Sunday 26 November 2017

The Grey Harbour House


As part of my ongoing efforts to produce terrain for games of Pulp Alley and Congo, I decided that I need a small, coastal village or port.  Obviously that'll require an extensive water feature and some boats (such as the steam launch which was the subject of my last article) - but that isn't my immediate focus.  For now, a village just isn't going to work without some houses or huts...

The Missionary's House

The first building is simple: it could be either the house for a missionary or a local trader.  This MDF kit comes from TTCombat, where it is sold as "Grey Harbor House A" for £10 (note the U.S. spelling of "Harbor", even though TTCombat is, I believe, a UK-based company).  It's a fairly basic MDF and greyboard kit of a planked, wooden house set on brick foundations.

I've scratch-built a thatched roof for the building; this seems more versatile than the kit's original roof for the relatively uncivilised parts of the world in which I'm likely to set games.  It's the first time that I've used teddy-bear fur in a model and I'm not sure I combed it out as well as I might.  One side is much flatter than the other; the fur fabric seems to have a "grain" or direction and I was combing against it on the near side you can see in the picture and with the grain on the far side.

As an aside, TTCombat also sells Grey Harbor "B" and "C" models which have a similar style but which are a bit larger (the "C" house has 2 storeys).  It would be entirely possible to build a complete settlement from just these types.

Now here's something of a mess.  I've tried twice to fit the interior of the building with a plank texture, printed once on paper and then (when that failed miserably) printed onto cardboard.  The glued-down result has been as you can see: wrinkled, shrunken and with extremely poor colour retention.

I really don't understand why this has been such a disaster (twice!), but I'll have to do something to remedy it; I cannot leave it as it is.  The floor of the model did have scribed planks, but I thought it would be awkward to paint these and I chose the printed paper route instead.  I'm wishing that I hadn't gone down this route now...

As sold, the model has a simple, MDF, tiled roof.  I painted this up as well; you can see it in the photo above.  This gives me the option of making the building more or less "civilised" to fit in with the setting for a particular game.  Indeed, the tiled roof could probably be used for games set in the present day for many of the warmer parts of the world.


I'm sure that this will be a very useful building, especially with the choice of roofs, but it's not enough on its own!  And I'll need to fix the flooring; it's really awful...

Sunday 19 November 2017

A 28mm Steam Launch


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.


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!


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.

Sunday 12 November 2017



Last week, I showed some pictures of my cluttered workbench (here).  Even if you didn't realise it, I noticed from this article how many of the models present were "blockers"; they had sat around waiting for attention for weeks, months or even years.

This thought shamed me so much that I decided to try to finish some of these stalled projects, or at least put more paint on such models.  Often, the inactivity is self-reinforcing - when I finally started to work on the pieces below, I found that often they weren't so difficult (or so far from completion) as I had imagined after all!

The Strathclyde Welsh

Some time ago, I started to build a SAGA "Strathclyde Welsh" warband.  Where I live, these are the local boys (at least, the Strathclyde part of their lands is local, not so much the Welsh part).

I started this warband so long ago that I daren't even look it up in the blog; I'd probably be horrified at just how long these have taken.  Anyway, these are the last 6 of the 16 warriors, 8 hearthguard and a warlord, thus completing a basic 4pt SAGA force - hurrah!

Of course, I've got another 8 Strathclyde foot warriors that are still mint-in-blister...

The Steam Launch

Progress has been made on the MDF launch; it turns out that only a few colours are needed to paint this model.  I've still to dirty it up a bit, since I'm aiming more for a working boat "African Queen" look rather than a modern-day cherished & polished Victorian heirloom.  When the painting is done, I intend to add some rope - probably a coil on the foredeck and some mast stays.

The Missionary's/Trader's House

My other "colonial" project at the moment is this house.  The basic building was almost finished anyway; I've added the interior floor since last week.  Mind you, that hasn't gone very well as the paper on which the flooring is printed has wrinkled terribly.  I might have to think again about how to do this...

Behind the house is the tiled roof which came with the model.  I've base-coated it, but haven't detailed or weathered any of the tiles.

Having considered it a little, I thought that it would be nice to have a thatched roof for the bungalow; I could then use it in slightly less "civilised" parts of the world.  Initially, I thought of just covering the already-built, tiled roof with teddy bear fur, but in the end I cut out new pieces of MDF to make a scratch-built, second roof.  This is the first time I've ever worked with fur fabric - it seems to be going well so far.

The Generator

Finally, the generator got a little love.  I have almost finished a new "hoop"; this will fit in the middle of the existing piece.

After that, I'll need to build some platforms and handrails in the gaps on either side.  At this stage, I have no idea how I'll do this!  It sounds like a job for which the old "Platformer" kits would have worked well - but I don't have such a thing in my spares box.  Oh, well - I'm sure I'll have an idea sooner or later...

Monday 6 November 2017

The Workbench, November 2017


It's been a while since I did a workbench post (June 2016, to be precise), so I thought it might be time for another.  Have I completed all the models which were present then?  Is the area less cluttered than 17 months ago?  Let's find out...

The Workbench

Nope, it's even less tidy than before, if that's possible.  I even have the leaves of the desk extended and covered with models, as well as piles of boxes and other stuff down the sides.

Let's take a closer look at some of these ongoing projects...

On the left are a couple of boats (a steam launch and a sampan) for Pulp and/or colonial games.  On the right you can see the ponies for my final six Strathclyde Welsh warriors.  After I've completed them, I'll have a basic 4 point Strathclyde warband for SAGA and will therefore be able to play them in a game.

The paint station is covered in a huge mix of different models, all part-completed.  Amongst other things, you can see:
  • A ducking stool (and Puritans to man it); this will be used in witch-hunting games.
  • Some members of my Frostgrave "red" warband.
  • Various figures for my Hordes of the Things "Barbarian" army, including more foot warriors and a wooly rhino (in the small, black box).
  • Some of my son's Warhammer 40K Tau models: a missile turret and a battle suit.
  • Part of a relic/mecha from Relic Knights (also in the black box).  The large circular base for this is partly visible in the bottom right of the picture.

To the right of the paint station, but still on the desk, is a box of Relic Knights figures.  These are Star Corsairs and are a mixture of very nice and quite awful poses!

On the right-hand leaf of the desk you can see my long-promised generator model.  I'm thinking that this is more 20th century (so, Pulp or Spy-Fi) rather than futuristic, but who knows?

Behind that is another of my son's Tau models, plus a cardboard space fighter and another cardboard model (a refuse truck) on which the glue has failed; the components are all falling apart and I haven't yet decided whether it's worth trying to rescue it.

Moving on, here is a pile of 3 sci-fi "colony" buildings, partly painted.  I really must make more progress on these.

Finally, this is an MDF building (minus the roof, which hasn't yet been worked).  It's going to be a colonial trader's or missionary's house.  I've ordered some fur fabric with which to "thatch" the roof; hopefully that won't take too long once I have the material.


I really need to finish some of these models, if only so that they can be put away and not take up so much room on my desk!  The thought of having so much incomplete stuff was so depressing that recently I couldn't face painting.  Instead, I spent much of last weekend building some Saracen heavy cavalry to start a new SAGA warband...