I Got Stuff Done!

Late Sunday night I was still struggling to get some stuff finished for the week, despite putting in a fair amount of painting time for the week. But, it finally happened.

Let’s be clear, I do have some busy distractions right now.  In early October Lorri and I are going on vacation to Hawaii.  We’re excited.  We’ve never been there before, so it’s a big hoo-hah deal.

While we’re gone we are doing a major remodel at Chez Smyth. The remodel will require moving all the furniture out of the living room and dining room.  We’re renting a POD to store furniture, but I have about 700 books and 300 records that will have to be packed so bookcases and record storage can be moved.

It’s a job.  The benefit is that I’ve been able to weed out some of my books, which will create better storage for other books I’d like to move to more desirable places and creating a bit more storage for other things.  Like miniatures.

But, I have gotten some painting done.

Washington 2

Washinton’s 3rd Continental Light Dragoons is one of my very favorite units from the War of Independence.

I completed my first mounted unit for Rebels and Patriots.  I’ve long loved William Washington’s 3rd Continental Dragoons.  They fight everywhere throughout the Southern Campaign.  Washington, a cousin of that George guy, was a terrific leader.  Even though his unit totaled less than a hundred men, they always seemed to be in the right place.  At Cowpens and Guilford Courthouse, key counterattacks really turned the tide of those battles. Unfortunately, Washington’s luck ran out at Eutaw Springs when he led his cavalry into wooded ditch defended by British regulars.  He was unhorsed and captured.

My figures are from Front Rank.  I’ve had them for a while, and I’d like to start painting a lot of these stray figures.  As will al Front Rank figures they are pleasingly chunky.  If I have a quibble, it is that the troopers all have their carbines out, which I think is dumb. The British light dragoons don’t have their firearms out.  They have swords, like any proper light dragoon. When Washington wounded Tarleton at Cowpens, trust me, he wasn’t slinging a musket stock.

I love the white coatee with blue facings.  It is white, with Vallejo Light Blue Grey.  I gave the officer white pants, the others have Vallejo Desert Yellow.  I could have opted to do the coat in Vallejo Grey-White and done a bit more with highlighting, but I didn’t. I did highlight the horses, which left them a little lighter and redder than I would have liked. I also highlighted the horse furniture and I’m really happy with how that turned out.

Washington 3

The Eutaw standard, which really isn’t much of one. But it was fun to paint.

The standard, called The Eutaw Flag was the one carried by the 3rd Continental Light Dragoons.  It was made from the tablecloth of Washington’s fiancee. I hand-painted that baby, yessirree. Not a major strain, I assure you.

From here, I’ll pick up the continuing saga of the HMS Orwell.  You’ll recall it is a plastic kit I was struggling a bit with.

Orwell 2

Orwell in Light Sea Grey before the camouflage is painted on.

After spraying it with Humbrol light grey, I took on the real paint job.  Think of the spray as a primer coat.

Orwell 3

Orwell after camouflage. All that is left are a few decals, and then glue the model to its clear acrylic base.

First I painted all the decking with Ceramcoat Charcoal Gray.  Then I went back and painted the hull and all the non-deck places Vallejo light sea grey.  The camouflage, taken from an illustration of another O class destroyer, the Obedient was applied in Vallejo Black, and Vallejo Light Blue Grey.  Yes, it was all done by hand, and no I didn’t use any kind of mask because I’m basically a lazy sluggard.

All that’s left to do is the decals and there aren’t many of those.

From here, it’s on to finish up some U.S. Volunteers in the Philippines, and I’ll begin assembling my remaining transports for the Museum of Flight convoy game.

Tiny Searchlights: or Why I Can Never Be a Great Modeler

I took some time off from painting last week. The rush to finish The Buffalo hunt kind of wore me out.  I’ve managed to pick up a brush the last couple of days, though I’ve been torn about what to work on. I still have a couple of units on my painting table: William Washington’s 3rd Continental Dragoons, all six figures of them for Rebels and Patriots; and twelve figures of Old Glory Volunteers for the Philippines. I’m making progress and hope to finish them soon.

Volunteers by Old Glory and #rd Continental Light Dragoons are under way, but a ways from being completed.  Hoping for this weekend (Sept. 8th.)

But on the horizon are a couple more important game days.

In September David Sullivan and I will host a Rebels and Patriots game at Fix Bayonets in Steilacoom.  I think we probably have all the figures we need, so I just want to wrap up those dragoons.

In November there is the Museum of Flight game.  I’ve suggested to Dave Schueler that we run an air attack on a convoy.  I have bombers suitable for the purpose to raid Italians, Germans or British, and can likewise put up defenders and escorts for all the nationalities.  All I need is a convoy. And maybe some escorts.

I’ve started putting together some British escorts.  I have a box of the 1/700 scale British O Class Destroyers from Tamiya.  The kit was cheap, and it comes with two destroyers!!  I think I ordered directly from Japan. It was ten bucks plus reasonable shipping, and did I say it came with two models?

I started assembling the first ship last night.  As I was doing so I realized either how terrible my vision was or how poorly I can manipulate small pieces, or why I should just never be a modeler.  The kit is pretty straightforward and actually has very nice detail  There are a bunch of sub-assemblies to put together before putting attaching them to the hull.  Makes sense. But some of the parts are oh so small.  There are the individual 20mm guns that are very nice but pretty little. Getting them to fit into those tiny little holes is really a challenge.  I was able to pull it off only by using tweezers.

But the absolute death of me is the eeny-teeny searchlights.  Each ship has three.  One is very small, the other two are grain-of-sand sized.  I did everything I could do to try to align them properly in their very small spaces, arriving many times at some version of upside down, glued to the hull, or adhered to my fingers.  When two of them finally fell on the floor, invisible to my 64-year old eyes, I gave up and called it good.


This is the ship assembled.  No you won’t find any searchlights, but the rest of the pieces are there to the best of my ability.  Note the slight list to the main mast. The ship will be the G98 Orwell, because I just can’t help myself. Orwell was a 4-inch armed destroyer.  The second model will be the G 04 Onslaught, a 4.7 inch armed version. The model was spray primed with Humbrol light grey.  More painting to come.

The August Tally

I have no idea what I actually completed in August.  Not much from my historical projects.  I did complete the Buffalo project.  I think that was:

12 Comanches on foot

6 Foundry grizzly bears

8 wolves by Foundry and Alternative Armies

16 buffalo by Acheson, Westwind and Foundry.

That’s 42 figures in about three weeks of painting time.  Not bad.  Not great.

August is also my little work gig for the Washington State Journalism Education Association, and I get a paycheck for that.  Lorri usually allows me to invest part of it in game goodies. So I did some buyin’

By far the biggest purchase was a big pile of Litko bases that should keep me pretty well stocked for the year.  Mostly bits for the Daniel Mersey rules.

I also bought some planes for up and coming projects.

Daveshoe, George Kettler and I really want to do some Vietnam era stuff.  Dave and I have most of the planes for the Navy, but I wanted some A-4C’s for the Air Force.  I decided this was a job for Raiden miniatures, so I ordered the Phantoms.  Of course I couldn’t help but pad things out a bit, so I also picked up six of the excellent Bristol Beauforts.  They were the prime torpedo bombers for RAAF, and participated in the air campaign against Rabaul, so that’s a future side project.

Dave and I also plan to run a game based on the American bombing of Ploesti.  I have some of Phil Bardsley’s beautiful B-24D’s, but needed six more, so I sent off an order to Scotia for more.  Well, actually I ordered ten B-24’s and I’ll figure out what to do with the rest.  Probably something to do with Rabaul.  Hey,  the RAAF flew those too.  I also slipped in some Beaufighters, which the Australians also flew against Rabaul.  Anyway, there are plenty of airplanes to keep me busy.



The Heroics and Ros Merchants

After a year of assembling planes for Malta, Dave Schueler and I determined we needed a variety of targets.  We’ve done that using the Tinywargames Malta mat.  I’ve put together my own airfield felt mat and added a wide variety of buildings.

But something was missing.  A huge part of the Malta story was the siege that settled over the island as convoy after convoy brining precious supplies was attacked by the Luftwaffe and Regia Aeronautica.  The converse side of this is that aircraft stationed out of Malta mounted relentless attacks on German and Italian ships headed with supplies for North Africa.

The two of us have acquired some of the merchant vessels offered by Ros and Heroics.  These were originally Skytrex castings, produced in pewter.  They aren’t cheap at six to nine quid a throw, plus the spendy shipping from Great Britain.  I was prepared to be disappointed when I ordered my first four models, and four more later.

I’ve had a love/hate relationship with H and R.  Love them because they carry the Skytrex range, which is unique and combines so well with David Gregory’s great range of WWII coastal vessels from PT Dockyard.  The range of sea walls, jetties, and fortifications can’t be matched.  But they’ve been challenging to order from the states.  Everything from missing molds, to slow service, and that shipping charge certainly makes things more costly.

I made my first order for ships in September. All merchants including the big tanker and British merchant at nine pounds each.  Service didn’t disappoint-four weeks from the order to receiving the product.  But, the real surprise was in the casting.  Three of the four miniatures had newly molded resin hulls.  They were nicely cast, no bubbles, mold marks on the seven inch models were extreme and easily sanded.  All the additional details-superstructure, masts and booms, the odd deck gun, were nicely cast in metal. If there was a problem with the minis it was that the portholes-nicely formed-were probably big enough to accommodate a bus. Small potatoes in the world of miniature making.

Merchant 1

German 5,500 ton cargo ship. Yes, it can definitely double as some other nation’s cargo vessel; I won’t tell.

I waited to make a second order, mostly because the H and R website was under renovation.  When I did order in January it was like a night and day difference.  Owner Andy sent me a prompt e-mail to let me know my order was received and another in a few days to let me know the order was on its way.  I had the ships within two weeks from the U.K. The e-mail contacts were refreshing and should be an industry standard.  The quick delivery was stupendous.

Merchant 2

A none-too-friendly look at all four ships together. The Nikon tends to focus on a particular target and blurs everything else. You’re looking at the 4,000 ton tankner

But the miniatures are also great.  Again, the crisp casting of the resin hulls was really good.  This batch had a bit of light flash, but nothing that couldn’t be easily removed.  Light mold marks at the bottom of the hull, easily removed with light sanding and extra fine sand paper. My only complaint was my Flower class corvette did not come with its four-inch gun turret.  I replaced it with a gun turret from the Tamiya Japanese Auxiliaries kit.

Flower class 1

Flower Class 2

Two views of the nifty little Flower class corvette. My favorite of the four models, it is a little small for for the 8″ base.

These miniatures are sizable at 1/600.  The smallest are about four inches long, and the largest are pushing eight inches. So the question is always to mount them on bases or not? In a conversation with Dave, he said he preferred bases because it’s just easier to move the ships. But basing material is always a challenge.  Plus, arriving at a consistent color with the mat is always a challenge.  Dave suggested a clear base with wakes painted in white.

Tramp 1

3,000 ton tramp steamer was a pleasure to put together.

Tanker 1

One more look at the tanker by H and R.

Easier said than done. My first thought was 8” X 1.5” bases on clear acrylic by Litko.  Hey, they’d be straight and at 1/8” thickness they’d be strong enough for the largest ships.  Plugged it into their custom base maker and it came back as sixty bucks for ten bases.  Too much. I needed a Plan B.

I ordered a 12” square piece of acrylic from Amazon.  Intended for a picture frame, I thought maybe I could scribe it with a sharp Ex-Acto knife and break it off as I’ve done with sheet styrene.  I’m sure somebody could, but it just didn’t work for me.  I made too many additional marks on the acrylic and simply could not get the scribing lines deep enough.  That was a ten-dollar failure.

Went back to Litko, and looked at the same dimensions but at 1/16” thickness.  Half the price.  I hit the buy button and had my bases within a couple of weeks. They look great. Litko has also improved their service and made their shipping more affordable.  Highly recommended.

Although it may not be clearly evident from my glare-ridden, somewhat blurry photos, the Litko bases definitely served their purpose.  I’m not struggling to match my bases, let alone lining them up against the mat.  The ships, the bases, and I haven’t even mentioned my tinywargames mat, all work together to look different.  Even I can’t screw that up.


Bostons and the Irish cops


I’m having a great painting month.  And with a four day weekend approaching (for this teacher, at any rate,) and nothing much planned, I’m looking forward to a great painting weekend.

First on my completion pile is the C in C Boston bombers.  These are American built bombers built by Douglas.  Primarily light bombers or attack planes and given the designation A-20A, many were flown by the Brits as Boston II’s.  I chose to paint them in a North Africa/Mediterranean scheme.  They are my entire British RAF representatives for this theater.  Maybe I need more. It will encourage me to paint my GHQ Hurricane II’s I’ve had sitting around for decades.


The miniatures are by C in C. The minis have lines that are really clean and I like that.  However, they are bit short of detail.  Overall nice, but lacking a little bit, or the scribing so light for the control surfaces I simply painted out the detail The camouflage is Vallejo Desert Yellow as a base, with Vallejo Military green.  I dry brushed over the whole business with white to lighten up the colors a bit and then black washed the lot. The undersurface is painted with Vallejo Light Grey.  The paint scheme is out of the book Flying Colours.

I’ll probably add two more at a future time so I have four planes to work with.  That’s the minimum.

I’ve also completed nine of the Musketeer/Footsore Royal Irish Constabulary figures. These are figures I really enjoyed painting, probably because they are really easy.  With their dark green 20th century uniforms, there isn’t a whole lot to them.  I used Vallejo Military Green as the base color and did my best to highlight them, but they are still pretty dark. I painted their cartridge belts black, which may be a no-no, but I have no photos to refer to for this equipment, and all other belting was black and the Auxies most definitely wore black cartridge belts.

What’s on my painting table?


From the RIC to WWII at sea.  I’ve assembled and primed four of the Skytrex-now ROS/Heroics-Siebel ferries.  I had a couple I purchased during our St. Nazaire prep last year. I added a two more in December. They’ll go with my 1/600 coastal collection.  They served in the Mediterranean, the Baltic and the Channel coasts.  A unique catamaran vessel they were designed for the invasion of Britain in 1940.  They were designed as amphibious landing craft, and could carry about 100 tons of cargo, including trucks and tanks.  Experimentation with propulsion systems included truck engines and aircraft engines. All were armed at least with light AA weapons, and some were armed with multiple 88mm guns.

After that, it’s on to a couple of much larger vessels, the German Wolf class torpedo boat we’ll use in the Channel Dash scenario. The second vessel is a British V & W class destroyer.  I’ve decided to do the Wolf in light gray with a white bow wave camo.  The British destroyer I’m going to color up a bit in a Western Approaches color scheme which includes a white hull and markings in pastel green and light blue gray.  No point in tedium.

After the ships it will be on to do the first unit of Rohirrim for Dragon Rampant.  These will all be Mithril miniatures I bought during the early 1990’s, so needless to say they’ve been waiting around for a paint job for a while. Then it will be hydroplanes and assembling some Crosley tenders for my Irish project. I have one model by Sloppy Jalopy and two more by Company B miniatures.  I’ll cross my fingers and trust to luck.

Less is more

I did make one purchase.  I picked up a pair of Passaic class monitors from Thoroughbred.  Just wanted to fill out what I have. This will give me three monitors from a class of ten. I won’t need any more.  I suspect another order in the not too distant future-probably a Canonicus class monitor and the Civilian Purchased Screw steamer variant of the always useful Yankee Gunboat model.  Any variety of steamer I can put my hands on is a bonus.

That makes me a +11-2 for this time, and a + 19 for the year.

And a quick plug

I’ve been buying 1/600 scale ACW ships from Throughbred Figures since they issued the Albemarle almost 25 years ago.  I’ve always loved owner/designer Toby Barrett’s work. It is of high quality, sturdy and for an all metal miniature, very fairly priced.  Now Toby has added superb customer service.  I ordered my monitors on Monday and they were in my mailbox today (Friday.) For the record, Virginia Beach, the home of Thoroughbred Figures, is about as far as one can be from beautiful Puyallup Washington, and remain in the continental United States.  Check it out here.

Pages afloat

Normally I would be sharing some awesome music with you.  Unfortunately my listening habits have been detoured by my decision to binge watch The X-Files.  Sick? A waste of time? Absolutely, and I’m enjoying every minute of it. But for the next post, I promise I’ll share a review of Zephyr, by the band of the same name.  Haven’t heard of them?  Well, you will soon.

However, I have bought a few books recently, all of them related to naval warfare in a couple of different periods. Note:  I have read none of them yet, but two are relatively new, and worth knowing about.

51j13gnZ0mL._SX342_BO1,204,203,200_Henry V’s Navy: The Sea Road to Agincourt and Conquest 1413-1422 .  by Ian Friel To suggest that books about the Hundred Years War at sea are as rare as hen’s teeth may be giving too much credit to the hens. The only other book-length study I’m aware of is 2011’s Edward III and The War at Sea, 13227-1377 and is pretty much worth a king’s ransom (and somehow I missed it when it came out, sniff.)  I determined not to be shut out when this book became available on February 1, and promptly ordered a copy.  The small volume was not over-priced, and I’m hoping to read it soon. Henry V was a noted shipbuilder and vastly increased the size of the fleet that virtuallydisappeared during the reign of Richard II.

51CezmtWcJL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_The Civil War at Sea by Craig Symonds.  Symonds’ name may ring a bell.  He’s a prolific writer, best known for his military atlases, but he’s written about many military topics, including the naval aspects of the Civil War.  He tackles this massive topic thematically rather than chronologically, focusing on the changing nature of ships and armament, the blockade, commerce raiding, war on the rivers, the attack on ports (using Charleston as an example) and the success of the Union naval strategy. The book has only 170 pages of text, so it tends not to get hung up on detail, so if that is your desire this may not be the book for you.  But as a thematic interpretation of the Civil War on the water, it could do the trick.

61yXPXIuvrL._SY454_BO1,204,203,200_The Confederate Steam Navy by Donald Canney.  I have only ordered this book and haven’t received it yet.  But I have been angling for a copy since it was released on December 9th.  Canney’s book on the Confederate Navy is supposed to mirror his brilliant two volume study of the The Old Steam Navy that went out of print in the ’90’s.  These are books I constantly consult and I believe the new book will be just as useful.  So much of what is written about the Confederate Navy is conjectural while Canney’s work always seems to be anything but.  It covers all types of vessels from the ironclad rams to blockade runners, and as with his previous work, will be crammed with illustrations and photos, some not previously published.  I’m excited.  Hoping it arrives from Amazon today.