One of the great joys of my day is chatting with my wife as she prepares dinner. Cooking is her hobby, as miniatures (and guitar and carpentry and farming and sailing … oh, well, perhaps I have too many hobbies) are mine. The results of her work are impressive and delicious, and our boys and I gratefully partake.
The kitchen has a counter with bar stools andÂ I often set up a little “painting annex” to keep my hands from being idle. One will note the 2oz. craft paint bottles. I do use the palette occasionally, usually when painting something large, like a terrain piece. I believe it was one of those You Tube terrain guys who I saw dipping paint out of the paint bottle tops, so I acquired the habit. Give the bottle a hearty shake before opening and there’s usually more than enough paint on the inside of the top. The light was rescued from the piano when it was donated to a good home; it is tucked behind the basket of napkins during the day.
On the table are some Reaper lasses. I sense that they are a bit uneasy, though, as the 15mm VSF bug has bitten, and three GASLIGHT units of Irregular Miniatures British have invaded the main paint table upstairs.
Poking around in the GULP also unearthed my Blue Moon “Missionaries, Explorers, Victims and other White Folks” who will likely force their way into the queue as well. I was also shocked by the quantity of Pendraken 10mm colonial and WWI figures I fell pray to years ago. All primed, a smattering painted. I had dreamed of a Warmaster-based VSF game. I later purchased Black Powder, which is along those lines, though intended for individually based minis. I might be back to Warmaster.
Building a gaming table is a daunting endeavor. If one has yet to accumulate a lot of wargaming experience, he has to imagine what “features” aÂ table should have in order to make gaming more enjoyable. Lumber and time are both valuable these days. I didn’t want to expend too much of either to create something that wouldn’t work for me.
I embarked upon the project in the usual manner, by poking about the internet to see what others had done. I uncovered a few intriguing possibilities. The one to the left (which I unearthed here) boasted the benefit of being simple, sturdy, and a bit of storage as a bonus. The castors are a nice touch, though in the location I have available, there won’t be much wiggle room. Two-by-fours and plywood are easily obtainable and I had my eye on that shelf for the plethora of banker’s boxes filled with the terrain I have constructed through the years.
I thought a lot about this theoretical one (I didn’t find evidence that it was ever built), discovered here. It looked very sturdy (it would also likely weight a ton), had storage, and was expandable, which would be a big plus in my limited space. I already had modifications envisioned (I think you’d need two fold out legs on each side to keep the extension wings from sagging at the corners, for example). I may come back to this design at some point.
The final contender (found here) had the most to recommend it. First off, the builder provided a nifty tutorial, complete with a list of materials and shots of construction in process. The design was simple and didn’t use too much lumber. Storage could be created by attaching a couple of shelves to the legs (which would also make it sturdier). The best part was that the top was customizable one could swap out the boards. So, I could have a flat surface and place a game mat over it; use painted and/or flocked boards, or create custom, modular terrain. Plus also, the little slide out tables were adorable…
It’s also usual for me not to stop and take pictures, so I don’t have a single shot of my building process. You’ll have to settle for the table, more or less complete.
Here’s the “skeleton.” The legs are standard 2×4 pine from Home Depot. I used two boards joined at right angles for each leg (unlike the original) to make them appear a bit more finished, and perhaps to to make them more sturdy (Hirst Arts buildings are dense). I also added a storage shelf below. There were originally two, but a corner tore out of the upper one. (I was so inspired after taking these pictures that I repaired the upper shelf). The top is made with pine 1×6 boards around the outer edge and 1×4 boards for the internal bracing.
The table top is 4 by 6 feet. The bracing is recessed about two inches so that I could use 2″ pink foam and carve rivers, canyons, trenches, pit traps, and whatnot. I haven’t done any of that yet; I currently use three 2 by 4 foot pieces of 1/2 inch MDF to make the table top. Here’s plain grey for dungeon delving and urban set ups. I plan to paint the backs of these black for asphalt. I have another set of boards that are tan for colonial combat and Lost World exploration. The reverse is blue for watery warfare. I have a piece of 1 inch foam beneath the boards now, which raises the surface closer to the table edge.
This is a thrown-together set up of Pirates of the Spanish Main terrain, including some closeups of someÂ islands. The top of the lighthouse is in need of repair.
Here we have the table with my homemade grass mat, which is an unholy union of a bed sheet, copious tubes of caulk, and much, much flock. That beast has been a botheration and will likely need to be redone. I followed a tutorial I found on the internet, but didn’t “roll” the flock into the caulk, and so it sheds worse than my cat. I made it large so that I could place “hills” underneath. Here it is untucked and tucked. The slide-out “tables” (as per the original) are intended for rule books, record sheets, beverages, &c. The wrinkles are exceedingly difficult to disperse, thus annoying me to no end.
Finally, here’s a little tableau starring my first-ever Hirst Arts building (the “Wizard’s Tower”) with some allied Reaper and Warhammer skeletons facing off against the Reaper goblins I painted earlier this year. The observant will notice honest-to-goodnessÂ Major General Tremorden Rederring stage-set mountains in the distance. Comprised of cardboard with crumpled up brown paper shopping bags glued to the front. There are little platforms on the back so that snipers can perch amongst the rocky crags. These were among the first terrain I scratch-built, round about a dozen years in the past. The “sky” is the actual wall of the room (the color is called “Cerulean” which, I believe, means, “looks just like a nice, blue sky in pictures”). I may have to paint some clouds on it…
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, andÂ 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 fewÂ 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.
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 mightÂ 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.