Saturday, July 22, 2017

Maham Tower is Completed

The Maham Tower along with Fife & Drum AWI figures. Click on all pictures to enlarge.

I spent nearly all day Friday cutting logs, notching logs and gluing the parts together and finished the Maham Tower model in one day. I applied the wall board paste compound and fine grit last evening so that it would be dry today. The bases were completed this morning and so now the model is ready to go for my upcoming siege of Georgetown game in the South Carolina 1780 Campaign.

Side view showing the buttresses and the entry ladder. Rifles pits were added to the front for defense against an enemy sortie.
This picture illustrates the height of the tower  (6-inches) relative to the walls of a fort (3-inches)
After doing a little more reading on the topic, I discovered that the Maham Tower concept , first used to capture Fort Motte, was also used in the seige of Ninety Six as well as at the seige of Augusta. So I should be able to justify its use in any number of game scenarios in the future.

A frontal view of the tower and some supporting rifle pits in front. I added buttresses on two of the sides and a ladder at the rear of the model to embellish the overall look of the model.

Tower Construction Tutorial
The construction of the tower was fairly easy to do. If you owned a set of Lincoln Logs when you were a youngster, then you probably already have the skills to make the tower. At its basics, it is just a matter of stacking up twigs one atop of the other until you reach the desired height.

My original plan was to have a 3-inch square footprint for the tower. So I cut up a lot of 3-inch long logs, forgetting that I would need some overlap on the logs. So I had to go out into the yard again and cut some new logs to a length of 3.25-inches in length. I also sorted the logs by diameter sizes so that they would be easy to find during the assembly process.

It all starts with taking your pruning shears out into your backyard and cutting off some twigs from bushes. I tried to keep the same relative thickness of the "logs" to about three diameters: thicker logs for the base and then gradually smaller diameters for the upper levels.

The first step is to mark out the foot print of the tower on the wood base with an indelible marking pen. Then I layed out some sample logs to see how it would look. I also placed a skirmish stand of figures inside the perimeter to make sure that the figures would fit into the tower's top platform.

Notches were made in the logs using a round rat tail file, which is perfect for the job. The only problem with this is that my wood was still green and surface of the file got clogged up with the wood filings. Eventually, the file's teeth were caked with the wood and rendered the file unuseable, subject to cleaning out the teeth with an Exacto knife.

The wooden stakes or pegs were for decorative purposes only, although they did serve to keep the first layer of logs in place and in square.

I layed out a template on a piece of MDF board, planning on a 3-inch square footprint.

The first course of logs have been layed. I used a rat  tail file to make the notches in the logs. These provide a sturdier model and also replicate the historical method of building structures from logs. The ground stakes are ornamental only, although I would imagine that stakes were used when the builder layed out the dimensions.

After laying down two to three courses of logs, it was time to add the ground terrain to the inside of the model. Since I did not intend to have sections of the tower removeable, it would be impossible to terrain the inside of the tower once it got to about 3-inches in height or higher.

I had to add the ground terrain inside the model early in the construction process. Since my model would not have any lift off sections, it would be impossible to add ground terrain inside the tower once the final levels were glued together. I use a mix of Red Devil Pre-mixed Wallboard Paste, with brown paint stirred into the spackle. Then I add a little bit of water to the pot to improve the viscousity of the material and trowel it on. While the goop is still wet I sprinkle some fine railroad ballast over it.
Notching the logs was relatively easy at first, but as the rat tail file got all clogged up with wood shavings, the task grew harder and more importantly, very tedious. As a consequence, I did not notch any of the logs after building a mid-level platform at the 3-inch height (see below). I figured that there might be a platform or two inside the tower so that the men would not have such a high climb without a place to rest and store supplies and equpment.

The tower construction is now completed and so I repeat the ground terraining with my spackle and fine ballast for the rest of the base. Allow the goop to dry overnight and then finish off with static grass and tufts.

Once the tower reached my desired height of 5-inches with a 1-inch mantle level on the top (to protect the sharpshooters from enemy rifle fire) , it was time to add the ground terrain to the base of the model. As noted above, I use Red Devil Pre-mixed Wallboard Spackle Compound to which I stir in a small pot of acrylic brown paint. Mix the paint into the spackle until it looks like chocolate pudding. You can add a little bit of water to improve the flow of the mixture (a good idea when you are trying to get the spackle into small and tight areas). If you want a more rugged look to the ground, then do not add the water and use the paste as is. Spackle is a wonderful and versatile product that is perfect for basing wargame figures or wargame model.

I am very happy with the outcome of my labors and will have a nice model that will be used in many a battle to come.

As an after-thought, I also made some rifle pits of stacked logs, on separate bases, that I added to the area in front of the tower. I figured that the enemy might want to make a sortie at night and try to destroy the tower, so it made sense to have a defensive position in front of the tower.


  1. A really nice addition to your games. Interesting tutorial also.

  2. Your method makes a lot of sense.
    Much better than my use of a teeny ax.

  3. Very clever methodology Jim. Will need to do something similar for a Sudan style tower I think.