Tag Archives: Grenadier

Owen’s Miniatures: Part 1

I first met my friend Owen when we were in college, almost 30 years ago (Christ, that’s depressing as hell.) We quickly found we had much in common. Some examples: we both had a brother with the same name. We both played role-playing games. We both worked at a (now) defunct electronics retailer, albeit at different stores (at first). We both took the same hellish philosophy class taught by a crazed Jesuit who was banned from practicing mass because…well, because he was batshit crazy, among other things. We had a mutual friend that neither of us knew about until the first time I joined Owen for a gaming session and found him at the table.

Most significantly, we discovered that we both collected and painted miniatures. Prior to meeting Owen, I didn’t know anyone else who was the slightest bit interested in miniatures at all. Neither of us played wargames; we collected and painted miniatures purely because of our interest in rpgs. We bought mostly Ral Partha and Grenadier miniatures, as these were the ones commonly available at the time. We even bought them at the same store, but we didn’t know that until later.

I got into Warhammer in the mid-90’s, but Owen never did. Eventually, we both stopped painting for a while here and there over the years. I took a hiatus for about 5-6 years between 2002-2008, and I think he may have done the same, only sooner. I jumped right back into the hobby, whereas Owen never really did.

Two years ago or so, Owen gave me all his miniatures; hundreds of them, possibly more. Most of them are in various stages of paint; many complete, many primed or dabbed with color here and there, all stored in Plano tackle boxes. As I remembered, they’re mostly Ral Partha and Grenadier. In fact, I already own many of them already. But Owen’s miniatures also include many Reaper miniatures purchased in the early years of that company, as well as some impulse buys over time (as is any miniatures enthusiast’s wont). Owen told me he just doesn’t have the interest to paint them any more, and he would rather have the space than hold onto the lead. He knew I would give them a good home (and I have).

It broke my fucking heart.

This may surprise readers of this blog for several reasons. First, that I have a heart at all may come as a shock. Second, it may be surprising to some that I would be sad at the gift of so much lead. But both are true.

I offered to pay him for them. We have yet to discuss this in any meaningful way. This is because he’s not in a hurry to get paid, and also because I’m not in any hurry to pay him. In fact, I have been hoping very much that he would come to his senses and take them back. But that hasn’t happened.

I have a problem assigning value to any miniatures I have painted, as to me their value goes far beyond money. If I were to ever sell my miniatures (I can’t see how), I would likely overvalue them. Even though I may never again play the games they were designed for or use them for what was intended, the fact remains that I spent time, effort and money (obviously), on them; and I can’t easily part with them for those reasons.

I suspect many gamers feel the same way, although I know a significant number do not. (Our mutual friend, for example, had no problem painting and playing any number of Warhammer armies, only to sell them off at a significant loss whenever he got bored. He would then buy another army and repeat the process, only to eventually end up back where he started, with his original army that he needed to repurchase and repaint.)

Which is why, as I look at Owen’s miniatures, many of which he affixed to cardboard hexes that he lovingly cut out by hand (the better to fit on a combat map; unlike me, Owen actually USED his miniatures when he ran a game), I feel defeated. I want him to want his miniatures back. I want him to want to paint them again. I want him to be a miniatures nut like me, looking at painting tutorials online, geeking out over new releases, and planning and playing games. But it seems unlikely.

So, after a couple of years of ignoring his boxes, hoping he’ll ask for them back, I have decided to take a new strategy. I’m gonna start painting some of them. I don’t have the heart to strip his paint jobs and repaint any of his miniatures, but Owen was kind enough to supply me with some primed figures he never got around to. I’m hoping he will look at my work (on HIS miniatures) and get inspired.

Up next: the first two “Owen” miniatures, painted by yours truly.

Classic Dragon Lords Dwarfs

In keeping with my 2019 Resolutions, I recently painted more old school miniatures! This time, it’s a classic Grenadier Dragon Lords boxed set: Dwarves of the Gold Mountain.

As anyone even casually familiar with me or this blog knows, I have a disturbing obsession with all things dwarfish. These stocky fellows were sculpted by Nick Lund, venerable artisan and famed sculptor of Dwarvenkind. Mr. Lund is my second favorite sculpteur des nains (Bob Olley is number one, IMO), so I was happy to finally paint up this set.

These fellows have uninspired names, i.e. “dwarf with spear, dwarf with warhammer”, etc. Unfortunately for me, my “dwarf with mace” is an annoying miscast, so without him, this is only a 9 dwarf set. Bummer.

These Dragon Lords sets came out during the later Grenadier heyday, so they’re not quite as old as the “Gold Line” boxes I love so much. I think one of those is next in my “old-school” painting queue. I just need to decide which one…

Insanity Pile Progress

Miniatures Purchased: 53

Miniatures Painted: 109

Total: +56

I did a bad, bad thing…

I need to stay off eBay.

I’m supposed to NOT buy any more miniatures. I’m supposed to work on the miniatures I already have. And I was, really. I was doing so well…

And then, last month, I bought the Knight Models Thing. I mean, you can’t blame me. It’s an awesome miniature and I got a great deal on him. I painted him right away. It’s not like he was languishing long in the insanity pile.  And I WILL use him in a game soon.

I thought it was a momentary lapse. But then, I saw this. And I bought it.

This is a Grenadier boxed set, circa 1994, that contains a full-blown game and “Future Warriors” miniatures sculpted by Nick Lund. It’s basically cops vs. gangers in the future, very Judge Dredd-ish.

I thought I was pretty familiar with all things Grenadier, but this one caught me by surprise. I’m a big fan of Grenadier and of Nick Lund, but I never saw this before. I never knew it existed. I’m not sure if this came out over here in the States or if it was only a European release.

It’s pretty much mint. The miniatures have never seen paint. In addition to them, it includes the rules, reference card, tokens and even dice. It even has a mail-in card for a subscription to the Grenadier Bulletin, as well as two copies of the  Bulletin, which seems to contain miniature previews, painting tips and scenarios for the Fantasy and Future Warriors lines. Cool!!

I feel guilty.

Oh, well.

Monster Month Holdouts: Displacer Beasts and Classic Balrog

There’s always a someone who’s late for the train. My orc warlord on wyvern took a bit longer than I anticipated, so these miniatures weren’t done in time to make it into Monster Month.

First up, some iconic AD&D monsters: Displacer Beasts!

(Every time I speak the name of this monster out loud, I say it as Sylvester the Cat would. It makes it much more fun. Don’t believe me? Give it a try.)

 

A Displacer Beast resembles a six-legged, emaciated puma with two toothy tentacles sprouting from its back. They are stealthy carnivores that often hunt in pairs, which is why I bought two. Displacer Beasts are surrounded by a light-bending camouflage effect, which makes it difficult to determine the monster’s exact location at any given time (like when you’re about to get eaten).  These Displacer Beasts are from Nolzur’s Marvelous Miniatures, and although they’re technically the same miniature, it’s easy to get some variation in the tentacles and tail simply by doing the old “hot water bath/reposition/cold water bath” method. (I’m not sure what’s up with the lighting in these pictures, but the focus is a tad blurry. Same thing happened last time. I need to investigate this further.)

In the video game Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance II, you get attacked by a ton of Displacer Beasts in an ice cave. I guess that’s why I based these on snowy bases. I used Citadel’s Mourn Mountain Snow, a texture paint kind of like Stirland Mud. I like Stirland Mud a lot, because it looks like mud. Unfortunately, Mourn Mountain Snow doesn’t look like snow, it looks like white mud; so I also added some snowy flock and tundra tufts to the bases.

The other latecomer is a classic Grenadier Balrog. This miniature came out in the late 1970’s. I once painted him with the dreaded Testor’s gloss enamel, but I stripped the miniature years ago to repaint him. I finally did! There have been several variations of this figure over the years; one has a wavy sword rather than the flaming sword mine has. I think this miniature holds up quite well, considering its age.

It does seem a bit small for a Balrog, as you can see from the picture above.  If you say the word “Balrog” most fantasy fans have an image in their heads that roughly corresponds to this one, i.e. the Balrog of Moria, “Durin’s Bane”. But Tolkien is often vague, even contradictory at times when describing what a Balrog actually looks like. At times he describes them as gigantic; other times he says they are twice the size of a man. Whether they have actual wings or not is apparently up for debate among Tolkien-philes. Whatever the case, looking at the mniature now, it’s a bit too red. I probably should have painted either his body or wings black for some variation. The hair on the Balrog’s body was drybrushed with a Vallejo Cavalry Brown, but it looks close enough to red so that the effect is somewhat lost.

It looks a hell of a lot better than it did when coated in Testor’s gloss enamel, and it can certainly do a fair job of representing a greater demon, nonetheless. I made the lava base out of pieces of irregular craft foam scraps I had from my Gaslands projects a few months back. I’m somewhat ambivalent about how it came out and I’ve since found a much better method for making lava bases that I’m keen to try soon.

That’s REALLY it for Monster Month. Up next: a return to Forgotten Heroes!

Insanity Pile Progress

Miniatures Painted Thus Far: 10

Miniatures Purchased: 0

Total: +10

 

“Yesterday’s Lead”

It seems I took the month of January off from blogging, quite accidentally. For Christmas I was gifted with Mass Effect: Andromeda for PS4. It was released back in March of last year, but I’m not the kind of (video) gamer that needs to get a game as soon as it’s released. Thus I tend to spend less money on video games overall, as I can wait until the price drops. I am a huge fan of the Mass Effect series, and although this latest game was (unfairly, IMO) derided,  at least in comparison to the previous trilogy, it has accounted for my free time throughout January.

Anyway, it’s nice to be back.

I rarely pick up Wargames, Soldiers & Strategy magazine these days. Although it’s a fine publication, it’s not for me, as it is primarily geared towards the historical wargamer, and even casual visitors to this site will know I don’t fall into that category. The other day I found myself at my newsagent (see what I did there? I used a British term) by complete happenstance ( I was purchasing coffee and donuts for a work meeting at the Dunkin’ Donuts next door), and, since the latest issue of Miniature Wargames magazine hadn’t arrived yet, I gave in to whimsy and purchased WS&S #92. As expected, it had little to interest me as far as gaming goes. I am unfamiliar with most of the historical periods and battles covered throughout the issue. But what issue #92 did have was a worthy article by the great Rick Priestly, entitled “Time, Tide and Yesterday’s Lead.”

You might think Mr. Priestly waxes nostalgic for the early days of Citadel and Warhammer miniatures, but he quickly sets the record straight. Despite his involvement in Warhammer’s development, his particular enthusiasm is the Minifigs line of the 70’s, as those are what led him down the garden path to wargaming.

I must confess that since I live in the United States and I was born a good decade or so after Mr. Priestly, I am unfamiliar with Minifigs. Like so many others, I started gaming through Dungeons & Dragons, circa 1983 or so. I’m pretty sure I got the red box for my 10th birthday and it took me a year or two to start running “The Keep on the Borderlands.” I never played a miniature wargame until I was in college in the early 90’s. Predictably, my first introduction came through Warhammer 40K, then quickly moved to WFB. But I had already been collecting and painting miniatures before then. Despite all my failed attempts to introduce them into my roleplaying games, I found them really cool (an obviously still do). I certainly share nostalgic feelings for the miniatures that got me started down my own path, some 35 years ago. And those miniatures, primarily, are Grenadier and Ral Partha fantasy figures.

The first set of miniatures I ever bought was the often-reissued Grenadier Tomb of Spells set. It’s the second one down in the left column. Starting from the top left and continuing clockwise, we have Specialists, Hobgoblins, a Dragon Lords set that once included paints, Thieves, Denizens of the Swamp, Orc’s Lair, and Wizards. The Wizards set was the second set of miniatures I ever bought, and I repainted the set a couple of years ago. You can see the results here, if so inclined.

With the arrival of AD&D 2nd Edition, TSR started packaging miniatures under their own name. The above sets are examples of this era. I bought the Marvel Super Heroes and Dragonlance sets when they came out, and a friend gave me the Magic-Users set long ago. The remaining sets were all recent eBay acquisitions.

I probably paid too much for the Indiana Jones set (it’s rare). I paid less than I thought I would for the Star Frontiers and other AD&D sets, but again, probably more than I should have considering the quality. I’ve said this elsewhere: this era of miniature manufacture leaves a lot to be desired. The sculpting is pretty sub-par across the board. Scale is pretty much an afterthought, even between models within the same set (Star Frontiers is by far the WORST for this). I have been painting some of the Marvel miniatures for use in my supers gaming alongside Heroclix models, which should give you a idea of how random the scale is. Some are compatible with Clix models while some are on the small side of 25mm. To top it off, I have no idea what metal was used to cast this line of miniatures, but for some reason, they do not take paint well. Prior to sealing them, even casual handling can cause the paint to rub off, which is kind of a pain during the painting process.

The last of my old sets are above. The Grenadier Secret Agents set is really good, containing lots of mercs and soldiers for use with Top Secret or any other skirmish wargame. Grenadier released two sets of these. I know I had both at one time, but I can’t remember what happened to the other set. (As an aside, the box art above was painted by famous Grimjack artist Flint Henry!) Below them is an exceptional set of ninja by Ral Partha. I recently bought a second set, because as everyone knows, you can never have enough ninja. The bottom row contains dragon models; a Ral Partha T’Char (one of the best dragons produced, IMO) and a couple of Julie Guthrie Grenadier Dragons. I painted up her Red Dragon a while back. You can see it here.

Nostalgia, as Mr. Priestly aptly observes, exerts a powerful force that drives one from affection for times gone by to collector’s obsession. All of the above boxed sets were purchased either on eBay or at a flea market over the last couple of years. With the exception of the Skeleton King’s chariot (top right), all these sets are complete and pristine. (I even managed to replace the 54mm Batman set with one that included a Joker this time.) The DC Heroes sets were a real find at $10 apiece, all bare metal! I painted up the 54mm Batman a few years ago, and recently painted the Grenadier Halfling set above. Batman is here; the Halflings are here.

Which brings me to painting, or rather, repainting. In his article, Mr. Priestly mentions that most Minifigs of the time were likely “favored with a hefty coat of Humbrol Enamel…and then gloss varnished to within an inch of their little metal lives.” Again, I can relate. Here in the States, Testors enamels were the model paints of choice, and I laquered many a miniature in them before “discovering” acrylics right around the time I started playing 40K. Prior to that, every miniature I painted, including many from the sets above, were done with Testors enamels and gloss coat. I shudder to look at them now, but if you’d like to see some before and after shots, look no further than here.

The question then becomes “To strip and repaint, or not to strip and repaint? I am a big advocate of repainting. I’m not the best painter in the world (not even close), but I am exponentially better than I was 35 years ago. I thoroughly enjoyed revisiting the old miniatures I have repainted recently, and I think they are the better for it. But, if even if I were to strip and repaint one miniature every day for the rest of my life, I would likely never finish what I already own, never mind any future tempting purchases. A somewhat sobering and morbid thought, but true nonetheless.

What do you think? Do you get dewey-eyed for a certain manufacturer or era of miniatures? Do you advocate repainting, or are you content with (and perhaps comforted by) viewing your early efforts for what they are?

 

Classic Grenadier Halflings

It’s been a while since I painted some old school miniatures. I decided to do yet another Grenadier TSR boxed set from yesteryear. Last time it was Wizards, this time it’s the wee folk: Halflings!

Unlike the Wizards, I never owned this set growing up. I bought it off eBay about 2 years ago. The box is in great shape. The miniatures were painted, but not well. So I stripped them down to the metal before repainting.

One of the reasons I love these classic miniatures is that they have a lot of character. There’s usually one or two per boxed set that really stand out, especially for the time. In this set, one of the miniatures that stands out most for me is the Halfling lookout team, all the way on the left. Continuing left to right, we have a Swordsman, Camp Guard, Spear Chucker, and Thief. Both the Thief and the Swordsman are pretty good sculpts even by today’s standards. The Spear Chucker, despite being equipped with an atlatl, is my least favorite miniature in the set. I’m also not overly fond of the Camp Guard, because they included a ridiculous-looking tree for him to lean on. I think it would have been a better miniature without the tree, and you wouldn’t have even had to alter the pose all that much!

From left to right, the remaining models in the set include an Archer, an Axeman, a Slinger, and a Lancer on Pack Mule. I like all these models, but I especially like the Lancer. He would be great to represent the “Shiriff” of a Halfling shire. I assumed the haft of his spear behind his hand had broken off at some point, but looking at the enclosed picture, it seems he wasn’t modeled with a full spear haft to begin with. I fixed that by making one out of some 5/64 brass rod, thus giving him a full spear, and I like the resulting look much better.

Here’s a view of some of the Halflings from the rear. I didn’t use any white flock on the horseman’s base. I think the color is due to a reaction between the glue I used and the matte sealant spray. I think it looks ok, like the last remaining frosts of the season. I’m not sure if I’ll paint over it yet.

Classic Grenadier Wizards

This boxed set was the second set of miniatures I ever bought, the first being the well-known “Tomb of Spells”. I bought them when I was in 6th grade.  Like all of the miniatures I painted back then, I covered them in Testors gloss enamels and thought I did a swell job. Many years later, when I discovered things like acrylic paints and shading, I realized they looked truly horrendous and stripped them with the intent of repainting them later. Years passed and they languished. Then came Warhammer, and all my painting time was taken getting my armies ready for the table. I wanted to paint them last year for WizarDecember, but couldn’t find the time. Now, at age 43, they have finally been repainted.

I painted these first five to resemble the Istari, the five wizards of Middle-Earth. From l-r: Pallando, Radagast, Gandalf, Saruman, and Alatar. Who are Alatar and Pallando, you ask? Well, they are the Blue Wizards, referred to by Tolkien as “lesser” wizards, of which little is known other than their names. After their arrival in Middle-Earth, they quickly “passed into the East”, where nothing was ever heard from them again.

Of course, Iron Crown Enterprises, who once held the license for the Middle Earth RPG and the Middle Earth: The Wizards CCG, did much to expand (i.e. create) the lore of these two wizards. In the CCG, players take the role of one of the wizards. Pallando is portrayed as a diviner/seer, and many of his card effects allow some sort of precognitive ability. Alatar is a very martial wizard who can dish out some heavy damage. So I chose the Illusionist miniature for Pallando and the Druid (with shield and sword) for Alatar. The others were also fairly easy choices: Radagast is a “Druid with dart”; Gandalf (Enchanter)has the big floppy hat, and Saruman (Sorceror) is holding a crystal ball (a palantir?).

I don’t normally rebase these old classics, but I decided to make an exception with this set. I considered adding a sword to Gandalf to represent Glamdring, but chose to leave him unmodified.

The remainder of the set is above. From L-R: Wizard, Cleric, Archmage with spell, Magician, and Warlock. The wizard was my least favorite miniature to paint because his detail is somewhat ambiguous; there are times I didn’t know what I was supposed to be painting. His “familiar” on his shoulder is horribly sculpted as well. I have no idea what it’s supposed to be. The Archmage comes with two “spells”; the hand shown above and  the head of something so poorly sculpted it also defies description. I chose the hand. The Cleric and Magician models are my favorite miniatures in the set, and to this day when I think of a wizard or cleric these guys come to mind. Last is the Warlock; not one of my favorites but I did what I could with him. I decided to paint him as a Bright Wizard; someone who can fling a fireball or two. I hate painting orange, but I think he turned out ok.

Painting old school miniatures like this is always fun. I think I’ll paint another Grenadier boxed set soon.

Red Dragon

I don’t often paint large models, but I’ve had this fellow on my painting table in various states of assembly and painting for a couple of years now. It’s  a red dragon from Grenadier’s Julie Guthrie’s Dragons line, circa late ’80’s-early 90’s.

Of course, nothing says I had to paint it as a red dragon. In fact, I was considering painting it a greenish-black and using it as a swamp dragon. I even went so far as to basecoat it green, but then changed my mind and went with the red scheme. I used mostly Vallejo colors (Red Black, Rusty Red, Gold Yellow) and Citadel paints (Stegadon Scale Green, Sotek Green, Scorpion Green).

Compared to some of the dragon miniatures available today (i.e. Reaper), this one is pretty small, but is perfect for representing a young dragon rather than an ancient wyrm.

I have a love for Grenadier miniatures, as together with Ral Partha they were pretty much the only game in town for Fantasy miniatures when I was young. These dragons could be a pain in the ass to assemble, and this one was no exception, requiring copious amounts of green stuff to fill the gaps where the wings join the body. Nowadays it would probably be cast from plastic, or at least the wings would be, which would make it easier to assemble as the weight of the wings wouldn’t require pinning.

For the base, I added an axe along with a bit from an Army Painter accessory pack (the helmet with the snake). I smoothed out the contours with green stuff and added sand, tufts and static grass.

 

Some Old-School Miniatures

I went on a bit of a buying spree these past few months on some old Grenadier and Ral-Partha stuff. Mind you, I already have a ton of this stuff from my days of youth, but lately I’ve been feeling somewhat nostalgic. I present to you some of my recent painting efforts.

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Up first are these two knights. Both are repaints of miniatures I first painted when I thought using Testors gloss enamel was a great idea. I’ve been trying to identify them from The Lost Minis Wiki, but I haven’t been able to. I could have sworn they were Grenadier or Ral Partha, as I’ve had them since the early 80’s at least. For some reason I want to say the guy on the right was labeled a cavalier, but I’m not 100% on this. Anyway, they both have morningstars (or maces-and-chain, depending on who you ask), and that wasn’t so common on miniatures in those days. Any assistance identifying these guys would be most appreciated.

UPDATE: Thanks to some fellow enthusiasts on The Miniatures Page, I found out that the one on the left is from Superior Miniatures (Knight with Mace-and-Chain). The one on the right is from TSR, part of their “AD&D Heroes boxed set. And sure enough, he’s a cavalier!

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I love miniatures that tell a story and aren’t just “generic guy holding weapon”. This one is an old miniature I bought recently. It was part of Grenadier’s “Woodland Adventurers” boxed set. I don’t have the rest of the set, but I love this halfling sniper. This is not a repaint. In fact, I don’t believe this miniature was ever painted before I got him.

I’m under a pile of lead now, but I’m going to continue to take a break and paint (or repaint) some of these old miniatures every now and then.

54mm Batman

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I bought this old Grenadier figure set on eBay, mostly for posterity, since I don’t game in 54mm.  I remember when this came out. It was a set designed to go with the Batman RPG from Mayfair, which was really just a simplified DC Heroes RPG. Why they cast these miniatures in 54mm as opposed to the more popular 25mm is beyond me. Unless they were going for a collector’s market.

The set came with two miniatures, Batman and the Joker. Well, when I received my package in the mail, the Joker was missing. I contacted the seller and he immediately issued a refund. I would have gladly shipped Batman back to him, as his feedback was positive enough for me to think it was a fluke and not a deliberate attempt to screw me over, and I wasn’t trying to get anything for free. But he told me to just keep Batman. So I did.

Turns out I know a 13 year-old girl who is really into Batman. She’s the daughter of a friend, and I figured, since I have an incomplete set that’s not doing me any good, why not paint Batman up for her? So I did. And here’s what I used.

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First off, apologies for the paper plate. It’s the only white thing I had in reach when I decided to take the photo. I put Batman on a 50mm square base and applied green stuff to smooth out the contours of the base. Then I applied my first coat. Most of the colors are GW paints. I started with Deadly Nightshade for the blue, Iyanden Darksun for the yellow, and Skavenblight Dinge for the gray.

The next layers were Regal Blue, a mixture of Skavenblight Dinge/Dawnstone in a ratio of 70/30 for the gray, and a wash of Badab Black over the yellow.

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Once that was complete, I painted the base Shadow Grey and added the next layer of highlights: a mixture of Regal Blue/Mordian Blue in 50/50, straight Dawnstone for the gray, and Privateer Press’s Sulfuric Yellow for the belt and chest emblem.

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About this time I decided I would need something more on the base. So I added a 30mm RAFM sewer lid base and built it up with more green stuff. Then I did the next layer of highlights: Mordian Blue, Administratum Grey, and Bad Moon Yellow. Then I repainted the base with black Vallejo surface primer.

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Lastly, I finalized the highlights. I did a watered down layer of Festering Blue, followed by a highlight of Teclis Blue. I painted the eyes Skull White and the bat emblem with Chaos Black. I painted the manhole cover with Tin Bitz and washed it in Armour Wash. Then I applied a little MIG rust pigment to the manhole cover and put sand on the base.

A note about the sand…it’s actually volcanic sand from the beaches of Sao Miguel, Azores. Most folks probably don’t have that stuff laying around their house. But I do. 🙂

Hopefully the kid I painted this for will like it. He was pretty easy to paint, all things considered.

Someday I’ll get the complete set and paint it up just for fun.