are from the jewelry department of Hobbycraft. The balls are mapping pins from the same source.

A "thing" with the Bohemian version of baroque is to have curved walls. Some churches and chateaus even have the side walls curved out, which gives me nightmares when I try to work out how to do a slate roof on top of such a thing!

The dome is based on one from a Faller model railway kit, although I added the overlapping sheet effect to the bronze roofing. 

Here Gablenz is joined by hussar colonel Wallis, who commanded one of the light cavalry brigades of the army.