Sunday, 9 March 2014

A Good Weekend's Work...

So, with the sun shining, rugby on TV, and beer in the fridge, I finally set to on a project that has been sitting around for a couple of months now:

I've seen a variety of Playmobil ship conversions on various forums, chiefly Lead Adventure, and have always been tempted to try my hand at something similar. With the purchase of a discount ship, a pile of lolly sticks in different sizes (seriously, I have about 8 times as many as I need... may have overestimated a tad...), and a commercially available ship's wheel (well, two, as I tend to break things), I broke out the trusty hot glue gun and got cracking.

The I started the decking with the lowest of the four decks, on the basis that I was inevitably going to mess up, and better to do so in the least noticeable place. True to form, I managed to mess up with pretty much the first section of decking. In hindsight, I should have cut off the plugs in the middle of the deck (and did so for one of the other decks), but instead attempted to lay the planks around it. The steps were scratchbuilt using more lolly sticks around a core of plastic taken from a clipped-off part of the ship. It's probably a little under-sized, but I'm happy enough with it.

(That grey blob at right is a polystyrene block included with the Playmobil kit to allow it to float. I'd have got rid of it, but the bulk of the rear deck sits on it, and without it has a tendency to tip backwards.)

 Close-up of the steps, with an (inevitably) unfinished Pied Piper for scale.

The rear decks, being larger, were much easier to plank, even with the steps. As the ship isn't large enough to really merit a cabin, I added a small door leading down into the hold. It'll get a handle and hinges in due course. It was at this point that I burnt my thumb for the first time.

The ship's wheel hasn't been attached yet, but I've dropped it on to see how well it fits. Happily, I didn't break it. Yet.

That's all the planking done. It's a little wonky in places, but I'm pretty happy with how it came out, all in all. It's been given a wash of watered-down PVA, but that's it until the painting.

As you might be able to tell from the cover of the Playmobil box, the ship is intended to have a piece that fits on the front much like the blue section at the rear. Unfortunately, it really raises the height of the hull so much that a 28mm figure can't see over it. What's more, I really didn't like the lines it gave to the ship – the base hull with the attachment at the back seems better-suited for the kind of small, raiding vessel I wanted.

Not for the first time, I started with a project (i.e. 'build a ship') than with an idea ('build a ship for...'), so this will probably end up as a relatively generic craft, suitable for smugglers, Corsairs of Umbar (more on that project later) and, perhaps most likely, as terrain for port-set games. You can get about 15–20 figures on deck, which is about the size of the biggest army I'm ever likely to field!

Next up will be a mast and sails. I'm not quite sure how to do that – the Playmobil mast is ok, but would need to be filled in with green stuff or something, as it's U-shaped, rather than solid. I'll probably go with dowel, but I'll have to have a think about how to handle the sail. Having it furled is less attractive, but more use for actual play.


  1. You say you clipped off all the plugs? Was that awfully time-consuming?

  2. I only clipped off two plugs (from the poop deck – they were the same as the ones seen on the lower and front decks) and two other elements (one up by the ship's wheel position and one where the steps were positioned). They were tough to clip off, being quite fat (and low to the deck in the case of the plugs), but the only time-consuming bit was filing them flat. Fortunately, I had an old saw sharpener that worked nicely as a rasp. Doing all 5 plugs might have taken a half-hour (assuming I did them prior to fitting the decks into the hull).