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Friday, 22 October 2021

The Salute 2021 display box

Waaaaaaay back in 2019 I did Salute for the first time (as a trader). I turned up with my provincial stand and did a roaring trade but was determined to have something a bit more impressive for the following year. I immediately purchased a much larger banner and reconfigured my tabletop cabinets with display space. Then Covid hit and Salute 2020 was postponed, postponed and postponed again. Now (despite soaring Covid ccases and 1000 deaths per week the media isn't talking about...) it looks like Salute 2020 will be going ahead in a few weeks' time. Of course in the intervening time my ranges have grown somewhat in size! As a result I need to completely review my layout, which I have been doing with the help of a little white card model- set design training coming in handy!

One thing I was keen to preserve was having a fully-terrained display. After polling supporters on Faceache I decided I wouldn't terrain every shelf of my cabinet (instead keeping plain, black shelves to show up the miniatures with no distractions) but to go with one landscaped diorama box that would help show the character/flavour of the world of The Woods. This box would sit between my low-level figure racking and the tabletop unit and give me some extra display space.

 Earlier this year my wife and I revisited Puzzlewood in the Forest of Dean, a beautiful forest setting with the unique features of Scowles- natural cave networks which have been quarried for iron and have then collapsed, resulting in a winding network of mossy rock pillars and gloriously gnarled trees. I have long wanted to do a Puzzlewood board for gaming. The necessarily long and narrow nature of the display I felt would lend itself to this kind of deep forest scene.

The first step was to see what space I was actually working with. There were two main considerations- 1: That it would have to sit between the base unit and tabletop unit without reducing the stability of either. 2: That it would need to be able to be packed safely in the car alongside the rest of the stand elements. The former consideration lead to the interesting angled front which would match with the bend in both existing units. The latter consideration restricts the box to 300mm deep and 800mm wide. To fit perfectly it would be 100mm high, but I judged this would be just too cramped so increased it to 150mm high. The extra height will just mean I have to be a bit more careful when loading/unloading it.

Having built the box I cut some strips of foam to start building up the terrain with. This would principally be a display for miniatures so I wanted to have staggered layers allowing figures to be placed behind others but still be seen. The 'pinch point' of the box would be a natural focal point so I wanted this to have a particular terrain feature in it, choosing a small forest waterfall as a naturally dividing element. 

I based the foam on a sheet of HIPS (plasticard) so I could lift it in and out of the box whilst working on the scene. This would also provide a nice, smooth surface for me to paint the water on to.

The foam was carved with a wire brush, rasp, sandpaper and hot wire cutter in a combination of the methods I covered in my video on sculpting rock. Once shaped I covered the terrain in a mixture of Jesmonite (the dark areas) and coloured filler (the grey areas). Jesmonite is great for producing really hard-wearing surfaces and I really ought to use it more in my scenery building. As it is this is the first time I have used it on something smaller than a full-scale stage set.

Time to twist more trees! I didn't want the scene to become too crowded so went for four large trees and nine smaller ones. These had relatively few branches each as most of the foliage would be directly mounted to the lid of the box, only the lower branches needed to be on display, creating the illusion the trees project up higher than the visible scene. I followed the technique for making trees shown in the videos I made last year.

I punched holes into the base board where the trees would sit and glued them in place with PVA and a dab of filler. The location of the trees was chosen to 'frame' vignettes within the scenery.  I shaped them initially before fixing them in position but finalised the position of the branches once in place to lead the eye through the scene from one group of miniatures to the next.

As you can see there's not much room for canopy with the lid on!

The trees were painted with PVA to provide a good base for the filler to grip to.

I usually turn my trees upside down whilst the glue/filler is drying so that any drips turn into upward-pointing stubby branches. It looks more tree-ish than lots of drips!

I made a thick mix of readymix filler and PVA with a dab of sawdust for extra texture. Adding a bit of green paint so that any bits missed by paint and flock later on (or knocks and chips from moving around) wouldn't show bright white. 

Differing from my usual process I did not turn the fillered trees upside down to dry as I wanted some 'slumping' and dripping to give them a downward sag and increase the claustrophobic feel of the scene.

I also used the filler to set and assortment of stones as 'boulders' in the scene and to demark the edge of the channel where the water would run.

Looks glow-in-the-dark!

When dry I gave the whole scene a blast with various browns and greens using an airbrush. I wanted a general mossy, damp feel to the terrain, most of which would be covered with scatter materials later on. Whilst waiting for it to dry I painted the back of the box with gesso, brushing some green paint into it to create a streaky background suggestive of further greenery with light filtering through it. Again, much of this would be covered by foliage.

The heart of the waterfall is a piece of twisted clear plastic bag, taped to the base at one end then stretched up and taped across the rear of the foam. This took several attempts to get right! It needed to hang absolutely vertical and not slump to give the impression the water was pouring over. I washed some superglue over the bottom end to try and keep it fixed firmly in place then painted in a mix of greens as a base for the splash pool.

When dry I mixed up some regular clear 2-part epoxy glue, added a hint of epoxy resin pigment (green) and used a few stirring sticks to coax it flat across the splash pool and along the plastic bag. I think in hindsight I should have used un-pigmented resin for the fall itself, the 'trickle' has turned into a rather too vigorous pour which also looks more like slime than water. However, unfortunately, removing it again would have been almost impossible without taking the terrain apart and reconstructing it. For the turbulence at the base of the fall I used a few pieces of this fake snow medium dabbed into the epoxy when it was almost dry. This fake snow looks like torn up bit of packing foam so you could probably make your own very easily. 

Going back to the box I put the same 'Victorian Mahogany' stain on as the rest of my display stands. If I were starting everything again I think I would choose a different stain colour, but in this case the red hue at least works nicely with the green palette of the scene. I laser cut and bent a piece of acrylic to sit on the front and protect the display from being poked by inquisitive fingers.

My usual go-to ground cover for terrain and bases is a mix of coffee, black tea and green tea, however in this case one of my work colleagues had presented me with some chippings from some Sapele he had been turning and I thought they would work great as a loamy, twig-strewn forest floor. It's definitely going to get added into my basing mix for future! I popped a couple of cheap Chinese model trees around the edge to provide a bit of a curtain of greenery and used some Javis clump foliage to locate large bushes and break up the expanse of ground. At this point I also drew onto the lid of the box where the major trees were located so that I could snake some LED strip lights around the areas where the foliage would break up. This will hopefully give the effect of sunlight penetrating the canopy, help the miniatures further back in the scene be visible and also attract the eye of a passer-by. Especially in the relative gloom of the Excel centre I am a big fan of illuminating miniature displays to help catch the eye.

Now it was time to get to work with the detailing. I collected together a selection of scenic materials for the task, I find it's always best to have as much variety as you can on scenery to avoid a 'uniform' and unnatural look.  In this case I had sponge scatter and static grass from Model Tree Shop,clump foliage from Javis, brown/beige lichen, dried herbs, chunks of two different old plastic Christmas trees and a couple of classic model railway trees, maybe Noch?

Here much of the scenic material has been applied- much moss on the rocks, bushes made from clump foliage, ferny-type plants made from individual needles of plastic Christmas tree and twiggy plants made by cutting tufts of the model railway trees. I've tried wherever possible to put darker material into recesses and sprinkle lighter material on to force highlights, but the lighting will have its own impact on the form. Clump foliage has been sparsely applied to some of the lower branches but much of the tree cover has been glued to the underside of the lid, you can just see it poking up behind the box. Because the viewer is going to be on a level with or slightly above the box it's not necessary to cover the entirety of the lid with foliage. Instead I have spread clump foliage out in front and behind the row of LEDs then teased it into position to hide the light strip but simulate clumps of leaves. The light should look as if it is shining through dense foliage.

Once everything was in places I diluted PVA with water and a dash of washing up liquid and dabbed it all over the scene to soak into the scatter and fix everything firmly in place. Whilst this was wet I sprinkled dried herbs liberally over the scene to simulate less decomposed leaf litter. 

The last stage was to add signage to either side of the display. It's all well and good for it to look pretty but ultimately it needs to be getting me sales too!

Here's the box in place in my extremely dim dining room as I try to sort out my stand layout. It fits nicely between the lower and upper units and is nice and stable which I am glad of, I wouldn't have wanted to go to all the trouble only to have it make the stand likely to fall on prospective customers! Now I need to check over the electrics on the rest of the stand, clean it up a bit, change some of the labelling and make sure I have enough stock... it's a long process getting ready for a show!

And here's an attempt to get the entire box (with example miniatures) into one shot...

Thanks for looking!


Wednesday, 13 October 2021

The 333 3rd Ed painting challenge- Month 1, planning, plotting, scheming!

What to do when you find yourself back at work full time with no daylight hours to hobby in, the pressures of adult life pressing down on your shoulders and busy-ness sweeping the joy from 'free' time?

You take on a new project of course!

Dave, perhaps better known in blogsphere as Snickit, has launched an army building challenge to run up to BOYL 2022 which he has titled The 333 3rd Ed Challenge. The aim is to paint 333 points of troops each month until BOYL, resulting in an (approximately) 3000 point force to put on the table. Armies can be chosen from any 3rd Ed era list. I have a fair whack of Chaos troops unpainted on my shelves so this felt like a good excuse to get some paint on them. 333 points of Chaos Warriors is not many models, that should be doable, and it would mean not having to buy new miniatures... right?

Of all the Chaos powers it is Slaanesh that most draws me. That's something that's probably best not probed too deeply (as the actress said to the bishop). Essential sleaze aside I like the more complex image painted in Realm of Chaos that Slaanesh is about love of comfort, luxury, easy life. That's why it rubs up against Khorne which (despite a love of blood and skulls) feeds off love of unrest, conflict and challenging situations. My idea, then, is to build a more covert Slaanesh force than an out-and-out display of genitalia. Rooted in the history (real and propaganda-motivated) of the Italian City States of the 14th and 15th centuries with houses like the Borgias, Medici, Sforza and Malatesta vying for control the plan is to build a Tilean force representing a corrupted family and their troops. Each member of the family would head up their own warband rolled from Slaves to Darkness then I will fill the remaining points with appropriate troops to make it a semi-viable army.

For the leader of the army I wanted a grotesque caricature of a pontiff representing all the worst features of the medieval papacy, an institution rife with the opulence and degeneracy that Slaanesh would be proud of. Having thought about it I suspect there is also more than a little influence from the Sandman comic series where a particular Psychopomp (conveyer of souls to the next life) is depicted as an obese and pox-scarred villain. There are a few cardinal/bishop miniatures around but none that really play on this grotesque image of a supposedly holy figurehead gone bad. With the release of the new Dune movie imminent I wanted a fantasy Baron Harkonnen to head up the debauched stream of filth. Jamie Loft of Old School Miniatures suggested using a Foundry orc as a basis (they are big fellows and appropriately garbed in renaissance attire) but it seemed daunting cutting off the arms, legs and head to make something that looked overweight but humanly proportioned. HOWEVER, the dwarfs from Foundry have arms about the right size and no legs to speak of... 

At BOYL earlier this month I had a good sift through the Warmonger dwarfs and decided on one that would suit my purposes. I would have liked to have Kev Adams sculpt my head on him as he sometimes does at BOYL, but this year he wasn't sculpting so I will have to do that myself, adding an excessive papal mitre. I wanted him carried by an overburdened donkey or mule so again went diving into the Foundry ranges to look for one. Almost all of their pack animals are sculpted with baggage attached, which wouldn't work for this purpose, but I did find one in a Darkest Africa explorers pack which will suit. It probably needs the legs reposed a bit to indicate the enormous weight of its rider.

Having selected the general it was time to head to StD and roll up his personal contingent. Having selected his initial 'reward' (enormously fat) I decided to roll twice more for his personal attributes giving him rotting flesh and a crown of flesh (tongues) which I guess he hides under his mitre! Or maybe it makes up the mitre itself... Suitably disgusting attributes for the slimy wretch. I rolled him 3 sets of followers- 9 Dark Elves, 8 Chaos Cultists and 10 Beastmen. 

The Dark Elves I have a handful of in my collection, but they look too war-like to fit comfortably in the higher levels of the corrupt court. I would have loved to do a unit of Foundry's Revenant Elves but at £7 each that's not going to happen (I did buy one represent the leader of another band). Instead I have opted to buy some of the former-Grenadier Dark Elves from Forlorn Hope, excellent value and a great company keeping some lovely old miniatures alive. These will work nicely with the theme and have the added advantage they already have crossbows (an arming option from the StD followers list).

The cultists I would like to have as cardinals, but whilst I would love to have Victoria Miniatures' Monty Python Spanish Inquisition featured again the price drives me off. I'm struggling to find alternatives, monks with sculpted hats on still looking too dishevelled. One option I am considering (and will probably go for) is the Warmachine Choir of Menoth miniatures. They look suitably ecclesial, not too sci-fi and like they could easily be given cardinal-type headwear to mix them up a bit. A bit beyond my budget at present still, so might have to back burner this unit for now and see if ebay will throw any bargains my way.

I have a lot of beastmen, including a fair few non-goat beastmen which are my preference. However they all look like an unruly, savage mob far better suited to a warrior warband than an ecclesial one. They will (depending on rolls of course) get use in one of the other warbands later on. For this one I have decided to go with the 4th ed monopose plastic beastmen that seem so universally unpopular. Their regimented look makes them fit nicely for an honour guard and it's my intention to putty clothes and gear onto them to make them look more like a papal guard. I picked up 30 of these from generous people at BOYL who knew I was looking for them. I'll start with the 10 I rolled for now and probably expand them when mopping up points at the end.

Leaving aside the 8 cultists for now then the first month's painting looks like:

Psychopomp Prospera Vitali Bourgeoia

Human 20 Hero (150pts)

9 Dark Elves with crossbows (90pts)

10 Beastmen (100pts)

That's 340pts, which fits just fine. Better get cracking though, there's a fair bit of putty and conversion work in there and we're halfway through October already!

Oh, and as to not buying any new miniatures... none of these were in my collection before the beginning of October! I didn't buy the beastmen, but the rest were purchases especially for the project. Good start there Fimm!


Tuesday, 10 August 2021

Witness the Wonder of Warhammer World!

As part of the recent Bootleg BOYL road trip we stopped off in Nottingham to take a look around Warhammer World. Usually I am too occupied at Foundry to venture off on a tangent but this seemed like a good chance to see what it's all about. A bit of a pilgrimage, after all there are some treasures there. Here, then, is the obligatory photo dump.

Inside the doors of the exhibition are a couple of cabinets with what I had really come to see- the famous box dioramas! Suffice to say they held my attention a lot longer than anything else there. It's great to see these are being well looked-after and are still as glorious as when they were photographed for White Dwarf or, in this case, the third ed rulebook.

They include the fantastic Warhammer Quest diorama from Mike McVey. I must have spent days gazing at the photos in the magazine so this was a wonder to behold in person. There were even some details I had failed to spot in my thorough perusal of the photos! It was also a lot deeper than I imagined, allowing an even greater sense of perspective with Mike's clever modelling. 

Beyond this the exhibition quickly deteriorates (IMHO) into cabinets full of modern plastics, nicely painted but just a bit bland to my eye. The big scenes are obviously designed to excite but a close look reveals most of the figures on the enormous displays have very basic paint jobs consisting I suspect largely of contrast paint. There was a special exhibit, however, on dragons through the ages which had some gems. That chicken dragon really is huge. Not something I'd really be keen to own but impressive for the ambition behind it.

Here's a more modern attempt at a big dragon! The Lord of the Rings miniatures were a particular highlight with the finely detailed Perry brothers sculpting and some exquisite painting. 

Some more dioramas, 40k this time. How well I remember that glorious imperial hangar from WD.

A handful of classic 40k in amongst the modern stuff. That apothecary and librarian with banner were on the hobby products flyer that came with Heroquest and Space Crusade so they were probably my first glimpse at Space Marines. I had to grab photos so I can try to emulate the paint jobs with my own marines when I find the inspiration to crack on with them.

Sadly none of the 'true size' scenes now survive, but it was a surprise to find artefacts like this Terminator helmet still tucked away in corners. Another treasure I remember from WD.

Of course it was obligatory to sample the famous Bugmans' XXXXXX. Not a beer the dwarfs would favour I fear, it was an insipid pale ale but there you go. They also serve fishfinger sandwiches (paninis no less) in Bugmans', how classy is that? Served with chips though, not the fried egg and remoulade that used to be my after-heavy-drinking snack of choice!

Happy to have seen it, especially the classic dioramas, but for the Oldhammerer there's definitely more to see in the cabinets at Foundry!


Fimm McCool's

Fimm McCool's