Thursday, June 19, 2008

the artillery park...

In a previous post I mentioned picking up some artillery pieces at the Columbus Toy Soldier show. Cool stuff. It was a pleasure painting them, no eyes, no belts, no draped fabric to shade. Just hardware. Wood, bronze and iron. I had previously slapped some paint on a BMC American Revolution cannon but hadn't bothered to finish it. But once I got some paint on the other three gunnes, I had to do some detailing on the little BMC.

My intention is that the BMC and Marx cannons will be used in both the ECW games and (when I get to it) my 54mm AWI games. So, I painted the BMC carriage a rusty red (sort of like the French and Americans used in the Revolution) and the Marx I painted gray. Both received bronze tubes and while not quite accurate I painted the fittings a dark metallic iron. Historically, the fittings would probably have been painted black (as well as any iron barrels) but I wanted that "oooooh shiny" factor.

The other two gunnes in the collection, the Call to Arms model and the Barzso leviathan, are clearly 17th century pieces and wouldn't look right in AWI games. Though, with a wheel swap the Barzso may make a pretty decent Rev War siege piece for a Yorktown battle, I suppose.

So just what type of 17th century artillery would these models represent? Measuring the barrels and doing a bit of research I think the BMC gunne with a barrel length of 50mm (5.5 feet) will work as a 6# saker. The Call to Arms gunne has a barrel length of 70mm (about 7.7 feet) and I think this puts it in the 8# to 12# demi-culverin class. Likewise, the Marx gunne has a length of 60mm (6.6 feet) and could also be used as a demi-culverin. But it should be noted that the Marx barrel has a much smaller length to bore ratio that would be uncommon for these early artillery pieces. Its carriage is also quite large for this type of gun. The Barzso gunne has a barrel length of 95mm (approximately 10.5 feet). I think this would fall into the 30# to 50# cannon class. Not something you'd see on the battlefield. But that won't stop me from using it anyway!

Once the gunnes were painted they needed crews. I dug the 12 remaining artillerists out of the bit-box. Since I'd been fairly successful in using a glue-varnish-paint-wash-varnish technique with the Yellow Dogs, I decided to try it again. But, feeling a little too cocky I was overconfident when applying the acrylic varnish. I shook the varnish vigorously and brushed it on heavily assuming that the bubbles would pop as the varnish dried. Hmmm... no. I ended up with a thick, detail obscuring, pitted layer of varnish.

Since the details of the figures were no longer so... uh, detailed... due to the thickness of the varnish (and the fact that I'd created new unwanted details in the form of tiny pits where the bubbles had eventually popped) using a wash to pick out the details was not successful. So I ended up painting in the shadows and doing some dry-brushing for the highlights. If I weren't so lazy I would have tried to strip the figures and start over. I'm still lazy, but I'll be more careful when applying the first coat of varnish for now on. After all is said and done, though, the hand shading compensates for the obscured detailing. I suspect most people won't notice it unless it's pointed out to them. So if I just keep my trap shut I won't look too much the fool. Ooops, did I just say that out loud?

I'm still undecided as to what to do about the figure bases in this project. Up to this point I've put minimal labor into them--just a slap-dash of green paint on some foam core to keep an 'old school' look to them. Some of the early units have been flocked. I am tempted, though, to start adding terrain effects to the stands. It's a Yin vs. Yang battle between my modeling instincts and my gamer instincts. "Fast, easy, cheap" vs. a detail oriented nature.   Flat natural shading vs. high gloss finish. Detail vs. speed. I feel that the artillery pieces in particular would benefit from terrained bases.  The big Barzso cannon really calls out for some earthworks. After all, it's not something that the crew is going to be prolonging along during the battle.

As always, please forgive the less than crisp nature of the photos. See previous posts regarding my Auto-Focus nemesis.

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