Tag Archives: Off topic

Dead Cushy – The Secret Life of a Casualty Marker

“Wotcha, me old muckers! That’s me, dead in in the centre of the picture. Dead Fred. Nah you might think that me and me mates have a pretty rough deal, being casualty markers, ‘an all; but I’m here to tell yer that it’s the best job on the table, and here’s why.

You see ol’ Stefan there, on the base of the Romanians? I ain’t seen him aht o’ the box since March 2019 on the DNEPR. Farkas in the Hungarian Box ain’t seen the light o’ day since February 2019, even if’n ‘e did have a lick of varnish earlier this year. It’s not the same though , is it?

Now me, I get to see the ol’ tabletop nearly every game. And ‘cos I’m looking up, I get to see stuff without ‘avin to do any of the ‘ard work. Admittedly, I mos’ly sits behind Russkies and Sausage Eaters, but the booze ain’t bad, and if some o’ them Prussians are a bit korrect, the Bavarians really know how to throw a party. Know wot I mean? Nah wot abaht them horrific wounds, I ‘ere yer say? Nah mate, that’s just paint!

I count meself lucky that I wern’t cast like young Facedown Frank over there. ‘E only gets to ‘ear about the battles. Still, the lights don’t keep him awake none. Tarrah then, s’pose I’ll see yer all at the next shindig. I’ll be doing the same as usual …. relaxin’!”


Filed under 15mm Miniatures Wargames

Just another Brick in the Wall

For anyone wondering at the lack of posts since November, I have been playing with my new outdoor toy; a concrete mixer! As retirement presents go, it was a bit of a hint 🙂

 Rather than clutter this blog with frankly uninspiring pictures of foundations and bricks, I have put them onto my building blog. Don’t feel that you have to visit it out of politeness. Brickaholics can find it here.

Sensible people can be reassured that the BRYANSK campaign is still underway, but German Pioneers have been throwing all sorts of obstacles in the way of the tabletop – dirty boots and bricklaying tools amongst them. Logistically, it has been quite a challenge stockpiling all the materials onsite prior to starting the operation, especially with the local builder’s merchant delivery driver, Chuckles the Clown doing his usual best to drop loads, or offload them in the wrong order.

In the meantime, there is a glorious site called underwhelming fossil fish of the month. My brickie blog is a bit like that 🙂


Filed under 15mm Miniatures Wargames, Off Topic

International Merlot Day – November the Seventh

My Dear Guru Pig,

Thank you for alerting me to International Merlot Day, which I have added to my calendar of Important Events¹. You have saved Suzanne and me from an embarrassing faux-pas, as we were just finishing an agreeable bottle of 2019 Chapel Down Flint Dry blended white. On the face of it this was not the most obvious choice for venison with noodles and stir fried Pak Choi but, well, the bottle was already open and giving good service, being a refreshingly sharp contrast to the malty earth tones of Leffe Brujn and hot lime pickles as an anti pasta².

A quick flurry of rummaging in the ancestral wine cellar produced one of Brian’s Reserve Merlots³. I was reassured by his assertion that the bottle was best enjoyed now or cellared for 3-5 years. As there was no date on the label, and Suzanne could not remember when she bought it, we played safe and opened it at once, to be enjoyed with stewed apples, apricots, wolf berries and custard*.

Good health to you and yours! Arrrrr!

Kind Regards, Chris.

Our allotment can get very lively!
  1. International Speak Like a Pirate Day on the 19th of September being top of said list.
  2. Flint Dry 2019 – 6 bottle case

    A great introduction to quality English wine and an alternative to aromatic white wines, such as Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio. Chapel Down Flint Dry 2020 is a mixed blend, fragrant white wine.

    1. On the Nose – Green apple, galia melon and kiwi.
    2. On the Palate – Apple, pear and lime.
    3. Finish – Well-balanced.
    4. Vineyards – Kent, East Sussex and Essex.
    5. Winemaking – Fruit is whole bunch pressed and vinified in stainless steel at cool temperatures to retain aromatic delicacy. The wine was blended, clarified, and bottled in February 2020.
    6. Food Pairing – Flint Dry 2020 is ideal served as an aperitif or pairs perfectly with white meats, seafood, or salad.

      75cl bottles. £78.00

  3. Brian McGuigan’s Reserve Merlot


    Upfront red fruits, raspberries and cherries. Hints of sweet spice and cedar
    A medium bodied, fruit driven wine with spice and hints of mocha on the palate.The wine is well balanced with soft tannins, giving length to the palate.
    £ 7 for 75cl

    *. Custard is not a garnish. It comes in jugs!


Filed under 15mm Miniatures Wargames, Off Topic


You need to thin your paint Luke. Your eyesight will improve.

This post was prompted by a recent exchange that I saw on a Facebook group. Someone had painted a figure in a recognisable Old School style, with lustrous glossy block colours, and the following exchange occurred:

“You need to thin your paints, so your painting will improve.”

“I’m quite happy with my painting style, thank you.”

I can imagine that Picasso or Turner would have responded similarly. What appears to be going on here, is that an artist is submitting his work, and being critiqued by a practitioner of the current orthodoxy. The critic assumes that his own preferred style equates to competence, and that the exhibitor doesn’t have it, so for fun I have listed as many styles and techniques as I can think of. Knowing and using the currently fashionable style(s) will win you praise and prizes.¹

Feel free to add to the taxonomy. Please do note that none of this post is intended to be a value judgement or critique of your own personal preferences. It is, of course, possible to apply more than one style to a model, and many sub-variations of these techniques exist.

AIRBRUSHING: This tool made thin successive layers of paint popular. It can allow the artist to paint a scale model to a better surface finish than the original modelled object – German WWII tanks being an obvious example (and yes, I know that the Germans also spray painted their tanks). Modelling guides to German WWII tanks provide many examples of this style, with zenithal highlighting, weathering and chipping all in evidence.


ARMY PAINTER, (or PAINT-BY-NUMBERS): Usually applied over a black spray base coat, three shades of ready mixed colour are used, with the main tone being applied over a dark tone then highlighted with a lighter shade. All four layers are distinctly discernible. Very effective at scale and distance, but a bit cartoonish close-up. The attraction of this method is that by recording the paints used, you can add to units many years later and still match the shading. Bad luck if they stop making Snot Green though.

BATTLE-READY: Undercoated, based and with the bare minimum number of colours present to allow the model onto the competition table. The unstated assumption that you will go on to finish the piece some time in the next thirty years is what distinguishes this technique from Impressionistic!

COLOUR WASHING or INKING: Layers of thin colour or ink, previously often applied over a white gesso base with oil glazes, but currently ready-mixed usually over zenithal highlighting. Superb at its best, fussy at worst, this technique takes all the hard work out of defining shadow and is currently popular for 28mm figures that have a lot of detail on them, with commercial ranges of colour washes available to support the technique e.g. Contrast Paints.

DRY BRUSHING: Successive layers of paint from an almost dry brush are dusted over a model. Especially useful for showing dust on a model. Taken to excess, this technique is sometimes known as “ash and soot”. Works well on grubby WW2 and modern vehicles. Currently somewhat out of favour amongst figure painters.

EDGE HIGHLIGHTING: This was, and may still be, a prize-winning technique employed by the Warhammer community. Sometimes taken to excess with comic results, when no regard is given to where the light is coming from.

GREYSCALE: The figure is painted as if it were an old black and white, or sepia photograph. Sometimes the face and hands, or some other detail, is painted in colour to emphasise the artistic nature of this technique.

IMPRESSIONISTIC: Dabs of colour to give the impression of detail – handy for very small figures or rapid painting; sometimes thickly and rapidly applied. Ian Lowell produced a very effective, largely scratch-built French WWII army using this technique.

JUST NEEDS VARNISH: This one’s for you, John! In my case, a misguided belief that I still need to put more paint on at some stage in the next thirty years prevents me from sealing the deal. Matt varnish is currently fashionable, for durability often applied over a gloss varnish. Satin coat is their sophisticated sibling and “Magic Dip” combines ink or stain to allow shading to be applied at the same time. Wargames magazines were the main driving force towards matt finishes, as they are much easier to photograph, as the two pictures below demonstrate.

Magic Dip

Magic Dip

Gloss Varnish

Gloss Varnish

LINING: Used to define the border between two colours. Charles Grant Senior was a master of this technique in black ink.

You used to look much younger! Is it the moustache?


OBJECT SOURCE HIGHLIGHTING: Shaded as if the light is coming from a point source such as a camp fire or a lantern. This is one of the better tutorials.

OBSERVED: Painting what you see rather than following style conventions. Can be realistic or impressionistic. Concrete and rocks are rarely grey, windscreens are not blue, unpainted wood is not brown, boots are not glossy black except on parade. None of these troublesome facts should stop us from enjoying our favourite painting style(s).

OLD SCHOOL: Block colours, with no, or little shading. Often lined, often with plain green bases.

REALISTIC BLENDED: usually applied over a white gesso base with oils, gesso or acrylics, whilst the underlying layer is still wet. Popular with judges in painting competitions. The fast drying nature of acrylic paint has led to the Army Painter technique, which is popular with wargamers.

SATURATED: Bright colours are used to make detail easier to discern. The phrase most often heard is “to make it pop”.

Popping for England

Popping for England (or perhaps Planet Ninja Turtle)

SHINY TOY SOLDIER: As Old School, with a couple of layers of gloss varnish to give durability to the figures and a deep gloss to the colours. Face are often painted with black dots for the eyes, red or pink lips and sometimes pink cheek highlights to give the figure a ruddy, doll-like face.

Only Majors and above may use makeup on campaign.

WEATHERING AND CHIPPING: The use of salt, latex masking fluid, or baking powder over a layer of paint representing rust, followed by the top coat, which is then brushed or sanded away to give the impression of a battered model. Kow Yokoyamahe, the Japanese creator of Maschinen Krieger ZbV 3000, (MaK) helped to popularise this technique. Previously, chalk, artists crayon, thinners and ink were used for weathering, especially by the model railway community. Ready-made powders are now available for cash-rich, time-poor modellers.

Are you sure it’s passed its MOT?


WET PALETTE: A tool to keep fast drying water-based paints wet enough to paint with. Make one with moist non-waxed baking paper in a shallow plastic container. Tin will rust. Your paints will be thin.

ZENITHAL HIGHLIGHTING: Spray the base figure black or grey from below, then white above to give an impression of outdoor light falling on the figure. Usually followed by colour washes over the top.


“Tempête de Neige” exposé en 1842 de J.W. Turner
Snow Storm – Steam-Boat off a Harbour’s Mouth making Signals in Shallow Water, and going by the Lead

“You need more than just undercoat on your ships, Turner. Try using zenithal highlighting;  your painting will improve.” 🙂

1. Not with Sotheby’s though. It did help me win a prize for a best-painted AK47 army. Judge for yourself.



Filed under Modelling, Off Topic

Not Quite Apocalyptic

I have been following Imperial Rebel Ork’s post-apocalyptic tree house  (yes really!) with some interest. So as the UK virus apocalypse is not quite as exciting, and needs fewer handguns, I thought that it was time for Shed du Soleil to get an upgrade.

Essentially, this is just a long-winded way of saying that I have extended the veranda canopy by a couple of feet, and run a cloister along the side of the wall. It is a proper cloister, with spandrels and a tension half-hammer beam that is only possible due to the lightweight polycarbonate roof, and which is there to provide stiffening under tension if wind tries to get under the roof and lift it off.

As usual, cowboybuilders.co.uk did the job by moonlight, with their wobbly ladders. A neighbour was throwing a front door away, so it went down to the Tank Shed (Shed 24). I’m in the process of moving the French doors to the front of the sitting out area to make it weathertight. The hobbit next to the shed is under scale aged about 7. With true-scale modelling, your bits box just takes up more space and the figures won’t stand still to be photographed.


Filed under Off Topic, Shed du Soleil

The New Parade Square


Summer is here, Blogs languish, but fear not, some epic true-scale modelling has been going on. The Kemp Collection now boasts a Grand Terrace and Bastion, which collectively form the new Parade Square¹!

Technical details and step-by-step building guide for true scale modellers:

  1. Dig stuff out for the foundations. The old dry sand foundation for the existing slabs was left in place.

Digging out Stuff.

Digging out Stuff.

2. Put stuff in to stop the new slabs from sinking into the swamp. I used graded (hardcore) fill, which the drone behind the counter at Travis Perkins told me he had never heard of. When I explained it was for a patio sub-base he told me that I wanted MOT. He went a bit red when I asked him what MOT³ stood for and told me what hardcore was used for instead. Back at Gound Zero, I found Nobby the Newt hiding under a brick. He was stalking a particularly juicy slug as big as his head.

Nobby the Newt doesn't know what MOT Type 1 stands for either

Nobby the Newt doesn’t know what MOT Type 1 stands for either

3. Lay the interlocking dry block retaining wall for the bastion, filling the back in with earth on the lawn side and sand on the bastion side. I used builder’s sand instead of sharp sand as the base. It will settle over summer, then I can go back in autumn and relevel the slabs with a dry sand mix (cement and sand) without having to worry about cracking in this unusually dry summer that we are having.



Scarpe and Counterscarpe

Scarpe and Counterscarpe



4. Build a French Drain (basically a hole full of sand or gravel) for the runoff from the roof of The Den to soak into. This avoids the water running over the slabs onto the lawn, which has been my ‘temporary’ solution for the last 18 years.


Downpipe and Runoff Pipe in Trench

Downpipe and Runoff Pipe in Trench

French Drain

French Drain

  1. Chuck the slabs down. They will be lined up properly in autumn when the slabs are finally set.

Grand Terrace and Saluting Dias

Grand Terrace and Saluting Dias

  1. Sit out and drink a well earned beer. Organise a victory parade.

The Bastion and Glacis

Bastion and Glacis

Summer is also the time when readers are inflicted with holiday snaps. No worries here either; we continued our tour of unfashionable cities by visiting the Botanical Gardens in Birmingham, where we accidentally visited the National Bonsai Collection². Normal service will be resumed when we go back to a proper, miserably wet British summer.

Birmingham Botanical Gardens. Posh Pond.

Birmingham Botanical Gardens. Posh Pond.

  1. It isn’t square, or grand, unless you are 1:100 scale, in which case it is truly epic.

2. The collection is valuable enough to be displayed behind bars, with CCTV in constant attendance. Forget the Crown Jewels, this is the real thing! We didn’t know it was there, but happily, discovered it on the way out with more than 30 minutes to spare.

3. It refers to the Ministry of Transport Type 1 British Standard for loadbearing graded aggregates made from crushed recycled concrete rubble or limestone to be used in highway engineering. Seriously though, normal people don’t care unless this happens (watch from1:15).


Filed under Off Topic

Shed Life – the Workshop


True-scale models with terrain ready for the Eastern Front

More true-scale modelling has been filling the absence of blogging, turning the garage into a workshop, with cupboards ripped out of the kitchen finding a new home.

It’s all a bit scrappy at this stage – but the walls are insulated, and power is in

Fascinating as it may be for Shedaholics, I don’t propose to burden readers with endless work in progress shots – just edited highlights. The stuff in the picture above is all boot-fitting or repairing kit from the old shop. I found a heap of certificates that we used to display on the shop walls. They can stay there until I find some military-themed pictures to put in them.

Not a cupboard!

The deal here was that the Workshop would not be as nice as the Den, so I am allowed to spill stuff on the floor and wander in wearing my shoes!  That doesn’t mean that I can’t put blinds and curtains up though. Just painting everything white increased the ambient light levels to figure-painting standards.

Still not a cupboard!

Ok, so just a couple of pictures of some of the kitchen cupboards. They swallowed huge amounts of junk that would otherwise have attracted dust on the shelves.

Look at all that lovely wall space!


The old Tegometal shop shelves are retreating in the face of a relentless wave of re-purposed Swedish invaders. There is still a lot of work to do, not least being a heater, once the gaps in the new ceiling are sealed up.


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Filed under Off Topic, The Workshop

Rubbish Overscaled Munchkins

Warhammered Sherman

My opinions and rants on overscaling are well known, so when YesThatPhil sent me an amusing picture of a Warhammered™* Sherman tank, I couldn’t resist trumping it with an even rubbisher example. To be fair, the model that Phil identified was built as an ironic comment on the current products being peddled in the fantasy market; mine seems to be a serious example of the genre. One can only admire the modelling and painting skills that went into producing it.

Rubbish Orky Tank


*That’s my coinage,  not Games Workshop™’s !

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Filed under Modelling, Off Topic

Slovenian Interlude – Off Topic

The last week has been spent AWOL in Slovenia, Kayaking the Soca River in the Julian Alps. I last went two years ago and was impressed that the second visit was just as good. We were lucky with the weather – 30 to 33 degrees Celsius with constant sun. This is important when you are kayaking in glacial melt or alpine rivers. The Slovenes are good-natured and tolerant, and the Kayaking was world-class grade 2-5, so there was something for everyone. Being a bit of relaxed old biffer myself nowadays, I stuck to the grade 3 stuff and had a mostly undemanding  time. If it is too hot on a river, you just roll over to cool down :

Setting an ambitious line ...

Setting an ambitious line …

Perhaps too ambitious? ...

Perhaps too ambitious? …

There is a gap here as the photographer was guffawing at my two failed attempts at rolling upstream on the mildly evil boil line. Not my finest moment!

Bored of banging my head over the rocks!¬...

Bored of banging my head over the rocks!¬…

Rolling ...

Rolling …

Suitably cooled, stirred not shaken, no ice!

Suitably cooled, stirred not shaken, no ice!

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Filed under Off Topic

Feast of Epiphany – Yes Those Trucks

tankers 022

The festive season was rounded off in style with a duck dinner. Yes That Phil came round with a very decent bottle of Chateaux Margaux ’86, to show off his Pound Shop treasures, and he had a few spare. As it happened, I had a spare Matador to offer in return, so over Port and cheese, when it became permissible to talk wargaming, we sat and happily pushed the trucks around the tabletop as Phil outlined his 2013 plans for Megablitz Squared. Suzanne wandered off at this point to read her new book about the Dunkirk evacuation – Military Truckfests are not her thing.

treasure fleet

Here is the treasure fleet!

Leyland retriever WIP4

Sporting a new quiff and nose bar, the Leyland Retriever continues to take shape.

Leyland retriever WIP5

Bar a few coats of paint, the  Retriever is just about finished now, Cheers Arthur!

Leyland retriever WIP6Retrieving an SPA Dovunque 35 (for scale comparison). Yes it is a big truck!


Filed under 15mm Miniatures Wargames, 8th Army - British and Commonwealth, Modelling, Trucks, Western Desert