Hoist the sails!!!

I’ve got a deck to build and some large trees I have to have cut down and haul away. Hirelings in the real world don’t work cheap. That’s where you come in.

I’m doing a special deal on my large resin sailing ship this week. I’m doing a batch of 15 sets that includes the following;

• all items.hand painted as shown.
• Large ship. 12 inches long/9 inches high. Fully rigged with masts, furled sail, bowsprit and tiller.
• Handpainted cargo piece (boxes covered with tarp and tied down with rope.
• hand painted row boat. (4 inches long. will hold 3 to 4 28mm figures depending on bases.

note: No miniatures included. Figures in pics are for reference only.

This is likely to be the last batch of handpainted pieces I do until September. Again I’m only doing 15 in this batch. They will be ready ship by June 16/17. Paypal payment preferred.

$75.00 Free Shipping in U.S.

You can contact me directly by clicking on the About Me/Contact Me tab at the top of the page.

Ahoy Matey!!







On an old friend…


Believe it or not this blog was intended to be place for me to talk about anything on my mind. The Table Top Terrain stuff just sort of dominated coming out the gate in January.

I thought today, I’d change gears and talk about something else.

My old friend, Kevin Siembieda of Palladium Books fame.

Now Kevin would be the first to acknowledge that he’s a polarizing figure in our industry. You either love him (and many thousands of fans do) or you hate him (yeah, the haters are out there).

I met virtually (via correspondence and phone calls) in 1990 when my wife and I were starting up Shadis Magazine. Kevin in fact has the distinction of giving me my first dollar as a ‘professional’ in the games industry. A check for $20.00 for an ad.

I got that check from Kevin along with a two page hand written letter, which was in reply to the copy of Shadis #1 I had sent him (unsolicited).

Twenty-five years later I still have that letter in my files (along with a xerox copy of the check).

Kevin spent a page and a half tearing the magazine apart. My choice of fonts (which admittedly were horrible), the layout, the choice of going with a digest size, etc. Basically he gave me some harsh, honest feedback.

But you know what? He ended the letter with, “That said, it was a great read and you have a real talent for pulling together content. Here’s a check for an ad.”

I took that advice to heart and if you’ve ever seen a copy of Shadis #1 and place it next to a copy of Shadis#2 the difference is night and day. Kevin was probably single handedly responsible for Shadis continuing for another five years (until I sold it in 1995) and the little self-published rag going prozine.

Kevin and I have been good friends ever since. We only see each other at summer conventions, the occasional side trek (He invited me to go on a cruise with him once – all expenses paid). About once every six months one of us will get the urge to talk to the other and pick up the phone. Phone calls that can stretch into an hour of catching up and just taking. We rarely talk shop. We talk life. We talk as two old friends would be expected to talk.

Kevin was there to have my back in a major way about 20 years ago. I won’t go into details but lifted me up from the ashes, brushed me off and helped me get back on my feet after I learned some folks I was in business didn’t exactly have my best interests at heart.

And on the morning of my daughter’s funeral — as my wife and I sat outside in our van with her ashes dreading to go inside…  Kevin called out of the blue — at that moment. What he said was exactly what we both needed to hear at the moment in time.

Recently, Kevin called me and asked me if I’d come to the Palladium Books Open House.

He had asked previous years but it seemed there was always a conflict that prevented me from going.  This year was no different. The Open house fell on the same weekend as ACEN – a local convention here that’s popular with HackMaster GMs/friends.

Just as I was about to tell Kevin of the conflict he said something that changed my mind.

“It would mean a lot to me in you and Barb could come…”

My reply was immediate.

“Kevin, we’re there.”

And boy am I glad we went.

2015 has been a year of celebration and looking back for Barb and I. The twenty first anniversary of both Shadis Magazine and Knights of the Dinner Table.  But also the 25th anniversary of several friendships that were forged that same year. Kevin Siembieda, Gary Gygax, George Vrbanic…

As I sat on a panel with Kevin last weekend (a very informal panel discussing our friendship and how we met), I realized I was supposed to be there. I NEEDED to be there.

Anyway, Kevin’s been on my mind all week.

For someone who has a reputation for being a ‘dick’ (lol) the guy has a big heart. I always come away with any time spent with Kevin feeling good about life in general. Such is the magic of a good friend.

He also has a knack for surrounding himself with good people. Every person I met at the Open House (from the staff to volunteers) were just wonderful. And the fans that should up seemed like family. We left with glad hearts feeling like our batteries had been recharged.

Anyway, my thoughts on an old friend. Just wanted to share that.


The “Busy Time of the Year”

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Life continues to be busy as we edge into our busiest time of the year hear. With near back to back conventions (Origins, Nexus and GenCon) if I’m not prepping for a con in the coming weeks, I’m recovering from one. And through it all the monthly issues of Knights of the Dinner Table must feed the beast (what I call the presses).

Long story short, I’ve had very little time to sculpt, paint or do much on the gaming terrain front — other than touch up and expand the Port of Chaos a bit by adding more ships and dockworks. I actually got a bit over zealous with the ships — I hand painted/rigged of the large ships, as it turns out I won’t have room for (GaryCon spoiled us by giving us a 5 x 10 table). The wife put these up for sale last night ($70 each plus $5.95 for shipping). There are going fast (five left as I write this). If you’re interested in one drop me an email at the link to the right. Here’s one of them below. (they come handprinted and fully rigged as shown).



Anyway, I’m aching to do some more sculpting/projects. More importantly, I’m anxious to get back to a few I started weeks ago which have been side burnered.

As soon as I have more work in progress pics on one of them, I will post them.

Until then, Game on! Hope to see some of you at Origins in two weeks.

Savin’ Copper Pieces #1

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Been getting a few pokes the past week or so asking when I’m going to do some walk thrus on these projects I mentioned a while back. Well — life’s been busy. I’m desperately trying to catch up on Knights of the Dinner Table and knock two issues out before Origins in three weeks.

Next week I’ll be at the Palladium Open House in Michigan as a guest with my wife, Barbara. (very much looking forward to that).

Anyway, yeah — Haven’t had a LOT of time to sculpt except for some small cargo/good pieces where and there during breaks. I managed to do these on Sunday…




A wooden chest, a woven basket and an ale cask. Oh and a little amphora in the foreground.


I’m really just practicing using Green Stuff as a sculpting medium. It’s very different than working with Sculpy. Both have their advtanges and disadvantages but I’m really enjoying the mean green.

Since I don’t have many WIP pics today I thought I’d touch on something I’ve been meaning to cover for a while. Some tips for the terrain builder when it comes to saving a few copper pieces on supplies/tools. Like anyone who throws themselves into a new hobby I’m constantly finding ways to save money or make my work easier. Here are just a couple.

Here’s an easy idea for making your own paint pallet/mixing matt. Whenever I cast my silicone molds it seems there’s always a little waste. That last bit that stubbornly refuses to be scraped out of the mixing pot, those little bits that miss the mold and end up table top, etc.

I simply let the material settle in the bottom of the pot and cure. After several mixes/pours it slowly builds up to sheets an 1/8th of an inch to a 1/4 inch thick. That’s when I pull it out and repurpose the material as a pallet/mixing matt.  I four scattered around the shop.

They repell water and help the ain’t to retain moisture and stay wet for a long time. Superglue won’t stick to it – so I ‘ll put a little drop of super glue it to dip from with a tooth pick when working on small projects. Best of all, the plastic measuring pots I mix my silicone in has these little lines and three dimples on the bottom — when reversed on the silicone mold they turn into depressions that hold/separate water and paint them mixing. Pretty cool.

Every few projects I simply pick up the pallets, stretch them a bit and all the paint drops off and into the waste basket. Pretty cool for something what is essentially waste material.





Another trick I’ve been using for years — using paper leave bags as drop matts for my work bench.  Not that’s it’s all that clever, but enough people have commented on it when they see what I’m doing that I mention it here.

Leaf bags are under a buck a piece. I unfold them and put them over my bench when casting or making resin. And I use them  to paint over over as well to dry my brush when dry brushing. And when they’ve served their purpose? I use them as leaf bags again. Or use them as shop trash bins in which case they end up going in a dumpster when full.

One caveat: If you’re bags end up have a lot of cured resin on them, paint, etc you MAY not want to put them out for pick up with your yard waste. I’m guessing the folks who dispose/process such waste would prefer not to have such materials in the mix.

Anyway leaf bags have been life saver here. Especially when painting up a LOT of pieces in assembly line fashion (which can get very sloppy). 😉



Okay that’s it. Nothing earth shattering but hopefully the above will help a few of you on your own projects.


Game on!!

Checking in

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Life continues to be busy. Haven’t had much time for new sculpts recently other than some small goods/cargo items I’ve knocked out on my Funday-Sundays.

I did manage to paint up this ship last night. As I mentioned a few posts ago, I received some of Gamer Decor’s aged wood painting sets. Thought I’d give it a try on one of my ships. This is the result.



Not bad. Similar to the way I’ve been painting my other ships but (and the photo may not capture this) the tones are richer.

Speaking of ships this one is actually Rev2 of the large sailing ship I sculpted last year (but only began casting a few months ago). The mold for this ship had a catastrophic blow out (which can happen after 70+ castings). Rather then simply make a new mold from my master, I decided to make a few changes to the boat that had been bugging me.

Biggest changes are the little side panels transitioning from the main hull to the aft castle. That area seemed a little too boxy to me and the transition matches the one on the forecastle. Good news is those panels snap off easily if I want to go back to Rev1’s.

I mentioned cargo/goods items. Here are a few pics of one batch I did on Sunday. All original sculpts/castings except for that cage — that came off a charm bracelet.


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Hoist the Sails!


Last special the wife ran on her resin pieces went so well she’s running another one. One week only.


Get the dock as pictured with a small boat, rigging and a cargo load as a group. All unpainted (white resin).

Includes the following

2 x footer/risers
1 x Straight dock/pier span
1 x 45 degree dock/pier span*
1 boat
1 mast/sail rig (as pictured with sail furled).

All for $30.00!!!

For an additional $15 ($45 total) can provide painted as shown (please allow 3-4 days processing).

Two miniatures in pic not included – for scale only.

Payment via paypal. Message me for details.

* 45 degree span can be swapped out for an additional straight span if desired.

Offer ends April 30th or for ten sets – which ever comes first.

Game Decor paints

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Okay today’s entry could be considered a review,  but I like to think of it more as a ‘first glance’.

So I’ve been eyeing Game Decor‘s paints ever since their Kickstarter a while back. I paint a lot of terrain and always feel like I could do better of it. Knowing which shades of paint, washes to apply and in what order can take a lot of trial and error. And the learning curve can be steep, especially when trying to simulate a wide variety of surface types. (aged wood, flag stone, mossy stone tile, etc). I’m not the best painter so I’m always looking for ways to improve.

That said, having painted so many buildings, ships and dock pieces over the past year, I feel I’ve gotten the aged wood down pretty good. Well, as I like to say, “Good enough for table top”. My handiwork with a brush isn’t going to win any awards but at the same time they are no display pieces. I build/paint to play and to be honest, I love a piece that looks like it’s undergone the rigors of play and has been used (which is another subject for another day).

While  I’ve gotten pretty proficient at speed-painting dozens of pieces in assembly line fashion, I have been eyeing Game Decor’s paint kits for months.

Each Game Decor kit comes with 3 to 4 bottles of high quality paint; a base coat and then a series of shades that are dry brushed on. They take all the guess work out. For example the Aged Wood kit comes with these three colors.



Which, as it turns out — is pretty close to the colors I’ve been using to paint my ships the past few months. The only difference is I’ve been using those really cheap craft paints from Michaels.  The kits are priced very reasonably. About ten bucks. Which, all that more than I’ve been paying for the ‘cheap’ stuff a Michaels (well, depending on the timing. prices can very from $2 bucks a bottle to $3). Anyway, I’ve always wanted to give these kits a try — just never pushed that purchase button for whatever reason.

So, when the owner of Game Decor, John Klingbeil contacted me recently about trading some paint for some of my resin pieces I jumped all over it.  And, to make a long story short, my swag arrived yesterday. This is what I got. The kits for Aged Wood, Field Stone, Egyptian Stone and Cavern Stone.



I was sort of anxious to give the Aged Wood a spin so I pulled out one of my resin cart casts to serve as a test subject. Here it is with the base Coat (A) applied. Still very wet AND looking like a piece of chocolate candy. One thing I noticed right off was just how easy this stuff went on. The base coats (from what I understand) are all very watery/thin and brush on with one coat and really get not he detail quite nicely (this piece has deep knot holes and wood grain). I was a little worried that might also mean coverage suffer. Not the case. Coverage was amazing.

The toughest part for me when painting with the ‘cheap stuff’ is the fact I have to dab and dab and dab to work the paint into the recesses with my base coat. That and the fact coverage isn’t always so great – requiring 2nd or 3rd coats. So color me impressed (no pun intended). Base coat went on in nothing flat.



After drying for a few hours I came back and applied the next shade (B — although in my case the bottle was erroneously labeled a “C”). So far so good. I noticed Part B was much thicker than the base coat and very easy to dry brush with.  I should point out I was using a wider flat brush whereas I should have probably selected a narrower bush to get into the recesses/corners more evenly.




Finally I applied Part C – which was VERY thick. In fact at first I thought perhaps the bottle had dried up. Turns out it was just me not squeezing hard enough. The tutorial video on the website indicated I should go very sparingly with this highlight shade which I did. And here is the finished cart (ignore the oxen – they aren’t painted yet).



The one in front (with the stack of hay) is the Game Decor paint up. The cart in back – one of the carts I painted with the “cheap” craft paint. Admittedly they look very similar but I DO prefer the Game Decor paint up. My cheap camera doesn’t pick it up but the colors are richer. More importantly, the paints went in easier and there was much less going back to touch up and evening things out. i.e. similar results with less work.

Going forward I’ll probably switch to Game Decor for most of my needs. I want to play with them on some other pieces (I have 3 ships for the Port of Chaos to paint up) and then I’ll post a full review with better pics.



Pimp my Crib

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So my business partner gave me this scratch built building he bought off eBay. He had a bit of buyer’s remorse — wasn’t quite what he expected (He’s a huge MBA collector).

Nothing against whoever built the thing by the way if you happened to be out there.

Has a nice sound design and I know it was made to be easy on the wallet.

The shingles, windows and doors were of the ‘gitter done’ variety (or as I like to call it, “Good enough for table top”.— just strips of card stock cut out and glued on.

And the original/paint job (I covered the entire thing in primer in the photo below) didn’t really go with the rest of my buildings.


Anyway, I decided this would be a fun project to upgrade.

For now it’s sitting on a shelf while I mull over what to do with it. But I’m thinking of stripping off the shingles and redoing them (I like smaller shingles – just a personal preference), cutting out the paper-strip windows and doors and putting in resin or wooden pieces you can see through.  Maybe add a chimney stack. Possibly even a balcony.

Again the basic build isn’t bad – there are some actually some things the original builder did I’m going to borrow for my future building projects.

So here’s a before picture. I’ll keep you posted.

Projects in the ‘To Do” pile are beginning to build up so it might take a while to get back to those.

Cargo Loads

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Not much time for sculpting lately – except for 15 minutes here and there during writing breaks. For a long time I’ve been wanting to do little cargo loads (blocks of goods and trade items) for my boats and ox cart. Setting up the port it’s a PITA putting out all the little fiddly bits. A crate here, a coil of rope there, a few barrels there.

I will continue using individual items like that but I thought it would be nice to have unified pieces when setting up a lot of the ships and carts. Eventual plan is to maybe come up with five or 6 such ‘loads’ to mix things up. I hate the cookie-cutter effect when using multiple pieces of the same item.

So… here’s my first stab at cargo loads.

First up is a load of coal or ore (unpainted here obviously)


I’m particularly proud of the boat cargo load. I sculpted everything  by hand with the exception of the honey pots (modified wooden beads from Michaels). It was a happy accident that a hole can be drilled down through it and the ship mast lines up perfectly. I hope to do some variations of this for each boat type as well as the Voyager canoe (which I think would look really cool piled high with provisions).



Next the obligatory load of straw/haw. This was easy five minute job — using a metal brush comb I bought off Amazon for $3.00. Best investment ever.





Pretty easy to pull these off I’m finding – and it’s a challenge to come up with ideas for different types of trade items to include. I enjoy doing these so I may focus on doing these for a bit. Course it dawned on me AFTER I made the boat cargo load that I could mold/cast each item individually and then group them together in a wide variety of configurations and then make molds of those. Yeah, still learning. That’s they way I’ll be going while moving forward. I’m doing some of my own crates and barrels (although I’m finding doing barrels a while challenge).

Yes it’s reinventing the wheel a bit – there are countless amazing casts of such pieces out there. But I don’t want any licensing/legal issues should I turn these over to the wife for her shop down the road. Besides – it’s fun.

Cargo Hoist Project

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One of the things missing from the Port of Chaos was some sort of crain or hoist to aid in the unloading of cargo on the larger ships.  I looked at some kits available at various sites online but for the most part they were way too big for my purposes or not exactly what I was looking for.

That led me to sort through my “Bits Box” over the weekend — a card board box I toss items into that would otherwise go in the trash bin. Anything with an interesting shape or the potential to be worked into a project.

I found a miscast wagon tongue/chassis from one of my ox carts that I thought might make a good boom. I also found a couple of resin roof trusses my friend Craig Zipse provided for one of his building kits that I hadn’t ended up using. With no real plan I began fiddling with these bits and came up with something that actually looked workable.


Doesn’t look much at this stage but I have the basic set up for a weighted hoist.


Adding some balsa wood beams and extending the boom – it’s starting to look like something.


Now we’re talking. Adding some rope and a pallet (of sorts) along with a block of stone for wieght (Sculpey) I started getting excited about this piece. Now when I started I had planned join it being static – but as it turns out it actually works. You can turn the spindle and raise/lower the pallet and raise/lower the boom on a pivot.

The hardest part of this project (which only took a few hours) was making wheels with hand spokes for either side of the spindle/axle.

I accomplished that by cutting narrow (1/8th inch) pieces of 1/8th inch wood dowel and carefuly drilling holes with a Dremel and gluing pieces of tooth picks in as my hand spokes. They aren’t perfect but as I like to say, “Good enough for Table Top!!” 😉

Here’s the crane set out on some of my dock pieces.



I think the hoist makes a nice addition to the port. I have no plans on attempting to cast this at the moment. I *might* but it’s not a high priority. BTW those are the small row boats I did over the weekend in the picture.


IMG_3186Another shot of the hoist on the Harbor Master’s Pavillion. Don’t dare to off load or load your ship without getting your paperwork stamped by the master and paying your fees.

I got several emails asking about progress on that Keebler Cone ship project I posted about last week. I haven’t started on it yet. I’m a bit short on free time at the moment and have it on my list of things to do — hopefully I’ll have some time to work on it this weekend.