Roy Martin’s Homemade ACW Artillery Pieces 1/72nd scale

My friend Roy Martin from Wellington, New Zealand provided me with this excellent tutorial on making home-made ACW artillery pieces. Roy is a 1/72nd scale gamer and plays a lot of ACW and Napoleonics in this scale. Here is a link to a previous wargame report supplied by Roy.

Anyway, without further ado I present Roy’s ACW Artillery Tutorial.


Scratch Building an ACW 12 pounder ‘Napoleon’ Cannon in 20mm scale

By Roy Martin

After having had to make my own cannons for reasons I won’t go into, and having shared the photos of the end results with selected individuals who I thought would be interested, it was suggested that I create a tutorial on the making of them, so here goes nothing.

As both sides used these cannon as their ‘workhorse’, they are an easy option, with the only difference being that the Union used ones with barrel flares and the Confederate ones didn’t.

Materials Required:

A length of 19mm Dia. Conduit

Wire Paper Clips                 


A length of 5mm Sq. Balsa                                

A length of 1mm dowel (the rod from an incense stick)

Some 1mm card                                                 

A length of 5mm plastic rod (an old knitting needle)

Some 2mm ball bearings (12 Gauge Shot is perfect)                                  

PVA Glue

The Wheels:

Start by cutting the length of conduit into 2mm rings either with a fine bladed hacksaw or if you are lucky enough, a modelling bench saw.  Then sand the surfaces smooth with a bit of old 60 grit paper– this can be hard on the fingers.

Next, take some wire paper clips and straighten them into a single length, which I do by using a pair of small pliers.  These will be the spokes, of which there are 4 lengths making an 8 spoked wheel.  To add any more spokes to the wheel is impractical, as it bulks out the hub area to an unmanageable and unsightly degree.  The first one should be cut to fit snugly inside the rim (in this case 14mm) and pressed into place (I use the end of my short needle nose pliers) with a drop of PVA to secure it.  The remaining lengths are cut about 1mm longer to allow for the slight bend required so that the subsequent spokes will surmount previous ones with the ends still fitting within the rim, and fitted in the same manner by pressing them into place.  The easiest way of applying the bend is simply to hold the wire in a pair of pliers at the half way point and apply a bit of pressure with your finger as it bends very easily.   The amount of bend you will learn by trial and error, but it isn’t much (see below).   Remember that they need to be a tight fit so when you cut them, if necessary be generous – as they say, there is a taking off tool, but not a putting on one.   You will need to install them from alternate sides of the wheel, so as to balance the fitting process and the look of the finished wheel.

When this is completed (and you have stopped cursing me) the centre of the spokes can be filled with modelling ‘bog’, or I prefer to just add PVA drop by drop letting each drop dry before adding the next.  When all this is done then the wheels can be glued to the axle, being a 20mm length of matchstick.

The Carriage:

This is the easy bit as they are a single trail unit.  Start with a 5mm Sq. length of Balsa (or similar) cut to 40mm.  This need to be trimmed down to 3mm for height and slightly rounded for the end on the ground to create the ‘skid’.  From about 12mm of the other end, take a short (5mm) length of 1mm dowel make a small hole (a thin nail will do if using Balsa) and press through the trail to sit proud on the top side – this will be the adjusting screw under the barrel.  At about 8mm from the ‘skid’ end, take about 22mm of the same 1mm dowel and once again make a guide hole and  push through the trail at an acute angle so that it will poke out rearwards by about 18mm – this will be the ‘laying lever’ which both armies left permanently attached during combat.

The Barrel:

This is easier than it first appears.  First acquire a length of 5mm plastic rod (don’t just steal one of your wife or mums knitting needles as you will quickly learn a new meaning to ‘pain and suffering’).

I then mark a 25mm length and clamp the rod in a vice (using something to ensure the rest of the rod isn’t damaged by the vice teeth e.g. some thin bits of timber), with what will be the filed end closest to the vice allowing a bit of space for working the file.  I use a small half round 2nd cut file by preference (but it’s up to you).  You then have to slowly file a taper onto the rod leaving the far end at 5mm and the other tapered down to 3mm.  This is where you have to take it easy, as it is SO easy to over file one spot, as you have to file a bit; turn the rod and file another bit, and so on, until you are happy with the result, or are once again cursing me.  In the case of the union barrels, you need to allow a few mm at the end for the barrel flare (this is why I use the half round file) which should be about 4mm Dia.  Once you are happy (well sort of) then carefully cut the barrel off with a fine bladed hack saw (and try not to lose it on the floor amongst the rubbish!).

From here, all that is required is to carefully sand or file the ‘breech’ end of the barrel to a rounded state, leaving a small flat area at the end.  The final touch for the barrel is the addition of a 2mm ball bearing (or a piece of 12 gauge shot if you have it) glued to the breech end as the finial.


As if you really need to be told this.  Glue the axle and wheel assembly to the underside of the head of the carriage trail.  Paint the carriage and barrel at this point.  Glue the barrel in position with the breach end just past the ‘adjusting screw’.


The water bucket is simply a 5mm offcut from an old piece of 2mm model sprue.

The ammo box is just made from 1mm card, and is 10mm (w) x 8mm (d) x 5mm (h).  It has a packed out base and holds 6 x 2mm ‘cannon balls’ (or 12 gauge shot), with a lid 12mm x 8mm.

If you would like to download a PDF you can do so here.

Then Something Nice Happens…

A month or so back I was contacted on social media by a guy who I last saw in the 80s when he was a young teen and he used to come to the Manawatu Miniature Strategists Society club meets. He said that back in those days I was one of his inspirations to paint and collect wargame miniatures. I was really touched and it was great catching up and seeing where life had lead us.

He is quite a prolific collector/painter now. He saw I was doing ACW and sent me this box of Sash and Saber (and some Perry and Foundry) miniatures. I have not gone through it all but looks enough figures for a complete Union brigade, command and a regiment of mounted and dismounted cavalry. The box of Perry ACW cavalry is in a blue plastic – I have never seen them molded in that colour plastic before. I am guessing that is an old production run.

So now I am going through the lead mountain to find stuff I can send him as he is currently doing an Italian army for Black Powder Napoleonics. I know I have three or four boxes of Perry and Victrix French infantry, some command figures and some cavalry – a good start I hope.

It was interesting that a few Sundays at wargame club in the 80s had such an impact on someone’s life. I am still somewhat at a loss for words.

Thanks David. You are a top bastard.

Santa came early this year.

Look what arrived in the post today. To be honest, this was the second largest order I have ever done from overseas. I usually get bits and bobs. I get nervous forking out large sums of money and waiting on an order to arrive – but arrive it did. An ACW Confederate cavalry brigade including horse holders and dismounted versions. Lots of guns, limbers and limber horses. Dismounted Union cavalry and horse holders – a brigade worth. Lots of generals, mounted cavalry command and various command sets. Also bulked out my Anglo-Zulu Wars – limbers, command, mounted and dismounted infantry and Frontier horse. Everything was well packaged and not so much as a dent on a box.

“Not a Toy” Ha! Who are they kidding.

On the Workbench – 6th Nov 2020.

What I am currently working on. What are you working on at the moment?

A regiment of Federal infantry and a gun/crew undercoated and first blobs of paint applied (Perry Minis). Also, more artillery assembled and sorting out horses for more six horse limbers – found another 27 of those old Hinchliffe horses in the Woolshed in a box. Lead Mountains can be a great thing to have at times.. Also a bunch of Federal generals (Perry and Adventure Miniatures). found another 27 of those old Hinchliffe horses in the Woolshed in a box. Lead Mountains can be a great thing to have at times.

14th Brooklyn – The Red Legged Devils (Adventure Miniatures)

“Hold On Boys! Here come those red legged devils again!” Confederate General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson, July 21, 1861, First Bull Run.

I got these great figures from Nathan at Elite Miniatures Australia. They are from the Adventure Miniatures range. This is an excellent range – if they were more readily available.

They were originally Mark Fenlon Miniatures and at some stage were resurrected as Adventure Miniatures. I have seen pics of other codes that were produced (mainly on Nathan’s Lonely Gamer’s Blog) but do not seem available at the moment – regular infantry, more cavalry etc.

The figures are large 28s. I probably wouldn’t put them in with other figures in the same unit but I have these chaps alongside Perry Plastic zouaves and they look fine. I suspect they would make Foundry figures look like hobbits.

Flags are the ones from one of the Perry set sheets. These sat for a while – I ordered them just before Ausssie and NZ went into lockdown and they took the best part of two months to arrive – thanks to Australia and NZ Post and barely any aircraft flying with cargo.

Monday Music: Paper Lace “Billy Don’t be a hero”

Painting Soldier Blues at the moment so…….

I had this on a Paper Lace LP back in the 70s until my bloody older brother repossessed his record collection that he had left at home for years while overseas. That is when I learned that possession being 9/10ths of the law didn’t really hold up. Hope you still have it Chris 🙂

13th Vermont Infantry Regiment – Redoubt miniatures

Another of my lock down regiments. This is the 13th Vermont. They are the 13th Vermont because I had the flag.

The miniatures in this unit are from Redoubt Miniatures. I got these many years ago off Trademe (the New Zealand online marketplace site) in one of those spur of the moment purchases that I never did anything with once I had them until I started this ACW project. The figures all come with separate heads so there is a lot of variation there. They are big solid figures but do not look out of place alongside the Perry plastics I have.

I probably could have done the trousers a slightly lighter shade of blue but overall I am pretty happy with this unit. I have to say that painting metals is much more satisfying to me than plastics. The heft of a base of these is somehow….comforting.

146th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment – Garrard’s Tigers

Finally got this unit finished a few weeks ago. I started it back in March but it sat on the painting desk mocking me as I lost interest. Finally got the mojo back and started back on them. . Glad I got them finished because they are such a colourful unit in an otherwise drab looking army. EDIT – Just remembered why I lost interest. My dog Snow, an Abruzzi-Maremma came into my room and his tail of death swept half the unit off the table and there were half a dozen broken bayonets and rifles. So before I could even start painting them again I had to repair a bunch of figures.

Apart from the Iron Brigade (post to come) I am not really doing any particular order of battle. Just painting units that catch my fancy or ‘generic’ regiments that can be used pretty much any time in the civil war period. So far I have the Iron brigade painted, a generic brigade and am working on a generic New York brigade that has three zouave units (5th, 146th and the 14th Brooklyn and a couple of other regular volunteer units). Not bad for lockdown period and was still working during that time.

These are obviously Perry plastic Zouaves. I had some left over from the 5th New York I did earlier this year and also had acquired the Battle in a Box set which had another sixteen figures (off the top of my head). I have a few left so might make then as skirmishers or perhaps as a company within another union volunteer regiment.

Flags are not exactly right for this unit but who is really looking at the flags when they are on the table top?

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