Thursday, March 6, 2014
Everyone has seen them, those ubiquitous bags of cheap plastic made-in-China clone soldiers hanging on the rack in seemingly every supermarket and drug store in the US. Do kids even play with these anymore ? Maybe just big kids like us. As often as not, they're 35-45mm knockoffs of their 54mm plastic army men brethren, the Airfix or Timmee roots clear to see. I've posted about them before.
Inspired by the engrossing series Jono's World at the Archduke Piccolo blog, I decided to to take another crack at these. In this case, I modied one of the figures for the evil Tan forces. The raw materials in this bag are two main types of soldiers. The Vietnam era guys seem to be copies in the Timmee style. But others look like British WW2 infantry from the neck down, capped off with US M1 style steel pots. This helmet had a good long run from WW2 until the Fritz in the mid-80's, wore one myself (now over 40 years ago, wow !).
Here is the candidate figure, selected for his appealing and useful assaulting pose. The main change was was substituting an AK for his WW2 rifle (Enfield ?), brass wire for the barrel and green stuff magazine and front sight. That and giving him boots for a more Russian sort of look, plus a rucksack to cover the old-fashioned web gear.
And for added strength and repeatability, made a mold to cast the figure in metal.
The result ? Not too bad and he certainly meets my needs.
The BMP in the background is a cheap and simple paper model. More about this in a subsequent post. For now, I'm belatedly painting the first example of the modified cavalryman.
Friday, February 21, 2014
I had hoped to show more painted results of the latest figure conversion but had a setback in the mold making stage of the process, more about which later. For now, the story begins with Prince August cavalry. While we're relatively spoiled for choice with the infantry, there are four main cavalry trooper figures which can be cast. First we have good old PA11 and the identical pose in its newer, more fully rounded version:
This seems to be the hands down favorite, and we also see a very similar figure as the mainstay of everyone's Spencer Smith cavalry arm. I like this one but he looks very Swedish to me in style and the hell-for-leather charge was probably not the norm for most armies' cavalry doctrine of the era. And of course we have the pistol wielding PA48 and the nice, but rather static dragoon PA41.
Both these latter figures certainly have their uses, but sticking to sword-armed cavalry it comes down to Molds # 11 or Mold # 935 painted in his "Wild Geese" livery in the top photo. # 935 seems to be not nearly as popular, perhaps in part due to difficulty in casting the sword fully. Further, there are things about the figure which are not quite right. The horse's head looks oversized, the hind quarters a bit skimpy and angular, the pistols oddly mounted forward and too low on the body instead of up near the saddle. But I do very much like the pose, so let's see what can be done here:
As can be seen in the comparison shot, what I have done to the rider is bulk up the flattish tricorne, also give him a fuller coat and cuffs. I beefed up the sword a bit to get a stronger cast, with the intention of filing it after casting. The horse and tack get some attention as well: among other things, filed down the head a little, added more definition to the hind quarters, amputed the pistol holsters and replaced with green ones.
So far so good, I think. Last weekend I made a new mold with eager anticipation of casting and painting this new figure. The first half came out fine. Unfortunately, had a bit of a disaster where a small portion of the second mold have stuck to the first despite the use of mold separation cream. Evidently I missed a spot. And this damage fell right across part of the horse, ruining the castings. Why not just re-do the second half, you ask ? Good question ! And I would have done so but for the lack of sufficient RTV compound. Rather than taking the sensible course of ordering more and waiting, I tried patching the 2nd half, would up cutting extra channels in the original half as a work-around and to sum up, botched the whole thing. So we're a week or two away from seeing this figure actually painted.
In the meantime, I've also started on the infantry command figures. The standard bearer is finished, the drummer just under way. I'll soon show these in subsequent postings.
Friday, February 7, 2014
I've often wished that Prince August could have done better of creating a French infantryman than the Battle of Rossbach mold PA58. Of course, there is also the "French Regiments of 1750" and "Wild Geese" series of molds. But they are very much a case of old wine in new bottles, Karoliners sold with painting guides as French troops. Of course, I painted a regiment of these years ago.
And a Swiss battalion Courten made from GNW molds. A little better, but still essentially Danes or Russians in disguise.
In any case, following up on the previous post, it was time to try something more ambitious. My objective was two-fold. First, I wanted a more convincing French infantry figure for my 40mm armies. Secondly, I wanted it in the always useful "march attack" pose. Did I have the sculpting talent to make one ? Who knows, and what were the chances of creating a tolerably good figure the first time out ?
Hedging my bets, I decided to use a PA casting as the base figure upon which to add green stuff to build up a suitable master. For this, I chose the advancing musketeer PA14, the hat company counterpart to the previously featured grenadier figure.
Again, this is one of the older, flatter Eriksson molds without precise detail. The idea was to substantially rework the figure, but take advantage of the good proportions and aggressive advancing stance. I cut off the weapons, amputated his arms and filed down the coat to a bare outline. I then started to rebuild the figure with green stuff. And here and there, I used existing bits from other figures such as the musket and scabbards.
My main worry was getting the arms to appear natural, hoping to hit a happy medium between T.rex and orangutan. That and just getting the general "look" right. And the new master.
It looked pretty good to me, but the proof would be in the casting. My 1st mold went wrong when the master must have slipped somehow, resulting in an ugly seam down the middle of the figure. The 2nd mold worked better but once I got castings out of it, I saw that there were a few things which needed to be tidied up on the master. The 3rd mold works the best except the bayonet scabbard casting short. But by no means a deal breaker. In any case, this flow pattern is effective and the bayonet at the extremity casts fully every time.
And more painted figures. It would have been preferable to finish more but I was eager to share it.
How did it turn out ? Once done with something like this, after the initial delight of creation wears off you tend to see all the flaws. I'm looking forward to reading any and all constructive criticism but I have to say I'm pleased with the result.
Saturday, February 1, 2014
Readers of this blog will know my mixed feelings of joy and frustration when it comes to the Prince August range of 40mm semi-rounds, as in this previous post: War of the Polish Succession. Holger Eriksson's many excellent figures are a great tribute to the Swedes of the GNW, but not necessarily ideal for all among us with designs on using them for other armies both real and imaginative. When it comes to toy soldiers and music, my tastes run more to the Baroque than the Classical. Aside from the old-fashioned shoes/stockings and hair styles, the PA's remind me more of Frederick the Great's Prussians than WSS era soldiers.
And as the Irish Prince August mainly perpetuated more Karoliners with recent additions to the 40mm home casting range, it's high time to take matters into my own hands. Quite belatedly, I have discovered the utility of Green Stuff, and even more recently - mold making. I took the plunge last month and bought a hobby molding kit from Reb Toys. It consists of a wooden mold making jig, two jars of Quick-Sil, "RTV jewelry molding rubber" compound, and a container of Castaldo mold separation cream.
My first mold-making experiment made use of a Spenkuch semi-round as the master. The failure was comically bad: the poor fellow's lower body and legs cast nicely but his headless Swiss cheese upper body looked as if he'd walked into a perfect storm of grapeshot. It was readily apparent that more pressure was required during the mold curing process and that's probably what those two wing-nuts on top of the jig were for. For test Mold #2, I emulated Tony Bath in using a flat Zinnfigur as the master. Not perfect but definitely better. In the interest of maintaining harmonious relations with Germany I'll say no more about it when sooner or later a battalion or two of these guys shows up here on the blog.
Now that I'd established that I could indeed create a functional mold, it was time to move on to the objective of modifying a Prince August figure. For this, I selected the grenadier mold PA20. He is one of the older, flatter original Eriksson creations. It's a good and simple figure with the musket casting directly on the centerline. As can be seen in the top photo, all I did here was to file off the turnbacks and bulk the coat and cuffs with green stuff. My mold is nothing fancy, using very similar flow channels to the PA original. The wing nuts on the jig soon stripped out, but I found the brutal expedient of setting a 3-ton floor jack on top of the jig during curing compresses the silicone rubber rather effectively.
Here I've painted the figure as an Austrian grenadier, suitable for 1700-1735.
And next to his original, more 7YW-looking cousin.
Soon to follow, a more ambitious and exciting conversion !
Monday, January 20, 2014
This is a Heinrichsen figure I've just completed, one that I had left sitting in the queue partially painted for quite some time. He is actually Marshal Soubise from the Battle of Rossbach set, first issued in 1882. I think the wig gives him a more old-fashioned look though and he makes a fine general for the 1700-1720 period. I bought this casting as a substitution for the missing artillery piece (mold had broken) when I ordered the Prinz Eugen set.
The casting is on the smallish side for 40mm, but I'll still use him as a command figure for the 40mm 18th Century figures along with the Prince August home casts and other flats. Painting this one has got me fired up on the Prinz Eugen figures again and I'm now working on the Austrian musketeers. Work in progress shots to follow before long.
Sunday, January 12, 2014
Got around to painting some examples of the Wohlmann figures which I bought from Alexander Wilken a while back. Here are the two main cavalry poses. Actually there was another but he did not seem to survive getting lost in the mail. Alexander was went to a lot of trouble to replace the lost shipment so I didn't pester him about it.
And the three types of Landsknecht pikemen. I won't quite say that I'm intimidated by painting landsknechts, but perhaps due to some lack of imagination, I tend towards feeling somewhat overwhelmed by the wild freedom of choice in the color schemes. So it's a matter of just painting something, anything on the figures and if you paint a few duds, well there's always relegation to the inside of the formation for them. ;-)
And a group shot, same as above without the camera's "watercolor" filter.
Next up, working on the 40mm general from the Heinrichsen Rossbach set. He's coming along pretty nicely, I think.
Tuesday, December 31, 2013
A month has flown by without a post. Can't use the excuse of being too busy, although of course going back to work has necessarily cut into the free time. But if blogging were strictly the province of the retired and unemployed, the Reading List would be altogether skimpier. No, it's been more a question of getting stuck on the land aspect of the Weltkrieg project and making some false starts with it. The process goes back further than a month, but to recap:
* Idea # 1. Use 1/72 plastic WW1 figures. Painted some, they're good figures but didn't take more than a box or two to remind myself that painting 20-25mm rounds isn't so appealing anymore.
* Iteration # 2. Use 30mm WW1 flats. Re-painted a few of these old Heinrichsens too.
Not too bad, but once I decided to move things back a decade to make the naval aspect a pre-dreadnought affair, so too must the style of the land forces change. Bringing on:
* Iteration # 3. 30mm flats in the style of 1900-1905. This also held the advantage of allowing for armies still in colored uniforms during this period of conversion to more practical, but drab, feldgrau and khaki. However, it became obvious that rolling the dice on eBay and augmenting with the odd Heinrichsen re-issue was a daunting proposition, both in finding suitable figures and much worse, paying for them all. Bringing us to:
* Iteration # 4. 40mm flats and semi-rounds. I always had in mind more of a Funny Little Wars approach to the rules than anything too realistic. For this, formations of men advancing in like poses held undeniable attraction to me (ignoring the realities of how deadly a place the battlefield had become with the advent of machine guns and rapid fire artillery), in favor of a toy soldier approach.
The 40mm scale has advantages too in allowing for economies by virtue of home casting some of the troops. And the idea of augmenting the metal figures with paper soldiers from Junior General struck me as a cheap and easy way to add some forces otherwise unavailable. To experiment with this, I selected some US Spanish-American war infantry to stand in for Federation armies. I first tried enlarging them to 30mm ( #3 above) but there were a couple of issues.
First, my minimalist inkjet printer is incapable of smoothing out the heavy pixellation by converting to text files as advised in the Junior General tutorial. Nor was the color reproduction satisfactory. Secondly, they aren't easy to cut out precisely on the edge and the resulting border area of white paper was unattractive. I wasted a lot of time cut and pasting to MS Paint, experimenting with the right ratio of resizing and making 30mm figures before deciding to go the 40mm route. Of course, that entailed yet more fiddling with resizing but held the advantage of proportionally reducing the border area and making the touch-up easier.
So here we have an example of the figures hot off the printer, and as I have made some improvement by means of smoothing out the borders and painting highlights. I use matte photo paper which takes the acrylic paint pretty well, although some care must be taken not to smear it while painting multiple figures per sheet.
And a completed infantry battalion. The bases are cereal box grade cardboard.
Honestly, it felt like way too much work for what I got out of it. But nice to know these paper guys can pinch hit when necessary, even if they lack the elegance of true flats. Upcoming posts will cover 40mm progress, as well as a Renaissance interlude with some Wohlmann flats which I am now painting. I needed a mental break after the tedious progress with the paper soldiers !
And lastly, here's wishing a happy and prosperous (or at least financially solvent) 2014 to all.