A Wizard’s Tower It’s Not!

Dave, over at The Imperfect Modeller, turned a very nice model of a wizard’s tower into a real masterpiece, with lots of nice painting and scenery work! I, on the other hand, have managed to incorporate bits of cardboard, wood, bristles, plastic and glue into something a lot less impressive (and a damn sight smaller).

Having finished constructing some fortifications for my Paraguayan War forces I wasn’t sure what to start next while waiting for a suitable painting window to appear to let me get my trench pieces sprayed with an undercoat. However, a comment from Roger at Rantings from under the Wargames table about how he just slaps “bits together and see what fits” prompted me to just have a go (so, Roger, you’re to blame)!

Both Paraguayan and Allied forces in Paraguay constructed mangrullos, crudely constructed wooden watchtowers from where they could observe enemy troops and direct artillery fire. I get the impression the use of these towers increased during the relatively static period of warfare following the Allied defeat at Curupayty. Based on a grainy contemporary photograph I thought I’d have a go at making one. The objective was to measure out as few components as possible, in the true spirit of Roger’s comment, so all I drew out were the wooden floor of the tower, a support for the roof, two roof panels and a couple of stiffeners for the roof. Cutting square holes at the corners of the floor and roof support, I then stuck four lengths of 3mm dowel in place to form the legs of the tower (see below).

I had to use a contact adhesive for this stage, since I needed everything to stick together quickly so that it could be handled subsequently. You can see it the right way up below.

Next stages were to add some stiffening beams around the platform and roof edges (difficult to see the latter), add an intermediate height subsidiary platform (had to measure this bit out) and then add thatching to the roof (see below).

I know there are easier ways to do roof thatching but I had plenty of bristles cut from a brand new brush head years ago when I made some Far East buildings. A layer of glue, followed by bristles dumped in place was followed by more layers of glue to keep everything stuck down.

Next to be made were a ladder from 1mm square plastic strip and a base from an MDF circle stuck to a piece of mounting board – the MDF gives a rigid base for the four main legs of the structure. Final step was to glue the tower to the base, add a couple of supports for the smaller platform and cut the ladder into two.

Once the PVA on the thatch was thoroughly dry I clipped the edges shorter, but with a bit of an uneven edges. I stuck the upper ladder in place, but the lower one (shown blu-tacked in position) will only get stuck on once the base texture has been added (that’s the next stage) but I’m not there yet.

It turns out that the whole tower leans slightly to one side, but this just combines with the rough roof and wonky-looking ladders to give it more of a rustic look I think. Normally mangrullos were constructed from rough tree trunks/branches that were far from straight, but I used what I had to hand and I’m happy with how it looks!

Not sure what’s coming next (apart from painting what I’ve already built) but I’ve got a plan for a cardboard egg box once it’s empty!


  1. Wonderful work on the watchtower John, being a person like yourself who likes to get the measurements right, I can only imagine how far out of your comfort zone just throwing a piece together would be !
    Not forgetting welcome to the I blame Roger club, your membership pack is in the post ! LOL

    Liked by 5 people

    • Thanks Anthony! 🙂 I couldn’t find a towel I could cut up, so had to go with this! Taking the time to sort the bristles into thinner, more regular bunches would probably have helped, since they’ve gone every which way, but maybe just adds to its charm (I’m sticking with that story)!

      Liked by 4 people

  2. Looks excellent so far, the brush used for the thatched roof is genius! I too worry about getting scale and measurements right, so I know how you feel about slapping something together without paying too much attention to measuring first.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Thanks Matt! 🙂 The easiest approach is to just scale it against a figure and it’ll look about right. Way, way back I use to design and scratchbuild sci-fi vehicles and used to base the designs around what I imagined the crew layouts would be (sadly all of those models are long gone)!

      Liked by 3 people

  3. I love WIP posts as you know and now you’ve gone and spoilt me with another excellent one! Really great work on the tower and its construction, love it. It never ceases to amaze me what can be made with a few basic bits and bobs and some imagination. Oh, and thanks for the shout out too. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Very nice indeed. It may not be a wizard’s tower but I reckon if a wizard found himself caught up in the Paraguayan War he couldn’t ask for a better place to shelter (or at least take a look at the lie of the land). 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Excellent work on this, John! Its great to see you inspired and making plenty of terrain lately. As with other recent projects, the scratch building is very impressive. I think this will really evoke your setting when its all painted up and I can’t wait to see it 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Well that looks really nice to me (but then I apparently like stuff a little “squiffy” 🙃.

    Though there seemed a lot of measurement lines of the roof and platform to me!

    I’ve always used “Tetrion” filler to create thatch (slap it on and drag a knife though it), but your does look really good, might have to try that next time.

    Oh and did you know T-shirts are available for members of the “I blame Roger club” ?

    (they aren’t really 😉)

    Cheers Roger.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks Roger! 🙂 I can understand your concerns about the measurement lines, but I think I have to maybe wean myself of these things gently! Never thought about trying filler, I’ll keep that in mind. The bristles method is OK if you haven’t got a better method, but if you put too much on in one go it rapidly develops a life of it own!
      I was looking forward to being able to get one of those T-shirts for my wife, to replace the “I’m with Stupid” one she always insists on wearing when we’re out somewhere! 😉


  7. Nice scratch-built guard tower.

    I wonder how it would look to make a similar tower but use small sticks to make it look like a tower where they threw it together quickly out of small trees without even bothering to debark them?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Ann! 🙂 The picture I based the tower on showed it made of basically small tree trunks that had just had the loose branches stripped off them. I’ve got some Woodland Scenics bits that are basically small dried twigs that could be used to represent the same effect, but none of the bits were long enough to represent the main tower supports. Having said that, I work better with more regular shapes so, for me anyway, the dowel and cocktail stick approach at least got me a bit of scenery I wanted!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Well, what you did looks good. I only mentioned it because one time we were out on maneuvers and I was going on a convenience store run with the battalion commander’s jeep–I was on the only one, except the gal driving the APC–for the battalion command staff, and I saw an old guard shack very much like the one you built, except this one was built more like the one in the picture you used.

        I wanted to go up to the top and have a look around (I usually took a set of binoculars to the field with me) but the tower was so old and rickety-looking I didn’t want to risk it.

        Your post brought back this memory, which I’d completely forgotten about.

        Liked by 1 person

        • What I meant to say and left out, was that I was the only enlisted person available, other than the APC driver, who knew how to drive a stick shift. Pretty bad considering I was in a Supply & Transport battalion, but there it was.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Heh, no, although I do remember, when we were deployed for about a month to the National Training Center in southern California seeing is one convenience store out in the middle of the desert (this was, I think, 1983 or 84) with a bunch of tanks, APC’s and even a mobile howitzer and a recovery vehicle in the parking lot. We were in the APC and went on a candy, chip, and soda run … I wasn’t driving though.

            Sticks used to be a lot more common here in the US than they are now. My parents happened to buy a new car when I was a teenager and just learning to drive. My father purposefully bought a standard (stick shift) because he wanted me to know how to operate one, which in hindsight was awfully nice of him to do because it has served me well over the years.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Haha, soda run sounds good! 🙂 I can remember being in Germany in the ’80s as a car passenger and seeing a British Army APC pulling up next to us at traffic lights and nobody thinking it unusual!
            Probably always worth learning to drive in a manual shift car, since you then understand it all better! I’m always surprised at people who say to me that they’d never be able to drive an automatic car, since all it involves is not using your left foot!

            Liked by 1 person

  8. Yes, that is what I heard from the people who did the Reforger exercises in Germany–how people wouldn’t think seeing a bunch of tanks and such in town was that big of a deal. I guess it is all in what you get used to.

    I agree, it is well worth learning to drive a stick. I do remember the first times I drove an automatic. I kept wildly flailing around with my right hand for the shifter and pressing my left foot into the floorboard. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Oh mate ! I’m glad I not the only one that takes the long way round , that’s exactly how i would the thatch on the tower, an after doing that I would have goggled how to do it! Just call me Irish Pat!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. A most cunning design and miles ahead of whatever is commercially available. Does the plasticard come lacerated or did you have to carve the planking yourself?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Veroo! 🙂 I just scored the planking myself, since I rarely need planked plasticard – I just use a scalpel blade but dragged along normal to the plane of the blade so it makes a small v-shaped furrow (if that makes sense).


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