Saturday, August 24, 2013

Let's build a rice paddy!!

If there's any terrain feature that defines Vietnam, and indeed all of Southeast Asia, it's the rice paddy. Outside the larger cities and towns, paddies are inescapable. As you can see, they come in every imaginable size and shape
Sometimes, even bizarre shapes

No matter what scale you wargame the Vietnam War in, you're going to HAVE to have a whole lot of rice paddies. Buying pre-made wargames terrain is generally ridiculously expensive, so I've taken to building my own paddies. Here's how I go about it:

Let's do just a simple, ground-level, rectangular paddy. The first thing we need is some sheet styrene.
Thick enough not to warp or bow with a little weight on it. I think this is 0.60". Cut out a rectangle big enough for the scale you game in. Remember, paddies come in all sizes, from extremely large to very small. 

Next, we need to build retaining walls. More like berms, really. I find the scraps from styrofoam Terrain Maker hexes are perfect.
Cut straight berms, ideally they'll be sloped on both faces, long enough to enclose your styrene base and then glue them to the base.
The berms sit on the base itself, at the very edges. Then add an internal berm or two, so it's not a single paddy. I use Woodland Scenics Foam Putty to plaster all the cracks and fill in any gaps I left where the berms should join. After all that's dry, paint the whole thing, inside and out with Flex Paste. This thing needs to be watertight for real!! Trust me, you'll see. Keep reading.

Next, paint the berms in whatever color you've selected as your soil. I use terracotta. Superglue a couple of painted civilians and a water buffalo or two onto the paddy floor (in 1/285, in this case). Paint the floor of each paddy section a slate color. I use Woodland Scenics Water Undercoat. Now's the time to glue the odd bush here and there along the inner walls of the berms. 

The next thing we need is some "water". There are a number of products available, so use whichever you like. I use Realistic Water by Woodland Scenics.
It's important to fill the paddies no more than 1/8", allowing 24 hrs to dry. If you pour in too much, it'll crack as it dries, as well as submerging your civilians. Pour a bit in a small cup and add a bit of light brown paint to make a tea-colored mixture. It needn't be your soil color, as the water in paddies is often a different shade than the surrounding ground. You should vary the shade of your "water" each time you make a new paddy. That's how I remember the real ones looking. No two the same color. 

You can string together groups of these into any shape or size you want. If you try making them too small, the "water", which contracts as it dries, tends to warp even thick styrene, so it's best to stick to making larger paddies and just subdivide them internally. I don't try to add sprouting rice, as it just never looks realistic. A fully grown crop would be easy; just leave out the water and villagers and deeply fill the paddies with a verdant green flock or static grass. Now glue a few bushes along the outer walls of the berms and you're done.

That's it! Quick, easy, and a whole lot cheaper than buying them. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Sharing the joy!!!

Today, I got a shipment of GHQ items from Snyder & Short!!  I buy all my GHQ from Randy Short, as he gets a nice dealer discount and passes a hefty chunk of it along to his customers. In addition, Randy is the nicest and most helpful guy you could possibly meet and doing business with him is a joy.

So what did I get? It was a very Vietnam oriented order. A few things to expand my riverine force. An ATC(H), which I'll paint as a first aid boat, PBR II's, an Assault Support Patrol Boat, and another Armored Troop Carrier (can never have too many of those).

Next, some vehicles for my road convoys and the fire support base I'm working on. Some 155mm howitzers, armored cavalry M113A1's, gun trucks, and M48A3 tanks

Also, some NVA infantry (sorry, but I remember the Vietnam War quite clearly and NO ONE ever said "PAVN"!!)

And finally, some sandbag guard huts with corrugated metal roofs and a Bunker Box. I add one of those to every order I make. I need to make some effort to get some of my models stored. Completed projects are quickly taking over the apartment and the wife is growing vexed. 

So, my lead pile, which already teeters alarmingly, gets even larger. Hopefully, I'll live to be 150 years old, so I can have some hope of getting all the stuff painted!!  Why is it that we wargamers are such hoarders?  

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Of aircraft and restaurants

Here's another weekend of trying to make a dent in the massive "to do" pile of wargaming projects. Here's what's in the works:

This week, I got a small shipment from Dom's Decals, including a package of Tumbling Dice 1/600 aircraft for my Vietnam War project. One pack of A-37B Dragonflies. As you can see, I cut the (overly large) nose refueling probe off of two of the models to make A-37A's
That's them after a tiny bit of filing and primed light gray. 

I've noticed that both Tumbling Dice and Oddzial Osmy make A-1H/J Skyraiders, 
but neither make the A-1E two-seat version. 
But lo and behold, TD does make an AD-4W Airborne Early Warning Skyraider. After clipping off sensor probes on the ailerons and the belly radome, viola!!  An A-1E!!  Well, at this scale, it's indistinguishable. Here it is after clipping, but before filing it smooth. 
The canopy is the right shape, which is what's most important. Unfortunately, no underwing stores, but you can't have everything. 

In order to mount fixed-wing aircraft, I use the same method that I use for helicopters (see my post of Aug. 7). However, aircraft tend to be a bit larger and heavier, so I use a larger gauge wire (.047") so it won't bow. 
I also cut the wires a bit longer than for helicopters, 5"-6" for aircraft. 

I've also finished a Timecast 1/300 Vietnamese building. It's a generic "shop", but I want to use it in the village that will be outside the gates of my fire support base, so I've interpreted it as a small restaurant selling food to the American troops, a Vietnamese "greasy spoon".
A villager has a vegetable stand on the side of the building and I shrank a real ARVN Airborne recruitment poster to stick to the wall. I particularly like how the greasy roof vents turned out. It's all that cooking in the kitchen!!

That raps up another weekend. Next installment soon!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

A boom in the housing market!!

I've got so many buildings sitting around either unpainted or half-painted, that I've decided to work on some this weekend. It's raining in any case, so let's get something accomplished at the hobby table!!

I have numerous 1/300 structures for both Vietnam and 1981 Landjut. For now, I'll concentrate on my European buildings
Most everything here is from Timecast, except the front left, which is a long out of production casting by JR Miniatures

Here is some of the beautiful work from Timecast's website and what I'm trying in general to replicate (at a much less incredible skill level).
And here are a few of the real thing

Here's one that I've finished, which I think is an old Hovels casting which I got off of eBay. It has some damage here and there, but I figure an actual old building would have some "distressed" areas too
There was a small area in the front that I felt cried out for a sign, so I added a company name, even though the casting is supposed to be of a "barracks".

And last up is a large barn from GHQ's European range. It's really nothing all that remarkable. A bit plain, but it is a barn after all

Another weekend down. More as work progresses!!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Flight stands cost how much!?!

Let's start off by admitting that 1/600 helicopters are pretty damned small, apart from maybe Chinooks, Sea Stallions, and possibly Hinds. But small or not, they still need flight stands so they can hover menacingly over my battlefields. I looked at some options that are produced commercially and apart from being prohibitively expensive, my thought concerning all of them was "I could do a better job for cheaper!" So after consulting with the Johns at Picoarmoras well as a bit of trial-and-error, here is my method:

Firstly, the necessary supplies are a 40x30mm metal base, some .025" galvanized wire (music or piano wire), Gorilla superglue gel, needle-nosed pliers, and wire cutters. I don't want my helos all "flying" at exactly the same altitude, so I cut my wires at varying lengths between 4" and 5". 
This is 4.5". Next, I grip one end of the wire with a pair of needle-nosed pliers, using the closest gripping point to the handles
and then wrap the wire around the pliers,
then tighten the curl up so you have a small "curly-cue", like this:
Now, at the place in the wire where the curl ends and the straight wire begins, bend the straight part 90° so it will stand up on it's own.
Ok, now use a goodly amount of Gorilla superglue gel to stick the curly part to the metal base.
Let it dry overnight and then make any necessary minor adjustments so that the upstanding wire is exactly straight up. After this, put a blob of the superglue in the recess on the bottom of your helicopter (they come with this already molded in - damned handy not having to drill them). Now the REALLY aggravating part. Set the helicopter onto the top of the wire and hold it straight and level until the glue sets - and swear loudly as it repeatedly falls off. Refresh the glue and repeat the process numerous times until successful.
Again, check that the helicopter is indeed straight and level. Allow to dry overnight and spray with the primer of your choice,
Then texture the base, a bit thicker than usual, both to cover the wire and to add weight to the base so it won't topple over.
Lastly, paint the model, wire, and textured base and then flock it. I find that painting the wire black is the least intrusive color.

Originally, I would prime and paint the stand and the helicopter model separately, then glue them together, but I learned that the model was very easily broken off the stand. It was because the superglue was holding together only two micro-thin layers of paint. There was no metal to metal contact. Since I began to use the above method, the joint has proved much stronger. I think this will work well for smaller 1/285 helicopters too, but a bigger gauge wire would be a good idea, as well as a larger base, since the models are heavier and would need to be higher off the table. 

All in all, not a fantastic method, but it'll do until I find something better. 

Saturday, August 3, 2013

So many irons in the fire

As usual, I'm tinkering with a variety of projects this weekend. Too damned hot to go do anything (heat index is 106°F today), which is just as well, since I have so many half-finished things clamoring for my attention.

First up, I'm finishing off four of GHQ's LVTP-5's for my Vietnam War, two of which I've converted. One is now a LTVC-5 (command version) and the other is a LTVH-5 (105mm howitzer fire support). I modified an M47 tank turret, which the real vehicle's turret somewhat resembles. I cut off the turret bustle and most of the barrel and filed the cut areas smooth.
Left foreground is the fire support version. Left background is the command version (the only difference is a lot more antennas). Both models on the right are the standard version. As you can see, I've only weathered one so far. 

I'm also working on two M163 Vulcans. Only six were sent to Vietnam, none of which had been fitted with their targeting radar. The first two of the six had the dish, but it wasn't connected to anything. Numbers three thru six had no dish. When the threat of the NVA's sizeable helicopter fleet never materialized, the Vulcans were used in base perimeter defense and as fire support for road convoys. 

I have to say that at this scale, decals are a nightmare. Again, I've only weathered one thus far. 

I'm also just beginning five East German T-55's for my early 80's LANDJUT campaign. I've test-fitted one with national insignia decals on the turret, but not yet vehicle numbers. Again, 1/285 decals are an almighty pain in the ass!!
So far, they've only received their base coat of East German panzer olivgrün.

I'm also beginning a new z scale house. Actually two houses on one base. 
As usual with these German-made kits, it has an enormous number of small parts, which makes assembling it quite labor intensive
I like the finished products, but getting there is time consuming. 

Another weekend's free time eaten up. More next posting!