The workbench this week… is up and running in our new condo! We had an offer accepted at the beginning of February, got the keys ten days ago in mid-March, and are largely settled, set up, and getting on with things.
Gradually getting the painting and hobby stuff sorted and functional; the new room isn’t as large as the one at our rented place but forcing me to organize and stay de-cluttered is not actually a bad thing…
Decided to work through the stash of 1/1200 WW2 aircraft I got from Last Square a few months ago, starting with a trio of Bf110s and five Bf109s for the Luftwaffe to cause trouble in.
I’ll be at Trumpeter Salute 2023 in Vancouver in about three weeks running a 1/1200 naval game of some sort, probably KM Schnellboote attacking an RN-defended British coastal convoy this time. This’ll be the first Trumpeter Salute since 2019 (a smaller event happened in 2022 but I didn’t get to it) so it’ll be fantastic to be back!
When talking about masts on tiny ships recently I mentioned that my current storage solution for my fleets was, frankly, bad. This last weekend I sat down to fix that, and came up with a solution that will should preserve paint jobs and masts on all my boats and ships (and airplanes, too).
I started with a flat cardboard box which one of my Last Square orders came in, added 25mm high dividers of mat board with strips of foam glued to them, then slit the foam to allow the ends of the acrylic bases I use for all my vessels to slip in.
The first box is full, so I built a smaller box out of more mat board to hold a few of my larger merchant ships. After we move (ten days!) I’ve got a second identical Last Square box somewhere around to create a second larger fleet holder, and two of them should comfortably hold everything I’m likely to own for the next while!
The two batches of 1/1200 airplanes I’ve currently got painted and mounted are kind of tucked into the corners around the ships, and they’ll eventually need their own storage, but given that 1/1200 aircraft weigh basically nothing, I’m not concerned for now about having them a bit tangled with each other in the lower left corner of the larger box for now.
After doing the detailing of the JMS 3d printed ships, I pulled out the rest of my 1/1200 WW2 ships, all pewter from Figurehead, and added masts to all of those ships that needed them. Most of these came with pewter cast masts that I had deliberately left off while assembling and painting these ships over the last few years as they’re incredibly fragile and my slightly ad-hoc (ie, bad) storage and transportation solution would have destroyed pewter masts in short order.
Nothing special about the techniques here, just a tiny drillbit, fine tweezers, bits of plastic broom bristle, and superglue. Oh, and patience and a certain amount of bad language… The various coastal freighters all have booms alongside their masts as needed.
Finally, just for something else to do, I’ve got some more impossibly tiny airplanes based up! In this case, that scourge of surface targets including shipping, the Luftwaffe’s dreaded Ju87 Stuka, five of them all on 25mm wide plexi hexes, more broom bristle for their flying stands. Primer and paint on them in the next week or so, hopefully.
We are moving in the second half of March, however, so there might be a temporary slowdown of production and posting as our lives get packed up and moved across town to our new condo!
More detailing on 1/1200 scale ships with plastic broom bristle. I’ve added cargo handling booms to the masts and kingposts of two of the Antics 3d printed merchant ships.
For the mostly vertical booms at the kingposts and on the Ehrenfels I drilled holes into the deck with an absurdly tiny drill bit; the horizontal booms on the front and back decks of the Fort are just held in place with a dab of superglue at each end. On the Fort freighter I also put a radio mast immediately aft of the bridge.
I did the Fort freighter’s booms the same base grey as most of the ship, and the Ehrenfel’s the same ivory/off-white as her upperworks and deck. The plastic broom bristle takes ordinary acrylic hobby paint just fine.
The other three Antics 3d ships will all get at least a few cargo booms, and at some point I need to pull out my main collection of Figurehead pewter ships and do the masts on those as well. The Figurehead ships come with pewter masts, but they’re terrifyingly fragile and I’ve mounted exactly none of them so far to any of my Figurehead collection!
A Word on Tools
All of this detail work was made much, much easier (really, was made possible, full stop) by an off-the-cuff purchase I made just before Christmas – a pair of inexpensive Excel brand “Slant Pointed Tweezer” superfine curved tip tweezers. Far finer than the even cheaper drugstore tweezers and well worth it if you want to do this sort of detail nonsense at 1/1200 scale!
Handling the super thin plastic broom bristle by hand is awkward and frustrating; the stuff is hard to even pick up off a cutting mat. I’m fairly sure I’d have given up on this detailing very early if I hadn’t snagged these at my friendly local hobby store.
A bit of experimenting today with plastic broom bristle for masts on 1/1200 WW2 ships. I’m happy to say it works well, although as expected at this tiny scale, it’s more than a little bit fiddly!
The bristles are harvested off our very ordinary kitchen broom and are some sort of black plastic. I’ve used them to mount 1/1200 airplanes and for 15mm and 28mm vehicle radio aerials in the past, and the thought of using them for more gamer-resistant ship’s masts than white metal or 3d printing would allow for was, I felt, worth exploring.
It seems to work quite well! The plastic broom bristle takes superglue nicely and is easy to work with. You can put a bend in it easily, which I had to do for the tripod mast on the Figurehead Hunt II destroyer escort, it cuts easily with a razor knife or precision hobby nippers, and I already know from previous uses that it’ll take paint just fine.
I’ve got the week between Christmas and New Years off entirely this year, so there’s been a bit of painting going on. Mostly I’ve been working on the 3d printed WW2 ships from Antics, as well as a few fantasy bits just for fun.
The ships are coming along nicely, although the larger ones are slow going – so many details to paint around! The four U-boats in the foreground are basically done, unless I decide to do a bit of pin washes to pop the few details a bit more.
The larger vessels are all at least basecoated, although several are going to need a second pass as I realize I missed bits on the first pass. The two Royal Naval vessels (a Hunt DE foreground and “O” Class Destroyer behind) will get some sort of camo paint and the German KM T13-class torpedoboat might also get some, although it’s unclear to me if the Kreigsmarine ever actually did anything other than plain grey on most of their torpedoboats and destroyers.
On the non-naval side, I’ve got little group of Reaper fantasy figures. An armed ghast/ghost/haunt, a pack rat, and a pair of treasure markers. Not much to see here yet, but for those of you not into ships, here you go!
Happy Holidays, everyone, and hope the tail end of 2022 and the start of 2023 are good to you and yours.
Antics, a UK model/toy shop, carry a small range of resin 3d printed 1/1200 WW2 ships under the John’s Model Shipyard name. There are a lot of pre-painted very expensive 1/1200 or 1/1250 model ships out there (Antic stock a lot, just for starters!), a couple of ranges of pewter kits, but big gaps in the market for kits for this scale.
The JMS line goes all the way up to aircraft carriers, battleships, and battlecruisers, wildly beyond ships suitable for typical coastal forces engagements as we’ve been doing here (although Italian MAS boats did engage RN cruisers in the Med, and the Channel Dash saw RN MTBs attempt attacks on Scharnhorst and company…), but there are destroyers for multiple navies and some very useful freighters, tankers, and such.
Unfortunately the Antic’s site search function doesn’t seem to have a way to bring up all the JMS products all at once – even searching for “model shipyard” only gets you a few of them, so you have to pick through each WW2 ship collection.
Shipping cost was reasonable and took about two weeks from the UK to Western Canada, which is pretty typical. UK companies are good at mail order and the Royal Mail->Canada Post trans-Atlantic pipeline is still pretty efficient!
Everything arrived nicely packaged, with each ship in a small custom-cut cardboard box/wrapper, all of those bundled in bubble wrap inside another cardboard box. Each hull was taped to one side of their box with a bit of double-sided tape on the hull bottom and there was no damage in shipping, despite some of the 3d printed resin details like masts, vents, and lifeboat davits being very, very tiny indeed.
The four U-boats came in a little hard plastic case, held down by another bit of double-sided tape.
These are very nice crisp 3d resin prints, with details like gun barrels, lifeboat davits, and vent stacks printed incredibly fine – much finer than you could get with pewter or resin casting.
Of the four merchants, only the Fort/Lake freighter is armed, with a gun tub on a raised platform on the bow and another on the roof of the stern deckhouse. I’ve never been terribly strict about WYSIWYG on miniatures but someone on Shapeways does do 1/1200 gun tubs if you wanted to arm up some of these ships…
The liner Athenia is a fun addition to the fleet – not likely to be on the table much compared to the freighters and warships but there’s basically zero other tabletop quality passenger liners out there that I’ve found.
In 1/1200 scale 1 real world inch is 100 scale feet (1200 inches), which is a nice easy conversion to remember. Accordingly, a 400ft long ship would be 4″ long. Athenia comes out to about 5.25″ long, Ehrenfels slightly shorter at almost exactly 5″, the T2 tanker just under that, the Lake/Fort freighter at about 4.25″, the RN O/P-class destroyer at just under 3.5″, and finally the four Type VII U-boote at around 2.25″. Far as I can tell these are all correctly scaled, or close enough for jazz!
In theory all of the ships need additional topmasts, cargo booms, and such added. If I do add them, I’ll use plastic broom bristle as that should be far more gamer-friendly (and more resilient to damage!) than plastic rod or fine stiff wire. I might well leave them with just the 3d printed mast they came with, to be honest. They’re gaming models, not static showpieces.
I threw the U-boats into the order just for the heck of it, but they’re neat little models. You get four slightly different versions of the Type VII Uboote, with original conning tower, with No. II style conning tower, with No. IV style conning tower, and “Flak” with the extra AA gun platform. The 3d printed periscopes are incredibly fine and even if I don’t add cargo booms and such to the ships, I might well swap out the periscopes with broom bristle or superfine brass wire as being more resilient than the 3d printed resin will be!
The prices were comparable to or cheaper than pewter models of similar size (the pewter Liberty freighter from Last Square, for example) and less expensive than similarly detailed 3d prints from Shapeways. As mentioned above about the Athenia, JMS cover some vessels not commonly found elsewhere, so I was happy with these and might well order some more in the future. There’s a decent variety of Royal Navy WW2 vessels in the John’s Model Shipyards line (search here for ‘kit’ or ‘John’), a few German WW2, another few Japanese (mostly cruisers or battlecruisers for the two Axis navies), and a Liberty freighter to round things out. Nothing yet for the French, Italians, or (the biggest surprise) the Americans, but hopefully the range keeps expanding in the future. Personally I’d love to see more destroyers, corvettes, frigates, and similar, as those ships worked alongside coastal forces boats fairly regularly and that’s going to stay my main focus. Whoever is doing the 3d design work at JMS seems to know their stuff, know the limits of the 3d printer they’re using, and get a really nice level of detail on their ships!
To round out the current run of small scale scenery for coastal naval games I decided on a trio of islands, one of them with a lighthouse.
As with the rest of these small scale naval terrain pieces the base is .040/1mm styrene plastic card, bought in bulk from my local plastic supplier, with the edges shaped and sanded.
The basic structure was more quarter inch cork board, in larger pieces than I used for the rocks. I broke pieces of cork by hand and shaped the edges mostly with my fingernails.
The beaches are premixed patching plaster, applied with a wet sculpting tool and mostly smoothed with a wet fingertip. The concrete jetty on the mid-sized island is a little sliver of styrene plastic square rod.
The paint is my usual ocean scenery set – a blue-green for the water, Camel and Parchment for dark and light sand, and the rocks were drybrushed up from black with a dark grey, a pale grey, and finally pure white. The flattish areas of the islands that will eventually be flocked green were painted brown.
For drybrushing, incidentally, I highly recommend heading to your local dollar store/pound shop/etc and getting a set of cheap makeup brushes. They’re fantastic for drybrushing and available in a variety of sizes.
The water got the usual treatment, several coats of gloss varnish with a minimum of 24hrs drying time between each coat, and then acrylic gloss gel for waves and water texture, as detailed in the previous articles in this series. After all the water stuff was thoroughly dry I attached the lighthouse with superglue and did a quick flocking job with two or three different flock mixes.
These took a bit longer than I’d planned, due mostly to drying times of all the paint, water effects, and such, but they came out great and I look forward to them being a damned nuisance during 1/1200 naval games for many years to come!
After doing a pair of new sandbanks, I wanted to do something slightly different but still on the theme of “stuff to crash boats and ships into” and decided on a trio of rocky reef pieces.
As with the sandbars I started with a chunk of .040/1mm plastic sheet, cut it up into three roughly triangular pieces, and carved and sanded the edges down so they met the table smoothly. Then I took some scrap quarter inch cork board, the stuff cheap bulletin boards are made of, and broke it up into crumbs and small pieces for rocks.
It helps to remember that 1″ = 100 feet in 1/1200 scale, or 1mm = 4 feet in scale – so a rock big enough to seriously inconvenience a ship can still be just a few millimeters high! I wanted rocks and islets, not proper islands (those are coming!) so I kept most of the cork bits small, breaking it up with my fingernails as needed.
The bases got my usual blue-green ocean colour while the cork rocks got a black basecoat, and then successive drybrushes of grey-brown, pale grey, and finally just a bit of pure white.
As with the sandbars, I did two coats of gloss varnish over the water parts and then a thick layer of gloss gel for waves, pushed around with a really old brush.
These were almost as quick to create as the sandbars, you use literally crumbs of cork for the rocks so one small piece of cork will go a long, long way, and they look good. I’m looking forward to seeing them on the table menacing players who forget that no matter how dangerous the enemy is, the sea is even more deadly and far, far more unforgiving!
As mentioned in the last post, I recently made a pair of new sandbars to give our boats and ships more stuff to run into during our games. I’ve done some before but this time I actually managed to get photos all the way through the process. So here’s my simple way of making sandbars or sand banks for naval gaming.
You will need:
card or plastic card. I’ve used 1mm/.040 sheet styrene/plastic card, which I buy in bulk 2’x3′ sheets from our local industrial plastic shop.
paint in your preferred sea colour. Mine is a blue-green.
a darker and lighter shade of sand for the actual sandbanks. I use Camel for the darker and Parchment for the lighter. If you wanted mudbanks instead of sand, you might want browner shades instead of tan colours.
(optional, see text) acrylic glaze medium. Gets a better gradient between sand and water than you’d otherwise get.
acrylic gloss varnish, for the wet look.
(optional) acrylic gloss gel for waves.
I started by cutting two fairly random shapes out of an offcut of styrene plastic card I had around. Both these sandbars are about 6″ long and 3″ wide at the widest point. Carve the edges slightly irregular and sand them so they taper nicely down to table level. This is mostly why I use styrene plastic card so much, because unlike cardstock you can sand it.
I block out the sandbar shape with the darker sand paint, feathering the outer edges toward the water as I go. While that paint is still wet I laid down and blended in the brighter central paint to show the central, slightly higher, slightly drier parts of the sandbar. This is just quick and dirty wet blending with a wet brush, nothing fancy.
Adding the water colour around the edges, I also made sure to feather that into the sand to keep the edges irregular and natural looking.
After the base colours were dry I came back with the blue-green water colour, mixed 1:1:1 with glaze medium and water and went around the shoreline again to get more graduated colours where the water and sand meet. You can do this with thin washes without needing glaze medium, but the glaze medium gives you much more control and also slows down drying time so you have a bit more time to adjust things.
After this was all dry, it was time for a coat of gloss varnish over the whole thing. A word of warning about gloss varnish: make sure everything you’re putting varnish over is perfectly dry, and that includes the first coat if you’re doing multiple coats. Gloss varnish will crack and craze paint under it that is not yet perfectly dry and you’ll have to redo all your base coats and start from scratch – been there, done that, done the swearing!
After the first coat of gloss was perfectly dry (see warning above!) I did a second coat mostly on the water and darker sand areas and then let that dry.
Finally, to add some waves and water texture I went round the edges of each piece with acrylic gloss gel. This goes on white but dries clear eventually. This stuff shrinks quite a lot so the trick is to build it up higher than you think is reasonable and then let it dry for a day or several. I use a really old paintbrush to shove it around, build up lines of waves, and otherwise manipulate it. In a larger scale than 1/1200 you might want to use clear acrylic caulk or something else to build up waves.
Gloss gel is easy to work with and makes great water textures, but it takes days and days and days to dry. Skip it for now if you need to get your scenery on the table in the next several days and come back to it later!
Two sandbars done and ready to complicate the lives and decision making processes of captains in future small boat games!
Coming soon, rocky reef hazards, small islands, and more shell bursts!