Let There Be Light…

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.

*ahem*

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…

 

 

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Let Me Take You by the Hand…

…and lead you through the streets of London…

As announced in my last post – Eliminating the Impossible – the Buffet will be travelling back in time to the Victorian era.

Now, whilst I have both a selection of suitable figures and some suitable buildings, what I didn’t have was anything to put them on.  I could go out and buy a suitable ‘cobbled streets’ gaming mat, but having had a look at these before, the smallest I’ve found is 3′ square and about £40. As my usual gaming surface (my dining table) can just about cope with a 2′ gaming mat, the smallest available mat was a bit too big, not to mention a bit too expensive…

However, I have actually been planning this particularly project for a while, working out exactly not only how I was going to do it, but how I was going to do it cheaply.

Way back in November, in the post Welcome to Easy Street, I showed how I made a remarkably cheap and easy 1′ square modern road tile, using self-adhesive vinyl floor tiles, sandpaper and hobby foam. This post will show you how to do the same thing for Victorian streets, but with a few variations.

So, at the end of this project, I intend to have my own small slice of London, represented by four 1′ square gaming tiles, a selection of street furniture and buildings and a handful of suitable dressed civilians and personalities…and a bunch of monsters.

First things first, we need some Victorian streets and nothing says Victorian like cobbles. Now you can buy both resin and plastic sheets of cobbles, which can then be attached to whatever basing material you choose, but here at the Buffet, we like to show you how to do things more cost effectively. So rather than spending money on these, take a stroll down to your local DIY shop and walk into the wallpaper section.

Wallpapers come in a wide selections of styles, colours and prices, but we don’t care about this, because we’re looking for texture. Probably about 30% of the wallpapers on offer in any DIY shop will have some kind of texture on them, but the kind you’re looking for will have lots of little bumps on it that, when suitably painted, will give the impression of cobbles. And the best thing about this wallpaper is that the shops actually encourage you to rip off a sample and take it home. That’s right, boys and girls, it’s free! (I do have to admit to always feeling a little bit guilty when walking out of the shop with my tightly rolled sample, which is probably a good 18-20″ in length, knowing that I have no intention of every buying a roll of the stuff, but that won’t prevent me from going back if I haven’t got quite enough…)

So, we have our ‘cobbled’ paper, a pack of Poundland special self-adhesive vinyl floor tiles and some Poundland grey primer spray paint. After some measuring, cutting, sticking and spraying, you end up with something that looks like this;

The figure in the picture above is a West Wind Productions Victorian policeman, from their Vampire Wars: jack the Ripper 28mm range, which gives an idea of scale.

The next picture gives you a better idea of what the ‘cobbles’ look like in close-up.

Whilst one of my friends felt that a proper representation of cobbles should have the cobbles closer together, this isn’t a diorama, but a gaming tiles to give the impression of cobbles. As the three tiles I made took a couple of hours and cost me a grand total of £2.00, I think they look pretty good.

However, whilst they looked pretty good as a base, they needed a bit more detailing to match my idea of what I wanted to achieve. And this is where things didn’t go according to plan…

So, having got my base tiles, I decided that I was going to scribe pavements onto the inch wide strips, scoring these into the vinyl floor tiles with a bradawl. Once this was done, I would wash the whole tile in a brown ochre wash, which should not only ‘fill’ the scribed lines between the paving slabs, but also dirty up my road a bit, making them look more realistic.

However, whilst the scribing looked good, all it actually did was remove the top layer of spray paint, so when I applied the wash, all it did was show up the underlying colour of the tiles. And it made the tiles look a bit crap. After a bit of rethinking and a further visit to both Poundland and a different DIY shop, I had another can of grey primer and some different textured wallpaper, this time what was described as ‘mosaic’, which was basically lots of little squares.

As approximately two and a bit of these squares covered about an inch, I cut several strips an inch wide of my sample, then glued these down over the sections I had previously scribed as pavements, then re-sprayed the tiles. The end result was this;

Whilst they may not be offset paving slabs like I had originally intended, I think they look a lot more effective than if I’d tried to either paint the paving slabs on individually or tried to paint the lines on freehand.

As I’ve only completed three of the intended four tiles, I dug out my pumpkin patch tile I made last October, to show what the completed playing area will look like;

I decided to cut out the pavement on the bottom left tile to make them more modular and give me more options in layout. The final fourth tile, which will replace the pumpkin patch, will be a churchyard, utilising the iron railings I got at Salute from Renedhra and a Plasticville ‘cathedral’, which is a little too small to be a cathedral, but does make an acceptable small church.

I still need a few rows of Victorian housing and probably a pub, which will be scratch-built, along with some gas lamps. Having looked online at the various gas lamps available, I will probably be scratch-building these too – I know roughly how I’m going to do these, just need to work out the best way to do the actual lamps, as the bases and posts will be a cinch.

So, that’s how far I’ve got with my Gothic Victoriana tiles, and so far it’s cost me just under a fiver, which is pretty good going.

Join me next time and we’ll hopefully see my small slice of London look a bit more built-up.

Eliminating the Impossible

My recent holiday, which wasn’t the most intellectually stimulating, did give me a lot of time to think. As it was kind of an enforced exile from both my blog and the hobby in general, unsurprisingly most of my thoughts were of the future direction of the Buffet.

Regular visitors to the Buffet will know that I tend to do things my own way here, so whilst a large percentage of the blogging community may be enthusing about the latest “big thing”, I’ll be off doing something completely different, probably involving re-purposed or cheap figures and scratch-built scenery.

The last few posts here at the Buffet have been focused on gaming Doctor Who in 28mm, but as the populist movement seems to be leaning towards the slightly larger scale “official” DW miniatures from Warlord Games AND there seems to be a glut of these on the Internet at present, I have become somewhat jaded with this subject. Rather than continue and fall completely out of love with it, I’ve decided to take a break from Doctor Who and do something…else.

So, the new project that the Buffet will be focusing on for the next few months arose out of a conversation with Tarot and taps into one of my favourite eras of history, namely the Victorian era. However, being who I am, I will be eschewing the goggles and brass doohickery of ‘Steampunk’, leaving the Martini-Henry and Pith helmet hanging behind the door and steering clear of the Red Planet. However, I will be shrugging myself into an Inverness cape and venturing onto the fog-shrouded cobbles of Victorian London, as I’ve heard that there’s monsters abroad…

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“The British public, safely ensconced within their cosy parlours, have thrilled to the exploits of staunch defenders of the Realm, such as Sherlock Holmes, Abraham van Helsing and Thomas Carnacki, never for one moment suspecting that these accounts concealed truths far stranger than the published fiction.

But that was the entire point. Should they ever comprehend the nature of the threats that stalk the streets of the Capital, Bedlam would have more inhabitants than the rookeries of St Giles.

Whilst those members of the Metropolitan Police Force attached to the Black Museum have some experience in battling the unnatural, sometimes more specialised expertise is needed and they call…him. 

Lancelot Grimm – Eliminator of the Impossible.”

So, over the next few months you can expect stalwart member of the Black Museum force, unnatural creatures of myth and legend, cobbled streets and iron railings, Victorian tenements and alleyways, the Chapel of St Gilbert on the Hill, and Lancelot Grimm himself.

The game is afoot!

The Best Laid Plans

I don’t know which evil entity decided July would be the month in which it would attempt to unravel all aspects my life, but someone obviously failed to inform it of exactly who it was dealing with…

So, having been lashed to the mast, screaming obscenities into the teeth of the gale, I have weathered all that July has thrown at me and returned, if not unscathed, at least unsunk.

However, it does mean that my ‘best laid plans’ have gone awry. No rules have been written, no games played, no figures painted…nothing even remotely hobby-related has been done.

But when have I ever let that stop me from posting, eh?

Regular visitors will know that I constantly keep my eyes open for inexpensive items that can be re-purposed for gaming. They will also know that, given the choice, my personal material preference for wargaming structures is hard plastic, rather than MDF.

So, if I happen to come across an injection-moulded plastic building that is not only approximately scaled to 28mm, but also only £4.00, I’m hardly likely to leave it on the shelf now, am I?

Zomlings in the Town” is a range of collectible plastic figurines made by Magic Box Toys, representing cartoon-like monsters that are just under an inch tall, which are sold blind-packaged to encourage multiple purchases. However, we’re not interested in the main range, but an ‘expansion’ from Series 5, known as Parking.

This expansion consists of three buildings, approximately 3.5″ by 2.5″ in area and 2.5″ tall, moulded in single colour hard plastic and sold separately accompanied by two ‘themed’ zomlings. The buildings are hollow and have a hinged door at one end, as each building is supposed to be a garage for the appropriately themed ‘zom-mobile’.

There is a red fire station, a blue police station and a green ice cream shop, as shown below:

Image result for zomlings series 5 parking

Stylistically, the buildings are somewhat cartoony, with the kind of slightly wonky architecture you’d expect to see in a Bugs Bunny cartoon, so these are probably best utilised with either Chibi figures, such as those from Super Dungeon Explore or Ninja All Stars, or with Heroclix TMNT.

“But Jez”, I hear you cry, “You don’t own any Chibi figures or any Turtles, so what use are these to you?” Patience, dear reader, I will explain…

Whilst both the fire and police station certainly wouldn’t fit in with any of the figures I currently own, the ice cream shop is another matter, as the ‘style’ of this building can be rationalised away. Most ice cream parlours are somewhat stylised anyway, so having examined the item in question in detail, I bought one.

And here it is:

So, an injection-moulded plastic building with plenty of surface detail and texturing for £4.00. As you can see, the detailing covers the entire exterior, including the roof. I’ve shown it with its ‘door’ open, to give an idea of how this works.

Of course, I did claim that this was approximately 28mm scale, let’s stick a couple of figures in front of it, to show what this looks like:

“I am the Master…and I do want a flake with that.”

To the left we have one of my repainted Heroclix figures and to the right, my Black Tree Design Master, which gives a good indication that, whilst the door might look a touch small, generally speaking it doesn’t look too out of scale.

As the roof is flat, what with it being a box, there is enough room to place at least one figure on the roof, depending on base size.

“I am the Master…of all I survey. Oooh! I can see you house from up here.”

And, as the building is hollow, this mean that it can be opened and figures placed inside.

And what would you expect to find inside an ice cream parlour? I don’t know about you, but mine appears to be full of Daleks…

“Refrigerate! Refrigerate! Refrigerate!”

Bloody things get everywhere

A very useful addition to my urban scenery and I can see this being used in a variety of genres, from Scooby Doo to Ghostbusters, superheroes to Doctor Who. I am actually quite looking forward to giving this a lick of paint, but feel it probably needs an undercoat of spray primer first, as all buildings, even small ones such as this, do seem to take a looooooong time to paint.

That’s all for this time and whilst this may not have been useful to all of you, I hope its been of use to some of you.

Next time…at present, your guess is as good as mine. Could be Doctor Who, could be Victorian adventurers, could be superheroes, could be something really weird

But there WILL be something here. And July can go fuck itself.

Jez