Sunday, 30 July 2017

Scratch Built 'Jungle Hut' - Part 2

Time to think about the roof and this will be a little tricky as I will have to come up with a simple method for modeling a grass or thatched roof. Now, there is numerous way you can model 'thatch' (or other grass-made roofs), including actually using fibers to lay down a mock-thatch, but I really want something 'war game safe' (that can take a lot of handling) and that is quick to apply.

Quick addition of a couple of rectangles of styrene card to get an idea of some
of the dimensions of my hut's roof.
I considered several different ways of modeling 'thatch' and also had several suggestions when I asked for some advice on some of the hobby groups I subscribe to. Fake teddy bear fur was one idea and gardening raffia was another but neither really seemed right and also they sounded a little too fiddly. Still, I decided to try out the raffia as it was easily available in a local store...

A little too 'Tiki Bar' for my liking!
It turns out that gluing strips of raffia with PVA is a horrible messy process and I don't really think it was worth the bother. It doesn't look 'scale' for 15mm and takes a while to do. The above photo makes it look a little better than it actually does in reality.

And sooooo...After looking at several interesting YouTube tutorials on the various way that you can model thatch, I am plumping for the following technique...

First question (if you are a Brit) may be 'what the heck is caulk'? Now, caulk does exist - much to my surprise - as a recognised British term, I just haven't heard it before (but plumbers and DIY enthusiasts will have). In fact - ramble alert - it is a historically old term which goes back to wooden ship building I believe...Anyway...

These days it is more normally known as an acrylic sealant and can be picked up really cheaply at Wilkos or other hardware stores (the one pictured on the left is just £1, but you will also need to buy one of those metal glue-pushing gun thingies if you don't have one).

Note: I've been told - on the Terrain Tutor's FB Group - NOT to confuse this product with silicone sealant. Acrylic sealant is easy to paint over, while silicone isn't.

So, before I squirt any caulk in anger, I must make my roof's basic framework. A few bits of plasticard should suffice, as I want a reasonably thin base, but I think that thin card might warp or deform with 'wet' caulk smushed all over it.

The good thing about a very simple base like this is that if things go wrong with my caulk-ing then I haven't lost much...

Now, the 'trick' - if you can call it that - to engraving a thatch pattern in caulk is to use a sharp cocktail stick and you will also have to keep cleaning the point as it soon builds up a blob of caulk on the end. So keep drawing you sharp lines and then keep wiping your point clean and you will end up with this (it isn't rocket science and there is no great knack to it)...

One of the good things about caulk - which, by the way, is the consistency of very thick yogurt - is that if you aren't happy with the way things are going you can just wipe it smooth and start again. It takes a while to dry so it remains wet enough to work with for a good amount of time.

Next: Well, hopefully, I can get the three houses for my Island village primed and ready to weather. Though I still have to think about the best way to base them.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Scratch-Built Jungle 'Hut'

Palm-woven dwelling designs vary across the Far-East and Pacific so I'm
going with a sort of generic impression. I don't want to model a building of
a specific location as I want to re-use these model for any Asia or Oceania
scenario or game.
It was always my attention to scratch-build a couple of island dwellings to compliment my Arcane 15mm laser-cut Jungle house, but the need to make my own buildings may be more necessary than I thought.  As it turns out, I am not quite happy with Arcane's scaling of their house model, I personally feel it is a smidgen bigger than the stated 15mm.

Another of Arcane's 15mm Far-East/Pacific building models. It's a nice model,
for laser-cut MDF, but one compromise is the roof which perhaps should be
palm thatch (which would be very hard to replicate in MDF). I'll probably
rectify this with my models though.
My criteria for judging a 15mm building's scale is quite rudimentary and is based on a 'standard' door dimensions - which I judge to be about 10mm wide and 20mm height at 15mm or 1/100 - and Arcane's doors and windows seem a little too large for my taste (especially next to Zvezda's M3 Stuart tank).

So, I'm making my scratch-built houses a little smaller (I'll still use the Arcane hut, but keep it separate from the rest of the island buildings - I'm thinking of using it as the Japanese HQ objective).

Kappa the Hut (Sorry)!
I'll be using 3mm foam board as the main building material for my huts (which we used to call 'Kappa Board' when I was at art school). It's quick and easy to cut out and put together a basic framework for a building with this stuff...

Er, yes...I am using spaghetti as 'bamboo' flooring!

Cladding the framework - Palm Woven Texture

The construction may be simple enough, but to get that native-made look I'm had to do a bit of head scratching. Many of these island (and Far-Eastern) dwellings seem to have woven walls made from dried palm leaf strips (which I believe is very fibrous and strong). Now, how do I get a pattern that looks like it's palm-woven?

Left: Palm-weaving. The newly harvested palm leaves are still green at this point, but eventually, dry out into a khaki beige colour.

Arcane went for a simple engraved checkered design which - in actuality - looked exactly like a 'brick wall' pattern. But it sort of worked (if you half-close your eyes). So, I decided to pinch the idea, tweak it slightly and here's my take on a faux- palm-weave pattern...

After a good search through all my various textured cards and whatnot, I realised that if I turned a regular 'brick wall' pattern texture vertically it kinda looked like a weave pattern (-ish).

A Note on Construction - 'Solid' versus 'Box'
While the GF9T game is seen as an entry level Segway or introduction to 'Flames of War', there is no infantry - or, indeed, any other vehicles aside from tanks - in GF9 TANKS!

Store bought 15mm buildings intended for FofW are of the opening box type so that you can place infantry inside them, but buildings made for GF9T do not need this facility. Obviously, if you think you might progress onto Flames of War you may want to make your scratch-built houses with removable roofs, but you do not have to. GF9T buildings can be solid (i.e. not openable).

Above: My 'box hut' on the left, compared to the lovely Arcane Far-East house
on the right. The Arcane's removable roof can be seen at the bottom and the
floor planking of the laser-cut model's interior is very nice.
This can make you building designs a lot simpler, particularly when making multi-storey houses.

Round or Flat Planks?
One small quandary is whether to make the outer frame and flooring round or flat/square planks. Arcane, naturally, went with flat as this suits laser-cut MDF models, but really native-built palm huts would have been constructed from the natural trunks of trees or palms, so would be round.

However, finding my cunning spaghetti plan for the wooden planks was a stupid idea I have now returned to bamboo skewers and cocktail sticks...

As usual, I'm making things up as I go along, but - in theory - this should be a simple enough model for me to get away with it. Once I have completed this first test design the further two huts I require for my game should be easier and faster to put together.

I'm using super glue to stick the wooden frame together and as usual, I'm sticking things to me more than anything else! I must really look into what kind of glue is the best for sticking wooden things together quickly and securely.

Anyway, super glue is doing the job and I was rather pleased with the job I made of the hut's porch...

Though, I am a little unsure just how high I should make the stilts that these houses stand on. I based my initial attempts on the stilts that the Arcane model has, but I'm now thinking these look a little low. I may double the height.

Well, that's it for now. I'll have to put a bit of a spurt on this week as I'm on a tight schedule with this project and I wan to start the jungle scatter foliage this week.

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Arcane 15mm Jungle 'Hut'

With progress being made on the tank models for my planned Pacific Island scenario for my 15mm TANKS! game, it's time to start putting together some of the terrain. (I'm working on some sketches of what the 3" x 3" game mat will look like, with the Japanese defending.)

I am thinking along the lines of including three jungle huts and two Japanese anti-tank bunkers and a collection of scatter foliage to break up the line of sight. I didn't know where to start with the island dwellings, so I relented and spent some money on a pre-build which I intend to use as a template for a couple of scratch built houses/huts.

The pre-built model I bought is an Arcane Scenery and Models laser cut MDF Far East or Jungle Small House (£7.50)...

The model comes on two A4 sized 2mm MDF sheets and is quite easy to
Once you knockout all the parts you end up with a big MDF jigsaw puzzle! But the instructions are good and it's pretty obvious where everything goes...

And you quickly pop the model together. The fit and design is very good and PVA glue is only really needed for the external framework (but you can glue the whole thing together if you prefer).

Lasercut MDF models have a tendency to be a little blocky, but this one isn't too bad (the roof is perhaps my only niggle) and - in this case - the bare MDF colour looks exactly right. You could get away without painting this jungle house.

It will be interesting to see if I can replicate this design. 

Japanese Bunkers
Galeforce 9 games have some stats for the use of bunkers in one of their Normandy operation expansions (which are a free download from their website), but these stats are for a concrete bunker armed with the formidable German 75mm Pak40. The stats would have to be tweaked for a Japanese earth and log bunker and I will have to figure out what gun would likely be emplaced in them (perhaps the excellent Type 1 47 mm Anti-Tank Gun).

As to the design of the bunkers, I've been looking around for a design I can replicate and fount this one...

This is the Masterpiece 1/35 model, but it will make a good template for a
scratch built 1/100 version.

Way Down Deep in the Middle of the Jungle...
Finally, there is the jungle foliage itself and luckily The TerrainTutor has some excellent 28mm ideas for making wargame jungle 'scatter' that I should be able to scale down for 15mm...

Phew! A lot of work, but let's crack on...

Next: Scratch built Island Dwellings.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Zvezda 1/100 Tiger I - Finished

Finally managed to get my Kursk Tiger I finished off. Phew, I made a meal out of this one (I blame the wife giving me loads of jobs around the house)!

I'm reasonably pleased with it, but Zvezda's simplified tracks niggle me. Still, that's half my German force done for my TANKS! Kursk scenario, I just need to make a couple of Panzer IVs for cannon fodder! :)