Way Down South in the Land of Cotton…
Plantations are odd things and certainly not very trendy in todays PC world, however, for a wargamer who enjoys the AWI and the ACW there can be no doubt that having a few relevant buildings to represent the agricultural heart of the old South is a boon. I have long been eyeing the superb buildings from Charlie Foxtrot which allow the gamer to create a whole plantation, but it was the release of their superb new pantile walls which saw me chuck a few in my basket on a ‘While I’m here…” basis.
Before I go any further, I should say that this is not a review of the Charlie Foxtrot products, this is a very particular and peculiar build project which I have undertaken to get the result and finished look that I want, so if you need a review of the basic model then you’ll need to look elsewhere. If you fancy some ideas about what you can do with MDF models then maybe there is something here for you.
The first step was to build the models. Nothing to see here, I just stuck them together with PVA glue. After I’d built them and roofed them they looked like this.
I should point out here that the plantation house does not come with tiles, it used etched MDF, something I always find a little disappointing, especially as it allows some of the lugs in the roof to show. As a result, I tiles the building with some of the laser cut roof tiles from Warbases. I believe Charlie Foxtrot do their own, but I bought an industrial quantity of the Warbases ones a couple of years ago and have more roof tiles than my local builders merchants, so I used them. I wanted a more formal European style of tile rather than the wood shingle one sees on so many US models, so I went with the one you can see. The other buildings are, a covered well (front left) a dairy (front right) and two ‘workers houses’, a polite euphemism for slave house. All of these came with roof tiles which I have added as per the instructions. Any small gaps have been filled with Polyfilla and sanded down.
Okay, so step 1 was to under coat the models. I used grey for the big house, the dairy and well and black for the slave houses and roofs. With that done, I began painting the buildings which would end up white. For this, I wanted a thin covering of white as I wanted to suggest a feather-edged look to the boards by painting the lower half of each a lighter colour than the top section. In the end, I went with a tube of acrylic which I have never really used as it is too wishy-washy and, frankly, this was a way to get rid of it. You can see how horrible the coverage was in the image below.
With that dry, I began to paint the lower halves of the boards in a brighter, more solid white, but watering this down slightly as I wanted to use a highlight later. It was now that I realised that I am bloody awful at painting straight lines, but I tried my best.
Sadly, it wasn’t much of a job, but while that was drying I painted up all of the doors and shutters separately. Doing this now, rather than when they were attached, allowed a much cleaner line, in contrast to my planking!
Not exactly a work of art, but the shutters do cover up some of the worst wobbly bits. Anyway, now I looked at the lower windows for the basement. These were meant to go below the upper brickwork, but I had actually done some damage to the lugs when putting the building together.
Some larger MDF buildings do, I find, need some elbow grease and, for someone with little patience, I get a bit bored with being carful so had hammered the bit together with a small upholstery hammer I found in my father’s old tool kit. It had got the bits to fit, but a few edges had suffered. I decided to attach the window grills slightly higher up to cover these lugs. Like so…
With this done, I decided that rather than paint the brickwork, I would use some brickwork wallpaper that I had purchased for my Stalingrad project. I decided to practice on the smaller buildings first, so added some PVA to them.
As can be seen, I had a bit of an overhang, but this was trimmed off later. Pleased with them, I began working my way round the mansion and doing the slave house chimneys. It’s an idea to do a few at a time as it is CRITICAL that you take your time with this, doing one section at a time before moving on. Wallpaper expands horribly when damp, so use plenty of glue and make sure you are around to give it a squeeze every few minutes to keep it in the right place.
As can be seen in the above shot, taking it slowly means allowing the first face to dry before then adding more glue and wrapping the paper around the chimney. Slow as this may seem, it does get good results whereas any attempt to speed it up is almost guaranteed to bugger things up. More haste, less speed.
One important point is to remember to paint the top of the chimney in a brick red colour early in the process. Some of this will be on show so giving it the right base colour will be a great help.
On this model, I cut out single rows of bricks to add around the top chimney detail. When these were in place, I used a watered down brick read (actually Vallejo red leather) to touch the paper edges to colour any white paper edges.
With this done, I added white to the brick red and then painted detail onto the top of the chimney to suggest bricks.
The key thing to remember here is that you are not painting a perfect scale representation of a house. This is much more like painting scenery for a theatrical production; you just do enough to fool the eye.
With these added bits done, I had just done enough to complete my plantation. I went round with the final touch up of pure white to add a few edges. Here’s a few snaps of the finished products.
I am really pleased with these models as I think they are pretty unique now I have added my few bits to the excellent basic models. What I like to do is play to the strengths of MDF, such as the fact that it represents wood very well, but where it is less successful I try to add other products.
You can find the Charlie Foxtrot models here: Charlie Foxtrot