Sunday, February 22, 2015

Scuplted a Horse - Toy Town Soldiers Part 3

The previous post showing the Toob horse that I used to replace the standard Eureka horse stimulated some quite interesting comments.  Thanks to everyone who contributed and it caused me to have a something of a rethink.

The more I look at the Toob pony, the less I like it. I think primarily because it's so chunky.  Then too, the comments that it wasn't toy-like enough to match the style of the Toy Town men made a lot of sense.  So what's needed is probably something that splits the difference stylistically.  My next move was to search thoroughly on eBay for something suitable. I found a few things, such as the Hallmark rocking horse Christmas ornament.  Way too small, unfortunately.  Nothing else was the right scale either.

What to do ?  Time to take a stab at sculpting something myself.  My thinking was this: although I've dabbled with Green Stuff modifications, I had no experience at sculpting anything completely from scratch.  Therefore whatever I did was probably going to look rather toy-like from lack of sculpting skill and experience.  And so long as it turned out better than a pathetic green blob, I had nothing to lose by giving it a shot.  The other benefit would be a fresh start, getting away from the casting and assembly headaches with the Toob pony.

Here's what I came up with:

I think I whiffed on the toy horse objective.  I have the same problem with the ships, just can't seem to do simple and abstract no matter what. Perhaps my brain just works too literally.  On the plus side, it's recognizably a horse and not a bad one.  So I'm encouraged by the attempt and it gives me some confidence that I can try scuplting other things in the future when necessary.

And for size:


Perhaps a bit large for a light cavalry horse but a bit more svelte than the Toob pony so I think she has the makings of a good replacement for it.   I plan to proceed with adding the shabraque and tack.  She is also thinner which should ease the mold making task a little.  More to follow.

Oh, and a salute to the 100th Follower of this blog, Andrew Palmer ! 

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Toy Town Soldiers - Part 2

In the previous post, I mentioned that the children's play horse cavalry mounts in this range were not quite to my liking. Thus my attempt to create an alternative.  Using Toob toy horses seemed a possible alternative.  Of course, they have no saddles and other tack for a cavalry horse, bring the Green Stuff into play.

And in comparison to the castings.

This would challenge my modest mold-making skills more than a semi-round figure where all the extremities are close to the center line of the mold halves.  Rather than have something go wrong with the legs recessed into the mold cavity with little visibility as to how to salvage it, I decided to cut off the legs and mold these via a separate drop.  While they cast well enough, I erred in removing the legs with a straight cut. Much better to have cut them in a v-shape to facilitate a stronger bond and easier fit upon assembly. 

So lots of extra filing and test fitting headaches from this mistake. Compounding the problems, the left side of the horse's body cast beautifully but for some reason I couldn't get a clean impression on the right.  The second try was a little better but then I had run out of mold making compound.  So not only is there fiddling with attaching the legs, but now one side of the casting has to be patched with green stuff to salvage the deformed head and gaps in the reins.  Arrgh ! 

Was it worth the hassle ?  Let's take a look.  In comparison with the standard horse, on which I cut the wheels off and shimmed the base a little.

And relative to an infantryman:

Pickets of the Celtican Chasseurs à Cheval.


I painted the eyes for a more toy-like look but overall I'm not sure if the chunky proportions of this pony hit the mark for a light cavalry horse.  Seems like he'd make a better mount for the cuirassiers but perhaps I can file the legs a little.  Then too the rider's boots should at least be level with the horse's stomach but perhaps our rider is a bit short-legged because overall he looks reasonably in proportion with his mount.

I'd like to get your opinions on using this horse or Eureka's.   Honestly, I'd be tempted to just go with Eureka here but for the marked shortness of the toy horse fore & aft. 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Toy Town Soldiers - Part 1

Eureka’s range of “28mm” Toy Town Soldiers have exerted a pull on me since first seeing them posted at TMP when the range was first launched.  Come to think of it, that’s going back to 2006 !  

 I think it was a combination of things that kept me from actually taking the plunge for all these years.  First, as I recall they seemed overpriced to me for the amount of metal you get with a  28mm figure.  Perhaps the cost has dropped in the interim because when I got around to calculating the price of the infantry, the AU$ exchange rate is comfortably under $3.00 per figure in US currency, not cheap but not prohibitively expensive either.  Secondly, while I really liked the style of the men, at least in photos the look of the nursery room horses didn’t quite do it for me.  But as I’ve grown a bit more adventurous with the figure modifications, perhaps something could be done there.  And lastly, while the uniforms effectively evoke the 1840-1850’s, the soldiers seem most suited for imagi-nations which took me quite a while to buy into.

So why not give them a shot ?  From Eureka USA, I ordered a dozen shako infantry plus command, a ½ dozen light horse and an artillery set.  Rob at Eureka USA said it would take about 12 days to get the figures from Australia and he was as good as his word. Inside of two weeks I took delivery on the figures. The first reaction ?  Delightful, really.  And also pleasantly surprised at the size and heft of the figures.  They actually measure 33mm from eyes to feet and seem even taller on account of the exaggerated shakos.   A few quibbles, nary a cross belt and cartridge box for the infantry which would have made a good alternative to the epaulettes.  And as expected, the horses didn’t thrill me, more about them shortly.

So how are they to paint ?  With the simple style and raised detail, easy !  

I told myself no shading on these and I’m stick to my guns there.  Gloss coating naturally suits and with the blank faces and amusing cylindrical nose (n’er-do-well Pinocchio swept up by a recruiting party), the rosy-cheeked look suits them just fine.   


Now about that cavalry.  I know what the sculptor was aiming for but to my eyes, even a toy cavalryman should look a bit more imposing relative to the foot.  I first thought about something like Gumby’s horse Pokey but a set of these toy horses on Amazon caught my eye.  Here's some examples for size comparison purposes, stock horse second from left.

So, it’s the smaller ones potentially fitted out for war and all the rest go back out to pasture (or to be precise, into my 2-year old granddaughter’s toy bin).  I’m not 100% sold on these, quite possibly not toy-like enough but certainly okay for a cheap experiment.  Not to mention a big cost savings if I can mold one.  More about the cavalry coming soon in the next post. 

For the meantime I’ve had the most relaxing and enjoyable painting sessions with these Toy Town soldiers in quite some time, enough to entertain the thought that I might actually sustain the resolve to paint two armies to do battle with.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Prussian Uhlans of 1830 - 33mm Flats

Here's painted samples from a nice set of Rieche uhlans which I've had on the back burner for some time now.  No particular project in mind here, it was just a good set of castings for which curiosity finally got the best of me to see how they'd look with the paint on.

Rieche Brothers was a flats firm located in Hannover.  Love their figures, beautifully engraved and well animated. Nominally 30mm, they all seem to measure consistently at 33mm.  I have two other sets of 19th Century infantry from this maker, one painted and the other as yet unpainted castings, both very appealing as well.  The factory was destroyed by Allied bombing during WW2, unfortunate collateral damage so far as flats collectors are concerned.  I'm no Rieche expert but their sets do pop up on German eBay and the Berliner Zinnfiguren Flohmarkt now and then so apparently they produced in enough volume that the figures can still be found.

This set of castings contains 11 figures, an officer, two buglers and eight lancers. No standard bearer although one of the buglers could be converted. 

I originally had in mind some other army, but they match the figures illustrated here so exactly that I just painted them as Prussians.

How'd they turn out ?

Although not exactly posed for battle, they're still quite lively and I do like this set.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Spenkuch French - 35mm Flats

I'd bought this set of Spenkuch French infantry from Berliner Zinnfiguren a couple years back.  As well as pretty much splitting the difference between 30mm & 40mm, they also fall between the two camps of semi-rounds and flats as they're quite flat but retain elements of semi-round style.

My first reaction upon receipt of the figures was disappointment.  Primarily due to even the lowly privates being shod in officer's boots. So they remained in their box until recently when I thought of using them for this possible project for the Italian Wars. Giving them another look, they seemed not so bad as I remembered them, so let's see what can be done about the problem with the high boots.

Yup, green stuff to the rescue.

And these are the test figures I modified first.

The figure with the lowered rifle remained French. The other figure was a test conversion to Piedmontese.  Uniform details have been surprisingly hard to pin down for them but apparently they campaigned in 1859 wearing overcoats even in the summer months.  Thus the conversion wasn't difficult, just a matter of bulking up the kepi into shako form with the green stuff (sorry, the photo of these two figures in pre-painted state came out unacceptably blurry). 

So, I think this now becomes a usable set of figures.

Friday, January 2, 2015

French Infantry of 1845: Old 40mm Flats


I'd mentioned in the previous post that this one would cover Spenkuch.  And so I'd intended, only to find the in-progress photo of the castings I'd modified to be unacceptably blurry upon uploading. More about those soon, but in the meantime, here's an interesting small group of antique 40mm flats which I found on the Berliner Zinnfiguren Flohmarkt.

BZ attributed the editor as Ramm of LüneburgThis venerable 19th firm seems to have gone under ca. 1904 with the death of Johan Friedrich Heinrich Ramm. While stylistically they seem a bit different than most of the Ramm offerings, there's no reason firm reason to doubt it. 

The section about Ramm on the Zinnfiguren-Bleifiguren site offers this critique: "Alle diese Typen sind ziemlich ungeschickt in der Stellung und zum Teil auch im anatomischen Bau", which Google translates as "All these guys are pretty awkward in the position and to some extent in the anatomical structure."  That nicely sums it up, although I must say these particular castings look good to my eyes.  At a casual glance they appear a bit ungainly and long-waisted, but upon closer examination I think it's due to the long frock coats and quite baggy trousers.

How to paint them ?  One guy had no shako decoration, so why not French infantry ca.1850, he could be a center company figure and then of course we must have voltigeurs and grenadiers to balance it out.  Thanks to the Humbert & Lienhart plates come in handy.

And the painted result:

Not bad. The "eyes right" pose is always a nuisance with flats because painting the faces frontally is harder than the standard profile. I'm afraid I made a mediocre job of the faces here but they're at least tolerable, and if I can copy the figures successfully, I'm sure to pull off at least a few good ones within a battalion.  Other than that, I think they're well-posed and appealing once the paint goes on.  No copyright issues in play so I've reserved the three castings shown above to try making molds of.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Wollner / Sichart: 40mm Bleisoldaten

I hope everyone has emjoyed the holiday season, now winding down towards New Years Day.  For myself, it was great to see the family together again.  I also received something ordered from Berliner Zinnfiguren.  Two sets of 40mm figures: some antique Ramm flat castings (started painting these, more about which in a subsequent post) and the set of (pre-painted !) Wollner Austrian artillery shown here.  It's obvious to anyone following this blog that it's all about painting them myself, but I did think this was a charming set in the old semi-round toy soldier style.

The figures are nominally 40mm but very much on the smallish side of that rather elastic scale.

I also painted the last of the Sichart (except for the bandsmen) Austrian infantry.  I turned back the clock on these to ca. 1860 by cutting off the buttons, converting the tunic to the old double-breasted style and painted on the cross-belts.  Here's an example of one of the figures contrasted with the 1890's style which the figures were intended to be.

The flag is just okay, the raised detail of the Imperial eagle on the casting would have been more worthy of Josef Wagner composing a march "Under the Double Tarantula" as the resemblance to an eagle is approximate at best. I would probably have been better off just filing it off and painting from scratch but it's at least serviceable.

At any rate, this is all I have so any reinforcements will have to be via the mold-making process and I did save one casting for this purpose.  No rush about it though, the figures on parade with their slung rifles are a bit lacking in martial vigor so I think I can do better by the Austrian infantry from some other source.  Nice to have these as a fall-back though.

Next up, Spenkuchs.