My first Man Craft Hero featured on this blog is shown here from the August 1983 Military Modelling magazine, one of the early editions of this magazine that my Dad bought home for me.
I love this fort (based on Ladysmith Barracks in Manchester) which matches the style of old toy soldiers, an excellent simple display frame for these figures.
There is a nice depth to this fort and a lovely inner courtyard. Although designed for display, this is a fort that any child would want to play with. It has a lovely ‘toy’ feel to it.
Being myself a bit ‘cack-handed’ in the area of craft and woodwork, at the time I read this I was struggling through school woodwork lessons, so I was especially impressed that this obviously proud disabled young man called Nicholas managed to create this beautiful fort. It must have taken a great amount of time and effort. One deservedly very proud grandfather!
I have always found the pride in his handiwork by Nicholas and his grandfather inspiring.
The barrack gateway is nicely recalled in Nicholas’ fort. This gateway is all that remains of the Ladysmith Barracks which was demolished in 1985, two years after Nicholas made his model.
Once home of the late Manchester Regiment, the Ladysmith Barracks is pictured on the following web sites:
Toy boats of wood well crewed by tiny men of lead …
The tiny metal sailors are 25mm Crescent figures, c. 1950s /60s.
The FH 133 West Wind Falmouth boat was locally made by the former Tree of Life Toys company of Paul, Penzance.
These two small wooden boats were picked up from a charity shop in Cornwall c. 2007. They are just the right size for Peter Laing 15mm figures or for the smaller OO/HO Airfix figures and these Peco railway modelling sailors.
They also do quite well for my DIY Fimo cake mould figures of a Victorian naval landing party:
Lostwithiel in Cornwall is an interesting cluster of antique and bric-a-brac shops, a great stop-off on the railway. There I saw this handmade 1950s much larger wooden toy boat.
Bashed but with ‘patina’, this one probably won’t need much painting or repair.
It suits larger toy soldier or sailor figures, 30mm to 54mm.
Excellent scenic items for a harbour scenario, garden “floor wars” or H.G. Wells’ The Game Of Islands.
Insert your own reference to Corporal Jones in Dad’s Army here in his old red coat, fixed bayonets and “they do not like it up ’em!” Several companies now make redcoat and khaki figures of Corporal Jones.
Another good example of hobby learning: how technology of cloth, dye and weapon along with politics, geography, climate and (social) history are all to be found in the now deemed slightly odd but still pleasurable hobby of painting toy soldiers!
The two Boer wars were probably the turning point in tactics and uniforms, developing a trend for clothing matching the battlefield and climate that had unifficailly been going on in India and across Empire since the early Nineteenth century.
It was the end of black powder and smoky battlefields, an age of more individual fighting, snipers and improved rifles, not to mention binoculars, balloons and aeroplanes; all these made bright colourful uniforms too conspicuous. The French poilu soldiers in their red and blue, almost Napoleonic French flag uniforms learned this the hard way in the first years of World War One. The age of drab camouflage colours and in the toy world “green army men” had arrived.
Repainting the drab green toy soldiers in bright colours has been my mild reverse protest against the age of drabness ever since:
Peter Laing 15mm miniatures range sheep – my only one!
Hence the protection of a well armed Peter Laing Ancient “shepherd”.
This is Peter Laing figure A921 Sheep Standing (as opposed to the more dynamic A922 Sheep Grazing) from his Medieval range.
Peter along recommends it for Dual Use or Suitable Items From Other Ranges in his catalogue for sheep figures from Ancients, Feudal and Dark Ages, Renaissance and the English Civil War periods.
Sadly this sheep doesn’t quite have what it takes to make it into Peter Laing’s recommended figures for Marlburian, the American War of Independence, Napoleonic, 19th Century, Wild West or 20th Century (WW1 or WW2).
A very long time ago as a child I was bought a jumble job lot of toy soldiers, mostly plastic but amongst them was this trio of metal soldiers.
I painted their hats, coats and boots but never finished them. I had no idea what they were, who made them or what to do with them as they were 40mm tall, bigger or smaller than my other figures. So no real use or match. On their base I could just make out the letters HE which meant nothing to me at the time.
Fast forward to ten years ago: poking around a craft shop on a trip to Cornwall, I discovered a tiny cache of Prince August moulds for making traditional toy soldiers which I bought straight away.
I had seen as a child intriguing adverts for this company in modelling magazines but the dangers of hot metal and shortage of pocket money as a child meant that I never bought any.
Looking through the Prince August online catalogue, I recognised these strange random trio of figures, their designer’s name HE (Holgar Eriksonn) and sent off for some PA moulds to find out at long last how they worked. And to give this three man patrol some company to pick on of their own size.
I found these figures are Prince August PA17 Musketeer, PA23 Musketeer standing and PA24 kneeling.
Playing around with paint finishes
There are many possible finishes for these shiny Prince August castings.
One suggestion is pewtering, an idea from their cast your own chess sets ‘antique finish’. Black acrylic paint is painted over the figures, then fairly quickly wiped off with a cloth or kitchen roll before fully dry.
Another alternative is the simple gilt or gold paint finish.
I tried out the gilt finish on another home casting, an American sailor drumming, from a metal mould of a different much older (American?) manufacturer.
The older type of metal home cast moulds (usually German or American origin) have much more flash and casting lines, requiring more time and filing to clean up than a modern rubber Prince August mould.
Sometimes I find stray home cast figures in junk shops and online lots that are quite crude, often overpriced such as this cowboy type figure from another metal mould (in this cast in quite soft and bendy lead).
They have a simple charm and many conversion or paint possibilities.
I have now tracked down a three figure (Schneider?) mould No. 56 of this cowboy and two Indian figures to produce more. At some point worth casting enough for a Close Little Wars home cast skirmish of settlers versus natives maybe?
This “fake pewter” or “antiquing” technique can also be tried with some success on silver plastic figures from pound stores.