Saturday, February 28, 2009

Wells Fargo Stagecoach and Bank Items

Stopped at a Wells Fargo mini museum and snapped photos of an actual stagecoach and other items of interest. First picture is the roll top desk and typical safe that would be found in the towns of some size. Below is a drawing of Sacramento circa 1860 or so, a regular boom town by then.

Next pictured below is a set of Leg Irons and a coach shotgun, double barrel muzzle loader.
The revolver did not have information listed about it nor the long stocked pistol the rifle style butt that is shown in the right of the picture. The party I was with were in a bit of a hurry and so I snapped madly and did not get to read all the placards about. Below are actual lock boxes that were used to transport money and other valuables. The rough handling they got is very apparent.

I did like the 20 dollar and 5 dollar gold pieces in the trays. Oil lamp and other typical bank documents in the picture below.

Next is the interior shot of the stagecoach. Not very large and your knees rested against the center cushions to help keep you from bouncing all over the interior. No doubt the dust colored everything pretty well on a long haul in the summer. I would guess the interior to be maybe 6 feet across and sat 3 across, tightly.

The wheels are about 5 feet in diameter. Debs stood in for a height comparison, she's 5'8" tall. There is a very simple suspension system that made my back side ache just looking at it and thinking about a 50 or 100 mile trip aboard this coach!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Next Western Building

Rather than another Lap Sided building I branched out into using the stir sticks glued to card stock for quick wall, with a smooth interior wall surface for either wall paper or painting. Object of this building was to see how quickly I could lay it out and get it done. Time was roughly about 2 hours. Windows and doors were cut with a dremel drill, then trimmed with additional wood to give more detail. Roof is shingled with individual cut and glued wood shingles. The cowboys are 25mm figs for scale. The grass Matt is made the same way as my Desert Matt but before the Kel Seal was allowed to dry I dumped flocking on about an inch thick and used a stone rolling pin to mash it into the KS, left to dry over night, the excess was brushed off. When all of the Matt was done, I soaked it with diluted pva glue and left the Matt under a ceiling fan over night.

Here is the back side of the same building. I cut the card stock with a Paper Cutter after measuring and drawing the size of each piece so that the coffee stir sticks would not fail to cover the height of the walls nor fail to cover the front to back sides. I cut the doors and windows with an exacto blade so that it would allow the dremel drill to cut through wood without lots of paper fuzz clogging the drill edge.

Contact cement over the card stock in swipes from front to back, apply some coffee stir sticks, repeat till the entire side of the card stock was layered with sticks. Place it paper side down on wax paper, place another piece of wax paper over the sticks, finally place an heavy book on top of it all to press the sticks down into the contact cement and leave for an hour. I trimmed a tiny slice off the inside card stock on the front and back wall sections so that the side walls would inset slightly for gluing. Next I need to raise the building on floor piece and it will then , when set in place be up on a rock foundation with front porch and awning added, perhaps a stair step or 2 down for the back door. The next building will probably be in the style called Board and Batt, which has the boards perpendicular to the ground and where they meet a thin board covers the seam running up and down as a simple form of caulking to seal cracks when the boards finally dried and shrank, no kiln dried lumber back then..

Where It all Takes Place

The door to my "Cargo Bay" hobby room. Standard door done up to be a bulkhead door. Seemed fitting that the entry way would not be just a wood door. My friend Thomas Foss did a fantastic job painting and staining it! Credit where credit is due.

Having a place to stage and leave things sit until I get back to them helps avoid ... boxing and forgetting them. In times past this cargo bay has been nearly impassable and other times tidy and neat, which is its current condition. Since retiring I have had the time to dig in, sort, separate and reorganize the entire bay. So here we have the materials side where most of my modeling supplies are stored till use. The closet in the room is also arrayed in shelves of unpainted figs, extra materials and the like. At times a large blunt object came in useful to chase stuff back into it when things got a bit out of hand. This weekend the bench top should be being changed from a table to under bench cabinets that a friend was getting rid of during the remodel of his house. To the right is the painting station and alternate modeling site. Seems time can really slip away when I am deep into working on things or painting... till my cat, Machiavelli jumps up onto my lap and announces its "feed me now! human" and to which I seem to instantly zombify and comply... they are taking over the world, I swear!

The wife insisted I had to picture them or they would find out and take Catvenge on me, so here they are Machiavelli (grey) and Nietzsche (jelico). Nietzsche jumps up onto anything or off anything leading to "that which does not kill her only servers to make her stronger" , during those times Machiavelli would watch, observe, make a cunning plan and do it faster and safer.

And there you have it.. sort of :)

High Forest Pines Update

I found it quite difficult to find a good angle to take a photo of my first completed tall pines placard. The small yellowish square in the near middle is the base of a 25mm cowboy figure to give scale to what I was trying to achieve with tall pines. I did not care for the Roco style Pine tree that could only soar up to 4 or 5 inches, which is similar to the cake decorating style of pine trees. Nor did I want the bottle brush tapered cone shape either, though those do fill in for some types of short pines which may find a few scattered in for variety which should add character to the feel of the forest rather than that of some sort of scrubbing device up ended on my table :)

In this shot, to the right, is one of the tallest trees, as shown by the ruler in the background it reaches just short of 17 inches which in 25mm should represent a bit over 100 feet high. This is not really tall for old pine growth but it certainly gives the feel of the tall woods. I have to put a bit more density of branching to the trunks to fill it out a bit better. Of course the Tramp Steamer Mk II is screaming at me from the Cargo Bay (my hobby workshop), but I will work on to finish the pine forest, now totaling 22 trees complete, 58 to go.

Here is a close up of the base with the same figure on it, hmm no forest fire recently so the ground litter is thick. All the lower branches are gone from wind, fires, and animals grazing. If there had been a recent forest fire, say 6 months prior, the ground would be mostly bare, an orangish brown color with charred branches and rocks showing. National forests that a heavily camped in typically have no ground litter as foot traffic and camp fire fuel picker uppers keep it fairly clear. My view is the more primordial forest before heavy development!
Finally at right, more Pine Trees awaiting final basing.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Tramp Steamer

When you need a cargo ship for a game scenario encounter and you only have a day to put it together, added to I have never built a ship freehand you launch into a busy learning period!

What I learned from this effort will make the improved ship nicer and more multi use for encounters.

Materials are Foam core, floor tiles and card stock. The curves on the ends of the ship are done by scoring the foam core through the first piece of paper, gluing down to the tile, then covering the outer side with card stock to cover the many cuts. Hull side is 2 inches in height.

Interior shot of the below decks. The pieces of floor tile were cut to cover each room separately so that I could preload figures for the party to encounter. Hull lines and rivet patterns were applied with a fine tip black marker.

Here is the forward interior. Floor grating was cut from needle point plastic grid backing from a craft store and painted metal. Styrene piping used for pipes. Doors are not shown but held open or closed with a bit of Blue Tack paper holder during encounters.

Here is the Aft section of the below decks. My MAJOR mistake was not designating where ladders to above and below decks were.. darn those design by committee's ! I did provide for a small cargo hold in the aft though, to allow a bit more diversity in where Things might be for searching investigators. The superstructure is sectional so that it can be 1 , 2, or 3 stories tall. 1 section has a complete walk around, one has a rear balcony only.

I admit that reality of ship design and my effort do not have much in common on some points. But my design final goal was for the ship to be modular enough to stack into a single box. Pictured to the left is the ready to box stacking of all the ship parts.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Palm Trees from plastic flower plants

Best source of plants and basic modeling supplies for me are plastic flower arrangements from craft stores. The 'previous' season is always discounted to clear it out so you can often get useful plants (pieces) for upwards of 70% off. Pictured at left is a fern bit I pulled off a cluster branch I paid 1.50$ for. Should be enough to make 15 palm trees. To prepare all I do is clip along the edge where the fronds meet the central spine. Get the hot glue gun warming up. The trunk is a left over piece from the flower leaf branches that your left with after you strip all the items off you want.
Wrap a light trail of hot glue around the very end of the trunk, let it cool. Next a small glob and stick the first frond to it. Start rotating the position of the next frond as you work around. Do not worry about stringy stands of film that trail all over. Tweezers pluck those out when your Done. Trying to keep it neat as you go will double or triple the time it takes to assemble the palm.

Gently blow on the center of the fronds if you want to pick up the tempo a bit. Having the fronds pre-cut, I did separate them into those that were more curved from those that are mainly longer and straight.

A few curved down ones to start for the older fronds that will drop away soon. Straight for the current growth, and again a few of the curved ones for the top. You can curve them by pulling one between your finger nails like you do to curl ribbons. At left I have completed the circling and cleared the filmy strands from the trailing hot glue process. Let it stand and solidify for about 10 minutes, this avoids a frond being pushed out of place at the last moment and have to cut and re-glue it.
At right we see the return of Dusty the tireless cowboy posing here for comparison with the palm tree. The tree is just Blue Tac'd in place for the picture. The miniature is 30mm from bottom of its base to the very top of his hat. Some wooden beads or seed of size to about the figures head could be tucked up in the bottom of the fronds for coconuts. Taking the same top and packing more fronds in it, change to a thick straight trunk and you have a Date Palm. Total assembly time was about 10 minutes. Vary the lengths of the trunks a bit and scatter on a beach front. Possibly leave mounting holes in the beach scenery to place the trees and take them down? Many ways to actually mount them. And there you have it.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Tools I use

Thought I might post some of the tools that I use after some other terrain builders asked me some questions last night. First, my most usefull tool is Old Cookie Sheet with raised Edge around it. I can flock anything, when done, raise the cookie sheet and tap all excess material down to a corner for easy recovery. The edge stops roll away items from getting far. I can work with it in my lap while having the TV on. Make a mess with bits of stuff I am carving or reworking? No problem, clear tools and items, lift, tap and all the trash collects in the corner for easy disposal.

Next is the small green clips, they cost around 50cents each. I have 40 of them to hold glued items while they dry, such as the coffee stir sticks. Just peeking into the picture in the upper right corner is a plastic vice grip clamp. Nice to have a clamp that I can adjust the grip strength with. Next is the cordless dremel drill, comes with a recharge holding stand. It has made life much easier without a cord dragging through or over things. The glue gun has one of my colored glue sticks, I melt glue sticks, add a bit of color in the form of water base paint and cast the result back into a mold I made of a glue stick. I have to trim them a wee bit, but when the glue for my pine trees cools, the glue is not as noticeable. Long tweezers, I prefer them over short tweezers as once you get used to the length, you can reach deeper into a scenic bit to add deeper detail with. Take practice to not waver the points, which I adjust with needle nose pliers should they become unaligned.

A better view of the plastic vice gripper. The pads move to conform to the flat angle of the item its gripping. The fisker shear, orange grips, can cut any type of wire, I received them as a present from my wife when she tried to use some of my other wire cutters that had all at one time or another tried to cut some wire to tough and left dents in the cutting blades. These shears will cut and have cut every type of wire I have put in them without ruining the blades, they are close enough that they can cut paper on up also. Lastly are my pliers, open stuck paint bottles, bend wires etc. I have 2 different size pliers to help convince heavy wire to conform to the shape I want. I use various cutting tools to numerous and typical to show, safe to say I buy standard narrow Xacto blades in the hundred pack as a chipped tip can ruin a project step in a heartbeat.

And there you have it.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Pine Tree Update

Thought it was time for an update on my Pine Tree project. Here in this first picture is the stand that the trees are mounted on in plain metal. Next to it with its point painted white is a Nail stand with glued flocking drying piled up on its shaft. Under pine trees is always a pile of dead fall, pine needles, cones, small branches. Behind them is a larger base with 4 of these smaller bases glued on and drying. For a change I won't wait till I'm done and then work back to take pictures!

I made a jig to hold the tree trunks and used a dremel drill with a round router bit to make a dimple into the end of each trunk. With a starter hole it is Much easier to clamp the trunk onto a piece of wood and then run a 1/8" drill bit up into the trunk to make the mounting hole for the nail fastener. Out of 30 I drilled I only ruined 2 and those will be cut down an inch and redrilled. On the drill itself, I marked a spot and put a piece of duct tape on the drill and my depth marker so I didn't go to far and didn't drill to shallow. This larger base project is my proof of concept for the rest of the Pine Tree project.
Points to keep in mind from my wandering in the national forests, off the worn path areas, about Pine Trees;
1 Lower branches on older trees are gone, up to half way or higher from forest fires.
2 Pines tend to grow in rough circles, Pine cones fall outwards from the trunks.
3 As they grow near others, the wind moves them against each other , knocking off branches that would between them and that holds even when they are 100+ feet high.
4 Young pines, about 4 to 12 feet are more like a dense bush than appears as a classic pine.
More updates as they occur!
5 Older Pine tree branchings seem to be only upwards of 8 to maybe 10 feet long from trunk to outer edge of the branch. They grow fast to compete for sunlight which is limited by neighboring trees.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Desert Game Matt

I thought I'd post my Desert / Arid game Matt to my Terrain Making section. Pictured are an unfortunate western gun slinger encountering something from beyond, just to give scale for the outcroppings and the surface of the Matt.

The underpayment of the Matt is a heavy felt, started as dark green, but with full coverage it does not show through.

Kel Seal, textured with Non Skid Plastic beads added and stirred in for the basic material that I spread over the surface of the Matt. A fast first coat left a lot of the green felt peeking through here and there but I did the first coat with Smooth Kel Seal to save on the amount of texture material I mixed in to give the final coat. It can be applied in workable areas of a couple square feet at a time and left to dry. The KS can be feathered over existing areas without to much of any meeting ridge showing. I did a 4' x 6' Matt in stages over a couple of evenings.

The dry surface is WHITE when your done. I used a 4" (yep, four inch) brush to apply a wash of dark brown Craft Smart Acrylic paint to the surface and let it dry. A few puddles I dragged the brush through to keep from forming an overly dark area. Then using a 2 inch foam brush I patted high light colors here and there.
The rock out croppings in the first picture are Styrofoam chunks pva glued to plastic bases and left to dry. I hacked them with a knife to take off some of the corners and such, next a coat of the Textured Kel Seal which I left to dry. A couple more coats and after drying was ready for the same wash. A final touch was pva gluing some river stones here and there that I have to wash to match.
As this was my first Matt project, I probably over used the amount of Kel Seal that I actually needed but the final look I feel is first rate. The surface is water proof to leaking spilt soda or other drinkables getting through. I roll the Matt up on a 3inch tube, you could use PVC pipe. This helps it Not form dents and other ripples while its not in use and then rolled out. I tried rolling it leaving a central gap but found that after a couple of days, rolling it out proved to need about an hour to flatten out all the ripples and bumps that had settled into it while lying against a wall.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Medieval Bridge

Wanting to get away from stone bridges, especially in those parts of Europe that the Romans either did not build them in or that had fallen away to local builders, I did a proof of concept project and built one.

Primary supplies were bamboo skewers for the small timbers, woodland scenic grass for the "fill" and then Light Weight Patch and Paint Spackle to texture the ground. The LWP&P is great as when it is completely dry its pure white, very very porous and takes diluted paint as a stain extremely easily. Do not over wet it as it will melt, wait with it under a drying lamp if you want to get it painted faster.

I went ahead and built up the banks of the river a bit, which then defeated the edges of my trees I set in for the shot, though I suppose if I had scrounged around and found a single base tree it might have sat better for the picture. Wheel ruts were done with a fender washer on a bolt rolled through the Spackle before it had fully set up but not right after I had put it on, I gave it about 10 minutes to surface dry a bit so it would not stick to the washer as I rolled it along. I considered and discarded the idea of some sort of wooden side railing as overbuilding the proof project, perhaps it will make it on to the final project bridge.

A final closer shot of the Pilings lashings. The figure is a 25mm Minifigs Scots Irish footman from sooo long ago I think I purchased it in 1969 and affixed a round shield from the Aroura (sp) Plastic Long ship, it came with something like 40 shields per model and for the price at the time was an excellent source.

The whole piece is mounted on a 12" x 12" x 1/8" thick piece of aluminum that I use for proofing pieces.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

More Town Clutter

Here I have grouped some more around the western town Items. First is the boardwalk, I needed quiet a bit of it and making a master from balsa wood and casting it proved to be the fastest way to generate it quickly. A wash of medium brown paint finished it off is one coat. For paint I buy 8 oz bottles of Acrylic Craft Paint from either Micheal's Crafts or Jo Ann's Crafts shops. Typically I pay about 4 dollars for an 8 oz bottle that will last me quiet awhile, gives a nice matt finish. I use it to dilute / tint my Kel Seal brushable caulking that I texture my game matts with and also use to coat over Styrofoam hills (later article). Tap Plastics has the 2 part rubber molding material, cures at room temperature. Then a 2 part resin to cast into the molds with. Follow instructions, have a clear area with paper beneath to catch drips. Practice, practice makes for better molds for simple items.

The grey fence is unpainted but is made from super thin styrene plastic sheeting that I bought in 1 inch wide strips. I used a pair of scissors and snipped off the thin slats in the picture, then contact cement onto long thin strips that form the backing boards to hold them all together. An occasional piece of fencing can be left out for Older fence sections. I make the fence sections in short pieces so that, should during an engagement, a piece get knocked down or flattened I can simply trade them out. Have to hate having your light screening cover fall down....

The Cactus is also resin cast, painted and rolled in flocking to give it the prickly look. I used the paint as the adhesive rather than pva or contact cement that would have caused it to be completely covered and ended up making it look more like a Topiary than a Cactus. Not pictured are simple barrel cacti, though the same simple casting, paint and flock generates lots of them. I have made some out of Sculpy Oven Bake Clay though the price of the clay has gotten a bit steep of recent.

The Lumber Pile, goes side by side with any construction site. Its made of coffee stir sticks cut to the same length and glue / layered to the desired height. This also makes a great buckboard load to have handy as most all towns had a sawmill nearby if there were any trees about. Period sawmills could be water powered or 2 man hand powered businesses, and wood was always in demand as soon as it became available. I would judge a pile of cut lumber as hard cover able to stop lead bullets in the 1800s. I'm hoping to model a water powered lumber mill per the reconstructed Sutter's Mill at Colma which has been totally rebuilt, along with a couple of the out buildings, but not all the buildings. Having a building unfinished with wood supplies lying about adds a "growing" feeling to your town, shaded of "8:10 to Yuma" comes to mind.

And there you have it.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Store Under Construction

Took the plunge into making an all wood building out of coffee stir sticks lumber. As you can see in the picture I did an interior stud support leaving the interior in its basic open mode, as the shop owner will not have been in business long enough to afford the inside boarding. I did the lap siding in sections of 3 boards at a time. I have enough clips to do 10 sections at a time so it was easy to assemble plenty of sections. The wall sections also become the base for the shingle roof sections, with the grooves providing the base stop for the individual shingles... hmm I sense another "how to" article.. but for later.

With a Clip at each end to hold them, run a tiny bead of pva along the boards, if the bow apart, flip the board, if they Still will not lay flat another clip can be applied to the errant board, or toss and get another board. When dry, you can assemble them by lapping groups of 3 combined boards to each other with clips and glue, until the combining reaches the height of your desired wall. Fronts and back simply require that the piece is either cut from a full slab of bat and boarding or you can pre-trim the boards to the
desired length, then lap with clips and glue. The interior studs were added last. Pva glue on the
contact side of the Stud, place and 2 clips to hold it till dry.Windows and doors, dremel drill with a router bit, just pencil the openings and move the dremel along it. If a board pops off, a point of glue it back into place. For a finished look inside I would probably use card stock, say a 5"x8", cut and glue in place before I stand the walls together to glue in place.
The flooring is glued to a flooring joist, I glued and clipped to it as I went down the length of the flooring joist. after the first one dried with all the planks on it, the others joists had one edge glued and positioned, then placed on a flat surface, flooring up, wax paper placed over then a book put on it to press all the flooring down to the joists. Let dry for several hours, though you could speed the process with contact cement, but then be sure there is wax paper UNDER the joists as it may squish out and down to glue it to your drying surface.. not a good thing. I have to construct the front Marquee rectangle that will be over the door front, put is some shelves and a counter.

The roofing is assembled but here its just propped in place to give a view of what it will look like in the final setting. I'm thinking I could either, leave the building out in the sun to darken naturally or stain it... A year of weathering would make it a nice grey color, but as the store prospered the owner might paint it with a stain color... hmmm decisions decisions.

Jail House Under Construction

Though not many western towns actually had a real jail house, my boom town does due to the number of shoot outs and wild miners riding and walking into town. Actually most gold towns in California had a large flat strap bar cages they used, that just sat out in the weather. I'll have to remember to get a few pics the next time I swing up to Coloma, about 90 minutes from my abode.

Back to business, rough stone cut building with
wooden door and 2 windows in the front only. The porch overhang is 1 of 4 different types that I have made up for various buildings down the road. Shingles are coffee stir sticks, you can buy a box of 500 for around 5$ or so from a restaurant supply store, Smart & Final has several types to choose from. Shingles are attached via pva to a thin card stock or any material you find convenient. Dirt is not colored yet. Door way is large enough for figures to move through, 30mm high. The door and the window are both framed with Balsa wood strips.

First interior shot. 3 jail cells to house all the ruffians and varmints. Top and bottom support beams of the bars are clamped together and drilled at the same time. This makes sure the bars, when slide in, will align correctly and be upright. Alas, there are no actual doors, perhaps on the mark II version. The flooring is those ever present coffee stir sticks, contact cement and aligned on card stock. For drying purposes, I put wax paper over it, and a heavy weight for a couple of hours till dry. The Walls were shaped and glued down to the flooring. The card stock extends to the front under the Overhang and off to the side for an small corral.

Next we see Debs handy work while I was off to a store one day... But the shot also gives another view of the Bars. I have a roll top desk, pot bellied stove, couple of chairs and a table that round out the furniture. I did have a gun rack but so many shoot outs turned into storm the jail for rifles that the sheriff got rid of it! The dirty brown of the floor probably derives from all the mayhem that has taken place in this building, including the clean up after a stick of dynamite went in through a window one night. Oh the inhumanity of the actions of miners who thought they were done wrong by the law!
Outside shot next. The corral for the posse's horses, the sheriffs nag.. er sleek steed, fast holding area for rioters or drunks for the Saturday night activities. Some town sheriffs simply tied the drunks to tree trunks and left till morning... The gate is simply leaning in place so it can be opened to let out horses. Makes it clear whether or not a crime is being committed, "don't know how the horse got out sheriff" while holding the gate open gets him a tour of the inside of the jail. Ground is not tinted the reddish brown of most of the gold country dirt but close to the other shade that it varies to.

Here are a couple of different views of some of the porch overhangs from the infamous coffee stir sticks. Hmm have to figure better camera angle shots on them. So much to do... When it comes to what was used for roofing, I have seen a picture of a roof made from old doors, weighed down with broken wagon wheels. All it had to do was deflect most of the rain and hold the snow out! Canvas wall buildings were OK in the spring summer and fall, but winter in the sierra foothills can get a lot of snow dumped on to your abode and snow is HEAVY. Makes me think of the time we had a friend over from Australia and thought that snow was "cool stuff" because he had seen frost on the ground over there, till we took him up to the snow. He prepared with a wind breaker, no hat, no gloves "bah, can't be that cold, I've seen it in pictures". 5 minutes in the snow "Crikey! I can't feel my fingers!" Out came the spare gloves and hat.. lol.

Here are the other 2 porch awnings I have assembled, flat full length planks and the left over short planks overlapped. Even trimmed edges would take the builders time away from panning for gold!

And there you have it.

Easy Tumbleweeds

I have tried a lot of different materials to make tumble weeds, most turned out not very well till I tried a packing material usually called Horse Hair Packing. To the right is a small piece I pulled off the main section, to the left is what it looks like after you simply roll a piece around between your hands. Next I put a pin through it into wax paper on cardboard to hold it in place, diluted pva glue, dry and then spray with a light tan. When its dry, flip and spray the other side. Though those pictured are not painted. For games I scatter them about, pick them up when done.