Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Misc: Shed Renovation

NB - Apologies for any formatting issues; Apple iOS blogging compatibility is pretty poor! Esp. when posting - as now - via iPhone or iPad.

Our new home has a very delapidated shed in the back garden. But rather than tear it down - we won't be able to afford a replacement for a good while yet - I decided to renovate and refurbish.

My rather primitive router set-up.

The first thing I started to work on were two new windows. Pictured above is my very simple router 'fence': timber clamped to the worksurface, with the wood to be routed screwed down! These first four cuts - the shorter uprights for the window frames - came out very nicely.

Routed uprights for my new DIY window frames. 

Next I removed the old door, which was rotten, and quite literally falling to pieces. I bought a 'new' door - solid wood (none of that horrid UPVC rubbish!) - from our local municipal dump, for £5! And collared a friendly local, asking them if they'd mind helping me get the door home. They agreed, kind souls!

I really love my little MX5, but it does present me with some logistical issues. I offered the old folks who generously helped me get the door back a fiver. But they wouldn't take it, and suggested instead that I give it to charity. Bless 'em! So I gave it to the poppy appeal guy at our local Sainsburys.

My £5 door, before surgery.

The lock and handles combo I bought wouldn't go into the pre-existing holes. Alas, my first attempt to reshape the area - rather foolishly without taking the door down - was an unmitigated disaster. I'd done this once before, when fitting new locks front and back, when we moved in. And I'd done it pretty well then, tho' I say it myself. This time it was godawful!

Oh dear! 

It was so appallingly bad - see above pic - I decided to start again using a block of waste wood that I found laying around, which appeared to be about the right size. What a bugger of a job it was, drilling and chiselling, and drilling and chiselling, and drilling and chiselling, and drilling and chiselling, and drilling and chiselling, and drilling and chiselling, and ... ad infinitum.

A chip or two (more like two thousand!) off the old block.

The lock in situ. Sans faceplate. 

Having done all this work, I then discovered that my lock has no faceplate. It should have come with one in the pack, but it didn't. That's it above, nestled into the laboriously carved insert. I'm tempted to go ahead sans faceplate, only the two ruddy great holes on the lock itself are both huge and are not countersunk, presenting difficulties in fixing it.

Window frame #1: clamped, glued, with the glass sitting on a bead of silicone.

So... having hit something of a dead-end with the door (which I'd already hung, to get the positioning right, only to have to remove it when my in situ carving went agley), I decided to resume making the windows. I'd abandoned them because after the first satisfyingly clean cuts, my attempts to route out the 'rabbet' on the longer horizontal elements of the frames was, initially, as disastrous as my first shot at lock-recess carving.

Reconstructing the window frame with 2" x 4".

Having started out by glueing and clamping the frame for one window, I then put a bead of clear silicone all the way around the recess, to receive the glass. The glass was a very tight fit, causing me some anxiety as I sought to get it bedded in. I probably put too much silicone on, as when I pressed the glass down it oozed out all over the place! Once the silicone had started to set I applied a bead of glazier's putty to the outer surface. Again, I put too much on, making it a very messy process when I tried to finish it neatly.

The new frame (and door, etc!) viewed from outside.

The next stage was to replace the missing cross-beams - the previous ones for the window I was working on had rotted away! - tilting the lower one slightly so that any rain or other moisture will run down and away, off to the outside of the shed/window. I also added some of the excess glazing putty I'd scraped off the window frame to seal a gap between the frame and the external wood cladding.

The window in place.

The dark stained verticals needed some planing to make them flush with the new inserts. The final few pics, one above and two below, are of the window seen at night. Above, looking in, and below, looking out. Tomorrow, as well as constructing the second window, I intend to add some more sealant, and paint this first one with some rain resistant outdoor paint.




The new window, seen from inside the shed.

A second view from inside.

I've been getting into the annoying habit of flying by the seat of my pants, DIY wise, lately. With regard to the windows this has meant that I measured quite approximately for the lumber shopping, and then forgot to measure more accurately for the actual window manufacture. 

The end result? My windows and their frames aren't a proper fit for the gaps they're intended for. Still, thanks to the new frame elements, I was still able to fix the window to the structure.

The last things I did, prior to taking night time snaps of the window in situ, were, clean the glass inside and out, which involved some trimming off of both the silicone and the putty, and add a strip of hardboard to the gap above the window, which would otherwise remain open to the elements. 

I'm certainly going to need to replace some of the shiplap timber cladding, a fair chunk of which is suffering from both woodworm and rot, around the shed  as a whole!

Tomorrow: window #2, and the door!


Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Misc: '40s Fun in't Fens!

NB - This post is rather out of sync, having originally been drafted months ago. It's just taken ages to get around to finishing and posting it!

Moving house has seriously interfered with blogging. We've moved from rented Georgian splendour to our own 'umble Victorian abode. Guess which is which:



As well as the move itself, there's much redecorating to be done, and even some renovation. And the garden? Aaaargh!!! It was the Fenland equivalent of the Amazon rainforest when we moved in: massively overgrown and possibly quite dangerous to enter, only with very dull vegetation and wildlife - just the odd rogue horny-toad [1], and forests of brambles!

One odd thing that I noted during my recent absence from posting here was a massive - but sadly short-lived - spike in traffic to this 'ere wee blog o' mine [2]. I do hope people return in droves!? [3] Otherwise I'll feel I missed an opportunity...


Moving into The Fens is, as alluded to above, a kind of mutant-homecoming, of sorts, for me (if not perhaps for Teresa). But, swiftly leaving that topic on one side, I was amazed and very pleasantly surprised that the very weekend we moved in, March - our new home town (not the month!) - was host to a 1940s themed event.

The posters for said show made it very obvious that the military aspects of the '40s would be central to the event, with re-enactors, vehicles, and even a Spitfire fly-past. Cool, methinks. March is shaping up to be my kind of place! 

When we got there I was a trifle disappointed there wasn't more stuff of the sort I was looking for - WWII German uniform apparel, basically. Nevertheless, although there wasn't half as much as I'd hoped for, there was some. I bought a German officer's hat, a green military style shirt (of no obvious affiliation), and sundry other bit and bobs, inc. some vintage mags for the Mrs.

Here are a few pics from that March event:



I've subsequently discovered that I was perhaps overcharged a little for my Panzer officer's 'crusher cap'. But I love it, so what the heck. It's a replica, by the way. [4] I think the guy that sold it to me may have suggested it was an SS Panzer officer's hat. The pink piping means it certainly is Panzer-crew. However, another stall-holder (at a similar event in nearby Ramsey, only a few later) said that the 'death's head' badge doesn't equal SS per se... so I'm confused now!

Anyhoo, as already mentioned above, less than a month later, there was a similar but even bigger event, just outside the nearby town of Ramsey. Here's a pic from that show:

A confused outfit that would almost certainly distress many a fussy re-enactor.

I didn't get the 'Dad's Army' style Home Guard sergeant's tunic. I really wish I had! But the Mrs sagely suggested that the post-purchase cash-flow rather mitigated against such spur-of-the-moment outlays. There were also a great pair of WWII SS oak-leaf camo' trousers that I'd really like to have bought. Maybe I'll have opportunities to get these at other similar shows? I really don't want to have to wait a whole year to do so!

Several things I did feel I could run to were: a replica 'potato-masher' grenade, some vintage Commando comics (nostalgia bites deep again!), a couple of Osprey titles, and firing two clips of 'BB' ammo on a mini shooting range. I fired a replica 'broom-handle' Mauser first (pictured below), followed by a replica Luger. My shots were at least more or less all on target, if not hyper-accurate. These replicas fired pellets, not bullets. But, Gott in Himmel, it was fun shooting them!

A replica 'broomhandle' Mauser.

My two clips of ammo: left was the Luger, right, the Mauser.

I enjoyed both shows. And I've definitely got the '40s bug (perhaps, being in my 40s myself, I'm particularly susceptible?), both civilian and military. I have to admit I found the re-enactment odd, albeit still enjoyable. It didn't seem very realistic, with 'marshals' wandering about (I think they were supervising the explosions), and the large contingent of overweight or overage re-enactors, all of whom (whatever their age/weight!) generally behaved very much as if they were safe in the knowledge it was all just dressing up for fun.

But who am I to criticise that? Especially as I've definitely contracted the dressing up for fun bug. I plan to gradually acquire a British WWII outfit, poss Home Guard, and lots of German gear. I'll probably just wear such stuff around the house, especially when engaged in my military hobbies, or to shows. Outside of those activities... hmmm!? Probably best avoided, esp. the 'Jerry' stuff. People might get the wrong idea!
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[1] It transpired I wasn't the only priapic web-footed creature in the undergrowth!

[2] That's wee as in small, as opposed to wee as in micturate... obviously!

[3] Droves are, we've discovered, plentiful in the fens, if not of the kind I'm after here.

[4] My mum was somewhat relieved to learn it wasn't a genuine WWII Nazi's hat. I think, bless her, that she was worried that if it were, it might, whilst sat atop my noggin, somehow infect my brain with an aura of evil!

Friday, 28 October 2016

Miscellaneous: Shelves!

Having moved to a new home, all my free time has been consumed by home-improvement type activity. I was hoping that during this half-term (I'm a teacher!) I'd get the chance to do some model-making or figure painting. But, alas, that's not transpired.

Instead, today I decided that I'd build some small display shelves for my growing collection of (mostly) WWII armour, etc. This will be my second DIY shelving project, the previous one being bookshelves along one entire wall at our previous home. This time, however, I wanted to use a router my dad gave me a while back.

My workspace, and the plywood, prior to starting.

The shelves are made from plywood in 6.5 and 12 mm thicknesses. My router is an old American one, with shank and bits in imperial sizes. So I've been working to roughly 1/4 and 1/2 inch sizes. I decided I'd kind of busk this; the previous bookcase project was laboriously planned, with diagrams, etc. This time I just got my local DIY store to cut the wood to exact widths but only approximate lengths, to be decided/finished on the fly at home.

I had to spend a while clearing up a workspace in the shed (itself in need of renovation!), but that's no bad thing; now I have a creditable working area, and a few tools in situ, ready to go. This was my first project using a router. Something I've been looking forward to for ages. And, just as I'd hoped it would be, it was great fun! 

This was one of the best of the YouTube router tutorials.

YouTube is fab: I watched several tutorials on using a router, and although most of the routers (well, all of 'em actually) in the videos were more modern, and had numerous features my olde beast lacks, they taught me what I needed to know. I ended up having to build a 'jig', to help guide the cuts I'd be making for the shelves. That in itself was fun. And I can use it for other future projects.

Glued and nailed.

I bought sufficient plywood to build two sets of shelves, each pretty small - they'll be displaying 1/72 vehicles and figures - and built one set in about an hour. I need to work out a better way of assembling and gluing them. And I'll probably be adding backboards, and painting them, before I decide how to mount them. 

The whole project is as much about protecting my models in the short/medium term, as it is about displaying them. A number have suffered damage during our move, as they're simply bubble-wrapped and stored in plastic tubs at present (several layers deep!). I'm also hoping that having them on display will encourage me to start finishing them properly. Mostly it's just an issue of getting the durn things painted.

The 1st models to hand...

Anyhoo, even if it's not actual model-making or figure work, it's good to have finally done something related to my mini-military-models passion! If anyone reading this has done anything similar, let me know/see. After making a second one of these my own future projects in this line will, I hope, be more de-luxe versions - glass fronted, possibly with built-in LED lighting, and perhaps even  decorated with some ogee style ornamentation? (an excuse for more router fun!) - and some kind of drawer-storage for my mini armies.

I liberated a bunch of stuff from bubble-wrap, just to see how things might look.

The pair get a 1st coat of paint; undercoat white.

Since first posting I've built the second set, added backboards to both, and started painting them. After two coats of white, as a base, I did the inner areas in green, and the outer areas in a pale beige. The green needs a second coat, to neaten it up. And then I'll seal it all off with some kind of vanish. Still not quite finished. But I'm pleased with how they're shaping up.

Greening the inner spaces.

Beige, or 'Roman Stone', on the outer surfaces.

Unpacked more models, to test drive the shelves, so to speak.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Euro Militaire, 2016 (Sunday, 18th Sept)

View from the Leas venue terrace. Weather was nice! [1]


Having become somewhat more of a model builder than a figure collector/painter in recent months, when a pal suggested a trip to Folkestone for Euro Militaire, 2016, I said 'yes please'.

A nice model of the German's Mickey 'Maus' tank. [2]

As something of a Boney-phile I like that their logo is a portrait of the man himself. But, although there were a good deal of Napoleonic subjects on display in the competition and display areas, there was very little of that era for sale in a form I felt tempted by. 

I did buy an MB 54mm Hussar at the last Salute I went to, and a few stalls had the figures from that range, but I was determined to try and remain 'on track' and 'on scale'! There was one guy with a lot of mostly second-hand models, who had some vintage Airfix Napoleonics in 54mm, the nostalgia value of which tempted me. But I thought they were a bit pricey... and then I ran out of money anyway!

F-F-F-Folkestone's f-f-f-famous f-f-f-funicular lift. Powered by water and gravity, so I was told.

My buddy said the show was a lot smaller than the last time he went, and that he heard one of the organisers muttering about how Brexit might've discouraged some of our continental brethren (and sistren!) from making the trip this year. 

That'd be a terrible and ironic shame if it were true, as, just as the name of the show itself suggests, this is an instance of UK folk being friendly and welcoming to the idea of internationalism, at least as far as the near continent is concerned.

No prizes for guessing the title of this competition entry!

The truth of the matter for me is that, despite greatly admiring what modeller's do in larger scales, single figures, and realms such as fantasy, etc., I'm really much more of a dyed-in-the-wool small scale historical guy; I like masses of troops and tanks, based on real conflicts. 

So, although I admired much of what was on display - it's stunning, frankly, so how can one not be bowled over? - nevertheless, my chief concern was to acquire some small scale armour and figures.

In the end, however, I bought mostly planes! This might partly be the influence of the buddy with whom I travelled, Paul Crossman, who's primarily been making 1/72 planes in recent years. But it's also been influenced by films I've watched - from 12 O'Clock High to the Battle of Britain - and books I've been reading.

My swag from the show! 

In both Hitler's Soldiers and The War In The West, the role of the Luftwaffe was looked at in some detail, the latter title devoting a fair chunk to the way in which Germany's air-arm's supremacy was crucial to both their initial victories in Poland and France, and subsequent extensions of conquest such as Norway and Greece and the Balkans.

Even though the Battle of Britain was both short and relatively small scale, it was clearly crucial in stopping Hitler gambling on invading Britain, and thus knocking out the last West-European adversary he had failed to either conquer or otherwise neutralise. Anyway, all this got me more and more interested in buying and building model planes to add to my growing 1/72 WWII collection.

Up until the weekend of Euro Militaire, this had been a very small scale and sporadic development, with as many WWI aircraft winging their way to my worktable as WWII machines. Then I bought and built a Spitfire and Messerschmit on our recent short summer breaks - at the time I was reading the Battle of Britain segment of The War In The West - and that's when the bug really bit!


Then, whilst shopping with Teresa in Ely, I spotted a Battle Of Britain 75th anniversary set by Airfix, reduced from £45 (a bit overpriced!) to £30, and snapped it up. Despite knowing I was off to Euro-Militaire the very next day!

And at the show itself, I found that - whilst there was tons to gawp at in admiration - most the traders weren't selling stuff geared to my particular and quite narrow current interests. Indeed, there were only three stalls that had the sort of things I was after. One of these had tons of stuff that I liked the look of, and I promptly spent all my remaining cash on a stash of mostly German WWII aeroplanes.

One of only two vehicle purchases of the show!

One of the other stalls (Mr. Models, I think?), from whom I'd made my first purchases of the day - more WWII German planes! - would've had a lot more of my money, if their card-machine had worked. Perhaps I ought to be grateful it didn't?

In the end I only bought two vehicles, and both of those were a bit off my usual map, being as one was a Russian fuel-tanker truck (see above pic.), and the other a German bus. Figure-wise I got a pack of Zvezda 1/72 German HQ figures, plus a big box of Airfix soft-plastic Luftwaffe figures, inc. both pilots and ground crew, and another Zvezda set, also of Luftwaffe ground-crew.

Very nice figures. Just a shame there aren't a lot more of them.

Plenty of figures. But not so nicely posed, and poses are repeated too much for my liking.

I had hoped someone at the show might stock the Preiser 1/72 Luftwaffe ground crew figures. But I couldn't find anyone selling their ranges. Of the two sets I purchased, the Zvezda are much better sculpted, and being hard plastic are also easier to work with if converting (not that they need it!). But they are also a lot more expensive.

The Airfix Luftwaffe groundcrew, although described on the box as 1/72, are much smaller than the Zvezda figures. Are they actually 1/76, simply re-boxed/-branded as 1/72? The repeated poses mean many figures are either going to be redundant, or will require some conversion. 

I have converted soft plastic figures before, with what appeared at the time (to me!) to be both ease and success. This set is going to tax those skill rather more, methinks!

My 1st conversion attempt with the Airfix LW figs:

Paul advised me to 'pin' my conversion parts. [3]

The toolbox carried at a more realistic angle.

----------
NOTES:

[1] I was told that on a clear day you can see France. When I was told this, the far horizon was shrouded in a heat-haze. But when Paul took this pic, it looked a lot clearer. Somewhat to my chagrin, however, I still couldn't quite make out the French coast.

[2] I only took my iPhone, camera-wise, and that wouldn't let me take many pics (even with me deleting loads!). So I only got two or three pretty poor pics. This one is one of them.

[3] Last time I did plastic figure conversions I just cut and superglued, and it seems to have worked OK. Pinning is a lot more fiddly. I hope it also proves to be sturdy!?

Book Review: Battle of Britain - Len Deighton

What a great picture! [1] (Source: RAF Museum)





Note: the pics used in this review - aside from the cover - are not from the book!


Deighton and Michael Caine on the set of the Ipcress Files, 1965

Len Deighton, now in his 80s, is best known as an author of spy fiction, and is ranked alongside contemporaries like Ian Fleming and John Le Carré in terms of his appeal and success. I bought a cheap used paperback of his book SS Great Britain a while back, during a period of fascination with Operation Sealion, but I have yet to read that. 

Now I'm in the middle of a new phase, and getting quite interested in the Battle of Britain. I got this book on the subject by Deighton for £1.50 in a local charity shop, and read it in two days, whenever I could snatch a moment between working and decorating our new home. I didn't used to like books of this sort - picture heavy surveys or 'digests' - but I'm starting to come round to liking them.

Heinkel He-111.

Dornier Do-17.

Junkers Ju 87, AKA the famous screaming dive-bombing Stuka.

I was intrigued to find out that Deighton had trained in the arts, and worked as an illustrator and designer in his youth. And, according to the Deighton Dossier, some of the illustrations in this book (which ones, I don't know) are by him.

A squadron of Hurricanes over Blighty.

Douglas Bader poses with fellow pilots of 242 (Canadian) Squadron, at Duxford. [2]

The book examines the Battle of Britain from numerous angles, with a core part of the text being in a a kind of 'diary' format. There are also sections on all kinds of related topics, from the evolution of air warfare in WWI and the inter-war years, to diagrams of planes, maps of attacks, and substantial use of quotes from both combatants and civilians.

The contributions of the WAAF and others is covered. Here they help deploy barrage balloons.

The role of Radar and similar technology is discussed, as is the breaking of the Engima code.

It's pleasingly easy and compelling read. I was mildly irritated by the need to jump around a bit page-wise, when a piece of text I was reading was interrupted by some sub-section or other. But that's a very minor niggle. 

It seems also that it's nothing new for writers to claim, as Deighton does here (and as both Ben Shepherd and James Holland do in their more recent books that I've just read), that they're exploding all kinds of popular myths.

This is far from being an in-depth study, although it is impressively comprehensive for a large-type, picture-heavy book of its kind. But if you're looking for an entry point into this subject - a relatively small battle, but of great significance nonetheless - as I was when I got it, it's really pretty good.

Deighton credits Hugh Dowding's careful conservatism with winning the battle.

But, as Deighton tells it here, Leigh Mallory intrigued against his boss; Dowding was duly axed, and Leigh Mallory ultimately took over his job.

In the end Britain wins the battle simply by surviving it. Park and Dowding are portrayed as courageously and stoically following a successful policy of carefully husbanding their scant resources, only to be stabbed in the back by Leigh-Mallory and Douglas Bader, with their 'Big Wing' ideas. 

Women building Hurricanes. [3]

The fact that Britain outproduced the Germans, in their manufacture and replacement of materiel, was also a key factor. So to was the German mismanagement of the whole campaign, with Goering proving himself - despite being a former WWI fighter ace himself - a poor leader, strategically speaking. The Luftwaffe changed focus too many times, and Goering loved his Me110s, or Zerstörer (Destroyer!), even in the face of the evidence that showed they were not as effective as he liked to believe.

Goering.

So, all in all, a fun book, filled with great pictures and other visual reference material, with all the maps and illustrations being specially commissioned for the book, making for both a good read and a good introduction to the topic.

You can see why Goering like the Me110. It does look damnably cool!

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NOTES:

[1] Flak was very inaccurate and inefficient, and could cause 'collateral damage' when spent munitions or unexploded rounds returned to earth. But it had psychological value in helping people feel they were being defended, and it unnerved attacking aircraft, making their job harder.

[2] I like this picture for several reasons, two of which are: my grandfather was a Canadian servicemen, over here during (and after!) WWII; Duxford is local to me, and I've been there many, many times. The text describing this image at Wikipedia says: 'Three decorated fighter pilots of No. 242 (Canadian) Squadron RAF, standing outside the Officers' Mess at Duxford, Cambridgeshire. They are (left to right): Pilot Officer W L McKnight, Acting Squadron Leader D R S Bader (Commanding Officer), and Acting Flight Lieutenant G E Ball. By the date this photograph was taken these pilots had, between them, shot down over thirty enemy aircraft.'

[3] This pic is from 1942, after the Battle of Britain, but it gets the idea across!