I’ve decided that, whilst the shed table is clear, to get rid of all the polystyrene I could find in my house and make up some more hills. Instead of using a knife (my beloved yellow-handled Olfa) to cut and carve them, these hills will look a bit more “commercial” in appearance, so I’m using my hot wire cutter to make them: . I bought this from an art & craft shop in Prahran. It’s from Taiwan and when I bought it 8-10 years ago, cost $30. I then bought a transformer for it – that’s the black plug and cord coming out the top of the front. That cost another $30. I’ve had plenty of practice with it over the years and have drawn some conclusions about it: 1) It doesn’t cut all thicknesses of polystyrene…you’ll have trouble if you’re cutting more than 30mm thick blanks; 2) it is not rugged – the bottom metal electrode bends easily, causing the wire to slacken, so I wedge it across my hand to keep the wire taut, and that hurts my hand after some time; 3) The connection for the transformer is wonky – you have to keep wiggling the cord to get the electricity flowing, and I know it’s not the transformer, as I tested in with other electrical devices and it worked fine, no wiggling of cords needed; 4) the wire frequently comes loose off the electrodes, so every 5 minutes you have to stop and re-string it. To conclude, don’t buy this “Polyon Cutter” (as it is called on its packing). Make your own, or go buy a specialist hobby one. I know Woodland Scenics make one – if I have to do more hills in the near future, I’ll ditch this and get theirs.

Even with all the frustration, it does still make lovely cuts and there is no mess unlike with an packing knife: . I made one really big hill in two halves, as Peter and I know we need more of them: and with the last piece of polystyrene, made a second level for this hill: . Today or on the weekend I’ll sandpaper the sides to smooth where the cutter was a little erratic and sandpaper the angle where the top meets the side, so it is more rounded: . Then it will be time for undercoating with paint and a simple, flock finish – I’m not gioing to detail this hill as much as the others.



You’re all aware that I am working on some Panzer IIIs – well, I always try to have something else on the side to work on when the main project is drying. This time I put an awful lot on the side to keep me busy, one item being MiniArt’s ‘East European village house’ (kit #72016). I purchased this at a Swap & Sell…I believe that it’s original purpose was to be cut in half and used in a modelling diorama…I was glad to get it as I’d seen it on Hobby Terra and wondered what it was like as a kit. Buying and completing one would serve as a good test run.

Well, it’s comprised of 28 parts, which seems reasonable, all made of styrene. The roof is made of a single moulded piece of styrene. It is completely joined to the surrounding frame – it doesn’t sit on four little supporting pins like normal kits – so you have to cut the entire roof clear of the rest of the ‘sprue’. Not a problem for me as I have a good Olfa cutter, but it means that all the detail of the thatching on the end of the roof is lost….you have to recreate it once you’ve cut the roof clear. I used my scalpels to do that.

There are four walls and a floor. There are options for two doorways (not sure why as the box art and box photos suggest these only had one entrance/exit – probably because of moulding convenience) so you cut away the indicated tab on the wall and put the closed door in it’s door frame over it. The window shutters are all single pieces. Everything glues together well:  except that I had some trouble with the chimney.

The chimney is four identical pieces that you glue together and then glue in place on the horizontal part of the roof. That sounds straightforward enough, doesn’t it? Well, even when assembled, it’s still the smallest part of the kit! It’s also the worst-formed or worst-cast, so it doesn’t glue together equally. Here’s how mine ended up looking when complete:  . I used extra glue as subsitute filler to try to minimise the gaps between each piece. It also didn’t sit flatly on the horizontal part of the roof – it leans a bit to one side.

Pegasus Hobbies’ Russian buildings feature two piece chimneys which assemble very simply, very neatly and sit flatly in comparison. I’m not sure why MiniArt wanted to make the smallest part of their kit so detailed and so complicated? I’d rather they had put crisper, slightly more exaggerated detailing into the thatching on the roof…I’m going to have to paint the whole roof using drybrushing the entire time, methinks, in order to preserve the ridges and troughs that will provide natural shadowing.

All this being said, I’ll still buy more of these kits if I see them. The chimney can be dealt with by a more careful examination previous to getting out the glue than I gave. Some careful cutting and filing would make the chimney perfect, with some extra filing once glueing is finished. They are a nice counterpoint to the Pegasus kits and reasonably priced, too. They are true to scale and if, like me, you don’t glue the roof in place, the roof lifts off easily so you can do house-to-house combat. A good product and worth the cash…just a little more examination and effort needed with some parts prior to assembly than with Pegasus’ kits.

For cutting and shaping the Fuji Film canister lids, I experimented using both my Olfa packing knife and one of my Excel scalpels  . The Olfa packing knife quickly proved to be unsuitable…the blade size is too big and the chance of cutting into oneself while using it is quite high. The scalpel was far more appropriate, allowing for a good grip and fine blade control.

I experimented with cutting the lid from the topside and the underside. Cutting from the underside was better: . The purpose is to cut away the excess outer ring so that only the inner raised section or cup is retained…you should end up after the first stage of cutting with something looking like this: . The second stage involves refining the cut area, so that it is rounder and on an angle, not perpendicular to the surface it’s going to be stuck to. Here’s a finished one: .

With that complete, it’s time to prepare the tree armatures by shaping them to a shape you want and cut the trunks to the height you want. I kept some of the original shapes; I reshaped some of the others to other shapes; I cut some right back so that they would look like young trees and I also cut away all branches on one angle to make it look like that side of the tree was dying and had already dropped its limbs.  I used side cutters for all this shaping: .

Then I cut the trunks to a range of shorter heights: .

I had already pre-cut the sheet styrene I was going to use as the final bases. These are roughly 50mm x 50mm.

I made two small incisions in an ‘x’ shape in each cannister lid (a cross incision) and got the glue ready.

The last stage was to insert the tree armature into the ‘x’/cross incision in the lid, press the armature & lid combination against the sheet styrene base to make sure the bottom of the armature and the bottom of the lid were equal, and glue it all in place. One lot of glue went on the end of the armature so it whould adhere to the sheet styre, a second lot of glue went on the lid so it would adhere to the sheet styrene, and a third and final lot of glue went on where the armature is anchored in the cross incision in the lid: .

Once they are all cured/dried, I tested them – if something hadn’t glued together properly, I redid it.

The armatures are based and ready for foliage. That’s going to be the next few posts…

Just before Christmas 2009 I sat down with the remaining large pieces of my sheet styrene supply and my trusty Olfa cutter and cut and shaped all the pieces I wanted to use in making my first wargaming river. I talked and showed you about it here. I then put that project aside while I busied myself with Revell Panthers and some other things. Having completed the Panthers on Thursday night (photos tomorrow) I was free again to tackle the river. I checked the weather report and it said we are in for 7 days of sun and a temperature of 29 degrees each day…in other words,  perfect conditions and I would be foolish to do something else and waste such an opportunity, especially as we are now in Autumn. I took the box that the river sections were in and prepared my work area. Here’s how my work are looked:

What you can see in that photo: caulk gun, Fuller’s Caulk in Colours, leftover sticks from Magnum icecreams, the aforementioned river sections cut from sheet styrene, two plastic jars filled with different grades of Woodland Scenics’ Talus, Woodland Scenics’ Modelling grass and lastly real pieces of sticks and twigs that I have collected. At this point I was ready to continue my learning and practicing of Nikolas Lloyd’s modelling tips, this lesson being in making rivers.

First, I squeezed the caulk onto the river section: . When you do this, the caulk will pull along a little as you squeeze it onto the section – meaning that if you commenced flush with the edge, it will get no longer be so at the end of application as it will have pulled off the edge in the direction you are squeezing and you’ll have to go back and add a little bit so that it is flush again. This became very annoying very quickly so I would commence squeezing over the edge of the river section and then lay it onto the section and along. This solved the need to go back. I may need to cut off the excess hanging off the edge, but that’s fine – you have to do this at the other end of the section anyway! So I wasted a little bit of caulk, but the amount is negligible and an ‘equal’ or ‘balanced’ section of river was made each time as a result.

Second, you need to flatten and shape the caulk. I did this using the wooden sticks from Magnum icecreams – they became my trowels. As you can see from the photo, the caulk comes out as a rounded tube shape and will stay like that unless you shape it. I’ve begun to flatten the sides down so they look like natural river banks or levee banks on the outer side of the river section. Something that you didn’t see in the first photo was a roll of paper towelling. This was necessary to wipe excess caulk from my wooden icecream stick-trowel.

This shaping and smoothing takes up the vast majority of the time spent on the project as a whole. You don’t want the banks to look unnatural and you also don’t want ‘holes’ or ‘pockets’ being exposed in the caulk bank as you shape it. I went back and corrected areas many times. I’ll give you a warning now…this part of making rivers is not easily completed! Don’t start, thinking that you’ll have it done in an hour! More about this later.

Here I’ve finished shaping and smooting: . Nikolas Lloyd then brushed caulk along the length of each section in order to create ripples and other detail effects on the river’s surface. I opted not to do this with caulk but will do it later with PVA glue, where I can use a brush that won’t end up clogged with caulk. I also don’t want the same amount of water surface detail that he does.

I added extra details to selected sections, just as Mr Lloyd did. Here I’ve added modelling grasses and talus to a section: . The grasses were cut in half to get a better size (in the packet they are about 4 inches long) and then securely and firmly stuck them into the wet caulk. I would then check their free-standing position and adjust any clumps that were not more or less vertical. This sometimes required pulling them back upwards a millimetre or two. I’ve also stuck some talus here, to represent where stones and pebbles are visible after erosion.

I needed some river crossing areas. I chose to make fords. Here’s one: . I’ve tried to represent where the river widens a little and is a little shallower, hence the muddy wheel tracks and wheel ruts showing where everyone else has succesfully forded the river. I’m happy with this and especially the effects I got in shaping the caulk, but paint will really help in conveying water depth and so on and complete the picture in my (and hopefully anyone else’s) mind’s eye.

At the end of the session, all river sections were completed: as was a swampy section of river, a seperate free-standing swamp or bog and a lake!

I commenced at 3pm and finished at 7.30pm. I had a couple of five minute breaks, sure, but ultimately all this took four and a half hours. Most of that was spent shaping the caulk. Doing things like the talus and the grasses took very little time overall – probably 90% or more was spent in all the shaping, smoothing and adjusting of the caulk. A warning then to all of you – make sure you have a whole afternoon or a good few hours if you want to do this yourself! Also remember this – Mr Lloyd added all that extra caulk and shaped it to create water ripples and riffles – if I had also done that, maybe I would have needed another 2-3 hours?

Anyway, this caulk needs a full seven days to be fully cured – so it can sit on the spare table and enjoy this weeks’ Autumn warmth.

Panthers tomorrow.

My apologies to Eily Beadell and Nell Tollerton!

I started by making a stream/small river, about 45m wide in scale (including banks). A bigger river will be a later project, maybe next summer.

For today, I first took stock of what sheet styrene I had left, which was just going to be enough: . You can see the trusty Olfa cutter there – one of the greatest wargaming terrain/wargaming scenery-making tools you can own.

Next, I had to make two sets of measurements. First, I had to make sure that the lengths I was cutting would fit comfortably in their intended receptacle and then second I had to make sure the river was the right width. These were done by 1) measuring cut lengths against the box that will hold them and 2) using a based infantry team for width. An infantry team is on a 40mm base, which is 40m on the wargaming table. If they cross at a ford, where they can Walk (not Wade), they should be able to get over in one turn. Both of those measurements are being made here: . Ah yes, the A3 Reflex copy paper box. I’d be very inconvenienced without them! They hold my hills, my trees, my buildings, my roads and very soon, my rivers.

Where possible, I used offcuts and previously-cut pieces as templates or “cookie-cutters” to speed up cutting: In that photo, I’m about to use an off-cut from the perfect straight edge to do the cutting for the other bank of the river piece, which is then snapped off as a complete piece. Then that completed whole piece can be laid on the sheet styrene, cut around and snapped off as a second seperate but complete piece! Etc., etc.

As well as straight pieces of different lengths, I made a narrow man-made ford section, a natural ford section, a Y-intersection, curving sections and ‘wobbly’ sections as well as a section that opens into a small swamp or bog before becoming a stream/river again: . Those two at the bottom – the left is meant to be a separate swamp or bog, the right will become a large pond or small/medium lake.

Last, check once again they fit in your receptacle: .

That’s it for today. Tomorrow I’ll get another tube of caulk.

I mentioned below (or click on this link if you don’t want to scroll down) that I was working on another piece of WWII wargaming terrain that is impassable to vehicles – a knocked-out T-34/85 tank.

Here’s a pic: Brewed-up T-34-85 aerial

The piece is ideally representing a group or column of vehicles that have been knocked out / destroyed. This piece may portray the losers of an armoured battle; an armoured column hit by artillery; an armoured column attacked from the air; softskins hit by artillery or from the air…there are plenty of possibilities, if you do some reading!

I’m using up an Eastern Express T-34/85 that I bought but later decided I wasn’t going to ever assemble and use for active gaming.

This piece of terrain should be kept fairly small – as you can see, it only extends a short distance around the circumference of the model. All the paint has been applied – I’ve been wanting to apply washes and inks, to represent mud and also weeping rust, but haven’t had the inks and necessary paints until last night. Hopefully I can apply these this weekend, and then this terrain piece will be complete. Here’s a second pic, from a slightly different angle: Brewed-up T-34-85 side


Nearly every wargame table benefits from having at least one hill on it. I’ve made hills for both the 15mm scale and for sci-fi wargaming scales in the past and nowadays make hills for 15mm scale and also 20mm scale (1:72).

Having rescued some very thick (80mm) house insulation polystyrene foam that was destined for a rubbish tip last year, I spent a cooler summer day cutting it into the rough shapes for some tall, steep hills (the plan being to use these steep hills to represent the mountainous regions of Romania, Hungary or Italy).

I used a hot wire cutter to get the rough shapes I wanted. This is a dangerous thing to do because:

  1. If you’re using an industrial unit like I was, you may scald yourself on the wire;
  2. You need to do it where there is plenty of fresh air;
  3. You must wear eye protection as the fumes can damage your eyes.

Therefore, do it outside or where you have good airflow; wear tradesmans’ or lab technicians’ safety glasses; wear old clothing and lastly do everything slowly and take plenty of breaks so your concentration remains unwavering.

Two of the end results were these: Roughly shaped blanks

On the weekend, deciding to get a few of these hills made for a game while Peter’s busy, I tool out my Olfa snap-blade cutter (Get knife) and shaved off and smoothed the hard angles and rough edges –                             as you can see here: Shave and smooth blanks

Using a Olfa blade, packing knife or anything similar is also quite dangerous. Remember to always cut away from you (always, no getting lazy!); check first that each cut is necessary before making it (don’t just absent-mindedly whittle away) and always retract the blade fully before putting the tool down and check that it was retracted fully before you reach down to pick it up again!

Provided the weather is good (well, not wet and/or frosty) this weekend, I can take these two smoothed, prepared hills Completed first stage and move on to stage 2 – undercoating them with paint.

So begins one of my summer terrain projects – making up lots of Russian roads for the Eastern Front.

This is following the techniques publicised by Mr Nikolas Lloyd, for whom I have great respect.

First of all, gather what’s needed: starting-tools

Sheet styrene; an Olfa cutting blade; measuring tape (not shown); caulk and caulk gun; some sprues of extra truck wheels, to inprint “realistic” tyre tracks in the surface.

Second, begin cutting the lengths and then the widths with the cutting blade: getting-road-widths-right-using-a-jagdpanther

I’ve used a Jagdpanther to get the widths correct. The roads around Leningrad during Operation Barbarossa seemed to be about 1.5 Tiger tanks wide, so making these roads about 1.5 Jagdpanthers wide should be fine.

Third, make sure what you want will fit in the carrying boxes – this is something you can easily forget about as it’s easy to get carried away while cutting/carving/shaping… can-it-fit

I’ve ensured the maximum length still has at least 1cm clearance for the smallest size box I use for carrying/storing terrain (pictured on left, with those unfinished Tigers living in them). I’ve also done three different length…while fixing up and shaping the sides later, I made a fourth length. Not everything will fit on the table.

I also made two different crossroads, two different t-intersections and two different curves/bends.

Now I need lots of caulk, so it’s time to put this aside for a day or two.

The Devil is in the detail; time consumption is in painting detail. My wisdom for you all – you’re welcome to it. It explains why those Opel Maultiers are crawling along; the tarpaulins were given a fantastic-looking finish yesterday and today the bogies and suspension were being carefully painted. Once that’s done, I can do the chassis and undercarriage and all that mostly unseen stuff, with my home-made blend of Vehicle Undercarriage, which is really just some Brown ink, Boltgun Metal and Chaos Black all mixed together.

Yesterday, those Revell Tiger 1 E’s and an Italeri StuG III G were undercoated with Chaos Black spraypaint (not as thickly, this time – I’m trying an experiment. Next time I’ll use even less). Tankoberg was all set to start production again and I was going to begin glueing all of them together. I decided not to, though. I want those Opel Maultiers off my table, and that Schwimmwagen too. So, the StuG began production. What a lovely kit it is to work with. It’s been reviewed fairly favourably, although there has been some comment that too much is already moulded on. While I agree that a lot has been moulded on, at least it’s been done extremely well! I’m looking forward to the finished product. The tracks and wheels are causing a little consternation – I’m not sure about the return rollers and their position in relation to everything else. I guess I’ll see when I commence track assembly.

The little Schwimmwagen is getting close to having all it’s basics and details done, so that I can finish it by applying the three-colour camouflage pattern. Again, it’s time-consuming detail that I was working on. I also consulted my books for information about the grills to the rear of the unit, and how the canvas folding roof worked. The driver is long finished. He’ll go in, then the steering wheel; touch up the paint for the steering wheel, then camouflage, then done.

The SdKfz 11 had the first stage of an extensive dust coating applied.

Being in a productive mood this weekend, I also decided to begin making some more terrain / scenery. I prefer the term terrain rather than scenery…for me, scenery is what you make for a model railway – something static. Terrain is what you make for wargaming – it’s practical and gets used. I carved up some sheet styrene into a small thicket, a big thicket with room for a fallen tree trunk, a duckpond/village pond and lastly a larger pond/small lake. I used an Olfa cutter for this. Since I make my terrain to be modular, the thickets are two layered – if a unit moves onto the terrain, I take the first layer off, so they don’t damage the lichen or whatever I have stuck there. I’ve got bags and bags of lichen, so it’s time to get some more of it onto the wargaming table. I undercoated the smaller thicket with some basic house acrylic in brown and then gave up for the weekend.

Yesterday those two Fujimi houses had individual bricks picked out using pure Terracotta. The result was great – giving a reasonable imitation of brick houses at Oradour-sur-Glane.

Ready the men 1

September 13, 2007

Using an Olfa cutter and two scalpels, I spent the evening removing flash from the Caesar Miniatures German Infantry in Winter Gear. The Plastic Soldier Review is correct – great sculpting, great detail and almost no flash left over from the moulding process. A joy to prepare because they took so little time.

Then using model clippers, I cut a few Esci German Infantry off the sprue.