onsdag 28. desember 2011

Grey matter

Let me begin by returning to something I mentioned yesterday - so why is Vallejo my current paint manufacturer of choice?

Since I started painting miniatures almost 20 years ago, I have used a range of different brands. First I used some of the standard, cheap hobby varnish that can by purchased anywhere. That lasted all of 1 Space Marine, and boy, did he look fugly. Then I turned to Citadel Colour, and a long running love/hate relationship - the main "hate" part was those dark years when they used the crystal clear containers with (any sort of) black cap. Never before or after have I found a paint container that will more quickly and consistently dry out paint! Lately, they have done a lot to remedy this - although opinions vary greatly, I happen to be one of those who find the new(ish) range of Foundation paints indispensable for certain types of painting (though I would not use it on 1/300 models!).

There are also a smattering of other acrylic ranges in my cupboard, some more known than others. Earlier this year, I also placed a number of Humbrol Enamel paints in the recycling bin. If there is any advice I can pass on to future generations it is this: Enamels are the DEVIL. They smell. They take forever to dry. They are a pain to thin, and cleaning your brush of them just sucks. Today, acrylics can do anything enamels can do - though faster, better and with no permanent brain tissue damage.

So why do I love Vallejo? Well, they are a professional, dedicated, established, systematic manufacturer with excellent products. Their paint is a dream to handle, thin and apply. The range of colours available is staggering, and I have no experience with them revising or removing large ranges of their products.

They also have an excellent package format, with their eye-dropper style bottles. The paint does not dry in the bottles, and remains consistent every time a drop is dispensed. Never have I experienced less waste of paint, or had paint containers so consistently easy to open and without flaw or defect.

Oh, sure, even Vallejo is not perfect. The paint, for exampe, is slightly too thick straight from the bottle for me, and I find the long, narrow shape of the paint bottles poorly suited for mixing the paint quickly. That being said, I have always had to thin my paint before using it, regardless of manufacturer, and mixing became a lot quicker once I found Vallejos own tip of squeezing the bottle with the cap on to mix rather than shaking it. Storing the bottles on their side has also helped.

When there is even a local store carrying the complete range, there is little else I can ask for. Whenever I run out of a colour, my current practice is to bring the empty pot to the local store and pick out a Vallejo equivalent. What's not to love? :)

Today's photo is of a product from Vallejo that I started using after painting my first lot of 1/300 planes. Having no good hand hold, I found that before applying varnish, I had to go back and paint over several places where it had accidentally gotten rubbed off. Scouring the web for suggestions, I found this product.

After staring to use Vallejo 601 Grey Primer, rubbed-off paint has ceased to be a problem (admittedly, more experinece with handling 1/300 aircraft might also have helped), except for in the more extreme circumstances - the Do17z tail rudders described previously is the only example I can think of.

Vallejo Colour:

tirsdag 27. desember 2011

Do17z palette

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Well, Christmas weekend has passed, and so has the bout of fever that kept me from the keyboard the 23rd.

After finishing the prototype Dornier, I realized that the two-tone camo scheme was not sufficiently, uh, two-tone. Particularily after applying varnish, the two colurs I had chosen (Vallejo 894 Russian Green and 896 Extra Dark Green) were almost impossible to discern from one another. Sulking over and denying this for the first few days, I had already realised that I had to re-paint one of the colours on top of the varnish. Yesterday I had the opportunity to sit down and do something about it.

It took some experimenting with tones of green, I finally settled on changing out the 894 Russian Green for 830 German Fieldgrey WW2. The entire top half of the model was then re-varnished.

When painting the 830 on top of the 894, I knew I was right to re-paint - I had to pull up an image with the camo pattern, as I could hardly see the pattern on the model! Now, the miniature looks more like the on-line reference images I found and the camo patern is clearly visible. Much better!

With this detail out of the way, I was able to start working on the remaining 11 models in earnest, and am currently cleaning them of moulding lines.

The final palette for Battle of Britain Luftwaffe bombers (all Vallejo):
  • 943 Grey Blue - Belly base coat
  • 906 Pale Blue - Belly top coat
  • 979 German Camo Dark Green - Top base coat
  • 830 German Field Grey WWII - Top, well, top coat
  • 896 Extra Dark Green - Camo pattern
  • 907 Pale Greyblue - Canopy

For the Do17z, I also decided on white propeller spinners, using 907 Pale Greyblue.

Vallejo is currently my paint manufacturer of choice, I'll come back to the reasons why in a later post.

torsdag 22. desember 2011

Dornier prototype done

Yesterday, I was able to sit down for a while in the evening and add decals and varnish to my prototype Do17z. Painting of this was done parallell to applying decals and varnish to the previously posted Spitfires. The plane was first undercoated with grey primer.

There are always some snags to be worked out whenever painting a new kind of miniature, so I find it valuable to paint up a prototype before embarking on the entire uit. This allows me to test the colours and streamline the process - nothing is worse than having started on, say, ten models and gotten halfway through when you realise that the level of detail you have settled on is far to high, resulting in the models being ready to game in months rather than days or weeks. Or at all, for that matter... The prototype also serves as a sort of "master copy" when painting the rest, being referenced to for details, camo pattern, decal positions, etc.

In a field of flowers... Belly up, you can see the rear gun position between the engines. When painting my aircraft, I use a technique where I paint the first coat in a darker colour than intended, then add a second layer with the actual colour I desire. This has the effect of adding some depth and variation to the colour. The belly was painted Saturday evening.

End status saturday, having also finished the base colour and canopy. Painting this size of aircraft was a new challenge. For the single-engine fighters, the magnet for the flying base has been sufficiently strong to keep the model in position while painting. As you can see, the Do17z was neatly perched in a level position on its magnet, though holding it sideways or upside down, as I could do with the fighters, was out of the question. As a result, I had to retain a hold of some part of the model while painting, which is why the rudders are rubbed bare. These were completed only after all other painting was done, including the camouflage pattern. Using the rudders as a handle was combined with a lot of nervous handling of the bare paintwork, something with which I have never become comfortable. This begets the question "So, how does one paint a bomber?"

Very, very carefully.

Sunday, I got to finish the camo pattern. This was done without much research, as several model aircraft and colour schematics that turned up on Google image search sported this pattern. As a very practical-minded fellow in a forum once said of painting historical miniatures, "If you think it looks good and it bears even a passing resemblance to any reference material, you should not accept criticism from anyone". The argument did run deeper than that, yet I'll probably make that the subject of a later post!
There are a couple of notes to this stage. First, you might have noticed that I have filled in one pane on the canopy. This was because images showed that this pane was actually a panel where (probably) the radio antenna was attached. When painting the canopy, I did have some trouble matching the model up with images from the web, although I decided that at 1/300 who is gonna notice? Or care? :)
Second, the pattern was simplified somewhat. The area around the canopy is rather fiddly to paint, so I decided to avoid painting the pattern in this area. The same goes for the engine cowlings. Seeing as the rudders were painted on after the camo pattern was completed, there is no pattern on them either. At this scale, I found that I could hardly justify the extra work on these fiddly bits and I honestly think it does not detract from the model at all.

Wednesday, model done! Decals and varnish applied. Low-viz balkenkreuz on top, high-viz on flanks and below. I wound up aligning the flank decals by eye (sigh) and the top ones using the shaft of my scalpel for side-to-side positioning (measured from wingtips) as well as a highly visible line in the wing for front-to-back positioning.

Here are some more corners that I decided to cut for the benefit of my sanity. The engine cowlings are, from all reference I have found, really supposed to have the belly colour on their lower half. This solution, however, looks quite all right and saves me those horrible dreams at night to boot. The same goes for the bottom of the rudders.
Balkenkreuz positioning was fairly straightforward - no clearly visible lines to assist in placement, so the distance from the engine to the decal was found using my square file whereas the front-to-back alignment was done by eye.

Again, the alluring profile of "der Fliegender Bleistift"... mm-hmm!

One down, one bag to go (good grief!). Eleven Dorniers later, I will either be bombing England or spend a few days in my happy place before being fit to speak with other human beings again. Yes, kids, miniature painting brings its own set of occupational hazards. Small wonder it feels so great when one finishes a model :)

Once the unit is finished, I will dig out my digital camera (as opposed to my cell phone camera) and try to get some high-quality shots.

onsdag 21. desember 2011

Delivery from Canada - HOTZ gaming mat

Today's post was originally going to be on something dreary, like the flat, drab colour collection used for my daylight RAF aircraft. Instead, fortune (or the mailman) ensured that it will instead be on something rather exciting - the flat, drab felt mat mailed to me from Canada!

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, you want this. HOTZ mats - brand of excellence.

HOTZ mats has a friendly if somewhat quirky web page (http://www.hotzmats.com/), and while navigating it and getting the information I needed was easy, it kind of lacks that comforting pat-on-the-back-feel. Both times I have ordered there, I have collected my information from the site, located the correct product and felt confident that I have everything set up right - and yet, just before hitting the purchase-button, I got that "You'd  better be sure about this one, you only have one chance to get it right you know"-feeling. That being said, the order confirmation contained the right product both times (which made me feel a whole lot better).
At the least one U. S. supplier's web site complained bitterly of the delivery problems they had with this manufacturer, that is, Eric Hotz. What they have been experiencing I cannot really say, perhaps Hotz prioritizes direct orders to his website over orders from other stores. In any case, this is my second HOTZ mat, and in both instances ordrering has been painless and delivery quick.
In this particular case, the ordrer was placed November 24th (a Thursday), order confirmation came November 27th (a Sunday!) and delivery was yesterday, December 20th. Considering that the order listed five weeks expected delivery time, that this is (as far as I have gathered) a hand-made product from a one-man operation and that the product has been shipped overseas from Canada to Norway (we're not even in the EU), I cannot be anything but delighted with the way this purchase turned out.

It is huge! The thing makes a mockery of our five-stone dinner table. WIP Do17z placed for scale.

This particular mat is a so-called "full-size" (72 x 42 inches) with the European Fields pattern and a 1.5 inch hex grid, and it looks beautiful. Having gamed on a similar though smaller mat before, I can certainly support Hotz's claim that the grid is very functional yet subtle enough to not interfere with the visual impression. Price, including air mail, came to just below 70 USD. While that is certainly an investment, it is certainly not enough to have me worried. With regards to value for money, it just cannot be beat as far as I am concerned. 70 bucks for (more or less) all the terrain you are ever going to need for the game? Count me in.

All that remains now is to iron it to remove the creases and then find a permanent storage solution. The plan is to get a short, wooden staff - the kind used for curtains - and roll the mat around it, then stuff it into a cloth bag that I will ask my wife (very nicely) to make for me. That should protect it from wrinkles, nicks and abrasion, while at the same time being an easy format to store and transport - particularily if I add a sling to the bag. Some sort of storage will be required at any rate, and I will make certain to post once it is ready.

Well, that certainly is a motivation to finish the quick-reference sheets and other game-aids for BTH2! Christmas coming up fast, so I'll have to see if I cannot manage to squeeze in a visit to a book store and get a hold of some coloured cardboard before the weekend...

tirsdag 20. desember 2011

Spitfires done!

Apologies for missing out on the promised update yesterday - my youngest daughter was ill, meaning the day didn't go exactly as planned!

Having come a long way since blog startup last week :) I have decided to move away from daily updates. First of all, real life has already put a dent into that idea. Second, having realised how blog following works (hey, I was a blog illiterate less than a week ago), I see that you will get my updates straight into your summary - which means those who are interested will get the information without having to check this site every day.

That being said, I will keep the daily update as the ideal for weekdays. Holiday seasons are also periods where I expect the blog might get a bit jittery. The final detractor is work.

Enough beating about the bush!

This weekend, I got a fair bit of miniature work in, being able to sit down for both Saturday and Sunday evenings. As a result, my Spitfires are finished!

Recap: The last posted pic saw my final five Spits with finished paint jobs.

Saturday, I was able to get 30 rondels cut, soaked and fixed. That work is a pain, particularily aligning the little devils. The side rondels on these spits are ridiculously large, yet seemed fine to my untrained eyes when doing the first four miniatures almost a year ago and I had to follow though with these. Lesson learned.

Lining up decals symmetrically is awful, yet I have devised a system to make the process as, uh, little mind-numbingly tedious as possible. First, I attach the fuselage rondels, as these are the worst to line up. One of them will be attached so that it looks right, then the other will be aligned by looking with one eye along the fuselage. Awful! Second, top wing rondels then finally the bottom ones. These go on reasonably quick after I realised that using one of my square-ended files as a measuring device, the side-to-side alignment became much easier.

Here, fully varnished and ready to game with! At my level of painting and detailing, any markings beyond rondels are dispensed with in the interest of my sanity and continued desire to game.

Later posts this week will contain a high quality picture of all nine Spits, as well as miniature review, paints used and details on rondels and varnishing.

fredag 16. desember 2011

Hans Ulrich Rudel: Stuka Pilot (Kindle edition)

Seeing as modelling and painting aircraft can at times feel like a chore, I have found that a certain single-mindedness in my spare time interests is advisable to ensure that I keep cranking out painted aircraft. One of the ways I do this is by reading books and watching TV-shows relevant to my painting projects. A word of warning - watching TV-shows about the Pacific air war or the Flying Tigers can be... trying... when one is fervently trying to finish that last flight of Spits!

This summer, I got a Kindle and never looked back. Still, one of the weaknesses of the device is that the selection of e-books (though massive and growing) is quite limited once one decides to stray outside mainstream American and English literature. Great was my surprise when during a shop search I stumbled upon a book by German pilot legend Hans Ulrich Rudel, who flew more than 2,500 combat sorties during World War II.

Rudel's book details his experiences as a Stuka pilot from the start of the war to the very end, and offer a unique look into the mindset of one of Nazi-Germany's pilot elite. Rudel flew over the Eastern Front, and his book gives an overview of the events that will be familiar to anyone who have been reading about the war. Rudel writes in a pleasant and intimate manner and in the present term, at times making for a very intense reading experience. A mix between down-to-earth strategic overviews, war comradeship, harrowing sortie descriptions and the occasional view of the behind-the-scenes politics of the Reich makes for an interesting and easy read, though the crushing feeling of mounting despair makes the book increasingly disturbing towards the end. Rudel truly did it all and saw it all, again paying homage to that old saying "truth is stranger than fiction".

Unfortuneately, the book was rather meager on the tactical and technical side despite the occasional mention of the subjects. Also be warned that Rudel's political views are not exactly moderate, being a member of the Nazi party and an outspoken right-wing supporter after the war and all the way up to his death. To this day, Rudel remains a hero and icon to many extremist right-wing supporters.

All in all, the book seems very suitable for gamers playing battles on the Eastern Front (whether in the air or on the ground), though from my current perspective (the Battle of Britain), the book was quite irrelevant. Its greatest strength and weakness is that it contains the memoirs of a single person, making its focus admirable though its scope limited.

To sum up, a mix of enjoyable episodes yet (for me) all too familiar strategic overviews makes this book score 4 out of 6 with me, and I would recommend it to people with a particular interest in the subject only.

More information on Hans Ulrich Rudel:

torsdag 15. desember 2011

Pictures - or it didn't happen!

How very pleasant (and unexpected) to see some comments and followers already! Thanks, people :)

In a follow-up to yesterday's post, here are some images of the Dorniers cast by Museum Miniatures:

Clean sculpt and clear, etched details. Overall a very crisp, tidy model.

Belly up! Conveniently, the center of gravity was right below the wings. Thus, the hole for the 3mm super magnet wound up smack bang in the middle of the bomb bay doors! Due to the tendency for the drill to wander when using such "large" diameter, I always drill a 1mm guiding hole first. Though the image does not show the detail perfectly, everyting up to and including the belly rear gunner nacelle are beautifully rendered.

Depth-of-view on the phone camera is abhorrent, yet this should be sufficient to give an idea of the clean lines of the aircraft.
"The machine is as nimble as a fighter" - Flight Captain  Untucht after flying the prototype

The distinctive profile that earned the Do17 the nickname "Fliegender Bleistift" (flying pencil).

A comparison shot with one of my WIP Spits, showing exactly why I was so stunned by its size when opening the envelope. I used to think of the Hurricane as a big aircraft!

Bonus shot - my last five WIP Spits. Only decals and varnish to go!

Sticking with the phone camera for now on WIP images to keep this blog low treshold - though will dig out the digital cam for finished projects. Promise!

More information on the Do17 series:

onsdag 14. desember 2011

Dorniers arrived

Yesterday, I received the twelve 1/300 Do17z I ordrered for my Battle of Britain collection.

The order was placed by web store monday a week ago, after a very friendly conversation by phone with Museum Miniatures in England to check stock status. They had three in stock, yet cast the balance before lunch and had everything shipped the same day. Overall, very impressed with customer service. The miniatures themselves were neat and clean. Some moulding lines and flash had to be removed, yet no more than is usual. Prices were good. Very good experience overall. Although their range of WWII aircraft is quite limited, Museum Miniatures are warmly recommended:

The size of the miniatures was a shock, and I had do do some quick googling to verify that yes, the Do17z were that big! Comparing the model with my 1/300 Spitfires verified that the scale was good. For some reason I had the impression that the Dorniers were one of Germany's smaller bombers, although as far as I could tell both the Junkers 88a and Heinkel 111 were actually shorter. The allied heavy bombers, however... Do17z 16 meters, Liberator 20, Lancaster 21 and Flying Fortress 22 meters!

Cleaned the first model of flash yesterday and attached a 3mm supermagnet, tested the flying base and verified that it worked as planned. Next up is soap water cleaning, priming and painting to finish the first "concept model". This will have to be done parallell to finishing the Spitfires, which await decals and varnish.

To sum up, very good customer experience and very nice miniatures. Looking forward to getting the first model painted.

Dreadful mistake to make the first post without pictures. Will get some in ASAP, and make sure to have pictures before making future posts!