Above is a pic of Lt. Colonel James Galbraith, Regimental Colour in hand, alongside Bobbie the regimental dog and some of the other "Last Eleven" survivors of the 66th (Berkshire) Regiment, making their last stand in one of the walled gardens just South of Khig village, a few miles West of the Afghan town of Maiwand.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

The Painted Tower

After posting 200+ pics showing the rather involved and time-consuming build of my Afghan/NWF Hill Tower/Mud Fort, I am back again, with a short-but-sweet post sharing a handful of pics of the just-finished fully painted version.

I'm very happy with how the the Tower turned out.  I think the paint-job fulfilled all the potential the model had.  I have to say, I think it's the best painted piece of model terrain I've ever done, and certainly the best looking model building I've ever made.

But enough bragging!  Hope you enjoy the pics below...

"Very nice, Contractor Khan -- but we both
know you promised me indoor plumbing!" 

EDIT: March 13, 2017...

I posted about this Painted Tower over at TMP (The Miniatures Page) and someone asked me what color(s) I'd used.  

As return visitors to this blog will know all too well, I usually post a literal ton of WIP pics for my projects, but I didn't do that with this paintjob.  I've been crazy busy, even more so than usual, with work.  Not in a particularly lucrative way, but super busy nonetheless!  The previous post I did on building the Hill Tower included more than 200 photos, and I just wanted to cut to the chase and post the final results, which I was very happy with.

However, when someone asked for the info, I felt compelled to respond.  For me, without any doubt the best thing to come from hobby blogging is when a fellow hobbyist makes some use of something I've posted about, be it for building terrain, historical info of any kind -- uniforms, orders of battle, etc. -- or game related details like rule tweaks or supplements, or in this case, how I painted the Hill Tower.

Having replied in some detail over at TMP, it seems strange not to have the info here on my own blog, so... I am tacking it on here at the end of this post.  At some point in the future I will spend the time needed to illustrate the instructions with some pics (although I didn't post them earlier, I did take my typical ton of WIP photos), but for now it will just be a written guide, which I think will still be useful.

If anyone who reads this has a question about the process, please feel free to leave it as a comment at the bottom of this post, and I will do my best to reply as soon as possible.

I just noticed this "Painted Tower" post seems to have resulted in the 150th follower of this blog, which I take note of with a smile on my face.  "Maiwand Day" has a very narrow focus, so it's very satisfying, as well as a bit surprising, that it has earned the attention of that many fellow wargamers, terrain makers, and history buffs, not necessarily in that order!  To my 150th Follower ANRY SEAGULL and my previous 149 Followers, you all have my sincere thanks!

...and now you also have the PAINTING TUTORIAL for my Hill Tower:

The painting process used a number of colors and was somewhat involved…

I.   Step one is a base coat using spray paint. I mixed 3 different colors. One brown, one gray, and Rustoleum Camoflauge "KHAKI".

I painted sections of the model in each color, without worrying about bleeding or overlay at the edges where the sections meet. Just make sure everything gets covered.

I generally -- though not exclusively -- went from darker to lighter from the ground up, with the idea that the closer to the ground the dirtier the building will be, and the higher up the more bleached by sunlight it will be.

NOTE: The reason for using the spray paints is that:

(1) they dry with a slightly different texture, and...
(2) the different base colors will lend variation to the uniform colors later added above them.

Also, wth all the surface detail on this building, some bits and pieces of the different base colors will still be visible through the colors added afterwards.

After the 3 base colors, next is a light coat of pale almond spray paint, sprayed at a 45 degree angle, so it hits the more exposed surfaces. I used Model Master "Desert Sand" -- but any pale almond color will do.

Then an even lighter coat of white spray paint, just hitting the raised edges of the model.

Then leave the spray-painted model to dry for a full 24-hours. The various colors will mix and blend around their edges, which is all good.

II.  For step two I used 3 shades of tan acrylic craft paint -- starting with Craft Smart TAN, then Craft Smart SUEDE, then Delta Ceramcoat SANDSTONE. Truth is the exact colors are not that important, just the idea of 3 lightening shades of tan -- though I really like the Craft Smart TAN for the base color.

Over the base coat of spray paint, I did a heavy dry brush of the TAN, then lesser dry brushes of the 2 lighter shades.

For the red brickwork, over the spray paint base, I dry brushed FolkArt TERRA COTTA, then beat its overly bright red back down by dry brushing the various tan colors over it.

Needless to say, a key part of dry brushing is having the patience to wait for each different color to thoroughly dry before going back over it again, otherwise, even if just a little wet, the colors blend together and you lose the layered effect.

The doors were just a 2 layer job: base coat with any dark brown -- I used Delta Ceramcoat "WALNUT" -- let dry thoroughly, then dry brush with "SANDSTONE".

Summing up, the 3 key colors were:

(1) Rustoleum camo Khaki spray paint
(2) Craft Smart Tan
(3) FolkArt Terra Cotta

Oh -- an important WARNING: since my tower was built from what I would call "lower quality" materials -- mostly foam core & styrofoam (as opposed to wood or resin) I had to be VERY CAREFUL to make sure ALL SURFACES were covered with my texturing material (wood filler) in order to protect them from being dissolved away by the spray paint. The paper-covered surface of foam core is not so susceptible to this but the foam edges will be instantly eaten away, as will any/all styrofoam, even of the highest/most dense quality, such as the blue foam I used for the crenelations on the Tower.


III. STEP THREE is a weathering WASH.

Without it you can still get a very nice finish, but this third step is what will take it to the, "next level," so to speak.  I didn't include it earlier because -- silly as it may sound -- it was recently imparted to me by a master modeler, and I wanted to ask his blessing before sharing it with the world-at-large, so to speak.  Happily he just sent me an email reply saying go ahead, and he hopes it will help some people out, which is great!

This third step is a bit challenging, for a couple of reasons.

The wash consists of 2 drops of BLACK acrylic paint, 6 drops of CraftSmart TAN… and a spoonful of LEPAGE MULTI-PURPOSE WHITE GLUE. 

Mix together in a small container -- like for pudding or yogurt -- then add water until the container is about half full, and continue mixing.

Then get a brush and a HAIR DRYER.

The next part is a bit tricky and I suggest trying it on a test piece before using it on a real model…

Brush the wash on with one hand and as you go, use your other hand to DRY IT with the hair dryer set on "low."

Throughout this process do your best to keep the side of the model you're working on LEVEL at all timesl LEVEL, to minimize the uncontrolled spread of the wash beyond the area you are focused on drying.

For larger buildings like this Tower, the wash will inevitably slip over edges and corners in spots you won't catch. Don't freak out because you can fix those spots later.

Drying the glue-paint mix instantly with the hair dryer will give the model a worn & chalky finish, perfect for an old building.

The challenge is, the only water soluble glue I know of that will dry with a MATTE FLAT FINISH is that made by the Canadian company LePage. For some reason their white glue dries without any gloss sheen at all. I asked around at American hobby stores trying to find a locally available American product able to do the same, but no one I've asked knows of one.  Luckily for me I was able to get a friend who lives in Toronto to buy a bottle and send it to me. Before that I tried to find a way to puchase it online from a Canadian supplier but without success. Maybe an American or British buyer could just call a Canadian hardware store, order a few bottles over the phone and use a cc to pay, though for Brits the postage would be painful.  Maybe some other modelers out there know of a similar matte drying water soluble glue and can share the info. That would be great, since it would make it easier for more people to use this method.


…Back to the tutorial:

After brushing and drying the entire model with the wash, go back and check for those pesky dribble spots and touch them up with any/all of the 3 acrylic tan paints.

Then give the building some dry brush highlights.

And that's it.

This "WASH & DRY" step comes with its own WARNING: this method is best applied to WOOD & RESIN models. My tower is made of foamcore and styrofoam, and as I was drying the wash with the hair dryer (even though it was set on "LOW") I suddenly saw a few spots where the outer shell of the building was starting to THIN OUT and basically DISAPPEAR!

Luckily I was able to complete the wash & dry step without inflicting more than a tiny bit of damage to the building, but after putting so much work into building it, for a moment there I was very worried. I had tested the method on a commerical resin building and it had worked wonderfully -- but then I realized my tower was made of much less resilient materials.

Anyway, all's well that ends well, as I touched up the few spots where the outer shell of the model had disappeared by adding tiny patches of Wood Filler, and thanks to the rough-hewn nature of the Tower itself, I don't think this detracted at all from the look of the finished piece.

Just doing the first two steps -- spray paints and then multiple craft paint dry brushes -- will result in a very nice paint job, as seen in these pics I took before adding the final wash:

...But to get the finished effect seen in the photos above, you will need to source some LePage white glue -- or something similar -- and use it for the "Wash & Dry" weathering.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Accidental HIll-Fort

I've called this project "The Accidental Hill-Fort" because until literally just before I started building it, I had no intention to, so it virtually came into being by accident!

This past October I put up a post about some figure conversions I'd done that came back with fantastic paint jobs from my favorite painter -- who sadly does almost no painting anymore.  Included in their ranks was a pair of British drummer-boys, who I'd converted to represent JAKIN and LEW in a game based on the battle that serves as the finale for the Rudyard Kipling short-story: "THE DRUMS OF THE FORE AND AFT."  (to visit that post CLICK THIS LINK)

To prepare for laying out the table-top battlefield, I re-read the story, and rediscovered the presence therein of, "a wasp's nest of a small mud fort," which serves to delay the pair of screw-guns that are the only artillery the British have, and which go on to play a vital role in the latter stages of the battle to come.

I own a pair of very nice Afghan/North-West Frontier type forts, but both are far too big to serve this purpose in one corner of the table.  I also have a very old school Airfix Foreign Legion Fort, complete with tower -- which is now removable, so it can be used on its own, without the previously attached walls.  I also have a large collection of Medieval castle parts, including a bunch of towers... and last but far from least, I have a square "Chitral Tower" purposefully built for Afghan/Frontier games.  So one would imagine I could have found an absolutely perfect piece of model terrain to fill the role of that, "wasp's nest of a small mud fort," and yet... after auditioning each and every candidate for the role, none of them really worked.  I planned to use the rocky hills I'd built for the battle of Charasiab to build the valley from the battle, complete with its trio of gorges, through which the Highlanders, Gurkhas, and "Fore and Aft" entered the battlefield, but the footprint of the "Chitral" tower was a little too big to fit atop any of them.  One of my Medieval towers also almost fit, but its base was just a bit too big, plus it would have needed an "arid" paintjob to look the part and appear like more of an Afghan tribal stronghold than a European baron's or fantasy "wizard's" tower.

This left me with the Airfix FFL tower.

It could have worked... but it would've needed a new paintjob (covering over the yellow sand paint job I gave it some 35 or more years ago!), and I would have had to come up with a solution for the lack of access to the interior -- perhaps just not having access and keeping track on paper of how many defenders were shooting out of how many windows -- and, most important of all... I would have had to accept representing the "mud fort" as a plain and simple tower.

Needless to say, I did not do that.

Instead, I decided to build a mud hill-fort from scratch that would fit snuggly onto one of my rocky hills, but remain COMPLETELY REMOVABLE, so the hill below could still function as a plain hill whenever I wanted it to.

Let's pause in my overwrought and overwritten "Plain Tale From the Hills" to take in some visual reference gathered around the web on Afghan/NWF forts and towers...

I've built a lot of miniature terrain, and done a pretty good job, but it's almost always NATURAL features: ground cover, hills, rocky areas, rivers, swamp, woods, etc.  Not man-made buildings.

I've done a decent job on the odd man-made item, like the Kabul gateway I built to fit in with my previously purchased desert fortress wall set, and the c.1840 British Cantonments I built for the same Kabul layout, but both of those were pretty simple.  Much more simple than any of the forts and towers shown above.

Still, as a devoted 19th Century Afghan Wars and NWF gamer, it seemed only right that I should have a hill fort that actually fit atop one of my hills.  So I decided to give it a shot.

I started out by choosing what I thought would be the best hill from the seven I built.

Then I got some LEGO from where I'd recently packed it away with various other stuff my teenage children never use, and used it to try and work out the best approach to incorporating the theoretical fort into the existing hillside.  For better or worse I didn't take any photos of this "LEGO" prototype phase of construction, but when I thought I'd figured out a general idea of how to proceed, I moved onto the CARDBOARD PHASE, and from there on, I took WAY TOO MANY pictures, as you will soon see.

You'll also see from the pics that the design changed a bit during the building process, with regard to how the lower building and upper tower go together, and a few other details.  I think the various changes were for the better.  When I was mostly done I added some additional BUTTRESSES.  I think more architectural details is a good thing, until you cross a line and the model becomes too busy.  The joins provide more layers and shadow and raised edges to highlight with paint, all of which should add to the final look of the model.

My biggest resource through the building process was the pair of great colonial gaming buddies I made at the first ever Colonial Barracks convention in New Orleans, back in November 2011, Jeff "Sgt. Guiness" Baumal (click to visit his excellent blog HERE), and "Last Stand Dan" Gurule (click to visit his blog HERE).  Both of them fielded endless questions from me and gave me tons of great advice all along the way.  However good, bad or indifferent the Tower looks, without their help it would have looked a lot worse, so thanks again guys!

At a certain point I debated over whether or not to add CRENELLATIONS to the wall around the large lower roof deck.  On the plus side I felt it would look very good, but on the minus side I worried it would look too elaborate and over-decorated for a tribal "mud fort," whose purpose would have been almost entirely utilitarian, and which would've been built in a very challenging environment.  I did some more research and searched around for more visual reference and was lucky enough to discover the perfect inspiration: a photo of a fortress wall in Khiva, Uzbekistan -- complete with crenellations which were not at all ornamental.  I've included that reference pic below, in the spot where it helped me with the build.

When you reach the end you will see the model has yet to be painted.  Once that's been done I'll post the second part of this "Towering" chronicle.  Until then I hope you enjoy the pics below without overdosing!

With that being said, I will let the pictures tell the story from here on, except for some notes on materials...


1.  The Tower walls & floors are made of FOAMCORE, reinforced with bass wood.

(This too was ACCIDENTAL -- when I started building on a whim, I happened to have a box of black foamcore in a corner of my garage. I had never built anything with it before, and if I did it again I WOULD NOT USE BLACK, simply because it's so difficult to visibly mark it with a pencil or pen!)

***DO NOT ALLOW ANY SUPER GLUE to touch the foam sandwiched between the paper shell, as super glue will  INSTANTLY DEVOUR the foam!***

2.  The doors are balsa wood, scribed with a sharp pencil; the crenellations on the lower roof-deck and the wall around the tower rooftop are blue builder's styrofoam; the "putty" is Elmer's Wood Filler.

3.  At different points in the process I used HOT GLUE, SUPER GLUE, WHITE GLUE, and "Aleene's Fast Grab TACKY GLUE" -- a fast-drying white glue.

4.  I used PINS to hold the walls together before they were glued; I used DOLLHOUSE HINGES for the 3 working doors.

5.  I used offcuts of POLYSTYRENE thin plastic hobby sheets to reinforce the crenellations.

6.  I used my trusty GARDEN WOOD BARK CHIPS to more seamlessly blend some building edges into the rocky hillside.

7.  Finally I used store-bought CHOOCH ENTERPRISES flexible small random stone wall - with peel-&-stick self-adhesive backing - for the areas of revealed underlying brickwork.