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.
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.
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.
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.