Friday, September 13, 2019

Another Brick in the (Wooden) Wall

The title for the previous post is from the song "Workin' for a Livin'" by Huey Lewis and the News.  After I made the post, I looked the song up and discovered it was primarily a US hit instead of an international one.  So, apologies to any international readers I shortchanged.  Consequently, the musical reference in this title is so easy, I wouldn't even bother to give out a hint (well, if I gave out hints, which I haven't yet).  Let's just presume everyone got it, and move on.  Of course, for that one person who doesn't know the tune this title is riffing on, I will name it at the beginning of the next post. 😣

For the ship itself, there's not a lot to say really.  She's another British 74, of the Middling persuasion.  That means she measures between 173-175 feet on the gundeck, and normally carries 28 18-pounders on her upper gundeck.  This miniature will be representing one of the five Middling class vessels at Trafalgar.  I decided to paint her as a ship that is fresh out of the dockyard: whitish sails, no additional coloring or decoration other than stock.  My thought here is that perhaps her commander doesn't have a lot of extra money to spend on flashy decorations.  So, much like Captain Hardy in Victory, our fictional captain here took what he was given.

I haven't posted a picture with the Quarter of Comparison (TM) in a while.
The next few sailing ships up on the blog are going to be Spanish ones.  I recently made an order from Waterloo Minis ( that will allow me to finish my Spanish fleet for the Trafalgar Project.  If you're in the US or Canada and need to buy Langton miniatures, Waterloo is definitely the place.  Jeff is a great guy to deal with; if he has it in stock you'll get it, and if he doesn't he will let you know.  I trust him enough that when I order masts and sails, I'll tell him "I don't want X or Y, but any other setting is fine."  Given how finicky I am about my ships, that is high praise indeed!

Sunday, August 18, 2019

I'm taking what they're givin' 'cause I'm workin' for a livin'

So, first things first.  The title of the last post was a line from the Dire Strait's song, "Industrial Disease."  Maybe a bit obscure for a first go, but this one should more than make up for that, at least for my US readers.

Now that the Greenpeace ships are finished, it makes sense that I need whaling ships too.  You might think that those would be hard to find.  Turns out, they are mostly quite easy.  The British company Tri-Ang Minic made a whaling factory ship named Vikingen, and a set of three harpoon ships to go with it.  Vikingen does tend towards the toy end of the spectrum, with its simplistic hull and toy masts; however, it is in 1/1200 scale and it looks close enough for game purposes.

The original ship

A model of the original

The Tri-Ang Minic model as usually found on eBay.  If you look closely, you
can see two of the plastic masts on the bow.

I wanted a more realistic paint job, so I put the model in a container with paint stripper.  It was here that I learned the funnels were plastic around a metal core.  I would need to find replacement masts and funnels too.  The paint stripper did work well though, and after a little scrubbing I had a hull that looked like this:

Fortunately for the project, there is a shop in the UK that specializes in replacement parts for ships like this.  If you need parts, or obscure models for whatever reason, I recommend .  He had everything I needed, including replicas of the harpoon ships, which are REALLY hard to find.  After putting the replacement metal masts in place, Vikingen looked like this:

I decided to put the funnels on after the ship was painted, as some of the clearances would be way too close to paint cleanly.  The biggest problem in painting was that, while there are exterior pictures of the ship, I couldn't find any pictures of what color her decks might have been.  I wound up using a picture of another factory ship model, the Sir James Clark Ross:

So, with no further ado, here is the repainted Vikingen:

While the picture and model of the prototype shows the forward and aft superstructures to be have open areas, I decided to go with just portholes instead.  I wasn't sure I could paint it in such a way as to look realistic, and I certainly wasn't about to try and start cutting holes in the model!  Given her beginnings, I think she looks pretty good.  Sharp-eyed observers will note that I didn't put the white stripe that is about halfway down the hull.  There's a reason for that, which I will explain later.

After the factory ship comes the harpoon ships.  As I mentioned earlier, these are really hard to find as originals, and come with prices to match.  Fortunately though, has got me covered there too, as he offers reproductions of them.  They come in two pieces: the hull and a funnel.  This is what they look like out of the package:

It's a bit basic, but given its background that's not really unexpected.  On the bright side, that means that they should be easy to dress up.  Another online search gave me some photos to work with for a color scheme:

Clearly, this paint job was never seriously considered.
So, the first thing my harpoon ships need are some masts.  That first picture shows a modernized vessel, so I decided to not even try to do radar domes or the radar mast on the wheelhouse.  I kept it basic, and used .20 music wire to make my masts.  Even that minimal addition made the ships look much better, but they still needed something else.  It took a while, but I finally realized that the "something else" was the walkway to the harpoon station.  I was out of plastic sheet, so cut them from a flap of a cereal box.  When placed on a base, that gave me an unpainted model that looked like this:

Looking much better . . . .
The models themselves are simple enough that there's no need for any masking, or other painting tricks.  With a fairly simple paint job, they can be done reasonably quickly, but still look pretty good.  Eventually there will be a third harpoon ship, but it's going to be painted just like these two.

I swear that the portholes don't look that bad in person.

Other than the third harpoon ship, this project is almost finished.  I still need to paint the whales, and make some markers for things like fire hoses, mooring lines, and graffiti for the side of the factory ship.  Yes, graffiti.  The protest players are able to gain bonus points by painting graffiti on the side of the factory ship.  When those little things are done, I'll put them in another, quicker post.  One thing I MUST do though, is to throw in a picture of the whale as I promised Stew I would do that.

This is the diecast whale that originally came with the factory ship.  They are not uncommon but can still be rather expensive.  Fortunately,  makes replicas of this little fellow also.  He's only about 1/2 inch long, but that is still a 50 foot whale.  He is awfully generic, but there are some better whales out there from and I might upgrade to those later.

I would love to hear from some of my UK readers about these Tri-Ang Minic models.  There's quite a few of the factory ships left, so did anyone ever actually play with them?  I can understand the smaller ships and whales  getting lost over time; I'm more curious about whether anyone actually played with them as toys.

Friday, July 12, 2019

There's a protest singer singing a protest song , , , ,

Well it's taken a while, but I'm finally making some progress on the "Save the Whale!" game.  You might recall that I mentioned this one in my post entitled "A Long Spell in Drydock." If you want to refresh your memory, here's the link: .

I had to find some decal paper, as none of the craft stores in our area carry it any more.  So, after finding some, I printed up  my decals for the Greenpeace ships.  The one for Solo came out looking really well, and it's amazing how much of a difference it made.

The original

My model, before decals. . . 

and after.
Even I'm surprised at how much of a difference the decal made.  Now, the ship really looks finished.  Encouraged by this, I went to put the white logo on the side of Rainbow Warrior.  At this point I realized my mistake; I had bought clear decal paper, not white.  While that worked just fine on Solo, it obviously was not going to work on the other ship.  Rather than make the same mistake twice, I ordered some white paper online, and waited for it to arrive.

While Decapod's model of Rainbow Warrior on Shapeways is pretty good, I decided to modify it to more closely match the photos of the real ship.  Specifically, this photo:

After looking at this and some other pictures of the ship, I started modifying the model.  I took everything off the ship behind the superstructure.  Then, I installed a foremast and mainmast made out of .020 music wire.  This should make them resistant to breakage, and encourage gamers to be careful with them.  I made some changes to the forward deck area based on other photos not shown here, and put boats on her by using some of my GHQ small boats from sailing ships that I cut to the right length.  Finally, I used some small plastic rod to put the two square green items on the top of the wheelhouse.  Unfortunately, I didn't take any pictures during the modification, but the ship went from this:

to this:

Not too bad, but she will look even better once the lettering is on the side.  It turns out that I didn't get the green of the logo to be an exact match for the hull color, but I realized at the beginning it wouldn't be perfect.

The white line below the letters is where I was not quite able to reach in with a brush and touch the edge of the decal up with green paint.  I think, though, that when I put the wake effects onto the base that will be covered.  Honestly, I'm not quite as happy about these as I was with ones for Solo.  It's still better than not having it, and it doesn't look quite as bad to the naked eye as it does here.

Of course, you can't have Greenpeace ships without the rubber boats to go with them.  As I mentioned in the earlier post, I had found some Zodiac boats on Shapeways that looked like this:

Well, they paint up pretty quickly.  The 4 I did took maybe 45 minutes tops. 

In looking at pictures of Greenpeace rubber boats (technically Rigid Inflatable Boats, or RIBs) there doesn't seem to be a standardized color scheme.  These four represent what seem to be the most common colors.  Although the black boat seems to look smaller than the others, they are all the same model.  I thought that was an interesting optical illusion.

And with that, the protest forces for my "Save the Whale!" game are done.  I guess the only question left is, "What's up with the title for this post?"  When I started the blog, I was stuck for a name, and my wife came up with what I'm using now.  Since I'm old enough to remember when "Come Sail Away" was a huge hit for the band Styx, I thought it would be funny if the post titles used lines from songs, or were a play on the lyrics.  So, I'm starting to do that with this one.  No prize for guessing who the artist and song are, because Google makes it too easy to find anything nowadays. 

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Back In the Saddle Again

While looking through my computer, I realized that I have not worked on a sailing ship since October of 2018.  For a blog about sailing ships, that is clearly too long!  I also realized that my Trafalgar project has gone even longer without any progress.  The obvious thing to do then, is to finish another ship of the line that will let me make progress on both general construction AND my Trafalgar goal.

Fortunately, I have a British 74 Common hull that has been painted since, well, October of 2018 or thereabouts.  When I order hulls, I always order sail sets to go along with them so all the ship needed was to have the masts and sails painted and installed, rig the ship, and just like that she's done.  Yep, that's the plan all right.

The masts and sails went together quickly enough, and I decided to experiment with how I paint my sails.  This time, I went with a black basecoat, linen first coat, tan drybrushing and then a drybrushing of linen again.  Overall, they seem a bit whiter than I normally like, but I can justify that by saying that she recently broke out a new set of canvas.  I've finally found the right size drill bit for enlarging the mast holes in the hull (a #52 bit, which is roughly 1.6 mm or .0635 inches).  This lets the mast fit with only a little bit of sanding using 1200 grit sandpaper.  With everything glued together, it was time to work on rigging.

The standing rigging went quicker than I thought it would, given that I hadn't done any rigging for about 8 or 9 months.  From there I moved to running rigging, and things started to slow a bit.  Here, I was having more trouble getting things going.  I was having problem with weaving the running rigging in and out of the standing rigging for the first couple of steps.  After that though, things started moving along more quickly.  As I was starting on step 8 of the running rigging I was thinking to myself, "Hmmm, it's been a few months but I've still got it."  It was right about then that I dropped the ship.

Truth be told, it wasn't a long fall; just a few inches from my hands to the desk.  It was, however, a long enough fall to rip a string of filthy words out of my mouth.  Good thing I was home alone!  Just like in the past, the standing rigging did its job and made it easy to pull everything back into place.  Once I got everything straightened back up, THEN I saw the evidence that my standing rigging job wasn't as snazzy as I thought it was.  The mizzenmast stays were much too loose and saggy, and part of the mainmast stays were wrapped around other lines.  Aarrgh!!!!  And no, there are no pictures of this fiasco, for the obvious reasons.

There was clearly only one way to fix these problems, and that was to cut out the mizzen and main masts standing rigging to do them over.  That meant that I also had to cut out step 8 of the running rigging as well.  Before rerunning all that string, I first had to redrill the holes for rigging at the stern of the ship.  I normally use a .7 mm drill bit there, because of the several different lines that go through those holes.  Turns out, when I drilled the holes on this ship, I used a .5 mm drill bit instead.  No wonder I couldn't get all the running rigging to fit through there!

After all this repair work was done, the rest of the build went pretty quickly.  No really, it did; I guess I needed those mistakes to shake me out of my complacency.  So, with no further ado, here are some beauty shots of the newest addition to the fleet:

The masts are in line, but for some reason this photo makes them look unaligned.

Some of the standing rigging does look a little loose, but it shows up
more in the photo than in real life.

I SWEAR to you that those masts are aligned with each other!

This ship will represent either Swiftsure or Berwick in the French fleet for Trafalgar, as both those ships were British prizes in French service.  However, she is rigged as a standard British ship, as this will make her more useful in other scenarios.  Honestly, I have never had a player in one of my games comment on the differences in rigging, so it probably doesn't really matter.  Over the years though, I've built enough ships in the two different rigging styles that I'm not going to stop now. 🙄

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

A Long Spell in Drydock

I feel that I owe my readers a bit of an apology right at the beginning of this post.  In looking at the blog, I realized that it has been 3 months since I’ve posted anything.  I would like to plead that Real Life ™ has gotten in the way, but the truth is that I’ve just been both lazy and in a bit of a slump.  I haven’t been completely unproductive, but the shipbuilding has really slowed down.  There are a couple of reasons for this, and they are even remotely related to naval gaming.  I’ll explain below.

Out, out damned computer!

No, I haven’t had computer problems, although I admit that would be a great excuse.  Instead, I have fallen into the snare of computer naval gaming.  I recently bought a game called Rule the Waves by a company called Naval Warfare Simulations, or NWS.  You can find their website at:  The game lets you run one of the major European navies from 1900 to 1926.  You  perform the role of the Grand Admiral, in that you get to design ships, place them, and (eventually) lead them into battle.  The navies in the game are Great Britain (of course), Germany (ditto), France, Italy, Russia, Austria-Hungary, the US and Japan.  As an option, you can manage the Spanish navy, or even the Confederate States if you want to go a fantasy history route.  I say fantasy there because all of the game is alternate history; in no way are you entitled to replay the runup to WWI.  Alliances can be made and broken based on the tension level between the great powers, and it’s even possible for the UK and Germany to sign an alliance if things go just right.  It’s also possible for real-life allies to really go after each other: In one game as the US, I fought three different wars with France.  The game is quite addictive, and many times I’ve found myself saying “just one more turn” (which is a month of game-time) until I have almost seen the sun rise.
Designing ships is one of the most fun parts of the game.  The march of technology is not always relentless, and some things that worked out in real life may not in your game.  This is an option, and you can turn it off if you so choose.  It does add an extra level of uncertainty to the game though, and I for one highly recommend it.  You can design anything from a minesweeper to a dreadnought and can ask the computer to help you if you want.  Computer designs are not always the best though!  Occasionally it will deliver a design that is overweight or has other flaws.  This is a part of the game that can keep you enthralled for hours, as you try to deliver that perfect blend of firepower, speed and protection.  If you spend money on espionage, you will get reports from what the other navies are doing, and this can be used as a guide for your own designs.  I can assure you; it WILL hurt your ego when you find that your perfect design for whatever ship is either 1) completely inept compared to its foreign counterparts, or 2) will bankrupt your country if you try and build it.  While the game stops in the 1920s, NWS is preparing Rule the Waves II which will put aircraft carriers into the game along with other technologies.  Will I buy it?  Despite my dislike of aircraft in naval games, I daresay I probably will.  After all, it’s not as if I have to paint up any aircraft carriers or airplanes, right?!  Gaming navies are a lot of fun when they’re digital, even if they aren’t quite as satisfying as a fleet of painted miniatures.

Gamer Syndrome

I think we’re all guilty of this one.  You start on a project and intend to keep a laser focus on it.  Eventually though, you look at those ships and start wondering, “What else could I use these for?”  Next thing you know, you’ve got a new project that you never planned on.  The military world calls it “mission creep,” the medical world calls it “attention deficit disorder,” and we call it “gamer syndrome.”  Even worse, you find a new set of rules that look like they would be fun, and only need a few ships.  Just a few, and they are almost all available from somewhere like Shapeways.  So, you’re looking around for those few ships, and you find all other sorts of cool stuff.  One of [fill in the blank] would be fun to paint, just to do something different.  Hmm, look at those; they would be perfect companions to that one ship you bought.  Wonder what you could do with those?  Are there rules for . . . .?  As the singer Robert Earl Keen says, “the road goes on forever and the party never ends.”
All the above is a roundabout way of saying that I have been painting some modern ships of late.  Not many; as I said, I’ve been in a slump.  One of my projects was an attempt to save a mistake that I got from Shapeways.  You might remember that in an earlier post, I talked about a problem I have with one of the Rothesay class frigates I received from them.  At the time I misidentified her as a Leander class, but have since learned the error of my ways.   Anyway, this was the picture:

I figured that given the issues with this ship, I couldn’t really mess it up any more, no matter what I did to it.  So, out came the knife.  I put the gun barrels in the turret using .025 music wire, which I thought would be more sturdy than plastic rod of the same width.  I added an upper mast out of the same wire, primarily to discourage gamers from moving the ship by its plastic mainmast.  Cutting off that circular thing did cause me to lose some of the deck details there, but fortunately I was able to paint them in without it looking too bad.  Overall, the end result looks like this:

She didn't come out too badly, all things considered.

I decided to paint her up as HMS Yarmouth.  With this one and HMS Plymouth, that gives me all of the Rothesay class frigates that were present for the Falklands War.  Falklands, huh?  Well what do you know, Shapeways has almost all the ships necessary for that war.  One shop even has the Argentine carrier ARA 25 de Mayo.  Throw in a couple of modern naval rules, and suddenly I’m buying things like this:

Obviously, nowhere near complete, or even started yet.

That is a 1/1250 scale Triton miniature of HMS Hermes, the flagship of the British fleet.  Obviously I don’t have to tell my readers where this is headed. . . .  I don’t know how long it will take this Falklands project to come to fruition, but someday my group will be playing a modern naval campaign.  Right now, I just keep telling myself that it’s still cheaper than trying to fight WWIII in the North Atlantic.

Naval “War”gaming? 

For my other foray into naval gaming ADD, the explanation is a little simpler.  Briefly put, I’m blaming David Manley for this one!  A few years back, I played his “Save the Whale” game.  In that, the players take the part of either whale hunters, or activists trying to save the whale.  The activists get to do things like use speedboats to paint anti-whaling slogans on the side of the whaling factory ship, which will give them points (as will other actions) at the end of the game.  The points are only for the protesters because victory for the whalers is pretty simple:  If they harpoon a whale, they win.  Even if that doesn’t happen, they might still win if the protesters have negative points.  In effect, the whalers have won in the court of world opinion.

Ships for this are surprisingly easy to come by.  Triang-Minic made a whale factory ship, and those can be picked up pretty cheaply on eBay.  The harpoon ships are harder to find as originals but are being reproduced so that is also taken care of pretty cheaply.  I already hear you asking, “But Brian, where do you get protest ships?”  The answer of course, is Shapeways (or as I’ve come to call it, “The Great Enabler”).  A quick search using “Greenpeace ships” will turn up only 1 option.  A shop called shipshape makes the MV Solo, which served Greenpeace in the 1990s along with the Rainbow Warrior III.  However, Decapod, who makes the Cod War models also makes a model that is a very nice stand-in for the original Rainbow Warrior.  Turns out, there is even a shop that makes rubber Zodiac boats in 1/1250 scale. 

WAY more than I will ever need.  Then again, as small as they are I do expect
to lose a few over time.

The Quarter of Comparison (TM) is feeling somewhat shy today, and decided to
try and hide.

There actually a little oversize but otherwise are really nice models.  I decided to go with Rainbow Warrior I and Solo even though the two never actually served together.  After all, this is a fun game and I don’t think anyone is going to be too terribly offended by this inaccuracy.  Rainbow Warrior is probably so well known as to not need an introduction, but here’s a picture of the original in London:

My model of this ship isn’t even primed yet, but once it’s done I will update this post with pictures of it.  The rainbow and bird will probably be done via brush, but the “GREENPEACE” lettering on the side will have to be a decal.  I think a decal will be easy to make, and will look a lot better than any attempts to do it by hand.

The Solo is much less well known, but this is the original:

And here is my interpretation of her:

The model isn’t complete yet, as I haven’t finished the base or made decals for the name and Greenpeace logo on the side.   I also wasn’t able to do the sweeping rainbow stripes by brush, so went with a blockier interpretation, as you can see.  All in all though, I don’t think she looks too bad.

So that is why the blog has been laid up for a bit here lately.  It’s not that nothing has been done, but overall there’s been very little.  I promise to get back to the sailing ships soon.  After all, the Trafalgar Project isn’t going to get done if I don’t do anything on it!

Saturday, January 26, 2019

The Descendants

I've been terribly dilatory about posting something this month.  There's a few reasons, and some of them I think are fairly reasonable.  For openers, I've finally decided to really start taking care of myself like my doctor said to do almost a year ago.  Consequently, I'm walking for an hour a day either 5 or 6 days a week.  It's not the 7 days a week he wanted, but it's better than what I was doing.

I've also started a new hobby that takes up a bit of time.  About a year ago, I started taking fencing lessons.  I did it in college, and then didn't for 30+ years.  Well, much to my surprise the city here teaches it as an adult fitness course so I took it up again.   As I've taken more lessons, I've started fencing with a couple of different groups.  Along with this, my wife retired after 26+ years with the city and we've been enjoying doing things together.  All the above, combined with a bit of general laziness this New Year, has kept me from updating as much as I've wanted.  With this post though, we should get 2019 started off on the right foot.

The plan is to play the first Cod War game in March, so that is what I've been painting so far this year.  I've gotten another sidewinder trawler painted, along with a couple of Icelandic Coast Guard (ICG) vessels painted.  I'll put pictures of those up later, but honestly, they're not very interesting as the ICG vessels are just shades of gray.  What has me really excited is the chance to paint up some Royal Navy vessels.

The first vessels here are a pair of Type 12M Rothesay class frigates.  Honestly, I bought them from Shapeways thinking they were Type 12I Leander class vessels but I was wrong.  To make things worse, I didn't realize this until I had shortened the mainmast to put the distinctive Leander class radar antenna on them.  After kicking myself for my mistake, I decided to go ahead and put the antennae on the ships, thereby turning them into a sort of generic Royal Navy frigate.  The Rothesay class ships also served during the Cod Wars, so I'm not really out of bounds by using them.

To me, these ships are direct descendants of my British sailing ships (hence the title of this post).  That's one reason I'm excited about painting them, but the other reason is that they carry a really snazzy paint job.  Light gray hull and superstructures, dark green decks and a dark gray helicopter landing area with white markings make for a very distinctive looking ship.  You can see for yourself in the photos below:
HMS Plymouth (F126) and HMS Falmouth (F113).

HMS Plymouth

HMS Falmouth
Clearly, one of these ships isn't quite finished yet.  Plymouth needs to have the base detailed, and some final little bits done to her.  I added the radar antenna (that large dark colored block on top of the mainmast) and the extension on top of the foremast for both ships.  The foremast extension was done with .20 wire, so as to keep people from brushing against it; the Smooth Fine Detail plastic used by Shapeways is good at capturing detail but a little bit fragile.  Hopefully this will keep players from using the foremast to move the ships.  There were several whip antennae along the deck of these ships, but I haven't decided whether or not to add those.  If I do, it should be easy to use some brush bristles cut to length.

Sharp-eyed observers may note that the hull of Falmouth looks a bit rougher than the one on Plymouth.  This is partially due to some paint problems I had on Falmouth and partially due to the way the hulls on these ships are printed.  All three of these ships have some heavy striations due to the various angles on the hull.  I'm not sure why there weren't as visible on Plymouth, but I am presuming that the way I prepped the second hull might have helped hide them.  Problem is, I'm not sure what I did!

These aren't the only Royal Navy ships for this period I've got, and I will post the others as I get them done.  In closing though, I would be seriously remiss if I didn't admit that part of the reason for this post are my two virtual shipmates: Stew and Vol.  By making some posts on their blogs this month, they kind of shamed me into doing the same. 😬  Thanks guys, and things should be back on track now!