There is now a special page dedicated to the BfK Limited Edition Figures project and a link to it has been added to the navigation menu in the header above. This is the place to go for a summary of the genesis, history and progress of the project; the figures themselves and how you can order them from me. Oh yes, it also covers the prize draw and painting guide!
Posted by Martin on October 13, 2012
Posted by Martin on September 1, 2013
It’s been a long time since the last posting in this paint-in series and rather than spread things thinly by discussing progress across all four figures, I’ve decided to use this posting to discuss the steps I took to complete the Marie Louse infantry figure in the set. The main reason for doing this is that, after a disrupted Summer, I felt in need of the morale boost of getting least one of the figures over the finishing line – painted, varnished, based – the works!
The last time I wrote a paint-in posting, this chap at least had his head, trousers and shoes completed. When I re-commenced work, the first thing that happened was that I decided I wasn’t completely satisfied with the work I’d previously done on the pokalem, so I did some reworking of the blues to make me happier and to get back into the swing of things. Then I moved on to the greatcoat which I decided to paint brown given the amount of grey and blue across the set as a whole. The basecoat was Vallejo German Camo Black Brown (VMC822), first highlight was Vallejo Flat Brown (VMC984) and the the second highlight was Andrea Medium Brown (NAC-46).
After than, it was on to a lot of details, many of which are unexciting so I’ll simply list the paints as follows:
- White strapping and shako rosette: basecoat – Second Shade (Andrea White Set), first highlight – Base (Andrea White Set), second highlight – Vallejo White (VMC951). For these colours, two thin coats rather than one thicker coat will give a smoother finish.
- Black for cartridge case and shako: basecoat – Vallejo Black (VMC950), first highlight – Vallejo Dark Grey (VMC994), second highlight – Vallejo Neutral Grey (VMC992), third highlight – Vallejo Light Grey (VMC990). Go sparingly with the final highlight.
- Brown for the musket and potatoes (!): basecoat – Vallejo Burnt Umber (VMC941), first highlight – Vallejo Beige Brown (VMC875), second highlight – Vallejo Cork Brown (VMC843).
- Canvas for sack and cloth wrapped round musket lock: basecoat – Vallejo Flat Earth (VMC983), first highlight – Vallejo Ochre Brown (VMC856), second highlight – Vallejo Yellow Ochre (VMC913), third highlight – Vallejo Buff (VMC976), fourth highlight – Vallejo Ivory (VMC918).
- Brown for backpack and leather strap on water bottle: basecoat – Vallejo Burnt Umber (VMC941), first highlight – Vallejo Cavalry Brown (VMC982), second hightlight – Vallejo Red Leather (VMC818). The piping was done with Vallejo Ivory (VMC918).
- Brass for shako plate, “N” on cartridge case and musket bands: Vallejo Gold (VMC996) with several pin washes of Vallejo German Camo Black Brown (VMC822). This is one of the rare occasions that I use washing as a technique and the key is the patience to go for multiple very thin washes rather than one or two more opaque ones.
- Gunmeatal for musket: basecoat – Vallejo Dark Grey (VMC994), first highlight – Vallejo Natural Steel (VMC864).
All the above is pretty regulation stuff. The painting I want to devote some commentary to is the lentille pompom. You can choose different colours according to which fusilier company of a battalion you wish to represent – dark green for the first, sky blue for the second, aurore for the third and violet for the fourth. Normally the lentilles of the first battalion would be solid colour but it was common for those of the other battalions of the regiment to have white centres with the battalion number inscribed on them. For the purposes of the paint-in, I thought it would be instructive for me to tackle the notorious aurore colour because I have seen so many bizarre interpretations of this over the years. Of course, it’s impossible to be prescriptive about this (or any other historical colour) but I took my cue from the meaning of the word – dawn. To my mind that implies that the colour was intended to be the pinky orange of the sky at dawn. With that in mind I used the following paints: base coat – Vallejo Orange Red (VMC910), first highlight – Andrea French Orange (NAC-35), second highlight – Vallejo Sunny Skintone (VMC845).
When you’ve finished all the painting, leave the figure overnight to dry completely before varnishing. There’s a lot written about varnishing and everybody will have a recipe that works for them and gives the desired outcome. I aim for two things: rock solid protection of the paint finish and as matt a finish as possible. With that in mind, I currently follow a three step process, leaving the figure to dry overnight between in each step hidden under a plastic cup to prevent dust and hairs settling on the figure:
First, I paint the figure with Humbrol Enamel Clear Gloss 35 for protection. Second step is to paint with Winsor and Newton Galleria Matt Acrylic Varnish. The reason I do this is not to provide the final matt finish but rather to help me when I apply the final coat of matt varnish which is shiny when wet and I can’t see the spots I’ve missed when painting over the Humbrol gloss finish. The third step is to paint with Revell Enamel Color (sic) Matt 2. For all these products I can’t stress enough the need to follow the manufacturers instructions – especially when it comes to stirring them thoroughly.
Once the final coat of varnish is finished, I now take precautions to avoid handling the figure directly because oils from your fingers will start to add a sheen to the matt finish. So, for the basing steps, I handle figures using a paper towel and then only pick up based figures by their bases (people visiting my house get very dirty looks if they pick up figures by any other method).
For the figures in this set, I promised to sign the bases, so I fortunately remembered to do that before gluing on the figure. The lucky recipients will see the flourish of my initials with the year (2013) in permanent black Sharpie pen on the underside of the base. Having glued the figure to the base and let it set, I built up a thin layer of epoxy putty ( a 50-50 mix of green stuff and Sylmasta A+B putty). When that had set, I applied a diluted coat of PVA glue and dipped the figure in a tray of N-gauge model railway ballast. When dry, I repeated for a second coat of ballast to ensure good coverage and then glued on some individual larger stones. When all the PVA had dried out completely and I was satisfied that there were no loose particles I applied a final light drybrushing of Vallejo Buff (VMC976). And voila, the figure was complete!
Now I’m bracing myself to tackle completion of the second figure. This should be a little more challenging because it’s the drummer with all his Bardin uniform Imperial lace.
Posted by Martin on August 26, 2013
I’ve had such a busy Summer with “real life” that posting to BfK has taken a back seat. Thank you to those of you who have been kind enough to enquire after my well-being during this period of silence. I’m delighted to say that there’s been nothing wrong. It’s simply been a case of having so many other things to attend to that I’ve been rushed off my feet for ages. I’m not going to bore you with it all but it’s a combination of the day job, my role as Chair of Governors at the local secondary school and having to keep up with the demands of a wife, two teenage daughters (one of whom is about to head off to university), two dogs and two cats. Not to mention an ageing mother-in-law with health issues who lives 400 miles away.
So what have I missed? Well, there’s been a lot happening on the hobby front that has passed me by and many of these things occurred long enough ago not to be fresh enough to mention here. However, a couple of things to stick out for me…
I see the Perry twins have been as industrious as ever and have been working to extend their Napoleonic range into more theatres. One of the most notable avenues under exploration is the arrival of some lovely Retreat from Moscow packs that I confidently predict will lead to snowy skirmish games on many a club and exhibition gaming table over the coming months. And why not? It doesn’t need too many figures or much painting effort to put together enough collateral for a few games that will offer a pleasing diversion from the staple diet of big battalions. The other furrow being ploughed by Alan and Michael is an extensive delve into the rarer Confederation of the Rhine units. This looks like a concerted effort to cover all the options needed for the so-called German division that served in the Peninsular. Eventually, I might take a closer look at the range to see if any of them are suitable for my preferred Autumn 1813 campaign.
A Retreat of Moscow game might fit the bill for my favourite discussion forum thread of the Summer. Over at WD3, they’ve been toying with suggestions for “Come Wargame With Me”, a hobby version of the Channel 4 television extravaganza that is “Come Dine With Me”. It’s a fun thought experiment: given a budget of £100, what kind of evening game could you put on for three wargaming guests? That’s £100 for everything mind – figures, terrain, rules and refreshments with a one month time limit to get everything painted and prepared.
Osprey has gradually been slipping out announcements about its forthcoming publication programme. There are only a few Napoleonic titles but of more interest is the company’s planned open day on 14th September. It sounds as though a lot of old, rare editions will be on sale at bargain prices and I daresay there will also be the chance to meet and chat with Osprey staff. Despite the relative close proximity of Oxford to BfK HQ, I may have to miss this opportunity because it clashes with the weekend that my elder daughter starts at university
Meanwhile, closer to home, the drawbridge is up at Calpe Towers for the Summer holiday until the end of August. But the interest levels have been maintained by releases of some of the French infantry march attack packs along with the availability of some French and Saxon artillery pieces. And even closer to home, I have actually been doing a little painting, mainly with the aim of completing work on the sample BfK Limited Edition figure set. I’ll save details of that (plus some photos) for a separate posting. The other area of activity for me is that I’ve been researching the darkly mysterious subject of airbrushes. I’ve got some specific uses in mind for an airbrush where I can save time and get high quality results, not to mention learn a new skill for my modelling armoury. I’ve got a fair idea of which airbrush I’ll eventually go for but the choice of compressor is more complicated. I’d be interested in hearing about your experiences with airbrushes and how you’ve got on with pushing various brands of acrylic paint, primer and varnish through them.
Posted by Martin on April 28, 2013
Sorry, I’ve fallen behind with posting paint-ins, so some of you may have already completed painting yours. Let’s see if I can start to catch up. This session covers painting trousers and footwear with the added fun of painting on my favourite battlefield mud for that grubby campaign look.
Soldiers of the artillery train often wore grey cavalry overalls though there were variations with red stripes on the outer seam. Grey was not the only colour used for overalls: others include cream and a beige shade commonly referred to as Paris Mud. For both my artillery train figures, I kept it simple with the grey. This is built up from a basecoat of Vallejo Dark Grey (VMC994), followed by a first highlight of Vallejo Neutral Grey (VMC992) and a second highlight of Vallejo Light Grey (VMC990).
By 1813, shortages meant that Marie Louises were equipped with trousers in a huge variety of colours from white through to many shades of linen, brown, grey and even blue. In this case I opted for white, mainly because I already intended to use those other colours across the set of figures. The base coat is the Second Shadow from the Andrea White Set and the first highlight is the Base from the same set. Both these paints benefit from being applied in two thin coats and make sure you leave adequate drying time between each coat. The second highlight is Vallejo White (VMC951) which can be an awkward paint to work with but gives a nice bright result for which I have a weakness. A few tips for using this paint are shake it really thoroughly, be prepared to use more than one coat to build up coverage, don’t overwork the paint and let it dry completely between coats to avoid the risk of a chalky finish.
Lastly, we come to the drummer. It’s important to remember that he’s an artillery drummer, so white trousers are not really appropriate. Most reliable illustrators show artillery drummers wearing blue trousers though one of Rousselot’s plates (Planche 55, Artillerie a Pied, 1805-1815 (II)) shows a drummer in Imperial Livery wearing green trousers, so that would make a nice variation for you to consider. I painted my drummer’s trousers blue using the same paints that I used for the Marie Louise’s pokalem. Drum aprons were white leather, so I used the same paints as described for the white trousers above.
After all that work it may seem odd to choose to obscure it by painting over mud effects but I always try the represent soldiers as they would have appeared on campaign. I know of several other painters who also apply mud effects and most of them seem to go for random relatively uncontrolled techniques like flicking a loaded paint brush to splatter the figures with brown paint. That way of doing things isn’t for me – I like to know precisely where the paint is going to be placed on my figures. So I actually paint on areas of mud very deliberately. I use a Vallejo Burnt Umber (VMC941) base coat, followed by Vallejo Beige (VMC875) and finally Vallejo Cork Brown (VMC843) which is one of my favourite colours in the whole range. The effect I aim for is one of mud starting to lighten as it dries out.
So that’s it for this time. In the next paint-in, I’ll turn attention to coats and jackets.
Posted by Martin on April 14, 2013
Sometimes there are long gaps between my painting sessions so unused paints have time separate out with the pigment gradually sinking to the bottom of the bottles leaving a layer of carrier on top. All of which means that I need to give the bottles a vigorous and thorough shake before using them.
I’m fundamentally lazy. So I’m always on the lookout for ideas that will take the effort out of paint shaking. When I buy new bottles, I open them up to insert beads to agitate the paint during shaking, I used to store paints upside down (which I’ve now decided isn’t such a good idea) and I’ve even considered marrying a clamp with a jigsaw as some weird kind of heavy duty power tool paint shaker! However, some time ago, I came across one labour saving paint shaking idea so strange that I never forgot it – even if I didn’t do anything about it for years. The credit for this idea belongs to Martin Stephenson who described the concept of using an ultrasound cleaner to shake paint on his blog The Waving Flag.
I’m not going to elaborate on the theory of how this works because Martin has already covered that. But what I do want to do is describe my experience of trying this. Before I go any further, I want to reassure you that I haven’t taken leave of my senses and purchased an ultrasound cleaner for the sole purpose of shaking paint. That would be mad, wouldn’t it? Yes, er, yes, of course it would…
No, our household has other uses for such a device. I need only mention hard water supplies and blocked shower heads to give you an inkling of our domestic agenda.
Anyway, back to the plot. I asked Martin a number of questions before taking the plunge and he helpfully gave me the benefit of his long experience with this technique. Here are a few of the tips I gleaned from him in answer to my questions:
Q: How many paint bottles (I mostly use Vallejos) can you fit in at a time?
A: The cleaner on my blog will hold 6-8. If doing this you would need to hold them together with an elastic band.
Q: How do prevent the water from soaking the labels off of the bottles?
A: You can’t. New labels survive three of four sessions but be prepared to loose your labels [so I've decided that a permanent maker pen will be called for].
Q: Have you tried putting the bottles inside something like zip lock bags to keep them dry?
A: Contact with water is required to transmit the ultrasound waves [meaning that this won't work].
Q: How long a cycle do you need to achieve a successful outcome?
A: Ah! The piece of string question. Depends on how badly the paint has separated, how old it is and how much has been used. I have left paint in for 1-3, 8 minute sessions.
Q: Do you load the paints in the basket or stand them on the floor of the cleaner?
Q: Presumably you stand them upright, yes?
A: Yes. Doing a couple together helps.
Q: Lastly how far up the side of the bottles do you fill the cleaner with water?
A: There is an ideal level marked in the bath. It’s between half and two thirds of the way up the bottle. I have used less if there isn’t enough paint in the bottle to weigh it down.
Q: Have you got any other tips?
A: Buy one and try it. If you don’t like it your wife will love cleaning her jewellery with it.
My first experiment was an unused bottle of Vallejo Golden Olive (VMC857) paint. It had never been opened or shaken previously so the pigment and carrier were completely separated. I gave it one cycle of 480 seconds in the ultrasound cleaner without seeing much visible reintegration of paint and carrier. Ditto for the second cycle. Then I succumbed to the temptation of just a few seconds manual shaking and was surprised at how quickly and easily the paint was mixing. Encouraged by this, I gave it a third cycle and then squeezed out a blob of paint on to the old ceramic palette to perfect results.
Every good scientist likes to demonstrate that his experimental results are repeatable, so I conducted further trials with unused separated paints to confirm that it works. And, as further evidence for your enjoyment, I kept a video log. When I get a free afternoon, I’ll edit the clips together into something coherent and post it here.
In reality, of course, I’m unlikely to want to shake a solitary completely separated out and unused paint bottle. Apart from anything else, it wouldn’t be very efficient. It’s far more likely that I would want to prepare several bottles of paint at once for a painting session and that they would be in various states of readiness for use. My personal nemesis is a rogue bottle of Vallejo Ochre Brown (VMC856) that never seems to quite be right and always dries slightly shiny or doesn’t have a high enough pigment to carrier ratio to give good coverage. So that little rascal was the next to be subjected to the ultrasound treatment.
After that I moved on to some bulk processing to see how many bottles could be done at once and whether increasing the number of bottles meant that more or longer treatment cycles were required. I found that I could fit a dozen bottles of paint at once in my particular model of ultrasound cleaner and still leave enough space around them for the water to be in contact with as much surface area of the bottles as possible. Spacing them out this way means that the number of treatment cycles does not need to be increased.
In conclusion, using an ultrasound cleaner to shake paint does work. However, if you only need to shake the odd bottle, it’s hardly worth the time and effort. Where it really does come into its own is when you want to shake a whole batch of bottles (for example at the start of a painting session or when you want to restore several paints you haven’t used for a while). In these circumstances, this method is a highly effective labour and time saver. And once you’ve done the first batch you can put more into the machine while you get on with painting. In the past I have considered the Robart Paint Shakers but an ultrasound cleaner beats that option hands down: it’s cheaper, is readily available in the United Kingdom (I got mine for £29.99 from Maplins) and it can shake a whole load of bottles at a time rather time than just one – not to mention being much quieter. Oh, and you can use it for its intended purpose of cleaning things too!
My parting piece of advice if you do decide to go down this route is to remember some basic physics. A lot of energy goes into generation of ultrasound waves in the water and that energy has to go somewhere. Of course, most of it is converted into kinetic energy to shake the paint but, if you do several 480 second cycles in quick succession, you’ll discover that a fair amount gets converrted into heat which will warm up your paints. I think this is an unintended consequence best avoided by leaving short rests between each cycle.
There, now you can all write in and tell me I’ve finally lost my marbles. I don’t care, they were too large to use as agitators in the paint bottles anyway!