Introduction: Tiny Furniture's rectangular "Medieval dining tables" are good fit for medieval dining, upper-class inns and taverns, and bad reinactments of The Count of Monte-Cristo movie, where actor Tony Curtis had a swordfight that didn't happen in the book. Stupid 1970's movies. The resin miniature set consists of two large tables, two smaller tables, and eight benches. The tables are wonderfully detailed with a feast of food, and comes with a sprue of two pitchers and three bottles. The tables can be arranged for a long medieval banquet, or separately, such as in an inn or tavern. For those of you looking for something more lower class, Tiny Furniture has its "Tavern tables with drinks", which I reviewed earlier, and features round tables on half-barrels. Those of you who do expect tavern fights and royal assassinations attempts may prefer the Tiny Furniture rectangular "Wooden tables" or round "Round tables" (both of which do not come with dishes) and "Dishes for a tavern" (which can also be used if you already have tables), so you can tip over the tables when actor Tony Curtis comes around and knocks your laboriously handpainted dishes fall onto the gaming tile floor.
Trestle: The tables used with Tiny Furniture's "Medieval dining tables" are trestle tables. As Baron Thorvald Olafson described it, in his instructional treatise, "How to Make a 14th Century Trestle Table", "Put very simply: trestle tables were the folding tables of their time. The top rested on some manner of base and it all came apart to take up less space when not needed. The Trestle Table became very popular in the Middle Ages, when many early forts and castles were designed for defense, not for comfort. All the people who lived in the castle would gather in the common room, or great hall, and eat together. Afterwards the table would be cleaned, dismantled and stored to one side. Then as the Lord, Lady and family of the castle would retire to their private rooms, everyone else would pull out straw pallets (if they were so lucky), or more likely just blankets, and sleep on the floor of the great hall." x For a brief history of the trestle table, including its use in medieval combat, see "Trestle Table History", at Strictly Tables & Chairs.
What's on the Table: Both of the tables are well-detailed and packed with twenty or so dishes, plates, dishes, spoons, cups, candle, and occasional knife. One of the set's two large tables comes with apples, fish, and a sausage plate. This table also has two full ale mugs, two empty ones. The other comes with two servings of bread, turkey, a wicker basket for a wine bottle, and a stack of dishes. One smaller table has bread and cheese. The other has bread and a stack of plates. As said, the sprue itself has two pitchers, a "fat" wine bottle with wicker covering, a "thin" wine bottle with wicker covering, and a wine bottle that can be placed in one of the large table's wicker bottle holder.
Painted and Unpainted: Tiny Furniture also has a painting service, in case you don't have the time (or skill) to paint these miniatures. However, check the site to see how long it will take to paint the miniature set. A picture of the painted version is at the end of the WIP pictures. For further comments about Tiny Furniture, see my previous review of their "Tavern tables with drinks".
"How to Make a 14th Century Trestle Table", by Baron Thorvald Olafson
"Trestle Table History", at Strictly Tables & Chairs
Review of Tiny Furniture's "Tavern tables with drinks" on RPG.net
Assembly and Painting
Assembly: The tables and benches are in two parts each, with the "trestle" part attached to the sprue. The sprue is a little thick, so you will want to use a sprue cutter to cut away the sprue in pieces, to reduce the chance of accidentally cutting the "trestle" parts. While superglue is the conventional miniature adhesive, I had perfectly fine results with rubber cement, which allowed me some adjustment of the parts while setting.
Painting Guide: (Taken from my "Tavern Tables with Drinks" review.) Similar to Tiny Furniture's "Tavern Tables with Drinks", I leaned more towards wooden dining ware and simple color schemes. This meant that I had to use a variety of browns, and I found this challenging to provide sufficient contrast of, essentially, one brown object on top of another brown one. As said, compared to other terrain, I felt that this set, particularly the glass and even pitcher, used intermediate painting techniques. If you're not familiar with painting glass, this is a good set to learn from. Note that, because these pieces are based on real items that we have an unconscious idea of, I found painting the reflective ones particularly demanding since they would look unrealistic even the slightest bit off, something of an Uncanny Valley result.
Prime and Pre-Wash: Not surprisingly, with everything brown, I started by brush-priming the pieces in a brown primer, followed by the Army Painter's brown Strong Tone Ink. This ink is a good general purpose brown for monsters and wood. (The brown brush primer I used was on the dark side, and I recommend a light color if you can find one.)
Metal: Several of the pieces are metallic. I started with INSTAR paint's dark Dark Pewter paint. Then I held up the miniature with strong light coming from the side, and applied lighter metal colors where the light reflections appeared. You do need to "pick a side" when you use this technique. You can also highlight the metal lips of metal cups, as well as paint the inside of the cup a darker color for contrast, and paint some gloss varnish inside the metal cup to suggest wetness. I find that the same "hold it up to the light" technique you use with metal can be used with other realistic reflective and not-so-reflective surfaces like bottles and pitchers.
Tables and Chairs: After the prime and pre-wash, I lightly painted the tables and chairs with INSTAR paint's Mud Brown wherever I felt this medium brown was necessary. I then highlighted the table and chair edges with Army Painter's pale brown Monster Brown. Normally, I would highlight in a lighter color, but I've noticed that, with brown, manufacturers consider orange-brown to be a lighter brown. Personally, I find orange-brown better to contrast two different colors of wood (eg. tables vs. plates), while I preferred pale brown for highlighting. In any case, you can drybrush the table of the wood, emphasizing the space between the slats, then lightly drybrush the edges of the table with the pale brown to add contrast. I used Army Painter's Monster Brown. You may wish to emphasize the space between the boards with careful application of additional brown wash. The chairs were painted similarly. The top part of the chairs seemed to have wooden nails to hold in the possibly leather top, so I painted these nails ochre, with the Army Painter Skeleton Bone. (I experimented with using ochre as a highlighting and drybrush color, but the result was too "ghostly". But ochre makes a good highlighting underpaint, with a glaze of another color on top of it.)
Plates: Exaggerating contrast between the sides of the plate and its depression seemed important when painting the plates. I went with orange-browns for the edge of the plates, putting more of the color on the edges. After painting the food, I then carefully washed the depression of the plates with brown wash to exaggerate the depth of the indentation of the plate. After painting the food, I tried using gloss varnish (if you have it, Tamiya Clear would also work) to make the food and plates appear less dry. For more upscale taverns and inns, you can also paint the plates as different materials and thus colors, such as ceramic and metal (you can see this in the last picture, of the painted version of the set)
Wooden Steins and Wicker: For the wooden steins on the sprue, I went with a light brown and brown wash, followed by highlighting the twine around the stein and the lip of the steins with ochre. I forgot to do it, but you may want to paint the inside of the stein dark brown for contrast. The wicker was also dry-brushed with ochre. Army Painter's brown Soft Tone Ink might be worth washing the wicker to reduce the contrast of the ochre.
Candle: The candles even have flames and melted wax! For the candles, I painted them ochre, then lined them with brown wash to make the melted wax more apparent. Then I painted the melted wax white. The flame itself started brown, for the wick, then was painted similarly to painting a flame. Like any flame, paint the entire flame white, then yellow, orange, and finally red, with less coverage with each additional color. I actually used Prismacolor brush-tip pens to apply the red. It's the same technique as painting a torch or other flame, but much, much, smaller!
Crabapples: While apples were sometimes available in medieval times, the ancestor of the apple was the more shriveled crabapple. The medieval tavern set apples look more like apples than crabapples, although I doubt many players will care. Still, since crabapples are red, I went with red for the apples. Similarly to the reflection of metal, I used a little gloss varnish to add a reflection to the apples.
Cheese and Cutting Board: The cutting board and knife handles were painted orange-brown. The knife handles actually have tiny depressions to suggest nails, and you may wish to dot them with a little brown ink or paint to show them. I did research medieval cheeses, and found them more as cylindrical shaped, rather than oval in this miniature set. The rind of the cheese was painted ochre then glazed in brown ink, although I also had more contrast (maybe too much) by only painting ochre the top half of the rind, rather than the entire rind. (BTW, The round red rind in the painted version of the table may be Edam or Gouda cheese, which became commonplace in the 1600's (?) and 1184, respectively. The medieval ages were from 500AD to 1500 AD, so it's probably Gouda.)
Chicken and Food: The chicken skin was painted orange-brown, then gloss varnish was applied. Other foods were painted in various pale colors, to suggest over-cooking the vegetables, which would be safer to consume than raw. For a Merchant Inn, you might want to paint the food with more contrast to suggest more appetizing food. One of the plates has a fish head (!). You can paint the fish metallic, even if it's salted. (I kept it brown to suggest overcooking!)
Bottles: For the bottles, I first painted them in a base coat. Then, I found it useful to apply a coat of a Tamiya Clear paint (originally for transparent figures, and Tamiya Clear Red can be used for blood effects) to find the reflection of the bottle. Similarly to the metal reflection, I held up the bottle to light, and then painted highlight colors (for green and blue) or shade colors (for yellow and red) on the bottles, then applied another coat of gloss. Note that green and blue are much easier colors to work with than yellow and red, so I don't particularly recommend red and yellow bottles. (BTW, Tamiya Yellow Clear is on the orange side, so you might just use Tamiya Clear with yellow bottles, or Tamiya Yellow Clear to shade the bottle orange.)
Pitchers: While you may not expect the pitches to reflect light like you would metal or glass, just painting the pitches a base color made the pitcher pieces appear "flat". Again, holding the piece to strong light, I blended darker color into the base color for the shaded side of the pitcher (and underneath the lip and belly of the pitcher), and paler highlight color for the lip of the pitcher, handle, etc.
Conclusion: Between Tiny Furniture's "Tavern tables with drinks" with its round tables, and "Medieval dining tables" with its rectangular tables, you should find a set that suits your hungry characters the most. If you already have tables, take a look at Tiny Furniture's "Dishes for a tavern" set, which contains more than just dishes, suitable for more than just taverns. Baron Thorvald Olafson, Tony Curtis, and 28mm Lords who didn't want to be killed would be proud.