I would take special trips downtown, getting off at Atwater or Guy stations to visit a hobby shop on Saint Catherines between the two stops. It was there I would select and buy a small lead figurine to paint. The selection was huge. I chose Ral Partha figures because I liked the designs of classic fantasy and they were affordable for a fourteen year old.
I'd take them home and spend a good couple of hours painting each one. I had a steady hand, fine brushes and Testors enamel paint, that I'd been using for years building plastic scale model kits. The final result was a far cry from what I saw in the hobby magazines and catalogs but it was still pretty good. Hill Giant, Frost Giant, Cyclops, Dark Rider, Skeleton Archer, Jabberwocky, Complete Adventurer. Some I would cement to wooden stands, glueing railroad grass around the base.
I loved miniatures and would gaze absently at the materials for sale at Hobby World or whatever it was called. I'd fantasize about the many uses of balsa dowelling or copper rods. The plastic sheets mimicking brick or stone walls were especially tantalizing. Would I build a torture chamber ? No, probably not. too many ideas and not too much get-up-and-go. My scratch building was mostly relegated to the realm of the imagination. I'd tinker plenty though, and built a nice collection of miniature weaponry, halberds, scimitars, battle-axes, broadswords. A small plastic tube cemented to a small bit of chain cemented to a bead made a perfect little chain-morningstar. My dad got into the spirit and whittled a sweet sword and scabbard out of popsicle sticks. I still have all this stuff, of course.
Projects are successful if they are achievable in one sitting. A weapon yes, a dungeon no. Small offerings that add-up, that's my style. Now, none of the figurines or weapons I've mentioned ever made it to the semi-regular Advanced Dungeons & Dragons games I'd play. They were for me and my room. The games were fun and don't need figures to be played. In fact, I like my role playing games with nothing but paper and dice. The head spaces that one enters with a great campaign led by a great Dungeon Master are fleshed out worlds brimming with enthusiasm. I laughed coming home once after a great game and said to my startled mother, 'Ma, I get why kids kill themselves over this game!'
I'm still hoping to find a fun DM along with a perfect ragtag team of warriors and magicians. D&D is the kind of game you wish your best friends can play with you, but often they can't. It's another bunch of people, I guess that's ok.
My Testors paints are sitting there dormant, oil up top and pigment down below, a sediment waiting to be stirred to life. My figurines are scattered, some broken or missing, others sold, some in a box somewhere. I should dig them out, the remainders are mostly giants, and dust them off. My altar is a better place for them than the dark of a cardboard box.