Monday 29 April 2024

1:100 Scale Halcon Baltimore Schooner NTJK Models - Part One

I immensely enjoyed my recent foray into wooden model boat building, learning new skills and working with unfamiliar materials so I thought I would have another go with another cheap chinese kit from Aliexpress.

1:100 Halcon Wooden Sailing Boat - NTJK Models - £5.99

This is another kit from NTJK Models and comes in a little plastic bag with all the basic things needed to make a passable model.  Five laser cut sheets of varying thicknesses of wood, some lengths of dowel for masts, a sheet of linen for sails and a reel of cotton for rigging. 

At the super low bargain price of £5.99 (that's cheaper than a Big Mac) there literally is no downside.

1:100 Baltimore Schooner Halcon 1840 - Contents of the Kit

The History of The Halcon 

Doing a bit of research turned up some interesting documents:

A 1933 court report documents that on February 15, 1932 the Spanish Honduran registered ship The Halcon was found off the coast of New Orleans with a cargo of "intoxicating liquor".  She was escorted to Mobile Alabama and seized by US Customs. 

Model Research 

Building my last kit from NTJK models taught me that the assembly instructions are somewhat lacking in the actual instruction department.  Nothing has changed with this wooden boat kit and there are some pretty critical instructions missing including: 

  • Sail Plans - How big are the sails and what shape?
  • Mast Dimensions - All those dowels need to be cut to lengths but how long do they need to be.
  • Rigging Plan - What ropes need to go where and what blocks and dead eyes are needed.

Some intense internet browsing was therefore required.

Ships of Scale - This build log has a number of great pictures and also illustrates how there can be differences in the kit supplied and that an accessory kit is also available containing brass cannons and fixtures.  These I will of course be replacing with 3D Printed parts.  Also useful is a set of deck and rigging plans showing the routing of the anchor chains and various other deck accessories. 

There are a few other builders on there who have documented their builds of the Halcon, so this was a must community to join.

HIS Models - There are plenty of different models of the Halcon and companies supporting the model making fraternity with accessories.  One such company is HISModels who provide a set of CNC wooden blocks and deadeyes.  They illustrate the content of their kit with this extensive rigging plan

Best Ship Models - is another great resource site for model boat building and they have another set of plans. 

Tune in for the Part Two when I actually start building this boat.

Saturday 27 April 2024

Jessie's Prints - Episode 43 - Compact Travel Dice Tower

This week, I are mostly been printing... A Compact Travel Dice Tower!!

When I found out last week that a new modelling competion had launched on Printables, I had to have a go and enter my first 3D modelling competition.  I don't expect to win or even get any award at all.  I am just entering for the experience and the badge.

Compact Travel Dice Tower - Printables

When you're gaming on the go you don't want to be lugging around a hefty chunk of plastic or having some huge lump taking up valuable space in your games bag.  The travel dice tower is just the thing.

Compact Travel Dice Tower

I designed this for D&D or other RPGs which use the standard 20mm (d20) sized polyhedral dice. The dice tower is big enough to safely store a set of 7 dice.

The "Slide" comes in two varieties solid or grill or can be replaced by a 2mm thick sheet of perspex or acrylic if you truly want that high visibility look.  This is a work in progress so expect more designs to come in the future.

Dice Tower Back D&D

The backside of the insert includes a 50mm indent to magnetically attach an Inspiration or Hero Coin for your chosen RPG. Check out my other models for inspiration coins:

I have also produced a few 50mm "Inspiration" counters for some of the more popular roleplaying games and these can be fixed to your dice tower magnetically.  Coins are actually the simplest dice of all so you get a bonuus d2 if you download the matching coin for your favourite RPG.

If you are a boardgamer then you will appreciate a solid 1st player token.

Inspiration Coins / 1st Player Token

Please let me know if you download and make your own and if you would like a custom coin please leave a comment below.

Enjoy :)

Tuesday 23 April 2024

Bitten by the Aliexpress bug again

You go on Aliexpress to buy one thing and you end up with seven!!!

Akira Bike Construction Toy (241 Pcs) £5.63

The Lego monopoly is over guys and those ingenious chaps at Jie Star have come up with a fantastic little Akira bike which is Kinda Special - Lol.

Aliexpress - Akira Bike

Mandalorian Razor Crest Construction Toy (103 Pcs) - £3.11

I'm sure that this blatant ripoff of the Star Wars IP will have Kathleen Kennedy issuing legal letters.  But it's a fairly passable miniship version of the much beloved Razorcrest.  She is gone but never forgotten...

Aliexpress - Razorcrest

Tabletop Gaming Wound Counter - £1.50

This is such a simple design 2 acrylic plates (40mm x 19mm x 3mm),  2 plastic wheels (19.5mm x 3mm)  and 6 tiny 4mm x 3mm magnets.  The wheels have little numbers printed on them and they are mirror images of each other.  Honestly it's so simple it's a genius idea and it should be free...

Aliexpress - Wounds Tracker

1:100 Scale Baltimore Schooner Halcon 1840 (Wooden Kit) - £5.99

When I saw this complicated looking model kit I just knew I had to buy it.  Something to challenge the old modelling skills now that I seem to be into making model boats for some reason...

Aliexpress - Halcon 1840 Baltimore Schooner

Outdoor Shockproof Waterproof Case with Foam insert - £4.32

Given the absolutely exorbitant prices of miniature carry cases I put my money down on one of these bad boys.  It is properly watertight including a rubber gasket seal and made from some hard shiny ABS like plastic.  A bit on the small, but has enough space inside to comfortably fit an entire party of human sized minis.  I think the trick here is to do a lot of searching to find exactly the right size whihc works for your minis.  

Aliexpress - Miniature Waterproof Storage Case

7 in 1 Multi Tool Pen

So this is a bit of a random "Choice" purchase and was made just to ensure that I qualified for the free postage.  What can it do? I hear you say...It is one a pen, two a spirit level, three a cm ruler, four an inch ruler, five a smart phone finger, six a philips screwdriver and seven a flat blade screwdriver.  Amazing!!

Aliexpress - 7 in 1 Multi Tool Pen

But Why?

Well... I have a secret project which has gone a bit Pete Tong and I thought I might be able to rescue it with a...

STC15F2K60S2 Microprocessor - £1.26

Saturday 20 April 2024

Wow a 3D Modelling Competition I might be able to actually enter!!

So on my daily cruise of all things Printables I noticed that Joseph and the team had launched a new flash competition.

Design a Dice Tower

It's a simple task and one well within my design skills, so this weekend I am going to be knee deep in my favourite 3D design app Sketchup.

My Dice Tower History

My clubmates at Dragons Keep Roleplay Club know about my legendary bad luck when it comes to rolling the old plastic polyhedra.  Years ago I decided to take the human influence out of the RNG and buillt my first dice tower:

The Pringles Can Dice Tower - This is simply a discarded Pringles can (preferably with the plastic lid) and a whole bunch of bamboo skewers stuck through it to create a little spiral staircase.

The iPhone Box Dice Tower - One of my earliest makes on this website was for a portable dice tower made from recycled materials.  I can't believe that this was almost 12 years ago.  My how time flies and tools change.

Castle Gray Skull Dice Tower - My current favourite dice tower is Castle Greyskull which I printed on my old Geetech i3 Prusa clone back in 2020.  At the time it was my longest ever print and it barely fit withing the vertical build envelope of that printer.  It has served me well over the years but has strangely never graced the pages of this site as it predated the Jessie's Prints series.

Castle Gray Skull Dice Tower

Wish me luck...

Thursday 18 April 2024

Jessie's Prints - Episode 42 - Tiamat the Colossal Chromatic Dragon

This week, I are mostly been printing... A Colossal Chromatic Dragon!!

Tiamat - Printables 41937 

Tiamat was a regular recurring character in the Dungeons and Dragons Cartoon back in the 80s and I have to admit that she never really did it for me.  The rendering of her was always a bit pudgy and more like Pete's Dragon (1977) than a fearsome multi headed monstrosity. 

Dungeons & Dragons Cartoon - Tiamat
As can be seen in the image above, she is quite girthy about the shoulders and feet.  Trust me it gets worse the further along her body you go.  Her red head is considerably larger than the other four and it has a peculiar dog-like look to it.  This might be deliberate as some say she is the progenitor of all Kobolds and I do prefer a canine look to my kobolds.
Whilst I never noticed this at the time, the 80s was a long time ago and we've learned a few things about sculpting dragons since then.

It's another Multi-part Model 

A model of a dragon of this size and stature can only be executed in a large scale multi part model, 13 parts in total.  The great thing is that the designer Miguel Zavala (aka MZ4250) has supplied multiple variants of the model ensuring that it will fit on most smaller resin printer build plates like my Anycubic Photon Mono 4K.

However, there's only so much a designer can do and I still needed to split both the tail and wings in half and I also hollowed out Tiamat's body so I could save on resin.

All told (including the odd failure and reprint) this model was spread across a total of 7 build plates.  Total printing time over a number of days clocked in at  29 Hours 47minutes... However, it still took less than a whole 1kg bottle of resin, meaning that this print cost less than £15.  The official WotC Aspect of Tiamat miniature is currently going for ten times that price.  If you don't have a 3D Printer a licensed version of this print will set you back about £70.

Hollowing out the Parts.

Some of the parts, like the body, were pretty substantial so I elected to save resin and hollow these out using meshmixer.  I was most concerned about the wings and the necks as these would be the parts with the most angle of dangle and, as I experienced with my Demon Prince B'lakor model, the highest likelihood of not staying where I want them.

Pinning and gluing the meshmixed halves back together was essential.  I managed a much better job of matching the two parts than on the previous wings I tackled.  I sliced the tail at an odd angle a bit wonky but you can only tell if you look real hard. 

Tiamat - Meet the Parts

Puttying the gaps in the seams was always going to be required and as they say  "Milliput and paint make me the modeller I ain't"  

It's Magnet Time Baby

The necks and wings were all sculpted with generous square keys and sockets but I wanted these to be removable for transportation.  The keys needed to be sanded to ensure a slip fit and then the magnets installed in both socket and key to ensure that they stayed put.  

A fiddly job but well worth it.  In hindsight I should have hollowed the body out less, the shell really needs to be a bit thicker than the depth of each magnet.  I ended up punching through the shell and having a hell of a time supergluing the magnets in.  Lesson learned for next time.

I used 5mm x 1.5mm magnets which,  whilst not immensely powerful, are strong enough to keep things reasonably well attached given the weight of each neck and wing.  Some of the necks were incredibly tricky to magnetize and I had to add a couple of pins as guides.


I always use a zenithal prime of matt white over a black base.  I opt to go cheap and cheerful with some auto paint I found in Poundland at only £2.50 for a large 400ml can.  They also do matt silver, gold, grey and white and black gloss.  Honestly, I can't see why anyone would use anything more expensive unless they were entering a Golden Demon painting competition.

The zenithal on this model I did with all the necks and wings connected this would produce reasonably realistic shadows where one neck blocks the light from another.  Similarly you want a nice zenithal gradient going down the wing as the model is posed with wings outstretched.

Tiamat - Primed

In the cartoon Tiamat's heads were ordered from left to right; White, Green, Red, Blue, Black but in MZ2450s model they are Black, Green, Red, White and then Blue.  Being slavishly canonical has never been my thing, but making sure that I know which head is which is fairly critical when it comes to painting each one.

A Colossal Base

According to the her stat block Tiamat is COLOSSAL which deserves a 120mm round base or even larger.  This is where my FDM printer excels and, when it works, can spit out a base in next to no time.  
Cracked Lava Base 120mm
I have a stock of cool bases which I can just scale as necessary and I opted for a cracked lava with vent holes.  The model is so huge that Tiamat can only fit on it in one or two spots with either a front or a back leg in the large lava vent.  I think that this is quite a cool idea as it makes her look even more powerful, having no fear of injury from boiling lava!    Miguel has to be applauded for sculpting the tail sweeping around and pointing forwards like a spear.  This is way better than the comical dinosaur tail of the cartoon Tiamat. 

I opted for a black basalt colour scheme accented with yellow thru orange to red lava effects.  The black areas were given a dry brush with Vallejo dark grey.  The cracks and lava vents were then painstakingly filled (using a needle and syringe) with the UV resin I got from my recent Wish Hobby Haul.  Wow this is amazing stuff.

Painted Cracked Lava Base - Tiamat

Colouring A Colossal Chromatic Dragon

I cannot tell a lie this was a monster painting project mostly because she is so intimidating a miniature to paint.  I rattlecan primed and zenithal highlighted her back in mid february and she just sat there glaring at me.

Eventually I summed up the courage to shoot her with a coat of Vallejo Game Air Bloody Red (72.710) across all the exposed skin of the body making sure that I left her belly neck and insides of her thighs unpainted.  I then blended these parts in with a coat of Model Air Light brown (71.027).  Shadows were accentuated with Model Air Mahogany (71.036) and Model Air Black (71.057).  The spine was also painted in mahogany and dry brushed with progressively lighter shades adding a touch of light brown.

Each head was painted in the correct order; Black, Dark Green (72.028) , Red, White and then Blue (71.004).  I suck at painting white so I opted for a Model AIr Pale Blue Grey (71.046) which I think looks kind of cool.

Wash a Disaster!!

Calamity struck when I used a Vallejo Game Wash Umber (73.203) across all the wings and heads and it pooled in all the wrong places and dried a horrible sandy colour.  I was kind of expecting this to operate in the same way as the Army Painter Speed Paints.  My mistake and this was definitely a low point.
I soldiered on and tried panel lining the chest armour, but this didn't really give me the effect that I wanted so I tried some sketching with paint.  This is a technique I have seen Sergio Calvo use on many occasions to simulate a rough texture.  I painted each chest and neck armour section with little stripes of the light brown and bingo it was the effect I was after.  
I celebrated by painting each of the dragons eyes with a base coat of white and then a dot of Orange Fire (72.008) and a blended circle of Medium Yellow (71.002).  A vertical black pupil was added and then each eye glazed with the UV resin.  Have I told you how much I love this stuff?  

Teeth and horns, toes and claws were all finished in shades from mahogany up to white and the beast was finally done.
Tiamat - Dragon Heads

Big Miniatures can Become Boring

This was a classic example of the epic struggle we all face as painters when the job at hand becomes long drawn out and tedious.  I could have put another 20 to 30 hours into this paint job but I just don't have the patience.  I signed it off and you decide if I should put more effort in...
Tiamat - Front View

She is a big girl and measures; wingspan 14 inches, height 8.5 inches, length 9 inches.
Tiamat - Rear View

A Patreon Worth Joining

None of this would have been possible without the awesome modelling skills of MZ4250.

Miguel has a free Patreon subscription which I encourage you all to join.  He offers some pretty cool free minis and the sheer volume of his minis is frightening.  His work ethic is fantastic and he has some very cool little minis gems you will find nowhere else.

In fact this is not the first time I have printed an MZ4250 dragon.  I printed a version of the Chardalyn Dragon from the D&D Rime of the Frost Maiden campaign on my FDM printer.  I have also used Miguel's files in the past printing an Ancient Colossal Red Dragon and the famous Statue of Moloch from the cover of the AD&D PHB

Wednesday 10 April 2024

Judge Dee's Mystery - A Wuxia Detective Story

It is no secret that I am a fan of Wuxia cinema, even the one with Jackie Chan and Arnold Schwarzenegger

Imagine my surprise when I saw that Netflix had a Detective Dee TV Show.

Who is Judge Dee?

If you are unfamiliar with Judge Dee (also known as Detective Dee), this is a series of Chinese historical mystery novels written by Robert van Gulik, a dutch orientalist and diplomat.  Van Gulik translated the 18th Century novel Dee Goong An into English as The Celebrated Cases of Judge Dee. Van Gulik went on to write a further 16 novels in this same style until his death in 1967

The eponymous hero of the novel (Di Renjie) was in fact a real life courtier of the Tang dynasty between 630 and 700 AD.

Other Detective Dee Adaptations 

I first encountered Detective Dee in the 2010 movie Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phanton Flame where Di Renjie is played to perfection by Andy Lau.  This had all the sumptuos cinematography of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon wrapped up in a detective mystery overcoat with plenty of swordplay and great visual effects.

Next for me was Young Detective Dee: The Rise of the Sea Dragon which sees a young Di Renjie tackle his first ever case.

These were not Detective Dee's first cinematic outings.  You can actually watch an early adaptation called Judge Dee and the Monastery Murders (1974) via youtube.

Monday 8 April 2024

Jessie's Prints - Episode 41 - Daemon Damzels: Spider Princess

This week, I are mostly been printing... Big Booby Spider Lady

OK, I lied... I printed this off a few weeks ago for my clubmate Sam and had to wait till he painted it.

Daemon Damzels Spider Princess - Keta Minies via My Mini Factory

This is one of a series of minis that Sam asked me to print for him.  An amazing paint job and an amazing bit of basing makes this really pop as a mini.

Daemon Damzels - Spider Princess

and a side view...

Daemon Damzels - Spider Princess - Side View

I understand that she is some sort of Warhammer Slaaneshi demon but it's a cool mini nonetheless.

More minis to come from Sam in the very near future.

Friday 5 April 2024

1:30 Scale Nax Fishing Vessel - NTKJ MODEL - Part 3

In Part Two of this mini series we managed to get the boat sanded, filled, painted and wired.  In this episode we finish the model

Fitting the Accessories

Replacing some of the awful laser cut accessories has been a primary goal and now we get to fit those to the deck.  In the photo below you can see the life preservers, anchors and vents which have all been painted and glued to their respective positions around the boat.

NAX Fishing Boat - Accessories

Some additional accessories were necessary though:

A deck winch - Cults 3D - This is apparently the upper deck crane winch for a Liberty Ship, but it looked suitably mechanical for my needs.

A light housing - Thing:6007577 - Not perfect but do you know how hard it is to find these sorts of objects from a description

Rigging the Mast

We are almost at the end of the build and this is where the quality of the instructions once again fails to clearly indicate what you are supposed to do.

NAX Fishing Boat - Steps 11 - 14

I need a little bit more instruction given the limited amount of wood we have left.  So I spent an hour or so studying the other Naxos fishing boat model reference photos I had collected and drew myself out a rigging plan.

NAX Fishing Boat - Rigging Plan

Given that I had used some of the thin length of dowel for my prop shaft, I did not have enough left to do both the Spar and the crane Jib.  I grabbed a BBQ skewer from the kitchen drawer and used that for the crane Jib.  I chucked both lengths into my drill and game them a sanding, adding a taper to both ends of the mast to ensure that it fitted into the deck hole and also that it came to a rounded point at the top.

With no hardware (I believe is the appropriate term chandlery?) attaching these together was going to reuire some ingenuity.  I grabbed the thin aluminium florist wire I use for pinning my miniatures and bent up a couple of hooks. I then drilled a hole into the mast and one into the end of the Jib supergluing the hooks so that they act as a rudimentary swivel.   

Four more hooks were also made.  Two fit into the gunwhales on either side of the mast and two in the rear corners of the transom.  

I then laminated some plasticard and created a trapezoid shape which would act as a place to anchor the Jib Pulley.

Talking about Pulleys, I could have used 3D Printed parts for these but the kit actually came with some wierd figure of 8 shaped pieces of wood which may have been for the deck winch that I didn't end up using.  These would do nicely as pulleys. 

Some thin "straps" were cut out of the plasticard to add a little believeability to my scratchbuilt fittings and it was time to glue in the mast.  I wish that I had spent a little more time on this as my mast ended up a bit cockeyed and listing to starboard.  I tried to rescue this with the mast rigging on the port side  but it was a little more adrift than the thin cotton thread could muster.  Chalk that up to experience.  

With the mast rigged it was a simple case of adding a length of thread to the end of the jib and looping it through a pulley and down the mast.  This is when I realised I needed to tie it off somewhere and so I drilled a second hole into the mast for a tiedown.  I left the end of the thread long so this can be the end of the rope used to raise and lower the jib.

The final part of the rigging was to add a length of thread between the the two aft hooks and wrapping it around the end of the jib.  All the threads were superglued in place to stop them from ever coming undone.

And with that it's done, or at least as done as it can be for now.  I will probably tidy up the paint and maybe add some more accessories some time in the future.

NAX Fishing Boat - Complete

I was really impressed with what I was able to do given the limited nature of the materials and it was a real challenge of my modelling skills. 

I really enjoyed my nautical adventure and it has spurred me on to try another more historic vessel and another cheap Aliexpress wooden boat kit.

Wednesday 3 April 2024

I wish I could be as creative as Hank

After a tough day in the office I often kick back and watch a little YouTube...

Hank is a powerhouse of creativity and yet he is still humble and understands the core of what it is to be a roleplayer. It's the thing that we all look forward to at the end of the week, when we can kick back with 5 or 6 friends and enjoy the collective experience of being someone else...

Monday 1 April 2024

Jessie's Prints - Episode 40 - Kobold Slackers and The Fear Smith

This week, I are mostly been printing... Slackers

I have so many projects on the go at the moment and one big one which I have started painting.  However, when you come across a model that just begs to be printed then you have to push the other projects to the side for a minute.

Kobold Slackers - by MX4250 on Printables 

Being a big Jay and Silent Bob fan I couldn't resist this pair when I saw them pop up on the MZ4650 Patreon blog.

Fear Smith and Kobold Slackers

Also pictured is

The Fear Smith - MZ4560 on Printables

This guy just oozes nightmarish horror and would fit well in almost any game.