Saturday, 19 January 2013

Coffee in a different light or a tale of two bases

Well I am a tad disappointed as the snow has come to nothing or so here.I know I am a romantic about snow and that it has been a real pain to many of late but nevertheless I feel a little cheated.
Uptown with Jan this morning I bought Wargames illustrated ,not something I do often but it does seem to have loads of interesting articles again  this month-French Indian wars,Sonderbondeskreig etc.
So this afternoon I got on with some figures-
A few weeks ago a combination of having run out of basing material coupled with a lack of desire to fork out money for modelling products  led to experimenting with used coffee grounds. I mix the coffee with wood glue to make a basing medium which adheres to anything I have yet tried it with. The above picture shows me using it to enhance the button bases I used for my 18th century Ny Tradgardland militia.
I also set up a trial Mythical Earth basing experiment,one simple card and one with added coffee,stone and scatter-
I would be interested in your opinions of the respective styles.Part of me like the pure old school card look whilst the terraformed one looks quite good too. Perhaps I ought to try Springfield's interesting idea he suggested in a comment to the previous post.


  1. I prefer the simple card . . . because my philosophy on the matter is that I want the focus on the figure, not on the ground terrain (or the horse if it is a mounted figure).

    For me, the "realistic" ground scatter, while looking good, takes the focus away from the figure and so just muddies the look.

    -- Jeff

    PS, others are free to disagree, of course.

  2. I will, Jeff. :)
    I think plain colored bases work for old school toy soldier/Grantian-type armies, like Stokes'.
    But for most other cases plain painted bases look unfinished to me. Of course it probably has to do with what I "grew up with" (as far as my gaming/miniatures hobby life goes) and what I'm used to. But I also think numbers of figures factors in as well. With fewer figures I think unflocked bases stand out more (I almost said unfinished). Another factor is the table/terrain you play on. If it's painted a solid color then solid color bases don't clash.
    Consistency is probably key, whichever route you go.

  3. I think I prefer the plain base, but as Fitz suggested if the painting skills are not quite up there (aka me) then a flocked base helps by detracting from the figure.

  4. That's not what I said, Barry. lol
    I flock he bases of my figures, unless they already have "terrained" bases (like some figures with wood decking or cobblestones on their bases). I don't do that because I'm trying to deflect focus from poorly painted figures. I know mine won't win any painting competitions, but i don't think they're that bad! ha!
    But I don't necessarily want the bases to stand out from the table/terrain either. That can put the focus on the bases too much, imho.
    Old school solid green painted bases work when the figures are used on matching old school solid green painted tables/boards.
    There are other options, too. Like thin clear plastic bases, so the base becomes easy to overlook. Or the way Peter Gilder did his bases in some old pics I've seen, where the base is terrained, but often irregular, so it looks like part of the general terrain on the table.
    I've seen plenty of very well painted figures on very nicely terrained bases and they look very good. I've seen old school figures on plain painted bases and those can look good, too. In those extremes, the style of basing/finishing fits the style of table/terrain/game.

  5. I will concur that the bases should blend in with the playing surface . . . I try to match color as closely as possible.

    But even with a playing surface that is a bit "roughed up" looking, I still prefer a solid color on my bases (whether it is paint or solid-colored flocking). Again because I want the focus on the figures.

    -- Jeff

  6. Are the coffee grounds totally sealed by the PVA? If not, will they go 'funny' ? I only ask because years ago I based a winter T34 on a salt covered base .... er, well they were salt crystals when I started...

  7. Ooop sorry fitz that didnt come out right and I was certainly not intending to put my words in your comment and I am really sorry it came out like that.

    What I meant to imply is that in cases like myself where the artistic skill may be lacking a good flocking helps to distract from the lack of skill.

    I have seen wargame figures that from a distance look brilliant, but only on closer examination do you see the "mistakes", I came to realise that from a distance it is often the bases that draw the first glance, and then people as they draw closer or manhandle the figures (ggrrr) do they see the small or not so small errors.

  8. I wonder if basing figures with espresso grounds will have an effect on their morale or speed ;-)

    Myself, I think that it is possible to walk the line between the effect of ground cover and the purity of Jeff and Fitzbadger's flat green. I think your grounds give a good effect. Some of the textured bases I like the most (not my own!) have a narrow range of grain sizes, nothing really big and very few rather big grains. They also were painted after the texture was applied, from darker grey-brown with medium and lighter shades of the same tint drybrushed afterwards, and then the green ground cover was applied sparingly. This makes the base fade away if well done. A bit fussy but subtle and effective. One friend used kitty litter to good effect for this as the larger pieces have plenty of texture (unlike coarse quartz sand) and one can grind it down rather easily to the grain size one desires. I bet that it would do well with a bit of coffee...

  9. Thanks for the interesting discussion this has provoked.Much to think upon and,as yet,I cannot make up my mind.
    Re the coffee I liked the morale/speed idea :)
    practically speaking I think the coffee is well sealed with the wood glue so all should be well.
    As a boy I made a WW1 trench scen out of polystrene tiles topped with plaster. Sadly when I painted it the shell holes allowed the enamel paint ( cleaned with Polyclence) to "bleed" through and melt the tiles.What a mess...

  10. ...another vote for the terrained base.... :o)

  11. I have to say I prefer the terrain base but given the old school nature of the figures an old school base work well

  12. I vote for terrained bases even for old school figures. I've used dried tea leaves (used ones)to great effect for giving texture or dead leaves on terrain bases for 20mm and upwards sized figures. It's a bit smelly at first so you need somewhere like an outbuilding to let the smell go off before storage!

  13. Late again. Golly what a debate. I will vote for the plain base as these are certainly old school figures.Textured bases need an awful lot of effort put into them, almost turning them into mini dioramas, especially nowadays with all the wonderful Noch flowers and leaves etc available. Untextured bases painted plain green or brown work well or add interest painting detail on. I am doing this on my new D and D bases. If you do want to use flock how about retro flock, like dyed sawdust in a really vivid green? I really admire Tidders' work over at Wittemberg and the rest. His painting style is simple (and I mean that constructively, I love his style)but the result, with plain bases or simple flocking is quite charming, and boy, he certainly churns the stuff out.

  14. Coming late to this discussion, but for me I like the figure on the left on the scenic base better, but that's just me. I have always gone for some sort of scenic basing, and I don't think it detracts from the overalls presentation of the figure, but rather, enhances it. However, if your preference is for an overall old school or toy soldier look, then by all means do that. Both approaches have their charm, me thinks.
    For coffee grounds, I've used them a few times for showing freshly dug earth around entrenchments and gun pits, using diluted white carpenter's glue to hold them in place, and then painting over it. Works well enough, and in my house, there are always coffee grounds, at least a pot's worth per day!

  15. I think the table issue trumps all. The closer the bases match the table, the better they will look mid-game.

    That said, I tried hard to convince myself to use plain painted bases on OS glossy figures but years of conditioning over came me and the closest I came was using whiteglue and sawdust then painting the base green.

    Even in the 70's my minifigs were flocked. Purely personal preference but possibly with a subconscious touch of that distracting the eye from the figure thing. .

  16. Given the price of coffee, that probably works out more expensive than buying flock ;-)

  17. I like the terrained base in the pictures. Generally I prefer flocked bases, but I don't go in much for anything more elaborate (which is for mine, 'terraining' rather than simple flocking.

    The thing is flocking really transforms figures, particularly if the paint work isn't up to scratch. A friend several years ago bought a job lot of Napoleonics British with some French thrown in. There were a lot of home casts from Airfix plastics, Minifigs and what not. The paint work was OK with a bit of touching up, but the overall effect was a bit tired.

    At any rate, a Saturday afternoon's 'working bee' had those dudes flocked and straightened up and looking as spruce as you'd like.

    For a really top notch paint job, I think I would agree that too much attention to the bases would devalue the work on the figure.

  18. Inspired choice, using coffee grounds. It's going to have to be Lavazza Rossi for my Italian troops, of course.

    Kind regards, Chris

  19. Inspired choice, using coffee grounds. It's going to have to be Lavazza Rossi for my Italian troops, of course.

    Kind regards, Chris