Saturday, June 29, 2019

Thoughts, Considerations, and a Rant About Figure Painting in the Digital Age

A couple nights ago, I finally sat down to paint some 6mm T64s and hopefully make a little progress on those African buildings that I've been working on forever.

As I smeared the third coat of Vallejo on one of the buildings, and realized that once again, it was going to take four coats again to get relatively solid coverage, I began reflecting on the changes in hobby paints over the years.

For me these 6mm African buildings have become work.  I am really hating painting them.  Done right, each building requires several colors, often bright or light, and should frequently involve relatively complex patterns for 6mm work.  I've dumbed them down quite a bit, as the painting process has been burdensome, sometimes making me want to stab myself in the eyes with a brick.

They are disproportionately time consuming to paint, as each requires 8-12 colors, and the low opacity of many of the modern paints results in 3-4 applications of each color to get the coverage that I want. I have to take far greater care in handling with the acrylics, than my old enamels, and might get 2 single coat colors applied to a building during a session, thus it takes 20-30 sessions to paint one of these little guys.  In a busy month, I might get 15-17 sessions, in a lean month maybe 3.  

Part of the problem is the texture of most of the walls of the buildings, which is pretty smooth.  The surface doesn't take the paint as well.  Another issue, is that the primer that I had been using for quite some time was changed, new and improved supposedly.  The new version almost seems to repel the paint.  As a result, during the painting of these, I've experimented with four new primers (white, light grey, and dark grey), none of which seem to take the paint as well as my old, discontinued primer.

I experimented with spraying clear-coat over the primer, to see if that produced a better (maybe more coarse) surface for the paint.  That didn't seem to matter much, either.   Also, I've experimented with different brushes and whatnot.  None of it mattered much.

Anyway, while thinking about this, it occurred to me that thirty years ago, I didn't have this problem.  My old 1/72 scale M&M airplanes; one coat coverage.  Two at the most.  My 6mm buildings in Bristolboard or styrene; mostly one coat coverage.  And I didn't have to be so careful in handling the old ModelMatser, Pactra, and Polly-S paints (despite it being acrylic).  

So I conducted an experiment.  I have some old bottles of Polly-S, and I happen to have several old unopened bottles of ModelMaster.  I used to stock up on colors that I used, particularly when I worked at the hobby shop.  Some years back, I boxed up a bunch of these extras, and fortunately, rediscovered them recently, after finding that Rustoleum had discontinued much of the Testor's ModelMaster line.

So over the last few days, I took my old bottle of Polly-S Light Yellow, and a previously unopened bottle of ModelMaster Medium Green (dating to probably 1985-87 judging  from the labeling) and compared them to a similar Vallejo light yellow, and a relatively recent bottle of ModelMaster Medium Green.  Guess what.  One coat coverage with the old paint.  Two coat coverage with the new ModelMaster, and four coats of Vallejo did not yield as solid a coverage as one coat of Polly-S.

My sampling is small, but never the less, I draw my conclussion:  New hobby paints suck when compared to the old ones. 

I want my old ModelMaster, from before the time, when they thinned them to make them more airbrush friendly.  I want my old Pactra Military colors, they had some excellent colors that I have not found a good match for in the newer lines.  And most of all, I want my old Polly-S acrylics, they were the best.

Unfortunately, I don't have old bottles of the paints that I need for the African buildings, so I will go on dreading painting for as long as it takes to paint them.  My Imagi-nation campaign has been stalled for about 10 months already, another 10 months won't matter, I guess.

And despite the range of colors available from Vallejo, and GW, I cannot find a replacement for my Polly-S Mud, nor the Polly-Scale Dirt that I ran out of two nights ago.  I want my 10 new T64s to be shaded and weathered in the same way as the 21 old models that I painted years ago. Why is that asking for too much? 

Yes I can mix paints to match, but there will be variation, and it takes extra time.  I'm not painting one new figure, nor 5, nor 10, I'm painting thousands.  And I'm old!  Time matters.

And how come in this age of digital wizardry, the paint manufacturers can't match their own paint from one batch to another.  I have Vallejo where the new bottle simply isn't the same color as the old bottle (besides the Russian Green), and this has always been an issue with ModelMaster.  

I don't know if GW has this problem, since I don't buy enough paint from them, as their paint usually seems to dry up in the bottle between the first and second use.

And another thing, I hate dropper bottles.  When you have 300 of them on your table, and you are rummaging for that closest, but not-quite-a-color-match-for-the-old-color-that-you-ran-out-of-and can't-replace, they fall over.  Like Dominos!  They are too tall and light weight, they clog too easily, and they cause me to waste paint, paticularly when they clog momentarily, and then then half of the bottle goes bllaaahhhhttttt on the pallet. Baahhhh!

Deep Breath! 

(The little voice in my head was starting to sound like Wilem Defoe doing the Green Goblin)

Okay, so there you have it.  I liked the old paints.  I liked screw-cap glass bottles, even the plastic ones that Pactra used worked fine.  I liked one-coat coverage.  I used to like painting miniatures.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Time To Quit Whining About the USPS

SO, after going on about the USPS and their routing methods for delivery of my book, The Armies of the Warsaw Pact Nations, by Friedrich Wiener, 1976, arrived 5 days early.  My apologies to USPS for any inappropriate whining I might be guilty of.

Anyway, the book is a just a little thing, measuring just slightly larger than 4"x 6" (though with 384 pages), but is the most complete, informational volume on the Warsaw Pact forces that I've ever seen.  It starts with the organization of the entire Warsaw Pact, then goes country by country, then through the doctrine, and finally, the equipment, including apparently every truck, gun, engineering vehicle, all of the better known armored vehicles, aircraft, and ships serving in the Warsaw Pact during the mid 1970s, loaded with B&W illustrations and photos.  It is just old enough, that it does not address the T64 in the armor section. 

While not going into the depth of Isby's Weapons and Tactics of the Soviet Army about the primary fighting vehicles, it's scope is broader, and it better addresses many things that Isby's book barely touches on or leaves out completely, such as many support and engineering vehicles.  This book doesn't replace Isby's book, but certainly deserves to be on the shelf next to it.

It is a fantastic source answering some of my questions about Soviet forces  in Europe, adding in TO&E info dating to the early 1970s, and late 1960s that I didn't know I was missing, and touching on a bunch of soft-skins and particularly bridging equipment that I was either missing details on, or didn't even know about.

I'm amazed that after 44 years of fascination with Cold War and CW games, and with literally 200 volumes about it on the shelf, I never heard of this amazing source before this week.

Anyway, for $6.00 it was an absolute bargain, and thanks to USPS for getting it here in Priority shipping time.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

So I Bought This Book...

...on Amazon a few days back, from a seller in Cincinnati, Ohio  It's a used Cold War book about the Warsaw Pact forces in the 1970s that will hopefully fill in a few gaps for my upcoming games.  The book is supposed to be delivered  between July 2nd and 5th, (somehow, I feel like saying that, was a mistake).

Anyway, it is 109 miles from Cincinnati, Ohio to Columbus, Ohio, and I live just north of Columbus.  I checked the tracking information, and the US Postal System shipped it from Cincinnati to Pittsburgh, PA, 290 miles; then to Buffalo, New York, another 215 miles; and it has to come back to Columbus, another 327 miles (to our local sort facility) before arriving here.  So it will travel at least 832 miles via USPS to make a 109 mile journey.

Somehow, that just seems a little bit not right.  I'll be interested to see tomorrow, if it maybe makes a stop in Toadsuck, Arkansas, or maybe Chugwater, Wyoming, before coming back to Ohio.

Well, that's all I've got.  A mild whine, while waiting for the book, so that I can move on to the next step in my Cold War adventure.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Irishserb's Miniatures - Limited Availability Until Fall

Just a note to say that I've shut down casting until the fall (probably November), so my 15mm vehicle and 6mm building models will have limited availability until then.  I am still selling on my site at Irishserb's Miniatures, but have noted out of stock or limited quantities on some items.  

15mm M60A2 "Starship"

15mm M2A2 Bradley

6mm World War II  French & Belgian buildings.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

1/285 West German Vehicles from Shapeways

I received my latest order of 1/285 models from Masters of Military at Shapeways.  They are all produced in the same "smooth fine detail plastic" and are fantastically detailed.  Here are some pics of the raw models.

Hotchkiss SPz Kurz Mortar Carrier comes with 6 mortar carriers and one fire control vehicle.  Four mortars are open, two have the hatches closed. There is a just a touch of graininess to the surface texture of these, but they are still, by far, the best 1/285,  6mm HS-30 chassis that I've seen.  I am impressed enough with them, that I've decided to place another order and get the regular HS-30/SPz 12-3 infantry carriers from masters of Military.

Hotchkiss SPz  Kurz variants, comes with 8 models of three types, observation, radar, and ambulance.  They are simply perfect.

Unimog 404 light truck, you get two box body, and 4 cargo versions with separate tarpaulin.
Another remarkably beautiful, absolutely crisply detailed model.

Ford G398 cargo truck, 6 per pack with separate tarpaulin. Again, amazing crisp detail.  
You can just make out the edges of the plastic layers in the hood, which has a very gradual slope.  I would estimate the layers to be something like .005" thick.  I suspect that it they will disappear with application of paint, but either way, they are some slight that they don't detract from the model in any way.

HS-30 Mortar battery, with 4 mortar carriers opened, 2 closed, and one fire-control vehicle. 

DKW Munga LKW, you get 4 version, both long and short WB with and without canvas top. Again, keep in mind as you look at the detail, that these are like 6-7 mm long.

All of these models are simply outstanding, priced comparably with GHQ.  As you can probably tell, I am endlessly impressed with them, and will be adding SPz 12-3 and SPz 11-2 to fill out my 1960s German units.  Also, Masters of Military is considering adding a Borgward B2000 A (for the late 1950s Germans) later this year.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Continued Cold War Progress

I've been pretty idle on the building/painting front, while giving tendons in my hand time to settle down, but I have been researching background information at a furious pace over the last few weeks.  This has lead to a fair amount of progress, but not much to post about.

Most of the TO&E info has been hammered out (I think), and more lately, I've been work on a list of forces committed to NATO and the WarPac over the years.  As it turns out, most of the gaming related info available is geared for gaming 1985 to 1989.  So, I've been spending a lot of time on Wikipedia and on various military unit association websites, collecting and sorting information.

At this point, I've got the forces of Northag and Centag more or less figured out, though I'm a little hazy about the French, who's information is surprisingly scarce on English language sites (my French is hit and miss).  WarPac forces are my current adventure.

I've acquired quite a backlog of miniatures to paint, over 430 vehicles and aircraft, and another 130+ stands of infantry, with an additional 5 orders already planned.  The vehicles should go fast, as most are just a solid color, though, I hope to do some US equipment with MERDC camouflage.  The infantry will be a slower slog, but still shouldn't be too bad for the most part, as they are only 6mm.

Two orders from C in C waiting for paint.

I still need to pick up (mostly Canadian) vehicles from C in C (once they are back in operation), 1950s US and 1960s German from Scotia, a general mix from GHQ, and about two-thirds of the infantry (maybe 39 packs) yet from H&R.  The last order will be from Shapeways, assuming that Masters of Military does eventually make a Borgward B2000 A/O.

H&R infantry still waiting to be based, plus a few vehicles 
from both Scotia and H&R

Despite my temporary slowdown with painting, progress is moving along at a consistent pace.  And  my enthusiasm just keeps growing, as I continue to research, and read through the infinitely fascinating stories of so many of Cold Warriors.