Welcome to the Highlander Studios blog.

I won't promise any earth shattering revelations here. What I will be trying to do is post some new products as I release them, share some thoughts on gaming and show some pics of games and other stuff that I enjoy. So come in and make yourselves at home.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Mansions of PDF Madness

    So I had a mini vacation scheduled with Susan this weekend. We went to Columbus to see Street Corner Symphony, a six-man acapella group from Sing Off season 2. All well and good, but what personal project could I work on during the down time before travel and at the hotel?

    I'm intrigued by the whole idea of creating things in virtual space that can be delivered electronically and then constructed by the end user. This requires an outlay of time and a good deal of learning new skills with software, but requires no cold hard cash which could be used better elsewhere.

    Friday night I started playing around with paper model construction again. I previously downloaded the paper unfolder script for Blender and have some experience with exporting flat layouts of virtual models. I also spent a couple of nights last month working with texture files and creating different mappings to give the illusion of more depth. So now it was time to put it all together.

    I started by building a simple rectangular hut in Blender. Four walls and a roof.

    To make the unfolded model make sense the parts were separated into the walls and the roof sections.

    One corner was chosen to be the seam for the bottom part and the model was unfolded and exported as a .png image. This image was imported into Inkscape where it was resized, had textures added and scaled and had the door and smoke hole details added. The textures had previously been imported to Gimp where I made a couple of different maps to enhance the illusion of depth and a bit of shading. Sometime I'll probably add a tutorial on how each of those steps was accomplished, but not tonight. For now here is the image of the finished layout.

    There was a lot of trial and error so this is actually the fourth version.

    Here's the model printed and built for 28mm gaming. It's a quick build without any of the edging colored with a marker yet. But you get the picture.

    You can scale the model down when printing if you'd like to use it for 10mm or 15mm gaming. For 15mm, I'd recommend printing at 60% with an opacity of about 85% if you have that option. For 10mm, try 35% and about 70% opacity. I suggest the change in opacity because as the model get's printed smaller the color will appear to get darker. You can, of course, use whatever settings you think look good. These are just recommendations.

    This model can be downloaded here:


    I added another model last night. I was looking through textures and found this blue siding I wanted to play with. The base structure is the same as the stone hut but it's more modernized with a tin toof, some windows and an electric box on the outside. Enjoy.

    Both are provided free of charge for your gaming pleasure. Donations will  gladly be accepted if you feel you'd like to do that.

    I've been able to make a layered PDF. It views perfectly in the PDF readers with the layers turning on and off as they are supposed to. But for the life of me I can't figure out why all of the layers print. That's a problem to solve another time. Any insight you care to provide on the matter would be appreciated.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Victorian Weapon Prints

    I received the prints of the Victorian weapons yesterday. I'm elated and disappointed at the same time. Here are a few pictures with one of my Space: 1889 Brits for comparison.

    1 lb. Hochkiss rotary cannon. This one printed the best of all of them. But there were errors in the mesh at the crank so it didn't print. I was using the wrong .stl file viewer to check these before I sent them. The current software I'm using, Mini Magics, marks inverted triangles and bad edges so you can see them and go back into the modelling software to correct them.

    3 lb. QF Hochkiss cannon. Again there were issues with the mesh and the aiming trail on the left of the breech didn't print correctly.

    Nordenfelt 5-barrel .45 caliber gun. The barrel assembly is so thin that the weight of the material warps the barrels as it is printing. I have it mounted on the naval pedestal here. The original mount for this gun makes the weapon only about mid-thigh height. I'm confused by this because both parts were on the same drawing. and scaled the same.

    Nordenfelt top view. You can barely see the rails beside the barrels they are so small.

    So... the weapons print at exactly the size I specified. Which is great. I don't have to make any adjustments to the files to account for printing resizing when I send them. I have to go back in and beef up many of the parts. I'll thicken the Nordenfelt barrels and make the external rails a single slab that runs through the assembly. I'm probably going to enlarge the weapons in all directions just to make them look a bit more impressive compared to the figures.

    Overall, a fairly inexpensive lesson as lessons go and one step closer to new product.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Merry Man

   It's good to be sculpting again after the cold snap.  It looks like I won't be taking February off to just concentrate on Space: 1889 stuff, though. I still have some girls to wrap up for RastlWorld Minis and a couple of priests for the Tekumel project. All other commissions are completed or on hold. I'm pleased with the digital sculpting for Space:1889 and I look forward to seeing the prints this week. And I have been adding time to the project as this month progresses. So we should see a bunch of new items for Historicon.

    I got permission from RastlWorld to show some progress pics. I'll be putting them in a separate post later this week or early next week.

    For now I'll show another of Robin's merry men. With Robin and Friar Tuck finished I started working on Little John, Marian and Will Scarlet. I found some images as a base for John. I liked elements of the picture shown below.

    I liked the general pose and several details like the pant legs and hat, but I wanted him to be a bit more bushy. Here's how he ended up.

    The axe end is a separate part to aid in casting, but also to allow for a more traditional quarter staff variant. The end product will be supplied with both to be assembled however the customer wishes.

    To make him more bushy, I added a fur cape and a beard.

    Here's a shot of John and Robin for comparison. Little John is a head taller than the Vercingetorix model, about half a head taller than Robin if he were standing and he absolutely towers over the good Friar.

    Alan a'Dale went on the table this morning and I should have the set of six done for the end of February. I've been looking at Kickstarter and Indiegogo for this project. I'm not convinced that 40mm has a big enough following to support the funding. I'd also have to choose stretch goals that I could actually manage to meet if they were funded.

    I'm still interested in selling the set outright. If you know of a company that produces 40mm figures that might want to add them to their lines, point them my way.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Sun Shines Bright Over the New World

    Does anyone remember the splash screen from the beginning of the old Atari Seven Cities of Gold video game? I'd like to find the exact sun shining bright quote.

    But on to other things. The weather has changed for the better here. The office is now warm enough to get back to  some traditional sculpting with the putty. There's a temperature range where it handles very well and a margin on either end where the results are acceptable. But the teens and twenties cold snap we've had for the last few weeks has made working with it really crappy. It's hard to get the putty to stick to anything and cure times are greatly extended. Rather than fight a whole lot with it I spent a larger portion of the days working on 3D modelling.

     I haven't reworked the fire hydrant and parking meters form the previous post on digital sculpting. But I did get 4 new models worked up for Space: 1889 and Victorian era products.The actual count is five, but the pedestal mounts for the guns will be packaged with them.

    I started with the concept of putting together weapon sets for an airship. In this case the British Aphid gunboat for Space: 1889. The rule book lists it as having a 4" gun, two Hotchkiss 1 lb rotary cannons and two Nordenfelt five-barrel guns. I'm not finding a whole lot of reference drawings for a 4" gun, so I went with a 3lb QF Hotchkiss. If anyone is interested there is an excellent reference site a lot of more common smaller rapid fire weapons of the Victorian age. 

     The rotary cannon was started sometime last year. So I chose to finish it up first. The prior post had pictures of the original model with a more faceted look. to keep the polygon count down. This photo shows the original and the more smooth model side by side.

    I've decided to have both printed so I can see what the difference is after they are produced in metal. The faceting may not show up enough to make it work the extra work and file size bulk to smooth them so much.

    The second gun was the 3lb Hotchkiss. Working from standard orthographic line drawings led to the first model. You can see the housing for the recoil pistons is squared.

    I found a few more photos on the web that showed the recoil housing a bit better. and modified them to a more rounded look.

    I still haven't found a great view of the breech block so there is a good bit of fudging there. I've also simplified several parts for ease of mold making and casting. When the gun is just over 15mm in length, the simplification shouldn't detract from the overall effect.

    Here's the gun sprued with the mount.

    The last gun was the Nordenfelt. Again, the drawings leave a lot to be desired as far as details go. But you get the overall impression of the piece.

    The gun itself was not too difficult to model. The mount, however, required a good deal of swearing and waling away from the computer to decompress.

    A lot of the frustration was determining just how detailed to make things and how they would go into the mold for reproduction.

    But there was also some trouble with the two sections of the base having different numbers of flanges.

    The Aphid gunboat was modeled this weekend. It's another that was started last year and shelved when other matters became more pressing.

    The absolute worst headache on this one was getting the liftwood panels set in at the right angle. I know there has to be an easy way to scale and move things on planes with compound angles. But I haven't learned it yet. So I ended up zooming in really close, subdividing edges and pushing vertices around for an hour or two.

    The gun models will be printed for 15mm gaming first. The Aphid will be 1:1000 scale. Technically is should be 1:1200, but that doesn't match the length of the plastic ships from Skygalleons. I'm not sure about the guns on the ship. At that scale, they will be between 1 and 1.5 mm long and a great deal less, which becomes almost unprintable and uncastable. I'll experiment with a sprue of simplified micro weapons to package with the ships. I'll be designing a field carriage for the guns in the next week or two. And I'm thinking about having these printed for 20mm and 28mm gaming as well.

    The printer guy called this morning. The guns are printed. Some parts are really fine and may not be able to be reproduced in metal as they are. I should have them in the middle of the week to see what needs to be changed. I'm a bit disappointed that they may not work as is, but I'm also excited to see just what's going on. It's all a really cool learning experience that combines my love of computers, sculpting and gaming. So it's all good.

Friday, February 8, 2013

U.S.P.S. Forces of Evil

          Once again the forces of evil have conspired to screw with businesses everywhere here in the United States. Postal rates have increased drastically. My new rates effective immediately will be the following:

          Domestic Mail - remains $6.00 for packages up to 4 pounds.

          Foreign Mail - to Australia, Canada, Germany, New Zealand and the United Kingdom : Up to 8 oz. will cost $14.00, between 8oz and 1 lb. will cost $17.00 and between 1 lb. and 4 lbs. will cost $25.00.
          These countries are entered into the web store and can be calculated automatically.

          Other Countries - please email your order to highlanderstudios@comcast.net . I'll send a PayPal invoice with the postage added.

          Please Note - I realize that these costs are steep. And I had to make cut off points for the shopping cart software. Anyone placing a foreign order who would like to email me their order, I'll be happy to provide a more accurate postage fee rounded to the next dollar based on actual weight via a PayPal invoice. It could end up saving you a few dollars.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

And It's a Crappy Picture day

    I finished the set of FIW casualties last night. I had to send them out to Old Glory this morning so photos were taken even with the poor light. My apologies, but you'll get the gist of the poses anyway.

    When I started this group I wanted to make a set of casualty figures that wasn't the typical "file off one side of a line figure and lay him down" crap that a lot of companies pass off. I understand that they are only markers, but still in a perfect world each figure should have its own personality. So that's what I went for with these.

    These first two are the Woodland Indian casualties.

    The next two are generic European casualties.

    One officer and three assorted troops.

    I also had a small amount of time to play with a personal project. Enter: the minions.

    Well, ok. So it's only one minion right now.

    I'm getting a hideous glare from the afternoon sun on the pre-cast helmet.

    Yeah, no sun this morning when I needed it, but hey... there will be more pictures sometime down the road when I get some back to paint.

    Oh... all figures are 1/100 scale for 15mm gaming.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Goldilocks and Digital Sculpting

    After a few weeks of doing a lot of traditional sculpting, I took a few days to work on a few digital ideas I have for 3D printing. The big issue I was working out was how to increase the smoothness of the model when printed but still keep the sharp edges where I need them.

    Blender's subsurface division modifier will create new faces and smooth the overall model, but it's quirky. It has some predetermined method of weighting vertices that creates weird artifacts where you'd least expect them. Or where I don't want them anyway.

    My first few attempts were on a Monkey Boy corsair. I had an idea of the shape and characteristics and set about modeling it.

    I wanted it to ape the simian form a little. Roughly head-shaped cockpit, large cargo area chest and dangling arm-like wings.

    Smoothing the various forms was easy using the sub-surf modifier. However, I had to work out how to keep some sharper creases so that it didn't become too sleek and rounded looking.

    This was accomplished by the use of control loops. These are an extra set of edges set just inside the outer edge of the corner that needs to be sharpened. You can see the effect on the edges of the wing when compared to the cockpit.

    Ok, enough play with that for a while. On to some simpler items that I actually want to have printed for production.

    I haven't seen fire hydrants. So I worked up a drawing with all the smooth places smooth and all the sharp places sharpened.

    Parking meters were another item I wanted for my game table.

    So I made a double and a single version.

    I sprued them together and sent it off for a quote. The file size is five times too large to work on the machine. All of those extra little faces to smooth things add bulk to the data block. Converting the data to .stl format also about doubles the faces since it changes all quad surfaces to triangles. 151mb of unprintable goodness. back to the drawing board on that one.

    All right, I'll work on something that has a combination of shapes. It's a little bit more simple. And I can cut down the amount of faces to see how many I actually need when the models are scaled down, molded and cast in white metal.

    On to some VSF work. I present the Hotchkiss 1 lb rotary cannon for all of your Victorian rapid fire destructive needs.

    It's simplified a bit and some internal spaces are filled for casting.

    And of course we need a mount of some sort. The easiest to model was the naval pedestal.

    So again, I put them on a sprue and sent them off for a quote.

    This time dude tells me he'd recommend more smoothing. I explained to him that I really just need to see how they turn out since they'll be so small. Will the faceting matter? But wait... what if I want to scale them up for other gaming sizes? I know, I'll redo the drawing and sprue both together so I can see them side by side during each step of the production.

    What I really need is my own printer so I can get immediate feedback. But until that time comes, back to the drawing board. And back to pushing the putty that I set aside for a bit.