Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Das Rattenloch: Part 5 – Putty and Painting

A bit of a bumper update this one, to go through the last stages of building the late First World War German bunker, das Rattenloch, and its painting.  I don’t know how many of you have taken on board a project and felt it weighing like a small millstone around your neck until you finished it.  Well, that’s kind of how I felt in finishing this terrain board off!


Don’t get me wrong, I’ve really enjoyed the process of getting to where I have done.  However, what started out (rather over-optimistically) as a weekend project is still on-going three weeks later.  I’m not sure why it’s taken so long, although you’ll see that the “putty” stages with the bunker took a great deal longer than expected.  I’m sure there’s a quicker way of doing that part, and I’ve offered some suggestions of where I went wrong.

The last update got to somewhere near the photo below, with the groundwork done but the bunker still to finish.



My first job as to sort out imperfections in the walls and bunker embrasures, making a level and smooth surface for what was to follow.  I used Standard Milliput for a lot of the modeling work on the bunker for what follows.  It’s a bit of a devilish material to use, as it tends to stick to everything when mixed in expoy form and is far less easy to work with than green stuff, grey stuff or any other figure modeling or sculpting putty.  However, it does have a couple of fantastic redeeming features.  It gives a wonderful rough, coarse and gritty texture when applied to terrain work, enabling some very realistic effects for wall coverings, concrete, Zimmerit, sandbags and many other terrain items.  It’s also very inexpensive in its standard form.  I find these two features make it a great, if sometimes annoying, product for terrain modeling. 




Next up, I finished the interior of the bunker.  I had thought of some very fancy work on the interior, but I have postponed this for the moment.  I found a couple of examples of electric light in German bunkers in the First World War, but I concluded this was the very rare, rear-line exception and far from the rule.  I did find references to extensive graffiti in German bunkers (in the excellent “Somme Mud” autobiography by EPF Lynch), and also reference to the interior of bunkers being painted a very pale grey to maximize internal light.  All this, I figured could come later – what I needed to start was a tough hard covering to enable us to get some playtest games in.  I settled on a grey acrylic paint (Louvre) mixed with PVA glue in about a 70 paint/30 PVA mix. 



I scattered some fine sand and a little grit onto the floor to give it a concrete effect before dry-brushing with light grey.



I added some more external damage to one corner of the bunker at this stage.  This wasn’t so much for visual effect as to remind me which way the roof went on!  As long as I could remember which corner of the bunker was damaged, I could always put it on easily.  Simple, but it helped me!


Just after this stage, the whole terrain board was painted in acrylics and emulsion paints in fairly muted colours. I mixed the emulsion paints with black or dark grey acrylic (from the Louvre paint range I’ve mentioned before) making sure that the paints were mixed with neat PVA where painting the toweling “grass”on the terrain. I also washed black Humbrol enamel paint into the trench revetments to make sure there was no annoying white cardboard poking through when I looked along the trench. The enamel, mixed with cheap white spirits, does a great job of “flowing” all over the terrain and is a perfect wash over terrained surfaces such as cardboard and sand.




The photographs of the German bunkers in Peter Oldham’s classic “Pillboxes of the Western Front” show reinforced concrete in rough patterns, presumably the result of reinforced concrete blocks being used in the construction of many bunkers.  I’d used a simple design in the pillboxes I’d built on the Passchendaele/ Dead Marshes-inspired terrain boards I’d built before  Christmas.  I tried to do the same here, using the same modeling putty for the roof of the bunker.



As with when I used it last year, the stink of the modeling putty was unbelievable, but this time I was prepared and working out of doors.  I used the same design as before, although as I worked my way across the rook I was far less happy with it.  What had looked “right” with a smaller bunker looked a little too artistic and symmetrical for what would be a military bunker.  Looking at the rest in the photos which follow, I’m still not sure whether I caught the essence of a large bunker, or whether the overall result is too modern.  On balance, I think I would do things differently next time, perhaps “scoring out” large concrete slabs with a ballpoint-pen into the Styrofoam and washing the foam over with a polyfilla/pva mix.  Oh well, there’s always next year as they say!!




I also finished the walls in Standard Milliput, not modeling putty (of which I was running short).  I regretted this economy as mixing the Milliput and getting it to adhere to the bunker walls took ages.  In the end the Milliput gives a very robust exterior, but it was hard work – and probably time wasted when I could have used a quicker alternative at a small additional cost.

Around the shell damage on the bunker roof I added a ring of concrete debris with sand, gravel, grit and small broken pieces of Styrofoam simulating damage.  I painted the damage, and the entire bunker, in black Humbrol enamel to make sure that all of the surface detail of the bunker was painted,.  I then soaked a medical gauze bandage from my local pharmacists (Boots) in a mix of PVA glue and black acrylic paint and draped this over parts of the top of the bunker to serve as camo-netting.  I used a little of the coloured PVA to ensure that the netting stuck hard to the top of the bunker.




Accounts of bunkers in the Siegfried Stellung describe how the German defenders tried various methods of camouflage for the bunker, including mud, foliage and camouflage netting.  Frequently, these methods of concealment would be blown off by shellfire, so I reasoned that it was realistic to give a less than perfect coverage in camouflage netting over the top of the bunker.  I should also add my thanks to my good friend Benito for the tip to use medical gauze bandage – it worked a treat here!!




I added a string of sandbags with yet more Standard Milliput, etching out the stitching and patches with a sculpting tool.  The Milliput breaks and “tears” easily where you want to the sandbags to look as if they have been split or punctured by enemy fire.  I quite like the effect that these tricks give, although I admit they are slightly out of scale!



So, here was the finished model, base-coat painted and ready for the mid-level and highlight paint to bring it to life.



Painting the rest was straightforward.  It was just a case of building up the colours on the base coat of the terrain board, either lightening the mid colour highlighting with a lighter shade.  I found it still took quite a few hours, not least because some of the terrain board was tricky to get to – especially the corrugated iron effects on the trench revetments.




As with some of the other terrain I’ve done, I ran a very diluted black oil paint wash along the bases of the trench after painting and dry-brushing the mid-coat and highlights.  This made sure that the trenches didn’t look too clean!




As before, I left the bunker until last.  This was to try and tie the bunker’s colour scheme into the terrain as far as possible – something which I felt would be foremost on the defenders’ minds.



I painted the exposed damaged to the steel lattice under the concrete in a mix of Plaka Brown, Vallejo Light Rust and Vallejo Orange, mixed with some MIG Standard Rust pigments.  The camo-netting was painted with a base of Vallejo German Camo Brown, mainly to try and tie into the light brown matt emulsion I’d used for the dead grass surrounding the bunker.




As with the other smaller bunkers from last year, I tried for an angular, cubist or futurist look for the painting of the bunker.  I’ve come across a couple of examples of German painted bunkers on the Siegfried Stellung, and although it’s possibly stretching it to think that the camouflage scheme employed would be particularly artistic, stranger things have been known.  Take for instance the painting of British Mark I tanks by Royal Academy artist and Royal Engineer Lieutenant-Colonel Solomon  J. Solomon in 1916.  And here's a spectacular example of German First World War artillery camouflage from the Landships site.




These examples perhaps don’t leave my scheme for the bunker looking too crazy.


I added some more of the diluted black/ burnt umber oil paint at the base of the bunker and around the battle damage to represent scorching …




… and then prepared a sign for the side entry from the trench.





The rest of the bunker (officially KampftruppeKommandeurStellung-17, or K-17), when finished, looked like this.






(Almost) last, but perhaps not least, I finished off the intact barbed wire defences.  I simply stretched and sprayed black some “barbed wire” kindly supplied by Antenociti’s Workshop, dry-brushed it rust and twisted it around the copper wire holders on the two intact bases.  This took next to no time – which was just as well as I’d had enough terrain making and painting for one weekend!





And finally, the top view.  OK, so the bunker’s far from invisible, but perhaps it blends in a little more than I’d have thought when I started – and certainly more than the blue Styrofoam did last time!




Next up, some fine-detailing of the bunker interior, and a couple of touches on the outside.

38 comments:

  1. Sid

    Just brilliant. I've been following this one with great interest and it looks perfect. It really makes me think of the need to re-invigorate my own terrain.

    Max

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  2. What an outstanding achievement Sidney! I have thoroughly enjoyed reading about its progress and picked up countless tips along the way. A stunning piece of work Sir!

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    1. Thanks Michael - I hope the tips help. I only hope I can add some more before we're finished!

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  3. Lovely work Sidney. Rather than using Milliput for the concrete texture, perhaps pummice gel would be a cheaper and easier to apply option?

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    1. Tamsin, thanks so much for the post. Plastering on and sculpting the Milliput was driving me crackers by the end! I am definitely going to look out pumice gel for the ruined version - a great suggestion thank you!

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  4. Wow! That is some seriously awesome work Sidney!

    Christopher

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    1. Thanks Christopher! That's too kind, but thanks anyway!

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  5. Astounding,simply astounding! Worthy of any serious diorama, let alone a wargaming table. Your levels of dedication, skill and patience are amazing; none of which I possess I might add ;)

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    1. Monty, that really is very kind. But, dear chap, I don't quite believe you! I seriously think anyone can get to a decent standard with terrain. Terrain making is a different hobby in many ways, compared to figure painting. But although it takes longer (and never, ever seems to end!), on the whole I think it's easier than painting, say, 28mm artillery. However, thank you again for the comment!

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  6. Stunning work !!!!!

    Best regards Michael

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  7. That's magic Sidney. Very well done and I think it was worth the effort. Thanks for the tips too, I will try to put some of them to use soon.

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    1. Just happy to give anything back to you Rodger, very happy indeed.

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  8. Amazing piece of work Sidney, Just brilliant!

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  9. Fantastic work! Thanks so much for sharing all the pics and steps.

    Jason

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    1. Jason, that's a great pleasure! Thanks again

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  10. Just brilliant- I was considering a complete overhaul of my WWI terrain....and this has really inflamed my imagination! Awesome!

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    1. Thanks John. Mission accomplished then!

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  11. Masterclass Sidney, terrain making doesn't get any better than this. Thanks for passing on your expertise and tips.

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    1. Pat, that's very kind. Don't worry, the best is definitely still to come!

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  12. Well you were right, that was a bumper post, but what a post it was!!!! I love your terrain, your such a clever chap!!! I like the little bits of re-enforced wire mesh you add in, they really make the bunker look realistic.

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    1. Thanks Ray. Anything I can do to brighten up your night work! Thank you very much indeed.

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  13. Stunning work, Sidney! Bravo to you and your efforts. I learn so valuable tips from reading your posts!
    -Curt

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    1. Curt, thank you so much. I wish I could give back more to you for what you've inspired me with. Thanks again!

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    1. Larry, that is very kind indeed, thank you!

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  15. A true work of art... fabulous!!!

    The only thing I would change is add a little bit of staining to the sign... it looks a bit too clean for my taste. But that is a matter of personal taste and does not the least to deminish your work!

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    1. DHC - thank you, and yes, you're absolutely right. That sign is a little too intact. I'll be weathering it as I finish the board. Thanks for reminding me!

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  16. That is a truly wonderful piece of work, bravo!!

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    1. On the shoulders of giants, Phil!! It wouldn't have happened without the inspiration from your terrain.

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  17. Great work - I've posted a pic on my blog and linked over to this - inspirational.

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    1. Thank you very much - that's very cool.

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  18. Hope you had fun @Bovington this weekend. Just read your Rattenloch posts. Fantastic, you have many talents but we knew that already :-)
    Thanks for taking the time to share your work with such thorough posts. Cheers, Michael

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    1. Bovington was great, thanks Mike. It's a pleasure to share with you guys. Hope you see you later in the year at Crisis in Antwerpen.

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  19. Sidney, I can only echo the comments above; a truly masterful project, magnificently executed.
    The narrative has included all the hints, tips, suggestions and likely pitfalls for those of us willing to attempt to follow in your footsteps. That alone makes this a terrain-making benchmark of the highest order.
    I have about 100 figures to prep and paint and your terrain blog will be my principle source of reference for when I get the terrain making stage.
    Thank you for sharing another amazing Great War project.
    Regards, Graeme

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  20. Graeme,
    Thanks so much for the very kind comment. The blog was started for, and continues for, me to offer any help I can to wargaming friends like you. I wanted to try and tell people how I went about building terrain, both the successes and the pitfalls, and the things which go wrong(and yes, there's been quite a few of the latter!!). That then grew to letting people know about the projects at my local club, and then painting, then then.....well, things developed from there. But at its heart its always going to be about passing on any hints and tips I can to people in exactly your position! Not that I'm an expert, not that my (blundering and experimental) way's the right one - it just gets me where I'm trying to get to, and anything I can offer about the journey, you're very welcome to it!
    Many thanks and all the best!! Sidney

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