Posted by Martin on August 10, 2011
Calpe French regimental command greens.
When I last posted about the computer difficulties I was experiencing, I hardly expected a hiatus of a month before I’d be able to return to the blogging fray. Yet that’s how it turned out what with the trauma of getting the technical issues resolved eventually butting into our fortnight family holiday (and beyond). However, I’m delighted to say that things are back to normal – in fact, they’re probably back to something better than the previous normality even though it’s proven to be more expensive than anticipated. The old computer turned out to be beyond repair and so I’m now typing this on a shiny new one at BfK HQ that’s equipped with newer and better software than its predecessor.
All of which means that I can begin to make good on the teasers I promised a month ago. And, for our first selection from the menu of arcane delights, I’ve chosen to share some visual evidence of progress on the French range from the Calpe Towers workshop. The above composite picture is of greens of three of the six figures that will comprise the regimental command pack for the route march set of figures. These three chaps are, left to right, a drummer, a sappeur and an officer. The other three figures in the pack will be two eagle guards and an eagle bearer. I took the pictures of these chaps on our return from our long weekend visit to Belgium (which seems soooo long ago now). One of the benefits of the new computer is that it came bundled with much more modern and effective picture editing software so I’m really pleased with how the quality of the photos I took has been preserved through the editing process.
It would be remiss of me not to add a few observations about these three figures. The drummer carries his drum on his back in a fashion that clearly shows the purpose of the two straps that hang down from the bottom of the drum. So, if you ever wondered what they were for, here’s your answer. The sappeur wears a greatcoat but what you can’t see from this picture is that it is buttoned back in such a way as to afford a pleasing view of his apron. Finally, the officer wears the standard habit-veste and Peter F. has sculpted him with the small officer’s bag that was introduced under the Bardin regulations and which is nicely illustrated in the Rousselot plates.
This pack is now available as Product Code F10. Additional Product Codes for other newly available packs in the route march set are as follows: F4 for fusiliers in uncovered shakos, F5 for voltigeurs in uncovered shakos and F6 for grenadiers in uncovered shakos. I’ve got some official photos for some of the packs in this set now from Peter F. so I’m now in a position to add the first French page to the Calpe website. I’ll let you know when it goes live.
Next time I’ll begin sharing some of the pictures we took on the Waterloo battlefield.
Posted in Calpe Towers, Forward Patrol, French Infantry | Tagged: Calpe, greens, sculpting | 12 Comments »
Posted by Martin on January 20, 2010
At last, all the snow that’s hit Wiltshire over the last week or two has melted away at the study here at BfK HQ is warm enough to work in again. And that means it’s been time to start my assault on some of Peter F’s finest figures with the putty and sculpting tools. So far I’ve picked out some figures that look well-suited to modifications and made a list of the painful indignities I’m going to inflict on them. Better still, a couple have already been on the operating table. Once I’ve got a critical mass of work completed, I’ll take some snaps and share more details with you.
While I’ve been shivering lately, I’ve also hoovered up links to a few more interesting and useful sites.
The first of these is Clarence Harrison’s new blog where he plans to recount the tale of building his collection of figures for playing the Republic to Empire ruleset. Clarence did the artwork and design layout for the rulebook so if anybody’s collection is worth watching grow, it’ll be his.
Next up is another painting blog, this time that belonging to Toby Thornton who paints for Artmaster Studio. Now that’s a commercial painting service so I have to quickly clarify that this isn’t a product endorsement slot. Rather, I like the cut of Toby’s painting jib and if you scroll down a few postings you’ll find some Foundry French artillery figures that he’s done very nicely. The only thing I’ve found a bit odd is his choice of the Foundry figures. If he can do such a good job, I wonder why he didn’t opt for more modern sculpts from the Perrys. Still, there’s a little nostalgia there for me because some of those French artillery crew figures were among the first I purchased when I returned to the hobby about ten years ago.
Lastly, we travel to Spain for another commercial painter with a wide range of tastes in different periods and scales. “Archiduque” Rafa is another painter who works commercially and looking at his work I can see a definite Spanish school emerging with notable stylistic similarities to my online friend Javi Gomez.
All three sites are well worth a browse for eye-candy and painting inspiriation and I’ll add them to the links in the right hand column when I get a spare moment or three. And talking of having time to post more – I’ve just acquired a copy of a secondhand book I’ve been hunting down for ages. It’s the Arms and Armour Press version of the Blandford title Uniforms of the Retreat from Moscow. Over the weekend I’ll aim to say more about this acquisition and, in particular, why I prize this paperback edition more highly than the original Blandford hardback.
And I’ll leave you tonight with a stop press announcement from Alan Perry, in case you haven’t seen it yet.
Posted in Forward Patrol, On the Workbench, Reading List | Tagged: Archiduque Rafa, Arms and Armour Press, Artmaster Studio, Blandford Press, Clarence Harrison, Perry, sculpting, Toby Thornton | 8 Comments »
Posted by Martin on November 16, 2009
Peter F's von Rechten battalion
I spent most of this last weekend at Calpe Towers as Peter F’s guest. It was the long-planned opportunity for me to learn the basics of mould making and pick up some sculpting tips in readiness for my forthcoming venture into Frankenstien monster-like conversions of some Calpe Saxons. We covered so much ground that it’s hsrd to know where to start. So let’s just dive in.
On the Saturday, Peter demonstrated the art of mould making. The creation of a successful mould is indeed an art. Anybody can make a mould but it takes considerable skill and thought to make a mould that captures all the detail of the master figures and can survive repeated use without degradation or damage. I’ve learnt that the orientation of the figures in the mould, the way they’re sculpted in first place, the type of rubber, temperature, pressure and the duration of “cooking” time all make a contribution to the quality of the result. Even how you pre-warm the rubber beforehand makes a difference.
On top of all that, you need a bit of physics knowledge to understand how the forces affect the flow of molten metal into the mould while its in the spin casting machine. Plus, you need to bear in mind that the air displaced from the mould cavities by the metal needs somewhere to go otherwise you end up with trapped air bubbles. Hence the need to cut and drill vent holes in the mould after its been made.
While waiting for the mould to “cook” we started on my sculpting tutorial. Rather than actually embarrass myself, I was content to watch Peter work and listen to him as he described the tools and techniques he uses. He also took the time to explain how he designs figures carefully with minimum risk of gaps and unsupported parts that would result in easily torn rubber in the moulds. Peter also showed me the ingredients and proportions he uses for his mixture of sculpting putty and I ended up mixing up several batches as work progressed on several figures over the weekend. Mostly we focussed on an NCO for the new set of Saxon line grenadiers but we also did some work on some greatcoat wearing figures that will emerge in an exciting release some time next year (once some minor problems with production mould quality have been resolved).
In particular I learnt how to get a smooth surface finish on putty, add fine details of various sorts, add buttons, make shoulder swallows for musicians, create wire armatures for limbs and bulk them out with putty, create folds in clothing and make blanket rolls worn bandolier style. Phew, what a lot to absorb! Now I’ve got to go away and practice. If I do a good enough job, Peter’s offered to make up a mould so that I can cast off a few of my own diabolical creations. No pressure there then 🙂
The other job we managed to get done was a short photography session (you can see a glimpse of the output above) and hopefully some of the other shots will be of good enough quality to be used by Dan with my Wargames Illustrated Prussian article. If so, I hope that the article will appear in the next issue.
Posted in Calpe Towers, Conversions, Forward Patrol | Tagged: Calpe, mould making, sculpting | 12 Comments »
Posted by Martin on September 4, 2009
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?
Posted in Conversions, On the Workbench, Saxon Musketeers | Tagged: A+B putty, Experiments, green stuff, Saxony, sculpting | 6 Comments »