Friday, 21 February 2020

The Guardsmen of the Amsterdam Kloveniersgilde (Part 1)

This post is about another new project I am starting for 2020.  This one is based back in the 17th Century.

The Nightwatch by Rembrandt van Rijn

I am sure this is a picture that most people are familiar with.  It is supposedly one of the most recognisable paintings in the world today.  Completed by Rembrandt van Rijn in 1642, it is now commonly called the ‘Nachtwacht’ or ‘Nightwatch’.  It depicts the Amsterdam Militia Company of District II, under the Command of Captain Frans Banninck Cocq.

As I am interested in 17th century military history, any contemporary pictures of soldiers and battles are great for providing a direct window back to the times, showing the dress and equipment in fabulous detail.  In the internet age many of these pictures are readily available to browse and study.  With the Nighwatch also being a very famous picture, it is one that I have often come across while searching for paintings on the web.  There is something about the picture that always attracts my attention.

Firstly, it is undoubtably a stunning picture.  The detail is incredible and the picture has that amazing Reuben ‘light’.  As well as the actual ‘look’ of the picture there is also the title, ‘Nightwatch’.  It provides an instant air of mystery for me; what and why are they watching, and who are they guarding against?  Then there is the way the characters are portrayed.  Many similar paintings from this period have the soldiers portrayed more like a slightly casual school photograph, with all of the subjects in static poses and probably looking out at the viewer.  In the Nightwatch, in contrast, there is a definite sense of movement; something is happening, but the different characters are each wrapped up in their own activity, or preparations.

I suspect that I am like many other wargamers and modellers in that an attractive military themed picture is one of the major ways in which I get drawn in to collecting and painting things. You see the picture and think “Oow - they’d look great in miniature on the tabletop, I’d like some!”.  So, how could I scratch this itch for the Nightwatch?

I could collect some general mid 17th century figures and paint them as Dutch militia. Mmm. No, that’s not going to do it. Ok, what if I tried to recreate each individual figure from the painting using available 28mm figures, and arranged them as in the picture?  Now that’s getting somewhere!

I mulled this idea for some time, in the background, while getting on with more tangible wargaming activity. Then I saw a flash mob video on YouTube ( It was made to advertise the restoration work being carried out on the painting. The final frames rekindled my desire to create the painting, but with miniatures.

With the start of a new year, and wanting some new projects to keep me going in 2020, I decided to start my Nightwatch project.  This project is all about recreating the figures from the painting in miniature, so the first task was a detailed review of available figures.  I know most about the 28mm ranges for this period, and I was pretty sure that this size of figures would give me the most choice.  There are a lot of figure ranges for this mid 17th century period in western Europe.  It includes the British Civil Wars and the Thirty Years War which results in a great selection of ranges from many manufacturers.  The tricky part was trying to identify wargames figures that match, relatively closely, the figures in the painting.  I didn’t expect to find exact matches, and so I was prepared for some minor conversion work; the odd head swap, adding some green stuff details, things like that. I also needed a nice version of the picture to look at.

The Nightwatch - artificially lightened to help see in to the shadows!

Luckily the Rijks Museum in Amsterdam, which exhibits the painting, has a fabulous website, and includes a whole section on the painting, including the ability to download detailed versions of it for personal use (,0).  This allowed me to get a really good, zoomed in, view of each figure in the painting, and I also discovered a lot of background information about the picture and the individuals portrayed in it. I printed out a copy of the picture so I could makes notes on it as I discovered figures that might fit as a representation.

Here is a list of manufacturers used for the miniature figures (so far!):

(Many more were considered!)

I now had a list of 28mm figure ranges, and a copy of the picture.  There followed some hours of pouring over web catalogues of figures.  Not an unpleasant experience; what wargamer doesn’t like looking at figures!  There were a surprising number of things to consider.  Not only the pose of the figure, but all of the items of dress. Sashes over the wrong shoulder and riding boots were two examples of things that often scuppered a likely figure.  After a couple of evenings’ ‘work’ I ended up with a list of candidates, and then orders were placed.  I knew there would be a certain amount of ‘wastage’ (e.g. figures not used as they came in a pack with the required figure), but this wasn’t a problem as I’m sure these will get used in my ongoing Thirty Years War collection.

Reviewing the figures to see which would make the cut.

Once delivered I could start reviewing figures in detail.  Sometime things in real life aren’t quite as you’d expected, and a figure would turn out to be unsuitable after all, but some of the ‘wastage’ turned out to be suitable alternatives.  I have had to live with some compromises.  Getting figures leading with the same leg as in the picture has been tricky, and some poses in the painting are so unusual that no figure manufacturer would possibly make a figure in that pose.

Conversions started.

To finish this first part instalment for my Nightwatch project, here is a description of the first few figures that I have converted so far.

Captain Frans Banninck Cocq

Of course I had to start with the leader of the militia company, the Captain himself.  A position in the militia was highly sought after by the wealthy and influential merchants of Amsterdam in the 17th century. Therefore to be the Captain of your district’s company was a real achievement.  The Captain takes centre stage in the painting and he must have needed to contribute a significant amount to the 1600 guilders (a small fortune at the time) paid the Ruebens on completion of the picture.   Cocq must have liked the end result as he had a copy made to hang in his home. 
The figure is an Empress Miniatures officer. The right arm needed major surgery and the walking staff was scratch built from a piece of wire and a blob of green stuff. The left army was bent a bit. The frilly collar was added with more green stuff, and the riding boots were filed down to shoes. Shoe and breech adornments were added with more green stuff.  A fair approximation I hope.

Lieutenant Willem Van Ruytenburch, Lord of Vlaardingen and Vlaardingen-Ambacht

Lieutenant Willem Van Ruytenburch is definitely the most fancily dressed of the militia figures. When you look closely at his clothes you can see they are made of very expensive looking materials with lots of brocades and embroidery. He is also the most brightly dressed, and lit, so he really stands out.  This fits well with his ‘new money’, and ‘out to impress’ background.  (Too Fat Ladies fans will, no doubt, be tickled to find such a famous historical chatter named Lord of Vlaardingen!)
I’ve used another Empress officer for this figure. The figure comes with separate arms so was straightforward to pose. The officer pack comes with separate partisans so I will add one of these after the figure is painted. Willem has a very large and ornate gorget which has been added with green stuff along with some slight modifications to his boots.

Jacob Jorisz, tambour (drummer)

Jacob Jorisz is the only figure to appear as a main character in the picture who didn’t have to contribute to the cost of the picture. It is assumed that the drummer was important to include even if not able to afford the cost.
There are lots of drummer figures available, but I wanted to try and get one with the left arm in the same position as in the painting.  I went for an Avanpost drummer figure which had the right pose, but not the right head gear.  I made a head swap with a Wargames Foundry Scots pikeman in my spares box, which had the right looking sort of ‘bonnet’ headgear.

Sergeant Reijnier Engelen

Reijnier Engelen was an older member of the militia, and therefore had probably earned his position as sergeant through long service.  He seems to have had a shady past with fines recorded for selling undersize cloth.  Perhaps the ‘Arthur Daley’ of the militia?
For Reijnier I have used an armoured pikeman from the new 1898 TYW range.  He had his head removed and replaced to give a more sideward glance, and he’ll have a halberd from the Empress ECW sergeant’s pack.

Jan van der Heede, musketeer

Jan van der Heede was a fairly successful grocer and therefore able to earn a position in the militia and afford to appear prominently in the painting.  He is shown tipping a charge of powder from his bandolier in to his musket as part of the loading procedure.  He looks very dapper in his red outfit, and such bright clothing was apparently expected of a bachelor in Amsterdam at this time.  Interestingly he was married soon after the painting was completed, so perhaps his appearance in the painting turned some eligible ladies’ heads! (As a side note, once married you were expected to dress in more sober, dark or black clothing.)

I had to search hard to find a loading musketeer figure in this exact position, also with his musket cast about on his left hand side.  Empress Miniatures once again provided an almost perfect figure, which just needed a frilly collar adding in Green Stuff, and a plastic Warlord feather adding to the hat.

Jan Claesen Leijdeckers, musketeer

Jan Claesen Leijdeckers, stands just behind the flashy Lieutenant, and is in the act of blowing clear the ‘pan’ on his musket after having fired. Jan’s appearance in the picture was posthumous; he died two years before the picture was completed, but as he had paid for his appearance in it, Rembrandt must have based the figure on another model to represent the deceased Jan.

Although I’ve not used Empress much in my wargaming units up to now, they seemed to come up trumps time and again in my Nightwatch figure search.   Jan is based on another Empress loading musketeer figure.  I have added a musket rest to the figure to match the painting, and swapped the soft hat for a helmet, both extras from the bits box.

Running Boy, Powder Monkey

Almost hidden in the shadows on the left of the painting is a figure of what looks to be a young boy, wearing a helmet, and running with a powder horn.  I haven’t found out much about this figure yet and I assume that Rembrandt was adding a little humorous flourish to fit in the foreground at this point.

I remembered that Warlord had a similar looking boy in their Pike and Shotte Clubmen Militia range.  I changed his posture slightly (the original is in the midst of throwing a stone) and added a green stuff powder horn to the figure.  Not an exact representation, but he’ll do.

Unknown Man, musketeer

My last figure for this post, standing behind the Captain, is unknown which, due to his old fashioned attire, has led to a belief that his represents the history of the militia, with oak leaves on his helmet, representing victory.

It was difficult to find a suitable figure for the unknown man.  He is in a very strange pose, and to me seems to be firing his musket left handed.  I went to TAGs late 16th century Spanish range to find a suitable figure with the high, puffed breeches, and a helmet.  The figure is firing the more normal, right handed way. so I will compromise on this unless I ever find something more suitable.  I will add a sprig of something after painting to represent the oak leaves.

The initial set of figures, roughly in their relative positions.

Next step will be to get some paint on these first few figures, and to start building the next set of the Nightwatch.  If you have any ideas for 28mm figures to represent the figures in the painting then I’d love to hear from you.  Also, I’m always interested in any information you have the painting itself.

Until next time!

Andy @ FOGH.

Sunday, 26 January 2020

New Year and New Projects

This blog post introduces a new project that I’m starting in 2020.

I haven’t made a blog post in a while but I have started the New Year with a flourish of new hobby projects.   In the past couple of years I have restricted myself to one project at a time.  This year I have decided to keep several things on the go to try and prevent the dreaded ‘burn-out’ due to losing interest in the project at-hand.  I’m hoping that by having a few different irons in the fire, so to speak, that if interest in one project wanes, then I can switch to another to keep going.

So what are these new projects?  The first new project that I'm covering in this post involves moving forward from the mid 17th century by about 150 years to 1811, and also moving from Central Europe to the Iberian peninsula - Napoleonic Peninsula!  A bit of a classic, but not something that I currently have any armies for.  I’ve loved this period since I first saw ‘that film’ when I was 11.  I’ve read a lot about the 100 days campaign, and also been inspired by the tales of Sharpe, Harper and friends in Portugal and Spain.  I don’t think I could stretch to another big battle game while I’m doing this for Poles and Swedes in the 1620s, and so I wanted to do something smaller scale - a skirmish.

Sharpe Practice v2 by Too Fat Lardies
About 18 months ago I came across the Too Fat Lardies rules, Sharpe Practice.  There was a very engaging play through on the Beasts Of War website (here).  I was intrigued enough to buy the rules and some command cards.  We played a couple of run throughs at the local club and found the system really interesting.  Very different to other sets of rules we’d tried, but with absolute bucket loads of period character.  The rules were promoted to the “must play again” pile, but have languished while other things took centre stage.

All it takes ...
This changed at Christmas when one of my gaming buddies, in an attempt to re-kindle my Napoleonic fervour, bought me a box of Perry’s plastic 28s Early French Elite Companies .  He also bought me a selection of Perry’s metal British Light Infantry.  As soon as I opened that box of plastics I was hooked. Gosh, those chaps are talented - even on the sprues I could see the figures were works of art.  I was starting to see a mental picture; a dusty Spanish village simmering in the summer heat, a foot-sore French column marching down the road, but what’s that in the shady olive grove, is it a section of British light infantry ready to spring an ambush?!

I find it easier to splash some paint on the figures if I have made a basic plan for the units I’m painting.  I therefore used some time over the Christmas break to do some research.  I wanted to have units from the British Light Division, in the Peninsula, and some French opposition.  I therefore started searching through different actions that the Light Division took part in.  I became intrigued by the action on the river Coa, 3rd April 1811, at Sabugal.  There is a very nice description of the battle here.   There was a great performance by the 43rd (Monmouthshires) and set against them were French Light Infantry including the 2nd Légèr.  Now, I didn’t intend to recreate the whole battle, but the orders of battle gave me some historical units on which to base my little collection, and some context for the planned tabletop actions.

Fight For The Gun at Sabugal by R Simkins
Some internet searches, and a borrowed Osprey or two, showed that I could use the Perry Elite Company box for the 2nd Légèr (who wore the longer tailed coat like the line regiments at this time).  The Carabinier (the name of the Grenadiers in the French Light Infantry) company also had bearskins, and the Voltiguers could wear the tall plumes, all provided as options in the Perry’s plastic box.  The 2nd Légèr could look terribly dashing!  After re-reading the Sharpe Practice (SP) rules I worked out that the one box of Perry’s plastics would give me a small starter force for the French, and my few boxes of Brits would be a good start of a similar sized opposing force.  I was all set!  

The French (headless!) for  Sharpe Practice
Building the Perry plastics was a bit of a chore, but the end result is worth it.  It requires a bit of thought to end up with the sets of figures you want, and the complexities of Napoleonic uniforms are a bit mind boggling.  After a couple of sessions I had 5 units of French built for Sharpe Practice with some accompanying officers and NCOs.  It was at this point that I realised that I have never painted 25 or 28mm Napoleonics!  (We were all playing 15s last time I collected Napoleonics.)  I did remember that Napoleonics have a lot of white on them, and I could see the these plastics figures had loads of detail.  I therefore decided to try a white/light undercoat.  My recent experiments with a light undercoat and GW Contrast paints had given me some ideas.

Sprayed with GW Wraithbone
I used the GW Wraithbone spay undercoat and then gave the figures a wash of GW Agrax Earthshade. I took a tip from a budy of mine who has done a lot of plastic Napoleonics and left the heads and packs on the sprues for painting.

Washed with GW Agrax Earthshade
Another really nice touch with this boxset is that it has very detailed painting guide included which would get you started if you were not worried about portraying an exact unit.  I still needed to do some extra research as some units, like the 2nd Légèr, had their own idiosyncrasies, and I enjoy going that little bit further so that I can really feel that I am bringing a particular unit back to life on the table top.

Perry Instruction Leaflet
I have started the colours with mostly Valllejos, but have used Contrasts for the odd detail here and there.  I plan to block out the base colours and then highlight up.  A fairly watered down Vallejo Dark Prussian Blue seems to work nicely for the coats and trousers, and seems to give a bit of shading over the Wraithbone/Earthshade combo.


That is it for now.  Next time I may introduce another of my new 2020 projects, I may go back to my Poles and Swedes, or may be I’ll finish off some of the 2nd Légèr.  It will be exciting to find out :-)

All the best, Andy @ FOGH.

Tuesday, 29 October 2019

Limbering Up

“Victory is the beautiful bright-coloured flower.  Transport is the stem without which it could never have blossomed.”  Winston S. Churchill 

In this blog post I discuss the latest figures that I have completed.  Perhaps not the most glamorous of units, but I think a great addition to any 17th century wargames table; artillery limbers.

These limbers, with their teams of horses and drivers, having been sitting in the paining queue for a very long time.  They have always taken sending priority to the flashy horse and foot units.  With no desperate gaming deadlines looming I have finally got around to giving them the attention they deserve.

Limbers are something that I think many of us justifiably ignore for the Pike and Shot period.  Bigger guns tended to be set in fixed positions before the start of a battle, and stayed there for the duration.  They might be assaulted and change hands, even changing hands multiple times, but they were not typically moved from place to place during a battle.  The light guns, such as the 3 and 4 pounders, were sometimes moved with the infantry formations, but this was usually a case of man handling them.

So, what is the point of investing in limbers?  Well, there were a few reasons for me.  Probably the first reason is that they make nice dioramas for the artillery position which I think is sometimes at risk of looking a bit bare.  There was a huge amount of paraphernalia involved in running 17th century artillery batteries, and a few limbers help it look a bit busier, along with other carts, equipment, train guards, etc.

Secondly there are a few battles where one army still needed to pull their heavy guns in to position at the start of the battle. Lützen 1632 is a great example of this.  Wallenstein had set up a position for his army, and Gustav Adolf had to manoeuvre his army to meet it.  As part of this, the Swedish heavy 24 pounders were towed on to the battle field and set up just as battle was starting.  If you want to game deployment activity like this then it looks a lot better to have some proper tows for your guns.

Finally, it gives you some great options for smaller actions.  Now, as well as the baggage carts and pack mules being involved in an ambush, I can add a limbered gun or two.  Perhaps a tasty prize for the ambushers, or perhaps a nasty surprise if the gunners are on top of their game and can get the gun in to action in double quick time.

There are two different manufacturers limbers in this set-up.  I have two three horse limbers which are relatively new out from Warlord Games (link), and a four horse limber from Wargames Foundry (link).

Wargames Foundry's Four Horse Limber towing a Warfare Miniatures Field Piece

The Foundry limber is in actual fact a bit of a Frankenstein’s monster.  If I look back at my black and white Foundry English Civil War catalogue from the early 90s with its hand drawn figure illustrations by the famous Twins (a now treasured possession!)   I can see that originally there was a three horse limber with a rider and a figure on foot.  What Foundry sell now is a four horse limber, with two riders, and the limber it self looks like it has a separate origin.  The traces etc. included also need a bit of imaginative modelling to work out what to use and what to put where.

I spent some time studying Wagner’s Weapons and Warfare, with its lovely examples of cart and limber team hitching, to work out possible ways to hitch up this particular limber.  In the end I had to make some of the traces myself and I used some wound fuse wire for this job.  The eagle eyed will see the two front horses are hitched with slightly different traces, but I think this works as I’m sure there was a lot of ‘make do and mend’ in a typical artillery train.

Warlord Games Three Horse Pike and Shotte Limber, towing a Warlord Games Saker.

The Warlord limbers were more straight forward to work out.  They have a nicely completed example on their website which I used as a guide, and they seem to have used one of the Wagner illustrations as a pattern for their set-up which is also very nice to see.  I couldn’t resist a head swap for the one of the Warlord riders using a spare head from the bits box.  (I find it very difficult to accept duplicate figures in units!)

For all of the limbers I dry fitted everything together but, although I glued the riders to the horses, and the wheels to the limbers, I left everything else separate for painting.

After my earlier experiments with white undercoats and GW Contrast paint it was very nice to be back with black undercoat and my regular Vallejos.  I did use  a technique, new to me, copied from Matt at Glenbrook Games (link).  After their black undercoat was dry and set, I gave the horse and riders a heavy dry brush of Vallejo Flat Brown.  Just as Matt promised, this highlighted the details and also provided a first coat for a lot of the dingy brown accoutrements so common on 17th century figures.

With everything painted and varnished it them came to the part I was probably looking forward to least.  Glueing the things together.  Although I grew up with Airfix kits, I am not a great modeller.  I found this process very fiddly.  Much supergluing of tiny metal parts to fingers, followed by bad language, ensued.  Eventually I got the blasted things together and then had to work out the basing.  

At first I was intent on making the bases long enough so I could add a towed artillery piece behind the limber and it would sit on the same base.  Much discussion with long term gaming buddies followed.  If the limbers are going to spend most of their time ‘unhitched’ then the portion of empty base could look a bit ‘weird’ was the group-think decision.  However, when being towed it also looked odd to me if the artillery piece was not on a base.  I went for a good old compromise.  A separate small base that could be added when a gun was being towed, and taken away when the gun is unlimbered.  I’m sure this will seems like madness to many, but I like the look of it, and it works for different situations.

It wasn’t until I had the nearly finished painting that I realised I had nothing of a suitable base size in my Warbases ‘collection’ (a RUB 4L box brimming with mdf goodness).  I made a guess-timate of a length that would work for all three limbers at 150mm, and went for 50mm width which matches by cavalry bases and would therefore work for my roads etc.  Most of my baggage type things are on round or oval bases to differentiate them from the fighting units.  I thought these round cornered bases offered by Warbases (link) were a good look for the limbers.  (They were kind enough to make a special order for me as 150x50mm is not one of their standard sizes.)  The additional bits are 80x50mm.

There you have it.  A long term wargaming itch finally scratched, and I have some nice limbers for my artillery train.  Now I want some limbers pulled by oxen for a different look - there is always something else!  :-)

Until next time!

Andy @ FOGH.

Thursday, 3 October 2019

New Paint, New Fur and New Research

I have been having a bit of a hobby hiatus over the summer as I prepared for the next big project.  This blog post describes some of the things I have been experimenting with and some of the research for the Swedish-Polish war.

Contrast Paint

Games Workshop remains a behemoth in the wargames industry and so their 2019 release of a new wonder paint has been on every conceivable wargames media channel.  Even I, who has only just discovered acrylics, was intrigued. I decided to buy a few select colours and try them out.  I also bought a spray can of the special primer recommended by GW for us with the Contrast paint.  As I'm sure you will have already seen  these new paints are designed to provide a base colour and initial shade by replicating a heavy wash over a light undercoat.  I had two hopes.  First was that these paints would provide a means to paint a lot of yellow uniformed troops for the Swedish Yellow Brigade which is planned. Secondly, that these paints would speed up painting the horses for the many cavalry units planned.

I prepared a cross section of spare figures from the lead pile.  Mounted and foot figures, using plastic and metals.

Warlord Pike and Shotte 28mm cavalry from their plastic box set.
28mm Pike and Shote infantry from (left to right): Avanpost, Warlord plastic (x2), Warlord metal and Perry metal (x2).
Undercoated with GW Wraith Bone primer.
Undercoated with GW Wraith Bone primer.
I was pleasantly surprised with the primer.  It went on very nicely and gave a smooth, even coat.  It was a bit of a shock for someone who has been undercoating in black for decades to see first hand what figures looked like in off-white.  I was amazed how much the details of the figure standout like this.

Just primer in the back rank, and primer washed with GW Agrax Earthshade in the front rank.

I had seen a YouTube video by a very good painter (see Sonic Sledgehammer Studio) where he had tried giving figures a wash of dark brown (GW Agrax Earthsahde) after priming and before base coats.  I decided to give this a go on some of the figures.

Then I was ready to start slopping on a heavy coat (as advised by GW) of the Contrast paints.  I must admit that I found this bit very hard!  It is a completely different approach to starting dark and building up to the light that I normally do with black undercoated figures.  I had also forgotten how much more difficult it is when you can't just miss a tricky-to-get-to bit and leave it black / primer coloured.

I was disappointed by the effect that I could get to with the horses.  I couldn't get the paint to work so well on the broader surfaces of a 28mm horse.  It also feels like the paint requires you to get it right first time. A second coat will often over darken and loose any shading effect.  I found the pre washed figures easier to work with, and I like the slightly more dingy look (see the left hand of each of the two sets musketeers below for the pre-washed figures.)  In most cases I was left wanting to do a further highlight to get to the level of contrast I wanted to get to.

"Table Ready"

The verdict.  I don't expect to change my basic approach because of these new paints.  I am going to stick with black undercoating and regular paint built up in layers.  However, just this very small experiment has got me to relook at my basic approach.  These new paints have resulted in me looking at a lot of other people's work and approaches, and reading a lot of paint / painting reviews.  So, while I was at first a bit disappointed that I hadn't discovered a quick route to painting Nirvana, I have come away with some smaller improvements to my approach due to the research:

  • The near white undercoat does make looking at what you've got to paint so much easier.  I saw a lot of people talking about "zenithal highlighting" which seemed an interesting compromise between black and white undercoats.   I then read (on Twitter) Matt from Glenbrook Games writing about an approach he uses with an initial Vallejo Flat Brown dry brush over a black undercoat.  I have now used this a couple of times and it is great at showing the details on the figure, and for the very brown 17th century, getting figures closer to their table ready state.  Thanks, Matt!
  • You don't have to use the Contrast paints over white, just over lighter colours.  The black (Black Templar) when thinned a bit is great for black horses and black armour, when used over brown or steel.
  • I can get really good reds and yellows when starting over lighter colours.  I always struggle with these two colours with a black undercoat.  Even though I still don't use a whole white undercoat, I have started to do a base coat for these colours on the figure with a pale colour first.  Then adding the red or yellow.  
  • The Contrast paints are a useful addition to the painters arsenal.  I am sure that I will find more uses over the coming months.

In closing on Contrast paints, I must say that several of my gaming buddies have had absolutely stunning results with the paints, and knocked out vast quantities of table ready figures in accelerated timescales.  Just like everything else, it is horses for courses.  I would recommend people have a play with a pot or two.  A bit of experimenting can throw up some interesting results, even if its not what you were expecting!

New Fur

My next big project is looking at the Battle of Dirschau 1627 between the Swedes and the Poles.  It has an interesting battlefield with, amongst other things, a lot of small streams and marshes.  I am looking at doing another teddy-bear fur mat for the terrain, but I haven't tackled streams and marsh yet.  I have some off-cuts from my last foray into fur and so I decided to experiment.

Antelope Brown short faux-fur.

Early stages were straightforward and followed my earlier approach (see earlier post, Fun With Fur).  My cheapo Amazon dog trimmer does sterling work on shaving all the way down to the backing material for the roads / streams etc., or just a light trim with the depth guards on.  Sharpie marker is a handy way to draw out designs before shaving.

A messy outdoor job.

Lots of combing required to get rid of shaved fur and a job best done outdoors.  Small scissors are useful for making more subtle trims to the mat.  Here I was trying to represent a marshy area

Careful snipping.

My last mat was coloured using a range of acrylic paints I had around the house: house paints, children's paints, and artists paints.  This works ok, but it requires an awful lot of combing to stop the fur getting matted by the paint.  I decided to try some alternatives.  First of all inks.  My logic was that these shouldn't clog in the same way as the thicker paint, but should still dye the fur.   I tried Windsor and Newton inks, some other artist inks (one in a handy spray applicator!), and normal model washes / inks.   These all worked in a similar way.  Not as opaque / strong colours as the paint, and you couldn't lighten a dark fur with this approach, but much less clogging.

Paint below the stream and inks above the stream.

After some internet investigation on the dress making, and teddy bear making, forums, I discovered there is such a thing as "Material Paint".  It is typically used to change the colour of all sorts of sewn material.   This still seems to be water based and acrylic, so I'm not sure what the difference is to, say, house paint.  This stuff was great in that it didn't clog like the other paint, and covered better than the ink.  A result!  It is more expensive than house paint, and not as easily available.  Full scale trials are planned for the future.

I then need to work out the streams and other wet bits.  I want to build these in to the mat in the same way that I have for the roads.  The roads I did previously were a mixture of paint, sand a PVA applied to the bits of the matt shaved down to the backing material.  When dry this was dry brushed, and remained flexible enough to roll the mat up.  For the wet areas I want something that I can apply to the backing material, and will give a smooth surface that will be painted and take a coat of gloss varnish or similar.  After studying many Terrain Tutor videos I have been experimenting with decorators caulk, both neat for the streams, and with added sand for the roads.

Filler, glue, paint and sand.

Results so far suggest that I stick with the original approach for there roads, and that the neat decorators caulk will be best for streams, and wet areas of marsh.  I also think the marshy bits need more open areas of water, rather than the polka dot effect I have ended up with here.

Sand, paint, glue and filler

So, still some way to go on the fur experiments.  I have sourced some new fur material so that I can start in green this time.  I have  bought two 7' x 5' fur mats from Killing Fields, supplied in the UK by Company D Miniatures.   You can see Pappenheim and escort having a test ride across the new fur below.

Killing Field's Fur Mat.

Project Research - Dirschau / Tczew 1627

My next big 17th century project is going to be refighting the battle of Dirsahau (to the Swedes/Germans) and Tczew (to the Poles) which took place in 1627.  I have done a sweep of the internet material available, and picked up some books to start reading about the battle.  I have amassed so much material so far that I have started a separate page on the blog (here) to record all of the material.  Partly this is in case it is useful to anyone else, and also to help me remember what I have already found!  

The page linked to above explains why I have chosen this battle, but in summary, I chose Dirschau / Tczew 1627 as it seemed to have the most interesting forces and terrain of the late 1620s battles, and it also had Gustav Adolf, and the top Polish general of the period Stanisław Koniecpolski, in command of their respective armies.  I think this is an interesting period to look at as it is Gustav Adolf and the Swedish army evolving,  and developing tactics, that will provide so decisive when translated to the main German theatre of war.

Broadly the project will fall in to these streams of activity.

  1. Making the battlefield in teddy-bear fur, with integrated streams, roads and marshes.
  2. Large Swedish camp behind extensive earthworks, and the walled town of Dirschau/Tczew.  
  3. Polish camp, and several small Polish villages.
  4. Increase my existing Swedish forces with more cavalry, and for the foot, the Yellow Regiment.
  5. A whole new Polish force, with a good helping of Winged Hussars, of course!

You will therefore see that I have plenty to be getting on with!  I hope to share the progress on the blog here.  I may allow myself an out of period distraction at some point, but at the moment the painting table has artillery limbers on it, and next in the queue is more Croats.

Until next time!

Andy @ FOGH.