Befreiungskriege 1813-14

Painting and modelling 28mm Napoleonic wargaming miniatures

Posts Tagged ‘Basing’

Paint-in #6: finishing the Marie Louise

Posted by Martin on September 1, 2013

All around views of the completed Marie Louise from the BfK 2012 Limited Edition set.

All around views of the completed Marie Louise from the BfK 2012 Limited Edition set.

It’s been a long time since the last posting in this paint-in series and rather than spread things thinly by discussing progress across all four figures, I’ve decided to use this posting to discuss the steps I took to complete the Marie Louse infantry figure in the set. The main reason for doing this is that, after a disrupted Summer, I felt in need of the morale boost of getting least one of the figures over the finishing line – painted, varnished, based – the works!

The last time I wrote a paint-in posting, this chap at least had his head, trousers and shoes completed. When I re-commenced work, the first thing that happened was that I decided I wasn’t completely satisfied with the work I’d previously done on the pokalem, so I did some reworking of the blues to make me happier and to get back into the swing of things. Then I moved on to the greatcoat which I decided to paint brown given the amount of grey and blue across the set as a whole. The basecoat was Vallejo German Camo Black Brown (VMC822), first highlight was Vallejo Flat Brown (VMC984) and the the second highlight was Andrea Medium Brown (NAC-46).

After than, it was on to a lot of details, many of which are unexciting so I’ll simply list the paints as follows:

  • White strapping and shako rosette: basecoat – Second Shade (Andrea White Set), first highlight – Base (Andrea White Set), second highlight – Vallejo White (VMC951). For these colours, two thin coats rather than one thicker coat will give a smoother finish.
  • Black for cartridge case and shako: basecoat – Vallejo Black (VMC950), first highlight – Vallejo Dark Grey (VMC994), second highlight – Vallejo Neutral Grey (VMC992), third highlight – Vallejo Light Grey (VMC990). Go sparingly with the final highlight.
  • Brown for the musket and potatoes (!): basecoat – Vallejo Burnt Umber (VMC941), first highlight – Vallejo Beige Brown (VMC875), second highlight – Vallejo Cork Brown (VMC843).
  • Canvas for sack and cloth wrapped round musket lock: basecoat – Vallejo Flat Earth (VMC983), first highlight – Vallejo Ochre Brown (VMC856), second highlight – Vallejo Yellow Ochre (VMC913), third highlight – Vallejo Buff (VMC976), fourth highlight – Vallejo Ivory (VMC918).
  • Brown for backpack and leather strap on water bottle: basecoat – Vallejo Burnt Umber (VMC941), first highlight – Vallejo Cavalry Brown (VMC982), second hightlight – Vallejo Red Leather (VMC818). The piping was done with Vallejo Ivory (VMC918).
  • Brass for shako plate, “N” on cartridge case and musket bands: Vallejo Gold (VMC996) with several pin washes of Vallejo German Camo Black Brown (VMC822). This is one of the rare occasions that I use washing as a technique and the key is the patience to go for multiple very thin washes rather than one or two more opaque ones.
  • Gunmeatal for musket: basecoat – Vallejo Dark Grey (VMC994), first highlight – Vallejo Natural Steel (VMC864).

All the above is pretty regulation stuff. The painting I want to devote some commentary to is the lentille pompom. You can choose different colours according to which fusilier company of a battalion you wish to represent – dark green for the first, sky blue for the second, aurore for the third and violet for the fourth. Normally the lentilles of the first battalion would be solid colour but it was common for those of the other battalions of the regiment to have white centres with the battalion number inscribed on them. For the purposes of the paint-in, I thought it would be instructive for me to tackle the notorious aurore colour because I have seen so many bizarre interpretations of this over the years. Of course, it’s impossible to be prescriptive about this (or any other historical colour) but I took my cue from the meaning of the word – dawn. To my mind that implies that the colour was intended to be the pinky orange of the sky at dawn. With that in mind I used the following paints: base coat – Vallejo Orange Red (VMC910), first highlight – Andrea French Orange (NAC-35), second highlight – Vallejo Sunny Skintone (VMC845).

When you’ve finished all the painting, leave the figure overnight to dry completely before varnishing. There’s a lot written about varnishing and everybody will have a recipe that works for them and gives the desired outcome. I aim for two things: rock solid protection of the paint finish and as matt a finish as possible. With that in mind, I currently follow a three step process, leaving the figure to dry overnight between in each step hidden under a plastic cup to prevent dust and hairs settling on the figure:

First, I paint the figure with Humbrol Enamel Clear Gloss 35 for protection. Second step is to paint with Winsor and Newton Galleria Matt Acrylic Varnish. The reason I do this is not to provide the final matt finish but rather to help me when I apply the final coat of matt varnish which is shiny when wet and I can’t see the spots I’ve missed when painting over the Humbrol gloss finish. The third step is to paint with Revell Enamel Color (sic) Matt 2. For all these products I can’t stress enough the need to follow the manufacturers instructions – especially when it comes to stirring them thoroughly.

Once the final coat of varnish is finished, I now take precautions to avoid handling the figure directly because oils from your fingers will start to add a sheen to the matt finish. So, for the basing steps, I handle figures using a paper towel and then only pick up based figures by their bases (people visiting my house get very dirty looks if they pick up figures by any other method).

For the figures in this set, I promised to sign the bases, so I fortunately remembered to do that before gluing on the figure. The lucky recipients will see the flourish of my initials with the year (2013) in permanent black Sharpie pen on the underside of the base. Having glued the figure to the base and let it set, I built up a thin layer of epoxy putty ( a 50-50 mix of green stuff and Sylmasta A+B putty). When that had set, I applied a diluted coat of PVA glue and dipped the figure in a tray of N-gauge model railway ballast. When dry, I repeated for a second coat of ballast to ensure good coverage and then glued on some individual larger stones. When all the PVA had dried out completely and I was satisfied that there were no loose particles I applied a final light drybrushing of Vallejo Buff (VMC976). And voila, the figure was complete!

Now I’m bracing myself to tackle completion of the second figure. This should be a little more challenging because it’s the drummer with all his Bardin uniform Imperial lace.

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Posted in BfK Limited Edition Figures, On the Workbench, Paint and Equipment | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

All talk and no pictures

Posted by Martin on April 22, 2012

Phew – what a day! Yesterday was one of the busiest I’ve ever had at a Salute even though it didn’t follow the path I expected. Things began very smoothly with a peaceful and punctual train journey from the secret BfK HQ in the heart of Wiltshire to London Paddington. And that was followed by a quiet and uneventful journey across London by Tube and Docklands Light Railway – perhaps too quiet. I normally expect to encounter other hobbyists on their way to Salute as I get closer to ExCel and I sometimes pass the time by trying to guess if the people on the other seats are going my way. Yesterday, though, there was hardly a rucksack, beard or ponytail (male) in sight 🙂

So I got a shock when I entered ExCel’s doors and made my way down the wide boulevard that bisects the exhibition halls. The queue was immense. It’s clear that everybody else had made a much earlier start than me. I have never seen the queue so long and it continued to grow even after the stewards had started letting people into the hall. So much for economic hard times – I hope all the traders had a good day! Peter F’s comment on the length of the queue was to wistfully muse that if only he could sell just one figure to each person there!

I stuck with the queue for about 15 minutes before I spotted Peter F. along with our friends from overseas: Peter Bunde (Germany), Buddy Hoch (USA), Paul Meganck (Belgium) quietly seated with coffee while waiting for the crush to abate. So I bailed out of the queue to wait with them and take the opportunity to put the next stage of my carefully crafted Salute plan into action. I’ve recently acquired an Android tablet and I was intending to connect up to the ExCel free wifi network as a means of posting to BfK as the day unfolded. The tablet includes a basic camera, so I would have been able to add pictures as a I went along too.

The good news is that there is indeed a free wifi network in the main boulevard (but not in the exhibition halls) and I was able to connect to it. What I’d overlooked is that Internet access beyond the wifi network is restricted and I needed a username and password. By this time, we were all too busy catching up on each others’ news and I didn’t really have the motivation to go off looking for some information point where I might have been able to get help with full Internet access. Still, at least I know what to expect next year!

Meeting and chatting turned out to be the theme of the day, so I didn’t get too much time to look at all the traders and games. Looking at other fora this morning, it’s clear that other people have done a much more thorough job of those sorts of things than me. So I’m going to focus the rest of this report on some personal observations.

Firstly, let’s get the news from Calpe Towers dealt with. Peter F. has completed the last couple of packs for the French infantry route-march set. The main item here the “cherry on the icing” pack which includes a casualty figure, two “enthusiastic” figures and a voltigeur cornetist. Next Peter will be adding a couple of light infantry command packs so that you can build legere units using most of the same figures. All the figures in greatcoats that have already been released can be used for legere as well as line infantry. However, the current officer figures are unsuitable because of detailed uniform differences like the profile of the cuffs. After that, work begins on the march-attack set which I know will be popular with several regular readers here who are desperate to have standard bearer figures with unfurled flags. Peter has already sculpted an eagle in readiness boys!

Possibly the biggest news (and, by the sound of the reactions I’ve seen and heard, the most disappointing for many) was the unveiling of the new period that the Perry twins are targetting. There were “3-up” greens on their stand of Afrika Korps and Eighth Army figures. From my point of view, these figures are sculpted to the usual high standards for the Perrys plastics work but, of course, it’s a period that doesn’t tempt me. And, judging by what I’ve heard, it may not tempt too many others in 28mm. Mainly, I think, because most observers see the North African campaign as better suited to smaller scales.

The other plastic and scale-related item that stuck out for me was the simply beautiful 54mm demonstration game put on by Victrix using their own figures. The figures themselves were well-painted, you can see a definite progression in the quality of figure design and sculpting in the more recent boxes (notably the French line grenadiers) and the buildings on the table were terrific. I’d love to know if they were scratch-built or not. However, the item that really grabbed our attention was the single French artillery gun crewed by five figures. The figures stood out for their natural poses and accurately reproduced campaign uniforms. When we asked about them at the Victrix stand, it transpired that this base had been put together from parts and figures from another plastics manufacturer but Victrix do have plans for 54mm French artillery. I’d love to know who’s figures they used – perhaps they were old Historex ones or maybe there are some buried away in the Andrea range. Either way, though, 54mm scale isn’t really practical for big battalions. Instead, I can see the figures being used for skirmish games or as display case models.

I can’t complete this round of plastic figure stands without a mention for the Warlord Games stand. You’ll recall that their figures – particularly their Prussian Landwehr – have come in for short shrift on this blog. And rightly so: these figures are poorly researched, inaccurately portrayed and clumsily sculpted. However, here too, I detect signs of improvement. The Warlord Games Russian figures are a step in the right direction and they’re now working on French. Also, yesterday was the first opportunity I’ve had to see some of their prone Prussian Landwehr casualty figures painted, based and in the display case. I still see lots of weaknesses (the huge hands make me judder) but whoever they’ve got doing their painting is making the very best of his raw material. If I were Warlord Games, I’d make sure of continuing to use that painter!

One slightly tongue-in-cheek parting shot for Warlord Games though: I’d recommend a bit more sanity checking of figure poses and a quiet word with your designer. The Russian command pack includes an er… “interestingly” posed drummmer. He’s drumming with one hand while using the other hand to hold his kiwer tucked under his arm. Now, people, just try doing that yourselves for a few moment and see how you get on. I know it might seem like a picturesque pose for a command vignette but it just isn’t humanly feasible.

As usual, we bumped into many friends from across the country and beyond. It was a pleasure to see Barry Hilton hosting the Wargames Illustrated Crimean War game. The terrain for this games was superbly put together by Dave Bodley, the chap who runs Grand Manner Buildings. I always like to see terrain that gets away from the flat topology of the tabletop to the contours of the real world. A lovely job which you can expect to see featured heavily in an imminent edition of Wargames Illustrated.

I also popped by David Imrie and Andrew Taylor’s Romans vs Celts demo game. They looked really busy with interested viewers so I didn’t get time to chat but I admired the very high quality of the figure painting and was reminded how small can be beautiful. The terrain would have comfortably fitted into many a living room and the number of figures, mostly individually based, required for an absorbing evening’s gaming wasn’t too prohibitive. I’m always going to be a fan of “big battalions” for Napoleonics but this game did set me wondering about a small skirmish side-project. Maybe I’ll have to look at those Sharp Practice rules…

Finally, a few words about shopping. Given the length of the queue, I strongly suspect that many traders are feeling the warm afterglow of financial success. And that’s absolutely fine by me. It’s just that two of the things I was hoping to be able to buy on the day eluded me. Once again, I couldn’t find a single trader that stocked Andrea paints. Now I know I can buy them online but there’s nothing like shaking the bottles and holding them up to the light before you part with you cash. Secondly, much as I like Litko laser-cut bases, I was hoping to find a UK retailer that would be cheaper and quicker to deal with. Maybe my standards are too exacting: ideally I want 1.5 mm or 2mm thick plywood, laser-cut and I want particular dimensions. Warbases was the closest I came: their bases are 2mm thick but I’d have to specially order the sizes I want and they specialise in MDF. Now, before you all start suggesting suppliers (oh, go on then), I just want to point out that I do already have a lead – apparently Fenris Games does 1.5mm thick lasercut plywood bases.

So that’s it for another year – I seem to have been so busy on the day that I didn’t even give the painting competition more than a cursory glance. If you know where I can see photos of the entries and winners, let me know.

Posted in Calpe Towers, Clubs and Shows, Forward Patrol | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments »

Casualty basing

Posted by Martin on March 20, 2011

Three stages in basing the casualty figures.

Three stages in basing the casualty figures.

I’ve not posted much from my own workbench lately so here’s a snapshot of the work in progress on basing the three Westphalian Landwehr casualties. I’m in the home straight but it still seems to be taking longer that I expected to get over the finishing line.

My customer supplied three 3mm thick circular plywood bases for these figures and you can see those in the picture above. I gloss and matt varnished the figures prior to gluing them to the bases and that’s the stage you can see in the leftmost figure. The next stage is to build up the basework to the level of the figures’ metal bases using putty. For this I use a mixture of green stuff and Sylmasta A+B putty. I find this mixture much easier to manipulate than pure green stuff. The middle figure has reached this stage.

After the putty has set, I apply a thin layer of slightly watered down PVA glue to the base and dip it into my tub of basing material. The core component on my basing material is N-gauge railway modelling ballast. This is a bit coarser than the sand that may wargamers use for basing and I prefer this texture. Along with that I dot around some bits and pieces of different sizes for variety. These are mostly other sizes of stone, the occasional piece of cat litter and sometimes a a small cork pellet. You can see this stage in the rightmost figure. Sometimes I need to a second selective coat of glue and ballast to fill in gaps. It’s important the let the first coat dry out thoroughly beforehand otherwise things can very very messy very quickly!

The fourth stage is paintwork. I’ll apply some darker earth tones across the base and paint the larger base elements (like the cat litter) before finishing off with some drybrushed coats of pale sandy colours. After that, I just need to glue the caps and muskets in place. Final pictures will follow once all three figures are complete.

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Casualty bases eureka moment

Posted by Martin on January 28, 2010

Way back in May 2008, I wrote some SBS postings about how I created casualty markers. Even though a lot of people said kind things about my ideas and I was gratified to see several others adopt them for their own casualty markers, I still had a niggling level of dis-satisfaction with the outcome.

It turned out to be pretty simple to work out why I wasn’t happy: I didn’t feel I had the balance right between aesthetics and practicality. The base was just fine as a tool for the job, it just didn’t look very elegant with all those numbers visible around the edge. For more than a year, that’s been gnawing away quietly in the background without me ever hitting on the solution. It’s funny how you can look at something almost every day but not be able to see how to put it right.

Then, two nights ago, my sub-conscious woke me up in the early hours with the solution fully formed in my head. I jotted the eureka moment down in my notebook in case I forgot it again and patiently waited for the opportunity to iron out the wrinkles.

Here’s the basic idea…

Take one painted casualty figure and base it on a round base and paint and decorate the base just like you would for any normal base of figures. No numbers, round base – doesn’t sound like much an idea so far, does it? But here’s the bit that that makes the difference – use a shiny material like acrylic for the base or, if you use a wooden base, stick a circle of laminated card to the underside. What you end up with is a casualty figure on a round base with an underside that you can write on with a felt pen of a chinagraph pencil (can you still buy those?) but that is shiny enough to be wiped clean afterwards so it can be used over and over again.

Now you only ever need one casualty base per unit regardless of the size of the unit, the number of bases in the unit and the number of figures on each base. The same size of round base can be used for all your casualty markers – which gives a pleasing consistency. But that’s not all, using this method you can choose whether or not you remove bases from the table as the casualties mount for a unit. And finally, because the number of casualties is hidden from view, your opponent has to deal with a more realistic “fog of war” issue when assessing the strength of your units.

The next step is for me to produce a prototype that proves this idea works. I’ve already looked on the Litko website and the do indeed supply pre-cut circular acrylic bases. And, yes, I’ve checked, they do indeed still make chinagraph pencils (our Colonial Cousins call them “grease pencils).

Anybody else want to try out this idea so we can compare notes?

Posted in Casualty Markers | Tagged: , | 9 Comments »