Monday, 23 January 2012

Story of a stone bastion

It's certainly funny how some things in life turn out, and I wonder how many successful business ventures have been founded on pure chance encounters. I'd like to tell you about this one, though not sure how "successful" it will be!
It all started back in September 2010 when the Duchess of Grandchamp and I were on a short break visiting Bruges in Belgium. It's a very attractive city especially for anyone looking for inspiration to build late medieval style European town house models. However, not much of the original ring of impressive city wall remains - only about 4 or 5 of the big gated entrances, which are well worth a close look if you visit.
One of the city gates in the South West of Bruges ,
photographed on zoom from the distant central clock tower. 
But that is not the subject of this blog as our break was long enough to take a canal boat trip to the village of Damme about 5 miles to the North East of Bruges. This is a lovely example of a Belgian village with well preserved buildings, though not large. Outside the village limits, with some difficulty, I was able to identify two brick or stone constructions that must have formed part of larger defensive works.
The Duchess, in non-regal baseball cap, helpfully adds a sense of scale to this
 ammunition casemate which was only identifiable by a little plaque next to the door.

An ammunition store that must have been originally part of the wall.
We couldn't actually get to it.
In fact a small nature reserve had been made utilising well overgrown trenches and defences from the 17th Century - great for wildlife but not for history enthusiasts. It was closed the day we visited so I could not explore further except, tantalisingly, one could see this edifice about 100 yards away.

 I'm convinced it is an overgrown heavy gun bastion.

Back home, a month later I had been making a large batch of picture frames and found myself surrounded by various lengths and thicknesses of waste offcuts of wooden moulding, mostly with 45 degree angles. I began to play with them and slowly a number of redoubts began to form in my mind and on my workbench. The largest pieces soon brought memories of Damme and it occurred to me that one doesn't often see terrain models of stone bastions large enough to take a siege gun or heavy fortress cannon. The stepped nature of the moulding needed a thick disguise and I began to think about defences that may only have been used a few times in anger in maybe a century or two. With an under strength garrison and no nearby warfare such places might get overgrown so by the time your enemy approaches the sandy earth will have blown in and weeds and grass taken root. Much of it might need cursory removal to get the gun in action. Anyway this is what resulted from my labours:

The rear view shows the entrances to two ammunition casemates within the wall and there is a big ramp to get the gun up and down for maintenance. This has enough room for plenty of crew, cannonballs, gunpowder barrels or vignettes of the gun captain's pet dog to please any modeller. Not sure what make or calibre the gun model is as I got it second hand in a big batch of 25/28mm artillery but it's too large for a field piece so this situation seems just right to me. I also thought this bastion might represent a shore battery position with sand dunes beginning to encroach over the stone work - pirates, anyone?

I took it to the Bring and Buy at "Warfare" in Reading in 2010 and sold it fairly quickly. I thought that was the end of the story ...but I was in for a surprise.

At  "Warfare " in November 2011 I was casually perusing the trade stands, mind in neutral, when I saw a glass case containing a "show special" resin model. I did a double take, took a long hard look and then recognised it as "my" stone bastion. I introduced myself to Richard Randall, the stall holder, and explained I am a professional , if part time, terrain maker and gave him the background on the model as explained above. We had an interesting discussion about copyright and that he had bought the master model off Ebay, no longer bearing my "CG Designs" makers label. This all took me by surprise as I hadn't thought that any of my designs would be "ripped off" like that, so maybe this can be a wake up to other model makers who care about such things to ensure a permanent copyright mark if you can.

The conversation soon turned to how the two of us could do business, but before I tell you more about that have a look at the resin model rather than the original:
Above is the fresh resin casting with the same 28mm siege cannon I used in the original photos. When I received it from Richard there was about 5 minutes cleaning up to do, rinse it in soapy water and I was ready for the next stage. But before that below is a view of a different gun. This is one of those horrible little metal toys you get in gift shops at historic sites in the UK. I think it is about 40mm scale, but who knows, I don't collect 40mm I'm afraid. However, I think it suggests that 40/42mm figures would fit in here and look good, so pay attention you Prince August, Sash and Sabre or Deutsche Homage fans.   

I got out some spray cans and gave it 4 different colours. Dark brown as an undercoat, then grey for the stonework and a mid brown for the earth, finishing up with a very light cream highlight spray.

If you were a Warhammer 40,000 gamer you could probably use it just like that! But I then moved onto dry-brush work and acrylic paint to get somewhere near the effect of my original.

I wanted to see what effect the texturing would have just with dry-brushing and I think it looks pretty good. Bear in mind the original model was not made with the intention of becoming a master for a resin casting, and there is no flock on this one. I think it would be improved by some judicious additions of static grass or tufts and maybe even a little sand, but that's a matter of taste for the individual.  So you can judge the quality of the casting (not my figures!) here is a close up:
If you want to see a few more photos have a look here Resin Stone Bastion
What about the uses for this resin bastion? Well, a stand alone bastion is what I originally saw at Damme, but Richard quite rightly saw it as part of a sturdy fortification and has commissioned me to make some walls and joining corners. These should be available commercially by very early March along with a smaller field gun redoubt and further down the line we'll move on to 15mm, first with a windmill similar in style to my 28mm ones.
This stone bastion is available now from Richard Randall (see contact details below) priced at £25 plus postage. I think it could do service in any period from Renaissance to World War Two and, depending on taste, for figures from 20mm to 40mm. It measures 13 inches by 9 inches overall and, for the record, I managed to get in a full 48 figure battalion of large (appropriately Redoubt  Enterprises) 28mm figures, if you wanted to garrison it with infantry.

Where can you get one (or more)?
Richard runs a business with his father called Elite Wargames and Models. I believe so far they have tried to concentrate on resin terrain models that are not often covered by others, for example they do a line of outbuildings,  garden sheds and back gardens that fit in well with WW2, Home Guard type games or a A Very British Civil War. I'm not sure if these are  for 28mm or 15mm, as Elite W & M are also keen on the smaller scale. That's because they have recently bought the moulds and figure stock of what used to be  Jacobite Miniatures and are working on sorting them out for marketing. I'm told the website will be up and running shortly but meanwhile if you are interested in any of these things or wish to know more about the 25/28mm bastion and forthcoming items please get in touch with Richard by one of the following means :

Email :  rich randall <>
Phone: 07876506395
Snail mail: 44 Austin Road, Woodley, Reading, RG5 4EL


  1. A good looking piece. I'll have to keep my eyes skinned for your next effort.

  2. Well, well, well! Crazy how things work out. Great stuff Chris. I hope it all goes well and is worth it for you.

  3. Really *great*, from the inspiration to the materialization!