Country Roads

The Colonel has been on the road, traveling overseas the past few weeks, and only just returned to blog land. I had been working on some country roads as an alternative to my tarmac versions, and this week i finally got them finished. No Normandy battlefield would be complete without some good looking dirt roads.

Roads are one of the more simple terrain pieces to make, so i am not sure why anyone would buy any commercially made, expensive items, when you can make good looking roads for next to nothing. I am planning on playing a scenario from the “I Aint Been Shot Mum” rules so made enough roads for the map in the rulebook.

Its a very simple process. I drew my roads onto a sheet of 3mm MDF and then cut them out using a stanley knife and a handsaw. I made sure every horizontal cut was 8cm wide so all the road sections would fit together. I tried to avoid any straight lines as nothing is ever straight. Then a quick sand of all the rough edges and we are ready to decorate. I used a mix of PVA glue and a paint thickening medium to cover the road surface, and then a decent sprinkling of fine and coarse sand and some grit all mixed up. This gives the road a random texture. When this was dry i did add another round of the gritty mix down the middle of the roads as that is where the bigger stones etc could settle. The sand colours are pretty good but i did give them all a quick spray with a cream colour which blended everything together. The finishing touch was two different flocks along the edge and some random tufts. Check them out, you will see them in an after action report i plan on doing soon!

Metcalfe Models Coaching Inn HO/OO Scale (1/72)

I have slowly been expanding my Normandy village with a mixture of buildings from various sources. I much prefer to try and build all my own stuff but it does tend to be very time consuming, so i do like to boost my output with some purchased structures too. The good thing about building your own is that you can create whatever you like and to size with your other scenery. I have found a big difference in heights of purchased houses, making some products unusable. For example i did buy a house from Loic Neveu but it was more like a 15mm building and looked silly with my other buildings. Shame as they are really nice models.

Anyway this Coaching Inn is a card model from the English company Metcalfe Models. They do not ship to Australia so i had to buy it through Antics On Line in the UK. Size wise this is over 120mm tall and fits beautifully with my existing buildings. Its a well designed tough card model. Not too much cutting is involved and the instructions are clear and easy to follow. The acetate windows with details printed on are particular nice. Its not really a French looking building, but i think it fits well enough. They give you a choice of signs, of which i chose The Swan Inn, but i think i will print out something French to put over the top. I mounted my finished model onto 3mm MDF for extra strength. The edges of some of the card and also the building corners need a little touch up with a black marker pen just to tidy it up.

For around ten pounds i think this is great value for a really nice kit. I have a couple more other kits from Metcalfe which i will be making in the coming weeks. If you are looking for something other than resin, plastic or MDF for your table look no further. Some pictures below with the Inn flanked by a home made red brick building on one side and an MDF bought kit on the right. Then some shots of all my buildings quickly laid out.

Teddy Bear Fur Fields

My terrain projects continued with some more fields and hedges for my Normandy landscape. In recent weeks i have read a lot of excellent blogs and book articles on the use of Teddy Bear or faux fur so i was very keen to try it out for myself. One of the railway modelling books i have been reading goes into detail about how to use the fur in lots of different ways. The first one i wanted to try was just an open grassy wild field and also one enclosed by hedges with a dirt path running through it.

I picked up a large bit of beige faux fur from Spotlight for about $25. This should be enough for plenty of applications! I then cut out the size i wanted and glued each bit to 3mm MDF bases as usual with PVA glue. Then its attack the fur with a pair of sharp scissors and cut it to the length you want. For the wild grass fields i went pretty hard with a short back and sides and reduced the fur to 3-5mm long. You will see through experiment how long or short looks right for you. I tried using my beard trimmers on it too but they didn’t work. So stick to scissors! If i owned a comb i would have combed the fur to get all the cut bits out and also get it all pointing upright. I dont have a comb so i used my fingers which worked ok. For the path i just cut as close to the base fabric as i could removing all the fur where i wanted the track to go.

Then you can paint the fur using green, yellow and brown acrylics. Make sure you use as little paint as possible and use lots of different shades to get a natural look. The less paint you can use the quicker things will dry. I used a big paint brush (ie for painting walls) to blend all the paints throughout the fur and get a good covering so no original fur colour is left. That’s about as tricky as it gets. The path i just used PVA glue and sand and then some paint. I added little shrubs and weeds and tufts around the place. The hedges were made from horsehair and flock just like my bocage and trees. This fake fur is really handy and i was very happy with the results considering how cheap and easy the process was. I am planning to use it on some country road sides and also a canola field.

Check out my pictures below including the Sherman Firefly crossing the field (of Glory hopefully).

Making my own trees

You always need trees and plenty of them. I have been reading up on more tree making techniques, after the Chinese eBay technique was wearing a bit thin. Looking at railway modelling books and the internet i have seen many ways of using wire to make trees and thought i would give it a go. Starting with anywhere from 15 to 30 pieces of wire up to 15 cm in length i just put some masking tape around the bottom of the whole bundle to create a trunk. Make sure the tape is good and tight to stop the wires from separating. Then its just a question of twisting a number of wires together (3 or more depending on how thick you want the branches to be and how many of them you want). You need to try and create as random a look as possible. I tried lots of different ways of twisting wires together before i got a look that i was happy with. There is a bunch of Youtube stuff out there on this subject, with some people using drills and other devices. I found it easy enough by hand to create some good looking results. I then covered as much of the wire with masking tape nice and tightly, except for the end bits which if only 1 wire thick do not matter. The great thing is wire and masking tape cost very little and you can churn out some really good looking trees for a small outlay. Chinese eBay trees are nice and cheap too but these home made ones look far more natural (in my opinion).

After the tape i give the trees a good coat of a paint thickening medium, but could use PVA glue or filler or something similar. When thats dry i painted them with a mixture of raw umber, burnt umber and white. Tree trunks are a brown grey sort of colour. I did some highlights in a light grey and light brown too to pick out the gnarly details. For the foliage i had sourced some rubberized horsehair from the UK and used that with bits of coconut fibre. The coconut fibre is dirt cheap from Bunnings, while the rubberized horsehair is expensive, so i wanted to stretch the use of the horsehair. I am thinking maybe i could soak coconut fibre in PVA glue and compress it and make my own rubberized fibre. Once the foliage is glued to the wire armatures i used three different kinds of flock sprinkled over PVA glue. Other people use spray adhesive for this step but i found just brushing PVA glue onto the foliage and then sprinkling works well.

All the trees were mounted into MDF bases which are decorated and flocked. You can see with the bigger tree the wires at the base of the trunk can be splayed out and twisted to make big roots. Next up i need to make an apple orchard for my Normandy battlefields….. Tiny apples out of modelling clay. Golden Delicious anyone??

Farmyard Scratchbuild Part Two

I finally finished the second and third buildings for my Normandy farmyard. Inspired by David Wright and his brilliant book “Making Rural Buildings for Model Railways” i modelled my farm buildings on a couple of farms i saw in his book and on his web site. I had finished the main farm house and had to complete the small stable and the out house with hay loft and steps.

All made from a structure of 5mm foam core coated with plaster and modelling clay, that’s the easy bit! The time consuming effort comes with carving the stone work brick by brick. I bought a cheap engraving tool on eBay for $15 which definitely speeds the process up, although i did go change batteries quicker than undies. Roofs are all old Christmas cards cut up into tiles in strips glued onto a foam core structure, except for the rusty corrugated steel, which i picked up from Sergeants Mess for a couple of pounds.

I left the buildings all un-based and free standing so i could change their configuration into whatever i please. I will add a large hay barn next and make a farm yard stone wall and gate and path. Need some hay bales and a tractor to finish the whole thing off. Photos below with a sneaky Tiger wandering past.

Metcalfe Models 00/HO Scale Village Shop & Cafe

I built the second building from Metcalfe Models that i bought a while back. The first manor house was a bit on the small side to fit in with my other scratch built Normandy buildings so i was not too enthusiastic about this one. But i was happy to be surprised with how this turned out. Scale size is always a problem, especially with buildings. I did purchase one as a trial from Loic Neveu, who makes great looking stuff, but it was tiny! I reckon it would fit better with 15mm or 1/100 scale. My home made village all comes in around 40mm per storey or 120mm minimum height for a two storey building with roof. Plus the chimney pots and 3-5mm of base. This Metcalfe village shop is 110mm in height to the top of the chimneys which is just big enough to fit in with my existing buildings without looking shrunken and dwarfish. Once you stick him in with other scenery you don’t notice the slightly smaller scale.

So onto the model. I really like these card kits. They come in super solid card stock and are really fun and easy to build. A clear instruction sheet is provided and the card pieces are very clearly marked and self explanatory. It makes a nice change for an evening’s modelling excitement. The card does a look a bit too clean and tidy, so i find basing them and throwing some brown paint around does help them blend into the “real world” a bit. While i am super keen on building my own terrain from scratch having a few of these guys adds some variety and speeds up the process a bit too. Building my own takes me weeks and weeks. For around $15 – 17 per house they are very good value compared to other resin or plastic options. I have my beady eyes on a couple of other Metcalfe kits, the terraced houses and corner store may be added to my collection. You should check them out, even more so for you Cold War and Modern wargamers, as they will fit better in that period than in Normandy 1944.

Ploughed Fields Corrugated Card

I was destroying some card board boxes to put into the recycling the other day but then was suddenly struck with a terrain vision in my backyard. As i tore up the reinforced card board i remembered something i read somewhere about making ploughed fields out of corrugated card and thought i would give it a try. You can never have enough rural scenery, and my painted carper tiles get a bit stale.

This is about the easiest terrain build you can hope for. Clean up your corrugated card by removing the top layer of card leaving the furrowed bit. Then glue to an appropriately sized piece of MDF. You can make any size you like. The card is blended to the MDF using some no more gaps/caulk/arylic filler around the edge. I gave the edging a good cover of PVA and sprinkled with sand for texture. I also did some PVA glue and sand sprinkles on the furrows too for effect. A good dark brown spray from the can followed by a couple of lighter brown dry brushes adds some texture to the surface. The usual green flock around the edges plus some in the field for variety. I did have some warping issues with the MDF which i sorted using some heavy weights and also painting the bottom of the terrain.

Together with some hedges below the results are pretty convincing. For almost zero cost this is a great addition for my table. I just need a tractor and some hay bales now.