A Room of One’s Own

It is fascinating to glimpse another’s private space. I love it when bloggers feature their hobby rooms. Two I know well are Eric the Shed’s eponymous structure and Lord Ashram’s House of War.

For the majority of my adult hobbying life, I have been limited to a small desk and a packed closet. I do have my own Shed which houses my carpentry workshop, but sawdust and clutter preclude hobbying there. For about two seconds I thought about adding a second story, but that would have looked ridiculous. Instead, I elected to add another room on the back. My wife was unexpectedly enthused by the prospect, as it meant myriad hobbying accoutrements would exit our abode.

Here is the Shed in its original livery on a snowy morning in 2013. Note the patch (bottom front) owing to repairs from a termite infestation. (This Minnesotan transplant to the American South did not yet properly respect the power of the ‘mite.)

Going for “old barn” look but inadvertantly the colors of the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers.
Another February, more snow.

The addition would be 10 by 20 feet, have a shed roof, and would fulfill one of many dreams by replacing the shingles with tin. Construction would occur over my a brief (5 week) summer vacation from school. I sketched my dream in my journal. At some point, I wrote that it would take me a week.

Dreaming in my journal

I also have a graph paper computation notebook in which I usually plan scratch-building. Here are the initial plans for my 1:1 scale project.

Roof joists and foundation
Floor joists, wall framing
Details, details

It is imperative that I write, draw, and think about big projects multiple times in order to figure out how to proceed. I built the original Shed 15 years ago with my father’s assistance. I’ve constructed other similar structures solo — an 8×8 foot playhouse on stilts for my sons and another on the ground for my chickens. However, I had never added on to an existing building. This would involve making a new foundation so that the floors would be even; removing the original siding from the back; removing the windows and adding a door. The biggest challenge would be marrying the addition’s rafters to the existing roof.

Framing plans and planning the pitch of the roof.

The Shed’s foundation was made by digging trenches, filling them with gravel, and laying 6×8 pressure treated skids in them. As my backyard slopes downwards, the addition’s foundation would be above grade. I constructed a set of cinder block piers (extending below our meager frostline) on which to place 6×8 skids. I employed left over shingles as shims because, despite knee- and hand-breaking effort, the 15 piers were not perfectly level to one another …

My least favorite part of the build.
My poor, expensive deer leather gloves following many days of handling blocks.
I put a vapor barrier down (another measure against the ‘mite).

Floor joists were next. I employed 2″ pink foam between joists for insulation — a first for me, as previously I had only used it to make wargames terrain. I didn’t manage to photograph that, nor much else from here on out.

Sun dappled floor joists.

Subfloor and then wall framing began. I planned to reuse the two windows from the rear of the Shed and add an interior door communicating from the workshop to the new room. I measured, measured, and framed those rough openings precisely. I had vague memories, though, of my father explaining how double hung window sashes operate — something about how they need a little extra space to flex when opening. At any rate, I can’t now open the windows by hand and have to jimmy them open with a pry bar. Oh, well …

Similar principles to building with foam core. Everything needs to be square.
Growing pains.

If it hasn’t yet been clear, I am a one man crew. I completed the entire project solo. Save, I will say, the dire day when I did the roof. My younger son helped me hoist the plywood decking.

My one week project consumed all five weeks of my break, working all seven days of each from 10 to 12 hours. During one of hundreds of trips up and down the ladder I tore the meniscus of my left knee, which later required a cortisone shot. Half-marathon training (another of my many hobbies) was put on hold for a time.

Below you can see the new roof line. The pitch on the addition is a leisurely 2:12 (which means that over a span of 12 feet, it rises 2 feet). Steeper pitches are particularly important in places that get a lot of snow, as it could pile up and sit there all winter, and potentially leak or cause a cave in. This is not a problem in sunny NC.

Making Dr. Frankenstein proud, one building at a time.

 

Your humble correspondant tacking up siding.

This side still needs a little work. The door to the addition will, in warmer days, be painted the same red as the trim. I plan to redo the double doors to the Shed with same T11 siding as the addition to tie them together.

I apparently only photograph this building when it snows.

The big window (below) its strategically placed over my hobby desk. From inside, it looks over an azalea (which just bloomed stunningly) and our muscadine grape arbor.

Frankenstein in face-paint.

Aside from various details, my Hobby Shack is complete. I used an oil-filled radiator to heat it this winter. I’ll get a window air conditioner to keep cool this summer. I’ll devote another post to the interior.

The Ruined Tower

To the inventive soul who created the original, I dedicate this humble counterfeit.

Whilst searching for a Hirst Arts ruin that was skulking about in my memory, I uncovered new inspiration. A day or so later, this little crumbling beauty debuted on the table:

Here it is with a skeletal guard, and then with my four D&D B/X heroes:

I cobbled together some scenario objective markers using some old Games Workshop plastic skeletons. A bit of surgery on the pelvises allowed them to sit or lie, suitable splayed.

Paint Table Saturday

This post is less about what’s on the table than the fact of the table itself.

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The Hobby Shack is not quite complete, with various bits and bobs of trim left to install. Yet, this battle station is fully armed and operational. The paint rack (last spied here in February of ’15) was relocated from my former painting nook in the house. The desk itself is a placeholder. I will construct a custom built-in with various drawers for storage.

Accompanied by downpour from Hurricane Mathew, I painted ten Prussian Jägers (54mm Square Pegs) and a couple of Reaper Bones. Mordheim figures lurk still on the window ledge (in largely the same state as they were two Februaries back) as well as some knights destined for Warmaster which can be spied above the drawer on the right.

Inaugural Combat

Following an unplanned hiatus, I have every intention of resuming semi-regular posting to this blog.

Part of my time away was spent on some 1:1 terrain building. Inspired by Eric the Shed, specifically expansion of his eponymous structure, I endeavored to nearly double the size of the building which houses my carpentry workshop (known in my family as The Shed for far longer than I’ve known of Eric’s). The additional room has become my Hobby Shack, dedicated to innumerable non-serious pursuits.

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Here is my Shed, nestled with uncharacteristic drama amidst North Carolina snow last February.

I’ll post a bit more concerning construction later. Today, however, I shall focus on inaugural combat conducted in the new hobby space.

Aside from the new space, I have drawn from two ancillary inspirational founts:

  • I purchased and devoured Neil Thomas’ One-Hour Wargames. This little gem, about which I’ll wax to further length poetic at some later date, provided perfectly concise rules for me to conduct a solo battle; and
  • The resumption of posting by Dale Hurtt and Matt Kirkhart to Wooden Warriors. Part of the reason I labored doggedly for two months (I’m a one-man crew) to build my Shack was to have room to battle with my Square Pegs.

The Square Pegs are my 54mm craftee toy soldiers fashioned from clothes pins. (Their inspiration came from Kenneth Van Pelt and is recounted here.)

The initial conflict would be Scenario One, a Pitched Battle, somewhere in the wilds of Isla Victoria. Army sizes were regrettably halved to 3 units each, as my Prussian jäger and both sides’ artillery languish incomplete.

Thus, the British would be represented by two infantry detatchments — 74th Regiment of Foot and the Black Watch — and a troop of 17th “Death or Glory” Lancers.

The Prussians brought to bear detachments from their First and Second Infanterie, supported by the infamous Death’s Head Hussars.

The two small forces faced off thusly:

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N.B. the Maj.-Gen. Tremorden Rederring style, stage set mountains looming in the distance…

Now, , in my enthusiasm I shall beg your indulgence for this one illustrated After Action Report. I find them tedious as a rule and so you won’t find many here. This occasion was auspicious in that it marked my first foray into One-Hour Wargames, the initial engagement between Square Pegs, as well as the 21st anniversary of the day upon which I was wed. Caveat lector.

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The Prussians…
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… and the British, arrayed for battle.

img_3366Turn the First:— The Lancers, who for reasons known only to themselves bore the guidon of the 1st Lancers, charge en avant. The boys of the 74th and the Highlanders press onward to glory. Answering with a cry of battle lust, the Prussian Hussars make for the British cavalry. The 1st Infanterie marches straight towards the scrum while the 2nd have the Highlanders in their sight.

img_3367Turn the Second:— Plucky British lads soldier onward, closing the gap. A model of malevolent malice, the Death’s Head Hussars not only reach the Lancers, but close on their left flank! They inflict 4 hits.

img_3369Turn the Third:— Undeterred, the Lancers charge the 1st Infanterie and the 74th closes to shooting distance of the Hussars. The Hussars wheel right to engage the Fighting’ 74th while the 2nd Infanterie treads implacably towards the Black Watch. The 1st Infanterie fires on their tormentors (3 hits) and the sabers of the Hussars slice into the 74th (6 hits).

Turn the Fourth:— The cry “Death or Glory” echoes from the looming mountains as the Lancers renew their charge. Both the 74th and the Highlanders engage in disciplined volley fire with their opponents, inflicting 6 hits on the Hussars and 4 on the 2nd Infanterie. Sensing weakness in the Lancers, the Hussars wheel to the attack. Both foot detachments return fire. The Lancers sustain 5 total hits from saber and shot and the Highlanders receive 5.

img_3375Turn the Fifth:— The battle rages on with more hits sustained by all (Hussars, 7; 2nd Inf., 3). The Death’s Head Hussars close for the coup de grâce on the Lancers. Alas, sustained fire from the 1st Infanterie cuts down British horse pitilessly. Unit eliminated! Turn the Sixth:— Returning the favor, measured firing of 74th decimates the Hussars. Turn the Seventh:— Placing themselves in the hands of Fate, the 74th and the Highlanders close on Prussian foot. Alas, needle gun made short work of the Black Watch (Unit eliminated).

img_3383The thin red line of the 74th prepared for Prussian onslaught. Martini-henries blazing, they take out the battered 1st Infanterie. At the end of the day, there were only souls standing to send final dispatches of the battle to Berlin, recounting the glory of the 2nd Infanterie.

The actors regain the stage to take their bows.
The actors regain the stage to take their bows.

 

Buildings from the Big City

Here are some shots of the first three, very-nearly-done, buildings for my 25/28/32mm figures.

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(Note that the spread for the miniature size is due to the fact that I didn’t realize that the Reaper Bones figures would be so tall. All of my metal figures are closer to 28mm, so these new plastic chaps tower over them!)

IMG_1326This is the building based on the old Games Workshop template. (I showed its 15mm cousin in a previous post). I made adjustments during construction because I followed some bad advice from the GW plan maker, which, I knew at the time would lead to no good, but I went down the road anyway. The stone bits around the windows and door, as well as the roof, are cast from Hirst Arts molds. It still needs a door and interior detailing. I believe it’s going to be a potion shop.

IMG_1325The next two are based on ideas described by Robert Provan on Matakishi’s website. Robert drew his inspiration from the late, lamented buildings sold by Pardulon. Robert used cork (a la Matakishi), but I opted for good old foam core. The buildings are (theoretically) modular, as each floor is separate and the edifice is stacked together. I’m still fooling around with a workable size. All of these buildings seem a bit large to me — my 4′ by 6′ table will fill up quickly. Another Hirst Arts roof, as well as a chimney built into each floor, which comes apart. That was an experiment and a true PITA, which will not be repeated, methinks. This one is supposed to be an “Adventurers’ Guild” or “Explorers Club” type place. I figured the high level characters would return home with “foreign” tastes, so I imbued their headquarters with some exotic touches. The bright color and window trim are Asian-inspired, and the roof is pan-tiled rather than slate. I have an idea for a sign, but I’m not sure how I’ll execute it yet.

IMG_1324The third contestant is also copied from Robert. This time I wanted a Hirst Arts stone ground floor. The trouble I’ve found with Hirst Arts is that in order to get any usable interior space, one has to make buildings so big. The footprint on this one is 3.5 by 5 inches, and 2.5 inches tall (the floors on the red building are 2 inches). This one will be a shop.

While I’m constructing these for a fantasy city, they should be able to find a place on Isla Victoria (my VSF setting), some colonial outpost, a pirate town…

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Potion shop sign, yet unpainted
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Wood floors, but no furnishings yet

 

The offending chimney...
The offending chimney…

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Paint Table Annex

One of the great joys of my day is chatting with my wife as she prepares dinner. Cooking is her hobby, as miniatures (and guitar and carpentry and farming and sailing … oh, well, perhaps I have too many hobbies) are mine. The results of her work are impressive and delicious, and our boys and I gratefully partake.

IMG_1318The kitchen has a counter with bar stools and I often set up a little “painting annex” to keep my hands from being idle. One will note the 2oz. craft paint bottles. I do use the palette occasionally, usually when painting something large, like a terrain piece. I believe it was one of those You Tube terrain guys who I saw dipping paint out of the paint bottle tops, so I acquired the habit. Give the bottle a hearty shake before opening and there’s usually more than enough paint on the inside of the top. The light was rescued from the piano when it was donated to a good home; it is tucked behind the basket of napkins during the day.

IMG_1319On the table are some Reaper lasses. I sense that they are a bit uneasy, though, as the 15mm VSF bug has bitten, and three GASLIGHT units of Irregular Miniatures British have invaded the main paint table upstairs.

Poking around in the GULP also unearthed my Blue Moon “Missionaries, Explorers, Victims and other White Folks” who will likely force their way into the queue as well. I was also shocked by the quantity of Pendraken 10mm colonial and WWI figures I fell pray to years ago. All primed, a smattering painted. I had dreamed of a Warmaster-based VSF game. I later purchased Black Powder, which is along those lines, though intended for individually based minis. I might be back to Warmaster.

A Town in Two Scales

Should you have examined my brain a couple of weeks ago, it would have seemed evident that the “28mm” synapses were firing perfectly. A smattering of the many, many Reaper Bones I now own were being painted, and I was even constructing some appropriately-scaled buildings and terrain. I noticed, but successfully defeated the urge to throw in for, the Dwarven Forge City Builder kickstarter. I was already hard at work on some Hirst Arts/foam core hybrids (which we shall examine anon).

Alas, the rent was beyond my means
Alas, the rent was beyond my means
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Cramped yet affordable

High from this victory, I unfortunately rode smack into an ambush. 15mm.co.uk announced a preorder for a quintet of absolute lovelies… resistance was futile. My rationale for parting with money was that I do have a bit of a collection of 15mm figures already painted and ready to play. The buildings can be used for fantasy (), pirates (got ’em), pulp and VSF (umm…, YES!). So, despite no email confirmation as of yet, the line-up you see below ought to be winging its way over the pond to me.

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Upon arrival, they’ll join the nascent collection of 15mm terrain I began cobbling together in younger days. For years, I scoured the interweb for plans intended for oh-so-popular 28mm miniatures and rescaled them for my own nefarious purposes. These two beauties on the right were based upon plans plundered from the old Games Workshop website (back in the days when they tried to help one to learn, rather than to help one to spend). Even shrunk, I still think I made ’em too big — they’ll dwarf the compact accommodations from 15mm.co.uk. I also should have devoted more time to that thatch. It looks like a lovable mop top.

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In the early years of the current millennium, Gary Chalk ran an online shop called the Little Grenadier. He endeavored to sell his plans for wargames buildings directly to people online, rather than having them published in Wargames Illustrated. Well, he tired of this after awhile and shut down the store. The simple cottage above was one of the plans,  reduced to house 15mm peasantry.

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The vignette above (one of my favorite things that I have ever built) was from Gary’s Pirate Buildings plans in Wargames Illustrated. In my VSF setting of Isla Victoria, tudor and pirate architecture will stand proudly side-by-side.

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Finally, the last one should look familiar to old-school grognards. This would be the 15mm version of Pasha Ali’s fortified palace, originally created by David Helber, also known as Major General Tremorden Rederring. The wily Major General didn’t provide plans for this one, so I had to reverse engineer from looking at the photos on his website.

My point is, then, that I have the makings of a great fantasy or VSF town in two scales. Maybe others of you share this sickness?

Our next episode will feature the larger scale buildings upon which I’ve been laboring in 2015.

Paint Table Saturday + 48

Following the blizzard of productivity which coincided with February’s blizzards (well, o.k., they weren’t really blizzards, but a half-foot of snow is a lot for North Carolina), things have been slow, hobby-wise, for the past month.

IMG_1258I did finally manage to knock out the 15mm Pathans who so unceremoniously invaded the painting queue. As I find customary with Irregular miniatures, they looked like blobby bits of lead out of the bag, but painted up quite nicely. I don’t purport them to be historically authentic; my main source for guidance was the little line drawing in The Sword and the Flame rulebook. I’ll probably use them most often for VSF, so anything goes, I suppose.

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It seems I’m a slow learner with the digital camera. I was attempting to follow the tenets of this miniature photography tutorial, and I ended up not being able to get the camera to focus properly. Apparently, cameras are complicated tools that one must take time to learn how to use properly…

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In addition to likely inauthenticity, these are painted to my usual “good enough for government work” standards. I don’t do eyes (I don’t even do them on 28mm when I can avoid it) and the beards proved to be a challenge. I think one luckless chap suffered a daub of black on his nose.

Jumping the Queue

Paint Table Saturday features flagrant queue jumpers. Looking back yesterday at A) the Major General’s page and 2) my aged stage-set mountains, rendered me nostalgic for VSF and afflicted with remorse for my long-suffering 15mm figures. As things stand, I can muster a respectable force of British. In the back of my mind, however, I was certain that somewhere there existed some Irregular Miniatures Pathans, neatly stored but inexcusably denude of paint. A brief ruffle through the boxes and my quarry was in hand.

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Reaper Bones have fallen into heavy rotation ’round these parts, and thus many moons have passed since I’ve tackled 15mm metal. First off, I was grateful that Irregular parted with so much lead for my dollars. Too bad for me that only about half of it was in the shape of figures and the balance was a nuisance known as “flash.” A solid 30 minutes with an Xacto knife cleared up that condition. A dollop of 2-part epoxy and they were firmly grounded on a washer. 3 packs of 10 men, three poses: firing while standing, firing while kneeling, and runnin’ at ya with a big sword. My new-found painting courage will soon render these chaps “ready for battle.”

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However, the Afghanis were superseded in ill manners by a ragtag band from Mordheim. I bought the box set years and years ago, snipped everything off sprue, and stored it with customary anal retentiveness. The major barrier to their progress was the fact that they were all in little pieces. If you haven’t yet encountered that vintage of plastic figure, you get a bunch of legs, torsos, arms, heads, and weapons; Games Workshop awards you the privilege of cobbling them together using malodorous cement. While I had already suffered through assembling the Skaven, the human fellows remained in pieces.

Just behind my brush-washing jar in the paint table picture one might spy a nifty Testors Model Master Liquid Cement Applicator which, quite truly, is the bee’s knees. (Another of my hobbies is beekeeping and I don’t know what that really means…). When I discovered that cool glue bottle at Michael’s, I resolved that I could finish those fellows. And so, assembled is a band of what I think are called “Marienbergers.” I don’t think I’ll paint them just yet, but who knows?

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Finally, below you see a shot of the stalwarts who were leaped over in line. I think what’s holding me back with the Woodland Warriors is that most animals are grayish-brown so I’m afraid that they’ll all look the same. Mixed in are a couple of Bones I lasses (Henceforth I’ll have to distinguish Bones I and II, as my box arrives Monday) and a Night Goblin from the Battle of Skull Pass set (which I also bought and which is largely naked…).

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Gaming Table

Building a gaming table is a daunting endeavor. If one has yet to accumulate a lot of wargaming experience, he has to imagine what “features” a table should have in order to make gaming more enjoyable. Lumber and time are both valuable these days. I didn’t want to expend too much of either to create something that wouldn’t work for me.

Exif_JPEG_422I embarked upon the project in the usual manner, by poking about the internet to see what others had done. I uncovered a few intriguing possibilities. The one to the left (which I unearthed here) boasted the benefit of being simple, sturdy, and a bit of storage as a bonus. The castors are a nice touch, though in the location I have available, there won’t be much wiggle room. Two-by-fours and plywood are easily obtainable and I had my eye on that shelf for the plethora of banker’s boxes filled with the terrain I have constructed through the years.

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I thought a lot about this theoretical one (I didn’t find evidence that it was ever built), discovered here. It looked very sturdy (it would also likely weight a ton), had storage, and was expandable, which would be a big plus in my limited space. I already had modifications envisioned (I think you’d need two fold out legs on each side to keep the extension wings from sagging at the corners, for example). I may come back to this design at some point.

dsc00228The final contender (found here) had the most to recommend it. First off, the builder provided a nifty tutorial, complete with a list of materials and shots of construction in process. The design was simple and didn’t use too much lumber. Storage could be created by attaching a couple of shelves to the legs (which would also make it sturdier). The best part was that the top was customizable — one could swap out the boards. So, I could have a flat surface and place a game mat over it; use painted and/or flocked boards, or create custom, modular terrain. Plus also, the little slide out tables were adorable…

IMG_1219It’s also usual for me not to stop and take pictures, so I don’t have a single shot of my building process. You’ll have to settle for the table, more or less complete.

IMG_1221Here’s the “skeleton.” The legs are standard 2×4 pine from Home Depot. I used two boards joined at right angles for each leg (unlike the original) to make them appear a bit more finished, and perhaps to to make them more sturdy (Hirst Arts buildings are dense). I also added a storage shelf below. There were originally two, but a corner tore our of the upper one. (I was so inspired after taking these pictures that I repaired the upper shelf). The top is made with pine 1×6 boards around the outer edge and 1×4 boards for the internal bracing.

IMG_1218The table top is 4 by 6 feet. The bracing is recessed about two inches so that I could use 2″ pink foam and carve rivers, canyons, trenches, pit traps, and whatnot. I haven’t done any of that yet; I currently use three 2 by 4 foot pieces of 1/2 inch MDF to make the table top. Here’s plain grey for dungeon delving and urban set ups. I plan to paint the backs of these black for asphalt. I have another set of boards that are tan for colonial combat and Lost World exploration. The reverse is blue for watery warfare. I have a piece of 1 inch foam beneath the boards now, which raises the surface closer to the table edge.

This is a thrown-together set up of Pirates of the Spanish Main terrain, including some closeups of some islands. The top of the lighthouse is in need of repair.

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Here we have the table with my homemade grass mat, which is an unholy union of a bed sheet, copious tubes of caulk, and much, much flock. That beast has been a botheration and will likely need to be redone. I followed a tutorial I found on the internet, but didn’t “roll” the flock into the caulk, and so it sheds worse than my cat. I made it large so that I could place “hills” underneath. Here it is untucked and tucked. The slide-out “tables” (as per the original) are intended for rule books, record sheets, beverages, &c. The wrinkles are exceedingly difficult to disperse, thus annoying me to no end.

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IMG_1238Finally, here’s a little tableau starring my first-ever Hirst Arts building (the “Wizard’s Tower”) with some allied Reaper and Warhammer skeletons facing off against the Reaper goblins I painted earlier this year. The observant will notice honest-to-goodness Major General Tremorden Rederring stage-set mountains in the distance. Comprised of cardboard with crumpled up brown paper shopping bags glued to the front. There are little platforms on the back so that snipers can perch amongst the rocky crags. These were among the first terrain I scratch-built, round about a dozen years in the past. The “sky” is the actual wall of the room (the color is called “Cerulean” which, I believe, means, “looks just like a nice, blue sky in pictures”). I may have to paint some clouds on it…