Befreiungskriege 1813-14

Painting and modelling 28mm Napoleonic wargaming miniatures

Of corks and clothes pegs

Posted by Martin on February 2, 2011

One of my earliest painting realizations occurred when I was a mere four years old: the kids who were the best painters were the ones who managed to get the least paint on their hands. And it’s something that I still think holds true in adult life.

Most miniature figure painters I know mount the figures on something they can hold while painting to avoid the need to directly handle the actual figures. There are plenty of good practical reasons for doing this – not least, because it helps keep your hands clean(er). In my case, I BluTac figures to old plastic bottle tops and there are plenty of photos on BfK to bear witness to that.

But recently I’ve encountered a new challenge – what do I do to hold something for painting that doesn’t have a nice neat flat base that can be fixed to a bottle top? To be specific, the commission I’m doing for some Westphalian Landwehr casualty figures includes a couple of bare-headed figures with separate caps. Now these caps are darned fiddly little things to pick up and hold at the best of times so imagine how slippery they’ll get when a dash of paint is added to the equation.

The other weekend I filled their interiors with a blob of greenstuff to secure a length of bent paperclip which, when the greenstuff set, gave me a handle I could hold on to when painting. So far so good but what would happen when I put this little improvised structure down to dry? I couldn’t just rest it on the desk because the paint would rub off. I did actually have a solution in mind. We’d (OK, I’d) recently finished a bottle of fine single malt whisky and I’d earmarked the cork from the bottle as ideal for my purposes. It had the cork element into which I could dig the paper clip ends; and it had a flat top that I could use to stand the whole structure safely on the desk without the caps coming into contact with it.

Perfect! Except…

She Who Must Be Obeyed isn’t a mind reader and she didn’t realise that I had designs on that handy little cork. So when the time came for me to it press into into service I discovered that it had already taken the one-way trip to the recycling centre. Now I’m sure the thought crossed your mind (as it did mine) that the obvious solution would be to drink another bottle of whisky. And under many circumstances, I can see the appeal of that idea but time isn’t on my side. I really ought to finish painting up these caps because they’re the only thing between me and basing up the casualties.

So several evenings of occassional head scratching followed…

As ever, inspiration struck when I least expected it. Last night I was clearing out one of the kitchen drawers as part of a search for spare batteries when I came across a couple of old wooden clothes pegs. Ping! Light bulb moment! I can rest these clothes pegs on their sides on the desk like lightweight portable vices and clamp the ends of the paper clip wire into them. So here they sit in front of my as I type this, taunting me with their simplicity and nagging me to pick up the paint brushes and get on with it.

6 Responses to “Of corks and clothes pegs”

  1. Ralph said

    Reminds of the space race story about how NASA spend millions inventing the roller ball pen to write in zero gravity whilst the Russians used…a pencil!

    Getting back to your blue tack and bottle tops – try using a dab of wood glue to secure the figures on the tops – it will hold them securely when dry, but will release the painted article with a simple twist.

  2. Use a piece of styrofoam, much easier and reusuable. I set all my flags in a piece of styrofoam to dry.

  3. Burkhard said

    Not sure if this is any help, but I mount my minis on empty film containers filled with sand whilte painting them.
    Gives a nice handle to hold on to, is easily maneuvered around in your hand, plus… should you ever drop a mini the weight of the sand will mean the the container touches the ground first and thereby protects your mini from damage.
    For small items (or vehicle crews / riders) I use the same set-up, just with a strong wire glued into the container and going out through the lid. For crews / riders you just need to drill a small hole in their crotch (ouch).



  4. Peter Royle said

    I like painting my figure 36 at a time ( using French infantry as an example ) Take a piece of timber 13″ long 2″ wide 1.5″ deep drill 18 22mm holes in timber approx half way down. Cut 18 pieces of 20mm dowel 2″ long to fit holes. This way you can paint as many or as few as you like and stick figures horse etc, even small items on to dowel.I use UHU glue. Make 2 of these “holders” and a unit of French is ready for painting. The dowel is comfortable to hold. The sizes are only are a rough guide.

  5. I have used Blu Tac to adhere mine wee chaps to old paint containers for painting but every now and then they would frustrate me by slowly (or sometimes not so slowly!) falling to the side as I painted them. I was obviously too miserly with the Blu Tac. I also liked the idea of being able to reuse the Blu Tac but found that eventually the paint that I invariably got on the Blu Tac ruined it.

    All of this just says that I apply too much pressure while painting and and am a sloppy painter!! In my defence I will say that the toppling figure thing happened (mostly!) when the figure was tilted so that the toppling was mostly gravities fault and the paint on the Blu Tac mostly occurred when I manually painted on the undercoat (as is my habit).

    I now tend to glue the figures to the old paint containers.

    I used to have quite a collection of wine corks which were mostly used for painting pikes etc. I fear that recreating this collection would be even harder now as many wine bottles now have the new fangled plastic stoppers.

    von Peter himself

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