Monday, 24 October 2016

Flames of War: Scenery

Very occasionally I will agree to take on board a contract to produce painted products for a client.

As some of you who know me of old I used to have my own miniature painting service which kept me housed and fed for a couple of years a while back. the long and short of it is that I was doing far too much work for other people and wasn't able to do anything at all for myself so I decided to ditch the business and pick my brushes up for myself again.

I don't like doing contracts for other people anymore so it is very much the exception rather than the rule BUT on occasion something takes my fancy or I'm driven by another need (such as a burning desire to start building up my scenery collections ) and I will agree to complete some work for somebody else...

Shaun over at S and S Models ( made it known that they have just started a new line of 15mm contemporary buildings and I was suddenly swept away with imaginings of all the new painting techniques that I could try and the possible results... I agreed to paint up three of their new buildings for them and here, for your approval are the results.

Building 1: A Victorian Engine Shed

This is a brick built building that would be able to slot into any scenery dating from the mid Victorian era onwards. The design is pretty much what it says on the tin and with the exception of perhaps different coloured bricks being used or the whole building being made to look dirtier it could be argued that this was the most straightforwards and perhaps most accurate looking of the buildings to paint.

Here are the results:

The painting technique was the simplest with this one.

The brickwork had a basecoat of Vallejo Panzer Aces Dark Rust. A drybrushed highlight of Games Workshops Vermin Brown with a second stage drybrushed highlight of Blazing Orange.
Once this was done individual bricks were picked out with Vallejo German Camo Black Brown and Vallejo Panzer Aces Light Rust.
A mortar wash was applied using  Modelmates Weathering Wash Mud Brown. This particular product is not waterproof once cured which is actually a lot handier than you may think. Once totally dry kitchen roll is twisted over it in order lift patches of the wash off leaving an increasingly mottled appearance on the brickwork.
For the roof I used a basecoat of Vallejo German Grey with individual tiles picked out with German Grey mixed with black and others in Vallejo's Neutral Grey. The whole roof was then washed with the Modelmates Weathering Wash with the same process followed again.

et voila! The first finished building (waiting to based on something spangly!)

Building 2: A Contemporary Supermarket

On studying the building, and taking into account the normal type of flaws in the casting I made the decision that the best way to disguise the flaws and still give a tip top building of this type would be to knock it up as an Asian shop from Hanoi in the '50's, with these types of building displaying all sorts of decrepitude and weathering to their exteriors. Shaun however was keen that the model was done as a Western European shop and so I had a look around and found a German brand that I could mimic with a paintbrush and plunged ahead. On finishing it however I decided that something else was needed to 'spruce it up' a bit and on the back of that I decided to apply some heavy weathering. This is what I came up with:

Really simple painting techniques with this one, nothing really to write home about except perhaps mentioning that all of the weathering on the building is provided using AK Interactives Washes and Filters for rust, slime, dirt deposits and such like...

Building No 3: An old German mechanics garage

This was the one that I wanted to go to town on. Due to its metal panelled walling and the board and batten roofing all topped off with its plain wooden fronting this provided a lot of opportunity for heavy weathering which I was really keen to try ahead of my plunging into my Dropzone Commander dereliction scenery.

I was curious about trying the 'hairspray technique' and after a couple of attempts to nail what I was after (the first attempts on the wooden boarding being far from satisfactory) this is what I came up with:

I was really REALLY pleased with the way that the wood came out and the long and short of it all is that you have to paint a base coat as if it were a top coat that you would be happy to show. Once done apply a coat of varnish (it doesn't matter whether it is gloss or matt at this stage). Once totally dry apply a layer of hairspray. I use medium hold and the amount of spray to apply depends on the amount of paint you want scraped back from the next coat.

Once the hair spray is dry airbrush your topcoat over the top of the hair spray. I would say use an airbrush because the paint layers are so thin and therefore easier to work with. I haven't tried it with brushed on paint but so long as the layers are thin it should be workable.

Leave the final paint layer to dry and then with a brush apply clean water to the area you want the top coat scraped back from and carry on massaging the water into the top coat until the paint starts to lift away... this is how I got the distressed wood look on the front, the rusty walls on the other three sides and the rusted galvanised roof on top.

Boom! Job done!

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Flames of War: Polish Cavalry - Regimental HQ

... and so it begins! The next large force in my Polish Flames of War collection that needs to be conquered before I suck up the courage to dive into the Black Brigade and all of its requirements for casting and sculpting!

So, Polish Cavalry then? What to say? Well, many people who are not steeped in history think that the Polish in 1939 were a little backwards in their choice of relying on cavalry, and getting them to charge tanks with lances and other such claptrappery!

Live Reenactors portraying a Polish cavalry squadron on the march

We should put this myth to rest post haste I think. Poland in the 30's was a chiefly agrarian culture with a very under developed transport infrastructure, because of these facts analyses that were completed throughout the twenties and thirties all determined that the mobility of horses across the Polish countryside was far more preferable that bottle necking traffic columns which would make very attractive targets for air attacks.

Despite propaganda which is still relatively common currency in amateur historical circles, the Polish cavalry, whilst being trained in fighting from horseback did not in fact do this under normal circumstances. The battle of Krojanty is an example of a Cavalry squadron fighting from horseback (this is also where the myth of Polish cavalry charging tanks with lances comes from by the way) but their normal operational doctrines was that they fought as mounted infantry. They would manoeuvre to their operational area by horseback, dismount and fight on foot.

Live Reenactors delivering that for which the Polish cavalry are so famous: a horse mounted can of whoop ass!

Poland was in the process of modernising some of its cavalry brigades in order to trial the use of motorised assets but on the whole, resistance to this idea was widespread and very effective... because of this by the time the second world war started the cavalry were still seen as the cream of the crop and the 12 Cavalry Brigades that Poland had would be relied on to carry the weight of the unreasonable strategic plans that had been conceived behind closed doors by individuals who had no business being in charge of a nations future!

I decided that I wanted to paint my force based on the 19th Volhynian Lancers regiment (19. Pulk Ulanow Wolynskich) which was one of the stalwart regiments that played such a major part in perhaps Polands most important and famous victory of the September '39 campaign... the battle of Mokra.

Polish reenactors advancing on horseback through the fog of war!

I thought that I would get my Regimental Commander out of the way as this would provide a pretext for me painting a lot more cavalry... and thus providing a get out of jail free card with 'she who must be obeyed' :D

I decided straight from the off that I wanted to have a hand painted regimental standard. The Polish, as far as I know never flew their banners loud and proud on the field BUT I have seen shots of the Polish in the field (not sure whether it was on exercise or actually on the battlefield) with the regimental banner pole with furled colours in their leather wraps... either way, it didnt matter to me! I wanted a full banner... and so I had to track down an image of the 19th Volhynian Uhlans banner... and find one I did!

The original 19th Volhynian Uhlans banner kept for posterity by a former member of the regiment.
On finding a good image of the banner I also noticed a few other things...the banner flew strips in the colour of the regiment and sported a Polish eagle on the top of the banner pole... this would need to be replicated!

The next thing was the colour of the horses! most people make an assumption that horse colour is arbritary, well I know from painting all of my Napoleonic troops that squadron horse colour is very VERY rarely arbitrary and because of this I needed to track down a guide for the horse colours... and this I also did!

Polish Horse Colours
1. Grey - Buglers, horse orchestras of particular horse regiments and horse artillery regiments, horse engineer squadrons, command teams of some cavalry regiments.
2. Bay - Most of the cavalry regiments or particular squadrons
3. Gold-Bay - Particular Squadrons in Cavalry Regiments
4. Brown - Cavalry Regiments that had Yellow facings, horse artillery regiments and liaison squadrons
5. Black - Horse Artillery Regiments
6. Chestnut - Some Cavalry Regiments or particular squadrons and platoon
So far so good. The final research step was to find out the colouration of their uniforms and I was lucky enough to find an image of uniform illustrations that just focused on the 19th Volhynians:

Uniforms of the 19th Volhynian Uhlans Regiment 1939

... so that was that. It was finally time to paint them... and make a flag! :D

The painting was pretty simple and other than the horse furniture was almost identical to my Polish infantry, except that all of their equipment straps were leather.

The flag took a little while to paint BUT paint it I did.. and all on a flag that measures no more than 15mm x 15mm and was made of a tin foil (?) butter lid. The Eagle that you can see on top of the banner pole was taken from an AB Miniatures 15mm French banner bearer from 1809. Theres no crown.. but then how many people would notice right?

The two base Regimental Command. 1iC with Banner and 2iC with Bugler

... and there we have it. My first foray into the heady world of Polish cavalry. Now I have to do a couple of different projects before I turn my attention back to the cavalry but you can be sure you havent heard the last of these bad asses!

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Flames of War: Polish Mountain Infantry - The Modelling

So, now that we know that the Polish Highlanders were double hard bastards I'm sure you can all agree that there isn't a man alive who could offer a good enough reason as to why he wouldn't want Polish Gorale in his army... so WHY ON EARTH DO BATTLEFRONT NOT DO THEM?????

I have a theory that Battlefront actually hate the 10th Motorised Brigade as well! They include them in Blitzkreig (in a roundabout way) BUT do not produce their troops, do not produce their tanks, do not produce their softskins, do not produce the armoured train that fought with them (PP51 - Pierwszy Marszalek), and do NOT produce the mountain troops (or KOP for that matter) that fought with them from start to finish! Shocking!

So, I had to find another way! Now, thankfully we have a manufacturer out there that does do Polish Mountain troops... and that ladies and gentlemen is True North Miniatures.

As I believe I have said before, I think that the Battlefront Polish Infantry sculpts are probably the worst sculpts since the Palaeolithic minifigs figures of the 70's but thankfully True North do some pretty great infantry (although their vehicles are a bit suspect) and there are two packs of Polish Mountain Troops in their range. An infantry pack with a healthy variety of poses and a command pack with just two model poses.

This was a great start BUT what were we still missing? Well we still needed NCO's, LMG's, HMG's, Anti Tank Rifles and Light Mortar Teams... and that's not all! This meant a lot of conversion work!

If you look at any... ANY photo of Polish Mountain Troops there is one thing you will notice. They ALL have 3/4 length cloaks/coats on. I don't care that you can only ever find parade and marching photos so you just cant be sure whether they wore them in combat or not... they all still have cloaks. These cloaks are conspicuous by their absence on True North figures, essentially just being normal Polish infantry with a funny hat! Well this was a double edged sword because IF other than the hat they all had the same uniform as normal Polish Infantry then all of those troop types that I didn't have I could just pull from the Polish Infantry range and just do some head swaps. Nice! Easy enough... but what  about the cloaks. Well I decided that I may as well just take the plunge, hack off the rucksacks and sling bags and sculpt some cloaks... which I did!

So stage one was to prepare all of the miniatures that I needed to complete my Mountain Infantry platoon and supporting HMG assets by:

i) Remove the head and drill a 1mm hole for the brass rod

Remove the backpacks and sling bags for those miniatures that you intend adding cloaks to,

Insert a 1mm brass pin into the hole that you have drilled. The correct head will be mounted on this

Insert a Mountain Infantry head onto the pin like so...

To sculpt the cloaks I used the two part Magic Sculpt. The first soft fabric I've ever sculpted and whilst they may not be perfect, I do believe that they look a hell of a lot better than they did before and I think I definitely got the effect I wanted.

...and sculpt the cloak with Magic Sculpt

The painting and basing process was identical to that followed for my Piechoty, except that some of the colours were swapped out to use the ones I used with my French Indochina Marine Commandos as I felt the colour was closer to reality. I'll outline those ones as we go! :D

The indispensable grey primer and black undercoat is applied so that we can get this party started. All of this MUST be done with a Canadian Sphynx sitting on the window sill as their advice is invaluable!

A Canadian Sphinx is indispensable in the quest for well painted miniatures!

The basecoat of Vallejo's Violet Brown is applied to the main areas of the uniform

The first highlights are applied using Vallejo's Yellow Brown

A Filter is then applied using AK Interactives AK075 Filter for Nato Vehicles.

This is then left to dry (mostly) with the excess being removed using a cotton bud (or cue tip for my American friends) and once satisfied with the results a coat of matt varnish is applied to hold it all steady.

Now its just a question of painting up all of the little 'bits' that contribute to a fully painted regiment. 

Heavy equipment, such as the radios are painted Vallejo Russian Uniform, as are the mess tins on the back of the rucksack. The boots are black, the collar tabs are Vallejo Intense Blue with the hat ribbon and the collar tab flashing painted in Vallejo Offwhite

Mountain infantry didn't use canvas equipment straps. Instead all of their webbing was the same leather as their belt and ammunition pouches. These were all painted using Vallejo's Chocolate Brown as its basecoat with the highlights being done with Vallejo's Flat Earth

The skin is basecoated in GW Snakebite Leather and highlighted with GW Elf Flesh. 

The rifles wooden body is painted with a basecoat of Vallejo German Camo Medium Brown and highlighted with Vallejo Beige Brown. The metal parts of the rifles as well as the entrenching tool head is painted using Molten Metals Steel

The Canvas Sling Bags along with the Rucksack are painted a basecoat of Vallejo's English Uniform and highlighted with Vallejo Khaki. The bedroll is painted a basecoat of GW Scorched Brown and highlighted with Vallejo Flat Earth whilst the straps are painted with Vallejo English Uniform

After a touch of Varnish, its time to move onto the bases!

Im a big fan of making bases as something special as possible. If the bases don't work, it doesn't matter how well you paint your gear it will just not look that good. Because of this I like to spend a bit of time planning what Im going to do.

So... with the Polish Mountain Infantry I wanted bases that in some way reflected the environment that they actually fought in.

Having wandered around the Beskides and the Tatras the one thing that stands out is that in most of the area apart from the high peaks the landscape is rolling and most definitely not mountainous... but what there is an abundance of is trees.... lots and lots of trees so I decided that I would make my bases to reflect this.

I laid out all bases for all my Mountain Infantry assets and after a short trip to the garden hedge I proceeded to glue branch off cuts onto the bases where I saw fit. These were then left to dry thoroughly.

Once the bases were dry it was time to glue the troops to their bases with superglue and then put a layer of grout over the top to meld in the figure bases to the overall base level.

Once the grout is dry its time to sand them. This provides the base layer on the base which allows for the textural appearance of the bases once painted.

The bases have a basecoat of Vallejo's German Camo Medium Brown which is then drybrush highlighted with Vallejo Green Ochre.

Once this is done a section of the base is painted with PVA glue and 2mm Spring Green Static Flock
is applied using a static flock applicator and in the remaining spaces on the base a variety of static flock tufts are applied... and that as they say is that!

So... the finished pieces

The Infantry Platoon. Three sections of four bases each. A platoon command base, a 46mm Mortar team and an Anti Tank Rifle team

The full Podhale Rifles platoon with the accompanying HMG platoon

A full Podhale Rifle Section

...and of course the HMG section that accompanies them in order to lay the smack down: