Scratchbuilt Desert or Coastal Signal Tower

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.

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Suggestive window shapes …. salvaged wooden toy blocks … coffee stirrers …
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The original finest Christmas Clementines  (box) …

The box had a  wooden jointing that reminded me of recent mdf wargaming or fantasy gaming building.

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Its wooden lid is used for something else, but where it slotted into the box corners made these interesting Alamo type firing slits.

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This box base jointing reminds me of recent wargames or model buildings …

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.

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Hobbycraft Papier-mâché Castle tower painted white acrylic. Prince August 40mm Cowboys.

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.

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19th Century semaphore station (http://www.portsdown-tunnels.org.uk/ancient_sites/telegraph_p2.html)

 

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.

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Pound Land’s finest unpainted 30mm plastic figures … some of the box base holes were covered over with coffee stirrer ‘bricks’.

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.

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40mm mostly homecast figures: The front gate section.

It proved quite difficult to photograph, being quite tall!

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54mm figures including a salute from my Gravatar Man of TIN figure!

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.

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Barricades on the (non-opening) gates made of coffee stirrers and a sandpaper base. 40mm Prince August cowboy figures. A little more whitewashing fatigue duties are required from the garrison to keep the tower ship-shape.

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.

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Guarding the water supply. The simple glass paper or sandpaper floor gives a quick gravel, desert or coastal sand floor feel whilst covering holes in the box floor.
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Hatch on the roof to repair the semaphore. Shutters on the light House or signal  tower.

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.

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Naval Brigade Fimo / polymer clay hand-made 30mm figures.
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30mm type semi-flat British infantry Victorian homecast figures.

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).

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Coastal watchers – 54mm metal (on the left, recent Britains naval officer)

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!

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Mocking up a coastal scenario, as a coastal signal tower manned and defended by a garrison of mostly Britain’s lead or metal toy soldier  naval crew.

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.

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Inside the fort showing the seaward side window with removable shutters. One of the supporting blocks to the walkways has been sanded down, stained and ink-lined to suggest a storage locker.

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.

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Not the sort of painter required to keep the signal tower whitewashed inside and out … 54mm Dorset Soldiers casting, part painted.

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.

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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.

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Telegraph Detachment, Post Office Rifles “Egypt  1882”. (1932 Cigarette card from the Royal Signals website https://royal-signals.org.uk/Datasheets/Telegraph.php)

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.

https://poundstoreplasticwarriors.wordpress.com/2017/05/17/by-heliograph-and-semaphore/

Blogposted by Mark, Man of TIN 17 May 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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