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ggreig: (Western gentleman)

It suddenly occurred to me that a Cavorite Sphere – as developed by Mr. Cavor in H.G. Wells’ The First Men in the Moon – is something that I did not have, and I searched for such a thing.

I discovered that there are two on the market suitable for 28mm. One is relatively easy to find mention of, but is sold in the US and doesn’t seem particularly easy to order even there.

The other I discovered via eBay, and it’s made in the UK by Richard Helliwell’s company Infinity-Engine. This is the one I bought.

I first heard of it under a fortnight ago, ordered it less than a week ago and completed it today – this may be a record! And at this point I wish I’d included a 28mm figure for reference in the picture, as I had to ask the seller for the size and I’ve made it no better for anyone finding this – but you’ll just have to take Richard’s word and mine that it’s the right size. The sphere is about 9cm across, from bumper to bumper, or about 3½” in old money.

The Cavorite Sphere on the Moon - hatch open

It’s a 38-piece resin kit, of which 32 are railway bumpers and one is the Moon’s surface (or a small part thereof). Visually, it’s based on the 1964 movie, which I re-watched parts of in preparation for painting this kit. (If you’re interested in this story, the 2010 Mark Gatiss TV Movie is also worth watching).

Having re-watched some key parts of the movie, the easiest thing to pick up visually was that the Cavorite itself was a yellowish substance painted on to white blinds. The yellow turned put to be metallic and reflective when the sphere was flying through space lit by the sun, so I could have gone for a very brassy look and it would probably have looked great. But the thing about Cavorite is that it counteracts gravity when it’s a) cool and b) exposed. If the blinds were deployed, and we had the brassy look, the sphere would probably not be – wherever it’s meant to be. It would be flying off into space. I thought about having one blind partially exposed, and maybe weathered so that the Cavorite covering is only partial, but ultimately I decided to keep it simple. No exposed Cavorite.

With my dodgy colour vision, I was less sure about the colours used for the rest of the sphere. However, the impression I wound up with was the ribs were a dark metallic colour, the panels surrounding the portholes were wooden, and the other panels of the sphere, where the blinds would be deployed were also dark in colour. I couldn’t decide whether it was a dark metallic colour or something else, but then I caught a hint that it was a dark red.

Now, this could be entirely my imagination, and if you watch the film you may see something else. As I’ve mentioned, my colour vision is dodgy, so if you see something else you’re probably right. But having seen it, real or not, I was caught up by the idea and decided that the majority of the panels were to be painted Burgundy. It’s not so far-fetched after all – burgundy was a popular colour of the period and not a million miles from the “Purple Lake” colour used for some railway carriages, so it fit in reasonably well with the railway theme of the bumpers.

The only “clever” bit of painting, as opposed to using flat colours, was for the wood panels, where I used a base coat of ochre and a wash of burnt umber to achieve a slightly textured varnished wood colour. I dry-brushed a little silver on the hard edges of the bumpers to give them a bit of wear.

You can attach the hatch open or closed. I chose not attach it at all, so I continue to have the choice. I also chose not to glue the top and bottom halves together, so that I have the option at some future date of scratch-building the interior. As you can see if you click through for the larger version of the picture, the interior is a bit ribbed – you can also see a bit of waviness on the exterior panels, although it’s not so marked. I think the body of the model was originally mastered in a 3D printer, with some details being modelled more traditionally before the whole was cast in resin; which is of course a faster way of producing multiple copies than 3D printing is, at least for now. It’s quite cool to see new technology being used in this way, and although there are detectable artefacts, I don’t think they harm this model, adding to the “hand-built” charm of the fictional sphere.

The Cavorite Sphere with the hatch closedTwo halves of the Cavorite Sphere

Finally just a brief mention for the base. Not used to getting a base in these sorts of models, it was quite nice to do so. Here it is in a photo of its own, where it doesn’t look quite so washed out in the harsh rays of the sun:

The Moon's surface

I decided that the powdery surface was pale, but under the surface – or harder bits that hadn’t weathered away – would be darker, and a combination of washes and dry-brushing in different shades of grey got me there, more or less. These highlighted most of the structure I wanted, but I did try to paint faint impact rays around the centre of the largest crater.

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)

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)

Or, Reinventing The Torch.

In Doctor Who, the Master’s signature weapon is the Tissue Compression Eliminator, which kills by shrinking the target to the size of a doll (the scale of the doll is, for some reason, never specified). It’s mostly used by the Master as played by Anthony Ainley in the 1980s, and in those stories takes the form of a thick rod with a bulb at the end that opens, crocus-like, to fire a red beam.

However, it made its first appearance in the Master’s very first story, Terror of the Autons, in which Roger Delgado’s Master wielded a rather more stylish version resembling a cigar, and fired by pressing with the thumb:

The Ainley period Tissue Compression EliminatorThe Delgado period Tissue Compression Eliminator

Knowing I was going to be attending a Doctor Who convention and would be expected to dress accordingly, it occurred to me – before last season’s revelation about the Master – that a) I had the beard for the part and b) had always fancied a jacket with a Nehru collar. A bit of hair colouring would convert my largely white beard to the original Master’s two-tone badger-style goatee. Couldn’t do much about the hairline.

What I couldn’t easily accept, adapt or get hold of, however, was the Master’s TCE, so I thought about building one.

The Core

My first thought was to buy aluminium tubing and telescope short sections of it together, but it proved difficult to find sizes guaranteed to telescope and although the prices were reasonable for the amount I wanted, minimum order amounts were – less so. I headed out to the nearest hardware store and inspiration, of a sort, struck. Toilet roll holders – the sprung, plastic sort – would do the job for a few quid.

I bought a handful of black ones on the spot to experiment with, and ordered some silver ones from eBay. The black ones were noticeably better quality, but using a silver one as my base would give me a much better finish for the sliding section than I could possibly have achieved using paint. I also found I could fix some if its issues by opening up a big enough hole in the larger end to work the weedy spring out and replace it with a stronger spring from one of the black ones.

The Circuitry

Having found something that could form a good base to work on, the next thing to consider was what to put inside it if I wanted it to appear to work. Well, electrically that’s not hard. What I would need would be a power source, and something that would light up when a switch was closed. It’s a torch!

Circuit diagram for the Tissue Compression Eliminator

With appropriate circuit board to mount them on, I could fit seven LEDs (arranged hexagonally, with one in the middle) within the diameter of the toilet roll holder. A bit of browsing at Proto-Pic turned up what I wanted; a 1" circular protoboard. I did have to trim it down a bit to fit, but it gave me a good starting point. I also got some Super Bright Red LEDs. I already had resistors to hand, and a small selection of switches which happened to include a suitable one.

The circuit couldn’t get much simpler and was easy to throw together on a solderless breadboard just to check everything worked. Then the tricky bit was to work out how to wire it up in practice, cram it all inside a toilet roll holder without breaking anything, and provide a way of activating the switch.

Building The Shell

It was obvious the LEDs would have to be mounted inside and at the front somehow. However, a single toilet roll holder was neither long enough to represent the TCE, nor would it be possible to mount the LEDs inside its broader half – there would be nowhere to attach them, and that space also contained the spring. Even if that hadn’t been the case, it would have been very tight and might have necessitated cutting down on LEDs. This is where the black toilet roll holders came into play.

By cutting the bigger part of a black toilet roll holder to a suitable length, and then sawing a slit along it, it was possible to prise it open and fit it as a sleeve around the silver one. This again gave the right colour without the need for painting, and it made it possible to extend the length of the TCE with a double skin – an inner, un-slit tube simply stacked on the front of the silver one, and a slit sleeve embracing them both. The slit tubes would require filling later to cover the gap, but again a good structural foundation was in place.

With the idea for the extension of the muzzle established, the problem of where to mount the LEDs was solved, as they would go inside that rather than the body of the main holder.

Planning The Interior

With that settled, the next most obvious decision was that power would have to go at the other end, so that it could be easily inserted and replaced. To power the LEDs, I wanted a 6V power supply. Within the space available, that meant I’d need to go with with several watch batteries, but I managed to get an AAA battery holder that fit nicely inside the thinner half of the toilet roll holder, and found that LR44 watch batteries would fit nicely within that. Taping four 1.5V LR44s into one slightly bigger 6V battery with insulation tape and adding a longer spring to the battery holder to hold them in place solved the power supply problem.

With both power and light source at least notionally sorted out, the tricky bit was how to connect them up successfully, with a switch in between that would be activated by the narrow end of the toilet-roll holder being pushed in.

How To Press The Switch

I had a small press-to-close switch that would fit inside the narrow end, and was about the same width as the battery holder. I could mount it (and the resistor) at the positive end of the battery holder, and hopefully attach some sort of plunger to the far end of the toilet-roll holder that would come down and press the switch closed when the smaller tube was pushed into the larger one.

I considered other alternatives, the main one being conductive paint on the outside of the small tube being brought into contact with more on the larger tube, but whenever I thought about reliability, I came back to the plunger option. Paint would have been very prone to wear and tear, and (as the conductive paint is black) painting over it to restore the silver look would reintroduce connectivity problems and spoil the look.

However, a plunger presented problems too. It had to be long enough to press the switch, but not so long that it would cause mechanical problems by pressing too hard – a tricky measurement to make confidently inside a tube and out of sight. It had to be broad enough to be sure of hitting the switch, and to prevent it being easily knocked out of alignment, but narrow enough to avoid catching on the lip of the narrower tube, and getting caught up in the spring. Finally, it had to share the confined space with the wires connecting the power end of the assembly to the LEDs, without fouling or putting strain on them – or doing the same to itself.

The solution I came up with was to build a plunger that was fixed at one end, but had the other end sprung.

Building The Plunger

In order to accommodate a spring with the least hassle possible, I started with an old modelling paintbrush for the shaft of the plunger. It was roughly equivalent to a piece of narrow dowel, but with the advantage of being already hipped. I measured things out and cut it so that I could just slide a small spring on, and the broad part of the paintbrush would hold it in place. Then I built up each end with Sugru and a circle of plastic card to fix things, provide flat surfaces at either end, and make the plunger robust.

Making one end of the plunger sprung provided a couple of benefits. It allowed for a soft press on the switch, so that it didn’t matter so much if I didn’t get my measurements quite right; and it prevented catching on the lip of the narrower tube from being a problem – if it did occur, the sprung tip would flex slightly until it just slipped in, rather than getting stuck.

The most worrisome part was getting the wiring to share the same space. Ultimately, I just drilled holes through the ends of the plunger for each wire, with enough space to let it move fairly freely, and hoped.

Construction

Parts before assembly - click through for full sizeHaving – more or less – worked  out all the parts necessary, it was time to try to bring everything together. I’ve not done a lot of soldering in the last 25 years, so creating a circular array of 7 LEDs wired in parallel kept me busy for a while, and worried about short circuits, as there wasn’t a lot of space to work with the wire I had. Connecting up switch and resistor on a little piece of protoboard and connecting it to both the battery holder and the wire that would connect to the LEDs was challenging within the space available too. Both of these went well, though, and I used more Sugru to fix the switch assembly firmly in place (and provide a bit of additional insulation) at the positive end of the battery holder.

Where I messed up – though I didn’t discover it until later – was the simplest part of the soldering. While connecting a wire to the negative terminal of the battery holder, I overheated the plastic and managed to break the connection between the metal terminal and the spring holding the battery in place. I tried to keep testing everything was still working at every stage, but I missed this and had some worrying debugging of connections later on with a multi-meter when stuff just didn’t work! When eventually discovered, a combination of conductive thread and paint remedied the issue.

I fed the wires through the plunger, with excess that could be cut back once I knew how much slack would be required to attach the LED assembly but allow the battery holder to be pulled out for inserting or removing batteries, and I drilled some extra holes through the stationary end of the plunger to allow me to fix it in place more firmly with thread or wire. I tried thread first, but it was too fiddly and difficult to get right, so I fell back on aluminium modelling wire – and another layer of Sugru to fix the LED assembly in place and avoid short-circuits!

TCE nearly complete

Finishing The Exterior

As already described, the exterior of the barrel was to be built up with parts of the black toilet roll holders. With a bit of specialist super glue for awkward plastics, these went on firmly and the large lengthwise gaps left by slitting them and the smaller circumferential one between the two sections were filled with black Sugru, which I then rolled on greaseproof paper to try to get a reasonably smooth surface. The result wasn’t perfect, but good enough if you weren’t inspecting it closely. The interior of the barrel was painted silver.

The butt end, where the battery holder was inserted, was covered up with a cylindrical rubber ferrule (sold for the foot of a chair), which was just right for the job of a battery cap.

Finally, I added a a bit of copper trim – two strips of plastic card covered with Bare-Metal Foil and attached with the plastics super glue. One covered the join between the two sections of black tubing nicely.

The End Result

The completed TCEThe completed TCEThe completed TCE, lit upThe original, on-screen TCE

The final picture shows the original, for comparison.

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:

ggreig: (Western gentleman)

Earlier this month, I came across a model maker I wasn’t aware of before, selling his work through eBay. Nathan Yeoman works in a selection of scales, and across a variety of subjects. The common element seems to be quirkiness, in the best sense. If you wish something was available in your scale, but no-one else is making it, then maybe Nathan is.

So if you need (or just want) for example: a V1 rocket and launch ramp in 1:100 scale (or a V2); a Horten Ho 229 in 1:144; assorted GWR buildings; Nissen huts or a brilliant selection of call-boxes, including AA and RAC, then take a look at Yeoman Models. The blog in particular seems worth keeping an eye on.

Despite being tempted by some of those things, what I went for was a selection of Victorian street furniture – three post boxes, a water pump, a snowman, and a selection of manhole covers:

Yeoman Models Victorian street furniture

They’re all sitting on a tile of Wills Granite Sets, a nice, cheap way of getting a set of cobbles just about the right size for basing a 28mm horse-drawn vehicle, and accompanied by a 28mm figure for an idea of size. As usual, you can click through for a full-size photo.

Apart from the snowman’s arms, which are metal, these are all resin and include some fantastic detail. The cast lettering on the pillar boxes and drain covers is crisp and legible - my photos don’t do the moulding justice, even at full size, but you can read the words “Post Office” on the Penfold pillar box (the middle one). For reference, here’s a photo of a real one in the village:

Penfold pillar box, Kingsbarns

For fans of The Talons of Weng-Chiang and associated audio spin-offs, one of the manhole covers bears the legend “Jago & Litefoot Ltd, Limehouse”, while another was apparently created by Yeoman & Sons!

Yeoman Models Victorian street furniture

The pillar boxes were painted in a red acrylic from Inscribe, with details picked out in black, white and gold. They were finished off by an application of Rotring Artist Color red ink which helped deepen the shadows a bit and provided a reasonably subtle gloss; applying a gloss varnish would probably have been too much. Apparently Rotring inks aren’t available any more, but there are probably alternatives.

The manhole covers were painted a rust colour (Revell Aqua Color 83), then given a Raw Umber wash. The flash makes them look a bit paler than they actually are, but natural light was not an option today. Looks like I’ve overdone it with the black on the one pierced manhole cover – I may have to revisit that.

I rather wish I’d placed the pump at an angle so that you can see it more clearly. It’s another nice and atmospheric piece. The base colour is Revell Bronze Green (65), with the cast features picked out using Inscribe’s Honey Dew. I used rust again for the grating, and Revell Tank Grey for the base. It’s the same colour I used as the base colour for the cobbles, but left “as-is” without the further shading the cobbles received.

The snowman is painted white, but with a thin wash of Inscribe’s Blue Mist to give a little bit of depth to the shadows – pretty much washed out by the flash, of course. The scarf is based on one given to me by [livejournal.com profile] msinvisfem. You may be able to guess which other scarf inspired that one!


A few days after placing my order, I got an e-mail from Nathan inviting any suggestions for other things to make. Rather excitingly, a couple of my suggestions seemed to be of interest, with a possibility that one may become available sometime in the year ahead. Something to look forward to…

ggreig: (Western gentleman)

Within the last couple of years, laser-cut MDF seems to have taken off as a material for building wargaming/roleplaying scenery with. Last year at Claymore, I picked up a small selection of carts and the fanciest looking of Battle Flag’s range of Western buildings. It so happens this is the bordello.

I didn’t think I could improve on the colour scheme in the publicity artwork, so I went for it wholesale; a bright red (toned down a bit by the MDF surface it was applied to), a golden yellow around windows and doors, and white for the balustrade.

Bordello ExteriorThe boardwalk

Where I did think I could improve a wee bit was on the interior, which can be exposed by lifting off the roof and the floor of the upper storey. The exterior has planks etched into it and ornamental carvings, but apart from a couple of planked floors the interior is very plain. I didn’t think large areas of flat, brushed colour were going to look too great and I’ve never really got into spraying or airbrushing for this sort of thing (a lot of hassle setting it up, messing about with mixing and thinning paint if you’re airbrushing, and cleaning up afterwards).

It occurred to me that it would probably be possible to find a bit of Victorian wallpaper on the Internet, hopefully in a form I could use. Right enough, there appears to be a number of possible sources. The site I wound up using was Jennifer’s Printables (a collection of free printable materials for doll’s houses) that has a page dedicated to Victorian wallpapers, but if the materials there aren’t to your taste there are alternatives.

I selected a relatively plain wallpaper for downstairs and other public areas, and a variety of richer papers for upstairs. There aren’t actually any internal partitions (nor stairs!) included for the interior, but they are marked out on the floor that lifts out, so I though I might as well try to give each an individual character.

I could have just printed them out onto decent paper and stuck them on, but that would have involved being sure they were cut exactly to shape for awkward bits like windows and doors, and my experience with gluing paper is mixed; Copydex is pretty good, but it doesn’t take much going wrong with paper in order to end up with a bit of a nasty mess.

So I thought I’d try something new, and bought some inkjet water-slide decal paper from Crafty Computer Paper.

Printing the wallpaper was a scoosh. I lined up the paper samples to the measurements I wanted using PagePlus, and rescaled them a bit so that the patterns looked OK; then when a few test prints satisfied me that I’d got it about right I printed my wallpapers onto a couple of A4 sheets of the decal paper.

That puts a layer of ink on top of the water-slide substrate, but if you just stuck that into water most ink would not come through the experience well. A layer of varnish sprayed on top will seal the ink between the two layers. I played safe and bought the brand that Crafty Computer Paper recommend for the job. Once the varnish had dried, it was time to apply the transfers. Click through for a closer look:

Wallpapering

There are two transfers on each wall of the house, one for upstairs and one for downstairs, each cut to size and applied over several layers of almond-coloured paint. The obvious gap between the storeys is well-hidden in practice once the floor is in place, but with the benefit of hindsight, I might have cut them a little more oversized – or even as a single transfer per wall – in order to eliminate the worries about that. I was nervous about how robust and easily managed such large transfers would be, but they held up very well and were fairly manageable. Positioning one edge and gradually sliding the backing paper out seemed to do the trick. It may also have helped that I pre-brushed the surfaces with Micro Set, and also applied more once the transfer was in place.

It was my original intention to use a sharp knife to cut out the excess transfer material over the windows and do, er, something else for glass, but at this stage I discovered that the pattern I’d chosen for the downstairs wallpaper also looked pretty good as patterned glass. So I left it. You can see it in this picture (again, click through for a closer look, the effect’s a bit subtle for blog-sized photos):

Transparent wallpaper passes as glass

You can also see one of the nice things about laser-cut MDF is that It’s pretty convincing as wood. There’s a slight texture to it that just works at this sort of scale that you wouldn’t get from anything else.

I stuck with my intention of cutting out the upper storey windows (stripy wallpaper isn’t so convincing as a pane of glass), but instead of using a thin bit of clear plastic in its place, as I’d originally thought, I used offcuts of the transfer paper to make clear windows that matched the patterned ones downstairs. The result is a bit blurrier to look through than the plastic would have been, but if anything I think that adds to the effect. Yay, serendipity!

The upper floorHappy with my results, I began assembling the walls permanently, and it was round about then that I discovered that, in all the best traditions of wallpapering slapstick, I’d papered over a door. There’s a passage across the middle of the top floor, leading to the door that opens onto the balcony, and with no markings on the interior wall apart form the two lights above the door I’d managed to ignore it. With the walls already assembled, it was a bit awkward to mark it in retrospectively, but I managed a passable result.

I may do a bit more to try to tidy the rough edges of that up, and maybe apply some weathering outside, but fundamentally the building’s done for now. Obviously there’s more could be done to build up a detailed interior, but that’s for another time (if ever).

Both floors wallpaperedBack door

Rear of the house

ggreig: (Default)

I usually like my posts to be about something, but I’m aware I haven’t posted anything in longer-than-usual and with another week dawning where I know I’m not going to have the time to post (never mind the inclination), I thought a general catch-up might be a good idea.

Much of July was spent in California visiting [livejournal.com profile] msinvisfem. Since my return, I've been to Claymore in Edinburgh and spent a fair bit of my time at weekends painting stuff I picked up, particularly La Maison Rouge, a model building in 28mm scale that really looks good. Since painting enthusiasm is to be valued, I've not got on with any other things, like the Windows Phone app I started months ago, or the electronics projects I started months ago, or, well, anything else I probably started months ago. If not longer in the past! And that’s before I even think about the possibilities of T Scale*, which I’d never heard of before the St Andrews Model Railway Exhibition a couple of weeks ago.

Some of this stuff is definitely post-worthy, so might still crop up later. But for now, I’m fine, I’ve been doing stuff, and hope to resume normal, occasional service in the not-too-distant future. Just not right now.

* The smallest model railway scale in the world, and more affordable looking than other quite small scales. Shame it’s all modern and no steam at the moment.

sugru

Mar. 30th, 2012 03:42 pm
ggreig: (Default)

Apparently this has been around for a while, but I only came across it last week: sugru is a silicone rubber putty that comes in little sachets like a largish wad of chewing gum, and overnight it cures into, well, silicone rubber with the strength and flexibility that you might expect. Having seen the interesting examples of its usage on the web site, I thought I’d buy a pack of 12 assorted colours and see what it was like.

The pack that arrived was smaller than I expected – about A5 size – and it was a surprise to discover that sugru had a “best before” date, giving it a shelf-life of about six or seven months. That was a bit disappointing, and although it was prominent on the packaging I hadn’t seen any mention of it on the web site. Black mark!

The other drawback that I noticed fairly quickly, which doesn’t bother me but might be a show-stopper for others, is that sugru is not food-grade – so shouldn’t be used to make anything that will come directly in contact with food. Again, disappointing for a silicone rubber.

However, since I didn’t have any immediate application in mind, I didn’t need a large quantity, and in light of the best-before-date I was doubly glad I hadn’t gone overboard.

I was expecting to have to try to think of a use for it, then when I was working on the Neanderthal head a need suddenly rose. I used some Micro Set to make a water-slide transfer adhere better, but when putting the lid back on to the bottle I burst it! The plastic snapped around the top of the lid, as I tried to tighten it up too much.

It wouldn’t have been my first choice for what to apply an interesting silicone rubber fix to, but it did seem like a good candidate, and timely, so I gave the sugru a go, and applied it as a new grip around the top of the bottle cap, covering the split.

It seems pretty sound, it’s gripped the plastic of the bottle cap well, feels firm to the touch with a very slight give, and is quite grippy. Most importantly, it’s sealed the disastrous split so that none of the precious fluids can escape. For this simple task, it’s done the job well.

It’s not the most thrilling application, but this stuff has a lot of potential, so I thought it was worth a) mentioning, b) sharing my experience and c) pointing out the couple of disappointments I discovered with it, so that people are informed.

ggreig: (Default)

I’ve been on holiday this week, and it’s been a chance to tinker with stuff that I struggle to make time for at the weekends. One of those things is a peg sculpture of a Neanderthal head (pegs à la forensic reconstruction, that is). I found it being remaindered in a toy shop last year when I was looking for a present for my godson.  I figured it was a bit old for him, but something that I would love to play with… (He did get something else, don’t worry!)

I had a choice between this and a gorilla, and according to the advertising material inside there were also a Tyrannosaurus Rex, Julius Caesar and a horse in the range, but I think this is the one I would have chosen anyway – the T-Rex obviously wouldn’t have been 1:1 scale, and a Neanderthal beats old Julius for interest any day.

There were some reasonably detailed instructions inside the kit for reconstructing the Neanderthal’s face, but one vital piece of information was missing – what is this stuff you’ve given me to build the face with, and is it going to set? It was referred to in some places as “clay”, and on the packets as “modelling material”, and it looked a lot like Plasticine.

Without a very definite idea of how the “modelling material” was going to behave, I wanted to have enough slack available to be able to just keep going if time proved to be an issue, so it became top of the list of things to do this week.

Here’s what I started off with; a skull (cream) with some moulded muscle (yellow) and fat (white) on top. Not quite sure why the fat was there, as ultimately it didn’t contribute much to the shape of the face, but I guess I was being informed as well as entertained:

The moulded skull, with muscle and fat attached.

The first thing to do was to cut the red pegs off their sprue and insert them into their matching numbered holes.

Moulded skull with depth pegs now attached

Then the first of the “modelling material” was applied, to bulk up the cheeks. The “modelling material” turned out to behave awfully like Plasticine, as well as looking like it, and I think from now on we’ll assume that that’s what it is. Here the aim was to build the cheeks up until only the small pips on the end of each peg were still visible – the little dots you can see in the picture. I moved to paper towels here as I realised the newsprint was leaving marks on the back of the skull:

Building up depth in the cheek

Next, apply eyes and former for nose, and suffer accusing glare. Eyes and nose were cast in white plastic, with water-slide transfers for iris and pupils:

Nose former and eyes applied

Roll out a sheet of Plasticine to 3mm (roller and depth-graded tray provided) and apply from brow to back of skull:

Skin attached over top of head

Do likewise with a couple more sheets to cover the sides of the skull:

Skin attached to sides of head

Then apply another sheet from the bridge of the nose down to the chin, and form tightly around the mouth and nose:

Neanderthal 021

Apply another sheet from just below each eye down to under the jaw line. This builds up the cheek, and gives it a nice smooth surface, unlike the slightly rough surface built up by hand before:

Skin applied over mouth and nose

Apply eyelids. Ned now looks bored rather than accusatory. This stage was a bit tricky, and the waterslide transfers suffered a bit here, although not enough to be a disaster:

Eyelids applied

Build up the nostrils (compare with previous picture):

Nostrils built up

Form the lips and filtrum (groove beneath the nose):

Mouth built up

Build ears around white plastic formers, remove the place-holder pegs that have been in their place up until now, and stick on head. The ears I made are pretty rubbish and I have a whole newfound respect for anyone who can get ears right, whether drawn or sculpted. The ear doesn’t look too bad in this photo, but I could easily have picked a less flattering angle:

Ears applied

Add final detail to the face; lines around mouth and nose and under the eyes, and dots for pores/bristles. Apparently there was a hair pack for the Neanderthal sold separately, but I couldn’t locate one to buy and decided to go ahead without it. Having found a picture online, I think perhaps I wasn’t missing much:

Final detailing; lines and pores

I lent him my glasses for this picture, to counter Neanderthals’ image of being lacking in intellect. This Neanderthal looks down his nose at me because I neither know nor care what the semiotic thickness of a performed text is.

"Tell me, what do you think of the assertion that the semiotic thickness of a performed text varies according to the redundancy of auxiliary performance codes?" 

So now I have a creepy Neanderthal head to keep about the house and gather dust. Every home should have one! It’s a shame that it does appear to be Plasticine and therefore not as permanent as it might be; so at some point in the future I suspect it will be reduced to its component parts and/or discarded. However, for now, it’s kind of satisfying to have the result of a (very long!) day’s work to look back on.

ggreig: (Steam Elephant)

It takes me a while to get round to painting stuff, especially since I went almost all of 2010 without lifting a brush (I broke my duck on 30th December). If you were reading in October 2008, you might have seen me announce that there was a figure I especially wanted, given that the name of my steampunk campaign is Steam Elephants. Today I finished painting it:

A scale model of a steam-powered elephant.

It was nice to spend a few days painting figures just for fun; a steam elephant, an armoured tram, a miniature submarine, a mausoleum, three triffids and a couple of dolphins is probably not the most practical selection. It cleared away a few figures I started long ago, as only the elephant and the submarine were started from scratch in the last few days, and put me in a slightly better place to get started on some more practical figures.

ggreig: (Ribart's Elephant)

After posting about 25mm servants before, I ordered some myself. As these are the first figures I’ve completed since getting a camera more capable of taking shots of miniatures, I thought I’d show the painted versions that I finished last week.

The house maid, Maisy, would have been better for the period with a longer skirt and mutton-chop sleeves, but I did find a period picture with a skirt of this length, and the colour scheme is taken from that picture. You can only see it sticking out past her left leg a bit, but she’s holding a yellow duster, or dish-cloth, or something of the sort.

The butler, Reeves, doesn’t look quite so cadaverous when painted up, but it’s still not a great face. He’s also a little on the short side.

Not sure why the chap in the DJ and holding a cigar has sneaked into the photo, but there you go.

The portrait )

This is actually two photos superimposed, because the flash-lit one was over-exposed, but did bring out some of the detail, whereas the photo taken sans flash had warmer colours but was fuzzy. The only place there’s a very noticeable unintended artefact of combining the two is DJ-man’s left eye. At least with my dodgy colour vision that’s true; maybe you’ll be able to spot something else.

I was going to scan the period picture of the maid (from an advert from the “Parkinson” Gold Medal Gas Cooker) but I seem to be having a problem with the scanner which I don’t have time to investigate and fix right now. Sorry.

Servants

Aug. 2nd, 2009 01:14 am
ggreig: (Saint George)

One thing that’s sadly lacking from the array of Victorian figures on sale is suitable domestic servants. I’ve actively looked for servants and not had much luck turning them up.

However, I have finally located a couple of figures that break the drought. They're a wee bit too 1920s, but at this stage I’m not going to be too picky! From Artizan Designs, I give you Maisy and Reeves. The names don’t help in locating them as servants – something descriptive might have been better! Also “Reeves” does not have a good look, but as I said – at this stage, not too picky.

Claymore

Aug. 2nd, 2009 12:35 am
ggreig: (Saint George)

I don’t go to Claymore every year, and I nearly didn’t go today. I didn’t really feel like it; but I thought I’d get out of the house, and find out where their new venue is and what it’s like. It’s no longer being held in the foyer of Meadowbank Stadium (nor has it gone back to Chambers Street, which is where I first remember attending).

I went to Edinburgh by bus, and slept part of the way while the weather got on with being dreich outside, in a particularly non-summery way. I got off in George Street, intending to catch another bus out to the location, Telford College on Granton Road. There was bus information provided, but as I looked at my printout, I thought “You know, I haven’t a scoobie where these actually depart from, especially with Princes Street up. I’ll walk part of the way, and if I get fed up I can always find a bus stop along the way.”

The weather had improved a wee bit, so I consulted my map and set off to boot it. I’d figured it was a bit further out from the centre than Meadowbank (and in a different direction), but wasn’t sure exactly how far. The route seemed straightforward enough though, and I reckoned it was probably a couple of miles, which apparently would take the bus 25 minutes. I didn’t think I could beat the bus, but it seemed plausible.

Retrospectively, Google tells me it was a little over three miles, and I did it in a little over three quarters of an hour, so I don’t reckon I did too badly. There wasn’t a huge amount of interest to see along the way, but I did get to cross Dean Bridge on foot. It’s always been intriguing when driving over it, with no chance for a more leisurely look. It was built by Thomas Telford in the early 1830s, and it still carries a lot of the traffic into the city centre.

The only other place of particular note I passed was Fettes College, alma mater of one Tony Blair. Now there’s a recommendation.

The space at Telford College turns out to be larger than at Meadowbank, and there were actually two halls in use. As a result, it felt like there were more trades stands, and there were certainly more demonstration games. However, I have to say I found less to be excited about in the way of figures this year than in previous years. In fact, I only bought three packs of figures from Scheltrum (the ones I bought are not yet on the price list there, at time of writing), and the rest was peripheral stuff. I did find myself looking at some Sudan figures from Perry Miniatures, but resisted. There were also some First World War figures of Scots in Lowland regiments, the sort with forage caps that you see quite a lot in Victorian and Edwardian period pictures of Scottish soldiers but never seem to see in miniature; again, I was a bit interested but couldn’t really justify them. I think they were from Scarab Miniatures, but I didn’t make a note and haven’t been able to find them online. Other items in Scarab’s WWI range look familiar though.

I walked back into the centre, and gave myself a blister, thereby proving that virtue is its own reward. If I’d known beforehand how much walking I was going to do I’d have worn boots instead of shoes, but hey ho. I also nipped into Henderson's on Hanover Street for a glass of melon, mint, pineapple and orange, which was expensive but just what the doctor ordered, as the day had got warmer as it went on.

ggreig: (Ribart's Elephant)

Having decided some time ago to call my steampunk role-playing campaign Steam Elephants, this new miniature has rocketed to the top of the “must-have” list:

Steam elephant

ggreig: (Ribart's Elephant)

No, I'm not referring to this kind of monitor:

Test Card F from a television monitor - or is she a blackboard monitor?

Nor this kind:

Komodo dragon - a monitor lizard

No, it's this sort:

Activate the monitors! )
ggreig: (Victoria and Albert)
As you probably saw yesterday, Airfix have gone into administration. Airfix models were a big part of my childhood and although I think Matchbox construction kits were better quality (in both imagination and execution), Airfix were clearly the market leaders. They gave me a lot of fun, and I'm sorry to see them go.

If you were reading this blog in June, you'll have seen me review a couple of Airfix products, the Hexagon and Platformer Robogear Terrain Sets. If you want them, now would probably be a good time to go out and get them. (Just don't go looking in Christies in St. Andrews: I cleaned them out.)
ggreig: (Steam Coach)
In the ever-further-receding days when I used to run a miniature-based roleplaying game, one of the things I often tried to include in action situations was some use of the third dimension. In Albannach, my Pictish game played with 15mm figures, I did this by using large chunks of bark - originally sold as model railway scenery - as rocky outcrops. The bark chunks were large enough that it was possible for characters to use the height for tactical advantage, and of course it added to the visuals of the game.

Forward to the Empire of Steam )

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