If you’re building a small slice of Victorian London, there are two things that you really need to have to make it have that ‘Victorian’ feel – cobblestones and gaslights. So, as my last post dealt with the cobbles, this post will deal with gas lamps.
Now, those who regularly trawl the Internet will know that a search engine is only as good as the parameters entered. So, should you enter “28mm Victorian lamppost” or “model railway Victorian lamppost” you will discover that those gas lamps made specifically for wargaming can be a little on the pricey side and the majority of model train lighting is similarly expensive, as they are designed to actually light up. Based on this, you would conclude that it would probably be within your hobby skills to make your own for the fraction of the price.
However, if you’d remembered that 28mm is approximately O Scale/Gauge and put in “O Gauge Victorian Lampposts”, you would have found you could actually get a pack of 10 Victorian gas lamps (with integral lighting) 73mm tall, for just under £7.00 including shipping. The key word in that previous sentence is the word “if”…
Annoyingly, I only found the cheap model gas lamps AFTER I’d built my own. I could claim that showing you how will save you money in the long run (these actually cost me nothing but time, as I already had all the components) or that the same principles could be used to make street signs or lamp posts for other eras (which it obviously can), but the real reason I’m showing you this is because I spent several hours slaving over the ruddy things, so the least you can do is read the bloody post.
Right, first you need a few components, as shown below:
What we have are some cup washers, some dressmakers pins, some cotton buds (or Q-tips), some small nails(which didn’t get used) and the most important component, some ink cartridges for pens. You can get a pack of thirty of these for £1.99 here in the UK, and these can be used as shell casings for howitzers, jet engines for space craft, missiles, gas canisters, etc. so quite a useful little item.
So, the first thing we do is prepare some bases to attach our components to, which consists of some 2 pence pieces (or 25mm washers) to which I glued some textured wallpaper, the same that I used for the pavements on my cobbles boards:
These would also make pretty good bases for dungeon-crawl figures, be they monsters or adventurers.
Next, we need to prepare the ink cartridges, as we’re only going to be using part of them, so we need to cut them up without getting ink everywhere. The easiest way to do this is to actually just cut them on a wad of kitchen towel and let that soak up the ink. For our lamp posts we need the top 20mm of the cartridge, with the tapered end. Once you’ve cut you cartridge down to size, rinse both parts out with clean water and use one of your cotton buds to dry out the inside.
The cotton buds need to be stripped of their cotton before they can be used, but once they are, using a bradawl or similar pointy object, break the seal at the top of the ink cartridge and push one end of your stripped cotton bud into it. Then glue it onto the cup washer.
You will now have a post 90mm tall. Using your judgement and/or eye, push a pin through the post at the correct height to make the cross-bar typical for Victorian gas lamps. As the whole length of the pin will be far to long, snip of the pointy end at a length that is pleasing to the eye (mine are about 20mm long). You will then end up with something that looks like this:
And yes, one of them is a bit wonky. Next I decided to paint each one of my six lamp posts with GW chainmail, as I know metallic paints do tend to give a much better coverage than non-metallics, so they looked like this:
Now, I apologise that there aren’t that many WIP shots during the next part, as how I had intended on making the gas mantles for the tops of my lamp posts didn’t quite go according to plan, so I had to come up with an alternative, which I actually think worked out better, but I’ll leave that for you to judge for yourselves.
I had intended on carving rhomboid gas mantles, the standard shape for Victorian lamps, from a partially transparent pencil eraser, then pushing these onto the tops of my posts. However, cutting six rhomboid gas mantles that have exactly the same dimensions AND straight sides is not as easy as I thought it would be – in fact, it was an absolute nightmare, so back to the drawing board I went.
After giving it some thought and rummaging through various different boxes of bits, I came up with what I hope would be an elegant solution.
First, I shortened the off-cuts from the ink cartridges to approximately 15mm in length and made a small hole in the base (now top) of each one. Taking another dressmaking pin and half a small popper/snap fastener, I fed the pin through the popper with the ‘knob’ upwards, then through the hole in the top of my off-cut. I now had a transparent mantle with knobbly decorative top and a pin shaft that could be fed into the hollow stem of the cotton bud, meaning that it could be glue in place without the superglue further frosting the ‘glass’.
My lamp posts were then painted matt black, followed by black ink to give them that shiny black paint look common to Victorian ironwork, except for the top 15mm, which was painted with a bright gold, to represent the lit gas lamp. The mantles were then glued on top, and the top of each mantle received its Chainmail base coat, matt black mid coat and black ink final coat. The end result was this:
So, they may not be exactly 100% accurate, but I think they look pretty damned good and they cost me nothing!
And as you’re probably wondering exactly how big they are compared to a standard 28mm figure, here’s everyone’s favourite grumpy Victorian monster hunter, Lancelot Grimm himself, taking an evening stroll:
Of course, we can’t really finish off the post without showing what the lamp posts look like on my cobblestone boards, now can we?
Look pretty good from GEV (Gamer’s Eye View), but here’s a closer shot;
And there’s the wonky lamp-post again…apparently this was damaged when an orangutan dressed for the opera used it to escape the peelers, after he’d brutally cut up a dolly mop with a straight razor. Can’t trust those damned dirty apes…
So, yes, you can buy inexpensive scale Victorian gas lamps which work out at roughly 70p each, but you will have to gut the electrics and they are about 25mm shorter than the ones I’ve built. Or, if you’ve got the mind to do it, you could have a go at making your own, as I did. They may not be exactly right, but as you can see from the pictures above, once in place, they do add to the overall Victorian ambience, which is what I’m trying to achieve.
Next time, more ‘Gothic Victoriana’, as I complete my quartet of tiles with the Chapel of St. Gilbert and it’s attendant graveyard. It’s “Gothic” Victoriana…gotta have a graveyard…