I don’t do work-in-progress posts often, particularly when the projects in question aren’t yet finished! But since Dave Stone’s Season of Scenery challenge is now under way, I’ve made a start on some stuff for that so I thought I’d share my progress!
I’ve been quite motivated to work on my Paraguayan War armies lately, so I wanted to use this challenge to work on some related scenery, particularly since that’s an aspect I’ve neglected lately overall. I need to make some field fortifications for my Paraguayans, but they also need some boats!
The boats in question are called chatas. A chata is basically a shallow draft, low freeboard, wooden barge that carries a heavy gun on a swivel mount (typically a 68- or 80-pounder muzzle-loader). Chatas carried no means of propulsion and were usually towed into position by other vessels. Their low freeboard made them very difficult targets and the Paraguayans made good use of them against the Brazilian navy on the Paraguay and Parana rivers.
I’ve got a couple of pictures and simple plans of chatas, more than enough to work from to make a couple of models. Most of the ships and boats I make to go with my 20mm forces are “semi-scale” i.e. more representative than true scale models (otherwise they’d never fir on a wargames table). Because of that I tend to think of them more as scenery items, hence their suitability for the current challenge. I also tend to make the models fairly simple, without all of the detail normally associated with vehicles, like tanks for example.
I started off by roughly drawing the deckplan I wanted, using a compass to mark out the bow and stern radii (shown above – haven’t used a compass for drawing since I finished my engineering degree, but still have the one I used then). I then drew out the same shape on 5mm foamcard and used the back of a scalpel blade to scribe on the deck planking (shown below).
I used a DIY knife to cut out the deck shapes for the two chatas, removing a rectangular section in the middle of each.
I then used PVA glue to stick a layer of 1mm mounting board to the bottom of the foamcard and cut it to the same shape as the deckplan. This layer provides more area for the sides to be glued to – as most of you will know, you need to be careful gluing foamcard as some contact adhesives can melt the foam, hence me using PVA.
I then cut some 7mm high strips of mounting board and glued them to the side of the the decks – this leaves enough height to form a slightly raise coaming around the deck edge (which is way easier than matching the height of the deck exactly). These strips were then bent and glued around the stem and stern and cut to length.
I then added lengths of card to form a coaming around the central hold section, along with hatches on the decks. I marked out the position of the turntable for the gun and added some small bits of cardboard to act as blocks to keep the gun mount roughly in position – this means I can use the chatas without their guns as simple barges in a number of settings.
Descriptions and drawings show the gun mounted on a central pivot and restrained by various rope and tackle positions around the central hold. I opted to make a simple round turntable with a rubber/steel layer on top so that crewmen with magnetised bases would stay in position when the gun was turned. I can only imagine that chatas must have rocked a bit when they were fired to either side! I’ve not added the rudders fore and aft, or any anchors, since they’re small, fiddly and most likely to get damaged.
The guns are 3D prints from Shapeways and are ACW naval guns in HO scale, so slightly smaller than 20mm scale but they fit the chatas quite well. Crew are Newline Designs ACW gun crew with plasticard discs and greenstuff added to convert their kepis into the taller Paraguayan shakos.
Overall, these only took me about five hours to make spread over three days, so pretty easy going (the crew were prepared beforehand). In true wargaming style, I’m not going to paint then yet, but am moving on to the next bit of scenery to scratchbuild. Just have to remember to come back and paint them before the challenge finishes at the end of August!