Friday, 31 July 2020

Next Slew of Experiments!

I'm at it again! More tinkering with design and construction ideas, presumably I'm after that 'ideal peg soldier'. But, in all honesty, I just like messing about and I'm really enjoying trying out new ideas.

Don't worry, though, there are several 'proper' projects waiting in the wings. So bear with me (please)! 😊

So, what am I trying out now? Well, it's all about poses - can I make my characters' look a little more characterful with the way I make the arms and add objects? My original peg soldiers are fine, but that one pose I used can get a little tedious after you've done several figures.

So let's get going and we start - as we always do - by cutting down some dolly pegs (these will be my 50mm sizes figures)...



... Still don't have a tabletop sawing machine so it was out with the good old-fashioned hand saw! (I'm hoping to add some sort of power saw as hand sawing multiple figures can be a bit of a pain.)

Body Types, No Longer Just Straight Up & Down!
I'm embellishing my figures more and more, seeing how I might add touches of character that will make individual figures look even more individual, without actually being full-blown caricatures. I still prefer a simplistic approach allowing the viewer to enjoy the fun of a cartoon style. 

I'm slowly approaching the limits of how far I want realism to creep in and here I have suggested body types by shaping the pegs to indicate a smidgen of physicality...


Here I suggest some portliness or a slimmer figure simply by how much I round the lower body and I make a long dress by cutting the peg slightly shorter and adding some legs onto the very bottom...


As you can't actually make a peg fatter or thinner (except by perhaps sculpting bulk onto the basic cylinder or filing or carving some of it away) these small touches are the closes I want to go to customising a peg into a recognisable physique.

Making identical dolly pegs look like different people is something of a challenge. Though dolly pegs of different manufacturers can differ slightly (note the head shapes in the following photo) most of the character traits have to be done by slight modifications to the basic shapes and perhaps by making the peg figures taller or shorter...


The rest of any individualisation has to be done by either adding recognisable objects related to a specific character or during the painting stage.

Facial Features, How Best to Do Them?
While my multiple - individually unspecific - peg figures can be perfectly adequately painted with exceptionally simple and generic cartoon features producing figures who are intended to represent individuals need a little more features to imply who they are. Again (sorry to repeat myself) I'm not trying to produce caricatures - the limitations of how much you can modify a simple peg shape sort of prohibits real individuality.

If I want real caricatures I might as well go the whole hog and start sculpting my figures out of clay! (And I don't want to do that.)

Speed of production is at the heart of my peg models and I simply want to imply specific features by means of very simple marks or 'bumps'. 😊

But for cartoon versions of people I don't mind adding a couple of  'blobs' to indicate noses or ears. Here's a little production line as I decided to use up some left over Milliput...


I have to admit, as I consider larger production numbers my mind has mulled over the idea of making generic blanks of different physical types, heads with an assortment of features and a wardrobe of hats by casting a range of resin pieces. In this way I could assemble figures from a selection of basic parts...

BUT, is this straying too far away from my idea of making wooden figures. Hmmmm... 😒

Friday, 24 July 2020

Ta-dah! A Gaggle of Peg Figures

I've complete my latest batch of peg figure test models, so I've kinda jumped from the priming phase - covered in my lat post in this series - straight to the finished models in a single bound! Can't say if this is a good of a bad thing - it certainly means there's been a little longer wait between posts though.

However, I did snap one quick photo of the painting process in progress...


I found it quite relaxing to be working on multiple figures in a sort of production line manner, although they were not all identical. It was also very interesting to see how the slight design and construction modifications I had made to each of these test figures worked out as paint was applied. There were very definitely things that worked and things that didn't, but that's why we do tests isn't it? 😄

Anyway, without further ado let's look at the finished models and talk about what I learned from them...

Figure 1: US Militiaman, War of 1812...

Continuing my original intention that any peg figure experimental model would be based on historical US army uniforms (this rule has already been open to bending, as you will see), my first test is a militiaman from the almost forgotten British-American war of 1812 (another win for the Yanks)!


There were a few new ideas I was trying out with this model with a view to simplifying some of the methods I used in my early peg soldiers.

The main thing I tried out was cutting a gap in the lower peg to make separate legs (instead of the simple painted on line I previously used). This may seem a little strange if you consider that I already cut off the dolly peg 'legs' to make this smaller 50mm tall peg doll, but this is a much narrower dividing gap than the original peg pins.

The thinking here is twofold; I find painting a simple line to represent the legs a little tedious (especially if I have several figures to do) and also I wanted to see if an actual physical gap would look more effective (i.e. look better). Believe it or not, it's actually quicker and easier for me to saw this cut while constructing the figure than it is for me to carefully paint on a neat, thin line!

Other new effects used here include the nose! Yep, I'm trying out a cartoon hooter. 😀

This is simply a blob of Milliput modelling putty stuck onto the centre of the face. Again, this is both for quickness (another thing I don't now have to carefully paint or draw on) and to add some three dimensional interest. I'm constantly thinking about the times I have to construct multiple figures in a hurry, small changes like this add up and mean I can produce figures in shorter amounts of time.

And finally, I have opted to use the lolly-stick arms - once again (sorry) instead of painting on the arms. This make painting a doddle for me as I don't have to expend time carefully outlining 2D features but instead I let 3D add-ons do the work.

Figure 2: 'Perry Mason', 1930s Private Detective...

As well as trying out new construction techniques I also wanted to experiment with some new themes for my models. While I do immensely enjoy making peg soldiers I thought that switching themes might broaden my skill set and keep thinks interesting.

And so... Because I am currently enjoying HBO's 'Perry Mason' reboot so much I really fancied a crack at doing a classic noire hard-boiled detective figure! 😀


As with my 1812 figure I used the divided legs technique, in this case because I wanted my detective to be wearing 1930s style baggy trousers with turn-ups and just painting these on just didn't seem as evocative enough. I needed to model this look.

Next, I went for the lolly-stick style of arms but upped the technique a bit by cutting bent arms out of a thin sheet of wood. Additionally, I tried out adding an object - the revolver - to the component. This posed it's own problems as I ummed and ahhhed about the scale, but in the end, I decided to go for an oversized 'cartoon' (what fantasy modellers call 'heroic') scale.

And finally, there's the facial features. I am quite happy with the idea of adding a nose in 3D rather than painting one on. While the eyes and mouth  (which I now hate) were done in the simplest way I could think of in an attempt at a minimalist look... I don't think I will be doing this again! 😞

Figure 3: Pippin Fort Cadet...

This figure is actually a bit of a joke aimed at myself. When I posted up some photos of my peg figures to a Facebook group one of the comments I received was that my little peeps looked like they belonged in 'Camberwick Green' (you have to be a certain age to understand this critique)!


The classic children's' TV series from the 1960s was popular viewing and aired regularly well into the 1970s (and beyond) and has subsequently gained 'cult' TV status.

Whether it was the googly-eyed cartoon faces of my figures of just the simplified bobble-headed style I don't know, but I though 'what the hell' and for a laugh I decided to go full 'Pippin Fort' with my next peg soldier! But, anyway, the comment tickled me and as I was a fan of the show and so...


The big change here is that I cut down the peg 'body' and added a couple of wooden dowel pieces for the legs. Again, this was to do with the fact that I have become increasingly unhappy with my original method of indicating legs by just painting a line down the middle to indicate the separation.

My simplified shoes also got a make over by using some Milliput putty to create a chunkier boot.

For the facial features I returned to painting in the whites of the eyes, although - as with Camberwick Green - I made the eyes completely circular instead of my normal half-circle shape.

The arms are, once again bent cut-outs, though I chose to make the rifle holding a two-piece component this time. It was just easier (maybe if I had a CNC or MDF laser cutting machine I would have created a one-piece version).

Figure 4: Dad's Army's Captain Manwaring...

Classic TV nostalgia grabbed me and I decided to make another old British small screen character. This was a bit difficult as I am a massive 1960s and 1970s British TV series and so choosing one out of so many characters to model was a real quandary.

So...Which show? Hopefully you'll guess...


Yes? No? ...Well, it's supposed to be Captain Mainwaring from 'Dad's Army'. 😉

I'm not sure if this counts as a caricature as it's only a passing resemblance, but this is the first time I've tried to recreate a specific character.

The major new technique here is the creation of a rounded lower body to which I have attached a couple of dowel legs. A touch of realism for the body...Just. I'm kinda liking the proper legs idea, not because I am trying to make my peg figures 'more realistic' but because it opens up a lot of possibilities for poses AND it's more satisfying than just a painted line.

The spectacles was a surprise 'win' - these would have normally been painted on but adding more appropriate 3D decoration seems to be the way I am going. But not too much!

Summing Up What I Have Learned...

Story short, my peg figures are not evolving. While I do really like some of the new techniques I've tried out here I still actually like my original way of doing things as well. So, no, this isn't an evolution it's more about finding new ways of doing different types of models for different types of projects. Sometimes my peg soldiers are toys, sometimes they are ornaments. Does that make sense?

I'll modify my techniques depending on what I'm trying to achieve. More detailed for 'caricatures' and my original simplified style for 'trinkets' (I'll elaborate what I mean by trinkets in a later post).

So, what did I like (and not like)?

I liked the dowel legs (for appropriate jobs), they give me the chance to model specific poses and slimmer body types for refined female characters (my original one-piece peg body can look a wee bit plump, especially towards the bottom).

The bent arms (for want of a better name for them) are also nice and open up options for more dynamic poses. To be honest, the painted on arms of my original figures were my least favourite part of my peg soldiers. Not because of their look but because they were a pain to paint on. One of the things I wanted to try out was faster way of creating the figures and I found that laboriously painting a whole unit of arms was a bit tedious!

The method of cutting out the arm with an object in one single piece interests me, I like how streamlined the flat component is. A two-piece equivalent would be a little awkward, I think. Though, I did like having the flat arm and the rifle in two separate bits, go figure. (Horses for courses again.)

Noses... Yes or no? ...Maybe, depending! 😁

I don't think the same fat rounded nose I did (made out of a blob of Milliput, btw) is suitable for every figure. I mean, what happens if I do a slim character or a female? It just wouldn't look right. So I like the nose idea in principal but I think I will have to modify the nose shape for specific body types.

Finally, facial features. I definitely didn't like the 'Perry Mason' simplified features (they were bloomin' awful). In fact, this is the one thing that I think I did better the way I originally painted them with the half-circle eyes. But the mouth poses a conundrum, I'm afraid I'll have to do some more tests to find a satisfactory way of doing this.

My original way of doing eyes and the rounded version for my Pippin Fort
cadet. I may just revert to doing my eyes the original way but may do them
slightly smaller. I also liked omitting a mouth, that works well.

All in all, I've enjoyed this experiment and I have learned a few new tricks. Let's see if I can apply what I've learned to a 'live' project! 😊

Wednesday, 15 July 2020

A Call to Arms! Peg Priming.

I always like getting a model to the priming stage, it's a satisfying close of one major phase of modelling - construction - and the start of the final phase of painting.


My primer of choice is the bargain basement Wilko's Gray Primer spray. Some people like to prime white and other like black, but as usual I prefer to split the difference and go with gray. There's no real deal breaking reason for this, though I sometime find that covering white can be a little tricky (it sometimes takes a decent coat to cover if the paint you are using is a little thin or translucent) and black can slightly mute bring colours (again depending how opaque your top coat paints are).

So after a good rattle I gave my peg figures a good couple of coats...


Ahhh, Problemos!
One thing priming does tend to do is uncover any little blemishes or faults that have occurred during construction but you didn't notice. The flat grey colour seem to make it easier to spot boo-boos! (So I guess there is an advantage to gray after all - white and black both tend to help hide minor faults.)

In this case, I had been a little slap dash in the way I had tried to smooth down the metal pin heads which protruded a bit at the shoulder joint of the arms. For expediency I had used my Dremmel tool and a metal cutting disc to grind down the pin heads but - obviously - was not paying a great deal of attention (I think it was late) and I accidentally nicked the wood of the arms here and there...


AND SO... I had to resort to using some Green Stuff putty to fill these little nicks with a view to sanding them flush once they had dried...


A good going over with an emery board soon smoothed out the filler and we were back at square one ready to prime these parts once again...


Another blast with the gray primer did the trick. Note to self: Next time remember to recess the drill-hole so that the head of the metal pin does not protrude. A small spot of putty would then be enough to hide the pin. Also, be a bit more careful using the Dremmel in future! 😂


There we go, that's a bit better...Now, to paint the little blighters! 😀

Sunday, 12 July 2020

Sunday Tinkerings!

My four little experimental peg figures are plodding along nicely. This afternoon I'm playing about with some slightly different arm poses as I haven't really worked out how my peg's would hold items before. So that's the plan, to experiment a bit more with 'advanced arms', what I can do with them for different poses, how to model what they hold AND how to attach them.

Now, I mention 'how to attach them' because the most obvious solution is to just glue them on, but I have two issues with that; first of all, I don't like just relying on a glued joints (it's just asking for bits to snap off) and, secondly, I want a more efficient way to paint my figures and having separate arms would make it easier if I could then attach the arms once everything is painted! 👌

So 'Job 1' will be to work out a way to include a pin attachment to the arms which would give me a secure way of joining the arms to the body once the painting is done. Luckily I had some tiny steel veneer nails, so I think what I need to do is drill some holes in the arms and body of my figure first...




...Now, my cunning plan is to superglue the steel pins into the hole I drilled in the 'shoulders' of the arm pieces. I can then paint the body and the arms and then glue the pinned arm into the socket I drilled in the body. That should make a very good anchored joint... Let's test this out...


Seems feasible. The only problem I could see was that the 15mm long pins were too long so I clipped them to half the size...



A couple of taps with a small hammer should secure this nicely (after adding a small drop of glue for good measure). I think we have a plan! 😁👍

Making Handheld Objects
OK, I'm happy with the arms but what about when I want my figures to be holding things? There are two ways -I could think of - to have them hold objects. The first is to attach any object I make to the 'hand' - I've already tried out this method when I did my D&D figure set...


However, in this case I used a small wooden bead which I glued directly to the body to act as a hand. This made the attachment quite secure, but I didn't think this would look as good if I glued a bead to a separate arm piece (but I may try this in a later test figure).

So, 'Plan B' was to cut out a single arm and object unit out of a thin sheet of wood. This would give the arm and object a flat 2D look but I thought this might be interesting to try.

Here's my first attempt at this method, I have given my 'Captain Mainwaring' ('Dad's Army') caricature a revolver...


It does look a wee bit over-sized BUT it's in keeping with the overall cartoon style of the model (I think). Looking at this makes me thing that the idea of adding a separate object by means of the bead method might look a little ungainly? This flat method may be the most aesthetically pleasing.

All that remains for me to do is to craft a couple of little rifles for my crew...


These will be a musket for my 1812 American soldier and a little carbine for my 'Pippin Fort' cadet...


Again, these will be flat 2D items cut out of a thin plaque of wood (I think these plaques were bought from a craft shop and were intended or use as Christmas labels)...


These will be attached to a couple of the arms I've made - yes I know what I said earlier about just gluing things together but I am happier about gluing two flat items together as I feel the joint will be quite secure! 😉

NEXT: Priming & Painting my Figures.

Sunday, 5 July 2020

Leg It! More Peg Experiments...

What's this? Part 6 of my run of peg figure experiments? 😵

Well, I'm on the last leg now - forgive the pun 😁 - as I tinker with how I'm modelling the legs of my peg soldiers. I should recap my thinking here; while my original peg figures had painted on detail on top of a simple 'peg' body this was a somewhat time consuming process and making whole units posed a bit of a daunting task (I'm a slow and methodical worker anyway).

In order for me to produce larger groups of peg figures for war-games OR for possible sale - I've been asked so many times about selling figures but aren't as I can't guarantee a speedy turn-around - I need to rationalise my figure making so that it cuts out some of the fiddly precision painting. Hence this series of experiments...

I'm pretty happy with what I'm learned so far and was glad to find that simplifying my process did not mean a commemorate deteriorate in quality. So, onto the last experiment...LEGS.

Now, so far I have been simply indicating the separation of the lower body of my pegs by painting a thin line from the 'crotch' to the 'feet'. I've always been a bit unhappy about this method as I, personally, didn't find it aesthetically pleasing AND it usually means I have to paint my line in a contrasting colour to make it obvious that there are two legs!


So, last night, I started a couple of tests to see how I could indicate the legs by modelling instead of painting BUT - at the same time - tried to maintain the desired level of 'toy soldier' simplicity...


As you can see, I am taking two different approaches; the first is to cut a simple groove that will provide enough depth and shadow to clearly indicate a separation, and the other is to actually make two 'legs' out of some lengths of dowel.


The dowel method is probably stretching my desire for a stylised look to it's limit and is maybe too literal. We shall see!