Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Sculpting Pistols

Howdy, pilgrims,
Today's post concerns the way pistols are depicted on 40mm miniatures. One of the challenges of sculpting any military miniature is making weapons to scale. If gun barrels were 1:48th the diameter of a real .45 caliber pistol barrel, it would be as thin or thinner as a guitar string. Even if you could cast it reliably, it would be so fragile it would snap off with the slightest handling. Here are some photos of people holding real weapons.

First, a so-called "Pocket Navy." If you are playing Warhammer's Legends of the Old West, it would be a typical "sixgun". They were popular weapons because of the speed with which they could be brought into action. Large guns like the Walker Colt were totally impractical as a street fighting weapon due to their bulk:

Here are a number of Colt's cap-and-ball pistols. Notice the variety of sizes available:

Here's a feller on horseback carrying a Peacemaker. Notice how small the gun appears in his hand, especially with the large animal in close proximity:

This reenactor is firing a Peacemaker (or perhaps a Frontier), considered a "Heavy Pistol" in Warhammer's Legends of the Old West:

Finally, here's another "heavy pistol" as defined by LOTW; in this case, a Colt's 1851 Navy:

It's easy to see how delicate a gun diligently modeled to scale would be when scaled down. Sculptors, therefore, have to make compromises. Guns have to be made thicker to be durable, but not so large as to resemble artillery. When you make a gun thicker, you have to be careful how long you make it, otherwise the visual effect produced by the overall massiveness of the gun will make the entire figure look ridiculous. Here are four types of guns I have sculpted for Knuckleduster's 40mm figures:

First, a LOTW "sixgun"; in this case, an 1851 Colt's Navy Sheriff's Model.  I have chosen to use small sixguns like these on a number of my sculpts:

Next, a .45 Peacemaker with a 7.5"-length barrel:

Here's a derringer (the generic term; the first company to produce them was called "Deringer," with one "r"):

Finally, here's a full-size Navy revolver:

Finally, a figure on horseback holding a Pocket Navy. Compare this figure to the mounted reenactor previously shown:

The real advantage of 40mm over 28mm, is that weapons can be made a bit more delicate while still retaining the strength needed for handling.

I'd like to put in a good word for the Single Action Shooting Society (SASS).  Some of the reenactors pictured on this post compete in Cowboy Action Shooting, a championship target shooting sport which a lot of really nice guys participate in all over the world. The skill, knowledge, and safety record of this organization really can't be beat. We toy soldier people can learn a lot from what they do. More info is available at http://www.sassnet.com/index.php

Until next time, Adios!
Forrest Harris
Ol' Knuckleduster

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Johnny Fandango

Here are a few photos of Johnny Fandango, a character I created from Knuckleduster's Outlaws packs (mounted and dismounted). He is meant to be a Texas outlaw of the sort that roamed the Southwest in the 1880's. There were many loosly-affiliated bands of outlaws who operated in West Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona during this period, rustling, robbing, and causing considerable mayhem. The "Cowboys" of Tombstone fame are typical of the breed.

This hobre features a really capital horse, and a fancy stitched coat. For the stitiching, I chose the "yellow rose of Texas" theme. The roses can be seen in various places on the coat (sorry about the photo quality--I'm still learning). He's toting a pair of Colt's cap and ball "Pocket Navies," which are quick to bring into action. 

The next photo shows another character I created with the same body, but a different head.
Ol' Knuckleduster

New Knuckleduster Greens

Howdy, folks!
It was recently suggested to me that I should post my work in progress. I've never been in the habit of doing so, but I can understand how it might be fun to get a sneak peek of what's coming down the pike.

These four characters are among six new items I hope to have finished within a couple of weeks. The are, from left to right, Pat Garrett, Chavez, Rancher's Daughter, and Billy the Kid. Billy will come with a number of different heads, since he has been portrayed many different ways (with many different hats).

I have many other pieces on the workbench, however I'm not at liberty to display them since they are private commissions. I'd be happy to answer questions you might have about these sculpts, or to take suggestions for future projects. Drop me a line at knuckledusterharris@gmail.com or post a comment on this blog.

All the best,
Forrest Harris
Ol' Knuckleduster

Basic Scratchbuilding, Part III; Cedar Shake Roof Construction

A cedar shake roof is a bit tedious, but it well worth doing, and not as hard as it looks.

I cut the shakes en masse to begin with. Each course is about an inch long. To make life easier, I first cut one-inch swaths across the grain of a wide piece of 1/32" balsa. 

I then snap the pieces off to make rectangular shakes.

I lay the shakes down in courses. The shakes should run about a quarter of an inch off all edges--you can trim them back later if one side needs to be flush with a wall. I run a bead of glue in two lines for each course: one line where the bottom of the shake will meet the previous course, and one where the top of the shake meets the roof. When all the courses are complete, you can trim out the ridgeline with shakes running the other direction.

Cut a piece of Masonite hardboard and hot-glue the model to it. I usually do this before building the porch, which makes assembly a bit easier.

Paint your building dark sepia, they dry-brush it up to the desired color. For natural wood, this takes some experimentation with various shades of brown and tan to find the effect you're looking for. I opted for a very weathered look, however you might want a young town with brighter wood.

Good luck and if you have a question, feel free to drop me a line at knuckledusterharris@gmail.com.

Ol' Knuckleduster

Friday, March 13, 2009

Basic Scratchbuilding, Part II; Building Construction

Welcome to part two of my scratchbuilding tutorial. Although only trial-and-error will teach you the nuances of how the process works, it is my hope that I can provide you with a foundation that will both help you avoid some of the big mistakes I made while learning, and show you that it's really not that difficult after all.

A note about the photos. They're not all from the same building! They were taken at random during the construction of an entire town for a convention this winter, at which time I had no idea I'd be writing this article. They illustrate the techniques, but not the construction of any one particular building.  

The first step is to design the building on paper. A 40mm scale saloon should be about six inches wide and seven inches deep.  I design the floor to sit inside the walls rather than using the floor as a platform for the walls. I design the side walls to be the same length as the floor and the front and back walls to go on last and cover the ends of the sides (they need to be wider by double the thickness of the walls, 3/16",  in order to cover them; so instead of 6 inches wide, make the front and rear walls 6 3/8" wide). The walls should be about 3" tall, and the roof is made by cutting out a triangular truss and gluing two roof plates to it.

Your basic measurements for aforementioned saloon would be:
Floor: 6 x 7"
2 side walls: 3 x 7"
Front, 7 x 6 3/8
Rear: 6 3/8" wide. 3" tall on each side and 5" tall at the peak.
Roof: One panel 7 1/4 x 4" and another 7 1/4 x 4 3/16 . The wide panel will overlap the narrow panel at the peak, although the angle will not be perfectly 90%. You will need to trim the excess a bit.
Truss: a little triangular piece three inches long on the bottom and the same angle as the peak of the back wall.

Should I every really get ambitious, I will create a file of "blueprints." You can create your own designs by studying photographs of old western buildings or using commercially available cardstock buildings such as Whitewash City as a pattern, making adjustments to account for the 3/16" wall thickness.

Once the basic design is made, mark your foam core, making sure everything is square. Slice the pieces out with a razor knife. Take care not to slice your fingers off during this step, since it slows down the remainder of the process and leaves nasty stains on the finished model.

Last time, I gave you a laundry list of tools and materials.  Not included on that list were ready-made architectural elements. I recommend using pre-assembled plastic or metal windows and doors--they don't cost a lot, and save you a lot of time. I've found that building the windows and doors is the most time-consuming part of scratchbuilding. 

If you are using ready-made architectural elements like these, mark their position carefully on the walls and make the cuts before assembly of the building . Make sure you have thought through what part of the window or door needs to be recessed, so that you don't end up cutting a hole too large. Test fit before you continue assembly in case you need to throw out a wall and start over.

After the cuts are made, do your basic assembly with a hot glue gun, wiping off the excess before it hardens (don't use your fingers!). The photo below is sans its front so you can see how it is constructed, and its roof, which will not be attached to the building permanently. At this stage, it is quite imperfect; don't let this discourage you; the siding and details will cover the imperfections.

It is important to assemble the building completely before gluing on the siding. Assembly helps protect the walls from warping, since they are held straight on three edges.

After the building is assembled, measure and cut siding. I do it in large batches, which saves time in the long run.

When cutting trim, I use the snips a lot. I tend to keep them in one hand and snip about every third piece in half to create butt joints in the middle of the wall for a nice rough look.  I don't worry about cutting each piece of siding to precise length during gluing. Rather, I leave the siding hanging over the top and trim the entire wall at once after the glue dries. This one simple technique saves an immense amount of time and fuss.

Glue the siding in place. To minimize warping, take care not to use more glue than you really need to get the siding to stick.  If a piece of siding wants to curl, super-glue the ends in place while the white glue dries. Trim out the corners with additional balsa.

Using ready-made or homemade architectural elements, trim out the building. Super glue is very useful for securing these delicate parts. I have used Grandtline's porch railings and gingerbread trim to great effect, and I use my own Knuckleduster pre-cast windows and doors. Trim work requires some research. I have found numerous photos of old buildings on the web.

Next time we'll make a cedar shake roof.

Until then, Adios!
Ol' Knuckleduster

Basic Scratchbuilding, Part I; Tools and Materials

Howdy, Pilgrims!
I prefer scratch-built buildings to resin for three reasons. First, they're cheaper and odd bits of scrap can be put to good use, sometimes in very creative ways (turning scrap balsa into a pile of lumber to hide behind, for instance). Second, they're lighter than resin and more resiliant; that is, less prone to paint or resin chipping off. Third, there are no resin buildings available for 40mm Old West at the present, so if you want buildings at all, you have to build them yourself.

First, let's discuss tools. Good tools will save you time and frustration in the long run. 

In the first photograph, I've shown a number of essential tools:

1.  Cutting board: this is simply scrap wood meant to protect your desk or table from the razor knife.
2.  Foam core: the standard thickness is 3/16". It's easily cut, and easily glued together. It sometimes warps when excessive amounts of glue are used for siding, however its benefits more than make up for that particular drawback. Besides, old buildings often warp! Black foam core is pictured, however white is ok.
3.  Cutting tools: all must be perfectly sharp, because dull tools are frustrating to work with and will cause mistakes. Box cutters are good for the really big cuts to carve up your foam core. The Exacto knife is useful for cutting out doorways and windows. The gate cutters (snips) are useful for quickly cutting balsa siding to length.
4.  Measuring tools: make sure the edge isn't made of something that will be sliced up by your knives. I like metal rulers for that reason. A square is essential for marking your foam-core wall sections. A good, cheap square is simply a piece of paper (their corners are perfectly square).
5. Glue: white glue for siding, Super Glue for tacking down the ends of siding that wants to warp. Not pictured, but essential: hot glue gun.
6. Balsa and basswood: 1/32" thickness balsa works well for siding. 1/16" balsa works well for trimwork around doors and windows. Basswood should be used for anything that might break, like porch posts. I don't show cardstock in the photo, but I use strips of cereal boxes for lap-siding (clapboard), because even thin balsa is far too thick.

In the second photo, I've shown a few more specialty tools that are not essential, but make life easier.

1. This chopper holds the blade square and has jigs that allow you to set a particular length and make identical cuts repeatedly.
2. When cutting basswood, this mitre box and jewel saw give you nice square cuts.
3. Use a sanding block and nail file to clean up the end of messy cuts.

In the next post, I'll show you how to use this advanced technology to turn styrofoam, paper, and balsa wood into Tombstone!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Big Game at Little Wars '09

Knuckleduster exhibited this February at Little Wars in Lincolnshire (Chicago suburb), the yearly convention run by HMGS-Midwest. In addition to having a sales booth in the exhibition hall, we ran two games, each attended by about eight players. Here are a couple of photos kindly sent to me by one of the guys.

We used the classic version of Desperado and a table full of Knuckleduster 40mm figures and scratch-built terrain. I had a lot of help from Kevin Brown of CITW (as always) and another local, James Harness, who has a smashin' 28mm setup of his own and is known to run some pretty interesting games over Peoria way. Here's Kevin (in the red shirt) keeping a watchful eye on the action . . .

These buildings are made from foam core, balsa wood, and Knuckleduster's generic pre-cast architectural details. They're mounted on masonite bases. It's a pretty inexpensive setup. I'll explain more about how to construct these kinds of buildings in other posts, but take note of how the buildings fit on the table. There is an interesting dynamic with 40mm; buildings are larger (I suppose if they were resin, they would cost more than 28mm), but it takes fewer buildings to fill a table. In the Old West, gunfights rarely ranged over block after block like a military skirmish; they occured in short bursts of violence in an alley or streetcorner. A concern some folks have is that 40mm buildings will look too massive. To that, I would say, judge for yourself from the photos. They are only 50% larger than 28mm (3 to 2 bigger), after all.

The scenario we played featured an evil mining baron, Finneas Burns, and his henchmen vs. a gang of cowboys and a couple of good-hearted sisters of the demimonde, who used their feminine charms to lift the keys to the hooskow from an unsuspecting marshal. A massive fusilade ensued as the cowboys attempted to pick up their liberated comrade and escape the hail of bullets hurled at them by the mining company thugs. In both game sessions, the scenario was played to the last man standing.

Here are a couple of the ne'er-do-wells the cowboys were hoping to chase out of town; Doc Holliday and Big-Nose Kate, who had built quite a reputation for relieving unsuspecting cowhands of their hard-earned pay at the card table on a Saturday night.

This alley was a trap for the cowboys each time the game was played. It was a tempting shortcut to the backlot where the hooskow was situated, however the windows proved fatal loopholes for their enemies to snipe at them from. One of the cowboys was blown off his horse by a dove with a derringer (spelled "deringer" when referring to derringers made by the Deringer company). The poor fellers pictured below are about to feel the sting of battle . . .

Adios, pards, and as always, visit my store at http://www.knuckleduster.com/.

Ol' Knuckleduster

Welcome to Knuckleduster's 40mm Blog!

Welcome to my blog about collecting, painting, and wargaming with military miniatures in 40mm scale, also known as 1:48 scale, 1/4" scale, or O-Gauge. Herein, you will find articles and photos about my own experience collecting, painting, sculpting, and gaming in this fascinating scale, as well as general news from Knuckleduster Miniatures, including 40 and 28mm workbench photos and painting tutorials.
A growing number of companies, including my own, have been producing 40mm figures, some for quite some time. Perry Miniatures, Sash and Saber, Hounourable Lead Boilersuit Company, Dixon, Trident, Doug Miller, Germania Figuren, Preiser, First Legion, Flashing Blade and Knuckleduster all have 40mm lines. The periods covered include Renaissance, Border Reivers, Pirates, Civil War, AWI, Napoleonics, and Old West, to name a few.
Why 40mm? I get asked all the time. Bashing this scale is almost a hobby in itself. It's too big. It's too expensive. What about buildings and terrain? I hope to eventually address these points, and if I can't convert you, at least show you why some of us are so fascinated by this scale.
Ol' Knuckleduster