Thursday, 2 December 2021

German Town Wall Again

This is a set of German town walls I made for David Imrie in 2006. Apologies for the distracting background to these photographs: too much blue sheet and too much of my old back garden in Coventry! The dull light also reminds me now of being up at dawn that day, between an all-nighter to finish the model and driving to the Partizan show to hand it over. Anyone who makes models will be familiar with being up all night to finish a model before a deadline. It is an iron law, somehow, that every model always takes longer than you expect: sometimes only a bit longer, sometimes twice as long. But there's a satisfaction in hanging in there and getting the job done. Anyway the final photo here was taken recently by Dave himself and shows the benefit of a proper foreground, a proper background and some nice figures to set the model off.

As you can see, this project comprised a gatehouse, three round towers and four lengths of wall, one with a stairway. The usual techniques and materials have been used: foamcard, balsa, Wills sheets and resin cast parts. There were some big castings here: the roof of each wall section is cast as one piece, as are the tower roofs.

When I look at this now, I can see a lot of difference from the similar model I made for myself almost twenty years earlier. This one is a lot "crisper", as modelmakers say, by which we mean neater, cleaner and more sharply defined. You can see what material every part is supposed to be made of. I like the colour better too, as it's atmospheric and pleasant without being garish

Wednesday, 1 December 2021

The Dresden Villages

In the mid-2000's I made some models for US wargamer Matt Pavone, who was keen to refight the Battle of Dresden, 1813. I did a lot of research and we had all kinds of plans to build the Gross Garten park, the old city walls, even the famous palaces and churches of that spectacular city! But in the end we only got as far as a series of four village units, which you see below. I also used one as the header photograph for my blog, as I thought it gave an instant idea of what it is about.

The design of each village unit in this case was to be a single piece with room for one of Matt's 16-figure infantry units to fit on the base. Within that, I wanted to make the layout of each unit different.  These aren't Matt's figures you see here by the way, but those of my lifelong wargames accomplice Garry Broom, who has thousands of figures for this period and adds hundreds more every year. One day we'll even get round to having a game with them!

Anyway, these villages were based on proper research into the style of "vernacular" buildings in Saxony, rather than just being "generically German". In this area it was common for buildings to have their ground storey made of field stone, with the upper floor being timber-framed. As in many places the appearance of the churches depended at least as much on when they had been built as on any local style preference. This simple structure would have been built in the early Middle Ages, and could be almost anywhere in Germany, although the rather bright ochre colouring is common around these parts. Oddly, the fences weren't altogether generic. Wicker and vertical-plank fences exist across Germany, but the horizontal-plank version was most typical of Saxony and Brandenburg.

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.