One of my recent boycraft or mancraft projects has been creating some kind of toy soldier style fortified tower out of this old Christmas clementines box, suitable for a range of scales of figures and scenarios.
The box had a wooden jointing that reminded me of recent mdf wargaming or fantasy gaming building.
Its wooden lid is used for something else, but where it slotted into the box corners made these interesting Alamo type firing slits.
Add to this useful box a papier-mâché castle tower from Hobbycraft …. https://poundstoreplasticwarriors.wordpress.com/2017/05/02/hobbycraft-castle-tower/
and you have the germ of an interesting gaming building or terrain idea.
Putting the tower together with the clementine box desert fort was something coincidentally suggested by Brian Carrick of the Collecting Toy Soldiers blog.
“Good idea for the Tesco clementines box, I still have one of those saved from Christmas, it seemed too useful to just throw away! It would work well with your new tower in the middle, like a North West Frontier hill fort.”
Trying this out, it was a tight squeeze to rebuild the balsa walkways around the tower base but it struck me that this could be some kind of defendable lighthouse, watchtower or semaphore station.
Having researched what semaphore stations would look like in the late 18th and early 19th century, I set about making a working semaphore using available wood and tools.
I don’t have a workshop, so balsa wood, coffee stirrers and craft knives are the extent of my woodworking tools.
Everything was roughed out and moved around in a ‘dry run’ before paint, wood stain and wood glue was used to finish off and fix things in place.
I wanted to make it suitable for a range of sizes from 30mm pound store plastic figures to 40mm homecast metal figures, even 54mm to soldiers at a push.
It proved quite difficult to photograph, being quite tall!
The 54mm figures are a little on the big side but I wanted to make this in the toylike spirit of a simple toy fort such as I had as a child.
Despite the toylike simplicity, I also wanted it to have some kind of logic and extensive play possibilities. It needed to work as a design that could be worked and defended.
The central tower needed to be self sufficient, so has a well or water supply inside the tower (with lid).
Coffee stirrers stuck with UHU or superglue were cut and trimmed with craft knife and sharp scissors, roughly shaded then shaded or painted with a very thin coat of Ronseal light oak wood stain.
A small hatch on the roof allows the defenders or signal crew to reach the roof to repair the semaphore.
Shutters mean that the lighthouse tower can be secured against enemy fire or the weather. They are (non-opening) shutters made from coffee stirrers, stained with light oak wood stain. One set of shutters is not glued to the wall, so that a LED battery tea candle light can be added into the top tower to develop the signal light or lighthouse scenario.
The chimneys let out heat from the lighthouse or signal light tower and lower living parts of the tower (toy soldiers need to cook and keep warm). The chimneys were found in my spare parts box, originally kept to make thatched huts for 1/300 figures, are snap-off screw bits from fixing a couple of new toilet seats at home!
Smoke signals are another possibility using these signal fire chimneys.
I wanted the signal tower to have different scenarios or functions, such as a coastal signal tower or one in the North West Frontier mountains, Wild West borders or French Foreign Legion desert.
I also wanted the tower to pass for anything between late 18th Century throughout 19th century and beyond and even into a future steampunk, VSF sci-fi scenario. This could then work with a range of periods, nationalities, scales of figures and Imagi-Nations.
Early British Semaphore stations often had two watchers with telescopes, one looking in each direction to look towards the next beacon or semaphore / signal tower. Other staff would take down the codes or change the semaphore indicator boards with ropes and cables (not modelled).
A defendable coastal signal tower would have its main door facing away from the sea, to make it more easily supplied and defended from the landward side. Beware foreign navies, marines, smugglers and pirates!
I roughed out this tower as a coastal setting with the wall side showing, the slit window (originally a handle) shuttered against the sea, wind and attack from the sea edge.
Apart from some further white painting of certain areas inside the box, a few storage locker doors to complement the corner squares, this is almost complete for the time being.
I also need a flagpost or two.
I enjoyed making this so much, I might make another one to create a small chain of them across the garden for summer games as needed. I will then be able to pass messages very slowly one letter or number at a time across the back garden wilderness or planet.
In fact I could make and remake lots of versions of this, camouflaged lighthouse or radio stations, brassy steampunk versions, Roman lighthouses … but time, lack of clementines boxes and space will not at present permit this.
I also have to work out a suitable toy soldier Popham type code book for my design of double semaphore indicator boards, using either letter or number combinations linked to key words in the code book.
Popham code books? Indicator boards? The next blog post to immediately follow is all about the semaphore and heliograph that I have researched to make this coastal or desert signal tower.
Blogposted by Mark, Man of TIN 17 May 2017.
4 thoughts on “Scratchbuilt Desert or Coastal Signal Tower”
Excellent looking fort , good ide cleverly carried out , Tony
Thanks – I am looking forward to making another one someday!
Reminds me of the old Airfix Fort Sahara,,,
My thoughts too! I still have my Airfix FFL fort, thankfully as it is suitable for 15mm and Airfix – I couldn’t make one fort suitable for 15mm through to 54mm scale. This classic Airfix fort and its artwork was part of the inspiration for this fort / signal tower.