A special Enfilade

I know it’s been a long time since my last post, and I know this mostly because my friends keep reminding me. So much has happened since March 14th.

We are about ten days until Enfilade.  This convention is special for a several reasons, but I see this as a turning point in my life.

One reason it’s important is because I’m cutting my ties to NHMGS leadership. I’ve been pretty involved with conventions and events or the presidency and decision-making for more than twenty years.  While I’ve enjoyed my time in these roles, I’m just willing to let it go.  I hate to leave my colleagues in the lurch, but I’ve given plenty of notice, and I just feel the need to simplify my life. Of course, I wish everybody well, but this is an episode in my life I need to close.

One very good reason for making this change is I recently learned I have prostate cancer.  It’s a little more aggressive and wandering than the disease most men get at some point, content to be inert and grow fat and happy. No, mine has to come out and on June 16th I’ll have surgery.   The mortality from prostate cancer is low.  The cure rate is 80-85%.  That doesn’t mean it’s without risk, and the collateral damage is real, though hopefully temporary.   Clearly,  I need to make some changes in my life.  I want to get more exercise.  In a perfect world I’d like to take on walking, working to jogging and running.  A bunch of my colleagues at school just ran the Tacoma half marathon, and I would love to see me be among them next year.  I’ve also got to do a better job on diet, and lose weight. I just want to live a more healthy lifestyle.

What does this change in my gaming life?  I’d say little.  I’d like to play more games than I do now, not less. But there are some changes I will make:

  1. No new projects, period the end.  I have so many periods in so many different scales that I don’t play it’s silly.  That means lots of painting of things I may or may not ever play with and enjoy on the game table.  If anything I need to cut back what I have and let go of the things I’ve been hanging on to for no clear reason.  I see a big lot of stuff heading out to the Bring and Buy at Enfilade 2015.
  2. No crash painting campaigns.  Each year I try to plan well ahead for what I’m doing at the convention.  Never again.  I’m going to paint what I want, when I want, and when convention planning comes around I’ll build scenarios with what I have.
  3. Have fun.  Play more games. Truth be told, it’s more difficult for me to get together during the school year on a week night.  But occasionally I’d like to do that. There’s no excuse for not playing on NHMGS days, third Saturday of the month, none, zilch, zero.

Throughout the six week trial that has accompanied my biopsy, diagnosis and preparation for surgery I’ve painted most days.  I hope to have pictures this weekend of some of my completed work.  All the items I’ve completed go with my Louisiana project.  24 figures of Spanish infantry, 10 figures of American Dragoons, 22 figures of Comanche cavalry, 10 figures of Spanish Cuera militia cavalry.  Lots of horses.  I’m down to having only five figures left to paint for the convention–all leader figures, all mounted.  I should have pictures of painted miniatures ready to post this weekend.

I also  made a decision not to run Bladensburg at the convention this year.  The Burr game requires more preparation, and honestly is more interesting to me, so that’s where my focus is. Had a great meeting with Dave Schueler this weekend, going over rules and options, so I’m ready to sit down and start banging everything out.

In closing, I’d simply like to say thanks to all the folks I’ve worked with along the way.  There are too many to name without the risk of creating a list that runs the risk of leaving folks out.  But from Portland to British Columbia, from Aberdeen to Washington, D.C., I’ve had a tremendous opportunity to meet lots of great folks who do this hobby, mostly for fun, and a few for a living.  I can truly say I’ve enjoyed 99.9% of my interactions, learned a lot from most, taught a little bit to others.  I have few regrets.  See you all soon.


A fistful of Gee Bees

The last of my Shapeways planes are Gee Bees.  Gee Bees are air racers built by the Granville Bros between 1929-34.  They are perhaps the iconic air racers of the Golden Age of air racing due to their unique shapes and flying colors.  Sort of iconic like a black widow spider is iconic.  The Gee Bees eventually killed or severely injured all their pilots.  The reason there were no Gee Bee’s built after 1934 is because the Granville Brothers went bankrupt.

Gee Bee Z has a fuselage length of 1 1/8" and a wingspan of just under 2"

Gee Bee Z has a fuselage length of 1 1/8″ and a wingspan of just under 2″

It's a well designed, well cast miniature. Though it lacks detail, it just requires some photos and a little effort to make it usable.

It’s a well designed, well cast miniature. Though it lacks detail, it just requires some photos and a little effort to make it usable.

I’ll ‘fess up though, the Gee Bee Z, with the it’s 525 hp Pratt and Whitney Wasp engine is my absolute favorite plane.  Short and stout, its yellow and black flying colors make it seem short and quick.  That Shapeways produced the miniature was probably one of my incentives to move to the smaller scale.  The miniature is well made, though the rough resin really sucks up the paint.  I decided to go with Vallejo Deep Yellow as the base color with Vallejo black for the accent color. I felt  the pigment-rich Vallejo black would work best with the bumpy surface. My experience is there just isn’t a lot of room for error and my craft black just doesn’t seem to cover the resin well.  I’d never use a craft yellow for any purpose so the Vallejo yellow is a natural. The Gee Bee Z won the 1931 Thompson trophy, but crashed later in the year, killing pilot Lloyd Bayles

The most fun of the Gee Bees to paint.  You can see the much longer wings and fuselage than the purpose built racers.

The most fun of the Gee Bees to paint. You can see the much longer wings and fuselage than the purpose built racers.


The fuselage length of this miniature is about 1 3/4" and the wingspan is nearly 2 1/2".

The fuselage length of this miniature is about 1 3/4″ and the wingspan is nearly 2 1/2″.

The Granvilles built two Gee Bee Model Y’s, called the “Senior Sportsters.”  Shapeways designer “Arctic Skunk” offers three version of the Y.  Mine is the 1931 version with the 215 horsepower Lycoming engine.  This plane was lost when it’s propeller flew off over New York City, and its engine vibrated loose.  It crashed in the ocean, but the pilot was recovered.  The second Y raced in the Chicago Nationals in 1932, finishing second.  The following year it appeared up-engined, with a 450 h.p. Wright Whirlwind.  This version killed pilot Florence Klingensmith at this same event.

All the Gee Bees had unique and interesting markings.  Due to the small size Doolittle's dice are hard to show.

All the Gee Bees had unique and interesting markings. Due to the small size Doolittle’s dice are hard to show.

This miniature has a fuselage length of about 1 5/8" and the wingspan is about 2"

This miniature has a fuselage length of about 1 5/8″ and the wingspan is about 2″

The best known Gee Bee is the R model “Senior Sportsters.”  R-1 was flown to victory in the 1932 Thompson Trophy Race, by Jimmy Doolittle.  It also won the Shell Speed Dash.  In 1933, the R-1 crashed, killing pilot Russell Boardman.  The second R, R-2, was not a winner and crashed in 1933, seriously injuring pilot Jimmy Haizlip.  As if the Granville’s hadn’t had enough, the remains of both planes were reassembled into the R-1/2, lengthening the fuselage.  Unfortunately that wasn’t enough to save pilot Cecil Allen, when the plane crashed in 1935.

The Gee Bee Y and Gee Bee R-1 are painted similarly.  I used Vallejo Vermillion and a white craft paint.  I decided against adding struts to any of the planes.  First, the models are really small.  They also limit what can be done on the fuselage and wings.  Because each of the three planes had important parts of their paint schemes where the wire should go, I decided against.  On a bigger model, absolutely, but on this small version, nobody would notice anyway.

All photos were taken with a Nikon Coolpix P510 with macro settings on.  From the closeups you can see how rough the resin surface is, which makes detailing a bit of a challenge.  Heck, the lines looked straight with my reading glasses on.

Looking Ahead to Next Year’s Museum of Flight

Tomorrow is the annual NHMGS day at the Museum of Flight.  I’ve written about it many times on my old blog.  It is probably my favorite game event of the year because we’re under an SR 71 in the Great Hall of the Museum of Flight and it’s frickin’ amazing. We have lots of time to rub elbows with the public.  There are lots of games to take a look at.  I get to hang out with Dave Schueler and Mark Waddington.  Oh, and I run the air racing game in the morning.  (Because I schedule the show and keep the list of games, I can schedule my game whenever I please. Bonus.

Air racing is the one semi-demand the museum puts on us for the show.  That and arriving early we get set up before the public arrives at 10:00.  I love air-racing.  It’s a lot of fun.  I have a collection of planes built and painted by Paul Hannah, Dave Schueler and myself.  They are 1/48 scale kits, and the planes look great.  Some are the old Testor’s kits that were introduced by Hawk fifty years ago.  Some are a bit more upscale and include the Minicraft Seversy racer, and I even have a nice resincast Me-209 which was a test bed world speed record holder.  I really like the racers.

Unfortunately they are a lot to transport, and because we have to transport them quite a distance from the parking lot, they can be a lot to schlep.  It will rain tomorrow, and with several trips to get everything in from the car, it will be an unpleasant walk in the weather. Worse than that however, is my constant fear that we’ll have accidents on the tabletop.  Mounted on flight stands 1-7″ tall, the planes become top heavy.  In a crowd, watchers can inadvertently brush them and knock them to the table or the base, and if that happens, it’s over. That happened once at Enfilade with our seaplanes and that was pretty much the show. They haven’t been out of the box since.

Dave and I have often talked about our wish that someone could make the planes in a more manageable scale, say 1/144th.  The racers are relatively tiny at that scale, small, save weight and all that.  John McEwan at Reviresco made a nice mini of the Travelaire Mystery ship ten years or so ago in that scale and I always hoped he’d follow it up with more planes, but none have been forthcoming.  At that size the bases would be heavier than the planes and they’d be smaller to transport though they wouldn’t be quite so eye-catching.  If only they were available.

I was very pleasantly surprised when Dave sent me an e-mail last week with a link to Shapeways.  Shapeways is a 3D printing company that converts designs submitted to them into 3D miniatures.  Lots of game topics, but amazingly one of their designers, Arctic Skunk, supplied them with some air racing designs in 1/144th scale. The Howard Ike and Mike are available.  The Gee Bees are available, models R, Y and my favorite, the Z, and more. I don’t know how they’ll paint up, but they look pretty basic and interesting.  There are pretty close to a dozen planes in the range.  (Don’t get stuck on the category for Golden Age Air Racing, more are available.) They aren’t cheap, though not bad. The smallish Ike and Mike are four bucks, while the bulky Gee Bees are more than twice as much.  Of course, if you want the super detail material instead of the basic white and flexible resin, you pay more.  About three times as much.  I’m pretty sure I’ll stick with the basics and paint in the detail with the help of Mendenhall’s The Air Racer.

Clockwise from left the Shapeways designs by Arctic Skunk are 1. Hall Bulldog; 2. Howard Ike; 3. GeeBee R 1-2; Gee Bee Z