Friday 23 April 2010

Time to base

The end of the first part of my Punic Wars project is drawing very near. I only have about 40 figures to paint to play my first game.

The job I like least is basing things up. Not the base cutting, but the scenic element. I dislike it so much that I invariably put it off until the very last moment. This time I've left it until almost 700 figures have been painted. I decided, on a whim, to base half of them over the last two days; I'll do the rest after I've finished painting the 40. I finished the Romans this afternoon. I got a start on the 40, and even managed a few shots of the Romans deployed for battle. I think they look pretty good.

All figures are Renegade. All are painted in enamels.
Bases are 4mm ply wood. 'Earth' texture is sand, grit, ground oyster shell and cat litter on a thick layer of PVA. The 'earth' was painted with watered down burnt umber acrylic ink. This war dry brushed with raw umber artists acrylic then dry brushed again with raw umber acrylic mixed with ivory household emulsion paint. Grass tufts are from Mutineer Miniatures - in early and late fall colours, long. I used 3 packets for this lot. The effect is for a 'Spain' look.
Here is a link to Mutineer Miniatures:

Tuesday 20 April 2010

Mold making and drop casting

Having made my master of an 'ancient' cargo ship in 1:600, I now needed to make a mold for drop casting. To recap on the master:

To start I needed a small tray; in this case the bottom of an unused butter dish. I filled this with plasticine, making the surface relatively smooth.

I made two mould boxes out of balsa wood. One to go around the master (rubber mold box) and a bigger one (plaster box) to fit around the smaller one. Note the difference in height, width and depth. Both were glued on three sides, the last side was not glued. I reinforced the outer joined corners with paper and PVA. It is very important that these boxes are square. I painted all the inner surfaces with Vaseline.

I laid the master in the centre of the plasticine tray and gently pressed to get an outline

I chopped out a hole and placed the master in it so that half the master was buried, carefully smudging the plasticine up to the edges of the model to remove any 'gaps' around the model; and I added three location holes with the end of a brush .

I placed the smaller box around the master, pinning the fourth side into position and sealed any gaps around the bottom with plasticine. I painted the surface of the master and plasticine with a very thin coat of Vaseline. I also sealed the corners of the unglued corners of the box with Vaseline.

I then mixed up enough rubber to cover the master and poured. The rubber is 96 - 98% rubber plus 2 - 4% catalyst - which I found hard to judge.

When it had cured I removed the box, cut of the 'flash' and put on the bigger box. Preparation of this box is the same as the small box. I also made four big location holes in the plasticine (not shown).

I mixed up some plaster of paris and poured this into the large box. Do this on a level surface.

When all was set I removed the box and molds. I forgot to take a picture of what I did next so bear with me. I took out the rubber mold with the model in it. I coated the surface with a thin layer of Vaseline and put it back into the small mold box 'master up' (as shown). Then I poured in the other half of the rubber mold.

When this had cured, I removed the box, put the rubber mold back into the plaster casing, and put the whole thing into the large mold box. I painted the surfaces with more Vaseline and poured on the other half of the plaster casing. Do this on a level surface, then the plaster mold will be 'square'.

When this had set, I removed the almost completed mold

I split the mold (it comes apart easily because of the Vaseline) and cut the first air vents and pouring hole. It is important that the pouring hole is big enough to get a good 'pour'. The vents allow air to escape the mold as the lead goes in. IT IS VERY IMPORTANT that your vents all end at the top of the mold: HOT LEAD LEAKING OUT SIDEWAYS (OR DOWNWARD) IS NOT VERY GOOD! Don't overdo the first vents; you can add or enlarge after test casting.


Advice: Leave to dry for at least three days on top of a radiator or on a sunny window sill. After three days, put the plaster sabots in a very low (60 C) oven for three hours. When it is dry it will make a clean 'ceramic ring' when tapped.

When it is dry cut out two pieces of paper and put them into the 'holes' behind the rubber (between plaster and the back of each rubber mold). These provide just enough of a wedge to 'pinch' the rubber when the two halves of the mold are put together.

LIABILITY WARNING: I will not accept any liability for accidents on your part or for accidental misinformation on mine. This post is only a non professional guide as to my methods. Casting is VERY dangerous. If you copy what I do: YOU DO IT AT YOUR OWN RISK.

For casting I used the gas hob of a domestic oven, my melting pan (an old camping pot) and a vice. I also used a pencil, a soft brush, a sharpener and a piece of sand paper.

SAFETY: I wear thick cloth or thick leather gardening gloves (NO RUBBER OR PLASTIC!); I use goggles; I wear a cloth or leather apron and good solid leather shoes. SHOES are very important - sandals, trainers, slippers, shoes with ventilation holes or bare feet are a no-no - anything I spill is heading, by law of gravity, in the direction of my feet. Also - I NEVER MIX WATER WITH ANY PART OF THE CASTING PROCESS.

I sand down the point of a pencil, re-sharpen it and do it again about four or five times. I tip the graphite into the mold and brush about with the soft brush. I put the mold together, vice it up and pour in the lead of my first casting. This will be rubbish, the mold is cold.

When the mold warms up the casting gets better, but there will be problems with air escaping, etc. I work out where the air vents should be added to get a clear cast - remember they must end at the top of the mold or back into the casting. I had a problem with the 'swan' at the back - I had to add two air vents. I also had to widen the pour hole slightly.

Once I worked through the mold's niggles the castings were clean and easy.

This is not the best model I've ever made. It certainly isn't the best mold; I found working with the rubber I bought difficult. I've used the white stuff (RTV31) in the past and this has much better flow properties than this orange stuff. But it served its purpose.

Apart from the safety tips on working with molten lead, I have nothing to offer. Without a commercially available thermostatically controlled smelting pot it is all hit and miss to me.

Tuesday 13 April 2010

Punic Wars - some skirmish types

I've just got around to putting last month's painting onto bases. Here they are, 112 figures in all, and all are Renegade.

Four units of Spanish catrati. These are very effective skirmishers capable of skirmishing with javelin or, in an emergency, with the sword. I've decided to distinguish this type of skirmisher by basing then 3 to a stand / 12 to a unit. My Roman velites are similar.

Four units of tribal Libyan skirmishers. These are proper skirmish types. I've decided to distinguish them from 'up and at 'em' skirmishers by basing them 2 to a stand / 8 to a unit. I was a bit unsure about the flesh tone to use for these guys. They are, as far as I can gather, native to Africa rather than Carthaginian imports, so I've given them a very dark (but not black) skin tone.

Four units of Balearic slingers. Again these are proper skirmish types. When it comes to purely missile troops these guys are Creme de la Creme.
Next up it will be more cavalry - Numidians and Spanish - plus some command stands. I'll also try and get everything based up for the first game - Trebia at half final scale - involving most of the first 700 figures.

Saturday 10 April 2010

Wargames tables

I started wargaming when I was 10, possibly 11, years old. I'm 45 now, and I've had several wargames tables over the years.

I started out, as most boys do, throwing a green cloth over the dining room table. This had the usual draw back of having to clear away everything by meal times.

My first real table was in my small bedroom. This was 6 foot 6 inches long and 4 foot wide. Space was minimal, but my father came up with a sound solution. My bed was made of pine. My father drilled three holes in each leg. When my table was required I bolted a 3 foot long 2 by 2 to each bed leg, bolted lengths of 2 by 1 battens around the top of the 2 by 2s to form a frame, then dropped on the 1/2 inch chipboard table-top. The top was fixed with four drop in bolts which went down the centre of each 2 by 2 'leg'. All in all, this was an extremely stable construction that, at a pinch, I could leave in position - I slept under it.

My first purpose built free standing table was constructed after a house move. This was 6 foot by four foot. I built it with my dad when I was 14 and still exists, in part (the top), to this day. Again, space was at a premium, but not to such a large degree, and it was collapsible. The legs were two A frame trestles made out of 2 by 2s and 4 by 1s. The ridge of each trestle (4 by 1) had a slot in the middle - this slot was the key. The table-top was made out of two 6 foot by two foot 1/4 inch ply wood sheets. Each of these had battens (2 inch by 1/2 inch) around the edge. The two 'tops' were hinged down the 6 foot length with a 6 foot long 'piano' hinge so that it could be folded when not in use. When on the trestles the hinged battens fell into the slot in the 'A' frame trestles. This was a masterpiece of simple engineering that lasted me (though latterly with an 8 by 6 foot top) until about ten years ago. The 6 by 4 foot top is now Tim T's wargames table - though he does not get it out much.

When I moved to my present address my wargames room doubled in size overnight. This is a stay put house, so I indulged myself in table design. I wanted a big table - at least 10 foot by 6 - with lots of smart storage. I decided on kitchen base units - the cheapest I could find (note the doors which don't match!). I banked these up in two eight foot rows with a gap down the middle, and bolted them all together. I then used two 8 foot x 3 foot x 1/2 inch chip board as a top. To allow for bigger games I used a piano hinge to add a 32" drop leaf. The drop leaf is battened with 2 by 1s. The free end is supported by 2 by 2 legs that, when in position, are bolted to the battens with long bolts and wing nuts. The picture below give some idea of the construction - especially the gap.

I've had other tables of course, but these were temporary or built for a particular battle. One was made out of battened hard board - which was a disaster as I battened it before painting it and it warped dreadfully - this led to the 6 by 4 foot described above.
Another, and one for which I have pleasant memories, was made of aluminium. It measured, when all the sheets were put together, 22 foot by 16 foot - and you could walk on it! It came with fields, hedges, woods, roads, hills and all. I found it on a dump when my father was stationed at RAF Locking. The flight simulators had just been computerised and they were dumping the 'terrain' over which small cameras used to 'zoom', and which had been originally wall mounted in a hanger - they were HUGE! I wanted all of it but my mum, on finding it had overtaken the garden drew the line at 22 x 16. The only thing I had to do was remove the tiny houses and replace them with a more suitable scale. I was fourteen and my regular gaming chum and I used it all summer for 1:300 WWII games. I still have a small section without a frame - it is used as flooring in my mums attic.
So, there you have it. A resume of my wargame tables - well some of them.