Tying Up Loose Ends

I had started painting Battlefront miniatures by working on a German Grenadier platoon, of which I have completed a few bases (see earlier posts). Midway through I changed tack and decided to paint a fresh batch of figures in a Panzergrenadier Platoon. I had decided to do this because my painting style was in a state of flux and I didn’t want the Grenadiers to look too varied and mismatched. After completing a few more painting projects I had decided that my style had settled enough to go about finishing what I had started.

I still remembered what theme that I was going for with the original Grenadier platoon, however I modified it somewhat. I was going for a verge of the forest/woods feel, like the platoon was emerging out into some open terrain. I decided to tone down the amount of woodland debris and scenery that I had originally envisioned in the bases. I didn’t want too much clutter and activity to overwhelm the eye. I want to strike a good balance in a scene to compliment the figures that are portrayed within it.

For this base I played around with some wood effects while trying to not be too excessive in the use of scenery. The rotten log is simply cut from a dowel of balsa wood and carved for texture. I have found that there are so many wonderful scenery products that I want to use them all on every base. As you can see I have restrained myself from using the flowers for easy colour and contrast (I think that they look so good). However I have managed to sneak some handmade mushrooms in there to stay true to the bases that I have previously painted in this platoon. I was also playing around with making bushes and how to make them look complex rather than just a blob of sponge. Not entirely happy with it, but I want to continue to experiment with how to achieve the right effect.

I am very happy with the way the rest of this Grenadier platoon turned out and I’ll be posting the rest in the weeks to come. I hope that you enjoy viewing; feel free to comment and provide feedback.

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The Lay of the Land

Ever since I started painting flames of war figures I have always wanted to create terrain for the figures to fight over. I have since been following and reading many blogs and articles that detail how to create terrain, which have giving me many great ideas. However it wasn’t until I stumbled upon a certain website, The Terrain Studio, that my interest in terrain changed from just a curiosity to something that I had to pursue. This gentleman’s (Shawn Morris) work is outstanding I have been following all of his projects since his early forays in this field. He is meticulous, not only does he demonstrate his fantastic terrain, but he also goes into detail about how it is made, along with his design ideas. In addition to his blog he makes videos which he posts on YouTube, these are easily found through a search for “Terrain Studio”. He has been an inspiration for me to undertake a large terrain project; a semi-modular table top battlefield.

So I begun by visualising the sort the battlefield that I wanted to represent as well as what elements would key to the design. The ideas that I had were based around visual impact, setting, and theatre. In the end I decided that I wanted to represent the outskirts of a town on the Eastern front. This I chose because of the forces that I am modelling as well as it would enable me to model elements of both urban and rural environments. The other factor was that I really like the visual impacts of buildings. These adds a three-dimensional aspect to the battlefield strategically as well as visually. With the concept being decided, I went about researching the look that I wanted to create, while maintaining a level of authenticity.

Having looked through numerous reference books containing wartime photos I was quite surprised to find how modern the look of the buildings and locations on the Eastern front during WWII was. This being quite contrary to my naive conceptualisation that most of the buildings were straw ceiling huts and log cabins serviced by muddy roads. I don’t know where I got this view of the “Russian” landscape from but it struck me at how incorrect my assumptions were. I’m not at all suggesting that there weren’t villages or locations that match this description but I was amazed at the level of infrastructure that there was. To be sure I acquired more reference books which only confirmed what I had found. So putting my ignorance aside I decided to include more of these modern elements into the project. These included cobblestone roads, telegraph and power poles, and more appropriate looking buildings.

My personal preference, for the way I model, is to have everything that I need before I even start work. I am a completist to the point of obsession. I must have all of the right tools and the right materials to work with (This explains why I have cupboards full of miniatures that covers almost the entire catalogue of every German force that I could ever wish to field). If I don’t it will just nag at me in the back of my head “this would be X times easier if I had Y tool and I didn’t make do with using the Z tool”. This led me to scour the web for tools, buildings and scenery that would fit the look that I wanted to create. This task being complete I started to work in a sort of reverse order. How would I go about storing and safely transporting the battlefield after I had finished? I already knew the dimensions of the ‘cells’ that I was going to use and so I devised a simple solution utilising custom cut foam which I was able to arrange for a local company to make (which raised a few eyebrows!). Once this problem was solved, I went and had the MDF cells cut to size. Finally I arranged for a friend, with a good grasp on artistic design, to assist in laying out all of the pieces and drawing the arrangement onto the MDF cells. And so here is the initial design concept:

This is by no means how the final battlefield is going to be laid out, but it is definitely a fairly good representation. It’s missing lots of little elements and features that I am going to place for aesthetics, like hedges and some stone walls. There are a few elements that I have taken some liberties with. The church is most certainly not Eastern European in nature, however it looks so fantastic that I can’t pass up the opportunity to use it. My cover story for it being here is that this location is set near the border of Latvia and Lithuania and that Teutonic knights had brought along with them their Catholic influence to this settlement. Another potential issue is with the railroad being so curved, this may get straightened out in the final plan but I think that the curves look great and add interest. Another item which may change the final layout is I recently discovered that a company sells a tile system that is lighter and better designed for projects like these, rather than my crude MDF cells. On the positive side this gives me another opportunity to go over the design and add or remove features. I have my eye on a certain building being released early next year.

This is a major and ongoing project as my modelling time is limited, however I look forward to seeing this grow and take shape. I hope to share some progress with you in the near future. Let me know what you think of the design and what I should adjust.

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ANZAC Day

“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them”.
Lest we forget
I would like to pay homage to those whose sacrifices will never be forgotten.
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Panzer Vor!

I completed this Panzer IVH platoon a while back. I used an assembly guide that I had found online by Tomwise. It’s an excellent guide and it provides a step by step on assembling the Schurtzen as well as the best methods to use when painting the tanks. For the painting I used a lot of the techniques detailed in a sticky thread on the Battlefront galleries created by Zoolander. It was also an excellent opportunity to experiment with a lot of the weathering techniques that I had read about and seen used.

For the mud effect I used a technique, borrowed from larger scale modellers, whereby a large paint brush is laden with paint mixture and the air flow from the airbrush is used to blow the paint onto the model. This attempts to replicate a speckled mud effect. To give the mud some texture I used paint mixed with plaster and “blew” it onto the Schurtzen in layers.

Overall I’m very happy with the way that these have turned out. I was also able to learn a great deal from my experiences which I hope to be able to apply successfully in the future. For the paint scheme I mostly used Vallejo paints, however I can not say enough good things about using Tamiya paints in an airbrush. They have a fantastic consistency and just flow very easily. The primary colours used are: Vallejo Middlestone for the dunkelgelb, Tamiya Red Brown and Tamiya Olive Green for the camouflage pattern.

This platoon continues my 7th Panzer Division theme which I look to expand upon in the near future. I hope that you enjoyed looking and feel free to provide feedback or ask questions.

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Tutorial – Stripping Paint from Resin

This tutorial is not going to be an in-depth guide into all the of the possible products and techniques used to strip paint from resin. Rather, I’m going to approach this tutorial through detailing my experiences on how I got the job done.

Background

A while back I had painted a Panzer IV D using the Battlefront German Armour Army Spray. Through inexperience I sprayed on the paint too thick; enough to ‘clog up’ the detail on the model. At the time I didn’t realise this had occurred and so I continued to work with it, oblivious to this fact. Later, I used this model as a test piece for applying camouflage patterns using an airbrush. I wasn’t happy with the results and so I decided to strip the paint away and start over. So after reading on the Internet about some disaster stories with using paint strippers that melted the resin, I began experimenting into how to strip the paint without affecting the resin.

Experimentation

Firstly I read about using a product called “Simple Green”. After looking on their product homepage I found that there were multiple products and that the “Simple Green” referred to the manufacturer. After more research I still couldn’t pinpoint which item of the “Simple Green” product line that everyone was referencing. So I grabbed the most readily available Simple Green product which happened to be the Glass Cleaner. I figured, at the time, that even if this didn’t work I still could use the product around the house. I filled up a plastic take away container and put the Panzer IVD, minus the metal component, in solution. I ensured that all surfaces were submerged and closed the lid. I then left it in for around three days, pulled it out and gave it a scrub with a toothbrush, no good.

So I figured that the Simple Green Glass Cleaner wasn’t what everyone was using and instead I repeated the process with the Simple Green All Purpose Cleaner. I read that after a day people were able to take the painted resin out and the paint would be soft and easily scrubbed off. Unfortunately this did not occur for me. I put it back in and left it soak for a week and the paint was still as hard as the day it was sprayed on. This confounded me somewhat as everywhere I had read people were having a lot of success with this. And so I let it soak for three weeks. Much to my chagrin when I removed the Panzer nothing had changed. After this long I had expected the paint to have melted away!

After more research into paint stripping techniques I read about using Brake Fluid and so I thought I would give it a shot. I went to the local automotive shop and found that yet again I had another product dilemma. Car brake fluid is sold in DOT 3, DOT 4, and DOT 5 forms. Once again this point was not referenced in the online paint stripping guides. At the time, being completely ignorant of what these measures were referencing I selected the middle option and purchased a DOT 4 Brake Fluid. For safety and cleanliness concerns I used a glass jar to hold the brake fluid and then put the Panzer in to soak. Having recently experienced less than promising results I left it in the brake fluid for over a week. When I pulled it out yet again I was disappointed to find that, after washing the pieces in water, the paint simply didn’t scrub off with a toothbrush. However I noticed that something was different about the paint on the tank. It had actually lifted off the underlying resin but had still maintained its integrity. So I got a scalpel and started to pick away at the paint. To my delight I found it very easy to lift off entire clumps of paint from the resin without scratching or damaging the detail. In under five minutes I had a cleanly stripped tank that looked like it had never been painted. The paint didn’t even get stuck in the recesses and detail, it lifted off cleanly.

For the painted metal component I placed them in a glass “jam” jar half full of an industrial paint stripper that comes in a gel form. Before I go on I must stress that you use gloves; not latex gloves but leather/tough garden type gloves when handling this product. It will melt latex and if it hits your skin it will give you chemical burns. If it does touch your skin wash it off ASAP, don’t mess about with it. The paint stripper worked really quickly, I gave the glass jar a shake and saw the paint literally melt off. I left it for an hour and then gave it another shake and it was done. I got the pieces out using running water to wash the paint stripping gel away and then put the pieces in some water to soak for an hour. Once this was done I cleaned them with washing up detergent and I had some clean and shiny metal components, ready to assembled and painted again.

Afterthoughts

I suspect that the reason that I had such difficulty in removing the paint was two-fold. Firstly I was using the spray can version of the paint. I won’t use this ever again as I now use an airbrush of which I am getting some really nice results with. I suspect that the paint that comes from the spray is of a thicker consistency and a different make-up from the normal acrylic paint that is used in the paint pots. Secondly, it was the fact that I had sprayed the paint on so thick which completely negated any effect that the Simple Green might have had.

For those that are curious the DOT measure for brake fluid is the Department Of Transportation rating for the fluid. It measures the boiling point ranges of the brake fluid when both dry and wet (contaminated with water). The higher the DOT rating the higher the temperature at which the brake fluid is rated to boil. In order to achieve these ratings manufacturers will use different compounds in the fluid: DOT 3 are based on Glycol and Glycol Esters, DOT 4 contains the same but are combined with Borate Esters, DOT 5 utilises Borate Esters. You can use the DOT 3 Brake Fluid because it’s the Glycol Esters that are acting as the solvent to strip the paint. I recommend doing so as it is cheaper than DOT 4 brake fluids.

Conclusion

If you’re having trouble with standard techniques for stripping paint from resin go soak it in DOT 3 Brake Fluid. For myself, I’m simply going to cut out the middle man and go straight to using the Brake Fluid technique.

I hope that this was helpful and that it saves you some time in the future.

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Little Green Army Men

Whenever I have some free time I scour the web reading other people’s hobby blogs. A lot of times they contain wonderfully painted miniatures and also some hidden gems in the form of tutorials. This link contains one such gem, it’s a tutorial on green stuff and the use of sculpting putty in general.

It’s really excellent and it goes into a lot of detail about tips and techniques to follow when using this material. I have been doing lots of modelling of late and I can confirm that it all works as suggested. The tip about the lubricating your sculpting tools with a chap stick is an absolute must to getting a really smooth and polished finish. Even though it demonstrates work at a larger scale it can most certainly be incorporated into the Flames of War space. I’ve been using it to recreate detail on figures as well as create new detail for vehicles.

The site also contains some other useful tutorials which are well worth a read. For future reference I have added the main site to my blog roll as well as here: Rust and the City. Just follow the link and then click on the tutorials tab, the author has produced some fantastic work.

Just a quick update on what I have been doing, in my spare time I have been resculpting details onto figures and vehicles as well as expanding my modelling horizons. I have been experimenting in making latex molds, playing with resin, and even utilising fiber glass to create master molds. Not really ground breaking stuff but, in my opinion, the best kind of research is through experience. I’m playing around with these materials as I have a future project that will involve replicating terrain features that I create (yes I said terrain, a hint at a very large project that has been over a year in the planning). Also it never hurts to expand your knowledge in all facets of your chosen hobby, another weapon to add to the modelling arsenal.

If you like the info let Cameron know that I sent you by leaving him a comment and telling him what you think.

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CANCON 2013

Once again I attended CANCON and once again I was blown away by the amount of games being played and the quality of everyone’s work. I learnt my lesson from last time and brought a towel and wore light clothing as it was an oven at the venue.

I went armed with my trusty camera, tripod and lovely assistant. I’ve feel that my photography skills have improved greatly since last time. Which is handy because there was lots of eye candy to take shots of. I won’t go on much more other than to say thank you to everyone who let me take photos of their games and minis. And of course thanks go out to my aide who was able to take some of the load and to scout out potential shots.

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