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!

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Another Wooden Soldiers Blog

Most of this post references work on other people's blog, but there are also references to my old blog posts. Please be sure to click on the links and see the examples.
I recently received a link about another blog – Funny Little Wars - Molatero – that features a wooden soldiers, and how Stephen Beat is making them.

In Stephen's first post, given that he talked about using doll pegs, I thought he was going for the same style as Kenneth Van Pelt, over at The Penny Whistle blog. The first figures Stephen shows are called "clothespins" here and are the main component that Kenneth used for not only figures, but for his really outstanding WWI aircraft. But as you read further in that first blog post you see that he cuts off the bottom and essentially makes a "pawn".

I once experimented with clothespins. The ones I was using were flat, so it made for a really nice painting surface for my Greek during the Trojan Wars. In the end, although it did provide some interesting shapes and ideas, it was still more sawing than I was doing with pawns, which I had invested rather heavily in when I five bags of 200! (Yes, I still have the majority of them, unused. 😕)

In Stephen's second blog post the figure really starts to take shape. The most amazing piece is the rifle, as it looks like it has been cut out from a popsicle stick or similar. Really nice work, but talk to me after you have made an army's worth of them! 😆 The cartoon-style face is exactly the style I like, and it really works well with these figures. The oversized eyes and moustache really 'pop', making the figure stand out. Stephen does not make feet for the figure, but rather paints them on. This definitely simplifies the build, lowers the cost of the figure, and helps the figure retain strength. (See Matt's recent posts about how he is guarding against troop breakage with his Dark Age warriors.)

The most recent blog post shows the figure in all its final splendor. The glossy varnish suits the style of the figure (I used Pledge's Future Floor Wax) as it not only protects the paint, but it brightens it too. The varnish Stephen used seems to have the same quality. The colors are deeper and richer than in the photo before spraying.

I look forward to seeing more of Stephen's work, especially how he does cavalry and artillery pieces. (Challenge sent, Stephen! 😃)

Friday, February 23, 2018

Naked Balrog

I don't usually post pictures of unpainted wooden warriors, but I am so proud of this one I just had to.  I've been working on a Balrog figure for the LotR series of games I want to do for about 6 months.  It has taken a long time, but I finally got a construction that I am happy with.  The wings were an absolute beast (no pun intended) to do, but I finally got a way of doing them with thin craft foam that is a) relatively easy to replicate, and b) is sturdy enough that they will not come off.

I'm not sure when I will get around to painting him ... frankly, I'm a little intimidated by it ... but I will eventually get up the courage to throw some paint on him.  Here he is.  I included the female elf figure for scale comparison.





And another follow up on the Norman and Saxon figures.  I have now managed to drop a base of the infantry from waist height or higher twice now, and both times, after a gasp of panic escaped me, the bases of figures landed base side down (rather than on the head or side of a figure) and were completely undamaged.  I think the bases are so heavy that they fall in such a way so that they will always land base side down, unless the distance they fall is not very far, and in that case they probably would be fine anyway.  For a guy like me who likes to run games at conventions, where figures get dropped all the time, this is very good news.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Minimalism Versus Perfection and the Use of Color

One of the most common remarks I hear when I show my work or Matt's in other forums is: "Oh that is too much time and work to make my own miniatures. I would rather spend my time painting than making my own." Have you seen the multi-part plastic models that are so popular these days? For these Roman Legionaries you have to glue on the head, left and right arms, shield and weapons to the main body figure.

"Well I buy pewter figures" you may reply. "I don't have to assemble anything." Uh huh. Pewter figures often have flash and mold lines that need removal. And it is not like when I was a kid when miniatures were made with softer lead.


The fact is, this hobby requires some work before you get to the painting part. Metal and single-piece plastics may require less time prepping than with wood (multi-part plastics often require more), but generally speaking, painting wooden figures requires less time than with metals and plastics.

Even so, it is possible to take a pretty minimalist approach to wooden figure building. Here are the parts to a minimalist WWII soldier.


It is not hard to see that when you have the basic pieces glued together, you can really see it take shape.


Maybe if you are not a WWII fan, the following figure would not be clear to you. Is it a English soldier? It is a Soviet?


Most looking at the next figure can guess: it is a German soldier. Grey helmet and trousers with green-grey jacket.


Sometimes I want to build a small force – say for a skirmish game that I want to try out – and what usually blocks me from completing the project is my quest for "perfection". Looking at the figures below sort of shows that. You start with a simple build, you make a viable gaming figure, then you keep adding details and the next thing you know the project seems both overwhelming in the time it will take to complete, and underwhelming in your attempt at perfection.


As you can see, the right two figures look somewhat the same. I have always maintained that the most iconic part of the figure is the hat or helmet. You cannot use the figure on the left as a French Napoleonic infantry man wearing a shako. It just doesn't register in the mind, no matter what colors they are painted in. But for a WWII British helmet? It looks pretty good.



What it lacks, of course, is the flared out rim. Now, I have turned a button plug into this style of helmet before, in a smaller scale. A little dimensional adhesive paint on the rim does the job.


In this larger scale, it would take a little more effort and a little more time, but is it worth it? Okay, so you might give the British helmet a pass, but what about the German helmet?



Clearly the shape is vastly different and the unmodified button plug fails. Or does it? Going back to my earlier statement, that the most iconic part of a miniature figure is the hat or helmet – because that is what we the player see the most, given our God-like position above and behind our wooden warriors – is it not the color of the two helmet that really signals to us which troops belong on which side?

Mind you, this rant is about when you want to get a project up and running quickly, because you have an idea you want to try out or an inch to scratch, but you actually want to complete the project. Just because you cannot find the perfect wooden piece to represent the helmet exactly, and your modification process to get it "just so" takes too much time and effort, does not mean you should give up. You just need to realize that sometime using color, rather than shape, is "good enough".

From our commanding position on high, would I really be able to tell that the flared sides of the two helmets is not accurate?


By the way, if you were wondering why the German figure had eyes, ears, and hair painted, but the British figure did not, the above picture also illustrates that point. They are details that matter when you are showing off your figure, when displaying it, but it has no bearing on identifying the figure or even, from a gaming viewpoint, which direction the figure is facing.

Some details are easily painted on the figure at a later time (as these are singly based figures), after you have the project "completed" and the figures are on the gaming table.

Otyugh 2.0

I really like the first Otyugh I did a while ago, but with all the different wooden pieces glued together to make the arms, I have been feeling that it might be a bit on the brittle side and not be able to stand up to being transported and used in some game location other than my basement where it "lives."  So I decided to give another go at making a more sturdy Otyugh.

I will admit it, unlike Dale and some of the really good fantasy rpg crafters out there like DM Scotty or DMG, I suck at using a hot glue gun.  I find it messy, I can't control it, and the style of product it produces in my hands anyway is not as neat and "clean" as I like in a crafted figure.  But, the one point that I cannot argue is that when used in large quantities more like as a sculpting medium, hot glue figures are very strong and durable.  The Otyugh is sort of a "blob" of a monster, so I thought it would be the perfect figure to try to do a hot glue inspired version of.  Here is the end result.





I painted him and posed him more or less like the first one I did.  I also used exactly the same pieces as I did before, except I used more beads on the arms rather than the plugs.  But essentially wooden construction wise, this figure is identical to the first figure with lots of wooden bits glued onto the large lady bug precut wooden shape serving as the body and head.  But as you can see, after gluing all the normal beads and such to make the arms and everything with white glue, I went back over the whole figure with hot glue to make the creases in the skin and to strengthen the arms, sort of like what I did with the tentacles for the Lord of the Rings project about a month back.  After the hot glue dried, this figure is quite strong and I am sure very durable.  I even used the hot glue to strengthen the toothpick spines and the tile spacer "teeth" on the two arms.

Here it is from a couple of other angles.

It isn't as "neat" looking as my other figures, but it is far, far sturdier than the original version of the Otyugh I did a while ago.  I also put this guy on a larger circular base so that it would be even less likely that during play it will bang up against other figures.  All in all, I'm pretty happy with it.





Saturday, February 17, 2018

Saxon Fyrd!

Been very busy with work of late, haven't got to do much painting.  But I did finally get my first unit of Saxon Fyrd finished.  Here they are.

They are similar to the Normans, except that I wanted them to have beards and hair visible so I just used the rounded top as the helmet.  Also, obviously, they have round shields.  The shields are a little too big for my taste, but I'm going to stick with them.  The heads and shields are the most interesting part of these figures, so they should be the most prominent features when viewing them from on the table top.

From the side.

You can see the hair and beards a bit better here.  Also, few of them are wearing armor, but you can see that even better from the rear shot.

It takes a while longer to paint this many different colors on them, but it's worth it.  Let's be honest, guys with the same helmet wearing the same basic tunic need some help to look interesting and different from one another, and color of the tunic and hair color is the easiest way to do that.

I've got a unit of Saxon slingers, and another unit of Saxon Fyrd unpainted on my painting table, as well as a test Norman cavalry figure.  I need to make another Norman cavalry figure or two so I can put them on a base and do a whole base of test figures.  Not sure what I will do next, but probably not another unit of Fyrd.  I need to paint something different.



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