I was asked lately by a miniature enthusiast to demonstrate what is our technique to build artillery.
The technique describe below is for 1/32 miniatures. It could apply to other scales I suppose. There are no such things as “the approach” to do things. That’s the basics of scratch built; the only limit is your imagination.
Miniature artillery prerequisite 1: Material required
There is no “standard” list of material. You could use whatever fits your project.
This stated, it could be possible that your imagination need to be stimulated for your first project.
I can suggest the following list of material for a first built.
- Squared rods : available in renovation centers
- Round rods; available in dollar stores
- Carpenter glue/white glue : available in Renovation center/stationery store
« popsicle » sticks : available at dollar store (Note : I strongly suggest not to take the ones tinted; those are almost impossible to paint)
- Thin plywood : could be bought in specialized stores but it could be pretty expensive. Let be imaginative for that one. In North America, we are found of a fruit calls « Clementine ». Those fruits from Morocco come in wooden crate. It’s cheap way to get thin ply wood. I suppose you can find something like that in your country.
Miniature artillery prerequisite 2: Tools required
I use a press drill and a band saw when i do my miniatures.
If you don’t have those tools, there are hand tools which could be used to do the same tasks.
A heat gun or hairdryer could be useful for step 3.
Miniature artillery step 1: Choose a good drawing
The best is to find a scaled drawing of the gun you wish to build.
Unfortunately, it’s not always possible to find one. It’s especially true with guns. There some good sources for tanks and armored cars but less for guns.
For historical accuracy…
Even though it’s not primarily goal, it’s still important.
It allow you to scale you model to avoid such common mistakes like having a too short barrel, a too big breach etc..
Miniature artillery step 2: Find the wheels
You need to have the wheel going into any design of your gun. Based on the model you want to do, you have 2 possibilities to get wheels : buy or make.
You can buy wooden wheel on the web or in specialized stores. That’s the most expensive way to get wheels.
You can also re-use wheel from an old toy for example. You can also bought one at a dollar store and dismantle it to get your wheels. Almost 100% of the time, it will be plastic wheels.
You can make wheel with a press drill and a hole saw.
Again, we are not all equipped with that kind of tools. You can still make your own wheel. Everything which is round can be use. Day to day products like pills container , juice bottle etc. could be a source of wheels. There are 3 things to consider in your choice: diameter required overall look (both based on the model you chose at Step 1) and already marked center. For the later, if it is not the case, you will have to find the center of the wheel yourself. It could be tricky. If you are not ”bang on” the center, your gun will have a “bumpy” rolling.
Miniature artillery step 3; Design the parts
There are 2 schools of thought related to the design.
My brother (who is an engineer) prefers to draw the different parts on paper before cutting anything. By drawing the gun on paper, you can rapidly see if something is wrong (barrel too long, tails too short etc). The pros of that technique is to avoid wasting wood and other materials because you should be close to the right thing from the beginning. The cons are that you work in a 2D environment which require to “imagine” you work in 3D. It’s not necessarily easy to do. There are 3D software on the market to do that kind of drawing but I am not familiar with those.
I prefer to do my miniature in a “work in progress” approach. Said in others words , to actually build the thing from ground up. . It could be possible that you will have to redo some parts but that’s the fun part of scratch building. This is one reason why I don’t use expensive material. If you make a mistake, it’s not a problem. You just discard the piece and begin again.
The first step is to cut the barrel. With the barrel and the wheels, you can “adjust” the dimension of the carriage, tails and shield if any.
Barrels can have many shapes. The main idea is to reproduce the general silhouette of the barrel. Don’t consider all the details but the overall shape. It’s especially true if it’s your first design.
One way of doing the barrel off-sets is to use a lathe.
I don’t have one so I had to think about another way of doing things.
One approach I have developed is to use heat shrink tubing.
Those tubes can be bought at a hardware store on the web
You can cut it from the squared rod mention in the material list or from any square piece of wood which fits.
Another way of doing a good breech bloc is with dollar store jewel pearls. Some of them are squared and already have a hole which is very handy.
Most of the time, round rods will be use to reproduce the recoil mechanism.
Miniature artillery step 4: Build the carriage
The carriage will hold the barrel, the wheels and the tail.
It’s basically a frame. The squared rods and “popsicle” sticks can be used to build a “chassis” on which you will put the others parts.
Depending of the type of wheels you have and the type of gun you want to make, you will need to adjust the carriage structure.
They are many ways. Here some examples
Miniature artillery step 5; the trail
The trail can be either fixed or mobile.
Again, it depends on the model chosen.
Fixed trail is easier to make. Here some examples:
The open ones require to build swivel arms. The technique is always the same and can be seen in the following pictures:
Miniature artillery step 6: Shield and Muzzle brake
Not all guns have shield and muzzle brakes.
To make a shield gun, the important is to have the right thickness of material. Usually the thinner, the better. If you do war gaming like we do, you also have to consider “sturdiness”. Often, you will have to do compromise between look and sturdiness. You don’t want to have you shield broken after one game.
The muzzle brake is usually done by adding to your “rod” barrel the appropriate cylinder. It is also possible to sculpt it but it requires more skills.
I hope that introduction to making miniature artillery will help you in your projects.