Monday 19 December 2011

Christmas Cards and Recycled Goodies

As this is probably my last post before Christmas let's have a few mumblings on the subject.

There is a lot of debate these days around Christmas cards, the cost of cards, cost of postage and the save the environment bandwagon, but I bet those people who use that as an excuse not to send cards still make more than their fare share of rubbish for the next bin collection over the festive period. 

Personally I still prefer that personal touch of a card written / scribbled (delete as applicable) by hand.

The designs vary from festive, wintry scenes, jokey and religious but this year I seem to have received more scenic and olde world house cards than usual. 

I'm thinking some family and friends may be secret readers of the blog, if so thanks very much. These cards will be added to my folder for ideas for next year, especially these two cards cut out in house shapes. I'm already thinking of building these two as models next year.

It's the season to over indulge on sweets, mince pies and numerous other treats. After munching my way through these I often then start examining the packaging wondering what can be made from them. Some of the things I'm planning on keeping hold of are any coloured transparent wrappers from a well know sweet assortment, these are good for coloured effects on fire places, windows etc.. 

I’ll be collecting some trays from mince pies, chocolates, and biscuit assortments, as these I've started using as short term plaster moulds. These columns I made by taking a casting from a sweet tray, only filling the cup parts to form the round stones I stacked up to give the pillars some height, whilst I filled some of the indents fully to make the bases with pillars. Let’s see what this year’s trays inspire.

 ... and with that I'd like to wish my readers a Merry Christmas and I'll see you in the new year. 

Sunday 11 December 2011

Doctor Who Tapestry/Embroidery Part Two

I was going to leave it until next month before featuring more of the tapestry but with today’s news it seemed just right to feature a couple more photos of this massive project.

Exciting news for Doctor Who fans broke today with the announcement that two episodes missing from the BBC archives have been uncovered. Episode 3 of the William Hartnell adventure "Galaxy 4" and Episode 2 of Patrick Troughton's "The Underwater Menace" turned up having been bought by a private collector in the 80s without knowing the importance of what he had found to the world of Doctor Who fandom. Personally I never believed that any more of the missing episodes would show up, so I’m looking forward to a commercial release of these hopefully sometime next year.

Galaxy 4 from 1965 featured the beautiful Drahvins and the hideous Rills and cute robots the Chumblies. Although all was not as it first appeared.  I’ve already featured a Drahvin and a Chumblie on the tapestry seen here alongside some other early enemies, Axons, White Robot, an Ambassador of Death, and the robot disguised as Death from The Visitation.

The Underwater Menace from 1967 featured an adventure in Atlantis with ‘fish people’ which I’ve also added to the tapestry some time ago. Seen here along with a Monoid, the Candyman, Toymaker and Robot, Gell Guard and Silurian.

Monday 5 December 2011

Doctor Who Tapestry/Embroidery Part One

Still on the subject of arts and craft but somewhat off topic regarding the model world I’ve been building, but this is another ongoing project that I’ve been working on for many years and a few people who know me have been asking how it’s going. I guessed this was probably the best place to show pictures of how it’s coming along.

Ok, some background to the project.

I started this many years ago, initially as individual tapestries/embroideries of each of the classic Doctors from Doctor Who, and this was started before the Paul McGann tv film. Each of them was going to be framed, indeed the first three finished were. Then I had the brain storm of joining them together in one piece, but the backgrounds did not merge together and needed something to join them. I then decided if I was going to do that then I should add companions and monsters into the mix and very soon it grew as new pieces were added.

When the Eighth Doctor came along I had already got the design in place with the first three Doctors along the top, Four and Five on the sides in the middle and Six and Seven at the bottom. Number Eight threw the design out a bit and had to be added in the middle.  I’ve decided that this work will only cover what is known as ‘Classic’ Doctor Who, and I do have another large piece of material ready for the new series once this piece of work is finished. (If it ever gets done.)

At the last measurement it was over six foot square, hanging off the sides of a king size bed.  Here are a few photos of some selected panels, there are several areas still under construction and many parts that need to be finished or revisited as I’m not entirely happy with them yet.

Some individual panels :-

Doctor Three, Jon Pertwee with Bessie and UNIT Logo.

Doctor Six, Colin Baker with Valeyard and Inquisitor.

Doctor Seven, Sylvester McCoy and the TARDIS

Doctor Eight, Paul McGann with Grace, Chang Lee, The Master as Eric Roberts and Snake form

Davros, Early Dalek, Cyber-controller and Movellan

Monday 28 November 2011

Lighting Up

Lighting Up For Christmas

At the weekend I was in a few of the various Pound (and just under the Pound) Stores in Romford, when I came across some battery operated LED Christmas lights. 

They came in two colours, white and red. The white takes 3xAAA batteries where as the red works from 2xAA batteries. I thought these would be ideal to give the occasional lighting effect on some models, as you can easily hide the control boxes and wires.

This was just a quick test run using one of the wooden huts with one previously blacked out window replaced with an opaque plastic window. Here is the house with the white, red and no lights...

... plus a quick video switching between them as I ran the wires out of the open door.

The red certainly suggests a warm fire glow.

Saturday 12 November 2011

Final Fog Feature

Just when you thought Halloween was gone from the shelves, see last posting where I substituted Christmas snow blanket for Halloween Spider’s Web, I was visiting Basildon when I spotted a sale on Halloween decorations. Although at first I never found any spider web I did find some interesting bits and pieces. 

When I mentioned to the young lady tidying the sale items that I was looking for spider web the reply I got was, “Yes, we’ve got some, what colour?” Not what I expected, but I was told they had black and white. I said I’d take some of each and she came back with black, white and a packet of green. 

My eyes lit up, that will produce some real ghostly mist and fog. Many thanks to the girls working in Birthday’s Party Shop at Westgate Basildon, for their helpful and friendly service.

Here, especially then for Luckyjoe, are some extra foggy photos with the snow blanket, and the three colours of spider web around the gravestones.

Green Spider Webbing as Spooky, Ghostly Fog.

White Spider's Webbing as Creeping Fog
Black Spider Webbing. More like smoke.
Would be good also for 'Supernatural' style Demon activity.
Snow Blanket as Ground Cover Fog

Sunday 6 November 2011

Fog, Snow and Fireworks

According to my records this is blog number 50, time for a party? Fireworks anyone? It is that time of year again, Guy Fawkes, gunpowder, treason and plot.

Following on from last week’s post about using Halloween Spider Web material as fog on terrain, I went in search of some extra in the post Halloween clearance sales, and there wasn’t any. 

Not just no fog, but no sales this year, usually you get this stuff by the sin-bin bucket load in many shops, but not this year. 

However, I have found an alternative and one I actually like even better. Snow. Yes, snow joke, (well that was and it wasn’t even funny). 

Whilst wandering round Hobbycraft with their Christmas ideas on display I notice ‘Snow Blankets’ on offer at half price. They looked remarkably similar to the spider web material but flatter, thicker and more woven.

You could really cut rounds out this quite easily and glue them to a base to mount figures on a crisp undisturbed snowy base. 

But if you pull it apart then you can create a more whispy, floaty carpet, not so much like fallen snow but more like the rolling fog. 

Here’s Karl and Tomkin again exploring part of the old church yard this time using the pulled apart snow blanket as the fog covering.

I did mention fireworks earlier; yes I’ve just had another 10.5 mile wander around the streets of Dagenham collecting up fallen rockets for the third year running. 

I did get some funny looks, no one asked why. Maybe next year I should do it in fancy dress and get sponsored. Ok, maybe not.

Here’s a photo of this year’s haul. At first I didn’t think I would not collect as much as last year, the recession having taken a bite out of people’s budgets, but actually by the time I had finished I think it’s about the same.

So more house and cottage building for me next year then. I also found a couple of pieces of polystyrene, a nice flat piece and another archway.

Before I went out I got the slow cooker on and the stew set to bubble away so that a nice rich dinner smell welcomed me home. Just the thing for an adventurer in the wilderness with a lump of crusty bread to eat by the camp fire, time to dish up, turn the lights down and maybe set some suitable forest music on. 

Monday 31 October 2011

Misty Halloween Greetings

It’s that time of year again when the ghosts, ghouls and creeps haunt the streets, including Big Lee apparently with his very own home grown pumpkin head. 

I decorated the porch and dished out some treats, although my first caller was a salesperson for Sky TV. (Probably the scariest costume to be honest.)

Anyway, as I was putting up the fake spider web material bought for Halloween decoration I realised it would be ideal to achieve something I had previously tried with cotton wool but had not been happy with the results. 

I wanted some spooky mist and fog to roll in over the graveyard set and the consistency of this material when stretched out gave the perfect results. Plus, with Halloween now over for another year, there's a good chance you'll be able to pick this stuff up in a sale.

Here’s Karl and his brother Tomkin exploring the graveyard as the Halloween fog rolls in.

Also I’d like to share the response I received from Woodland Scenics following my last post, which raises them even higher in my opinion.

“We appreciate the support of our customers, want them to succeed and are delighted to assist with any issues they may have. We have a great Product Development team, who are dedicated to making modelers successful! Thanks for the support, Derek and for the shout-out on you blog.

Thursday 20 October 2011

Tree Hugging

Apologies for not blogging sooner, but if I had over the last couple of weeks this blog would have just degenerated into a rant at the general level of apathy so many large companies show to their customers these days. I’m still awaiting satisfactory responses from many, and their general level of indifference is astounding. Companies like, London Buses and Nation East Anglia Trains to name just three. That was not what I wanted this blog to be about, so instead I’m going to talk trees and a company that does show an interest in their customers.

I decided my layouts needed some special trees and foliage, and so I looked to one of the tree kits from Woodland Scenics. I invested in the full range of glue, scenic cement and spray bottle in order to do the job right.

First stage was to remove the bases from their trunks and fit them, then bend the branches out and twist them to form three dimensional shapes.

To be honest the trees are much stronger than I first thought, initially I was a bit apprehensive about twisting them in case I was too heavy handed, but I had nothing to fear. The next stage was to glue them up and leave the glue to set and go tacky before applying the foliage.  

The foliage comes in a bag, at first glance you think there’s not going to be enough for all the trees in the pack, but providing you break the clumping foliage up before applying it to the branches there is certainly enough material in the pack to complete the project.

Once tacky I applied the foliage, left for 24 hours then started spraying with the scenic cement to secure and protect the trees – disaster, after I sprayed two of the trees the foliage all dropped from the trees, forming a soggy mess like the fallen leaves of autumn.

Now, I follow Woodland Scenics page on Facebook, where many people post images of projects and if you’re on Facebook and haven’t been to their page you should look it up – you’ll see some brilliant work there. Remember to ‘like’ the page for updates in your news feed.

I posted an appeal for help on their page and very quickly a brilliant young man named Joe Hawkins replied with helpful advice and shortly after Woodland Scenics themselves responded.

Their response was a well thought out answer to my situation, instead of just reprinting the instructions they tackled what had gone wrong and advised how I could get good results. 

The good news is that once the foliage had dried out I was able to follow their advice, applying two coats of Hob-e-tac before pressing the foliage on by hand and then building the scenic cement up in light layers.

Now I have the first batch of successful trees ready to be added to the graveyard set, the castle ruin and cottages.

It’s good to see that some companies take pride in their products and services and make the effort to help and provide advice for their customers. Well done Woodland Scenics, I will certainly be buying more trees in the near future. The other thing I like about Woodland Scenics is their website, it contains short video demonstrations which are great for getting you started.

Sunday 9 October 2011

Quick update

First thing for the Doctor Who fans, there are more figures on this week’s Doctor Who Adventures magazine; you get 5 Daleks, 6 Cybermen and 6 Sontarans.

Also a quick photo update on the latest coffee stick house, now that it has undergone the majority of the paint work.

Following my earlier news about being away from the blog because of illness, another trip to the doctor this week, as the swelling and itching on the hands and feet has been threatening to return. He believes it is chemical related and now I’m having to keep a diary of food and drink, toiletries and cleaning products, and modelling products used daily. As a creature of habit, I don’t tend to change what I use very often so with the medication continuing and the diary being written we will have to just wait and see. Has anyone else ever had problems caused by their modelling work in the past?

Sunday 2 October 2011

Model Work in October Sunshine

We’ve had some very unseasonal weather in London and the South of England this week, which meant that at the start of October I’m working outside with sun block on, and the shade up building models. It’s was reported that yesterday was the hottest October day on record. I managed to get some model work done today. Here’s a quick update, it’s good to be back on the model work.

The coffee stick house built from the recycled boxes is now fully covered in sticks, and has been given a black undercoat.

Zandina’s house, which can be used as a mansion or manor house has been quite well built up today. The last of the wood work has been added, and the base and front towers have been built using the DAS putty to form stone based front, the rest of the panels were again built with wall filler

I also managed to get some decoration on one of the graveyard panels.

Saturday 1 October 2011

I'm Back.

I’m back, did you miss me? Ok the blog’s been quiet for a couple of weeks as I developed another throat infection which knocked me for six and left me without a voice for several weeks and little energy. The doctor gave me some antibiotics but I had a reaction to them which meant my hands, feet, lips you name it started swelling up. This made modelling almost impossible.

This blog is a little bit of a waffle, I want to let my readers who are also Doctor Who fans know that this week’s Doctor Who Adventures comes with a pack of 16 Weeping Angels, ideal for a small army and at just £2.50 an issue – guess what, I’ve bought a couple of issues. They are a little rubbery but I’m sure we’ll be able to work with them.

When I did get back on my feet I managed to get in two theatre visits, to see two very different productions. The first was ‘The Moon is Halfway to Heaven’ performed at the Jermyn Theatre in Jermyn Street. Unfortunately, this was a short run production which closed today before I was able to post this and recommend it. But take note of the title and should it come round again I strongly recommend it. It’s a two hander written by David Kerby-Kandall who forms one half of the cast. It is a story of friendship, pure and simple. It is a friendship that endures from childhood to retirement, the ups and downs of friendship, stopping off at the main events in these two friend’s lives. At times it is touching and at others very funny. The good news is that the play has been recorded as an audio cd, so you can still catch up and if you enjoy radio drama then I’m sure this will transfer very well.

For more details see here:-

The other was a much larger lavish stage production of ‘Cool Hand Luke’. A stage version of the film that starred Paul Newman in the title role of the ex-US army soldier that ended up on the chain gang because he would not conform. This version stars Hustle’s Marc Warren, who finds he has to eat 50 hardboiled eggs in an hour to win a bet. With a large set that sweeps on and off the stage you get a wooden church, the jail house, a cooler box; I must admit I did find myself during the interval thinking how I could like to build some of these features into my coffee stick world. Again another play worth paying a visit to if you’re in town.

For details see here:-

I’ll be back soon with some actual model talk.