Submitted by Al LaFleche



This article will focus on the base (Picture 1) for Michael Roberts’ “Vignette-in-a-box”, The Pursuit sculpted by Alan Ball and Mr. Ball’s own Woodland Indian released about the same time by his own company. From the beginning, I wanted these three figures in the same setting. I can fully imagine the third figure having been left out for reasons of economy and base size.

The first thing I did was to play around with the kit base and a display base to determine where it would sit. When I figured out where it would go, I cut some strips from a Styrofoam block to build up the edges. (Picture 2)
Next came several trials of where the figures would be. I had already decided I didn’t want them running down the stream bed as in the box art since the second figure is lost behind the guy jumping the fallen log. ( Picture 3) is an early trial which I rejected because the guy jumping over the log didn’t make sense to me in this position. More trials were done as work on the base continued. In the end, I decided that the jumping guy would not be hurdling the log, supported on his arm, but jumping the stream and log and will be attached to the edge of the log at his foot and his flattened hand was replaced with a clenched fist holding a war club.


Before gluing anything in place, I masked off the exposed parts of the base because the next steps would be messy. (Picture 4) The kit base was attached with super glue and the Styrofoam with white glue. This was set aside to dry overnight. The next day, I glued several additional rocks in place, added an Armand Bayardi tree and a resin figure base at the end of the stream bed. Then, I made a slurry of Celluclay, ballast, white glue, woody turf material and brown acrylic craft paint and blended all these elements together, smoothing the edges with a moistened finger. ( Picture 4) included a test of the tree stump which would represent the base of the fallen tree.

When the base was dry, I airbrushed the streambed with burnt umber and the rocks and tree with some shade of German gray from Model Master. I painted any reaming dry ground with the acrylic craft paint that was used in the Celluclay mixture. (Picture 6)


The fallen tree spans the original base completely and looks fine as such with the flattened stump and branches. That would not work for the new base. I gave some thought to explain why a tree would fall across the stream like this. Beavers have cut down trees near my house and they leave a distinctive stump. I decided that would be the cause of the fallen tree. I sawed off the top of an appropriate Bayardi stump and built it and the base of the log with Milliput an typical cone left by beavers. (Picture 7) At the other end of the tree, the flat ends needed attention as well. I added armatures of brass rod and covered these with more Milliput. (Picture 8).

Now the rocks and tree were given a wash of Payne’s Gray oil and dry brushed with a couple shades of light gray or beige. The streambed received some random dry brushing of a light green. Reeds of Woodland Scenics long grass. (Picture 9) and the tree was dry brushed with a dark brown to break up the grays in the scene (Picture 10).

Static grass was added between the rocks and at the base of the tree. (Pictures 11) while ground cover I picked up from John at Military Miniatures Warehouse, though I don’t recall the brand. (Picture 12). Shrubs were added to fill out the base (Picture 13) though some adjustments would be made before finishing. ( Picture 14) shows the tips of the stump and fallen log with a piece of broken tooth pick inserted to depict the area of the tree that would have broken off as the beaver chewed away.

Picture 15) shows that water has been added to the stream bed using Envirotex Polymer coating, a product just about identical to Liquitex, but more economical. This is a two part resin sold for use in decoupage. I dammed off both ends with a bit of Woodland Scenics Water Effects, a super thick white glue like product. Even then, a small gap allowed some drainage which is another reason for taping the exposed base. Next, the dry boulders were airbrushed with Dull-Cote. (Picture 16) I should have done this sooner to reduce the risk of flat overspray on the shiny water surface.

The water’s surface was given a few waves and some turbulence at the edges using Woodland Scenics Water Effects applied with a fine paint brush. (Picture 17) Moss was added to a few rocks and the tree using a slurry of Woodland Scenic's Fine Turf. (Picture 18). To get the surface smooth, I tamped it down with the sharp edge of a #11 blade. The final groundwork addition was a few “HO Scale” plastic mushrooms from Busch Modellspielwaren. These were cleaned up with a file and painted. A tiny hole was drilled in the stem and they were attached using some fine wire.


(Picture 19) The branch extensions on the fallen tree were thinned form the original putty blobs and the bark was painted Vallejo Ivory with black striping and knots to represent a white birch. (Picture 20) and placed in its final position. (Pictures 21 and 22)

As a couple final touches, I shaved a toothpick down to small bits and used white glue to paste them around the tree stump increasing the impression of a beaver’s work. (Picture 23) And finally, I sculpted a turtle from Milliput and painted it green and yellow and placed him in a rock sunning himself and bearing witness to the passing warriors. (Picture 24)

From the first night of real work to completion was about 12 very enjoyable days, particularly with the documentation. My next step will be the three figures who will wind up in roughly the same position as in ( Picture 3).