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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

A Quick Thanks to A Reader

In a discussion on TMP, there was a general agreement that shore batteries and forts without some sort of  crews around the guns just don't look right.  At the same time though, there was some disagreement on the best way to make sure those guns are manned. A consensus seemed to form that most 1/1200 gun crew figures are, at best, lumps of lead.

One suggestion I found interesting came from Vol, the owner of a sailing ship blog located at:   He suggested using some 1/800 scale photo-etched brass naval crew figures from Eduard, a Czech company that specializes in accessories for plastic model ships.  At first I was afraid they would be way too large; after all, 1/800 scale is 66.7 feet/inch while 1/1200 is 100 feet/inch.  In metric, that means that 1mm in 1/800 equals 2.62 feet while 1mm in 1/1200 scale equals 4 feet. That still sounds too big.  However, when you divide it down some more, a 6 foot tall man is 2.28mm in 1/800 scale while that same man is 1.5mm tall in 1/1200.  That's a difference of less than 1mm, which meant I was willing to take a chance on them.  I found a set on eBay, and they arrived while we were away on vacation.

One thing's for sure: They are small.  They come pre-painted, and there are about 500 of them on a fret.  This means that there are plenty of spares when you drop one after cutting it out (and you will drop a few; trust me on this).  The main question though is, how do they look in a shore battery?

Well, they look pretty good actually.  Below is the two-gun battery that I showed in a post about some ACW ships that I bought.  As you can see, it does look pretty bare:

Now here's how it looks with some of those Eduard figures glued in:

Now that battery looks like it's open for business!  So, a rousing "thank you" to Vol, who turned me on to these figures.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

More New Construction

This ship has been sitting on the desk since March, waiting on its running rigging while I've gallivanted around doing other things.  So, last night I sat down and finished off this ship.

She's another Spanish 74, but painted in a very specific scheme.  I based this one on the painting of  Nelson in HMS Captain  capturing the Spanish San Nicolas and San Josef at the Battle of Saint Vincent in 1797.  You know, this painting:

L to R: Captain, San Nicolas, San Josef

Technically, San Nicolas was an 80 gun ship and not a 74.  Since the ship I used has stern decorations unlike any of my other Spanish third rates, I think it turned out OK.  The painting (by Nicholas Pocock, so we can be sure it's accurate) doesn't show much of the Nicholas' stern and nothing of the head, which means I could take some liberties there also.  So, with that in mind, here's the newest member of the family, a Spanish 74 painted like the San Nicolas.

As always, a shot with the Quarter of Comparison™

Unique stern decorations for a Spanish ship (so far, anyway).

Monday, May 15, 2017

US, Russian and Dutch fleet photos

Here we have the smaller fleets in my collection: the Americans, the Russians, and the Dutch.  Since two of those three navies used white stripes for decoration, we have the above title.  Most people think that the white stripe along the gunports was a uniquely American paint scheme, but this isn't true.  In fact, the Russian Navy adopted the scheme first, during the period 1796-1801.

First up is the United States Navy.  The first pictures below are the Constitution.  Although I purchased this one, it is modified and somewhat repainted.  I added the gunports but as my latest book shows, even in 1812 she used the split gunports.  So, I need to change these at some point in the future.  Might be time to do a little bit of re-rigging as well.

Next up is the sister ship of the Constitution, the United States.  Also known as "The Old Waggon" due to her lackluster sailing qualities, I built this ship from another Constitution model.  I added the roundhouse on the upper deck and the additional galleries needed.  I based the stern on the old Revell model of the ship.

OK, so not all the US ships are painted with white stripes
Kinda proud of the stern, since I did it a good while back.
Now, I would probably add more detail.
 Next up is what Langton refers to as the USS Congress.  One of the original six frigates, Congress never had a very distinguished career.  She can however be used as her sister ship Constellation and I would even use her as Chesapeake, although she might not be completely correct.

Last up for the Americans is the USS Essex.  This mini was one I purchased.

The next act in our White Stripes get-together are the originators of the scheme, the Russian Navy.  Of course, not all of them are painted that way either, as you will see below.  First up is a 32 gun frigate:

This next ship is the oddball of the bunch.  Langton calls it a 46 gun heavy frigate, but the gunport arrangement doesn't match anything in Tredrea and Sozaev book, Russian Warships in the Age of Sail.  So, I'm considering it to be one of the 46 gun Pyotr Apostol class of frigates.  Since most, but not all of these, were out of service by 1800, I decided not to go with the black/white scheme.

The next unfinished ship is a 50 gun heavy frigate.  I haven't gone through the book trying to figure out which class this one is, but decided to give it the black/white treatment since there were large frigates around during the 1806 Russian-Ottoman war (which is my interest).

Next up is a 66 gun ship, which was the standard small SOL of the Russian navy.  These serve throughout the Age of Sail.

Like all other navies, the Russians built large numbers of 74 gun ships, and they see extensive service in both the Baltic and Black Sea theaters, along with the other areas the Russian navy ventured into.  For example, in 1798-1800 they actually cooperated with their long-time Ottoman enemies against the French!

A very no-nonsense looking ship.

The last ship for the Czar is the 100 gun three-deck SOL.  Even in confined waters like the Black Sea the Russians kept several of these.  This particular miniature probably represents a ship of the Ches'ma class, which may or may not be based on the design of HMS Victory.

Last in this post are my Dutch ships.  "Fleet" is a bit much, since I only have two ships.  There is not much information available in English on the painting and decoration of Dutch ships during this time, unlike the earlier 17th Century.  Before I build any more of this navy, I want to find more information.  These are painted based on information from the Langton website.

A 54/56 gun SOL. This one is riding a bit low in the water; might need to
redo this base.

A 64/68 gun SOL.  Dutch ships tended to be smaller than those of other nations.

Shore Batteries from Stone Mountain Miniatures

Since I'm working on expanding things like my islands and shore batteries, I have been buying 1/1200 shore batteries from several different manufacturers.  The nice two-gun earth battery I got from Thoroughbred is in the ACW post, so I won't picture it again here.  Instead, I want to show off some more shore fortifications from a couple of other companies.

The first up are some shore batteries and large guns from Stone Mountain Miniatures.  While their ironclads are 1/1000 scale, I don't think that will make much of a difference where the shore forts are concerned.  So, I ordered the following items from them:
HSS 120: Dirt Shoreline Forts,
HSS 121: Dirt Fort Redoubts, and
HSS 115: Fortification Guns with Crew.

The forts are cast in a nice white/cream colored resin.  They have some nice detailing, as you can see in the photos.  I particularly like the steps leading into the batteries, as that is missing from the Thoroughbred one.  If I have to nitpick them, I would say that the info sheet included with them mentions wooden platforms for the guns, but there's no evidence of them on the casting.  As earthen batteries, they should fit into both the Age of Sail and Ironclad eras equally well.  I don't know if the one gun position will be of much use with my Age of Sail ships, but the other two should do sterling duty with them.

These are straight from the bag, no cleanup.

As always, these photos are larger than life size, and make the castings look worse than they really are. If the camera adds 10 pounds to a person, it certainly magnifies every bubble in a resin casting.  Remember too, that I did not clean these up before I took the photos.

Next up is HSS 121, the Dirt Fort Redoubts.  They also come three to a package, but as they are all identical I'm just showing pictures of one.  They're made from the same resin as the forts, with about the same level of details.  There is a nice extra with these, though, and that is a set of guns and gunners.

Once again, these are straight from the bag.

Now, the photos make these guns and gunners look REALLY bad.  That's because of how small these castings are.

Recolor this, and you could call it a new "Face on Mars"
So, how small are they?  Well, here's a picture of a gun casting and the Quarter of Comparison™

Looks a LOT better in comparison. And still a lot larger than life sized.
The last thing in this review is HHS 115: Fortification Guns and Crew.  This is a bag of heavy guns, but they are not generic.  Below is the sheet that comes in the bag:

Three distinctly different types of guns?  That's a pretty big claim, so let's see what they look like:

L to R: Columbiad, Rodman, Parrott.
I thought about putting a closeup of each gun, but having done that earlier in this post, I don't really think it's fair to the castings.  You can see from the picture above that each of the guns is different, and the Parrott even has the band around the breech.  Just in case the Quarter of Comparison™  above didn't tell you enough, below is one of the castings on my thumbnail:
All in all, I think they are a pretty useful addition, and I would recommend them for players of sailing ships and/or ironclads.  You can find them at: .  And in interest of full disclosure, I bought these myself and Stone Mountain Miniatures did not know I was going to write about them.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

It's Island Time!

I've decided that it's time for me to start adding some terrain for my naval games. Instead of making my own islands to start, I purchased one of the Amera plastic ones.  They are made of vacu-formed plastic, and are hollow.  This makes them very light, but also very sturdy.  If you played with the Mattel Vac-u-Form in the early 1970s ( ), these islands are nothing like those flimsy plastic things.

The island base is originally rectangular, but I didn't take a picture of that.
Also, shooting a white island on a white base with a white backdrop probably
wasn't a good idea.
I'd like to show you a step-by-step process of how I got to the final pictures below.  Truth is, I didn't take those pictures.  After putting some base coats on the island with spray cans (black and then brown), I slapped paint on it until it looked like an island, and I was happy with the results.

I cut away the base in the circular area because I decided I wanted the
island to have a deep water anchorage.  Shame you can't actually get ashore there.

This side doesn't look too friendly either.  Is that a volcano?
This place has nothing to offer, except fresh water (maybe).
How to reach it?

Huzzah, a beach! Now to figure out how to get to that water up there....
I made no modifications to the island itself.  I did use some Vallejo water effects to make the waterfalls and the breakers around the island.  I then covered the island water with Vallejo gloss varnish and the water around the island with a gloss gel medium that gave it some texture.

I could probably build my own islands.  They also probably wouldn't look this good and take a lot longer than the day or less that it took to paint this one.  All in all, I would say that if you need some islands, you should give Amera Plastic Mouldings a try.  Their website is: and they have distributors here in the US.