Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Terraining Tutorial

RSM Austrian Artillery battery rebased: 3 x 12pdrs on the left and 2 x 6pds on the right.

I did a little bit of figure basing this evening and since several people asked me how I finish off my bases, I decided to take a few pictures of the process and post them on my blog to help you use this easy-to-do-method. I call it the "Frank Hammond Method" of terrain basing, since Frank taught me how to do this on his blog.

Step One: Spackle Compound

I start with a container of Red Devil Pre-mixed Spackle Compound as my basing material. It comes in gallon, quart or pint containers. I usually buy the quart size for small jobs and mix in a couple jars of Howard Hues "Rifle Butt" brown paint. You could also purchase some cheap latex interior house paint at the hardware store and use that as well.

Mix in the brown paint and stir it until the white spackle turns to the color of a light chocolate pudding. You can make the "goop" darker by adding more paint. Now, trowel the spackle onto your figure bases (I didn't take a picture of the troweling process, but you can figure out how to do it easily enough). I use an artists' mini-spatula for stirring the goop and troweling it onto the figure bases.

Step Two: trowel the spackle onto your bases.

After troweling on the goop, dip the whole stand into a box of railroad ballast from Woodlands Scenics, Gale Force 9 or Games Workshop. Let the stand dry about 8 hours.

Step Three: ink the bases.

Now get a bottle of dark ink - I use Reaper Paints "Flesh", which oddly enough, is very dark brown in color, or "Brown" ink. Dab on splotches of the ink onto your base in a random fashion. Typically, I will leave some of the raised parts of the base in the basic grit/gravel color to depict the ground after some of the dirt has eroded away. You don't want to ink the entire base, but rather leave some natural grit color for contrast.

Step Four: dry brush a light tan color onto the bases.

I use a light tan from the Howard Hues range of paints to dry brush some highlight color over the dark ink on the base.

Use a nice and cheap flat brush for your dry brushing.

Step Five: apply white glue to the base before adding static grass.

I use Elmer's Glue (white glue) to apply the static grass to the base. Use an old nylon brush to dab the glue onto your base. Allow some of the brown and the natural grit to show through. You don't want to cover the whole base with static grass.

Step Six: sprinkle static grass onto the glue on your base, shake off the excess grass.

Here you see the base after I have sprinkled static grass over the splotches of glue. Now I shake off the excess grass into a separate tub and save it for future use. Don't shake the excess grass back into the original container, as the excess will have some grit mixed in with it.

You are now finished terraining your base(s). Let the glue dry for about 30 minutes and give the stand a spritz of Dull Cote spray to enhance the adherence of the static grass to your base. See the picture at the top of this page to see how the finished product looks.

Again, this is rather an easy method of basing your figures. It does take at least two evenings worth of work as you need to let the spackle dry before applying the ink and the glue and the grass (this can be done on the second day).


Monday, September 27, 2010

Skirmish in North Africa

Afghan hill fort by Herb Gundt (from the collection of General Pettygree, alas, it is not mine) does double duty somewhere in North Africa. Scruby Arabs defend the tower. (Click pix to enlarge the view)

This weekend I traveled out to the Duchy of Freyberg, where His Lordship hosted a North African colonial game. The scenario was loosely based on events in The Wind & The Lion what with the French Foreign Legion and the US Marines charged with the task of attacking the sultan's palace at the town of Al- Amok and nabbing the sultan so as to put an end to piracy and other ungodly acts against civilization.

US Marines take cover and pour in a deadly fire on the hostiles. Redoubt Miniatures US Marines are show here from the collection of Der Alte Fritz, painted by Alex Akers to a very high standard.

Bill P. and I commanded the Europeans while Randy (El Krohbar) and Kieth (The Mad Mullah Mokhtar) took charge of the Arabs. The Arabs were guarding the royal palace at Al-Amok and were reinforced by a company of German Seebattalion soldiers (who were to only guard the sultan and otherwise not interfere in the fight). I had two companies of US Marines, commanded by Captain Jerome and one company of French Legionaires (who heroically died nearly to the last man, the fools). Bill commanded some French Turcos, Spahis and French Marines.

An overhead view of Al-Amok. Buildings are from Miniature Building Authority.

The Sultan's Bodyguard await their fate.

The German Seebattalion prepares to "bug out" of the town when it becomes apparent that the Arab defenders are not quite up to the job. Countess de Bleuville provides some direction to the captain of the German unit.

The game began with Bill deployed to attack from the west and Captain Jerome's Marines deployed on the eastern edge of Al-Amok. Bill suggested that we both head towards the middle of the table ,where there was lots of cover in the form of scrub brush, rocks and palm trees. You can see the broken terrain in the picture of the Marines, a couple of piccies above.

That sounded like a sensible plan to me, as all I could see on my end of the table were Arabs, more Arabs, and even more hoards of Arabs. So I left Lieutenant Asterix and his French Legionnaires with the task of covering the rear of the Marine column as it marched across the front of the town towards the center. Asterix was immediately set upon by three mobs of Arabs, who elected to sally forth from the walled town. The Legionaires gallantly stood their ground and were cut down (4 survivors) from the massed fire of the Arab hoard. Unbeknownst to Asterix, he forgot to use his -1 modifier on firing from close order postion, which would have improved his firing effectiveness considerable. Poor fellow.

Meanwhile, Captain Jerome boldly marched the Marines into the scrub and deployed them on the edge of the cover in a firing line.

"Gentlemen, you have just met the U.S. Marines!" hollered Captain Jerome immediately after ordering his troops to fire. Having the good sense to use all of his firing modifiers, Captain Jerome's first company of 20 Marines scored 19 hits on the Arab foe at medium range. The second company cleared the little hill fort of defenders from the roof with a similar volley.

Meanwhile, to the west, Captain Clouseau and his French brigade were handling the hostiles with relative ease, for the few that were not shot down were running for their lives back into the town. On my flank, the Arabs had whittled the Legionaires down to a final four men, who finally decided the truth of the adage, "he who fights and runs away, lives to fight another day".

This seemed to enbolden the Arabs of Mullah Mokhtar, who ordered his men to advance across the plain and attack the Marines. It was not the best decision that he would make today. The Marines cooly drew a bead on the oncoming Arabs and cut them down in droves, with long range rifle fire. The Arabs only had black powder muskets and edged weapons and they were no match.

With most of the hostiles now sent to seek their rewards in the afterlife, Captain Jerome formed his men into column and ordered a march on the town at double time. The few remaining Arabs decided that they had had enough and booked the next camel out of Al-Amok.

Countess de Bleuville, an evil descendant of MiLady de Winter, suggested to the German Captain Fritz von Seewald, that now was a good time to evacuate the town and leave the Sultan to his own devices. So the Germans formed up into column and marched smartly out of the town and back to their post. Thus ended the battle of Al-Amok.

It was a nice and bloody affair, with European firepower overcoming the advantage in numbers that the Arabs had. Captain Jerome discovered a nice US Marine machine gun crew from the Redoubt Miniatures Boxer Rebellion range and he plans to add one of these little beauties to his force in time for the next game. A company of US Sailors would be kind of nice too, if he could find them.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Rebasing RSM Prussian Dragoons

Prussian Bayreuth Dragoons (DR5) in the process of being rebased onto single stands. These are RSM figures that will be leaving my collection very soon. Click pix to enlarge the view.

I have a few pictures that I wanted to post for some clients who are buying figures from me, so please bear with me today as I post some work in progress pictures. I thought that everyone else would enjoy seeing what I have been up to lately, on the painting front.

First up are some pictures of the Bayreuth Dragoons, which one of my clients wanted to convert into a BAR style unit of dragoons. The unit already had 40 figures, mounted two per base, so it was a matter of painting eight more dragoons to build the unit up to 48 figures, or four squadrons of twelve figures. I decided to add three more officers and three more standard bearers so that each of the four squadrons would have an officer, standard bearer and ten troopers. The unit will also get new GMB Designs flags to finish them off.

A closer view of the command group.

The toughest part of the job was removing the figures from their old wooden bases. The painter, Bill Biles, had used wood glue to afix the castings to the wood bases. I tried my usual trick of sticking the figures in the freezer for two hours, in order to debond the glue, and then pry the figures off of the bases. The trick works with wood glue, but it is not as effective as it would be were I trying to debond superglue. It was a real chore prying off the figures and at least once I had a near run thing with the very sharp Exacto blade that scared the bejeezus out of me. I did learn that I should only take a few stands out of the freezer at a time. You have a minute or two to pop the figures off the stand with ease, and then after that, the job becomes more difficult.

Next, I will have to paint eight more figures to bring the unit up to 48 figures. The first picture at the top of the page shows you how the regiment will look when it all comes together.

Next we have some Austrian artillery crews that are in the process of getting rebased. These were also painted by Bill Biles over a decade ago. The picture below shows the bases after the spackle compound and fine grit or railroad ballast has been applied to the stand. Tomorrow, after the spackle dries, I will apply a wash of brown ink, do a little bit of tan dry brushing, and then glue on the static grass to finish off the base. The client has his own artillery pieces, but I plan to give him the five cannon shown in the picture to use or not use as he sees fit. I don't need the cannon anymore, so they are freebies for him. The artillery stands are 2" wide by 2.5" deep. Eventually there will be limbers to go with the guns.

RSM Austrian artillery crews - work in progress.

Finally, I painted a couple samples of Bavarians to see how the figures would look wearing straw colored waistcoats/breeches. The figure with the red facings is the Holstein Regiment and the figure with the straw facings is the Minucci Regiment. Both figures are RSM Austrians painted in Bavarian blue colors.

Holstein Regt. (left) and Minucci Regt. (right) guard an Ian Weekley built building.

I will be working on the basing and painting of the Bayreuth Dragoons for the rest of the week. For my customer in Canada, your Prussians are finished and I hope to get them posted next saturday.

Yesterday, I took a little break from painting and basing figures to play in a French Foreign Legion skirmish game at Randy's house. It was a small game with four players and we had a great time. I will post some of the pictures this week along with some commentary on the game.


Sunday, September 19, 2010

RSM Hungarians (and Bavarians)

Hungarian regiments Joseph Esterhazy (red trousers) and Haller (light blue trousers) on the parade ground for their final inspection before joining the army. (click pix twice to enlarge).

I finished painting and basing two 30-figure battalions of RSM Hungarians for the Seven Years War, over the weekend. These are headed to Florida as they are part of a painting commission that I received recently. I finished the red trouser clad Joseph Esterhazy regiment this week, loggin in a couple of late night - early morning painting sessions in order to get them ready for photographing for my Sunday evening blog.

The RSM Hungarians were sculpted by Chris Adkins, during the period that the company was owned by several individuals in Lexington, Kentucky. Chris did not paint Hungarian officers, NCOs, drummer or standard bearers, so I had to make do with RSM Austrians that I converted with paint. By this, I mean that I might use an Austrian officer, but paint his trousers red (including his gaitors) and paint on some black boots etc. The effect turns out very well, I think, although for the purists, you might consider ordering Minden Hungarian command personnel to finish off your battalions.

A closer view of the Joseph Esterhazy regiment. Flags are from GMB Designs.

A closer view of the Haller regiment.

A close-up shot of the mounted colonel of the Haller regiment. This is the RSM French General, leaning back and doffing his tricorn to his troops. I like the way that this mounted figure turned out - one of my favorites.

Bavarian Update

I had posted some pictures of two Bavarian battalions several days ago, but the bases had not been finished. So here is how they look with the bases terrained with spackle compound, fine grit from Games Workshop or Gale Force 9, a little bit of brown ink, and static grass to complete the effect. These figures will be shipping out to the same destination as the Hungarian battalions.

Prinz Clemens (foreground) and Leib Regt. (background).

I still have a few odds and ends left to paint for other people, but then I plan to get back and paint a few more Austrian units for my own Minden Project armies. The plan is to have both sides, Austrian and Prussian, done in time for the SYW Association Convention in March 2011, so that I can host several games feature all-Minden figure armies. Time is running out, even though there are 5-6 months before the convention.

I might do a small SYW game at the Legends of the Fall convention on November 20, 2010 in Mundelein, Illinois. I want to fit the game into a three hour time slot, so I don't need the full army roster to put on this game. It will be more of a dress rehearsal for the SYWA convention.

By the way, the Chicago Bears looked downright awesome in crushing the Dallas Cowboys in football today, 27-20. The game was not as close as the final score would seem to indicate, as the Bears had the game well in hand with a strong defensive effort and a stellar aeriel attack led by Jay Cutler. I know that The Grimsby Wargamer in the UK is also pleased with the game's outcome.

Devin Hester makes an athletic touchdown catch in the Bears 27-20 victory over the Dallas Cowboys, in Dallas today. Photo from the Chicago Tribune.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

RSM Bavarians

RSM Bavarians -- Regiment Herzog Clemens in the front row and the Leib Regiment in the second row. Click the pictures twice to enlarge the view.

I have been painting Bavarians over the past couple of weeks for a commission that I received and I thought that I would post some pictures of the battalions in their finished state, sans basing. The figures are the RSM Seven Years War Austrians that have been "converted with paint" into Bavarians.

Update: I used Reaper Pro Paint #18013 "Night Sky" as the base shade color for the Bavarian coats. The I did a subtle highlight with Ral Partha/IWM #77-919 Dragon Scale Blue. This later color is no longer made, but you could add a drop of white to the Night Sky to get a highlight. I only use two different tones of the basic color, rather than three colors.

The client requested that I paint the Leib Regiment with its distinctive black facings and also the Herzog Clemens Regiment with red facings. He will provide his own flags from Vaubanner Graphics, so I just provided a painted staff without a flag.

The next step will be to apply the spackle compound to the bases and dip them into a pot of fine gravel from Gale Force 9 or Games Workshop. After the mixture dries overnight, I will then finish them off with a wash of brown ink - let that dry, then dry brush some tan over the base and then add the static grass to finish off the bases.

A closer view of the command stands, consisting of one mounted officer, two standard bearers, an officer on foot and one drummer.

Another view of the Bavarian brigade from the side angle. Note the grenadiers in fur busbies on the right flank of each battalion (as the battalion faces forward).

The Bavarian commission has been a fun project to work on, because I can actually paint Austrian figures, but cover them in a more interesting light blue color, rather than boring Austrian white. I particularly like the way that the grenadier figures turned out. Each battalion has four stands of musketeers in tricorn hats and one stand wearing bearskin hats, with red bags and trimmed in white around the edges.

All that we need now are a couple of Bavarian battalion guns (3 pounders) with Bavarian crew and perhaps a mounted officer command stand to take charge of the brigade.

For anyone else interested in adding some RSM units to your army, I am still offering painted figures at a price of $6.00 per figure, including the figure, for your commission. I can do conventional SYW armies or even imagination regiments, as you desire. This offer stands as long as I still have plenty of unpainted RSM figures to paint.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Dark Ages Saxon Village by HG Walls

Dark Ages village somewhere in Saxon England. Buildings were scratch built by the talented Herb Gundt, of HG Walls. Click or double click the pix to enlarge your view.

Digging deeper into my Closet O' Lead, I found a couple boxes full of the Saxon buildings that were to comprise the little village located next to the Norman Keep, shown on this blog several days ago. The inspiration for the Keep and the village came from a viewing of the movie, "The Warlord", starring Charlton Heston and Richard Boone.

Another view showing the side of the meeting hall that was the center attraction in the village. This is where the men would meet, drink mead and get rowdy - the original Man Cave, if you will.

Note the wooden buttresses surrounding the Meeting Hall.

A street level view of the village

A view of the timber barn (on the right) and one of the smaller hovels with an attached pig sty.

I also had Herb assemble one of the large Gripping Beast resin Viking longboats for me to use with this set up. As in the movie, "The Warlord", I was going to have some Norman overlord and his retinue residing in the wooden keep, providing protection for the Saxon villagers. A Viking raiding party would beach their vessel nearby and travel inland in search of loot and livestock and whatever else Vikings liked to lay their hands on.

Alas, the project was stored away during one of my home moves and largely forgotten until recently. I hope that you enjoy looking at the pictures.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Vikings & Saxons For Sale, Oh My!

Saxon shield wall: Gripping Beast Thegns on the left and a mix of GB and Essex Fyrd on the right. I still need to finish terraining the bases though. Ratty blue towel from Cannon Mills.

Update: Vikings & Saxons were sold! The Herb Gundt buildings are still available as a separate purchase item.

All of the Dark Ages buildings and figures that I am featuring this week are for sale as His Fritzness has declared that the Closet O' Lead must be cleared out to make way for some new things that are in the pipeline.

Yesterday's blog posting featured the very fine Norman keep made by Herb Gundt and today I will feature my modest army of Normans (15 figures), Saxons (43 figures) and (Vikings 50 figures). That is a total of 108 figures that are for sale at $5.00 per figure, or $540 for the whole lot.

The Saxons

A closer view of the Saxon Thegns (the first 16 on the left in two ranks) are from Gripping Beast. There are a total of 19 of these heavy infantry. The Saxon Fyrd figures start with the chap in the yellow shirt and yellow/green shield. There are 24 Fyrd, a mix of GB and Essex. The Essex figures really look good, even by today's standards.

A closer view of the Saxon Fyrd, deployed in three ranks. Gripping Beast earls direct the battle from behind the shield wall. In truth, they probably would have been leading from the front of the shield wall, but they are obviously ancestors of Harry Flashman.

The Vikings

A view of some of the Viking archers supporting the shield wall. The warlord and his servant, holding back the wolf hound, lead from the front - where else? These are all Gripping Beast figures in this picture.

Here is the whole hoard of Vikings in the two front shield walls, with the Saxons in the rear. The right hand Viking hoard is mostly Perry-sculpted Foundry figures.

The Viking warband consists of 21 lightly armored Bondi, 7 archers, 20 warriors in chainmail, 1 warlord and 1 servant with wolf hound. I also have 15 Normans (Foundry figures from the Perrys) that are not shown in these pictures.

My preference would be to sell the Norman Keep ($500) and all 108 figures ($540) in one lot. If I only sell the keep, then I won't need the infantry, and visa versa. So here is the deal for the entire lot, $900 buys you the Norman keep with separate moat base and land ramp, plus all 108 figures. I will also finish terraining the bases. And as God is my witness, I will get rid of that blue towel if someone will purchase the Keep and the Vikings, Normans and Saxons.

For more information, contact me via e mail at:

Tomorrow, I will take some pictures of the Gripping Beast Viking longboat that Herb Gundt painted, assembled and customized for me. It probably is not something that could be shipped in the mail without breaking, so I am not sure that I will be able to sell it, but will entertain offers none the less. I will also post piccies of some Saxon farm houses and a meeting hall that Herb built for my Dark Ages project. They are real beauties!