Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Wooden Toy Soldier - Part 2

(I guess the subtitle should be 'Project Peg Mk. 2'...)

Still concentrating on simplicity or a highly stylised toy soldier, I've made my model from just four parts; the peg body, the hat, a rifle and an MDF base. (All glued together with PVA wood glue for larger parts but superglue for the rifle as I needed 'instant tack'...Hope it will hold.)

The rifle is very simple and toylike and is just made from two matchsticks glued together and carved into shape with a craft knife, then sanded smooth...

It's crude, but as it's supposed to be a toy this kinda suits the purpose. My figure does not have arms or hands so I will just glue it to the side - in an 'at ease' pose - and paint a hand onto the rifle stock as if the soldier is holding the gun.

 As this is intended as a game marker I have glued the figure to a standard 25mm circular MDF gaming base...

The hat is on a little crooked, but lots quite 'jaunty' so I will leave that (this is just another test after all). Incidentally, this would be another good reason to consider turning these model in a lathe.

And now it's on with the primer and then the painting. Now is crunch time regarding the design - historic uniform of fantasy one?

I am unsure whether I might have been better to have primed with a brilliant white rather than grey. For one thing, as the primary colours I am using are very bright a white base will help to make the colours 'pop'. But, also, it means I have a good foundation for any of the white parts I intend to have, particularly as my Vallejo acrylic white seems to need a couple of coats get get a good opaque coverage.

Well, for now I'll make do with what I have and I have to say that the grey primer does make it easy to pencil in the design on the figure (and, yes, I went for a fantasy 'toy soldier' uniform design)...

The face isn't exactly 'traditional' but this is just a test. Though even though what detail there is is stylised and simplified I hope my shake brush work is up to painting the uniform by hand...

Looking at my design I am thinking that if I do prime with white I could mask out certain regular design features - like stripes - so that they are not only straight but also provide an easy way to pick out fine painted details (guess I will save that for yet another test).

I will also have to expand my collection of craft acrylic paints. It's funny how some of my Vallejo paints cover beautifully - like the red and the blue I used - but other are a pain in the butt (like the flesh colour and white - and I happen to know that yellow is a nightmare to get a nice flat coat). Luckily, the craft paints are quite cheap. (I did wonder if I should try enamels, but they bring their own problems and are smelly!)

Next: The finished test model.

Monday, 19 February 2018

Wooden Toy Soldier - Part 1

Now that I've tested the materials for my 'Peg Doll' toy soldier project I have to put some thought into the design. I actually have several projects based on the wooden soldier idea in mind, including; tabletop game markers of various sizes, traditional Christmas tree decorations and Christmas dinner table place-name holders.

Googling 'wooden toy soldier' provided me with plenty of inspiration for
painting schemes and construction ideas for my peg dolls.
Wooden toy soldiers seem so synonymous with the festive season that it hard to avoid ideas that don't include Christmas themed projects!

However, I am also interested to see if it is feasible to create useful game markers. This isn't an a new idea, I saw something similar when I visited the Triples War Game Show at Sheffield in 2013...

Obviously, my 'peg soldiers' will be even simpler in design than the wonderful toy solders I saw at Triples, but they provide a guide to the style that I'm looking for.

My main quandary is whether to do a 'short' peg figure (similar to my test model) or to try a 'long legged' version using all of the dolly peg? ...I may do both...

The other thing that's got me a bit puzzled is hats! The big hat is one of the defining features of the toy soldier and there are a few ways to create one, you could make one from some wood or perhaps go down the felt or fake fur route.

I prefer the idea of a wooden hat as that's more akin to the Nutcracker type toy soldiers I remember fro my childhood.

I found a tutorial that suggested that you try using wooden candle holders (see left), but while these seem ideal they are actually very hard to find in the UK so I will probably have to make my own alternative versions.

This actually won't be so bad as I'd like to do create different regimental uniforms based on historic ones and one of the most iconic pieces of uniform is the distinctive and often times unique headwear of the various regiments and nations.

So, my first idea is to create hats from a second peg. This seems a quick and cheap way to do this and I think I can create different shapes of hats depending on hot I cut the peg down.

And finally, how many parts do I make? My initial test figure was a single piece design with features painted on, but for the actual soldiers I may want to add extra pieces made of wood like rifles or swords. If I do this, how do I attach them - do I also need to make arms for the soldier?

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Shops...
Being new to this 'peg doll' making business, I'm still working out some of the crafty 'props' and shortcuts. But, completely by chance, I happened across a bespoke 'peg doll making kit' at my local general store (of all places)!

Now, these look like pegs, but they aren't really proper pegs, not like the ones I bought from Amazon. These are specifically made for creating peg dolls and they come with special base rings so you can make your doll free standing.

Having sawn through both these and the real beechwood pegs I can say that these faux-pegs are made of a softer wood (so wouldn't last on a clothesline in the rain for long). The pack is the same price as the real pegs I bought - about £2.50 - BUT you only get 10 'pegs' in this bag as opposed to 24 in the real peg pack.

Still, I do like the little stands, and this all got me thinking that IF I ever got into this peg doll making thing I would probably invest in a small wood-turning lathe and make my own pegs and accessories (this would solve the 'hat' problem). The softer pegs do make it easy for me to cut them up into accessories of the same diameter as the pegs themselves just using a simple hand saw though. SO they were a nice find.

The Creation Station 'faux-pegs' - with ring stands.
One small detail I prefer about the fake pegs is that the 'shoulders' are less flared. The real pegs I have have a tapered 'shoulder' that narrows towards the 'head'. You will also note - from the accompanying photo - that the real pegs aren't exactly uniformly or symmetrically cut, whereas the fake pegs are. And finally, though you can't see in my photo, real pegs have tapered feet - to allow them to fasten to a clothes line - while the fake pegs are flatly cut as the bottom and the space between the 'legs' is narrower...

Real peg left, fake peg right.
Unfortunately, because the fake pegs are overall a shorter length than real dolly pegs you cannot mix and match if you want that uniform look. But I like the variation in detail between the two as it means  I can try out different effect when painting and it adds some character to the little figures I will make.

So, let's try one out...

I used two pegs here, one of each type to create this soldier and his buzzby hat! The cut-offs will be worth keeping so I can carve other accessories. The above photo also shows a couple of matchsticks glued together, from which I hope to carve the soldiers rifle.

This, of course, is the shorter 'game marker' style peg that I will be trying out, as opposed to the full sized peg doll (but I will be making one of these later as well). They don't really conform to a standard scale, though I could cut him down to an even shorter size to make him roughly 28mm scale I suppose. But true scale isn't ugly important here, as long as he's being used in conjunction with other peg dolls of a similar size.

Well, on to the carving and sanding (there are some rough cuts which I want to smooth off) before I prime and start to paint my little soldier. The big question is; do I paint a simplified historic uniform (his busby suggests a British Guardsman) OR do I give him a fantasy 'toy' uniform? Hmmmm...

Next: Painting my soldier.

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Featured Work - Lead Soldiers

Sorry, I couldn't quite catch the name of this modeller (James something), but this is superb. Though, Health & Safety might baulk at the idea of carving raw lumps of lead by hand!

British Pathé News (or some of it's producers at least) seems to have a bit of a love for toy soldiers as it seems to be a popular and recurrent them for their news segments. :)

Saturday, 17 February 2018

Peg Doll Test - Part 3

Thought I'd post up the vanished test model...Actually, varnishing does make a difference and has improved (or literally 'glossed over') some of my dodgy line drawing!

I only used a cheap Wilko's spray lacquer, but it seems to have worked OK (not sure if it will yellow more quickly than more expensive artist's varnish).

Friday, 16 February 2018

Peg Doll Test - Part 2

Nice to get painting larger scale figures again and because this is a simple cartoon design it's been very relaxing too. However, there was a serious purpose to this test and that was to work out whether acrylic paints were the best medium to use to get that wooden toy, high-gloss look.

I blocked out the main colour areas and that was enough to give me some worries about the acrylics I was using. These were my normal Vallejo modelling acrylics, but at times I found them too thin to cover well on the porous wood of the peg, some colours requires two or three coats to get the flat opaque colours I wanted...

So, I will try out another test with a more craft orientated acrylic paint (which seem to be a little thicker). The up side of this is that craft acrylics are a lot cheaper.

Anyway, I still have things I want to try out on this figure. chief among these is the outlining of the colour blocks - cartoon style - with a thick black Sharpie marker...

Actually...I didn't have a Sharpie thin enough so stupidly used a normal marker which proceeded to bleed and run when it hit the acrylic paint!!!

I had to go over several bit repeatedly to hit the runny felt-tip so this isn't quite as neatly drawn and painted as I had hoped. But, there again, this is why we do test models isn't it? (Now I know.)

All I need to test now is how the figure looks with a coat of gloss varnish and if all goes well I can start planning a proper peg doll project...I have several ideas! ;)