Thursday, 31 July 2008

Those Fusliers Again

When I'm getting near to completing a batch of figures, I start keeping a list of all the painting stages still to be done before varnishing. That's a simple precaution needed if, like me, you have a bad habit of forgetting small items until after varnishing. I started making my list for the fusiliers five days ago, at which time there were nine items on the list.

So its rather a disappointment to find I still have six items on the list to do. I have been lazy I admit, but there's more to it than that. Because that list grew to seventeen items while I was working on it. If my painting was up to it, I think I'd add a slight smirk onto the faces of these figures.

The Legion Of The Damned (many times over): Stadden Fusiliers

If I do decide to try painting another unit as one large batch, then I think I will try mounting multiple figures on a strip - as many of you have suggested. Well, at least if they are infantry. I rather suspect that Stadden/Suren cavalry would be too heavy.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008


I suspect it is a rule of life that if you don't want a green bathroom sponge then the things are everywhere. Local supermarkets offer special deals for bulk purchases of them, small children try and sell them to you through your car window (I'm guessing here, I haven't driven in 20 years), charities give them away to needy and deserving people. But as I actually did want one, there were none to be found in the neighbourhood. My original plans thwarted by the negligence of local shopkeepers, I resorted to using that kitchen essential: the pan scourer. A pack of three 4"x 6" pads, costing 49p, provided enough material to cover three of my monster-sized trees.

The scourers were chopped up into small cubes. The first of these were pushed onto the bare metal wire remaining at the tips of each bough, the wires being coated with PVA to provide a permanent bond. Other cube could then dunked into PVA and pushed onto cubes that were already in place, being held there by their tangled fibres until the PVA dried. Given the small size of the cubes (due to pan scourers being rather thin) this had to be repeated in a lot of stages, taking rather more time than I'd prefer.

Once happy with the amount of foliage added, it was pruned with a pair of nail scissors to try and remove the more visible corners of the cubes and thus give a more natural effect. The final step was brush on some light green paint to soften the deep green colour of the original pad. The net result of all this is shown in the photo.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Do Painters Have Morale Throws Too?

I usually buy figures in small units: a company of musketeers, one of grenadiers, and perhaps a squadron of cavalry all in one purchase. I find this lessens the drudge factor in painting by providing a little more variety. But there is a downside to this. There may be an interval of a month or so before I paint a second set of figures of the same type. And this means that much of the familiarity with the figure has been lost: the same old mold lines may not be noticed (again), and details of which features to paint up and which to ignore, what to highlight, what to line, all have to be remembered.

I had already painted the rank and file for one company of fusiliers some time ago. I decided that I would try a different approach for the rest, completing the regiment by painting all its remaining figures if not all in one go, then at least in consecutive batches. Perhaps the drudge factor would be more than compensated for by the efficiencies of the method.

Well, the figures have arrived from Tradition of London. As usual the inital reception was one of pleasure (I can't frolic like a new-born lamb anymore, though I do try). But there was a little voice somewhere in my mind doubting that painting them all was really going to be quite so much fun as unpacking them. I set them all out and admired them: admiring figures does not take much effort. But it was when I started to clean them up with a craft knife that I really began to reflect on how long it takes (me at least) to paint thirty six Stadden infantry plus their accompanying officers.

Stadden fusiliers in column of bottletop

I remember the old WRG rules sets with their lengthy lists morale of morale factors. My table for 'painter about to sit and paint' would have factors such as +1 for a sunny day, +1 for a decent programme on the radio, +2 for good anatomy, etc.. I think I made my morale throw, albeit only just.

Friday, 11 July 2008


A glance at the map for Charles Grant's Action! shows that I need plenty of trees. Perhaps not as many as at Fontenoy, but still sufficient to provide an appreciable area of bad terrain on both flanks of the field of battle. I don't have to count up the number of trees I currently possess, because I don't have any to count. So it's really high time to turn my thoughts to what's to be done about them.

I want trees that will look good, be robust enough to survive any knocks during gaming or in storage, be big enough to look like proper trees rather than overgrown shrubs, be small enough that they don't take up much room in storage, and stable enough to not get knocked over during battle. And, of course, they mustn't get in the way of any troops lurking beneath them. That's a fair number of conflicting requirements, so some compromises will have to be made.

It has to be said straight away that 'overgrown shrubs' are what the sensible wargamer uses. Large trees have a habit of getting in the way as you try to move figures. If you knock them over the tress are at best merely annoying, it they are firmly rooted then you are lucky to avoid damaging them or else impaling your hand. However, I decided that the look of thing overrides such sensible considerations, if only because I liked the novelty of bigger trees than I have used in the past.

Having decided on size, I chose to have trees that can be firmly attached to my terrain modules (for stability), but removed for ease of storage. This can be done by embedding a threaded nut in the terrain module and incorporating the corresponding bolt in the bottom of the trunk of the tree. It might be simpler to do things the other way round - with the bolt in the terrain and the nut in the tree, but this would make storing the terrain harder as the thread of the bolt would stand proud of the terrain when the tree is removed.

The tree's trunk is build from bottom up. An irregularly shaped piece of card, with a hole drilled through it for the bolt, establishes a good flat surface where the tree is in contact the ground. The bolt is pushed through the card and positioned so that the correct amount of thread is exposed. I then wrap milliput between the card and the head of the bolt, and (temporarily) screw the nut onto the bolt to hold the cardboard firm while the milliput dries. The main trunk of the tree is made out of old fibre tip pens, because I happen to have a load of these I'd never thrown away. The head of the bolt is simply embedded into milliput at the base of the trunk, the milliput also being used to build up the trunk - which should naturally be wider at its base.

Embedding The Bolt

The nut can now be taken off the partially completed trunk and inserted into the terrain module. The two layer construction of my modules makes this relatively easy - the nut is epoxied onto the 4mm thick MDF that forms the lower layer of the module. The foamcore upper layer - with an area cut out where the nut is going to go - can then be glued onto the terrain module, hiding the nut from view.

The boughs of the tree are made of twisted wire. Twist two wires together to make a bough. Twist two of these together to make a bigger bough, etc. The assembled boughs are then pushed into the trunk of the tree, wedged in with milliput to hold them in place. Milliput is then used to cover the wire, hiding the twists in the wire, and adding strength.

Component Boughs

Basic Trees

More boughs can be added using twisted wire to make the tree more convincing. I wrapped some around the outside of the tree trunks to form lower limbs for the trees. Others were added to the upper boughs to create more complex structures. You can buy terracotta milliput (intended to repair garden pots etc.) and this can be used to provide a brown base colour, thus simplifying later painting.

I have yet to decide on how to add foliage. In the past I have used wire wool dunked in sawdust. This looks good, but tends to be messy with sawdust being shed everytime the trees are used. My current idea is to use chopped up bits of a green bathroom spong - if I can find such an article in the shops. So any suggestions on alternatives would be welcome.

Nearing Completion

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

More Musketeers

Painting is continuing at its normal, slow pace. All very routine really: I have finished the first company of the fourth (and last) infantry battalion needed for the Action! refight. It's just a straight forward painting of Stadden musketeer figures, in this case to some semblance of Prussian IR12.

Stadden Musketeers

I usually have twelve rank and file in an infantry company so, as the photo shows, one man has gone AWOL. What's happened is that one figure had a broken musket: I'd rather not waste valuable painting time on a figure in that state. I'll hopefully be able to fix the musket with some wire and milliput: a little project that will provide some variation from the task of painting all those musketeers.

With this company out of the way my metal mountain - which is never really more than a mole-hill by normal standards - has dwindled to just a few odd figures. I have another order from Tradition of London somewhere in the post, but in the meantime I can indulge in the pleasant pastime of fiddling around with individual figures rather than painting in bulk. I have a Suren Duke of Cumberland that looks like he may end up defecting to take up high command in the Imperial Army. I am also starting on the extra terrain I need for Action!, of which more in future posts.