Thursday, 6 May 2021

90 Day Gunboats

There were 23 of the ‘90 Day’ gunboats built for the Union and they had short but active service lives. Being built from unseasoned timber certainly did not help with their longevity!

 For the record I have built two of these but this is the only one that is finished as the guns are not ready for the second. It has been a learning experience assembling the artillery and so I am better prepared for the next batch!

To be strictly accurate the ship should have gunwales but I have yet to work out an effective way to model these. I gave the whole problem some thought and I reckon I have an answer so watch this space. 

I will have a brace of similar looking Confederate vessels to build but these will be slightly different - three masts and 6 guns to be exact!

I am rather pleased with how she turned out and after tomorrow there will be 16 models left to build.

I have a deadline of sorts in that I shall be back in the office from July 1st so I definitely want t have all the models built by then.

No pressure then....

Tuesday, 4 May 2021

More on Deck Guns and Gunboats

Gun locations on a 90 Day Gunboat. The two sizes of gun can be clearly seen - the larger calibre centrally mounted pivot gun and the three other smaller pieces. 

After some experimentation  I came up with a solution for making smaller calibre artillery pieces using the standard naval gun carriage. It is very simple. I merely cut the spacer and trim back the lower rear edge of the carriage and use a slightly smaller piece of cocktail stick for the barrel. I am using 10mm for the larger calibre and 7.5mm for the smaller which gives enough visual difference between the two types.

One thing I have settled on is that I shall paint cocktail sticks black and will cut the gun barrels off as I need them meaning that all I have to do will be to shape the rear of the barrel and touch it up in black. This will be easier than painting them after having cut them out!

These are easy enough to make but are quite fiddly all the same. Having said that they are an essential feature on a number of vessels I am planning to build (and retro fitting some existing models) so having a simple template to work with is hugely advantageous.

Going forwards the same basic principle could be used with other vessels although for earlier types I would want to make a more typical looking gun carriage - for example the usual Napoleonic style nava carriage. Something to think about anyway.

Monday, 3 May 2021

Deck Guns and Gunboats

A naval gun carriage - MDF style!

 It has been a quiet, family focussed bank holiday weekend - our grandson was with us - so very little gaming related ‘stuff’ has been tackled other than trying out my newly cut gun carriages for the ACW naval project.

Many of the vessels in use during the ACW featured deck mounted artillery - either purpose built and designed that way or when converted from civilian use - so I needed to be able to include these on some of my models. Originally I planned to use the guns available from Peter Pig in 1:600th but these look too detailed as well as being too small. I came up with with stylised design for a deck mounted naval gun carriage and duly ordered the same from Warbases. These arrived a short while ago and as my latest batch of models features gunboats on which this type of weapon featured it made sense for me to take a look at how they went together.

Essentially there are two carriage ‘cheeks’ and a central spacer. This is deliberately longer than the carriage pieces to represent the railed pivot style mount that some of this ordinance employed. If the guns are fixed in place rather than pivot mounted then all I would do would be cut the central spacer back to the edge of the carriage ‘cheeks’ and then pare the smaller edges back a touch. This would serve to differentiate the larger artillery from the smaller and when the first of the ‘90 Day’ gunboats are ready you will see what I am rambling on about.  The gun barrel itself is furnished from a 1cm long piece of cocktail stick with one end filed into a curved shape. The size of the spacer to which the two carriage cheeks are glued is exactly the same width as a standard wooden cocktail stick - a cunning design feature for which I can take no credit for!

The beginnings of one of two 90 Day gunboats currently under construction. The masts are not quite finished and are not fixed in place. The remaining three guns on this class of vessel are of a smaller calibre with one mounted forward (you can see the drawn location) and the other two mounted on either beam near the rear mast. The ‘pivot gun’ you see will be about an inch further forward in the final version - the funnel will be where the gun barrel is!

I currently have a pair of ‘90 Day’ gunboats for the Union and a couple of similar types for the Confederates. Each of these will need four gun models. 

I am really pleased with how these have come out and whilst in the pictures they are unpainted and indeed, in the case of the ship, unfinished, they look pretty good and fully in keeping with the level of detail I have been working to.

Thursday, 29 April 2021

Monitoring the Confederates

 Union monitors. The two new additions are on the right of each row with the U.S.S. Monitor at the bottom.

An end of sorts. I have completed the Union monitors for the ACW naval project and these cover a nice range of the types that were completed. In truth the collection is rather top heavy with a triple and two double turreted types as opposed to three single turret versions. I am not overly concerned by this as the likelihood of of them being used at the same is remote but it is nice to have the choice.

My version of the U.S.S. Monitor

I opted for the U.S.S. Monitor as she is such an iconic ship it would have been rude not to include her - along with the C.S.S. Virginia when I get to her.

The C.S.S. Louisiana - note the two wheel houses. She had two paddle wheels and two screws to aid with manoeuvring. This was not an efficient method of propulsion as the lead wheel interfered with the following one and created eddies around the rudders making her difficult to manoeuvre.

For the Confederates I have converted the generic large sized casemate ironclad into the C.S.S. Louisiana, She was one of two large ironclads (the other being C.S.S. Mississippi) that, if completed with a decent power plant and the requisite artillery, could potentially have been rather effective. As it was and like the C.S.S. Georgia, she was used as a floating battery during her short career. Very imposing looking though.

Union monitors and a Confederate casemate ironclad

For good order sake the three models completed today are shown above. The next batch of models will be seven strong - three for the Union and four for the Confederates - which will see the last of the Rebel gunboats commissioned.

That is 42 models completed.

Pretty darned good I reckon!

Napoleonic Forward Planning

Useful reading material for a future project - but which one?

 My plans to undertake a Napoleonic naval based project using a combination of Black Seas models and 15mm figures for the land elements are kind of in hand although I do not expect to be doing anything towards it until the new year. I have two possibilities to consider, the first of which would enable me to use much of the scenic material (still yet to be acquired) that will be used with the 17th century pirate set up - namely Caribbean looking. The second idea - and the one I originally planned to tackle using 20mm figures - featured the Eastern theatre of the Spanish peninsula circa 1810 and later. I do not profess to be an expert in either so I am relying on the two books you see above to provide me with some useful background. 

From a practicality perspective I am thinking that the Spanish option would be easier to organise - certainly from the perspective of suitable figures if nothing else - as well as being different from the Caribbean. Finding suitable models for the forces involved during the earlier years of the Napoleonic Wars, especially pre 1805 and ‘overseas, colonial types’ may prove to be challenge larger than I would care to take on. Bearing in mind that the land forces will be modest - I am looking at combined arms style operations, raids and similar - I may be able to ‘wing it’ in terms of figures but will have to wait and see.

For more information on the two books see below - front cover and then the rear.

I have plenty of time to think about this particular project and indeed, the ships will be tackled first in any event. I want to enjoy the experience as the ships I fully intend rigging and finishing them to as high a standard as I can. This is why there will not be too many of them!

Wednesday, 28 April 2021

“A Cheesebox on a Raft”

Up close and personal - The U.S.S. Monitor and the C.S.S. Virginia trading short range shots during the Battle of Hampton Roads 

Ok then, I have not followed my ship building plan entirely but it is still heading in the right direction! Yesterday I began work on the first models of the final batch for the ACW project. The first of these featured a reworking of the largest of the Confederate casemate ironclads into something a little more historical looking. Work on this has progressed to the undercoating stage so she will be making her appearance in a day or so. Whilst I was waiting on some glue to dry I decided to tackle a couple of additional simple models that were part of the programme but were originally intended to be built last of all. The two ships are for the Union and are both Monitors.

The first of them is the famous U.S.S. Monitor herself - and she must have taken me all of five minutes to build! She has the distinction of being the only model in my collection that does not have a funnel! I will also be building the Confederate C.S.S. Virginia at little later although she will require rather more work than her famous adversary. The other monitor is another twin turreted Monadnock type. By adding these two models the Union monitor strength will be six vessels from the enormous triple turreted white elephant the U.S.S. Roanoke down to the originator of the the type, the U.S.S. Monitor herself. 

As with the mystery Confederate ship I am working on the monitors will make their appearance in a day or so. This will be three models down and seventeen to go!

Tuesday, 27 April 2021

ACW Naval Endgame and Black Seas

Thoroughbred Miniatures double ended Ferry adapted as a gunboat. Note the ‘walking beam’ engine assembly 

The ‘walking beam’ as translated by Warbases

It was a good day yesterday and for the first time in several weeks I actually feel quite positive about the future. The ongoing domestic situation took a dramatic turn for the better yesterday and at last (despite a last minute hiccup of an administrative nature) the steps are in place to address and hopefully, in time, resolve the issue. The change in the atmosphere at Chez Crook is noticeable and certainly most welcome! As an aside a big thank you to all those that offered their best wishes during this ongoing episode - it has been much appreciated.

My Warbases order arrived and as you would have seen from my blog post of yesterday I am at last in the position of being able to complete the ACW naval project - at least as far as the ship models are concerned. The last phase will be - perhaps unsurprisingly - rather larger than I originally intended and is looking like it will be nudging some 20 models! Some of these will be quite straightforward to build, others less so. There are also a couple of rebuilds factored into this although I am having second thoughts about one of them. 

A number of the ships I will be building feature the ‘walking beam’ assembly as well as deck mounted artillery. Both of these are quite fiddly to put together so my plan is to assemble the whole lot en masse and then add them to the models as required. I would prefer to get all the fiddly stuff dealt with in one batch especially as I have to shape some 25 gun barrels from cocktail sticks in two lengths! I shall look to do these two tasks first of all methinks as I have yet to work out the building order of the remaining ships.

The picture you see at the head of this post is of one of the double ended ferries pressed into Union service. A fair number of these were used and I am planning on building three of them. I shall also be adding to the Union another couple of monitors, another couple of city class gunboats (possibly just one with the U.S.S. Chillicothe - I have yet to are a final decision on this), three ‘90 day gunboats’ and a couple of fully masted types. The Confederates will be getting another couple of ironclads, four more gunboat types (again I have yet to decide on which) a commerce raider and a blockade runner. If this all seems a little fluid then I hold my hand up - guilty as charged! I have not been able to nail it down as tightly as I would liked to have done for obvious reasons.

The two models currently earmarked for rebuilding. The Confederate casemate ironclad will definitely be reconfigured but the jury is out on the Union ship as it may take rather more work to change.

Finally, a big shout out to Warlord Games Customer Service. If you recall I was gifted an untouched and unused copy of Black Seas a short while ago, along with some other bits and pieces, from that very nice chap The Jolly Broom Man. Unfortunately one of the Brigs had a gun barrel sheared off - a small thing but  quite noticeable. More from hope than expectation I contacted Warlord to see if I could get a replacement - for which I was happy to pay for I might add - and lo and behold they came back to me within a couple of days, acknowledged the issue (they needed to know the packing slip details) and sent me a replacement free of charge. During the exchange of emails I rather cheekily asked about getting one of their sheets of Spanish flags and to my surprise and delight they popped one of these in with the replacement Brig sprue.

Really good service from Warlord - especially considering that it was a rather speculative request!

For the Black Seas Napoleonic project (when I get to it) I reckon I have a pretty good starting point although at some point I will add some Schooners and perhaps cutters. It is a way off yet so I will park it for later consideration. 

Taking all of the above into consideration I am feeling rather more energised than I have for sometime so let us hope I can translate this ‘feel good factor’ into something tangible!