Friday, 6 January 2017

A Painter's Disease

In our childhood we used enamel paints and our bedrooms often reeked with the smell of paint and thinners.  Its not so bad these days: most painting is done with water based acrylics, only the final varnishing will bring back the familiar odours of our youth.

It turns out that exposure to paint thinners is a risk factor is developing pancreatic cancer.  People whose professions mean exposure to it have an elevated chance of developing the disease.  So it would seem to be a wise precaution to take care to minimise our exposure to it when we are using it.

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Somewhere In Lowest Germany (continued)

Von Arlitz, anxious to make some pretence of aggressiveness, ordered a general advance.  A more inappropriate order is hard to see: the close terrain in front of him made such a movement with all the troops at hand impossible.  Although he correctly recognised the importance of the woods in the centre, and directed his two companies of Croats to converge upon it, they were blocked from so doing by the movements of friendly units and so a company of Free Battalion Le Noble was able to occupy it.  From this vantage point they maintained a destructive fire on von Arlitz's troops for the remainder of the battle. The second company of Le Noble found similarly good cover in woods on their left flank, although from here they were able to make only some slight nuisance of themselves because of distance and terrain.

Von Arlitz's Gensdarmes moved forwards in accordance with his initial orders and then, finding no good place to go, moved across the front of the Reichs infantry battalions in the centre.  By doing so they presented a target for the light infantry in the woods and blocked the advance of the infantry. They would have been far better left at the rear building 'battle moves' for later in the battle when they might have found useful employment. Van Erp  made a similar error with his regiment of dragoons moving first to his right flank and then back again and to his left.  However, as they performed these evolutions to the rear of the rest of his army no great harm was done.

A Illconceived General Advance

Having disentangled themselves, the Croats attempted to fight their way into the woods.  But first one company and then the second was swiftly seen off by a few volleys fired by van Erps light infantry who took few casualties in return. These then turned their  attention on the confused ranks of line infantry and cavalry behind, inflicting serious casualties as they sorted themselves out.  An advance by the sorely tried line infantry to within close range where they could return effective fire on the woods resulted in sufficient casualties to bring the lights  perilously close to breaking, but at further cost to the line infantry.

Le Noble Holds The Woods

At this point van Erp rose in his stirrups and waved his tricorne.  The younger officers on his staff have suggested many reasons as to what this signified.  Those of a gloomy disposition have suggested he was being bothered by a horse fly.  The amorously inclined opine that he was seeking to attract the attention of a troop of actresses who had come to view their hero in his martial glory.  Van Erp himself insists that  his seasoned eye had detected a wavering of the enemy line, and he had judged it was now time to deliver the decisive blow.  We are inclined to  accept the general's own explanation: the word of a gentleman is not lightly set aside, especially when he has a few battalions at his call.  But  what is certain is that his two battalions in front of him now advanced against the wilting Reichs infantry.  The fire of these, supported by  the depleted - but still game - light infantry took a steady toll of their opponents.  

Von Arlitz desperately countered with his cavalry, the Gensdarmes crashing into the infantry's right.  One battalion was routed and destroyed: the Gensdarmes, who had lost several officers to fire from the light infantry, pursuing them with no regard for the exposure of their own position.   Van Erp in turn threw in his Dragoons.  Although these had first wandered over to one flank and then over to the other, van Erp claims this was always part of his master plan: certainly they were now well placed to destroy the Gensdarmes with their counter blow.  The Reichs infantry had already lost one battalion to musketry and their second battalion, now isolated, inevitably succumbed to the same fate.  Von Arlitz's centre and right flank  had collapsed. 

This left the armies with one unengaged flank.  Both sides had viewed the terrain here as too difficult to attempt.  The Rheinfellers were happy to limit themselves to an ineffectual bombardment, while their targets found good cover with which to frustrate it. 

Von Arlitz now called for a retreat: his dreams of emulating the great Frederick William frustrated for another day.  Alas, it seems any  resemblance to the king is limited to a certain shabbiness of dress.  All credit to Van Erp who correctly divined the nature of the battlefield and took measures to exploit it.  Whereas I condemned myself to a well deserved defeat with my initial orders which were impossible to achieve in the limited space available for the troops to move in.

With a shortage of free time at the moment I continue to add a few troops to my army.  But I have neglected to make enough terrain for them to be comfortably employed.  That is something I must correct before the next engagement.  A town, a village, and a decent sized hill are needed as part of any Sittangbad refight so I will be concentrating on these.

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Somewhere In Lowest Germany

A Small Matter Of Supply

Jim Wannop lay on his couch beside his swimming pool. He frowned: there was surely something he had meant to do. For a while he pondered and then it came to him: "I have not given my friend Andy a good thrashing at a Seven Years War battle for some time". The scantily clad maidens attending him were dismissed, a mobile phone handed to him by his PA and arrangements made. I wasn't an eyewitness, so details may be slightly in error: any well read wargamer will be aware that, as the authorities tell us, such remarks must be taken "cum grano salo by the discerning reader".

...Following his last great victory Gouert van Erp's army seemed poised to overrun all of Hesse- Rheinfels. The Emperor, alarmed, wrote letters to the Diet. The deputies met, speeches were made, resolutions passed, motions carried: by some small miracle reinforcements and even some funds were found. Meanwhile, the victorious van Erp remained quiescent: his train had broken down. He had looted the botanical gardens at Gottingen of its finest specimens and so many wagons had been sent north with the booty to his newly acquired Dutch estate that his army was bereft of supply and the means with which to move it. This inactivity angered the Prince who, ignorant of both cause and consequence, demanded a resumption of the offensive. In response van Erp blamed and fired a few members of the commissariat whom he had found to be tiresome on matters of fiscal probity, and once some transport had returned, made his excuses and ventured to move forward.

It was time to set up a battle and this I did by placing terrain pieces in all the worst places, and then deploying two armies in no sensible order. Jim, when he arrived, indulgently refrained from comment on the dispositions so made and threw a dice to determine which army he would play: as this turned out to be the Hesse-Marburg army my narrative could proceed without difficulty.

Initial Positions

Army of Hesse-Marburg (Gouert van Erp)

Dragoon Regt. v Platen
Garde Grenadiere
Fusilier Regt. Graf von Wied zu Neuwied
Infantry Regt. v Finck
Infantry Regt. Prinz von Preussen
Free Battalion Le Noble

The Hesse-Marburg artillery were not present, their horses being engaged in the transport of tulips at the time of battle.

Meanwhile, von Arlitz had only retained command of the Hesse Rheinfels army by virtue of that elderly Prince's inability to find a general who understood 'the proper use of the pike'.  A consignment of that antique weapon arriving at camp was sufficient impetus for the remaining Rheinfels infantry to desert at first in ones and twos, then by company and by regiment, until  von Arlitz found himself left with only Imperial infantry.

 Army of Hesse-Rheinfels (Graf von Arlitz)

Hohenzollern Cuirassiers
Reichs Infantry Regt Furstenberg
Reichs Infantry Regt Wildenstein
2 coys Karlstadter Oguliner Croats
2 guns Hesse Rheinfels artillery.

Grant rules were to be used, As usual, neither of us had read them before the battle so we were relying on our faulty memories and the recently published summary of the rules. We agreed, for the sake of simplicity, that only light infantry could enter woods as neither of us was entirely sure how other unit types interacted with bad terrain. Our excuse is that woods would be too a severe obstacle to troops as badly trained as ours, whose formations would be likely to break down completely if they had to negotiate it. Always suspicious of templates, we used Charge! rules for the artillery, but with 8" range intervals rather than the 12" intervals of the original to reflect artillery of the second grade.

...confident that their enemies were in disarray van Erp's army lunged forward with little thought of fighting an action, minding the more attractive pursuits of exacting contributions and finding comfortable billets. Van Erp was therefore fortunate that his opponent the Graf von Arlitz was preoccupied with reforming and recruiting his battered regiments. It seems that both sides neglected to send out the necessary scouts and thus, by accident, one army was able to blunder into the other while neither were in any sort of order.

 to be continued....

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Imperial Infantry Reforms (or A Touch of Gilder)

There was a time when painting white uniforms was an occasion of pure joy. You slapped on an undercoat of black and then dry brushed with white (enthusiasts could use varying intermediate shades of grey). Flesh, facings, and various accoutrements were then added and one held up the result for the approbation of ones friends and started writing an acceptance speech for the inevitable Turner Prize.

Those were the happy days when we used Humbrol enamels. The pigments in those paints would separate from the spirit that contained them and settle at the bottom of their tins; where they could be scooped up and readily applied using dry brushing. Nowadays I use acrylics, and while I am grateful that neither I nor my house any longer smells like an oil refinery, my dry brushing has suffered as a result. I simply cannot dry brush properly using acrylics.

Left Side Treated, Right Side Untreated

The result of this is that my Imperial Infantry, sporting a uniform of the most brilliant white, look like an advert for washing powder. This might not matter if the figure I was using was of the finest quality, but it only serves to highlight the defects of my sculpting. As I am currently concluding the painting of the first company of my second Imperial infantry regiment, I have decided it is time to act.

There is a technique that is worth trying here; something I was told by an artist friend some years ago, although I have never had occasion to try it until now. My friend has since disappeared off to Canada where he no doubt spends his time fighting grizzly bears; chopping off one's ear being considered terribly passée among contemporary artists. But fortunately the technique is a simple one and can be used by normal people unaffected by such sinister places as Art Colleges. Indeed, my friend told me that it originated with none other than Peter Gilder.

The method uses a touch of Humbrol gloss black mixed into a pot of Humbrol clear gloss polyurethane varnish (and yes I do appreciate the irony in the choice of saviour). The quantity of gloss black used is left to the user's discretion: I simply plunged a thin piece of bamboo into the gloss black and then mixed that into the pot of gloss varnish. I suppose the correct prescription would be 'add to taste', the key being that you can always add more, but cannot take it back out. I would also add the advice that you paint the pot's lid with some black, so that you don't use it on other tasks where normal, untreated varnish is intended.

The resultant concoction is used in place of normal varnish: as it dries it will tend to pool in places where shadows are supposed to form, creating subtle effects for no real effort. In my case the figure does not give many opportunities for that to occur, but it does at least tone down the brilliant white to a more acceptable shade. I am not sure yet if I have added sufficient black to have as great an impact as I want: but this is a decision that is worth taking time over.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Good Company

Progress on the Croats stutters along: I have one company complete (hence the usual corny title) and the second company is cast, cleaned up, and awaiting its muskets.  The photos show the extant company in a rather Napoleonic pose (it really should be lurking off to the side in some woods) in front of IR Furstemburg.  The latter regiment has seen the addition of two officers.

As the photos indicate, I have made at least some progress in my sculpting and the newer Croats rather put the older line infantry to shame.  The new infantry officer isn't quite as good.  When stood next to the Stadden Prussian infantry officer, he looks like a pigeon chested, knock-kneeded evolutionary throwback who could never expect to receive an invitation into polite Viennese society.  Needless to say, I shall be avoiding any chance of such comparisons being made.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Sunshine And Light

"Ti-ra-la-la-i-tu! I gloat! Hear me!" So crows Beetle and his friends in Stalky and Co. It's clear that while Kipling's characters received a fair number of beatings, as were routinely applied to erring children of his times, they might well have both merited and benefited from a few more. For all that, I am pleased with current events and my glee is exhibited in excesses only a degree less exaggerated than those of the obnoxious Beetle. At the age of 50+ this is I accept, albeit with no great consternation, rather sad.

The cause for all this celebration is that I have finally produced a mold for Croats, and the figures emerging from said article are - to my mind - highly satisfactory. The accompanying photo shows the first three figures at the stage before varnishing and applying metallics.

Croats At Last

Setting aside the unhappy instance of the 'mold' that turned out to be a solid block of rubber, my attempts at mold making are improving. The detail on the figure has come through well; even the moustache is being cast intact.

The pose I prefer for light infantry, with the musket held in front of the body, does not lend itself to casting so readily as the usual march attack pose does. There is no obvious plane along which the mold can be split into two halves. Instead, the boundary between its halves has to be shaped to wrap around the figure. The resulting mold has to be flexed slightly to release the casting, but with only 24 figures needed for a light infantry battalion I can hope to get them cast before it breaks up: if this was for multiple battalions of line infantry I'd be making additional molds.

There is just one sour note to add: painting all the lace on these fellows is rather like painting that most trying of personages, the drummer, with all his gaudy plumage. Only now I have no fewer than 24 lace-bestrewn dandies to deal with. I shall console myself with the reflection that intricate detail like this does serve to disguise all manner of sins in the both the sculpting and the painting.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Bleh, Bah and Bum

I would prefer my blogposts to provide a history of my triumphs without any memorials of the accompanying disasters; but this post is perhaps a more useful record of what can go wrong when mould making.

Today, I was supposed to carefully pry my Croat master figure out of its newly made mould. Following that, I'd spend an impatient day or two allowing the silicone rubber to dry out fully before introducing it to hot metal. Shiny new Croats would then have miraculously appeared and all would have been sweetness and light.

Not the Desired Result

It was not to be. Instead of a mould that would split into two halves, I found I had a single block of rubber with a milliput figure somewhere inside it. So I spent an unhappy half hour trying to dig the figure out with a craft knife. That required slow and delicate work to prevent any damage to the figure, requiring a patience that, in the circumstances, was notable only for its absence: my instincts were more along the lines of wanting to punish the offending objects by chucking them against a wall. So the figure was lucky to come away with only the damage visible in the photo.

The disaster was caused by my using insufficient separator (vaseline) to coat the half of the mould that had been made from the first pouring of rubber. In my initial attempts at mould making some time ago I had used pure vaseline, resulting in the figure losing much of its detail due to a thick layer of the stuff. In subsequent molds I had thinned the vaseline with white spirits and the detail had thereby been preserved. But there are clearly limits to how far you can go with this: it appears I would be best using raw vaseline to separate the two halves of the mould, while using thinned vaseline only on the figure itself. Oh well, these lessons have to be learnt. I will repair the figure, and my temper, and then try again.

The Croat Peril

It has been some three years since I was complaining about the difficulty of finding a decent Croat figure that would fit with my Staddens. I should console myself with the reflection that if I am finding it hard to get to grips with these gentlemen, poor old Frederick never really managed to.