I am happy to introduce you to Rich Brown. He is as passionate about keeping vintage miniatures and gaming alive as I am. Please enjoy the interview below, and visit the shop to check out all the fantastic miniatures that RRB Minis has to offer.



Can you please introduce yourself and tell my readers a bit about you?

My name is Rich Brown. I have been a miniatures wargamer and a tabletop role-playing gamer since the mid-’70s. I've amassed thousands of miniatures over the years, but only started purposefully collecting them in the past 15 or so years. I enjoy crafting terrain pieces and sculpting my own miniatures for hard-to-find pieces in my preferred scale (true 25mm). I also do miniature restoration and 3D modelingmonths'/printing. In general, I have too many hobbies, so I decided to start a business too.

How did your hobby journey start?

When I was young, my uncle and his friends were into military board games: Avalon Hill, Diplomacy, and the like. He started my cousin and me playing board games like Risk and then worked us up to more and more complex games. I still remember him saying things like “This game says it is for ages 12 and up but you guys are smart enough to handle it.” It always made me feel good to be included in serious games that adults enjoyed playing.

Then around 1975, during a trip to our local hobby shop, we noticed that they had started stocking John McEwan’s Starguard rules and miniatures. The shop even set up a table to run games so people could observe it in action and learn the rules. It was amazing to see a game played out with miniatures and terrain versus the cardboard counters and hex maps we were accustomed to. Needless to say, we were all hooked immediately and each of us bought our own beginning units. Mine was a group of 13 Terrellians. 13 because that is all I could afford. At $0.30 each, that added up to several month's allowance. The Terrellians because the one-eyed, worm-armed guys gave me the creeps and I thought they might intimidate my opponents. For those who haven’t played Starguard yet, without allied troops and/or robot support, Terrellians are not a match at all for jetpack-wearing opponents.

Around the same time, my uncle picked up the wood-grain box edition of D&D and ran some adventures for us. We played that “theater of the mind” style (without miniatures), so it had limited appeal to me. It wasn't until the late ’70s—that I came across Steve Jackson’s game The Fantasy Trip, which put a huge emphasis on the individuals’ distance, facing, intervening terrain, etc.—that I got heavily into RGPing. It also helped that Martian Metals had a line of licensed TFT miniatures that were way cooler than using the cardboard counters that came with the game. I was hooked.

There has been a revival in Old-School Roleplaying lately and lots of fervor for both classic RPG and miniature games. What do you think the factors are that are causing folks to return to older games?

I imagine it is three things.

First, many of us in the hobby are getting older, and we are nostalgic for the things from our past. Many of us want to share some of our most valued experiences with our kids and that sort of thing.

Second, it is natural to be distracted by new and shiny things. We often end up chasing them one after another for fear of missing out, or because that is what is being run at conventions, or because it is printed on glossy paper so it looks really great. But eventually, it gets tiring (and expensive) to keep buying new rules sets/miniatures… maybe not even getting them painted before the next hot thing is out on the market. Eventually, there is a realization that you already have some really great sets of rules that you know how to play and have all the needed miniatures for. Why not just dust those off and introduce it to a new generation of players?

Third, the rules were concise without being simplistic. Whether you are playing games like original D&D or Starguard, they gave all the core rules without a lot of fluff or hand-holding. You are then encouraged to use your imagination to develop as much more as you want. Not only does that allow you to tailor the games to your group’s particular taste, but it also allows the focus of the gaming session to be on having fun. Too often in more modern games, you see gameplay stop as folks frantically flip through hundreds of pages of rules trying to find that one clause that gives a special advantage. Maybe rules-lawyering is great fun for some people. It just doesn’t interest me at all.

Do you feel that archiving and preserving vintage miniatures and games is important? Why?

Yes, I do. It is overly simplistic to dismiss this content because it relates to playing games. It is also an art form that deserves to be appreciated by future generations. Beyond that, it is part of an interesting time in history. Miniature figures have existed for a long time but were primarily only collected or played with as toys. Then codified gaming rules begin to show up so you can play proper wargames with them. Then there are miniatures made specifically for gaming. Lastly, there are miniatures and games made specifically to go with each other.

All of that happened, primarily by small hobbyist operations, pre-internet. The historical record for a lot of that is still lacking in proper documentation, though it is improving. As an example, I am one of a host of contributors on Lost Minis Wiki. That site is a great example of the role-playing-miniatures cataloging effort that is ongoing. Sites like that help people identify what they have in their hands, which then helps them get the item into the hands of a person that is looking for it.




Tell me a little about RRB Minis and what you would like to accomplish with it?

RRB Minis was born from my collecting obsession. Maybe most people would be happy to sit back and wait to see if something interesting comes up for sale, then buy it. I've always been a completionist. If some figures were sold as a boxed set, I want to collect all those figures. When you are talking about miniature figure lines from back in the ’70s that are long out of production, it is very challenging. I began contacting the original sculptors or current rights holders looking to see if any of the old items were still available. And several of them were willing to pull old molds out of their archives and run them for me. I wanted to be able to make these hard-to-find items available to other collectors or nostalgic gamers, so I began talks to obtain the rights or wholesale accounts for the figures I like best.

I am currently in the process of accumulating minis for stock, but it is a slow process since there is so much to get through all at once. I'm working with three veteran moldings/castings companies to ensure great quality: Reviresco (John McEwan), Zombiesmith (Joshua Qualtieri), and Iron Wind Metals (Mike Noe). While that pile of work is being chipped away, I am building the web store database. That is a long and time consuming project for me since I am doing all this as a side job, funding it by my full-time work. The process is rewarding, but it is taking longer than I would have liked. Once the web store is up and running, I'll start focusing on growing the business by picking up additional lines, adding 3Dprinted pieces, adding a selection of used items, and vending at conventions.

I also want to help grow the hobby. I plan on offering some free rules sets (of the simple beer and pretzels variety), along with coordinating inexpensive starter unit packs. These will help serve as gateway games… things you can easily run for friends to get them interested in gaming. We are close to releasing our first rules set, Fictioneers Legacy, as a beta-test version. That set will be for the Fictioneers line of minis, which sadly never had a specific set of rules written for them. Because they are such a blank slate, we are doing a little world-building for them so players will have a bit of background for each faction. Hopefully, that rules set will be ready to release at the same time as that mini line.

The progress of all the above and more, including the mini-release and convention attendance schedules, can be followed at RRB Minis or on our Facebook group.


Fans of wargaming know McEwan Miniatures and Stan Johansen. What brought you to working with those two legends of the hobby?

John McEwan is the person who had the biggest impact on my gaming life. And when I started collecting as a hobby, I already had a good number of his figures, and the pages on the Lost Minis Wiki for them were pretty blank. After I filled in all the holes of everything that was still in production, I kept bugging John for more and more information about the items that were still missing. We started getting into conversations about the old fantasy lines, and he mentioned making some new molds for them. I found out that there were some pieces that he sadly no longer had the original masters for, but I happened to have good clean figures in my collection. I was able to donate five or so of my pieces to him to include in the new molds, and now they are available for sale again along with a good portion of the fantasy line. Then at one point in our many conversations, after John had made some custom molds for me, he suggested that I get a wholesale account. It made perfect sense.

Stan Johansen has made so many great miniatures, but the ones that I was always most interested in were his sci-fi lines. Many Starguard players incorporated them into their games ever since way back in the very early days, so I had been familiar with them for a long time. I worked with Stan in a similar fashion as I did with John but it went a slightly different route. He did cast some old items for me, and he even sold me some pieces from his personal collection, but he wasn’t interested in putting any of the old masters into new molds. He was interested in selling the rights along with the remaining molds/masters/stock for the lines and by the end of 2021, we were able to negotiate a deal. My priority has been to get the Fictioneers line back into production again first. The retro pulp-fiction look of them appealed to me, and they have been out of production for so long that they have been really difficult to find.

What are your thoughts on 3D printing?

Personally, I love it. I have a resin printer myself for printing minis in fine detail, and a friend has an FDM printer that can do larger terrain pieces, so, between the two of us, we can print almost any item. I got mine because my preferred scale for minis is not widely available in the marketplace. With a printer, I can produce the items that I need for my own games at the scale that I want them. It also allows for simple/easy mods such as mirror-imaging a model. That way you can make a group of minis look more like various individuals instead of everyone obviously all the same. I will be selling 3D-printed items down the road to fill in gaps in product lines, offer game props or scatter terrain, etc.

Do you think it would be a viable way to archive vintage sculpts and keep the minis “alive”?

Yes, if you are referring to scanning actual minis to make 3D models of them. In fact,, there are some exciting things currently happening as proof of the viability of the concept. One is that they are already doing it with statues and architecture. You can simply search “Scan The World” to see thousands of examples that are collected.


Another example is a small but growing collection of minis called the Old School Archive. They are working with the current rights-holders to get licenses to scan the minis and sell downloads of the 3D models. I don’t see a reason that things would not continue to develop along these lines.

What do you think about the current state of wargaming? Too commercial? Just right?

I'm very excited about it. For a long while there was a real fear of the population graying and dropping out. We were not sure if it was going to continue much past our lifetime. Now, there is so much going on it is hard to keep up with it all. Never before have we had easy access to so much free content, such as tutorials and inspiration/documentation on YouTube, Facebook groups, blogs, wikis, and webpages. And for those that do not have a local hobby shop or are looking for ultra-rare items, there is the amazing ability to purchase a vast selection of items online. Have trouble finding opponents or getting to conventions? There are a ton of resources for solo gaming or gaming online. And of course, there is the huge door that opened with 3D printing. You can print armies of minis just using the free models found at places like Thingiverse.

Another positive is that there are so many crossover games being played. It is bringing new life into the hobby. And by crossover, I mean both crossing game genres or formats. Many local groups and conventions are much more welcoming today of mixing board/card/role-playing/war-gaming than they were in the past. Or including historical, sci-fi, and fantasy together. It is great to encourage inclusivity. This week, we'll play a game you like. Next week, I get to pick.

Is the hobby too commercial? No, I don't think so. Sure, everyone likes to complain about the big giants. And there are certainly plenty of things that they do that are valid to complain about. But if you do not like the environment they are creating, they cannot force you to buy their stuff or to play their games. What is the issue… everyone else is playing their game? So what! For any game out there, not only is there a better alternative but there are likely 100 better alternatives. Give some a try. Try mine… it's free. And if you don't like it, try something else. It won't hurt my feelings. It is a great big sandbox with room for everyone. The important thing is that you and your friends are having fun.

What are your favorite games? Miniatures?

It seems that you put me into a difficult spot with this one. Of course, as a business owner, I have to say my own. Then again, we just talked a lot about John and Stan; I mentioned Joshua at Zombiesmith and Mike at Iron Wind Metals, who both offer great minis. And I didn't even touch on the great stuff that Jacob Fathbruckner is doing at Ral Partha Legacy or Michael Thomas at Classic Miniatures (old Heritage, RAFM, Archive, etc.). There are many others too, but I am most familiar with the fantastic work these guys do provide old-school, vintage sculpted (and new) miniatures to the community. If I have to pick one line as a favorite, it would be John's 1/72 scale fantasy minis. I use them with my all-time favorite game, Steve Jackson’s The Fantasy Trip: In the Labyrinth. Other favorite games include John’s Starguard, Ral Partha’s Rules According to Ral or Chaos Wars, Stan’s Gunship 2000, and Little Wars TV’s Ravenfeast.

 

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Stan Johansen is the sculptor of many beloved miniature lines. A multi-faceted artist, he has sculpted everything from modern soldiers to aliens, to post-apocalyptic warriors. I wanted to chat with him about his creative process. Read on!




Adam: Can you please tell the readers how your hobby journey started?


I got into model-building early, 7 or 8 years old. A slightly older cousin invited me to play in a wargame he ran for the local CYO. It was played mainly with Revell and Monogram models and lots of Marx playset figures, on an indoor basketball court, and I was hooked at 11 years old.



A: When did you start sculpting professionally?


I got out of the army in January 1968 and joined a Napoleonic gaming club, they used 30mm miniatures, which was the main wargaming size at the time. Each member picked a country when they joined; all of the main countries were spoken for except Austria. (The problem was there were very few Austrian figures available.) So I bought Stadden and Suren miniatures from Midge miniatures, an importer based in Queens, N.Y. I used what they had, but I had to do a lot of hand conversions to make models they did not do, like Austrian artillery, light infantry, and cavalry. When some of the guys in the club saw what I could do, they asked for some things they wanted, but I did not charge for the work.


From 1968 through 1969 I just did this for myself and my friends. Around 1970 I met Duke Sigfried at a convention; he put me on to AB epoxy which made sculpting easier, so I lined up 30mm figures for scale and started sculpting figures of my own. I did the basic stick dolly with a soldering iron and Dremel tool, then I used the epoxy to dress and detail the figure. Again I was doing figures I wanted, so it was still a hobby not a business. I bought an old casting machine around 1970 and had molds made for me at first. The company that made the casting and mold-making machines taught me to make molds; I bought the vulcanizer and started making my own molds.


By 1972, I had 30mm Napoleonics, mostly things other companies did not make like most of the Austrian types, a couple of Prussians, and Spanish infantry and cavalry. I also started an American REvolution line, looking forward to the bicentennial in 1976, but I did not have any personal interest to keep it going. (Same with a small ancient Egyptian line both of which I sold to two brothers.) My favorite line was the 30mm samurai, which was the line I brought to my first convention: Miniature Figure Collectors of America PA. So I guess I could be considered a pro starting in 1972.


A: Was there much competition at that time?


Since I considered myself a hobby/business and still do, I never thought much about competition.


A: How did you plan to carve your niche in the market?


By about 1975 the hobby had changed a lot. 30mm was out mainly because Miniature Figurines Ltd started to make very complete wargaming lines in 25mm. Also, 15mm started getting popular; at some point, our Napoleonic club all changed to 15mm.

As a hobby/business I decided to do the smaller-interest stuff like SF 25mm, and 20mm Allies and Axis, which were figures that you needed for WW2, but Airfix did not make like heavy mortars Italians, etc. I also did a small range of Normans and Vikings and Buccaneers. It was all for fun. Things changed a little for me when I got involved with Fantasy Games Unlimited.



A: How did you come to work with Fantasy Games Unlimited? What was the tabletop wargame scene like then?


I came to work with FGU in a roundabout way. I was first contacted in1977 by Fitz McCray, a fellow Vietnam Vet, for Mark Ratner of FanTac Games. He wanted to know if I would be interested in sculpting figures for his original Space Marines rules. In our first meeting, we went over the drawings in the rule book. He wanted 25mm figures with separate arms, standing, advancing or running, and kneeling for 9 different races. The Bugs and mertun races would follow If everything went well. The second meeting was to look at the masters, which were all approved except the Hiss, which he wanted more man-sized. Using the drawings, I thought the Hiss were larger, but I re-sculpted them. The deal was I made the entire range at no cost to them but owned the right to produce them.The next thing I knew, Mark sold the rules to FGU’s Scott Bazar.


Around 1980 I met with Scott about the deal I made on the miniatures with Mark, which he also agreed to. Scott had just had a very bad experience with adding miniatures to his business. His 15mm Space Opera masters and molds vanished along with the company that was producing his figures. So he asked me if I would like the same deal I made on the Space Marines with him on any figure lines he asked me to do.The first was to take some of the 15mm Space Opera sets he needed to fill orders and make molds and enough miniatures to fill all his backorders. And I could add to the line as I wished; all of these figures are still available.


The next big project was making 20mm figures for his Merc rules, which I started in 1980 and have added to continuously. They are now part of my 20mm Counter Terrorist line.


A: Let’s talk about Gaslands! Your minis and accessories for Gaslands are fantastic. Were you a Car Wars or Dark Future player?


Yes, I owned and played Car Wars, a great game, but you need a lot of time to play it. Dark Future was OK as a beer and pretzels game, but GDW canceled it very fast. I guess for a big company it did not sell enough. I started making the Road Warrior line around 1981, with the movie and a comic called “Rebel” in Heavy Metal magazine as inspiration. I did not tie the line to any rules; I figured gamers could use almost any modern rules. Gaslands gave my sales a good boost for about 4 months when they first came out; now its back to normal. The Road Warrior line has been and is the best-selling line I ever made.


A: Road Rage looks like lots of fun. What sets it apart from the aforementioned games?


Keep in mind that for me, the Road Rage rules are a way to sell my miniatures. So when I asked Phil Tortorici to write them I asked him to write a set of rules where a scenario can be played in a 4-hour session at a convention. Gamers seem to like the fast pace of the game, especially the Death Race scenario.

As for what sets it apart from Car Wars I think it is faster-paced and more exciting but simpler. f you want a more involved game and have the time, Car Wars maybe is more your cup of tea. Gaslands is more a SF/Fantasy game, not a post-apocalyptic game. Aliens control things, and ray weapons are just not my thing. I only played the first rule book, not the new rule book.


A: What inspires you when sculpting? Do you feel that you were affected by any particular artist or style?


I think movies have inspired me the most: “Road Warrior” of course, and “55 Days at Peking” inspired the Boxer line. I grew up on Tom Corbit and Flash Gordon science-fiction serials. The moderns were inspired by my time in the army and Vietnam. My first 20mm line was a Vietnam line, which I sold many years ago. I also did a 25mm John Carter of Mars line.

When I first started, I think Suren had the most influence. His soldiers looked like they just came off the battlefield and I liked that. Stadden figures were great, but they all looked like they were still on the parade ground.


A: There has been a revival in Old School Roleplaying lately and lots of fervor for both classic RPG and miniature games. What do you think the factors are that are causing folks to return to older games?


I don’t know for sure, but maybe they are just simpler to play. I have watched some of the new games being played at conventions and they are never completed, and when I talked to some players they said they did nothing for as much as 45 minutes. Some just walked away, but maybe it’s not the game but the game master.


A: What do you think of 3D printing?


I wish I was younger, but at 74 I don’t have the memory for new programs, and none of my kids are interested so equipment investment would be a waste of money. One of the gamers in the Florida club has done about 5 vehicles and a boat for me.


A: If you could impart words of wisdom to a beginning sculptor, what would they be?


Sculpt what you enjoy and remember if you decide to sculpt for a living it can take the fun out of it.


A: What are your favorite games? Any kind of game applies.


Modern skirmish, Road Warrior, Colonial, and WW2 skirmish in that order.



 

As a fan of sci-fi and post-apocalyptic miniatures I really love the offerings on Stan's website. The miniatures would be right at home for either of those genres of games. I plan on adding the Ssss Snakemen to a force for Stargrave and to use with games of Starguard.


I encourage you to check out the website and pick up some of these fantastic miniatures. I have highlighted some below, check out his website here and see them for yourself!






Some super cool Boomers! Space Kangaroos for the win!



The aforementioned Ssss! They would fit with any sci-fi game and look so dynamic.



Some 20mm Road Warrior miniatures, perfect for Road Rage, Gaslands or Dark Future!



Vintage packaging for Stan's Space Marines miniatures. You can read more about Space Marines in my previous article.


Thanks for reading! Please follow me here and on Instagram @eyecastrestoration. If you want to support this blog and future posts you can do so here


Editing by the insanely eldritch Brian White.

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Updated: Oct 7, 2020



One of the reasons I started this blog was to share with the hobby community my love for vintage miniatures and wargames. When I stumbled across this interesting piece of hobby history, I felt it would make an excellent article.


Back in the late 1960s, there were far fewer options than we have today for buying miniatures. The popularity of Napoleonic gaming spawned a desire to push into lower scales, so more troops could be on the field and mass battles could be gloriously recreated. That is where a wargamer and hobbyist named Andy Callan came in.


Mr. Callan wrote an article about the use of an everyday object to create mass amounts of small 3mm elements for mass battle wargaming. The object he was describing? A plastic hair roller!





I was just as flabbergasted at this ancient hobby wizardry! How!? So I read the article and many Google searches later I had my answer. Before I begin the tutorial, I suggest giving the original article from the late 60's a read. I have it on .pdf, you can access and download it here.


I want to stress that I give all the credit for this technique to those that have come before, I am not reinventing the wheel here. My aim to have you experience this super cool way of making your own toy soldiers. It also needs to be said that this method is archaic, as there are many fine producers of small scale miniatures out there today. My favorites being The Little Corporal, Baccus, Pendraken, and Alternative Armies. Please check them out!


A final note on this project. The proper type of curlers are very hard to find these days. They would have been readily available back then, but now they are vintage items found only in specialty stores and on eBay. I urge you to experiment, and if you come up with a cool way to use this technique on modern hair curlers, let me know!


On to the tutorial!


 

These are the only "how-to" images from the article, and I inferred a bit from them as I want along. Please see each photo for detail.




So with these two photos, I set out to recreate this for myself. I wanted to make some American Civil War Union Infantry and Cavalry. I also thought it would be perfect for Dark Ages gaming so I made some Viking Bondi.


To start you will need the following:

  • Plastic hair curlers of the proper type

  • A sharp hobby blade

  • Very sharp snips or scissors

  • Superglue

  • bases and basing materials

  • paint and brushes

  • well lit working area

  • paper if you will be making flags or banners

I also used the bristles from a plastic broom and some plastic 1mm rod, but those are only necessary if you want to make spearmen with shields.


The first thing you want to do is plan beforehand what types of troops you will be building. Infantry or cavalry? Both? Construction is similar for both and requires only a little cutting. You don't want to do more than three ranks deep for infantry, after that the natural curve of the roller causes the plastic to warp out of shape on the base.


Following the article posted, cut the roller into strips, like shown. You want to trim it so the infantry stands are about 10-15 "troops" wide, and three deep.







For cavalry, you will want maybe 10 wide and one row deep, two of these to a base. Feel free to do what makes you happy and to suit whatever rules you are using.


After cutting them, it helps to mount the raw strips onto a spool or holder with some poster putty. I find this makes handling them easier before priming and gluing on the base.




When making the cavalry there is the extra step of cutting out a single strip to make the riders. Just cut them out like so and superglue onto the horses.










If you are making spearmen or shields, then you will want to do the next step. Make a small dot of superglue on a surface, and cut yourself some thin rods of plastic from a broom or hairbrush. They should be the same as a cat's whisker.




Carefully cut this with your snips and glue it onto the infantry strips. You want to glue more than you will be using, and cut it to size after it dries.



The next step will be to make the shields. Take some 1mm plastic rod, and cut it into thin slices, and then apply with some glue using tweezers. It takes patience and lots of cursing.



When the glue dries, trim your spears to shape and attach the shields. You are now ready to prime and paint!




 

Before we paint, I want to show you an indispensable tool to work in this scale. They are cheaply found online and I suggest a pair for anyone with aging eyes like myself.



Use a water-based brush-on primer. I use Black 2.0 from Culture Hustle but Vallejo or GW brush on primer would be just fine. Prime up your stands of troops and let dry. As they are drying, paint your bases a neutral brown.





While the troops are drying, use some PVA glue and paint your bases with them, and then dip into all-purpose flocking. You want a fine grain of flock so it isn't too tall. It looks good with some ballast mixed in. Let it dry. Time for a cup of tea or coffee!



 

When the bases and the troops are dry, you can begin painting. I am crazy so I glue my minis to the bases and then paint. I don't suggest that route, so painting them on the holders is fine. Dab some super glue on the feet and push down onto the flocking. They will stick just fine.


I used some strips of corrugated cardboard for holders. It works great and is cheap or free and can be cut to size. Poster putty will hold them on tight.


Using your chosen colors, you want to apply multiple thin layers to your models. Less is more when painting at this scale. You want to give the illusion of detail because there isn't any! So pick three or four colors to apply and go for it.


In this case, I used a dark blue for the coats, light blue for the pants and brown for the horses. Apply in layers and don't worry about highlighting, you won't do that except for on the caps.


Next up we paint the horses a flat brown, and the heads a flesh color. The heads are a neat process. Paint them completely flesh, then let them dry.









When dry, we are going to take our very sharp snips and cut off about a .5mm slice off the top of the head. It is ok if these cuts are not consistent, it actually adds to the overall effect.


We will be painting black onto this cut, and it magically becomes caps! It works the same for helmets.



Paint the tops and sides of the head black. You can highlight this with a neutral grey drybrush, and then paint in any fine detail. The blaze on the horse's forehead, tails, and carefully painted jacket piping and gloves. Go wild! You can be as detailed or not as you like.


Keep in mind the strength of painting like this is to make MASSES of troops. You are meant to look at them from 4-6 feet away, so the overall effect of uniformity is what you are going for.


Give them a quick brush on matte or gloss varnish, and you are done! I added a flag to some of my ACW Cavalry, this helps to identify the stands on the gaming table and looks spiffy. It is just painted printer paper.


Here they are all finished. You can see the level of detail can vary. I went a little overboard with the Vikings, but I wanted to show what is possible with this simple project. I urge you to give it a try if you can get ahold of the materials. Please drop me a comment and let me know how you liked this article! Have fun!












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