Monday, November 28, 2016

Painted Monsters

Hi Everyone,

I finally got around to painting the Mind Flayer and the Otyugh figures I made a while back.  I've been working on a "metal" project lately, but needed a break so I went back to my wooden guys to finish them up. 

First the Mind Flayer.
All fear the Mind Flayer!  I'm pretty happy with him, especially the head/face which I was most worried about.  It looks a little "small" on the naked wooden figure, but it isn't once you get the eyes painted on it.  Here are a couple more shots:
Nothing earth shattering in the painting really.  For the most part it's stuff I've done before except for the eyes.  I wanted to make sure and make them look not at all human.

And now ... the Otyugh!!!

Honestly, I couldn't be happier with it!  As you can see, I did end up gluing on some sharp toothpick ends to give him some spikes.  I'm pleased with the construction and the finished paint job as well.  Doesn't always happen with a first-time construction piece with me.  I did a base for him as well but glued him on at the end, after I painted everything.  Here are some more shots:
Just two colors, a medium brown base coat (two coats for good coverage) and then a mustard yellow color on top for the body coloring.  I tried to keep it simple.  It would have been really easy to get too detailed and complicated for the tentacle pattern.  I wanted to both keep it simple, and paint on a pattern that was consistent with the pieces I used in construction.  The teeth were first given a light gray undercoat and then the teeth were painted on top, leaving some gray showing as usual.  And now, for the view of the Otyugh that an adventurer would see, right before the end ...

Hope you enjoyed these two classic D&D monsters.  I might work on some Drow next.  But for the rest of this week, I need to get some metal monsters done for my D&D game I'm running on Sunday night.  Starting a new campaign, I want to get off on the right foot!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Austrian Artillery 1866 (12mm)

This will probably be my last article on making minimal soldiers using beads, given that the construction is dead simple and the interest lower than on making the full-sized figures. I will continue making them and may, on occasion, show the painted versions. But unless I come up with something unique (like an elephant), this article will probably be the end of that series.

So to finish it all off, I wanted to go over how I built my Austrian artillery and limber for the Austro-Prussian War 1866 (or the Seven Weeks' War). First, let's start with the artillery piece.

The picture above shows the main components: A) a mini-dowel or section of round toothpick for the axle; B) two short sections of matchstick for the base of the barrel; C) a section of matchstick slightly rounded to serve as the gun barrel; and D) two circle beads that look 'good enough' for wheels.

I start by attaching the axle to the wheels using hot glue.

The hardest part will be getting the wheels aligned.

Next, attach a section of matchstick to the axle to serve as the base of the gun platform.

Now attach the second section of matchstick to the axle 90ยบ away from the first attachment point. If you looked at the platform from the side, it would form an 'L'.

Now we are going to use the pointed end of a flat toothpick for the trails.

Cut them to the right length.

  Now attach them to the axle with hot glue.

Now we need to work on the limber. First we start with two cube beads and a piece of mini-dowel.

Hot glue them together along with two more 'wheel' beads.

I have shown how to make horses previously. Make two of those and glue a mini-dowel to act as the pole for the limber. Face the horses away from the gun. When the gun is forward, the artillery is deployed; when the horses are, it is limbered.

You will need a little mini-dowel at the front for the cross-piece too.

I was using Prussian artillerists in the two pictures above, not Austrians. But I noticed that the two artillerists are a little too close together. I do want to keep things cramped to minimize painting details, but that is too cramped. I am going to have to drill some holes farther apart.

The Austrian artillerists are dead simple. They are a 1/4" flat head plug turned upside-down glued on top of a 6mm spherical bead. That is it.

The white stuff that you see above the face is a product called Writer by Americana and it is "dimensional" acrylic paint. I accidentally picked this up (the accident being that I knocked over the bottle in Hobby Lobby and shattered the plastic lid, so I felt compelled to buy it) and decided to try it.

One of my hesitations about using beads and such for more modern subjects is that so little of the headgear is a simple shape. Take the basic shako or kepi, for example. They are both basically cylindrical, but they have a peak on the front (and sometimes the back) which is, I think, distinctive. Previously I have been either ignoring it or using hot glue, as I did with the spikes on the Prussian pickelhaubes. Because Writer has a very fine nozzle and a very thick consistency, you can squeeze out small embellishments using this paint. For the peaks on 12mm shakos, it is actually perfect. I can see doing this for cockades, plates and other small, but distinctive shape. Here is what it looks like after it was dried and painted.

The figure on the right shows the profile view well and the peak is more visible. If this took anything more than a minute to do, I would not do it. As it is, it takes less time that it does for me to make the hot glue spikes for the Prussians.

Here is the finished artillery piece. I am still pondering whether to paint the gun barrel bronze or keep it black (I have seen images both ways). The spoked wheels are simply painting 'conversions'; there are no modeled spokes. Same thing with the harnesses on the horses, except for the collars; that is hot glue used to hold the head to the body. I decided to paint it like a draft horse's collar.

The rammer is a simple mini-dowel using Writer to create the sponge on the end, painted an appropriately dirty color, of course.

All in all, this was a fun little piece to create.

Next Up!

I went and visited friends last weekend and they reintroduced me to DBA (version 3, this time). It game me the occasion to bring out my wooden 28mm DBA Armenian army and show them off.

The Armenians want a foe to fight!
But as my friends have 15mm armies, I could not use these little guys. I have decided that I need to rectify that! I started an Early Imperial Roman army, but did not get very far. There is a lot of infantry and their build was pretty tedious and complex. But they look cool!

Early Imperial Romans have too much equipment!
So I started looking through the army lists, looking for another possible solution. Something simpler, but something I know I would want to play and play against.


I am going to try and build upon my bead experience, but still have a nicer army at the same (25mm) scale as my Armenians.

For the Huns that fought the Armenians, I have two choices: II/80b Sabir Hunnic Army 515–558 AD or II/80d Other Hunnic Armies 374–558 AD. The first is too specialized and for too short a period, so I decided to go with the latter. Taking all of the options into account, this army would require:
  • 1 General Cavalry unit
  • 1 General Light Horse unit
  • 11 Light Horse (archer) units
That is a lot of horse archers! Still, they are relatively easy to make and they are only two riders and two horses per base. (The Armenian army has four bases of them.)

If I decided to add the Sabir, I would need to add the following:
  • 1 General on foot as a Warband unit
  • 5 Hunnic Warband units
  • 5 Hunnic Bow units
As the Sabir as described as "exceedingly ferocious and rapacious". Hmmm. Might make for some interesting figures and a camp.

I am definitely going to use the same style of horse that I used for my Armenian horse archers, but I am considering using a different construction style for the riders. Partially, this is because I don't want them to look the same save for coloring. I believe the pointed, fur-trimmed hat will call for something different. I will start with a few experiments.

But, that is what is coming up next from me. Matt is on a 'wood hiatus' working on a project with metal figures (๐Ÿ˜  I know, right?) so unless he gets bitten by a bug, it may be a while before we see any of his interesting creations. Hopefully he will figure out how to work wood into the terrain he is building for his project and we can see some of that.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Making Prussian Soldiers

Matt mentioned in the comments of the last post he was looking forward to seeing the construction notes. My construction of cavalry is a bit simpler than for infantry and artillery. The problem is this:

Those ugly gaps
When I built my Dark Ages troops (in a hotel room while on a business trip) I made each figure separately, then glued them together, then glued them to the bases (when I returned home). And there were those ugly gaps. Now I could fill them in with hot glue, but sometimes that does not look right.

The second problem:

Cheap plastic tube beads
These things are incredibly cheap and make great legs for the horses. Of late I have been using them for the bodies of infantry too, rather than round or square beads, as I did above with the Dark Ages fyrd. When you add the 'rifle' and the hot glue 'arm', the proportions seem better.

With cavalry, you have two points of contact for gluing – the front and the back legs – but with infantry you only have one, and that one small surface area does not seem to be strong enough to hold. Now I have some smaller wooden beads on the way to replace these tube beads, but I wanted to show how I made the last Prussians.

First, I created a template.

Template for Loose Infantry unit
Wait, what? The problem with the bodies being so much small than the head is that it is really hard to judge the spacing between the figures when you are gluing the smaller body down. In order to ensure a nice formation, the template allows you to plan your spacing. This template has a screen of four skirmishers and a formed body of eight in two ranks.

Clamp the template to a second base
Using clamps and a Dremel I can then drill the holes into my base. Note that the holes in the template will get a little wider over time as you keep re-inserting the drill as slightly different angles.

Do a batch of bases
As I work at home and I sometimes have long telephone conference calls, I can sometimes drill a base or two in the spare moments. No one on the conference call is even aware I am in the background drilling away!

My artillery template
I have even made a template for the artillery. The base is used on the short edge, making artillery bases 1/2 as wide as infantry and cavalry bases, but twice as deep. The gunners will be where the holes are while the limber will be in the backfield, facing away from the gun. Turn the horses forward and the gun is limbered; turn them backwards and the gun is deployed.

Back to the tutorial. I now hot glue matchsticks into the holes.

Snipped matchsticks
I snip off the excess length of the matchsticks. I only need a short piece to secure the bead. (The remainder of the match stick will be re-used for the next base.)

Hot glue the plastic tube beads on
As you can see, the plastic tube beads fit snugly onto the matchsticks, securing them to the base.

Don't forget to trim the bottom!
I give the bottom of the base a quick brush or two with a sanding block so the base sits flush with the table.

It seems like a lot of work, but it really is not. I may be able to forgo this step by using smaller wooden beads for the body, like 4mm or 6mm round beads, especially if they provide sufficient hold. But as long as I have those tube beads, I will probably need to do this. (Your get 1,000 beads for about $4.)

This next shot shows the figures with the 'head' on. I do not recommend that you put them on at this point. I have only done it for illustration purposes so you can see the formation and spacing.

They are starting to look like Prussians!
For the rifles I use toothpicks or mini-dowels. As I use the points on toothpicks for spears, lances, and muskets with bayonets, it would take a lot of toothpicks, using center the center portion (saving the pointed ends for spears and muskets), so I use Woodsie mini-dowels.

Not as cheap as toothpicks, because you buy them from the craft store
I use figures in firing and advancing poses, along with the figure holding the rifle 'at the trail' and at 'left shoulder arms'. For firing and trail poses, I cut about a 9mm length of mini-dowel.

No, I don't really break out the caliper
Using that one as a model, I cut the others at "about" the same length. For advancing find the ones you cut a little longer and use those. The longer length looks better for them. For the shoulder arms pose, cut them about 1-2mm longer.

Shoulder arms poses should get longer rifles
So I start with the skirmish line in front. I put a small dab of hot glue on the right side of the figure. Just enough to tack the rifle down.

Step 1 of the firing pose
With the rifle in place I use more glue on top of the rifle (at the butt end) to make an 'arm'.

One of the annoyances of using hot glue are strands of plastic 'hair', created as you pull the gun away from the dot of glue you deposited. I use the same tool for snipping these as I used for snipping the mini-dowels: plastic modeling sprue snips.

For the second rank, I like the idea of using the trail arms pose. Again, tack the rifle to the body with a minimal amount of hot glue.

Add more glue to make the arm and hand.

Don't worry about it being perfect, paint will camouflage it.

Non-metallic tweezers
Because I added the head onto the bodies too early in the process, you may need to use tweezers or a sharp hobby knife to get the rifles on the figure. Better to put the heads on last for this rank because space is tight.

I had to use a few different poses for this rank due to the space being too tight to get all of the rifles at trail. No problem though. Still looks good.

Finally, we put the rifles on the last rank. For this, the heads will need to be on as if the rifles are already attached and they are not perfectly arranged, you will not be able to glue the heads on.

The figure on the left side of the base should get a little more glue so you can paint the arm and hand (as it is exposed).

I use black gesso on all of my wood figures now. It helps fill the pores, so less paint is required, and if you miss a spot with paint, it looks like shadow. It is especially critical you hit the base with the gesso.

No these are not Prussians, they are more Dark Ages troops
Not only does the gesso fill the wood pores, it helps fill in small gaps and helps further glue and strengthen the final figure. I am very liberal with my coating, so it typically takes 30 minutes or so before you can start painting. If you are doing these in batches then by the time you finish with the last the first should be dry and ready to go or close to it.

Next I have to figure out how to make an artillery piece at this scale. Artillery was a problem at the large scale too, but I did finally figure it out, although the piece was big and required a lot of work.



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