M13/40 – Test Paint




Here's my 1:100 Fiat M13/40 model, printed and painted, along with a couple of Battlefront 15mm Italians.

Overall I'm reasonably happy with it, but I'd like to fine-tune the gun barrel a bit — the step-down in thickness shouldn't be quite so marked. That'll be easy enough to do.




A few days later...

Here's the whole troop of M13/40 completed. You can see the modified gun barrel on the left and centre models; they look a lot less clunky now.

The tactical markings may be of limited usefulness for tabletop identification, considering the parlous state of my eyesight.

Fiat M13/40

STLs available on Thingiverse at https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:3391234
Those who have paid any attention to my maunderings recently might recall that I mentioned something about using my 3d-printed M15/42 models as tabletop stand-ins for the M13-40.

Well, yeah. That's sort of been modified as a plan, because I accidentally made a digital 1:100 scale M13/40, which I will print some of over the next few days. I used m_bergman's excellent little 1:200 scale version as the basis, but added and/or refined a huge amount of the detail.

I used it as a teaching project to familiarise myself a bit with Blender's new version 2.80 (still in Beta). There's a lot I like about the new version, but a lot too that frustrates the hell out of me, and which has slowed down my work-flow quite a lot. One of the most infuriating things about it is the way it often leaps into Perspective view when I'm moving around the model in Orthographic view; I haven't found any way to restrict it only to orthographic as yet.

So anyway, now I have a digital model of the M13/40, which is sure to come in handy.

M11/39 — a truly terrible tank

The STLs are available on Thingiverse at https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:3385848
 I've been remodeling m_bergman's 1/200 scale Italian WWII M11/39 tank, up-scaling it to 1/100 scale and adding and refining a lot of detail. I had to strip away all of the running gear and replace it with completely new geometry; not a straightforward task at all, but I got a decent result in the end.

The original model was fine for silhouette, but it was pretty chunky, for reliability in printing in the smaller scale. It's still a bit chunky — the 37mm gun is out of scale for a start — but it will look OK on the tabletop, and that's the most important thing.

These things were already obsolete at the beginning of WWII. They did OK against machine-gun-armed Vickers light tanks in Libya and Egypt, but that was about the limit of their usefulness. They were quickly replaced by the M13/40, which added some armour and moved the main gun to a larger revolving turret.

Test Print

Assembled and primed


The first test print was reasonably OK, but it has identified a couple of issues.

The stem of the turret plug was a fraction too long, so the turret doesn't sit snugly down on the hull top. That was easy enough to fix.

The 37mm main gun is more problematic. Because it's printed standing vertically (the hull being printed in two halves, front and back) any tremors in the printer show up glaringly, especially if, like mine, your printer is not absolutely perfectly dialled in. It might be better to remove it entirely maybe, and print it horizontally as a separate piece, or even replace it completely with a turned brass gun. Not least because it's way out of scale.

I'm pleased with the way the running gear turned out though. I think it does make a marked improvement, having some detail in the tracks themselves.

M15/42

This is m_bergman's 1:100 scale WWII Italian M15/42, the first of several, which I'll be using to stand in for M13/40, M14/41, or M15/42 tanks as required.

The print is not devoid of issues, but overall it's not so bad as to be unusable.

The figures are from Battlefront.

Italian Construction Difficulties

M15/42 model designed by m_bergman. Arrows indicate areas of bleeeagh.
I need to give my Italians armoured support a bit more effective than the humble CV-35, and this is what I currently have for that purpose.

It's actually a M15/42, but thanks to the conservatism of Italian tank design in the early part of WWII, it looks similar enough to the earlier M13/40 and M14/41 that it can stand in for both of those versions on the tabletop without raising too many eyebrows, except amongst the rivet-counters, and screw them.

The hull of this one was printed in one piece, standing up on its tail. This orientation renders the  sloping panels of the hull rear, and the long slope of the track-guards, in the smoothest possible manner. However, it means that the vertical areas have to be printed with supports, and such areas never print cleanly. Worse, the port rear idler and track failed to print at all from the start, so it's left a horrible mangled mess there until it got its act together.

None of this makes it unusable as a wargaming model, but I'd like to do better if I can.

I'm experimenting with bisecting the hull and tracks, and printing it in two halves.

This will print both the sloping and vertical panels as smoothly as possible, and though some supports are still necessary, they are minimised.

I haven't created any locating sockets in the joining faces, so I'll have to align them by eye. And for that, I think a slightly slower-setting cyanoacrylate will be best — I don't want to have to hold everything in place for too long, but I do want a little bit of working time.

Anyway, I'll be curious to see how it turns out. I've done this sort of thing before, with some success, on my Guy Lizard, so I'm reasonably confident that it will work out OK.
Split, printed and glued together

Later....

The split print worked just fine, and as an added bonus it reduced the amount of supports necessary, and they came away much more easily too.

The problematic areas in the first print (above) printed perfectly cleanly on this one.

It is possible to see where the join line is, but once the camo paint goes on that will be pretty much invisible. I could fill it I suppose, but I think that would be needless effort for my purposes.

The Italian Job — Small Beginnings

The very first of my 1941 Italian ground forces for the desert war are these three.

The Italians are pretty severely undermanned at present, as these two guys are the only Italian infantry I have painted at all, and apart from them, I only have some gun crews for a 75/27 battery I bought quite some time ago and then completely forgot.

The diminutive little vehicle is a CV-35 tankette, pretty much completely worthless against any sort of tank, but it can hold its own against, say, a truck.

The Traveller Book

This just arrived for me today. ==>

I like Traveller, both as a RPG system and as a milieu, and my own space opera campaigns have tended to be fairly heavily informed by my early experience of playing Traveller back in the early '80s.

In those days, it came in a set of three small A5 soft-bound booklets, their covers basically the same simple black and red design as  this one.

All three booklets were combined into a single hardback volume in 1982, and released as The Traveller Book. I'm not sure whether it was first released with the black cover, or the illustrated cover shown below.

The fancy-schmancy cover.
I have this version in PDF.
In any case, the black cover is the one I just got through DriveThruRPG. It's a POD production, and the interior appears to be printed from simple scans of the original pages — it hasn't been re-typeset.

As is often the case, that means that the content tends to look rather fuzzy. It's not illegible by any means, it's just not as crisp as the original. Maybe one day some enthusiast will do a new digital layout of the original content, but for now I'm happy just to have a hard copy of the rule book.

It's been quite a while since I ran a sci-fi game. Maybe when my current AD&D arc is complete — whenever that might be — I'll swap over for a while.

Fiat CR-42 Falco

Wingspan approximately 66mm.
Since I'm pretty well sorted for troops for France in 1940 now, I thought it was time to start paying some more attention to the early years of the Western Desert campaigns. I have a few Brits for that theatre, but very little in the way of opposition for them.

So, I thought, what better time to start building up an Italian collection? I've never really looked at the Italians before, but their tanks have lots of rivets and that's always a good thing.

The first item is this absolutely terrible FDM 3d print of a Fiat CR-42 "Falco", an excellent biplane fighter used in fairly large numbers by Italy at the beginning of the war.

The model is one that I got from Thingiverse at https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:2816411 — I split it down the middle and printed it in two halves, and then glued them back together.

As far as silhouette goes, it's a perfectly good model. However, it's scaled to 1:100, and all my aircraft (almost all, anyway) are at 1:144. So I scaled it down, and regrettably that made several bits too thin to print. I set my slicer (Cura 3.6) to force-print them, and they did print, but they didn't print well. I'll probably have to remodel it quite a bit to make the wings, tail and struts a bit chunkier, and I might break it up and print it in several bits.

I'll also have to put together a few desert-themed flight stands, I guess.

New and shiny

...and now there's a pilot!

Later:

I remodelled almost all of the original STL — in fact, all that's left is the fuselage.

The wings and tail fin and planes have all been thickened, and the wings have been given more of an aerofoil profile. The struts have also been thickened, and the undercarriage replaced, now including the bracing struts. And I added a pilot.

Now it prints much better at 1/144 scale. I still had quite a bit of cleanup to do due to stringing, but apart from that it's quite straightforward.

The STL is available on Thingiverse at https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:3366311

New desert-themed flight stand










I also made a new desert-themed flight stand, so that it won't be dragging its own little patch of verdant vegetation across the wastes of Libya.

Mondes Différents

My wife, who I love dearly, does not really share my love for teensy tiny toy tanks; her attitude to my hobby is really one of slightly uncomprehending but amused tolerance.

The other night, she came into my workroom and asked what I was printing. As it happened, it was a 1:100 scale Vickers Light Tank Mk.VI AA, but knowing better than to actually say that, I just said "a tank".

She looked very slightly surprised, and said words to the effect of "I would have thought you'd already have done all the tanks". I thought she was joking. She was not joking.

All. The . Tanks.

She thought I must have made models of every tank there is or ever was by now. Bless her.

Vickers Light Mk.VI AA

The latest model off my 3d printer is this Vickers Light Tank Mk.VI AA, mounting 4 7.92mm BESA machine-guns on a high-angle anti-aircraft mounting.

Its necessity was made plain by events in France in 1940, and it made its first appearance in action in the Western desert in 1941.

It needs some more markings, but exactly what I'm not yet sure.

I've seen photographs of Mk.VI tanks with large cartouches on their turret rear, containing the vehicle name. However, I don't think the AA versions carried those sorts of markings, and I'll probably just end up giving it some very generic tactical signs.

The model is based on one by m_bergman or TigerAce1945 on Thingiverse. I've fiddled with it a bit, adding the gunner and replacing the guns so that they'll print reliably, and I added track pins as well to break up the smoothness of the edges of the tracks.

Vickers Lights

My latest addition to my growing 15mm (1:100 scale) 1940 BEF force are two troops of Vickers Mk.VIb light tanks, useless though they may be.

And thanks to the magic of printing-a-second-set-of-turrets, it's also two troops of Vickers Mk.VIc light tanks. Or one troop of each. Or any combination thereof.

F Tank (far left) has been given slightly different markings to all the rest, because I accidentally got its turret magnets' polarity reversed compared with all the others, so unlike all the others, its turrets aren't interchangeable between all the other hulls.

As usual, the photos may be clicked upon to embiggenate them.

Power Grid — Resource Management

Power Grid is one of my favourite board games. It's been very well balanced, and no two games ever seem to play alike.

Like many of these European games, it uses a multitude of little wooden tokens. I've been keeping them in zip-lock bags, which have the advantage of convenience, but they're not exactly an aesthetic tour-de-force.

Neither is this little box really, but it's nicer than a plastic bag. I made the base-part a while ago out of a scrap of rimu, and completely forgot about it until we got the game out last night — which just goes to show how long it's been since we played Power Grid.

It turned out that I'd made the cavities a bit too shallow to accommodate all of the yellow "garbage" tokens without overflowing. I'd originally intended it just for in-game use, to keep all the tokens in one place, and a bit less likely to get lost on the floor. But somebody — Steve, I think — suggested that with the addition of a lid, it could be used to keep them in permanently, which I thought an eminently sound idea.


So, today I deepened the cavities and made a magnetic lid for it.

The box itself is not perfectly symmetrical, because I never thought it would need to be. However, the addition of the lid means that orientation is actually important. I attended to that by making sure that the polarity of the magnets in each pair were opposite, so the lid will only go on one way.

3d Printing – SLA vs. FDM


These 3d printed vehicles are all 1/285 scale, so the largest of them is only about 25mm (an inch) long. I thought these tiny little models would do best to compare the merits of FDM and SLA printing.

All of the SLA prints were done by Shapeways, and all in their "Smooth Fine Detail Plastic" material, which is the lower of the two detail options they offer in resin printing.

The two FDM prints were done by me on my Ender 3 with a 0.4mm nozzle at 0.08mm layer height in PLA.

  1. Vickers Medium Mk.III — SLA
  2. Burford Kegresse — SLA
  3. Carden-Loyd MG carrier — SLA
  4. Vickers Medium Mk.II — FDM
  5. Vickers Medium Mk.II — FDM. Printed with no gun barrel, and a brass pin added later.
  6. Vickers Medium Mk.II** — SLA

SLA uses a UV laser to selectively cure a photopolymer, layer by layer, within a wax support medium, so requires no additional supports and is capable of rendering very fine surface detail. The sloping panels are cleaner owing to its finer layer discrimination. Shapeways used to have information on the exact layer heights on their website, but they no longer do now that they've "improved" their site design again.

DLP is another process that uses a photosensitive resin, but in a different manner: it employs a LCD screen to expose each layer in one go. It has the advantage that the amount of build-plate coverage has no effect on its print speed, but the disadvantage that its horizontal resolution is dictated by the resolution of the LCD exposure screen it uses. The finer screens now available, and antialiasing technologies, have improved this substantially in just a few years, but it is still likely that pixelation effects might be seen on curved surfaces. Nevertheless, like SLA it is generally capable of much finer layer heights than FDM printing. DLP printing uses printed support structures in much the same way as FDM.

The two FDM examples I've shown here, for all the limitations of that medium, are really not too bad as wargaming models. Both of these have been printed at 0.08mm layer height; my machine will go as low as 0.04mm, but with only a slight improvement in visual quality, and at the cost of doubling the print time. The surface detail is much lower than SLA (or DLP) is capable of, though this could be improved by printing with a smaller nozzle — 0.2mm or 0.25mm — though this once again increases print times substantially.

I'm unlikely to do any more 1/285 scale printing myself, as my eyesight has grown too poor to easily distinguish the different models on the wargames table without a lot of leaning and peering. However, as you can see, it's certainly a viable prospect to print usable 6mm wargames vehicles, even on a cheap entry-level printer.

Hag

This is one of Duncan Louca's Hags, printed on my Ender 3.

I got quite a lot of zits and boogers from the supports on this one, but she's so warty and festering that rather than trimming them off, I just turned them into zits and boogers.

Tabletop Game Paraphernalia

That gaping abyss was not there when we started this fight, but we have a character who can cause earthquakes and things,
and he does so love to do that even when it might not be the wisest course of action.

You will note that one of our party is right there in the middle of the gaping abyss.
We have no idea yet how deep it gapes, or whether she survived.
Like I said, not the wisest course of action.
I have about a bajillion fantasy and sci-fi roleplaying miniatures.

I have bits and pieces of scatter terrain — pillars, evil altars, furniture — out the wazoo.

I have a 3d printer, and the 3d modeling skills to be able to make pretty much any sort of tabletop gaming stuff we could ever want.

Nevertheless, this is what we almost invariably end up using, because it is fast and easy and effective. It's a cheap steel whiteboard that I got for a few bucks years ago. It's not huge, about 400 x 500 mm, but it's large enough for most scenarios. Most often, we use chessmen and the like to represent the Bad Guys, because again, they're fast and convenient, and imagination serves perfectly well to project whatever shape is required on to the generic markers.

I've written before about the two-edged sword that is the use of miniatures in tabletop roleplaying — they make the tactical situation more explicit than in pure theatre-of-the-mind, but they also impose a bit of an imagination straitjacket, especially problematic when one miniature is being used to stand in for another creature. People tend to trust their eyes rather than their minds, and if they can see something they know is a cow they'll think of it as a cow, and not as a Ravening Bugblatter Beast of Thrarll.

When we first started roleplaying, many decades ago, we had very limited access to fantasy miniatures, and even less money, so we tended not to use them at all. They weren't completely foreign to us, because several of our group were wargamers and had small collections of figures for various wargaming periods. However, when it came to roleplaying, the nearest we came to using miniatures was when I made a bunch of cardboard tokens with our characters names on them.

My pixie character
Mine was a pixie called Raisenbred Thimblecup. She didn't last very long at all; she was lured off into a swamp and electrocuted to death by a will-'o-wisp.

These little chits were only about 15x12mm, and made from some shitty scrap cardboard I had lying around. They served pretty well for the purpose really.

Many years later, when Wizards of the Coast took over the D&D IP, for a while they were putting out collections of 2d cut-out tokens illustrated with various critters and characters. Like pogs I think, though I've never actually seen a pog in the flesh. Anyway, they work quite well as tactical markers, but again they suffer from the "what you see is what you think you see" problem, and though it's pretty easy to amass a giant, varied collection of the things, there's still the problem of having to sort through them all to find the exact ones you need for any given encounter.

I'd use them for character tokens, and maybe for important NPCs or pre-prepared encounters, but for setting up a fight on the fly, they'd still be a bit of a pain to organise.


FDM vs. SLS 3d Printing

15mm (1:100 scale) Vickers Medium Mk.II
SLS on the left, FDM to the right.
The figure is a 15mm WW1 British officer by Peter Pig.
(Click on image to enlarge)
Here are two 3d printed versions of essentially the same digital model. On the left, one that I had printed by Shapeways using their SLS sintered nylon process, and on the right one that I printed myself in PLA on my FDM machine (Ender 3). Neither is fine-scale modelling quality, but both are adequate for wargaming models.

The detail on the SLS-printed model is very soft, and often entirely absent — many of the rivets are barely visible, if they can be seen at all. On the FDM-printed model, the detail is much crisper, but the layer lines are much more apparent. The surface texture from SLS is rather like very fine sponge, and it sucks up paint like sponge too. On the FDM model, flat horizontal planes are quite smooth, but the sloping panels are perceptibly ridged if you're looking closely.

The biggest differences, of course, are cost and delivery time. Getting a model this size printed in SLS by Shapeways costs quite a lot ($US20.00, plus postage — another $US15.00 to New Zealand) and usually takes a month to six weeks to get to me. The FDM model cost me maybe fifty cents, and took about eight hours in total to print.

It is possible, of course, to get better quality prints from Shapeways, but they are much, much more expensive than SLS printing.

FDG Goblin Sample

This is a free sample STL sent out by Fat Dragon Games with their monthly newsletter. Apparently they're about to kickstart a collection of goblins, and this one is a teaser.

I thought at first it was a bit too big, but having put it next to other 28mm figures, I now think that illusion was created by the very large head-to-body size ratio. I like that, as it gives it definite and identifiable non-human-normal proportions.

Fat Dragon's miniatures are all designed to print support-free, which is a boon. Generally speaking, I like their designs, which tend towards the chunky for reliability in printing.

I'll take a look at the kickstarter once it's up and running, but in general I've had a gutsful of kickstarters — they tend to take forever to fulfill, and as I found with the Reaper kickstarters, I often end up paying for a whole lot of stuff I don't really want or need, which makes the so-called "savings" a bit dubious; I'd often be better off financially by just waiting for the thing's general release and buying only the things I actually desire.






Here it is next to a Reaper 28mm hobgoblin (?) that used to be a half-orc in my AD&D campaign.

It's shorter than it looks.

3d Modeling and Printing 15mm Infantry

Left: Peter Pig
Centre: My FDM 3d printed model
Right: Battlefront
I've been having a go at modeling a generic 15mm British infantryman of the Interwar period. As this is my first attempt at this sort of thing, I've gone for a very simple pose.

Thingiverse
https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:3336708
I've deliberately gone for rather chunky, dwarfish proportions, as I find that in the smaller scales, "realistic" proportions tend to start to look rather waifish, not to mention that the figures get a bit frail. However, I think I can probably tone it down just a bit. He needs to be a millimetre or two shorter, for a start, to fit in with the traditionally modelled and cast ranges.

I've done a test print on my Ender 3, an FDM printer with a 0.4mm nozzle, and though I've seen worse figures in my time, I think a 0.2mm nozzle or a resin printer is probably going to be necessary to get consistently decent results, as the surface detail has been largely smoothed out of existence. The helmet brim also probably needs to be thickened a bit.

All in all, I'm reasonably happy with it as a first experiment, and it's given me some idea of the direction I need to take for future models. I may have to learn something about rigging my 3d models though, as building each and every pose from scratch will soon become tiresome.

Later:

I adjusted the proportions of the model so he looks a bit less like he has a 72 inch chest, and thickened the helmet brim.

I printed this one leaning back at an angle of about 45-50°, and I did get a tiny bit more definition in the face. The rest of the surface detail is still very soft though, and I'd have to exaggerate it a lot more if I was going to be printing these regularly in FDM.

Leaning it back on the printer means that its end-print string-blob is right on the front edge of the helmet brim, which is kind of annoying.






Later still:

They don't look too terrible with some paint sploshed on them, but I shall certainly have to exaggerate surface details quite substantially if I want them to be clearly visible. They're very far from being top-class sculpts, but they've given me a reasonably good idea about where I should be going.

More Books For Me

This batch of books just arrived for me from the Book Depository, a late Xmas present to myself. Strictly speaking, just the four on the right — I've had the 1914–1938 book for a while now.

George Bradford's drawings are immensely useful as modeling resources, and though they're not usually sufficient on their own to catch every little detail, they provide an excellent basis to work from in addition to photographs of the original vehicles.

Hopefully they should enable me to fill in some of the gaps in my 15mm 3d modeling and printing.

The Art of Appropriate Frugality

I've learned a valuable lesson today about stinginess.

I really like Vallejo polyurethane acrylic surface primers, and a while ago I bought several shades in 200ml bottles, as the paint works out a lot cheaper that way than buying it in smaller 60ml or 20ml bottles.

However.

If you're not using it fast enough — finishing a bottle within, say, a year or eighteen months — it starts to thicken in the bottle, and worse, it develops crumbs of sediment, presumably from paint drying on the inside of the lid and so forth, which will gum up your airbrush and force you into an emergency cleaning session, along with a constant stream of swearing.

Now I have a clean airbrush, and I've filtered and thinned the remains of the bottle of surface primer, and my hands are entirely black, and I've got black smears all over my workbench. But at least the rest of that particular bottle is usable again.

In future, I'll probably stick to buying the 60ml bottles. It will cost more money in the long run, but I think it will be less troublesome.
Note: I once was in the habit of always decanting paint intended for my airbrush through a filter, to avoid this very issue. The reliability and ease of use of Vallejo paints has really made me lazy in this respect... not too difficult, since laziness is my natural base-state.

Mighty Armoured Fist of the Wehrmacht!


My first printing and painting for 2019 are these three Panzer 1B, plus a Befehlspanzer 1B.

The models are, I believe, by TigerAce1945, on Thingiverse. They printed OK, but the wheels could do with a bit of attention — I notice that the vertical spokes didn't print at all, and need to be beefed up a bit.

I have another three of them, and another Befehlspanzer with a frame antenna, awaiting paint on my workbench. Whether they will see much use on the tabletop is questionable; the Panzer 1 is a paltry beast if they're confronting anything more dangerous than a man with a rifle. However, as mobile machine-gun posts they could have their uses.

Next Day

Here's the Befehlspanzer 1B with the frame aerial.

The aerial is pretty ragged; this is the sort of thing that FDM printing really does not do well.

Cheap Plastic Crap

I was idly browsing around AliExpress one day, looking for Cheap Plastic Crap that might be useful to me for wargames terrain, and happene...