Tuesday, 12 February 2019


The first thing I have to say about this post is that the base of it belongs to Pat over at Wargaming With Silver Whistle. His simple solution to making haystacks, given I had the materials in house, meant this was the way to go. 

Pat, if this was your idea, you are a regular war gaming genius.

Obviously, me being me, I decided on another way of putting haystacks together, but Pat's post was the germ of the idea. This is how I did them. I made 12 haystacks with the materials and tools described.

  • A six inch by four inch piece of copra doormat.
  • Some off cuts of one inch thick insulation foam board (a strip about 1" wide and 12" long).
  • Basing board (I used 2mm MDF)
  • PVA glue
  • Paint 
  • A Stanley knife
  • Big scissors
  • A spatula (I used a one use disposable plastic cup stirrer)
  • A mixing dish (I used a blister pack)
  • Basing scatter materials.

First I cut out some 'short dowels' using inch thick insulation foam. As you can see, these do not need to be cut perfectly circular. I also cut several thin strips of copra doormat.
The doormat needs to be cut into thin strips so that the fibres can be cut off with scissors. Once the fibres are cut off a little time needs to be spent removing thick bits, and tightly wound bits, of copra. Wound copra can usually be 'shredded' by counter-winding between one's fingers. It takes a few minutes to sort out the wheat from the chaff.
Next I mixed a heap of cut copra with medium quality PVA.  It's best to start with a good deal of glue, mixing in the copra strands gradually.
The messiest job comes next. You take a lump of glue mixed copra and roll it between the palms of your hands to create a loose ball. This ball is then placed on top of the foam dowel like a hat. I didn't rely on the glue in the copra for this to stick; I added a big dollop of glue to the top of each dowel before placing the hat on.
Using a spatula, plastic or metal, shape the copra hat into a dome shape that doesn't stick out everywhere. Once this step is done the 'hat' is left to dry. Whilst drying, cut out the basing. I used 2mm MDF cut into irregular shapes.
Another messy job, not quite so messy, is carried out next. PVA glue is applied liberally, very liberally, to the sides of the dowel. Copra is then placed on using ones fingers, pressed quite firmly so that the glue comes through the fibres.
At that point, add more copra, then roll the dowel between the palms of your hands so that the results of your sticking are 'round'. Whilst wet, rub the stacks bottom onto the basing board so that the haystack will sit flat. Then add a dollop of PVA to fix it in place.
What I did next, to personal taste, was add a shallow skirt to the bottom of the stack using PVA soaked (as per the hat) copra, again teased into shape with a plastic spatula. At this point, using some of the cut down mat strips,I added a few tufts to the bases.
When everything was dry, and on top of a radiator this doesn't take that long, I undercoated in emulsion.
Then I ink washed with well watered (5:1) acrylic ink to give depth.
Next I dry brushed with with a few layers of ever lightening craft acrylic (yellows) and emulsion paint (deep magnolia).

When dry, I gave the stacks a hair cut to tidy them up a bit. Some might like the ragged nature of the stacks before the haircut but I didn't - my stacks are neat and tidy.
Lastly, I based with my usual sand and grit combo, inked and dry brushed, and finished with some flock (in this case dead-fall from the trees purchased from Andy over at Last Valley - I throw nothing, not even tree litter, away). 

Voila: Twelve haystacks. 

At a guess they took about twenty minutes each to make and cost less than a couple of pounds in materials all told.

Monday, 14 January 2019

Carry On Camping

Shortly after Christmas I was searching on various web sites for some new pavilions to go with my Italian Wars collection (and at a pinch, my Crusades stuff). During my searches I went to Renedra Ltd. 

Although they didn't have the pavilions I wanted, I noticed that their 'Dog Tents' were being sold at half price (£2.50 for four). Heads up and fill your boots!

An immediate change of plan was required: Tents to make a small camp for my horse and musket collections. 

I'm not up on tent lore, and I rather think that most other gamers are in the same boat. I'm not exactly sure what kind of tents were used in the SYW, or for that matter during the Napoleonic Wars either. However, from pictures I've seen, I do know two things: The ridge tents in military camps were set up in neat lines and, they all look the same to me.  

I chose to buy four packs of dog tents and a pack of larger ridge tents - total cost (inc. postage) £21. This would give me four rows of five tents; a row of four dog tents for the rank and file with a larger tent at one end of each row for the 'officers / NCOs'.

Following a quick undercoat with white spray paint I used household emulsion to paint the tents medium grey; I dry brushed light grey; I finished with a couple of layers of dry brushed pure white; I picked out some of the creases with grey paint; I painted the tent pegs dark brown highlighted with mid brown.

Whilst the coats of paint on the tents were drying, I made the bases (each 80 mm wide and 240 mm long) using 2 mm thick MDF. 

I marked out where the tents would stand on the bases with a pencil and glued fine sand on these spaces (so the tents would have somewhere flat to sit); I sand and gritted around the fine sand areas with coarser materials (sand, ground oyster shell and Tesco's 'orange / pink' coloured granular dust free cat litter - which is fantastic stuff for rendering 28 mm rocks); I ink washed the bases (using burnt umber ink, 1 part ink to 4 parts water); I dry brushed the bases with household emulsion paint (a deep sand colour, followed by a light beige). 

When the tents were finished, and dry, I glued them onto the bases. Finally, I flocked with coarse turf (Woodland Scenics burnt grass mixed with yellow grass).

This is what they came out like. Not a bad for a Saturday afternoon's pottering whilst listening to the football. I feel a scenario coming on......