Category Archives: Hobby

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.

Paint Brushes

Last year I brought a bunch of stuff off Wish and included in that lot was a couple of sets of paint brushes. I think the total cost of these brushes was about NZD$10.00. Normally I buy Games Workshop brushes but they are pushing $10 each now. I have tried $2 Shop (I guess Dollar Store or Pound Store to you Yanks and Poms) brushes with varying amounts of success and failure so was not holding out too much hope for these Wish brushes.

I have been pleasantly surprised. Already painted three units with the first of them and have had no problems.  For the price I am not too worried about how long they last but with normal maintenance I think they will surprise me.


Remounts and Lead Mountains

This morning while working on a unit of Spanish Line cavalry I wondered how many other regiments of cavalry I had sitting unpainted out in the cupboard in the Woolshed (not counting the one of Spanish Dragoons and Hussars in my study that I am doing over the next month).  Thought I would check out exactly what I had and start figuring out some sort of plan to get them painted. Then I began to wonder exactly how many unpainted Napoleonic miniatures I had. Turns out I have quite a lot. Probably only a lead molehill by comparison to some other gamers, but I don’t have to justify your lead mountain to SWMBO – just my own.

I started out looking at just the metals. Turns out I have quite a bit. Boxes and boxes.

I never actually knew that I had four French Cuirassier Regiments (two Front Rank, one Hinchliffe and one Connoisseur), two Carabineer regiments (Hinchliffe and Connoisseur), two Dragoon Regiments (mixture of Hinchliffe and Hinchliffe Foremost), another French Chasseur regiment, a Hussar regiment and two regiments of Polish lancers (mostly Hinchliffe).  I found six battalions of Front Rank Bavarians, some Hinchliffe Bavarian cavalry (2 regiments) and at least a couple more divisions of French infantry (various), at least three Guard battalions (Front Rank and Foundry),  a few artillery batteries and copious officer and general staff figures. I even found a unit of Scots Greys and a battalion of Foremost Highlanders in charging poses. I knew I had some Connoisseur Zastrow Cuirassiers somewhere and I found them too.

For some reason I have 24 Dutch Belgian Carabiniers. I have no idea how I came by them. I have never even wanted a Dutch-Belgian force. Likewise the dozen or so Dutch Belgians Chasseurs.  Maybe I got them second hand so I could use the horses.

Then there are War of 1812 British (Canadian Voltigeurs, Glengarry Light Infantry, three militia battalions, Light Dragoons and officers), Americans (Artillery batteries, Dragoons, Militia, a couple of regular battalions, officers and so forth) and a whole bunch of Indian allies for both sides.

I have not even started on the plastic stuff yet. Lots of Perry, Victrix and Warlord Games boxes. Or the Warhammer stuff (Fantasy Bretonnians, Dwarves, Orcs, High Elves and Space Marines), or the Dixon Samurai army, or finish off the boxes of Wild West/Apaches/7th Cavalry/Pirates, etc etc etc. Hell, I even found a box of Eureka Tekumel miniatures I got about seven years back and promptly forgot about and a box of GDW Traveller miniatures that I had not forgotten about – Imperial Marines, aliens and adventurers.

All I can say is that it is a good thing Winter is Coming.