Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Peg Horse, Final Hurdle

Sorry, this is yet another post about my peg horse tinkering. But, I still wasn't happy. I had two main gripes; the shape of the horses head and (still) the rider's legs.

Getting Ahead...
OK. I know I wanted 'simple' but I think I was setting my bar a little too low. My first few peg horse prototypes had a very unsatisfactory head shape...I just couldn't seem to capture an equine profile, but  I couldn't put my finger on why it wasn't looking right.

Finally, it clicked...Ears.

Left: My 4th prototype. Right: 5th Prototype, with ears.
An obvious omission it may have been, but I was trying not to add additional features to my peg figures. My peg soldiers have no facial features and I thought that I should carry this on with their horses. Wrong.

My first few horses looked more like the Loch Ness monster! And apart from the lack of ears I also had the angle of the horses neck wrong and I rectified this as well in my 5th prototype (I made the neck more upright and the head slightly more downward looking).

Construction Simplified
While my horse and rider's 'look' was too simple in the end, their construction remained a little too convoluted. This was particularly true with my previous attempt at modelling the peg horseman's legs, for although they looked OK I had to use a lot of Milliput to complete the figure.

In the end, the overall look of my 4th prototype was that it had far too much putty holding all the joins together and fill all the gaps in my badly measured joints. So, I thought I'd have one final go, this time simplifying the cutting of the joints entailing (hopefully) less filler...

I decided to have a go at finishing the model as a Prussian Uhlan (lancer).

The main change was the way I chose to model the rider's legs as I went for a very stylised look. Rather than sculpting a (relatively) 'realistic' form of a seated rider I broke the peg figure into two with the idea of re-joining the separate parts by painting in 'missing' upper-legs.

In Conclusion
I'm much happier with the outcome of this final prototype, having toned out al the annoying bugs to my satisfaction. So, I'll have a go at painting the model now, just to check that my bisected body ploy works!

After that, I should be able to crack on with my first peg cavalry unit.

Wednesday, 23 May 2018


Just completed my fourth peg horseman prototype (it's slowly getting there) and I was pleased enough with it - although it's still not perfect - to take this model to a near finished state. I decided to make a 'hussar', not any particular historic regiment but rather just a generic cavalryman...

I don't think I will go as far as painting this because I want to use this model as a template from which I will make - what will hopefully be - my final models, using the dimensions and cutting angles I have established here.

Still, doesn't look too bad.

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Horsing Around...Again!

Still not happy with my horse design. I think what it is is that I'm trying to go for a more realistic look which is still recognisably a 'peg' toy. Funny enough, a straight forward 'toy town' toy horse would be easier to make as I'd just go for a rocking horse design or similar, but because I am going for something half way between 'toy' and 'realistic' it seems harder to pull off.

What's happening is that instead of a model that's just a few wooden components glued together I'm starting to have to add more and more Milliput putty in order to make the design work. I'm also having to saw, sand and carve more complicated shapes out of the pegs to get the components I want and to make these components fit. (But, most of all it's the amount of putty I'm having to use that bothers me.)

I really - originally - wanted something that just went together out of a few simple components, but now it's turning into more of a real modelling or sculpting job. Maybe I'm just being too critical tough, as - in the end - it's the final look that matters.

I think what I will do is to paint this one up to see how it fits in with my painted peg soldiers.

Saturday, 19 May 2018

A Horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse!

As simple as the peg infantry is to make I do have a bit of a conundrum...How do I make peg cavalry and artillery?

Today I'm trying to work out the cavalry part of the puzzle, by tinkering with some ideas on how to make a peg horses and riders. What's tricky is that it's quite easy to make a 'toy soldier' horse, but I don't want these horses to turn out looking like a children's storybook or toy horse...

I want something simple and stylised which suits the peg soldier look. So I had a look around and found a nice example of what could be achieved...

Credit: Wooden Warriors
I love this stylised horse and it really suits the peg soldier aesthetic. Of course, I don't want to copy this design but come up with something that fits in with my peg soldiers. I'm looking for that 'Goldilocks' zone halfway between realism and toy

Suck it and See!!!
OK, best way (I thought to myself) to find out how to make peg horses is to just start gluing some bits of pegs to gather and hope that I come across a 'right way' to do this. So, here's some pics of the results...

Peg Horse Prototype Number 1.
Well, my first attempt was a little ham-fisted and chunky. I really wasn't pleased with the shape of the head nor the length of the body. The whole thing was a little too big really.

Peg Horse Prototype Number 2.
One of the things that worried me about my first attempt was how I was going to portray the rider's legs. Obviously, I intended the first prototype to have the rider's legs painted on, but was there a more elegant way to perhaps include the legs as a part of the model?

Also, could I simplify (stylistically) the horse even further? Prototype number 2 was my attempt to see how stylised I could make the model.

Peg Horse Prototype 3.
Well, version 2 looked a bit skinny to me (it looked like the rider was sat on a donkey), so I thought I'd work on the version 1 format and see if I could refine it.

I shortened and narrowed the body (using a smaller diameter piece of dowel rod) and worked on a better head design. Yes, this meant I was back to the idea of painting the rider's legs onto the body of the 'horse' but it seemed a quicker and easier solution.

I'm still having problems with the shape of my horse's head - I had to resort to using extra putty to get the shape I wanted - but, in general, version 3 seems to be getting there.

I'm tempted to do one more version as I like the tilted back legs of version 2 - they make the model look a little more dynamic, as if the horse is about to charge - and I just had another idea about how I could do the rider's legs. We shall see.

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Funny Week, Funny Hats

Bit of a weird week this week, it seems like I've been beavering away but have achieved little noticeable results!

Really, it's been a 'house keeping' week as I have been reorganising my portable workbench (yep, I still haven't got my man cave fully operational yet). The main job has been to do some modifying to my Citadel Project Box to make it a little more 'user friendly'...

This is what I am using to model and paint at the moment. The main reason I'm using
this is so  I can keep the wife company in the front room. She's a teacher so if I didn't do
that we would hardly see each other! :)

What I'm doing is rearranging the work area so that it can accept standard A4 sized cutting mats - which are cheap - instead of Citadel's proprietary (and expensive) non-standard sized cutting mats. This involves some shaving of the plastic dividers on the work surface and replacing them with some thin wooden beading. (I'll pop a photo up when it's finished.)

Otherwise it's been small progress on several peg soldier jobs that I'm working on consecutively. But, perhaps worth mentioning might be the job I've done with my 'pith helmet' castings...

I've actually got all the separate pieces of the helmet together and have started making a couple of prototype peg soldiers (though I won't give away what kind yet). :)

And that's the update for this mid-week. Hopefully. I'll have something more interesting to report by the weekend.

Sunday, 13 May 2018

Two-Part Mould - Part Two

Well? Did it work?...Yes and no. 

I think I just need more practise to work out the 'tricks' to doing this, but I think I am probably stretching the practical uses of Instant Mold by attempting two-part casting. Don't get me wrong, it is possible - with care - but I think the whole idea of Instant Mold is quick and easy press moulding really.

Two-part moulding is a slightly more complicated and precise type of moulding and - to be honest - if you are going as far as taking the time to make a properly aligned two-piece mould you will probably want to make something you can keep and use a lot of times.

So, what went right?
Well the quality of the cast was good it captured the general shape of my original object very nicely. And using Milliput mean I had a really hard duplicate that I can sand or otherwise modify further.

So, what didn't go right?
Registration. I did try to make registration dimples in the Instant Mould so the two halves of the mould would come together precisely, but I just didn't do a good enough job. The two halves slipped when I tried to put them back together again with the Milliput inside and so the cast was mis-aligned...

Now, I could rescue this casting by cutting it down the middle and realigning the two pieces again. But that kinds makes the whole process of trying a two-part mould a but of a waste of time. I might as well have just moulded the two pieces separately and then stuck them together at the end...

Alternative way of doing this (or how to rescue a failed two-part mould) is
to simply revert to doing the casting as two single part moulds and then to
glue the resultant pieces together. Perhaps? :(
The result of 'one piece' moulding the helmet parts. Now I don't have the
alignment problem BUT I now have to clean up and glue the two halves
together. Not so cool!

But the good thing about Instant Mold is you can just melt it down again in boiling water and start again. And this time I would make better registration marks (dimples) in the mould so that the whole thing aligns better (hopefully).

...And then again, I'm starting to think that I might as well invest in a proper resin casting set if I am going to start to do more complex casting from a much more detailed original. The resin mould would also have a longer life and allow me to use cheaper resin as a casting medium rather than expensive Milliput...

The Sylmasta Resin Casting Kit (£38). Perhaps the next
step in my casting experimentation?

Well, I feel I learned a lot about what Instant Mold is good and not so good for. It's ideal for one-piece press moulding but not so ideal for larger more detailed 3D two-piece casting. You can do it at a pinch, but the whole idea of Instant Mold is that it's 'instant' and you use it to copy something quickly and then re-melt it to use it again for something else.

My failed two-piece mould, melted back down to use again
for another mould. Best attribute about Instant Mold.

It's definitely a great tool to have on your workbench and I will be experimenting with it again to see what else I can copy (and I will be trying out different casting mediums, like Green Stuff and even PollyFilla plaster). But I think I will invest in a resin casting kit as well.

Anyway, to end off this post, here's my fudged two-piece (two separate single castings) pith helmet. I glued the two pieces together to make the complete helmet with super glue. It's a passable rescue of my failed (proper) two-piece mould attempt, but it will do for my prototype figure I'm making!

Thursday, 10 May 2018

Two-Part Mould - Pith Helmet

So far I have made a very simple 'press mould' using Instant Mold (excuse the spelling but it's a Japanese product) to copy some basic shapes for my peg soldiers. Now it's time to get a bit more adventurous with a more complex shape and multi-part mould.

I'd like to make duplicates of a 'pith helmet' (think 'Zulu'), a prototype master I have made from - you guessed it - Milliput...

OK, my sculpting isn't great, but these helmets are for my peg 'toy soldiers' so absolute accuracy isn't quite as crucial. It's more of a caricature.

Now, how much Instant Mold will I need for this? Considering that this is quite a big hat and it will be a two-piece mould I'm thinking it will need two whole sticks...

Better to err on the side of caution an make too much rather than too little, especially as I intent to cast the peg's 'head' as well (I'll explain why later). Also, I drew a pencil line down the centre of the piece to give me an idea of where to make the mould halves.

First Attempt...
So...Turns out I needed substantially more Instant Mold than I thought! In fact, to get the space around the object I wanted to cast - so I could include reference points - I needed double what I originally estimated (two sticks)...

I think I'm probably stretching the envelope with Instant Mold regarding the size of the object I can cast accurately. It's quite a deep object and Instant Mold seems to handle shallower object better.

The bigger the object to cast (and the more complicated the shape of that object) the longer time you have to spend pushing the Instant Mold tightly into all the nooks and crannies of that object...And time is crucial element in this process, as the Instant Mold is cooling and hardening while you are doing this. So...You may end up having a few attempts in order to get it right!


This is where things get tricky...Adding the second half of the two-part mould. It's definitely more art than science and you'll have to keep your fingers crossed. Unfortunately, you won't really know how successful you are in your mould-making until you actually make your first casting.

This isn't precision fitting, the jelly-like consistency of soft Instant Mold means that there is some movement when you press it into the object. Press the sides and the top and bottom move a little, sometimes opening a small gap between the object and the Instant Mold. It can be a little frustrating.

TIP 2: TRY, TRY, AND TRY AGAIN (If your mould isn't good enough, melt the Instant Mold down and start again.)

Still, as I alluded to earlier, the proof is in the pudding and you will only know how good your mould is when you make your casting.

I'm using Milliput again as the casting medium. I fill each half of the mould with the Milliput and then press the two halves together (so that the Milliput sticks together)...

And now the long wait while the Milliput dries. This will be a bit nerve wracking.

Next: I open the mould - will it be a good casting? Hope so!

Saturday, 5 May 2018

Featured Work, Briannes Peg Soldiers

Lovely to see other peoples work. Here's a couple of shots of some peg soldiers done by Brianne Elizabeth Lyons, a wonderful 'toy town' style army...

Now, I don't know for sure but, I would guess Brianne may be American as her peg soldiers have the excellent wooden candle stick holder 'hats'. You just can't get these wooden ornamental candle holders over here in the UK (I've tried), which is a real shame as they make perfect toy soldier bearskins.

I love the artillery section! :)

Well done, Brianne.

Friday, 4 May 2018

French 'Chasseurs à pied', 1870 - Part 3

Having constructed my very first peg unit, it's time to get down to the nitty-gritty with some painting. As I mentioned in part 1 of this series I had taken the time to do a colour sketch of how I wanted my soldiers to look (having simplified the uniform design a little to suit the peg soldier format).

However, I think I have resolved the one issue I had with the uniform colour - based on the contradictory information provided by some of the historical illustrations I had gathered - and that was the colour of the Chasseurs trousers. I found an excellent website called 'Images De Soldat'...

The website of the author-illustrator André Jouineau, it contains about 1500 colour plates which reference the uniforms of various nations from 18th century to World War 2. And I was delighted to find a wonderful plate with the uniforms of the Chasseurs à pied from1870. (You pay a nominal sum to download the full-sizes plates, but it's worth the €2 if you are serious about your modelling projects.)

While I can't show you the copyrighted illustrations I can confirm that the trousers were, indeed, in a lighter blue (somewhat akin to RAF uniform blue, but a shade darker). So my uniform sketch has now been amended...

The soldier on the right is wearing a rather flamboyant red cummerbund (or cummerband). I'm in two minds whether to include this item in my peg models as - although it is very dashing - I cannot pin down what the actual meaning was of it's inclusion as part of the regiment's uniform. All I have found is this short mention in Wikipedia:

"The units of the French Army of Africa (such as the Zouaves or the Chasseurs d'Afrique) wore cummerbunds of 2 different colours: blue for European soldiers and red for Native recruits."

This does not seem to fit in with the pictorial reference I have from Images De Soldat, as the example soldier was clearly of European origin, so the red sash clearly has some other meaning. They may have been worn, perhaps, to indicate that the unit has seen colonial service (but this is a guess on my part).

[Edit: Nope, I cannot resolve this conundrum, so I will not include the sash - however pretty it is - as the majority of reference I have does not include it.]

Now, On with the Painting...
I'm sticking to my grey primer as it seems a really good base for bright colours (white can be a little bit of a pain to cover sometimes)...

Downside of doing these little fellas in grey is that - with the keeps - it makes me very tempted to do an ACW Confederates! :) (Maybe another time?)

Picking Paints & Colours
One thing I don't like to do so much is mix up special colours, I'd rather buy the exact colour match (or closest thing) in bottle form. It's not that I'm lazy, it's just that - from experience - I know that if I want to duplicate a mixed colour further down the line it's a pig to get an precise match. It's far easier to just know what number Vallejo or Humbrol to buy.

So here's my paint list for my French Chasseurs:

• Gold Piping:
- Vallejo Model Color [948] Golden Yellow

• Dark Blue (jacket & kepi):
- Black undercoat base with Vallejo Model Color [899] Dark Prussian Blue over the top.

• Airforce Blue (trousers):
- Citadel Kantor Blue.

• Flesh: 
Vallejo Model Color [815] Basic Skintone.

• Wood:
-Vallejo Model Color  [846] Mahogany Brown.

I decided to tackle this paint scheme by starting with the 'gold' piping, in the hope I could get some nice (fairly) even lines!

A Case of the Blues
I've been here before...Quite a while ago I had a go at painting a Black Hat 1/32 scale white metal 1890 French Infantryman. Getting the right deep dark blue caused me lots of grief, I just couldn't get the shade right. Eventually, I managed to achieve a colour I was happy with, but only by means of a complicated mix of various blues - something I don't want to go through again...

Depending on the lighting it's nearly black, but not quite...I think it's what's called 'midnight blue'.

This time I decided to go for a simpler approach and in an attempt to make the richness of the blue colour more intense, though still dark. What I decided to do was to lay down an undercoat of straight black, and then to paint a rich Prussian Blue over the top. The resultant effect was for the black undercoat to darken the subsequent blue coat BUT the blue retained it's richness.

Now, Slap it On...
Enough over-thinking about colours, let's get on with some hairy-stick action! I begin by filling in the spaces between my yellow piping on the hats (and will eventually work my way down to the jackets) with a black base coat...

I also laid down the flesh tones and the whites of the soldiers eyes. I've tried to vary the hair styles and the shape of the moustaches, hopefully these will be suitably French looking (to contrast with the more teutonic curled moustaches of the German opposition).

At this point the jackets are just the black undercoat.
And now the slow slog as I repeat the painting until the figures are complete! (Though, to keep me from getting a bit bored with the repetition - thank goodness I'm only doing a unit of 6 - I am already making a start on the first of my Prussian troops.)

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Operation Pickelhaube

With my French peg soldier unit well underway I am starting to turn my mind to producing a matching German Confederation troop...And - sooner or later - that will mean making some Prussians.

You can't get around it, wargaming the Franco-Prussian War - by definition - means you will be including some Prussian units. And that - in turn - means pickelhaubes!

It's a strange little helmet and I have been a bit baffled how I should model it. I decided to try and cast it - as I will need half a dozen - so I thought I best start with a basic shape which I could then sculpt into the final helmet...

If I started with a simple upturned 'bowl' shape I thought I could make several different shaped helmets. It was a very easy shape to cast but would need mounting on a peg so I could work on the shaping and the adding of the peaks...

However, I wasn't satisfied with the rounded shape...The Pickelhaube isn't really round, it has a flatter top and steep sides (a sort of squished semi-sphere). So I did some sanding and added some peaks using more Milliput putty (and sanded some more) and made another casting...

Second attempt...The sculpt is in the brown Milliput which
was then moulded to give me a working object with which I
can modify further before casting yet again!
I think this is a better shape now, so I can take this on and
make a new working casting.
I know this sounds like a lot of work - with multiple castings - but I decided I want to protect my basic shapes as I go along and then modifying only the resultant copies. This is so that, should I go wrong, I can go back to the previous shape (and mould) and start again.

Making a new mould with Instant Mold...It's a simple matter
of pressing the object to be cast into the softened material.
The Instant Mold hardens again as it cools and then you
have a mould.
And so...Now I have my final mould (my third) I can start banging out my working casts. Luckily, one of the best things about Instant Mold is that you can reuse old moulds by reheating them again, so there is no waste.

Next: Basic shapes done, I can now start to 'decorate' the helmet.