Mine all Mine

For some time now I’ve thought that a mining community would make a good place for a medieval skirmish game. Control of resources is a vital part of any warlord’s secure hold and a mine would make a particularly valuable resource.

Carts on tracks going into hillsides is a bit Hollywood. In reality, a lot of early mines (and mines even today) are really about digging holes straight down into the ground and then lowering yourself down them somehow, whether by rope and winch, or electric lifts. It all adds up to the same.

I decided that I’d make several mineheads with different contraptions to lower miners and raise the ore. They are, of course, variations on a theme.

The main winch was made from dowelling.

Thick linen thread was used for the ropes to lash it all together. Brass rod was used to make hooks and metal work (actually, the winch handle was made from a thin nail), and the bucket was a resin item out of the spares box.

I had to make a decision about the basing of the winch. In reality this would be pegged to the ground. But I wanted to give an impression of depth, that the shaft was going somewhere. So I decided to mount them on a raised area that I would then texture. This would give some suggestion of depth and I could argue the mound was a spoil heap. This was made from a half-inch donut of expanded polystyrene.

The winch was then glued on to this and once this had all dried the styrene was then shaped. And when that was done it was all covered with some filler.

I made up a special rubble scatter mix from sand and broken up pieces of dried filler. I then slapped PVA glue generously to the mound and poured the rubble scatter over it, pressing it down firmly before pouring off the excess.

Then on to painting. It was always going to be a drab model – brown on brown. But once painted I thought I’d put a bit of static grass on it, especially around the edges, so that the piece blends in with the table.

And finally something to set the scene.

These mineheads were very simple to make and took surprisingly little time.

This mining colony will make a good, and different, setting for a raid scenario. Although these pieces were made to a medieval style, they are pretty universal well into the early modern period. Only with the industrial revolution did things change. They were actually made for an upcoming game of Dragon Rampant, so if you fancy having a go at some ransacking and looting then come along to the club and have a go.

Medieval Metropolis

Open Day update from Stephen:

For my Open Day game I am going to need a lot of buildings because the game is set in a medieval town. Fortunately, I already have plenty, but a few more wouldn’t do any harm because I want it to be crammed to give the idea of an enclosed town with narrow streets..

So this post is about how I go about making buildings.

To be honest, I don’t start with a clear plan and impression of what it’s going to look like. I know how big I will want it and I know what size footprint it must have (after all, I’ve got to store it) but I don’t start the building process with some end image in mind. I think that’s how it should be for a medieval building – make it up as you go. That way you stand more chance of recreating that higgledy-piggledy medieval look.

For this building I did know I wanted it to be made of stone with a tile roof. So I got some Wills Scenic embossed styrene sheets and made some boxes. I decided I wanted some different elevations as well. So one tall box and one not so tall box.

The windows were previous castings I had made. I had enough spare so I didn’t have to cast any more. You can check a previous article about how I make windows for buildings.

You will notice I decided to have a second floor doorway. This means I can add a wooden stairway and platform so there will be a different surface and texture which also adds to the medieval look. Likewise I decided to include a wattle and daub lean to – again, this will provide another texture. The wooden beams on the roof ends and lean to are simply card strips. Then the area in between the beams is given a coating of PVA glue and sand is sprinkled on.

At this point it gets left over night for everything to dry. Where the styrene cladding meets on the corners there are often gaps. This is remedied with a bead of milliput. Since that could obscure some of the stone pattern I then go back with a cocktail stick to scribe it back in and take it to the edges to make the stone work look continuous. Now to tile the roof – I make tiles from heavy paper/card. The stuff used by water-colourists is good because it is textured. I cut strips of card then snip it almost to the edge to make the tiles rather than cut individual tiles. You then stick the tiles on in strips, starting at the bottom, and making sure they overlap. You can cut out the odd individual tile and stick it on a bit wonky to make it look like a slipped tile. When the glue has dried you just trim the edges.

Once construction is complete I give the model a spray of a single flat colour. This helps tie it all together and you can see if anything is needed. What I forgot to do on this model is add a chimney! I usually add the chimney before the tiles but on this occasion I had to add the chimney afterwards. The pot is made from the end of an old felt tip pen.

Whilst that was all drying I made the stairs. Nothing special about this, just out with the balsa. Originally I was going to keep the area under the stairs open and put a barrel or log pile under it. But it didn’t look right and so I decided to enclose the stairs in the final model. Again, I think this suits this particular building better.

With construction complete it’s time to slap some paint on it. I’m not a fan of stark black/grey for stone. It just looks wrong. Very few stones are actually grey. Limestone was a popular building material in the middle ages and limestone is not grey. I kept the grey undercoat and then added a dark brown wash (I actually used GW Agrax Earthshade). When that had dried I gave it a heavy dry brush with khaki. I then gave it three of four lighter dry brushes using a mix of khaki, light grey, and finally a barely off white. The tiles were done using a terracotta/rust colour. The wooden stairs and gantry were given a basic coat of khaki and then washed with the Agrax Earthshade. It is then dry brushed with khaki and succeeding dry brushed coats have a bit of grey (but not as much as the stone work) added.

Weathering is done using a dark green (I used Tamiya XF5). Pay attention to the base, where it could be mold and damp rising, and to areas that could be sheltered and stay wet (under the eaves, in crevices, etc). I then also gave it some more weathering and shading using the Agrax Earthshade just to reinforce corners. And that’s about it, really, apart from basing using a mix of various model railway ballasts and a bit of static grass.

What Have The Romans Ever Done For Us?

At the next meeting we are having a game of Sword & Spear. We’ve played it couple of times and really enjoy the game. What’s so good is that both sides are involved in the game at all times, so you don’t have to just sit back and take a good kicking without being able to do anything about it.

It’s going to be a 15mm game with Romans against Sarmatians. So ahead of the game I’ve been building some Roman buildings – a camp, a villa, and a couple of houses. All to help create that Roman feel to the games table.

All buildings are scratchbuilt to 15mm scale/height/however-you-want-to-think-about-it. Made from a variety of bits and pieces – cocktail sticks, milliput, balsa, card, foamboard, and some filler.
Then just a matter of slapping some paint on. I decided to give them a bit of external colour. We know the Romans painted the inside of their buildings and I decided to elaborate on that and give the outside some decoration as well. I’m pretty sure they would have done as well.

If you fancy giving Sword & Spear a go then pop along and you’d be more than welcome to join in – whether you see yourself as a mounted barbarian from the Black Sea, or a Provost from the hills of Rome!

Making Windows (and other bits) for Buildings

An enjoyable part of miniatures wargaming for me is the modelling and creative aspects. I can’t sculpt for the life of me, so I have to buy my figures, but I’m lucky enough to be a fairly reasonable modeller and so I always scratchbuild terrain for my games.

This is just a short piece about how I go about making windows for my models. You can, of course, use this technique to make many other bits but since some buildings require a good many windows then it can be time-consuming and laborious to make individual windows over and over again.

In brief, what I do is make a single window, cast it, and then mould all the windows I need for the project.

And here’s how I do it.

The first step is to make the master. I use plasticard and styrene rod/strue. Take some time, because this is the one you’re going to be using to cast so any imperfections in this one will mean all the windows will be imperfect. Since you only have to do this once it pays to spend a bit of time.

I make the window on a piece of thin (1mm?) styrene. I then cut this out, around the frame, and then sand all edges and joints (using a bit of filler if you need to). When that’s done you then stick it to another piece of thick styrene. This is so the mould will be indented and gives a bit of slop around the edges and also something to get hold of.

Then on to the moulding. I use a product called Oyumaru modelling compound. Google it or have a look on Amazon (that’s where I got it). It’s quite cheap. Put this in a cup of boiling hot water for 10 minutes and it goes all sticky and tacky, like soft toffee.

You then take this and squeeze it around the master making sure you get it in all the nooks and crannies. Then pop it into the fridge for 10 minutes, the mould hardens (it’s still fairly pliable – like a rubber/eraser) and you can start casting!

So, what to use for casting? You could use plaster. But that would be far too brittle for a subject such as this. Plaster also chips quite easily. What I use is epoxy resin. You can use Araldite if you want, but that’s the expensive way. I use a similar budget brand (Wilkos or Wickes is what I go for) 5 minute epoxy.

Yes, gram for gram, there are even cheaper options. If you think you will need a gallon of resin then I am sure that would work out cheaper (gram for gram). But what I want is roughly a dozen or so castings and for £3 I can get that out of a pack of Wilkos rapid set epoxy. Just £3. You try buying that many lead castings for that price. You may be able to use car body filler in it. I don’t know, I don’t have any car body filler so if anyone does give it a go then please do let me know how it went.

It’s a good idea to colour the epoxy. I use a tiny (and I really do mean a tiny) blob of acrylic paint. It’s surprising how far a little goes. Colouring the resin is better because it shows any imperfections better than a clear casting. I also use a cocktail stick to push the resin into the corners and burst air bubbles.

It may be 5 minute epoxy but you are still using it thicker than intended. So, for something like a window, I’ll leave it for 30-60 minutes (depending on ambient temperature) before taking it out. Even then you will find the casting is still flexible. That’s OK. Lay it flat and by the morning it will be fully set.

Another note of caution. I have used it to cast some very thick things before and if you do it can generate a lot of heat! Be aware. For something like a window and door that’s not going to happen.

And that’s that – all done. If you can make multiple moulds then you can form a production line and in no time you’ll have all the windows you’ll need.

I tend to use this method if I have to make repeated items, especially if making them is going to tricky or onerous. The good thing is that you always have the master so you can make new castings for future projects. Here’s some of the windows and spare castings I have from previous projects.

The Oyumaru modelling compound is re-usable. So if the mould does get a bit worn, or if you you want to make a different mould, then just put it in a mug of hot water, let it soften and recast it. That simple. From a pack of 5 minute epoxy I can get 20-25 castings depending on the size.

– Stephen Tucker