Archive for the ‘Miscellaneous’ Category

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From the painting desk #59 – The painting desk

August 28, 2018

As you have no doubt noticed, the blog has been awfully quiet lately. As I’ve mentioned a couple of times previously, it’s nothing serious – just home renovation stuff leaving me with no space to paint in. All that has now changed!

We’ve been buying a lot of old furniture after moving together, because of both the visual appeal and the ecological. We’ve been getting rid of old IKEA stuff, and replacing it with wooden furniture. With this in mind, I spotted this desk at the local recycling centre:

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Click for a larger version

Don’t you just love that pine, the round drawer knobs and the worn, faded tabletop? I know I didn’t! While in their own way quaint and reminiscent of my childhood (this style was quite popular in Finland back in the 80s/90s), I knew they would have to go. The desk had a thick layer of varnish, which had yellowed over the years, and I wanted rid of that as well.

My original plan was to remove the varnish by using both paint stripper and a sander and then to give the desk a new coat of varnish tinted darker brown. This failed miserably. After spending a lot of time with the sanding and paint stripping, there were still a lot of patches where the varnish just wouldn’t stick. I was close to dumping the whole desk at this point.

As in so many cases, furniture paint turned out to be the solution. Just white paint over everything, switch out the knobs for some nice brass ones and ta-da!

Click for a larger version

One of the neater things here of course is that when I’m not painting, I can just close the desk to keep my stuff from collecting dust on my (ho-humm) occasional painting breaks. All those lovely drawers nicely hold my extra paints, flocks and other hobby stuff, so I’m really really happy with this solution. On top of everything, I think it looks pretty gosh darn elegant for a miniature painting table.

I even added a couple of actual houseplants! I’ll get back to Sting and Dire Straits now.

And yes, the “From the painting desk” posts are usually dedicated to miniatures, but how could I resist? Yeah, that’s right.

 

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Pirate music

March 10, 2018

What up, fellow cool kids! With home renovation work continuing, I’m stuck with plenty of newly painted miniatures that I haven’t been able to photo properly. For once, plenty of painting mojo and I’m unable to share it! What this means is another tangential post, this time on music I use to inspire myself. Instead of just plonking down a playlist, I figured I’d share some of my thoughts that went into this list. It’s not a full play-by-play, but close to one. You can find the playlist on Spotify by following this link.

Now, the list is vaguely named “Pirate & historical”. This means both genre and mood. I don’t want the list to sound too modern, hence the lack of pop/rock songs that match the theme. There are a couple of Mark Knopfler songs on there, and they’re sort of borderline. Then again, Privateering fits theme-wise, as does Sailing to Philadelphia.

A lot of “pirate music” that you find on Spotify is…well, let’s just say I don’t like it. It’s often average pirate-themed punk rock, usually sung in a raspy Hollywood “yarrrrr”-voice. Fun for the first 15 seconds, and then it starts grating on my nerves. That brings me to another important point: listenability. While I want the list to be somewhat theme-appropriate, it also needs to be something that I’ll actually listen to. What this means is that I’ve dropped the dramatic combat music from movie and game soundtracks. I’ve also avoided excessive use of any given album or artist, as it will make the playlist boring to me.

So what’s on this list then and why? The categories listed below aren’t exact so there’s plenty of overlap, I’ve just listed the songs under different headings to make my logic easier to follow.

Soundtracks from period films and games

The list features a lot of pieces from a variety of Assassin’s Creed games: Assassin’s Creed 3 (set during the American War of Independence), Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag (set in the Golden Age of Piracy) and it’s slavery-themed Freedom Cry DLC, Assassin’s Creed Rogue (set in the late 18th century), Assassin’s Creed Unity (set during the French Revolution) with its Dead Kings supplement. These provide plenty of interesting themes and they’re often designed to be evocative background music, so they’re perfect for my needs. As mentioned above, I’ve left out the more dramatic pieces – they’re stressful to listen to.

There are pieces from Outlander and Poldark soundtracks. Both are set in the 18th century, so it’s no surprise they feature here as well. There are only a couple of Poldark pieces though, as a lot of the series’ soundtrack prominently features a common theme, and I don’t want the playlist to sound like a Poldark soundtrack.

Obviously there are Pirates of the Caribbean pieces, but I think surprisingly few. In all honesty, a lot of the PotC soundtrack stuff is really generic Klaus Badelt/Hans Zimmer orchestral soundtrack stuff. A refreshing exception to this is the soundtrack to On Stranger Tides, which features some excellent flamenco guitar work by Rodrigo y Gabriela.

There’s one track from Vangelis’ Conquest of Paradise soundtrack, that I found fitting, too. Sure, it’s late 15th century but who’s counting?

Oh, and there’s the Curse of Monkey Island theme. I contemplated putting it in for a long time (playlist building is serious business) but I guess it deserves its place.

Fantasy music

Couple of these tracks in there as well. There’s one track from the Of Orcs and Men game soundtrack as well as a piece from League of LegendsSpotify has tons of generic fantasy music, but a lot of it is uninspired, generic and sounds cheap. Needless to say, I left those out.

Modern music with a historical theme

The Knopfler pieces mentioned above are good examples. Privateering is obviously about privateering, while Sailing to Philadelphia chronicles events set in the 1760s. Then there are a couple of thematic pieces, Loreena McKennitt’s unashamedly cheesy The Highwayman and Hanging Tree by Blackmore’s Night. It’s a fine line with this stuff, as sometimes the cheese dial goes to eleven.

Dance music

Some of these in there as well. There’s an instrumental jig version of the Elizabethan Drive the Winter Away carol and a hurdy-gurdy piece, Three Sharks by Nigel Eaton. The Devil’s Churn/Tamlin piece by The Pyrettes also goes in this category, as does Rose on the Mountain by Kaia Kater.

Sea shanties and maritime songs

It’s fairly obvious that these feature on the list. There’s Randy Dandy Oh by the Pyrettes that steers close to overt yarrrrr territory but barely clears it. The lovely Sheringham Shantymen rendition of The Good Ship Ragamuffin is one of my favourites on the whole list, as is Sarah Blasko’s beautiful take on Spanish LadiesThe Dreadnought is a song about a 19th century clipper, yet quite suitable for the list.

Ballads

Ballads were a favoured pastime in the 18th century, recounting all sorts of interesting goings-on. Ballads on the list are Turpin Hero (about the 18th century highwayman), The Rising of the Moon (about the Irish Rebellion of 1798), Back Home in Derry (recounting the forced deportation of the Irish to Australia in the turn of the 19th century), and Matty Groves (a tale of love and death from the 17th century).

There you have it, all sorts of fun music to fuel your life, whether you’re working on pirates or just enjoy some good tunes.

 

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Diana and me

August 20, 2017

It’s my birthday today, and I got a wonderful present a day early. Emmi had booked us a two hour coastal cruise on Diana, a reconstructed late 18th century cannon sloop that sails from Suomenlinna. It was super fun, with the crew dressed in period clothing and in character, with the main actor playing the part of Swedish shipbuilder and scientist, vice admiral Fredrik Henrik af Chapman. Now, this sort of thing can be cheesy and awkward, but I’m happy to report that it wasn’t – the crew played their parts well, the dialogue was witty and funny and they managed to cram a lot of historical information in there as well. The passengers got to help with some of the easy tasks in hoisting and lowering sails, and we got to try our hand in rowing the ship as well. There was also flag signaling and teaching of maritime knots as an additional bonus.

The cannon sloop (or gun sloop) was a type of small vessel designed in the latter half of the 18th century. From Wikipedia:

A gun sloop (Sw. kanonslup) had two collapsible masts and carried chase guns in both bow and stern. They were 15 to 19 meters in length and 3.5 – 4 meters in width while having draft of slightly less than one meter. The sloops had 10 to 12 oar pairs with two men on each oar and two collapsible sloop-rigged masts. Armament consisted of a 12 or 24-pound gun at both bow and stern, though some of the first gun sloops carried only a single gun in the bow, and a single 3-pounder swivel gun on each side. Some sloops carried carriages to allow their guns to be used as a shore battery. When not in combat, the guns were secured at the bottom of the vessel. Crew complement was from 50 to 64 men.

While not exactly a pirate vessel, it definitely gave me a lot of perspective on ship size. I’ve always thought many miniature gaming ships much too small, but they actually seem to be quite accurate! I might need to buy a few for shoreline duty and dedicate the two bigger ships to boarding action scenarios – knowledge can be an expensive thing. Anyway, here are some photos of the cruise, you can click for larger versions. Also, Emmi reminded me to write that she’s the best – she most definitely is.

 

 

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A book of pirates? 

March 7, 2017

Long, lazy days on sunny Gili Air have left me toying with an idea of doing something new regarding my pirate project. Namely, I’ve been thinking of turning it into a book of sorts! 

Now, I’m not talking about an epic novel or anything like that, but simply collecting the fiction and fact around Port George into one something like a compendium, providing fellow gamers – whether RPG or minis – with a ready-made fictional early 18th century town somewhere in the Caribbean. NPCs, plot hooks, historical facts and so on. Nothing system specifix, just things that spark the imagination and maybe provide inspiration and ideas for gaming and painting. 20-30 pages maybe.

This would of course give me a great opportunity to commission art from friends (I definitely want a map and some character illustrations), write some scraps of fiction and do some more pirate research. What I want most of all, though, is to create something, to make those minis, buildings and these blog posts into something more than just their sum. Who knows, maybe someone else might find it interesting or inspiring as well!

So, dear readers, what do you think? Cool idea or silly waste of time and effort? Something you might consider getting once finished, as a pdf maybe? What would you like to see in something like this? Any other comments or ideas?

Article picture by the great Howard Pyle, public domain.

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Merry Christmas!

December 24, 2016

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Looking back on 2015

December 31, 2015

Photo by Anna Langova, public domain

There’s six hours of 2015 still left here in Finland, so just enough time for a quick look back on the year miniature-wise.

I had yet another lovely trip to Salute, and this one set the pace for my mini projects for the year. I bought a pack of Foundry pirates, and off I went!

As you’ve no doubt noticed, this year has been pirates, pirates, pirates. Building a ship, building a town, building a terrain board and occasionally even painting a pirate. Most of the things I’ve done this year have related to pirates, like the civilians (see here and here) that I painted for our Halloween game but will be used in pirate gaming as well.

My pirate fever doesn’t seem to be going away, so expect plenty of pirate-y fun next year as well. While the blog updates have been much more sporadic than in the blog’s heyday, rest assured that it’s not going anywhere. Dissertation work, sappy love stuff, video games, role-playing games and the like can be real distractors sometimes – although luckily fun ones.

What’s up for 2016? In no particular order:

  • Painting up pirates, 18th century civilians, navy types and colonial soldiers
  • Building a second terrain board as well as a few different extra pieces
  • Modifying and painting a bunch of houses
  • Basing and touching up loads of palm trees
  • Building and painting plenty of scatter terrain
  • Most likely sneaking a few RPG miniatures in as well
  • Salute 2016 as well as visiting plenty of awesome sights and people in the UK and Ireland
  • All the things I forgot

I’m actually quite happy with the year seen through hobby glasses. I could’ve painted more minis (I count 33 but there may be more), but that’s true for pretty much every year. I actually managed to finish quite a few things and keep a project steadily going. Certainly looking forward to next year!

As a final thing, all the best to all you regular readers (both old and new) as well as random wanderers. I always enjoy reading your feedback and it’s a major part of making this whole blog thing an enjoyable experience. Hope to see you in the future as well.

Long story short, happy new year 2016 everyone!

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Gifts for a miniature hobbyist

December 11, 2015

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It’s December 11th and Christmas is less than two weeks away. I assume that in many homes two things are happening:

  1. A miniature hobbyist is wishing for a present related their hobby, knowing that they’ll almost certainly not get one.
  2. A miniature hobbyist’s significant other, parent or sibling is desperately wanting to give said hobbyist a hobby related present, but doesn’t have a clue where to start.

So I figured I’d write up a little something to help potential gift givers, so all you hobbyists can just nonchalantly leave this blog post visible. Of course, this isn’t in any way a hint to anyone I know…

Do note, that this isn’t too serious a post. You don’t need to get anything for Christmas. But hey, for those interested here goes.

First of all, if you don’t know what the whole miniature hobby is about, buying presents related to it can be a chore. It’s obviously a dear activity to someone close to you, so you want to get it right. Then again, if you’re not familiar with the various aspects of the hobby, the amount of stuff on offer can be overwhelming. Here are some general guidelines:

Miniatures

I think this is the most risky choice. Most miniature enthusiasts, especially if they’ve been doing their thing for years, have more than enough miniatures filling their cupboards, closets, garages and so on. Adding random miniatures to the “lead pile” (as it’s affectionately known as) might actually cause extra stress. If they’re playing fantasy and scifi games, getting them a few Napoleonic soldiers may give them Present Face:

Even if you do know what they’re gaming, there’s still the question of factions. If they’re collecting the Dark Brethren of the Axe then the Shadowy Brethren of the Sword miniatures you bought them…oh well. If they collect historicals, it’s worse, believe me.

One way to get around this is to just buy something that you like and ask them to paint it. There are plenty of hobbyists who buy miniatures simply because they look nice. Enter “wargaming miniatures” or “roleplaying miniatures” into Google and off you go!

There are also a lot of miniatures out there that draw inspiration from books, films and so on, so if you know their favourites, go for it. It’s easy too, just type “[favourite fiction] miniatures” into Google and go crazy. You’ll likely end up with forum discussions in the search results, so just check the first few links to see what people have thought to be best fits. If you’re in luck, there are official, licensed miniatures available.

While miniatures are indeed a risky choice, they do send a loving message: you not only approve of the lead pile, but are willing to contribute to it. This really isn’t something to underestimate.

Terrain

Much easier than miniatures, and hobbyists always need more so this is a safe choice. Just check the general style and size of whatever they’re currently working on, and buy something that more or less fits. You’re even safer with generic things like walls, rivers, rocky outcrops, ruins and the like. Size/scale is the most important thing, but even that’s not a huge issue with rivers and such.

Tools and supplies

Another very safe choice, and easily acquired. Hobbyists need a lot of things, and hoard a lot that they obviously might need in the next ten years or so. Paints, brushes, fake grass and the like are nearly always welcome. These keep for years, so even if there’s not an acute need, they’re still useful. There are also plenty of tools that get worn with use, so drills and craft knife blades and the like are quite handy as well. You can also just buy something like sculpting clay or putty such as Fimo, ProCreate or Kneadatite, wooden craft sticks or the like from the local craft or hardware store, as the recipient will surely find a use for them eventually.

Books

Another fairly safe choice, and one that overlaps with non-hobby gifts as well. Art books and films’ “making of” books especially are often very useful for hobbyists as visual guides. If there’s a favourite subject that you know of, you can just pop over to a book store either physically or online, and look for “The art of [movie title]” or something similar. You’ll find things like this or this, for example. Historical books are also often useful, and as there’s a huge variety, there’s probably plenty that haven’t been read yet by the recipient. Just make sure to check the bookcase first! If you’re looking online, Osprey Publishing has a huge selection.

Vouchers

The safest and the most boring choice. Stores often offer different gift cards, and hobby stores are no exception. If you want to play it safe but get something hobby related, this is the way to go. As many miniature stores are mainly online affairs, this is especially useful for last minute gifts.

Now, these suggestions might seem like strict instructions, buth they’re not. Gifts should be a thing expressing love and appreciation for the other person, not just a way to get stuff we want for free – something especially important to remember around Christmas time. While wargamers and miniature hobbyists love stuff, from my own experience I can tell that we love our hobby and our craft even more. Showing respect and genuine interest in the things we build and paint and even offering help every now and then is often more important than any physical thing you can get. It’s often said that with presents it’s the idea that counts, and while we hobbyists may be a nitpicky lot, it holds especially true in this case.

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