During our two recent Flames of War scenario games both Daniel and WR completely forgot that American artillery could have counter-battery the hidden NW41 nebelwerfer battery stationed behind the Hill 105 (see my Assault on Hill 105 scenario AAR’s). Rocket launchers leave telltale smoke trail pointing back to the NW41 launcher location. So to remind our forgetful brains I quickly created and built some smoke trail markers to place before each firing launcher.
Materials list: Smoke trail markers are simple to come by. Material list includes:
1) Off white pipe cleaners purchased from Ebay under “pipe cleaners”. A packet of 50 pipe cleaners was very cheap from China and with free postage too!
2) Bass wood strip 1/4″ by 1/2″ for the black vertical bass wood support.
3) I used vinyl floor tile for my bases cut to size. Gives a little weight to all my FOW plastic miniature basing. Base size is 2″ x 1.5″ which matches my FOW nebelwerfer 2″ base frontage.
4) Cotton ball for the small cloud of smoke at base of smoke trail.
5) Various hobby tools, Dremel drill, white PVC glue, and some small clips to hold the pipe cleaners while gluing.
6) Tea lite candle and small bowl of water.
7) Flat black and various shades of grey water based paint. Base paint if needed.
8) Base ground covering and terrain flocking of choice. Woodlands Scenic material is my common choice for the ground texture and small rocks, bushes etc..
Note: I purchased two 50 pipe cleaner packs since I plan to make other smoke trail markers for my Sherman Calliope tank model, my Russian Katyusha launchers and various other rocket launcher equipment used in WWII and modern era.
Also I should note that I play FOW in 20mm scale (not the standard 15mm) so my basing method for infantry and small miniature cannon, mortars and other equipment doesn’t match common FOW basing. This was noted in my AAR “Assault on Hill 105” at end of article.
Step One – Pipe cleaner preparation: Each smoke trail marker has six smoke trails or pipe cleaners lengths. Each pipe cleaner length is about six inches. Lighting my small tea light candle, I burned off about 3/4″ inch worth of the cotton material on the pipe cleaner end… to the bare metal wire underneath. Cool the hot wire in some nearby water to avoid touching the exposed blackened hot wire. For my six launcher battery I did 36 pipe cleaners (6×6).
Note: If your launcher has more or less launch tubes or rails, the number of smoke trail markers could be increased or decreased depending on your choice. I used six pipe cleaners as the NW41 had six tubes.
Step Two – Vertical bass wood stand: These are cut to place the end of the smoke trail pipe cleaners at the approximate height of the NW41 rocket launcher tubes. The key is the angle of the wooden mount over the edge of the vinyl base below to match up to the actual rocket launcher model (angle and height determinations). Trail and error testing as every miniature is different and also depends on where your rocket launcher is glued on it’s basing. When I found my correct angle and height I glued the bass wood mount into a pre-drilled cutout hole in the vinyl base with white glue. When the glue was dry I sanded the bass wood mount flush on the bottom of the vinyl base.
Step Three – Mounting the pipe cleaners: Each pipe cleaner was mounted into a separate drill hole on the bass wood base mount. I drilled six holes in a two wide by three height pattern on the bass wood mount end grain. Be careful not to drill out the side of the bass wood mount while drilling. Each hole at least 3/4″ in-depth to receive the exposed pipe cleaner wire. After drilling out all six bass wood mounts with their six holes each I applied a puddle of white PVC glue on the first bass wood mount end. Taking a pipe cleaner I pushed the exposed blackened wire into a pre-drilled hole. Continued with the other five pipe cleaners to finish that smoke trail marker. Set aside and completed the other five smoke trail markers in likewise steps. When done I slowly bent each pipe cleaner over to establish the correct angle of the smoke trail in relation to the NW41 rocket launcher tube modeled angle. Note that the pipe cleaner lengths will not be uniform at the tip of the smoke trails. I am lucky I constructed all my NW41 launchers to have basically the same angle of launch.
Step Four – Gluing the separate pipe cleaners together to avoid excessive fraying look: After the pipe cleaners mounting glue had dried I made some thinned PVC glue to apply on the lower half of the smoke trail pipe cleaner. This was to dampen and glue the six separate pipe cleaners together to avoid excessive “fraying” or gaps in the smoke trail look. I didn’t want my launchers to have the appearance of firing all over the place and in different directions. Once the pipe cleaner was “dampened” I applied normal PVC glue to strengthen the parallel pipe cleaner joints as needed. During this process a small metal chip held all six pipe cleaners in a clump. While drying, I placed a small clump of cotton ball material atop the bass wood mount to create a “poofy smoke look.”
Step Five – Painting and basing: Player artist choice here. I simply dry brushed grey and off white colors along the pipe cleaner to create a dirty smoke look and tone down the “whiteness” of the pipe cleaners. The bass wood mount I painted flat black. Basing was my standard green background / undercoat paint on the vinyl tile piece, then flocked with Woodlands Scenic materials like my terrain boards.
Note: The flat black paint really showed in the camera flash. On the tabletop the appearance is more mooted. I decided against placing smoke markers behind the rocket launcher, which in real life, would also be present. Enemy artillery is ranging in on the smoke trails… not the rocket ground blast.
Another rocket salvo heading for some unknown Allied platoon down range…..
Hope this is of some use for gamers out there. Cheers from the “smoked” warren.