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.

Friday, August 11, 2017

You Can Ride Herd if You're a Zulu

     Yesterday I received the stock for two new 15mm products.

     First up is a herd of cape buffalo. There are 3 adult male, 2 adult female and 2 young sculpts. I also couldn't resist adding a Zulu rider to the set.

     GID AN-04       Cape Buffalo Herd w/ Zulu Rider           $15.00

     The second is the infamous Ned Kelly gang in armor. I've been fascinated with Ned Kelly since I saw an article about a 1/35 scale diorama in a modeling magazine as a kid. I have mounted police and constables on the workbench now and plan to make a Glenrowan Inn model.

     VIC-10          Kelly Gang in Armor           $5.00

     There have been a couple of other items to come off the workbench recently. This wizard's tower in 15mm has been a piece 6 years in the making. As the putty would get too firm to place on a figure I was sculpting I added more stones to the tower. I'll post again when I have decided how I will be putting it into production.

     I'd like to also remind folks that there are random items for sale at the Ag Division page. My wife and I are considering buying the property across the street to expand our gardening and orchard area. The house will need to come down, but hopefully we'll be able to keep the garage and turn the house foundation into a year round greenhouse.

Highlander Studios Ag Division Sales

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Inklings of a Plan

     I made a deal with the executrix of the property across the street last year. Trim work, removal of snow from the driveway and clearing downed branches in return for the use of 1200 sq ft of the property for a garden. That has worked out very well and I'm looking to expand. School taxes were raised this year and she was having trouble with the guy that cuts the lawn. So now she has a more expensive lawn service. She and her sister have decided it is indeed time to sell. My plan is to wait her out a little while and make an offer maybe in late Spring next year. During that time I'm going to start saving for a down payment by selling products and extra produce from the homestead at the local farmer's market. As plans go, that seems to be a good start.

     We purchased a set of porch furniture in May that came with a ton of styrafoam packing. I've started scratch building prototype terrain pieces from it for both 15mm and 28mm gaming. The second part of my plan to open Highlander Studios Ag division is to offer those and commissioned terrain and tile sets for sale. Proceeds from those sales will also be added to the down payment fund.

     I'll be using the sales page, Ag Division Down Payment Fund to list items for sale. Any inquiries for commissioned sets of tile or terrain can be sent to highlanderstudios@comcast.net.

     Here are a few of the prototypes available:

     28mm rubble wall corners

     Small 28mm standing stones

28mm stone arches

Lava chute tiles. Scale neutral but based on 3"x3" tile sections

28mm 3"x3" tiles

15mm 3"x3" tiles

     Most of these pieces are made from 1/2' thick foam. The wall ruins vary a little in thickness and the 15mm tiles are made from foam board with the facing paper removed. The foam has been strengthened with mod podge and polyurethane spray.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Bone Weary

     Well, I finally understand why my grandfather would fall asleep watching the evening news and only wake up when it was time to go to bed. This farming stuff is exhausting.

     Last Fall I made an agreement with the owner of the vacant lot across the street. Her lawn guy is really lazy and just rides around on his machine and never does the trim work. The property ends up looking ragged and the owner gets nastygrams from the township regarding the state of things. I suggested that I could do the trim and clear limbs that fell during storms in return for some flat space to garden. I also keep the driveways clear in the winter and can harvest any apples, pears and other forage I find. That's all well and good, but keeping up with just the trim on an acre and a half is a lot of work. I'm also gardening several areas of my own property and maintaining it. Add building a 700 square foot garden within a 1200 square foot enclosure from the ground up and I now have a deep empathy for those who feel bone weary.

   Honestly, this is not a complaint and I have every intention of extending the contract until the property sells or we buy it ourselves. I've managed to drop almost 20 pounds, the blood pressure is almost under control and I'm more content than any time I can remember in my life. But it has caused a work imbalance with my sculpting. It's almost July and the bulk of the planting is done. I have a little space to develop for a few late crops and a couple of large building projects for the yard, but those are no longer time sensitive. I have managed to get a few projects done and to the mold maker. A couple of other commissions are nearing completion and should be wrapped up shortly. So the balance is returning.

     Until I get some photos of new stuff I thought I'd share pics of what has been going on. Starting with my yard.

     Last year's 2' x 3' garlic bed became the home for some transplanted mustard greens.

     This is a 3' x 4' bed of Jerusalem artichokes with mystery beans growing up around them. To the right there is a horseradish plant. I've found that this soil under the pines is really great for growing  things. I went a bit overboard on the artichokes, but all of the plants seem to be in good health and they top six feet already.

     I took the stupid wisteria out last Fall. In it's place I put a decorative three sisters planting. Actually, it's two sisters right now as only the corn and beans are there. I'll add tomatoes this weekend. The the electric pole behind has sunflowers planted around it.

     This was the first terrace I built last year. The garlic grows well here as do the basil and cilantro. I'm having a rough time with lettuce and onions, though.

     The lower hugelkultur has more corn and beans, carrots, beets and a butt-ton of volunteer potato plants. Yeah I planted a few on the left, but 13 more came up all through the bed.

     I reclaimed about 150 square feet at the bottom of my yard. I'm preparing a new terrace for the bee hives next year. One benefit of the lawn guy across the street being lazy is that I can rake up a lot of easily digestible biomass to build the soil up. I'm planning to plant paw paws over the edge.

     Across the street is the main garden.

     Everything here is experimental. All right, everything I'm doing as far as gardening is experimental at this point. I've built different styles of beds out of whatever wood and bamboo I had available. We replaced our deck boards when we moved in and I've been saving the old decking to use in various projects. We have critters. So there is a double 4 ' fence that works well to keep the deer out and a 2' mesh around the inside area to keep smaller animals out. That combined with Repelsall crystals and spray has kept things fairly well intact.

 Tomatoes, basil and cilantro are right inside the gate. There are more sunflowers out of frame to the right.

     Having no clue about the space watermelons needed when I started them from seed, I went overboard. All of the seeds germinated and I ended up with 15 here and 3 in our yard.

     I like squash. This bed has the zucchini, yellow squash and cucumbers in it. I'll try training it up the bamboo poles, but I may need to add cross bars as a trellis.

     Parsnips are in the log cabin. Bush beans are growing to the right. Brussel sprouts are in the rear bed. Again, not knowing about Brussel spouts, I went overboard in the planting. luckily we all like them.

     Susan wanted some interesting potatoes. I found a box of purple majesty seed at a lawn place. I'm growing them as towers. This picture was taken a few days ago after I had covered the first growth. I'll need to cover another 4 inches and build more container this weekend.

     Hot and sweet peppers . I'm not sure how they are growing. they seem to be small for this time in the season.

     More three sisters planting. There is blue corn, yard long beans, Kentucky wonder beans and more yellow squash here. Shoulder high by the fourth of July, right?

     This last bed has the 9' bean poles. More Kentucky wonder and yard long beans. I had space so there is still more yellow squash around the edges. Did I mention I like squash?

     I've found that I really enjoy this farmer stuff. I like talking about it, too. So if you want to throw some ideas back and forth, please don't hesitate.

     Now back to the paying work.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Victorian Street Furniture

     I've been practicing my digital skills a few hours each day by selecting a random item and working on it. Each one has taught me a some new or more efficient way of handling some of modeling with Rhino software.

     Over the weekend I modeled a Victorian street lamp.

     Today it was two versions of letter boxes.

     Until I get these into production in metal they will be available at Shapeways.They are available in 1/100 scale as well as 1/56 scale for 15mm and 28mm gaming.

     On Monday I received the quick test print of the steam launch.

     There are some design issues I need to adjust before the final master print and I may scale it up about 10%. But, all in all, I am thrilled to have a physical model in front of me. One step closer to the end goal of production.

     Work has stalled on the small bird while I figure out how I'd like to handle some design issues. But last week I was able to finish the digital work on the Aphid. I still need to revisit the guns and mounts, but the structure is done.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Digital Brushing Up

     Well... it's time for me to start brushing up some digital skills again. I had a little bit of a windfall so I'm in the market for an inexpensive 3D printer. So I've been taking a few hours in the evening after running around in and out of town to revisit a few old projects to get them ready to go.

     I'd still like to get the Space: 1889 airships into production. There are some issues with production at 1/1000 scale. So I decided to see what is possible in 1/100. I finished the steam launch early this week and moved on to the small bird. I still have the detailing to do on the latter and I may need to rebuild the bow. The ovoid shapes are really behaving weirdly when I try to extract surfaces and do boolean processes on them.But here's what I have.

     I've also started some smaller items. I did a fire hydrant in Blender several years ago, but I wanted a cleaner mesh than the old model so I reworked it in Rhino.

     I have these available at Shapeways in 1/100 and 1/56 scales.

     There are  also a few Sci-fi test models for a potential job.  A basic desk and body scanner.

     These are not currently available.

     I'm chomping at the bit to try out some more complex stuff. I've always wanted to do the Renegade Legion grav tanks.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Deconstructing the Sheep

     A few months ago a friend was gifted three sheep and asked if I would help butcher them in return for half a lamb. I jumped at the opportunity to learn new skills and put some food in the freezer for my family. However, this was not without some trepidation. I grew up on a beef farm where other animals were raised for food as well, but I was never present for the butchering or processing. I've never killed an animal larger than a chipmunk or crow. The only deer I ever got while hunting was an extra one that our group shot. Never skinned an animal. It's not that I have any qualms about animals as food. My experiences with getting that food were simply second and third hand.

     My friend and his family have what they call a hobby farm. They work other jobs, but they grow and raise most of their own food on somewhere around two acres. I love my new house and the privacy here, but theirs is a place of great beauty and peace. I love visiting and discussing our respective projects and I've come to enjoy his wisdom and outlook on life. I had been around enough to know that his animals are treated ethically and humanely. So I was fairly certain that the experience wouldn't be too traumatic.

     I asked what he did with the hides and was told that he usually doesn't save them. His mother-in-law wanted one but I was welcome to the other two. I hate waste and here was an opportunity to learn basic hide tanning as well. So I took him up on the offer. If you want to learn hide tanning, I highly recommend that you start with something smaller than a sheep. That is a lot of surface area and the hide weighs between 70 and 100 pounds when wet.

Salted hide after the first rough fleshing

     The process of fleshing the hide took a couple of hours. The first fleshing removed large chunks of fat and any meat left on the skin. Then I salted it for preservation until I could get back to work on it. The salted hide can be stored for several months if needed. I don't know if this is true of other large animal hides, but a sheep has a membrane with about one millimeter of fat between it that lies tight against the skin. That layer was a royal pain to remove on the first hide (which I hadn't salted and started processing immediately). The salt on the second hide lifted the membrane and made this layer relatively easy to remove.

The hide soaking in tanning solution

     I decided to use a salt and alum tanning method. The hide is soaked in the solution and stirred several times a day for a week. The alum tightens the pores and holds the wool in place. If I wanted to remove the wool a solution of lye or wood ash could be used to loosen the pores. Theoretically anyway. I have no empirical knowledge of how it actually works out. When the hide comes out of the solution a final fleshing is done if needed.


     Drying takes what feels like forever. In my basement it was a week and that was with a fan and a dehumidifier going almost non-stop. The skin needs to be stretched. Basically the hide is pulled in all directions as hard as you can several times during the drying. I used a rounded board to do some of the final stretching. There are other methods where the skin is laced to a frame, but I decided to go as low tech as I could. There are a couple of lubrication steps involved during and after drying. these help preserve and keep the skin supple.

Fluffy hide

     Sheep really aren't careful animals when wandering around their pen. These sheep look like they had slept in the Spanish needles. That was actually the worst part of the job. Pulling out the burrs and combing out the individual needles took about 4 hours.

     The second byproduct of the deconstruction was the fat. These animals had a thick layer of winter fat on them at the time of butchering. After fleshing the first hide I had a bucket that rendered down into 4 pounds of fat.

Fat cut into chunks
Liquid fat
Weighed and labeled for storage

     Here's a pro tip. If you're rendering fat for more than an hour, do it in a turkey fryer outside. Between the one hide and half a lamb I ended up with about 20 pounds of rendered fat. That took about 4 hours all told and my kitchen still smells like hot sheep fat. My wife hates me.

     So what does one do with all that fat?

Soap loaf
De-molded soap
Cutting the soap a bit too early

     One makes soap. I also plan to save some to mix with beeswax for candles. Any soap that is old or doesn't turn out quite right can be milled, melted and made into new soap. So, of course, I had to experiment with that. The results weren't the greatest, but I got some experience.

Milled soap which means grated with a cheese grater
Melted soap glop
Milled soap de-molded

     The best part of the deconstruction, however, was learning to butcher the animal and process it into cuts for eating. Again, the results weren't the greatest. I stopped at primals. So I have racko and lego lamb in the freezer. The loin came out pretty cleanly so there is a nice roast and some medallions. The larger scraps were cut into chunks for stew and the smaller scraps are now lamburger.

     The final step was to boil the bones into broth. The meat scraps fro this were creamed and eaten for breakfast. Lamb shit on a shingle, anyone?

Neck and spine
Best brunch ever!

     This sheep deconstruction was definitely an interesting series of experiences. It raised a few moral and ethical questions for me to answer. This was one of the best learning and introspection experiences I've had in a long time. At times it challenged my resolve, but I now know that if I need to skin and process an animal for food and other resources I can. Maybe not well, yet, but passably.