Tag Archives: scratchbuilding

On the Workbench – Signals/Command Truck

Scratchbuilt Signal Truck

Signals Truck - Side View

This conversion is another “Truck from Trash” that may have plumbed new depths in trashiness. The original toy could be seen gracing BOX 024, as one of three massively oversized models pretending to be heavy trucks. It once had a G.I. Joe missile on the back or some other such nonsense, but has done years of service as a slightly-better-than-card 3D marker.

Signal Truck Front View

The captured Granit command van next to it gives an idea of scale, which from the side is not too bad. What lets 20mm scale trucks down is always the width and height, so out came the X-Acto razor saw to remove a 5mm fillet from the centreline. Thin card covered the gap, and boxwood carved to shape provided the cabin on the back. I went for the look of a truck that had been pressed into service with a civilian railway hut put onto the flatbed on the back. I should have reduced the height of the cab to complete the illusion; it looked good enough without doing this though. Sometimes one just has to know when to stop. The picture below shows the width difference between the original shocker and its filleted cousin..

Signals Truck Painted


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Filed under 15mm Miniatures Wargames, Modelling, Trucks, WWII

On the Workbench – 3.7cm Pak 36s


These two Pak 36s surfaced from one of the bits boxes last night. They came with a Command Decision Sdkfz 251 pack, if I remember correctly. That just left me with wheels and a trail to find. A Soviet 85mm AA gun from Flames of War provided the wheels, and aluminium tube with scrap balsa did the rest.

As I need Soviet 45mm guns more than German 36s at the moment, I painted them green prior to sticking Soviet crews on the bases. They will probably join the Tank Corps as captured 3.7cm Pak 36s, as they are a little undersized for 1937 (53-K) sorokopyatka” (forty fivers). The PSC offerings, of which there are 5 in a pack, are noticeably larger but come with the cut-down vehicle shield.

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Filed under Artillery, Modelling, Soviet Army

On the Workbench – Stuart M5 Tanks

On the Workbench - 4

The Plastic Soldier Company M5 Stuart box is excellent value, as it comes with not just 5 tanks, but also 5 free hulls and sets of tracks to make artillery tractors, and recce Stuarts with the turrets removed. The card to fabricate the hulls is even provided by the box. I won’t need the tractors until the Italian campaign starts, but they can stand in for T-70 limbers until then.

Left-handed scissor work is getting easier after 3 days practice, even if it is half speed.

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Filed under Modelling, tank

Dodge/Chevvy Tanker – sort of


Last week has been spent filing and chopping Phil’s articulated Poundland tanker to make something that looks vaguely like a WWII 3-ton tanker.  It looks a bit like a Chevvy or a Dodge, so the Desert Airforce gets this one. I reckon that there are at least three more tanker bodies to be had out of the two semitrailer mouldings. The weakest part of the toy is the hotwheel, so I may yet add some better wheels if I can find a cost-effective source, or the patience to mould some out of Milliput. For now though, the conversion is passable enough to go onto the table.


The background shows all the Sdkfz 251s needed for DAK. Yes, that’s four! I already have 4 metal models, but they are on grassy bases and the Plastic Soldier Company offerings are too good to resist.

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

Best Christmas Present Ever!

Every small 50-year old boy awaits Christmas with eagerness. This year was no disappointment. In amongst the parental socks and bottles of port were these Pound Shop trucks:

tankers 014

Ignore the Hurricane in the background and the Japanese in loincloths waiting for their shorts to set. Concentrate instead on the wheelbase of these beauties. I thought that I would have to chop up two Zvezda Matadors to make one of these Leyland Retriever recovery trucks, but the Pound Shop chassies are close enough:

eyland retriever wrecker

Notice the Matador cab glued onto the truck on the far right; it turns out that it is the same width as the original diecast if you are not too fussy (and I’m not!) So here is my work-in-progress (WIP) shot of a  Not Quite Accurate workshop unit for one of my UK  armoured divisions:


From the picture above, it is clear that the Matador cab and body are not an exact match, but that the Milliput roof, a girder and a camouflage net with a thick coat of paint will go a long way to fixing that. The cost of the project was a  total of  20p for the chassis and £2.99 for the body with perhaps 20p for the bits. At first I assumed that the anti-gas plate in front of the windscreen was on the wrong side of my reference picture, but viewing more shots showed that this was not so. I will have to correct that before my final coat of paint.

leyland retriever 1JPG

Camouflage net secured using Evostick and copper wire.

leyland retriever 2

Undercoat on.


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

Manly Men in Desert Shorts – Merry Christmas!

By way of light relief at Christmas, it is time to revisit some of the more exotic troops on the Italian side. I wouldn’t quite call them pantomime troops, but they don’t figure prominently on the re-enactors’ radars, which is usually a good indication of perceived military ‘coolness’ amongst hobbyists.

Mussolini was enthusiastic about troops marching along with their shirts off to an extent that would raise eyebrows in these more politically correct times.  Military fashions change, but in the search for 15mm Blackshirt Legion figures it occurred to me that a heap of Peter Pig ‘Japanese in Loin cloths’ figures that are currently unemployed ought to convert nicely.

Shorts, boots and a floppy fez – how hard can it be? I can hear professional sculptors chuckling already. The Blackshirts didn’t generally fight in buff order, but it should make the figures easy to spot without going down the whole fascist glamour route. From the shape of these smart chaps’ hats it seems obvious that the line legionnaire was just as capable of rogering a perfectly good piece of headgear in the field to annoy his superior officers as any modern squaddie. Is that a younger Mimi from Inspector Montalbano that I see on the left of the photo?

I’m not sure if this is the fez below with a higher crown that created a  pouch hanging down the back of the head when worn. I chose to model these hanging to hide the ‘Jap Hat’ sun flaps, rather than ‘pork pie’ fashion as above. Photos of the little chaps in their shorts and fezzes to follow once I have scraped the Milliput off my eyebrows. Merry Christmas!

Black Legion coastal artillery fez. WW2 North Africa. Chris Kemp's Not Quite Mechanised. copyright http://gothicline.wordpress.com/689-2/


Filed under 15mm Miniatures Wargames, Italian Army, Italian Army, Modelling, Western Desert, WWII

Privates on Parade (Soldati Arruolati in Parata)

A splendid box of Italian Desert Infantry arrived from Old Glory Miniatures UK this week. Very lively castings they are too, with much arm waving, shouting and gesticulating. Their jaunty hats and solar topees are most stylish, as are the scarves wrapped around their necks. We shall see if these theatrically martial descendents of the Roman Legions fight as well as did their forefathers.

Stage I : Involved a good deal of  sorting out and parading on the divisional grid square to see where everyone should go. There is usually a lot of shuffling about and raiding of my bits box before ‘eyes front’ and calling the parade to attention. Some redundant Japanese and Dutch Piggies from a previous order were put into the 3rd rank to fill the 45mm mortar slots. The Dutch thought they were being shipped to the Far East!

Stage II : Fill in the missing bits. You can see the scratchbuilt grey-painted 81mm mortars filling a shortfall in the orbat in the front and back. Not OG’s fault – they sent what I asked for, but when the alternative to ordering a pack of 5 mortars is 50, then my razor saw and aluminium rod came out instead.

Stage III : Adjust headgear. This meant filing the ‘Jap hats’ to remove peaks and sun flaps, then filing a groove to turn them into ‘chip bag hats’. A couple of head swaps added pith helmets. Cork is my favourite basing material at present. It cuts and sands easily, is reasonably dimensionally stable  and will accept pins stuck directly into it.

Stage IV : Undercoat. In this case, with a khaki Humbrol spray. I can now relax with a clear conscience that this division is no longer on the ‘lead pile’ and could, at a pinch, fight as a green formation tomorrow if called upon. The metropolitan division is now formed up, so the next step will be to finish the Bersaglieri and Blackshirt Legion regiments.

In the Good Old Days, I used to treat undercoated troops as green, upgrading them gradually as they fought battles, acquiring more paint detail until they eventually became veteran. It provided an incentive to finish stuff.


Filed under 15mm Miniatures Wargames

Rinforzi in arrivo (Reinforcements arrive*)

A couple of boxes of goodies arrived in the post this week. Peter Pig was the quickest, followed shortly by a box of Zvezda from Wonderland Models in Edinburgh. What I should have done this weekend, is get the plastics made up and onto bases for spray painting. What I actually did was to reorganise my existing Italian infantry bases in anticipation of a Command Decision order.

For anyone who is wondering, quite legitimately, why the author of umpire guidelines that specify no base sizes, is rebasing his toys, the following explanation may help :  Real estate and manpower.

My Billy Bookshelf Boxes are of a size that is a fraction too small for most armies’ early war divisions at full orbat. Now that I am modelling mid war divisions, tactical units (platoons and companies) are usually smaller than they were at the beginning of the war. Whereas 30-plus sized platoons were common, now they are more like 20-25 men strong. I use roughly 30mm square (or round) bases a lot, but now 25mm is becoming more common with two figures per base; so smaller base sizes and a bit of judicious thinning of the orbat is enough to squeeze a quart into a pint pot.

2018: I now put 4 figures onto a 30 x 50mm base to represent a battalion in Corps Scale Orbat.

A quick Excel template was useful for making sure that slots in the Orbat were not missed inadvertently, but my orbats are not usually full anyway. Italian XX Corps is coming along nicely. Modelling two armoured divisions, a motorised division, and an infantry division with both colonial and metropolitan troops in it, should suffice. I may be able to get away with just one Besaglieri and one Blackshirt Legion regiment each, as I don’t expect that both armoured divisions will be dismounting their infantry and attacking at the same time. I may well be wrong. A few quick conversions of LMGs into 45mm mortars were required to balance the orbat.

More senior viewers could be forgiven for not spotting in this scale the elegant conversion, with brass rod, of the two prone crew in the front row and the two chaps in the second row behind the MMGs! This qualifies as a ‘not-pointless project‘, defined by Phil Steele, as Peter Pig makes a perfectly good 45mm mortar. However, I have an excess of LMGs, for which NQM doesn’t differentiate, and more 45mm mortars are needed. So that’s that!

  • This translation was just plugged into Google translate, so if anyone knows the correct Italian, I would be grateful to hear it.

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Filed under Italian Army, Modelling, Orbats, Western Desert, WWII

Trains to Tankers

The cake decoration train sat on my workbench for a week as I scratched around for a ‘look’ to disguise its origin. At first it looked a bit like a Radschlepper Ost as the wheels that I found were proportionately oversized for the body. No RSOs ever made it out to the Western Desert though.

Radschlepper Ost copyright http://www.saharahobby.pl

But a bit more rummaging located some 1/72 Airfix 88mm trailer mudguards, which have proved useful before for wooden trucks, so the final product looked more Italian than German. 30 Corps will probably end up using it as a captured tanker anyway.

The end result is closer to the Camioneta Fiat Modello 42, without being in any way an accurate likeness. It’s the sort of thing that the Fiat designers might have come up with if they only had an old cake decoration to start with!

Camioneta Fiat Modello 42 uncredited on the Axis History Forum

Undercoat on the Fiat Torta Decorazione Treno Carburante Petroliera (snappy name, no? ).

A few coats of paint are what’s needed now. I should keep it simple, but the scheme on the Camioneta above looks rather alluring! It’s funny how the unpainted patches that the eye misses always leap out in photos.

Commonsense prevails. Simple desert scheme it is! the three tanker types in the fleet to date.


Filed under 15mm Miniatures Wargames, Logistics, Modelling, Trucks, Wargames, Western Desert, WWII

Tanker Rollout

Heartened by previous favourable comments, the tankers have moved through the paintshop in Tripoli faster than a fat girl racing for the last pie on the plate. Having said that, the tankers look a bit Morris-ey now.

A simple khaki undercoat was followed by desert sand (Humbrol 63), a bit of grey for the tyres and windows, followed by some black lining .That’s it now until they have been played with for a few times and picked up some character. My detail brush is in the foreground. The black lining is done with a superdetail ‘0’.

The train-into-tanker conversion isn’t looking promising yet, but it’s early days. The Barbie pink will have to go!


Filed under 15mm Miniatures Wargames