Sunday, 19 November 2017

A 28mm Steam Launch

Introduction

In my last few posts, I've mentioned in passing that I'm working on terrain for a colonial African settlement, with a trader's or missionary's house, some huts (yet to be bought/made) and a river (also yet to be built).  This will be used for Pulp games and for the Congo rules.



One of the items which is quite important to this setting, at least in my vision, is some river traffic.  I've got some small dugout canoes waiting to be painted, but I also have a steam launch that can be used to take goods and/or passengers up the river.  I just completed the model this morning, so now is a good time to describe it!


The Steam Launch



Firstly, this model is a laser-cut MDF kit from Sarissa Precision, costing the grand amount of £10 at the time of writing.

The hull went together very easily - it has a stepped appearance which gives the impression of a clinker-built boat (look it up if you need to know what this means).  If you wanted a smooth hull instead then I imagine it would be straightforward enough to apply a combination of filler and sanding to achieve this.  I was happy enough with the basic effect.

The boiler and condenser were made up from a large number of not-quite-identical MDF disks stacked on top of each other, with a guiding rod down the centre.  They were all numbered, so the job is simple - though a little care is needed to ensure that they go on in the right order (and the correct way up!).  I found it useful to smooth over the edges of the stack of glued disks with filler so as to remove all the join lines.


Modifications


Laser-cut MDF works very well for large, flat surfaces.  However, it's not so good for thin items such as poles, masts or gun barrels; in my experience such long items tend to be rather fragile.  Consequently, I replaced the MDF mast with a simple length of bamboo skewer, carefully selecting the straightest piece I could find.

Similarly, I cut a length of drinking straw to use as the boat's funnel.  This fitted over the spigot that the manufacturer had provided at the top of the boiler.  [I built this model a long time ago and cannot remember if Sarissa Precision provided MDF parts for a funnel.  I think they must have done so, but either way, I did my own thing here.]



Finally, I constructed the awning slightly differently from the kit, partly through concern about the possible fragility of the corner posts and partly because I wanted easier access to the deck during gaming.

I replaced the corner posts with lengths of bamboo skewer, one at a time.  As I did so, I drilled a hole down the centre of each skewer and glued in a cut-down nail.  This was not for added strength, but rather because I wanted the flat, iron heads to be on top of the posts so that they could act as landing pads for magnets.

When I finished each replacement post, I cut the corresponding MDF support post from the awning and replaced it with a small, rare earth disk magnet (4mm x 1mm, if I remember correctly?).  Once all four supports had been treated in this way, I was left with a canopy that holds in place well - the magnets are quite strong - but which can be popped off easily when greater access is needed.

The rest was just painting: the hull is white with a red waterline, the decks are a reddish brown and the machinery is a black/grey.  Add on some weathering, some mast stays and a coil of rope on the foredeck and we're done!


Conclusion

The Sarrissa Precision Steam Launch is a straightforward kit which provides a very versatile model of a fairly unusual subject.  It's obviously inspired by (but not identical to) The African Queen - the story of which was set in the early days of World War One.

I'm not convinced by the use of MDF for all the components, though obviously it makes the kit simpler for the manufacturer.  As I mentioned before, MDF is especially fragile and/or unrealistic for long, thin, round parts.  Fortunately, the mast, funnel and canopy supports can be replaced easily and cheaply by an experienced model maker.

Overall: a very welcome addition to my Pulp and Colonial games, after a few modifications have been made to improve robustness.

34 comments:

  1. It looks good, ready for adventures on the river. I've not had any experience with MDF kits, but may get one in time, so thanks for the tips about replacing the delicate pieces.

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    1. Well, it's all a matter of taste, really. MDF is cheap and - with a little dressing up - most kits can be built into really good models.

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  2. A very nice "Tramp Trader" . I would imagine this will fit the Congo bill very nicely.

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    1. Thanks, Clint. Yes, my games of Congo and Pulp Alley will both benefit from this vessel, I think.

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  3. Nice bit of Work C6, I bought one of these some months back & got around to making it a couple of weeks ago, like yourself I replaced the funnel with a piece of plastic tube there is an MDF part for it BTW.

    I'd thought of replacing the mast but did't but seen yours might still do, I made the canopy as is but didn't glue it to the hull so I could use the boat with or with out, but would agree on your point as to how strong tin strips of MDF are but as you said it a great kit & one well worth picking up in mho.

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    1. If you don't wish to rework the model then you could always use it as is, in the knowledge that it's easy to replace parts in the future...

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  4. Great blog post, and an excellent looking miniature. Very nice!

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    1. Thanks, Roy! I'm so glad I finished this model; it was sitting on my workbench for so long with just undercoat on it.

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  5. Cracking work and I love the modifications. I did something similar with my funnel, but the magnets are an inspired touch.

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    1. It sounds to me as if pretty much everyone has replaced the kit funnel. Indeed, it's a fairly obvious upgrade!

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  6. A beautiful looking "brown water" steamer, suitable for a journey to the Heart of Darkness, or for transporting light loads on a great lake.

    I'm impressed by your neat solutions to MDF's shortcomings in certain structural roles.
    Bamboo has a long and impressive history as a maritime material.
    Rare earth magnets - a glimpse into the future.

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    1. Bamboo skewers are both strong and cheap. Their main shortcoming is the limited range of diameters that they come in (just one, I think!).

      I've used one or two magnets for other tasks as well, but considering that they came in a pack of 50 or 100 (I forget which), I'll have plenty for the future!

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  7. Fantastic piece. Thanks for posting this.

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    1. Glad you liked it, D.E.W. I'm quite pleased with the way this boat turned out.

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  8. Great bit of conversion work on an mdf model and well worth it imo. The use of magnets is truly inpirational.

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    1. Thanks, Joe. The use of magnets seemed obvious to me, but I suppose I could have made the canopy removable with "post and socket" or some other technique instead...

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  9. Love the trick with the magnets. Very well done indeed.

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    1. Thanks, Michael. It did work out very well, though it was a slow build as I replaced one support leg at a time to make sure that I had each new one lined up correctly.

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  10. Looks good and the modifications (despite the missing parts) make sense.

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    1. Thanks, Simon. The painting was much quicker than I had predicted, so although this model might have taken a long elapsed time to complete, it was relatively little effort - if that makes sense...

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  11. That looks excellent! And its a super idea to fit magnets to the canopy - and one that I will probably borrow when I build my own! I'm hoping to use the launch in the third adventure of the new Congo campaign. It isn't actually needed, but will add a lot of flavour to the game. Good work!

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    1. Thought you might like it, Lee :-) !

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    1. Thanks, Phil. This kit wasn't really that difficult, mind...

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  13. Excellent bit of modelling and brushwork Hugh, and you grabbed my attention at the very start of the post when you mentioned "building rivers" - something I need to do, so I'm looking forward to seeing how you tackle the job :-)

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    1. Ah, the river! I'm not sure how I'm going to tackle this yet, so it might take a while before my ideas coalesce. I'm juggling concepts in my head: painted MDF with raised banks, a printed mat, or perhaps some terrain tiles with sunken features? All have advantages and disadvantages...

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  14. I am amazed at what is possible with mdf kits these days, but I completely agree that for certain parts of the models, substitute materials are a necessity.
    Great boat!

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    1. I think the manufacturers are getting a lot better and more adventurous at designing these kits. For example, there are some really impressive vehicles and useful 28mm furniture available now, as well as the more traditional slab-sided buildings.

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  15. a lovely bit of work and modifications. I have the same kit in my mdf pile ,so will certainly be using something similar.. thanks

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    1. Thanks, Dave. I'll look forward to seeing your version of this :-) !

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  16. At first glance I thought this was a out-ot-the-box build. It was only after looking at the subsequent photos did I realise you added skewers, straws, pins and magnets to the build. Creative work all around :)

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    1. Normally, I would build an MDF model pretty much out-of-the-box. However, I felt that the long, thin parts of this model were perhaps too fragile to withstand much handling - so I replaced them.

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  17. Awesome Blog! I really enjoyed your WIP's. I look forward to checking out more of your posts.
    Cheers,
    JB

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    1. I'm very pleased that you like it and hope that I can continue to provide many more interesting articles in the future :-) .

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