Ending October with Ships, Archers and Zeroes

October is ending with a sigh and a whimper. It has been a poor month for gaming. I’m managed to sneak in a game Chain of Command game in George’s basement, but that’s about it. A little board gaming with Dave and that’s all.

I have painted. Painting kind of saves me from me. I’m dieting again. Still. I’ve had some success. Lorri and I are on the NOOM diet, which is just kind of sensible reduced calorie stuff. Painting keeps me away from food. I’ve lost about 25+ pounds since retirement, and hope to lose more.

In my last entry I set some goals. I’ve pretty much stuck to those.

I finished October with seven ships painted. The firsts of these are two American ships, the armed yachts Vixen and Gloucester. The US Navy acquired a number of fancy-schmancy yachts from rich Americans at the start of the Spanish-American War, painted them in gray and gave them mostly light armament-revolving Hotchkiss quick firing guns to deal with small Spanish vessels during the war. These two vessels engaged the Spanish destroyers Pluton and Furor as they came out of Santiago, drove one ashore in wrecked condition and blew up the other. Not bad for a couple of fancy pants ships. The two models are by War Times Journal and join my Hai model of the Scorpion for the upper crust arm of my American fleet.

First ship is the Hai Scorpion, a very nice model. Top is Vixen and to the rear is Gloucester. Gloucester and Vixen are Wartimes Journal models.

The rest of the ships are Spanish. First up are ships from Brown Water Navy. I’ve already mentioned the destroyers Furor and Pluton and these are they. Trapped with the pile of Spanish armored cruisers at Santiago, they trailed the bigger ships by about 1,200 yards and were fairly easy pickings when they emerged into open waters. They were chased down by the yachts and their ending was not pretty. Nice miniatures. I continue to be impressed by Matt Lawson’s work. The other BWN ship is the cruiser Numancia. By 1898, despite a recent modernization, Numancia is a relic of the Ironclad Age, with iron armor. I decided to show her in Spanish American War decor, with her three masts replaced by two armored masts. It was fun to build and paint.

Brown Water Navy Pluton and Furor models. Nicely detailed. These can be purchased as a pair at a nice discount. Very nice detail on pretty small models.

The last two vessels are from War Times Journal. They are the cruisers Lepanto and Reina Cristina. The former actually survived the war with the US, but her two sisters were not quite so fortunate. Lepanto has, according to my Shipbucket illustration, raked masts and funnels, but I couldn’t quite get those right. Poor unarmored Reina Cristina looks cool with her three masts but was no match for Dewey’s fleet at Manila Bay. Both are nice models, though not quite as nice as some of the other ships I have from this range.

My goal was to paint 40 ships by year’s end. I have many on order, but I would suggest this is the one that is most in danger of being unfulfilled.

This is my box o’ Spanish ships. Today the box has lots of room. Some day it will be full.

I am nearly done with twelve Old Glory mounted archers from their Hundred Years range. I’ve finished one unit this month and this is the last. My objective is to have a completed mounted retinue for Lion Rampant–which would make them ridiculously expensive points-wise. The figures are quite serviceable and I’ve had them crying softly for paint in a drawer for many years. I’m thrilled to have them done. The two units give me 24 figures toward my goal of 60 figures. I am confident in achieving this goal.

Old Glory mounted archers for Lion Rampant. I have three of these twelve-figure units. Had them for at least a decade. A few hours away from being done. Free at last.

I also stated a goal of painting 50 planes by the end of the year. I’ve been hard at work to decide what planes to focus on. Early in the month I painted some Raiden Japanese fighters-A6M2 Zekes and A6M3 Hamps, both versions of the famous agile Mitsubishi fighters. I made a little swap with George ten days ago and got a bunch more. I dug through all my bunch of planes and pulled out all the Japanese WWII miniatures I could locate. They’re going to be my prime focus to finish before the year is out. They’ll help me meet my goal.

I’ve wrapped up the Hamps, here

I’ve also painted all the A6M2’s, A6M3’s and A6M5’s George donated to the cause. I’m waiting for markings for them from Flight Deck Decals. These are all Raiden planes.

Zeroes painted and dullcoated. They need to be numbered and marked. I’ve ordered the hinomarus without the white borders that should go on the gray planes. Ho-hum.

Next on the docket is a pile of Japanese seaplanes I bought for a raid on a seaplane base–I was thinking Tulagi 1942. Could be something else. I have about a dozen, including Rufes, Jakes, Petes and a couple of the big Mavis flying boats. My biggest challenge is figuring out how to stick a peg in those little pontoons.

Rufes and Jakes by Scotia miniatures. Petes (the biplanes) by Raiden miniatures. A lot of breath-holding and silent curses assembling these guys.

November includes Thanksgiving and a vacation, but I plan to stick with my goals. I’ll keep painting Spanish and American ships as they arrive. Japanese planes of all kinds, and with the mounted archers pretty much done, I’ll switch over to wrapping up the leftover British grenadiers and light infantry I purchased for the Retreat From Concord project. This is my current status according to my goals. It doesn’t look super, but the archers and Zeroes are thiiisss close.

1/1250 ships: 7/40

1/300 planes: 6/50

28mm figures: 12/60

Plans for the End of the Year

It’s hard to believe October is half over and we’re staring the end of 2020 right in the eye. Not that it’s a bad thing. 2020 has been horrendous and it can’t go soon enough for me. You may feel differently–but I doubt it.

One thing that will end with 2020 is my retirement. Sort of. In an unofficial way. No, I’m not going back in the classroom. I’m doing something different, something sort of entrepreneurial. I’ve applied to become a licensed notary and hope to earn some money as a signing agent. Lots of home refinance going on, and increasingly the signing of those refi agreements are happening with mobile notaries. That’s me.

Why, you might ask, when retirement was going so well? It’s a long story, but honestly, my wife is working her butt off from home, and I feel like I need to be doing more. So that’s the plan. I can work as much or as little as I want, so not a standard 9 to 5. There’s some getting ready and I’m working on it.

So 2021 will likely be different. But until then, I’ll be painting away, and trying to sneak in some games too. I continue to meet Dave Demick for my weekly board game. But with the cold weather, Dave Schueler’s excellent “day on the lawn” series will come to an end. I’ve made some tremendous changes in our garage, ordered some LED lights to brighten things up, and I’m searching for the right space heater or two for gaming in my garage (a first ever.)

Time to set some painting goals for the rest of the year. The only thing driving my purchases are Spanish and American ships of the Spanish American War era. There are lots available from War Times Journal and Brown Water Navy. I really like their work and enjoy painting them. My goal is to finish 40 ships for this project by the end of the year. I have a bunch in the pipeline, and I’ll acquire more as the year goes on.

Raiden A6M3 Hamps on the painting table. Hoping I might finish these in the next few days.

I’m also dipping into my big ol’ pile of planes. Right now I’m interested in painting planes for the WWII in the Pacific, both sides (of course.) No need to buy a lot, I already have plenty that need paint. Once I get going, they paint pretty fast. My goal is to paint 50 by the time the calendar is exchanged for a new one.

A dozen mounted archers from Old Glory that will add to my Lion Rampant goodies. There’s another dozen where they came from.

Finally, there is my bread and butter, 28mm figures. I have a bunch of little bits I’d like to wrap up, beginning with some mounted archers for Lion Rampant. I have 24 of those guys, and I hope to have them all finished by the end of the month. After that, I’ll focus on some AWI Brits that were unfinished for our Retreat From Concord game a couple of years ago. Those need to get done. After that? Not sure, but I have plenty to work on. My goal is to finish 60 figures by year’s end.

So:

40 1/1250 scale ships

50 1/300 planes

60 28mm figures.

Lots to do, and I plan to enjoy every minute of it.

And the Spanish too

My current Spanish Navy. At top, the battleship Pelayo by Hai. The torpedo boat destroyers Pluton and Furor and the ironclad cruiser Numancia by Brown Water Navy at Shapeways.

I have written plenty about my wedding to the Tiny Ships project. I’ve really enjoyed collecting the mostly Navis and Hai ships, but they are quite expensive and honestly they aren’t very available right now due to restrictions on postal services because of the Covid crisis.

While I initially balked at the idea of building and painting ships, I’ve purchased, painted and assembled ships both from War Times Journal and Brown Water Navy (Shapeways) and really enjoyed the experience.

I’ve been pretty good at sticking with my Americans, with just a few minor treks down the side roads of the Chileans and Germans. But I’ve avoided any full-scale excursions into the Great War or major hypothetical conflicts between the U.S. and European powers.

Numancia. It was originally a three masted ironclad frigate, very obsolete by the time of Spanish American War. Refitted 1896-98 with two armored masts and updated armament.

But I confess, the Spanish have a lure. There is that whole Spanish- American conflict thing. I’ve finished my Philippine project and that’s just an outgrowth of that conflict. It’s a hard one to ignore.

Because none of my fellow members of the The Order of the Tiny Ships has claimed them, I am going to step up and do so. There are some 25 or so Spanish vessels of this era available in 1/1250th scale and I intend to get all of them, hopefully by the end of the year. To put a point on this, it doesn’t seem that there are many of these Spanish ships available in metal, so I’ll be doing that modeling I rejected a few months ago. Works fine for me.

Spanish torpedo boat destroyers Pluton and Furor ended up on the wrong end of a shootout with armed yachts Vixen and Gloucester at Santiago Bay. One grounded, the other exploded.

Now mind you, there are plenty of versions of the Tiny Ships out there. There are Richard Houston’s lamented and forever passed away 1/1000 scale versions that form the Pretty Darn Small Chapter of the order. Then there are the 1/2400 scale versions that are the Itty Bitty Chapter. Then there are any 1/3000 and 1/6000 minis that form the Microscopic Chapter of the Order of Tiny Ships. All have their virtues, but I can only stick with one scale. Sorry.

As motivation Dave Schueler, John Gee and are going to play David Manley’s Splendid Little War mini-campaign. We’ll stick with Fire When Ready to do the combat resolution, but I’m hoping I may acquire enough Spaniards to make it all interesting.

Shaking, BB’s And Now: The Vortex

I’ve gotten to the point where I’ve become almost exclusively a user of Vallejo paint and its eye dropper bottle. I really do like ’em. They have a lot of pigment, and they almost never dry up. I swear I’ve had some bottles for fifteen years.

But that doesn’t make ’em perfect. That unique shape sometimes encourage all that pigment to settle to the bottom of the bottle and it can be really hard to improve its consistency.

I’ve tried lots of things. The most basic of those is shaking which is usually good enough–unless it’s not. I’ve tried a couple of other things too.

One can remove the dropper from the bottle and stick a paintbrush handle down there and swoosh things around. Of course then you have a paintbrush handle full of pigment you’ve got to wipe on a paper towel or rag and you’ve lost all that good paint. I was never sure this was the best solution.

Another suggestion was to drop a couple of BB’s into the bottle and when shaking the BB’s would bang around and bust loose all that stubborn pigment. I tried that with a few bottles, but it never really seemed to work very well.

Mind you, this is not a problem that occurred very often. Again, I really think Vallejo is a great paint and I rarely have problems with it-aside from clearing the dropper and that’s a whole other blog post.

However, the last few years I’ve used a lot of the Vallejo Model Air colors for painting planes. Mostly these are only available in themed sets. They offer a few challenges. These paints are designed to be used in air brushes and are usually pretty thin. Often they require two or three coats to really cover something, but I also think they’re just hard to keep stirred properly.

This weekend I decided to paint some of the Japanese planes I acquired in 2019. Just some A6M2 Zeroes from Raiden. Nice and easy. I also had the set of Air Model paints for the Japanese from Vallejo. Try as I might, and I made many efforts. all I could get out of the IJN Medium Grey bottle was runny yuck. I finally opened the dropper bottle and here was pigment stacked from the bottom of the bottle to the tip of the dropper. I got out the toothpick, the paintbrush handle, I shook it, I cursed at it, and though I now got pigment chunks to go with the runny yuck, it was still pretty hopeless.

There has to be a better way.

I resorted to the internet, looking for solutions. There are shakers for nail polish. There are shakers for craft and model paint. Both those possibilities had lots of negative reviews for two reasons–they were underpowered and burned out quickly. The rubber bands fixing the bottles to the shakers were inadequate and broke quickly and easily. Not what I was after

However after googling electric paint shaker I ran across this article reviewing various methods for getting your paint well mixed. I pondered the possibilities and decided that as much as I painted, perhaps it was worth looking into a vortex mixer.

The Joanlab vortex is very small, relatively quiet, and doesn’t vibrate the heck out of my painting area.

Of course I went to Amazon which has a pile of vortex mixers. These little dudes were made for mixing chemicals in a lab, and have heavy duty motors. They can cost hundreds of dollars. But there are some cheaper ones too. They work by rotating at the bottom at about 3,000 rpm. In most cases they could have my paint mixed in a few seconds.

I decided that because painting was such an important part of my daily life, I would opt for the Joanlab mixer. It wasn’t the cheapest model, but at about 70 bucks it was far from the most pricey. I’ve used it several times and I like what it does. Unfortunately it couldn’t save my IJN Medium Grey

S is for ships. It’s also for slow. And September.

For all that August was about accomplishment and closure, September has been mostly about confusion and deciding what to do next. I’ve thought about lots of things. Worked on a few more. But I really accomplished little in the painting world.

All 25 Cod Wars ships. In front are the British trawlers and their support ships. Back left, the Iceland Coast Guard vessels. Back right, Royal Navy frigates.

One thing I did complete was the remaining 15 ships for the Cod Wars. Now I just need to play. These little 1/1250 ships were designed by Decapod of Shapeways. They are resin cast. For small ships they have some nifty details. The Cod Wars rules are by David Manley and are available very inexpensively through Wargames Vault. The game pits the British fishing fleet and their Royal Navy protectors against the Iceland Coast Guard enforcing its self-proclaimed territorial limits. The Iceland player can cut finishing nets, while the Royal Navy tries to ram those ships. Not your typical shoot ’em up in the age of over the horizon anti-ship missiles. I ordered some special counters from Litko. Can’t wait to give ’em a try.

One of the things I’ve thought seriously about is my Tiny Ships project. As with all projects, it’s gone from tiny to pretty dang large. I think when I began all of this I had the following:

  1. Delphin model of USS Lexington as a battlecruiser (don’t get me started on what a cool miniature this is or how it came to be in my possession.)
  2. Five Navis American pre-dreadnoughts in white and buff: Oregon, Iowa, Kentucky, Alabama and Virginia
  3. The light cruiser Chester–1909. Falls outside the range of this project, really
  4. Two Navis American pre-dreadnoughts after their 1909-1911 refits. In gray with cage masts. Alabama and Idaho. See Chester
  5. Three Hai models of Bainbridge class destroyers. One Navis Preston, a Smith-class destroyer from 1909

So I began with a stash of ships, a total of 12 in all.

My collection has become larger and more diverse. Not only that but I’ve crossed a line I set in the beginning have added War Times Journal and Brown Water Navy miniatures that require some painting and modeling. It has reduced the cost, but more than that, I’ve really enjoyed the building and painting. I’ve also tried to buy used miniatures wherever possible. I even bought a pair of damaged American battleships, repaired and repainted them.

Americans-I added 26 ships to the American fleet including two battleships, four armored cruisers, two armored ships (Maine and Texas,) nine protected cruisers, a monitor, four gunboats, an armed yacht, a destroyer and two torpedo boats. Some were of the spendy metal variety by Navis, Hai, HL Miniatures and Saratoga Model Shipyards. But increasingly I’ve turned to War Times Journal and Brown Water Navy to fill things out.

Chile-Four ships, including three protected cruisers and a central battery ironclad

Germans-Two battleships, three amored cruisers, one light cruiser and two gunboats

Miscellaneous ships–five mostly Swedish including monitors, torpedo boats and a gunboat.

Spanish–The battleship Pelayo–but more coming.

So, I’ve added a passel of ships to the collection-from 12 to 56 . Let’s just say this project has my attention. I need to add a few more Americans, but I’ll be shifting my attention to the Spanish. The Pelayo is a Hai model, but all the rest will be in plastic or resin. I’m looking at the Spanish American War as well as a hypothetical clash off Morocco in 1904.

Honestly, I finished a grand total of 23 miniatures, all ships this month. That’s not much after some really productive months.

I started working on a couple more things too. I got a good start on 12 Dave Allsop-era Old Glory Civil War figures. I’m going to slowly paint up some figures for Rebels and Patriots. God knows, I have plenty of figures to paint. I’ve also started working on some 1/300 scale Raiden A6M2 Zeroes. I’m having some paint issues I plan to report on soon. Some time this first full week of October they’ll both be done.

Americans see action in the Philippines (finally)

I don’t know how seven months of COVID restrictions have affected your gaming life, but mine has changed a great deal. Definitely a different way of doing things from pre-COVID and not all for the worse.

I have a role-playing group that meets every Thursday night from 7-10 on Zoom. I’d guess we’ve missed two meetings since we began in June. I like it; it’s been fun. We could never have pulled it off in-person.

I’ve played a few games in Steilacoom with George and Michael at both of their homes. Again, I’ve had a great time. I sense there will be more to come soon.

However, the highlight has been the Summer Series in Dave Schueler’s front yard. Masked and under a pop-up a tent, Dave, David Sullivan, John Gee, Bill Stewart and Michael Koznarsky have included me in a variety of naval games using ACW Ironclads, ancient galleys and pre-Dreadnaughts in a glorious summer-long series of naval games.

However, with the receding smokey skies replaced with the onset of rain and wind, it was apparent that our Schueler pop-up series was likely nearing an end. A couple weeks ago I offered to host my Enfilade Philippines game on the 19th, and it has, thankfully happened.

The game featured about two-thirds of my figures for the period and had everything I wanted to see. Americans attacking Philippine Republicans while the latter piece together a crazy defense. Mad attacks by fearsome-bolo armed troops. An amphibious assault by sailors and marines. Some fun play, and as John said anus-clenching moments for all.

The scenario was entirely fictional but took place in the Batangas Bay with Republican forces retreating, but caught between advancing American forces. Their goal was to withdraw as many troops and supplies as possible. There were two commands of Republican troop, three units each. They were bolstered by local tribal militia with a fiery commander.

They faced a force of Washington State Volunteers to the north, U.S. Regulars to the east and a force of Marines and sailors about to land in the rear to the west.

The game began with the David’s Volunteers using a machine gun and gunfire to inflict a dose of reality on Bill’s Republicans. The Philippine troops, being poor shots, did less, but when the Centralia Company of the Volunteers failed a pin check, things slowed down a little bit.

On the east side, John’ irregulars advanced against Eric’s Republicans, hunkered down in some rice paddies. Despite an effective opening volley, the American response sent the poorly led Republicans reeling. Things were not looking good.

I commanded the tribal infantry in the center and I busied myself trying to collect supplies with two my units. These were supplies we could carry off the south edge of the board to earn victory points. I left one unit with commander in the woods to back up Bill’s Republicans facing the Volunteers.

Meanwhile, Dave’s amphib group headed for the beaches, still a turn or so away from being in the fight.

Bill and Eric’s Republican forces fought gamely, but mostly on the losing end of exchanges with the Americans. I successfully gathered supplies from one of the caches, while a second unit headed toward another about the time Dave disembarked the Marines from their steam launches.

I turned my unit on the Marines and launched a vicious attack that inflicted 50% casualties. But with their excellent leader present, my celebration was short-lived. The Marines recovered. The bolos took fire, and, far from their leader, were immediately pinned. They were a non-factor for the rest of the game.

Bill’s Republicans fell back through the woods, and were at least able to escape fire from the Volunteers, but knew a good push would finish him. Eric surrendered the paddies to the regulars and took shelter in some buildings, only to begin taking fire from Dave’s Marines.

I moved my tribal infantry at the double, out of my safe woods zone down to help Eric’s troops, pounced on one of John’s regular units and destroyed it. But the inevitable gunfire replies killed the tribal leader, and devoid of command, they quickly became pinned and unable to move.

The Philippine army was doomed. We called it good.

I had fun. I hope others did too.

We used the Men Who Would Be King rules by Daniel Mersey. They were quite fun, but each set of his rule are a little different so there were things I would have done differently. I made the Republicans bad shots, but in return I could have given them fieldcraft which would have allowed them to Go to Ground as a tribal unit and let them avoid terrain costs. I also could have given the Republicans the initiative in each turn, so they would always have the option of moving ahead of the American gunfire, so the game would have become a lot more like the running gunfight I wanted.

Farewell to August, a Good Month to Get Stuff done.

Cod Wars ships by Decapod. British Type 21 Frigate compared to Iceland Coast Guard Vessel Ver.

May was the month of my Hundred Figure Painting Challenge. I painted a lot of stuff. Honestly I’ve managed to paint quite a bit each month. Maybe not a hundred figures, but enough to make progress on lots of stuff each month.

No, I didn’t approach a hundred figures in August, but I did finish my Philippine-American War project. That was huge. Even more exciting, I’ve scheduled my first game with them for September 19th under Dave Schueler’s pop-up tent in his front yard. I am pumped. September will begin with work on some needed terrain bits for the scenario I planned to run at Enfilade. I completed 44 figures for this project this month.

I got some other work done too. I have long admired the P-38J’s of Medal of Honor winner Richard I. Bong’s 49th fighter group. They fought in the South Pacific and ran up some impressive kill totals flying the rather unforgiving twin engine plane. I ordered six of the Raiden version of the Lightning, had a couple of GHQ versions that are at least 15 years old, as well as a couple more of the Dave Smith bounty from a few years ago. So ten planes to paint up. They weren’t hard, but a bit more challenging than I thought they’d be.

49th Fighter Group P-38J’s. Planes from three different makers. In the back GHQ’s Lightning. Left front is Raiden, and on the right an unknown maker. My first effort with natural aluminum planes. They’ll do.

The 49th Fighter group were in natural aluminum. I used the color from the Vallejo USAAF CBI set. It’s a really nice color, that goes on very well. I did two coats, though I probably could have gotten by on one. I followed with USAF Olive Drab for the anti-glare panels on the nose and inside the engine nacelles. Then it was lining. I chose to use charcoal. On most planes it’s not a problem to be a little imperfect, but the aluminum showed everything. So there was some painting and then repainting. And a little more repainting. Red tips on tails, nose and spinners, and voila life is good. The last hiccup happened when I tried to apply decals to those twin booms. Not enough room on the models for those roundels, so they got wing insignia only. don’t tell. I made up for it by painting numbers on the nose. 10 planes for the month.

Navis Maine, center, surrounded by War Times Journal Texas and Cincinnati. Hard to say which is more detailed, but the WTJ ships are definitely cheaper.

It was a banner month for painting ships. I wrote about the two War Times Journal ships I received–Texas and Cincinnati. I liked them well enough to order a few more from the Spanish American War era. The first will be the Chicago, one of my favorite ships from the era. It’s the C in the ABCD original ships ordered for the American New Navy of the 1880’s. I also ordered the New Orleans, built in the British Elswick yards for Brazil. Finally, I ordered the Isla De Luzon, which was a teeny, tiny cruiser captured and repurposed from Spain during the Spanish American War. Looking forward to those.

This fairly blurry picture is of the U.S. monitor Monterey. The level of detail, that you can’t possibly see from this miserable excuse of an image, is actually quite nice. While the monitors were really a relic of past greatness, American shipyards continued to build them until well into the 1900’s.

I also wrote about my ships from Brown Water Navy. I ordered a few more vessels from Shapeways–also from BWN. These are 1/1250 ships from that pre-dreadnought era. They are the Presidente Errazuriz and the Presidente Pinto, built for the Chilean Navy in French yards. They are very small, weighing in at just 2,000 tons, but completing my group of Chileans for a scenario I’d like to run. I also received the U.S. monitor Monterey, which was built on the west coast and motored (very carefully) to Manila after Dewey destroyed the Spanish fleet and American forces captured the archipelago. All seem very nice, and I’m excited to paint them up.

Presidente class light cruisers built in the UK for the Chilean navy. Another Brown Water Navy creation. These miniatures are actually quite small and very, very nicely detailed. On the to-do list for September.

I also wrote about ordering and painting up a pair of Richmond class ironclads from Thoroughbred Figures. I went with the Raleigh in its dark blue finish, and the Chicora in its pale blue. They were very fun to paint. They are also terrific models. Can’t say enough good about them.

Finally, I’m up to my elbows working on my ships for the Cod Wars. This is the proto-conflict between NATO allies Iceland and the United Kingdom over fishing rights in expanded territorial zones claimed by Iceland. These really accelerated into near conflict as Icelandic Coast Guard vessels rammed Royal Navy frigates protecting British fishing trawlers in the 1970’s. It was an ugly business.

The ships however, not so ugly. Decapod designs them and they are sold through Shapeways. I bought my fleet o’ ships last September and completing them is my big project for this September. I’ve gotten a chunk of them done already. There are about twenty-five to paint and I’ve finished ten.

There’s lots I can write about these ships and the conflict, but I’ll spare you with a simple review of Decapod’s work. 3D printed models can be a crap shoot. Some are great. Some not so much. But the printed ships I see coming from War Times Journal and Shapeways are pretty nice. The amount of detail never ceases to amaze. The same is true of the Cod Wars vessels, which feature fairly good sized British frigates of the 1970’s down to fairly small fishing trawlers that make up the bulk of the required vessels. Nicely detailed–maybe too nicely in some cases, but no complaints from me.

I painted 14 ships during the month of August, bringing my painting total to 68 miniatures for the month.

My retiree plan was to largely paint miniatures I stockpiled and I’ve pretty much stuck to that. I’m making less money now, and I have to be careful, though that doesn’t mean I can’t buy stuff every now and then. With bars and restaurant closed to lunching with my buddies, I’ve invested wisely in a variety of ship projects. I bought ten ship models this month. The difference from the past is that I don’t stockpile them. I usually turn them around quite quickly.

September should be a month wrapping up the Cod Wars, including making game markers and the like. I have terrain pieces to make for my Philippines game, and then more ships to do as well. Don’t know how many figs I’ll paint but it will be plenty.

Rusty with his buddy Lola peruse the backyard. He is rarely far from me, note my foot in the foreground. He’s under the table as I write this. He’s my close companion, but he needs an ACL repair in September.

September is also a month that will have some additional distractions. Rusty, my 12-year old Australian Shepherd will likely have ACL surgery this month and I’ll be his primary care giver, so I’ll have my hands full helping out my big red buddy. In addition, I’m unretiring for a couple of months and going to work for Pierce County as an elections worker. I’m excited. I’ve always wanted to do elections work and it will bring in a little more game money to boot.

The Richmond class and Thoroughbred’s splendid model.

The Confederate Navy struggled to produce much that could be standardized and produced across the South. There simply weren’t many large naval shipyards, so useful ships were produced in many locations by local designers and fitted out as best the local conditions would allow. Thus, the Albemarle was built in a cornfield and the Atlanta began life as a converted blockade runner, the Fingal.

By contrast, though the Union navy pressed numerous civilian vessels into service as blockaders and Cornelius Vanderbilt’s massive Vanderbilt became an armed merchant cruiser, the Navy contracted and built 10 Passaic class monitors, nine Canoncicus class monitors, many other varied types of monitors and ironclads to fill out the ironclad fleet, plus 46 double-end gunboats, 23 90-day gunboats and a host of additional wooden vessels, all with reasonably standard designs built to standard specifications that made them reasonably compatible within their classes.

The Confederates did, however, have the Maury gunboats and the Richmond class ironclads. Matthew Fontaine Maury, the great oceanographer and proposed to Secretary of the Navy that the cash- and resource-strapped nation build hundreds of small gunboats, flush decked and armed with two powerful guns be built on every small river and inlet across the south to defeat the blockade. Only two were built-The Isondiga in the Savannah River and the Yadkin in the Cape Fear River.

The Richmond class ships, however, were more promising. Six of the ironclads were built in Atlantic ports. The Richmond served on the James River. The Chicora and Palmetto State defended Charleston. The Raleigh and the North Carolina were sentinels of the Cape Fear River and Wilmington. The Savannah protected its name-port. They were similar in dimensions and armament–four guns with some mix of Brooke rifles and smoothbores. Designer J.L. Porter called for robust engines, four of the six scraped by with tugboat powerplants that left them chronically under-powered with the extra bulk of iron armor.

Thoroughbred Figures makes a wonderful miniature of the Richmond. Toby Barrett, designer, caster and maestro of all things Confederate ironclads includes directions for the arrangement of bits to create all the Richmond class ship. Really, for fourteen bucks it’s a super miniature.

I decided to build the Raleigh and the Chicora pretty much out of the box. There is a level of fiddliness to these guys. There are grates and pilot houses to locate and I confess to some bad gluery getting some pieces a bit askew. There are also pieces such as boat davits and vents that require drilling holes in the right places. I managed to break two bits for my trusty Dremel for the Raleigh’s boat, and decided the Chicora could do without. In all honesty I built another Richmond years ago and didn’t try any of the tomfoolery. Does it matter? I think so but you have to decide what you want to deal with.

After assembly I glued ’em to a craft stick and gave ’em a good priming. Then I painted the fully that is barely visible below the casemate knuckle charcoal grey. Black would be okay too.

Now for the major paint. For the decking fore and aft of the casemate, as well as on the top of the casemate, I opted for Vallejo Deck Tan. Then it was on to the casemate itself.

I know what you’re thinking. “A Richmond, is a Richmond is a Richmond.” Why could I possibly need three? The answer is simple. They aren’t all the same color. Silly.

Raleigh in Vallejo Dark Prussian Blue with Light Grey and Sky Grey dry brushes. Added a little rust just for good measure. Clear acrylic base by Litko.

In opting for the Raleigh, I got to paint a dark blue version of that ironclad. I opted for Vallejo Prussian Dark Blue. Nice color, but not grey enough, so I dry brushed with Vallejo Light Grey and then again with Vallejo Sky Grey, so I got a great effect that I really like with the darker blue shining out beneath. It also did a great job of articulating the gunport covers.

The Chicora and all the ironclads of the Charleston Squadron are described as being variously painted as pale blue, then perhaps changed to a tan color, or maybe even whitewashed to reduce the heat off the armor. I, of course, opted for the pale blue. I looked over what I had and decided that paler was probably better. I used Vallejo Sky Blue (FS3550) from the RAF Mediterranean Model Air set. It’s very light and I think I used three coats. Then I thinned the Vallejo Black Wash and gave it a light dousing to bring out the armor.

I painted many metal pieces like galley stacks, boat davits and spar torpedo bits Vallejo Neutral Grey. Guns were painted black and highlighted with charcoal. Stacks were painted black and highlighted with Neutral Grey and lookie they’re done. Not a tough build or paint job.

My newer ships I’m mounting on 1.5mm acrylic bases by Litko. They are about two bucks a base with shipping, so not unreasonable. It allows me to clearly use the mat color as my background, rather than trying to match whatever I did 30 years ago. I may do some re-mounting as well and that might mean some repainting too. But I’m retired so who cares.

August has been a pretty productive month. I’ve finished 44 figures in the Philippines, wrapped up the Wilmington and North Carolina, as well as Raleigh and Chicora. I’ve got ten P-38J fighters that are asking for my attention and should be done some time this week. Life is good.

Finishing Projects–The Philippine-American War

Despite its spindly legs that will no doubt lead to disaster some day, 1898 Miniaturas’ figure of Henry Lawton is my favorite of their figures. Great proportions and the right amount of detail is the hallmark of this range.

I don’t know how others do it, but like most wargamers I have more than one thing going on. In a moment of Covid-boredom, I counted my projects. There are over 40–something like 43. Some, like my Song of Drums of Tomahawks project–Beaver Wars in the 17th century–are quite small-26 figures. Others, like my Hundred Years War project are massive and beyond numbers. I’d guess at over a 1,000 with many, many unpainted figures.

Mounted U.S. Cavalry by Old Glory. Very serviceable figures. Flag by 1898 Miniaturas.

So wrapping up a big project is a big deal. Today I finished my last figures for the Philippine-American War. For those not in the know, this little-known conflict lasted from 1899-1903 and was fought by the United States against armed rebels throughout the Philippine archipelago. It’s different than Moro rebellion which officially began later, and was largely confined to Mindanao.

A glimpse inside my box o’Republican infantry. All figures by 1898 Miniaturas

No, I had a specific reason for choosing the Philippines. I view the conflict as America’s most important foreign imperial experience including regular troops and volunteers from all over the U.S. America suffered about 4,200 war dead and the conflict offered a preview of what fighting a guerrilla war in Asia might look like. Though the U.S. achieved its war aims but the cost to the Filipinos was horrendous as death estimates vary from 200,000 to three million. The army that fought the war included elements of local Washington volunteers-the kind of thing that always gets my attention. I was at a point where I was really interested in a colonial project and I decided this was it.

Gatling by 1898 Miniaturas. This is the only failure I see by these guys. Way too many tiny pieces to assemble without any direction. Detail is great, assembly was spotty.

Three years ago (2017) I began buying figures for the project. I was drawn to the 1898 Miniaturas figures though I took at look at the Old Glory range and Tiger Miniatures as well. It was clear that the basics of the range had to be from 1898, but there were also holes, and I could fill those from the other makers. I detailed availability here. Today I’ll finish basing the final unit.

Tiger figures–Drigg-Schroeder 1 pdr with Marine crew. Despite all the very full moustaches i like the animation of these guys.

Overall this was a project based on the 1898 range. I estimate 350 of the nearly 500 figures were from 1898. They were a pleasure to paint. The figures were varied and authentic. The American Krag-Jorgensen rifles were very Krag-like with their goofy side-loading magazines. The Philippine militia had lots of varied weapons, poses and dress. Just some great stuff. I have just one complaint: though the American cannon and crew were great, the Gatling guns with fiddly bits a-go go were just overreach. There are lots of great Gatlings out there, but these had too many pieces with no explanation of where they go. The detail is great, but in the end I assembled it incorrectly

Another one of my favorites. Tagalog infantry with shooting stuff. 1898 Miniatures.

I used lots of Old Glory figures for the Americans. Never underestimate the quality of these figures. The Marines look like Marines, the sailors work, and having the volunteers captures the difference between the better armed regulars and those who were in the Philippines in greater numbers and made do with less. They may not stand out like the 1898’s but they definitely do the job. I used extras as members of gun crews.

Washington Volunteers head into action. Figures by Old Glory. Flag by 1898 Miniaturas with lettering by, well, me.

Tiger Miniatures has some great weapon and accessories packs, but the crews and infantry figures seem large and caricatured. They aren’t terrible, but just not my first or second choice for large numbers of troops. Their extra bits, however, are very useful.

This was a great painting project, but I’m glad it’s finished. Now the big challenge will be getting a chance to play with it. Count on a Philippine scenario for Enfilade 2021 using The Men Who Would Be Kings, all things being equal. I still have some terrain to build, but most of it is done. On to other things.

Philippine figures

1 X 12 Spanish deserters (1898 Miniaturas)

10 X 12 Philippine Republic Infantry (1898 Miniaturas)

6 X 18 Philippine militia armed with bolos and rifles. (1898 Miniaturas)

3 X 4 Latanka cannon (1898 Miniaturas)

3 X 3 Command stands (1898 Miniaturas)

Total- 261 figures

American Forces

3 X 12 Figures U.S. Regulars (1898 Miniaturas)

3 X 12 Figures U.S. Dismounted Cavalry ((1898 Miniaturas)

4 X 12 Figures U.S. Volunteers (Old Glory)

2 X 12 Figures U.S. Marines (Old Glory)

2 X 12 Figures U.S. Sailors (Old Glory)

1 X 12 Figures Philippine Constabulary (Tiger Miniatures)

1 X 8 Figures Mounted U.S. Cavalry (Old Glory)

1 X 4 unlimbered and 1 X 4 limbered Colt Machine gun (Tiger Miniatures)

1 X 4 unlimbered mountain howitzer (Tiger Miniatures)

1 X 4 unlimbered Marine 1 pdr. (Tiger Miniatures)

1 X 7 mule train (Tiger Miniatures)

2 X 4 3.2″ field guns (1898 Miniaturas)

2 X 4 Gatling guns (1898 Miniaturas)

4 X 1 mounted command figures (1898 Miniaturas)

Total= 231 figures

Working With War Times Journal and Brown Water Navy models.

Though it’s been a while since my last post, it isn’t because I haven’t done anything. I played a couple of games with Michael and George. I’ve also played played a couple of games on Dave Schueler’s lawn under a pop-up tents.

More than anything however, I’ve ridden the Covid wave and stayed home. I’ve been working away on my Philippine project and have the batch of figures left at one unit of twelve figures. They’ll be done soon enough and I’ll write a review an overview of those miniatures and that project.

The last few days, I’ve been working on ships from a couple of new (to me) companies and I thought I’d share my experiences with those.

Let me start with War Times Journal. When I began my Tiny Ships project a few months back that seems like an eternity I said straight up I wanted the very nice little ships from Germany I wouldn’t have to paint. I’ve pretty much stuck with that, and I have lots of excellent ships for my nascent American navy. Lots I’ve gotten used. Some I mortgaged my house for (wait, no that’s an exaggeration I think.) In any case I have lots of great ships.

But ship acquisition has kind of hit a wall. Why? Two very good reasons. First, in all things, is Covid. The cute, nicely painted tiny ships come from Germany and Austria. If you try to order anything from Germany and Austria at the present time, the only thing they can send you is the virus. Wee ships are almost impossible to get. The shipping time, if at all, is very long, and the cost is very high. That also means American suppliers have a really hard time re-filling their stock. So picking up new ships right now is challenging.

There is a second problem, and that is that American ships can sometimes be hard to come by because they are overlooked. Hai actually makes a lot of the American fleet from 1883-1895, but those ships are, if anything, more difficult to get than the more readily produced Navis ships.

However, one company that does produce those American ships in the United States is War Times Journal. They use that wonderful 3D printing process to produce a wide range of ships in a variety of scales and plastic media. Of course, at 1/1250 scale, these are wee tiny kits that will require some modeling for masts and painting. But they also make some ships that are at the very least difficult or impossible to get, so I jumped and ordered the American armored ship Texas, and the protected cruiser Raleigh. Texas was at Santiago Bay and Raleigh was with Dewey at Manila Bay.

Nothing moves very fast these days, and it took three weeks or more to get my order. The two ships were quite small and printed in DLP plastic, so smooth surfaced. They also come pre-holed to take the two masts needed for each ship. Both also were studded with tiny plastic vertical supports. They can be removed with a sharp knife. They prevent “barrel droop” and contribute to very crisp printing of the superstructure, but are really annoying.

Neither miniature is as long as three inches, though Texas, about 3,000 tons heavier than Raleigh is more robust. Both have excellent detail. Probably more than my metal models. I began by soaking them overnight in water and dishwashing detergent to get rid of that nasty release stuff residue. Then I stuck them to a popsicle stick with white glue and spray primed them. Mistake. If I order again, and that seems quite likely, I’ll glue them with a spot of CA glue. White glue simply leaves too much residue and that was a bit of a problem when I pulled them off their temporary home.

Painting was pretty easy. I used a craft white paint for the lowers and Vallejo Yellow Ochre for the buff uppers. Not too orange and close to the buff of the American Navy ships. Gun barrels are all painted craft charcoal. I did decide to do a bit of detailing and outlined the sponson gun positions in Vallejo Sky Grey which is pretty light, but a nice contrast against the white hull.

WTJ Raleigh was a pleasure to built. Raleigh was an American “barely-protected” cruiser commissioned in 1892. Served with Dewey at Manila Bay, and thus ate from the fruits of victory.

I also had to fabricate masts. My .006 brass wire was too small, so I foolishly relied on some of the K & S .010 wire I bought at Hobby Lobby some time ago. Mistake!! Double mistake!! This is vacuum sealed and despite care used in opening the package it’s impossible to peel it out of the packaging without bending the shit out of it in several different directions. I was able to use it, but not all of it. What a silly waste. I encourage you to use something else. If you can get your brass wire loose, that’s probably the best arrangement.

The Texas is hard to classify. It was classified as a second class battleship, as an armored cruiser, and ultimately just an armored ship. It was small at just over 6,000 tons, heavily armored, really slow, and mounted two twelve inch guns in single turrets. Despite all its shortcomings, Texas performed admirably at Santiago Bay.

I also wanted to include the fighting tops. I took Dave Schueler’s suggestion and crafted those out of 1/8″ plastic rod. I cut it small with a razor saw and sanded with a bit of fine sand paper. I used photos of both ships from John Alden’s wondrous American Steel Navy to help me with masts, positioning fighting tops and colors. Voila. Finis. I highly recommend the WTJ miniatures and I’ve ordered a few more-protected cruiser Chicago, protected cruiser New Orleans and captured Spanish protected cruiser Isla de Luzon.

The other manufacturer I’d like to preview are American Civil War ships by Shapeways designer Matthew Lawson’s range of Brown Water Navy ships. Lawson’s work includes 1/600, 1/1200 and 1/2400 ACW. He also has 1/1250 ships for a variety of countries including some of my tiny ships interests. Oh dear.

I ordered three Confederate ironclads. I wanted ships that weren’t a copy of Thoroughbred’s work or ships available from Bay Area Yards. Given the number of 1/600 ACW ships available has actually shrunk as Bay’s offerings have diminished, it was important to give it a try. I ordered the North Carolina, the Palmetto State and the Wilmington. North Carolina was one of the six Richmond class ironclads built largely in accordance to John L. Porter’s designs to create a class of ironclad ram that was smaller (150 ft. length) than the Virginia and more easily built, armored and engined using resources available to the Confederacy. Unfortunately the North Carolina was given a tugboat engine, was severely underpowered, never painted and served most of its career as a floating battery.

Palmetto State is more or less based on the Richmond design, but was shaped somewhat differently than her Charleston sister, the Chicora. They were both kinda purty in their pale blue paint scheme.

Wilmington was never completed. The most interesting feature of its design is the two large casemates each with seven embrasures to handle two large guns on pivot mounts and a maximum field of fire.

The order to Shapeways was processed more quickly than promised. The ships probably arrived a week early. They were very clean and printed on “white natural versatile plastic” which is another term for “not quite smooth and there’s nothing you can do about it so live with it.” The first thing I noticed was the size of the Palmetto State. It seemed small. I compared it to the North Carolina. I compared it to the my Thorouhbred Richmond. Small. Donald Canney lays out the particulars of the building of the Palmetto State. He does not suggest it was shorter than the Richmond class design. I set this one aside.

Instead I grabbed North Carolina and Wilmington and decided to start with them. I put them through the soaking regimen glued them to popsicle sticks and primed ’em. The ships are pretty light, which is weird. There are some details on the largely plain surfaces of the ships. Both have decent ship’s boats printed on them. The Wilmington has lots of vents. Both have what look like gratings. I thought it was important to do as much painting with them as possible.

I painted the decks Vallejo Deck Tan. I know there are probably folks who would like this to be a little lighter or a little more yellow. For me, I think it’s a go-to color and I’ll stay with it. The next step was to paint the hull and casemates. It is likely neither of these ships would have been painted and would have a lead gray color. I painted the hull, casemates, vents, and all the deck details Vallejo Neutral Grey to start with. Then I painted the NC casemate deck tan, before attempting to paint the gratings on both ships. It was challenging, but I lived through it. They look okay. Then I painted the funnels black.

Next it was on to some detailing. I layered some dry brushed colors. Started with Vallejo Light Grey and went to the lighter Vallejo Sky Grey. Then I added a light brushing of Vallejo Natural Steel. I finished by adding some dribbles of thinned Vallejo Desert Yellow for rust, and tried not to overdue it. I added some dry-brushed Neutral Grey to the funnels and shot the whole business with Dullcote. When dry, it seemed like they needed something, so I added flagstaffs and my last spare Confederate naval ensigns to each ship.

Wilmington based on its cool design.

I enjoyed working on these ships. I was really disappointed with the Palmetto State. So my experience is kind of varied. I did order some of the 1/1250 ships for my Tiny Ships project, so maybe I’ll have better news to report.

Addendum–Matthew Lawson reached out to me and offered to replace my Palmetto State miniature, while acknowledging it should be longer. That’s a pretty amazing offer in my book. Thanks Matthew.

Last night I ordered from both WTJ and Brown Water Navy. I laid out my WTJ ships, but decided to try out BWN’s 1/1250 ships, including the two Chilean Presidente cruisers, as well as the American monitor Monterey, which floated across the ocean to serve in the Philippines during the Spanish American War. Am excited to receive both orders.