Befreiungskriege 1813-14

Painting and modelling 28mm Napoleonic wargaming miniatures

Posts Tagged ‘Experiments’

Gilding the lily

Posted by Martin on September 4, 2009

Customized figure with bandage close-up.

Customized figure with bandage close-up.

Here’s a quiet little heresy: even the new Calpe Saxon musketeers with their 50+ different individual figure poses leave me with a hankering for more variety. Alright, they do provide (more than) enough variety but everybody else can have that variety too. I’m after something unique, individual, special…

So I’ve decided to customize some of the figures – Peter F. won’t mind because that’s how he started out on the slippery slope to full-blown figure sculpting. I’ve chosen the word customizing with care because that’s what I see myself as doing rather than converting. All I intend to do is add a few touches here and there that give me distinctive figures or, more precisely, a unit of figures that’ll have a distinctive appearance. And to get the ball rolling, I’ve started with an experimental figure that I intend to use for a very special purpose (which will remain secret for the next few weeks).

If you want to play along at home, there are a few things you’ll need:

  • Extreme patience and an excellent sense of humour because modelling putty has a mind of its own!
  • A figure to butcher. I chose a Calpe Saxon musketeer officer from Pack SM9.
  • Various implements for cutting, pushing and generally bending putty to your will. So far I’ve used a scalpel, cocktail sticks and pins plus a pencil as a rolling pin.
  • A little pot of water to keep your implements wet so that they don’t stick to the putty.
  • Talc which came in hand when I was trying to roll out flat sheets of putty without the pencil sticking to them.
  • A flat surface. I used a cutting matt.
  • A paintbrush. Any old brush will serve so don’t use your best Winsor and Newtons, Da Vincis or Raphaels for this. It’s for positioning bits of putty accurately and brushing it with water to achieve a smooth finish.
  • Good lighting. As good as you use for painting.
  • Last, and by no means least, putty. More of which in a moment.

Next, a disclaimer: I’m a novice sculptor so anything I say here is based on my very limited experience and numerous cock-ups. But hopefully, my schoolboy errors and how I’m learning to cope with them might prove entertaining if not instructive. Peter F. has offered to give me some guidance and encouraged me to give it a go so I thought I’d get stuck in and then have something concrete to take back to the master for critique.

The one really good piece of advice Peter F. did give me was about putty. I’ve messed about with Kneadatite Duro “green stuff” before – mostly as a sort of epoxy adhesive / filler when I’ve drilled and pinned arms and heads on to figures. I learnt from this that I find it awkward stuff to work with. It’s a bit too stiff for my tastes though other people seem to get on with with perfectly well. When I asked Peter F. about this, he let me in on the secret that a lot of sculptors mix different sorts of putty together to get something with a consistency that suits their individual style.

The clues are there when you look at Peter’s greens and compare them with those sculpted by the Perrys. Theirs are a dark green – the colour of pure green stuff; while Peter F.’s are a lighter pea green (for want of a better description). The reason is that Peter F. mixes green stuff with white Sylmasta A+B putty. Both green stuff and A+B are two-part epoxy puttys so if you have sensitive skin you ought to take the precaution of wearing latex gloves when working with them and don’t put the putty in your mouth. I’m not sure of the ratios Peter F. uses for his recipe or how he actually mixed them together but here’s what I did.

First, I rolled out four equal sized small balls of the component parts of the puttys – one of each of the materials, if you see what I mean. Then I thoroughly mixed up the two parts of the green stuff; followed by doing the same for the two parts of the A+B. Lastly I rolled the two piece of putty into sausages, twisted them together and kneaded throughly until I had an even-coloured green mixture. This 50-50 mix was much easier for me to work with and reminded me of the plasticine that I used to play with when I was a nipper.

Once I’d done that, I set about making some embellishments to the figure. I started gently by adding a rectangular repair patch to the shako cover; then I got a bit braver and added piping to the outside seams of the trousers and finally I decided to attempt to add a bandage around the figure’s left knee. I thought that this last challenge was going to be the toughest because I’d struggled to get the piping just right. However, the bandage worked out best of the three. I think that’s partly because I learnt quickly through practice and got the hang of working the material. Also, when it came to the bandage, I realized that I needed a planned approach and made it in four separate stages: the main bandage, a ball for the knot and two “ears” hanging down as the ends of the bandage.

I’m actually rather pleased with this first attempt and I’m certainly motivated to try some more. So my imagination has already turned to other sorts of customization I might attempt: bandages over one eye, rolled up trouser legs, ripped trouser bottoms, various repair patches, neckerchiefs… What sorts of things can you think of?

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Posted in Conversions, On the Workbench, Saxon Musketeers | Tagged: , , , , | 6 Comments »

I might live to regret this…

Posted by Martin on July 21, 2009

But it’s one of those things you’ve just go to try.

My blog hosting service provider, WordPress, has just released another fun new feature – just how much fun it will prove to be for me depends on you lot though. That’s because this new feature lets people rate stuff on the blog. There are three specific sorts of stuff I can enable ratings for – posts (like this is), pages (like the Saxon Army Resources page) and comments.

I’m not going to enable ratings for comments for now because I think that would be overkill. But I am going to put my fragile (noises off: “yeah – right, who’s he kidding?”) ego on the line and let you all rate posts and pages. To do this. locate the row of stars at the bottom left of the text. Then simply drag your mouse across the stars until it displays the rating you think I deserve and click.

It’s as simple as that. I’d ask you to be kind but actually I’d prefer you to be honest because the feedback will help me do better stuff here.

Posted in Announcements | Tagged: , | 4 Comments »

Paint decanting idea

Posted by Martin on January 21, 2009

I mostly use Vallejo paints but I’ve got a few Foundry colours that I like. Trouble is that it’s a pain dolloping the paint out from the Foundry pots with a cocktail stick or something and quite a bit of paint gets wasted that way. Today I saw a photograph of some minis with a row of Vallejo dropper bottles behind them. Nothing strange in that except that it was obvious from the picture that the painter in question had decanted some Foundry paints into Vallejo dropper bottles.

This is potentially a very neat idea indeed. All I need is some clean empty Vallejo dropper bottles and either a funnel or a steady hand. Now you can buy clean unused Vallejo dropper bottles online from places like modelsforsale.com for about 29 pence each but it would be so much better to clean out and reuse finished ones. Of course, as luck would have it, I don’t have any bottles that are close to being finished just now. But I bet some of you have! Does anybody fancy donating a couple to me? Go on, you know you want to. You’d only throw them out and I might be able to recycle them and we could all feel an inner glow of green-ness.

I only need a couple for now – just to experiment and see if the idea is as good as it seems.

Posted in Paint and Equipment | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Let’s put it behind us

Posted by Martin on January 6, 2009

First things first. I’d like to wish a belated very happy and prosporous new year to all of you who regularly (and not so regularly) read my blog.

I, for one, am really delighted to see the back of 2008 – it was a very trying year on the hobby front. I didn’t paint anywhere nearly as many figures as I’d hoped; my dalliance with the idea of entering a painting competition didn’t come to fruition; I’ve wrestled with inconsistent photography and the saga of the Calpe vulcanizer of doom has been depressing. All sorts of people have asked me questions about that and the impact on the release of the Saxons. It’s been difficult at times to know how to respond. Clearly, I’m lucky to have inside information and to know about the struggle Peter F. has faced. And it has been tempting to share more of the details to help people understand and appreciate the situation but I also feel a strong sense of loyalty and friendship with Peter so I’ve always ended up saying less rather than more because I believe that it should be Peter’s decision what to say publicly and when. After all, it is quite literally his business and not mine!

But 2008 hasn’t been a total hobby disaster. I managed to attend both Salute and Colours and I even showed my face at the local Devizes club’s big Napoleonic game. I’ve also acquired a second hand digital SLR camera at a bargain price and started to understand how to get good results with it. Best of all, BfK continues to thrive. Traffic to BfK has gone up by 82% in 2008 compared to 2007; and comments on BfK increased by 19% in 2008 compared to 2007. All that extra activity is down to you kind people. So thank you all and I hope you continue to visit, enjoy and participate in BfK during 2009.

And what of 2009? Well, those who know me will tell you I’m not one for new year resolutions. Frankly, I think that they’re artificial. If there’s something new or different you want to do in life, why do you have to save it up for a new year to come along? Having said that, a year-end does make for a convenient time for reflection and planning and here are some things that, when we get to the end of 2009, I’d like to be able to have ticked off the list – they’re not new year resolutions, you see, because they’ve been on my rolling list for quite a while:

  • Get some Prussian units completely painted, varnished and based. At present that probably means battalions for the 2nd Kurmark landwehr infantry regiment.
  • Get at least one Saxon unit completely painted, varnished and based. The first release of the Calpe Saxon musketeers is really very close now so they’re the likely target.
  • Settle on a final design for my casualty bases. There was a lot of positive feedback to the SBS I did this year but I’m still not quite satisfied with the design. I’ve got some ideas for improvements and I hope to be able to demonstrate those for you over the coming weeks.
  • Achieve a consistently high standard of miniature photography. I’m pretty confident on this one. I’ve got a really good camera now and I received a wireless shutter remote control as a Christmas present. All I need to do is find a value-for-money tripod and set up the lampshade lightbox I described back in July.
  • Actually enter a painting competition. Either one at a big show like Salute or Colours or possibly the regular one on Steve Dean’s forum.

Now, if all that goes well, there’s a second tier of not so crucial objectives on my rolling list. These aren’t well formed ideas but I’d like to share at least the flavour of them with you and invite your opinions on them:

  • Terrain pieces: I’m hoping to build a few of these in 2009. I’ve got some books with nice photos of farm buildings, houses and churches in Saxony that I’m using for inspiration. I’m not quite sure what I’ll go for yet but perhaps a couple of small complexes of a couple of buildings that can be used as farms or villages. The other option is some landscape pieces. I’ve got a fascination with ditches, hedgerows and dykes. I can imagine constructing some of these as places where skirmishers might deploy to take advantage of cover.
  • More interactivity on BfK: you might recall the experiment with a voting poll a while ago. That’s something I might do more of in 2009. I’ve also got a bizarre pipedream about audio. I have some friends who are RPGers and they create their own podcasts. I’m not sure that I have the time and resouces to commit to anything so regular or intensive but I am toying with the idea of making digital recordings of certain visits or events later in the year. On top of that, I’m flirting with the Flickr photo-sharing service and the Twitter micro-blogging system.
  • Leveraging BfK traffic for pocket money: some of you may know that I have a small BfK bookshop set up on Amazon. So far, it hasn’t been a spectacular success but it costs me nothing to run and provides a few pennies to pay for paint. At present, the rules of my hosted blog service provider (WordPress) forbid certain sorts of commercial activity like advertising but I’m considering options that would enable me to overcome that legitimately. So if you happen to be a potential advertiser, now’s a good time to get in touch. I may not attract vast amounts of traffic, but what I get is top quality and highly relevant. Commenters during 2008 have included several top figure painters and gamers as well as well-known book authors like Dave Hollins, Stephen Summerfield and Anthony Dawson. Er… that’s quite enough self-promotion!

So that’s enough about me, as they say. What about you? Any grand plans for world domination in 2009?

Posted in Announcements | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »