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20 Years

Oct. 14th, 2016 07:35 pm
ggreig: (Dark Wizard)

Blocks signifying 20 years at InsightsOn the first of October, it was 20 years since I started work at Insights, and today I got my fourth block signifying a period of 5 years service.

When I started at Insights, I was the first developer through the door (I was joined by a colleague the next day) and the total number of direct employees of the business was smaller than the number of people in the department I’m in now. Now we’re a medium-sized international business, working with some very large businesses indeed, and all still heavily reliant on the software I’m involved in building.

Not counting founders (one of whom currently sits across the desk from me) there are a couple of people who’ve been with the business longer than me. In one case, 26 years! Still, 20 years seems like a long-ish time.

Yesterday I had lunch with other members of my team, and I have a couple of lunches with more senior people coming up in the next couple of months. I also have to decide what form I want to receive a gift in. (Thinks: I have a handy list of 28mm models I’d like…)

Whatever happens, what with having spent a relatively long time in further education, that’s more than half my working life spent at Insights – if I stay here until I retire, I’ll only earn another 3 blocks.

ggreig: (Dark Wizard)

Today is World Porridge Day, which is being promoted by Mary’s Meals. Mary’s Meals provide a daily meal of maize porridge (likuni phala) to some of the world’s poorest children. It makes a bigger difference than you might think – for many children it’s the meal that allows them to attend school.

Insights, where I work,  supports Mary’s Meals, and today there are some themed activities and people were encouraged to wear tartan. You may remember Mary’s Meals was the charity supported by Martha Payne, who blogged about school dinners in Argyll a few years ago as NeverSeconds.

Wearing tartan with Fraser Paterson 
Wearing tartan with Fraser Paterson

Not sure I’ll actually be indulging in any porridge as I hate the stuff, but I’ll be seeing what else I can do.

Donate to Mary's Meals.

ggreig: (Default)

It’s been a while since I wrote, you know, actual words here – nearly six months, which is my longest gap ever – so I thought I’d make a cursory effort and record the weekend.

It started on Friday, with a day off work and a trip on a whim to Kirriemuir where my Dad grew up and where we visited my grandparents for many years. As with anywhere you haven’t visited in a while, there were changes. The Star Rock shop (established 1833) was still there, but across the road was a railway modelling shop that I hadn’t visited before, and I came out with my wallet figuratively lighter.

The square now features a statue of Peter Pan – apparently it’s a replacement for the one that used to stand in the Glengate, but which got damaged – and the Town House which I remember housing Kidd’s the chemist is now the Gateway to the Glens museum.

The Square in KirriemuirWP_20160916_14_53_03_Rich

Inside the museum, there’s a model of Kirriemuir in the 1600s, which I enjoyed seeing, and the silver casket and illuminated scroll given to J.M. Barrie when was granted the freedom of the town. I hadn’t realised he was buried in Kirriemuir as well as being born there – I’d always just assumed he’d been laid to rest elsewhere.

Kirrie’s other, more recent, famous son has also been honoured with a statue since last time I visited. I had seen the flagstone to his memory in Cumberland Close, but now he stands in effigy opposite the Gairie Mill.

WP_20160916_15_03_27_Rich 


Friday evening was spent pleasurably in the company of [livejournal.com profile] qidane, [livejournal.com profile] tobyaw and Beth.

Perhaps not as rock and roll as Bon Scott, but just as cool in her own way, on Saturday I was on my way home from spending the afternoon with friends in the Whey Pat when I spotted on Twitter that Sydney Padua was in town for a conference of mathematical biographers, and had gone to the Whey Pat shortly after we left. I hopped off the bus again and was able to shake her hand and tell her how much I liked her book (Buy it!). A very pleasant surprise.


ggreig: (Dark Wizard)

I’ve just spent a week and a half off work on holiday (back to work tomorrow). I didn’t get as much figure-painting or modelling done as I’d usually like to over such a period. My house is a bit tidier though!

I did complete one model that I was looking forward to assembling – an imaginative street-vending tea machine, by Infamy Miniatures. Unfortunately, I can’t direct you to a product page, as their store is temporarily closed while they move to a new location.

As Infamy make 32mm figures, it’s a little bit oversize for 28mm, but frankly, not so much you’d really care. It’s a very crisp and detailed moulding, in a number of parts, all of which fit together nicely. As all of Infamy’s Models seem to be, it’s a bit on the pricy side, but… STEAMPUNK TEA MACHINE!

The first face of the tea machine

I still need to stick some posters in that advertising space.

The second face of the tea machine

Sadly this is a bit out of focus but, moving clockwise around the tea machine, it gives you a look at how it’s powered, and you see some counter-top detail that’s only visible from this angle.

The third face of the tea machine

Moving round clockwise again, a look at the boilers and some of the internal workings (because it’s not steampunk without sticking some gears on it).

The fourth face of the tea machine

There’s a stack each of cups and saucers at this end; the pictures I took to give a good look at them were too poor to use, but you can catch a glimpse of them here and in the previous picture.

The pigeon perching on the chimney is an integral part of the model, and I enjoyed painting it. Animals are fun to paint, and there’s a huge amount of excellent reference material only a Google away.

The chap in a pith helmet enjoying his cup of tea, and the other models appearing in these shots, are ones that I’ve had for a long time and not related to the tea machine.

ggreig: (Western gentleman)

On Friday we were encouraged to come to work appropriately dressed for a Cowboy vs. Aliens Nerf battle.

Me as a cowboy with a belt-fed Nerf machine gun

ggreig: (Western gentleman)

The BBC used a photo of mine as one of “Your pictures of Scotland” this week. It was taken from the bus stop in Dundee on my way to work on Tuesday (sometime around 08:15), and is looking over the V&A construction site and across the Tay towards Fife. Here’s my approximation of the BBC’s crop (it was easier to reproduce it than try to steal my own picture from the BBC page):

Cranes at Sunrise (Approximation of the BBC crop)

Here’s the original:

Cranes at Sunrise (Original)

The crop gets rid of the crane on the left, which certainly makes for a better composition, but in going portrait I feel the breadth of the sunrise becomes a bit constrained.

Last time I submitted a photo to the BBC (some years ago) they just published photos “as is”, so it’s interesting to see how things have changed, and how a professional would choose to present my picture.

I generally leave my own photos untouched, unless they badly need something done or I need them for a specific purpose; they’re my memories more than art to me – and I’m not an artist, and have dodgy colour vision. Best leave well alone! However, if I were cropping it myself I would probably have gone for something like this:

Cranes at Sunrise (My own crop)

The BBC version is probably still better, because it focuses on the features of interest centre stage – I think my cropping choice suffers slightly from the additional street lights to left and right. If they weren’t there, I might prefer my version, but as it is they’re a slight distraction. Losing some of the hoarding around the V&A construction site also reduces the contrast in the photo and makes it appear a bit more washed out. I could easily have kept that by changing the proportions slightly, but I preferred to keep the original aspect ratio.

The crop is the only change made between these three versions of the picture.

I’d be interested to know which others prefer. For me, it’s probably the order in which they appear in this article, but it’s a slightly reluctant choice – I’m attached to my original with its flaws!

ggreig: (Western gentleman)

God help us! The Iguanodon's loose!

A tranquil street scene – just before the populace become aware that an Iguanodon has escaped from the Zoological Gardens.

There’s a Highland company called Antediluvian Miniatures that have started producing proper miniatures of dinosaurs, taking into account the very latest scientific thinking – of the 1850s. As yet their range is small, but includes the two most iconic early representations of dinosaurs: the Crystal Palace Iguanodon and Megalosaurus! (Also, not included in this post, but I have to mention them – three intrepid adventurer figures including Shug McClure, Raquel Scotch and the finest of all: Professor Peter Cushion, adjusting his monocle and preparing to fend SOMETHING off with a furled umbrella.)

I should also mention that Antediluvian Miniatures have a very cool t-shirt, featuring their mascot Professor Buckland.

The real Crystal Palace IguanodonsThere’s a good chance you’re aware of the Crystal Palace dinosaurs, if not, then Wikipedia and other places are your friend.

The Iguanodon figure isn’t a perfect replica of either of the ones at Crystal Palace, but it’s more like the one standing upright.

The Crystal Palace dinosaurs are often given as an example of how scientists of an older generation got things hilariously wrong, especially the Iguanodon with the horn on its nose (now known to have been a thumb-spike), but the Iguanodons actually show a greater humility from Sir Richard Owen than our caricature allows. The two Iguanodons are different, with the one that Antediluvian have taken as their inspiration standing upright, while the other one is more lizard-like, and lounges on the ground with one paw up on a tree-trunk. There was doubt even at the time that these reconstructions were correct – they were just the latest theory.

When painting these two I tried to get something in between the look of the statues and something that could be a real beast, so the Iguanodon is a bit more vibrant than one of my paint jobs would usually be, making the faded shade of the statue look more lively. That’s the current colour of the statue, of course, as that's what I could find in photos; the colour they’re painted has changed over time as well as our theories of what the beasts were actually like.

Iguanodon wandering the Zoological Gardens

I defy you to spot the joins – both the Iguanodon and the Megalosaurus come with separate legs. I did apply a bit of Milliput as filler, but the fit of the moulded parts was really good, to a level that I know must be difficult for figure designers to achieve, judging by the frequency with which they don’t attain it. I was really impressed with these models. The Iguanodon is resin with metal legs, while the Megalosaurus is all resin.

Iguanodon figure inspired by Crystal Palace - right sideIguanodon figure inspired by Crystal Palace - left side

Rather annoyingly, there’s a mould-line that shows up in these photos of the Megalosaurus that’s actually hard to pick up with the naked eye under most conditions. The light in these photos hit it just right – or wrong. It’s also intended to look like a potentially living version of the real statue. The Megalosaurus also comes with scale replicas of the original fossils (not included in these pictures, and not yet painted, though I have some other scale fossils for them to go with).

Megalosaurus figure inspired by Crystal Palace - right sideMegalosaurus figure inspired by Crystal Palace - left side

ggreig: (Western gentleman)

You may (or more likely won’t) remember that about 18 months ago after painting some jolly nice models I made some suggestions for new designs to Nathan Yeoman of Yeoman Models, and he expressed a definite interest in making one of them. For various reasons, I rather lost track of what Nathan was doing until recently I discovered that he’d completed what I’d asked for (in various scales, including 28mm) and it was on sale!

What I’d asked for was a particular feature of Victorian streets that I couldn’t find anyone making a model of – the cabbies’ shelter. These did exist in other towns, but so far as I’m aware the only place they can still be found is in London, where almost a quarter (13) of the original 61 survive. The Cabmen’s Shelter Fund was set up in 1875 by the Earl of Shaftesbury (among others) to construct and run these shelters, and is still looking after them today!

A cabbies' shelter in Wellington Place
More images of cabbies’ shelters

The cabbies’ shelter was built in the road, and wasn’t allowed to be bigger than a hansom cab – so to put it in modern terms, it only took up one parking space of the time. inside, cabbies could take shelter from inclement weather, and nosh on grub provided by a small, self-funding kitchen, all without leaving the cab stand (again in modern terms, the taxi rank).

The buildings themselves are quite distinctive – small, rectangular wooden sheds painted green, but sometimes with quite attractive panelling and fancy roof. I thought of designing a laser-cut model myself that I could have made by an online service, but ultimately I’m glad I didn’t soldier on and carry it through, because what I would have designed wouldn’t be as good as what I’ve got.

The 28mm cabbies’ shelter from Yeoman Models is a five part model cast in resin – four walls, and a solid roof. It doesn’t seem to be a replica of one particular shelter, but takes attractive elements from several of them. Nathan’s mouldings are very sharp, and although by the nature of resin castings a little clean-up was required, it was very minimal. I glued the four walls together with Araldite, and to make the roof removable, I built up a lip to go inside the walls by super-gluing on matchsticks and reinforcing with Milliput.

That was about it for modelling – the rest was paint. I’ve left the interior untouched for now, but I may attempt some representative additions in future like the stove from 4Ground. Here’s how it looks when done:

Cabbies' Shelter from Yeoman Models

There’s a serving hatch, if you’re not stopping (or not a cabbie – only cabbies allowed inside):

Figures 020

And here it is flipped 180°, to show the side usually facing away from the road:

Figures 017

ggreig: (Western gentleman)

Also from about a month ago, as usual I went round the annual model railway exhibition in St. Andrews (attended by StARLink this time, please “Like” if, unlike me, you’re on Facebook).

I usually take photos of the layouts, as I admire a good model, but I hadn’t taken a 3D camera before. I pointed it at a few layouts but wasn’t expecting great results as it’s pretty point-and-click and I thought it might struggle with scale models. And there were focus problems, and motion blur – but a few came out as the most effective 3D pictures I’ve taken so far, so I thought I’d share the best:

Scale model of the Forth Rail Bridge (3D)

A model railway layout in St. Andrews

ggreig: (Western gentleman)

I’m catching up a bit here, as I actually visited the fledgling Dundee Museum of Transport nearly a month ago. It opened last year in temporary accommodation (it’s eventually going to inhabit the Maryfield tram sheds, which are still standing at the crest of the hill just south of the junction between the Kingsway and the road to Forfar). It’s not going to pose great competition for the transport museums already around in larger cities, but for a small first effort I was quite pleased with it. It took me a couple of hours to wander round taking my time over it.

I was a bit disappointed that the 1950s seemed a bit better represented than earlier eras, but there were still cool things to see.

AnaglyphDundee Transport Museum 3D 003

A 1959 Jaguar XK150 (3D)

Steamroller, Dundee Transport Museum

An Angus council Fowler DNA steamroller (follow link for better pictures of the whole vehicle)

Horse-drawn tram 24, Dundee Transport Museum

A Dundee horse-drawn tram, being restored having spent approximately 114 years as a summer-house in Perth after being sold off in 1900.

Tram 24 in operation in Dundee

The same tram in service in Dundee, some time ago.

Inside horse-drawn Tram 24 (3D)

Inside horse-drawn Tram 24 (3D)

The interior of Tram 24 from a different angle

The interior of Tram 24 from a different angle

There’s also a double-decker Aberdeen Corporation Electric Tram which is currently even more skeletal. It’ll be interesting to visit in a few years’ time and see how the restorations have gone.

A horse-drawn ambulance

A horse-drawn ambulance, and its interior.

The interior of a horse-drawn ambulance

An Ashford Litter, Dundee Transport Museum

An Ashford Litter, in use as a foot ambulance between 1887 and 1921, when this one was last used in Perth to take a patient with appendicitis to Perth Royal Infirmary.

There’s also an Austin J40 pedal car (very posh), a Sinclair C5, and a full scale reproduction of Preston Watson’s first flying machine. You know, the Dundee guy who flew before the Wright brothers hogged all the publicity! (Sadly, alternative facts exist.)

Other vehicles I personally found less interesting, but it depends on your tastes and DMOFT is well worth a visit. I’ll leave you with a couple of pictures of the special guest:

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang's horn

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang's horn

ggreig: (Western gentleman)

National Bow Tie Day 2015

National Bow Tie Day 2015
(in the US, but we’re an international company)

ggreig: (Western gentleman)

I recently bought a 3D camera second hand from [livejournal.com profile] ffutures. Here are a first few shots:

West Port, St. Andrews - from the west

West Port, St. Andrews - from the east

Blackfriars Chapel, St. Andrews

The Scottish Cabinet in Cupar, 6th July 2015 

Interesting to see what works and what doesn’t. There seems to be a greater sense of 3D if there’s something distinctive in the foreground, which is why I actually chose pictures with cars in shot when I had examples without. Things further away tend to flatten out a bit, even if there’s something in the foreground to emphasise the difference – but even in the middle distance, a significant difference in depth can make things stand out. I didn’t notice the pedestrian crossing the West Port in the second photograph when I took it, but she becomes an interesting feature when viewed in 3D. As usual, click through for full size – it’s probably worth it for that second one at least, as the figure is a bit lost in the smaller version.

ggreig: (Western gentleman)

Edit: I didn't know when I posted this earlier, but today would have been Roger Delgado's 97th birthday: #HappyBirthdayRogerDelgado.


I’m not a costumier. My skills stretch to sewing on the occasional button so, when attending Gallifrey One in Los Angeles, Roger Delgado’s Master was an easy choice for me. Although he does occasionally appear in extra-terrestrial garb, he’s mostly associated with smart dark suits, and as I mentioned last time, I’ve always fancied having something with a Nehru collar. The creative bit for me was constructing the Tissue Compression Eliminator, and [livejournal.com profile] msinvisfem helped me by applying black and white hair dyes from Manic Panic. Apart from that, everything was purchased.

I tend towards dressing in black anyway, so enjoyed putting together an ensemble that unashamedly emphasised it. The suit was by Alvin Amario, and ordered from eBay. Although the Nehru collar went through a bit of a revival in the UK fifteen or twenty years ago, it’s a bit tricky to find on the High Street these days, particularly when your High Street is in St. Andrews or Dundee. The suit’s light and comfortable, and although I had to settle for an oversize waist on the trousers, they were OK with a belt. Underneath, I wore a matching shirt from Bargear in case it showed (but I don’t think it did). I should probably have worn a shirt with long sleeves, but I’m not a long sleeve person – I’m just not comfortable with them.

For footwear, I wore my usual brogues, but with black jacquard spats from Gentleman’s Emporium which I’ve had for a while. Spats are disappointingly hard to get hold of, but they’re an ace item of clothing. They look smart, they can be unobtrusive (I’ve worn dark spats in public and at work without comment, although the day I don the silver ones I expect people will notice) and they’re remarkably comfortable, snuggled cosily around your ankles.

I covered my hands with military dress gloves from Southcombe in black cotton. Delgado’s gloves seem to be leather and I could probably have worn the leather gloves I already have, but I thought cotton would be less bulky and warm, while still looking smart.

Was it successful? Judge for yourself:

You? The Master? I'll be The Judge! )
ggreig: (Western gentleman)

Wear It PinkFriday was Wear It Pink day, in aid of the fight against breast cancer. Usually my contribution to these things when they pop up at work is limited to that – a contribution – but this time I was marginally more organised than usual. I don’t possess any pink clothing but it occurred to me there was something else I could “wear pink”.

There has to be a benefit to going white…

A while back I decided that occasionally it might relieve the boredom to try a different beard colour; a few people have seen me in blue, but Friday was a bit more high profile. Don’t expect it to be a regular thing, and even less so at work, but if I feel like it…

A bit of research turned up Manic Panic’s Dye Hard as a respected brand that washes out easily. For the pink, as a paler colour than the blue I’d tried before, I actually applied white first (to cover the darker patch remaining on one side of my beard) before applying the pink on top.

The colour combs in easily, and the odd over-enthusiastic application will mostly just wipe off, though it is possible to apply it a bit heavily and wind up with colour on the skin behind the beard. It dries quickly and is good for the rest of the day.

You do have to be a bit careful with a moustache, which should be well-trimmed – otherwise you run the risk of having the colour wash off in drinks, for example. Depending on what you want, you may be best not colouring the moustache. While I went for complete coverage in pink, the contrast between a blue beard and white moustache is quite effective.

The colour also helps with hold once it’s dried, so it’s fairly easy to stay tidy-looking. When the time comes to wash it off, it is really easy to get rid of – a couple of splashes and a bit of a scrub and it’s gone. In fact, it’s so easy to remove I was a bit concerned about being caught in the rain, but I didn’t have any problems in practice. I took the tube and a comb along in case touching up was required, but they weren’t called upon.

Work posted the picture above to the company account on Instagram and I received an e-mail today saying it had got their “best ever response to a picture” – defeating the previous champion, a picture featuring a cute puppy, by a respectable margin.

ggreig: (Western gentleman)

Atop the Lephinkill Chambered CairnA few hundred yards across and about 300 feet up from where I grew up there’s a chambered cairn. Despite having run around in the woods surrounding it rather a lot, and knowing that there was archaeology up there to be found, somehow I never came across it.

I was back home visiting my Mum and sister recently, and happened to come across a map that showed there’s now a marked route to the cairn that didn’t exist when I was wee. Checking there was enough time before dark, my sister and I set out to go up and have a look.

There wasn’t a path, as such, but the way was clearly marked by yellow circles attached to trees along the way. The natural woods just above the village are birch, before giving way to forestry land. Much of the hill is covered in mature conifers, but the cairn is in a clear-felled belt starting just above the birch woods; so much easier to spot from a distance than when I was wee!

I say the birch woods are natural, but given how close they are to the village it’s likely they were managed and coppiced at one time; certainly there are overgrown drystane dykes that suggest the land was once more intensively used. If they were maintained though, it’s long enough ago that it’s not obvious now. Interestingly, birch is generally used for its wood in the UK; there doesn’t seem to be any tradition of the birch syrup that’s made elsewhere birch is common. Having tried Alaskan birch syrup, I can recommend giving it a try; it’s similar to maple syrup, but with a more complex flavour. See the Wikipedia page for other people trying to describe it.

I was peching my way up the hill a bit but was pleasantly surprised my sister (the outdoor instructor) thought I was making good headway. I’m pretty inactive generally, but used to make good speed uphill – a combination of long legs and a knack of not really breaking my stride for inclines when others slow down.

The cairn itself was kind of interesting – not on a world-class prehistoric monument sort-of-a scale, but just because it was plainly something, but difficult for a lay-person to interpret.

Approaching the Chambered Cairn

There’s an obvious mound, as you can see in the approach photo. Once you get closer, there’s obviously structure to it too; but it’s less obvious what the structure is. There are a number of stone-lined pits and what might be walls, but those descriptions make them sound very clear and understandable. This is what the pits looked like:

A stone-lined pitAnother stone-lined pit

In other places, gaps between the stones led into small voids:

Void, with spider guardianInto the Void

It was both interesting to look at, and frustrating because I didn’t really know how to interpret what I was seeing. Are the pits chambers, or cists? Did they have roofs? Were they originally buried? Were they always open (probably not)? Are the bits that are still covered chambers? Is the bit with what might be remnants of a wall a forecourt (probably)? Was the largish white quartz boulder of any particular significance? Well, I dunno.

There are some archaeological notes online, which I didn’t have at the time, and which don’t tally particularly closely with my memory of the site, although the general layout in the description matches. Perhaps if I’d had them with me I would have been able to tie things up better.

On the way back down, we went through the part of the birch woods we spent most time playing in over thirty years ago, and found the last remnants of our aerial runway – a very thin and fragile-looking piece of rope still wrapped around a tree branch, very much the worse for its decades of exposure. On the way back into the Clachan we harvested some brambles.

BramblesBrambles

In some ways, the cairn remains a bit of a mystery, but it’s good to at least have seen it after all these years.

ggreig: (Western gentleman)

One of the team who’s leaving today created these:

Insights Core Development Team - in Lego

See if you can spot which one’s me…

Decade

Feb. 14th, 2014 11:52 pm
ggreig: (Western gentleman)

Mugshots a decade apartToday marks my (first?) decade on LiveJournal. Quite a few of the people who may read this will have been here a bit longer than that, but I thought it was worth marking anyway. It’s over two decades now since I set up my first web presence – a links site for Doctor Who, also called the Temporal Nexus. (There was a gap of several years in between.) The web’s been around so long now that people have grown up with it, and kids who weren’t around when I started this blog are now learning to code!

I originally set this blog up with the intention of writing more about software development, as we were starting on a significant project at the time. As it turned out, there wasn’t as much to write about on that front as I’d hoped, so I’ve touched on a variety of other things over the years. Hopefully they’ve mostly been of some interest!

LiveJournal’s popularity has dropped over the years, but I’m still here for two main reasons. I like to read blog entries of a decent size; and my friends are here. I don’t do Twitter much (though I am there @ggreig) because how much can you really say that’s worth saying in 140 characters? And I don’t do Facebook at all because I disapprove of their utter lack of concern for personal privacy; not so much for my own sake as for the way I feel they’re exploiting people’s ignorance. I’m sure my personal boycott’ll be bringing them to their knees any day now! LiveJournal has its limitations, but it’s good enough for me.

So if you’ve read me for all ten years, or for nearly as long – as I think most of you have – thank you. And if we’ve not been friends for quite that long, thanks to you too, for making me think I might have the occasional thing to say worth hearing!

Look forward to hearing you all from time to time, and hope you still enjoy hearing from me.

Cheers,
Gavin.

Sunrise

Feb. 3rd, 2014 08:54 am
ggreig: (Western gentleman)

Sunrise over Discovery Point, Dundee

Taken on the way in to work; sunrise over Discovery Point, Dundee.

4Ground

Jan. 26th, 2014 06:10 pm
ggreig: (Western gentleman)

You may remember last year I wrote about a Western building created as a laser-cut MDF kit by Battle Flag, which I’d picked up at Claymore in 2012.

Claymore in 2013 revealed a clear winner among producers of laser-cut scenery, at least in terms of the number of people stocking it; and there’s an obvious reason why.

4Ground’s models are “pre-printed” with colour paint, so don’t need a lot in the way of additional painting (or printing wallpaper as water-slide transfers). Stick ’em together, with a dab of glue for permanence, and you’re done.

Naturally, I did do a wee bit of painting myself to improve some of the minor details – doors, windows, joints – but  the assembled models you see are pretty much the pre-printed article. Given how thirsty MDF is when you try to paint it, this saves a lot of effort. For many people these will be good enough without any work beyond assembly. The Battle Flag building has a better finish, but at the expense of a lot more work.

(Although 4Ground win easily on convenience, I have some other Battle Flag kits that I look forward to building and although I don’t have any yet I love the look of Sarissa Precision’s Gaslamp Alley and City Block ranges.)

The 4Ground buildings have interiors, but are only printed on a single side of the MDF. What this means is that all the walls are double-thickness with the exterior printed on one slice and the interior on another, which makes for great, sturdy buildings but must shove the price up a bit.

As the buildings are designed for wargaming, roofs and interior floors lift out so that you can get at what’s inside – shown in the photo galleries accompanying this article. Doors can also be opened, which is a nice touch. Laser cutting allows “hinges” to be tight-fitting enough to sort of work.

The two models shown here are a small cottage and a larger market hall. The cottage is a rustic-looking timber-framed building, while the market hall is timber-framed but with the space between the framing filled with herringbone brickwork. Cool though this is, if I’d realised there was a version of the building that didn’t have the brickwork I’d have got that instead because:

  1. I prefer the look and
  2. it would have been cheaper. Brickwork means more laser etching, and more lasering increases the cost of the kit. By a tenner, in this case.

However, by the time I discovered that, it was too late and I’m still pleased with the result.

The cottage isn’t big enough to have stairs, but there is a ladder provided for getting to the upper floor. There are leaded windows, and for wargamers, there’s damage to the walls that can be punched out to make loopholes for firing through. I chose not to knock these out, but they can be seen plainly in the interior photos as I didn’t attempt to clean them up or hide them either. As an interesting aside, you can clearly see the scorching left there by the laser; in many places the scorching is not obtrusive, but in others it can need work to conceal it. I chose to live with it here, because I thought attempting to clean it up would just draw more attention to it. In other places, where it was easier to deal with, I covered it up.

The market hall has a largely open ground floor for traders, with a flight of stairs at one end leading to the upper floor and, tucked away at the back, a small jail cell for anyone breaching the peace. The upper story has a small walkway looking out over the side of the building, with a door opening from there into the main hall. The walkway is roofed over by a small internal gallery, accessible by ladder, so there are actually three levels to this building, albeit one of them is fairly minimal.

Between them, these buildings give a nice flavour of a small English village/market town. If you were serious, you could add more, although you would quickly require repeats – this range only includes one building not shown here, a timber-framed shop/dwelling somewhere between these two in size. For me, I think this may be enough and other buildings I may acquire will be about establishing other settings.

ggreig: (Western gentleman)

Royal Navy 50 foot Picket Boat (from HLBS)

For Christmas, my sister gave me a Royal Navy 50 foot Picket Boat (from HLBS) in 28mm scale, and I spent time over the New Year period painting and assembling it.

Prow of the pinnaceThe boat is a steam pinnace. “Pinnace” has a couple of possible meanings but in this case means a smaller boat carried by a larger ship for use as patrol boats, for ship-to-shore operations and as a defence against torpedo boats – the pinnace would be fast enough to respond to a torpedo boat, and was armed with one or more gun (a Hotchkiss 3 pounder in this case) that would allow it to respond at range. The other gun, not present on my model, might be a Nordenfeldt or Maxim machine gun mounted on the roof of the rear cabin.

This type of pinnace was in use from 1880 right up until the Second World War, with 620 in service during the Great War, so excellent for a steampunk setting.

The kit mouldings are very crisp and clean, mainly in resin with white metal for the finer details and fine plastic rod for the hand rails. The main thing required for painting it was a steady hand (never really got the hang of masking tape), though patience came in handy too while applying several layers of white paint to get a decent solid finish. The only thing I’m a little dissatisfied with is the rear cabin, which is a bit dark in colour and I feel I could maybe have done better there. Good enough though, and I’ll leave it.

An aft view of the pinnaceI had a few minor issues with the parts. The shoulder rest on the Hotchkiss 3 pounder doesn’t have an obvious place to attach it. I checked images of similar guns on the Internet and settled on a location to fix it; I then had to break it off and try again when I discovered the gun couldn’t pivot due to the shoulder rest hitting the top of the engine house. One of the stanchions for the handrails broke (recoverably). One of the cowl vents doesn’t sit comfortably in the space left for it, and some of the instructions could have been clearer.

Finally, I wondered whether the scale was quite right everywhere, as the spaces to be occupied by anyone operating the gun or steering the vessel seemed extremely cramped.  This might be just economy of space on an efficient working vessel, but in particular the space at the wheel is very restricted. Over all the issues were all relatively minor though, and didn’t distract from a very satisfactory model.

As far as colour schemes are concerned, I aimed to make it look more Victorian than 20th Century (which would have featured more light grey). I also went for black rather than blue, so it’s a perfectly normal pinnace; blue would have identified it as an Admiral’s barge. Picket boats such as this don’t seem to have had a lot in the way of individual markings – not even a name – so that helped to keep the paint job simple. If I ever feel brave enough, I may add a bit of coal dust around the coaling holes (the black circles on the deck amidships) using weathering powder, but as a working navy vessel I’m assuming it would be kept pretty spick and span most of the time.

There’s a surviving pinnace of more or less this pattern which is believed to be the last remaining naval steam boat in the UK. Steam Pinnace 199 was built in 1911 and now belongs to the Royal Naval Museum in Portsmouth. Steam Pinnace 199 was an Admiral's barge, so you can see the blue colour previously mentioned. There are a couple of interesting videos on YouTube:

June 2017

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