Sunday, June 6, 2021

Perry Samurai Gaming Table Build

Hello out there!

I am officially back.  In case you missed the last post, I recently had a house fire.  Unfortunately, I lost all of the backdrops I've made for photography all these years.  Which is too bad, mostly for sentimentality.  There was an original inspiring army behind each one, and a reason for each within my collection.  That meant more to me than the time put in, in all honesty.  There is a silver lining to everything though, and before I was very full up on displays.  All were at least big enough to play a game on, to give perspective, and 2-3 dozen.   So like in nature, sometimes a fire while destructive is also rejuvenating, and what grows out of it is greener than before.  I am looking forward to the next few years and the new backdrops I will want and need to make. 

Right before it happened, I had started a Perry miniatures Samurai army, and a big one at that with over 500 models.  I was already thinking of doing something new for it to celebrate my first historical army.  Which is very exciting for me, as somehow in 15 or however many years I've been doing this I've never had one come my way. Have always been a big fan of historicals, and when I'm honest with myself a lot of my early Empire and Bretonnian armies were a way to get a pseudo-historical fix within a game I could actually have opponents to play, and treated the background of the armies with the same treatment a historical player would.  

So my original ideas for this backdrop were to go back to roots a little bit, and the fire just made that notion a little more poetic.  Emphasis on flocking, more of a traditional gaming table, a little on the model railroad side, and where we all started if we've been around long enough.

I also have always had a hangup for nothing showing behind the backdrop.  I tended to make them very vertical to be a complete scene in the frame and give immersion.  Which was valid and for good reason, and I will likely return to that.  However for this one, the subject matter, the situation, staying at Mom's until we rebuild a new home, I thought let's throw away the formalities and show it all, and go back to a gaming table style. 

Anyway.  Let's get into it photo by photo.

First, the table itself.  I was originally going to make this from scratch. I've been going to a local antique store, although it is much more than that, since I have been painting.  This local shop is where I have bought most of the base pieces for my Adepticon displays such as the skeleton and throne, and most of my house decoration and furniture.  Even with all this I try and stop by often, and he had this table for sale.  It is 19th century French, not Japanese, but something about the front drawer seems passable for this project and also reusable for future historical projects. Beside just looking awesome in general. So I picked it up and off I went.

First, a good sanding and a layer of light primer.  Looking back, the sanding was likely adequate, but an etching primer on top can't hurt.  Any sort of tooth for the putty to stick to is better than nothing over gloss wood varnish. There is something enjoyable about doing this to real antiques.  On one hand it hurts to wreck this great carving on top.  On the other, it feels quite nice to make something original out of something special.  That has always been one of the many appeals of the Adepticon displays as well.

Next is a secondary step to the back for a little bit of verticality and visual interest but nothing too crazy.  My usual instincts to go tall are kicking in here but I remind myself the goal and meaning behind this project.  

The first step of filling in the carving with putty.  It is very deep, and will take a few layers.  The goal is a sharp, flat plane that meets up flush with the outer frame.

This is a few steps ahead.  First I decided I really hated the complete separation of the top and bottom, and added a long sloping ramp to the right side coming left.  There are also around 70 cavalry in this army which will make great visual use of it.

Second I added a rocky ramp to the left side.  There are some 60mm character scenes that have a more prominent right facing, and thought this would be a good way to show them off with an upward facing into the camera.

Third I worked in the large trees I had ordered.  Have to be careful as even as big as this table is, space is at a premium with the giant army that will go on it. Balancing looks and purpose.

Within this I have also been getting more and more into the notion of a gaming table, and the purpose behind each part, working it into the elements both for front facing photography and playing on it.  Making it balanced and also natural. There is a lot of this here in the choices and placement.

One last coat of putty.  All carvings finally filled and flush.  Dirt texture added in this step with a rag and brush as well.

Wanted to add a little more interest and vertical steps, so some rocks were added in the form of good old fashioned driveway gravel and some slate style slabs to stack models on.  Nothing too crazy, as if you add too much you end up spacing models out.

The first coat of paint, using thinner paint in a more watercolor style for some of the yellow to show through since it works, and painting in the path.

Finer work.  Getting the rocks painted, some shading, and variance in the dirt.  Same watercolor style painting to fully finish the path. I don't have my old dehumidifier and shop setup, but a nice hot sunny day does the same job drying it out fast enough to keep up with me.

More shading and pushing the light and dark.  Fully finished and ready for flock.  This will be more an exercise in flock than painting, so trying to overcome the urge to spend days here hand painting the whole thing with a #2.  Most won't be seen and will simply act as a base, so this is more than plenty and I step away.

Time to flock!  I had a huge collection of flock and rarely had to buy any.  It was fun to go on a bit of a shopping spree, and an opportunity to try some new materials.  I found some really great new modelling plants I otherwise would've not run into.  I was so excited I don't think the dirt varnish is dry in this picture.

I was also so excited I didn't take many pictures.  It has been years since I have done something in this more model railroad style, and it is a lot of fun.  Took a lot of inspiration from morning runs on a trail nearby with lots of farmland and wooded areas around.  Which means I would get excited and not go very far. Good problems to have.

A little more progress.  Again, a little too excited to take photos each step, or be bothered to clean the thing off it seems. To describe, it is many layers of thinned glue and careful application of each flock.  The trick is many layers, and to pick your edges not by the application of glue but the flock.  Unless you want hard edges for some appropriate reason, the goal is to cover a larger area with glue each application of flock and apply it well within that boundary.

And finished.  I am very happy with this one being a new first backdrop and for all the meaning wrapped up within it. This is something I have always wanted to make, and the way everything fell together makes it all the better.  

 Put in place, and ready for an army.  It isn't my Grandpa's garage, but it is equally sentimental being the same basement I started in way back in the day.  In that regard, I am grateful.  Feels good to have a new one under my belt. Definitely looking forward to more new backdrops, but we will cross that bridge when we get there.  For now, just a matter of time for the army and photos.  See you then!