All posts by briansmaller

I live in rural New Zealand and work for an international IT company. My interests are many but mainly involve rural life, politics, history and wargaming - not necessarily in that order.

Monday Music: D-Day Dodgers

I have always loved the saccharine sweet Lili Marlene in almost any language I have heard it sung. I have copies in German, Hungarian, Russian, French, Italian, Spanish and of course, English. The song was parodied during the war by Allied servicemen in Italy who took exception to a supposed comment by Lady Astor that those serving in the Italian campaign were ‘D-Day Dodgers’ – having an easy time away from the real fighting in France. The bitterness in the lyrics is still there after all this time.  My father served in Italy and he loves this song. When I hear it I picture the young man he was then.

I think that it is highly unlikely she ever said it and she herself denied it and there is no documentary proof of such an utterance.  However, the supposed slight was the genesis of a great ballad. One that my Dad want’s played at his funeral. There are versions galore of this song, so I present to you two different interpretations.

and a version that is probably more like what the lads sung.

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Paint Transportation Module.

My life is somewhat nomadic. I live week about between the Woolshed (Oeta Homestead) and Wellington.  This map shows the relative locations.

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That means that I am away from home between 5-7 days at a time and living at my other home. This is how I have been transporting my painting gear for the last few years. Actually, this is an improvement because for most of the time I was using an old cardboard banana box.

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It is a pain to carry, to find anything in and where-ever I leave it it looks messy.  Today I acquired this – an old Sewing Box.  This will be my new retro Paint Transportation Module.

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I was amazed – it is exactly what I needed. Takes up bugger all space, has a handle, little legs and even better it was full of old wooden cotton reels.  I use these to mount my figures on for painting.

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Not sure what I will keep in the fold out bits but I am sure I will think of something.

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A quick sand and re-varnish will have this old Sewing Kit – sorry – Paint Transportation Module – looking tip top.

Monday Music: 55 Days at Peking

One of my all time favourite movies is 55 Days at Peking, starring David Niven, Charlton Heston and Ava Gardner.

I am always looking for something else to waste my hobby spend on and did a little search on what was available for this period in 25/28mm. I have not looked at what is available in other scales but there sure seems to be a lot of 15-20mm stuff available if that is your preferred scale.

In no particular order:

Boxer Rebellion figures from Old Glory. They cover the Great Powers and there is even a set of civilian volunteers. The Boxers are covered quite well with a dozen or so sets including Chinese Regulars and Tartar Cavalry.

Boxer Rebellion by Redoubt Enterprises.   This range covers all the Great Powers, the Boxers and even the Relief Column that broke the siege.  The Redoubt catalogue has photos of pretty much all the figures in the range. The International Gun “Betsy” is one of my favourite pieces in this range.

Cellmate Miniatures have a Boxer Rebellion Range in 25mm.  I have never heard of these guys before.  Figures are pretty basic but cheap and there are plenty of photos. The web site includes a pdf ruleset for the Boxer Rebellion.

Irregular Miniatures has some Boxer Rebellion miniatures in their Colonial range. The Boxer infantry look quite nice.

Kennington Miniatures has early Chinese. I am not sure who owns these now but I think they are available from SHQ.

Matchlock Miniatures available from Caliver Books has a late 19th Century Colonial range. No pictures of models that I could see but a large range.

Ral Partha Boxer Range. The only place I could find these was at Great Endeavours in the UK. Plenty of pics of models too.

Studio Miniatures.  I cannot say anything about this range because my virus and firewall told me that the site was dangerous – it had a thing called Blackhole Exploit Kit lurking on the main site. Read about that here.

Oshiro Model Terrain has some really nice Boxer Rebellion Japanese. Worth a look.

Castaway Arts make some very very cool Chinese of the period. Definately worth a second look.

There are others but I have got bored looking. Short attention span strikes again.  If you know of others please leave details in the comments and I will update this post accordingly.

And if you want to watch the whole movie it is on YouTube.

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28mm Spanish Militia (Volontarios des Cuidad Rodrigo)

My latest unit and the first of my 28mm Spanish Napoleonic project. These figures are from Brigade Games.  The codes are Spanish Rebels I, Spanish Rebels II, Spanish Rebels III and Spanish Rebels Command 1. The Officer commanding is a single model code Spanish General.  I also brought Spanish Rebel Woman with Musket but did not include her in this unit. She will be painted separately as part of a guerrilla unit.  She bears more than a passing resemblance to “Teresa” from the Sharpe TV Series.  These models are fabulous. Nice detail, no flash worth mentioning and pretty easy to paint. I did not use any reference material for these guys so just painted them how I thought they should look. The Brigade Games range do not have a standard bearer so I converted a guerrilla who had a pistol in his left hand to instead be holding a flag.  The flag is one I found on the internet, re-sized and printed.

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The models are based on laser cut mdf bases from Australian company Back-2-Base-ix.

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Monday Music: Patty Andrews (1916-2013)

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Last week I read that Patty Andrews, the last surviving sister of the famous Andrews Sisters, had passed away at the age of 94.

My favourite of all Andrews Sisters numbers from a 1942 USO show.

Some more Wild West buildings

Back in Wellington for the rest of the week. I have almost finished the first battalion of Spanish for my 1808-1812 Spanish Army – the Voluntarios de Cuidad Rodrigo. Just the basing to take care off and they will be done.  In the meantime, some pics of some of the early buildings I made for my Wild West town.

First off, the Freight Office. A couple of local farmers, Gunther Meyer and his neighbour  John-Boy Thomas, are loading their wagon. These figures are both Blue Moon from their Tombstone Civilians set (Available from Old Glory Code BMM-512)

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Here we see two of the town’s luminaries chatting on the street outside the Cattleman’s Exchange and Social Club.  Mr Hawkins the Bank Manager  (left) chats with A.W. Jones, Proprietor and Editor of the Trinity Pioneer. Mr Hawkins is a West Wind London Gentleman from the Gothic Horror/Jeckyll and Hyde series.

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Next door to the Cattelman’s is the Mining Claims office.

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Across the other side of town lives Old Ma Baker. She and her clan live in adjoining cottages.

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Ma Baker does not appreciate interlopers in her backyard. She is another from the Blue Moon Tombstone Civilian set.

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If anyone persists in arguing with her blunderbus, her three boys will rush to her defence. Shorty, Bobbie (Bucktooth) and Big Joe Baker are all Crusader figures. Molly the goat is a farm set toy and is always nervous.

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Finally, one of the local watering holes.  This was the first building I ever made and it shows – but I have a fondness for it none-the-less.

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And finally, finally. Some of my real Wild West critters.  Future freezer fillers.

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Too Hot to Paint

It is insanely hot.  Too hot to paint. I tried and it was hopeless. So I lay in the shade instead and listened to the dulcet tones of someone over the river blasting seven types of hell out of something with their shottie.  I read on Scott McPhee’s blog that it was too cold where he is to undercoat. Right now I would swap. Maybe.

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Wagons Ho!

I have no idea what the cost of a wagon was in terms of 19th century incomes, but when it comes to 28mm models they are bloody expensive items – especially when they are generally used as little more than a bit of cover for gunfighters in 28mm skirmish games.  I had brought a couple of the excellent wagons from the Blue Moon “Wagons Ho!” range (available from Old Glory). These were BMM1302 Covered Wagon and BMM1312B Flat Bed Supply Wagon with Spoked Wheels.  What can I say about the Blue Moon wagon range?  They are just fantastic. Beautiful little models and I am sure I will get a few more in due course.  The following photos are of those two models. I still have to do the reins and traces…another project.  The driver is from Knuckleduster. (Forrest Harris threw them in with another order I made – I am not sure if they are a separate code or not but you could always just ask him like I did)

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But as much as I liked these models, and even with the discount from Old Glory Army Card, I knew that making an entire wagon train would be pretty expensive.  So I began looking around for an alternative.  What I found was this.

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It is a cheap die-cast pencil sharpener. It had real possibilities. You can buy them in bulk for about US$2.50 a piece. I landed a dozen here in New Zealand for about $5 each in our money.  So, without further ado….

The canvas cover (which is molded brilliantly – even looks like canvas) just pops off. I removed the pencil sharpener from the guts of the wagon and then built up the sides and front with scrap pieces of balsa wood to make a driver’s seat and footrest.  I added a wooden tongue, hounds and the doubletree thingy that the horses harness will eventually be attached to. The rear of the wagon also got extended and a piece of cardboard covered the hole where you would have stuck the pencil in.

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A quick check that everything fit. The driver sits OK and the cover is still all good.

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Undercoated with black spray paint.  The cover was just drybrushed with some off white.

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The almost finished product – still have not done the reins and traces. Horses are spares available from Old Glory.

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The next one will be a bit more tarted up but I was pretty happy with this first attempt.

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The next project is this stage coach which is sitting on the workbench.

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Thanks for looking.  You can find a good range of pencil sharpener wagons here:

http://sharpenking.com/jk/coaches_pencil_sharpeners.htm

28mm Wild West China Town

I have an extensive collection of 28mm Wild West skirmish figures (about two hundred at last count) and have built quite a few buildings for my frontier town. This project started when I was making customised Event Cards for The Rules with No Name – my preferred rules of choice for Western gaming.

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I had already painted some Chinese Tong from the excellent Old Glory set XCW-06 Chinese Tong and figured they really needed some place to emerge from when their card was drawn.

The Chinatown was built from foam core, cardboard, balsa and some basswood. The lanterns were made from beads.

This aerial view shows the entire model.  I base my buildings on mdf bases and decided to make this one single terrain piece rather than individually based structures.  From the right you will find a restaurant and laundry, a dwelling, a brothel and Mr Wu’s gambling den and butcher shop at lower left.

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Facing the main street we have the Red Dragon Restaurant. Best noodle house east of the Rockies.

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Also facing Main St is Chow’s Chinese Laundry.

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Between Chows and the Red Dragon runs the muddy alley known locally as Chink’s Alley.Image

Mr Wu is the local provider of meat. As well as sheep and beef there is plenty of game available from his meat cooler.

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Of course, another service he provides is body disposal. No-one wants to become food for Wu’s pigs.

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The back door of Wu’s place.

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And finally some of the local Tong members, ready to fight at the order from their boss.

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28mm Conflix-style Medieval Houses

I am away from the Woolshed for nine days – down in Wellington for work. I have delved into the past to find an article I wrote that first appeared on the Kapiti Fusiliers website (now sadly defunct).  Anyways, without further ado…

Some time ago I brought a couple of pre-painted Conflix 25mm buildings. They are a little fantasy-ish for many people’s liking but I found them to be exactly what I wanted for my Bretonnian village. I wanted an entire village but thought the cost may have been a little prohibitive so decided that I could make something similar. Here are the results.

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I used high density insulation polystyrene for the body of the building. Six months ago I got a 2.4m x 0.6m sheet for NZ$30. Styrofoam is manufactured by Dow Chemicals (in Saudi Arabia) and is available just about everywhere. So far the sheet I brought has built a model Stonehenge, a 28mm Fantasy castle and now two houses and I still have three quarters of it left. For the roof and shingles I made do with card from old note books. Wood was balsa scraps (I never throw anything away and keep all those little pieces left over from basing my figures). For glue I used PVA and Selleys No-More-Nails. The only paint I brought especially for this project was a small test pot of a terracotta colour from the local hardware store for NZ$4.00.

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First thing I did was do a few sketches to get an idea of what I wanted to build. In this case I used the Conflix building as a guide for overall size and the angle of the gable. Then I cut the polystyrene into the basic house shape I had decided upon and glued together with No-More-Nails. I do not have a hot wire foam cutter so use a box cutter knife to fashion the styrene instead. You just have to be careful that you don’t pull the blade through the foam or it will pull and not cut cleanly. I used toothpicks to pin the pieces together and to provide support while the glue dried. I cut roof sections from card and glued them to the gable ends.

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Then I cut balsa into strips and glued it around the body of the house to form all exterior beams, door and window frames. Door handles were made by using small panel pins pushed into the styrene leaving the head exposed.

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Now the really boring bit. Cut 5mm strips from thin card – I used the backing off old note pads. Then snip them to make 5mm x 8mm tiles. You don’t have to be that accurate, just make sure that they are all about the same size. Starting at the bottom of the roof, glue a line of tiles down. Continue doing this up the roof until you reach the ridge. Do the same on the other side of the gable and you just need to glue some capping pieces along the ridge.

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I had tried to find some wire mesh of about the right size to use as lead light window panes but could not find anything around the house or for a reasonable price at the hardware store. So instead, I glued card into the window openings with the intention of just painting the lead lights later. At this stage the construction phase of the project was finished.

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Now it was time to add a bit of texturing. All I did was smear some Selley’s No-More-Gaps on the wall with my finger. Any excess that got on the timber beams can be trimmed off later before painting. For the chimney, I cut a small rectangular piece of foam about the size I wanted. Then I cut a notch for it to fit onto the roof and glued it in place with No-More-Nails. When it was dried I shaped i with craft knife and then etched the stone shapes in with a pencil.

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Now the building is finished it is time to paint. Although it is tempting to spray paint the model, unless you have an airbrush I would not recommend it as a way of applying the first coat. The solvents in the spray paint do a fine job of dissolving polystyrene. So, the best thing is to apply a coat of paint over all the exposed styrene first with a brush. After that you can happily spray coat the rest of the building. I used a can of black automotive spray undercoat.

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I wanted my building to look like the Conflix ones that I already had, so I painted and dry-brushed the walls grey, the timber beams using GW Vermin Brown and the tiles with a terracotta house paint to match. The results do not look too shabby.

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The finished product (right) standing alongside its Conflix counterparts.