Sunday, 31 August 2014

Everyone will be 'Vetted...

This is the thing that has been holding me up lately and why I had to have the pleasing relief of the boats in the post below or go mad.
It's a 1956 Corvette SS Sebring. Apparently it did one race and only the one was made.
It's a very strange thing with scalloped sides, an asymmetric bulge and that rocket ship headrest.  Then there's those teeth! Ye Gods, those teeth...15 individually keyed pieces of styrene, notched onto a horizontal bar, all backed by a plate that keeps it all together for the poor resin caster who takes this on.
It's the usual 1/32nd scale for a slot racing body.
This was largely made last year, but the vents and all those endless lines of slots on the bonnet, entire back panel and cills had to be done by photo-etching.  In recent days of yore I would have drawn them with a pen, laid out in the final style of the fret, drawn maybe 4 times bigger. Then the etchers would have photographed it down to wonderfully crisp images.
But no! you have to send a computer file.  Well, I don't do push button modelmaking, so it was down to the client to get it done from a few dimensioned sketches from me.  That process began last September!  I got the p/e finally drawn correctly on some American student's PC last month!
So much for the potential of computers.
Having got the p/e I had to create 10 thou recesses for the separate parts and blend them in to the final surface.

The client is delighted, but that hasn't stopped him getting 3D printed blobs done and some schmuck to clean that dross up,  putting the real detail in by hand.
Needless to say, I will NOT be doing any of that nonsense.

With the Skoda rally car finished and the boats done, too,  I am now up to date with that stuff, but woefully behind with the model aircraft masters.  So tomorrow, the decks will be cleared and out comes the 1/76th scale master of the Pilatus PC12 Bizjet, 1/32nd scale Dragon Rapide and 1/32nd scale Junkers Ju 388 Transkit.  The former, fine...the latter, I am NOT looking forward to.  I try at all times to avoid toy War, but a man's gotta eat, dammit.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Anchors aweigh...

The boats have been finished in a very good time and will be off to N-Drive Productions for a show in early September.
I painted them yesterday and they will go in that self-etch primer, which I paint all non metallic masters in.
The brass structures are for the pot lifting mechanism aft and can be super-detailed by the buyer to his whim.
Hoping that a nice tiny Danforth anchor can be arranged on the photo-etch fret with the portholes for the cruiser.
Siren has come out rather nicely, I think and should allow for adaptability according to the buyers.
If these are a success, they will be repeated in 7mm scale.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

You can't invent a tree...

I have been having a "comments" conversation with a chap about model trees.  I maintain that George Stokes' trees were the best I've ever seen.  Gordon Gravett and Tony Hill have written on the subject and are very good.  This chap speaks of the Pendlebury Group and Bob Barlow, of whom I can find no trace.  And Barry Norman, whose "vegetable concentration camps " on his Lydham Heath didn't impress me even though I saw the actual layout at some show.  Unexpectedly, the best generally seem to be made by a couple of model tree companies, though heaven knows what a decent 12" example costs.
And, significantly, they were made by George Stokes' method of twisted wire.  Now, I'm sure we can't now get hold of Tiger Moth flying wires, or more correctly, control cables, but any nice wad of wires will do. Fine ones, so that you slowly unravel to get to the last fine bits of twiggery, having gone through trunk, split trunk, limbs and secondary limb groups finally to get busy little groups of fine twigs to which the foliage, if you really MUST have it, is attached.
Stokes modelled winter. Dark skeletons being stifled by creepers.  I have seen very few summer trees with a convincing foliage.  In fact, to this day, I have seen very few really good trees on model layouts. Most, if compared to a loco or wagon, would be as a tank loco with no underframe detail and a big old motor in the cab driving solid wheels or a wagon with no brakes and and a bogus livery.  Nobody, even the R-T-R mob would dare do that these days, yet trees are still blobby green and brown lollipops, often, calamity of calamity, made of lichen!  An instantly recognisable awfulness of nature which is suitable for nothing scenically.  Surely people can see that at a glance.
Here are some trees on a typical modern model railway:-
Lollipops and bog brushes.  But I bet all those locos are bang on.

This what a model tree should look like:-
Note the crows' nests are high?  A good winter to come.
It was George who said "you can't invent a tree".  He went out and sketched the tree he wanted to depict in scale, measured it, photographed it and made it as accurate as most people make a loco.

George, we miss you still.

The detailed cruiser...

A few hours further on and the cruiser is detailed, with hatches and runners, a bulkhead with panelled doors, a floor, stempost and rubbing strakes.
A quick clean-up and it'll be ready for paint.  Now to do the same on the lobster boat.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

"There is absolutely nothing-....

...half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats".

Absolutely right, of course.  Any boat, doesn't matter.  As a one-time subscriber to the superb periodical Wooden Boat, I once read an editorial entitled "A pulling boat down at the town quay".  It was on just that subject of having something you could just jump on and enjoy, instead of always working on the big restoration project.  Everybody needs a pulling boat (rowing boat/dinghy) down at the town quay.

The two little boat masters I am doing for N-Drive Productions as the first of a range of scenic accessories in both 4 and 7mm scales are coming along nicely.
One is the little wooden high-prow cruiser I showed in an earlier post and the other is a fairly typical lobster boat based on Charlotte of Eyemouth, photographed recently on a visit up to Border country to see my son and grandchildren.

They are both in Ureol (Renshape/Chemiwood).  Bandsawed out from rough drawings and then chiselled, filed and sanded to shape. The roof of the cruiser is a separate piece, glued on top with the clerestory a piece glued on to that.  Leaving the bottom open, being a waterline model, means it can be cast in one piece. This one will be suitable for any scene, from harbour to canal cruiser.
The wheelhouse of the lobster boat is done in styrene and will be an open topped piece of cast resin with a separate roof.  Then separate floors are cast to pop in underneath on both boats.
Various detailing parts will then be done in white metal and photo-etched portholes will finish them off nicely.
The 50p piece gives some scale, especially to the 6 spoke ship's wheel in brass.  This will possibly be cast  integral with the resin casting as it's too fine to put a spigot on, without it all falling apart. A p/e ring of brass or n/s will be on the fret to finish it off.
The hulls will now be detailed with rubbing strakes, stem posts, etc., which will stop them looking so toylike.
Nev will have these in painted master form at a show on 13th September.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Water, water, everywhere...

We knew the weather was a bit rough on Friday. It had started raining at 1pm and then the sky turned to lead, everywhere.  Distant tree boundaries in this flat landscape became obscured in the entire 360 degree panorama and down it came. A vertical fog of the hardest rain I've seen since my days in Germany, where rain even harder was a commonplace, but lasted rarely longer than half an hour, when it would just turn off and an hour later the streets were magically dry.
But on Friday, it just went on and on and on. It stopped for a while at 11pm, then begun again at 3am and finally stopped at about 5 or 6am.
My wife called me out of bed at 8 to see what had happened.
This had happened whilst we slept fitfully.
This is not a lake, it's a sheep field.  Part of the water on the right is a dyke about 12 feet wide and 8 feet deep. It's in there somewhere.  Part of a "critical" drainage system in the Fens designed to keep us safe. Pumped, sluiced, damned, monitored and controlled at every minute of the day. To drain and keep drained land owned by some huge corporations.  Otherwise we'd be Somerset.
Here is the same dyke that I recently showed empty and inhabited by bamboo-like grasses waving in the sunshine.
Last week it was empty.

By 9am on Saturday we noticed the level was rising, despite the day being glorious breezy sunshine.  I removed my car just in time. Fortunately it has a highish exhaust outlet and by driving VERY slowly outwards, I escaped, to park it outside the landlord's house at the farm, high and dry.  There it remains as , although the levels with 2 days of concerted drainage channel digging and borrowed pumps and hours of sweeping and even shovelling the water over the crown of the lane to the same landlord's field which is lower than us and un-waterlogged, we have managed to stabilise the level, but not before the house was flooded.  Due to the lopsided attitude of the old (1812) house the left  corner of the lounge is sufficiently lower than the rest to make for a 2 square yard droop in which 4" of water came up under the already broken concrete floor.
By about 5pm today with the help of some of the son-in-law's cycling friends, we got the level down to where the house is now without loose water and may dry out, but the rest of the drive and front garden goes half way up our Wellies.  The dyke is now about 6" down and the man from the Inland Drainage Board assures us we won't believe the speed with which the big pumps at Smeeth Road and St. Germans will drop it still further.  But at nightfall, there was no evidence of that speed in any respect.  St. Germans has been recently rebuilt with pumps that can shift 3990 tonnes of water a minute!  He also told us that that much rain, measured at 4-5", dumps 500 tons of water per acre, only half of which the soil can cope with.
And this is mid Summer!

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

I'm an artist...dammit!...

No I'm not, I'm an illustrator and modelmaker and they are crafts with a wee bit of the art about them, BUT the above excuse is what I use, to do what I feel the need for, when I feel the need.
As if to follow from yesterday's post, I needed a break from the endless slot car masters( they all have Miliput setting currently), so I drew up the little cruiser from a couple of posts back and dragged out the trusty Black and Decker bandsaw and cut some Ureol, the slightly better grade stuff, because this is for my best customer.

The cutting off of the top bit of block gives me a perfect fit for the deck and enough thickness to file the fairly generous camber to it. It'll then get stuck back on to give me a hollow shell, once the hull is shaped and thinned finally.  As a waterline model there's no point in wasting resin.
The stern block then goes in and gets its camber filed on and finally, the clerestory cabin roof, cut here from an offcut.

As ever, it'll be the fiddly bits that take the real time.

Monday, 4 August 2014

Coastin', boy, just coastin'...

And so would say old Pat Smithers, when asked how he was doing, unfailingly.  he worked with unflinching regularity. Never too slow to be taking the Mickey and never too fast to embarrass the rest.  He was always pleasant, almost chatty, but intensely private.  Never mixed with the other contractors outside the studio, always rented a flat, never stayed in an hotel.  Rarely went home to England, always had a German lady tucked away somewhere, or so the rumours went.  No fuss, just...coastin'.

Lately, I know what he means.  I am not exactly idle, nor noticeably active.  I do a few bits on this job, a few on the other.  I blame the heat for my listlessness, but I think it's more.  I think I am just tired of modelmaking, or rather, the relentless making of models of things in which I have no interest for others, for money and not much of it!
I have much to do, but choosing which project, which job, is a daily grind.  I would rather just get in the car and drive somewhere.  Especially now my camera has been set up by my son.

So, during a protracted tea break, I was looking through Iain Robinson's old blogs and came across the one with a canal scene.
Now one of my many hobby horses is the paucity with which people portray canal scenes and especially the boats that belong therein.
I wonder how a man can gaze upon a simple shape like a canal boat and make something so obscure, so hideously wrong that a blind man could see it.  Iain was wise to keep any boat out of his very well made scene.  The dreariness, the cobbles (or are they setts?), the stasis of the average lock scene and the dirty water, (it's always dirty) are beautifully shewn.  Having lived on an historic ex-working boat and owned others, I suppose my fussiness about the making of boat scenes is understandable.  I have been around boats since I was 7.  Dunkirk Little Ships, fishing boats, canal boats, small harbour craft, Victorian racing cutters, classic speedboats, the humble dinghy.  Each and every boat deserves as much trouble taken over its portrayal as the grandest Pacific or the humblest diesel shunter.

So does the quay against which it rests or the mud in which it sits glued waiting for the next tide to squeeze it, sucking and whispering back to life afloat.  The ropes, chains, anchors, ladders, deck hamper, all need to be faithfully reproduced. There is no more a "generic" boat as a tree.

Because scenic stuff is something I don't do for money I can indulge myself and cut no corners.  Here's a lock gate that I spent several evenings on. One of three (the bottom gate is a single on a narrow canal usually).  It is for my Lantern Yard large diorama.  I made brass patterns for the lock furniture, which is based on the Welsh and Mongomery canals.  I got a chum to pop the masters in a mould for somebody else and then cast me just a few to make a set.
It's been around a while now and still doesn't have its brothers. A bit of paint chipped off, but that can be touched up.  What matters is that this what a lock gate looks like. It's how they're made. The furniture is accurate, right down to the staggered tooth rack which winds the paddle up. Incipient rot in the arm end. The ratchet to stop the paddle dropping suddenly.  This in 7mm scale.

This dinghy took about three days to make from pear veneer over a simple set of moulds like a real boat of this type would be built. Thin strips were soaked and bent in to the hull and oars made of bamboo, with copper shim wrapped round the blades.  Completely matt paints give it a well used air.
But a boat needs a quay, a staithe, a berth.
Here's the simplest staithe. Made of pear wood strips and then made to look like it was repaired ad hoc.
The mess underneath is the high tide seaweed and general detritus.

Here's what you need for reference. I'm glad I took these up in Border country as I've just received a commission to do a canal cruiser and a lobster boat.

What sweet little coastal craft.

Just coastin', boy, just coastin'....