Tuesday, 27 April 2021

BSC2021: Hill Toppers

 One of the challenges for these boards is to keep a balance between making tall hills but also keeping the boards to a manageable size.  But limiting the hills to 3" height leaves the hills a bit less impressive.  So I've taken some left over insulation board and built some hill toppers.

Not much to them.  I cut two layers of insulation board and an MDF base.  Stuck them together with carpet tape, and then did some shaping with the hot wire cutter and utility knife. 

I left space for a little step, just wide enough for an infantry figure.

As a bonus, I will have a few more hills to use in other games!

Saturday, 24 April 2021

BSC2021: I Like Big 'But(ments) and I Cannot Lie

After enjoying lovely sunny and warm weather all week (when I was stuck at work!), we are experiencing a rainy weekend.  No hope of working outside on the patio, and there is no way that I'm going to be sanding off the plaster indoors!  Instead, I've found some detail work to keep me occupied. 

Throughout Sicily, and onto the Italian mainland and also in NWE, the German army routinely destroyed bridges.  As far I can tell, though, they mostly destroyed the bridge span, but often the bridge abutments and piers were left in place.  For example, here is a painting of a Bailey Bridge in Italy:

This was painted in 1944 by Captain Lawren Phillips Harris in Italy, and is part of the Canadian War Museum's collection:  https://www.warmuseum.ca/collections/artifact/1018653/

As you can see, the Bailey bridge has been installed on the previous bridge's abutments. I was not able to find any pre-war photos of the Leonforte bridge, but this screen capture is from Google Earth and shows a hint of the current bridge's abutments.  I don't know when the current bridge was built - most likely it was built long after the war ended, but nonetheless I'm going to use it as inspiration for my project.

I'd previously picked up a cobblestone-printed sheet, originally intended for the streets in my Sicilian village.  I've repurposed it for the bridge abutments!

Cut to size, set in place with some carpet tape and then add some sidewalls.
North side:

South side:

I mixed up some plaster of Paris to fill in behind the wingwalls:

I'm going to let the plaster set overnight.

Monday, 19 April 2021

BSC2021 - The Way Ahead

 Here is what the boards look like after a full day of plaster curing.  These closeups show the plaster cloth after installation.  The mesh of the cloth is visible.  Ends of the sheets can be seen, but are not as obvious.  

I'm going to paint some thinned plaster over the boards.  Hopefully this will cover over the visible mesh.  I'm going to take some care in applying the plaster, to give it as 'natural' an appearance as possible.  And I know that I'll still need to do some sanding afterwards!

Here are some models added to show scale. It looks a bit like they are traversing the Great White North rather than Sicily in July!  That will of course change once I get some paint on it.

Here is my attempt at carving a road into the hills.  As you can see, I made quite a hash of it.  I'll have to do some filling to get it to a smooth grade.

The title of the post comes from me taking a pause to see what I need to do next, but also from the movie I watched on the weekend.  Also called 'The Immortal Battalion', 'The Way Ahead' was made during WWII, and it shows in the way the story is presented.  It follows the old standby for war films:  recruits from diverse backgrounds join the army, training is hard and the sergeant is mean.  The cast is amazing, including David Niven, Bill Hartnell (the original Dr Who), Stanley Holloway (popular Vaudeville comedian), John Laurie (from Dad's Army), Peter Ustinov and Trevor Howard.  And as I've been researching WWII equipment, I kept geeking out (oh- there's a Bedford QL!).  Worth watching.

Edit:  swammeyjoe on the Too Fat Lardies forum pointed me to these digitized WWII-era maps of Sicily.  http://legacy.lib.utexas.edu/maps/ams/italy_25k/

I've zoomed in on Leonforte to get this:

The red line for the road confirms that it is a metalled (i.e., paved) road, so I'm good to go with my plan for grey felt to represent the roads.  

Sunday, 18 April 2021

BSC2021 - getting plastered

 To start, here are a couple of views of the alternative layout of the boards.  I can't lay them all out as I don't have an eight foot wide table!

Today I added some texture to the boards.  I decided to try some plaster cloth since I picked some up on clearance from Michaels.  It comes as a roll of mesh impregnated with plaster.  To use, cut into strips, dip in water and then lay on the table.  It's pretty messy, but easy enough to do.

I started with one board, completely layered it with plaster, and moved on to the second.  This is how much I was able to cover with one pack, roughly 20 cm by 3.5 m.  When I ran out, I went back to Michaels and picked up the last two packs they had in stock.

This is as far as I got with the total of three packs.  It didn't quite cover the entire surface.  The main thing is that I covered over the plywood base and all the joints for the insulation board.

The mesh pattern is visible in the plastered areas.  In future steps I'll cover this up with more texturing, with sand, gravel etc.

Saturday, 17 April 2021

BSC2021 - Getting Started

 Today is a lovely, warm and sunny spring day, so I was able to set up the tables on the patio and get started on building the hills.  😃

Over the past couple of days, I managed to get some paint on the Bailey Bridge, allowing it to take pride of place to test fit the hills to ensure that I build a gap that it will fit.  Even though it's just green and brown, it was a real nuisance to paint.  Getting paint inside the tiny bits was no fun at all:  when (or if) I build its sister, I'll paint first and assemble after!

Following the plan I'd prepared, I set out the insulation board and got to work.  (and reminded myself to take photos to document the build process 😉)

I checked my assumption that 2" was enough height for the bridge over the gorge.

Looks OK to me!

I started cutting:

Following the advice from Pat Smith's "Setting the Scene", I was careful to just use points of glue - he points out that if the entire surface is covered in glue (especially with white glue), it will not create a bond.

Moving on, I traced the desired cut lines on the next hill as the glue was setting for the first.

It was about now that I realised the white glue was not creating a bond between the insultation board and the plywood base.  So I decided to try an alternative: double sided carpet tape!  

Carpet tape turned out to be just great.  I probably overdid it, but the only way those boards will shift is by tearing them apart.

To mask where two boards come together, I decided to put a mini-gorge.  Not the best photo, but the gorge can be seen in the shadow.  Hopefully it will be a bit clearer as the build progresses.

I got into the swing of things, and didn't photograph everything.  This is how the boards looked at the end of the day.

My original plan was to go for a 4" maximum height with the boards, but I now think that 3 layers (3") will be enough.  Compare the current progress with the photo of the valley.

I keep reminding myself that this is a representation for gaming on, not an exact scale model.  If I need additional height on the side slopes, I might add some removable hills to fit the corners.  Any comments greatly appreciated!