I must admit that I feel like a bit of a charlatan writing this piece as I feel like I am claiming to have a skill, that I actually don’t have. Like almost everything I do, it is a bit of a lazy parody of what it should be, but in many ways that why I feel it works. I am just trying to prove that being good at something is not a necessary criteria for doing it. We can all make decent terrain which looks good on the table without being an architect or a scale modeller; the fact that some of what we do is imperfect doesn’t matter as most people don’t notice, they just like the fact that it is different.
Now I’ve got that off my chest, let’s talk about men in boats. Part of the German forces in the Crisis Chain of Command game is a platoon of assault Pioneers with assault rafts. Were I gaming this at my local club I would probably fashion the assault boat out of cardboard and accept the fact that it looks blooming awful. For a game at Crisis that ain’t good enough.
As far as I know, nobody makes 28mm Germans in an assault boat, so this was clearly going to be a conversion job. I was fortunate enough to find some really nice resin assault rafts in resin on eBay, produced by Anyscale Models (you can find it here, but the model doesn’t look like the photo on the web site: LINK) but the German pioneers would have to be conversions. Fortunately the Warlord Games early war German set in plastic would be ideal for hacking about. Nice and simple. No special ingredients.
What about tools for such a job? People often assume that to do stuff like this you need special stuff. The truth is that you do and you don’t. There is a basic minimum level, but that can be acquired very cheaply from eBay or may just be lying around your home or shed. Here’s my kit.
The key bits here are the pin drill, the toe nail clippers and the big cutter thingy. The superglue and the paperclips are needed but aren’t exactly kit, more materials. The toe nail clippers cut small things, the big cutters cut big things, the pin drill drills holes to pin bits together. That’s it. Nothing flash, nothing clever, nothing expensive. The paper clips are just a cheap way and making pins. The superglue sticks stuff together. Nuff said.
Essentially the idea here is that we take a figure who is normally standing up and turn him into one who is in a boat. That pretty much means he is sitting in the boat. He is sitting on the edge of the boat, or he is kneeling in the boat. That’s it. And, frankly, the first two are pretty much the same thing anyway so we are only mastering two methods here, kneeling and sitting.
Lets take a figure and look at the kneeling option as this is the easiest to my mind. Step One; Chop off the leg just above the knee and drill a hole. Glue the paperclip in the hole. Try to go as deep as you can here as the more pin in the hole the better the adhesion quality.
Step Two: repeat with the lower leg. Apologies for some crap photos here, but try drilling with one hand and taking a snap with the other…
Step Three: Repeat with other leg. Now, the photo below is again rubbish, but you can see that what I am doing is keeping the holes drilled straight and then using the wire to replicate the knee joint.
Step Four: Bend the wire to get a decent kneeling position. Remember that the skirts on the tunic are covering the tops of the legs and thighs, so all we have here is the section of knee.
Step Five: Give up. Throw this nonsense in the bin and go to the pub. Or that is how you’ll be feeling. Sadly for me that wasn’t an option. The next step is to put this to one side to dry and continue with his chums. Apart from the application of Green Stuff, he is finished in the leg department.
Let’s now look at sitting down blokes. This is actually a bit harder. Here’s a figure.
Step One: Chop both legs off ABOVE the knee.
Step Two: Don’t drill into the leg stumps. Instead, drill into the tunic around the bottom of the pocket.
Step Three: Add your pins and then shove the legs back on. You can wiggle these about until you get a natural looking pose.
In fact, why not shove the figure into the boat to check the pose. This bloke looks a bit like Puss in Boots. It’s the camera angle. Oh no it isn’t. Oh yet is is, etc.
Next Step: Get a ball of green stuff and fill the gaps. The wire armature acts as a good binding point for this. With the kneeling figure this is dead easy as you just build the legs up from the knee to the skirt of the tunic. Here, with the sitting figure we have a two stage process. First we do the legs…
…and then we add a new tunic hem. The figure below is actually a different one, but you can see how I have added a skirt and the pleated pockets to the tunic.
Let us be honest here. It is a shoddy job. With a photo this size you can see that the trousers are imperfect and that the tunic skirts and pockets are skanky. BUT in 28mm you can’t see that. When painted this will look fine. What did I sculpt this with? if you look at the bottom of the image you can just see the top of a tooth pick. These are ideal for sculpting and smoothing. Damp finger tips are also fine. Polite people use a pot of water, I just spit on mine as I am a peasant. Actually I’m not, but I have clearly spent too long around Skinner.
Now, before you go any further, let all of that dry. Green stuff is great, but it will distort if you accidentally shove it about while drying.
Essentially, we have learned the key components. Arms are really just like legs. I drill right through the torso so that you have a quarter of an inch of wire poking out of each side just below the shoulder. You then attach arms as you see fit to try to get a “paddling the boat” look. Now, clearly the plastic figures are not designed to be doing that, so as often as not we have to remove the hands and attach the paddles to the wrists before adding green stuff and carving a hand, as can be seen below.
Ah, I forgot the paddles. As can be seen, these are paper clips with a sausage of green stuff on them. This is then pushed flat. I did this a day or two in advance so that it is cured when I am making the figures. I also trimmed this once I had the figures complete and ready to paint, so don’t worry that they look bloody awful here.
Sculpting hands is, if I am honest, a bit of a bugger. In theory, you put a small ball of green stuff in place and use a sharp knife to make three lines, giving you four fingers. You peel a bit off to make a thumbs as well. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t, but fear not as the secret of this type of modelling is that the OVERALL impression is “Wow” whereas the fine detail can be a bit dubious.
Here’s a snap where you can see the new hands. Remember, paint will hide a multitude of sins. If only real life was like that…
I then added all of the usual kit and the job is nearly done. I painted the boats first, adding a man who had clearly fallen out. The MDF bases from Warbases are 90mm round, which is big, but I like it…
…and then painted the blokes individually before sticking them in the boats. Another dodgy snap I fear.
And after a coat of varnish on the boats and crew I added some yacht varnish to the bases which will dry to give a lovely reflective water look. Job done.
Reflecting on this, I wish I had trimmed the paddles before attaching them; whilst green stuff doesn’t sand down, it can be carved with a sharp bIade. I also wish I had squished them a bit flatter. But let’s be honest life is too short to worry about such things. As a group they look different enough to catch the eye and look great on the table.
The good news is that I am actually coming to the end of the build project so this weekend I will be going back over the completed stuff and tidying up a few bits and hopefully adding some additional detail.
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