Tuesday, 27 August 2013

54mm Figure making accessories.

Fruilmodel Academy Figure
My plastic toy soldier painting has ground to a halt as I have become more and more interested in making my very own toy soldiers. To this ends a couple of little packages arrived at my home while I was on holiday containing some kits to help make the process of sculpting 54mm figures a whole lot easier.

Fruilmodel of Hungry and Andrea Miniatures of the Czech Republic produce little skeleton figures that act as a framework onto which you can apply your chosen sculpting medium - like Milliput or Fimo or whatever. The accurately proportioned armatures ensure you have the best start to your figure project and also help you turn out figures of a consistent scale.

In sculpture, an armature is a framework around which the sculpture is built. This framework provides structure and stability, especially when a plastic material such as wax, newspaper or clay is being used as the medium. When sculpting the human figure, the armature is analogous to the major skeleton and has essentially the same purpose: to hold the body erect. [Wikipedia]

Fruilmodel - 54mm Academy Figure
This is the simpler and cheaper of the two kits, consisting of a one-piece 'skeleton' and four heads. It cost 7 Euros, but had to be sourced from Frilmodel themselves in the Czech republic (so there were additional postage costs).

The skeleton is made of white metal has certain of the main muscle masses included (so it's not really a skeleton) and comes with five head options. Four of the heads are fully featured, with interesting expressions, and the final 'head' is really a basic skull which comes attached to the armature so you can sculpt your own head if you wish.

The armature allows you to bend the various limbs and the spine so you can create the pose you want. Even the hands can be clenched.

It's really quite a nice start to a figure sculpt and at 7 Euros (though drat those shipping costs) you don't mind too much using it as a base for slapping on your own modelling clay as it makes the price of an individual sculpt reasonable.

Fruilmodel Academy Figure 54mm heads
Not so many heads, but at least a good pair of shoes!

Andrea Miniatures - 54mm Converter Multi-pose Mannequin
The alternative armature that I found is made in the Czech Republic by Andrea Miniature, in fact they do a 1/35 and 54mm version. One of the things that initially attracted me to this armature kit was the great flexibility of the armature itself and the small selection of pre-posed hands that come with it.

While the Fruilmodel skeleton does allow for a degree of posability I am skeptical about just how much it can replicate the full range of human movement because of it's more solidly moulded metal construction. You may have to actually break off limbs to get a specific pose to work and to look natural (but I will have to test this to know for sure).

The Andrea armature, on the other hand, comprises of a novel flat brass 'skeleton' which while it appears to be somewhat flimsy compared to the Fruilmodel frame is likely to allow a far greater range of movement and therefore a greater range of possible poses. Still, when you consider the premium price for the kit of 16.30 Euros you do wonder if you got enough bang for you bucks.

From the Andrea Converter instruction sheet. You can get a sense of the
flexibility of this kit compared to a more solidly moulded armature.

But anyway, the Andrea kit is a well thought out and put together package and unlike the Fruilmodel kit it at least comes with a reasonably comprehensive instruction sheet. 

The disadvantage of this 'thin' method of frame is there is less structural hints for you to work with, less muscle mass and so you will have to judge how much 'flesh' to put on the frame.

Left: A picture from the Andrea instruction sheet which shows how you might start to pose and flesh out the skeleton. The musket is a third-party addition, but you get an idea at just how supple the thin armature is.

Well, for value for money I do have to go with the Fruilmodel product no question. It's a little less flexible, but on the swing side it does give you a better start with less of the actual body to model.

I have a feeling expert miniature figure sculptors might go with the Andrea kit, simply because - for anatomical variety - it offers the ultimate flexibility. For a beginner like me though the extra anatomical hints that the Fruilmodel armature provides - with the major muscle groups - will be useful and mean a lot less building up with your putty.

However, in my case I will not actually be using these armatures for their intended purpose (as a base framework onto which to sculpt a figure). Instead I will be using these as templates from which I will be making my own cheap armatures - like the wire one I have already made.

The commercial mannequins will provide a means for testing poses and will also provide a rule of thumb for scale. Also I will be able to check for position of the major body joints when making my cheap wire skeletons.

While learning - presuming that I will probably make quite a few mistakes to begin with - I don't really fancy expending a 7 Euro armature every time I make a figure (much less €17)!

So there you go. Two very good armatures which will ensure you have a good start to accurate 54mm figure sculpting. 

Useful links:

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Back from holiday...Ah well.

While it's always terribly sad to get back home after a holiday at least I have the consolation of some very exciting projects waiting on my workbench for me - plus a couple of nice little parcels from the continent!

I had a wonderful time in Belgium and as you might imagine I visited some of the many museums dedicated to the many conflicts that have taken place in that little country. In fact there was something of a theme to my selection of visits as I chose to take a look at some of the coastal fortifications that were build by our later day enemies to defend them against we marauding Brits!

Its a rather novel concept to think of other continental nations preparing themselves for invasion by us, we normally think of the situation reversed. But Ostend - a seaside resort in Flanders - has been occupied on several occasions by Britain's historical enemies, notably the French and then the Germans (on two occasions).

My first visit was to the impressive brick bastion on the east of the town called - appropriately - Fort Napoleon. This beautifully renovated and preserved French fort protected the harbour from invasion from British forces during the Napoleonic period...

Wonderful aerial shot of Fort Napoleon (not mine I hasten to add)!
My next spot of historical tourism was to the west of the city and of much more recent construction. The Atlantic Wall museum, nestled in the sand dunes along the towns long coastal promenade. This museum actually covers both the fortifications build by the Germans during the First World War - The Aachen Battery - and the later coastal defences build during WW2 to defend against the inevitable Allied invasion.

Belgian 120mm (12cm K370b) artillery piece, captured by the Germans
and used in the Atlantic Wall battery at Ostend.
...On the 21st December 1943 Field Marshal Erwin Rommel visited the
Ostend Battery, here he is seen inspecting the above mentioned 120mm.
Both museums were a real treat for the amateur military historian to visit as they are in superb condition. I will be writing up a full report on these visits on my Milgeek Blog later.

But now it's back to funny little projects...See you soon!

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Summer vacation

Well, it's that time - the annual summer holiday.  So no more blog updates for a couple of weeks. All that's left to say is I hope you all have as enjoyable time as I will be having!

I'll leave you with this oddity...

This is a skull I am working on. It will form the core of my forthcoming 1/32 Mk. III head sculpture.

I *think* that I have the scale right this time (third times the charm) and so once I am completely happy with the shape of this skull I will pass it to my brother who will duplicate it in resin for me. This will then become the basis for my head sculpture attempts.

Bereft of features I can start with a blank canvas and build up different faces on top of it, while knowing I am working with he right scale consistently.

I've measured this up with a variety of 1/32 heads and once the flesh is applied it should match Armies in Plastic, Airfix, HAT or, indeed, Black Hat metal toy soldiers.


Saturday, 10 August 2013

Gotcha! French 1905 uniform

A reference note to myself!

There is no doubt that French army uniforms of the period between the end of the Franco-Prussian War (1871) to the start of The Great War (1914) are something of a puzzle. As a period of relative peace this era is not covered by the usual reference pamphlets - like Osprey's Men at Arms - and what useful material that might exist is - as you might expect - written in French!

A bit of a bugger really as I am interested in French uniforms between 1890 and 1910. My Black Hat Infanterie De Ligne do not seem to fit into the uniform styles which are covered by the mainstream reference material and this has been a cause of some frustration. I just could not seem to find a historical example which depicted the uniform modelled by Black Hat's Frenchies!

Well, hopefully, I finally solved the mystery of this particular toy soldier when I came across a very nice set of French watercolours online. They depicted the history of the 147th Infantry Regiment of Sedan and the example of a soldier of 1905 caught my eye...

Left: Soldier of the 147th Infantry Regiment (1900-1905). Raiment: shorter tunic with red collar and a row of buttons with flap facing in 1899 that lasted until the first world war. He is equipped with a Lebel rifle.

This illustration is the closest thing I have found that is similar to Black Hat's French toy soldiers. The Black Hat toy doesn't have the webbing kit or back-pack but otherwise is a nice representation of the 1905 pattern French infantry uniform.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Horizon Blue Chasseurs Alpin

Chasseurs Alpin 1913
54mm Metal French Alpine Hunters (Project 7)
I have been toying - if you will excuse the pun - with the idea of creating a small all metal army. While my main interest is building a large 1/32 plastic FLW Molatero army I can't resist indulging my interest in the French army of 1900.

With a view to eventually assembling an Army Horizon Blue I have been buying a few sample toy soldier and this month I received a section of Chasseur Alpin from Dorset Soldiers.

These marvellous little traditional toy soldiers come with separate left arms which are attached by means of a shoulder peg which slots into an arm socket. It's a pretty noticeable means of fastening and I don't think I will try to hide it - by means of modelling putty - but make it an intrinsic part of the toy.

Scale-wise they should match the other samples I have purchased from Irregular miniatures.

The Alpine Hunters were first raised in 1888 and are notable in that they are believed to be the first ever formation to officially adopt the beret. The uniform comprised a loose-fitting dark blue jacket and blue-grey breeches...

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Molatero Jaegers near complete

Painting stripes on trousers are a real pain! And this has held up my completion of my two Molatarian Jaeger test figures...

Still, nearly done now and I am quite pleased with the uniform. In the grand tradition of the Imperial era I have made a distinction between the officer's uniform and that of the enlisted man's.

Not much to do - just get those stripes straight! And then add the gloss layer.

Monday, 5 August 2013

Vanished Armies

I have read about several Funny Little Wars enthusiasts that have enthused about A. E. Haswell's ‘notes and memories of the days before “the lights went out in Europe” in the year 1914’. The book contains beautifully sketched illustrations of uniforms worn by a variety of European nation's armies of the period 1908-1914.

The work was done by A. E. Haswell - a Scottish artist and soldier - while he partook in a grand tour of Europe in the years prior to the outbreak of The Great War.

I picked this book up on Amazon Marketplace for less than £10 and it is very well worth the price. As a graphic artist what I find fascinating is not just the wonderfully charming sketches themselves but also the little doodles which surround the main plates of details of interest.

Another reason that this book is so valuable for anyone interested in uniforms of this period - which I should think would be the majority of Funny Little Wars enthusiasts - is that it includes some of the nations who were not directly involved in the then looming war of 1914-18.

Normally modern books about uniforms tend to be campaign or conflict based, surmising that most 'military enthusiasts' are interested in war. As such those nations which did not take part in conflagrations are likely to be overlooked and their forces, their uniforms and formations have faded away and are generally undocumented. So it is nice to see countries like Spain, Portugal and Sweden being represented in Mr. Haswell's book.

The colour and variety of uniforms, even within one nation's army, are a delight to behold and this is sure to be a font of inspiration for any FLW 'Field Marshal' who is mustering his forces!

Vanished Armies by A. E. Haswell available from Amazon retailers

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Artillery crew - Sgt. Albert

Really good day today! Started with a lovely family day out in Dalby Forest - little nature ramble with my girls, my daughter's boyfriend, the wife and a crazy dog. Ended with me managing to get 'Albert' finished!

Left: 'Albert', or my Mk II head sculpture. To this I added my Romanian style hat - the capela.

I am really pleased with how this has turned out, when you consider I have just started sculpting figures in 1/32 scale. And best of all I managed not to make a complete hash of the paint job.

The uniform is my own design for Molatero's Royal regiment of Artillery and a lot of credit has to go to the really nice body which was crafted by Black Hat Miniatures.

The artillery shell was a quick scratch build based on an early Krupp shell and it seems to suit the Britains 1201 field gun nicely.

My Mk II head is - I feel - still a little over sized for 1/32, but I like the style. So I am now trying to make a Mk III head in a similar style only smaller. Hopefully this will match the MK I body sculpture that I am working on.

The hat is, again, my own design too, based on the traditional Romanian capela. The two colour design just seemed to feel right and may be a great way to delineate different regiments or service arms.

The stripes on the trousers were a bit of a pain to paint and probably took the longest to do out of the whole figure. But in the end I am happy with the uniform design (I imagine the tunic would be black as well, maybe with some tangerine decoration).

I have to admit that there is something a bit cheeky about the design of Albert's face which I like. I could have gone down the more realistic or generic facial design route (a la AiP), but I like the idea of keeping the 'toy' in toy soldier.

I really hope you like him - I intend to complete a full gun crew with the Mk II head before moving on to an improved head. Let's see what other little characters I can come up with! Once again, much appreciation to Black Hat and it's metal body casting as it matches Albert perfectly! ;)