Wednesday, 26 May 2021

Five More and Fifty Not Out

From left to right a Union Frigate, two ‘old navy’ sloops and a war built sloop. The sole Confederate on the right is designed as a commerce raider inspired by the C.S.S. Alabama - the similar looking vessel alongside her is based on the U.S.S. Kearsage 

They took slightly longer than I expected but above are the latest additions to the ACW collection - five models in all meaning that I have reached fifty in total!

There are four ships for the Union and a single one for the Confederates. The three chequered looking ships with the rather natty white stripe around the hull, white gun ports and white masts represent what I like to think of as ‘old navy’. The larger of the three I shall be using as a frigate whilst the other two will be sloops. They are roughly the same size but there are some differences in the overall build. The frigate is five layers deep whereas the sloops are four. The rig for the sloops is also slightly lighter. 

The frigate (in the centre) has an extra layer of hull to her and her pivot artillery is mounted more towards the ships extremities than for the two sloops. Her rig is also slightly heavier

The number of gun ports is purely representational but overall looks pretty effective.

Hunter and hunted - just right for a dust up just off Cherbourg!

The other two are loosely based on the famous U.S.S. Kearsage and the Confederate commerce raider C.S.S. Alabama. These are later built ships and so are not only plainer looking but also have a reduced rig.

The remaining ten models for the build will be in two batches. The first of these will be started next and will consist of a pair of Union river ironclads whilst the Confederates will be getting a blockade runner and a gunboat. The final six - which are waiting on Warbases - will be a selection of gunboats for both sides.

I am really pleased with how these came out and they will help to round out my collection nicely. I have some ideas around the old naval wargaming standard of ‘Hunt the Raider’ so the ‘not quite’ C.S.S. Alabama will come in useful. Now that I have some blue water ships the potential for the collection is much greater. I also have the pair of C.S.S Stonewall types I can call upon as well. Some of the scenario ideas I am flirting with can be seen in the pictures below - there are two historical and one that based on an action from a different war but seemed kind of appropriate.

Day two of Hampton Roads with the frigate serving as the grounded U.S.S. Minnesota

One on one off the French Coast

An ironclad ram versus a frigate and two sloops - somewhere off the coast of South America. I doubt if either side will get victory handed on a plate....

So the collection now extends from the rivers to the high seas via the coast - there is a lot of good gaming to be had across this broad canvas and I intend making sure that I do!

Monday, 24 May 2021

ACW Ship Models: The Reason(s) Why

 Things have certainly moved on since I sat down to build the U.S.S. Roanoke some eight months ago!

Now that I am staring down the barrel of a completed building programme I figured that it would be a good opportunity to explain the whys and wherefores of how I got to where I have gotten to. It is not a ‘how to’ kind of post - more like ‘whys and wherefores’ one!

Straight Lines and Hulls

When I first built a selection of models for the ACW some eight years ago I used primarily Balsa wood for the hulls. These were all carefully shaped by hand - taking quite some time I might add - but all had one thing in common. The main length of the hull sides was always straight. The reason for this was simply because all of my casemates are built with straight sides as they are easier to fashion using my usual method. My casemates are built using a solid central block of the appropriate size with the casemate faces angled and glued against it. As I use wooden craft sticks for the casemate faces curves are not really practical so straight sides to the hull it is.

Straight sides, casemates and paddle boxes. The three hulls in the foreground became a pair of City Class gunboats and the C.S.S. Missouri. You can see where the bows needed reshaping to get that distinctive stubby look. Note the bag of 5mm card squares - a ship modelling godsend!

The biggest single change this time around is that instead of Balsa wood my models are now largely made from MDF, professionally cut to shape and size. This has ensured a degree of uniformity but at the cost of flexibility. I opted for a generic ‘ship’ hull shape with a modestly curved stern and pointed bow for the simple reason it would give me more deck space. It means that all of my ship models have a largely the same hull shape but in varying lengths and one of two widths - 1 1/4” or 1”. I have modified a few hulls based on the existing template simply because it is easy to do so and there was little point ordering a professionally cut version for those that I needed. For instance the City class gunboats, along with the U.S.S. Essex are quite ‘stubby’ looking on the bow so I rounded them down by 1/4”. The C.S.S. Virginia, Louisiana and Georgia also feature modified hulls.

Casemates, Gunports and Hatch Covers

As mentioned my casemates are for the most part rectangular with the notable exceptions of the pair of octagonal types, the C.S.S. Virginia and the U.S.S. Essex - each of which have curved casemate ends (two for the Virginia and one for the Essex).  Overall this is largely at odds with a number of historical designs as the casemate typically followed the curve of the hull sides. Luckily both of these ships (Virginia and Essex) are more or less straight sided. The curved casemate ends for these two ships were carefully fashioned from Balsa wood and I am really pleased with  how they came out. I have taken liberties with the pilot houses on all the casemate ironclads as many of these should be sloped or even circular/octagonal and sloped (City class gunboats I am talking about you!). Many of these are slated for replacement in due course with something that will be closer to the correct size if not shape.

Gun ports I have take a a real liberty with but it has made life a whole easier! Regardless of the actual shape of the gun port I have opted for a blanket approach of using 5mm square 1mm thick grey card. I have tried to position these as accurately as I can but to be honest there has been an element of artistic licence with a few! Some of my earlier models had 6mm square gun ports but the effort of changing these for the new standard would be a pain to tackle so they are staying put. Using these squares is both simple to apply and functional looking and also helps to break up the surface of the casemate. 

Hatch covers serve to add some detail to the decks and as with the gun ports I have taken a few liberties as to where they are placed and what colour I have painted them.

Ship Sizes

The models are not scale specific by any stretch of the imagination and were originally built with the mistaken idea that the hexes on a Hammerin’ Iron gaming mat (available from Peter Pig) were 5.5” across the flat sides whereas they are actually 4.5”! My largest hull size is 5” by 1 1/4” so opting to use a grid with 3” squares and a ship taking up two of them makes perfect sense - so that is what I am doing. As the collection has grown I have made an effort to differentiate ships sizes where I can but there is no real level of consistency in this. For the record the smallest ships I have built - the C.S.S. Manassas and the C.S.S. Little Rebel are 3 1/4” long.

The hull of a US frigate - note the pivot mounted artillery and the forest of masts behind!

Colour Schemes

Once again I have taken liberties but in my defence a quick trawl through the net will show a whole variety of colour schemes - even for the same ship! I have used matt greys for armour with the Confederates being a lighter shade than the Union. It works well and given both the stylised nature of the models and the simple and clean look I was going for - no rust or other assorted stains are present - it is fine. Some of the Union ‘old navy’ ships were sporting a rather natty almost Napoleonic paint scheme which was mainly why I opted for hull layer with gunport notches cut out - it made life a whole easier!

Deck Mounted Artillery

This is a tricky one as a number of ships featured deck mounted artillery of various calibres and quantities.  Modelling too many of these would not be practical and so the rule of thumb I am working to is that if a ship only has deck artillery then a notional representation should be made. My 90 Day gunboats have the full outfit of guns and I plan to do the same for some near equivalents. Some of the river paddle steamers should be retro fitted with a gun or two at some point but for now they will be gun less, at least the models will be even if the ship card says something else! 

The deck guns for the larger ships will be more stylised than than those for the smaller ships which will be mounting the gun carriages I have from Warbases.  The reason for this is a that although small the gun carriages themselves are relatively large compared to the model. I have a far simpler method I shall use which looks rather effective and will have its debut when the current batch of five models are completed.

Mast and Bowsprit. Again, copious amounts of superglue and cunningly filed surfaces help to make a surprisingly durable representation

Masts and Spars

I very quickly learned that sailing ship rigs could be changed quite dramatically from a full blown ocean going fitting down to bare poles - the bottom section of the masts. The sailing rig was typically reduced for operations up river when steam would be use exclusively for propulsion. I took the conscious decision to avoid fitting any sails to those ships that have a full set of masts on the grounds that these would typically be used for long distance cruising to save on coal and so are securely stowed away in the interim. Something I thought about although have little information to back it up is that deployed sails and the associated rigging must have made a wonderful fire risk.

The masts I have assembled look the part although again, some liberties have been taken to ease construction. I shall not be bothering with any rigging although ironically these models are well suited to it! As mentioned previously there is much in the way of ‘smoke and mirrors’ in respect of how I make masts - they are quite straightforward and superglue is definitely your friend! I will organise some rectangular fighting tops at some point as the current round version was but one type in use. There are many simple dodges one can use - filing glue contact surfaces slightly flush for a better grip and making use of the area offered by fighting tops to increase the area for sticking - and the end result is surprisingly robust once assembled, painted and varnished.

The next step will be to add sails but luckily for this period I have not needed to....

Paddle Steamers

The thirteen river paddle steamers I have built all have one thing in common. Essentially they are all the same basic design but with variation built in in terms of the paint job, fixtures and fittings. By varying the shape and size of the central superstructure - a Jenga block - and by moving parts around one is able to get a large variety of designs. Typically they will have one or two funnels that will be either mounted forward or mid ships, the paddle boxes will be fitted either centrally or towards the stern and the location of the pilot house can also be moved. The number of gun ports and hatches can also be varied to taste. My paddle steamers look the part but are very generic, simple and stylised looking. The paddle boxes on the river vessels were typically closed in for protection (and to reduce noise, one reason why stern wheelers were not as popular to use) so were very easy to fashion. Those paddle boxes that featured the ‘sun ray’ effect on their outer casing I am currently getting Warbases to cut for me as I have a number of ships to build that will need these.


With this project my original intention was to build some dozen or so generic looking ACW warships of a larger size than the previous versions. The project quickly grew into something altogether rather more ambitious as extra ships were added and some more historically specific types were built. Throughout it all I wanted to ensure that the overall look remained constant and so simple levels of detail and a clean, old school style paint job was very much the order of the day. I think I have largely succeeded in this and in conjunction with the rules I have developed it will mean that I shall have a naval collection that will give me a lot of fun going forwards.

The biggest single thing I have learned from the whole experience is the absolute value of proper prior preparation (I am sure you know the rest of this 7 pd expression!). Using Warbases to professionally cut the pieces I required for the models has saved an immeasurable amount of time and ensured that they are able to be built simply and efficiently. For sure I have made a few design errors along the way but even with the pieces are not right I will still find a use for them so nothing will be wasted.

It has also served to give me the confidence to tackle more ambitious building projects in the future with H.M.S. Superb and the pair of Turkish river monitors being a pointer to other periods. The five ACW models currently under construction are also placing a marker but for for slightly different and as yet undisclosed reasons.

Above all else though, the whole project has been enormously satisfying to undertake!

A Civil War Too Far

A superb book but sadly one of the library that will be moving on at some point 

I am unable to get into the man cave today as we are having the loft ladder, hatch and spring assembly replaced. This means that work on the five models currently under construction for the ACW project will be temporarily halted, depending on how long it takes to get the loft sorted (it is being worked on as I write this). All that remains with them are the masts which are fully assembled and just need painting. They are significant in that once completed I will have fifty models built and ready for action.

In the meantime though.

I have come to decision about my planned ECW project. It is not going to happen. The English Civil War is one of those periods of history that I have always felt that I should be interested in and indeed, whenever I have been to anywhere in the UK that has been involved in the war I have always enjoyed the historicity of it all. Try as I might I cannot seem to get motivated to game it though - despite having an instant and complete solution in the shape of the 18mm WoFun collection. I would be able to fight just about anything from the war and indeed, I certainly have a great selection of rules to use with the armies. I just do not seem to be able to get the enthusiasm together to do so though. 

Is this a passing whim?

I have made a conscious effort to get ‘into’ the period but it is just not happening. I have gone through the books I have for inspiration and have even watched ‘Cromwell’ once again (maybe not the best idea but it was quite entertaining all the same!) but all to little avail. I just do not seem to be able to get enthusiastic with the period. 

With the careful introspective and considered decision making process for which I am well known (at this point ‘lol’ would be the appropriate observation) I have taken the decision to offload the entire collection - books, rules, and of course, the WoFun armies.

There is another prompt for this decision. I have several other projects that would all be in front of the English Civil War and significantly these will all require varying levels of financial investment. 

Once I have completed the ACW ship building my next project will involve pirates and to be honest this may change as far as the ships are concerned - I am now seriously considering building my own although no decision has been made as yet.

I realise this post will probably read very much as a ‘there he goes again’ kind of affair but the truth is rather different. I have a number of interests that I am more intellectually invested in and so it makes sense for me to pursue those rather than something that appears to me to be so peripheral. 

To those that game and enjoy the English Civil War - and there are many I know - all I will say is ‘vive la difference!’ - it would be a dull old state of affairs if we all liked the same thing!

Friday, 21 May 2021

The Famous Five (Minus Three!)

A Confederate commerce raider claiming another luckless victim

 For reasons that will become apparent in due course I have taken the decision to split the painting of the five models currently under construction into two batches - with the first being of two ships.

I am currently building five fully masted ships but there are some key visual differences between the two groups hence the decision. The second batch of three models are all for the Union and have what can best be described as an ‘old navy’ style paint scheme meaning black hulls and a white stripe including the gun ports along the hull. The wisdom of the laser cut hull section now become obvious! As the brushwork will be a little more involved with these three ships I am going to tackle the other two first of all.

The two that I am working on - one for each side - are far less distinctive looking. I have had to make a few changes to their rig though. Although I am building four sloops in total the two I am working on have a much lighter rig than the pair of ‘old navy’ types. As a result of my research (aka extensive trawling of the net!) I have had to build a pair of new mizzen masts for them and also reduce the overall size of the rig to better balance the look. As these two sloops are effectively newer ships thank the other pair the tendency to lighten the rig seems noticeable. It is not a subject I have any great knowledge of but to the untrained eye it seems quite logical and a natural progression.

One thing is for sure though, I have the utmost respect and admiration for anyone that can make sense of the complex subject of the evolution of 19th century sailing ship rigs!

Thursday, 20 May 2021

Clearing a small outbreak of Modeller’s Block

The component parts of what will become a frigate displayed so that you can see the ‘layered’ approach to the hull. Note the cutouts on the gun deck layer - only eight per side I know but it is intended to be purely representational. The masts are not fixed but it is handy to store them like this whilst waiting for sealer or paint to dry.

As mentioned previously I currently have five models under construction - all of which are fully masted. The masts took me around a day to build and the hulls would be a lot less - or so I thought.

I kind of hit an unexpected road block with the hulls when it came to deck guns. I was completely unprepared for this and it has delayed progress by a day or so but I think I have successfully managed to clear the blockage in the creative process! My deck guns are lovely little models and they look very effective on the only models that are so far carrying them - the pair of 90 Day gunboats I built a short while ago. I fully intend adding these to a couple of other ships I am building but not to the current batch.

Now here is the thing. Whilst I never intended mounting the full suite of deck artillery on the frigate and four sloops I am building I wanted to at least show the heavy pivot guns. I duly assembled one to see how it would look at it was just plain wrong. It was too large. For some reason, and this is why progress came to a complete halt, the guns looked fine on smaller models but not on the ones I am building. 

I was by turns stumped, at a loss, annoyed and frustrated by this but after a day of head scratching think I have a workable solution. All will revealed once the ships are finished but the picture above will offer a small clue as to how I solved it.

My stride may have been interrupted slightly but I am now back in the race and pushing on with the five models in question.

Late Edit. Everything is now sealed and jigged up for painting so tomorrow will see the brushes out and the undercoating commencing. Normal service has been resumed - or something like that...

Tuesday, 18 May 2021

Of Bamboo Skewers and Wooden Cocktail Sticks

Masts, bowsprits and spars placed on their respective hulls to dry. None of these are fixed in place and indeed, three of the hulls are only partially assembled. For the record there is 55” of bamboo skewer (nearly seven skewers at 8” long) and 87.5” of wooden cocktail stick (nearly thirty cocktail sticks at 3” long) involved in building the five ships above!

 Yesterday was a good day on a number of counts. First of all some good things happened in respect of work which is shorthand for actually managing to get hold of people at the first attempt by phone! Secondly, and of more immediate interest, I was able to not only cut out the spars for the five ships I am building but also to assemble all fifteen masts and five bowsprits. They went together without a hitch and are now ready to seal and paint. 

A close up of a foremast and bowsprit showing the building technique I use

Being as methodical as I was in the cutting stage certainly helped the building process along no end so today will be spent working on the hulls and then a grand sealing session will take place later today prior to undercoating and painting. Once these five models are completed the collection will stand at fifty strong leaving ten to go. From the material I have to hand I should be able to build a further four models with the final six waiting on Warbases. My deadline of the end of June for the completion of this build is looking very achievable- especially as the remaining ten models are pretty straightforward - no octagonal casemates or great forests of masts!

Monday, 17 May 2021

More on Masts and Spars

My model the H.M.S. Superb with the mast assembly being used as the template for the five ships currently under construction. She is scheduled for a minor repaint at some point as I want to paint all the spars black. She will be getting some squadron mates at some point but sadly not for a while.

 Progress has been a little slow over the weekend as my grandson was with us and as the weather was not great as a family we played a goodly number of boardgames which was enormous fun. I was able to spend a little time between round of Boku, Buccaneer, 5 Seconds and Scrabble on the next batch of ships - namely the masts.

As I am building five ships that will require a full sailing rig I decided that a production line approach for the masts would be a good idea - especially as the masts would all be of the same size. Strictly speaking I think that the sole frigate should have a slightly larger set than the four sloops but in the interests of expediency they will all be the same. I used the rig of my earlier built H.M.S. Superb as the template to work from and so the great bamboo barbecue skewer chop up took place on Saturday afternoon - with the results you see above.

The masts and the top deck hull template I shall be using. Note the pre cut mast holes and the notch for the bowsprit. The eagle eyed amongst you will notice the pencil marks on the lower mast section - there is a small allowance of excess skewer as this is what will drop into the locating hull when assembled. The template is 3mm deep and this is plenty for a nice and secure joint once the masts are superglued in place.

Each ship requires seven pieces of bamboo so that was thirty five pieces in all. The spars will be a little different in that each ship will require fifteen pieces of wooden cocktail stick - sixteen if I decide to have a stern mounted flagstaff. I shall get this lot cut out today and indeed, I am planning on getting the masts assembled as well. I shall be using six MDF fighting tops for each ship so there is another thirty pieces to add into the mix. By comparison the hulls will be a piece of cake to build as all I shall be doing is adding some hatch covers, a funnel base plate and in the case of three of the models, a pair of pivot mounted guns (meaning I shall need to assemble six of them). Finally, I will need to cut five lengths of dowel rod for the funnels.

Whilst I was cutting this lot out I offered up a grateful prayer of thanks to the patron saint of modellers (whoever that may be!) that I have a space to be able to assemble and leave this lot out safely and without risk of being disturbed. Fifteen fully assembled and painted masts will take up a lot of space until they are fitted to the appropriate hulls!

I should point out at this stage that the models I am building are very much of the ‘based upon’ variety. They will look the part in a ‘purely representational’ way but are not designed as museum quality super detailed pieces. Looking at the collection as a whole it is fair to say that some are closer looking to their historical originals than others but super accuracy was never the aim from the outset. Still, for all that they look very effective on the tabletop.

Besides, it has been a lot of fun building them!

Friday, 14 May 2021

Frigates, Sloops, Masts, Spars and the C.S.S. Webb

A speculative plan of the C.S.S. Webb - note the twin ‘walking beam’ engines. Her paddles were powered independently which meant that at low speed she was very manoeuvrable but much less so at full power

 Work has begun on the next batch of five models for the ACW project. I have also settled on what he remaining models after these five are completed - and a small order to Warbases was needed to furnish the appropriate parts. Allowing for the time it will take to build the five currently under construction and four of the remaining ten models I should have the pieces I need for the final half dozen.

Summing that rather convoluted paragraph I have sufficient material from stock to build nine of the remaining fifteen models with the final six following once the Warbases order arrives!

The five currently under construction are all fully masted and so will take a little longer to complete. Building masts is far easier than building octagonal or curved casemates - even box casemates come to that - but one has to be careful as it cannot be rushed. So I have fifteen masts and five bowsprits to tackle - luckily they will all be more or less the same design so an assembly line of sorts can be used.

I am building three ships for the Union - a frigate and two sloops - and a pair for the Confederates - a commerce raider and a blockade runner although the latter may not even require the full sailing rig as I have yet to decide which one I shall build.

The top down view showing how by using the ‘stepping’ of the masts and spars along with use of the stylised fighting tops helps to make for a far stronger join due to more surface area being in contact for gluing

A view from the underside again showing the intentionally larger ‘sticking’ points. Also showing are the raw materials I use and a mast built for the now abandoned third 90 Day gunboat that will be repurposed for a Confederate ship

For services as a model in the pictures above it is only fair that I show the C.S.S. Stonewall in all her glory! It seems like a long time ago that I built this particular model and her sister ship!

My mast building technique is quite stylised and the end result is pretty robust. I use Bamboo barbecue for the masts and wooden cocktail sticks for the spars. By using MDF cut fighting tops in strategic positions I am able to get a good area for glue coverage so the spars have a larger area to be stuck to. Where a spar is free standing I carefully file a shallow recess on the upright so that it ‘sits’ in rather than on the mast. Again, the area is larger so that the glue has more surface to bite on. I use superglue exclusively for my masts.

Why the C.S.S. Webb? Well, she lasted a long while to start with and by virtue of having two walking beam engines was pretty fast in a straight line. I am currently gauging opinions as to how fast she actually was but she was able to break out from the Red River and breeze along the Mississippi at a fair pace until confronted by by a Union sloop. At this point her crew ran her aground and set fire to her.  She was originally built as an ocean going paddle wheeled tug but was equipped with a ram and a spar torpedo in addition to her artillery when the Confederates added her to their forces. 

I have settled on the models I shall be building for the final batch of fifteen with the sole exception of the Rebel blockade runner. I shall send some time thinking about this over the weekend but for now it is one with the mast building.

Wednesday, 12 May 2021

Filling in the gaps

The last of the Confederate casemate ironclads

 I was really not looking forward to building the last of the Confederate ironclads. Building the larger version of the ship you see above was frustrating enough but the smaller version was a different order of pain altogether! In theory it should be easy enough - just ensure that the top octagon matched the bottom one - but the slightest deviation on the angles throws the whole thing out of alignment.

That is what happened. 

Assembly of the ‘cross’ of the casemate was easy enough, it was the angled faces that caused the problems. The problems were largely of my own making as I do not have any material I can use for the angled faced that is thin and flexible enough. I thought I had some appropriately gauged plastic card but no, only the thick stuff. I tried several alternatives but none worked as would have liked and so in a moment of desperation I opted for the nuclear option - and promptly filled each angle with filler!

The filled casemate prior to final sanding. Unconventional perhaps but it seemed to work out well enough!

To my surprise and delight it actually worked.

By carefully building the filler up in layers, allowing it to dry thoroughly and then lightly sanding I was able to get a pretty smooth finish. Once the gunports are in place, the whole thing sealed, painted and varnished you would hardly notice the difference!

The two octagonal casemates types - little and large!

For all the pain involved I am rather pleased with how she turned out and as mentioned, she is the final ironclad for the Confederates. I have built a dozen of which six are modelled on historic ships:

C.S.S. Virginia

C.S.S. Georgia

C.S.S. Louisiana

C.S.S. Missouri

C.S.S. Arkansas

C.S.S. Manassas 

Of the above the Georgia and the Louisiana were little better than floating batteries but having said that they certainly look suitably imposing.

The six historical types - from the top left we have the Virginia, the Louisiana and the Georgia whilst in the bottom row the brown and rusted Arkansas is joined by the Missouri and the Manassas

The other six models are more generic looking and so will serve as required - either as historic or ‘imagi-naval’ style vessels.

These are the six generic types that be used as required

As an aside rechecked the number of models the collection will consist of as I must have miscounted. It actually comes to 59 whereas I was convinced it was 60. Since I am sixty years of age I shall sneak in another model for the Union so there will be a model for each of my years!

The full dozen in all their glory. There are now 45 models completed with 15 to go

On with the next batch!

Tuesday, 11 May 2021

Madasahatta in the 17th Century

Madasahatta in 1914. Over two hundred years previously the landscape would be very different although the settlements that would eventually become Port Maleesh, Bluchershafen and Port Victoria were already established.

 For sometime I have been thinking about pirates and Madasahatta - although not simultaneously! The 17th century came to the fore with my acquisition of Oak and Iron by Firelock Games. This includes a selection of 1:600th scale 17th century ships of various types that could be readily supplemented but the expansion packs available as well as those from the very nice range produced by Miniairons. That all round good egg The Jolly Broom Man added to my collection a selection of models from them and they are really very nice indeed (many thanks once again old chap!). My interest in the whole pirate thing was originally from the naval side but now is more in terms of having a land dimension as well using those very nice figures produced by Peter Pig.

I have finally ‘pulled the trigger’ and taken delivery of sufficient Peter Pig 15mm Pirates to give me two HOTT/PW sized forces that will also include a contingent of Barbary Corsairs. Whilst I have sufficient models for the Pirates and likely government opposition I shall need to avail myself of some Xebecs for the Corsairs - Warlord are launching some in their Black Seas range but these are 1:700th. I rather like the variety available from Miniairons so will probably use theirs.

So where does Madasahatta come in to all this?

Well, as a ready made environment for gaming it has plenty of potential. By winding the clock back some two hundred odd year to the latter end of the 17th century then a very different picture emerges of what Madasahatta looks like - before the Colonial period and later.

To begin with, the island would be largely unexplored but with some key players already making their mark on the landscape. Bluchershafen was originally a Dutch settlement with a garrison and was a vital staging post en route to the Dutch East Indies and their spices. Although a strong position and adequately garrisoned the Dutch were content to keep themselves to themselves but woe betide anybody attempting to interfere with their spice trade. 

Port Maleesh was a Barbary enclave owing allegiance to the Sublime Porte. Privateering was rife and the slave markets in the merchants quarter were well renowned for the quality of their merchandise and the speed with which they could fleece the unwary.

Port Victoria was a pirate stronghold operated by the Brethren of the Coast (Indian Ocean Chapter) and modelled (rather unsuccessfully it must be said) on the fabled pirate utopia of Libertalia.

From this little lot the following emerges. The pirates will pick on anybody but are wary about being too obvious when it comes to the Dutch or the Barbary Corsairs. The Dutch will pick up the odd prize here and there but for the most part are more concerned with their lucrative spice trade. The Barbary Corsairs will take on anybody as long as they have a local superiority - occasionally that are very dangerous when the Sultan is behind them.

So the scene is being set for a variety of raids, privateering and general mischief making in the early days of Madasahatta.

That is the plan in any event but first of all the ACW ships need finishing.

Monday, 10 May 2021

Fifteen to go....

 C.S.S. Virginia. The brown ‘V’ on the foredeck was designed to divert water away as she had a very low freeboard. The grey section at the stern was 2” armour plating used to protect the steering.

I was able to finish the last of the ‘purpose built’ historical Confederate Ironclads meaning that I now have 11 built with one remaining and that one is next on the assembly line.

The C.S.S. Virginia needs little introduction from me but I will share some of the building details. Her casemate was rounded at both ends and thus far the only way I have successfully been able to model this is by using layered Balsa wood cut and sanded into shape. The U.S.S. Essex has one curved end but thus far I had never attempted tackling both ends. Happily it worked out fine but I did take the precaution of having a number of breaks whilst shaping them which certainly helped with my concentration!

The pilot house should really be a conical affair that follows the line of the casemate but my version does not. Nor does my version have gunports of the correct shape - I opted for my tried and tested 5mm square pieces of card - and as for the armoured stern section (to protect the steering) it is probably the wrong shape. She looks quite stocky but as I am working to a 6” maximum (two grid squares in my ACW naval rules) she is about as large as I can go. For all of this she looks ‘like what she is supposed to’ so I am happy! I am quite chuffed with how she turned out.

Of course if you are going to have the C.S.S.Virginia then it would churlish not to have the U.S.S. Monitor in the same picture!

The ‘Fifteen to go’ of the title of this post of course refers to the number of models I have left to build for the project. There are seven Confederate and eight Union ships although by Friday the Confederate numbers will be down to six as I complete the final casemate ironclad.

Of the fifteen models four of them will required a full set of masts and spars, three of them are ironclads and the remaining eight are gunboats of various types.

We are getting there!

Sunday, 9 May 2021

Something New

Boot sale bargains and a first for me in the audible books stakes 

It is Sunday so once again SWMBO and I headed out to our local boot sale and today I was able to pick up a couple of bargains. The book cost me the princely sum of 50p and it has more than sufficient information for my needs for when I get to WW2 (again).

The audio book is a new one for me as I have never listened to one before! There are six CDs contained in the set and so the plan is to upload it to my iTunes account so that I can listen to it via my iPad on the train when I return to the city in July.

I suppose that it was somehow inevitable that my first foray into the world of audible books was The Seven Pillars of Wisdom given my interest in Lawrence of Arabia. I have a hardback copy of the Seven Pillars, a Kindle version, the film Lawrence of Arabia and the soundtrack so I guess this completed the set!

Saturday, 8 May 2021

Next Steps

The work in progress - the white section is plastic card and needs further shaping but bear in mind that this model is, as usual, based upon rather than historically accurate!

A bird’s eye view and profile of the C.S.S. Virginia

 After having completed the pair of 90 Day gunboats for the Union I decided that next up will be the remaining pair of Confederate casemate ironclads. When complete I will have a round dozen of them - six modelled on actual ships and the remaining six more generic in design. Of the final two I am building one of them is of the smaller octagonal casemate type whilst the other is the famous C.S.S. Virginia of the Battle of Hampton Roads fame. Pictured above is where she is at for the moment - in other words at a very early stage of construction.

She will be the longest ship in the collection and indeed, I had to modify a standard hull template to allow for the rear overhang designed to protect the steering. I am more or less happy with the hull and the real work will be building the casemate as she is curved at both ends.

I already have the U.S.S.Monitor built so the prospect of refighting the battle of Hampton Roads is a tantalising one and I shall certainly give it some thought. 

Once I have finished these two ironclads I shall revisit the Union as they will be getting a further City class gunboat and one other. I have narrowed the choice down to two ships so I will doubtless change my mind a few times before I get to build them!

Friday, 7 May 2021

....And then there were two....

The two 90 Day gunboats ready for action

So these are the two 90 Day gunboats duly completed and ready to chase down blockade runners and other nefarious types although they were not the speediest of vessels.

There are 17 models left to build to complete the project and I have until the end of June to finish them.  

Like I said yesterday, no pressure then....

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.