dispatches from terra incognita

Category: Craftees

More Square Pegs

Fresh from showing off my counterfeits of Matt’s figures, I should make clear that I also steal from Kenneth Van Pelt. Here are a few pictures of my Square Pegs 54mm craftee VSF soldiers (and some experiments in other genres). Many of the fellows could be used for straight-up colonial combat, I suppose, but I don’t possess enough hard military historical knowledge to paint them correctly…

First up is a British artillery crew with scratch-built gun. I did buy the mdf wheels. (Though, I will say, I made one using the Toy Making Dad’s methods, but it took a LONG TIME so I opted to buy some here). I should also note that these guns do not really fire …

Here are their Prussian counterparts:

The pickelhaube-with-a-ball-on-them are a real thing, by the way. One wonders if it wasn’t just a touch difficult to take them seriously? They were manning a cannon, I suppose…

So that you can appreciate my sacrifice, you see I glued rivets onto this thing. You can’t really see it, but there is also a bolt to turn to adjust the elevation. At one time I fantasized that I would make a firing model; I have given up on that dream for the moment.

Death’s Head Hussars. I cut the tops off the pegs and glued on bits of dowel to fashion the busbies.

Here are some Jægers. I tried to take the easy route by sanding the top at an angle to communicate the distinctive hat. I’m not sure if it was successful.

I think Kenneth was brilliant in devising the pipe cleaner arms, but I agree with Dale that something else — he suggests craft foam — might serve better. The pipe cleaner arms are eminently reposition-able, but they hold guns funny. And [sigh] they make the guys look like muppets.

The field surgeon and a wounded soul. I’m either going to make a scalpel for the medico or buy one intended for Lego people. You’ll see some Lego weapons anon.

A hospital scene, with casualties and nurses. I think one of the ladies from Downton Abbey was serving as a nurse when I made these plucky lasses — I hadn’t seen the costume previously. Note, I have to cut the pegs in half the long way to get them to lie on the cots properly. I don’t recall now how I did it! The blankets are tissue paper soaked in white pva glue.

Here are a couple of civilian ladies and an Indiana Jones-type. Gun and sword are Lego weapons. Hats on Indy and the lady in yellow are some type of metal nut from Home Depot, intended to hold plastic wheels on axels. I haven’t attempted to do a whip yet.

Now we come to some of my experiments. First up, the crew from a famous starship. Phasers are Lego weapons. The figures can be removed from their “starship floor” bases, should I become sufficiently possessed to create exotic planet bases as well.

Feel the need to point out Uhura’s earrings and eye shadow… I have also begun an Orion slave girl (should you even doubt it) but haven’t photographed her yet.

The pirate lass is the favorite figure I’ve done. Her hair is braided, but I had to outsource the task as I seem incapable of learning the art. Tricorne courtesy of Dale’s craft foam tutorials. Lego weapons. Alas, her counterpart is WIP.

Finally, Lara and Tara Kraft, tomb raiders. The only female expression I seem to be able to paint is a smirk… which likely sums up exactly what they think of me.

 

And now for something completely different …

Plodding along as I do with my various projects, I am frequently struck by novel inspiration as work becomes tedious. Thus, while immersed in painting my 54mm artillery, I suddenly became quite certain that it was the perfect moment for me to finally try Blood Bowl. Now, as with everything Games Workshop, those box games run a little pricey. Alas, inspiration had not chosen a pecuniarily prudent moment to appear …

However, I’m usually pretty skilled at converting lemons to -ade. I had simultaneously been hankering to try some of Matt “GrayMouser65” Kirkhart’s 28mm fantasy wooden craftees, as featured on Dale Hurtt’s blog Wooden Warriors.

Now inspiration had foundation — I could craft as many Blood Bowl teams as I like using little wooden bits. I had to scour Matt’s posts to determine what he used and where he got ’em. I then had to find a source for everything — both Michael’s and AC Moore seem to have cut back on many of these items. I relied on the internet and patience.

I elected to do goblins first, being particularly tickled by Matt’s latest “hunchback” brutes. Construction followed his guidelines, with tile spacer feet (barely visible here), spool torso, half spool for the shoulders, half bead for the head, and tile spacers again for ears and arms. A few chaps got adornments, such as toothpick spikes, and one poor fellow had a hook hand. Another got a “saw” hand, fashioned from a bead. I sanded the torso spool of my two running backs to give them a feeling of motion, despite their feet being together.

I’m not at all familiar with the Blood Bowl rules. After making my team, I was dismayed to discover that, apparently, the goblins don’t have quarterback or receiver types. I may be adapting the rules, or else using the Monsters of the Midway fantasy football rules from Dragon Magazine #65. For example, I may use Heroscape hexes for the playing field rather than a squared grid.

The final step will be to paint numbers on the boyz. I’ll be using the “classic” system from the 70s, with 1-20 reserved for the quarterbacks (and kickers, I suppose) and wide receivers wearing numbers in the 80s, as is right and good. 

Paint Table Saturday

This post is less about what’s on the table than the fact of the table itself.

The Hobby Shack is not quite complete, with various bits and bobs of trim left to install. Yet, this battle station is fully armed and operational. The paint rack (last spied here in February of ’15) was relocated from my former painting nook in the house. The desk itself is a placeholder. I will construct a custom built-in with various drawers for storage.

Accompanied by downpour from Hurricane Mathew, I painted ten Prussian Jægers (54mm Square Pegs) and a couple of Reaper Bones. Mordheim figures lurk still on the window ledge (in largely the same state as they were two Februaries back) as well as some knights destined for Warmaster which can be spied above the drawer on the right.

Inaugural Combat

Following an unplanned hiatus, I have every intention of resuming semi-regular posting to this blog.

Part of my time away was spent on some 1:1 terrain building. Inspired by Eric the Shed, specifically expansion of his eponymous structure, I endeavored to nearly double the size of the building which houses my carpentry workshop (known in my family as The Shed for far longer than I’ve known of Eric’s). The additional room has become my Hobby Shack, dedicated to innumerable non-serious pursuits.

I’ll post a bit more concerning construction later. Today, however, I shall focus on inaugural combat conducted in the new hobby space.

Aside from the new space, I have drawn from two ancillary inspirational founts:

  • I purchased and devoured Neil Thomas’s One-Hour Wargames. This little gem, about which I’ll wax to further length poetic at some later date, provided perfectly concise rules for me to conduct a solo battle; and

  • The resumption of posting by Dale Hurtt and Matt Kirkhart to Wooden Warriors. Part of the reason I labored doggedly for two months (I’m a one-man crew) to build my Shack was to have room to battle with my Square Pegs.

The Square Pegs are my 54mm craftee toy soldiers fashioned from clothes pins. (Their inspiration came from Kenneth Van Pelt and is recounted here.)

The initial conflict would be Scenario One, a Pitched Battle, somewhere in the wilds of Isla Victoria. Army sizes were regrettably halved to 3 units each, as my Prussian jæger and both sides’ artillery languish incomplete.

Thus, the British would be represented by two infantry detachments — 74th Regiment of Foot and the Black Watch — and a troop of 17th “Death or Glory” Lancers.

The Prussians brought to bear detachments from their First and Second Infanterie, supported by the infamous Death’s Head Hussars.

The two small forces faced off thusly:

Now, in my enthusiasm I shall beg your indulgence for this one illustrated After Action Report. I find them tedious as a rule and so you won’t find many here. This occasion was auspicious in that it marked my first foray into One-Hour Wargames, the initial engagement between Square Pegs, as well as the 21st anniversary of the day upon which I was wed. Caveat lector.

Turn the First: The Lancers, who for reasons known only to themselves bore the guidon of the 1st Lancers, charge en avant. The boys of the 74th and the Highlanders press onward to glory. Answering with a cry of battle lust, the Prussian Hussars make for the British cavalry. The 1st Infanterie marches straight towards the scrum while the 2nd have the Highlanders in their sight.

Turn the Second: Plucky British lads soldier onward, closing the gap. A model of malevolent malice, the Death’s Head Hussars not only reach the Lancers, but close on their left flank! They inflict 4 hits.

Turn the Third: Undeterred, the Lancers charge the 1st Infanterie and the 74th closes to shooting distance of the Hussars. The Hussars wheel right to engage the Fighting 74th while the 2nd Infanterie treads implacably towards the Black Watch. The 1st Infanterie fires on their tormentors (3 hits) and the sabers of the Hussars slice into the 74th (6 hits).

Turn the Fourth: The cry “Death or Glory” echoes from the looming mountains as the Lancers renew their charge. Both the 74th and the Highlanders engage in disciplined volley fire with their opponents, inflicting 6 hits on the Hussars and 4 on the 2nd Infanterie. Sensing weakness in the Lancers, the Hussars wheel to the attack. Both foot detachments return fire. The Lancers sustain 5 total hits from saber and shot and the Highlanders receive 5.

Turn the Fifth: The battle rages on with more hits sustained by all (Hussars, 7; 2nd Inf., 3). The Death’s Head Hussars close for the coup de grâce on the Lancers. Alas, sustained fire from the 1st Infanterie cuts down British horse pitilessly. Unit eliminated!

Turn the Sixth: Returning the favor, measured firing of the 74th decimates the Hussars.

Turn the Seventh: Placing themselves in the hands of Fate, the 74th and the Highlanders close on Prussian foot. Alas, needle gun made short work of the Black Watch (Unit eliminated).

The thin red line of the 74th prepared for Prussian onslaught. Martini-Henrys blazing, they take out the battered 1st Infanterie. At the end of the day, there were only souls standing to send final dispatches of the battle to Berlin, recounting the glory of the 2nd Infanterie.

The actors regain the stage to take their bows.

 

A Parable…

This is a parable concerning craft paints, real guitars, and pretend pianos. I wrote a bit in my essay on the GULP that I paint both terrain and miniatures with inexpensive craft paints. This wasn’t always the case.

When I was new to the hobby of collecting and painting miniatures, I did a lot lot of research online. Rather than serving as inspiration, all those meticulously painted miniatures served as intimidation and generally hindered the process. I started out buying Testors acrylics (because those were available at my local hobby shop, Hungates) but soon fell under the spell of Æheric fiends asserting that only Games Workshop pigments were worthy. But nothing I painted with those expensive paints looked like those I saw online.

I eventually stopped painting miniatures entirely, focussing instead on terrain, which, of course, I daubed with craft paint from Walmart, Michael’s, and A.C. Moore. When I embarked upon the Square Pegs project, it seemed obvious to use craft paints, as those cylindrical warriors boast a lot of surface area. Plus, for awhile there, GW kept changing around their paint names, pot types, and generally confused me. When the big box o’ Reaper Bones arrived all bendy-plasticy, craft paint kept flowing.

Now, if you’re wondering, or just bored, this is when I get to the parable part with musical instruments.

For way longer than I’ve collected miniatures — about 30 years, in fact — I’ve played guitar. Or rather, I’ve attempted to play guitar;— I am an auto didact, not a particularly perspicacious one, and it took me about 26 years of making noise to realize that it’s difficult to teach yourself how to do something that you don’t know how to do…

So, I carried my son for guitar lessons for a year or so, and worked up the nerve to take some myself. My teacher was a professional musician who had been involved in jangle-pop music in the 80’s North Carolina music scene, contemporaneous with rise of R.E.M. His band wasn’t similarly successful, but he loved to play guitar, so he made a life of working in the studio, teaching guitar, and playing in local bands. His especial gift is a connection between ears, brain, and fingers. In addition to the encyclopedia of songs he knows, he can simply listen to a song, figure out what the guitarist is playing, and transcribe it for the student.

Back in the 80’s, I had a serviceable guitar purchased by my parents. But I too was under the spell of the young R.E.M. and decided that an expensive electric guitar would certainly improve my playing. I got a bank loan (!) to purchase a Rickenbacker 330, which cost the equivalent of $3700 in today’s dollars (!). The short and obvious conclusion to this part of my tale is that this dear beauty didn’t bring me any closer to Buck. I was just a lousy guitarist with an expensive axe. I’ve collected a few more here and there, and as recently as a few years ago bought a Squier Telecaster (at least I didn’t bite for the real deal) because I thought that would make me better… [Since writing this, I traded up the Squier for a made in Mexico tele.]

The main guitar I practice on to this day is that serviceable Yamaha dreadnought bought for me by my parents circa 1984. One afternoon, my teacher Brad was adeptly unravelling some tune for me on his beat up, Willy Nelson-looking classical guitar, and I fumbled along behind pathetically. Bothered by some sort of string buzz emanating from my guitar, he asked if he could play it for a moment. Music erupted like you hear on the radio. There was still some sort of buzz owing to the vagaries of 30 year-old frets, but he could minimize it by how he held his fingers.

Some days later, while painting clothespins to look like 19th century Victorian soldiers, I was visited by epiphany. Brad sounded great on his old practice guitar, he sounded great on my middling Yamaha, and he sounded great on his expensive Les Paul; he is a gifted musician and would sound great on a tissue box with rubber bands stretched across it. He is a living equivalent of Schroeder in Peanuts, who can coax classical music out of a piano with the black keys painted on.

Great miniature painters can go on for as long as they like about the necessity of expensive paints, but I’m fairly certain they could knock out superb work with daubs of mud and a stick. I’m not saying that only a gifted few can do great work;— rather, that the amount of practice one puts in trumps the quality of the tools.

So, I plan to plod on with craft paints and an inclination to improve my technique. I won’t try anything too hard; I’m satisfied with a base coat and shading with future wash. After 20-odd years and a modest accumulation of guitars, I have learned to Travis pick and can sound like a coffee house folk singer should I want to. In all of my hobbying, I attend to people who have practiced more than I (and are likely more talented than I), incorporating what I can.

The GULP

The very first minis I purchased in my adulthood were a passel of western figures from Monday Knight Productions. They turned out to be a mixture of 25 and 28mm, as I really didn’t know the difference then, and the site doesn’t seem to differentiate. This was nearly 15 years ago, and these wee desperadoes formed the core of my Great Unpainted Lead Pile, or GULP, which also happens to be the sound I utter when I behold its vastness.

Soon thereafter I became enamored of colonial and VSF figures, and made several big purchases from Wargames Foundry, both the Darkest Africa and Western ranges. I think I may have acquired some Old Glory Pirates next (which, I just realized, invalidates my claim a few days back that Mega Minis civilians were my first post-70’s FLGS miniature purchase; I plundered the OG scurvy dogs from the dearly departed War Room in Atlanta).

Falling under the spell of 15mm VSF, I was able to increase the numbers of figures I purchased for the same amount of money. I became an enthusiast for Irregular Miniatures, which remains, I believe, an acquired taste. Reading Wind in the Willows and Redwall to my little boys resulted in a few strategic buys from Splintered Light (those little boys are both teenagers now, one poised to leave for college; the armed mice remain bare metal). With lamb-like dutifulness I followed internet advice to purchase boardgames (Descent, Battle Lore, Super Dungeon Explore) for more figures. I fell hook, line, and lead sinker for the 10mm craze, thinking that 5mm less to paint might get things going. Then the Reaper Bones Kickstarter ambushed me.


Oh, well…

I should note that during this 15 year period, my rate of purchasing far exceeded the rate of painting. Among many curses of the internet is that innocent eyes are exposed to examples of painting skills that far exceed one’s own. No matter how many tips and tutorials I read, my little people never ended up looking like those gorgeous models online. Oh, I could slap a coat of paint on the Irregular fellows, as the usual comment one hears is that “they look disappointing out of the box, but paint up nicely…” But those ladies and gentlemen from the Foundry were expensive and the examples online are so pretty… So, they languished among many others in the GULP. (As you may have detected in the above list, the GULP comprises plastic as well as lead, and, when you think about it, probably contains no lead at all, as I don’t think they use that anymore).

Now, I’m also thoroughly fastidious as well as avaricious, so, I will make clear, mine was not a messy mass of lead. I washed and ogled each and every figure upon arrival. Some sat out for awhile, perhaps dreaming that they might be reborn in glorious technicolor. The vast majority were eventually packed neatly away in boxes, bagged and labelled in anticipation of the day when their turn would come.

In fact, I devised quite the system. Minis “at bat” would be scattered about the painting table (of which I’ve had a number through the years). To the left is the current batch, including some Bones goblins, Foundry Victorians, and a Brigade Games Stealth Squad I bought for a reason that is lost to me. There were 12 Bones kobolds there until yesterday evening.

Minis “on deck” are based and likely primed, and I’ve taken to storing them in stacking tupperware containers from Walmart to keep the dust off. Basing and priming is easy and hints at the promise that I might actually work on a figure. So, there are many, many miniatures “on deck.”

Finally, the sad souls “in the hole” are packed in photo boxes with attractive “old map” prints on the outside.

Lately things have become a bit more lax, as the Super Dungeon Explore figures did get primed, and so are theoretically on deck, but are still piled in the box I primed ’em in.

 

And the Reaper box is just one big overwhelming jumble. (And, yes, lest you worry, the Bones II box is on its way as well.)

 


Of all things, I spent about a year fabricating my own figures out of clothes pegs, the sordid story of which is elsewhere detailed. I will credit my experience of both the Square Pegs and the Reaper Bones with my painting renaissance. Painting Square Pegs was transformational because, well, in the end, it’s just a clothespin. It’s only gonna look so good. And, though the Bones are festooned with excruciating detail, they are just bendy plastic guys and gals, not the solid metal “clean limbed chaps” I bought from Foundry all those years ago. Somehow, it didn’t feel as serious painting plastic —the stakes were not as high — so I made more headway.

I hope that I will be able to maintain the momentum of productivity initiated on this break. To my credit, I have essentially halted buying new miniatures, out of sheer embarrassment as much as anything, so I guess I’m participating in one of those “Pledges” people talk about. At some point I’ll feel sufficiently positive about my progress and find some new pretties that I can’t live without.

Much like my credit card debt, the GULP keeps me getting up each morning and going back to work.

Craftee Pirates

Matt Jackson, author of the blog Lapsus Calumni, posted recently about a fabulous pirate game he designed and constructed, using components secured from a local craft shop.

I’ve walked those same aisles, cast my glance upon those same little wooden tchotchkes and bits, and NOT conceived of such brilliance… Therein lies the divide between greatness and mediocrity.

Matt finished the chest with appropriate piratical aplomb, fashioned ships from half-eggs and dowels, created coins with Sculpey, wrote a booklet of rules, &c.

All the components fit perfectly into the chest. Absolute perfection. Well done, you!

The Square Pegs

The time has come for me to unveil my most recent Enthusiasm;— viz.:

The Square Pegs

The Square Pegs are a motley collection of 54mm Toy Soldiers constructed from clothespins, pipe cleaners, and other accoutrements.

Why 54mm Craftees?

In the summer of 2012, I found myself assessing my increasing pile of unpainted lead; simultaneously reflecting upon my diminishing space for storing my soldiers and scratch-built terrain; and finally, lamenting the little time I have to devote to hobbying. In a flash came the perfect solution;— why not embark upon a project in a new, larger scale, which would entail constructing (and storing) all new buildings and terrain, and which would require me to create all of my own figures from scratch? Thus began the madness!

But First, the Back Story

The Anglo-Zulu War, rendered in clothespins

Examining the history of my browser would reveal the following artifacts;—

For years I have been ogling (in a good way) the clothespin creations of Mr. Kenneth Van Pelt one might find at The Penny Whistle (website of the Secondhand Lions Wargame Club) — 54mm Zulu war Brits and 1:72-ish biplanes, all constructed of parts plundered from the laundry;

Though I have a well-thumbed copy of Wells’ Little Wars, I was strangely compelled to purchase a modern update — Funny Little Wars by Padre Paul Wright — published by the Virtual Armchair General; and finally,

Really shoots!

How could one not be captivated by the Toy Making Dad’s tutorial for constructing a little wooden cannon that really shoots?

One horrid day these Ætheric contagions took hold of my feverish mind. I realized that I possessed the necessary skills and modest pecuniary means to construct 54mm soldiers and the artillery with which to shoot them dead.

Looks of grim determination, astride stoic steeds

Thus was born the Square Pegs!

Creating little clothespin people did have several qualities to recommend it. One of my other (too numerous) hobbies is carpentry, so the concept of combining woodworking with miniature wargaming was appealing. I embrace any opportunity to employ my costly collection of tools, and better yet, welcome any excuse to purchase new ones! This may seem strange, but by creating craftee warriors, a certain pressure was off. I am not at all a skillful painter, and I frequently “psych myself out” (as a Victorian gentleman might remark) by admiring the Olympian Heights of painting technique displayed on the interweb. When I compare the Picasso-like results of my brush strokes (and not in a good way), I admit I become Discouraged, to say the least. The main reason I originally took up 15mm figures (for example) was so that I wouldn’t have to paint eyes!

Officers and a Lady

Working in the “laundry appurtenance” medium, however, equaled Freedom. There were few ultra-skilled craftee-devotees to outshine one, and, in the end, as I often remind myself, “Self, it’s only a clothespin.” Occasionally, when I catch a glimpse of those furry blue arms, they afford a Muppetational quality, which plunges me into to the depths of Despair …  Perhaps my time has been wasted? I suppose that one could say that about any of one’s pursuits when examined with excessive scrutiny and cabernet sauvignon.

Men and supplies

In the end, I think I’m decidedly Pleased, and I harbor Grand Plans for the Square Pegs. As the cooler months are descending, I have time to amass forces for an epic spring Garden Battle, … and then I could double the size of the plans for the Gary Chalk river steamer and repurpose my figures for pulp/penny dreadful VSF in Darkest Africa  … and then I could make “proof of concept” models of fantasy figures for a truly expansive garden hexcrawl… and then if I made pirates, I could construct 1:32 ships armed with those shooting cannons, spread out so blue canvas on the lawn … and then …

Three infantryman from Army Black, before being issued arms (You may, in fact, regret having found this site…)

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén