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Saturday, May 23, 2020

Ramblings on Safer at Home and Works in Progress

The new reality of "Safer at Home" and the changes to work and family life have of course had an impact on hobby expression.  While just as busy as ever, I found myself with more flexibility for how I use my time.  Almost even more importantly, trying to cope with being home bound, led to several major home projects in an attempt to stay busy and engaged.  In terms of the hobby, that meant a major renovation of our garage space.  While not a finished basement, it is a pleasant enough space in which to have games and to do my painting.

To the left (above) you can see the outer wall of my darkroom.  That room has been sitting unused, except for storage, for the last 15 years.  I worked as a professional photographer as my first career for a dozen or more years.  I started out as the in-house photographer at Vanderbilt University but then transitioned to a freelance model and built this darkroom to facilitate work at home.

The end of an era - long overdue!  It really doesn't look like that much debris, but it was enough to fill a pick up truck!

A well deserved celebratory dinner of white bean chili and beer.  This is a fantastic vegan recipe, but as I am not vegan, I threw in some pasture raised chicken.  

Update: Had a request for the recipe so adding a link to the recipe.  It is from Americas Test Kitchen Vegan recipe book.  I simplify a lot of the steps to be honest. I didn't think it really needed to be pulverized with a food processor, so just did a light mashing with a hand potato masher. I was also out of Anaheim chilies, so just substituted a diced Serrano.  I did however have homemade vegetable broth!

Fast forward a couple of weeks and the construction debris has been removed and the space rearranged to house a games table made from the top of an old Ping Pong table.  Right now I just have a 5x6.5 foot cigar box battle mat set up, but the full size of the table is 5x9 feet.  Of course there is a bit of impassable terrain around the basement support pole!  To the right of the games table is my painting desk.  I have it set up with a BlueRay player and a monitor so that I can watch movies while I paint now.  I also have an old iPad set up on the side that I can use for uniform references as I paint.

A better view of the games table.  We have eight folding chairs down here that we purchased over the years to accommodate people at our Thanksgiving Day celebration every year.  Nice to think they will be put to use more often now.  Above the table is a Miller Lite billiard hall style light that was a gift from one of my wife's longtime colleagues when she retired.  It adds a nice bit of whimsy, and a lot of light to the space!

Finally I have to say that not every aspect of "Safer at Home" is a bad thing.  Here is a shot of my office one afternoon not too long ago, and my office colleague.

He tends to be a bit lazy though...

The painting of figures slowed considerably during this work, but I was able to finish the 92nd Gordon Highlanders, with the exception of the GMB flags, which I had hoped would show up at some point in the future.  After two months of waiting I decided to just paint my own, which reminded me why I had ordered them in the first place.  So much fiddly detail!

I used Alan Penderbury's free downloads from Napflags as my template.  The Black and white sheet above was used for scale only, for the flags I printed that same sheet out with minimal ink saturation so that the design would just barely show on the paper.  Here you can see the base colors applied.

 The flags are sized so that they are just above the crown of the head of the figures, which puts them at slightly over 6 feet high.

More fiddly details - the wreath and base colors of the central motif.  I used the Flags of War site for flag specific information, as the British flags on the Napflags site are all from the Waterloo era.


 Fold in half, apply white glue in an even layer on the back of the paper flag, fold around the staff and shape to the desired waviness.  I didn't want it too crinkled up after laboring so long on the painting!

When these are dry I will brush on clear oil-based glossy varnish and the Gordons will finally be done!

The next unit on the painting table is the Black Watch 42nd Highlanders.  I have almost finished the additional officer and NCO so these should progress quickly toward the finish line from here on out.

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In the wings are a few more additional figures to finish units that are in need of expansion.  I was able to find six original Hinton Hunt Russian Cossacks to bring the Russian Guard Cossacks up to Strength.  I will also be adding six more cuirassiers to the 13th Regiment.  I have 6 Hinton Hunt original castings thanks to Mark D, and am debating whether to split them up into 2 groups.  Three figures representing the elite company with three additional DK figures to bring them up to the nominal strength of 18 figures per regiment.  While it may be a bit before I am ready to tackle them, I just received the last of 36 figures for a full battalion of French Guard Marines, as well as a Battalion of Old Guard Grenadiers made up of Les Higgins castings.

I have been known to bad mouth the DK canons, but these French 12 pounders actually came out quite well.  The addition of the ammunition chest gives them the French look and I added drag chains for that added bit of detail.  I think they will paint up nicely.  Look for them to be served by Old Guard gunners.

 Lastly, Here are the Hinton Hunt Cossack lancers of the Imperial Guard waiting for their turn on the painting desk.  The original lances were in terrible shape, but that was no big deal, since I wanted to have them match the painted DK figures.  Hopefully I will have pretty pictures of the Gordons on parade in my next post!

Stay safe and be well!

Sunday, April 19, 2020

92nd Gordons WIP and Lt Colonel Cameron conversion

I'm closing in on adding the 92nd Highlanders to my list of completed battalions.  As a reminder of the conversions planned I am using the figures pictured below to add to the color party and of course to represent Lieutenant Colonel Cameron:

 Stage one of the conversions are shown above.

 Above are two Victorian era depictions of Colonel Cameron that helped guide my efforts.

 Hence the addition of the shoulder roll from kilt material.  Not a true great kilt as he is wearing trousers, but apparently this type of sash was common enough.  Also added is a sheepskin holster cover to disguise the figure's origin as a French general.

 The kilted shoulder roll was constructed using "green stuff" epoxy putty.  I also heard from Mr. Tennant that the boots needed to be trimmed down to be British in style, a detail I would have missed, so was very grateful for his help.  So just when the conversions were going well and the painting was coming along nicely, I got it in my head that the time to clean the garage was at hand.  I would after all, need a gaming space once these gentlemen are ready for the table, so the darkroom I had constructed for my years as a professional photographer had to go.

Darkroom Demolition!

First step, get all of the crap - er, I mean stuff, out of the way!

 The darkroom sits at the far end of the Garage, most of which is usually occupied by my wife's car.

 Fortunately my hobby painting table remained accessible, just to the right of the darkroom.

One full afternoon of really hard work with a sledge hammer and the business was done.  Thanks to my friend Chris who tutored me on how to dead end the electrics formerly powering the lights and fan of the darkroom.  In all of my years as a photographer I never went to the expense of plumbing the darkroom, and would just take items needing to be washed or rinsed upstairs to the utility sink.  Without plumbing to deal with the demolition was much simpler!

 Of course all of the hobby crap, er I mean stuff, that was hiding in the darkroom had to come out and find a place to sit.  It was there partly so my wife wouldn't know how big the unpainted pile of lead is.   My dear one is actually quite forgiving of my hobby expenditures both in terms of money and time, and has been quite supportive over the years of her quirky husband and his "little metal men".  She's also quite clever so my ploy to hide stuff never really worked...

After all of that work indoors trying not to breathe in all of the dust, I really needed to get outside (and take some Mobic!), so off we went Sunday morning to a local park; Bell's Bend.  I have said it before, but it bears repeating; one of the best aspects of living in Nashville is all of the nearby parks, each with its own character.

 Bell's Bend sits in a bend of the Cumberland River, and being former farmland, is mostly open fields, so was nice to be there on a cloudy day that was nice and cool.

 As usual the pups benefit from our excursions.

While we were walking in the park the 92nd Gordon Highlanders were sitting in front of a fan.  The varnish is dry and all that is needed now is basing and flags.  Hopefully I'll show off the finished unit next weekend.

Until then, here is a parting shot of the Gordons getting ready for their debut.

Be well and stay safe out there everyone.  Hope you can find joy in some new places as we all adjust to life during a pandemic.


Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Coping with COVID 19 - Work in Progress: Fusilier-Chassuers and 92nd Gordon Highlanders

One of the great things about a hobby like ours, is that it does lend itself well to time spent indoors.  For me time really ceases to have much meaning as there is a bit of a meditative peace as I paint.  It of course doesn't hurt that I am usually nursing a Scotch whiskey towards the end of the day when I am working on these little guys.  :)

Above is a recently finished expansion of the Fusilier-Chasseur battalion, now brought up to full strength and including some NCOs that can be seen in the 1st file with gold shako rims, and decorated with green and red shako cords.

Of course you can't paint figures non stop, and though working at home now, I feel as busy as ever.  With the advent of the shelter at home policies affecting the way we work, it is important to get out and exercise as much as possible.  The governor and mayor have recognized the importance of getting outside and exercising to maintain health and declared that an essential activity.  We try to get out to the parks early in the morning when we are not likely to encounter many other walkers.

 While the communal places are closed, such as picnic shelters and the nature centers, the trails and walkways remain open.

7:00 on a Sunday morning and not another soul to be seen.

 These two goofballs, Bozon and Darla, are unconcerned and simply thrilled to be out on a walk.  I think they have learned to discern the subtle change in our routines that indicate it is a weekend, and look forward to their morning walks - and give voice to their insistence that they get it soon!

 Spring wildflowers are blooming and along the way we encountered an entire hillside covered with Dutchman's Britches (Breeches).

 Bozie and Darla checking their "pee-mail".  They get a lot of messages so have to check frequently.

Warner Parks has closed many of the paved roads to vehicle traffic and these are now lovely walkways lined with beautiful moss covered walls.  These walls were built back in the 30s and 40s as part of the WPA (Works Program Administration) created to get people back to work after the Great Depression.  I have to wonder if we will need a 21st century equivalent after the Pandemic.

 Around the aptly named Bluebell Bend the Bluebells are in full bloom.

There has been lots of rain this Spring so the creeks are full and the park full of the sound of running water (and squirrels and birds!).

One last check of messages and a quick drink before heading home.

Next up - The 92nd Gordon Highlanders!

 The core unit is painted by Dick Tennant and contains 34 immaculately painted figures.  I will be adding two figures to the battalion to bring it up to 36 total figures.  One will be an NCO with a Halbard converted from a DK 188 preparing to fire figure (above), the other a slight DK variant (below - 2nd image) of the standard Hinton Hunt infantry figure (HH BN33, DK 187)

 Here we have a colonel figure ready to have a head transplant from a poor hapless Highlander with a broken rifle.  He will represent Lt Col John Cameron of Fassiefern: raised to Lieutenant-Colonel 23 June 1808; commanded 1/92nd Foot 1809 to 1815; served at Walcheren 1809; served in Peninsula October 1810 to April 1814, wounded four times; commanded brigade in 2nd Division in Peninsula June and July 1813; brevet Colonel 4 June 1814; wounded and thrown from horse at Quatre Bras 1815, died shortly afterwards.


Here is the conversion fodder for both the Gordons and the Black Watch.  I decided the Halbards were a bit too long so they have been shortened from those pictured here.  (left to right - DK 188, 187, 188, 150 and unidentified mounted commander with head transplant)

Here they are primed and the painting has begun!

 These were some of the figures that really cemented my interest in the hobby.  They were pictured in the Bruce Quarrie Airfix guide to Napoleonic Wargaming in black and white glory (below).  The figures are HH BN 37 Highland officer marching, BN 30 Highland officer charging converted to ensign for color bearers, BN 38 Highland Piper, and BN 33 Highland private charging)

Mr. Tennant was able to provide a digital copy of the original photographs of his figures used in the Airfix guide, reproduced here in black and white, though the originals are in color.

There is a lot of work to be done on these that is not readily apparent.  Mostly as is usual, touch up on the ankles and elbows and bonnets, but unfortunately in this case the ankles are often painted in the argyle sock pattern!  Nonetheless I hope to get them done quickly so I can be ready for Rolica when the shelter at home order is lifted!

Best wishes to you all and be safe out there!