What do you see when you look at this polystyrene packaging?
Some may look at this as unrecyclable junk.
I look at it and see …
an adobe fort or compound, especially for tiny troops like my 15mm Peter Laing figures.
What do you see or would you make out of it?
Obviously some kind of walkway needs to be improvised inside around the high walls as a firing platform or raised walkway. This could easily be done with lolly sticks or coffee stirrers laid onto matchsticks or cocktail sticks projecting out of the walls, much in the style of the Airfix Foreign Legion Fort.
Similarly doors and repairs to the wall dips and ‘damage’ can be improvised with coffee stirrers and card.
A rough coat of acrylic off-white for the walls and a sandy base colour should not harm the polystyrene (some glues, sprays and paints can melt it).
One project for a rainy day when hands need to be kept busy.
Some 15mm Peter Laing figures for scale…
Around the time this arrived in the house (the family are now well trained to show me interesting packaging before it reaches the bin or recycling), I also bought a handful of Peter Laing 15mm figures from an online dealer. I spotted these Laings amongst several more lots of “Wild West Infantry” figures and cavalry that were confusingly labelled as (but definitely not) by Laing. Nice enough figures but not Laing ones.
For a few pounds I bought ten settlers or backwoodsmen and rarer still, what I take to be a pair of Peter Laing female settlers. They were all curiously mounted individually on metal squares. Even if they are not Laing females, they are a good enough match.
Sadly now Peter Laing figures (the original or first 15mm figures, launched almost fifty years ago in autumn 1972) are long out of production and the moulds vanished, so second hand or recasting is the only way to acquire them.
I have been collecting Peter Laing figures since about 1982 as a teenager when I began my first proper (i.e. metal) wargames army, spending pocket money and paper round earnings on his English Civil War range. He was a efficient and friendly chap to deal with, even with my tiny schoolboy orders. I still have and use these figures today.
Peter Laing figures have a small and loyal following, with a dedicated MeWe online group run by Ian Dury which has replaced the former Google+ community pages. Here we post pictures of our Laing figures and games, as well as highlighting any second hand Laing figures for sale online that we come across. All welcome!
This April of Lockdown and Furlough has been one of finishing what figures and projects that you have to hand, encouraged by Ann’s Immaterium Challenge to “Paint all the Crap You Own”. Ann’s challenge completes on May 3rd 2020.
From this Blue Box, I have added some old ‘new’ units for skirmishes including a unit of Peter Laing 15mm English Civil War Pikemen to complete a ‘White Company’ with a flag, an officer and the pike half of the unit for the first time.
I started painting this unit in the mid 1980s. They are now finally based and equipped with pikes.
Finally based about 35 years after being painted …
The Blue Box was one source of unfinished figures. Another source of figures was a box where I stored random figures from job lots bought over the years, whilst searching for Peter Laing figures.
Some of these job lots were figures that were sold as painted scrap which I have turned into units from some ImagiNations ‘Forgotten Minor States‘ in Europe of the 18th and 19th century.
Many of these Forgotten Minor States (FMS) ‘existed’ as small Principalities and Dukedoms along the Alpen fringes such as Pompomerania, Higher Plumea, Reissenshein, Verdigris, Weissenstein, Gelbania, Hesseansachs, Thyer Brigadia and then some were larger countries such as Bleudelys, Uwessae, Great Butlinnia and Hibernia.
One of my favourite small FMS units, some of the Volunteer Militia of Thyer Brigadia
Stray figures can be allotted to these units as they appear, allotted by colour and head gear. You can see these scratch 15mm national units here:
Amongst the remaining 15mm Napoleonic scrap figures were a handful of painted and unpainted scrap American Civil War type figures from various makers in mixed uniforms. I based and painted these in grey as Confederates, generic rebels or Revolutionaryforces. They have improvised themselves a dramatic Revolutionary flag.
Broken figures made a scratch rebel gun crew, using a cannon from the Napoleonic Risk board game.
Another ‘unaligned nation’ that can provide a threat or an enemy for any of these FMS Forgotten Minor States forces are a small number of 15mm painted colourful pirates of mixed makers found amongst job lots of 15mm figures.
Some guerrilla or sailor looking types in white shirts with muskets or rifles are generically useful.
Hopefully who ever painted these pirates, game worn as they now are, would be pleased to know that they are based and back in use.
Amongst the pirates were lots of unpainted Tricorne figures with short muskets or carbines that could make a scratch unit of Redcoats or Preventive or Excise Men, the Riding Men or Dragoons. Not sure who made these 15mm figures.
These could double up for Close Wars type French Indian Wars skirmishes against natives in the forests of America.
No messing around with painting turnbacks, cuff or tricorne lace at 15mm scale. These are practical Redcoats roughing it in the forest wilds or along the cliffs and coast searching for Natives or Wreckers.
These have just come off the painting table, leaving some Jacklex ACW 20mm command figures from Christmas waiting their turn at the moment.
This portable Port, pirates and Redcoats was partly inspired by finding a Murray King postcard of Cornish Wreckers bought on a seaside trip a year or two ago. Redcoats! Smugglers! Wreckers!
Pirates and Preventive Men of the Customs and Excise need a port and this gave me a chance to use some wooden block scraps and wooden buildings from Christmas adapted into warehouses.
Ports need protection and sailors need proper lighthouses to avoid the false lights of the wreckers, so a craft shop lighthouse was added in wartime grey.
Coastal protection requires a Martello Tower for which the scraps and recycling box provided the materials. See how I made this in more detail at
To match a bunch of 15mm pirate and Redcoat preventive men from another random job lot of figures, I have added a coastal defence fort.
This is not the familiar Airfix WW2 one of my childhood but an original Napoleonic one – the Martello Tower.
I remember seeing these curious flowerpot coastal castles on childhood holidays to the south coast. I have a feeling I might have been inside one as well. We visited the Romney Hythe and Dymchurch area of Kent, the curious home of light railways, Dr. Syn, smuggling museums and marshes. All equally fascinating to a small child.
Martello Towers are the ultimate bucket and spade seaside sandcastle with a flag and a cannon on top.
If you are not familiar with them, there are several websites about them. Wikipedia has a wide range of information and a useful photo gallery from round the world on Martello Towers. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martello_tower
There are in their 1990 English Heritage Martello Tower no. 24 booklet online here some wildly imaginative LacePunk / Steampunk original Napoleonic era prints of how the French might invade by raft, balloon and airship etc. – “typical shabby Nazi, sorry, Napoleonic tricks” as the 1805 version of Captain Mainwaring would say.
Several manufacturers make resin or even Paper ones on the unusual Paper Shipwright website (which has free downloads of some things).
Some useful Martello Tower words for instant expertise: The roof gunnery platform floor is called a terreplein. The irony – a French word for a seaside castle cannon platform against Napoleon. Impressed?
Building your Crumble Pot Martello Towers
So where to start?
What first gave me the idea was a bit of scrap recycling from a recent sweet treat gift, some mini crumble puddings.
“First eat your puddings …”
Add in the plastic top to some lovely lunchtime Itsu noodles, the only unrecyclable bit but which also comes in handy for flocking trays.
So in Blue Peter style you need in suitable size or scale for your figures, in this case 15mm:
Two plastic containers or flowerpot shapes, one cut down to sit inside the other to give the roof space.
A base or lid upturned to give extra height if needed
A spare cannon such as this one from the Risk boardgame,
Some lolly sticks for the gun pivot
A drawing pin for the pivot
Acrylic model paint to coat the plastic
Scalpel or sharp scissors to cut out the roof hole and cut down the inner pot.
Cut a neater hole in the base than I did (wrong sort of jaggy plastic, didn’t want to try the candle / knife method to smoothly melt the edges). This gives you your roof opening.
Place this cut open base over the other pot and work out how much you need to cut off to give you the gunnery space and shelter for the Gun Teams. Pop a figure and the gun inside to get an idea of size.
Cut in stages or strips away at the bottom part of the inner pot until your figures and gun sit right inside. Like Lockdown haircuts, you can’t add it back once you’ve cut it off.
The swivel: The gun is on a raised up platform to give that 360 degree swivel. Measure the lolly stick from middle of the pot top / base. Insert drawing pin as pivot. Put through plastic top. Secure pin bit underneath with a piece of thick card or balsa.
Paint the outside of the tower with an undercoat of white or light grey. Don’t forget to paint the inside (pot base) of the tower roof gunnery platform before you start sticking these together.
Stick your gun onto a short piece(s) of lollystick to step it up step by step on the swivel piece until it can freely move around the rim of the tower.
Dry Run – Once you have tried all the finished bits and bobs together, then glue the cutdown pot onto the noodle lid, and add the top pot.
The stepped cannon is the last fiddly bit to add, the barrel poking above the battlements and freely pivoting.
Avoiding cutting out recessed windows and doors into jaggy plastic, I used thin card to make the door and window frames.
These doors and windows were on the landward side to protect them from ship attack. The seaward walls were slightly thicker brick walls to cope with attack from the sea.
An external ladder from the Airfix Commando set was added but could be made from card. The doorway platform and ladder were designed to be easily taken inside or demolished by the tower gun crew.
Cleverly the towers had a rainwater collection from the roof to basement water tank or internal well to survive sieges. Tucked away are musket racks inside, gunnery stores, shot lockers, ration stores. Officers quarters were small but separate from the men’s. It is part castle, part stone naval ship.
Martello Towers were built all around the world so I can feature them in some ImagiNations and Colonial games like the Forgotten Minor States.
What next for gaming scenarios with the Martello tower?
These ‘make your own Christmas decoration houses’ were easy to transform into flexible 15mm warehouses. Other blocks of wood were used to add storehouses.
Further Gaming Scenarios
After 1815, Martello Towers around the world were reoccupied as needed by troops, coastguard and preventive men throughout troubled times in the 19th and 20th century. Some were adapted as signal stations.
Others were reused in WW2 for coastwatch, observer Corps and effectively as pillboxes against German invasion.
So Captain Mainwaring lives on, he can again guard the coast of the Novelty Rock Emporium to the Pier at Warmington on Sea against seaborne and airborne German troops – disguised as nuns? – another “typical shabby Nazi trick”. Mainwaring really ought to have a Martello Tower to defend as well.
These two Pound Store jeeps have been converted into Jeep ‘Trucks’ for my desert raiding Force. Extra stowage, fuel tanks, winches and spare (button) tyres came from what was to hand in the scraps box, in keeping with their pound store origins.
The old tiny version 1 Airfix as crew do look a little undersized – probably less so with version 2 Airfix which are slightly larger – but if you think of them as desert trucks like the old LRDG Chevrolets, it kind of works.
Monday Update: Responding to comments (below), trimming the windscreen does work to rescale it. It was not easily possible to remove the whole windscreen thing.
They started life in the pound store, a Christmas gift from a charity shop, the usual mismatch mixture of scales.
This shows how the jeeps started off. The Airfix Centurion China copy tanks would be in scale for the vintage OO HO Airfix figures.
Improvised oil tanks from toothpaste lids – reused, not recycled!
I wanted to mock up fast a desert storage facility at a railway yard / airfield. Something for Airfix Commandos to blow up. These party popper storage tanks (first conversion attempts) are a bit wonky, as cutting off the necks and inserting this down into the flimsy body did not work as cleanly as I wanted.
The mysterious tarpaulin covered or camouflaged shapes are offcut blocks of wood, wrapped in some light brown serviette tissues I found in a cafe and glued with PVA wood glue.
A few additional figures that might prove useful, so I have painted and rebased some useful figures.
Desert Arabs from the early Airfix set, painted about 40 years ago and rebased.
A few Airfix Luftwaffe ground crew make good train staff, aircraft mechanics and oil tanks staff.
A handy antitank gun from the Airfix ready made solid plastic vehicle range, the gun that accompanied the halftrack. A little surprise or an extra bit of protection for the facilities at Wadi Yu Min.
These all add some potential for these desert raid scenarios.
Blog posted by Mark, Man of TIN on 12 January 2020.
In these days of sustainability, climate change and avoiding SUPs (Single Use Plastics), it seemed wise if you have to choose crackers to recycle as much as you can of what is left “after the bang”.
Good modellers are scrap recyclers, looking at objects and wondering what they can be recycled into.
Loo roll type cardboard inners and jokes go into household recycling. The shiny red and gold textured foil outers go into the scraps box for household crafts.
Paper hats (tissue paper) of all colours go into the conversions box – a coating of PVA makes for a cloak, robe, skirt or turban to convert a modern figure into something for historical or fantasy gaming.
Ribbons? Good for fabric flags.
Plastic fir trees and berries? Potential trees or bushes. Cannonballs?
A small silvered plastic picture frame? Obviously awaiting the portrait of The Queen, Empress, King or military hero etc for some ImagiNation.
The odd old pirate joke?
To me, used party poppers have the potential look of storage silos or gas tanks at different scales.
Christmas cards usually end up cut up into gift tags for next year’s presents, the rest recycled.
This odd gift tag caught my eye as a possible flag or symbol for a Bronte ImagiNations country or as a 1930s ImagiNations / VBCW type movement. It has a stylised new dawn, sunrise or tropical palm tree look to it.
Previously on the Christmas Cracker Recycling section of Man of TIN blog:
Tatsuya’s work reminds me a little of the The Little People Project by British tiny people street artist Slinkachu. http://slinkachu.com
It also reminds me of all the blog comments from fellow gamers and scrap modellers who also look at a scrap household object, child’s toy, souvenir or aquarium ornament, and think what it might become. This is curiously what many of my June blogposts and people’s comment have been about.