Saturday, 31 December 2011

Year End Greetings to All!

"Pedal faster Heinrich, pedal faster - we have to be in England by dawn!" - or something to that effect, anyway....

Just wanted to offer my thanks and appreciation to all those who stuck with the rather slow and spotty progress of the Blog during 2011, and particularly those who signed up as Followers or offered comments on what I was up to.

Various circumstances have meant that I have been unable to offer either miniatures/project work or the Blog much attention over the last six months or so, and I realise that what has appeared is largely as a result of the interest shown by regular readers serving as inspiration, so a hearty thanks to you all.

There is, as always, a lot on the back burner planned for the near future, but I don't want to be making promises I can't keep, so I'll just close the year by wishing everyone a happy and miniatures-filled New Year, and hope to see you all again in 2012!

Friday, 23 December 2011

Fleet Scale Sci-Fi: Trekkin' about over Christmas...

Well, having found it very difficult in the latter part of this year to concentrate on spending quality time with miniatures, and in particular advancing the various detailed projects I had on the go, I've decided to have a bit of fun and keep things simple to end 2011.

It looks like hulls and nacelles will be a relatively easy option rather than trying to struggle with uniforms and all their accoutrements, so I'm going to indulge myself with some classic Trek, in the shape of some recent Ebay scores and a few craft from Irregular Miniatures.

As you'll see above, I've managed to lay my hands on a FASA style Klingon D7 and D18, alongside a trio of Romulan Birds of Prey, as well as a pair of already painted craft from Irregular's Sci-Fi range - not strictly canon, of course, being the DYO 13 'Black Star Liner', but I think they look good as proto-Romulan ships - perhaps a developmental stage we never actually saw on-screen...

These are countered by three of the Imperial Faction DYE 11, Perry Class Frigate (Revised) from Irregular, which come with separate old-school style warp nacelles, which as you have no doubt noticed, allow for a variety of mounting options.

Above you can see the basic hull with the nacelles mounted three differing ways - from the left, raised erect in classic Enterprise/Constitution Class stylee, followed by a flat mounting with the miniature's saucer section placed upside down, and then a conventional flat mount, probably as intended by the manufacturer. You must excuse the currently rather clumsy looking application of plasticard that is visible in bracing the latter mountings - I found I needed these to beef up the join, which has to fit into a rather small cut-out in the body of the main hull.

To be fair, the saucer section 'underside' of the miniature is a bit rough in terms of sculpting, but I wanted to use one upside down to add to the available range of vessels - all of course are rather on the small side, so definitely in the Frigate category, but then that should make the match-up with the Aliens all the more challenging....

Not that I am in really in a position to launch these into a gaming scenario in the near future, I merely wanted to paint some cool ships!

The timescale for these is very much immediately post 'The Original Series', I think, or at least will involve ships in combat away from the glamour of Kirk's flagship adventures....

I won't be aiming for super-detailing with them - there are some amazingly talented people out there using micro-decals and such like to produce tiny masterpieces, but I'll be happy with something representative and characterful, with any luck.... of course the Ebay finds mean that I can even cheat on the overall painting process, with most of it done already!

Irregular's current pricing puts the DYE11 Perry (revised) at just £1.20 each, which even given their relatively diminutive size, is pretty darn good, considering how much Trek-related stuff normally costs, so I am quite pleased with these 'not-Trek' stand-ins, and will proudly use them to fly the Federa.....ahem, I mean 'Imperial' flag....

Monday, 12 December 2011

Fleet Scale Sci-Fi: A Flying Sauce!

Well, if not a flying sauce, then at least some flying cheek in presenting a few photos of the quickest and cheapest Fleet Scale Sci-Fi fleet you can imagine - namely Flying Saucers!

Not only are these the simplest of projects, but I can't even claim any credit for either the concept nor the construction - these ships were created by David Crook of 'A Wargaming Oddysey' Blog fame, and merely accosted by myself during a previous Lead Mountain exchange.

David came up with the brilliantly simple and elegant idea of using various makes of flight stand, principally including the GW flying bases as used in Battlefleet Gothic, paired and inverted as 'saucers', topped off with discs cut from wheel sections of cheap plastic AFVs from a boardgame!
On paper, they shouldn't be much to look at, but are so cunningly contrived in reality that even a quick blast of spray black undercoat and some silver gunmetal dry-brush thrashings produced quite a decent fleet in a veritable instant:

Not the finest of photographs, but you should be able to discern the differing types, from large command vessel, fighter carrier (Where David cleverly divided the saucer sections with a plastic slotta base) and plain saucers; a few blobs of various bright colours break up the outline as running lights or perhaps Death-Ray launching ports:

If you have a few such flying bases and stands languishing in your bits box, I heartily recommend this method for creating instant vessels of such an iconic shape - with my leisure time at a high premium recently, these were perfect for the quickest of projects, and the minimum of fuss...

Now, whilst time permits, I'm off to play Invasion of the Saucer Men -

"Keep watching the Skies!"

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Back to the Blog: Predreadnought Photos 15: SpanAm

Back to the 'Blogface', with hopefully a bit more regularity after a period of enforced absence; hoping to ease my way back in to things somewhat gradually, so please indulge the rather soft post, namely another foray into the Pre-Dred photo collection.

These views are all of Spanish-American War U.S. vessels, and I think are unusual in that they show the ships in their wartime grey, rather than the white peace-time scheme so often seen in photos of the time.

Just to kick things off, a quick view of the vessel that started all the ruckus, namely the USS Maine, seen above in a colourised postcard view in a tragically sorry state after being raised as a wreck in 1911-1912.
The photo is by Harris and Brothers, Havana, and is subtitled "as it appeared at 25 foot level". Sadly, the remains of 36 crewmen were found in the wreck, which was re-sunk having been posing a threat to navigation in her original position.

The always informative Spanish American War website has an excellent article here:

First up then, a close-up from a stereographic view from 1898 by B.L. Lingley of the USS Brooklyn on her return from the war at Hampton Roads . Interpreting colour from black and white photography can be problematic, but I think the white flying bridge is a nice guide to provide the contrast showing the wartime grey; the majority of photos of these vessels seem to be from during the 'Victory tour' post the conflict, when they had been spruced up back in their white, so interesting to get a sense of how they actually went into battle:

Moving on, another stereographic close-up, this time the Battleship Indiana, Photograph by James M. Davis for B.W. Kilburn and Co.

A nice head-on view, an Underwood and Underwood stereograph published by J.F. Jarvis, titled U.S. Battleship 'Texas' in her "War Paint":

(did someone forget to paint the bow torpedo-tube cap cover - or maybe just the sun glinting off of it?)

Finally a fine view, copyrighted in 1898 by Strohymeyer and Wyman, we have "Our Grand Battleship Oregon - aft", again from Underwood and Underwood:

A huge stars and bars flying at the stern, and a lovely angle on those gun turrets too!

More photo-sessions to come during this month, including a Chemulpo special, so stay tuned!

(Just a quick note - not too happy about this new fangled Blogger interface "click on a photo and get a slideshow with small photos" guff currently in operation- don't know if it will work for you, but I find if you position the cursor not on the photo itself, but close to its border and then click on it, you get the old style fully clickable close-up that we all know and love.)

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Aeronef: Start of an Ottoman Flotilla....

So, just what have I been up to over the last month-long drought of Blogging activity?
Well, unfortunately various reasons meant that all things miniature-related took a back seat, and I have to apologise for the profound silence settling over Steelonsand Towers - that is not to say, however, that nothing was achieved, merely that I didn't really have time to document it.

Some small work has been done, although in typical fashion, rather than a stringent effort to drive forward existing projects, it has been a case of rushing off at half-cock into pastures new.

3mm ACW? 1/2400th Ironclads? 10mm French Foreign Legion? 2mm 'TNBT'? Aeronef Megacarrier? Errm - about Ottoman Dirigibles?

These of course came about in the wake of the early progress on the Megacarrier, and I might rationalise them as something that would sit alongside the old 'Weird World War I' project and also provide antagonists for the 'Eagle' itself....

I've got a large amount of Aeronef in the shipyard lead pile, thanks mainly to an influx from the lead Mountain exchange with David Crook of awargamingoddysey, so I thought it was time to make a start on them - oh, alright, I was distracted by their shiny newness....

The Flotilla consists of a mixture of medium types, spanning the Muin-Zaffer Cruiser down to the Sakarya Destroyer via what I think looks good as an older type still soldiering on in the inventory, namely the Assari Shevket.

These have so far have had all the base colours blocked in, and are awaiting the final detailing, weathering and washing. I was toying with the idea of painting in a lot of differing coloured areas on the Dig envelopes to represent a patchwork of repairs - those Ottomans often operating on a shoestring at the dusk of their ancient Empire, but haven't yet done this - not sure how it will actually come across in practise at this scale - might just look messy....

For me, the Brigade Models' Dirigibles have a somewhat counter-intuitively more modern look than the traditional Aeronef types - surely they should be a simpler tech than those whizz-bang mysteriously scientific marvels - (Cavorite, Unobtanium, Liftwood hulls etc versus good 'ole Hydrogen) - so I see these as fitting more into a 1914 time frame than say 1880 onwards.

Does this mean I will eventually be producing ships for all sides in Weird WWI, as well as for an earlier more VSF setting, even as far down as some that will challenge the Nemo/Robur intervention in the War of the Pacific, then yes indeed it does - any excuse for careering about all over the shop and modelling multiple, triple layer redundant armies upon armies....!

In this vein, I've even thrown in a Pirate craft, tentatively named the 'Turk's Revenge', a captured Ottoman vessel that has been pressed into service by Sky Pirates circa 1919 or so, or that might be part of the Megacarriers' complement of ships at an earlier date:

More work to do on all this of course, but in the meantime, here's a quick list of some of the sites I've recently stumbled across and found inspirational for Aeronef-related material:

A great discussion about the science itself:

Some Old-school imagineering on this richly resourced page:

Some super scratch-building ideas:

Irregular Miniature's alternatives to Aeronef:

and finally some lovely eye candy:

See you all soon!

Monday, 29 August 2011

Aeronef Mega Carrier Update

A quick update on the progress of the Aeronef Mega carrier, tentatively named 'The Eagle' (Space 1899 I suppose.......), which has seen a quick blast of spray undercoat, and has had the beginnings of the final detailing.

So far this has included various gun turrets, some of the watch parts, and principally, as you will notice, the addition of the brass propellor booms.

The booms were a compromise, in that I felt I needed something relatively sturdy, but that would still look the part - so I made use of some 38mm size square shoulder Cup Hooks from Homebase. I had to hacksaw some of the threaded screw end off on each, as the width of the hull was restricted, and as yet the Lego plastic airscrews are merely plonked over the upright ends, but I think overall, they don't look to bad - at least they won't need painting!

The various watch part flywheels and balances are principally going to form the basis for various contraptions and lifting gear that will enable the entry and exit of lighter-than-air craft into the carrier bays, as well as for a catapult-style 'plane launcher I am planning for the bows.

Obviously, still a long way to go, and lots more detail to add, but I think given her humble beginnings, we are gradually getting there!

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Aeronef Mega Carrier: the monster takes shape...

The shape of the Aeronef Mega Carrier has been decided, in a move that I know might disappoint some viewers, the final form being that of the whole shebang turned turtle.

I shied away from the perhaps more ambitious acres of flight deck meets city-scape idea, and went with something that I felt had more of a VSF ship-of the-sky vibe, as we see in the photo above, the bare model perched atop a couple of those plastic flight stands.

Rather than abandon the sky habitat idea altogether though, I decided to populate the now bare underside with various gubbins that could stand as the basis for structures and weapons mounts:

I also fitted the docking station for Aeronef to the stern, equipped with a small rare-earth magnet that will meld with those usually attached to my ships - seen here is a proto-pirate dirigible, made from an Ottoman Assari Shevket Dig Destroyer, turned on its side, with the funnels removed and the side-mounted weapon bay serving as an upper gondola:

Also glimpsed in the final shot, a growing panoply of bits and bobs that will eventually populate the model - some amazing Lego plastic propellers that I sourced as spares on EBay, and the insides of a defunct watch, as well as the ubiquitous and very useful spare weapons mounts available from Brigade Models:

There is obviously a lot of work to do, not least finding an effective way of mounting those propellers, but have no fear, all the details will appear here in due course; now all I need is a name for the thing.....Robur had his Albatross.....dare I propose the.......Eagle?

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Aeronef Mega Carrier: Upside down again.....

All this talk of turning my Aeronef Mega Carrier/snap-kit monstrosity hull upside down has got me thinking....(always dangerous) I missing a trick here?

The original intent was of course to break away from the modern outlines of the USS Eisenhower base, and create something more charismatically VSF in appearance, when a sudden realisation hit home....

What if I retained the model as conceived, but just turned the whole d*rn thing upside down rather than just the hull part?

In spite of some detailing that would help the craft look older, could I really get away from that tell-tale flat-top look? Merely flipping the model as a whole would take me from this:

To something more like this:

Pretty nifty, no?

Yes, we've lost the acreage of flight deck, and the space available for cityscape-in-the-sky type conurbations has been restricted, but is it just me or does this version look rather better?

Less flat-top and more ship afloat amongst the clouds?

We retain the hangar entrance nooks and crannies, seen here with various 'Nefs and 'planes busting loose, and the original cut-outs for the roller wheels provided with the model allow for some deck-lift action, bringing craft up ready for launch....

I think the flat rim around the hull edge should offer some space for adding weapon mounts, some habitation and other odds and sods, just enough to break up the outline a little - the vast expanse of flat base would now also mean I can affix all sorts of downward-facing gubbins along the same lines - what do we all think - I guess I have to designate this Mad Idea mark II.....

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

3mm ACW - The Union forever, yes it is taking that long...

So, just to prove that it is still ongoing in the midst of my other flights of fancy, a quick sneak peek at some very much 'in-progress' 3mm ACW for the Union side.

Not the best of photos, but at least they prove that I have not been neglecting the boots-on-the-ground type projects entirely, during the recent spate of Real-Life annoyances that have cut down my painting and modelling time.

I found the sea of blue a bit difficult to work with on these small sized figures - the lighter Confederate uniforms made them much easier to see and pick out the odd detail - here that has been a bit tiresome for the old eyes....

I've done most of the work, though, on four Infantry regiments, a battery of Artillery and a dismounted Cavalry unit - so just the basing and we should be up to even par with the Rebels - although of course, their bases still need detailing and sealing....

I've also come up with an idea for a slightly different form of infantry base, depicting a column of infantry advancing to contact covered by more skirmishers - so there should be a few of these on the horizon for a sort of phase II of the project, I suppose.

Toughest so far with these little ones, though, has been approximating the flags at this tiny scale - don't you go counting the number of stripes on those Old Glories, now will you..... hand painting is all very well, just wish Oddzial would start on a range of paper flags and banners!

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Mad Idea No1: Further Aeronef Megacarrier Musings!

Following some really useful comments, suggestions and guidance from the kind readers of this Blog, I have had some further thoughts with regard to Mad Idea No1, as I have now decided to formally call it...

The Aeronef Mega Carrier has a sketched out realisation, with some concrete ideas as to how it might appear, and as you can see in the accompanying photos, I've roughed out how the bare bones will look by cutting out the hull and flat-top, and adding a few bits of scrap plastic here and there.

First off, the consensus of good advice is that the Carrier is more a 'City-in-the-Sky', lair of a super villian, rather than the military vessel of any particular faction - its primary character and appearance will be formed from habitation modules and as the mounting point for various fiendish technological devices, (think Tesla coils/Steam driven Mcguffin machines/Death Rays...) rather than merely being the springboard for its complement of aircraft.

Perhaps it might be the base of the Air Pirates, or even the secret lair of Robur himself....

There will be the capability for both runway and catapult launch and retrieval of aircraft, as well as a docking station at the rear for Aeronef and Dirigible types.

The colour scheme will be boilerplate and black - more ironclad than modern warship, and there will be no particular iconography on display - this to allow a shifting identity dependent on the setting - perhaps removable flags might bear the symbol of Robur the Conqueror or the Ottoman Aether Corsairs....

The first concrete decision is that although I am going to retain the full length of the flight deck, I'm going to try and break the modern look by reversing the hull, and mount it upside down, with the flat top on top - the empty hull will be capped by a plain sheet that will have various protuberances affixed to break up the outline.

This should also offer some neat looking habitation and hangar openings below deck level - it's funny, but the uptuned hull on it's own has me thinking that it would be a good stand in for the Nautilus sub as depicted in the 'League of Extraordinary Gentlemen', as can be seen here:

Of course, the varied plastic scrap currently randomly placed in the photos is but a pale shadow of the eventual cornucopia of junk that will adorn the final product....

But then this is 'just' a mad idea.....right? Never see the light of day, right?
Well, in typical fashion, it is definitely beginning to grow on me - perhaps this latest diversion will be taking over all other projects.....

Further suggestions and comments will be gratefully received!

Hopefully more updates from the SteelonSand Shipyards to come soon.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Pre-Dreadnought Photos 14: Japanese circa 1900

Another entry into the series of original Pre-Dreadnought views now, this time with a Japanese theme, after a recent lucky score on a certain internet auction site saw me acquire a number of interesting original photographic postcards.

The cards in this post are all from a series of photographic images taken I think, in the wake of the successful Japanese involvement in actions against the Boxer Rebellion, and date to perhaps 1901 or thereabouts - I think it is likely that the cards themselves were printed later, probably to cash in on the patriotic upsurge after the all-encompassing victories of the Russo-Japanese War, where anything related to the armed forces of the plucky new Colonial power became hot property both at home and abroad.

The images are interesting in that they show the vessels in their true Pre-Dreadnought colour schemes, before the boring grey tones prevalent by 1905.

Above we have a nice characterful shot of the Battleship Yashima, and below, we see her sister-ship, the Fuji, with a clear view of the forward turret:

(Remember to click the image for a Macro view)

The cards do not display either publisher of photographer's information, but all are titled in both Japanese characters and a transliteration in Roman script, so the Fuji is subtitled 'Nippon Gunkan Fuji' - perhaps therefore, these undivided back cards were aimed at a domestic market, bearing the characters 'Hagaki' or postcard on the reverse, as is common to this era.

Next up a nice stern view of the Armoured Cruiser Tokiwa - in my view, pound for pound one of the best warships afloat circa 1900, having been designed by Philip Watts for Armstrong at Elswick:

Her sister-ship, the Asahi - both were damaged at Tsushima, the latter is reputed to have fired the final salvo that sent the Russian Battleship Borodino to her doom:

Moving down the scale somewhat, a really interesting image that must depict some sort of Naval open-day - perhaps directly in the wake of the conflict of 1900? Certainly wish I was part of the crowd headed for a guided tour of the Takachiho on the left, and the Yoshino on the right:

The Takachiho was famously lost during the siege of TsingTao in 1914, having been torpedoed by the German TBD S90.

Next up, the Takasago, with a lovely clear view of the bow crest, as well as a sentry with rifle on the foredeck!

She is accompanied by the Chiyoda, the oldest of the Japanese Armoured Cruisers, and the first to be fitted with 4.7" QF guns:

Moving swiftly along, we have the Chitose - there is a good Wikipedia page on her here, which contains a short film shot by Thomas Edison of her launch!

Finally we move on to the little ships, namely a couple of Torpedo boats, first the Shinonome,
of the Murakumo class, based on the Thorneycroft 'thirty knot' design:

Then the Hayabusa, the first of four boats built by Normand in France, which were then followed by a further twelve built in Japan itself:

Both of these class of vessels were particularly active in finishing off the floundering Russian Fleet after Tsushima, and effectively destroyed any hopes that the survivors of the main battle might limp away to fight another day....

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Mad Idea No 1: Aeronef Mega Carrier!

Sometimes playing around with cheap rubbish can be fun. As some eagle-eyed regular readers of this Blog may have noticed, there has been precious little on the wargaming and miniatures front this month, but the enforced lay off has enabled me mis-pend the time by indulging in some definite flights of fancy!

Thoroughly enthused by the amazing work on view over at the Arbuthnot's Aeronautical League of Gentlemen Blog, I've come up with a use for a large piece of extremely cheap plastic tat in the form of a snap-together kit of the USS Eisenhower that I discovered on EvilBay for the princely sum of £2.44.

I had originally envisioned using this for some nifty spare parts for some spaceship scratch-building, but was tempted into Mad Idea No 1, namely an Aeronef Mega Carrier along the lines of the USS Langley by the Arbuthnot boys.

My chunk of plastic tops out at 24cm long, and could therefore hold a whole Air Wing of Brigade Models' tiny fighters, for example, the VAN-902 Fixed Wing Fighter as we see in their rough state here:

Now the snap-kit itself is, to be blunt, a crime against scale modelling and although from a Chinese company, interestingly the parts are marked internally as both being 'made in Italy' and 'made in Israel'......!

The WHSmith mini marker pens mentioned previously on this Blog are laid out to give an idea of what this monster might look like with Dirigible booms - should it ever see the light of day.

Some suitably VSF-style deck accoutrements should spruce her up a little, although I'm undecided as to whether to actually use the lower hull, as included in the original kit:

You'll note that the kit's maker has given the Eisenhower the interesting aircraft choice of what appears to be SU-25 Frogfoots and GR1 Harriers - or are they the naval version of the YAK-38 Forger? :-)

The Conning tower pieces should at least provide some ready made nautical-looking bits and bobs....

So how might this monster scale out against actual Aeronef?

Well, up against a VAN-2003 Turkish Muin-i-Zaffer as we see above, pretty d*rn big - it's going to need a rather large flight stand of it's own, I think.....

Of course this outrageous example of becoming side tracked away from my more mainstream projects has not progressed much beyond the mad genius cackling stage, but would be a real conversation-stopper should she ever grace an gaming table. In the meantime, though, never fear, I've managed to put a little work into the Union side for the 3mm ACW project, and have been playing around with some Fleet Scale Sci-fi, all of which should begin to appear on the Blog in the coming month.

So, apologies for the recent sparsity of posts, and see you all in August!