Sunday, February 28, 2016

ACW Naval review - Week 9

Another week already?

Progress in the past week was much slower than in preceding weeks. This is due to two factors - 1 the nature of the main task (rigging) is by it's nature slow work for me. The other has been time devoted to another hobby (model trains) cut into my free time this week. This next week will be similar, mostly due to preparations for CINCYCON which is next weekend. I'll be hosting two games (ACW naval using Smoke on the Water and Mongoose Publishing's Starship Troopers). So time to work on the models will be somewhat limited.

With that out of the way, here's the progress from the last week.

Rigging on the CSS Patrick Henry continues. Actually, the rigging is installed -painting is the next task!

May have spoke too soon. The bowsprit needs another wire run to the foremast.

Looking down on the CSS Thomas Jefferson. Armed with two pivot rifles.

CSS Thomas Jefferson is getting there. four more wires to go!

USS Pawnee is just getting started.

USS Sassacus needs one more wire and  then painting starts!

That's all for now!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

ACW Naval status report - week 8

Well. Almost forgot to post an update for this week. And it's been such a great week!

Not much moved to the 'done' column this week. but lots of progress in the other areas.

What's Done?

Finished up painting the rigging on USS Varuna and got the matte coat of varnish applied.

What's almost done?

Good progress on the CSS Thomas Jefferson and CSS Patrick Henry. Both had their ordnance installed and the rigging is coming along. Finding some odds and ends to paint as this progressed. Should be done in the next week or two. (Did I mention that rigging in a pain?)

CSS Patrick Henry from Bay Area Yards.

CSS Thomas Jefferson with the guns mounted. Rigging is underway.

CSS Patrick Henry with the bow and stern pivots mounted. Lots of work left on the rigging.

What's 'In Progress'?

We had a gorgeous day on Saturday almost like early summer. Highs in the 70's, sunshine and dry air - spray painting weather! Several hulls that were ready for a primer coat got painted as did a whole mess of guns from Bay Area Yards.

CSS Calhoun. Good shot of the detail that went into this model. It's a great piece.

CSS Calhoun from Bay Area Yards.

USS Easport from Brown Water Navy Miniatures (Shapeways).

USS Kearsarge from Thoroughbred Figures.

USS Miami from Bay Area Yards.

Typical double ender. Big heavy semi-pivots mounted fore and aft.

Miami had a very different hull form than did the Sassacus or John Paul Jones class double enders.

In addition to the priming work, some general painting was done to CSS McRae and USS Lackawanna.

CSS McRae from Bay Area Yards.  Working on the block painting before starting the detail work.

The masts cleaned up nicely!

Sunday, February 14, 2016

ACW Naval status update - week seven

It's been another productive week getting work done on the ACW naval backlog. Several additional items are done, several more are almost done and a few new items have been added to the queue. So without further's week seven!

What's done
The big news here is that USS Varuna is ready for the tabletop. Varuna is a Bay Area Yards model that - unfortunately - is out of production. The model is of a warship with a short but distinguished history. Varuna fought with Farragut and was sunk at the Battle of the Forts during the assault on New Orleans.

Added the guns.

Just realized I didn't paint the yards on each mast.

And on a white background.

 Next up, we have a couple of shore batteries. Both of these are from the Bay Area Yards line and both are still in stock.

The two gun battery position with bombproof. Guns are Thoroughbred Miniatures garrison guns.

One gun battery. Exterior is covered in flocking.

And both batteries together.

 What's Almost done
The rigging on the Florida is installed. Remaining tasks are to paint the rigging.

There's a lot of steel wire in this image.
I'm still thinking the stacks need a darker shade of gray applied. This may be the week.

A chronic problem I have with the big ships is the base warping and rising as you could seen on the right.

There's not a lot new with the Lackawanna and the McRae this week. Kearsarge and Calhoun are stalled waiting on the weather to improve for their base coat of spray paint. It's an opportunity to get some more models ready for the base coat so we get those most bang for the buck as it were.

What's New?

A couple of new items. Broke out the model USS Miami that's been patiently waiting on the box for the last 17 months ago. I can't complain. That model of USS Varuna you see up the page? It's been in the queue since 2007.  In addition, I received a model of USS Eastport from Shapeways. It should be relatively straightforward to finish, but it does require warmer weather suitable for spray painting.

Two double enders - USS Miami in the foreground and USS Sassacus in the back.

Two parts added to the hull - a mast and a stack. Miami apparently only has the one mast. There is a small length of styrene that I must admit I have no idea where it goes.

View from off the port bow.

Don't mind the dog hair - it gets into everything!

Shapeways redux - a review of Brown Water Navy Miniatures model of USS Eastport

3-D printing for gaming really shines in the space defined by the  intersection of the ability to produce a 'one-off' model (generally referred to as rapid prototyping), and an acceptable price point that satisfies a low demand). In today's environment 3D printing is outside the mainstream traditional methods optimized to  produce many figures at a lower cost. 

Designers (what we used to refer to as sculptors) are using 3D printing vendors (what were traditionally referred to as 'casters') such as Shapeways to bring to life a variety of niche products that the conventional hobby industry understandably are reluctant to undertake.

Which brings us to today's subject - the model of USS Eastport produced by the Shapeways vendor Brown Water Navy Miniatures.  Eastport had a short relatively undistinguished career on the western rivers before striking a torpedo and being abandoned and burned by the Union Navy. Eastport is notable for being an ironclad project started by the Confederacy, captured and completed by the Union Navy.

In 1/600 scale no manufacturer has modeled the Eastport. Gamers were left to their own devices - simply substituting a model of a similar vessel such as Choctaw or crafting their own conversion. But now there are two models on the market. One from Infernal Machines and one from Brown Water Navy Miniatures.  This review focuses on the Brown Water Navy Miniatures model.  Prompted by  post from TMP member Hussar123 extolling the virtues of this model, I purchased a copy to add to my mighty squadron. 

USS Eastport in broadside. The model has nice curves on both bow and stern.

This shot shows off the decking on all the surfaces.

Eastport was not a small ship, coming in at 280 feet in length. This is comparable to USS Chotaw and USS Lafayette both of which have a similar configuration. Checking the models dimensions against the data on file we find that it's not quite hitting the scale marks.

Actual (in feet)
Model (in cm)
Variance model to actual
Hull Width
Width with wheels
* Measurement data from Silverstone, Paul H. 2001. Civil War Navies 1855-1883. Annapolis, Naval Institute Press.

The model is a little short and a little wide, but the overall width comes in almost on the money.  Is it noticible? In my This is actually a very nice looking model! The proportions look quite believable  and it makes an attractive looking ship.

The above scale critique is not meant as a condemnation of the model. You can find similar variances with other models from other ranges if you look. Instead this is offered as a somewhat objective standard so you can compare how it fits against other models available in 1/600 scale. 

The stacks and wheelhouses both look believable for the scale. Gunports are modeled as a raise square cover. Which works for the period. The only thing that looks a little off is the deck 'etching'. Etching is in quotes as it's not really etched, it's part of the printing process and it's likely that this is more a limitation of the printers than an artistics failing.If you don't like the decking Brown Water Navy Miniatures
 offers the model in a plain casting with no deck etching.
If you put it side by side with a model from Thoroughbred, Bay Area Yards or Peter Pig, the deck planks will look noticeably wider, but if you apply the standard gaming 'three foot rule', the model should look fine.

Stacks are a little shorter and thicker than conventional modeling, but the results are passable for the game table! If you look closely, you can see the deck planks and compare with Thoroughbred Models miniature in the top of the image.

USS Choctaw from Thoroughbred Models in background. Eastport should be about a quarter inch longer than the Choctaw model, but it's actually about a half inch shorter.

This didn't work so well with the black on white, but you can see the comparison between the two models.
The Verdict
I'm happy with this model. It should make a fine addition to my ACW naval collection. I recommend it to anyone looking for an Eastport model in 1/600.

Update:  I traded e-mail with Brown Water Navy Miniatures regarding the scaling issue. They agree and will look into it when they get some time.

Check back for future installments to see how the Eastport paints up and looks when ready for the game table!  

Saturday, February 13, 2016

More from Shapeways - mortar barges in (Not) 1/600

The mortar boat is a bit of an odd duck for tabletop gaming. They can't move on their own. The odds of actually hitting a moving ship are ridiculously low and the mortar boat has almost no capacity to absorb damage. Clearly, not the kind of unit that you will have much fun commanding on the game table. The mortar boat is simplicity itself - a raft 60 feet by 25 feet on which an open topped wooden casemate was constructed to house a massive 13 inch coastal mortar.

The classic example of the mortar boat

Artists remdering of the mortar boats
Still, you often find those times when reducing a fortification is the order of the day. And for those times, mortar boats are handy pieces. My collection has a handful of mortar boat models from Thoroughbred Figures. But you can also get them from Bay Area Yards or the new kid on the block - Shapeways. More specifically The web shop for Brown Water Navy Miniatures. 

I was ordering a couple of items from Shapeways, so I went ahead and tossed in a set of mortar boats for the heck of it. I can always use more mortar boats and, as I'd ordered some models from this shop before it was a good chance to assess another  of their1/600 product from Shapeways. Hussar123 on The Miniatures Page had positive things to say about their Eastport and Lexinton models, let's see what happens.

The models arrived without an excessive delay, but bear in mind I was in no rush and chose the cheapest (i.e. slowest) of shipping methods. But they arrived, safe and sound.

A digital render of the Brown Water Navy models


The models were printed using the Frosted Ultra Detail material, better known to Shapeways users as FUD. Now FUD is a fine material that does deliver the details at a fine level. The downside of FUD is it's cost, these three mortar boats cost me $10.00. Not a big chunk of change, but still we're talking real money here.

The items were well packed and arrived intact. Kudos to Shapeways for a job well done on shipping and handling. They've got that part of the work down. 

Close up of the mortar boat model.
As you can see, it's a crisp casting print that captures the expected details of a mortar boat.

Here's the problem...the model is not 1/600 scale. 

The accepted dimensions for the mortar boat are 60 by 25 feet. In 1/600 scale this works out to 1.2" (just under 1 1/4") by 0.5" (a half inch). If I pull out a Thoroughbred Figures model, the raft measures to almost exactly those dimensions. However the Brown Water Navy Miniatures model is substantially smaller - it measures 13/16ths of an inch by 7/16ths of an inch wide.  This is a bit smaller than the scale would support. It works out to be 67% of expected scale length and 87% of expected scale width. While it may seem I'm being picky, the difference between 1:100 and 1:144 scale models is 69%. Many of us are not going to mix models of such disparate scale on the table. 

But could you mix them together on the table? Well, let's give it a try. Here are a few pictures with the Brown Water Navy models mixed in with the Thoroughbred Models mortar boat. 

All three of the Brown Water Navy models around the Thoroughbred model.

And one on one right next to each other.

So, too small for 1/600 - how do they look with a 1/1200 scale model?

Appearance wise, the models just don't cut it for me as 1/600. I know this is to some degree an aesthetic choice, but they really are too small to be proper 1/600 scale models. The actual mortar is something of a stump in it's unpainted state. It's a shame too as the FUD model is otherwise rendered nicely with openings at the ends and sides of the bulwarks. If you are a 1/1200 gamer, you might consider these for your collection as I think they fit much better with the smaller scale.

The Verdict
At this time, these cannot be recommended as a go to solution for 1/600 mortar boat models. The undersized nature of the models coupled with the high cost of Frosted Ultra Detail is a fatal double whammy. Spending more for less is never a winning solution. As a consumer, this purchase leaves me very disappointed. 

2/14/2016 Update:  I traded e-mail with Brown Water Navy Miniatures regarding the scaling issue. They agree the mortar rafts are too small. They will look into it when they get some time. 

The reigning champion for mortar boats remains Thoroughbred Miniatures with four models for $8.00 with Bay Area Yards placing second with 3 for $9.00 (and you'll still save a buck too from the cost of tiny FUD models!).