Saturday, 30 March 2013

New arrival - Britains 4.7 Naval Gun

My first Britains' 4.7! Patience on eBay paid off, though I still don't understand why the price of these toys varies so wildly. I picked this up for a few quid, yet elsewhere what appears to be the same gun is going for twenty or thirty pounds.

It did have some rust spots and chipped paint, but I treated the rust patches with some Hammerite Krust. You just paint this stuff onto the rust spots and in 15 minutes it acts chemically with the rust and becomes black and hard. These areas can then be cleaned up or painted over with a top coat - I decided to preserve the toys original state and just polished these spots up and will finish them off with some light engine oil to prevent any reoccurrence of the rust. I'm really impressed with it.

I hope to nab a second, I have several on my eBay watch list and I guess I just have to be lucky.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Poor man's 4.7 Naval Gun - Part 3

Last Sunday I prototyped my new shield design for my Crescent 5.5 gun conversion, today I have been finishing off my new wheel design. I wanted a 1900s style solid wheel design - a 'Percy Scott' style - similar to that on the classic Britains' 4.7 Naval Gun which I am modelling my conversion on.

I started off by making some plasticard discs and then added the additional bracing and hubs. I used a few spare metal washers to add some strength, and also because they happened to be the exact size I was after.

Then I cut out a couple of strips of plastic to form the rims of the wheels and glued them to the outside of the discs. I suppose this was one of the trickier bits as curling the plastic around the discs was a bit fiddly.

I am rubbish at maths - I am more the visual type of guy - so I worked out the diameters and spacing of everything by trial and error. Making a paper template which I could wrap around the wheel as a make-shift ruller for marking my wheel tred measurements...

The Britains' 4.7 didn't have any treds on it's solid wheels, but I liked this idea, I think it's evocative of the period. Besides, I don't want my '4.7' to be exactly the same as the Britain's one, just similar.

In the end I didn't bother faffing around with complicated methods of dropping the axle height (to match the Britain's gun) I just decided that this height was acceptable.

Next I will box in the tail supports and then figure out how to disassemble the Crescent gun ready to strip of the original paint prior to repainting the complete conversion.

Friday, 22 March 2013

Renovating a 'spiked' Britains' 1201 gun - Part 1

Spiked - 'rendering a muzzle-loading gun inoperable by driving a nail into the touch hole' [Wikipedia]

In breech-loading times this act of rendering a gun inoperative - usually to prevent it falling into enemy hands - was achieved by obstructing ['plugging'] the barrel and then firing a charge. The resultant explosion burst or 'spiked' the barrel.

When I bought this Britains' Royal Horse Artillery gun (No. 1201) toy on eBay I was surprised that I picked it up so cheaply, but I can't imagine that others knew something I didn't when it turned out to be a bit of a lemon. What I thought was a simple obstruction in the barrel turned out to be a determined attempt to spike the gun!

For whatever reason the original owner of this toy had driven - or glued - what I thought was a metal rod into the barrel. Despite all attempts it simply wouldn't budge and so in the end I had to resort to very drastic measures with my Dremel and having done so I was shocked to discover just how good a job had been done of breaking this lovely model...

I could not understand why someone would do such a thing, but my daughter quipped that perhaps some long suffering parent had finally tired of being assaulted by 'little Jonny's' barrage of match sticks and so resorted to capping his mischievous fun!

Anyway, having performed my surgery - once I determined how far the blockage extended up the barrel - I cleared not one but several metal spikes which had rusted themselves together...

Well, having taken this model appart I now had to think of a way to put it back together again. As well as the obstruction it seems like the toy had been stepped on as well - talk about adding insult to injury! The barrel was slightly bent, as was the gun carriage and one of the wheels, and the muzzel was deformed.

The extent of the damage done to this 'lemon' 1201 now clear I decided that a full renovation was in order. Obviously this toy would never again be considered a collectors piece after my butchery, but I hoped at least I could make the toy operational again.

Above: I clipped the retaining pin heads and disassembled the 1201 before I
sawed my way through the rear of the barrel. Happily this turned out to be
quite easy and would allow me to strip the paint off the parts effectively.

I supposed that my rebuilding would involve two phases, first I would have to repair the barrel so that the to could operate again and then I would have to conceal my work. The easiest way to do this I reckoned was to strip the paint off the various parts and then to repaint the gun once I had performed my work.

First thing was to start to repair the bent, gouged and rusty inner barrel and the best way to do that - I thought - was to install a barrel sleeve or inner tube of some sort...

I bought a hollow brass rod from my local model shop (80p) and enlarged the existing barrel bore until it slid snuggly inside. The diameter of my new inner barrel matched the diameter of Britains' original bore. This new inner barrel gave me a smooth and straight barrel again and to finnish off all I had to do was to trim off the excess length at the mussel and at the breech.

Next I had to fill in the hole I had made in the upper barrel. There are various materials I could use - my trusty Milliput which is design to work with metal (among other things) or I could go the whole hog and try something like Evo-Stik's Hard and Fast Metal Epoxy Putty. The Evo-Stik is a true metal putty so would complement the die-cast of the toy very nicely, but the down side is that it dries within 10 minutes and can't be smoothed so easily (though it can be filed and sanded when dry).

I am more comfortable with Milliput, it's slow hardening time means I can tinker with smoothing the surface to get the ultimate match to the barrel. It's not as hard as the Evo-Stik, but Milliput is hard, and it's shock absorbant. So Milliput it is - but first  must strip the paint off my toy and for that I brought out the big guns (pun there for Tim!) with Nitro Mors stripper...

Above: You can't quite tell from this photo but the Nitro Mors is bubbling
away nicely here as the thick Britains' paint slowly lifts off the toy. (Tip: Ventilation!)

Having stripped the parts down to the original metal - more or less - I'm ready to start my re-building...

In Part 2 of this renovation I put everything back together again and finish off by repainting the gun. Hopefully the finished toy won't look too much of a disaster,

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Toy soldier painting test & 'Vulgarian' uniforms

I'm having a bit of a Funny Little Wars flurry at the moment while I continue to decorate and organize my man cave (and my new spray-booth/airbrush workstation), so fear not normal 1/72 WW2 service will be resumed as soon as possible! :)

(I find I can easily work on this larger scale on a tray in front of the TV!)

Anyway, first painting test. I had bought a cheap set of plastic soldiers from the Pound Store to trial painting, but in the end it just didn't feel right - the colourful Edwardian uniforms on 'moderns' was a no-no. So I sacrificed one of my AIP Egyptians to test the 'toy soldier' painting technique, and try out my desired uniform colour scheme.

'Toy Soldier' technique...
OK, this ISN'T as easy as you might imagine (or as I imagined I should say). I thought 'easy, flat colour areas', and while that's basically true I *think* there is a 'look' that you have try and achieve  For a start vivid colours are the key - I guess this is for identification at a distance when war gaming on the lawn!

But painting toy soldiers for Funny Little Wars is more than that - I am sure Tim and the other FLW veterans will pull me up if I am wrong - but there is a 'feel' to vintage toy soldiers that I want to capture too. If you look at the old Britains' tin soldiers the first thing you will note is that they are not too neatly painted at times - well, these things were mass produced after all. Sometimes the paint didn't stay 'inside the line'.

In short, unlike painting any other war gaming figure, painting FLW toy soldiers was - I found - more akin to sign-writing than model painting. There is lots of single stroke line painting with the brush, and if that stroke goes slightly over your intended area, well that's all part of the charm.

Colours - designing a uniform...
As I said, Edwardian uniforms for FLW are colourful. At first you might think - as I did - too colourful at times! But there is method in this 'madness'. Obviously I suppose unit identification is one reason, but also if you are creating an imagin-nation then you want your units to differ from the historical red, blue or green jackets that we instinctively associate with historical nations. ALthough - conversly - FLW is designed to be used with existing historically painted toy soldiers which can be used to represent semi-fictional factions like 'Army Red' or 'Army Black' (no prizes for guessing which real nations these are based on)!

(Phew! Again, as a complete novice in the art of FLW I concede I am speculating here and may - in all likelihood - be talking complete nonsense!)

Incidentally, despite this soldier being an example of my Marmeluke Marine (see below) I have used a more Western flesh pink as I want to experiment with a little facial detailing (not too much though). And I have not glossed this figure yet.

I think my green isn't vile enough and my plum purple is too dark, and I need some contrasting detail to make it more interesting. But I guess that's a good reason why you should do a test figure before undertaking a whole unit!

Long Live Vulgaria!
(Note: At this early point I was intending to use the name 'Vulgaria' as my chose imagi-nation, butas it turned out someone was already using that name. So I later chose Molatero.)
My preferred imagin-ntion is Vulgaria - Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang made a big impression on my as a kid! -  mainly because there were some interesting uniform and costume designs done in the film. The primary colours were the traditional movie 'villain' scheme of the time - notably purple, black, white and vile green, which while not being as bright as some FLW schemes might be interesting enough.

So I drew up a sketch of how I might handle these given the models I had in mind using for my Vulgarian army (and it's colonial forces).

This sketch was modified based on my practice paint job pictured at the beginning of this post and I decided to add a little more contrasting detail to pick up the scheme a bit - epaulettes and collars and cuffs, etc.

Edit: Dear me! I nearly forgot to mention and give a big thank you to the Funny Little Wars Yahoo Group whose member gave me a lot of sage advice on how to approach this project:

Finally, here's how another FLW enthusiast (James from the Dancing Cake Tin blog) tackled his AIP Egyptians, here in the form of 'Tarbooshians'!

I dug around in my paint box and found a couple of Tamiya pots that I forgot I had...

The green is still a wee bit dark I think, but the alternative I have is shockingly bright. But anyway I think the purple is spot on what I want so I did a bit of repainting...

And the final version...
Still wasn't happy - the green. It looked OK 5 or so inches away from my face, but at a distance it was still too dark. So I went for it and tried the really bright (and vile) green I had, and would you believe it - it worked...

This is a learning curve for me, so I guess the idea is that - so things look right at a distance - choose the colour you want, then lighten it a couple of shades lighter for effect. (Maybe?)

Anyway, I'm happy now.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Poor man's 4.7 Naval Gun - Part 2

Well, I started the weekend with Friday's post about my intended 'Poor man's 4.7' project and today I end the weekend with a little update on my progress. I've finished off the gun shield prototype - it's a little lacking in detail (rivets and what-not) but I will save that for the final version.

One problem I had to solve was the Crescent 5.5 model's elevation mechanism as bits of it jut out at the front, interfering with my shield. So I cut out a section of my shield to allow the gun to elevate freely...

Trouble is that this means that I have rather a large hole in my shield now. So I designed a set of cowls to cover the holes but still allow the gun to rise and descend...

I think this gives the shield the Edwardian period look I was after, but I will be happier when I have the rest of the detail done. One of the things I want to do is to make a telescope like the Britains' 4.7 - I think it will finish this off nicely...

Next I'll make my wheels - I think I have come up with a way to make bigger wheels without raising the gun any higher.

Friday, 15 March 2013

Poor man's 4.7 Naval Gun - Part 1

I decided to designate Friday's as my Funny Little Wars day (blog wise), just so I end the week with something a little more frivolous. I really enjoy the tongue in cheek aspect to this war gaming format as it encourages an imaginative approach within a loose framework of Edwardian military history.

Today I am starting to consider how I might add a battery of heavy artillery on the field. Usually the avid FLW exponent would by default turn to the famous Britains' 4.7 inch Naval Gun toy. It was H.G. Wells' favoured 'weapon' on the playroom battlefield and it holds a rather hollowed place among  those that use his rule set. But today a authentic 4.7 model will set you back a tidy sum as they are being snapped up by collectors.

So I decided to try and come up with a cheap and cheerful alternative to the venerable 4.7. I soon discovered the Cresent Models 5.5 inch British artillery piece, another die cast toy but one that does not have the charm and charisma of Britains' masterpiece.

The 5.5 gun can be picked up for a pitance - compared to the 4.7 - on eBay and there are plenty on offer in a variety of conditions. My only stipulation was that the firing mechanism was in a working condition and I soon won one at a very reasonable price.

Now the 5.5 is a relatively modern gun compared to the 4.7 (which historically dates back to the late 1880s) so I realized that if I were to pass my model off as an Edwardian artillery piece I would have to disguise it somewhat.

First thing to go were the very modern looking rubber tyres and thier wheels. An easy job that only entailed my pinching the end of the axel so that the steel pin that formed the axel slid through the retaining holes. Job done (nice easy start)!

To replace the 5.5's wheels I wanted to create something more fitting to the period (pre-WW1) and have something that was a little larger. I also wanted to add a gun shield, to hide the huge spring posts and add to the 'antiqued' look.

None of what I am doing is irreversible so that - if I wish to - I can turn my faux-4.7 back into it's original 5.5 self. The upshot of my rough and ready prototyping is this...

Now this is, of course just a very elementary 'proof of concept'. I wanted to check what size of wheels I could get away with and also to see how I might affix a shield without obstructing the ability to elevate the gun. I also taped the gun's tail supports together and intend to box them up with plasticard to give a more '4.7' looking carriage to my model.

Naturally, once I am satisfied that I have the proportions that I am looking for in my add-on components I will craft some new parts which have a bit more detail and realism to them. But even at this point I think my additions have change the character of the gun slightly.

I think I can get away with slightly larger wheels and my final versions of these will either have a spoked arrangement or a 'solid' design like the Britains' 4.7 gun has...

Above: The real thing -Photograph showing British QF 4.7 inch gun on the improvised
wooden field carriage designed by Captain Percy Scott. In action at the Battle of Colenso, South Africa, 15 December 1899. Source: Wikipedia

Above: The famous Britains' model number 1264. 4.7 Naval Gun. This die cast toy
was in production for some 60+ years, from 1905. It went through several versions, the
mechanism being improved and honed.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

eBay bug - Britains' Royal Artillery Gun

I seem to have caught the eBay bug (I'm a late starter) and have been keeping an eye out for any of the Britains artillery toys for my Funny Little Wars project. I'm not entirely sure if this was a bargain, but I did really want one of these (No 1201 Royal Artillery Gun) so I felt it was £6 well spent...

As you can see it does have a spot of rust, but I don't think it's in that bad nick. £6 seems OK to me as there are some stupid prices being asked for these...

There again I have over-spent big style this month and am waiting for the wife to say something. The only way I can think of redeeming myself is to put my old Scalextric stuff that's been gathering dust in the attic for years on eBay to fund my new addiction!

Second 1201 Gun arrived - photo studies
I managed to pick up a bit of a clunker at a ridiculously low price (due to being badly titled on eBay I think), it actually cost more in postage than to buy. This poor thing has obviously see a fair bit of action on the play room floor and the mechanism is shot (excuse the pun) and the wheels and barrel are a little crooked. But it seems to me to be a good 'fixer upper'.

UPDATE (again!):
Two things - first I think you can see from the last photo exactly why the gun will not fire - there is an obstruction in the breech. So I have to remove this (it's pretty tightly stuck whatever it is), once this is done the gun *should* fire as intended.

Talking of which, I tracked down the original instructions:-

Box: The latest pattern Royal Artillery Gun Patent No 34218/30 FIRING Pull back breech cover, place shell in breech, leaving about quarter inch exposed. Depress lever on right to fire. The Gun is also designed to fire a shell by an Amorce Cap. Pull back breech cover as for ordinary firing, place Amorce Cap in circular depression, insert shell and depress firing lever. Note, the gun is more powerful and realistic by this method. (Amorce Caps are not supplied with the gun). R.A. Gun No 1201 Copyright Models Manufactured by W Britain in London, England Trade Mark Regd No 459993

Wow! I gotta try firing with a cap! :)

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Newly arrived - AIP 1/32 1882 Egyptians

The very nice Royal Mail delivered a very nice surprise this morning - my 1/32 (54mm) Armies in Plastic c1892 Egyptians in Winter Dress.

Now this is my very first purchase of 1/32 toy soldiers since I was about 10 years old and doesn't at all quality as 'braille scale'! But it's a welcome rest for my tired eyes after my recent 1/144 adventure.

I suppose the first thing that struck me was, naturally, the size of the figures. Each figure is moulded in a medium hard plastic which we are all probably familiar with if, like me, you had a large collection of Airfix plastic soldiers as a kid. Though I was impressed with the poses and expressions, which all seemed quite natural and well detailed.

I chose Egyptians because I am a big fan of Tommy Cooper. (No, really - that IS why.)

But to elevate my choice to something more akin to a studied approach I did also procure Osprey's 'The Russo Turkish War of 1877'. This has a nice colour plate depicting the Egyptian uniform modelled in AIP's figures, as well as some Turkish soldiers in similar dress. I should add that the historical detail in this book makes a very good read and describes the armaments and tactics of this 'transitional' (post American Civil War) period of military development very well.

Anyway, back to the toys. There are 20 soldiers in the box, of which six can be described as advancing or charging and the other 14 make for a very atmospheric line formation. There are 10 poses with 2 soldiers in each pose and two of the figures are offices with swords drawn.

From my experiences with plastic soldiers in my formative years I was expecting a lot of bent gun barrels and bayonets! And yes, there were a few (and one malformed rifle). But it took but a couple of minutes web searching to find a solution - bathing these plastic figures in first very hot water, making the plastic malleable, followed by a cold rince to 'set' the plastic again. Fingers crossed!

Overall I am very pleased with this first delve into 54mm toys, but I do have some concerns about painting which I will have to enquire about (I remember all too well 'flaking' when I attempted to paint my Airfix soldiers as a boy).

Above: Spurious opportunity to show this photo of
my father wearing a fez while on leave in Alexandria
while serving with the 8th Army in 1943.