Wednesday 30 September 2015

The Oldest Model?


Everyone who has been making models for a while has at least one kit that they've had forever without finishing it, right?  Maybe it's a subject that you're less interested in now than previously, or maybe there were technical difficulties which have paused the build.  But you'll go back and finish the piece any day now, won't you?  Just to show that you're not a quitter...

In my case, there's a further story to be told about this long-dormant kit.  My uncle (my father's twin brother) was a bachelor and devoted his leisure time mostly to building and flying model aircraft.  However, at one time he also owned a red Daimler SP250, known to my immediate family as "Grunty" due to the noises it made.

Sadly, my uncle died of brain cancer in 1984, whilst in early middle age.  While we were clearing up his effects, we found this Wills Finecast kit of an SP250.  Obviously my uncle had planned to build a model of his vehicle - but he never got round to it.  Amongst the relatives, I was the model-maker and so this kit passed to me; I promised myself faithfully that I would build it in tribute to him.  So, that was in 1984...

The Daimler SP250

Over the years since then, I've occasionally opened the box and even more occasionally I've had a burst of enthusiasm and built some of the kit.  I think that I probably glued it together in the 1980s, undercoated it sometime in the next decade and have all but ignored the model since then.  A few years ago, I painted the red basecoat and that was that for a long time.  Indeed, the partly painted model can be seen in quite a few of my workbench updates over the years, if you care to look.

At one point, I even considered getting rid of it, thinking that I would never finish the car.  However, that didn't happen and it sat around, silently accusing me of being incomplete and unloved.

Finally, after a summer with a workbench too cluttered to build anything, I tidied up [The Big Tidy].  As part of this task, I collected all the part-built models that were out, excluding those which are packed away in boxes.  Having everything in one place like this makes it very obvious what is taking the most space, which models can be completed easily and so on.

I'm currently trying to work my way through and finish at least some of these collected "works in progress" before I get too distracted with something new; the Daimler was one of the earlier models to receive this treatment.  Get this: I finished it last night!  It's no longer a millstone around my neck!

OK, now the bit you've all been waiting for: the pictures:

Fred has a look over the SP250.  I wonder if he's thinking of buying one?

I did consider putting a clear plastic windscreen on the model, but decided that this could go badly wrong.  It's better without.

The kit has optional parts for the soft top, but I wanted to be able to see the interior.  So, I used the "folded down" parts instead.


At 1:43, this model is really a bit too large to go with 28mm figures.  Still, plenty of other people do use this scale of vehicles to go with wargaming figures.  After all, if the person is on a base then it makes them look taller than they really are.

So, I could use this model for gaming.  The obvious setting would be spy-fi, such as 7TV, though at a pinch it could be a classic car in a more modern zombie game.  Alternatively, I could stick it on a mantlepiece and let it gather dust.  Hmm, what to do?

Sunday 27 September 2015

Sacks and Crates, Freight, Groceries.


Scatter terrain is something that we all need in our wargames, yet it's something I tend to forget when making purchases or scratchbuilding.  Just occasionally, though, I build a few pieces.  Here are some that I've used many times in Old West games, usually placed just outside the grocer's store.  [What, outside, in the street?  Yes, that's right: in the open air.  I dunno, maybe the grocery store just got a delivery and hasn't yet unpacked everything...]


Groceries for an Old West town.  Hmm, I wonder whether the fish is still fresh?
This photo shows 3 pieces that might loosely be termed "groceries".  The upper two are composite items, built up from multiple models, whilst the lower item comes as a single cast.  So, clockwise from the top left:

  • The crates of fish and apples come from Ainsty Castings, specifically from the Trade Goods section of their catalogue.  I'm pretty sure that the sacks are from the same source as well.
  • Again, the crates of vegetables are Ainsty trade goods.  The barrels are from a Renedra plastic kit, however.
  • The pile of packing cases, large jars in wicker sleeves and sacks is a single casting from Ainsty.  Note that such a piece is slightly harder to paint than separate items because of the close proximity of different colours, though on the other hand, unlike an assemblage of separates, it doesn't need to be based.

    Also note that it's hard to use multiples of such a single-piece casting without it looking peculiar.  The human eye and brain is exceptionally good at spotting patterns, so duplicates will stand out like a sore thumb!

 Here are another 3 pieces; for this article I'll call them "containers".  Again, clockwise from the top:

  • The stack of crates is a single piece casting from the Void 1.1 "Ammo cases and crates" set.  Since this model came in a collection of 4 bits, I must have the other ammo cases &c around somewhere - but they've become separated temporarily from this one.

    Note that a stack of wooden crates like this is very easy to paint.  I've chosen to depict them as fresh pine wood; I doubt that many packing cases were ever old enough to become heavily weathered.  After the base wood colour and a simple wash, I've added some "stencilled" lettering, a few white chalk crosses and a scrawled, semi-literate "Orl Korrect" from the freight company (one of the possibly origins of the well-known phrase "O.K.").

    This set of ammo cases and crates is still available from Scotia Grendel.
  • The stack of barrels and a cartwheel is another of my composite pieces.  The barrels are Renedra plastics, while the wheel is from the long-defunct Amazon Miniatures (nothing to do with the much more recent book company called "Amazon" that some of you may have come across).
  • Finally, the 2 barrels, wheel and bale is a very mixed piece, but from the same set of manufacturers as before.  The main distinguishing feature here is that one of the barrels is open (and empty).  That's quite easy to achieve with a plastic model, though as I recall there were some substantial internal supports which I had to carve away from the barrel first.

Finally, here are some sacks (and a pile of bales of cotton, or maybe wool).  The sacks are all from Ainsty, as before.  What makes these unique, though, is that I've researched the labels that might have been found on goods sacks in the USA of the late 19th century.  I then made these brand labels into waterslide transfers and applied them to each sack in the top layer.

In this picture, you should be able to make out the following: "R.G.M. 1878", "Wheat", "Coffee Trading Company" and "Produce".  There are also a couple of sacks in the first picture of this article with "PRAIRIE".  Hands up if you noticed them before reading this far!

I'm somewhat annoyed with these sacks, though.  When I painted them, I applied the transfers before giving the models a black wash.  The result is that the wash has outlined each decal faintly; it's quite easy to spot this mistake.  Moral: always apply decals after washes!


All of these goods could be used in many settings as well as Old West, of course.  To me, the most obvious alternative would be Darkest Africa, at some riverhead trading post.  Or perhaps they could fill a warehouse or some market stalls in some pulp adventure?  The possibilities are many and varied...

Wednesday 23 September 2015

Experiments with Basius Pads


I've only backed a couple of Kickstarters in my life so far.  This isn't because I'm against the concept - far from it!  Rather, I have so much hobby stuff already that it takes something a bit out of the ordinary for me to become really enthusiastic about committing to something that probably won't arrive for the best part of a year.

Last October, I did indeed see a proposed project that grabbed my attention.  This was Basius II, from Wargames Bakery.  I paid up, held my breath and waited.  Just before I went away for my summer holiday this July, I received my 2 pads.

Mine is by no means the only blog article on Basius pads, but here you will find my own initial reactions.  For other opinions, a quick, somewhat arbitrary search reveals these other reviews:

The Basius II Pads

So, what are Basius pads?  They're inverse relief push moulds for making bases.  You prepare a base by putting some form of putty on a firm backing, push it into the mould, pull it off again and let the putty harden.  Sounds simple, right?

Each pad is a resin rectangle just under 7" (18cm) square.  They come in a number of different themes (19 in total, such as Forest, Victoriana, Plaguelands...)

Basius II pads: Urban and Dungeon (the "clean" sides).

and they are double sided.  It seems that every pad has one side that is relatively clean & tidy, whilst the other side is much more cluttered.  This gives a huge range of options for the model-maker; the number of unique bases which can be cast is effectively infinite.

Basius II pads: Urban and Dungeon (the "busy" sides).

Experiments in Basing

1. Milliput, used immediately

So, I dived straight in without giving it much thought.  My first attempt was to use a layer of Milliput on a steel washer.  I wet the moulds slightly (with water) and pressed the bases in.

Milliput bases, pressed immediately.  Note that part of the bottom, right base stuck to the mould and had to be repaired with Green Stuff when it had hardened
 These are the results.  They may not look too bad, but the detail is a bit soft.  It's also important to note that despite the wetting of the mould, they didn't really come away cleanly.  This accounts for the lack of crispness in the base detail, but also meant that I needed to clean the Basius pads of excess putty straight away.  Not recommended!

Interlude. Release Agent

At this point, I wondered if the sticking putty was due to my use of water on the moulds.  Instead, I ordered some release agent and waited for this to arrive.  Release agents such as this are readily available from online suppliers; they're widely used when moulding pottery and many other things.

Big bottle of mould release agent.
A liquid release agent is very simple, I believe.  It's a solvent (such as white spirits/turpentine) with paraffin wax dissolved in it.  You paint the release agent onto the mould, the solvent then evaporates and a thin coat of paraffin wax is left on the mould surface.  The casting material won't stick to the paraffin wax, or at least that's the theory!

2. Green Stuff, used immediately

For my second attempt at basing, I used most of my very small supply of Green Stuff.  Once more, I pressed the moulds immediately and even though I had used the new release agent, I still had difficulties separating the new base from the pad.

Green Stuff bases, pressed immediately.  Note the mark on the edge of the left hand base where I used a tool to separate it from the mould.

The detail on these is even softer than on the Milliput bases and the bases were hard to remove.  Again, this method is not recommended!  At least it didn't leave putty all over the mould.

3.  Green Stuff, left to cure

Whilst contemplating my lack of success in the first attempts, I actually went and found some instructions online.  These suggested leaving the putty to cure for quite a while before attempting to press it into the mould.  The timing of this is really a matter of judgement; the aim is for the material to have lost all stickiness, but still be somewhat malleable.

Green Stuff base, left to cure.  It's a pity that I didn't have enough putty to make the entire base!

Several hours later, I returned from the computer and realised that there was a little bit of already-mixed Green Stuff left over from my earlier attempt.  I thought it worth an experiment, so I slapped it onto a 25mm washer and pressed it (again, using the commercial release agent).  This worked pretty well, though there wasn't enough material to make a complete base.  OK, now we're getting there!

4. Milliput, left to cure

I was now out of Green Stuff, so I decided to try Milliput again.  As well as having some to hand, this is a much cheaper putty; if it worked then it would be great!

Milliput bases, left to cure for ~2 hours before pressing
After leaving the Milliput to harden for quite a long time, I prepared the moulds with release agent and went to press the new bases.  This worked much better than the first attempt; the putty came away from the mould more easily (and therefore with less damage to the moulding) and the detail was reasonably crisp.  It's still not perfect, though: there wasn't quite enough putty on some of the bases to reach the very deepest parts of the mould.


I think I'm getting the hang of this.  Basius pads (or indeed, any press moulding) takes a bit of experimentation and practice to find the best combination of materials and technique.  It's not quite as easy as it might seem!

So far, I've only tried quite small (25mm) bases and I've only used parts of the pads with relatively little depth of relief.  I suspect that changing either of these parameters will make the task more difficult.

However, despite the apparent negativity of that last sentence, I'm actually pretty excited about having these pads.  Yes, they're quite expensive and yes, they'll take some getting used to before I can produce perfect results.  But I'm up for it; the creativity that such terrain pads could unleash is considerable and I'm sure that the technical hurdles aren't really that great.  For someone like me who builds a lot of models, these could be very useful!

Sunday 20 September 2015

For the First Time in Forever...


Well, it seems like forever since I painted any models!  Actually, I think it's only about 2 months, but having recently got my workbench sorted out (the Big Tidy, I thought it would be nice to build something once more.

This wish to start making things again coincided with my birthday earlier in the month.  On that occasion, I was delighted to receive some figures from my family.  I'd previously pointed my wife very firmly in the direction of North Star Figures (definitely one of my favourite distributors) and amongst other things I received a pack of "Young Fire Elementalists" from their own Fantasy Worlds range.

The "Young Fire Elementalists" turn out to be 2 young women; one is wearing a long dress and windswept cloak while the other has what looks to me to be a Norwegian-themed dress and hooded cloak.  I've decided to name them "Elsa" and "Anna"; these names just seem to fit.


Elsa is in an ankle-length, clinging dress and has a lightweight cloak around her shoulders.  At least, I assume that it's lightweight from the way it is billowing in the breeze.  She has long hair, worn in a single braid that comes forward over her shoulder, and is striding forwards purposefully with arms held back and head slightly lowered in concentration.  Perhaps she's about to cast a spell on someone?

I decided that a pale blue would suit the gauzy cloak very well and that her dress should be turquoise.  Both pieces of clothing needed to look satiny and shiny, so I added a fair amount of silver paint into these colours.  Elsa's hair is an off-white, making her look quite the ice maiden.  No fire wizards for me!


In contrast, Anna is wearing a long skirt, a bodice and a winter cloak with a fur-lined hood.  The model originally had one hand raised, holding a pillar of fire.  I decided that I'd prefer the model to be less obviously a sorceress, so I replaced the cast-on hand with an open plastic one (from a female zombie kit, if I remember correctly).  It now looks as if she's about to burst into song, or is perhaps reaching for a small songbird or other woodland creature.

For Anna's clothing, I went for dark, rich colours.  Her skirt is blue, the bodice is black with a gold trim and the cloak is burgundy red and has a black decoration along the edge.  She's got red hair, though possibly this is a touch darker than I had intended.


I've no idea when, how or if I might use these figures.  Sometimes I paint things just because they're fun to do - and I certainly enjoyed building these two models.  Even my daughter has expressed more interest in them than she usually does about my models...

Wednesday 16 September 2015

Here Be Monsters...


During my recent tidy up of my hobby area, I found a medium-sized cardboard box on the shelf above my desk.  I knew that this was something I'd used for storing models of unusual sizes and shapes, but I couldn't remember exactly what was in it.  So, let's open it up together and find out...

The Hydra

First out of the box is a Koralon Hydra, from the old Void 1.1 range of miniatures .  This is a huge creature with a long tail, 2 legs and a snake-like body that splits into 3 torsos, 3 heads and 6 arms.  It's an extremely improbably animal, but the fluff says that it is bio-engineered - so that's OK.  Constructed creatures can be any shape or size you like and can have any desired number of features!

The hydra is supposedly the Koralon answer to a tank: it's hard to kill but not especially bright.

I'm really not sure how the hydra moves itself.  Does it walk on 2 legs, dragging its tail behind it?  Or perhaps it slithers on its belly and the legs are just for show (or for attacking enemies)?  Perhaps the silliest idea I've had is that it hops like a giant kangaroo?  Hmm, maybe I'm over-thinking this; I should just let it be a big, scary monster.

Note that the way that the weapons stick out makes this a very awkward model to store.

The Void 1.1 Koralon range is still available from Scotia Grendel, if anyone is interested...

The Broodmaster

Here's another Void 1.1 Koralon gribbly: the Broodmaster.  It's a giant, 4-armed snakeman with a bony shell on its back.  Additionally, it has some seriously huge spines protruding from both sides.  As its name suggests, the broodmaster is designed as the leader of a battlegroup of Koralon snakes/slugs/bugs.

Like all the other Koralon models, this creature has no eyes.  Instead it has some recesses in its skull which are presumably a different form of sensor.  Perhaps it is able to detect heat traces, or has an exceptional sense of smell?  I don't know - and maybe it doesn't really matter anyway.  It's good news if you don't like painting eyes, though.

When I first built this model, I did consider filling the gaps between the spines with aluminium foil and then painting an elaborate threat display pattern on the resulting "wings".  However, as you can see, I didn't go as far as this.  He (she?) is still a very intimidating monster even without such an enhancement.

The broodmaster model is also still available from Scotia Grendel.

Tyranid Hive Tyrant

The last critter from the box is a Tyranid Hive Tyrant.  This is a much more common model, coming as it does from the mighty Games Workshop.

Occasionally I buy Tyranids or Necrons from eBay to add to my existing forces, but the pickings in recent years have been poor - the selling prices are too high for my liking.  This guy was a lucky find from many years ago; I think he probably came with a partly-constructed bulk lot and I needed to put a bit of effort into resuscitating the model.  However, it's so long ago that I cannot remember for sure.

I really prefer my bugs to be armed with claws and teeth alone, or at a pinch with crude melee weapons.  There must have been a good reason why I added a cannon to this model: perhaps it was already glued on when I got the item, or perhaps I didn't have any claw arms in my spares box?


I've mentioned several times that these are all large models, but it's worth a picture to show just how big they are.  Kid Sheleen, one of my 28mm Old West gunslingers, has volunteered to stand in front of the 3 alien menaces so you can make the comparison.  If he's very lucky then they'll all fight with each other over the tasty, bowler-hatted morsel and he'll be able to escape...

I'm not sure that I like the hydra very much, but both of the others appeal to me in different ways.  Do you have a favourite, or is there a giant monster from a different range that you prefer?  Please let me know.

Sunday 13 September 2015

The Big Tidy


For about the last 2 months, my hobby workbench has been completely unusable.  The problem has been building up over a long time, but has now grown well past the point where I can paint anything.  It's depressing, but there is no solution for this other than to spend the effort to tidy up.  So, after 2 months without any model-making, I bit the bullet and started a deep clean of the desk and its surroundings.

Before.  Both leaves of the desk are filled with stuff, there's no possibility of sitting at the desk and even if I could, the central paint station is piled high with stuff...

The Big Tidy

I'll not bore you with all the details of my 3-week long cleanup (3 weeks because I didn't have much time to spend on any one day, not because the task itself was so vast).  However, here are the main points:
  • Find more efficient packaging for finished models of unusual shapes & sizes.
  • Sort spare parts into fewer, smaller boxes.
  • Discard fragments of wood/plastic/foamcore that are really too small or tatty to be used.
  • Put away unstarted models or common parts (especially bases) into existing longer-term storage.
  • Collect part-completed models into trays, so that I can tell what's waiting for attention.
  • Clean up the huge amount of dust, metal filings, plastic scraps, dried blobs of paint &c. that had accumulated since my last tidy up!

...After.  It may not look much different, but it really is!  At least I can sit at the desk and get my feet under it now.

Needing Attention...

So, this was something of a shocker.  For the last few years, I've been trying to live by a self-imposed rule: "if you start it then you must finish it".  In other words, no model that has been assembled or undercoated may be put away until it is completed.  It sounds fine in theory...

In the picture above are all the part-finished models that I found on or near my desk.  By gathering them all in one place, I realised just how much this collection had grown out of control.  It's also painfully obvious how much space is taken by the part-made terrain pieces.  In comparison, the set of figures is not too big at all!

So, I really need to stop beating around the bush and just go and finish some of these projects.


Finally, after being out of action for the entire summer, my painting desk is ready to be used again  I'm beginning to feel quite enthusiastic about this!

So, I started to paint a few of the models that were closest to completion, with a view to finishing off all the easiest ones first.  About 1 hour into this task, my desk lamp started to flicker badly; it was as if I was at a disco.  Under these circumstances, I had to stop painting immediately.

One of my model-making lamp's fluorescent tubes (it has 2) had gone bad and would have to be replaced.  Of course, I didn't have a spare and none of the local shops carry such an item.  I'll need to try further afield, perhaps on my commute home from work on Monday.  As a backup plan, I've ordered a spare tube from eBay, though that could take a while to arrive.  So, no painting for at least a day or two more...

Wednesday 9 September 2015

The Wrong Glue.

A Salutary Tale

Once upon a time, a few years ago when I took up paper model-making, I scoured the Internet for advice on the best glue to use.  I wanted something that would cover well, dry relatively quickly and hold fast.  There were various horror stories about water-based glues that caused shrinking and warping of the models, so I decided to avoid those.

Eventually, the consensus on the net seemed to be that this was the stuff to use:

Note that this is not a common or garden glue stick, as used frequently in primary schools around the world.  Rather, this is a clear, thick, liquid glue pen that promises not to cause any problems with the paper or card being glued: no shrinkage, no ink smudges and no warping.  It's a bit more expensive than many other glues, but it seemed that this was indeed the answer to my prayers.

For a while, I used this glue on all my paper models and it worked well.  The joints were sound, colours never ran and the card was not distorted in any way.  However, after a while, I noticed that my older models weren't quite as perfect as when I built them.

For example, the walls of my hotel started to sag.  The fire escape fell off at one end (and was then torn off the other end by its own weight).  It looked as if the glue had re-liquefied or softened, the parts had moved and then the glue had hardened again.  What was going on?

Many of these models were stored on shelves high up in a back room.  It gets pretty warm up there at times (hot air rises!) but is otherwise quite cool.  Mind you, compared to some parts of the globe, the range of temperatures in my house is probably not that great.   I can only imagine that such limited changes in temperature, perhaps aided by changes in humidity, had caused the glue to flow slightly over a long period.

It's a bit of a puzzle because any time that I've investigated, the (remaining) parts of each affected model have been held very firmly in place at whatever angle they've come to rest.  At no point have I detected any stickiness or softening of the glue!

So, what next?

I gave up using the UHU office pens several years ago, once I started to notice this effect on my first card models.  I'm sure that they are a very fine product for some applications, but they don't suit my needs at all.  Now I use exclusively white glue (PVA, "Elmer's glue") for paper kits.  I use a sculpting tool to spread a very thin layer on one part only; the join is relatively quick and absolutely permanent!

For the older models that suffered such fatigue, I've mostly had to bin them.  The UHU glue has encrusted itself onto parts of the joints, leaving other previously-glued parts almost bare.  It is possible to cut or scrape such hard conglomerations away and re-glue the models with PVA, but it's just not worth the effort in the worst cases.  For the less badly affected kits (mostly vehicles), I have indeed made some such repairs.

At least with paper models, I can always build replacements.  Of course, finding the time to do this might be a problem...

Sunday 6 September 2015



So, I'm still trying to clean up my desk to make it usable.  It's been about 2 months now since I've done any painting; the workspace has been just too cluttered (and the piles of assorted stuff were just too precarious!)  I'm making inroads into the mess, but oh, it's a slow and weary business.


As I've been tidying up, I've uncovered some of my models that were in deep storage.  It's not that I've forgotten that these miniatures exist, but rather than I wasn't sure where they were; they're not figures which I use very often.  Anyway, since I've brought them to light in order to repackage them, I thought that you might be interested to see them.

This is a swarm of 6 Waspquitos.  They're obviously a cross between a mosquito and a wasp and as such they presumably have the worst characteristics of both species.  I imagine that they'll make a highly irritating, high-pitched whining, buzzing sound as they approach.  Then they'll suck all the blood from you whilst threatening to sting if you try to stop them.  They might also transmit malaria or some other interesting tropical disease to your now withered husk.  Oh, they'll probably then get stuck in the jam on your sandwich...

The waspquitos are from Heresy Miniatures, though I don't think they appear in the current catalogue.  I bought mine many years ago, intending to use them initially in a Doctor Who scenario ("The Green Death") and later on in any other games where a swarm of giant, mutant flying pests would make sense (?!).

The miniatures themselves are multi-part, metal models.  From memory, they came as a body, 2 sets of legs and 4 wings.  I felt that the metal wings were too thick and heavy; they didn't look good and would have been difficult to fasten securely to the bodies.  I replaced them with some thin, clear plastic sheet that was cut to the same shape.

The colouring of these critters is straightforward and was derived from examining photos of real life mosquitos and wasps.  The torsos, heads and legs are a very dark reddish-brown (not black), whilst the tails are black and yellow.  Rather than just paint simple bands of colour on the tails, I've tried to follow the pattern from a real species of wasp; this looks much more effective to me.

The wings had simple veins draw on on them with a fine black pen.  They've become somewhat frosted after the models were varnished, but I think this improves them, if anything.

These are (to date) the only flying models where I have painted the upright support rather than leaving it transparent.  The lower half of each support is in the same colour as the dirt, whilst the upper half is a sky blue.  I'm not sure how effective this is, though the supports are relatively well hidden by the bugs' legs anyway.


These models would make an excellent opponent for an adventuring party in a post-apocalyptic, mutated world.  They'd also fit right in to a fantasy setting such as Dungeons and Dragons and I could see them being part of a Victorian "Lost World" or Tarzan game.  I just need to get on and do it, right?