EXCERPT FROM APPENDIX 1 from Don Featherstone's Battles With Model Soldiers
(The book that got me started.)

"Nothing in these pages is a dictate, no word says you must or you shall do it this way. On the contrary, the book sets out from the very beginning to stimulate the reader to think for himself, and to use what he has read merely as a foundation for efforts and ideas which reflect his own temperament and character. Only in this way will he obtain maximum satisfaction from the hobby of battling with model soldiers."

-Don Featherstone 1918 - 2013

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Make and Mend

Yesterday was largely occupied with spousal duties which in this case involved a trip to a social event,  not of the wedding variety, an hour & 1/2 away along backroads. Today we gave ourselves the day off. So "make and mend" in modern navy lingo but also in another, older fashion as in making things and mending personal effects.

In my case, my wargames table.

Last year, I set myself the task of building a sit down solo wargame table. Experiments have shown that while various sizes of grid square are best for various things,  4" was the best all around size for me. I also found that while smaller grids could be made to work, 12x12 was the smallest that I was prepared to accept. At the same time, 12x4" was too wide for a sit down table but that  12x9cm was just possible if one stood up to reach the farthest row. It was one or the other so I chose the sit down table and proceeded.  Suddenly I could realized that I could recover some lost wall space for shelves by moving one of my bookcases to the middle of the room and using it to support one end of the table as I had done previously. So I adapted the plan .

Once all was done I was happy with the result but it was painfully obviously that while you could perch on a tall barstool you could not sit comfortably and play. It was also obvious that the table was about 6" shorter than the bookcase it rested on and it didn't take long to realize that with the table being several inches higher and geometry and my shortlegs being what they are, I was no longer able to reach all the way across the table, even when  I stretched my utmost.  So much for the sit down table, I might as well have left the table at 4 feet wide! Ah well. No way to stick the trimmed  bits back, press on.

Several games later I had proved to myself that the table would indeed work but that my suspicions were right. The grid was a VERY tight fit for many units and much, if not most, of my secenery needed adjustment or replacement.  I started thinking whistfully of  4" squares and looking at various scraps lying about waiting and  suddenly I thought "why can't I stick a bit on the side? I already patched back on a 2" wide strip?"

Restored to 5ft x 4ft.
An initial overcoat of paint dulls the old grid and I'm almost ready to start adding a new grid to be followed by detailing later. I need to get it playable by tomorrow night to get ready to host an imminent pbem game.

So that's how I spent the morning.  Luckily, being a pack rat I stil had a strip, never even painted, that I had cut off the original 4x8 sheet when building the 6x8 table in 2009, and some more bits of the 1" pine shelving that frames the top, and some metal brackets from a long gone 1979 water bed. (Did I mention pack rat? Its both nature and nurture)  Needs a bit of crack filling but its had an overcoat of random green and in an hour or so will be ready for the new 4" grid. Its only an extra 2.5sqft or not quite 10% expansion but the modified table looks ginormous to me now even though its the same number of grid squares.

I might not be so hot at planning but improvising, kludging and mending, I can do.


  1. Hey Ross,

    No amount of planning will ever replace dumb luck; and there's absolutely nothing wrong with being a pack rat...as long as you can find (and use) the stuff that you're looking for! The table looks awesome.

    1. I like to think of it as "seizing an opportunity" rather than lucky. Sounds better on the resume. The table is coming nicely and my scenery and I are breathing a huge sigh of relief.

  2. Ross Mac,

    Like so many things in life, there is an optimum size for a wargames table; the problem is finding out what size suits one best.

    I have two tables pushed together. Both are matched, and both have swivel tops that open out to double in size. When closed, each table's top is 2' x 3', giving me a normal surface area of 4' x 3' ... the far corners of which I can reach just about reach from my chair. When opened out, this can become 4' x 6' ... but I cannot sit down to wargame.

    The upshot of this is that I tend to use the tables in 4' x 3' mode, and have only used the bigger set up once or twice in the last eight years. I have even gone smaller, and built (i.e. bodged/modified) a mini-campaign board that is 2' x 3' which has had quite a lot of use in the last year and which I intend to use even more in the next few weeks.

    Recently Sue and I played the 'what house would we buy if we won the Lottery' game ... and I found a wonderful house that was for sale about 100 yards from Rochester Castle. It was a large Georgian house, with its own separate guest accommodation ... but what attracted me was the huge extension that the owners had added to it. According to the details, the owners had enjoyed roller-skating (!) and amateur dramatics, and had built a suitably-sized annex so that they could indulge their hobbies. What I saw was a massive wargames room, one large enough to accommodate several large wargames tables and/or allow sea battles to be fought on the floor. It was only £2,000,000! And then I thought ... unless I had visitors, would I use such a large space ... and the answer was 'No', I'd still end up using my current wargames tables as they fit what I want out of hobby.

    Good luck with your search.

    All the best,


    1. The search is done, unless real estate requirements
      force another change. If I need a sit down game at some point t'll have to be the card table again but its served me well for over a 1/2 century.

  3. Good post. Four inches does seem to give the best compromise between unit and terrain placement and having enough gaming cells on the table for a viable game that allows manoeuvre. I am using 4 inch hexes, but would love to go top 5 or 6 inch, but the loss of locations would be a problem.

    I use a 2 x 3 when seated at a table as a bad back prevents bending and stretching. For standing games I can go to 3 x 4 on higher tables (the pasting tables that Bob spotted at Lidl). A third table would let me go to 6 x 3 and make 28mm more viable.

    I have just bought a neoprene 4 x 3 game mat but I do not have the mindset for open games with rulers etc, so I am tempted to hex it out at 6 inches just to see what that size will do to my game.

    Good luck with the lottery Bob, ;-)

    1. I quite liked the 5" squares when I tried them and offer some real modular terrain options for the modeller but they do need at least a 6x6 table and more troops per unit!

      I still have a card table and portable board sould sitting become a must again.

  4. Hi Ross,

    While I am not particularly good at any of the things you mentioned - building, hammering, nailing, mending, making squares, etc - my late wife did have a suggestion for when I played mega games in our back room. She saw that I had trouble reaching things in the center of the table. She then went to the craft store and bought a sturdy dowel, a small piece of wood and a small bag of wood screws. After a bit of fiddling she had made my version of a croupier's stick like they use I casinos to rake in the chips from the losers. It might give you some relief when playing solo....