Tag Archives: naval

3d Printed 1/1200 Ships from Antics

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.

I decided to order the following:

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!

Seven ships and four submarines all neatly packaged.

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.

All five ships top down. Clockwise from top right: T2 tanker, O/P-class RN destroyer, MV Ehrenfels, Fort/Lake freighter (with gun tubs at bow and stern), and the liner Athenia.

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.

Lower angle shot, same arrangement as the first photo, MV Ehrenfels in the foreground, O/P RN destroyer and Fort/Lake freighter, Athenia liner, and T2 tanker.

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…

Athenia (behind) and Fort/Lake freighter. Look how fine the lifeboat davits and other bits are, especially on Athenia.

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!

MV Ehrenfels in the foreground, Royal Navy O/P class destroyer, and in the back the T2 tanker, plus a nice look at the bows of Athenia and the Lake/Fort freighter.

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.

The four U-boats. I think they’re original conning tower, No. II style, No. IV style, and “flak” version in order from front to back. Just under 40mm long bow to stern.

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!

Small Scale Islands

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.

I forgot to take an unpainted/unplastered photo, and this one is blurry, but you get the idea. Cork for the island shapes on plastic card bases, then premix plaster for the beaches and to provide a bit of variety on some of the flat areas.

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.

Basecoats in progress – my usual blue-green ocean colour, black on the islands, sandy on the beaches.

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.

Painting all done. The largest island (lower right) is about 4″ x 3.5″, the midsize one (left) is about 3″ x 2.5″ max, and the small one (background) is about 2″ x 2.5″.

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.

First coat of gloss varnish on the water parts. These wound up with three coats of gloss varnish before I was happy with the look, and then the usual treatment with gloss gel for waves and water texture.

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.

All three islands finished, flocked, and ready for the table. Really pleased with the wave patterns in the large bay of the largest island on the left.

The lighthouse on the middle sized island is Brigade Model’s Small Scale Scenics Beachy Head lighthouse. The real thing sits directly in the water, not on an island, but it’s a nice generic looking large lighthouse, regardless!

A bit of a closeup of the large and lighthouse islands. Broken cork makes great rock formations and cliffs.
All three islands from overhead. For scale, that wraith is on a 25m wide base and the 1/1200 RAF Beaufighter is on a 20mm W x 40mm L base.

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!

Rocks vs Boats

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.

Cork rocks glued down to plastic card. I just used ordinary white glue, nothing fancy.

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.

Rocks after painting and drybrushing and a second coat of ocean colour. All ready for water effects!

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.

Gloss varnish down.
Gloss gel down and pushed around to make some lines of breakers and waves around the bases of the rocks.
Finished rocks after the gloss gel has dried for several days, all ready to ruin the cunning plans of 1/1200 scale captains!

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!

Sandbars for Naval Gaming

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.
The paints and mediums I use. Salem Green for ocean, Camel for dark sand, Parchment for paler sand, acrylic gloss varnish and acrylic gloss gel for water effects. Not shown here, acrylic glaze medium for the beach/ocean transition painting.

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.

Sandbars with base colours all done, including wet blending paler sand into the centres of the sandbars where they’re higher and drier.

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.

Thin glaze coat of blue-green water around the edges of the sandbars.

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!

First coat of gloss varnish down.

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.

Second coat of gloss varnish down. Not a lot of difference in these photos, but the second coat looks dramatically glossier and more even in person than the first coat alone.

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 worked in around the edges for waves, applied thick as it will shrink down as it dries.

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!

Once gloss gel finally dries, you get nice breakers and areas of disturbed water.

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!

Back To The Boats

Getting back into the 1/1200 WW2 boats a bit, had a refresher game of Germans attacking a British coastal convoy last week and I’m running a large-ish game in a couple of weeks at a convention over in Vancouver.

Reprinted turning arcs, Evading markers, moon markers (top right) and star shell diameter gauge for Coastal Patrol, all double sided for ease of use.

Naturally the prospect of a public game has me back at creating and upgrading my play aids. I’ve printed new turning circles for Coastal Patrol, tweaked my existing vessel status cards so they fit in plastic 3×4 card protectors, and have some new status tokens underway to make some things easier to track.

Turns out that 3″x4″ card protectors are actually designed for cards under 2.75″ tall, so I had to tweak my Coastal Patrol vessel info cards slightly to fit. Fully reusable status cards at long last!

The older naval markers, vessel cards, and such are all available in older posts here on my blog, and sometime in the next couple weeks I’ll clean up all the new and updated files and make them available here too.

Fire, Explosion, and Wreckage Markers for Tiny Boats

Sometime earlier in the pandemic I ordered a batch of 1/1200 3d printed stuff from Shapeways, who use some sort of resin printing to get incredible detail on their prints. I keep meaning to write up that purchase in a proper review, I took a bunch of photos of everything I bought, but nevermind…

One place I have used a few of the 3d printed bits is in some wreckage markers. I bought a sprue of inflatable liferafts, and the sprue of boats included traditional life boats in several sizes, so I popped a few of those onto 1″ styrene bases as wreckage markers, or possibly as scenario goals – rescue downed aircrew or stranded squadronmates, that sort of thing.

Wreck and rescue markers for naval gaming, and the first two fire/explosion markers behind.

I also did up a batch of fire/explosion markers, also on 1″ bases. These are pretty simple things, made up mostly of hot glue splatted and “sculpted” with the tip of the hot glue gun. Holding the bases upside down and twisting them back and forth as the glue stretched and cooled helped, and for several of them I dunked them into the cool water of my paint rinse pot to help “freeze” the shapes. A few of them have wire centres but the most interesting ones don’t and I won’t bother with that step if I do any more.

Various explosion markers in progress. You can see the wire core in the one second from right, but don’t bother with this step if you do your own like this.

After the glue had cooled and I’d cleaned the thready wisps of glue off that hot glue so often leaves, I glued on a bit of medium flock as extra texture, which works nicely.

All the explosion markers painted, lightly drybrushed, and the first coat of gloss added to the water.

The explosion markers got a black basecoat. I considered trying to paint actual fire on them, but decided to just do a bit of a grey drybrush, mostly on the very tops, and leave them at that.

The boat sticking out of one base, about to be engulfed in an explosion, is one of the Shapeways 3d printed ones, left a generic grey so it could be from any side of the war. I cut the stern few millimeters off that boat to tuck it into the body of the explosion a bit more, then used that boat piece on the fire marker just visible on the far right of the photo above.

The Shapeways stuff makes for nice extra bits, and the explosion markers are super easy to make. These little pieces should make for some interesting extra colour during our next games of messing about in tiny boats.

New Books for the Library

Went on a bit of a book buying spree recently in aid of getting more background material for my WW2 coastal naval gaming; among the classic references in the field are the trilogy of books published in the 1990s by Leonard C. Reynolds, Dog Boats at War, Mediterranean MTBs At War, and Home Waters MTBs & MGBs at War. Except for Dog Boats, they’ve been out of print ever since.

I looked through a few different used book websites and eventually wound up getting all three through different ABE Books sellers, despite my standing desire not to funnel money toward noted sociopath Jeff fuckin’ Bezos.

I also picked up three Osprey books on the same subject, because one of the ABE resellers is also a full-service new book store as well and Ospreys are usually worth it. Those were E-Boat VS MTB, German E-boats 1939-45, and British Motor Torpedo Boat 1939-45.

If you’re looking for reading material on the coastal forces of WW2, I highly recommend the Publications page of Spitfires of the Sea, and the rest of that website while you’re at it. It’s written by Stephen Fisher, an archeologist/historian specializing in 20th C naval matters. He also tweets as @SeaSpitfires and is well worth following there.

Links of Interest, 10 March 2021

A scattering of links for our first Links of Interest of 2021!

More possible sources of small scale scenery are always welcome, and over on Wargaming3d Wozname has started a new line of 3d printable STL files for 1/1200 scenery, starting with a few entire islands and some castles. Really neat to see people doing entire pieces in these tiny scales that would be basically impossible to do in any larger scale!

On the small scale naval gaming theme, the Society of Twentieth Century Wargamers has a couple of articles on small boat actions in the Mediterranean in WW2, with one article on mostly focusing on British vs Axis and the second spotlighting American PT boats. They’re framed around Cruel Seas but trivially easy to adapt to other rule sets.

Reaper Minis hosted a Virtual Reaper Con last weekend, and while I’d initially signed up for four classes on various painting topics, the world conspired to only allow me to attend one class, a fantastic discussion of “Additives, Mediums, and Texture Pastes – Oh My!” by Rhonda “Wren” Bender, talking about matt and gloss mediums, flow aids, drying extenders, glaze medium, texture pastes, and various other things as they apply to miniature painting. The class handout is available at the link above, the session was recorded and will eventually show up on Reaper’s YouTube channel, and Rhonda has a great website of her own over at Bird With A Brush that’s well worth checking out.

Incidentally, the anchor chain stock photo being used as a header for these Links of Interest posts is by CastleLight from Pixabay.

Cold Waters Ocean Mat Review

For my naval gaming I knew I needed a proper mat eventually; I thought about doing up a sheet of grey felt with spraypaint and such, but then I found the Cold Waters mat from Cigar Box Battles and figured it was worth the investment.

A lot of mats are designed for Mediterranean or tropical games (pirates!) or the Pacific and are way too blue or blue/green for the North Sea or English Channel where all of our WW2 small boat stuff has taken place so far. The Cold Waters mat is described as “the perfect mat to use with your North Sea WW1 Jutland fleets” and the colour looked good, so I decided to order it.

I ordered the mat February 1st and it showed up on the 20th from wherever it is in the US that Cigar Box Battles are based. I didn’t get a shipping notification or tracking number, oddly, which I was expecting given the cost of the thing. No matter, it made it, and a three week turnaround is good in normal circumstances, nevermind our current COVID-FUBAR’d postal mess!

A portion of the mat spread over one end of my dining room table. You can see the colour variation and nicely consistent whitecaps really well here. Click for larger.

Honestly the mat looks even better in person than in the photos on the Cigar Box website. The colour varies randomly across the mat from quite a dark blue to a lighter grey-blue, with whitecaps across it in the fairly consistent pattern you’d expect. There’s no obvious repeats of the pattern created by lazy graphic design, which is definitely not the case with some of the other sea mats out there.

Closeup with a couple of my 1/1200 WW2 coastal boats and one of my coast segments. It looks bluer in closeups. Click for larger.

The mat is a lightweight fleece blanket material and only printed on one side, which is fine. The fabric has a bit of a shine to it, again just fine on a seascape, and just a bit of fleece fuzz texture. It lays nicely flat, no curling at the corners or edges, and the creases you can see in the photos are about the largest on the whole thing right now. I’ll iron it eventually, and then store it either rolled around something or crumpled up loosely so it doesn’t get long straight creases in it again.

I think it’ll stand up to years of gaming use, and according to Cigar Box it’s washable in case someone does spill on it once in-person gaming is a thing again.

Middle distance shot. I’ll probably iron it to get the storage and transport creases out, then store it either crumpled up or rolled around something to avoid future creases. Click for larger.

The mat has fairly flat seams along each edge; if you were laying several out overlapping the ridge along the edges wouldn’t be too disruptive even with small ship models. It’s advertised as “4 x 6 Plus” which I think means it’s four to six inches bigger than that in each direction; I’ve not actually bothered to measure yet.

Absolutely a good value and solid looking product, with good shipping times. I’m not sure when I’ll next need a mat for something else, but Cigar Box will be on the shortlist if and when I do!

Links of Interest, 17 August 2020

Nice little sculpting tutorial on doing feathers in greenstuff from JuanHidalgo Miniatures. I really like short, approachable tutorials like this, it’s something specific to concentrate on if (like me) you’re not much good with sculpting!

Speaking of YouTube, Dr Alexander Clarke has an interesting channel with WW2 and interwar naval stuff, mostly British. Similarly, Drachinifel does mostly WW2 naval history videos as well, more American navy but some others.

Boom & Zoom Graphics have a set of really approachable, humourous, but (far as I can tell) complete introductions to WW2 aircraft markings, painting, and camo, with entries for each of the major combatants. Superb reference for WW2 air if that’s largely a new field to you as it is to me!