Saturday, March 17, 2018

Norman Cavalry Test Base

Finished painting the Norman Cavalry test base I put together about a couple of weeks ago.  I was worried if three on a base would be too many, and also I was worried that I wouldn't be able to paint them because they were too close together.  Both concerns ended up being "challenges" but not anything that would change my mind in basing them this way.  That said, with the four base unit, the two in the front are going to be three figures, but the two in the back are only going to be two figures.  My main concern is that the bases are not deep enough to allow two bases with three figures each being able to line up back to front without the horses hitting each other before the bases are flush.  Not only does that not look that great (too close together front to back) but I also want the bases to be flush if I can.  I ran into this problem with my old cavalry figures like the Macedonians and Romans as well but because the unit was several individual figures on a tray I could space them out so that they didn't bump or look funny.  With these, because the number of figures on the base is less important to me or the rules I will likely use with these figures, it is fine if the two rear bases have fewer horses.  Probably more accurate in how the unit would look en mass while moving about the battlefield anyway.  Anyway, here they are.

The Normans themselves are the same heads as the infantry figures construction wise.  The bodies, however, are 1/2" x 1/2" spools (slightly shorter than the more common 1/2" x 5/8" ones you will find in a craft store, I had to order these from my online craft parts supplier).  You need this shorter spool so that the figure does't sit too high in the saddle.  Same arms, same spears, same shields, same paper chainmail skirt as the infantry.  You can't see it in this figure but I did do the legs differently than I normally do.  They use stirrups so I wanted the leg to be straight and extended (rather than bent and clinging to the side of the horse like the Macedonians or Persians or Romans would have ridden during that earlier time).  So I used a tile spacer for the leg (straight with the curved end glued up under the chainmail skirt so that I could pivot the leg to a desired angle easily) and on the flat end I glued a little "foot" also made out of tile spacer.  You can see this better in some of the other pictures.  Also, painting wise, I realized that although I like the larger, extended helmet look I have on the infantry figures personally better, historically that is not what they would have looked like most likely.  The helmet would have been more of a cap and the metal around the backs of their necks and around their face would have been chainmail, so I painted these that way.  I like the other look better from an artistic point of view (this is a LOT of chainmail to be looking at) but historically, this way of doing it is more correct so I am going to stick with this from now on, at least for the Normans.  For their allies, I will probably use the older way of doing the helmets just so we will be able to tell the allies apart from the Normans on the table top.
From the rear.  I paint the tail on the horses but the manes are what I've always used, this extra fluffy pipe cleaner I get at Michaels.
I debated on whether to have the shields at the ready, or slung on their backs.  I think for the rear ranked bases I might actually have one of the figures with the shield on his back.
You can see the rider's leg better in this image to see what I'm talking about with the tile spacer and foot.  In terms of the horses I altered my construction slightly.  I've always been a little disappointed that my horses, unlike Dale's for example, do not have visible "necks."  So for these, I used an axle cap to create the feeling of a neck on the horse.  It works better with these figures too than my old ones because the Normans due to their construction are taller anyway, so without a neck the horses' heads would be too low.  And also even though the horses have necks now and are taller, the Norman riders are still tall enough to be looking over the horse's head, which is obviously important.  I used the same small (the smallest I can find actually) split eggs for the head, and both sets of legs (front and back).  I used a different body for the horse than I usually use as well.  I used to use a 1/2" x 5/8" spool, but I found this "Barrel Bead" that is 5'8" wide 3/8" hole that is also about 5/8" in length.  Not only does it create a smoother and better (IMO) body profile for the horse, it is a bit "beefier" than the spool which again goes better with these Norman figures because they tend to be a bit bigger than my previous attempts at figures like the Macedonians and Persians.

Finally, here is the base in the same picture with an infantry base so that you get a sense for the scale with the infantry figures.
I think they look pretty good together and I'm happy with how they turned out and that even though it was a little more challenging to paint them than the infantry all on the base when I do it, they were still "doable" and I will continue to construct and glue everything first (except the shields) and then paint them (gluing the shields and the manes on as the last step in the process).

Monday, March 12, 2018


This figure is supposed to be a male Halfling, since I already did a female Halfling before, but at the scale of these figures, the gender of the figure could be anything you want.  I decided to put a mask on him to make him look a little different than the other figures I've done.  I might do a rogue at some point with a mask as well.  Anyway, here he is.

Same construction as the female halfling.  Oblong bead body, small bead head, tile spacer arms and feet (the feet tile spacer is cut in half so that it is thinner which obviously takes some height off the figure which is desirable in this case.  Paper hair, paper skirt for the armor, the mask is just painted on, and the two daggers/short swords are tile spacers.

Here he is being brave leading a party of humans for size comparison.

Thoughts for the Day

I've been thinking recently about this whole process of making miniatures from wood craft bits like I do, or developing them from a pawn or clothespin base form like Dale, Ken, and Stephen do, or the clay sculpture figures that Vicente does.  I have also started to think more and more about the general "crafting movement" in rpgs, in particular work on terrain by people like DM Scotty and DMG (check out their youtube videos if you haven't, they are both awesome).  I know we do it primarily out of a gaming need/desire.  But it has to be more than that. 

We are fortunate enough to live in a time when there are pretty much professionally sculpted miniatures and terrain pieces for anything you would want, and if you happen to hit on something that you can't find, I highly recommend doing a Kick Starter search before concluding that "that miniature doesn't exist," because much of the time you'll find a KS for it ... it may never get finished, but at least there is a mention of a KS for it.  So it isn't like the 1980's when we might be making miniatures because the ones we need to not exist.  We can get professionally made miniatures and terrain of whatever we want, all we need to do is paint them.  So why do we do the stuff that is covered on this blog?

I then got really reflective and thought back to the art appreciation courses I took when I was a wee lad in college and it sort of hit me.  And I came to this conclusion.  I think that one of the main reasons those of us who do this whole miniature construction and painting thing is out of individual artistic expression.  These pieces are art to us, not just purely functioning objects to use in a game.  Sure, that's part of it, but the amount of blood, sweat and tears that we put into these little fellows far exceeds any benefit provided by creating a functional gaming piece.  And again, all those gaming pieces already exist, sculpted by professionals.  All we have to do is paint them.  And yet, we continue to do this "art."

So the next obvious question is "okay, but what kind of art?"

I'm starting to think that one could classify what we are doing as "folk art."  Here is's definition of "folk art":

"Artistic works, as paintings, sculpture, basketry, and utensils, produced typically in cultural isolation by untrained often anonymous artists or by artisans of varying degrees of skill and marked by such attributes as highly decorative design, bright bold colors, flattened perspective, strong forms in simple arrangements, and immediacy of meaning."

Wow, that definition seems to hit on a bunch of things that appear to be true for the artistic process covered on this blog.

1.  Produced typically in cultural isolation:  Seems certainly to be true.

2.  By untrained often anonymous artists or by artisans of varying degrees of skill:  Check.

3.  Marked by such simple attributes as highly decorative design, bright colors, flattened perspective, strong forms in simple arrangements, and immediacy of meaning:  CHECK!!!

It seems to me that one could consider these little wooden warriors that we are making to be a type of folk art.  

Others agree?  Disagree?  Could care less, I just want to see more little wooden guys? 

Thursday, March 8, 2018


I do enjoy making scenery pieces for the table top, so I decided to do some simple sarcophagi.  Can't have too many of those.  Nothing fancy, just some nice scenery pieces I can throw on the table top.  I did get fancy with the one in the middle and had a skeletal hand grasping the edge, begging the question of "what's inside?!"
They are all basically made the same way.  Two 1 inch cubes glued together with a 2.25" x 1.5"
"sign" precut wooden part from a craft store for a lid.  I then added some thin craft foam pieces to some of the tops, some of the sides, and for the blue one I used the same small round thin precut pieces I use for shields to the front for decoration.  The red one has a small split bead on the top as well, and the skeletal hand is just made out of time spacers.  The skull on the dark brown one is just a split bead for the skull with a smaller split bead for the open mouth.  I glued it so that the split side is facing up to create the "mouth."

Very quick, very easy, and definitely something I would be happy to put on my game table.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Goblins 2.0

I finally got around to finishing 5 more of the 2.0 way of doing goblins, more like what the monster appears like in modern D&D publications.  I had the test figure that I did a while ago, I just added in 5 friends for him.  Here they are.

I am pleased that I am getting more dynamic in my arm poses.  I must say, the tile spacers make it really quick and easy to shape whatever arm shapes you want using a craft blade to cut them.  Whenever I try out a new arm pose I invariably go through anywhere between 2 and 12 (2d6?!) tile spacers before I cut it like I want to, but they are so inexpensive it doesn't matter.

I think I covered construction before, but I'll do it again.  Pretty simple.  Small tapered bead bodies, split small round bead heads, tile spacer feet, arms, weapons (except for the spear), and ears.  Small round precut pieces for shields, toothpick spear.  They were pretty quick to design and build.  They have been sitting on my painting table for about two months and I had a "hole" in my assembly process where I had several batches of figures not quite completely assembled, but nothing on my painting table but these guys and I knew I could knock them out in a night or two, so I did.

Here they are with some heroes for scale (human heroes and the one female dwarf so you can get the full effect).

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Saxon Slingers Painting Tutorial

Dale has been asking me, and I have been putting him off for far too long, to provide a painting tutorial post for the blog.  I decided when I started this latest batch of figures, which happened to be the Saxon slingers (skirmishers), I would do just that.  I took several photos from "naked" to completed in an attempt to show the stages of painting for the figures that I do.  One of the things that can sap folks' morale when they are sitting down to do figures like this for the first time is that honestly, the figures do not look very good until you have finished painting them.  This is especially true until the eyes go on.  So what I am hoping to show is that up until the end, my figures don't look all that great.  The beauty of any crafted figures in my opinion cannot be fully appreciated until they are finished, and therefore, they sort of look pretty bad until the entire paint job is done.

So here we go ...

First picture - no paint.  I've finished gluing all the parts on at this point.  This is the first time I have tried to do paper slings.  I usually use twine, but I wanted to try the paper because I think given how the paper reacts with the white glue, even when being glued to a tile spacer "hand" it will stick better to the figure than the twine has in the past.

Next step is to prime them.  I brush on a very dark brown color called "Soft Black" by Americana.  It looks quite "black" in this photo but it really is a very dark umber brown color in real life.  I do two coats of paint for the priming stage so that the color is nice and rich with no "thin spots."
I pretty much follow the same method I use for metal or plastic miniatures when I paint these as well in that the flesh goes on next.  I paint the hands and also the heads whatever flesh tone I want to use for the figure.  I paint the entire head because it is easier to paint the hair on top of the flesh color than to try and paint the hair on and then meet the flesh tone up to the edge of the hair.  Also, I always have to touch up a bit with the Soft Black afterwards as I've painted the hands too large or got some of the flesh tone from the head onto the clothing.  I do two coats of flesh tone for this step.  If you don't, the dark under color really causes the paint to look "blotchy" and at least for my style, clean, crisp lines are essential ... no blotchy.
Next up, eyes, hair, and shoes/boots.  I do the Soft Black as the first color for the hair regardless of the shade of hair, and then on top of that I paint whatever shades of brown I want to use, leaving a little of the Soft Black visible on the edges to create depth.  For the eyes, I paint a black oval and then after that dries I paint white dots on each side (just one coat of each color).  I do NOT paint the pupil as in the past when I've tried to do this I just mess it up.  Be careful to pay attention to where the figure is "looking" as that will determine how much white on each side of the eye you will want to paint.  For example, if the figure is looking to its left, for each eye you would want small white dots in the left part of the eye (from the figure's point of view) and large white dots (or longer really is the better way to say it) in the right part of the eye.  This gives the impression that the figure is looking to its left because very little of the white part of the eye is visible in the left part of the eye, but a lot of the white part of the eye is visible in the right part of the eye.  Also try and leave some of the black from the eye uncovered around the edges to create depth.  The shoes/boots I always just use one coat of a medium brown color and paint the tile spacer feet in a way that looks like they are wearing low boots.
I typically do the pants next.  The tricky thing with them is to create a crease around the groin where the legs bend at the hip, and also some "space" between the legs.  In both cases I just leave the Soft Black visible to create the space between the legs or the folds in the pants, and paint a single coat of whatever color I want to use for the pants allowing those lines of dark brown to show through.  You can't really see the pants very well in this picture, but here it is.
After the pants drie I do the tunics and hoods if the figure is wearing one.  For the tunics I leave a "band" of Soft Black to not be covered around the middle as this will serve as the basis for the belt.  I also try and paint the arms and other parts of the tunic to mimic folds by leaving some of the Soft Black visible with the tunic color on each side of the line.  I just paint one coat of the tunic color.  Same is true for the hoods as well.
Finally come the belts, buckles, and slings.  I usually use a brown or a dark blue (for a black belt) and just paint a line representing the belt around each figure (one coat), trying to allow some of the Soft Black to not be covered at the edge of the belt to create a shadow effect.  The buckle is just a dot of light gray (one coat).  The slings are painted similarly to the clothing, allowing lines of the Soft Black to not be painted over to create folds and shadows (one coat for the sling color).
All that's left is the base.  I do two coats of fairly dark green (I believe it is called Pine something by Americana).  After those coats dry, I do blotches of lighter green to finish off the grass, and darker tan for the base dirt color with a light tan on top for highlights.
And this next picture is how they will likely appear on the actual gaming table in more of a skirmish line/formation.
I timed myself and the entire painting process, not counting drying time, from the first coat of Soft Black primer to the last lighter green blotch was a little over 2 hours.  If these were metal miniatures or plastic ones with the flash already removed, to paint and base 8 figures of the same scale (roughly 28mm) priming them with three colors for everything (a la the Foundry Painting System which although I do not use their paints, I use their style/approach to painting miniatures) would take me more like 8 hours.  In fairness, the build takes me longer than it takes to remove the flash, but not 6 hours longer, and there is nothing fun to me about removing flash.  The builds, though, are sometimes sort of fun unless I cut my finger with the craft blade or poke the drill bit into my hand or finger.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

The Wau

I have been long thinking about selling some of my older, painted miniatures – along with the pile of unpainted counterparts – which is something I am always reluctant to do. After all, painted miniatures are immediately usable for a game, to try out a new set of rules, or just get in a game of an old favorite when you feel the urge. Despite my last post about minimalism, it still takes time and effort to create those new armies, no matter how minimal you make the process. (If it did not take much time and effort, why do I have a lead pile? 💂)

One of the games I know I will probably never play again is Warhammer 40,000. It is not because I do not like the game, but rather I do not fancy the gaming style that surrounds it. (Plus, I do not like constantly paying for new rule books and army lists, year after year!) All of my games with my 40K figures have been solo efforts, largely using older versions of the rules or other sets.

Many of the miniatures I that have were either painted by commission painters – and usually not very well – or were painted figures I picked up on eBay. Although I know I would not get very much for mine – I got my painted ones on the cheap, after all – they take up a lot of room and can be a bit fragile.

Of course, before I think of dumping any figures on the market I have to ask myself: 1) do I want to maintain a collection of figures of the type I am selling; and 2) if I get rid of these, will I be able to replace them with wooden ones that I make?

Matt showed off his Space Marines and Skinnies, which are really cool and inspirational, so I know that the Space Marines are doable. He has also done Orcs, so Space Orks aren't much of a stretch from there. His Skinnies have a nice Space Elf look, so the Eldar are covered. But, my second army in 40K were the Tau, and because I tend to like shooty armies, I needed to see if I could make a decent version of them. It did not need to be exact. Because it was unlikely I was going to game with these in a public venue, I did not have to worry about scale or being spot on; I just wanted to look at them and say "I can see those as being Tau".

Because they were going to be my creation, I decided to dub them "Wau" for "wooden Tau". Obviously they are pronounced "wow!". 😊 I decided to start off which the standard issue shaker peg.

The top of the figure looks similar to the Tau helmet, which is shaped a bit like a modern bicycle helmet. I wanted to more clearly define the legs of the figure, so I sanded out a hollow at the bottom of the figure.

I can tell you straightaway this was a mistake. Not only did it add time to the build, which is already lengthy as it is, but it greatly reduced the surface area at the bottom, where I needed to secure it to a base. This figure was hard to glue and to keep secured to its base. I will more than likely break one or more times through the course of gaming. Don't do this!

Here is the finished figure, in this case the squad leader (indicated by his long-range antenna on his helmet. The shoulder pad are the ends of rounded-end, wooden coffee stirrers, the pulse rifle is the middle part of the wooden coffee stirrer, and the antenna a bit of small wooden dowel. The arms and hands, along with the faceplate on the helmet, were made with dimensional paint, which I increasingly use for details, especially on smaller figures (these are almost exactly true 25mm).

Here is the whole fire team:

Squads are 12 soldiers with two drones, which are split into two fire teams of six soldiers and one drone.

The drone is basically a mushroom (button) plug with a small rod used to raise it off the ground and two coffee stirrers for its weaponry. I used from fuzzy pom-poms to simulate it blowing up dust and small rocks, in addition to hiding the support rod, but I am not sure I like it.

This is just another trooper (who is going to be reprimanded for losing his arm bracers!). What is different is that I soaked the whole figure and base matte varnish. It still has a little shine on top, but the little alien foliage is better glued down to the base because of it. It seems like it makes the foliage a little less fuzzy, but it definitely makes it harder.

The last figure is covered in Future Floor Wax, which really brings out the shine and makes the colors pop. I definitely do not like it for the ground – unless you are using in on a pavement color and going for a "just rained on" look – but I am not sure for about the figure. As Matt commented regarding the gloss on Stephen Beat's toy soldier guardsman (see my last post), it really looks good for that genre (toy soldier, nutcracker, Britain and Marx soldiers, etc.) but looks a little too ... visible for a future warrior. I'll have to ponder this.

In summary, my question was whether a decent version of the Tau could be created was answered. Wau!



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