Monday, May 19, 2014

Commissions for a New War

A while back I painted several WWI ships for Sabryin Owlfeather: British battlecruisers HMS Invincible and Inflexible, and the German armored cruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau.

When Owlfeather bought his WWI ships he also bought some later combatants, including one named after the CO of the German squadron: Admiral Maximilian von Spee.

The German Panzerschiff, or armored cruiser, (which looks very much like a battleship you could put in your shirt pocket in this case) . . . 

Graf Spee

Von Spee's squadron encountered a superior British squadron and met its end in the Battle of the Falkland Islands. The captain of the German cruiser Graf Spee scuttled his command after it took serious but non-fatal damage in the Battle of the River Plate. (And in his defense, had he not scuttled his ship the Royal Navy would have been happy to scuttle it for him in short order.) Along with the "pocket battleship" Owlfeather acquired the several British cruisers that crippled her: 

HMS Exeter, Ajax . . . 

and Achilles.

The reader can be forgiven for thinking that Exeter seems to be wearing the white rose, as she's secretly a York mumming as her younger brother, thus I have proposed the nickname "Ersatz Exeter" for this lovely ship. (And she is a fine ship, whatever you chose to call her.)

The takeaway here might be that commerce raiding against a superior foe is rarely the recipe for a long life. But hopefully the models look acceptable. I don't know that I'll ever do much work on commission, as I get far too attached to models I build or paint, but there you have it. I do hope you will be pleased, Owlfeather. And if you want to fight the River Plate, bring em by. If you have the ships I have the ocean.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Industrial Scale

In preparation for the Grand Imperial Fleet Review that's, as usual, overdue I have been working on harbor improvements for the industrial sector of New Cai Lay. This has amounted to building a few new factories and warehouses, painting up some extant ones, and building a new wharf. I've described the painting in plenty of detail elsewhere, so I won't belabor that, but I experimented with some different ways to build the new structures.

Those readers who have been banging around this blog for a while might remember that I scratch built Long Island a few years back. (In this case the escort carrier and not the land-form.) To some appreciable extent I reprised the same techniques for my new factories. (And to a lesser extent also for the wharf.) All are built of balsa, though not all in quite the same ways.

First off, let's talk about the wharf.

This one was pretty simple. At  essence I took a plank, glued some stuff to it, and painted it.

The fun comes in what I glued to it, some of which is itself manufactured. The hawser in the upper left corner is a tight spiral of .01" styrene on top of a cookie cut from a larger diameter styrene rod. Other pieces include small rectangles cut from stock, a pair of LCIs, a stack leftover from some model or other, a boat, and some styrene rod stacked up to look like . . . well . . . rod or pipe maybe. Or even telephone poles. Who knows? Something round and long. 

The tiny factories were a little more creative. For the first one I assembled several pieces of balsa into a rough structural shell. I didn't take any pictures of this on "in progress", but the shell is nevertheless obvious from underneath.

The single biggest problem with my earlier structural project, an administration building, was the lack of roof treatment. 

This I have corrected by adding small plastic cookies from a larger plastic rod as ventilators. The chimney is a piece of square balsa stock.

Of course, a simpler method for building a basic background structure is to cut out a building shape and just paint the thing. This isn't the most elegant, but if you don't put the buildings in the middle of the picture (as below) it works fine.

I'm interspersing my new buildings into the middle of a variety of Davco buildings that are technically the wrong scale, but which seem . . . more or less adequate given the lack of identifiable detail and the wide array of building types and sizes in your average city. So one of my goals is to mix in as wide a variety of shapes, sizes, styles, and apparent ages as practical. The next two buildings are of a more "medium" size, and are meant to be from the same complex. The body of the buildings is a simple balsa block. I added a strip to the top to create a clerestory roof, for interior lighting in the middle of a cavernous factory building, gooped CA onto the things to fill the wood grain, sanded them down, and made some roof details out of styrene: ventilators and chimneys, perhaps from a forge. (These remind me a little of a foundry that was near my childhood home.)

I'd been planning to add all other details, windows and doors, with paint, but I decided I wanted a little more variation, and added am exterior loading dock with awning to the building below. The dock and awning are simple styrene strips cut from a larger sheet.

Here's a couple of pictures of the buildings added to the harbor scene. I plan to keep this all separate in order to make it "modular." The next step is to weather the roads and maybe add some stripes and perhaps find a way to create foundations that hide the gaps between building and ground. (And generally create a more cluttered urban landscape to surround the structures.) This is all pretty quick and dirty, but if you squint a little it works all right.