Sunday, November 27, 2011

A New Era

I've decided to begin my personal take on Imagi-nations outside the already well-populated 18th Century, bringing it into the early 19th.  I've been a big admirer of Aly Morrison's Shiny Toy Soldier range since its inception at Spencer-Smith Miniatures.  Which do I like ?  Well, the earlier figures more so than the spiked helmet troops of later in the century.  Do I actually have any ?  Er..., no.  Much as I like them, it's been rather like gazing at that tasty sports coupe through the car showroom window - yes, you can probably make the payments but it's hard to justify the expenditure.  Even Irregular has become a stretch for Americans these days given the weak dollar and overseas shipping costs, and really not much cheaper than STS.

However, I do browse Spencer-Smith from time to time, imagining what fine looking troops could be assembled from the various combinations of pieces for the 1815-1830 era - the apogee of peacock uniforms.  The last visit, I noticed something interesting - Moltzheim heads.  Moltzheim ?  Virgin territory for me.  Took a look at the reference, The French Army During the Restoration 1814 - 1830

Wow !  I was blown away by the magnificence.  And also inspired with an idea.  The French restoration army looks to me very like Napoleon's.  What do I have sitting long neglected in my collection of 40mm casting molds ?  A few Zinnbrigade French Napoleonic infantry molds.  And I knew that Meisterzinn also made several multi-purpose molds featuring a selection of heads: tricornes, bicornes, crested helmets and shakos.  What else is there ?  Creartec currently produces 40mm Napoleonic era molds as well as 7YW Prussians. 

Thus by means of home casting, I could create units less expensively, filling in the gaps with STS, Irregular and perhaps a few 1st Legion here and there.  Yes, not so cheaply as with multi-part 28mm plastics given the price of lead these days, but I just flat out like 40mm better.  And, a glossy toy soldier style for this.  And so it begins.

While already embarked on casting and painting the Zinnbrigades, I decided to create a map for these fictional countries early in the game, vs. painting figures in the abstract.  This (as yet unnamed continent) is the result.  Any similarities to Europe are strictly intentional.  The software is Hexographer, available free here:  The UI is relatively simple and intuitive, no mad CAD or vector graphics skills required.  I did spring for the full version to get more period-compatible icons and the ability to spawn child maps of provinces or battle areas but the free version is quite usable as is.  There is work still to be done in naming geographical features & cities, adding infrastructure (and creating a fortress icon), but I'm satisfied that the basics are covered.

The first troops on the workbench are those of Celtica, looking suspiciously like those of Napoleon and his royal successors. I'm about halfway done painting an infantry battalion of Zinnbrigades, a progress report to follow shortly. The first Creartec and Meisterzinn molds arrived from Germany yesterday and I had a good casting session. Good for the Creartecs that is, downright bad with the stubborn Meisterzinns.  I'm quite happy with the Creartecs, although stylistically they're more like Prince August semi-rounds. Indeed the infantry in particular appear to have a clear lineage to the Schneider molds of olden days (although more detailed), about as old school as you can get.

There you have it, either creativity at work or the ramblings of a madman. ;-)


  1. Looking eagerly forward to enjoy the first eye candy!
    The Household of the *first*, short-lived Restoration was specially flamboyant, with the 'resurrected' Cent-Suisses (roughly, Lace Wars 'Croats' with Napoleonic bearskin!), Gendarmes, Chevau-Legers and specially the 2 companies of Mousquetaires.

    Some start with the 18th C. and then extend the History of their 'brainchild' to later periods, some start with the Ruritanian period and later explore earlier times... all is good!

  2. PS: really good country names!
    What is the name of the whole *continent* (would be handy to 'christen' the link to your 19th Imagi-World)?

  3. Thanks for the nice feedback, Jean Louis !

    What shall I christen it ? Antiope. A dual purpose name: a queen of the Amazons and in a more oblique sense possibly an allusion to Europe. I can't take credit for originating many of the names borrowed from fiction and fantasy literature. But some are my own.

    Best regards,

  4. Looking forward to watching this project develop...

  5. I love my Zinnbrigades, esp the British Dragoons and the French infantry. You may find some useful bits from Historifig's 40mm War 0f 1812 range and even the ACW ranges might be able to provide some landwehr or Guerillas. They have a very SSM feel to them.

    I'm looking forward to seeing the Creartec Napoloeonic figures, I have eyed them a couple of times. Hopefully a side by side shot some day?

    You've proibably already thought of this but the Zinnbrigade 1900 draft horses pull the PA limber quite nicely adn with the small wheels replaced by cannon wheels, it even passes reasonably for British style limbers. The drivers convert fairly well also. Now if I could find a cheap source of single trail guns.....

    Much fun ahead!

  6. Thanks again, guys.

    @ Ross,

    Thank you for the Historigs suggestion. Hadn't thought about the 1812 figures, good idea. Strangely no links to view them on the website but I can google for images as well as search your own blog. They do have some oddball 45mm French legere vs. British riflemen, may work deployed by themselves as skirmishers.

    The Creartecs ? Simultaneously a joy and a frustration. I hope to post the casting report with pictures including side-by-side comparisons this weekend.

    But suffice it to say the first two infantry figures at least are 45mm giants - they dwarf the poor undersized Zinnbrigade elite company Frenchie (advancing at trail arms). The British dragoon is certainly "in the ballpark" slightly larger but not outlandish next to a PA cavalryman.

    Stylistically the Napoleonic Creartecs are classic semi-rounds. The marching French infantry in particular are pretty flat, like Holger Erikssen's original PA's but with a naive 19th Century air to them - classic Bleisoldaten reborn.

    More to follow shortly.


  7. Interesting project

    Those Meisterzinn moulds are tricky to use - even with lots of relasing agent I get stuff stuck in them or bad moulds - difficult to add extra vents to them as well

    -- Allan

  8. You're right, Allen. I realized some improvement with the Meisterzinns the last time out by working hotter.

    But I think part of the problem with these multi-part molds lies in trying to do too much with the design -- pouring metal from both the top & bottom. Hence it results in an unsatisfactory compromise where in neither case can the most efficient venting be achieved.

    As the release, my most effective method is slamming it against the workbench. ;-)


  9. Hey Steve,
    I was frustrated using my Meisterzinns with my hot plate and ladle until I got a bullet-making pour pot from Cabellas. That helped things a great deal since it heated the metal much higher. Also, using the molds "hot" helps quite a bit, although any way you work with them, they are not as easy as silicone. I've used silicone as a release agent, but find giving them a good rap on the underside with a heavy pair of vise grips usually knocks the figure out of the mold best.

  10. Thanks, Baine. Yes, by trial and error I reached the same conclusion about the Meisterzinns. Work hotter.

    The other thing I found, where there's a choice of holes to pour into before the whole cavity fills, pour first closest to the problem area. For example, that worked with the hussar horse where the base and hind legs are apt to cast incomplete. Now if I can just make his weapon come out like a sword and not a machete.