I finally finished my farmhouse for my Normandy terrain. I based this roughly on some of the amazing scenery built by David Wright in his book “Making Rural Buildings For Model Railways”. This book is a must read for anyone looking to build their own scenery. I followed all of the suggestions in it and it improved my little farmhouse no end! I have tried a couple of manufactured buildings from different companies and nothing measures up if you have the time and the energy to scratch build your own structures. Your creations will also be what you want, to your designs, and fit perfectly with your other scenery and models. I think making your own stuff is the most rewarding thing about this hobby!
Using a foam board base for the structure, the key is to give it a coating of glue and modelling clay or ready made filler or plaster. Stonework is then carved into the buildings skin in whatever texture you like. Regular bricks or rural stonework or anything that looks the part. I picked up a $15 electric engraving tool from eBay (China) which speeded up this process a great deal. Hand scribing individual stones is a time consuming effort, but well worth it. Roof tiles were made out of Christmas cards, flashing from aluminium foil. I did buy the chimney pots (another suggestion from David Wright) but everything else is easily found and inexpensive to pick up at the art shop or stationery cupboard.
I was very pleased how this turned out, now i need to finish the rest of my farm, including a little stable with a corrugated iron roof, an old shed with a hay loft and a big barn. Also need to pick up a vintage tractor from somewhere and make some hay bales. Will probably make a farmyard with walls and find some animals to scale to finish the scene. If you want to make your own buildings for wargames i suggest you check out David’s book as it is all you will ever need! I put the new farmhouse on the edge of my table just so you can get an idea.
I had a whine about my poor old eyes being old and grey and my arms being knackered and broken and a fellow blogger chimed in with a recommendation to purchase one of these. It’s an awesome magnifying glass with a bendy arm and clamp, plus a built in bright LED light. The days of going cross eyed trying to paint tiny dots on tiny men in semi darkness are now a thing of the past. Well they are a thing of 2016. Now in 2017 i can paint even smaller dots of camouflage and even put dots inside the dots. I can even paint tiny maps and tiny ordnance survey symbols on the tiny map. Well maybe not but still it’s a huge improvement. Anyone out there who is struggling with this stuff please go and get one. My lovely wife purchased one for me for Christmas. Woo hoo. Also thanks to my blogger modeller friend for a great suggestion. It even has a small section that is double the magnification. It takes a while to get used to the distance your hand is from the model under the lens. Bit of practice is all you need. I don’t know how i managed before i had this.
A while back i bought two of these Airfix German Reconnaissance sets from Hannants, mainly because they were on sale and a bargain too good to be missed. Even though they were listed as 1/76 scale i thought i could fit them in somehow. On opening up and building these little models i realised that the Kubelwagen included was just so tiny and a really bad looking model that i could not use it after it. The SdKfz.222 is a very average kit but once he is painted up he is passable. Luckily i have a couple of Dragon small armoured cars i will be building soon which will probably replace this guy.
So i still needed Kubelwagens for my officers and forward observers. I soon found some Esci Kubelwagens on sale at Lucky Model in Hong Kong and picked up three boxes of them for bugger all, and you get two vehicles per box which is a bonus. Super easy to build and so much better than the Airfix version. They are only a few parts, which is not a surprise being a little car really, and can be modelled with their canvas roof fully up or totally retracted. I wanted to see my occupants so kept the roofs down in both my builds. You get a few decals too which is nice, but i ended up using my Airfix ones instead. I gave them a two colour stripey camo scheme over the usual dunkelb base coat.
One Kubelwagen is transporting a couple of very important generals while the other has a forward observer unit. The dude in the front has his radio headphones on (Bose wireless i think) and the guy in the back is at the ready with his MP40 and his feet on the seats. Figures are all from the great AB Figures and fit beautifully. Although i did have to glue the front seats back a bit in one so the long legs of the front occupants would fit. You could cut their feet off i guess but how will they drive without any feet….
While i was on my road trip i managed to find a copy of the original Squad Leader on eBay for less than twenty pounds. As i was in the UK on our trip it was perfect timing to pick it up and bring it home in my suitcase and save the freight to Australia, which would have cost at least twice as much as the game itself! Feeling nostalgic for this all time classic of a board game i was super excited to crack it open when i returned home. Back in the 1980’s my big brother used to play this and i remember enjoying sneaking in a game or two when i wanted a break from the table top action. I am happy to say nothing has changed after thirty years. This classic from Avalon Hill is just as good as i remember. So much fun. It is just complicated enough to keep you interested, but without detracting from the cool and speedy game play. The copy i managed to buy is in excellent condition and 100% intact, and my painting and modelling may go on hold for some time while i charge through some of the exciting scenarios in the game.
Also thinking that the Squad Leader rules could easily be transformed into some excellent table top wargames rules just need to come up with a hex to centimetre conversion rate, and probably some other stuff. I am going to get hold of the second set called Cross Of Iron which i think includes more AFVs and more rules for vehicle combat. Better get onto eBay and see what’s out there! If you have not ever played Squad Leader you should go out and try it, perfect for a evening at home and takes up way less space than getting a full table top game going…….
My terrain projects continued this week with a new building for the battlefield. In my quest for good sources of houses i thought i would try out one of the cardboard models from the English company Metcalfe Models. They are slightly cheaper than plastic and resin kits out there, but still way more expensive than scratch building your own. I think this guy cost me around 10 pounds plus postage. Most resin and MDF buildings out there cost from 12 pounds up to 20, so the cardboard option is not much of a saving anyway.
There is also a bit of a problem with scale. Listed as HO/OO scale, mainly for those railway people out there, this comes in a bit more like 1/76 or smaller. Other companies like Najewitz. Hovels and Charlie Foxtrot produce buildings that match better with 20mm or 1/72 scale models. If i am building my own houses i tend to use a measurement of 40mm per floor (or the height of two people). These Metcalfe kits tend to be more like 30mm per floor and therefore do look a little small. So my home made two storey plus a roof houses would be 120mm high plus chimney stacks. This Manor House comes in around 110mm inc chimney stacks, so you can see how the size difference would be noticeable.
Anyway scale aside the kit is really fun and easy to put together. All the bits are well labelled and construction can be complete in an hour or two. Initially the result looks very much like a cardboard model, which should be no surprise, but with some basing on MDF and some brown dry brushing and streaking and messing around, you can rough him up a bit. So i was very happy with the end result. But i think due to the small scale size of this range i will not be buying any more. I am better off to continue to build my own houses from foam board, MDF, balsa and modelling clay.
Check out a few photos with a Panzer 3 and a SS private, gives you an idea of scale.
The legendary Pz VI Tiger Tank is another must have for any German force. I was very excited to build this offering from Zvezda and rumble it into battle against some weedy. under equipped British tanks. Advertised as an easy build, snap together model, i was expecting to get through the building phase quickly and smoothly. Unfortunately i found that the “snap together” description turned out to be more just “snap” and “snap off”.
The kit comes with minimal parts, an upper and lower hull, some simplified wheel configurations, 4 or 5 piece turret and gun, plus plenty of details for the upper hull. I painted the wheels, lower hull and tracks before construction to make it easier afterwards. The tracks snap onto a couple of lugs on the road wheels and run along the topside of the wheels first. You then attach the road wheels to the hull with the track lying flat. I had then serious trouble trying to get the front sprocket and rear drive wheel onto the model while then folding the track around the bottom set of wheels. I think you need to leave the model to dry for a good few hours and let the road wheels’ bond with the lower hull get super strong before moving on. In my impatience when i then attempted to wrap around and snap the tracks onto the corresponding lugs in the bottom road wheels, i managed to shift the whole track and wheel assembly out of position and make a big mess.
In my frustration i also managed to snap off the lugs in the road wheels so the track didn’t sit nicely. What a pain. If i had taken my time things might have worked out better. I salvaged the positioning mostly by re-gluing and fiddling but the tank’s rear still sits a little lower than its meant to. The rear drive wheel is also a little low.
You also need to be very careful when trying to snap the upper hull to the lower hull that you only apply pressure to the upper and lower hull sections, do not push from the track assembly as it’s possible you can snap off the whole track. I used a pair of tweezers to grab the hull not the tracks. Upon further research i did find another modeller who had encountered similar issues.
Apart from these frustrations i reckon he came out OK and i was happy with my paint job. Next time i am buying a Revell or Trumpeter Tiger. I don’t like the snap together thing, quite happy to stick to good old glue……..
You can never have enough Sherman Tanks. I had previously bought a pack of three Shermans from the Plastic Soldier Company, but felt they were a little on the big side, so wanted to try a different angle. I purchased these two Sherman kits from Trumpeter at around AUD $10 per kit on line. Somewhere between a fast build and normal kit, i was very pleased with what i found in the boxes.
You have the option to build the bogey wheels from individual wheels and parts or just use the one piece bogeys that are supplied. I didn’t see much difference so opted for the lazy route. I can keep the spare wheels in my spares box. The hull has plenty of moulded on detail, which may not suit everyone, and i guess doesn’t match up to the PE and other detail found on Dragon and Unimodel tanks. But hey, i reckon these are pretty good looking little tanks for your money.
The commanders hatch can be open or closed, i think you need to cut it in half to open it up. You also get a choice of 50 or 30 cal machine guns to go on the turret. There are a couple of wooden crates for stowage, but i added plenty of my own to the tanks, and also some spare track bits i had kicking around. Adding extras to these guys certainly improves their look.
The vinyl tracks can be tricky to put on, and i had read some horror stories about Trumpeter track problems. I made sure i stretched mine very carefully to fit around all the wheels before attempting anything. Then i glued them starting over the top wheels first before letting that dry for a long time. Then putting glue on the sprocket wheels and folding the tracks around and under the tank. Once this was dry i would add glue on the bottom wheels and add some weight on top of the tank (turret off) so the glue would stick. I didn’t worry about connecting the ends of the tracks together until all the glue was dry. As long as you have stretched your tracks enough to touch, connection at the end should not be a problem.
The highlight of these kits are the decals! I wanted to make them British Shermans but could not resist the awesome decals that came with them. “To Hell With It” and “Classy Peg” just look great on the olive drab tanks.