Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Zen and the Art of Figure Basing

Forty year old Gilder 'specials' recently re-based.

I have been inundated with requests for advice on how to do 'Gilderesque' basing (well..OK, only two, but that's major traffic by the standards of this blog), so, gentlemen - stand by your palette knives.  Disclaimer first - a lot of people do this better than me, and you won't find any original ideas herein.

  • Sand (you don't want any grit or stones, i sieve mine through a tea strainer).
  • PVA (the good stuff like UniBond, don't waste your time with watery kids glue or Wilcos own brand).
  • Filler (either powder or ready mixed).
  • Paint (doh!).
  • Grit, small stones, cork chips, etc.
  • A coir broom head (or a model railway long grass type product if you're feeling flash).
An all earth base seems to work for these engineers.

The Process

  1. Plant any long grass first. Ahead of time i chop clumps of bristles off the broom head and dunk one end in PVA, left for half an hour you then have a clump of grass ready to stick to your base. The wife finds it hilarious when i stick my fingers together, so i try to oblige by attaching the long grass clumps to the base with superglue.
  2. Apply any patches of bare earth next. If using powder filler i'd recommend mixing your filler with brown paint and PVA, rather than water (less likely to chip, and if it does you won't get an nasty white spot glaring at you). These days i use Wilcos ready mixed 'knot a problem' brown wood filler which comes in a pleasing mid brown, and is dirt cheap. Apply the filler in a thin layer with a palette knife, sculpting tool, or similar, and leave plenty of texture - don't flatten it out.
  3. Next place a few small stones into the filler before it dries; a wash of PVA is also a good idea to make sure they're not going to shift later. For some reason these stones look better on the earth areas than on the grass, but don't take my word for it....
  4. Leave to set. I base coat the earth areas next, although you could leave this til later.
  5. Apply a sand and PVA mix to the rest of the base - this is your (not long) grass. You want a fairly dry mix that resembles damp sand. Apply with your trusty blade and fluff it up a bit if it seems too flat. You may be able to save painting time later by adding a fairly bright grass green to the sand and glue mix.
  6. Paint. Choice of colours is always a personal preference, although i'd always recommend erring on the side of lighter and brighter. For what it's worth my recipe is Humbrol Grass Green (matt 80) dry brushed with Pale Yellow (matt 81) for the sand/grass; a chocolate brown emulsion, drybrushed with Humbrol Sand (matt 63) with a further highlight of sand and white for the earth areas; and then sand, drybrushed with a sand/white mix for any stones. 

Dan Morgan is unimpressed - 'If it's Cowpens then my base should look frosty'.

It can be hard to define exactly what 'looks right', but odd numbers of stones, clumps of grass, etc. always seem to look better than even (does nature do even numbers?), shorter (knee high?) 'long' grass seems to look better than 'long' long grass, and i wouldn't put areas of bare earth on every base you do....but then you may also want to try a few 'all earth' bases too.

So there we have it, i've managed to make a very simple process seem far too complicated....

And if in any doubt have a look at examples by someone who really knows what they are doing, such as John Ray , Doug Mason or Phil Robinson.

I like consistency - so trees, buildings, etc. all get the same basing as the figures.

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Happy 4th July

Hearing that Benedict Arnold has opened a bar tab, the 2nd NH make a break for their local Wetherspoons.

The 17th Foot (originally in Frank Hinchliffe's collection) advance to enforce the licensing laws.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Stearns at Hinchliffe

From Mil Mod February 1973 the legendary Phil Stearns (the OSS, Penthouse and Mil Mod - beat that for a CV) pays a visit to Hinchliffe Models.

For a little more on Stearns see Shep Paine's tribute.

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Bernard Lyall on Battleground Normandy

Bernard Lyall (son of Gavin, co-author of WW2 wargaming classic 'Operation Warboard', and participant - vs his father - in the Normandy episode of Battleground) has been in touch:  

After the book was published ['Operation Warboard' A&C Black 1976] , there was a certain amount of media interest, probably including much I'd have missed. My dad's career was going well and his minor fame would have provided an obvious hook for print, radio and TV producers. We did one other TV event, a slot on (I think) Pebble Mill at One, after Battleground, where we played a game in the background of the studio (using our own kit) and at some point the presenter wandered over for a five-minute interview. I remember being surprised at the hours of effort on our part - travelling there, setting up, playing at least some of a game - which went into such a small amount of airtime. After 30 years in TV, I'm much less surprised now. 

 The book has recently been republished, by a chap called John Curry, who's reprinting a whole series of classic books on the subject - see link below. I re-shot the cover, based on the original hardback design, and wrote a foreword for it. 


Of the Battleground episode, I recall that the figures, vehicles and board had all been prepared for us [by Peter Gilder of course], to a much higher standard than our own stuff. Our equipment (which is in the photos inside the book, and some of which still survives) was much simpler - two green-painted chipboard 4'x3' sheets, green painted polystyrene hills, and trees of green foam on cocktail-sticks. But then ours had to be widely adaptable for each new scenario. The rules were ours, of course (that would been much of the point of doing it, and besides I'd have been baffled by any others) as were the tools (graphs, dividers etc.) that we used. I turned up in a stripy shirt which I had to change, as the lines on it produced that curious 'moire' effect on the studio cameras. And it was all very hot and bright in our little pool of light, surrounded by mysterious figures and cameras moving around in the dark. 

 I don't remember much about the game. We played a lot of generic, post D-Day, northern France scenarios. I think we were both more interested in grasping tactics than recreating specific events - and in any case, since our forces were only really at battalion level, we'd only have managed a small portion of a significant engagement. 

We weren't given any recording of the show, and wouldn't have been able to play it if we had.