Works in Progress

Well summer and summer vacation are drawing to a close.  Its time to take stock of what has been accomplished and what has been left undone.  It feels like more should have been accomplished but when I consider the trips to Rome, Florence, Matera, Alberobello, etc. its small wonder there are so many things left to do.

I have been rapidly expanding my 1/6000 scale modern fleet.  As I’ve mentioned before I think the Figurehead miniatures are exceptional considering the scale.  I have just over 200 ships in my collection already with more on the way.  I’m still trying to decide how to paint up the sea base and blackwash the models.  The details are so fine I don’t want to overdo it.

Figurehead 1/6000 Russian Slava CG

Figurehead 1/6000 Russian Slava CG

Figurehead 1/6000 Russian/Soviet ships

Figurehead 1/6000 Russian/Soviet ships

I will say this about Figurehead, if you are buying them in the store carefully inspect the packages before you make your purchase.  I have made nearly all my purchases online and have discovered that four of the packages have incorrect ships.  The errors have all occurred in packages with a mixture of ships never when there is only one kind.  For example from the pack that was supposed to have two USN California class, one Bainbridge class, and one Truxton class I received one California, one Bainbridge, and two Truxtons.  The problem is there was only one Truxton made so I have a useless ship.  I encountered a similar thing with the Royal Navy pack that should have one Type 82 Bristol.  Maybe I’ll use these extras as wrecks or something.  I contacted the manufacturer about the errors, not really expecting anything to be done about it, and I received a nice email saying they would look into it and provide a replacement as necessary.  So far nothing else from them.  At least I wasn’t expecting any action so I shouldn’t be disappointed right?

 

More magnet madness.  I purchased some 1mm rare earth magnets online with the idea that maybe I could have revolving turrets on 1/2400 scale battleships.  Well I don’t have any unassembled battleship kits at the moment and I would hate to mess up the paint job of the finished ones I have on this experiment so I’m going to use a proxy to test the magnets.  Enter the trusty MRAPs, in this case the RG-31 Nyala from GHQ.  The machine gun turret should be comparable to a battleship turret peg so we’ll see how it works once the magnets arrive from Hong Kong.

 

GHQ 1/285 RG-31 Nyala

GHQ 1/285 RG-31 Nyala

 

Keeping the nautical theme going for the moment I have a handful of 1/2400 scale ships awaiting paint and decals.  If you remember my Pivot to the Pacific threads there hasn’t been much progress in terms of painting just adding more ships to the fleet.  I’m particularly keen on getting my hands on the Takanami DDG and the GHQ Hyuga when they come out next year.  I’m hopeful that GHQ will also solve my deck marking issues with an excellent set of decals they usually provide with their modern aircraft carriers.  Not appearing below is my recent purchase of GHQ’s LPD-21.  The model itself is up to GHQ’s usual standards and the V-22 Ospreys provided are also pretty good.  The major fault I have with this pack is the “Sea Stallions” listed on the website are in fact the same 20-30 year old casting of SH-3 Sea King helicopters.  I would buy  four or five extra sprues of Sea Stallions if they ever got around to making them but I guess I’ll have to wait.

GHQ 1/2400 Russian/Soviet/PRC Sovremenny

GHQ 1/2400 Russian/Soviet/PRC Sovremenny

GHQ 1/2400 PRC Jiankai II

GHQ 1/2400 PRC Jiankai II

Shapeways 1/2400 JMSDF Hyuga

Shapeways 1/2400 JMSDF Hyuga DDH

GHQ 1/2400 Arleigh Burke Flight IIA

GHQ 1/2400 Arleigh Burke Flight IIA

 

Switching gears to the land side of things I’m making, as a test case, a small diorama or vignette as a backdrop for photographing microarmor.  For this one I’ve decided on a European setting which will include a small farm complex with tree lined road, orchard and farmer’s fields.  The vision is to have the vehicle in the field on the left.  The photo would be a quartering shot, not straight down the road as shown here, with the orchards on the hill to the left and the farm complex center right with the road acting as a visual lead in line running from near right to far left.  We’ll see how it turns out.  And then there’s the need for an Arab-Israeli war setting as well.

Micro Armor Photographic Vignette

Micro Armor Photographic Vignette

Time to get busy.

 

Everything Old is New Again

Just to show that it isn’t all naval all the time here’s an update on my IDF forces.  I picked up a pack of GHQ’s new release, the Magach 3.  As with most of their offerings I liked this one right off the bat.  I’ve always loved the classic M48 lines, the boat-hull bow, the beefy tracks and suspension, and the big cast turret that says ‘I dare you to knock this off’.  Yes, yes, I know that in actual combat they suffered from a number of serious flaws…  but they look so cool!

The rare earth magnets worked so well on the GHQ Magach 6b Gal that I put these models through the same process.  I made sure that they all had the same polar orientation this time.  Here are some shots of the process.

Underside of turret with turret pin.

Underside of turret with turret pin.

Existing turret pin removed.

Existing turret pin removed.

Turret pin drilled out to accept 3mm magnet.

Turret pin drilled out to accept 3mm magnet.

Undersife of hull showing existing turret pin hole.

Undersife of hull showing existing turret pin hole.

Hull turret pin hole bored out to accept 3mm magnet turret pin.

Hull turret pin hole bored out to accept 3mm magnet turret pin.

5mm magnet glued to underside of hull.

5mm magnet glued to underside of hull.

Completed hull and turret. Now fully rotating but removable.

Completed hull and turret. Now fully rotating but removable.

The Magach 3 and Magach 6b Gal side by side.

The Magach 3 and Magach 6b Gal side by side.

Now it is just a question of getting them primed and painted.

 

Mini or Micro?

I have been a fan of microarmor (1/285 scale) and micronauts (1/2400 scale) since discovering them in college in the mid 1980’s.  The details and the quality of many of the models, given their small size, was very impressive.  In the past few years however I’ve found something which is even better – for some applications.  The Figurehead range of naval miniatures are smaller (1/6000 scale), less expensive (on a per model basis), and have a larger product range than 1/2400.  I suppose now is a good time to caveat my comments with the fact that I’m speaking about post-WWII models.  I’m just not familiar enough with earlier ranges to judge which ones are most complete.

Figurehead also seems to offer the most complete line of vessels for a full Falkland Islands campaign.  The only other line that comes close is SeaWulf, but I don’t think theirs is as complete and for 1/2400 scale the quality isn’t as high as GHQ, CinC, or Viking Forge/SeaBattle.  Don’t get me wrong I like the SeaWulf line because they offer ships no one else does like the Leander class frigates and all the variants of that class but they are gaming quality not collector’s quality pieces.

With a new affinity for 1/6000 scale I’ve launched on a naval expansion program that will provide a significant increase in capability and diversity of my navies.  In truth the original attraction to this scale was the breadth of models available.  GHQ makes some fantastic models but they have a very narrow selection in modern naval miniatures.  They are trying to correct that now but with eight major product lines spanning five scales, modern naval is almost the red-headed step-child.  As an example, the announcement for the 2014-2015 product year had four modern naval vessels out of forty-seven new models.  About 8.5% of their new model production.  The WWI and WWII lines each will be getting four new models as well so overall naval enthusiasts will be getting about 25.5% of GHQ’s attention next year.  Just think what wonderful models could be made if a company of GHQ quality focused only on naval units, but I guess its the sales revenues of all the other things that allow them to expand as they have in the first place.

Back on point, it was the breadth of models available that attracted me in the first place.  For several years now I have been working on a scenario supplement for the Harpoon ruleset published by Clash of Arms Games.  My supplement is devoted to aircraft carriers and naval aviation.  I have more than a dozen scenarios from 1962 to 2013 researched and written, some large, some small, some historical, some ‘might-have-been’ and so on.  If you follow my blog then you know real life often interrupts my projects and the Harpoon supplement is no exception.  At this point I’m not sure CoA will ever speak to me again much less publish my work.  Maybe I’ll have to go into micro publishing and do it myself…  I digress.  Some of the scenarios I’ve written that take place in the 1960’s have no miniatures in 1/2400 scale, only Figurehead makes appropriate ships.  Naturally I want to someday be able to play my scenarios on the table top and Figurehead, for the moment at least, is the only solution.

All of this got me thinking about the hobby and scales and names and things.  While GHQ has trademarked certain names like Micronauts, is “micro” really appropriate anymore when there is something even smaller?  A similar situation exists with Micro Armor, also a GHQ registered trademark.  With 1/600 scale tanks and vehicles on the market should the smaller version become ‘micro’ and the 1/285 range become ‘mini’?  Or maybe the 1/6000 ships and 1/600 tanks should be called ‘nano’.  There may be a marketing downside to that however.  The word ‘nano’ makes it sound impossibly small.  I doubt GHQ will give up their trademarks so the point is moot.

Pivot to the Pacific Part Two? Part Three? Whatever…

  GHQ, a company I think I’ve mentioned in every one of my posts, has just announced their production plan for 2014-2015.  The list (which appears about half-way down the page) has lots of good stuff but they haven’t worked out production dates yet.  The most interesting for me with regards to this post are the 1/2400 modern warships.  there were no new PRC PLAN ships announced but they did announce their first JMSDF ships.  The first is the Hyuga class DDH, the aircraft carrier that’s not an aircraft carrier, and the Takanami class DDG.  GHQ is also planning on producing the Royal Navy Type 45 DDG which is the first update for their RN line in more than 20 years.  The final modern unit announced is the the San Antonio class LPD, USS New York.

   I think these JMSDF ships are a solid choices.  Viking Forge already produces many other JMSDF ships and the new vessels from GHQ will complement those without competing with them.  I previously purchased a 3-D printed Hyuga from Shapeways so I’m eager to get my hands on one from GHQ for a direct comparison. 

   The Type 45 however is a curious choice in my mind.  The Type 21 and Type 22 Frigates and the Type 42 Destroyers in the GHQ catalog are Falklands War versions and were disposed of a long before the Type 45 entered service.  The Invincible class offered in the catalog is the wrong version to serve alongside a Type 45 but at least there is overlap in service.  Essentially there are two periods represented by the GHQ RN catalog items, Falklands War and modern day.  It would have been nice to see a Type 23 or even a Type 22 Batch 3 come down the ways at GHQ at some point in the last 20 years but that’s the way it goes.

   New York, LPD-21, is another interesting choice.  I’m sure I’ll get one or two but I can’t decide if they’re useful or not from a gaming perspective.  Sure its cool that part of the ship is constructed from steel recycled from the WTC after the 9/11 bombing but without additional expeditionary strike group units it becomes another one-off.  It could be useful in a small scale scenario assaulting an isolated island garrison/radar station/ESM station or whatever but then again if it is a target small enough that 700 marines and a handful of helicopters can take it why not just use a dozen TLAM?  Paired with GHQ’s excellent LHD, and Viking Forge’s LSDs it begins to provide some expeditionary assault capability.  Hmmm… Maybe it will come with V-22 Ospreys.  Now that would be something. 

  

New Digs!

     Hard to believe I’ve been AWOL since August but that was when the world changed and I found out I was getting short fused tasking to move.  So everything gets packed up and shipped out.  If you’ve never moved overseas it takes a while for your things to arrive by ship…  a long while.  Which I guess is the origin of the phrase ‘a slow boat to China’.  For the curious it takes even longer when moving from one overseas location to another – those pesky customs officers at both ends just want to peek into everything.

     Well we are in are new home now.  All our stuff has finally arrived.  The walls have been painted and pictures have been hung.  My ‘Honey-Do’ list is down to two pages so its time to get down to the real business at hand.  During my absence I’ve been thinking about what I want to do with the blog and I’ve come up with an idea I hope you’ll enjoy.  In addition to the normal WIP posts and the eventual section on model evaluations I’ve decided to include a post or two a month on a tool or technique that I have found particularly useful and this is the inaugural run of these ‘Tool-Time’ posts.

     Many of you are probably familiar with Micro-Mark tools.  If you’re not you should give them a look.  Now I get nothing from them for this so I don’t care if you check it out or not but they do have a lot of cool gadgets.  Most of them are geared for the model train enthusiast but are easily adapted to micro hobby uses.  My latest favorite is the Universal Clamp (Item # 21129).Image

     This clamp is awesome for working on miniatures.  It comes in two main components.Image

     The clamp head can be used with or without the wooden handle.  The clamp head comes with eight steel pins, although I only have six installed for these photos.  With the precision drilled holes and expanding jaws pin placement should allow you to handle almost any miniature.

Image

     I think one of the really neat things about this clamp is the thumb screw which opens and closes the jaws allows you to hold a miniature under compression as I am here with a 1/6000 scale Ticonderoga class cruiser from Figurehead.

Image

     And you can hold a mini under tension by expanding the jaws with the pins placed inside interior hollows.  Although the picture is not the best this technique works very well with GHQ minis which feature hollow undersides.  The aircraft carrier in this photo is GHQ’s excellent 1/2400 scale model of the PLAN Liao Ning.

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     The ability to place the pins inside the hull have the obvious advantage of providing unobstructed access to the entire hull for painting or detailing. 

     I was looking at this clamp for a long time before I decided to commit and I’m not at all disappointed.  A word about the price.  Currently (Jan 27, 2014) Micro-Mark has it listed for $31.95 but I wouldn’t (and didn’t) pay that much for it.  Micro-Mark is always having discounts and flash sales and if you’re looking for tools or other hobby products it is useful to sign up for their email notices.  They send out notices two or three times a month.  If you don’t like the spam I can understand that but I got this clamp at about 40% off their current list price during one of their flash sales so it can pay off.

     Ciao!

What I did on my summer vacation…

Well, summer vacation is over and the kids are back in school.  All the time I thought I was going to have while they were on break obviously didn’t materialize.  The good news is now I will have more time to post new projects and update ongoing ones.  The bad news is I have an impending move in a couple months so I’ll have to gear up and pack up for that.  The good news is as of August 19th I finally received the GHQ miniatures of the PRC ships that I ordered from Grandiosity/Warweb.com back in March, (yes that is 167 days!).  The bad news is its one more thing to try to get done before the move because I’m not sure how much room I’ll have and everything may go to long term storage.  Anyway, I’m back.

The Nature of Cheating…

I’m not a snob or purist by any stretch of the imagination.  I enjoy this hobby because so much is left up to the individual in terms of what level of effort they want to put into it.  There are certainly plenty of ways to ‘throw money at the problem’ and hire someone to design, build, or paint something that could be made with some personal research, effort, and patience.  What is cheating or maybe I should ask when is it cheating?  Is it cheating when you mail off a box of miniatures to have someone else paint and detail?  Is it cheating when you buy something ready made off ebay?  Is it cheating when you use decals instead of painting by hand.  I doubt ‘cheating’ has any real context in this hobby unless you’re entering into modeling competitions trying to pass off another’s work as your own.  So… why ask the question?

For many years I have been collecting various miniatures ranging from age of sail, WWII, and modern warships to modern armored vehicles.  Almost all of them I have painted myself with varying degrees of success.  There have been some models however, particularly my warships, which have languished in the ‘To-Do’ box because I can’t quite figure out how to finish them.  Usually they need flight deck markings with very scant information available.  Aircraft carriers, especially WWII Axis powers carriers, are a particular challenging in this way.  For a couple of years now I’ve had GHQ’s excellent CV Aquila and Graf Zeppelin sitting waiting for me to figure it out.  Today I made the leap.

Before I get to the reveal let me digress a bit.  Researching the historical records and painting WWII warships in appropriate camouflage patterns is one of the things that got me hooked in miniature wargaming.  When I get a more suitable background made I’ll put together my North Atlantic convoy for a photo shoot.  Here are some GHQ Liberty Ships I painted using schematics and paints from Snyder and Shorts.

Minolta DSC

If you’ve spent any time at all on the GHQ user forum lately you’ll know that one of the regulars, who goes by the avatar WWIICentral, has developed a range of decals for aircraft carrier deck markings.  Tanner, his real name, has created full color, highly detailed decals sized specifically for GHQ miniatures.  His website can be found here.  There is also a very helpful slideshow tutorial which shows how to put the decals on the ships.  In the past I haven’t been a real big fan of full deck decals for aircraft carriers.  I prefer to model the ships with a sizeable deckload of aircraft, I’ve even ordered additional sprues of aircraft to make the deck look more full.  Unfortunately, the aircraft glued to the decal instead of directly to the model means any rough handling will cause the decal to tear and the aircraft to fall off.  I think you can just make out one vacant spot in the first row and another in the last row where an airplane has torn free.  In this case the decals were from a now defunct company, SeaBat Decals, which offered quite an extensive array of hull and deck markings.  I’m curious to see if Tanners will be any different.

Minolta DSC

In the past I have tried to make my own decals for some of my modern ships.  For the JMSDF Ousumi from Viking Forge I actually purchased a 1/700 scale plastic model so I could get my hands on their decal sheet.  After scaling for 1/2400 I was able to use it as a template for my own simplified version with just the major deck lines.  Is that cheating?  The trouble is I don’t have a printer capable of printing white.  Using the next best alternative I used white decal paper overlaid with the deck color I had chosen.  This allows the white lines to show through where the deck color isn’t applied.  I was never able to achieve results better than ‘wargame’ quality.  The decal, especially white decal paper, has thickness and it was a thickness that was obvious at 1/2400 scale.  I’m very curious about how Tanner solved that problem or if he is just using a different decal paper.

So far I’m very impressed with his business.  I placed an order for the Aquila decal and the Graf Zeppelin decal as well.  Priced at $6.99 a piece, about 44% of the cost of the model itself, the price seems kind of high.  Admittedly I say that without having the product in hand to really evaluate it.  The catalog pictures look great so maybe it’ll be worth every penny.  The service after the sale has been outstanding so far.  In addition to the automatic order confirmation and shipping notices I received an email from Tanner himself thanking me and letting me know that my order was already shipped.  That was a nice touch.  Once they arrive I’ll have to break out the old ‘To Do’ box and finish up these models but that will be a future post…