Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Painted oxen

A bit more progress on the trio of carts. The oxen are all painted and dipped. I suspect my Pledge/Ink dip lost some of its potency in storage since these didn't turn out quite as glossy the way previous items did. Still, the satiny effect is in keeping with the real-life hides of these beasties, so I'll leave it at that. While I was working on them a paint bottle tipped and rolled down my easel, knocking off a horn on one of the oxen during its rampage, but missing and broken horns are also a feature of these hard-working animals so I'll leave it as a bit of character.

Lugubrius stares dolefully at the missing horn on the nearest ox and wonders if it's covered by insurance.
The yokes are attached to the draft poles. I've roughly followed a pattern found in archaeological digs which revealed a basic bar shape chamfered at the ends. Two loops pass under the bar and around the animals' necks.
I'll probably use thin 'tea bag' string for these loops.
Two more drivers are ready and undercoated. They're swaddled up in cloaks and hairy breeks, ready for a day's jaunt across the Roman roads and ancient track-ways of Early Medieval England. They'll be next up for painting, and after that I'll hook up the oxen to the carts. I'm not sure what to base the trio on at the moment, but I'm leaning toward plastic card. We'll see.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Of Oxen, Carts, and a grumpy Driver

A thoroughly wet and miserable spell of weather means nothing can be done in our new garden, so I took the opportunity to work on the oxen for the Dux B carts.

The armatures, a heady blend of florists' wire and Miliput, worked well. I worked the Sculpey in and around the shapes then baked it as usual. I did have misgivings about the way the different materials would react together when heated up, but luckily only one small split appeared which will be easily fixed. The results look pretty good, I think. At least they look like oxen and not refugees from the Island of Doctor Moreau.

Cedric the Smith and Ferdinand the Bull eye each other during a tense stand-off over right of way. Lugubrius the Carter has nothing to say on the matter.
From all the pictures I've seen, oxen have bulky bodies with surprisingly skinny-looking legs. I'll trim these creatures down and refine the looks a bit before making the yokes and painting them all. One of the animals is a bit too big, more like Ferdinand the Bull, so I might have to make another for a more balanced draft team.

Since I had a bit of Miliput left over during the armature phase I fashioned a carter. He's the hunched and doleful figure aboard the cart in the foreground. Silly me, I forgot how sticky Miliput is and forgot to separate him from the cart. Now he's stuck fast it'll be difficult to pry him loose without damaging the cart, so there he'll stay whilst I try to paint him. I'll make another pair of carters whilst I have the Sculpey out since I find it an easier material to work. More to follow if we don't get flooded out...

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Armature dramatics

A spell of building 1:1 scale scenery in the shape of a privacy fence (beginnings of) and laying out raised vegetable beds (ditto) in our new garden today gave way to something smaller in the shape of the continuing Dux B cart project. It took about this long for the Rustoleum undercoat to dry completely. Thankfully the weather warmed up and the air became dryer, or the stuff might be sticky yet.

The loads are now painted. They and the carts got a dry brushing of light grey to bring out texture and detail. The railings still look shiny, so I'll give them a coat of matte varnish to kill that glare. At least the carts now look suitably well-used and grimy.  

I decided a while back to make oxen the motive power for the carts, oxen being a common enough beast of burden and draft animal then and now. Since these particular animals would be a more streamlined, sporty version of their hirsute cousins which I made early last year - and hence have less hair to give the figure integral support - I thought the Sculpey would need something in the way of an armature whilst I worked on the forms. 

So, I set to work reducing a length of florists' wire to smaller pieces in the shape of those wretched hurdles we had to leap over in school track and field PE lessons. These I then fixed to offcuts of wooden tongue depressors (unused) with a hot glue gun to hold them in the position I want before setting to work with either soldering iron or Miliput to fasten the hurdles together ready for the Sculpey to be applied.

Cedric the Mighty Village Blacksmith contemplates the cattle. "I hope you don't think I can shoe those buggers?"
I have reservations about using a soldering iron, not having handled one in anger in all my years on this planet. The dramatics came in during the above session when I succeeded in inflicting a minor burn on my finger whilst wielding the hot glue gun. That'll teach me not to drink so much coffee before performing delicate work, but it bodes ill for my attempts with a soldering iron. I may just fix the armatures together with a blob of Miliput, although solder would be quicker and probably give a stronger join. We'll see.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Carts, undercoated

A session with the spray paint yesterday undercoated the three carts for Dux B. Something about the weather - cold, damp, reluctant to stagger above the mid-40's Fahrenheit - makes the Rustoleum paint take a geological age to dry. These were sprayed in my garage yesterday afternoon and they're still tacky to the touch, even after being brought indoors.

The paint soaked into the wood and the carts are now exactly the base colour I want. All I have to do now is give them a little dry-brushing and so on to bring out detail and texture. At the moment the contents look like heaps of manure, something no Saxon raider is likely to want to loot unless he's a really keen gardener. They'll be painted a lighter shade to make them look like sacking covering something more interesting. Next step will be to sculpt the oxen, a trickier prospect. 

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Carts - a little more progress

Some more progress on the Dux B trio of carts this weekend. I found the tiny metal beads I was looking for - no mean thing in itself. Six of them went to make the axle hubs. The next stage was to make the cargoes.

I thought over options for the loads the carts would bear and came to the conclusion making various sacks, amphorae, storage jars, etc is too much work. Instead I went for sacking-covered generic... stuff. It could be the sacking is covering vital food supplies for a stricken community, tax money or treasure bound for the king's palace, relics destined for some distant monastery, or the local magistrate's collection of pornographic scrolls. Whichever load the scenario calls for, the loads have it covered - pun intended.

A packaging peanut awaits its fate.
A packaging peanut - of which we have a lot after the move - was brutally sliced up to make the bulk of the loads. I cut it to fit the beds of the carts, then covered each piece in tissue paper soaked in PVA. The paper has a weave to it. Although the weave is probably a bit too big for this scale, it looks enough like sacking of some kind to fool the eye.

Trying for size.
Once the PVA had dried I gave each load a once-over with black craft paint. I intend to spray the whole lot with Rustoleum, so anything that protects the foam from the caustic effects of the paint is helpful.

Glued in place.
I used more PVA to glue the foam to the cart beds, and a smear of E6000 along the latticework to secure the loads to the plastic battening. Next step will be to apply the Rustoleum spray once the day warms up a bit. Winter is taking its own sweet time to let go here in the Midwest this year.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Putting the cart before the... oxen

Working on a manuscript has kept me busy lately. Writing a synopsis is fun! (said no author ever). I've not had time or inclination to set to work on the gaming table yet, but I did fool around with some wooden strips, plastic grid and coffee stirrers to make a trio of carts for Dux Britanniarum gaming.

Almost done, and awaiting cargo and motive power in the shape of six oxen.
One of the scenarios for Dux B is Raiding a wagon train, a jolly jape whereby the Romano-British have to escort a trio of carts or wagons across the table before the naughty Saxons grab the goodies aboard and make off with them.

A study of archaeological finds and artists' impressions comes up with a basic boxy shape with solid, rather chunky-looking wheels. It's a rustic design that changed little over the course of a couple of millennia, and some examples can still be seen in out of the way places.

The base is a rough rectangle cut from a wooden tongue-depressor, and the sides are sections of coffee-stirrers, all glued into place with Aileen's tacky glue. The tops are cut from the plastic gridwork used by embroiderers, glued into place with E6000 adhesive. Plastic-to-wood bonds tend to be weak, so I hope these will hold. The yoke poles are cut from paperclips. I did intend to use mini-dowels but they looked way too big for the job, more like telegraph poles than a yoke-pole.

The wheel hubs are causing me problems, though. My first thought was to use 'puffy paint,' but it looks like the weeks in below-freezing storage has totally ruined the two bottles I had. I do have some small metal beads which would do the job, but they're still missing after the move. Annoying, but they'll turn up sometime.

Motive power will be three pairs of oxen. The highland cattle I made a few months ago worked out all right, so I'm going to try making oxen to pull the carts. I may even make the drovers/drivers as well, eyesight and patience depending.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Folding table idea

We're finally winding down the various little repairs and fixes around our new home - and there were plenty of them. The gardening season is yet to start, so since there's nothing pressing to do in and around the house, I can now turn my thoughts to getting my gaming table set up.

My first thought was for a permanent table base with storage racks beneath, similar to those used by model railway enthusiasts. After fixing shelves and such I found I have at least adequate storage space for figures and models, but what I don't have is much floor space. This will change a bit when the better weather arrives. I can clear the last of the junk from our garage and transfer some stuff from gaming room to there. Even so, the lack of floor space remains a problem.

So, after a hunt around internet sites like Pinterest I found a solution to the problem in the table design shown in the photo.

It should be fairly cheap and easy to fit retractable legs to my existing table boards. Four sturdy bolts and an eight feet length of two-by-four will do for making the four legs, and a couple of lengths of four inch wide plank will work for the cross beams. The casters I found during our move turned out to have bent shanks, but I scored four nice solid brass casters at the local Habitat store for $1 each - bargain! They'll allow me to move the table around when it's set up. When not in use it'll fold up and stand against the wall.

I have a two-feet extension piece that turns the table into an eight feet long version. It bolts to the rest of the board through wooden battens and should be strong enough, but I'd prefer it to have some kind of support underneath for those absent-minded moments when I lean on the table. I've yet to work out how to do this. For now I'll be content with a six-by-four table for a while.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

New Girls of the SWA

Real life got in the way at times these last two weeks, although it's always a pleasure to cook in my own kitchen after waiting so long for our place to become available. (Dutch-style brown bread is baking even as I write). I even like to do various fixes around our new home - obstinate bathroom cabinets notwithstanding. This weekend just gone we did get to attend Cleveland Concoction, a nice SF/Fantasy convention at a new venue in Aurora, Ohio, finding the place without trouble even though a sudden blizzard descended on the area. The 'Lake Effect' snow stuck around all weekend, but by the time we left it was in bright sunshine.

I did manage to finish the VBCW 10mm figures for the Socialist Women's Alliance (SWA) platoon today. Although I'm not the world's greatest figure sculptor and my painting skills seem to have atrophied over the last few months, I think they look okay.

From left to right, back row - Medic with patient: 2" mortar crew: Two Lewis gun teams. Front row, left to right - Four riflewomen: Boyes AT rifle.

The figures are crafted from Sculpey and the teams are mounted on fender washers. I covered these with liquid nails and pressed dry tealeaves into the soft glue, letting it harden overnight before giving it a blast of 'Holly green' aerosol paint and finishing with wet-brushing on lighter green craft paints.

This addition makes up the numbers to two full sections, ready to take on all comers.

Then there's this...

My sainted brother-in-law left a toolbox behind after one of his visits. He does that kind of thing. He's a nice guy, but he'll vanish over the horizon following a family visit and afterwards we'll find a few boxes, bags and other bits-and-bobs that he 'forgot' tucked away in obscure places. I suspect it's his way of craftily de-cluttering his house at the expense of our living space.

But I digress. During the move I noticed a toolbox stuck in a corner of our spare bedroom. When I picked it up it sounded like it had a few things rattling around inside, but I didn't have time to investigate, just sticking it away in a space on the van and leaving it in storage with the rest of our stuff. Yesterday I came across the toolbox in our garage where the moving men had left it. I opened it and - found another whetstone.

*Head Desk*

Thursday, March 1, 2018

UK wargamers - public service announcement


Due to local adverse weather the police have closed access to Newark Showground. Therefore Hammerhead has been re-scheduled for 28th April 2018. Please share.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

And then there's this

One of those perpetually irritating things about moving house is the way things can vanish in transit. When we last moved over five years ago, my whetstone disappeared. Hunt high and low as I might, I could not find the blasted thing. I always forgot to buy a new one when we visited the hardware store, so I've done without.

Yesterday, while moving a chest of drawers, the whetstone appeared. I swear I searched for it in that chest of drawers half a dozen times along with all my other Man Cave furniture without success. And here it is, all dumb and innocent.

It's a useful item to have, and cheap too. A drop of mineral oil or baby oil on the stone and a few quick swipes back and forth restores a Stanley knife or modelling knife blade quite nicely, extending their life and reducing the need to buy new.

So, I don't have to buy a new stone. Now, if I can just find my inks...


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