Sunday, July 27, 2014

My wife is feeling smug!

My wife is gloating this morning!
"Her" post of a week ago (On the joys of having a wargame-friendly wife"), as of this morning, has had 379 views! In a week! My most viewed post EVER is 234 ("Let's build a rice paddy") and it took nearly a year to accrue that many views. 

It's odd that I'm the one who wrote "her" post and it's on MY blog, but my wife tells me it's hers and not mine. Is there no justice in the world? 
Oh, the ignominy of it all!!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

An East German motor rifle battalion

Some time ago, I finished a Danish mechanized infantry battalion (my post of 5/25/14), so it seems only fitting that I give the "enemy" equal airtime.  

Here's an East German motor rifle battalion (wheeled) that I've just finished, with all the appropriate support elements, ready for service in my LANDJUT 1981 campaign:
Three companies of BTR-60PB's:
(Sorry for the crap photos and the inconsistent lighting. iPhone 5's have truly pathetic cameras). And the support units:
The 120mm towed mortars:
The AT-3 Sagger launchers:
And the AGS-17 Plamyas:
And last of all, the battalion commander with a BTR-60PU and a UAZ-469:

I already have a supporting panzer battalion, so now I just need to replicate the above motor rifle battalion two more times and I'll have a full regiment. Most of the regimental support units (antiaircraft, antitank, recon, etc.) are already finished. Seems a long slog, but I'll get there, my many sidetracks notwithstanding. At some point in the distant and misty future, I'd like to do a tracked motor rifle battalion too, but that falls under the category of "someday".

More next weekend!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

On the joys of having a wargame-friendly wife

I've been motivated to say a few words about my dear wife, Aor. She's originally from NE Thailand, the landscape of which is quite like that of Vietnam, so over the years her memory (as well as my own of having been in Thailand in the Army) has always been an invaluable help to me in producing terrain for my Vietnam wargaming. 

She also has always been very supportive of my hobby, though perhaps there has been a certain lack of fervor (which is "highly understandable" she tells me) concerning the money it devours and the space in our apartment it stubbornly refuses to relinquish, but overall, she's always been very tolerant and even semi-interested. 

Over the past few weeks, she has developed a desire to understand why I enjoy the endless painting and organizing. I told her it's very likely a "man thing" and thus inexplicable to a woman, but in part, painting is very relaxing and organizing my little legions provides me a control over a tiny world that I can never exercise in the "real" world. On the wargaming table, I am lord and master with total power of life and death. As I expected, most of my diatribe was as if I had explained it to her in Old Icelandic, but the "relaxing" part caught her ear. 

Yesterday, after thumbing through my mind-numbingly large array of reference books, my wife announced herself ready to begin painting miniatures, much to my delighted incredulity. She has a fairly stressful career (a supervisor in the cashier's office of a large private hospital) and is a very meticulous and detail-oriented person, so I can see the mental attraction of a bit of quiet painting. 

Being from NE Thailand and born two weeks after the end of the Vietnam War, she's always had a passing interest in the conflict and the Thai combat troops that took part. That being the case, she asked for something small to begin on. She chose a 1/285 (GHQ minis) Viet Cong infantry platoon command stand. So, here, without further ado, is her completed stand:
I'm absolutely gobsmacked!! The prone figure even has little sandals!! The kneeling guy has a tiny red dot on his cap to represent a communist red star!! 

She's done the entire thing, with zero help from me, apart from a few bits of "how to" advice and a little looking at stands I've already done. All I did was hand her two bare-metal figures and a plain steel stand. The two days she's spent seems incredibly short for a first-ever effort of this quality, considering that she's primed, textured, painted, and flocked! I'm man enough to say that she's a better painter than I am (I blame it on her eyes being 12 years younger than mine are!). And moreover, she has pronounced the whole thing "fun, engrossing, creative, and calming". 

Like most women, she refused to allow a few photos of herself working on the stand. I was told that as I had sneaked in a photo of her at New Year (see my post of 12/30/13), I shouldn't push my luck! In the interests of continued domestic felicity, I resisted the urge to surreptitiously snap a few.  

I asked about going on to actual gaming, but she said that she feels no interest at all, at least for now. She only wants to paint when the motivation strikes her. Well, I'm all for that! I always knew that I'd married a winner, but this goes above and beyond! 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

My West German Alpha Jets

They're finished! First off, this is what I was striving for; Norm 72:
This photo shows the centerline 27mm Mauser gun pod that German Alpha Jets almost always carried. The two outboard wing hard points were wet and so generally had drop tanks (the Alpha Jet had very short legs. A range of only about 380mi/610km loaded). The two inboard hard points were reserved for ordnance, generally SNEB rocket pods or CBU's of one variety or another. The total payload capability was 5500lb/2500kg. 
And here are mine. On the first one, I gave the upper surfaces a Gelboliv base coat and then painted the areas of Basalt Grey over the top of it:
(Sorry for my hand in there, but I needed a background to get the camera to focus for a closeup)
The flash makes the Basalt Grey appear much bluer than it really is. I think it turned out quite well. You can see the silvery grey canopy in the first photo. As an aside, I have to say that decals that small are a damned pain in the ass!

For the second one, I reversed the process just to see if there was any appreciable difference. I used Basalt Grey as the base coat and painted Gelboliv areas over it:
I really can't say that it looks any different to me. I didn't use the flash on this one either, so it doesn't look blue!

I thought that since I already have a metal wire sticking up from the base, why not use the excuse to add a tree to the stand. I painted the bottom bit of the wire as a tree trunk and glued a green foilage cluster around the wire:
Bingo! One tree! These are my first two Cold War fixed-wing aircraft. I think they came out quite well. Now two more German ones and two Belgians.

Ok, that's it for this time. More next weekend!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Painting canopies

Why does every wargamer, including me, no matter what scale he or she is working in, seem to endlessly agonize over what color to paint canopies and windows in aircraft? I guess because we know that in reality they're clear glass (ok, not really glass per se, but you know what I mean) and there's just no good way to make solid resin or metal seem clear.

So how do we do the best we can at depicting glass using only paint? What color(s) should a miniature canopy be? Well, the first question to ask is what color is a real canopy (apart from "clear")? Not wanting to get too technical or scientific, because it all has to do with the geometry of light and reflection, I'll just say that it really depends on the shape of the canopy, how much surface area the canopy has in relation to the rest of the fuselage near it, and from what angle you view it. If you view a canopy from more or less 90°, i.e. side-on, you'll look right through it and see the sky on the other side:
So it will appear light-colored. This is enhanced if the canopy has a relatively large surface area, as it makes the sides of the aircraft seem smaller by comparison:

However, if you view the canopy from any other angle, you'll be looking into the interior of the cockpit, which will be heavily shadowed, rather than through it:
This makes the canopy appear dark:

So we have a choice; paint light or paint dark. If we paint light, it's correct from one angle and wrong from every other. If we paint dark, it's correct from every angle, save one. But of course, wargaming isn't always about slavish adherence to reality. Sometimes things can be perfectly correct, but they just don't look right. In the end, it's merely a personal choice. If something looks good to the painter, it is therefore good. 

I have tried both methods and to me, the dark style looks less...cartoonish, but I find that if the aircraft already has a dark-colored paint scheme, a dark canopy can get "lost" and be very difficult to differentiate from the rest of the aircraft. As I've been painting a West German Alpha Jet today, I gave it a very dark grey canopy to show you the problem:
See? Very indistinct (I'll repaint the canopy, don't worry). To try to remedy this, I normally use a middle grey (Vallejo Dark Sea Grey 991), followed by a gunmetal wash (Vallejo Gunmetal Grey 863). This slightly silvery look makes it easier for the eye to pick out the extent of the canopy and gives a bit of an illusion of "reflection". No matter whether the aircraft's finish is matt or satin, I always finish by giving the canopy a gloss coating. 

I'm not saying that my way is the "right" way. It may not even be the best way, but it's one way. If you do it differently, I'd love to know so I can give it a try too. I'll do a post on the Alpha Jets (and the canopies) as soon as they're finished. 

Friday, July 11, 2014

West German Luftwaffe camouflage 1981

This weekend, I'm working on the Tumbling Dice Alpha Jets I received (see my July 3rd post). I've started off doing two West German aircraft and I've already put them on wires, based them, primed everything, and textured the bases.

So the first question has to be, "what color are these things supposed to be?" Like everything about the German armed forces (the Bundeswehr) in the early 1980's, Luftwaffe camouflage schemes are a bit complicated. Not necessarily the patterns, but rather what schemes were used when and on which types of aircraft. I'll try to give you the simplest explanation possible. 

The Luftwaffe, in theory, used one scheme on all it's aircraft. Not necessarily the exact same pattern, but the same general scheme in the same colors. The overall scheme was called a "Norm", followed by the two digit year it was to be adopted. By way of example, Norm 72 was predictably introduced in 1972:
It was a simple angled geometric or "wedge" pattern of Gelboliv (RAL 6014 - the same color as army vehicles) and Basaltgrau (RAL 7012) on the upper surfaces and Silbergrau (RAL 7001 - a light grey) on the lower surfaces. 

When a new Norm was introduced, the Luftwaffe, like any military, didn't get everything repainted overnight. It took them a year or more and the interceptor aircraft were always done first, then all the attack, cargo, liaison, etc types came afterwards. Norm 72 lasted throughout the 1970's. However, when the Tornado aircraft began entering Luftwaffe service, a new Norm was introduced just for them, Norm 76, which added in patches of black and abandoned the wedge shapes for large irregular "blotches":

The Luftwaffe planned on changing the Norm in 1981 and so, in late 1980, a variation of Norm 72 was tried out on a few interceptors (known as Norm 72/81), which only added a patch or two of Stone Grey (RAL 7030):
(Sorry, I couldn't find a good photo of the real thing) However, 
it wasn't found to be any better than its predecessor, so a completely new approach was taken, which was accepted for service as Norm 81:
The basic difference is that "waves" were introduced on upper AND lower surfaces, still in Gelboliv and Basalt Grey, but with the addition of Quartz Grey (RAL 7039 - a brownish grey), while most vertical surfaces were in Stone Grey (RAL 7030). 

Norm 81 last only about 2 years, as it was found to be ineffective and it was replaced with Norm 83, which returned to the irregular blotch pattern, but in three colors: Olivgrün (RAL 6003 - the same color as East German army vehicles), a very dark grey (the best match seems to be Vallejo 862 Black Grey or 995 German Grey) and a dark green (a good match is Vallejo 893 US Dark Green). This was on all surfaces, upper and lower:

So where does that leave me for March 1981? Norm 81 had only just been accepted, so it's unlikely any aircraft would've yet been repainted. If any were, it would have been a precious few interceptors only. Likewise, a few interceptors would've still had their Norm 72/81 scheme. The vast majority of aircraft would've still been wearing Norm 72, except the Tornados, which would've been in Norm 76. So my Alpha Jets will soon appear resplendent in Norm 72. 

Oh, I should point out that the West German Navy (the Bundesmarine or just Marine) had its own aircraft and they used an entirely different camouflage scheme. More on that another time. 

Stand by for a couple of Alpha Jets....

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

More Polish airborne troops

Tonight I've been working on an airborne antitank company for the Polish 6th Pomeranian air landing division. The Poles had less airlift capability than the Soviets did, so they fielded "light" antitank units for their airborne, i.e. no antitank guns. 

The company would've consisted of six UAZ-469's, each with an AT-4 Spigot launcher mounted in the rear bed:
Obviously, you'd have to fold down the windshield ("windscreen" to my British readers) before you fired! Oddly, the only actual photo I've been able to find is this North Korean military parade:

The company would also have an unarmed UAZ-469 as a company command vehicle. As usual, O8 doesn't make an armed UAZ, so I've had to do the vehicle and the launcher separately. Here's my company:
Those were my last six UAZ's, so I'll add some to my next Picoarmor order and finish the command stand after they arrive. 

More next time!

Monday, July 7, 2014

A new 3mm East German vehicle!

After some chatting with Dragoman on Shapeways, who by the way is a really great designer (mostly in 1/300) and a very accommodating fellow, I've convinced him to downscale his East German Trabant Kübel!!

They were used quite widely where 4-wheel drive wasn't a necessity, as their cross-country capabilities left something to be desired:
As a side note, Kübel is German for "bucket" or "tub". How flattering. 

I'm really quite pleased at talking him into this. The East German Army used quite a lot of these and I was getting a bit tired of UAZ-469's for everything:
As you can see, quite a visual difference. Now I need to order a sprue or two! Shapeways' price is too high for me to get more than a token number, but I definitely will make up a few command stands using them. Once I order some and they arrive, I'll give you a look.