I am never been satisfied with my cobbled streets made out of purchased, patterned card and stuck onto MDF. They still look flat and a bit unrealistic. But I refuse to pay any big money for roads when they should be easy to make. So I cut out the usual shapes and strips of 3mm MDF and gave them a 1-2mm coating of ready mixed plaster. I get a big tub of Gyprock Topcoat from Bunnings which will last for ever. Its great for doing texture on buildings too. Make sure the coating is pretty smooth, although it doesn’t need to be a perfect finish, and leave it to dry overnight.
Then comes the entertaining bit…… First of all I draw horizontal guide lines every 5mm across of all the pieces you want to do. Although you can make the distance smaller or wider depending on how big you want to make your cobbles. I invested in a $10 etching tool on eBay from China. What a great machine. It runs on AAA batteries and its shaped like a big pen so you can sit and carve bricks and cobbles all day long. And it does take all day long. Its much easier and quicker than trying to carve with an old scalpel or blade. Jump on eBay and grab one. It still took me ages to engrave a town square, a couple of roads and another little square. Once the cobbles are carved its just a question of painting them grey and throwing some brown and black washes over them. I did add some brown, black and sand coloured chalk powder on them too. Dirty them up a bit.
You can see in the first picture the effect of the cobbled square and street. Also as a comparison I put my old card cobbled square and streets next to them so you can see the difference. It was a good opportunity to get out all my houses and put them together. Here is a mixture of home made, laser cut MDF and cardboard kits. I think they all mix in together quite nicely, and no two houses are ever identical.
Must get cracking on my village church…….
I have continued building my Normandy village and trying to mix my home made, scratch built, but time consuming houses, with some purchased models. This time i have made some more of Metcalfe Models excellent card models. One grey stone terraced houses with backyards and a similar grey stone corner shop. Metcalfe Models do not ship overseas so i had to buy them from another useful modelling ship called Antics On Line. I think they are around 9-10 pounds per kit, so pretty good value compared to other resin and MDF buildings.
The quality of the card and the printing is most excellent. I do remember my brother back in the 1980s building some Superquick card models which always felt a bit flimsy and never looked like anything but rather crap card model kits. The Metcalfe kits are really well designed and once you have put them together feel very solid, robust and anything but a wobbly bit of card. Its all printed on good heavy card and all the bits pop out very easily once you have cut along certain edges with a sharp knife. During the construction there are plenty of inner supports which keep the whole thing very square and stable. The windows work well and even give you options to have a couple open as well as other options for curtains and different coloured doors. The buildings are mounted onto their own card base and Metcalfe give you individual adhesive paving stones to create your own pavement around the houses. In my build i left off the bay window on the terrace as i didn’t think they had those in France in the 1940’s. The dormer windows on the roof did remind me of a typical Normandy house so i think they do not look out of place. One thing i do need to fix is the corner shop is O’Briens Bakery. I need to find an alternative Boulangerie sign.
OK so after finishing your model you do need to rough it up a bit. I used plenty of powdered chalk in black, brown and white brushed all over the place. This covers any white bits of cardboard and also gives the houses a more weathered, realistic look. I also glued the whole thing onto a 3mm MDF base and weighted it down. Otherwise i did have some significant curling up around the edges. It also gives it more strength.
Next up i am making a new town square so will place that into the middle of my now quite sizeable Normandy village. Still need to make that church……..
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!
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.
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).
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??