Thursday, June 23, 2011

Great service from Lifelites and Caliver Books

Just received my first order from Lifelites, a company that has created a lighting system for primarily Lego models, but that can be applied to apparently any type of model.

Here's the link:

Check out their gallery and the system. Even a Luddite like myself can figure it out. Here's a couple of examples of the results using Lifelites:

I did, of course, cock up the order, leaving out a single cable that would have made it easy to complete the lighting plan I have in mind. So back online I went and ordered the single cable. The freight was expensive, nothing we as modellers don't expect, but Rob at Lifelites took pity on a lonely incompetemt like myself, said that he hated me having to pay so much for a single cable, and he threw in three extra cables, gratis.

Great service and more orders to come.

As for Caliver Books, sent an order in, quite a substantial one, for Minifigs. The order turned up in Australia, two weeks after payment, all present and correct, couple of extra figures (possibly for breakages). Dave and his crew are doing a great job in my opinion and deserve all the support we can give them.

Even when I realised that I had ordered the wrong figure, Dave was happy to rectify the situation. In an earlier order, one of the boxes went astray. Dave replaced the missing figures without cost, and the new pieces arrived a week later.

I have received excellent service from both these companies, and fully intend to support them in the future.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Mighty Moghul Fortress (Part 1)

Yeah, that's right, finally bit the bullet, started the Moghul fort. Thought it was about time to kick this particular pig.

I've been promising DV (known to many of you as Greatwhitezulu) a Moghul fort for many aeons now, and after the initial thought I just let it vegetate with all the other composting ideas in my head. But it was always there, niggling at the back of my mind.

Inspiration is easy to find. The fortresses of India are many and, yes, even varied. A few examples:

 They all follow the same principle, that of successive higher levels and massive stone walls, apparently to try to counter the introduction of powerful Western artillery. Not always particularly successful.

My plan for the fort was for a suitably awe-inspiring structure that could be placed in the corner of DW's bespoke game-table. It may be used for a siege game, or simply as an overwhelming symbol of Moghul dominance. If for a game the dimensions had to be suitable to take DV's basing system, so ramps, catwalks and walls had to be at least 50mm wide. This was really the only stipulation I was given, other than "not too heavy", and "elephant spikes in the gates, please".

The inspiration came from an illustration in the Osprey book "Indian Castles 1206-1526". Although earlier than the 18th century European influx, the picture at least gave me a starting point.

A simple enough design, with a water feature and plenty of scope for adaptation. I made a few rough sketches just to cement a few ideas and then transferred the ideas to a piece of card in true size.

Originally, I was going to have the model along one edge of the table, but after consultation with DV, the idea was for a corner piece.

And this became the final plan. Didn't realise just how phallic it would look, but I don't really notice those sorts of things, not being religious and all. Notice Pringles can. Yummy goodness notwithstanding, important later.

That's all very well, you might say, but how may this be interpreted? Well, here we go:

First, the stuff that will be cut out. I will point out that this form is actually two layers of high density insulation foam mounted on gatorboard.

Here it is being crushed beneath the weight of military knowledge. I use gatorboard rather than mdf because it is light, rigid, easily cut with a craft knife and a great conversationalist. After the pieces were glued, using a spray contact adhesive, I drew the new plan onto the surface as you have seen above and the rough shape was cut out.
Now the bits to be removed:

Rudimentary paintshop. Helps to colour code.
1. Brown marks - top arrow ramps up from table level to the first gate where the ramp levels out, then it continues up to level out again between the two large round shapes (big towers).
2. Red marks - rocky hillside into which fort has been constructed. This will be roughly hacked out in a technique I will show later. Rocks and boulders will be pressed into the surface to severely roughen up this surface.
3. Dark blue marks - water feature. A multi-purpose water tank, used as an obstacle for attacking troops, as a bathing pool for Hindus and Muslims, and as a water source in time of siege. This is an example:

 4. Light blue marks - a water covered walkway beind the covering wall. If you look at the picture above, you can see the walkway beneath the surface behind the wall. Nice change of level and water colour, I thought.

So these pieces will be removed from the styrene layers.

Then, construction will begin on the features that will lift the piece out of the ground.

The pink marks show the outer wall system, which will comprise the curtain wall covering the water pools, and the gatehouse. The gatehouse will have two small towers, with the Pringles can acting as  a former for the Hirst Arts blocks that will be used in the construction. The plan is to model the towers after the first tower I built for DV.

The gate will have elephant spikes and be quite ornate, as befits a Sultan.

The brown marks will be two large towers, of the same design as the base of the tower in the picture above. They will probably be taller and built again of Hirst Arts, with matching crenellations and a flat surface to take artillery.

The cream marks are for the final gatehouse, again with elephant spikes on the door, and extremely ornate. Here are a couple of examples:

Can't say I will make them as ornate as these but they will look spectacular. And colourful.

Here's a pic of the elephant spikes.

All the buildings will be removeable, to facilitate moving, and also if later I build ruins to replace them.

All in all, a big piece to undertake, but if I can pull it off it will be worth the wounds.

Might even try to throw in some lighting. Who knows? Stay tuned.


Albert Speer's Lego

I like Hirst Arts blocks. I know some people have problems with them, but some people also like to hear their own voices gonging around in their heads just for the hell of it. To those people I say "Fie on you!"

With a little imagination and some forethought, Hirst Arts can be the basis of exceptional pieces, lending a titanic and substantial quality to a model, that cardboard or thin plastic cannot convey. Of course, at the same time the pieces can look blocky and heavy, without any real attempt at architectural interest or significance.

Like something Albert Speer might have made out of Lego.

In my opinion, restricting yourself to only Hirst Arts when modelling may lead to exactly that sort of feel. I have found that following the maxim of "there are no hard and fast rules to modelling" has helped.

One of the first pieces I made out of Hirst was this Moghul tower for DV. Using a Pringles tube for the former of the tower and foamboard for the crenellations, I think it was a decent first try. It taught me some useful lessons, including using other materials to achieve the final result. And that Pringles are yummy. Lessons that I pursued in my next piece.

This was a neat little ruin, built for CBW as part of a much larger cityscape, which will eventually develop into a 6x4 foot table (if not larger).

The Dark Angel marine (courtesy Anthony Pearson) gives the scale. I wanted a Gothic monument to collapsing civil order, plenty of rubble for cover, with a hint of the imperial splendour that the chapel once displayed. I also wanted several levels on the floor, with a nifty little sniper roost in the shattered dome.

The base is card, although in future I may use gatorboard which is like foam core but with ultra-thin wood instead of card as the outer layers. (Go to Eckersleys in Sydney). Under the back columns is a slight raise in level, with a grate that has exploded out, as if some shambling horror has made a surprise visit from the stygian depths beneath the city (I'd like to thank REH and HPL for the use of the word "stygian"). A couple of steps lead up to the rounded apse.

Both these levels were made from thicknesses of balsa. The basic shape of the chapel was cut and roughly sanded down and then I built the shattered remains of the walls. Apart from the statues in the wall niches, all the bricks and columns were Hirst Arts. The statues were supplied by CBW, not sure where they are from. Once I placed and glued all the bricks, I glued irregularly cut pieces of stone-embossed plasticard on the floors.

I then hacked a hole in the lower floor and fashioned a burst grill from a GW photo-etch set. Just for a bit of atmosphere.

You can see the grating through the apse.

The dome was built after pieces were hacked out using a set of cutters to make the sniper hole. All these elements were then left to dry, as I built the floor of the dome using spare bits of wood from old ship models. Once the floor was built, I made it look like it had been destroyed by . . . destroying it. I twisted it until parts snapped and bent, and then set it alight with a butane lighter. Love the smell of butane in the workroom, smells like . . . modelling.

I attacked the dried brickwork with the cutters, hacking chunks of plaster out of the stones , grinding holes into surfaces and, defacing practically every surface. Be careful at this stage, too much can be way too much. Better to be a little conservative than to have to try and repair damage that undermines the look.

A surface of gravel and sand was spread out over the ground and floors, leaving the embossed plasticard to show the brickwork.

The rubble was a combination of resin pieces from Reality in Scale (cheers, Otto), pieces of shattered Hirst Arts bricks and columns, and bricks from a weekly collectible magazine that builds a medieval castle (after 100 weeks and about a thousand bucks - I gave up after about 6 weeks, although I do have the complete Fokker Triplane kit from the same company if anyone is interested, unmade and unopened - would like to sell, I'll don't have time - there is a website with a weekly how-to for it. Follow this link:

As I laid the rubble down, I was aware of the need to have plenty of room for figures to be standing behind the cover provided. The apse will take a terminator base, the dome fits a sniper, plenty of space in and around the ruins for all manner of figure.

Painting was relatively simple. Sprayed various shades of brown, sand and black, in almost a camouflage style all over the model. Left the dome and wooden floor off to make it easier to paint and treated them in the same manner.

While these were drying, I made the bronze nameplate, out of plasticard and plastic lettering, and Scibor resin Templar shields. The plastic lettering came from Slater'sPlastikard (follow the link: ). I bent the pasticard sheet first.

I inflicted damage aplenty, undercoated in black, painted with Model Masters Brass, washed with a Tamiya clear mix of smoke, red and yellow, washed with a turquoise shade, and drybrushed with brass again.  Don't forget, I paint in enamels, so if you are using acrylics, then . . . well, hell, you're on your own, baby, you drank the cool-aid, you went with water-colours, you're waaaaaay too good to sniff turps fumes 24/7 like a reeeeeeeal man , so you can just kiss m . . . . .

I'm sorry, it's been a long day.

Anyhoo, after the paint has dried and, apparently, the fumes have dissapated, I dry-brushed like a bandit from a mix of brick red, tan, yellow and white, with a touch of black to dirty it up, through several layers , lightening all the time, throwing in some yellow or a bit of blue as my taste dictated until the final colour is as you see, sort of a dirty, battle-scarred, smog-blasted sandstone, very familiar to Sydney-siders (battle-scarred, not so much - peaceful place, Sydney, great for a visit, beautiful city, pissing down rain at the moment and cold - love it).

The wooden floor gets a drybrush as well as does the brickwork on the floors, using more red and tan in the mix, with a lighter yellow-brown highlight, and blackened at the edges.

I added a couple of Nimix photo-etch Templar crosses as floor and wall inlays (you can just see one in the apse above), bronzing them, again for atmosphere.

Once all the elements were put together I was well pleased with the outcome. It can be considered complete, but there are a few things I might add, like a bit of foliage, vines up the front wall in places, grass tufts, just to age the piece a little, and maybe a bit more rubble on the dome level. The idea of some tattered battle flags is tempting as well, but one must be careful not to gild the lily. Detailling is fun, but also can be a pit of despair and can lead you into ever-decreasing circles of "touch-up".

You got to know when enough is enough.

So enough for now. But just wait until I start the step-by-step on the Moghul fort. You will all eat your heads with jealousy.