22 June 2017

Fenestrating. . . Slowly. . .

The Hospital of the Holy Spirit model is just about finished.  Remarkably, I made no mistakes that need later touching up.  That happens so rarely that I am still a bit stunned.  Clearly, one is able to paint somewhat better when not distracted by the trials of normal day-to-day life.

Taking a lunch break here in Zum Stollenkeller Mk. II at Totleigh-in-the-Wold, but I thought I'd share where we are in the process of suggesting windows and doors.  This one was the toughie!  Fairly smooth sailing from here on in with comparatively easy rectangles representing the doors and windows on the rest o the buildings.  All that is needed on the above hospital building though is the clock near the top of the central gable, two strips of "corroded cooper" stripping on the front edges of both shorter gables, and this particular wargaming structure will be done.  I plan to come back to those kinds of details a bit later though once the addition of stylized windows and doors has been completed on the rest of the buildings.

-- Stokes

21 June 2017

Fenestration, Part Deux. . .

In the midst of adding the suggested wondows and doors to the town orphanage this afternoon.

After completing a reasonably good half-timbered effect --  achieved through a combination of brown magic marker, olive green crayon, and mid-brown colored pencil -- on the four model buildings that required it, it's time to suggest those carefully traced windows and doors with the addition of some equally careful brushwork.  This time with diluted acrylic Burnt Umber.  I've done this with water before on earlier buildings, but you risk the color running everywhere.  

This time, I'll use more viscous acrylic glazing medium (pictured above), which thins out colors, makes them quite a bit more translucent, and enables you to maintain a fair degree of control over the paint while still drying pretty quickly.  Above, you'll see the results, minus the tiny bits on the dormer and circular window, which await their wash of translucent brown.  Black, to me, looks too stark, and gray is either too dark, or too light.  A diluted brown, to the point of becoming a translucent glaze, suggests a shadowy interior in a more convincing way I think.

This method of fenestration is very similar to how Charles S. Grant renders windows and doors on his more recent model buildings.  Hence the merest suggestion of windows and doors, which imparts a rather stylized look to everything.  Nevertheless, the buildings have the right shape, profile, and proportions more or less.  They also have reasonably accurate coloring.  They will function as an appropriate 'backdrop' for the armies of Stollen and its arch enemy the Electrate of Zichenau, without distracting from the 25-30mm units.  The card and balsa structures are vastly underscale in relation to the figures, of course, but they are large enough to look "right" without dominating available tabletop space.  

The dozen structures occupy approximately two square feet of table space, less if moved closer together.  They can easily be used to represent a rather large and prosperous 'town', split into various configurations to represent smaller towns or villages, and/or mixed with the two dozen or so other wargaming built up areas I've cobbled together since December 2006-January 2007.  Hmmm. . .   Maybe I should start building casinos and hotels?

So, that's where things stand today, the first official day of Summer 2017.  Time for all night bonfires, inebriated  naked dancing in the woods, the drunken orgies that invariably follow, and an apparent inability to recall any of it by late the next morning.  Um, yeah.  Right.  The all night bonfire sounds kind of nice though, but I'll leave the other activities to our friends in the Scandinavian and Nordic countries!  I am, after all, over 50 now, happily married, a parent, out of shape, and repressed.  Just give me a good book and allow me to climb into a crisply made bed by 9pm most nights, and I'm happy.  Still, what might've been, eh?

We are, returning to the subject at hand, edging ever closer to finishing everything up with the Baltic German town center, calling the project done, and moving back to some painting of actual toy soldiers.  Fear not, however, a few small detail surprises are coming once all of the windows and doors (and there are M-A-N-Y. . .  Whew!) are painted in.  The use of a new, angled  #4 flat bristled brush like the one above really helps to stay neatly within the lines though.  I recommend it should the model-house bug bite you.

-- Stokes

20 June 2017


To aid my fenestration, the word for today, I made  nifty little template this morning.  Time for a new and extremely sharp hobby knife blade.

Relax!  It's nothing obscene, immoral, or lascivious.  'Fenestration' is just a fancy word architects use in relation to the placement of windows and doors.  I must admit the need to look up the word in my trusty dictionary when I heard it for the first time in an architect's video on YouTube.  

The meaning should have occurred to me given the similarity of the word to the German and Swedish words for 'window' (Fenster and fönster respectively. . .  presumably the word is derived from the Latin.), but there you go. Funny how the ancient Romans remain with us in so many ways in 2017.  "I, Tiberius Claudius Drusus Nero Germanicus, this, that, and the other. . ."

Anyway, I started applying the half-timbered effects to a few of my smaller building models yesterday, and that went reasonably well although the activity was time consuming.  I also used a small plastic stencil full of rectangles, squares, circles, and other shapes to begin tracing in the windows and doors on the structures comprising my Baltic German town center.  Again, a time consuming process and, shall we say, a bit imperfect.  "Surely, there has to be a better way," thought I.

So, this morning, after that first mug of coffee, as well as my daily feline lovefest following their daily treat of a small can of Fancy Feast, I set out to solve the problem at hand.  Above, you'll observe the fruits of my 30 minutes or so of labor, a custom made stencil that enables me to quickly and easily trace in consistently sized doors and windows on model building walls.  No fingertips were severed during the process. 

And it worked like a charm!  Once the stencil was finished, I was able to outline the windows and doors on nine of the dozen new town buildings in about 20 minutes.  All I have to do now is carefully paint in some translucent  brown, to suggest the, ahem, fenestration, and Bob's your mother's brother.  Stay tuned!

-- Stokes

19 June 2017

A Couple of Questions. . .

 An old print of the Holstentor (The Holstein Gate built in the late 1400s) outside the old center of Lübeck, Germany, which I've always meant to have a crack at since visiting the city for the first time in February 1986.

Thank you everyone for your continued interest in the Baltic German town center project currently underway here at Stollen Central.  After a bit of real life midday today, Monday, it's back to trying to render some half-timbered effect to four of said town buildings.

But first, a couple of questions this morning from long-time reader Gerardus Magnus, Bishop Emeritus, who asks: "Will this possibly be used in games such as a fighting withdrawal through the streets on some future gaming event or is this to serve solely as a picturesque backdrop? There is also a second question which has piqued my curiosity: will you ever be doing city walls for this civic grouping, either medieval or Vaubanesque? That would certainly increase your possibilities for using this for more active gaming."

Thank you for your questions, Gerardus Manus, and "Yes," to both of them.  The buildings (with ruins inside the shells) can, of course, be split up as needed to represent any number of smaller settlements or villages, or be kept together to represent this rather sizeable town, which occupies 2' x 2' on the tabletop.  There are, however, a few Charles S. Grant Scenarios, in his books on generic wargaming scenarios from the 1980s, that feature large (-r) towns at the center of the featured scenarios, and these are what I have in mind. 

Likewise, at some point (i.e. when I need a break from figure painting again), I'll take a crack at some Vaubanesque walls and a gatehouse (see the photograph below) along the lines of those made by Ian Weekley as featured in an old issue of Military Modelling, or perhaps Miniature Wargames, 30+ years ago (Yikes!).  I think there may also be a chapter on this particular project in Mr. Weekley's book Buildings for the Military Modeller (1989).  But that is down the road apiece.

In any case, and in keeping with my North German Hanseatic theme, I'll probably take a crack at a town gate based on Lübeck's Holstentor below since it has always captured my imagination.  The gate and, indeed, the now largely gone fortifications that surrounded Lübeck, which was a very prosperous town during its heyday, have an interesting history, and those interested might want to have a read about the subject by clicking here.

-- Stokes

 Here is a more recent photograph of the Holstentor gate, one of two remaining, that has a fascinating municipal museum inside the two towers.  The gate underwent two restorations, one in 1934-35, and a second during 2005-2006.  The Grand Duchess and I toured the museum inside during a couple of days spent revisiting the town in June of 2009.

Last, here is an artist's sketch of the various gates which were still in place about 1700.  Don't worry!  I don't have the inclination to attempt all four of these with their various rings of walls!  But the old medieval Holstentor gate, and possibly the somewhat more modern outer gate with some sections of wall might be an interesting project down the hobby road.

18 June 2017

Decorative Stonework Underway. . .

A close-up of the Rathaus (town hall) at left and the Zeughaus (armory) on the right.  Much like the black-lining of Spencer Smith figures helps better define their various body parts, so too do fine lines from a very sharp 2H artist's pencil help define and bring out the decorative stonework on the corners of buildings.  It's a trick I picked up recently from one of the many videos on YouTube about designing, building, and detailing architectural models.

A delightfully productive Father's Day afternoon spent down here in Zum Stollenkeller Mk. II carefully painting in cornice work on the fancier buildings of the Baltic German town center.  I also pulled out a North German church built in 2011, which will get its spire redone shortly to approximate aged copper.  Every town center needs a religious building of some kind you know.  Next up, I'll approximate the half-timbering (fachwerk) on four of the less fancy building models that make up the town center depicted

-- Stokes

 The university building and the Gasthaus in the foreground.

The town center seen from the other side.  That's the Waisenhaus (orphanage) in between the Zeughasu and another strucutre that will shortly get a half-timber treatment.

16 June 2017

Basic Colors Blocked in on Baltic German Town Center. . .

Burnt Sienna and white make a nice dusty brick color, with lighter values of the mix used on the higher parts of brick structures are darker closer to the foundations and in corners.  I like flat-bristled brushes for painting model buildings.  They make it much easiesr to controll the brsuh, paint in straight lines, and trim color into tighter areas without slopping it onto other areas that have been painted already.  As my aritist mother once told me many, many years ago as I sat on the floor at her feet while she worked at her easel (I must ave been four or five), it's all about controlling the brush and, by extension, the paint.

Just a few more in-progress photographs of the Baltic German town  center this afternoon to show where we are at the moment.  The remaining items to address now include:

1) Painting in the low foundation walls on most of the dozen structures. -- Done!
2) Painting in the cornice work on several of the same. -- In progress.
3) Approximating the timber work (fachwerk) on four of the smaller models.
4) Suggesting the placement of windows and doors with the use of a stencil and careful painting.
5) Final finishing touches in the form several small detail surprises.
6) Paint the internal ruins of the main front part of the Hospital of the Holy Spirit.

While I have always enjoyed producing model buildings made from heavy card and balsa, I don't think that I have ever enjoyed the activity as much.  To say that I am having a blast with this current batch must be the understatement of the year.

Meanwhile, the Grand Duchess and Young Master have left for ten days to visit grandparents in the Pacific Northwest, so it's just yours truly along with the two felines Gunnlaug and Onyx, plus the Young Master's fish in the fishtank.  I hope to finish everything here during their trip.  Cross your fingers and toes though because there is still quite a bit to take care of before I can call the project finished and get back to the toy soldiers. . .  who, incidentally, are calling to me from various containers, drawers, and shelves down here in Zum Sollenkeller Mk. II.  It's madness, I tell you!  Sheer madness!

-- Stokes

A smaller flat-bristled brush next to get color into those tighter areas.

And the finished front half of the Hospital of the Holy Spirit after some final touch-ups and gilt applied to the weather vain atop the tallest spire.  In real life, a rooster weathervane resides in this space, but I consider myself rather clumsy and accident prone where hobby knives and fingertips are concerned, so you'll grasp immediately why I have decided to keep things simple here.

Here is my reference photo of the real complex in Lübeck, Germany.  Not perfect, but I'm still very pleased with my progress above so far.  Ok.  I see a few more thin areas on the front of the two lower gables where I need to approximate corroded copper.  Funny what you notice when you step back or a moment and observe your brushwork.

Back on the tabletop, here are all of the model buildings with the basic colors now blocked in.  

The lighting is not the greatest in these pictures, but the Rathaus at the center is in  very light pink.  The university building in the foreground at right is in a very light gray.

Here is the old town hall in Tallin, Estonia (ex-Dorpat), on which I am basing the color scheme of my particular Rathaus.  My model won't be quite as ornate.  The actual structure was designed by a German architect from Rostock and built during the mid-19th century, but it is not unlike older structures that you stumble on all the time in Northern German and around the Baltic region if your eyes are open.

Finally, three of the smaller buildings (one in the foreground at right) which will eventually be half-timbered have been painted with Antique White, to avoid that stark, bone white "Hollywood smile" look once everything is finished.  I recall reading in a book on model railway and diorama scenery years ago that it is more effective to avoid stark, dramatic colors like the purest white or black.  Whoops!  Still a few chimneys to paint too.  Darn.

13 June 2017

Painting of Baltic German Town Center Underway. . .

The Basic roofing colors are done.  More or less.

Here is where things stand at the moment -- early Tuesday afternoon -- with the Baltic German town center.  The Verdigris effect -- heavy dry-brusing of Turquoise over a black undercoat -- worked out well.  Nice and muted once dry, though I might apply a bit more to the Rathaus spire, which still looks a bit dark.  

The rear half of the hospital also looks like it needs some extra TLC.  It looks rather light gray in the photographs I have examined online, but that's not quite working on my model.  I might just have to go back and give it a dry-brushed coat of Raw Umber, which looks rather nice on the house in the foreground here.  

The rather orangey-brown roofs on all but one of the rest of the town buildings look bright, but this is, on sunny days, how those lovely old tile roofs look like in real life on remaining structures from the 1600-1700s in Northern Germany and across the Baltic Region, so I'll call those done.  Almost time then to begin applying the red brick, yellow ochre, light blue, light, pink, and light yellow to the various walls.  Already, though, the collection of (Dare I say?) model buildings is beginning to look more like a town center in miniature and less like odd bits of heavy card and scraps of balsa or bass wood.

-- Stokes

10 June 2017

Architectural Model Making Tools, Tips, and Tricks. . .

A wonderful illustration of the old rathaus in Tilsit.  This is just one of several such structures on which I have based my own model rathaus.

Just a quick post today -- Saturday -- since I want to get on to applying a white gesso basecoat to my dozen Baltic German town center buildings.  For those of you who enjoy making your own model buildings for wargaming, there are loads of professionally made videos on Youtube that deal with the subject of architectural model-making, something that has fascinated me since I was about five years old, when I made the acquaintance of "John the Hippy."  John was a young architect who worked closely with my father at the time.  

In the early 1970s, before my father became a stockbroker, he worked for a large design firm in the business end of things.  At some point, about 1971 or '72, he was assigned to oversee the conceptualization and design, by a team of which John was somehow a member, of a series of planned professional buildings.  Several times, usually midday on a Saturday, my father took my sister and I along in our dark green Volkswagen Beetle to John's apartment where the two would review and discuss various models John was making for the firm.  Usually, while the two adults conversed in the living room, my sister and I got to watch TV in John's bedroom and bounce around on his king-sized waterbed.  It as the early'70s don't forget.

Anyway, John, who was in his mid- to late 20s, had very long brown hair, parted in the middle, with a beard and mustache.  Not unlike George Harrison at that point come to think of it although the general look was very common for young men around the world in the wake of the British Invasion, the Prague Spring, Vietnam, the Sexual Revolution, and the general loosening of societal norms that came about in the late 1960s and early '70s .  As a result of John's outward appearance, which was in stark contrast to my 29-year-old father's still very short hair and suits (Monday through Friday),  my sister and I dubbed the former, and have referred to him forever after as John. . .  the Hippy.  I always think of John the Hippy whenever I am in the midst of making model buildings, like the current batch for instance, these many years later.  I wonder what ol' John might be up to now?  Probably well into retirement and living in Florida or Arizona, with very little hair left at all.

But back to architectural models!  I have stumbled recently onto a fascinating series about how architects conceive, build, and use their model structures on YouTube.  Architectural Model Making has many useful tips for thinking about and making your own structures, albeit for wargaming purposes.  I thought that it would be a nice idea to share the link here for anyone who is interested in buttressing (Get it?) their own model-making with additional skills, or taking a stab at the activity if making model houses and the like is something you have yet to try.  It's just one more fascinating branch of the wargaming hobby tree.

-- Stokes

 Basecoating with white acrylic gesso underway on Saturday afternoon.  Eventual painting of the buildings will be done with acrylic craft paints like those shown in a previous post.

08 June 2017

Baltic German Town Center Pre-Painting. . .

 Just about ready to undercoat with white acrylic gesso and then begin painting everything.

It's funny what crosses one's mind when you have time to think in a fairly relaxed way without the cares and worries of real life intervening too awfully.  It occurred to me a day or two ago that the fancier buildings in my town center need some relief on the larger surfaces in the form of slender basswood cornice work.  So, after two or three delightful hours of work this afternoon, the university/palace building, the rathaus (town hall), the Latin school, the zeughaus (armory), and a couple of other more important structures have it.  Reminds me of the trim Ian Weekley applied to his model of Hougoumont as featured in Military Modelling many years ago.  

Two buildings at center, you'll note, also have rather ornate stairways at their main entrances, the rathaus with a semi-circular stone bench, which you can just about make out, and the smaller building behind it features a low, semi-circular reflecting pool or fountain.  I also added several rounded dormers using bits from a balsa dowel this morning.  Blame the various and sundry videos by model railroaders that I've been watching on YouTube lately, where scenery and scratch-building how-to videos are in abundance.  Some of these are really good (interesting, informative, high production values, etc.) and others, well, not so great.  But the better videos present much that is applicable, useful, and inspiring.

But, the time has come to quit messing around with additional details and start painting these model buildings!  After the basic colors have been blocked in, I'll add door and window detailing using a nifty plastic template I picked up at my local arts and crafts big-box store that has a number of small rectangles, which should do the trick nicely.  Once all of these have been traced onto the surfaces of the buildings, I'll suggest window and door openings, framed by dark lines, with washes of dark brown as I've done in the past. . .  although I might take a stab at giving the rathaus a fancy set of colored double doors.  We'll see.  

In any case, all of this should result in a pleasing mix of functionality with some interesting details once these dozen building models are finished, imparting a reasonably authentic Baltic German flavor to future games.  A fairly specific type of stage dressing, if you will, just right for The Grand Duchy of Stollen.

-- Stokes


Thank you everyone for your kind remarks, comments, and encouragement during the last couple of weeks' construction.  This has been a really fun project, and something I have wanted to do for a long time.  As for your questions, yes, each structure has a base with some stylized balsa ruins, which will take a base of eight figures should the buildings, or their ruins, be occupied in future actions, combats, or battles.  The town ale house/inn (Gasthaus) is the hip-roofed building two doors to the right of the university building in the top photograph above.  Very handy for the students between classes and before returning to their digs for their evening swot sessions!  At some point, yes, I will have to think about a gatehouse, walls, and possibly an outer bastion or two for defense of the town in a siege.

Other buildings that make up the Baltic German town center include the Rathaus with its elegant single spire at center, the customs house (with stairway and fountain) and coffee house just behind it.  This is also an area of town where ladies of the evening are sometimes known to frequent and, which, people of good reputation avoid after dark.  Moving right along, to the immediate left of the university building we have the Latin school, the very fancy brick gothic Hospital of the Holy Spirit, which houses the tow's old, poor, and sickly.  To its right at the back of the photograph above is the town Zeughaus, or armory, and the town orphanage or Waisenhaus.  Finally, we have three simple houses, including the two structures featuring plain peaked roofs and the one with the gimbrel, or "Dutch" roofline across the street from the ale house.  

The internal ruins of the building will be gray with a few bricks or stones picked out using a very fine Sharpie felt tip pen.  The external shells of the larger, "official" buildings will be painted in yellow ochre, tan, very light pint, very light blue, or very light yellow with gray stone foundations and orangey-brown roofs although the various spires will get a verdigris dry-brushed over black treatment to approximate aged copper.  Smaller, less fancy structures, along with the Hospital of the Holy Spirit, will be painted get my usual brick red (acrylic Burnt Sienna mixed with some white acrylic) or Antique White.  A timbering (fachwerk) effect with the be applied using a dark brown Sharpie felt tip pen and a metal ruler.  A roof or two will get a darker shade of brown to break up the sea of orangey-brown tile.  

Throughout the painting and detailing process, I'll pay close attention to my collection of photographs culled from different internet searches in recent months to approximate the real thing as near as possible.  While eleven of these cardboard, paper, and balsa structures are not intended to represent  any specific real-life buildings, I nevertheless want the town center to resemble clearly the centers of any larger town or small city -- stretching from Bremen to Tallin with countless others in between -- once upon a time during the mid-1700s.

The town center from another angle.  Notice the tiny weather vain atop the central spire of the Hospital of the Holy Spirit in the upper right of the picture.

A third shot showing the new collection of wargaming buildings from behind.

And an even closer in shot of the hospital.  I do still need to fill in the gaps in a couple of places where I had some difficulty achieving perfect cuts, but my tiny, very flexible palette knife should help.

06 June 2017

Baltic Town Construction Update. . .

The near-finished front half of the Hospital of the Holy Spirit with a couple of unpainted Minden laborers to provide a better idea of the size of this building model.

Avoiding doing other things this morning by adding on a few additional details to the decidedly medieval Hospital of the Holy Sprit model.  Just a few tiny things to finish on this structure along with the rathaus spire, requiring a quick trip to the local arts and crafts and DIY big-box stores, and then I can start painting all of this.  And now, I suppose, I had better actually do something productive in that real life kind of way.  Sigh.

-- Stokes

 The color palette -- very pale blue, pink, yellow, and yellow ochre plus light gray and turquois/verdigris among others --  I'll work with plus a few other necessary supplies to finish the Baltic German town center project.  Burnt Sienna mixed with some white makes an effective brick red color that approximates nicely the red brick architecture found in the north of Germany and along other parts of the Baltic coast.  I'll use some tan acrylic (not shown) to tone down the turquoise slightly before applying it to the spires above as well as the rathaus spire.


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